Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr. Ian Ker

7/17/2008 (6 years ago)

The Catholic Herald (UK) (www.catholicherald.co.uk/)

"This recently approved and rapidly growing ecclesial movement will play a decisive role in the future of the Catholic Church" says Fr Ian Ker.

Highlights

By Fr. Ian Ker

The Catholic Herald (UK) (www.catholicherald.co.uk/)

7/17/2008 (6 years ago)

Published in Europe


LONDON, UK (Catholic Herald) - Throughout the western world the Church is declining.

The most prominent exception to the general rule of decline is the rise and growth of the movements and communities described as "ecclesial" rather than "lay" by Pope John Paul II because they are open to all the baptised, whether lay, clerical, or religious, thus manifesting in concrete form the ecclesiology of organic communion that the Church recovered in Vatican II's Constitution of the Church.

Of the various new ecclesial movements the largest, fastest-growing, and most controversial is the Neocatechumenal Way, whose statutes were officially approved by the Holy See last week.

Ten years ago, in an important theological address on the ecclesial movements, Pope Benedict XVI stressed that in the matter of discerning new charisms in the Church bishops should respect the primacy of the Petrine office. He will now be expecting bishops hostile to the Neocatechumenate to respect that primacy.

In that same address in 1998 the present Pope spoke enthusiastically of how at the beginning of the 1970s he had "come into close contact with movements like the Neocatechumens, Communione e Liberazione, and the Focolarini and thus experienced the enthusiasm and verve with which they lived out their faith".

This was the time, he recalled, when "after the great upsurge of the Council, a frost seemed to set in instead of springtime". A year later Cardinal Ratzinger told a meeting of bishops that the first of the new ecclesial movements he had encountered was the Neocatechumenal Way and he had been "delighted" to discover this "new post-baptismal catechumenate" at a time when "the family and the school were no longer, as they had been in the past, places of initiation into the faith and into communion with Christ in the Church".

The Neocatechumenal Way began in 1963 when a young, talented Spanish painter called Kiko ArgŁello, who had had a conversion experience after a period of atheism as a student, returned for Christmas to his parents' house.

There he found the cook in tears in the kitchen. Spain was still a very poor country in the early 1960s, and Kiko learned that the woman lived with her drunken and abusive husband in one of the shanty towns on the outskirts of Madrid. Kiko visited the woman in the squalid shack where she lived.

Hearing what seemed like a call from God to leave everything, he went to stay with the family in their tiny kitchen. The scene of utter desolation in that slum so horrified him that, on completing his national service, he decided that in the event of the Second Coming he would want Christ to find him at the feet of the crucified Christ - namely, at the feet of the poorest of the poor.

His inspiration came from Charles de Foucauld: to live in silence at the feet of Christ crucified. He went to live himself in a shack in the shanty town, taking nothing with him except his Bible and guitar. The slum-dwellers were curious as to who he was and why he was there.

They discovered he was a Christian and began to ask him questions about the Gospel. The group that gathered round him in 1963 were the first community of what was to become the Neocatechumenal Way, and Kiko's talks to this group the first so-called "catechesis". At the same time he was joined by a young Spanish woman called Carmen HernŠndez, who had just completed a theology degree at a missionary institute.

When the police began to pull down the shanty town Kiko appealed to the then Archbishop of Madrid, Mgr Casimiro Morcillo. Morcillo came to see for himself and was so impressed by the work Kiko and Carmen were doing that he invited them to begin the same catechesis in the parishes of Madrid. Subsequently, he gave them a letter of introduction to the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, who invited them to do the same in Rome.

The movement spread with extraordinary rapidity and as early as 1974 Pope Paul VI publicly hailed its members. He said: "Here we see post-conciliar fruits! ... How great is the joy, how great is the hope, which you give us with your presence and with your activity!"

Pope John Paul II enthusiastically supported the Way, resisting hostile pressure from within the Roman Curia as well as the local episcopate. And in 1987 he asked the movement to open a seminary in the diocese of Rome; today about half the ordinations for the diocese of Rome come from this Redemptoris Mater seminary, the first of the 70 that now exist worldwide, including one in the Westminster diocese.

So far 1,600 priests have been ordained from these seminaries, which have now about 2,000 seminarians. The movement itself has about a million members, excluding children, belonging to some 20,000 communities.

Why is there such opposition to the Neocatechumenate?

First of all, because there is opposition to all the movements from local bishops and clergy. This is nothing new: St Thomas Aquinas had to defend the Dominicans against the local clergy in Paris; after the Council of Trent bishops whose hearts were not in real reform and renewal did not want the Jesuits in their dioceses.

G K Chesterton noted that whenever there has "appeared, in Catholic history, a new and promising experiment, bolder or broader, more enlightened than existing routine, that movement" was always "upheld" by the papacy, while it was "naturally more or less negatively resisted by the bishops... [and] the clergy... Official oligarchies of that sort generally do resist reform."

Secondly, the Neocatechumenate is especially controversial because it operates within rather than externally to parishes. The main bone of contention is the Saturday evening Mass celebrated for a community or communities.

However, we already have children's and family Masses in parishes from which adults and single people are not excluded, nor have parishioners ever been excluded from Neocatechumenal Eucharists, contrary to popular rumour.

The statutes specifically state that these Eucharists are "part of the ordinary liturgical pastoral work of the parish and are open also to other faithful"; the same would be true of a Tridentine Mass.

They recognise that the Neocats are entitled to have a Mass in their own style, with a number of liturgical innovations (others that were originally permitted on an experimental basis have been disallowed), but it is open to all parishioners, and is no more divisive than a folk or Latin or Tridentine Mass is in a parish.

Anyway, Pope Benedict has firmly rejected the charge of divisiveness as the decisive criterion: "Faith remains a sword and may demand conflict for the sake of truth and love," he has said. And he also has condemned that "attitude of intellectual superiority that immediately brands the zeal of those seized by the Holy Spirit and their uninhibited faith with the anathema of fundamentalism", a charge regularly levelled at members of the Neocatechumenate.

At the time of the Council of Trent what the Church needed above all was a body of highly trained clergy: the charism of St Ignatius Loyola was provided by the Holy Spirit. In this post-conciliar time the greatest need is for baptised Catholics who are not merely sacramentalised but deeply formed in the faith: the Holy Spirit has given the Church the Neocatechumenate.

I believe that June 13, 2008, the day its statutes were formally approved, will be recognised as a significant date in the history of the Church.

Fr Ian Ker teaches theology at Oxford and is a parish priest

This editorial is printed with the permission of the Catholic Herald (UK) and is a part of Catholic online's commitment to feature the new ecclesial movements as a "sign of Spring" in the Church.



Comments


More Europe

Putin vs. the World: One plane crash may spell the end for Russian president's ambitious plan of conquest Watch

Image of Russian backed separatists stand around wreckage from the downed Malaysian Airlines plane.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

World opinion continues to oppose Russian President Vladimir Putin, with the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine being the most notable and recent example of Russian interference in Ukraine. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Time and evidence ... continue reading


Prophetic Pope Does It Again: Words to an Economic Conference Make Waves Watch

Image of Pope Francis is absolutely correct. It is not

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

On July 12, 2014, this prophetic Pope made waves again. He addressed participants in an international conference entitled - The Global Common Good: Towards A More Inclusive Economy. The conference was convened in Rome and sponsored by the Pontifical Council for ... continue reading


Sting nabs 600 pedos across UK, Scotland, Northen Ireland Watch

Image of Heightened awareness of child sexual abuse in the United Kingdom came in the wake of shocking revelations of predatory sexual behavior by late TV host Jimmy Savile.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An Internet sting operation targeting pedophiles has led to the arrest of 660 individuals in the United Kingdom. Among those arrested were teachers, doctors, scout leaders, social care workers and former police officers. The six-month investigation was ... continue reading


MYSTERIOUS BISHOP: Father of British science to be honored Watch

Image of Bishop Robert Grosseteste was one of England's foremost scientific scholars, back in the 13th century.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A theologian from Bishop Grosseteste University in the city of Lincoln has called for the erection of a statue of Bishop Robert Grosseteste, the medieval thinker, in his home city of Lincoln. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Dr. Jack Cunningham said that a ... continue reading


Faithful at Istanbul church rattled after Muslim attack Watch

Image of The attacks reopened psychological wounds in light of fatal attacks on Catholics and other Christians in Turkey. Members of the Christian minority here fear that things will only get worse.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The faithful at Saint Stephanos Church in Istanbul, Turkey are feeling rattled after an attack was carried out there by Muslims. Attackers verbally assaulted and threatened them during a baptismal service. Muslims have also destroyed church property in the last ... continue reading


Where does the Vatican store its gold? Mostly in the U.S. it turns out Watch

Image of A new report from the Vatican bank details just where the wealth of the Catholic Church is actually stored.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Vatican Bank-formally known as the Institute for the Works of Religion-has released a 107-page, detailed financial report for 2013. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - This release comes just one week after the group published highlights of its 2013 financial ... continue reading


Church of England rejects Christian tradition and votes to allow women bishops Watch

Image of Church leaders have billed the new proposals as part of a

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While the Archbishop of York asked for the result to be met "with restraint and sensitivity," there were cheers among many Anglicans and Episcopalians when the Church of England voted to allow women to become bishops for first time in its history.The vote ... continue reading


Former euthanasia supporter warns against 'slippery slope' in legalization Watch

Image of Dr. Theo Boer says that in his native Netherlands, where euthanasia has been legal since 2002, deaths have doubled in just six years. This year's total may reach a record 6,000.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Theo Boer, a veteran European watchdog in assisted suicide cases is sternly warning the United Kingdom to not legalize euthanasia. He says that legalizing assisted suicide is a "slippery slope" towards the widespread killing of the sick. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


FOILED: Eiffel Tower, Louvre was targeted by terrorists Watch

Image of France has since unveiled new anti-terror rules which included a proposal to ban terror suspects from leaving the country if it is thought they intend to fight abroad.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As the tragedy of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 proved, forces of terror are keen to destroy landmarks. The destruction of such landmarks serves to demoralize a population, and spread fear and insecurity about their own safety. Such was the case ... continue reading


Oldest tree in United Kingdom is more than 5,000 years old Watch

Image of The yew is found in churchyards across Europe because the early Church often took over existing religious buildings as it converted and took over pagan regions.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A yew that first took root more than 5,000 years ago in Wales is believed to the United Kingdom's oldest living tree. Residing in a churchyard, the yew was planted 3,000 years ago at the time of Jesus Christ's birth. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According ... continue reading


All Europe News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 1:1, 4-10
1 The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15, 17
1 In you, Yahweh, I take refuge, I shall never be put ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:1-9
1 That same day, Jesus left the house and sat by the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 23rd, 2014 Image

St. Bridget of Sweden
July 23: Saint Birgitta was the daughter of Upplandís Lagman, Birger ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter