Friday, March 14, 2014

A PRIEST WITH A Ph.D

In "Diana's" response to me on her comment string, "she" mentions the "letter of a priest with a Ph.D." To her this Ph.D is quite important because apparently "a priest with a Ph.D" is all that is needed to authenticate the liturgical practices of the Way even though they remain at variance with what is permitted. 
Yesterday, I received a phone call from one of Diana's supporters who also referenced the letter. He couldn't understand how I could still question the practices of the Way when there was a "priest with a Ph.D" who had stated in a letter that the "Eucharists" he had witnessed in his 25 years in the Way "have been in conformity with the relevant rubrics and used the approved liturgical books of the Roman Rite."

Since such great weight is attached to this letter, I decided to take a look this morning at who this "priest with a Ph.D" was, and what letter he had written. I must say, I got quite a tickle when I saw who it was. For just this past Sunday, after reading his letter on the internet where he makes this claim, I had sent a letter of my own to this very "priest with a Ph.D". 

The "priest with a Ph.D" is Fr. Neil X. O'Donoghue. I have known Fr. Neil since the early years of the establishment of Redemptoris Mater Seminary here on Guam. In fact, in the early days of the Catholic Evidence Guild we were his guests a few times at the seminary where we had some of our meetings. Fr. Neil is still listed as a "stable" member of the faculty of the Blessed Diego Institute even though he lives in Ireland and is the pastor of a parish.

Not long ago, I ran into him here on Guam and we had a cordial conversation. He is also a close personal friend with my business partner who is one of the original founders of the Catholic Evidence Guild, and who now lives in Minnesota. In fact, since Fr. Neil's email address on the Blessed Diego website is no longer valid (probably 10 years old like everything else), I had to contact my partner to get Fr. Neil's current address. 

I had decided to write Fr. Neil because I had come upon the letter "Diana" references while doing my own research. And because Fr. Neil and I know each other, I felt I could ask him straight up what was going on and that he would give me a straight up answer. I have yet to receive the answer and was going to send him a follow up email even today when I decided to look to see who was this "priest with a Ph.D" who seems so important to "Diana" and her group. 

So just a note, "Diana" (and the person who called me), Fr. Neil and I go way back. We've known each other since 2003 and have had rare but good conversations. You see, Diana, you claim to know more about the Way than I do because you have been "walking" for eight years. However, I have been intimately engaged with the leaders of the Way much further back than that. 

As I mentioned to you in a comment, I have spent many hours conversing with the likes of Fr. Neil, Fr. Walsh, Fr. Ivan, Fr. Giovanni, Fr. Jim (one of the first rectors) and many of the first seminarians. I even used to hold my Catholic Adult Study Group at the seminary and some of the seminarians who are now priests would attend and we would have lively discussions. 

In 2004, I started a Catholic information table at the Wednesday night market at the Chamorro Village and the seminarians would join me to pass out Catholic literature and talk to people. We would have many conversations during those hours. I also was invited on several occasions to join the seminarians for mid-day Liturgy of the Hours and to stay for lunch, an invitation I often accepted. I was at the seminary quite often in those days because one of my businesses serviced their kitchen with cleaning supplies and the dispensing system for their dish machine. 

So Diana, you see, one of the reasons I was so vastly interested in the Neocatechumenal Way and why I wanted to speak to these priests and seminarians was two fold: 1) I sensed that they had the kind of devotion to the priesthood that I felt was critically needed in the church and wanted to know more about them, and 2) I was terribly concerned that the perception of the Neocatechumenal Way in the local community as a parallel church would one day lead to a rupture. I was concerned about this for two reasons: 1) the much discussed differences in the liturgy, and 2) the perception that the Archbishop had sided with the Neocatechumenal Way and against the rest of the church.

And all this was before the "Arinze letter" and the Archbishop's infamous rejection of papal authority on our Catholic radio station in January of 2006. In fact, I remember hearing it on the radio and thinking "Oh my G_d! This is what I had been hoping would not happen." I had a serious sinking feeling at that moment. The battle lines had just been drawn. The conversation on KOLG continued and got hotter as callers called in. I can remember Fr. Mike, the show's host, trying desperately to save the sinking situation. 

