Sunday, August 13, 2023
Proverbs 6 :16-19 “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”
Monday, August 7, 2023
Two footnotes, referring the reader to printed sources, have been omitted from this excerpt (but are retained in the original linked above). Two others have been retained but edited to fit the text. An additional intertext citation to a non-specific web source has also been omitted.
Neocatechumenal songs have a different style from traditional sacred and liturgical music. They are characterized by a sustained rhythmical quality, a preferential use for guitar and percussion instruments, and a vocal outpouring that intends to refer to the Jewish tradition and to the primitive Church.
The songs of the Neocatechumenal Way are collected in a hymnal entitled Resucitò [or He Rose from Death in English. "He Rose from Death" is also the name of one of their most popular hymns. A PDF version of the English hymnal is available from The Thoughtful Catholic.] At each presentation of new songs, training sessions are scheduled to explain their function and purpose. They have a clear biblical emphasis and are characterized by a laudatory point of view and a "kerygmatic" proclamation.
German theologian Sven Amuth notes, "Although there is a book of Neocatechumenal songs, the members of the Way do not use it in liturgical celebrations because they know them by heart, and this normally does not allow guests to be able to sing with them."
According to Kiko Argüello, for the Neocatechumenal, sacred music "has the power to awaken, to make faith ring out, something important in our age today, in which this kerygmatic aspect is very much lacking."
The Neocatechumenal Way considers the use of songs essential, both in the liturgical and extra-liturgical spheres: "The Neocatechumenal Way uses a hymnal of songs taken from the Word of God and from the Christian and Jewish liturgical tradition, which underline the contents of the different stages and passages" (Article 11 of the Neocatechumenal Way, approved by the Holy See on May 11, 2008).
We emphasize that the musical experience within the Neocatechumenal Way is quite "unique." Never, in the history of the Church, has there been the presence of a single author (the founder Kiko Argüello) for words and music that cannot be revised or corrected; this also applies to the playing style. In other words, the principle of adaptability to the cultural and social context is missing. Unlike the repertoires of other movements, the Neocatechumenal repertoire excludes performance in other contexts, because the songs are dedicated to the internal path of the Way itself. Conveniently, because being conceived for the celebrations "of" the Neocatechumenal Way, the songs would be "foreign" to other celebratory contexts.
We believe this to be limiting because it would seem to indicate an "exclusivity" which is not legitimized by the systematic Magisterium on sacred music.
Monday, July 24, 2023
The following article was originally posted in Spanish on Crux Sancta. It details the anonymous testimony of a woman, now likely in her late 70s, who followed the Neocatechumenal Way for a period of about 3 years in the late 1980s. We invite the reader, as always, to test the veracity of this story by comparing it against the testimony of many others who have spoken across the years and around the globe, and perhaps even against your own lived experience.
At the beginning of February, what was presented as the "catechesis of the Neocatechumenals" began in my parish. I was 40 years old, had two teenage children, and had been a widow for a little more than two months.
Along with my children, I attended these talks that took place two nights a week. It was quite late for me, but I was attracted by the songs and the approach to the Word of God, which they explained in an animated way. After the talks concluded, there was a first "convivence" in which there were some very beautiful ceremonies, but what caught my attention was at the end of the third day, when the stay had to be paid for, a black bag was circulated among the attendees during a prayer gathering. Into this bag we were encouraged to deposit "what each one could, with generosity, taking into account that there were brothers who could not pay."
In the first round, the necessary amount was not collected. Another round was made, after which, with very heartfelt words, our catechist assured us that something great had happened: the sum was not only enough, but more than enough! His speech took on a magical tone. He came to say that a miracle had occurred in our midst, that something had come out of our pockets in which nothing was left out of pure generosity. Yes, yes... I'll come back to this episode later.
After this convivence, what was called "the second community of XXX" was born, the first one having existed for 3 or 4 years. Four responsibles were named. There were no married couples to separate, so one was me (I'm a teacher), along with a colleague of mine and two university students. From the first moment, a demanding rhythm was imposed for those who have jobs and prior responsibilities. We met regularly each week: once to prepare the readings relating to the "word," once for the celebration of the Liturgy of the Word, and once for the Eucharistic celebration on Saturday night.
