Thursday, April 03, 2008

Honest Thoughts on the Neocatechumenal Way

Dear Friends,

It is not without a little sadness that I share this with you. I have been deliberating over making the following statement for several years and now feel forced to officially say something in the hopes of encouraging better understanding and future cooperation in this diocese which I can see is terribly torn. I thank you for reading the following:

Running a Catholic bookstore and being involved in our local church at many levels I am often drawn into conversations about the Neocatechumenal Way.

The reason the NCW (apologies to those offended by the abbreviation) is the topic of much discussion is a study in itself. Seems like folks either love or hate it.

I have spent many hours with people in and out of the NCW in an effort to get to understand what the problem is.

Recently, I was accused of having said something derogatory which is absolutely not true, so I thought it best to make my thoughts and comments public with a time and date stamp so that even more ill will is not stirred up. God help us.

These thoughts are based only on my observations and personal experiences. I am not in the NCW and have never attended any of their functions though I often have the pleasure of joining Fr. Ivan and the seminarians for lunch. By the way excuse any terms, phrases, or references that I may use that evinces my ignorance of the NCW. I mean no harm and I apologize for my ignorance.

Here’s the good stuff:

1. The NCW is teaching people the truth about sex. Thank God for that! I know women in the NCW who have gotten their tubes untied and many who have gotten off birth control. I know people who were living lives contrary to the teachings of the church as regards sex and who are now living in conformity with those teachings. The teaching of the NCW is heroic in this regard.

2. The NCW is getting people to pray, especially the liturgical prayer of the Church. I was luck to have been exposed to it many years ago, but since then I have never been encouraged to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.

3. The NCW is teaching people to be givers…AND they are succeeding. I see NCWs contributing in large ways, especially financially.

4. The NCW is producing vocations. And I know that the seminarians are learning Latin and Gregorian Chant in conformity with the true wishes of Vatican II. I don’t see that happening anywhere else.

5. I see NCW priests wearing their clerics. They are visible to the community. God Bless them for that.

6. I was sitting with Fr. Ivan and Fr Eric Forbes when Fr. Ivan asked Fr. Eric if he would teach the seminarians how to say the Traditional Latin Mass. Fr. Eric responded positively and also offered to teach them the theology of this beautiful Mass. This is in conformity with the wishes (if not command) of the Pope in his recent Moto Proprio. I don’t see anyone else rushing to embrace the Pope’s desires in this regard.

7. The NCW is teaching people to study their faith. They are studying the Scriptures, the Catechism, and the Early Fathers. It’s wonderful to see.

8. I understand that the NCW is also active in the prison. I used to teach in the prison for GCC and saw how active non-Catholic groups were with the prisoners. The majority of the prisoners are Catholic. Where is the Catholic ministry? The NCW is now there.

9. I see the NCW going out 2 by 2, knocking on doors and inviting people back to the Church, in other words, doing exactly what Christ commanded. The only other group that I know that does this is the Legion of Mary, so good for them too.

10. Most of all I am moved by the politeness, the kindness, the general charity of those I know in the NCW, especially the priests and seminarians, but essentially most everybody I know personally who is connected with it.

11. I should also mention that I have been asked on many occasions to order the book The Pope’s Armada which as you may know is not very favorable towards the NCW and other ecclesial communities. I only placed one order for it and that was before I knew what it was. When I am asked now I politely let the person know that it is not a book that I would recommend. I don’t say this because of the negative it has towards the movements, but because the book calls into question the wisdom and the authority of John Paul II. And I’m a fanatical Pope defendant.


Now here are my issues which I intend to lay out just as honestly and again only from my personal observations and experiences as an outsider. Some of these things do not have anything to do with the NCW, but just personal preference, like the first one:

1. I feel that I shouldn’t have to “join” something in order to practice my Faith to its fullest. I have Jesus Christ and the Sacraments of the One, Holy, Catholic, Church. What else is needed? I feel that if there is anything lacking it is more ordained minsiters who will teach the truth. I know many who do, but all should.

2. I completely understand the NCW in terms of what I think it was originally constituted to do which is to evangelize, to reach out to those who are marginalized, or left behind. This is not what I see happening. I see the NCW going into parishes and taking people out of the pews and forming what is in effect community churches.

3. I do not understand what I’ll call the “line of accountability”. The thing that makes us Catholic is that we can SEE that line: priest – bishop – pope. It’s the only guarantee that I have that I have access to the truth. In the NCW I do not know the line of accountability. While its statutes have been blessed by the Pope, I do not know who the individual catechists and “responsibles” are answerable to. I do not know what qualifies these people to teach in the name of the Church. I understand that locally the NCW is “under Father Pius”, or this is what I’m told. When I ask who Father Pius is “under” I am told either the Bishop or “a couple that lives in California”. With the Bishop I understand the canonical order, however, I also know that the Bishop is not directing the NCW here in Guam but hosting it. I believe Fr. Pius is directing it. Or so I’m told. Correct me if I’m wrong. But then who is the “couple in California” and “by what authority” do they direct Fr. Pius if in fact they do. I could be severely wrong about all this. I am only repeating what I am told in the hopes that those within the NCW can see the frustration of those of us not “in it”. (Actually those words “not in it” are an issue in themselves. See point #1.)

4. I am DEEPLY attached to the Traditional Latin Mass. Even at the Novus Ordo I do not touch the host. Communion in the hand was conceived in disobedience and allowed because the disobedience was so wide spread that it was deemed to cause more damage to stop it, so it was allowed. (Look it up yourself.) I do not believe that the Mass is supposed to be a re-creation of the upper room but an anticipation of the heavenly liturgy, the Lamb’s Supper, not the Last Supper. The Catechism itself states this.

1090 "In the earthly liturgy we share in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle. With all the warriors of the heavenly army we sing a hymn of glory to the Lord; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, until he, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with him in glory."13

Thus I hunger for Holy Mass that best represents the heavenly liturgy and I find it in the Traditional Latin Mass. I have not attended an NCW Mass but it has been described to me and I do not find the description of it to match what I read in the Catechism. This too is just personal preference. Obviously the NCW form of the Mass is allowed as is the Novus Ordo. It’s just that I find the BEST expression in the TLM. So that’s where I go. And that’s where I will continue to go. I find it extremely heartening that the NCW rectors here in Guam want the seminarians to learn the TLM. God bless them and may they discover the great beauty of the beloved Mass of our saintly ancestors.


5. The only other issue I would have is the arrogance of some in the NCW who seem to believe that the “Way” is THEE Way, that you are not fully Catholic unless you are in the “Neo”. But I do not blame the NCW. This is not what they are taught to do. It’s a natural result of the exuberance people often experience when they feel that they “have found it”, be it religion, a career, or the right girl or guy. I admit it gets a little annoying but I understand it. I would also encourage those who lead NCW groups to help new people in this regard.


6. But that brings to mind one more thing that I find frustrating. There is an element of secrecy that is strange to me as a Catholic. At the store I am often asked for certain resources that are peculiar to the NCW. I am happy to order them but I would prefer to have them in stock. To facilitate keeping these items in stock I have often asked for the name of the person in charge so that I might know who to contact about possible future needs. I am ALWAYS met with an evasive answer. I am most often told “I don’t know”. This raises all kinds of red flags with me. How can you be involved in something that is very well organized and not know who is in charge. The only answer I get is “the Bishop”. While I know that the Bishop is canonically responsible for all things that happen in his diocese I doubt seriously he’s “in charge” in the way that I am asking. There is an obvious element of secrecy that is inherent in the NCW process. I have no criticism of such secrecy directly though it seems strange to me as a Catholic. Many organizations have “trade secrets” or whatever. But then tell the truth. Say “we are not allowed to tell”.

In summary I yield to the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of our earthly Vicar of Christ. If it’s okay with the Pope then it’s okay with me. But just like communion in the hand and other liturgical practices that I dislike, I have a right as a Catholic to choose to practice my faith the way I know I am called to practice it.

By coincidence I was moved to write this early this morning as a result of almost daily confrontations I have regarding the NCW. I wanted to just write this and hand this to people whenever the subject came up…to save me time, but also to protect myself from being misquoted.

This afternoon I received an email from a dear friend bearing me the bad news about something I supposedly said about the NCW. She mentioned the time and place that I supposedly said this so I knew exactly where it was coming from and knew exactly what it was that I had said. It was at the diocesan convocation this past Monday night.

I was sitting at the table with the Archbishop, 3 monsignors, two of whom I know are involved with the NCW, 2 lay people, one a catechist in the NCW, and an NCW priest. If I had anything negative to say you can bet that I would not be so stupid as to say it in that company.

Here’s exactly what I said: “not everyone is going to join the Neocatechumenal Way”. That’s it. That’s all I said. And I said that in response to a question as to how to catechize more adults. And I said it only after complimenting the NCW in how well they are doing in reaching those adults. But I added my comment by way of encouraging the pastors present at my table to consider offering another venue for catechesis. The riches of the Church should not be hidden away or relegated to the teaching of a particular group.

Why this person felt it necessary to broadcast my supposed ill will toward the NCW, I don’t know. But the issue shows that there is a problem, a hyper-sensitivity, a bad misunderstanding, a festering wound. It needs to be honestly looked at before the cancer spreads. I can only see sadness ahead if it does.

Sincerely,


Tim Rohr
April 3, 2008

12 comments:

  1. Hello Tim! I came across your electronic journal by accident. I was searching for world views on the Neocatechumenal Way. I am originally from Guam, but I currently live in Hawaii. When I was in Guam, Faith Bookstore was our main resource for Christian books and music. Hawaii was the gateway for the NCW's emergence in Guam. I was invited to the Eucharistic Celebration by my cousin and his wife. I have been a devout Practicing Roman Catholic Christian for all of my life. Since elementary school, I have been deeply involved with Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores Catholic Church (formerly St William Church)for all my life until I left Guam. I attended Catholic Schools for all of my formal education from kidergarten to college. I am well educated and well versed in my catholic faith. I have received all of the sacraments, except Holy Orders, Matrimony and Anointing of the Sick. I have been raised a Catholic, and as an adult I accepted my faith and belief in Jesus Christ. I have always been open to other Christian faiths because we may not be in full communion with them, be we all share one belief. We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is the Messiah, the Anointed One. He was the purest sacrifice that conquered evil within the world. Jesus Christ is God's unmerited and amazing grace to us. We cannot overcome our human imperfections without God, and we cannot share in salvation or etermanl life without believing in Jesus Christ. As we were reminded this past weekend, our good deeds are useless without our love and faith in Jesus Christ. We act out faith by being examples to others in the way we live our life. I say this because I believe that the Neocatechumenal Way is one of many ways that we can experience our wonderful faith. The technicalities distract us from the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Many people have deepened their faith through the NCW. This is very important in a world that is increasingly secular and void of morality. The Holy Spirit lifts our hearts, fills our lives with joy and gives us the confidence in knowing that we are the children of God. The negative points you have mentioned in your electronic journal do not have any firm foundation. They indeed are personal comments on how you feel, but they have no serious constructive critisism of the NCW. It honestly sounds more like a clash of culture and sensitivity. Our culture allows us to become easily upset and hurt. Jesus Christ and his message is still the same. Open your heart, not only your mind, and let the Holy Spirit fill you with his love peace and forgiveness. Forgiveness is the most difficult thing we can give or ask for in our lives, but it is the most powerful thing that we can do to reconcile us with Jesus Christ! Sincerely in Christ, R.C. Sablan

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  2. I posted this comment from "anonymous" to show what the problem is. If you read what I actually said I have no criticism of the NCW...only questions and personal preferences as regards the practice of my Faith. The fact that "anonymous" feels called to criticize my "critisim"...when there is none is exactly why there is a problem with the NCW...at least here in Guam. There are no answers to legitimate questions just assumptions that anyone not in the NCW or who has questions does not have an "open heart". Responses such as this prejudice me against the Way even further...and, as people here in Guam can tell you, especially my friends at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary, I have been extremely open to all the good things the NCW has to offer - which should also be evident by the 11 good things I said in my original post. What you in the NCW need to understand that the NCW is only one ecclesial community out of many that the Church allows. While I wish the NCW no ill will, I continue to be amazed at the judgmental attitude on so many within the NCW. Just amazing. And sad.

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  3. Br. Dave Antonelli said...
    Over the years I have heard little about NCW and never cared to look further because, like yourself,I have Christ and the sacraments available to me daily in our Church. However, I want to thank you for painstakingly writing down all that you have here to educate people like me on what NCW group really is involved in. While I am still not drawn to join in, I am happy they are here with the Pope's blessing and more importantly, offering another way for the Holy Spirit to reach others who may find this approach in ministry more appealing for growth in their own spiritual lives today.

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  4. brinkka2011 says: Ive been meaning to read this and just never received a chance. Its an issue that Im really interested in, I just started reading and Im glad I did. Youre a good blogger, 1 of the best that Ive seen. This blog absolutely has some data on subject that I just wasnt aware of. Thanks for bringing this stuff to light.

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  5. @brinkka. Thank you for your kind comments. Feel free to link to my blog and use if for however it may be of some help. God. Bless.

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  6. This personal statement of yours has been read in a light most favorable to the speaker- you. I leave your post feeling a sense of sincerity, veracity and good-will. This is was written 8 years ago, and I must admit is in stark contrast to the tone and mode in which you write on your other blog. I believe that your continued objective approach, and statements made in good faith, are a positive and productive approach at trying to really understand what is at the heart of your both your criticisms and concerns about the NCW, our parish in Guam and those involved.

    You are right in that you have a duty and responsibility to understand what goes on in our archdiocese. I commend you for your commitment to ensuring our Church is healthy and faithful.

    DO not justify the mode of your criticism of the NCW and the archdiocese, with the ends. I encourage to continue to dialogue diplomatically, tactfully, intelligently, and responsibly. A lot of the posts you permit on your other blog are hateful, ill-willed or ill-inspired, and are not well-intentioned. Do no permit ad homimem attacks on any one; however, permit honest discussion and facility a healthy dialogue.

