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April 1995

The Neocatechumenal Way

- A Fearful Danger to the Faith -

FATHER ENRICO ZOFFOLI

"I charge thee,( ... ): preach the word, persevere in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.

"For the day will come when they will no longer endure sound doctrine, but, after their own lusts, men shall surround themselves with teachers, having itching ears. And they shall refuse to listen to the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

"But watch thou attentively, know how to endure afflictions, do thy works as an evangelist, carry out thy ministry" [2 Tim 4, 1-5]


I. WHO THEY ARE

The Neocatechumenals are those who are intent on bringing contemporary society back to Christianity, pursuing and pointing out a Way of Faith directed to rediscovering the meaning and the value of the Baptism.

Although not forming a religious Institution nor having Rules, the Neocatechumenals comprise particularly active "communities" which are part of the parishes of many dioceses of the Catholic world.

Undeniable is the sincerity and fervour of many of them, some of whom have been converted from sin to an exemplary Christian life.

Wise is the ideal of a way which, in the light of a greater understanding of the baptismal rite, stimulates into life the central dogma of Christianity in the participation in the death and resurrection of Christ.

It owes itself - as regards its organisation - to Kiko Arguello, who has recaptured a motive of faith and a method of living derived from the millenary tradition of Pauline spirituality, well known albeit in other forms and under other nomenclatures, to all the Saints and religious institutions of the past.

This explains the support that the Neocatechumenal Movement enjoys with the Hierarchy, in contrast to the diffidence, suspicions and open accusations of heresy made by some who are acquainted with the doctrinal presuppositions of the Way.

Such opposition does not concern those of the faithful who, in the best of good faith, have supported the initiative and attributed to it their own repentance. There are not lacking many, however, who, along the way, have been severely shocked by the distressing experience of some ways of thinking and of acting observed in the Movement, which are incompatible with the convictions owed to the Christian education inherited by the family and received in the parish church.

Experiences of this kind - confided to us - have led us to carry out a close study of the "catecheses" attributed to Kiko, carefully recorded, transcribed and adopted - under the most jealous reserve - as a formative text of the Catechists, who are the sole teachers and persons in charge of the Way.

The results of their critical examination have confirmed the truth of the accusations mentioned, which fall principally on Kiko, the Catechists and all those who share and propagate the errors contained in the copious typewritten material of the catecheses.

The overwhelming majority of the Neocatechumenals do not seem to be aware of these errors and draw from the Way only the good purged of the dross of evident and serious dogmatic aberrations.

This, however, does not remove the obligation to inform the public at large in order to prevent a further spread of the heresy and of a mentality which insensibly induces simple and ignorant people to accept it.

II. DOCTRINAL ERRORS

We have been able to identify these in the above-mentioned typewritten texts reserved for the Catechists and kept secret not only from the public but also from the faithful committed to the Way.

They concern ideas which cannot be shared by many Neocatechumenals and seem above all to be ignored especially by those who, devoid of theology, are not in a position to judge their orthodoxy with the necessary competence.

The accusation of heresy is aimed at the doctrinal positions, not the persons, whom we still regard as worthy of respect and who can be inspired by the best intentions.

* * * *

1. SIN: man cannot avoid committing it, in the same way as he can neither accomplish good nor acquire merits for himself;

- conversion is possible only as recognition, by everyone, of their own moral poverty, not as a determined wish to correct one's faults which sanctity tends to realise;
- sin cannot offend God, and man does not incur the duty to expiate it by satisfying the requirements of His justice.

2. REDEMPTION: Jesus has not brought this about by liberating man from his faults and reconciling him with God;

- the passion and death of Christ has not been a true sacrifice offered to the Father in order to remedy sin and to redeem man;
- Jesus saved the world by virtue of His Resurrection: in order to enjoy the fruits of His work it is enough to confess to be sinners and to believe in the power of the risen Christ.

3. THE CHURCH was not founded by Christ as his only Sheepfold: it is also possible to save oneself by following other religions;

- the Church is not a juridical and hierarchical society, but a spiritual, charismatic one;
- in it there is not found a priesthood derived from the sacrament of the Order - as it is sufficient to have the Baptism which, incorporating all the believers in Christ, makes them participants of His priestly dignity.

4. THE MASS is not a "sacrifice": the Church, at the altar, does not offer to God any Victim;

- in place of the altar, there is nothing but the table, which in the Eucharist allows a festive party to be celebrated among brothers united by the same faith in the Resurrection;
- the consecrated bread and wine are only the symbol of the presence of the risen Christ which unites the fellow-guests by communicating their own spirit, thus making them participants in his triumph over death;
- the Mass, thus conceived, is not celebrated by the priest, but by the Assembly, from which "springs the Eucharist."

5. EUCHARISTIC WORSHIP does not have any meaning, it negates the true, real and substantial presence of Christ under the sacramental species. Acts of faith such as genuflections before the Tabernacle, frequent Communions, hours of adoration, benedictions, processions, congresses, etc. are not therefore justified.

