Neocatechumenate Questions

The recent news that Cardinal O’Malley presided over a May 6 “symphonic homage and prayer”at Symphony Hall composed by Neocatechumenal Way founder, Kiko Arguello, made BCI think that it is about time we posted something about the Neocatechumenal Way

In view of the tremendous support Cardinal O’Malley has given the Neocatechumenate Way here in Boston, BCI has been trying to figure out the Neocatechumenates for a little while now. A year ago, we thought their fund-raiser was a good cause, but the deeper we look, the more we emerge with many more questions than answers.

In principle, the Neocatechumenate Way, founded in 1964, sounds good. Candidates for the priesthood from other countries who have a missionary zeal prepare for the priesthood here in Boston (studying at St. Johns Seminary and in their own Redemptoris Mater Seminary), are ordained diocesan priests, and then would serve as parish priests here in Boston.  In practice, a few things are not quite so clear.

Here is what the archdiocesan website says:

Redemptoris Mater Seminaries seek to prepare priests for the New Evangelization.  The first Redemptoris Mater Seminary was opened in the Diocese of Rome in 1987.  Today there are 87 Redemptoris Mater Seminaries in the world, on five continents.   To date, more than 2,000 men formed in these seminaries have already been ordained to the priesthood.

Currently in the United States there are Redemptoris Mater Seminaries in Boston, Dallas, Denver, Newark, Washington D.C. and Agana (Guam).

Cardinal Seán O’Malley officially opened the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Boston (RMSB) in 2005.  In 2009, he ordained the first priest formed in this Seminary, Fr. Israel Rodriguez.   Redemptoris Mater seminarians are ordained for the priesthood of the Archdiocese of Boston and are assigned by Cardinal O’Malley.  Fr. Rodriguez  was assigned to serve as Parochial Vicar at Immaculate Conception parish in Marlborough.

Like all Archdiocesan priests, priests formed at RMSB receive their priestly assignments from the Archbishop of Boston.  Because they are formed as priests with a missionary heart, they hope to be assigned by the Archbishop to the missions for part of their priestly lives.

RMSB seminarians receive their academic formation at St. John’s Seminary and their spiritual, human and pastoral formation primarily at or through RMSB.  At St. John’s, they study alongside many seminarians who, God willing, will become their brothers in the presbyterate of the Archdiocese of Boston.

RMSB assigns seminarians to serve in parishes throughout the Archdiocese.  Additionally, as part of their missionary formation, RMSB seminarians go for at least two years of itinerant evangelization, typically after they complete second theology. They are sent two-by-two, living in poverty and leaning daily on the providence of God.

Seminarians and priests from the Neocatechumenal community assist the Archdiocese greatly with our outreach to ethnic communities and in continuing the great tradition of assisting the Catholic Church in various parts of the world where there is a great need.

Sounds great in principle.  About 26 Neocatechumenal seminarians have studied here since their seminary was founded in 2007, and today, according to the Neocatechumenal Way newsletters, there are 20 seminarians at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary. But here are a few questions:

  • Who pays for the tuition of the Neocatechumenal Way seminarians here in Boston–at both St. Johns Seminary and at Boston College, Boston University and other colleges where they study?
  • Who pays for their vehicles, gas, maintenance and insurance?
  • Who pays for their food, utilities, and building expenses at the location of their seminary in Brookline (former St. Lawrence rectory)
  • Who pays for their medical and dental insurance?
  • Who pays for their airfares for travel around the U.S. and foreign countries for their itinerant evangelization (or “itinerancy” )
  • How much have these expenses totaled: $2M?  $3M? $4M?
  • Are these expenses paid by the Neocatechumenate Way?  Or have they been paid by the Boston Archdiocese and by St. Johns Seminary?

BCI is in the process of confirming that a substantial amount of these expenses have been paid by Boston (either the Boston Archdiocese or St. Johns Seminary operating funds or endowment).  One might argue for a moment it would be a worthwhile investment if it gets us more priests.  But then, one must ask, if Boston pays for those expenses for the Neocatechumenal Way seminarians, does Boston do the same for all Boston seminarians?

One might also ask, what do the Neocatechumenates do with the money they raise?  Are they using those funds to contribute to St. Johns Seminary for some of the tuition expenses there?  Or are they using those funds for other Neo-Cat related expenses?

How many of the Neocatechumenal Way seminarians will stay in Boston after they are ordained vs be called off to another part of the country or world? When Cardinal O’Malley was asked this question in 2008 by the Boston Globe, he hedged a bit in his response:

Q: The Neocatechumenal Way folks — some of them, or all of them, will stay here?
A: They will be ordained in Boston and some may be sent to the missions, but some of them will work here, obviously with the different ethnic groups that we have. The advantage of their community is that they have many Spanish and Portuguese speaking, and in the future we see that that’s going to be a big need of the diocese.

