Excerpts from the videotape transcription
of a debate/seminar held in Rome on 20 April 1997


Divergence from Catholic Doctrine in the Neocatechumenal Catechesis
II  Psychological underpinnings in the Neocatechumenate community
III A Family Destroyed - Presented by Augusto Faustini
IV Presentation by Don Gino Conti
The Truth About Fr. Zoffoli and Kiko
VI A Parish being destroyed, Testimony of Franco Pandolfi from the San Leone Magno
VII.Open Debate with a Neo-Catechumenate

I. Divergence from Catholic Doctrine in the Neocatechumenal Catechesis
Presented by Mario Frugiuele, Engineer, from Florence, Italy.

Introduction: The speaker is in his fifties, married with two children and he has been a secular Franciscan for nine years. Six years ago his parish went from the guidance of monks to the direction of a diocesan priest who then introduced the parishioners to the Neocatechumenal movement. Several parishioners were enthusiastic about this invitation to participate in the hope that it would enrich their own Christian and Franciscan spirituality. But soon their expectations turned into disappointment because of the exasperatingly prophetic way in which the catechists presented: "We are the angels of the Lord!", "Jesus Christ is coming with us!", "Seize this opportunity now because it may never come again!"

After two months, the majority of the congregation, shocked by the doctrinal divergences from Catholic doctrine, left the catechists. Since then, the speaker has taken an interest in this movement. He has collected testimonies and studied the catechists' Orientation guide which contains the beliefs of Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez. The guide is a three-hundred-seventy-three-page mimeograph, said to have been inspired by the followers of the movement. Even though it is the foundation of their catechesis, it's kept secret.

[Note: quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church are indicated by No. and the number. Quotes from the writings of Arguello are indicated by page number.]

ANTHROPOLOGY: Kiko has an absolutely pessimistic view of man in that man is absolutely unable to control his own destiny. Any effort whatsoever to improve or change one's moral life is absolutely useless. Man is like a marionette where the strings are pulled by God. Man is incapable of putting his own moral choices into action. Therefore, according to Kiko, since man is unable to carry out his own moral choices, he is not responsible for any evil which may result.

CONCEPT OF SIN: He who sins cannot offend God in that "to offend" means "to take away or steal" something from someone. Since no one can take anything away from God, my sin cannot offend, otherwise God would be made vulnerable and he would no longer be God. Now, since I have not offended, I don't even have the moral obligation to ask for forgiveness for the sin I have committed. But in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1440 reminds us that "sin is before all else an offense against God".

Kiko also maintains that sin doesn't even cause Jesus to suffer. In fact he says on p.182, "People are very sentimental and they think that sin causes great suffering to Jesus Christ". The Catechism instead says that "sinners were the authors and ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured...our sins affect Christ himself." (No. 598).

According to what Kiko says on p. 138 in his catechesis, we are all already forgiven no matter what our moral conduct be, because man cannot do otherwise and of this he is not guilty. One shouldn't resist sin: it's enough to recognize oneself as a sinner. But we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that man "can initiate and control his own actions" (n° 1730); he is capable of governing his own self and he doesn't let himself be submissive to slavery racked with guilt.

PREDESTINATION: If I am not responsible for my sins and if I don't have the possibility to change my life this means that my final end has already been determined: it's all up to predestination. As a matter of fact, in their catechesis and in Kiko's Orientations on p. 89, they have presented a drawing of three concentric circles. In the middle circle they have written "salt" ["wisdom"] which would indicate the people who belong to the Neocatechumenal Way. In the second circle they have written "the salted" ["the wise/knowing"] - those would be whom God has called to know the Good News. Finally, written in the third circle is "Judas" who would be those who don't uphold the Neocatechumenate community. They explain, "it is the role that has been assigned to them for a reason which we will not investigate: it is destiny and that's all."

God didn't make the "Judases" to be "wise and knowing" and nothing can be done about it; it's neither good nor bad - that's just the way it is...period. Besides, Judas was assigned to kill Jesus (see p.361). If you are called to be Jesus Christ, you must have your Judas. So having people who oppose the Neocatechumenal Way actually gives validity to how the Way is set up. It says on p. 338 that "whoever is predestined for the Word will descend like a dove. You all have been elected by God to be the vault of the Word."

SANCTIFYING GRACE: If I don't have free will, I don't need sanctifying grace - that which we receive in the sacraments, that which gives our will the strength to make our moral life conform to the laws of God. Kiko says, as a matter of fact, "There is a kind of Christianity, which I, myself, used to belong to, where one believes oneself to be a converted Christian and so along comes this attitude, 'better to die than to sin'." It's the kind of Christianity in which the fundamental things are: to be in the grace of God, in the passive sense, and to try to not lose that grace and to persevere. But No. 1996 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that our justification comes from the grace of God. "Grace is favour, the free and undeserving help that God gives us to respond to his call" (an active attitude!).

On p. 130 of the Orientations, Kiko asserts that "man is slave to the devil and the devil manipulates him as he wishes. The law says that we should love one another. But, if we love another, we will die because love destroys us. We don't want to die so for this reason we cannot love. Man cannot succeed in bringing out goodness; we are at the mercy of our concupiscence."

On p. 138 "Man can do nothing but steal and argue - he can't do otherwise and of this he is not guilty." Therefore, according to Kiko, we mustn't have any sense of guilt over our sins. The Word requires nothing (p.254); it asks for no effort on our part. But in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we read that "sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another." Therefore, it is possible to do this.

"God wishes to give eternal life to all those who seek salvation by patience in well-doing." (No. 55). Also, "by our first parents' sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free" (No. 407). "There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle"(No. 2015). It's necessary to really work at it!

CONFESSION: All this cannot have anything but tremendous consequences for the sacrament of reconciliation. Kiko later describes confession from a point of view which determinedly rejects private confessions. There are even moments where he derides confession, ironically calling the confessional "a wooden hut". He says, "don't laugh because this has also happened to me - to confess every little stupid thing [undoubtedly referring to venial sins]. It even gets to where confession becomes a devotion for personal sanctification, something that will continue up until present."

Again, Kiko says, "After confessing, you feel back at ease. Private confession has given us this meaning." But the Catechism of the Catholic Church lists some of the spiritual effects of confession: it bestows peace and serenity of conscience and spiritual consolation (No. 1496). If the sinner has not offended God, not even contrition, nor personal sorrow makes sense. "How curious it is [see p. 174] to confess before Communion; and this has lasted up until present. We have lived confession for this - for the fulfillment of the sacrament!" "As it is now, the Church appears nowhere and it is a man who forgives you of your sins." This is how Kiko not only denies the purpose of the sacrament of confession, he also denies the role of the ordained minister and the authority conferred upon him in the persona of Christ. In the Way, past, present, and future sins have already been forgiven from the start. But this concept is not Catholic!

Essentially, Kiko challenges private confession, devotional confession, spiritual direction, and confession as a means toward sanctification; for him, it's all foolishness that must be done away with. It's only about welcoming this gratuitous forgiveness. "But don't mention these things at all to the people"! He repeats this same phrase when he talks about the selling of personal belongings - which he poses as a condition for continuing in the Neocatechumenal Way and for following certain paths and, therefore, for approaching salvation. Kiko is aware of being on the other side of the fence and he entreats his people to not get into these discussions at all when they talk with others "because it would create a ton of problems."

