I first encountered the Neo-Catechumenal Way (NCW) about eight years ago. What initially made me curious about it was how secretive the members were about what went on in their closed, private services. I was puzzled as to why a local Catholic family who were clearly more than Catholics In Name Only went miles away to a parish that wasn't a Latin Mass parish (the only reason I'd ever found for people to travel long distances to Mass when there were plenty of local churches) and why they only ever went to Mass on Saturday night. I wanted to find out more about what they called "The Way" but I wasn't getting any information from the members... so I went to the Internet and found some information, and a lot of opinion. I didn't like the sound of much of what I found but felt that the sources all had an axe to grind. What I wanted was to hear about the Neo-Catechumenal Movement (NCM) directly from Neo-Catchumenates themselves.
Fast forward six or so years. By this time I'd met many other Neo-Cat families but all had the same degree of caginess about talking their community. I found this odd -- I genuinely wanted to know more about them from them not from a secondary source. Also, most Catholics I know who are keen on their faith, are also eager to share - to evangelise. If you have a great parish, don't you invite people to Mass with you? If you're onto a good thing - and a good thing in this situation can save souls - don't you want to share it? In the case of the NeoCats I met - apparently not. Apparently this isn't uncommon - the NCM recruits from outside the Church, not from within.
In addition to the Neo-Catechumenal families I've met over the years, we've also had two aupairs from the Neo-Catechumenal movement. One wasn't fully "in" yet - although her mother had been a member for several years. The second is a fully signed member, several years into her journey, with her own "community" in her home country, and who found a temporary "community" to take her in while she was living in London. The first aupair - the one who hadn't yet committed to "The Way" was very positive about it, but limited in her knowledge: even though she had been to some Neocatechumenal "Eucharists" with her mother there were many things that she couldn't know unless she was to commit to joining "The Way". In her mid 20s and perspicacious, I felt that she was a very reliable witness. The second aupair was some eight years younger and full of enthusiasm for "The Way". She talked about how special it was to sing and dance around "the table decorated with flowers" (altar to you and me) and how all the children look forward to being able to bring the flowers home afterwards. But other things that she said gave me the heebie jeebies, although she obviously saw nothing wrong with them. The first was that her family rarely went to Mass together. Three of the children have their "own" separate Neo-Catechumenal communities, and the mother went to another with the youngest children. The father went to Mass alone in the "normal" (i.e. parish) church as he hadn't joined "The Way" : so that's five different Masses for a family of 7, and the assumption is that the younger children will eventually join their own communities which would make 7 different Masses! At Christmas and Easter the family would go to Mass together in the local parish church, but the rest of the time they were fractured - at different services in different rooms often in the same building. She told me that even when a church is available, they prefer to meet in a small plain meeting room and use a table instead of the altar.
In 2005 Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments wrote a letter to Kiko Arguello, Carmen Hernandez and Fr Mario Pezzi (a member of the international team responsible for the Neo-Catechumenal Way) outlining serious concerns about irregularities in the way the NCM celebrated the sacred liturgy. Dated December 1, 2005, the letter begins:
The main points were that:
• The Neo-Catechumenal Way must enter into dialogue with the diocesan bishop in order to make it clear that the community of the Neo-Catechumenal Way is incorporated into the parish — even in the context of the liturgical celebrations. At least one Sunday per month, the communities of the Neo-Catechumenal Way must participate in the Holy Mass of the parish — community
• As for any admonitions issued before the readings, these must be brief.
• On the exchange of peace, permission is granted to the Neo-Catechumenal Way to continue using the indult already granted, pending further instructions. [In the NCW Eucharist, the Kiss of Peace occurs before the beginning of the Offertory.]
• On the manner of receiving Holy Communion, a period of transition (not exceeding two years) is granted to the Neo-Catechumenal Way to pass from the widespread manner of receiving Holy Communion in its communities (seated, with a cloth-covered table placed at the center of the church instead of the dedicated altar in the sanctuary) to the normal way in which the entire Church receives Holy Communion.It seems that six years later nothing has changed. the Neo-Catechumenal way has not changed the way it receives Holy Communion (Kiko Aguilla the founder of the NCM said that sacrifice has no place in the Mass: "“Perhaps God requires the blood of His Son, His Sacrifice, to appease Himself? But what kind of a God have we done [sic]? We have arrived to think that God appeases His Wrath in the sacrifice of His Son in the manner of the pagan gods"), still encourages rambling "admonitions" (or personal reflections before and after the readings), and the NCM is no more integrated into the host parishes than it was in 2006. Furthermore, non-members of the NCM are not allowed to come to "Eucharist" (the term "Mass" is not approved of, because of the connotations of sacrifice).
