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 blessed to have been exposed to it many years ago (in college), 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 JPII 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, parallel "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."
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 my bookstore I am often asked for certain resources that are particular 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 seriously doubt "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 Archbishop Apuron, 3 monsignors, two of whom I know are involved with the NCW (David C. Benavente and Brigido Arroyo), 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 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.
April 3, 2008