6. CONFESSION is reduced to the sacrament of Baptism: their distinction does not go back to the primitive Church:

- the Church "gestates and leads to the conversion." "The important thing is not the absolution" of the priest, because the value of the confession is essentially its community and ecclesial nature;
- in the "passages" and in the, "scrutinies" the acknowledgement of one's transgressions, including the serious ones, is public, as can still be the case during the "redditio."

7. THE CHRISTIAN LIFE, as a voluntary effort of self-discipline, and therefore an exercise and progress in virtue, is an illusion;

- everyone remains intrinsically a sinner, incapable of obtaining true justice as a perfection of the love of God and of one's fellow creatures;
- on the other hand, Jesus has not been presented to anyone as a "model" to be imitated;
- He has commanded that we should actually hate our parents, brothers, relatives etc, not just, if necessary, to be prepared to prefer Him to them;
- in order to follow Christ, we need to sell our own goods; but, once this renunciation has been accomplished, it is permissible to acquire others and to enjoy all the pleasures of life. "Poverty" as understood by St. Francis, is inspired by the "natural religion," and was also practised by the pagans: it is not a Christian virtue;
- Jesus, having suffered for us, has made our sufferings superfluous, therefore the austerities of the ascetics, the slow martyrdom of the Saints and the religious life itself, involving the effective practice of the evangelical counsels, are not justifiable;
- eternal salvation is offered freely to all by the mercy of God, who forgives everything. Hell should not exist, nor should one speak of Purgatory, of prayers and of indulgences for the dead.

8. THE HISTORY of the true Church founded by Christ comes to an end with the Pax Constantinia and does not resume its course until the 20th century with the Second Vatican Council, having remained frozen for about 1,600 years ... ;

- in this long interval, the exercise of the triple power of the hierarchical Church (teaching, sanctification, guidance) would have been improper, illegitimate ... ; and in particular the Council of Trent would be responsible for the paralysis of the Church, determined to fix formulae of faith, liturgical rites, disciplinary, rules ... ;
- the interpretation of the Word of God is not reserved for the Hierarchy, it is possible for all believers: "the Bible is explained by itself." This freedom of examination in the exegesis excludes the ecclesiastical Teaching, the tradition of the Elders and the doctrine of the theologies.

III. COMMENTS

* The Holy See has never approved canonically the Neocatechumenal Movement, even though John Paul II deigned to write Mons. J. P. Cordes a private letter of praise and encouragement, based on the documentation of some positive results of the Way presented by the recipient. "The intention of the Holy Father - we read in a note published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis - in recognising the Neocatechumenal Way as a valid itinerary of Catholic training, is not to give binding instructions to the local Ordinaries, but simply to encourage them to consider carefully the Neocatechumenal Communities, leaving it to the judgement of these Ordinaries, however, to act according to the pastoral requirements of the individual dioceses."

We have every reason to believe that the Pope has not been informed of the errors contained in the "catechesis" of Kiko …; or else, by intervening he is afraid of spiritually damaging the good faith of many believers.

* The points of coincidence between the doctrine of Kiko and Protestant theology are numerous and weighty, in antithesis to the teaching of the Council of Trent and the former unanimous Catholic Tradition.

* The doctrine underlying the Way, the singularities of the liturgical practice, the law of secrecy and the harsh discipline imposed on the faithful have motivated the accusation that the Neocatechumenals consider that their own Church is parallel and even superior to the Catholic Church, thus causing low spirits, contention and open conflicts, which are well known especially to bishops and parish priests.

* The marked proselytism and intimidatory behaviour used by the Catechists in order that the faithful should not abandon the Way have led to the erroneous supposition that this opens the only possible way to salvation.

* The spectacular ceremonies, the enthusiasm raised through the press, radio and television, and the favourable attitude of the members of the clergy etc. are producing the false belief that in the Catholic Church there do not exist other highly praiseworthy institutions, initiatives, forms and methods of life and of apostolate in the defence of the Faith and in the propagation of the evangelical message.

* The priesthood of the "presbyters" having been levelled to that of the 'faithful simply baptised," the Catechists - in practice - are attributing to themselves an authority equal and superior to that of the members of the Hierarchy, thus breaking up the structure of the Catholic Church.

* The practice of the public confession of grave sins, apart from being contrary to the natural instinct of decency and to the right to save one's own reputation, provokes ill-feeling and arguments, breaking up families and throwing parish communities into confusion.

* The authority which the Catechists arrogate to themselves in writing commentaries on the Bible and guiding consciences, thus creating a true climate of terror, destroys the already fragile personality of some believers and provokes reactions which sometimes drive them to repudiating their faith.

* The obligation to sell one's own goods and to pay the "tithe" causes the accumulation of huge amounts of money, the administration of which is entrusted uncontrollably to the Catechists, in a way which does not happen in any prudently organised association.

* To maintain that man cannot do good and that it is not possible for him to avoid evil means to negate human freedom and the redeeming power of Grace, making a true "conversion" impossible and justifying all moral licence.

* If, in the conversion of the sinner, grace does not regenerate the soul, so as to transform it radically by making it a participant in the nature and life of God, it is not understood in what sense Most Holy Mary is proclaimed by the Universal Church as being "full of grace." What worship could be worthwhile if She, above all, had not been elevated to a most high level of friendship (= affinity) with God, so as to be able to become the "MOTHER" of him, begetting Christ? ...

For the same reason, it is not explained how the saints too can be venerated and invoked, if they have not been deeply pervaded by grace, and at the moment to be celebrated, precisely for this transforming union with God.

* To refute the Eucharistic Sacrifice means to deny the Church the duty of the supreme act of worship and thus to suppress it as an eminently religious Society.

* To reject transubstantiation is to remove from the faithful "the living Bread descended from heaven;" to deny them the comfort and the joy of the absolutely ideal Friend, the most necessary "viaticum" for eternity; to conceal from the Church the only Sun which warms it, creating the essential climate for its life.

* The Mass, downgraded to a simple "feast," exposes the Most Holy One to the inevitable profanations resulting from the indifference to the "fragments" of the "consecrated bread" and of its remains. (Once again, very recently, in the basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Pope, on the evening of 21 October 1992, during the rite of ordination of a number of deacons, the Neocatechumenals demonstrated that they pay no heed to the fragments of the "consecrated bread" left scattered on the table, making one logically suppose that they do not believe in the "real presence" of Christ derived from the "transubstantiation." One person, inspired by faith, dared to gather them up in order to prevent their profanation, but was sternly rebuked and derided by the leaders of the Movement… On the morning of the following day, the same person, having returned to the basilica, was able to pick up from the ground an entire portion of the "consecrated bread" which the participants in the Eucharist are in the habit of consuming for the Communion. One of the caretakers, when sweeping the pavement would certainly have picked it up and thrown it in among the other rubbish.)

Unfortunately, "Communion in the hand" - the allowing of which has been extorted from the Holy See, because it was contrary to the wish of Paul VI, who had foreseen it and deplored the inevitable consequences, which are negative from any point of view - must also bear responsibility for the abusive liturgical practice of the Neocatechumenals.

* If, besides the Church, other religions open to souls ordinary and objectively valid ways by which to be saved, the Catholic Missions would not be wholly necessary nor would they merit the heroic close cooperation of the faithful.

* The activity of the itinerant Neocatechumenals, insofar as it may seem laudable, is not even comparable to the works of the Catholic missions which for centuries, having renounced everything, have dedicated themselves to the evangelisation of the world; whereas the disciples of Kiko betake themselves abroad, not only well provided by their home communities, but also sustained by the love and the moral comfort of their respective families, against the example of the Apostles, who abandoned their relatives, possessions, comforts etc, following the Teacher as far as martyrdom.

* The building of Seminaries, where candidates are prepared for the priesthood, educated in accordance with the doctrinal errors of Kiko, could be one of the worst threats for the Church of tomorrow.

CONCLUSION

Are the Neocatechumenals "heretics"? Only they are heretics who have some knowledge of being heretics and persist in sustaining the errors listed above. But since identifying them individually escapes our scrutiny, all we can do is to disapprove the heresy in itself which results from the "catecheses" of Kiko. In fact, this constitutes one of the most fearful dangers to the faith, given the organisational and economic power of the Movement.

The Church has the difficult and arduous task of distinguishing the "wheat" from the "chaff" - not only by praising the fervour of some, but also by freeing the essence of the "Way" from the whole cumbersome package of political and theological, historical and liturgical prejudices implicit in the "Way" as proposed by Kiko and his collaborators.

A "surgical" operation is necessary and urgent in order for the Church to preserve its credibility and to prevent multiplication of the apostatizing of all those who - also traumatised by the conduct of certain senior people in the Movement - wait impatiently for an authoritative intervention from the Holy See.

This is particularly necessary in order to defend the dignity of the Pope, to whom the Neocatechumenals - in good or bad faith - attribute their own ideas, thus worsening the position of the Church in the eyes of the world.

For further information, you are advised to consult: E. ZOFFOLI, Heresies of the Neocatechumenals, IVth private edition, 1991, and The Teaching of the Pope and the Catechisms of Kiko: A Comparison, Segno edition, 1992.

The author is prepared to engage in any exchange of ideas and to make available the sources of his investigation which he has decided to pursue until the truth triumphs.

To this end, he is soon to deal again with what he has written, by proposing to the representatives of the "Way" that they counter the accusations of heresy with a clear and explicit profession of faith according to the doctrine of the Church, and thus everything will end in the joy and peace of Christ.

 

Translated from the Italian. The late author taught at the Lateran University and was a member of the Pontifical Academy of St Thomas. He was the author of numerous works of theology, philosophy and lives of the saints. His masterly 1400 page exposition of Catholic theology Christianesimo: Corso di Teologia Catholica was published in 1994 to wide critical acclaim.

 



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