The seriousness of that episode was not lost on the Archbishop or Fr. Mike. But the damage had been done. The only thing that could be done then was to limit the damage by not rebroadcasting the show as was normally done the following afternoon and twice again two days later. The order was given to pull the show, but nobody told my son what to say. You see, Diana, my son was the technician who was running the station. And when the phone at KOLG began ringing off the hook that afternoon with people wanting to know what happened to the rebroadcast of the show - and by then there were hundreds who had gotten the word  - all my son could say was "I don't know. They just told me not to play it." 

Ah, so you see what happened. The fury snowballed. First, the Archbishop had publicly taken sides with the NCW against the rest of the local church (you'll understand when you hear it). Second, he had ridiculed the authority of the Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Pope, himself. Third, he had made it clear that he believed that one had to be "walking" to participate in the "fullness" of the faith, whereas the rest of us, at best, had nothing more than an immature faith (Kiko is big on that). And then the recording of the show was made to suddenly disappear without explanation! 

Many people - as you might expect - were enraged, so much so that a secret meeting was called, with the Archbishop present, to concoct a reason for the show's disappearance that could be said on the air so that Fr. Mike could continue with the show without having to field angry questions for months to come. 

I am not ready, Diana, to tell you what happened at that meeting, nor am I ready to post the whole show, but I will say this: that the conflict you and I are now embroiled in had its roots at that meeting. I saw with my own eyes just how far certain leaders of the Way were willing to go to keep the truth from people. In that one instance, the curtain was pulled back just far enough for me to see who the wizard really was and who was actually pulling the levers, and it was frightening. 

I foresaw all hell breaking loose, at least in this diocese. And that was eight years ago, Diana. Maybe you were not even in the Way yet. So even before you started walking, I had been in and through this thing in ways that people like you who are merely walking have never been. Before you even put on your walking shoes I had been engaged for three solid years with the intellectual leadership of the Neocatechumenal Way and even with the "priest with the Ph.D", who appears to be your only claim to any authentic counter to the evidence which I have presented.

So let me present to you the letter I wrote to the "priest with the Ph.D." As mentioned, I have not heard back yet. I will let you know though if I do. Here is my letter to Fr. Neil O'Donoghue:

March 9, 2014

Dear Father, Greetings from Guam, and thank you in advance for taking the time to consider my inquiry.

Since we know each other, I thought I could approach you with a simple question and get a simple answer. I recently read your response to Magister http://www.praytellblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/ODonoghue-response.pdf, and am left with the following questions:

In the neocatechumenal liturgies on Guam, the host is distributed in the following manner:
  1. The priest, before communicating himself, distributes the consecrated bread/host to the communicants who stand, remaining in their place.
  2. All communicants continue holding the host until all have received
  3. There is a period of reflection.
  4. The priest then consumes the host, then invites the other communicants to do likewise. 
Is this only happening on Guam or is this the way neocatechumenal communities receive the sacred species universally?

If this is a universal practice and not just a local practice, could you please advise on where this deviation from the GIRM is permitted? The GIRM requires:
  1. the priest to communicate himself before distributing the sacred species to the communicants
  2. the communicants to immediately consume upon reception.
I have studied the Statute thoroughly and not only do I see no allowance for this, I see the original instruction to conform the distribution of holy communion to the liturgical books (the Arinze letter) reinforced in footnote 49, with the only allowance being that the communicants do not process towards the minister but wait in their place. 

Sadly, this is a major point of contention in our local church because the Archbishop publicly ridiculed the "Arinze" letter upon its release and just as publicly, challenged Arinze's credentials, even though Arinze began his letter: "The Holy Father wishes you to know..." 

We are continually told that the issue was resolved with the approval of the Statute, but I see no evidence of it.  And the debate over the NCW has recently exploded here in Guam for a variety of reasons, but this is one of the big ones. Your explanation will help. 

Thank you. I await your reply and hope all is well.


(Note: I had intended to keep my conversation between Fr. Neil and myself private. But once I discovered that it was his letter (to Sandro Magister) that Diana and others were using to discredit this blog and authenticate their own liturgical license, I felt it necessary that we should discuss the letter here in the open. So my apologies to Fr. Neil. Nevertheless, I still look forward to your reply.)

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