Neocatechumenal Way: another approval.
There’s always something wrong, though.

Stefano Caredda -
Monday, January 23rd, 2012 – 20:39

Another green light for the Neocatechumenals from the Holy See: the celebrations of the Way not yet regulated by the liturgical books have been approved; the Statute and the Catechetical Directory had already received the approval decree in 2008 and in 2011 respectively. Obviously, the Mass celebrated by the Neocatechumenals on Saturday night isn’t mentioned by the decree, even if the (once again) misleading message by the leaders of the Way generated confusion and caused many people to understand exactly the contrary. In this heap of inaccuracies, even the words of the Pope, clear and punctual for the people who don’t intend to ignore reality, risk to be pushed into the background.

The decree approving the celebrations of the Way not yet regulated by the liturgical books is an important green light, somehow an expected and natural consequence of the approval—granted twelve months ago—of the thirteen volumes (the “Catechetical Directory of the Neocatechumenal Way”) illustrating the complete path towards the rediscovering of Baptism and containing also the catecheses elaborated by the founders Kiko Argüello and Carmen Hernández and proposed by the catechists in every single community of the NCW. This new green light is a relevant signal of the trust held by the Holy See into the Neocatechumenal Way, which—about forty years after its “invention”—is now fully recognized and approved by the Vatican. It has been a difficult, all but granted goal to reach. Up to now, the NCW is recognized as a valid path of formation, whose essential traits are defined by the Statute (approved in its final version in 2008 after six years under the ad experimentum form), and whose details are described—both from the doctrinal and catechetical point of view, including its celebrations that have been added in 2012—by the “Directory” approved twelve months ago. The approval trail by the Holy See may be considered substantially closed, it being understood that nothing is granted once and for all: everything that has been decided in the last years may be reconsidered by the Holy See at any moment.

However, even this time—as it happened many times in the past—not everything went off smoothly, nor it will in the daily life of this formation path. On the one hand we have the traditional, usual confusion about the exact content of the decrees granted by the Holy See—actually, this confusion is generated mainly by the very same leaders of the NCW and by their inaccurate if not openly unfair way to report facts. On the other hand we have the question—not yet explained—of the publication of the “Catechetical Directory”: although its new revised version—containing several modifications by the Congregation for de Doctrine of the Faith—has been approved, it’s still actually a confidential text, used only by the catechists of the Way. Meanwhile, the main reprimands directed to the whole movement (e.g.: the scarce attention to the unity with the rest of the parochial community and all the people who don’t belong to NC communities) are openly denied and essentially ignored, as if they were unfounded accusations or inexistent problems. But they’re not inexistent at all. In fact, at every papal audience the Pontiff in person reminds and highlights them—for those who want to pay heed to him. It’s what happened again.

THE DECREE: WHAT’S IN IT — The decree of the Pontifical Council for the Laity textually “grants the approval to the celebrations contained in the Catechetical Directory of the Neocatechumenal Way not yet regulated by the liturgical books of the Church.” It refers to those rites that accompany the individual through all the stages of his formation path: in detail, the rites accompanying the “first scrutiny”, the “Shemá” and the “second scrutiny” (the stages marking the passage from the initial catecheses to the pre-catechumenate and then from the latter to the out-and-out catechumenate), and also the rites related to the initiation to prayer, the delivery of the Psalter, of the Creed (Traditio Symboli), the public profession of faith (Redditio Symboli), the delivery of the Lord’s Prayer, and so on up to the rite of the Renewal of the baptismal promises, that is in fact the culmination of the NCW. The decree also approved the celebrations of the Word of God (they’re weekly and they’re mentioned by the Statute) and the monthly penitential celebrations not regulated elsewhere.