Q: And they become ordained priests of the Archdiocese of Boston?
A: They’re diocesan priests.

BCI believes 2 Neocatechumenal priests have been ordained from the Neocatechumenal Way in Boston, and one, Fr. Israel Rodriguez, is assigned here. Apparently, they can be excardinated (formally freed from jurisdiction in this diocese and transferred to another) after 5 years, or on-demand at any time by Kiko, the NeoCat founder.

Then there are the other controversies about the Neocatechumenal Way. Those would take quite a while to detail.  This post gives a few examples.

Just one of the controversies involves their liturgies. In January of this year, Pope Benedict XVI approved their non-liturgical celebrations, but affirmed that their Masses must conform to official liturgical norms. In the past, they inserted various novel practices into Masses such as standing during the Consecration, baking their own loaves of unleavened bread and receiving the consecrated bread and wine while seated around a decorated table in the center of the church and passing the Precious Blood from person to person. The Vatican also had concerns about them skipping certain Eucharistic prayer.  In 2005, they were directed by the Vatican to discontinue those practices and conform to Vatican liturgical norms.

In April of this year, the Holy Father ordered the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to investigate whether the Neocatechumenal Masses are or are not in keeping with the liturgical teaching and practice of the Catholic Church. This is a “problem,” in the pope’s judgment, that is “of great urgency” for the whole Church

Besides the unusual aspects of their Masses, NeoCats also want to celebrate their Sunday Mass on Saturday evenings apart from the parish community where they are supposed to be tightly integrated. In some cases, there could be several different NeoCat communities within a single parish with their own Mass. This can have the effect of causing confusion or division within parishes as cited by the Japan bishops here .

The language used in their statutes is also a bit unusual and concerning.  They refer to the parish pastor or priest as a “priest” but to the NeoCat priests as “presbyters.”  Instead of referring to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the NeoCat statutes refer to Mass as a “celebration of the Eucharist.”

Here is an example of their liturgical music:

Cardinal O’Malley described a 2009 gathering of NeoCat seminarians in this blog post, including these photos of the chapel where they met and celebrated Mass:

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IMG_1312

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In the 46 years since its inception, the Neocatechumenal Way has given fruits to the Church in the form of inspiring many vocations to priesthood and religious life, and that is to be commended. It is understandable for Cardinal O’Malley to be enthusiastic about the potential for Boston to have more priests, whether they were natives of Boston or coming from other countries with an evangelistic zeal. At the same time, he should also understand the total cost, net gain, and legitimate concerns.

BCI is not criticizing the Neocatechumenates–we have met many of them, and they appear to be fine men.  Rather, we are saying that, with the enthusiasm about their potential, there are also important questions which should be answered.  For the good of the archdiocese, Cardinal O’Malley, Msgr. Deeley, the outgoing and incoming rector osf St. Johns Seminary, and parish pastors may want to prayerfully consider these questions (and the answers to these questions) as they continue to invest in the Redemptoris Mater seminary here.  What do you think?

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23 Responses to Neocatechumenate Questions

  1. jbq2 says:

    The key to the entire controversy is found in this article. The “Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” has been changed to the “Celebration of the Eucharist”. That is the entire lynch pin of Vatican II. In the thinking of Malachi Martin, Jesuit advisor at Vat II, the Church has “merged” with the socialist movement in the world and is approaching a “melding” of church and state through the social justice evolutionary model of Teilhard de Chardin. “Badges, we don’t need no thinkin’ badges.” Sacrifice and redemption, “we don’t need no stinkin’ sacrifice and redemption.”

  2. Mary Reilly says:

    BCI, glad to see you’re back! The objective evidence here is pretty compelling. The chapel where our Cardinal is offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass looks like a spaceship and the altar looks like a large banquet table. I’ve heard of the divisiveness in parishes where they’re present, including multiple Easter Vigils and infusion of the NeoCat liturgical practices into the standard parish Masses. The music in the video sounds like the 70’s style guitar Masses I’ve hoped would finally go away. I hope Cardinal Sean pays attention to your admonitions.

  3. Stop these Masses now! They are destroying a church that is almost extinct because of people like them. Reason 1024334 to get a new archbishop for Boston.

  4. Current Boston Seminarian says:

    Don’t worry, I know that the outgoing rector and many of the faculty have their concerns about the NeoCat seminarians as well as the way that the Saturday “celebration of the Eucharist” separates from the community. Therefore I can assure many of you that the new rector who specializes in the liturgy will make the right decisions that are in his power as it concerns the NeoCats.

  5. Boston Pastor says:

    Thank you Current Sem. Plese keep us informed. I also trust the new Rector will handle things properly. Many prayers for you as you continue in formation! We need you!

  6. eddy says:

    says mary reilly:
    “The chapel where our Cardinal is offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass looks like a spaceship”.

    Isn’t a church, but the “tent of meeting” in the International Neocatechumenal center in a Porto San Giorgio(italy)

    Eucharist celebrated by John Paul II at the old center in Porto San Giorgio in the 1988

    • Mary Reilly says:

      Oh, it’s a tent? That makes me feel a lot better now. Eddy, Pope John Paul II presided over some whacky liturgies, and was hardly the best enforcer of Catholic liturgical norms. Didn’t he preside over an interfaith prayer celebration in Assisi where there was a golden statue of Buddha on the altar?

  7. Mack says:

    At the prayer meeting in Assisi, Pope John Paul was careful to explain that he was asking the people from various religions to come to pray, yet not to pray together (in the sense of offering common prayer). In fact, the various religions had separate places to pray. I can’t find the document now, but I recall reading his explanation that Christians and members of non-Christian religions can’t pray together in the same way that Christians gather together as members of Christ’s body. Although some misinterpreted what he did, he was not promoting relativism or the idea that all religions are the same. He was concerned about world peace and was trying to get people to have some better understanding of each other.

  8. notfromboston says:

    I noticed that the New Testament also has that very “unusual and concerning” language in that it never refers to the ministerial priests as priests but always presbyters. Has BCI ever read that document? BTW, the usage of pastor/parishpriest in the statute is a way to avoid misunderstanding, for no English speaking Catholic outside the US would call a parish priest pastor (that word refers to the ordinary and Protestants use it to refer to their parish minister), and, guess what, some people call the the other priest in the parish a curate. Is that concerning also?

    • notfromboston,
      Fair point about use of “presbyter” in the New Testament. But you have apparently missed some of the other key points in this post.

      What is more unusual and concerning in the Neocatecumenate statutes is the failure to acknowledge the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Are the reports of divisiveness inside Catholic parishes not concerning to you?

      Furthermore, the following reports of psychological conditioning, forced sharing, pseudo-homilies by lay people as undistinguished from the homily by the priest and other practices raise yet additional concerns.

      The Psychological mechanisms of mental conditioning inside the Neocatechumenate Community

      My thoughts on the Neo-Catechumenate way as a former member of The Way

      Though some of the practices described in these posts may have changed, the general issues have been raised in a sufficient number of different venues by different people that they merit further scrutiny. The financial issues, and questions of whether the NeoCat ordained priests will actually remain in Boston also deserve additional scrutiny.

      • Carolyn says:

        Dear BCI,

        Just learned that Rev. Tony Medeiros, whose title is Rector of the Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary, Boston, was ordained for Boston about 20 years ago, and upon application was granted excardination to the Diocese of Rome. Not sure what year he was excardinated.

        Friends in Denver and Newark have told me that it is standard operating procedure for the RM seminarians to spend more years in formation than they do incardinated in the diocese that paid all their bills. For me this is a worry — can’t we offer these all-expense paid packages to men from our own diocese, or men who agree to remain here permanently? They would be ordained without additional years of itinerancy, would be trained as diocesan priests, not Neo-Cat missionaries, and they would be here to stay. Isn’t that the better use of Boston’s ever shrinking resources?

  9. Francois Tee says:

    I think the questions BCI posed at the beginning of the article are interesting. When in doubt, follow the money.

  10. Capt Crunch says:

    A couple of quick points.

    First, in the mail today was another “opportunity” (how fortunate I am) to contribute to the Catholic Appeal. After pondering sending a copy of one of the BCI’s blog posts with comments and a picture of some change in the return envelope I just ended up throwing it away.

    I refuse to give the RCAB ANY money, I’ll support the church I attend, as the precept states, but any “extra” money goes to other worthy Catholic causes. I suspect many of us here do the same. [Cardinal Sean are you listening? Do you care?]

    Next, on to the NeoCats, why is their Liturgy even an issue? This was ruled on earlier this year. Here’s in one, of many, links about this

    http://wdtprs.com/blog/2012/01/benedict-xvi-the-neocats-and-their-liturgy/

  11. eddy says:

    Sorry for my english, but I am italian,

    Neocatechumenal way is a gift of the Holy Spirit, as did John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

    is a path of conversion that produces much fruit. Worldwide 1.5 million people have returned to the Church or have been baptized, through this way.

    some speak of psychological conditioning or liturgical abuses, the “sermons” of lay people and other things.