SECTARIANISM: Often the Neocatechumenate are reproached not for being a movement of the Church, but for considering themselves to be "The Church". Indeed, seeing these enormous differences in both doctrine and practice, this church can really be considered to be heading in a direction parallel to the Catholic Church. On the occasion of a penitential liturgy, Kiko said: "Don't let this happen. Don't celebrate with the pews lined up like in a battalion. It would be necessary to explain to the presbyters before you begin the meaning of the celebration. The presbyters would all be together in their place wearing their albs and stoles and the head wearing his violet vestments. How dare priests preach to the people!"

THE COUNCIL OF TRENT: Kiko completely criticizes the Council with real condemnation; he holds the Council responsible for the deterioration of the Church until Vatican II, of which the real interpreters have been Kiko and Carmen. But No. 9 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that "the Council of Trent is a noteworthy example."

The Council of Trent redefined the mysteries of faith and it put the door bolts up against Protestant Reformation (bolts which are locked a little securely for Kiko and Carmen). The Council of Trent also talked of the mystery of redemption and of the sacrifice of Jesus. Concerning the idea of sacrifice, Kiko doesn't agree. "Perhaps God needs the blood from his Son's sacrifice in order to be placated" (see p.333). "But what kind of God have we made! The rationalizations surrounding the Eucharist have led us to these deformations!" But in the Acts of the Vatican II Council, there are at least thirteen to fourteen instances where the mystery of redemption is talked about. Meanwhile, Kiko says that "the [Vatican] Council has replaced theology and there is no more mention of the dogma of redemption" (see p.62).

IMITATION OF CHRIST: Number 459 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that "Jesus is the model" and No. 932 says, "to follow and imitate Christ more nearly ... is to be more deeply present to one's contemporaries, in the heart of Christ." "The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness" (No. 459). With His humility he has given us a model to follow. He is the model for the Beatitudes. He calls on his disciples to carry their cross every day and to follow him since he suffered for us. He is leaving an example for us to follow in His footsteps. Jesus gives us the example of holiness in daily life (No. 564). Kiko says the contrary (p. 124): "Doesn't it seem better to you to have a figure who is more human because, after all, anything else would not be attainable. How can we possibly imitate him if our human nature is weak and fallen? Jesus isn't at all an ideal for life; Jesus didn't come to give us his example." On p. 126 he says, "People think that with his life, his death, and above all with his suffering Jesus has given us an example so that we will do the same. For these people, Jesus is an ideal, a role model, an example... Not so!"

THE EUCHARIST: In the Eucharist, Kiko only sees the Resurrection, the feast, the exaltation, and joy. For him, the dimensions of sacrifice and the cross completely disappear. The error comes from attributing our salvation to Christ's Resurrection rather than to his sacrifice.

Jesus came to die on the cross to give us salvation and not as Kiko says, "to return to his Father". It's the worthiness and goodness of Christ that saves us! And that worthiness consists of an absolute obedience to the Father even with consequences as extreme as death. This makes him worthy to become our mediator, the only mediating priest between us and God.

The Catechism sees the dimension of sacrifice in the Eucharist which renews itself and becomes effective for us in the Eucharist. Of course even the dimensions of feast and joy can't be left out, that is, the joy in feeling loved by the Lord, in feeling loved for all he has done for us. This must be the reason for joy and not because the whole dimension of sacrifice and the cross has been made to disappear. Therefore, it isn't pagan (as Kiko says) to see the idea of sacrifice in the Eucharist. Rather, it isn't Catholic to not see it.

Kiko even gets a laugh out of the way in which one receives Communion. The Catechism says, "Communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace" (No. 1390). Instead, Kiko says that to receive Communion like this is like trying to catch rainwater with a wicker basket. There will be nothing inside! Therefore, bread is insufficient. In fact, in the Neocatechumenal liturgies, the Eucharist is precisely given out in two forms - bread and wine.

OMISSIONS MADE IN THE MASS: The Gloria has been removed because it's a morning prayer. The Creed has been removed because it originates from the time of the heresies. The offertory has been removed because one can offer nothing to God. On p. 138 of the Orientations, Kiko writes, "The response was even worse: 'From your hands The Lord receives this sacrifice'." "Was"? But we still say it now!

PRESENCE OF CHRIST IN THE EUCHARIST: The Church says that because of the miracle of transubstantiation, the bread and wine become - truly, really, and substantially - the body and blood of Christ. And this will be as long as the Eucharistic species exist. So, for us Catholics, Jesus is truly, really, and substantially present in the tabernacle. Instead, for Kiko, He isn't! "At a certain point in history [see p. 134] it was necessary to persist against the Protestants on the idea of real presence. But once this was no longer necessary there was no need to insist any longer. Since now the opposing force has gone away, the scales are left off-balance. It will no longer be necessary to keep the counter-weight on. As long as that counter-weight remains, that will be what tips the scales. If things were made as they should be, there would be no need to keep maintaining this presence." On p. 135, "The important thing doesn't rest on the presence of Jesus Christ, it's not about making mountains out of molehills or things of the sort."

Telling the history of the Eucharist, Kiko says, "the great exhibitions of the Eucharist -the first ones ever to exist - began because the presence was at the service of the Eucharistic celebration and not vice versa. Bread and wine weren't made to be on exhibition because they spoil. Bread and wine were made to be eaten and drunk. I always say to the Sacramentarians who have constructed an immense tabernacle, 'If Jesus Christ had wanted the Eucharist to sit there, he would have made his presence be in a stone - which doesn't spoil'."

II. Psychological underpinnings in the Neocatechumenate community
Report by Professor Alberto Picano
Psychiatrist at San Camillo Hospital in Rome                                               

I would like to thank you for inviting me here, even if it's about something not so pleasant. This is about something that has created many bitter and painful divisions and has presented the problem of integrating many brothers and sisters. The problem, in fact, doesn't lie in Kiko and Carmen, but in the many, many people who hold a sincere belief and are unaware of the problematic issues. Anyhow, the problem should be confronted with love; we have to make an effort to love.

I have opened my life to the service of God (even my psychiatric duties), even though around me, Christianity is considered to be a heresy. I have always obtained extraordinary results because I have also tried to help others with grace. I support the Pope, I believe in the Catholic Church, I've been a volunteer, and I'm involved in a missionary association.

For twenty years, my mother has been a member of the Neocatechumenal Way, but my father didn't become a member. For this reason they were totally separated up until his death. I suffered tremendously and I have found it impossible to accept many of the things that have happened because they were things that go against my Faith. Another example, I was thrown out of the house even though I was a doctor and a successful person. I had been told by a catechist and by a psychiatrist in the Movement these very words: "We have bound your mother to obey and we have ordered her to throw you out of the house." A cloud of pain came down upon me and I left in grief. This allowed me to reflect on the things underlying this movement. The Lord has allowed this and now he has sent me many patients who are Neocatechumenate; with me they feel accepted and understood because I'm very familiar with the situation.

Breakup of the Family

The first problem is the separation of the family. If there is one person, for example, a spouse who is a Neocatechumen and the other isn't, this becomes irreconcilable because the sociological, grassroots structure for the Neocatechumenate is the community and not the family.

