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October 2002



On 12 August 2002 the American Bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs released a joint-document with their Jewish counterparts entitled "Reflections on Covenant and Mission." Among many other astonishing things, it declares that "campaigns that target Jews for conversion to Christianity are no longer theologically acceptable in the Catholic Church." Jewish participant Rabbi Gilbert Rosenthal confirmed that "neither group believes that we should missionize among the other in order to save souls via conversions." Cardinal Keeler, the U.S. Moderator for Catholic-Jewish relations, then contributed his own bravura impression of Judas, passing off this treachery as a "significant step forward in the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Jewish Community in this country."

On 17 August EWTN's Fr. John Echert hit out at the document, fuming: "… parts of it strike me as contrary to divine revelation... It is an embarrassment, lacks any teaching authority, and serves to reveal the thinking of some people who hold powerful positions in the national conference. If a document such as this gains approval, as it currently stands, I will seriously consider the prospect that we are moving into the end times, namely, apostasy."

God bless Father Echert! Readers on this side of the Atlantic know exactly how he feels. The same thought arises every time Cardinal Murphy O'Connor and his British brothers and bureaucrats showcase their truly embarrassing, ignorant, erroneous and compromising Modernist beliefs on ecumenism and just about any other issue of note (CO passim). But it is not only the national episcopates and their delegates who are taking us ever closer to the theological brink. Increasingly, Rome is facilitating the wholesale confusion. After all, contrary to Church teaching as recently affirmed in Dominus Iesus, it is Cardinal Kasper, the Vatican's grand fromage on ecumenical affairs, who is openly promoting the scandalous view at the heart of the above Reflections: that the Jews are not in need of conversion to Christianity. Even Cardinal Ratzinger himself, a Kasper antagonist, has muddied the waters in that regard with baffling, equivocal utterances ["Some Thoughts on the Reception of Dominus Iesus," CO, Jan. 2001].

The plain truth is that outright public betrayals or serious undermining of Catholic teaching by our Shepherds have become so frequent in recent years that we cannot help but call to mind the Gospel passage underlying Fr. Echert's sentiments on the apostasy that ushers in the end times: "For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show signs and wonders insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect" [Matt 24:24]. This warning, in turn, recalls Sister Lucia's reference to the wholesale "diabolic disorientation" of the contemporary Catholic hierarchy. None of which is to say that apocalyptic end times are upon us or anywhere within sight. But such thoughts are very naturally to the fore in these murky days, and they immediately sprang to mind as I read about Rome's recent approval of the Neocatechumenal Way - perhaps the most frightening indicator of hierarchical deception thus far.

On 28 June 2002, at a ceremony in Rome, Cardinal Francis Stafford, head of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, handed the canonical decree of approval for the Way to its Spanish founders Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez and several dozen other Neocatechumenal leaders. The negotiations/discussions leading to approval of the statutes took five years, during which time one occasionally sensed underlying Vatican exasperation with the Neocat leadership, as with the Holy Father's letter to Cardinal Stafford last year in which he stressed the need for obedience and docility to Church authority before such statutes can be approved. Through it all, however, it seems that pastoral considerations like episcopal authority and parish integration held sway. There was no indication that the decisive factor, the actual catechesis taught by the Way, was addressed at all, even though that catechesis is demonstrably at odds with Catholic doctrine.

Father Gino Conti, an expert on the Way, had warned that "If the approval of the statutes does not also include the total revision of the catechesis, there is the danger that very many will abandon the Church altogether." Yet he knew better than to expect such a revision. His friend, the eminent Italian scholar Father Enrico Zoffoli, who wrote extensively about the errors of the Way, was totally ignored. In the preface to his book Heresies of the Neocatechumenals, Fr. Zoffoli wrote:

I have not been asked to explain nor have I been invited to a critical verification in a debate. Till now my work has met indifference and silence. A singular and worrying attitude on the part of some of those responsible for Catholic orthodoxy. How to explain it? I leave it all in the hands of the Judgement of God and of history. But therefore this judgement encourages me to continue the principal argument: the basis of the Neocatechumenate is heretical; and I emphasise this especially for those who believed the title of my essay to be exaggerated or even calumnious.

Nothing has changed since Fr. Zoffoli's death several years ago. The "indifference and silence" continues. Thus, following the Vatican's approval, we've heard a lot about 'wondrous' Neocat expansion, nothing at all about heretical catechesis and no more than passing intimations about cultish Neocat practices - control and manipulation, secretiveness and deception, Gnostic sectarianism and archaism, intimidation and exploitation - and the trail of familial and parish disunity and acrimony they have left in their wake. The many objective Catholic (as opposed to self-serving liberal) critics of Opus Dei will recognise a number of familiar traits in that lot. Yet for all its myriad sins, especially deceptive recruitment practices against the Fourth Commandment (which prompted Cardinal Hume to rightly intervene), Opus Dei, unlike the Neocatechumenate, celebrates reverent Masses and preaches Catholic doctrine. Far closer to the sectarianism, secrecy and control-freakery of the Way is yet another Spanish movement, the Cursillo. Originally conceived in 1949, the Cursillo has become a notorious Charismatic vehicle for small group infiltration of parishes and the spreading of the Social Gospel. It so precisely mirrors the ultra-Charismatic nature, gnostic attitude, small cell structure and cultish methodology of the Neocatechumenate (as well as sharing the aim of "renewing" the "old" and allegedly un-Christian pre-Vatican II Church with elite apostles of the "new theology") that it would be most surprising if Kiko Arguello was not directly influenced by the Cursillo when he founded the Way in 1964. (One can picture the explosive day these two messianic movements collide in the same parish setting!)

