Kiko's Annunciation

Kiko's Annunciation
Kiko the plagiarist

Monday, February 6, 2023

Ogni Qualvolta


[The following is an adapted translation of a recent article from Crux Sancta.]

It never ceases to surprise me that the Neocatechumenal Way's most important papers and documents are plagued with inaccuracies, mistakes, and gross errors. It cannot be coincidence, because chance does not exist for the believer, so something must intend to say and mean so much blunder.

On this occasion, I am going to point out some faults of one of the most hackneyed and oft-cited documents of the Neocatechumenal Way: Ogni Qualvolta.

For those who do not know, Ogni Qualvolta - a name which comes from the first two words of the Italian text - is a letter in which Pope John Paul II, after a series of justifications, made it clear that he recognized the existence of the Neocatechumenal Way.

Period. Only that: not on his own initiative, but at the request of a third party - from Kiko, according what is said here (see the bottom of page 3).

On August 30, 1990 - that is, a little more than two decades since the official birth of the Way - the Pope sent a letter to the then-ad personam manager of the apostolate of the Neocatechumenal communities, a letter in which he let his brothers in the episcopate know that yes, he was aware of the existence of what insisted on being a movement or an association (contrary to the words of the Pope himself, by the way).

The letter, therefore, does not come from the Pope and is also addressed not to the NCW - which would be the case if it contained an approval, which some falsely claim - but to Bishop Paul Josef Cordes, Vice President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

And here, in the addressee, is the first weird thing.

The letter is published in Italian, Spanish, and English. In the Italian and English versions, the addressee is not only in charge of the apostolate of the Neocatechumenal communities (he was from 1980 to 1995), but he is also Vice President of the Pontifical Council of the Laity, which is a more substantial position. But in the Spanish version, mysteriously, Bishop Cordes is nothing for the PCL - that is, his position in said Council does not appear in the letter.

Amazing.

Then, almost at the end of the letter, we find the paragraph that so many Neocatechumenals quote--or rather, misquote.

...having seen the documentation you have presented: accepting the request addressed to me, I recognize the Neocatechumenal Way as an effective means of Catholic formation for society and for the present time.

It is important here to highlight a key word that, while absent in English, appears in both Spanish and Italian.

In Spanish: "reconozco el Camino neocatecumenal como un itinerario de formación católica, válida para la sociedad y para los tiempos de hoy."

And in Italian: "riconosco il Cammino Neocatecumenale come un itinerario di formazione cattolica, valida per la società e per i tempi odierni."

The word, of course, is "valid." The Pope recognizes the Way as an itinerary of Catholic formation, which is valid for society and for the present time.

In English, we lose not only the word itself, but also the wonderful fact that it is a gendered adjective. As a feminine, it indicates that the validity for society and for today's times refers to Catholic formation (a feminine noun), not to the itinerary (a masculine noun).

In other words, John Paul II never recognized that a certain itinerary was valid for society and for today's times. What he recognized is that Catholic formation is valid for this society and for these times, and that the NCW is a path of Catholic formation (at least, that's what they made him believe).

Therefore, what JP2 declares is that the validity for society and for today's times lies in Catholic formation and only in Catholic formation, not in the itinerary itself.

But this, which is true, must hurt some sensitivities, so they distort the letter in a foolish attempt to transform the written word into a false approval of absolutely everything, that exists only in some Kiko-tized minds.

But wait, there's more.

John Paul II wants the bishops to "appreciate and assist" this work, provided that it is "in a spirit of service to the local ordinary and of communion with him, and within the unity of the...Church."

It is obvious that it could not be otherwise, no matter how much some gnash their teeth, squirm, and invent persecutions.

And the note at the end of the letter is no less interesting:

The Holy Father's intention in recognizing the Neocatechumenal Way as an effective process of Catholic formation, is not to give binding instructions to the local Ordinaries but only to encourage them to give careful consideration to the Neocatechumenal Communities. However, he leaves it to the judgment of the Ordinaries to act according to the pastoral needs of their own dioceses.

That is to say: full freedom for the bishop who deems it convenient to close the door of the diocese in their faces. Or, to put it another way, the bishop who decides that the NCW is superfluous in his diocese is certainly not possessed.

And once again, it is curious that this note appears in the Italian and English versions, but for inextricable reasons it has been lost and vanished in the Spanish version.

Why is it that error and concealment are inseparable from the Neocatechumenal Way? 

Monday, January 30, 2023

Is My Priest a Neocat?

 Discerning Catholics want to know: is my parish priest a Neocat?

The priests of the Neocatechumenal Way function very similarly to priests of religious orders, in that their job assignments are not limited to the diocese (or even country) in which they are currently operating. A priest operating in the Archdiocese of Washington may be called away to serve a parish in the Archdiocese of Boston. A priest in the Archdiocese of Denver may be called away to serve a mission in Florida. A priest in the Archdiocese of Newark may return to his home country to never be seen stateside again.

Likewise with priests of religious orders, these relocation assignments do not come directly from the diocesan bishop, but rather are decisions made by the priests' superiors - the lay leadership of the Neocatechumenal Way, headed by Kiko.

The difficult part is this: the Way is not actually a religious order. It is, according to canon law, neither an institute of consecrated life nor a society of apostolic life, but an association of the Christian faithful. This means that it is primarily a lay organization, and any priests it has look and function identically to diocesan priests, and its seminaries function alongside and in cooperation with diocesan seminaries.

Fr. John Smith, O.F.M. in his brown habit is easy to identify as a Franciscan. Fr. Bill Jones, O.P. in his white and black habit is easy to pick out as a Dominican. But Neocat priests wear no special habit, and carry no special letters after their names. So how can you know who's who?

Well, you just have to pay attention. Maybe homilies are getting harsher. New, vague catechetical sessions are starting up. You start feeling like an outsider in your own parish. The signs are common, but not always easy to pin down, especially if you haven't been trained on what to look for. You could always just ask a priest if he's part of the Way--they're usually very proud to tell you about their "journey of faith." But some people aren't comfortable being that direct and abrupt.

So as a public service, this blog is introducing a new feature whereby we provide you the names of known Neocatechumenal priests and the dioceses in which they serve. This list will be its own tab on the main page, so you can access it quickly and easily. Some notes about this list:

  • We're a small operation here at this blog. We only have so many man-hours to access so much information. As such, this directory of priests should never be considered comprehensive or complete. From personal experience, and from combing through church websites and diocesan media archives, we are able to come up with so many names, but we recognize there are likely many more that we have missed. We will do our best to keep the list current and up to date, adding new names as they are discovered (or ordained). We will also remove names if necessary (for example, if we discover our initial information was bad, or if someone leaves the country or dies).
  • We will never post information related to priests' current assignments (i.e. if they work in parishes, have chancery or seminary jobs, are unassigned, are working outside the diocese, etc.). We leave it to the reader to determine where a priest might be working at the particular time of reading.
  • This list is purely informational and does not intend to make commentary on the personal character and/or priestly ministry of any given man. That commentary, for better or for worse, is left to other times and places as warranted.
  • Because this is an American-based blog, this list will concern only priests in dioceses in the United States (not including territories, such as Guam, or dependent international missions, such as the Turks and Caicos Islands).

If you have names (or even dioceses) you would like to provide for the list, please reach out or comment and let us know.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Sukkot and Seminaries: Father Castillo's Story

In 2011, Fr. José Ángel Castillo, SS.CC. was appointed to be the spiritual director of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Galilee--part of the Neos' Domus Galilaeae complex. Fr. Castillo is also part of the founding team of catechists that established the Way in Nicaragua and, according to Crux Sancta, is among Kiko's "Seventy-Two." This basically means that he is a person of no small importance or influence within the Way.

Upon assuming this new job, he took it upon himself to write a short blog for his religious community back in Spain (the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, not the Way), detailing his impressions of his first week in the Holy Land. Gloria from Crux Sancta also happened to notice this blog, and took it upon herself to offer some commentary on it. We now offer this translation of Fr. Castillo's reflections, along with Gloria's--and a little of our own--commentary (in italics and brackets, respectively).


I have finished my first week in the Galilee Redemptoris Mater Seminary. Founded by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem (Israel, Palestine, and Jordan) in communion with the Byzantine and Maronite Catholic archbishops of Galilee. The first three seminarians will finish their theology in June 2012. My arrival has coincided with the celebration of Sukkot (the feast of booths). There are three festivals of joy: Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (the feast of weeks), and Sukkot. Sukkot makes present the journey of the people in the desert, living precariously in tents, pilgrims and foreigners without a home.

The pious Jew, year after year, must live as in the desert, abandoning a stable house for an unstable hut with a flimsy roof through which the stars can be seen shining. This should awaken in him the feeling of how fleeting earthly things are, and thus strengthen his trust and faith in God, who accompanied him through the desert in the Tent, in a tabernacle. You can read about Sukkout in Leviticus 23:42-43.

Curious. According to the author there are three festivals of joy... but he "forgets" to say that he is referring to another religion--one that, by the way, does not recognize Jesus as God or as the Son of God. In Christianity, the first festival of joy is Christmas.

Neither does one need a vast array of knowledge to know that Sukkot is a festival that Jesus himself considered surpassed, and that is how it is related in the Gospels, especially in John. So instead of two verses from Leviticus, I advise reading this document (starting at point 5), which explains it in fairly simple language. [Both this article and this one are also good.]

Last Sunday the 16th we went with all the seminarians to Safed, the fourth holy city after Jerusalem, Hebron (Tomb of the Patriarchs), and Tiberias (tomb of the Spaniard Maimonides). [Safed is] famous because great Sephardic rabbis from Spain, as well as from the center of the Kabbalah lived there. You can see the different tents and shacks around the city, some better made, some worse, some on the sidewalks... We were in a small, poor synagogue with a rabbi and his wife and 7 children. They were explaining the party to us and singing in Hebrew... He's a well-known rabbi who's been to our seminary.

What would a rabbi be doing in an allegedly Catholic seminary? Could it be that in that seminary, he discovered that Christianity was not his thing and he became a rabbi?

