As you can see from many of the comments, especially today, I am being accused of being the source of division in this diocese. However, I can only be accused because I have a name and I use it. I could have chosen to remain anonymous like many of you, and like "Diana" I could have hidden behind a pseudonym. But I saw no reason to hide behind anything. I saw a man unjustly harmed (Fr. Paul Gofigan) and I decided to stick up for him.
Allow me to clarify what I mean by "unjustly." Let us leave aside any defense of Fr. Paul for now. Let us assume that Fr. Paul actually did disobey the Archbishop's orders. Let's say that he is guilty of everything the Archbishop has charged him with. Let's say that he deserved to be removed as pastor of Santa Barbara. And let's say the Archbishop was fully justified in removing him.
- By what standard of justice does a bishop threaten a spiritual son with "an arduous and painful closure" to his assignment?
- By what standard of justice does a bishop wait two years to ambush his priest if he truly thought his actions were a danger to his parish?
- By what standard of justice does a bishop lock a priest out of his office even while the priest is meeting with him?
- By what standard of justice does a bishop order him to vacate his residence without providing somewhere else to go?
- By what standard of justice does he order his priest to leave his home diocese and wander the world in search of another bishop who would take him?
This is why I got involved. I saw a man unjustly kicked to the curb and stripped of every dignity. And I saw a bishop who grossly transgressed his authority. So I decided to do something about it. I decided to do the only thing I could do: TELL YOU.
There was no intent to address the neo controversy in the beginning. The neo controversy had begun several years before and I had no issue with it. A certain priest at the seminary can tell you that I had a lengthy email exchange with him in 2008 after it became apparent that the Neocatechumenal Way was not going to conform to Rome's request to change the way it distributed the consecrated bread. He explained to me why the Neocatechumenal Way was not going to change and the evidence shows that I left it at that. I had nothing else to say about it.
It was only in 2013, when Fr. Paul was attacked so viciously that I began to have something to say about it because I knew why he was attacked. I had watched the Archbishop progressively succumb to outside influences for several years and I knew that sooner or later there would be an all out war on the priests who stood in his way. I just didn't know when. However, in July of 2013, after the annual visit of the "godfather" from New Jersey (I'll explain another time if you don't know), it was apparent that the war had begun.
But before the archbishop's war on his priests, there was a war on the Catholic faith and the authentic magisterium of the Church. So for those who really care to understand the root of this division, including the good and sincere members of the Neocatechumenal Way who are as much appalled at the behavior of some of their members as we are, I ask you to carefully consider the following account.
For the casual observer, the controversy over how the neocatechumens distribute communion will seem trite. It will seem trite because it appears to just be a preference. And that would be true if in fact our celebration of the Eucharist was simply just a religious service or a community celebration. However, it is not.
The Catholic celebration of the Eucharist is a Sacrament, and in fact, it is the highest and greatest act of our religion: the "source and summit" of our faith, the Council fathers called it. It is the very core, the very center of EVERYTHING. And because it is all this, it is our central act of unity: unity with God himself, unity with the Church Triumphant, Suffering, and Militant, and unity with all that the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church believes and teaches.
And while the celebration of the Eucharist is ground zero for our faith, the very center of ground zero, the epicenter, is the Word becoming Flesh in the actions and words of the priest and our consumption of Him, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, exactly as he told us to do on the night before he died. This is why the Church reserves the governance of every word and action of the Mass to its highest authorities, and specifically to the pope himself.
Thus, it was no small matter when in December of 2005, Pope Benedict, through the Congregation of Divine Worship, directed the leaders of the Neocatechumenal Way to conform their manner of the distribution of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to the norms of the Church, specifically as prescribed in the "liturgical books".
It had been the practice of the Neocatechumenal Way to distribute the consecrated species to the communicants while they remained seated. And in the manner of the distribution of the consecrated bread, the communicant did not immediately consume, but held the consecrated bread until all communicants had received and the priest had returned to his chair, upon which the priest would then consume the host and would be followed by the rest.
With this practice, there were three major departures from the "liturgical books" - or what the rest of the church was required to do: 1) the postponement of the priests communion - he is supposed to consume before distributing, 2) the postponement of the immediate consumption of the host, and 3) consumption of the sacred species while seated.
The Neocatechumens love to post the picture of Pope John Paul II celebrating the Eucharist with them in 1988. They use this picture as validation of the Pope's approval of their liturgy. The facts are otherwise. In 2002, the same pope ordered a review of everything about the Way from top to bottom and subjected it to a five year period of probation known as "ad experimentum".
As a result of that review, and about half way through the ad experimentum probationary period, Pope Benedict XVI - Pope John Paul II having died earlier that year (2005)- directed the leaders of the Neocatechumenal Way to make several changes to their way of celebrating the Eucharist including the manner in which they distributed communion.