Be that all as it may, the fact remains that charges of heresy against the Way, made from primary source documentation and brought by a priest renowned for his personal sanctity and erudition, have been studiously ignored at the highest levels of the Church. Instead, the heretics have been legitimised and lauded by papal decree as worthy and reliable agents of "Christian initiation for those who are already baptised, ongoing formation in the faith and ordinary baptism preparation and catechesis." Spooky, is it not?

But let us give Cardinal Stafford the benefit of the doubt for a moment, and assume that he is aware of the heresies. Since Kiko and Carmen have not been asked to publicly retract their errors, are we to assume that the Vatican is therefore seeking to rein in and Catholicise the Way by placing them "under the direction of the local bishop" in the hope that this will effect some kind of miraculous Neocat conversion to orthodoxy? If so, wishful-thinking might be the most polite term to describe such reckless gambling with the salvation of souls. On the other hand, if the Holy Father, Cardinal Stafford and the rest have indeed remained unaware of the widely known doctrinal problems, then we might put down such convenient oversight to the fact that our increasingly desperate elect have been too readily deceived and dazzled by the perennial illusion of "good fruits" (viz. plentiful priests, vocations and adherents) and are now more impressed by numbers than the purity of the Faith.

One always returns, however, to Lucia's "diabolic disorientation," a foreshadowing of the end times, as the most plausible and succinct explanation for these otherwise inexplicable yet increasingly common hierarchical compromises and sell outs; in this case a disorientation facilitated by years of aggressive and shameless lobbying and networking in Rome by the Neocat leadership. Although the approval of their statutes does not constitute a dogmatic approval of their corrupt catechesis or the unworthy methods often used to propagate it, this constant self-promotion has finally enabled them to deceive the Holy Father at least to the extent that the false catechesis remains intact. And all the while they have achieved their subversive aim with an unnerving, arrogant swagger. Recalling the time he and Fr. Zoffoli met with leaders of the Neocatechumenate on 2 June 1992 at the Scala Santa in Rome, Don Gino remarked: "When we said, 'Your texts contain errors in dogma!', they smirked." Hold that image in your mind for a moment as you read this Catholic Herald report of the approval ceremony in Rome:

The mood of the statutes' approval ceremony was relaxed and celebratory and was punctuated throughout with outbursts of laughter at quips and side-of-the-mouth remarks by Miss [Carmen] Hernandez, the group's feisty female co-founder. Wearing a black cotton T-shirt marked in gold with Chinese characters, she repeatedly ignored a laity council official's attempts to cut short her 20-minute improvised speech, complaining jokingly: "They never let women talk."

In the council's corridors afterward, chain-smoking slim cigarettes, she broke into an Italian television interview with Mr Arguello to teasingly heckle the TV reporter for asking questions about the group's controversial reputation.

Yes, it's devilish smirks all round for ex-nun Carmen and the Neocat elite. The official acceptance they have long craved and lobbied for is now a reality. They have deceived the elect and got their heretical Way.

Unlike the supine 'Catholic' press, however, CO is not prepared to take the Vatican's decision lying down. Considering the erroneous beliefs and manipulative methodology of the Way and the clear and present danger this poses to the Faith and the spiritual, emotional and psychological good of souls, the stakes are too high. In these perilous times when more than ever we must "measure everything and hold fast to what is good" [1Thess 19-23], we have a singular right and duty to speak out. As Father Felix Sardy y Salvana explains in his classic treatise Liberalism Is A Sin:

Yes the faithful are permitted and even... commanded to give a reason for their faith, to draw out its consequences, to make applications of it, to deduce parallels and analogies from it. It is thus by use of their reason that the faithful are enabled to suspect and measure the orthodoxy of any new doctrine, presented to them, by comparing it with a doctrine already defined. If it be not in accord, they can combat it as bad and justly stigmatize as bad the book or journal which sustains it. They cannot of course define it ex cathedra, but they can lawfully hold it as perverse and declare it such, warn others against it, raise the cry of alarm and strike the first blow against it. The faithful layman can do all this, and has done it at all times with the applause of the Church. Nor in so doing does he make himself the pastor of the flock, nor even its humblest attendant; he simply serves it as a watchdog who gives the alarm. Oportet allatrare canes. "It behooves watchdogs to bark" very opportunely said a great Spanish Bishop in reference to such occasions.



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