The family isn't a human institution. It's something sacred and is recognized to have been in the life of Jesus - even He was someone who needed family. It's an observable fact! Jesus was of the family even while He still belonged to the life of the Father (see the fifth joyful mystery where happiness didn't come so much from finding his Son [in the temple], as much as it did from having recognized the duplicity of nature. That is, the Son belonged to God the Father before he belonged to his parents). But this is always true: God was the one who wanted the family structure. Therefore, the family's existence has the right to come before the community structure.

Now in the community there is a situation of absolute obedience to the catechists (this was described before. Their manner is prophetic since it's inspired by God). A different definition of roles exists. Single families don't exist anymore, instead, a large family gathers all the members from various families and then within this big family the various roles of parents and children are defined. This is very similar to what occurs in the Jewish kibbutz. Here, because of the exigencies of this way of life - the needs for protection and for work to be done, children are the children of all the parents and all the parents are parents to all the children. There are many analogies between this pedagogic system and the family structure of the Neocatechumenate community where authority is vested in the catechist and not in the father.

This family structure in the community, however, brings with it a whole host of bigger problems. There are pathologies which crop up within the community. It can be proven that the authority figure of the catechist is nothing other than the manifestation of the desire for supremacy and control. These desires are manifested in a structure which gives greater doctrinal competence and jurisdiction to certain people who are then able to wield their power.

When competition breaks out between a man and a woman in this system, paradoxical situations result. You can find Neocatechumenal couples (man-woman) who in reality are the fathers-parents of the communal family. An emotional relationship can take on sexual connotations (not in the sense of there being any physical relations), but in the sense that the two become the father and mother of a large extended family.

Now, inside the "regular" family there are rules and arrangements which are quite well-defined. They serve to protect and establish the limits of everybody's role in the family. Incest, for example, is a behavioural marker that serves to define the reciprocal roles of parents-children and brothers-sisters. When an extended family, like that of the community, lacks this framework, there are no longer any sexual restrictions. There then can be pathological relationships between siblings in the community or altered relationships between parents and children. This is why God created the family structure.

Marital fidelity is necessary in order to have a couple that's stable and able to give precise bearings. When there's no longer a stable relationship within emotional relationships, there are no longer any sexual boundaries and "impure" relationships can form which in turn create altered impulses. This is where the community becomes tremendously dysfunctional.

For example, a woman revealed that her role had been the "lover" of the male-leader. She had fought against it because in reality she sexually desired him and despised her husband. She behaved almost to the point of hiding behind that leader in the community so as to not fail in carrying out her responsibilities. This woman had raised four of her seven children to be taught by this authoritative catechist rather than by her husband.

The All-Ecompassing Institution

The community becomes a total institution because it must resolve all the problems of the people who belong and maintain that no solution which lies outside the community is possible.

I have a thirty-year-old man in therapy whose parents belong to the community. He came to me after he had been shut up in the house for four years. There, he had kept himself busy with the sole task of taking care of a bonsai. I thought he might have been schizophrenic, but instead, he was just a typical, unfulfilled adult whose only problems were sexual. So these were the reasons why he kept to himself.

His parents never talked to him about it, but they did bring him to the community hoping that he would talk with the catechists. Here lies another mechanism. Since there aren't any individual parents, but rather a whole collective of parents, this seemed to guarantee that son would be offered the best advice.

However, this man wouldn't talk to anyone if he or she wasn't one of his real parents. Therefore, he progressively became more and more reserved. The parents told him that the only people who were trustworthy enough were the people in the community and that's why they had tried to bring him into the community. But he didn't feel accepted because he was living with the pain of feeling guilty about his sexual problem (and that was part of it). All these people had resolved their problems in such a detached way. That made him feel like an outsider to them. This is what brought on his sense of alienation.

Anything outside the community was forbidden because that would have meant to betray his parents and betraying them was impossible for him because he was in great need of them. Therefore, the only thing left to do was to stay cooped up in the house.

After eight months of therapy he began to have confidence in himself again and to start acting autonomously. Without my knowing it, his parents were giving him sedatives while I was prescribing antidepressants. I said it was alright for him to go to the community, but I taught him that this was not the only recourse. I also taught him that he was the one who let himself feel alien to that world. In his mind it had been impossible to think that he could live with a burden like his inside such an institution that by definition was good.

It's necessary to tell these people that there's a different world outside the community where it's possible to live without feeling wrong or guilty.

If I'm not of the "salt", [that is, one of the "wise"], and I have only been "salted" [that is, one of the "knowing"], then my life has been classified like in sports - to Division II level. It's unacceptable that my child would live in a situation like that.

The Kind of People who Belong

It's necessary to ask ourselves why this movement exists and why it has been so successful. We need to find who we can speak to, what we can say, and what language we can use because it's also important to establish a dialogue with these marginalized people since they don't have any other hope in their lives.

Unfortunately, deep-down these people feel unfulfilled or like they're failures. The parishes don't have a pastoral for the failures, for the marginalized, for those who have made mistakes. Now, the Neocatechumenate are focusing on people who have no one who listens to them. These people are fully integrated straight-away in the community and brought to the same level as the others.

We, however, make the same mistake as the brother of the prodigal son. We are all brothers and sisters so we have to reunite the brother who has done wrong, to forgive him for what he has done as if it hadn't ever been done. The Neocatechumenate welcome people in this way and nothing is required of them. Just like all communities, it is a place - which is a factor in psychological and spiritual rehabilitation. "Ordeals bring patience, patience brings tested virtue, tested virtue brings hope and this will not disappoint."

Ordeals (like those experienced by people who have done wrong or who are outside the church) create patience and with it the ability to endure (the Way doesn't accept this because they say this ability to go on doesn't come from man). Our impetus doesn't come from labeling someone who has made a mistake and saying, "he's wrong!" This labeling mechanism is arbitrary. Instead, we have to feel our guilt and responsibility for our mistakes in front of God. This Movement exists because it succeeds in doing that. We need to learn to never ever label and to offer complete forgiveness - a pardon which gives back "the white robe" (which the confessor gives, not us), the "ring for his finger" (power), and "sandals for his feet" (that is, to return to life with dignity).

We tend to label people: "they're crazy", "she's a prostitute", "his father's a drunk", "she's a Neocatechumen!" We need to welcome and integrate these people. Unfortunately, these people are adults and they often don't find anyone in the parish who will listen to them and help them solve the problems in their relationships because usually more attention is paid to youngsters or the elderly. And usually, the ones who are making most of the mistakes are adults or young-adults. Instead, the Neocatechumenate are welcoming and they offer help. Even the Pope would be in favour of a way to integrate these brothers and sisters. The Church has no need for a doctrinal war. We need to establish many individual, human relationships, and teach them forgiveness.

[After a short pause, some people from the audience asked the following questions:]

Q. What are some recurring pathologies evident in people who have been a part of this movement?

A. All of these people demonstrate a weak personality, a feeling of failure, and an incapacity to face their own mistakes. They need to lock themselves up in a rigid system privy of communication, because otherwise, they would not be able to accept their own mistakes. It's the most common pathology to all people who confine themselves to communities, sects, dosed systems, etc... they don't accept their own limitations.

Q. What illnesses does it bring about?

A. The problem is the individual removes all responsibility from him or herself; he loses his freedom, he has no more power of discernment, he has no more will power, and he is no longer conscious of his own errors. This results in a weakened individual who has no morale, no purpose, no hope, and no capacity to love. This person can take on a whole variety of illnesses.

Q. Are they pushed to suicide or severe depression?

A. No! I haven't seen this in my own practice nor do I have any statistics on this. Any closed system which forbids any connections with the outside world is a system which tends toward the pathological and does not help an individual's development. There are many cases like this. Certainly, the fact that there are no more precise, emotional points of reference, the fact that a child doesn't know who his own father is anymore, that a husband doesn't have a special relationship with his wife, but instead has an impartial relationship with a system rather than with another human being... these are all conditions that aren't beneficial to anyone's mental health. Rather, they bring about confusion.

From the spiritual point of view, sin is an individual failure. From a psychological point of view, it is a psychological malfunction. The people who end up entering these Movements are people who don't live parochial spirituality. People who have a strong faith don't join the Neocatechumenal movement.

I repeat my plea to pray for our change of heart and for forgiveness, because only by forgiving them can we help the Church grow. Any show of anger, rancour, or bitterness would be following in the same direction as the Neocatechumanate - the direction of self-righteousness and division. With our prayers we will be able to help them see true grace, true salvation, and true love. But we will do it only through forgiveness.

III. A Family Destroyed
Presented by Augusto Faustini                                            

I am fifty-three years old, have a high-school diploma, and I work as an administrative official for a state agency. I had a wife and three sons (ages twenty-nine, twenty-seven and nineteen) and we lived in a beautiful house in Montagnola [a neighbourhood in Rome]. I was involved in politics (I was district councilman for fifteen years) and I took part in various projects with my parish. My faith in the Catholic Church was unshakeable and I went to Communion almost all the time. My experience with the Neocatechumenate radically changed my life because now I have nothing.

Manipulation and Control

Twelve years ago (in 1985) my entire family and I entered into a Neocatechumenate community in Garbatella [another part of Rome]. Their highest officiate in charge was, and is, Mr. Roberto Piermarini, a journalist at Vatican Radio. The catechists began a task that would last over twenty years. They pretended to run a particular type of organization. When we joined, they immediately began to bombard us with concepts that were obviously evident to me as being pseudo-Protestant (I have had a lot of experience with Catholic Action, with teaching the catechism, with the Christian Cursillos etc..). Nonetheless, I went along with it in good faith because my parish priest (who is now a bishop) gave the catechists permission to come to the parish and so for me it gave legitimacy to their initiatives.

I was drawn to their way of catechising and to their self-assuredness. They gave the impression that everything that they were saying hadn't been pre-packaged. But mostly I was drawn to them because they said this was the only real way to be Christians.

My wife and I had always been willing to have children. However, because of our incompatible Rh factors, two of my wife's pregnancies led to miscarriages. The doctors even told us that any more pregnancies would only result in miscarriages. Despite this, the zealotry of the catechists in charge made my wife make irresponsible and foolish decisions without even consulting me. We were destined to become a production line for miscarriages.

The catechists in charge assured us and confirmed that they enjoyed the unconditional support of the Pope, but, to me, what they were teaching didn't seem to be the same thing the Pope was teaching. For example, when I would pray on my knees like the Pope, they would get embarrassed because it was forbidden. Even the things the Neocatechumenate teach diverge in many ways from what is in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church.

In the three years I attended the movement, I realized what power of persuasion the ones in charge had. I also realized that their idea of "family" resembled the traditional Christian family very little. They create a single family made up of thirty to forty people led by a catechist who becomes the head-of-the-family. The foundation of "a couple" doesn't exist. In it's place, they have their own design - a whole pyramid structure which is the direct inspiration of its founder, Kiko Arguello.

During those years, I also realized that the leaders were able to take control of each individual's personal life. First, they did this by multiplying the amount of group-tasks. From that, the bonds of friendship formed naturally with the other group members. But mostly they did it through the psychological control that resulted from public confessions and "scrutinies".

Right from the start, they taught us that we should watch out for anyone who ever told us anything different from what they were teaching us ... almost insinuating that some mysterious, dangerous thing would befall us. They told us that there are many people in the Catholic Church who hate them and that they were the real, true, authentic rediscoverers of early century Christianity. They taught us early on that many people had wanted to quit the movement, but that no one had ever been fit enough to leave because outside this world there would be nothing but perdition and unhappiness.

They are taking full advantage of the difficulties we, in fact, experience in today's world in forming and holding onto friendships. They force the neophytes to get together often by having numerous and busy meetings. They make it so that years can go by without having any friends from the outside; they make it seem that what they have to offer is the only thing in the world that's important. They push the initiates to drop any interests in culture, art, sports, politics, etc... everything else comes second. The leaders in charge start out insinuating, then later dearly asserting their belief that Catholics who go to regular Mass are "minor league" Christians.

Breaking up the Family

Slowly, people are required to free themselves of their burdens; meaning they're better off without all the loved-ones they haven't been able to drag into the Way. The most remarkable obligation, as unjust as it is, is that the solution for everyone's marriage is controlled by the movement or is imposed upon by the priestly or religious consecration set up by the supreme leaders, Kiko Arguello, who's a bachelor, and Carmen Hernandez, an ex-nun and now single.

As the years go by, the initiates become cemented together in a stable group. From this, endogamy is imposed -the obligation to marry from within the group. They explicitly say, "Marry the daughters of Israel!" When a young man or woman gets engaged to someone outside the group, that person will be constantly harassed until he or she succeeds in bringing what's outside the group into their world. If the person on the outside doesn't become part of the movement, they force the person in the group to give up his heaven on earth, but only after atrocious, psychological suffering. Because they, after all, have this person convinced that only the Neocatechumenate is the one and only true Christianity.

For married couples it's the same thing. However, when only one of the spouses has been made a slave to their organization (something which happens more often than you'd think), the leaders can even make them live apart forever (to divorce really) if the other spouse doesn't uphold or value the community. I never cherished the Neocatechumenal Way and even if I took part for years I did it to save my marriage which, instead, was being unraveled by the insanities of the Way. One day my wife honestly said to me, "Your religion and mine are two very different things." So I tried then to pretend that my wife really did belong to another religion. But when I would get home in the evening, tired from work, I'd notice that no one would be home: one would be out for Liturgy of the Word, another for organizing a meeting, the other getting songs ready ... each one off to his and her own different spot according to the diverse meetings of the different communities they belonged to. I couldn't hide the facts from myself anymore (every night I ate at home alone like a dog); they had been able to destroy the family-community to its core

Even though they boast about being Catholic, when they create conflict between participating in one of their meetings or participating in the celebration of any one of the sacraments, they always insist on the superiority of taking part in their activities. Whenever school or social obligations, artistic, sport, love, political, or hated cultural interests must compete for a member's time, the catechists say, "those things are idols!"

I had thought that the marriage bond, being sacred and indissoluble, would have been upheld - that they would advise a spouse in doubt to choose to save the marriage. But, no! In my case, one of their powerful leaders, the lawyer, Franco Voltaggio, demonstrated what liars they are. He had (with excessive enthusiasm) promised me and a number of bishops (who in the meantime had gotten involved) that in order to save the marriage they would have willingly sent me back home. This all happened when my wife had to choose either to attend a parish with me that didn't have a Neocatechumenate group or to belong to a parish that had the Neocatechumenate, but without her husband. She chose to throw her husband out of the house and to be separated. All this with the moral and material support of the Neocatechumenal leaders.