This was all extremely tiring because we would finish around midnight or after. Later I realized that tired people are more impressionable and easier to manipulate.
In addition, as a responsible, I had to participate in some convivences just for responsibles. This was a burden for me because I had to leave my children and my in-laws alone.
At that time, our pastor suffered a heart attack and had to leave the parish to another priest, a good and honest person, but incapable of stopping the itinerant (I will call him John), who had come to, what they continued to call, "catechize us."
I soon became disliked of John's wife, a cold and sour woman whom I never saw smile. One of the times we clashed was after a "catechesis," in which she repeated several times, "...who doesn't hate his brother--and notice that the word 'hate' in the Greek language is really hate, hate, not to love less, HATE, etc. etc.--is not worthy of Me." I responded to this intervention by proposing the Gospel of St. John and his First Letter, but I noticed her inability to reason and only drew her ire.
On one occasion, during what they designate as a day of convivence, in the round of experiences, a girl accused me of a lack of hospitality. Her argument was that, having made my house available to the community for the Easter night agape, I should have allowed them to make trouble. And none of my brothers showed consideration for my neighbors! But things got even more complicated.
Neocatechumenal praxis establishes that after two years, there is a "step" to I don't know what. It was the end of January, there was a lot of work at school, and my 82-year-old father-in-law had a throat problem and was awaiting surgery, and I was the one who had to take care of his treatment. Well, just in those days you had to go to another town for the magical step that takes you to I don't know where. I decided to communicate my family situation to my "catechists" (as they called themselves) and I suggested that I attend the convivence during the day, but that at night I felt the moral and ethical duty to be at home. Their answer was that I had to expose everything to John, who was not my catechist, in neither name nor practice. I know now that there are ranks among the Neocatechumenals who consider themselves "catechists," and that except for the itinerants at the top, no other has decision-making power. Their mission consists only of informing the itinerant boss of how many there are in the community and how many of them have not made the "steps" and for what reasons.
I met John on January 17, Saint Anthony's Day, which is a holiday in our diocese. He listened to me with an air of smugness and assured me that if I did not sleep in the convivence location, the Lord would not pass by for me, but that I was free to come and go as I pleased. So he gave me to understand that my proposal was valid for "being useful" without neglecting my in-laws.
Consequently, myself along with three other people went and came back on Friday, as well as Saturday and Sunday.
On Sunday, the ceremony - not a liturgy, but mere posturing - of the "step" took place. They told us we had to be there by 3:00 pm. We brought flowers for the table, a bottle of "Opium" perfume to perfume the oil and many sweets for the agape with which the ceremony would conclude. When we arrived, everything was almost ready. There were about 50 people sitting in a circle around the lectern and the table. The flowers that we brought they had thrown away.
We sat down, too. John burst into the room and called our attention with a peremptory gesture: "You, you and you, come with me." We got up without knowing what was happening, but we had the feeling that nothing good awaited us. We followed him into a small room where two priests--the priest who replaced our pastor and an itinerant priest--were waiting for us. Rudely and with a lack of education, they told us that we could not make the step - wherever it goes - because we had not spent the night in the convivence house, which was the reason why "the Lord had not passed for us." I stood up and said that God does not happen here, there, or in other places, but happens in people's lives, and I appealed to his understanding through the mediation of St. John Bosco, whose feast was that day. John responded with contempt, "And who is this St. John Bosco?", to imply that he had more discernment than any saint or that God himself bowed down before the criteria of an itinerant Neocatechumenal. I had never witnessed such a display of pride, contempt, and lack of love for the other, which is Christ.
We left that assembly humiliated and mistreated, and the week passed in a rather traumatic way. On Saturday afternoon, we met again with the brothers of the community who had made the famous step. The brother whose turn it was to give the environmental monition of the Eucharist spoke of the presence of the devil within the community, of some who were the devil, and he repeated the concept several times and managed to make us feel called out: "Is it me?" "They are those who have not made the step."
