What can you do when your parish is subjected to the unwelcome attentions of a group like the Neocatechumenate?
Here are a few ideas drawn from the Church Mouse’s observations of the St Vincent’s experience.
INFORM AND BE INFORMED
Try to discover what the Lord wants of you, having nothing to do with futile works of darkness but exposing them by contrast. The things which are done in secret are things that people are ashamed even to speak of; but anything exposed by the light will be illuminated and anything illuminated turns into light.
The Neocats and their supporters thrive on secrecy and hate to be exposed for what they are.
“10 Steps to Quell Dissent and Maintain the Truth” written by Brian Munro for Online Catholics are worth a read at this point.
- At all times remember that truth is not a disembodied entity. It is a function of power exercised through authority.
- Fear is a prime tool in the use of power, and authority figures must be fearless in its use to keep inferiors in their place. Better to be feared than loved.
- But let not fear alone be the sole tool to crush dissent. ‘Duchess’ potential troublemakers by offering them minor promotions and some of the trappings of your power.
- Force subordinates to come to you as the authority figure. Do not meet them on their territory but on grounds of your choosing.
- Control the means of communication, employing skilled spin-doctors where needed, and distancing yourself from any that appear to waver from the line of truth you have established.
- Let secrecy be a watchword in all things. Total ignorance rarely breeds controversy or conflict, and the fewer who know the facts the easier it is to manage the issue.
- Demand obedience from those who have vowed obedience to you, and issue your instructions to them in writing to avoid any future misunderstanding.
- Always appeal to a higher authority, God or the Pope, as justification for your demands as if they come not from you but from incontrovertible Authority. Under no circumstances should the words ‘Second Vatican Council’ ever be spoken in public.
- Make a display of your power on all occasions, using ceremony, clothing, body language, and even the size of your ‘phylacteries’ to impress.
- Finally remember the importance of hastening slowly for best results. The frog will jump from the water if it is at first too hot, but will gladly allow itself to be boiled to death if the temperature is raised gradually.
Be informed about your rights.
If you feel affronted or violated by intimidating tactics that these anti-democratic, anti-intellectual fundamentalists employ, stand up to them. Remember that under church law you have a right to continue to worship in any legitimate manner that is the custom in your parish. The Neocats have no right to impose their way, whatever they may believe is their duty.
Inform the Neocat
Talk to Neocats; try to interest them in your customs, theology, etc. Approach individuals who look as though they might be prepared to listen. This usually excludes priests, but seminarians can be worth a try, as evidenced by the following story.
Paco, a young Spanish Neocat seminarian at St Vincent’s over a year ago, was befriended by several members of the community. They took the time to explain what we were about and why we were so opposed to the Neocatechumenate, and gave him books, like Albert Nolan’s Jesus Before Christianity, to read. Imagine our joy when Paco’s letter, reproduced HERE, arrived early in March.
Publicise what is happening – use newsletters and/or the World Wide Web to let others know what is going on.
Network with other communities in similar situations.
CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE AND PASSIVE RESISTANCE
Civil disobedience is defined [here] as the refusal to obey a law or follow a policy believed to be unjust. Practitioners of civil disobedience usually employ the nonviolent technique of passive resistance in order to bring wider attention to the injustice in order to force a change or secure concessions. Among its most articulate advocates have been Gandhi, who maintained that action needs to be accompanied by love and a willingness to search for the truth, and Martin Luther King, Jr., who called for “tough-mindedness and tenderheartedness.” Two of the most massive examples of passive resistance were the Solidarity movement in Poland (1980–81) and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia (1989).
Withhold financial contributions
The withholding of financial contributions to the Church is an effective means for the faithful to register disapproval with the hierarchy. A consistently empty Sunday collection plate attracts attention.
In the USA, some reform groups have been urging Catholics to withhold contributions until the Church gets tough with sexual abusers in the priesthood and opens up its files for a full accounting of four decades of clerical abuse. The phenomenon has become quite ecumenical, with Episcopal Church officials recently announcing a $3 million shortfall in the church’s 2004 budget, caused chiefly by parishes and dioceses withholding funds to protest the ordination of a homosexual bishop.
At St Vincent’s the decision to let the plate pass by was taken when the Neocats were first imposed upon the community.
A representative sample of the weekly takings as reported in the Saving Word Church bulletin is shown in the graph below. The peaks correspond to St Vincent de Paul’s feast day and Christmas day – both distinguished by a significant number of non-regular church-goers in the congregation.
Instead of handing money to the cardinal, St Vincent’s parishioners try to use it in ways that meet the immediate needs of members of its extended community. It is important to find your own alternatives to putting a donation on the plate every Sunday.
CONTINUE TO BE YOURSELVES
John Paul II said: "Pastors have a duty to foster the charisms, ministries and different forms of participation by the People of God". [here]
Remind your pastors of their duty by continuing your customary parish activities and maintaining your input to the liturgy – in other words, by continuing to be yourselves.
Take on the burden of freedom.