[Likely these questions of Gloria's are just being facetious. Rabbis are often the honored guests of RMS. But still... Also, how delightful that this Neocat bigwig brags about being in a city that, by his own admission, is holy because it was home to the Kabbalah movement.]

And on Wednesday the 19th in the late afternoon we returned to Safed. It was the eighth day, the day that Simchat Torah (The Joy of the Torah) is celebrated, a great celebration to close Sukkot.

The reading of the Torah (Pentateuch) ends each year on this final day of the festival with the last chapters of Deuteronomy, and immediately Genesis (Bereshit: In the beginning) is also read. The Torah has neither beginning nor end, as Psalm 119:96 says: "I have seen that everything has a limit, but your law (torah, commandment) subsists forever."

Don't miss the tradition of deforming quotes to make it seem like they say what is convenient for the author! Because the reality is that Psalm 119:96 has no reference to the Torah, neither with parenthesis or without them. [The word used for "commandment" in this passage in the Hebrew Bible is not תּוֹרָה (Torah), but מִצְוָה (mitzvah). Mitzvahs (technically "mitzvot") are the "commands" or duties that God obliged the Jewish people to fulfill--the Torah, or Pentateuch, contains 613 such mitzvot. More generally, God praises Abraham for keeping his commandments (mitzvot), and clearly one of the Torah's earliest protagonists had no Torah of his own to work from.] Furthermore, the Torah - like Sukkot - is superseded by the New Covenant.

We visited three synagogues of different origins and tendencies, from Sephardic to Ashkenazi. There are many in Safed, almost always small. The men are the ones who celebrate and the women have a separate place. That day, they dance carrying the Torah in their arms--several copies, and some smaller ones for the children, who also sing and dance--for more than two hours. Since you can enter freely, and we were wearing black pants, white shirts, and a kippah (the little cap on the head, or skullcap, which only the bishop wears among us, but in Israel even the children wear it), we got into the group, circling around the the "ambo," which is in the center of the synagogue.

That is, they disguised themselves and pretended to be what they are not... Or are they?

[I also just love his snide little aside about the skullcaps, like he's disappointed in our uppity gate-keeping bishops for keeping to themselves something that even little Jewish children wear! Never mind that, while similar in appearance, the Catholic zucchetto and the Jewish kippah, or yamulke, are entirely different garments with very little (if any) shared religious significance.]

The Torah for Israel is like the "wife" - he hugs her, kisses her, dances with her... The Jewish holidays always leave a Christian dissatisfied, as if something were missing. That's right, the Messiah is missing, Jesus. St. John says: "the Word (Torah) became flesh and placed his dwelling (sukkot) among us."

No, Saint John, who has clear ideas, does not reduce the Word to something outdated like the Torah, nor does he restrict God to a little party that, originally, comes from paganism and celebrated harvesting.

[I would add that the Torah is still Sacred Scripture and is not as such "outdated." The Old Covenant, in which the Torah played a central role, is outdated, but the Scriptures themselves never will be. As to Sukkout's pagan origins, certainly, there are statements out there about that, but then, there are (entirely wrong) statements about the pagan origins of Christmas out there, too. So who knows? However, it is absolutely correct to say that John has a much wider focus when he says that the Logos, the Divine and Immutable Word of God, became flesh. Logos is hardly on par with Pentateuch (the Greek word for Torah)--though it certainly includes it.

Fr. Castillo, though, is not entirely wrong when he uses sukkot (in English, "booth," "tent," or "tabernacle") to refer to "dwelling" in his reference to John 1:14. John's verb, dwelt, is "eskēnōsen," which literally means "tabernacled." The same Greek root word appears in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) in the context of God dwelling with his people (in a tent or tabernacle) in the desert, so contemporary Jewish readers would certainly have been familiar with it. As Christians, however, we don't associate that word with desert wanderings or a Jewish festival. John tells us that the God who once dwelt in the tabernacle in the wilderness and in the Jerusalem Temple now dwells in the flesh of Jesus, the Logos. And as we see later in John's Gospel, the Body of Christ overrides any allegiance to tent (Sukkot) or Temple. The tabernacles in every Catholic church around the world do indeed still contain God's presence with us--precisely in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist.]

Celebrating this feast, chapters 7, 8, and 9 of St. John gain new light. At Sukkot he [Jesus] had to manifest himself (Jn 7:10-13, 25-30). It is the festival of water--which rose from the pool of Siloam (which means Sent) and spilled abundantly through the temple (Jn 7:37-39; 9:1-7)--to ask for rain to sow after having collected the grapes and olives (it rains little in Israel. Rain is expected in November). On Sukkot, there are always seven special guests who must be in every Jew's tent: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David.

Moses was given the two tablets of the Torah "written by the finger of God" (Ex 31:18). Jesus, like the new Moses, appears in front of the adulterous woman, writing "with his finger on the ground" (Jn 8:1-11). Abraham is the father (Jn 8:33, 39). But Jesus presents himself at this feast as someone greater than Abraham (Jn 8:53) since he says: "your father Abraham rejoiced thinking to see my day; he saw it and was glad." This insistence on Abraham's joy is surprising: "he rejoiced," "he was glad."

There is only one precept for this eighth day festival of Simchat Torah, Joy of the Torah: be happy. It is forbidden to be sad. While they sing and dance, they drink wine and eat sweets, to the delight of the children who have a great time and for this reason want to go to the synagogue.

There is an echo of this joy in the letter of St. Paul to the Philippians: "Rejoice always in the Lord; I repeat to you, rejoice" (Phil 4:4). On this day, one thing that the Jews continually repeat is this: Be happy, be happy...

The Jews still haven't found out; that's why it's not to set an example. Saint Paul--who is not about drinking a lot, nor eating sweets, nor dancing with the Torah in his arms--knows that only in the Lord can one be happy. But some people have not found out.

[This guy is brilliant with his subversive throw-away remarks. Why do the children want to go to synagogue? Obviously, because of all the singing and dancing and partying that goes on there! Subtext: You got that Catholic Church? More singing, more dancing, more partying at Mass--just like the Jews, exactly how we in the Way do it. That's how you bring the kids back! That's how you evangelize!]

And on Friday the 21st we celebrated the first Eucharist of this course in the seminary in the Greek-Catholic or Byzantine or Melkite rite, which are the majority of Christians in Galilee. It comes from St. John Chrysostom, no less. Very solemn, colorful ornaments, endless bowing, blessings, you constantly cross yourself, fat bread, not unleavened and perfumed...

And it stays so fresh! A "seminary" that uses fat bread, not unleavened and perfumed, to make it richer...

[Here I have to disagree with Gloria's take. While she's rightly cynical of the Neos' typical history of using leavened bread for their Eucharists, leavened bread (called "antidoron" in Eastern Christianity) is entirely legitimate in the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. I actually get a good chuckle imagining Neocats at a Melkite Divine Liturgy...they were probably squirming to no end with all the "natural religiosity", familiar leavened bread or not!]

With such examples [as Fr. Castillo], I do not want to imagine the state of the ordained.

[Too true. If you told me, "here's an article about a Catholic priest in his first week as a spiritual director for seminarians," the last thing I would expect is a detailed description of all the Jewish parties he went to and all the reverence he felt towards the hometowns of Spanish rabbis. And this isn't just any Catholic priest--he's a highly-ranked, highly-respected Neocat. His words are not those of a lone rogue; instead, they are likely revered and echoed up and down the hierarchy. Chag Sameach, everybody!]

 

Monday, January 16, 2023

Cardinal Pell & the Neocats

 

Cardinal George Pell will likely long be remembered as a hero among the more conservative circles of the Church. He was, as his friends at The Pillar stated, "a defender of orthodox Catholic doctrine and an articulate spokesman for the evangelical and social mission of the Church." He attempted to tackle the apparent corruption of the Vatican's finances. He endured a lengthy prison sentence for crimes for which he was ultimately judged innocent. He rightly recognized the "toxic nightmare" of the ongoing German "Synodal Way."

But ultimately, this is not a eulogy for the late Cardinal, though through God's mercy, may he rest in peace. This is not a biography and, though this blog finds much to admire about his character, certainly neither is it a hagiography.

This is the story of a good man and the bad men that he (knowingly or unknowingly) supported.

If the Church remains faithful to Christ, Pell said in a 2020 interview, there's always the chance that new forces of renewal and leadership will arise.

I think this happened already in the last century through Opus Dei, the Neocatechumenal Way, just as it did in the 16th Century with the Jesuits, in the 13th Century with the Dominicans and the Franciscans, and earlier with the Benedictines.

According to Cardinal Pell, the Neocatechumenal Way is actively transforming the Church for the better, just as St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Dominic, St. Francis, and St. Benedict did in the past. Kiko and St. Josemaría Escrivá are apparently cut from the same cloth.

Praise indeed. Those are no small, negligible comparisons.

The Way is also repeatedly mentioned in Pell's prison memoirs. He opened a Redemptoris Mater seminary for them in Sydney in 2001. In the picture below, you see him seated at a 2011 Mass at the Way's Domus Galilaeae in Israel (he's seated on the far right between the late Venezuelan Cardinal Urosa and, of all people, Ted McCarrick):

His connection to and affection for Kiko's movement clearly run deep.

We go now to St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Redfern, a suburb of Sydney less than 3 miles south of the famed Opera House. Though gentrification has come to the area in recent years, the neighborhood is generally considered "inner city," with all the usual socio-economic challenges that term usually entails.

For over 30 years, starting in the early 70s, Fr. Tom Kennedy was the pastor of this parish. One of its defining features was its outreach ministry to the Aboriginal people. It was a parish commited to social justice for the outcast. As one local publication phrased it:

Anyone who knows St. Vincent's parish in Redfern knows it is as idiosyncratic as much as of the area that surrounds it. Parishioners include some of the most marginalised people in Sydney as well as some of the more well-heeled. Tales of disruptions and interjections of various kinds during Mass are legendary, and over the years the unorthodox use of church property to meet local needs has put the parish on a collision course with the archdiocese.

In other words, casting no aspersions on the good works and Christian witness this parish managed to bring to its inner-city community, one might very easily and still charitably call this parish "liberally-minded." When dealing with a conservative like George Pell, who ran the Sydney Archdiocese from 2001 to 2014, one might easily imagine what sort of "collision course" this parish community may have been on.