Despite this, we participated again on other Saturdays, as well as in some Liturgies of the Word. During a Word, the responsible who had mentioned the presence of the devil in the community called us aside, begging us to raise some money as soon as possible because there was about to be a convivence to form a new community. For this reason, I quote his words: "We have to do as always, that is, have a generous sum at your disposal, in the event that when the bag is passed, not enough money comes out in the first round." That's when I understood that our community had acted in the same way. Other people put in the missing money! It could always have been argued that it was Providence, but why not say outright where the money came from? Why deceive with an impression of mystery and magic to impress us?
I wanted to discuss it with the priest of the responsible team and he replied that... I shouldn't judge (?!). I stopped going to the community.
After a while a friend told me that if I wanted to return to the community, I could go and do that famous step in which I had to reveal my "cross" in front of everyone. I answered no. A year later, the "Shema" was announced to the people of the community where I had been for three years. So I asked if I could participate as an "external": I would have liked to spend a few days in prayer and recollection. The answer was not surprising: no one had the power to decide whether or not, they had to talk to the itinerant boss, John. He said no. But a few days before the feast of St. Anthony, the pastor - the substitute for our good sick pastor - called me on John's orders, saying that John wanted to speak with me. I reiterated that I did not want to see him, and the priest told me to make a gesture of obedience... and I reluctantly accepted at the priest's insistence, trusting his criteria. I did not repeat that mistake.
I was summoned to the parish at 8:30 pm on January 17, 1989. I thought I was the only one the team of itinerants headed by John wanted to talk to, but I was surprised to see five other people. I was also surprised that we found ourselves in some kind of criminal court, without a lawyer and without knowing the charges against us. The six of us were sitting side by side, leaning against a wall, and in front of us, the inquisitors: John, his wife, a forty-something spinster, the priest who shined John's shoes, and a Neocatechumenal who had spent many years in India.
The questioning began with the married couples, which generated a lot of debate. They were asked questions that those of us who didn't know them shouldn't have heard, and they barely managed to articulate plaintive justifications without the servile priest stopping them, for which I felt more and more dismayed and bewildered; I would never have expected such a thing. So, I asked them to tell me immediately what they had to tell me, because I was not going to keep listening to what was not my business, and if they had nothing for me, I would leave now.
Then, with a gesture of offended authority, John asked me if I had taken the step. I answered that I had not and that surely the Lord would have decided when it was time. He was silent. He asked me if I wanted anything and I told him that I would like to go (on my own) and join the community to pray in the Shema. He replied that it was absolutely impossible unless I first did the famous step. I wondered if by any chance there was a passage in the Gospel that prohibited anyone who wanted to join others in prayer. I also said that many times and everywhere the Pope repeated: "Open the doors to Christ!", in the sense of welcoming Jesus and the brothers and helping them in difficulties...
John replied to me: "You have to obey and that's it, whether you like it or not, we are God!"
I was stunned. No one silenced him, and he added, "and if not God himself, we are his angels!"
Again, no one objected. I expected a word from the priest, from one of those present... nothing!
I picked up my bag, got up, and left forever.
Monday, July 17, 2023
In the summer of 2019, the Spanish newspaper El Español published the headline:
Scandal in Yecla: Antonio, priest of the "Kikos," had sexual relations with a minor. The bishop denounced him after learning that he allegedly committed sexual abuse of a minor.
"Affectionate, friendly, funny in Masses, and with enough empathy to reach out to the youngest of the flock." This is how some members of the "Kikos" defined Antonio Lax Zapata, the parish pastor of St. John the Baptist and chaplain of the Virgen del Castillo Hospital, linked to the Neocatechumenal Way and convicted of committing sexual abuse of a minor. In fact, there is a large community of "Kikos" in the town of Yecla, and several councilors in the municipal government also adhere to the Neocatechumenal movement. "The news surprised us a lot," admitted the popular mayor, who also belongs. "No one suspected anything."