On April 22, 1992 at five o'clock in the evening at the Church of San Leonardo Murialdo, the then-parish priest, Father Domenico Paliasco, ordered me to spend the rest of my days far from my home, my children and my wife because my opposition to the Neocatechumenal organization put me in opposition to the Church. The decision had been made by the highest catechists in the diocese of Rome and it was irrevocable. I'd like to point out that my bishop and his regional bishop had begged [Father Domenico) to not do it, but he answered me by saying that he only answered to his conscience (rather, he only obeyed the top people in the organization).

I went to complain to my regional bishop and he told me that, unfortunately, the leaders of the Neocatechumenate weren't going to listen anymore, so he couldn't do anything more about it. I went to the bishop who had been my parish priest in Garbatella and he told me that perhaps it was a better idea I start the process for a legal separation since my wife wouldn't be able to do it because she was a Neocatechumen.

I went to my new parish priest (who in a few months would become a bishop, too). He told me that no one would ever listen to me; they would think I were crazy and besides, the Neocatechumenate is too powerful and I was only one of a few people who had ever pointed out their negative aspects.

I went to the chaplain at my place of work. He told me that I was all alone in thinking this way and that I would have to get used to it. I went to the bishop who at that time was in charge of family problems (now he is in charge of something else). He told me (in private) that the whole thing was a lot more serious than I could ever imagine and that he would never make a public statement against the Neocatechumenate.

I asked my wife a number of times to come and live with me (I even asked formally by letter) and every time she refused to do so. At one point my wife had to go through surgery. I offered to stay by her side throughout the night (which was allowed) and my wife seemed to be in favour of it. Her brothers and sisters from the community, however, kept me from staying; they wanted to stay the night at the hospital in order to keep me from getting close to my wife because, psychologically, this would have been a particularly vulnerable and fragile time for her.

"Like a Sect"

As members of the community, we were obliged to turn over at least ten percent of our household's income. But this money, instead of going to the poor, went to the so-called "itinerant" catechists so they could go all over Europe to establish more communities. They had everything from clothes, automobiles, a home and even baby-sitters.

One of the most unbelievable things happened when my mother died. I was crying and I asked my wife to pray with me that evening; I asked her to not leave me alone in my grief. She replied that she had to go pray with her brothers and sisters at the community and that they were her true family in Christ. Something else unbelievable happened with my oldest son. He believed that the Neocatechumenate was sent forth by Christ and once he ascertained my aversion to the Neocatechumenate, he tried to kill me by suffocation (I have here the medical records to prove it).

My eldest and my second-born son haven't called me "Daddy" for all this time. It's their way of punishing me for having always tried to go against their organization. My second son is still very young, yet he already has two daughters. He has been made into a recruiter of prospective Neocatechumens. He hasn't even let me see my second grandchild.

Whoever criticizes the Neocatechumenate has no rights. The zealotry that runs through this organization is at such a pitch that the many fundamentalist pseudo-Catholics it creates aren't much different from those scorned fundamentalist Muslims. They consider my eldest son to be faithful and trustworthy; he has been nominated to be in charge of his community (he has been there for twelve years).

I can recall Easters with horror. This was the time I was testing myself by taking part. Everything was cut off from the real parish community. There were two obligatory days of strict and absolute fasting, followed by an entire night of singing. This was then followed by an agape (which, in essence, is a huge meal at six in the morning). All of a sudden our stomachs would be stuffed after eating such enormous quantities of food and wine. Several people would feel ill, others would get drunk. Then we'd sleep all of Easter Day; you wouldn't even be able to spend a half-hour with relatives and friends who weren't Neocatechumenal.

At the community, they made us believe that we would reach the loftiest of heights. They hammered their teachings into us saying that only God (who in the end actually means their organization) must be the only one you truly love. If your spouse is in your way ... despise him! And the same with anyone -children, siblings, parents included- who wants to keep you separated from the Way!

I used to think that my situation was rare, an anomaly. Yeah, right! What happened to me has happened to many other people; many couples have had their marriages ruined by this strange organization which at times almost gives the impression of being like a sect.

The foundation of every couple's relationship hinges upon emotional and psychological intimacy and being united by common goals. Instead, for decades, these pivotal needs have been wielded by outsiders against the couple itself. Imagine what destructive effects this has! The difference with other couples who have broken up is that there's no trace left of them; they have completely abandoned Christianity because after many years of belonging, one tends to equate the Neocatechumenal Way with Christianity, so leaving one means giving up the other (this is why my case may seem an exception). Other couples, "tainted" by the Neocatechumenate, become atheists with no ties left to the Church. Imagine, when I used to teach catechism to the children in Garbatella... I would say, "The Catholic Church preferred to undergo an Anglican schism in order to defend the indissolubility of marriage!"

The executive directors of the Neocatechumenate Community say they have millions and millions of followers. It's true! But nobody has ever mentioned the fact that the number of people who have quit is at least five times the number of members! And in what sufferable condition they have left! Very often they have absolutely no more faith.

When I was thrown out of the house and left the group, I began to do a little investigating. I discovered that they want to give everybody the impression that their groups are innocuous, spontaneous, and guided only by the Spirit of God (this is the foundation, I think). Instead, they are organized like a church inside the Church. They have people in charge in every single community. The leaders in charge, the one's called catechists (and who are in every single parish), count much more than the priest; the regional [catechist] heads count more than regional bishops. They have regional and national divisions which are secretly added to the official branches of the Church. Many bishops won't officially intervene because they say the Neocatechumenate aren't officially recognized....

IV. Presentation by Don Gino Conti                                                            
Don Gino has collaborated with Father Enrico Zoffoli in gathering records and documents about the Neocatechumenate.

The books Father Enrico Zoffoli has written on the Neocatechumenate were written with my help. The first manuscript [by the Neocatechumenate] and two others were obtained for us by a priest who had been part of the Way. They were: the Orientations, the First Scrutiny and the Shemà. We still don't have the Second Scrutiny nor the second book consisting of 500-typewritten pages on the rules and norms for running the community and many other topics. What we do have allows us to arrive at the judgments made by the gentleman earlier. The suffering he has gone through is similar mine.

At my brother's house one day, I heard his daughter make a comment that reflected Kiko’s exaggerated interpretation of the Word of God. She asked me, "Uncle, do you believe in the devil?" "Of course I do!" "There! You have him there! You have him there!" and she pointed to my shoulder. She said I had the devil incarnate on my shoulder precisely because I dared to give an interpretation of the Bible that did not correspond to the thinking of the Church. Same for all the gentlemen who spoke earlier, even the gentleman who was forced to live in a small town far from his family and was obliged to support wife and children .... all the wrongs they have done to us... They, meaning everyone, from top to bottom, from [Msgr Paul] Cordes to the most recent bishop of the diocese of Rome. We have to pray and pray some more because we still believe in the grace of God (something Kiko doesn't believe in).

Mr. Frugiuele cited the definition of grace on page 190. Grace, for us, is the fundamental doctrine of Christianity because Jesus Christ came to give us back grace and he died to give us grace. He founded the Church to give us grace. He created the sacraments as a way to receive grace. He established the priesthood for grace. If we destroy grace, we wipe away the Church!

Kiko says grace is to believe in the love of God! But even Muslims and pagans believe in the love of God! He mocks anyone who struggles to live in the grace of God and who would rather die than commit mortal sin (see the motto of Saint Domenico Savio...for Kiko, it's something to scoff at).

