Not this Way

This website receives the occasional email from individuals who seem to have misunderstood the Church Mouse’s position on matters Neocatechumenal. Here is a recent example (only the sender’s name has been changed).

The immediate reaction to this was to assume it was a variant of the junk that keeps spam filters busy and ignore it. If, however, Matthew is genuinely seeking advice,  a more appropriate response might be something along the following lines.

Matthew, the Neocatechumenal Way is not the way.

Doubtless there are travellers on the Way who are good people. Unfortunately they have kept themselves well hidden from the Church Mouse and the faithful of the community of St Vincent’s in Redfern.

In their place one finds narrow minded, intolerant religious zealots completely lacking in sensitivity or respect for local cultures, busily dividing parishes into warring factions. One member of the community writes:

The Pope, and Archbishop Pell in Sydney, both know the divisive force of the sect known as the Neocatechumal Way. My observation over 7 years is that the Neocats’ only outreach to the stranger is to convert: otherwise they show no interest to converse with others than their own. Their priests from overseas resist local enculturation, preferring to impose a Kiko-esque ethos on all. One Aboriginal person hit the nail on the head by saying: "they treat us like lepers".

The evidence in one Sydney suburb is that their priests regard a faithful "adult" as one who is subservient to their power and grateful for their uninformed and Jansenist sermons. They regard as faithless those who read contemporary theology, biblical history and spirituality and have tried to practice their religion, even accusing them of being "not Catholic". Their priests revile from dialogue on an equal footing with non-Neocat laity and religious.

Given the rate at which this sect is driving away even the faithful mature-aged people from the church, the time is fast approaching when B16, Pell and others of their ilk will need to answer before God as to why they have encouraged this throw-back sect that trades on the very worst of clericalism, power and fear within the church. These values betray Christ’s teachings.

We need a church that is known for its compassion, justice, creativity, ecumenism, and love; that can walk tall amongst those of other faiths and be glad of their companionship in shared journeys.

And another:

I have been at the receiving end of the "power" and so-called "authority" of the priests of the Neocatechumal Way. They vilify those whom they perceive to be following a different path to their extremely conservative beliefs. Their understanding of Scripture and Theology comes across as being very limited in their homilies where they tend to preach on the same lines irrespective of the readings for the day.

Sad to say other members of the Parish who believe that the Laity must be subservient to the Priest (mainly members of the Way) criticise us for speaking out against the falsehoods, lack of justice and compassion expressed by the priests of the Way. We struggle to maintain the sense of inclusion, social justice and commitment to aboriginal people and the poor and marginalised in our area of Sydney. We have tried to appeal to the Hierarchy on many occasions but there is little or no support.

St Vincent’s is not alone. The Church Mouse is but one of many voices speaking out against an uncatholic, unjust, unloving and un-Christlike church.

That ubiquitous online repository of information, Wikipedia, contains a summary of some of the key criticisms of the Way that is in accord with the St Vincent’s experience.

During the 40 years since its inception the Neocatechumenal Way has drawn some criticism, especially in the 1980s and the 1990s, by some priests, theologians and by local bishops, who expressed concerns about the orthodoxy of its teachings and the validity of its liturgical practices. In 1995, the Italian Passionist priest and theologian Enrico Zofolli published a savage critique of the Neocatechumenal Way in which he accused the movement of heretical ideas: “Their doctrine is seriously compromised with errors against fundamental dogmatics of the Church, the Popes and the Councils. They negate the Redemption, the sacrifice character of the Eucharist, the transubstantiation, etc… they misunderstand the sin and the Grace concepts… their doctrinal statements are fundamentally wrong.” In particular, he warned bishops of the dangers of allowing Redemptoris Mater seminaries to open in their dioceses: "The building of Neocatechumenal seminaries, where candidates are prepared for the priesthood educated in accordance with the doctrinal errors of Kiko, could be one of the worst threats for the Church of tomorrow."

Another area for concern has been the allegations that the movement could have a divisive impact on the Catholic parishes it moves into. Often, the neocatechumenals in a parish do not celebrate their Masses on Sunday but on Saturday evening, in small groups and separately from the parish communities to which they belong.

In France, the Neocatechumenate was first introduced into the parish of St Germain-des-Prés in Paris. However, protracted disputation followed, and the archbishop of Paris, Cardinal François Marty, blocked any further expansion before his retirement in 1981. During 1992, controversy at the parish of Pulnoy-Cerville prompted the bishop of Nancy to transfer the catechists to another parish.

In the Diocese of Clifton, Bristol, an extensive investigation of the communities in 1994 reported that the movement was "a form of spiritual enslavement" and that its presence in parishes was "completely divisive and destructive." The Bishop Mervyn Alexander issued a decree the next year banning the Neocatechumenal Way from further activity in the Diocese.

At St. Vincent’s church, Sydney, Australia, a Neocatechumenal Way priest was appointed in 2003; he replaced practices and structures introduced by the previous parish priest. Many of the indigenous parish members challenged this.
In the Phillipines, the Socrates B. Villegas, the Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, imposed a temporary moratorium on all initial catecheses in the Way within the archdiocese in May 2010. No new communities will be opened, and no new members may be initiated. He explained that "despite its positive effects … there are certain concerns about the direction the Neocatechumenate is leading to".

Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada has described the Way’s presence in Japan’s small Catholic community as "a serious problem" and "divisive and confrontational". In 2010, the Japanese episcopal conference announced that it would suspend the activities of the movement in Japan for five years. However, Pope Benedict XVI refused the request from four Japanese bishops on December 13 in Rome, saying that a delegate would be sent to see the situation speaking to both clergy and laity alike. The Takamatsu Redemptoris Mater seminary was relocated to Rome in 2009.

A former assistant-general of the Marist Fathers, New Zealand social anthropologist Gerald Arbuckle SM warned superiors of Catholic religious orders that they need to limit involvement with the Neocatechumenal Way by members of their communities: "I believe that no authentic religious can belong to a sect.” In particular, he criticised the NC’s rejection of "the Gospel commitment to enculturation" (the commitment to interact in a non-imperialistic way with local cultures).

More detail of what others have said about the Way can be found in the following partial list of related articles, sorted by country and date.


Jan-Feb 1994, updated 2004 ARBUCKLE, Gerald A.(sm): Is the Neo-Catechumenate Way Compatible with Religious Life?


02 September 1991 Neocats in Melbourne


19 August 2005 Neocats in Mirrabooka Perth

19 August 2005 From The Record

30 November 2004 Update from Kelmscott

30 November 2004 Information update

08 September 2004 Letter to the local Bishops

08 September 2004 Testimonial from Kelmscott

08 September 2004 Recent correspondence with the local Bishops

The Holy Land

06 March 2007 The Lenten Season of the ‘Way’: Double Penance, in Rome and Jerusalem


03 May 2010 Trouble in the Phillipines

Denver, USA

13 March 2009 From St. James in Denver


The Church Mouse congratulates the Japanese Bishops and hopes that with support from others around the world this sect can be eradicated from other Diocese.

02 February 2011 Heading the wrong Way for Japan

20 January 2011 Bishop speaks out on Neo-Cats

13 January 2011 Japanese bishop seeks lay help with Neo-Cats

16 December 2010 Japan’s bishops want Neocatechumenal Way to leave for five years

16 December 2010 Pope meets with Japanese bishops to discuss Neocatechumenal Way

26 May 2009 No Way for Japan

01 May 2008 Neocat trouble in Japan

United Kingdom

03 April 1992 Neocats in Bristol

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