And when are the Neocatechumenals never NOT surprised?
Lax, born in Monteagudo, Spain (near Murcia), entered the Way with his whole family and crossed the ocean - sent by Neocatechumenal lots - to attend the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Medellín, Colombia, where he was ordained a priest. (Fr. Ángel Arturo Vásquez Urizar, a native Guatemalan, also attended the Medellín RMS and was arrested in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain in 2020 for sexually abusing a preteen boy).
After 15 years in Colombia, ten of which were spent in seminary, Lax returned to Spain in 2006. He was assigned to two parishes considered reference points for the "Kiko" community and "he actively participated in spiritual retreats, trips, and gatherings of members of the Neocatechumenal Way."
His personal profile on LinkedIn was accompanied by a photo with a naked child in his arms, about to approach the baptismal font. This detail must not have favorably impressed investigators.
In fact, Lax befriended an underage boy and, before long, the friendship escalated to sexual abuse. In 2022, he was sentenced to seven years and nine months in prison for pedophilia.
In February 2023, the "Kiko" priest was in the newspapers again when Murcia's Provincial Court sentenced him to an additional nine years and two months in prison for sexually abusing two other minors, again as a priest in Yecla, which is part of the Diocese of Cartagena.
The sentence, published on March 9, 2023, considers him the perpetrator of two crimes of sexual abuse: one against a 13-year-old and another against a 16-year-old boy. In both cases, Lax took advantage of his status as a priest. In addition to the prison sentence, Lax must pay €8,200 in compensation to the two victims.
The defendant had made friends with the minors' families back in 2013. He would take them on fishing trips or trips to the ocean, invited them for ice cream, and gave them kisses. According to the sentence, the priest also had sexual conversations with the children, in which he asked them questions such as the size of their penises or the frequency with which they masturbated. (Perhaps he was preparing them for the ritual questions of the Second Scrutiny?)
The sentence, which is not definitive and allows an appeal to Murcia's Supreme Court, is based on the credible and reliable testimony of the victims, as well as acknowledgement of part of the acts by the accused. If the sentence becomes final, the nine years' imprisonment will be added to the seven years and nine months already inflicted for the other case of sexual abuse. However, the priest has yet to serve any prison time.
A statement from the Diocese of Cartagena expressed solidarity with the priest's victims, regretting that bad examples of this kind cloud the work of diocesan clergy, and reiterating its commitment to eradicate any behavior contrary to human dignity, especially the young and vulnerable; finally, it states that the priest is currently suspended and subjected to a canonical trial, still in progress. The current Bishop of Cartagena, since 2009, is José Manuel Lorca Planes.
Note well: the Merkaba "providentially" destined Fr. Lax to the RMS in Medellín, Colombia. If he had remained there, even if he was guilty of pedophilia, he likely would have had a better fate.
One of his colleagues, the Neocatechumenal Fr. Harold Casellas Triviño, ordained the same year as Lax, had a sentence on his shoulders of pederasty against an 11-year-old girl as early as 2015. He was first relieved of his parish duties and put in charge of formation at the Medellín RMS. Then, with a legal trick, he was sent to a "recovery home" for priests in Copacabana (just outside Medellín). He is currently a fugitive and several arrest warrants have been issued against him. The predator priest underground railroad, it seems, is alive and well and fully functional.
(The original Italian version of this article, courtesy of the Osservatorio, can be found here.)