One day I asked a holy, religious man to read page 66 from the Orientations and to tell me how I might be able to respond. He said, "Don Gino! Do you really read these kinds of things? You will go crazy reading this stuff. Read something nicer!" He wasn't able to give me an answer because it was impossible; the page was written by a raving lunatic! Let's strengthen our faith and help our priests be who the Lord wants them to be. Too many don't know either philosophy or theology.

Christianity can not be created by getting ready for the new Jubilee by having a sea of people gather in Saint Peter's Square; it's not enough if Christianity doesn't also enter into people's consciences. We must change and become men of the Church, men of prayer, of confessionals, men who spend hours before the Blessed Sacrament. When the Council of Trent had already begun with 95 Theses posted on the church doors, the Lutheran heresy was preceded by the whole Church's petition calling for a reform "in capite et in membris". Reform has to begin with us priests.

[Don Gino shows the audience two of his publications. In them be sought to remove the cloak of infallibility Kiko has given the Movement to ensure "smooth sailing" for the Neocatechumenate.]

V. The Truth About Fr. Zoffoli and Kiko                                              

DON MARCELLO: Many people have written about the Neocatechumenate: Father Zoffoli, Don Conti, Mr. Frugiuele, Don Guglielmo Fichera (Director for the Foggia Office for Catechetics). But when I speak with Neocatechumenal catechists about Father Enrico Zoffoli's books, they tell me that before he died, Father Zoffoli had apologized to Kiko. I understand that there are some people here who were present at this occasion. I'd like to know if this is true or not ... if Father Zoffoli really did ask for forgiveness.

[Two women, Giovanna and Maria Pia, are called up; they had been present at this event.]

GIOVANNA: On June 1st (last year, 1996), Kiko came to visit Father Zoffoli at the hospital. Maria Pia, her son and myself were there at the hospital by Father Zoffoli's side. The two of them, Kiko and Father Zoffoli, hugged just like Kiko (or whoever speaks for Kiko) has claimed. We, too, have heard rumours going around that Father Zoffoli had changed his mind and this is not true.

We were introduced to a priest and a gentleman wearing black who I couldn't see if he were also a priest. The priest had come into the room first and he was carrying a daily-planner. Inside, he had a well-known picture of Jesus the Good Shepherd in gold-leaf. I've heard people say that Father Zoffoli hugged the priest, but actually the priest had said, "I bring you this gift with Kiko Arguello's best regards." Father Zoffoli took the picture and replied, "Thank you. Give my greetings to Kiko and tell him I love him."

At that very moment, Kiko entered the room and without introducing himself he said, "Father, how are you?" Father held the picture and said, "Have you seen? The Good Shepherd's here with a sheep on his back..." Then I asked the man, "Who are you?" He replied, "Kiko!" And so I said, "Father Zoffoli! It's Kilo!" Father Zoffoli was lucid, so lucid in fact he told me, "No, he isn't Kiko. He has brought me greetings from Kilo!" Then he said, "It's true. I didn't introduce myself because I was afraid of getting all choked up." That was the moment Father Zoffoli hugged Kiko and told him, "Kiko, I love you..."

The whole thing lasted a quarter of an hour. Kiko said, "Father, I know you wrote all those things out of your love for the Church." Father Zoffoli corrected him saying, "for my love of truth!" and right there in front of him he told us, "Remember, that all of you are witnesses to this visit ... remember what day this is.. etc." When Kiko finally left, he kissed Father Zoffoli's hand just like you're supposed to. And again Father Zoffoli hugged him.... That's it! There is a letter, though, that Kiko brought (which has been released to a notary and has become public). In this letter Kiko thanks Father for his criticisms and that's all. Nothing more. I'd like to add that when Kiko left the room Father Zoffoli said, "That was a great demonstration of humility, but Kiko has to come back and sign a declaration that he believes the things I have written."

MARIA PIA: I confirm everything that this woman has said. We were there. Since I know Father Enrico Zoffoli very well, I asked him, "Who is that? Kiko? The one from Spain?" "Yes," said Father. "So, Father Enrico, you will have quite a lot to say to him, then!" And then Father Enrico said exactly what Giovanna has told you. Kiko asked forgiveness from Father Enrico; Father Enrico didn't ask him for it. This is the absolute truth! They hugged each other and Father Enrico said, "Remember this day! Go immediately to the Provincial and write down what day it is today ... !"

DON GINO: A person came to me and asked, "How can you prove that these texts are really by Kiko and Carmen?"

The first problem came after we had published our work citing the works of Kiko. The Neocatechumenate replied, "it's all untrue!" Well, I had quoted paragraphs and pages! Then they fell back on another excuse, "they are all extrapolations!" Well, everytime a priest preaches he "extrapolates" from the Gospel and he certainly isn't quoting everything; the important thing is that the quote and the inference match the thoughts and writings of the author.

After repeated attempts, Father Enrico and I were finally able to set up a meeting with the Neocatechumenate on June 2, 1992. They never want to meet with people who might argue with them. The meeting was set, then it was postponed, and finally they confirmed that it would take place at the Scala Santa [Holy Steps] at the appointed time.

We brought three tape recorders with us and we set them up on the table. Mr. Donnini and the Vice President of the Seminario Romano were there. We introduced ourselves. We told them, "we're going to record this meeting so we can document everything that is said. You can then have a tape we will take the other two tapes." They replied, "No, we will not be recorded!" "Why not?" we asked. They never want any sort of documentation made.

We were about to cancel the whole session and leave. But I said, "Father Enrico, they have finally come to meet with us. Let's just accept the way they are. We all sat at the table. They started talking in their usual manner. When I said, "I am going to publish your texts!", they didn't even deny that these texts existed, but rather they said, "We will never give you permission to publish the works!" When we said, "Your texts contain errors in dogma!", they smirked. We asked them, "Are you willing to recognize that there are these errors (we had made a list of them)? Are you willing to sign a declaration of faith?" They replied, "Yes, Father. We are willing. Get it ready and we will sign it immediately!" I interrupted him and said, "Sir, I don't need your signature, nor do I need Reverend Claudino's signature. I need the signatures of Kiko and Carmen because you're not going around preaching your ideas. You're preaching the beliefs of Kiko and Carmen. When Kiko and Carmen sign the declaration, then we will be able to make peace. "

The meeting was cut short and ended like that. Nobody denies any longer that these texts we have are authentic. Normally, the Neocatechumenate respond with lots of insults and abuses. After the publication of our book, The Neocatechumenate at the Crossroads, I received only two letters, only because I was second-author behind Father Zoffoli and he received tons of letters. In fact, I received letters that were unsigned by the priests (they actually had a young seventeen-year-old boy sign the letter - a boy who would have had to know theology, canon law, etc. ... ). And the only thing they found to deride was that on page five, number sixteen, I didn't cite the pages in order where Kiko affirms that "the communities are the Church itself". As if this were all that was needed to refute the criticisms.

In the text, we cited the passages from Kiko's catechesis by page, title, and number (and at times we had 15 or 20 passages on the same topic. Not exactly what I'd call extrapolations!). After all the statements that have been made, I hold up the theses of the Catholic Church and I say, look at these texts and you will see how Kiko (or Carmen) are heralding a doctrine that's completely contrary to the doctrine of the Church. After you do that, draw you're own conclusions.