In a 2007 letter to Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, then Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, one St. Vincent's parishioner picks up the story:

When a sick and frail Fr. Kennedy retired in 2002, Archbishop Cardinal George Pell promised him that he would respect the special place that St. Vincent's had become and ensure that his legacy would continue. Instead, the Cardinal sent clergy with a very different agenda to Redfern, culminating in the extraordinary appointment, in July 2003, of Fr. Gerry Prindiville of the Neocatechumenal Way.

For some perspective here, we turn again to our local publication:

Prindiville's appointment must be viewed in the wider context of Cardinal George Pell's attempts to rein in independently minded priests and their parishioners, and to reaffirm a rigid Catholic orthodoxy throughout the Sydney Archdiocese.

So we might explain the situation like this. A conservative archbishop, recently installed in Australia's largest diocese in its largest city, wants to do a little housecleaning. He knows of a parish that has been "doing its own thing" for 30 years, and wants to restore some law and order. He wants to restore Catholic orthodoxy to a place where it appears to have been lacking for a long while. So, he calls on the Neocatechumenal Way: the "conservative restorationists" of the Catholic Church. His motives, arguably, are sincere, even if he perhaps lacks full understanding of the situation. But, what happens next?

We'll let the people of St. Vincent's explain:

The priests of the Neocatechumenal Way have withdrawn the Saturday parish vigil Mass and replaced it with one held in their presbytery, where we feel most unwelcome; they removed the tabernacle from the Church to a tiny locked room in the sacristy where it can only be venerated by a chosen few; they regularly deny members of the community the Eucharist; they have verbally and physically assaulted us; they have threatened us and shattered and ignored our traditions and cultures. Fr. Prindiville himself on several occasions has walked angrily out of Masses that he was saying, leaving the congregation stranded. And all the while they preach at us about our sinfulness.

The priests behave in a manner that has been, and continues to be, divisive, deceitful, abusive and intolerant. They deny the existence of Aborigines in the parish and refuse to be enculturated, disregarding Aboriginal culture and spirituality...

After approximately eighteen months of documented snide remarks, verbal abuse, vicious comments, illegal threats, intimidation, physical violence and malicious damage to property, one of our women parishioners who had borne the brunt of some particularly nasty, public and defamatory verbal abuse, submitted a case of defmation against the assistant priest [Fr. Dennis Sudla] to the Tribunal of the Catholic Church of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. The judgment found in favour of the parishioner... While no explanation has been offered, the priest in question has not been seen in the parish since the issuing of the first notice. His successor [Fr. Joe Pelle] is similarly unenculturated, hostile, and contemptuous of the community's long term liturgical practices and pastoral concerns...

In our experience the Neocatechumenal Way is divisive and harmful. The Church is not enriched by their fundamentalist, sect-like practices... The appointment of men whose pastoral interest and theological and missiological training seem to be woefully inadequate, and who appear not to have been assessed for their leadership qualities, can only bring heartache to a parish and stress to the individual priests. Such poor formation can only besmirch Catholics everywhere.

Nearly a decade later, the stories hadn't changed much, as The Thoughtful Catholic reports in some depth.

So, while Cardinal Pell may have had good intentions to bring the "liberal and wayward" parish of St. Vincent's to heel with his "conservative" Neocat friends, does it sound like that's what happened? Or does it sound like the all-too-familiar scenario that seems to happen wherever the Apostles of Kiko go?

How, you might ask, did Cardinal Pell respond? The parishioners explain:

We are saddened by the dismissive attitude of so much of the Church towards fair and honest criticism. We are bewildered by the fact that our Archbishop has made no effort to listen to and genuinely work with us towards equitable solutions... Time and time again we've pleaded with Cardinal Pell for help. Time and time again he has dismissed or ignored our complaints about the Neocatechumenate priests. And all the while he has been misrepresenting the situation and vilifying us publicly in the press, and in his letters.

"The priests continue to be strongly opposed by a small rump, but they have no problems with the local people, both indigenous and non-indigenous... The relationship between parishioners and the priests, seminarians, and families of the Neocatechumenal Way are [sic] basically very good." (Letter of Card. Pell, 23 May 2006)

Cardinal Pell has never acknowledged the Tribunal findings [regarding Fr. Sudla] to us. We understand that he is often overseas and therefore very hard to contact, but we are deeply distressed that he has still not acknowledged a letter, signed by 120 members of the community, which was sent to him in May 2006.

The parishioners go on to say that because of their experience, they were able to establish contact with parishes in Perth, on the opposite side of the country, that had similarly struggled with the Neocatechumenal Way, even with a couple of the same priests.

In May 2021, St. Vincent's parish was merged with two other parishes to form the Sydney City South parish. The pastor's not a Neocat anymore, but the Neocats are still alive and well and living in Redfern. Though we hope the community continues to thrive, we must certainly recognize that it's always a sad day when a once-thriving parish is reduced to a part of a cluster. And we must wonder: could this fate have been avoided if instead of the Neocats, Cardinal Pell had managed to find a priest that was both committed to Catholic orthodoxy as well as Fr. Tom Kennedy's pastoral care to the marginalized and disenfranchised?

[An interesting side note about the aforementioned Fr. Gerry Prindiville: The letters from the parishioners of St. Vincent's indicate that he was replaced as pastor there in 2007, after an obviously tumultuous four-year tenure. He currently serves as the spiritual director of Sydney's RMS--so obviously he's earned his promotion over the years, in spite of early difficulties. What this blog finds most interesting, though, is his résumé: although he's a native Australian, he went to seminary at RMS Newark and was ordained for that Archdiocese in 1995 by (we can only logically assume) Ted McCarrick. In the four years immediately prior to coming to St. Vincent's, guess where he was doing missionary work? The Turks and Caicos! Small world, isn't it?]

Returning to our main story: In a none-too-flattering article, The Guardian reports of Cardinal Pell:

He was a company man. He did what he did to preserve the power and the assets of the church [sic]. If that meant thrashing victims of abuse through the courts and boxing them into tiny settlements, that was fine by him. Duty done.

This blog will recognize a kernel of truth in that statement: Pell was a man who deeply loved the Church, and was committed to go to great lengths to preserve and defend Her. Unfortunately, he may not always have had the clearest vision for doing so, as the same Guardian piece relates the all-too-familiar tale of downplaying clerical abuse under his watch.

And, he clearly lacked the vision to see the Neocatechumenal Way for what it was, and still is. Was the Cardinal deeply complicit in the Way's activities? Was he perhaps trading his silence for the opportunity to use the Way's deep coffers to fund his orthodox renaissance? Or was he just naively trusting, seeing only what he wanted to see--a superficially conservative movement in the Church that achieved big conversion numbers and didn't fuss about doctrine?

We do not begin to speculate how much of the "true" Way Cardinal Pell really understood. Nor do we begin to speculate on how much other "conservative" prelates truly understand--e.g. Cardinal Stafford, Archbishop Chaput, or Archbishop Aquila.

We simply remark that conservative stalwarts like George Pell have made and continue to make the Neocatechumenal Way what it is today, and this is largely why so many otherwise orthodox Catholics, both lay and clerical, are dodgy about critiquing it too harshly. After all, if men such as Cardinal Pell are for it, who am I to be against it?

Cardinal Pell was both a good man and a sinful man. He has now been judged by his Creator. We do not seek to add to that judgment. But understand: no matter how good and holy a man may be, we must never let hero worship get in the way of honest criticism, and recognize that even the best of men can err in judgment.

It happened to John Paul II. It happened to Benedict. It happened to George Pell. It's happening to other men every day. Let's wake up.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Thoughts on Abraham


Kiko's exegesis on Abraham is perhaps one of the most egregious and insidious of all the teachings introduced during the Neocatechumenal Way's introductory catechesis. It can be found on pages 225-243 of his catechetical guide (Volume 1, approved English edition). The Thoughtful Catholic presents a terrific analysis of this teaching, quoting liberally from both Kiko and Sacred Scripture. Our aim here is to present something a little different.

February 24, 2022. That was the night a friend of mine and I attended Night 12 (Abraham night) of the initial catechesis. I took notes the entire time. While I don't remotely have the skills of a court stenographer, I did my best to get exact quotes or close paraphrases as much as possible. After getting home, I assembled these notes into a more organized form, and, after a little research, contributed some commentary. All of this was done so as to have a first-hand record of what is really said and done during these "catechetical sessions."

What follows below is a sampling of my notes with my added commentary. I've also interspersed some additional "looking back" comments, as well.


This might be the worst one so far, at least from my perspective. If you've ever read the Bible, studied the Bible, prayed with the Bible, held a Bible, looked at a Bible... this is gonna get rough.

All about Abraham tonight. Here we go:

--"We're not here to give you more biblical knowledge. That's not what this is about." [Can't give what you don't have, right?]

--"The Bible is just a book - we're going to give you a taste of what the Bible is, how it affects your life."

--While recounting the story of the Tower of Babel: "it's in Genesis 6, 11, or something." [It's Genesis 11. So you're barely biblically literate, as you've all proven time and time again, but please, teach me all about Abraham.]

--"God says, 'I will never let man die again' in his covenant with Noah." [Well, that's a bit of a stretch. God says in Genesis 8:21, "Neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done." Pretty explicit--moreso even in Genesis 9:11- that He's not going to send another world-annihilating flood. Men will certainly continue to die in other ways--Noah included!]

--"Maybe you studied Abraham a bit for your first communion or something." [The catechists' utter disregard for their audience's religious education is on full display. They're banking on your ignorance so they can get away with what they're about to tell you and not be instantly IDed for the frauds they are. Neocats are famous for sneering at anyone (like me) who "studies theology"--probably because we can see right through the BS.]

--"Abraham was a polytheist. Name a god, and he prayed to it."

--"Abraham's life was only about two things: having land and having a son."

--"Abraham was a failure his entire life. God picked a failure."

--"God mocked Abraham's gods because they didn't give Abraham what he wanted."

