Saturday, September 14, 2013


CDW = Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments
NCW = Neocatechumenal Way
  • What is presented here has been gathered through personal observation and conversations and can’t be easily documented. Other than a short history of the NCW in the words of its founders and select papal addresses, the only thing that is publicly available on its official website is the Statutes which give us an outline of the NCW's mission, but not the details and rationale for its practices. Also, there is the expectation that this post will invite the "come and see". I will address later why this invitation is more evidence of the division so many intuitively perceive.


Despite Pope Benedict expressing his personal expectation that the CDW directive of 12/1/05 relative to certain NCW liturgical practices be obeyed, it appeared from the outset that the NCW, at least in the matter of distributing Holy Communion, had no intention of complying, and in fact, most (at least in Guam) did not. How I know that will be documented later. But to understand why the NCW did not comply, we first must understand the role of the “Eucharist” in the NCW. 

First, “Eucharist” is purposely in quotes to emphasize the unique way the NCW refers to what the rest of us normally call "the Mass."Of course there is nothing wrong with this, and in fact, “Eucharist” (thanksgiving) is more linguistically accurate for what we do at “Mass”. (The word "Mass"is simply an english phonetic descendant of “missa”, from “Ite missa est”, the Latin words which conclude the Eucharistic liturgy.) 

But the exclusive use of “Eucharist” is the first hint that there is something different about the NCW. And, this “something different” is not limited to the the more visible differences in the manner the NCW celebrates the Eucharist, but also clues us in to the role the Eucharist plays in the formation of its members. 

The best way to understand this is to compare the NCW with other ecclesial groups: Knights of Columbus, Legion of Mary, Christian Mothers, etc. These “other” groups, while they may have special Masses, normally do not celebrate the Sunday Mass apart from the parish. At most, on special occasions, they may sit together and wear their distinctive dress, but it is normally within the context of the parish Sunday Mass.

The NCW, of course, does not celebrate the Sunday liturgy with the rest of the parish nor does it celebrate it on Sunday, but exclusively on Saturday evening, exclusively within the small community, and usually not in a dedicated sacred space but in a parish hall, home, or some other secular venue. 

The reason the NCW liturgies are held exclusively on Saturday evening will be addressed separately. Our main aim here is to identify why the NCW celebrates the Eucharist 1) separate from the parish, and 2) not (normally) in the church; and in so doing, identify the rationale for its ignoring the CDW directive.  

As already mentioned, the celebration of the Eucharist in the NCW is integral to the catechetical formation of its members, or more specifically: the “experience” of that celebration. For, once again, it is the experience in the small community that matters; for the “small community” is the central formative vehicle of the NCW and the celebration of the Eucharist is the central experience of that community. 

This is not to say that the celebration of the Eucharist is not the central experience of every Catholic. However, it is not just the celebration of the Eucharist which is central to the NCW experience, but specifically the celebration of the Eucharist within the small, closed community. Thus the celebration of the Eucharist with the parish (Mass with the rest of us), is contrary to the aims of the NCW.

It is important to understand that the fundamental organizing principle of the NCW is the recreation of the experience of the nascent Church, the Church of the first centuries, before it was legitimatized by Constantine. The Church in this period was necessarily an underground church and was forced to meet in small groups and in discreet places. 

After Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 313 A.D., the Church no longer had to hide and began to meet in larger groups and bigger places, evolving into the large congregations and churches we know today. However, the NCW sees this, if not as a corruption, then at least as a departure from a perceived ideal: the Church of the catacombs. 

Thus we come to the central tenet of the NCW and the underlying reason for the division so many can feel but can’t put their finger on: the NCW believes that parish-based Catholicism is systemically flawed and structurally doomed. And it is the small community model, in the fashion of the pre-Constantine Church, the Church of the catacombs, which is the future of the Church - and indeed called for (in their view) by the Second Vatican Council. 

Thus, it is not just that parishes need livelier liturgies, better preaching, or better catechesis, the problem is the parish model itself, and by extension, every aspect of parish life from how we greet each other, to the way we celebrate the liturgy, and right down to the very architecture of the church building. 

Let me pause and say that I agree with them on this count. Parish-based Catholicism IS doomed, at least demographically, and at least in the West. A combination of a dramatic decrease in Catholic family size and two generations of pseudo-catechesis has resulted in an avalanche of parish closings and a mass exodus to other faiths or to no faith at all. 

For the leaders of the NCW, the fall of the parish is not a tragedy, but a necessary step to the restoration of the "true Church". 

To be continued.

1 comment:

  1. I find it peculiar that you just borrowed a photo shot of my NCW community from my Facebook page. ;) Perhaps, you would like me to analyze your unsubstantiated claims and charges against the Way. Well, I won't.

    You make vague statements like this: "the NCW believes that parish-based Catholicism is systemically flawed and structurally doomed". However, NCW is not a person who believes this or that, NCW is a way to organize Catholic communities. Members of NCW share a wide range of views reagrding the renewal of the Church. We believe in the communities. These communities are based on particular parishes, so what you say contradicts to the most elementary facts.