Because the Pope's directions were sent through the Vatican congregation which oversees the liturgy, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, it's Prefect, Cardinal Arinze, was tasked with personally informing the leaders of the Neocatechumenal Way of the pope's instructions. In fact, his letter begins: "I am to inform you of the Holy Father's decisions..."
Two very important things happen at this point:
1. The founders of the Neocatechumenal Way reject this instruction.
2. Archbishop Apuron rejects this instruction.
Kiko et al would formally reject the instruction in a letter to Pope Benedict on January 17, 2006, however, it is quite apparent from Pope Benedict's address to the Neocatechumenal Way on January 12, 2006, that he is already aware of rejection of his instruction:
"The importance in evangelization of the liturgy, and in particular of Holy Mass, has often been stressed by my Predecessors, and your long experience can certainly confirm that the centrality of the mystery of Christ celebrated in the liturgical rites is a privileged and indispensable way to build living and persevering Christian communities.
Precisely to help the Neocatechumenal Way to render even more effective its evangelizing action in communion with all the People of God, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments recently imparted to you in my name certain norms concerning the Eucharistic Celebration, after the trial period that the Servant of God John Paul II conceded. I am sure you will attentively observe these norms that reflect what is provided for in the liturgical books approved by the Church."
Before we move on to the rejection of the pope's instruction by Archbishop Apuron, let us review the formal rejection by Kiko. It is typical kiko-speak, but it is not hard to see that the end of his eschatological jabber is Kiko's rejection of the pope's directive and an imperious claim of "I know better":
"We also wish to thank you for the benevolence, mercy, and goodness You have shown to those farthest away in allowing the moving of the sign of peace and in granting a period of two years for the adaptation of the manner of distributing the Communion of the Body and the Blood of the Lord: we have always shown to the many brothers who have emerged from hell, full of wounds and of self-loathing, that in the Holy Eucharist the Lord makes present his love, dying and rising for them; and not only that, but prepares a table, an eschatological banquet, which makes Heaven present and where He himself, full of love, has them sit down and comes to serve them: “He will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them” (Lk 12:37). In this way, every time we celebrate the Eucharist we experience the power this sacrament has to draw them into the Passover of Christ, bringing them from sadness to joy, from darkness to light, from death to life… "
Kiko effectively lectures the pope and uses his version of scripture to reject the pope's instruction. He is saying: "No, I will continue to do as I want because that's the way I understand it." Even if Kiko is right and the pope is wrong (NOT), Kiko has no authority to transgress the pope's instruction. Yet he does.
Some will say, well why didn't the pope immediately discipline or correct him? We don't know that he didn't. Pope's normally don't "go to the press" with their internal issues - as seems to happen around here. And popes are known to often suffer the weeds with the wheat for the sake of peace and the long term good of the church. But the fact of the matter is Kiko was told to do something and he said "NO."
Meanwhile, back on Guam, almost at the same time, Archbishop Apuron, lacking Kiko's slick rhetoric, simply blurted on KOLG for everyone to hear:
"My argument, and in front of the pope and the bishops there, cardinals, in fact Arinze’s there, and Arinze, to tell you the truth, is really not for the Way, and I don’t know what credentials he has, I mean I don’t want to get into an argument in terms of an individual but Cardinal Arinze, with due respect, uh, I, you know uh, I don’t know why he uh uh wants us to conform to what...and you know the..." (subject changes)
It is obvious that Archbishop Apuron knows he has made a major error. And all would have forgiven him at that point if he just had said so. But he did not. And still has not. And he HAS NOT because he does not believe it is an error. The only error he was aware of was saying in public what he actually believed, and he tried to catch himself, but, with Kiko, he truly believed that Pope Benedict was wrong, and from that point on, has sided with Kiko and against the magisteral authority of the Church in the matter of the celebration of the liturgy.
So for those who don't understand the division, it started here. And it continues. The neocatechumens continue to consume the consecrated host seated after all the other communicants have had the host placed in their hands (though they stand to receive it). And the presbyter, their priest, continues to violate the norms as to when he is supposed to receive his own communion. Thus the central act of unity of the very Sacrament of Unity, in the neocatechumenal eucharist, is both in practice and belief, not just an act of division, but a central act of defiance, a constant and loud proclamation of Kiko's January 17, 2006 defiant "I know better!"
Defenders of the practice, including Archbishop Apuron, will say they have approval from Rome, but the only approval from Rome of record is the 2008 Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way, and there is no allowance for these diversions in it.
In conclusion, most of us who are not in the Neocatechumenal Way don't care about these practices and have no problem leaving the Neocatechumenal leadership to its errors. Weeds and wheat, and all that. But what we do care about is a bishop who publicly rejected the magisterial authority of the church and has permanently sided with those who convinced him to do so. The DIVISION STARTS THERE.