--"Abraham was suffering so much that he begged God for a promise, a guarantee that he would come through for him. So God passed between the halves of animals as a pillar of fire." [A pillar of fire? Really? Genesis 15:17 says "a smoking pot and a flaming torch." Sure you're not mixed up with the Exodus story? It's really painful how badly they butcher all this...]

--"God tells Abraham he doesn't have to do anything. It's all God's initiative."

--"After many years, Abraham doubts God and starts thinking for himself again, using his own reason." [Thinking for yourself and using reason are bad things, you see.] "And he decides he should sleep with his wife's servant." [Even though Genesis 16 clearly says it was all completely Sarah's idea.]

--"Because Hagar gives him a son, the one thing in life he always wanted, he starts to prefer Hagar to Sarah, and Sarah resents this, so she gives Abraham an ultimatum." [What? Hagar got uppity with Sarah because she conceived immediately, whereas Sarah was barren. Sarah resented how her prideful and unrepentant servant treated her with such disdain, and she blames Abraham for putting her in that position--even though it was her idea in the first place. She also didn't give any ultimatum--it was never an "it's her or me" situation. She invokes the Lord to judge between her and her husband, not her husband to judge between her and her servant.]

It is interesting to note here that Abraham is not yet Abraham when all of this is happening. He's still Abram, and Sarah is still Sarai. But the catechists make no such distinction. In fact, they don't talk about the name change, or the significance of that event at all. For all they seem to care, he was Abraham from Ur until his dying day.

--"Abraham goes to Egypt without relying on God. He tells Pharaoh that Sarah is his sister and gets into a bigger mess." [Now we're chronologically out of order. We were just in Genesis 16, but now we're skipping back to Chapter 12.]

--"God is going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, but he comes to Abraham in the form of three young men to ask for his advice, just as a friend would." [No, no, no. The three young men by the Oak of Mamre are there to tell Abraham that God will still fulfill his promise through Sarah. Abraham afterward accompanies them in the direction of Sodom, and God (through the young men or otherwise, Genesis doesn't specify) decides to tell him what he's going to do to Sodom. Then, after the young men leave, Abraham pleads for the righteous. At no point is God asking for advice, and by the time Abraham is interceding, the men have definitively left.]

--"Abraham begins to idolize his son [Isaac] and forget God, so God wants to free him and so asks for his [Isaac's] sacrifice."

--"Abraham is you and me. If you don't see yourself in this word, then this word is judging you, telling you to convert." [Accept our interpretation or else.]

--"This is not a class about learning the Bible." [Clearly. And you all should go take one.]

--"Abraham interprets your life."

--"Abraham is not a word that means whatever you want. The Church interprets it for you." [I agree wholeheartedly. And I can assure you, the Catholic Church has never taught what you are all presently teaching about Abraham. And you're right, it doesn't mean whatever you want. You Neocats included. But all you're really doing here is saying, "we're right, you're wrong, shut up." You have no pretensions of loyalty to magisterial teaching.]

--"Abraham is a word meaning faith. The Catechism doesn't define faith, but tells you to look at the example of Abraham and Mary." [Nope, pretty sure the Catechism does define faith (for example, CCC 150). In fact, CCC 142-184 is all about faith. And yes, Abraham and Mary are mentioned as models of faith (144-149), so congratulations, your first lip-service mention of the Catechism in 12 sessions manages to get something right.]

--"Faith is not believing God exists. Faith is not going to church. Faith is not observing your religious practices." [You quote the Catechism on faith, and then you say faith isn't believing in God, which is something the Catechism absolutely says--numerous times--in pretty much the exact same spot you were just referencing!]

--"Muslims pray more than we do. Praying doesn't give you more faith."

--"We find Abraham in Genesis 12 totally destroyed and depressed and on the edge of suicide." [Please, read Genesis 12 right now. It's not long. I'll wait. You haven't quoted a single passage from Genesis all night, you've just been paraphrasing. But you open up it up and you tell me the exact verse where it says or even implies any of that, you filthy liar.]

A couple weeks after this session, I would confront the catechist--the parish pastor!--who made this ridiculous claim. I asked him to show me precisely where in Genesis 12 Abraham was depressed and suicidal. I even offered him the Bible app on my phone, in case he didn't have a Bible handy. "No," Father said, "you need to understand the whole of Scripture, not just in isolation. You see it in St. Paul." I didn't ask about St. Paul. I said, where in Genesis 12, which you specifically referenced. "Because St. Paul says..." OK, Father, please show me where St. Paul said Abraham was suicidal. "He says Abraham was freed from death." Yes, because he was an old man, death was likely quite prominent in his mind. Please show me where St. Paul says he was depressed and suicidal, though. "Because he was in his death..." And so on, making much to do about the comprehensiveness of Scripture. Bottom line: when directly confronted, they have absolutely zero proof, even though they make it sound so obvious.

--"The Lord appears in your failure. The Lord is not blind to your situation, but maybe you are."

--"Abraham names his son Isaac, meaning laughter, because of the joy God gave him." [Nope. The name comes from Sarah's laughter when she first heard that she was going to conceive in her old age. See Genesis 18:11-15 and Genesis 21:6-7. This isn't hard.]

--"We have a religious mentality, which always says that God has to serve me. You don't ever sacrifice yourself: we want a flat, bourgeois Christianity and we forget what God has done for us."

--Father reads liberally from Romans 4, where Paul speaks of Abraham. No problem cracking open that Bible now. Where was it while you were butchering the actual story of Abraham, you phonies? [Still no depressed, suicidal patriarchs in Romans, either, by the way.]

--"You don't need faith to receive sacraments. Lots of people with no faith receive sacraments." [Well, that's quite the logical fallacy. "Lots of faithless people present themselves for sacraments, ergo you clearly don't need faith to receive sacraments." Why are the faithless ones setting the bar here?]

Since Father was reading so nicely from Romans, I almost felt compelled to suggest another passage from that letter for him to read:

I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetities, and by their fair and flattering words they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded. (Romans 16:17-18)

My friend remarked that the catechists did make a very correct observation in pointing out that the New Testament is a fulfillment of the Old and cannot be properly understood without it. Was I teaching this catechesis, I might have included a reference to CCC 129 on this point. I might have also launched into a discussion of the prefigurement of Christ's sacrifice and crucifixion in Abraham's offering of Isaac. I might have used this as an opening to talk about biblical typology in general, which is a fantastic interpretive tool that can help apply biblical stories to your life. But I wasn't. And they didn't.


So concludes my notes and commentary on Night 12 of the initial catechesis. Obviously, my emotions were quite raw in the moment, and I still get a little agitated thinking about it, even almost a year later.

Hopefully reading these "moment in time" reflections can give you a clearer window into just what is being taught to unsuspecting Catholics and other curious listeners when the Neos come to town.

I close with a short prayer that I felt the need to compose, inspired by Romans 4, after leaving that session:

Father Abraham,
You believed, hoping against hope, that you would become the father of many nations.
You did not weaken in faith when you considered your own body as already dead.
Empowered by faith, you gave glory to God.
You rejoiced and were glad to see the day of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
I ask you today to intercede for those who have gone astray in their own faith, maligning your name and your holy example to suit their own twisted purposes.
Bring them before Christ, our Lord, and His Most Blessed Mother, the perfect embodiment of the obedience of faith.
Intercede for their forgiveness and restoration as you once interced for the righteous men of Sodom.
I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, the same Lord and Savior, God forever and ever.
Amen.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Pope Benedict and "Careful Observance"

 

"We're approved by 5 popes. Do you know better than 5 popes??"

Such was the challenge that I was issued by my former Neocat pastor for daring to question the sacred integrity of the Way. Perhaps you've encountered similar challenges. The better question might be, "do you know better?"

Upon the passing of Pope Benedict XVI, Kiko shared a short reflection with his followers, fondly remembering a letter that the then-Father Ratzinger allegedly wrote in the early 70s expressing his desire for the Way to spread throughout Germany. Below, we also see then-Cardinal Ratzinger celebrating a Neocat Eucharist.

Undoubtedly, these are the images and memories the Way would most like to recall when speaking of the late Pontiff. However, there are some remarks they would perhaps much prefer to forget, such as:

"...Recently the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments imparted to you, in my name, some norms concerning the celebration of the Eucharist, following the experimental period granted by Pope John Paul II.

I am sure that these norms, which continue what is expected in the liturgical books approved by the Church, will be carefully observed by you. Thanks to faithful adherence to every directive of the Church, you will make your apostolate even more effective, in harmony and in full communion with the Pope and the Bishops of every diocese..." (January 26, 2006, to the families of the Neocatechumenal Way)

Or:

"Dear Mr. Kiko Argüello, Miss Carmen Hernandez, and Rev. Fr. Mario Pezzi, following the dialogues that have taken place with this Congregation... I am communicating to you the decisions of the Holy Father.

In the celebration of Holy Mass, the Neocatechumenal Way will accept and follow the liturgical books approved by the Church, without omitting or adding anything." (Letter from the CDW, December 1, 2005)

And:

"The celebration in small communities, regulated by the liturgical books, which must be followed faithfully..." (January 20, 2012, to the communities of the Neocatechumenal Way)

If you go to the doctor and he says, "you're fine with the ingrown toenail, but you need urgent surgery on your eyes," do you focus on the good things he said (about the toenail) or the unpleasant things (about the eyes) that he said to you? Even if he said a hundred good things to you and only one worrying one, do you focus on those hundred good things, or do you try to correct the one bad thing?

With regard to Pope Benedict, do you focus on his paternal benevolence, or on the corrections he made to you which he expected to be "faithfully followed"?

Does the Way accept the paternal admonition from the Letter to the Hebrews, "the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives"? If they were really the faithful sons of the Church they claim to be, one would certainly hope so.

However, we know from long experience that Kiko and the Way have zero interest in accepting corrections from anyone. They and they alone know best. They faithfully follow their own liturgical books, no one else's.

So let them pay their lip service to their dearly departed Holy Father. Let them bask in the Eucharists he celebrated with them and the letters he wrote on their behalf. Pope Benedict loved the followers of the Way enough to insist on their adherence to the Church, like any good father would. It's a shame they never loved him enough to listen.

[The above quotes, as well as a portion of the above commentary, are translations from the Osservatorio.]