    Well, I have not seen these things, but I’m not a fool or misfit.

    “By the fruits ye shall know them.” The Way generates fruits, and ‘that’s what counts.

    Pope Benedict sends 300 Neocatechumenal Families on Mission (kazakhstan, china, france, germany, taiwan, Slovakia, Romania, Congo, Ivory Coast, finland, sweden and denmark, In de-Christianized town, or where Church and’ reduced to a minimum.

  12. eddy says:

    P. S. the article by journalist Sandro Magister, has done much fanfare, we will see decisions of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for what I know ‘will confirm’ all, but if anything will be ‘changed, all we will accept with joy because it’ s gift of Church to an young reality as is the Neocatechumenal Way.
    The Risen God of peace be with you all.

  13. Sue says:

    Clearly the statement, ” BCI has been trying to figure out the Neocatechumenates for a little while now.” is the most xenophobic thing I’ve ever seen on this blog. Some of the comments reveal that many here do not appreciate the cultural richness of the Mass as it is celebrated in the various corners of our world. Over last last 60 years, I have been to Mass on three continents and more than a dozen countries. In each place, I was always amazed at the universal nature of the Mass as well as the integration of the local variations and customs. I think of our early church where it was clearly recognized that different cultures had different concerns and forms of expression. As i read this posting and these comments, it seems that many here seem to have a very narrow view of what is right and proper. Just my two cents.

    • Carolyn says:

      Sue,

      I’ll see your two cents and raise you about 2.5 million dollars. I’ve lived in Latin America, the United Kingdom, Europe and three states in the U.S. I’ve been to Mass in Latin, Spanish, English, French, Korean, Lithuanian, Polish and German. The issue isn’t where the seminarians are from, where the Neo-Cat faithful are from or where they celebrate Mass. The issue is that donor dollars have been hemorrhaged in the name of supplying priests for the Archdiocese of Boston, and to date one man has been ordained a priest, and one a deacon. This gives a whole new meaning to the Million Dollar Man.

      Also, why the need for a formation program to train priests to “mission” outside the U.S.?? We have the Society of St James the Apostle, founded and based right here in Boston, to do that. If Boston can afford to send its surplus of priests to the missions, it can do so through the Society founded by Cardinal Cushing for just that purpose.

      The Archbishop of Boston needs to be just that, and not make promises donors can’t afford to keep.

    • Sue, Thank you for your comment.

      BCI takes offense to the characterization of that comment as “xenophobic,” which means “hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange.” There is no hatred implied or present in this post or on the part of BCI. We merely said we have been trying to figure out the NeoCats for a while–who is paying for their studies and expenses here, how many are getting ordained and staying in Boston, what happens to the funds they raise? What about those questions imply hatred? Why are their Masses so different from the Roman Rite Masses, and why do they have some reported history of divisiveness in parishes? BCI merely said there are questions raised that should be answered.

      For the record, the team here at BCI has been to Mass on 6 continents over the last 20-25 years in many different countries. Like you, we are well familiar with different local variations and customs and impressed by the universal nature of the Mass. But, in every place, the Mass was called “Mass.” And BCI has never observed or participated in a Catholic Mass that had the faithful sitting around a big table decorated with flowers to receive the Eucharist during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

      BCI does not claim to know everything. If you know the answers to the questions BCI raised in the post and in this response, please do help us out along with our readers and let us know those answers.

  14. Extinctinction says:

    Catholics hating other Catholics …. hmmm. yes please continue….. Soon enough when 99% of all churches will be shutdown, just tune in for the nice music to find a holy mass.

  15. jwsr says:

    I can see the concerns about this post, and though I don’t think for a second that BCI meant to disparage, the tone could have been better.
    The NeoCat Way is a new movement, and its members in my experience have been a godsend in what Parishes they have moved. The Way is definitely having growing pains, and its integration into the rest of the Catholic world is bumpy but ongoing. It is to be expected that there would be challenges, and His Holiness and His Eminence are both working this out in a Pastoral way, Identifying what challenges are emerging, as challenges do, could be constructive, but demanding an immediate conclusive answer is not.
    I wouldn’t wade too far into the Liturgical adjustments that are being made; it’s above the pay grade of everyone in Boston. The financial and territorial adjustments that are going to have to be made as the Neocatechumenal Way goes from experiment to permanent presence is probably a good discussion to have; that is a challenge being met locally, and a positive compromise could certainly benefit the Church here and as an example, the world.

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