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Saturday 20 December  
Bishop Dick Schoon in his Old Catholic Church in Amsterdam
Johan van Slooten's picture
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Homosexuality "not an issue" in Old Catholic Church

Published on : 2 March 2010 - 4:47pm | By Johan van Slooten (Photo by Johan van Slooten/RNW)
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Homosexual rights organisations in the Netherlands are planning more protests during Roman Catholic church services this Sunday. This follows demonstrations last weekend when several hundred gay protesters and sympathisers disrupted Mass at the cathedral in the southern city of Den Bosch.

The protest was directed at Father Luc Buyens, who refused to allow an openly gay Carnival prince to receive Communion.

But not all Catholic churches in the country have the same attitude. The small Old Catholic Church has progressive ideas on gay issues and it says Roman Catholic bishops should be more 'pragmatic'.

The Bishop of Den Bosch, Antoon Hurkmans, argues that homosexual men and women should not receive the sacrament as their lifestyle does not fit in with the teachings of the Roman Catholic faith.

Old Catholics
It is a sentiment not shared by the small Old Catholic Church in the Netherlands, which is in “full communion” with the Anglican Church in Great Britain, meaning they share the same doctrine. The Old Catholics have progressive views on celibacy and the roles of women and gays in church - women priests are allowed, as are gay marriages.

“We don’t treat homosexuals differently than heterosexuals”, says Dr Dick Schoon, bishop of the Haarlem and Amsterdam diocese of the Old Catholic Church. “Gays are accepted in our church as long as they’re good Christians. That’s our only condition”.

Bishop Schoon wouldn’t label his church as 'progressive', just because of its position on gays and women. In fact, in other aspects, the church can be quite orthodox in its views. “We don’t follow every modern trend”, Bishop Schoon says, “We try to be consistent with the old Catholic traditions. Those traditions do not change, they’re of all times and all ages. We can’t change our faith or add or subtract something from it”.

But the bishop acknowledges that practical changes do occur. “It is a way to deal with developments. Questions we have today are different from questions we had in the 19th century. Trying to answer today’s questions with a 19th-century vision wouldn’t be very useful”.

No big role
Marco Derks is a young theologian and  a member of the Old Catholic Church in Utrecht. As a gay man, he feels more than welcome there: “My sexual orientation doesn’t really play such a big role for me in church. Maybe that’s one of the beautiful things about the Old Catholic Church, that I don’t feel the need to say: ‘I am gay, do you accept me?’. I feel I am accepted in this church, without having to stress that”.

Mr Derks feels there should be more room for dialogue in the Roman Catholic church when it comes to gay issues. “They’re very clear about sexuality. But there used to be room for people’s own conscience and the church is losing that. That worries me”.

He’s not the only one who feels this way, he says. “I know a couple of former members of the Roman Catholic church who are gay and who are now joining the Old Catholic Church. It’s because of the tension they felt – not only in theory, but also in confrontations with priests and bishops”.

However, the Old Catholic Church remains very small – with only 6,000 members, it is struggling to survive in an age of secularisation. Even its different views on gays, women and celibacy don’t attract many new parishioners, Bishop Schoon admits. “You have to fully engage yourself here and that proves to be difficult for some”.

He has some advice for his Roman Catholic colleague in Den Bosch: “Follow Jesus. Think of what He would have done in this situation. That’s the only comfort and the only example we have as Christians. And more pragmatically, I’d advise him to try and make his church a little bit more democratic”.

Listen to a Newsline interview with Bishop Schoon here and with Marco Derks here.


Michael Adam Reale 23 April 2014 - 9:53pm / United States

I love the Churches of the Union of Utrecht. I love that they practice full-inclusion of all of God's people. Women clergy, openly LGBTQIA individuals. This is what Christianity is all about!!! Inclusivity not excluding people. Thank you for this article.

Brenda Eckels Burrows, aMGC 14 March 2012 - 3:44pm / United States

While the OCC in the Netherlands may "only" have a few thousand members, they are ACTIVE members. Comparing this number to one provided by a Roman diocese is misleading. Here in the states RC figures often include such spurious numbers as total baptised or total on member mailing list. A better comparision is to those who are registered, have been verified within the past year, AND who attend mass once a month. Using this methodology, the size difference between the Oc and RC in the Netherlands is a much different picture. Also, the OC has hundreds of denominations around the world. My facebook group "Not All Catholics Are Roman" has close to 100 OC denominations represented including the official US branch of the OCC-Utrecht that this Bishop belongs to. That denomination, the Episcopal Church, has hundreds of thousands of members. In more religious countries the OCC is growing at a very fast rate. Don't worry, ecumenical religious orders like mine will be evangelising in Europe soon enough and the Good Bishop will see the results!

Forever Asian 31 July 2011 - 11:20am / malaysia

Thank You very much Bishop Dr. Schoon...
i am blessed to hear a prophet of christ speaks in the love of God.

Hiram1 3 March 2010 - 2:10am / USA

1. "He has some advice for his Roman Catholic colleague in Den Bosch: “Follow Jesus. Think of what He would have done in this situation. That’s the only comfort and the only example we have as Christians.".......He would tell any person who has sinned and wants Commuion with G-d the the same thing he told Mary in "John 8:11 (King James Version) ... Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." 2. "Gays are accepted in our church as long as they’re good Christians. That’s our only condition".........Bishop what do you and "your" classify as a "good" Christian? Would you classify the following passage from Paul as standards in which to lead and live a Christian life? "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. Glorify God in Body and Spirit". 3. "However, the Old Catholic Church remains very small –with only 6,000 members, it is struggling to survive in an age of secularisation."....Why? Because your teachings are not benchmarks in leading a Christian life. Sir, Christ commanded Mary to go and sin no more and you should be teaching likewise. The priest who failed to give Communion to a Gay who would not change his lifestyle and continue to live in sin as sodomite was right in not to do so and did not stray from the Christian teachings as taught in the bible as markers of "good Christians."

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