VI. A Parish being destroyed
Testimony of Franco Pandolfi from the San Leone Magno Parish in Florence         

{Before Mr. Pandolfi begins, Mr. Frugiuele shows the audience photographs of Sant Angelo Church in Legnaio before and after the Neocatechumenate’s renovations. They have transformed the place: they covered up all icons and they moved and changed the altar]

My testimony, as it's called, is that our parish is being destroyed. This is our extended family and by destroying this they are destroying the place where our children are brought up to be raised in a true community.

I'm amazed how often people have repeated the same things. I heard my friend, Faustino, talk about his parish and the Easter vigil. In spite of the fact that the Parish Pastoral Council has prohibited it, our parish priest holds the vigil at 9:30 because he has to run out early for his Easter vigil. This cheats the parish of having Communion at the most appropriate time.

Don Gino talked about how the Neocatechumenate's representatives and directors kept him from recording their proceedings. In a very recent meeting with our parish priest, we placed a tape recorder in front of him and he reacted a bit strangely. Since we were nine against one, he didn't say a word, but over the course of the evening, he accused me of using methods that would let me be able to construe things and then to use them however I wished.

Their written works were first denied to even exist, then they were declared to be "inspired", then they were declared to be "fakes", then they were acknowledged and now they are mere "conference notes and recordings"; (and so are only worth as such). But these texts are used to mould people, and we can see how they are moulded by how they act.

Let's look at a few facts. I was a catechist in my parish. Our group of catechists had pointed out a problem: the parents of the children we were instructing weren't participating in all in the preparations for the various sacraments. We wanted to do something about it and so we held a meeting to try to encourage these parents a bit. The meeting we organized that afternoon was a rainbow of events. There were moments of fun, prayer, disagreements... then we had dinner all together. It seemed logical to conclude the event with a Eucharistic celebration so as to make the parents more deeply aware of the importance of the sacraments that their children were going to receive and not that these things were all merely done out of tradition. If our experiment had had positive results, we would have wanted to do it again another time.

Up until this point, everything was going well. The problem arose when we had to decide what day of the week we would be able to have the afternoon retreat. Obviously, for all the people who worked, their only afternoon off would have been on Saturday. A huge scene broke out over the strange coincidence concerning the time we wanted to celebrate the Eucharist and the same time (at 9:00 pm) that the Neocatechumenate group celebrates Eucharist behind closed doors.

Our parish priest had tried many times to make us change the time of Eucharist, but this time we told him, "If we are to create dialogue about deepening our awareness, we have to have all of the activities make a deep impression. And to do this, the activities should all build up to culminate in the Eucharistic celebration. The Eucharist should not be stuck in anywhere as if it were just any other activity."

We were not able to organize this afternoon retreat together. There were 150 people who could have benefited from it, but our parish priest wasn't able to sacrifice his celebration for the Neocatechumenate (who are fifteen to twenty people from our parish, with the others being from another neighborhood). We gave it one last try, however, and we asked if they would open up the Neocatechumenal celebration to include everyone. But they refused curtly and without any explanation. How come they celebrate behind closed doors?

In a private talk I had with the priest, it became evident how much these people assimilate what is written in the catechesis. I said, "I'm still amazed that even for one Saturday out of the whole year you find it impossible to do the Eucharist we'd like to do together instead doing your celebration. Or even better, why you won't let us participate together in your Eucharist. How many times have you told me how it isn't anything exclusive, but that it's open to everyone?" He replied, "Look, it's one thing to open it up to one person or to a small group, but if you put a teaspoon of sugar in a jug of milk, nothing will come of it, [the sugar] becomes a completely different thing." This all happened in April of 1994 with a small number of people who at the time had begun to disagree with him. Today, after three years, the dispute has grown more formidable. It's gotten to the point that a week ago nine church members (representing other parochial backgrounds) gave their notices to quit.

VII. Open Debate with a Neo-Catechumenate                                                    

Elena, 60 years old, part of the way for 27 years

My name is Elena. I am sixty years old and I'm here with my husband, Franco. We have two children now, because one died when he was twenty-three years old. I have always been part of the Church even if my parents didn't raise me that way. I went to a Catholic school run by nuns. I have always been very interested in spiritual life; when I was young, I took theology courses for lay people and went on retreats. I have always been strongly attached to the Church, even if it didn't help prevent me from having a serious nervous breakdown which I eventually recovered from.

After I was married, I had great difficulties; I felt dissatisfied and unhappy. I tried to find a more genuine form of the Church, something that had more than what I found around me. I was disappointed every time I'd go to church with my husband. Either I found the liturgies to be very sloppily done or else the Bible would never be read and that made the Scriptures seem totally detached and remote. I knew Latin so I could follow the readings of Mass prayers in the Missal and also weekday Mass. I found there was still something to be desired in the parish's pastoral.

After I was married, I went to a parish where I had the opportunity to meet the Neocatechumenal Way. I joined the Way and I slowly completed all of the steps. The two of us joined in 1970. Then we moved and I had the catechist I had had in the area where we used to live.

Today I am still part of the Way. My husband and I are even catechists and we use these texts. Some very harsh things have been said, but they are also very interesting. So I must ask myself, after all the presentations tonight, why have they made this thing seem so grave ... ?

I read that the Holy Father received the founders of the Neocatechumenate, their early catechists, and the catechists' national directors for a visit at the Vatican. The occasion was the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the Way. There were those who participated in the convivence at Mount Sinai where they had begun to talk about the Statutes.

At this visit, on January 24th, 1997 the Holy Father delivered these words to them, "It's been truly impressive how the Way has grown and expanded over these years. Begun in the slums of Madrid, it has become, like the Gospel mustard seed, a great tree. Like every anniversary, seen in the light of faith, yours too becomes an opportunity for praise and thanksgiving for the abundant gifts the Lord has bestowed upon you and, through you, to the whole Church. For many people the Way has been an opportunity to rediscover Baptism ... and the Word of God shared in fraternal communion becomes life's light and guide, rediscovered by the Church as an authentic missionary community. How many young people have discovered their own priestly or religious vocation thanks to the Way!

"Your visit today also offers me a pleasant opportunity to join in your song of praise and thanksgiving for the great things ('magnalia') that God is doing in the experience of the Way.

"The Lord has put a precious treasure in your hands... When these Statutes are approved, it will lead to its formal juridical recognition by the Church and it will give you a further guarantee of the authenticity of your charisma. "

How, Father, is such a different view possible! Even from the highest of the Church!... A few days ago (this being May 1997) 253 American bishops from the Americas attended a meeting [Father Gino makers a gesture with his fingers meaning ‘money’]. These bishops wrote a letter to the Pope asking him that the Way not be misrepresented - that it be looked at intact as precious charisma within the Church.

I am sure that everyone who has spoken is of good faith. I believe that we all share in the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. I'm speaking to you out of love. We want everyone to be faithful to the Church which, like a mother, is leading us like her children.

How is it possible, being of the same faith, there could be such a mountainous difference between what you all say and what the Pope and many bishops have said? The Pope knows the Way because he has put a bishop, who is dose to the Way, at the top of 'Cor Unum' [Father Gino shakes his head]. For years Mons. Paul Cordes has listened to the catechists, he has listened to the scrutinies, he has followed the passages, he has lived the world of the Way step by step. That famous letter from the Pope to Mons. Cordes, 'ad personam' is the conclusion.