    You are smart; you are gifted and you have a responsibility to your brothers (Neo and non-Neo).

    Take care and God bless.

    Respectfully,

    Your friend in Christ

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment. It caused me to reread what I wrote back in 2008 and have rarely read since. Actually, I am struck by my own words, the last sentence: "I can only see sadness ahead if it does."

      I had forgotten that I had said that. But I don't consider myself prophetic because that "sadness" has indeed arrived. It was easy for anyone to see back then what this would come to.

      As regards your advice to not allow the angry attacks and to only host intelligent discussion, I feel I must disagree. Here's why.

      As you can see, this letter was written back in 2008, and was written after 4 years of continuous conversations with members of the Way, including their priests, begging, pleading, reasoning, trying to let them know that their flagrant disregard for so many things: for the culture, for the church, for the magisterium, for families and parishes torn apart by the demands of the Way, and most recently - at the time - the banishment of priests by the Archbishop who did not serve the Way, could only lead to division and destruction.

      So sure were they that all would be converted to the NCW in the end that none of this mattered. It was just a price that had to be paid. The ends justified the means. Classic Marxist-like struggle where violence must precede Utopia.

      I decided that this wasn't my battle and went about my business until July 2013 when I received a phone call and was asked "Have you heard about what happened to Fr. Paul."

      I wasn't surprised when I was told. I saw it coming back in 2008, even 2004 when I first started to seriously engage the NCW, especially the seminary rectors and professors.

      In short, I want you to see what good my 2008 post did, the post you believe to be emblematic of how the current conversation should be conducted. So what did my civility and sincerity produce? NOTHING.

      The NEO has marched on, quite happy that I and others remained civil and reserved, while they persevered with their slash and burn campaign against the opposition.

      I personally witnessed this "slash and burn" a few months ago at a talk, hosted by a parish, given by one of the seminary professors. He had no qualms about telling outright lies about the tradition and history of the church in his attempt to discredit the entire period between Constantine and Vatican II, and setting the whole thing up to be a platform to introduce the Neocatechumenal Way.

      Thus it is time to fight fire with fire. The really sad part is the failure of Rome. For over a decade, the office of the Nuncio has been apprised of the divisive goings-on in this diocese including the many financial improprieties. If the Nuncio ever did anything about it, it surely doesn't show. In fact, the Archbishop and his neo generals are more militant than ever in their slash and burn subjagation of the non-neo members of the church on Guam.

      Unfortunately we have learned from the sex-abuse scandals that the hierarchy in general doesn't pay attention until things get publicly ugly and the whole mess begins costing them money. Well things are about to get VERY PUBLICLY UGLY.

      If you can do anything about it. Then, do it NOW!

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  7. Is this the spirit of Jesus Christ? Fight fire with fire?

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    1. Yes. The refiner's fire. The fire of heaven versus the fire if hell.

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  8. The Neocat's, Maciel and the legion, Buela and the IVE, etc etc etc (three etcetera's because it's a long list.) They are all cults founded by strange (often perverted) men using the church and the pope as instruments of self promotion. They have no charisms other than recruitment and self-aggrandizement. The only good things they have are universal Catholic things - these groups bring nothing new. The three I mentioned and the vast majority of the groups of this type have Spanish or Spanish American origin. I don't think this is accidental either. Spain's militaristic nature (developed fighting the moors for 800 years and instilled in religious by Ignatius) is more susceptible to this kind of abuse than other Catholic cultures.

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    1. I suspect Don Kikote and Karmen ran across some traces of misdoings in Morcillo's diocese, which would be why, instead of mentoring some sense into them, he quickly hustled them off to "fixers" he knew in Rome.

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  9. The sadness has now arrived everywhere - Plymouth, Portsmouth, Leeds/Bradford. Under your heading of "issues" nos. 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 AND your last five paragraphs are crucial, in my opinion.

    Many prominent people present this as liturgical disobedience with a little doctrinal eccentricity and some personality clashes thrown in.

    They are covering up the real picture: abusive boundaries including organisational, business practices that are well criminal, death threats.

    Whilst I love Latin, it mustn't be forgotten the Church had a beautiful English Vetus Ordo from 1962, while church authorities are now mounting a concerted campaign to deny it ever existed (e.g by not telling younger priests) - but I heard it every week for several years with my own ears, at an age that I was not yet too jaundiced to dismiss what was going on at church.

    I asked for what I thought was going to be catechesis, for the third time in 1986 - and it served me right! After 28 years, I dropped out, yes sadness is the word for the suicides and mysterious deaths.

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