Why do I care about this? There are loads of different "flavours" within Catholicism - I don't waste time moaning about folk masses, or evangelical groups, or even grey-muddy-beige novus-ordo parishes. But I think that the Neocatechumenal Movement (NCM) is different for many reasons, most of them worrying.
 the NCM functions in a cult-like way. Note, I am not saying that the NCM is a cult, but it does use protocols similar to techniques that cults use to recruit and retain members, namely - separation of the individual from friends and family, creepy psychological techniques (public confession of sins and failings ["tell the group the worst thing you've ever done"] followed by "love bombing" to bond the individual to the group),
 the NCM creates loyalty to "The Way" not to the Catholic Church, in fact many church teachings are derided or dismissed. The NCM belief is that the Catholic Church has become polluted with superstition and paganism over the centuries and "The Way" can show individuals how to worship as Christ intended. It might seem unbelievable that a respectable "new movement" could ride rough-shod over church doctrine, but Kiko is on record as saying
 A cult of personality built around Kiko himself: . I've heard many oddly gushing descriptions of Kiko the living saint, however what really brought this home to me was our young NCM aupair describing World Youth Day 2010 in Madrid. "Did you see the Holy Father?" I asked . "Yes" she replied "were were at his Mass but the next day we actually got to see Kiko - you know, the founder of the Neocatechumenal Way, we saw him in person, and that was wonderful". Pope - ho hum. Kiko - life changing experience. Hmmm...
If you wanted to destroy the Church from within, you couldn't find a better weapon than an ostensibly Catholic organisation that used persuasive psychological techniques to recruit and retain new members, whilst "recatechising" them and subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) undermining some of the most basic tenets of the faith. Tell them that to kneel is superstitious, and have them receive Our Lord sitting down. Tell them that the idea of the Mass being a bloodless sacrifice is a pagan pollution of Jesus's intention. Reject the idea of a priesthood, of altars, of altar stones: in Kiko's words
"“In Christianity there is no temple, no altar, no priest in the sense of religiosity .... The temple in Christianity are the Christians ... Neither are there altars in the sense of sacred stones which no one can touch or go near to .... Nor do we have priests in the sense of people whom we pick out from among men so that in our name they may get in contact with the Godhead. Because our priest, who intercedes for us, is Christ. And since we are His Body we are all priests.”" (Source:Where do Rome and the Neo-Catechumenal Way Stand In 2006?)
Denigrate the "Real Presence" by calling it a "problem" as Carmen does.
Described as “an obsession as to whether Christ was in the bread and wine,” this problem was caused, says Carmen, by the theologians of the 16th Century, whose work she dismisses as “mental gymnastics with little biblical experience of where the Eucharist stems from.” So much for the theologians of Trent and the infallible dogmas of the Council of Trent! Carmen continues, letting us know in no certain terms where her doctrinal allegiance lies:“The mystery is centered in the Presence; the Protestants say this, Calvin says this. And the Catholic Church gets such an obsession over the Presence that for the Church the whole thing becomes the real Presence.”The NCW “Eucharist” is the perfect vehicle by which to give form to Kiko and Carmen’s liturgical agenda, an agenda based on a willful rejection of infallible Catholic doctrine that Catholics must believe for salvation. Jesus Christ is mentioned very often in the NCW Saturday night liturgy, but it is the men and women of the NCW communities who rule therein. In fact by the time one gets through the admonitions and the post-Gospel “sharing,” the distribution of the bread and wine seems like an afterthought." (Mark Alessio, former NCW seminarian and member for 7 years)
|Believe it or not, this is a First Holy Communion. photo: Rorate-Caeli|
Yes, you read that right. The founder of the NCM is agreeing with Calvin and the Protestants on the subject of the Real Presence. They wilfully reject infallible Catholic doctrine. This would explain why they have no qualms using a normal baked loaf (to Kiko's recipe - two parts white flour to one part wholemeal: very similar to what my bread machine churns out every morning) to celebrate "Eucharist" and have no worries about the crumbs scattered everywhere.
Kiko has described the Neo-Catechumenal Way as being the fruit of the Second Vatican Council. I think it's fair to say that the success of the NCM is the result of the failure of mainstream Catholicism to reach out to souls hungry for contact with Our Lord, and that this failure can be directly attributed to the spiritual fallout from the "Spirit" of Vatican 2: relativism, lack of confidence, discarding of tradition, watering down the Faith, heterodoxy.
As the former NCM seminarian puts it " The problem is that so many of the NCW members are men and women who had once been far away from the Church. The “Church of Kiko & Carmen” is either the only one they know, or the only one whose heads have spoken to them with fire and conviction. Thus, they believe that “the Way” is really and truly .... The Way. Period."
And that's what I think should set the alarm bells ringing.