I could answer each and every one of the theological points that have been made. I have read this text [the Orientations] at least forty times and I know it very well. The cited phrases are real and true. What isn't true is the sense that has been given them. I teach and study the catechesis from the stock of these phrases, but I will say nothing about what has been said here…

I have heard and taught many catechesis. The Way is alive and real. It isn't a book that's been published, they are just simple notes that are followed faithfully. Kiko and Carmen's catechesis are guidelines. No one reads these notes; the catechists don't reiterate things by heart. I heard the same catechesis in many different ways because the language, the personality, and the experience of the catechist all enter into it. Though he says it in a different way, he still says things that are always faithful to the Church because nobody could suddenly decide to become a catechist just by studying these notes. It would be ridiculous, almost mechanical if it were as simple as: studying the notes, reciting them to the people, and voilà the communities are born! It's something completely different.

I am not a "Kikian", nor am I a follower of the Way, nor someone you can label, because I truly experienced Jesus Christ freely and genuinely together with other brothers and sisters; it was not copied. If I have had a living experience of Christ by being in the Way, I proclaim God's great works in my life, because I can say it was "my" experience.

You, however, say, "In practice, you are all heretics!" It's not true. We don't preach the things that have been said here. Let's look at a few examples: "Sin cannot offend God's predestination!" Nothing of the sort! Reason tells me what's a fact and this isn't a pessimistic vision of man, because man is free. Many times, I have heard this said by my catechists: God loves man so much that He is not afraid to grant him the freedom to sin. While we parents can't let go, God gave me the freedom to sin and I relished in it to its bitter end.

Where are we saying man has no strength? What is man powerless to do, according to us? In your opinion, can a dog become a man? Well then, can a man become the Son of God only through his own efforts?

We preach that Christianity cannot force us into a moral life (even if it gives the fruit of a morality of life) because then otherwise we would be saying that Christianity is nothing other than a way of keeping us from making errors and mistakes. But even lay thought ends here.

We say that the heart of Christianity isn't "Don't do this!" "Don't say that!", but rather it is to love thy enemy. Let's say that I can't bring myself to do it - that I can't love of my enemy! No matter how much I try I can't love my enemy, naturally and with all my heart. So who will give me this love for my enemy'. Sanctifying grace! Which for us is extremely fundamental! Sanctifying grace means that God gives me his gifts "free of charge" (He doesn't expect me to have earned it, to have been good..). That's the gist of it. I could respond the same way to all the other objections. This is complete orthodoxy!

Audience Remarks

A YOUNG PERSON: I was in the Neocatechumenal Way a few years, so I speak straight from personal experience. I had never had a Catholic background. This lady shouldn't take offense; she must realize that there have been about 300 Christian confessions. She's not being told that she isn't a Christian; she is Christian, she just isn't Catholic. Because if she read the Catechism of the Catholic Church from cover to cover, she would see the meaning of the sacraments.

In essence, she is denying the reality of the sacraments. But the most abominable thing, and I'll say it here in front of the priests, has to do with the Eucharist. It concerns the kind of Eucharist they use. The wine they use for Mass isn't the official Mass wine, rather, it's the kind bought in discount supermarkets that's packaged in cartons (or else it's Chianti or Valpolicella or Port). Concerning the bread, theirs isn't unleavened bread. Some members of the community add sugar, or lemon, some people add salt. In South America they consecrate sweet bread (the kind we eat that has raisins in it). Therefore it's the sin of idolatry, which is very serious for priests, because the Mass is nothing. But the sin that's even more serious still is for who exposes the Christian community to idolatry, because the people of God are venerating bread that isn't consecrated.

DON GINO: The woman has quoted from a letter sent to Mons. Cordes that was written by the Pope. It would be better to know just a little bit more about the story behind this letter. When anybody makes an exegesis of any kind of text, one should look at it carefully. That text did not come out of the Secretary of State which is where Papal Documents are released from. The Neocatechumenate have drawn many quotes and conclusions from this text when it was released, but they didn't add the valid part of the text. Whoever knows canon law knows that the valid text of a document is the part published in the "Acta Apostolicae Saedis". Now, neither the "Acta Apostolicae Saedis" nor the Osservatore Romano has published this letter dated the 30th of August which, by the way, contains a grammatical error in Italian and a typographical error and I can't imagine any documents coming from the Secretary of the Pope would be poorly done with these kinds of errors.

This is one of the proofs that the document did not come from the Pope, but that it came from the hands of Cordes. In any case, in the end, the Secretary of State (and this much I can say about it) added this famous side-note with the publication of the letter, "The intentions of the Holy Father, in recognizing the Way, aren't meant to, give a binding stamp of approval." This note was added to save, in one way or another, whoever wasn't guilty of certain things. Therefore, don't even talk about approval!!

Even that last letter you have, madam, I can tell you that in a parish in Rome, the Neocatechumenate had had three days before the Pope would declare where the secrets of the Holy See were! Secondly, when we argue about the catechesis, we are not doubting your faith; I am arguing that the fundamental texts of the catechesis aren't "non-existent", so only "extrapolations", then "only notes taken from sermons and meetings. " Rather, when Luther posted his 95 Theses on the Cathedral doors of Wittenberg, he had written only 95 propositions, but they were enough to trigger the whole Protestant movement and millions of believers strayed from the Catholic Church.

We are not criticizing your catechesis. We are criticizing this book. So without having anyone come out and deny that these catecheses contain Kiko's beliefs (or are written accounts of his ideas in their entire or condensed versions), we will then assume that what we have here are Kiko's thoughts. So, if you catechists are not able to get your hands on and bring us Kiko's beliefs, that's one thing. It's another thing, though, if you won't do it out of some personal vested interest.

We are criticizing this text. When I critique Luther, I'm not condemning Lutherans. There are some wonderful people within their ranks - people you can really admire, but that doesn't sanctity Lutheranism - this remains as is. We are not criticizing the individuals of the Neocatechumenate. Yet, that doesn't mean the things you are teaching aren't frightening, especially about the Eucharist.

At St. John's Basilica in Laterano, a woman from Rome went to pick up some small pieces of consecrated bread that had fallen to the floor and been stepped on. When your catechists pointed this woman out she was surrounded by people, like by a lasso, and blocked off from going over to collect the consecrated bread crumbs. This is your reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. For you, when Mass is over, Jesus is no longer present. And more evidence of this is that you never genuflect before the Eucharist. But when someone pulls out the history of Kiko, whoever stands up for that ... it's like someone being resurrected.

A friend of mine who's a Neocatechumenate, told me why the Neocatechumenate never recite the Creed; he said, it's because they don't believe in the hierarchy of the Church, so they don't believe in the pope, priests etc... they don't believe in "One Church, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic", so they don't say it.

[A rebuttal from the audience]

"We do recite it ... we do!"

[Speaker’s reply]

You recite something else; it's not the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.

MR. PANDOLFI: I’d like to thank this woman for being the first Neocatechumenate who I have found to be open to dialogue.

I'd like to ask her, you mention that you uphold Catholic doctrine, but for us, "Catholic doctrine" means just one thing, The New Catechism of the Catholic Church. Why bother with Statutes, why go to Mount Sinai? ... just take these volumes, publish them, and say, "This is our doctrine!" Only then can we gauge. Declare who you are, not with words ... but with books, with facts. Facts reveal who you are!

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