AND WHAT THERE’S NOT IN IT (EVEN IF THEY DON’T WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW) — The decree never mentions the celebrations already regulated by the liturgical books: the Liturgy of the Hours and—obviously—the Eucharistic Celebration, the Holy Mass. Sadly, however, the message that risks to be conveyed—as it’s really happening—is that the Saturday night celebration in the community, the “Neocatechumenal Mass” has been also approved. This is an interpretation that is spreading over the Mass media—even over a great number of them that don’t belong to the Way—, mainly because of the official statement delivered by the leaders of the NCW to the world press and reported by the official website. Such statement simplifies in an extreme way what has happened. By excessively synthesizing the contents of the decree, it misleads the readers generating great confusion over the real terms of what has been approved. The Holy See didn’t add any comment or any explanatory note—which was maybe necessary—after the approval of the decree: this silence didn’t help.

THE SITUATION ABOUT THE MASS — Actually, there is not (or there shouldn’t be) any “Neocatechumenal Mass”: there is only one Mass, the one regulated by the liturgical books, to which Neocatechumenal communities apply some subtle exceptions, described in detail in the Statute and in the official documents of the Holy See. The decree of 2012 doesn’t broach this issue and the rule in force are those designed after the approval of the Statute in June 2008. Briefly, the Neocatechumenals may celebrate the Mass in small communities on Saturday night after the first Sunday Vespers. They must still follow the liturgical books, with two concessions. The first one is the permission to distribute the Communion under the form of unleavened bread and wine and to let the faithful take it standing at their place. The second one is the permission to advance the moment of the Sign of the Peace before the Offertory. Period. These are the only ecceptions allowed. All the other norms (e.g., those ruling the admonitionsthat must be short—before the readings) either are already set by the Roman Missal or they should be modified because they are not yet contemplated (that is the case of the norms introducing the debates before the Homily), then they are still not allowed. In the last years, many things have changed inside the NCQ, but debates are still in place. During the audience the Pope persistently highlighted the sense of the permission to celebrate the Mass on Saturday night for small communities (with a merely pastoral purpose) and repeated that the goal is to “introduce the individuals into the life of the big ecclesial community,” starting from the Sunday celebration in the parishes. This goal is still valid: during the many years of the way—states the Pope—it’s “important not to be separated from the parochial community.” Briefly, the Saturday Mass is meant to bind together, not to divide; to embed, not to separate Neocatechumenal communities from the rest of the parochial community. Once again, the Way is called to meditate on these concepts.

DENYING EVEN THE OBVIOUS — It is called to meditate on it because, in spite of everything, the keyword of the leaders seems to be to deny, deny, deny with all their strength that there’s something wrong, that the Way contains critical points that it would be honest to notice in order to work on them and better preserve the unity of parishes and the Church; in order to avoid that a path that is a “gift of the Holy Spirit” and is doing much good to the Church may sometimes bring division. Sadly, in the last years—as much as nowadays, judging by the note on the decree—the top of the Way (the founder Kiko Argüello and Carmen Hernández, with don Mario Pezzi) prefer to simplify things by saying: “It’s all right, the Holy See has approved everything, the Pope is with us.” Thus on the long run they lose their trustworthiness: thousands of Neocatechumenals—many of whom are young—compose the single communities, live in a coherent way and without any form of fundamentalism, considering their path of spiritual growth one of the many approaches to the faith in the Church; now, if you tell them that the Holy See granted its approval to the celebrations of the Way, their most frequent reaction is to ask: “Why, didn’t they approve everything?” Many think—wrongly—that the decree approved exactly the Saturday night Mass, that has nothing to do with it. No, there’s something wrong in all this.

UNITY AND LITURGY: IF THE POPE SAYS SO… — There’s something wrong also because it should be unconceivable to deny the existence of problems in the context of the ecclesial unity and in that of liturgy if—as chance would have it—every time the Pope meets the NC communities he insists right on the unity with the diocesan bishop, the respect of liturgical books, and the ecclesial communion. That’s what happened also in the audience of January 20th 2012, when the Pope, after acknowledging the precious work of the Way, invited to pay attention “to the unity and harmony of the whole ecclesial body” teaching an authentic lesson about what liturgy is and about the meaning of the exceptions allowed to the Way. It’s no accident that the Pontiff always focuses on these aspects. It would be wise and sane for the leaders of the Way to admit that there’s a lot of work to do—and, once for all, to do it. After all, if the Pope says so, they could pay heed to him, couldn’t them?

| home |

| top |