Monday, July 10, 2023
A recent post on the Italian blog Osservatorio brought back my own original thoughts that the Way hinted of Communistic tendencies. Only recently did I dive into Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago about the rise of communism in Russia. As I read, I was amazed at how often some of the tactics reminded me of my time in the Way. Admittedly, as an American, you’d think we have been well schooled in what communism, socialism and fascism really are; however, having not gone through these things personally on our own soil (although one could argue it has been gradually spoiling the American waterhole for decades now), more recent generations are not being taught this thoroughly. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) i.e. Communist Russia and National Socialist German Workers Party i.e Nazis were distilled down to (very basically), bad guys who killed a lot people in their own country and beyond, with the latter having had a tremendous more amount of time and attention in our history classes. Learning about Mussolini in Italy, Franco in Spain, or Tojo in Japan were all fairly lumped together in the bad guy category of extremely nationalistic and egotistical fascists. Dan Mitchell at the Center for Freedom and Prosperity writes a concise piece making the case that Communists, Socialists, Fascists, and Nazis, are all just flavors of collectivism. So if Socialism breeds Communism, and Communism and Fascism are “kissing cousins”, what does that have to do with the Neocatechumenal Way? Don’t all the “isms” above despise religion? So how could the Way possibly have anything to do with collectivism? Let us examine some of the links.
JungleWatch has already done a thorough background on the founders of the Way Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez, which can be read here.
“Far from being this movement of new revival portrayed with very great sense of marketing, the beginning of the movement by Carmen and Kiko is totally immersed in a Church in full cooperation with a Fascist movement, and using its connections in Rome to parlay special conditions for them to set a bridgehead in very close proximity to the Vatican.”
Fast forward to today where Carmen has passed away and Kiko has been pretty much sidelined; Italian, Giuseppi Gennarini (Official director for the Way in the United States) to take Kiko's place - by his own admission was a Marxist activist who happened upon a catechesis by Kiko, then joined a community with fellow communists and the “bourgeois” (this is an absolute favorite word used very broadly by Neocats everywhere - I can’t tell you how many homilies from Neocat priests speak with disdain using this term to describe their very own congregations). Interestingly, he doesn’t denounce his Marxism (at least only partly) but as Chuck White writes, the methods and tactics of Communism are very much still in full swing as we will examine in a moment.
“The Italian fascists had even closer ties to the Marxists, with Mussolini having begun his career as a Marxist publicist and writer. A few Italian fascists even held positions in the Comintern. The only serious divide between the Italian fascists (or those who would become fascists) and Italian communists in the 1910s was their support, or not, of Italy’s participation in World War I.”
“In his profound work Reflections on a Ravaged Century, Robert Conquest labeled all forms of totalitarian socialism a type of “mindslaughter.” Fascism and communism share much in common, he argued. First, the two ideologies came from identical origins in 19th-century thought. Second, both celebrated the peasant revolts of the 1500s as foreshadowing 20th-century uprisings. Third, both claimed to speak in the name of “the people” and “the masses.” Fourth, both embraced a variety of social sciences and pseudosciences from the 19th century, though the Marxists did it with more finesse. Fifth, both claimed to be progressing humanity toward some end goal. And, finally, both accepted moral nihilism.”
Robert Paxton, professor emeritus at Columbia University, defines fascism in his 2004 book The Anatomy of Fascism. He also argues that fascism's foundations lie in a set of "mobilizing passions" rather than an elaborated doctrine. He argues these passions can explain much of the behavior of fascists(I have bracketed simple examples of how the Way matches the bullet points by Paxton):
a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond the reach of any traditional solutions; (the church is dying, families are in crisis! the Neocat will tell you)
the primacy of the group, toward which one has duties superior to every right, whether individual or universal, and the subordination of the individual to it; (the Way is the “correct” and true church - even priests are commanded by lay catechists Kiko, and the Gennarinis the Way comes before duties to family, to your parish, to your parishioners)
the belief that one’s group is a victim, a sentiment that justifies any action, without legal or moral limits, against its enemies, both internal and external; (any--and I mean any--criticism or even questioning of the Way the Neocat wails about being “persecuted”)
dread of the group’s decline under the corrosive effects of individualistic liberalism, class conflict, and alien influences; ( “you are nothing without the community” they want the rich people’s money and the “regular” Catholic’s money all the while disdaining them and labeling them bourgeois; those within the parish but outside of the community are pathetic “natural religious” and are either not illuminated by the Way or if they have learned and rejected the Way they are a disease to be avoided)
the need for closer integration of a purer community, by consent if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary; (have as many children as possible and condemn those who do not - even if they simply could not have a large family or any children- as selfish and inferior; the Way has their own private Eucharists, communities are closed, you can begin by attending the "catechesis")
the need for authority by natural chiefs (always male), culminating in a national chieftain who alone is capable of incarnating the group’s historical destiny; (so-called “catechists” anyone?)
the superiority of the leader’s instincts over abstract and universal reason; Kiko, Carmen, and the Gennarini’s, yes, check)
the beauty of violence and the efficacy of will, when they are devoted to the group’s success; (coerced public confessions, threatened or implied “bad things” will come your way if you leave, unmerciful scolding if you put family or your job before a lousy convivence or any time with community)
the right of the chosen people to dominate others without restraint from any kind of human or divine law, right being decided by the sole criterion of the group’s prowess within a Darwinian struggle. (again, Catechists and supreme Catechist Kiko - how many times were we told to "listen and obey your catechist!")
“Collective is more important than the individual” - Community - the Way speaks of the Community more often than even perhaps Jesus Christ. They will tell you “the Lord has a word for you”; “the Lord wants to meet you in your suffering, your wounds”, all in the beginning, but how quickly they change the tune from “the Lord” to the community. You are lost without the community…in community you will learn to be humble, the community will teach you to love the enemy. How you are identified is by your community. How odd it was that even in general Catholic functions, when in conversation with someone who knew I was “in community” they would NOT ask which parish I belonged to but rather “which community”. I found this odd as our community was simply designated by a number (hmm Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago goes into detail about how you are no longer a name, but a number, a cog in the wheel in his grueling account of Communist Russia).
The community comes before your family, your job, yourself, your parish, and Christ. Christ? Is that a bit far? How so you may ask? Well, how often is silent, contemplative prayer, one on one with our Lord even a possibility at the Eucharist with our Lord? How about after confession? Silence is often how we hear our Father in Heaven, and silence is simply taken up all. the. time. In the Way - with a catechist’s never-ending lecture, or songs and clapping. Not that disturbances don’t happen in a regular mass after communion with chatter in the pews or performance-worthy choir pieces that seem to prompt our ridiculous need to applaud at the end. Generally speaking, the church itself is a place of quiet prayer and preparation, especially as we should enter the sanctuary. In the Way, the sanctuary, if there is one, is a place no different that Protestant assemblies with greeting and chatter. The collective is more important than the individual indeed.
Promoted revolutionary change over gradual change. How quickly parishes that are led by a Neocat priest turn into almost a completely different dynamic. Although they often won’t pronounce intentions of transforming a parish; the Kiko aesthetics begin to emerge rather quickly along with those working or volunteering in the parish replaced with those “already in community”. It’s a one party system in the neocat led parish and they come to divide like a sword. To them division is good in fact if there isn’t division you’re doing something wrong - they twist and turn Matthew 10:34; albeit one of Jesus’ more difficult quotes, they seem to forget that Jesus also had his disciple sheath his sword. Within the community, if we weren’t fighting, we were “being fake, still wearing a mask” - they thrive on division and the last three Popes have warned them about this. They love the sword analogy so much, that Kiko has incorporated his phallic like sword fountain at his Redmeptoris Mater Seminaries world wide.
Finally, all the other aspects have to do with control. Numerous accounts have been written and discussed on the mind control tactics used to break down and manipulate members. The Neocat will say, however, that the Way taught them to love the enemy, to reconcile with those who have or continue to hurt you. Why does the Neocat not question why his fellow Catholic is labeled the enemy; or that loved ones are the enemy; or simply those who question are the enemy? Why are countless women told to put up with actual physical, potentially grave violence, by their husbands, endangering their children’s physical and mental well-being? Truly harmful situations one is told it is their cross; that is ok - forgive and don't judge and don't leave unless that person is getting in the way of the community - but the one who leaves the Way is Judas, better off that he should not have been born. The mindslaughter one is put through “in the Way” is the opposite of simplicity and love; it is of control and confusion.