The Neocatechumenal Way
- A Fearful Danger to the Faith -
FATHER ENRICO ZOFFOLI - April 1995 -
"I charge thee,( ... ): preach the word, persevere in season and
out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and
"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
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
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
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
- 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
- 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.
* 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
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
* 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
* 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 o
f 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
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
* 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.
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
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.