Lights and Shadows
The seeds of the NEOCATECHUMENAL WAY were first sown in the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan in 1981 in the Parish of Saint Gabriel the Archangel in Bonuan Boquig. Since then, it has been born in other Catholic communities in the archdiocese – Bonuan Gueset, Calasiao, Calmay, Dagupan, Laoac, Lingayen, Mapandan, Santa Barbara and San Jacinto. The Neocatechumenal Way has brought innumerable blessings to the Christian faithful in our archdiocese. It has profoundly changed many lukewarm lives. It has rebuilt many wounded families and has yielded many religious and priestly vocations for the vineyard of the Lord.
Yet, despite its positive effects such as those mentioned above, there are certain concerns about the direction the Neocatechumenate is leading to. Already during the time of my esteemed predecessor Archbishop Oscar Cruz, and in recent months, some questions have been raised by some respected members of the Catholic laity and a good number of our parish priests about the integration of the members of the Neocatechumenal communities in the mainstream of our Church life, their cooperation with the parish priests and their relationship with the Bishop.
The Statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way state these words: “The Neocatechumenal Way will seek to foster in its recipients a mature sense of belonging to the parish and to promote relations of profound communion and collaboration with the faithful and with other elements of the parish community.” (Art. 6, n. 3)
Further, the Statutes enjoin that “the implementation of the Neocatechumenal Way must be coordinated with the proper function that the parish priest has in each parish community (cf. c. 519 of the Code of Canon Law), providing also with the collaboration of other presbyters, the pastoral care of those who are going through the Neocatechumenal Way.” (Art. 6, n.2) Similarly, the Statutes acknowledge that “the Neocatechumenate is realized, in communion with the parish priest and under his responsibility, by a team of catechists.” (Art. 8, n. 4)
Furthermore, the Statutes declare that: “The Neo Catechumenal Way is at the service of the bishop as one of the forms of diocesan implementation of the Christian initiation and of ongoing formation in the faith.” (Art. 1, n. 2)
In the weekly celebration of the Word prescribed by Article 11 of the Statutes, my attention was called to the lack of formation and preparation on the part of those entrusted to teach regarding the tenets of the Catholic Church as laid down in its Catechism as well as the meaning of the biblical readings proclaimed within the celebration. There seems to be a tendency towards fundamentalist interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures detached and, sometimes, even contrary to the documents of the Magisterium and the Catechism of the Church.
With respect to the preceding observation, the Statutes provide that “it pertains to the diocesan Bishop, as responsible for initiation, formation and Christian life in the local Church to watch over the implementation of the Neocatechumenal Way so that it may take place in conformity with what is established in Articles 1 and 2, respecting the doctrine and discipline of the Church.” (Art. 26)
Respect for the Ordained
There is a prevailing sentiment of superiority among the community members on account of sheer membership in a Neocatechumenal community resulting in a disdainful attitude towards those who are not walking the Way or have stopped joining the meetings. Besides, disdainful and disrespectful remarks about my predecessor, about some priests and even about my own person, have been repeatedly heard from the catechists of the communities contrary to good manners, upright conduct, filial respect and Christian charity.
The President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity offered three guidelines for the Neocatechumenal communities when he presented the Holy See’s approval of the movement: obedience to bishops, acknowledgement of the role of priests and fidelity to the liturgical texts of the Church. On the same occasion, Carmen Hernandez, co-founder of the movement, said: “What is important is NOT the Neocatechumenal Way, but the CHURCH.” She continued by inviting the members of the movement to practice humility.
In January 2009, when the Neocatechumenal Way celebrated its fortieth year as a Catholic lay association, the Holy Father gave thanks to God for the fruits of the evangelical efforts of the Way. However, the Pope reminded them that the full realization of the work comes with docile adherence to the directives of the bishops and with communion with all the other components of the People of God. He encouraged them to work for unity --- which makes of each community a living and well integrated joint in the mystical body of Christ.
We can veritably adopt as our own the observation of Augusto Faustini, writing to the Pope complaining about how the movement’s founder, Kiko Arguello, “has established how you are, how you sit, how you pray, how you sing, how and what you play, how you confess, how you take Communion, how you read the Sacred Scriptures, making clear that anyone who does not do all that is lost in error.” (Urquhart, The Pope’s Armada, p. 250)
THEREFORE, considering the foregoing facts and statutory principles, by virtue of my authority as Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, in order to guide and reorient the Neocatechumenal Way in this archdiocese, I hereby impose a moratorium on all initial catecheses in the Neocatechumenal Way within the archdiocese until the Episcopal Delegate, named below, recommends the lifting of this moratorium.
No new communities shall be opened and no new members may be initiated into the Neocatechumenal Way within the moratorium period starting on the Solemnity of Pentecost this year until the Solemnity of Pentecost in 2011.
Likewise, I order the reading, within the whole year, starting from the Solemnity of Pentecost this year until the Solemnity of Pentecost in 2011, of paragraphs 748 to 945 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, pertaining to ecclesiology, the readings being spread out during the weekly celebrations of the Word of each Neocatechumenal community.
Moreover, I enjoin the recitation of the five mysteries of the Holy Rosary before the weekly celebration of the Word, starting on Pentecost Sunday, in adherence to the mandate of Article 14, number 4 of the Statutes;
In addition, effective today, I revoke the canonical mandate previously granted by the Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan to the incumbent itinerant catechist to teach the Catholic faith within this ecclesiastical jurisdiction.
To put into effect the abovementioned directives, I hereby appoint FATHER MARIO DOMINIC SANCHEZ as my Episcopal delegate for the Neocatechumenal communities in the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan.
The Episcopal delegate is tasked with the following specific functions, namely: 1) to implement the strict observance of the directives contained in this communication with the faculty to impose canonical discipline in the name of the Archbishop when pastorally necessary; 2) to supervise all the convivences of the Neocatechumenal Way held in this ecclesiastical jurisdiction and to insure the regularity of confessions among its members in conformity with Article 14, n.1 of the Statutes; 3) to extend pastoral care and charity to the hurting members of the community who have stopped attending the meetings due to the scandalous conduct of the local leaders in the past and to render pastoral attention to the sick and elderly members who have been deemed unworthy to “walk the Way.”
The Episcopal Delegate is also hereby directed to see to it that the manner of questioning that takes place during the scrutiny of members is done in accordance with the approved discipline of the Church, respecting the right to privacy and that it is carried out within the bounds of Christian charity. Finally, I instruct him to look into the accounting and administration of the financial donations made by the members of the Catholic faithful to the community and make a report thereof to me every three months.
Final admonition and appeal
I take this occasion to reaffirm my conviction that the Neocatechumenal Way, with its goal to bring people to fraternal communion and maturity of faith through the tripod of “Word of God-Liturgy-Community,” is a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church and society of our times.
Like all gifts, the Neocatechumenal Way must be cared for and protected from the effects of original sin in us. It must be shielded against the pride and arrogance of its leaders. Those who walk the Way must never be found lacking in charity and deviating from the path of truth.
Pastoral charity for the Catholic faithful who are members of this community moves me to take these steps to insure the stability of our faith and the purity of the teaching that the faithful are entitled to receive.
Let me conclude with these words of the Sacred Scriptures: “To the elders among you, I a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and sharer in the glory that is to be revealed, make this appeal. God’s flock is in your midst; give it a shepherd’s care. Watch over it willingly as God would have you do, not lording over those assigned to you, so that when the chief shepherd appears, you will win for yourselves the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:1-4)
Peace be with you all! Amen!
From the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, this 3rd day of May 2010.
+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS, DD
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan