Thursday, January 15, 2015


MB: A local TV show, "The Buzz," recently featured the new organization Concerned Catholics Inc. Comments rooted in misinformation about the Neocathecumenal (sic) Way were made by Greg Perez, the guest, and Jesse Lujan, the host...A written reply is insufficient to address these and other one-sided remarks as they can easily be misinterpreted.

TR: Dear Ms. Benavente, why then write a letter to the PDN? Why not request to go on the same show that Mr. Perez was on? I'm sure Mr. Lujan will be accommodating.

MB: I, too, am a concerned, practicing Catholic. I am involved in the Way, a charism approved by the Catholic Church since 2004.

TR: Dear Ms. Benavente, the Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way received final approval from Rome in 2008. It was not "a charism" that was approved, but a "final rule". Nowhere in the document is the word "charism" used in relation to the Way. The word "charism" is only used twice and both only in relation to the charisms of bishops and priests and in the context of their authority over the Way. (Art 5. §2., Footnote No. 37).

MB: Unfounded statements made during the show include that the Way practices and teaches a different cathechism (sic) of faith and that it is causing a division within the Church.

TR: Dear Ms. Benavente, perhaps you can help dispel this "unfounded statement" by simply  asking your leadership to produce a copy of the Catechetical Directory of the Neocatechumenal Way so that we all can see for ourselves that we are wrong. As your catechists know, said directory is off limits to anyone but for those who are authorized within the NCW to see it. It is not enough to say that it is "approved". Simply have your leadership produce the directory and let us see for ourselves that we are wrong. 

Without evidence we must assume that what we actually hear is correct. One of the things we heard is the teaching that Jesus Christ is "a sinner". This is a very grave matter. It is the absolute opposite of what the Catholic Church teaches which is that Jesus Christ was the pure and spotless lamb. Yet, a neocatechumenal priest who taught both at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary and instructed candidates to the permanent diaconate was recorded saying the following: 
"He experienced the forgiveness of the Father, because he was a sinner.  He became a sinner. Willing, not because he was imposed, because he was a sinner, willingly, willing, a sinner." 
You can read the full transcript here
and listen to him say it here:

MB: ...a dialogue with those of us in the Way, instead of listening only to critics, might be a more adequate approach to address concerns.

TR: Dear Ms. Benavente, may I suggest that you call Mr. Perez and invite him to have "a dialogue" with you.

MB: Based on personal experience and direct observation, the Way is undeniably an important, additional, Catholic vehicle helping many to discover or re-discover the power and presence of Christ in their lives.

TR: Dear Ms. Benavente, I would concur. Your personal experience and direct observation is valid...for you. It is not the "good things" that people like Mr. Perez have problems with, but the grossly errant teachings like the one already demonstrated, the Archbishop's blatant disregard for both liturgical norms and respect for congregations when he permits members of the Neocatechumenal Way to "witness" during Mass and during the time reserved for the homily, and the continued disobedience to the Holy See in the manner in which Holy Communion is distributed. 

MB: Most Concerned Catholics board members seem to be affiliated with known critics of the archbishop. 

TR: Dear Ms. Benavente, is Mr. Greg Perez a "known critic of the church"? From what I know, Mr. Perez' family literally built the church here on Guam. Who is he "affiliated" with? I only came to know Mr. Perez after he approached me about wanting to do something about all the problems he was seeing in the church. He was not "affiliated" with me. 

MB: Have members considered the possibility that they have been triangulated by factions who have separate issues with the Church?

TR: Dear Ms. Benavente, surely you are not saying that Mr. Perez and Mr. Sablan and the others have no mind of their own? That they are easily "triangulated." I would question that judgement. As for "separate issues"? The only issues I know of that both Mr. Perez and Mr. Sablan have are the issues of division that our religious leaders seem to be be committed to continuing, as sadly evidenced once again in this past Sunday's U Matuna in its defense of RMS. Even if their view is correct, why, upon the conclusion of the apostolic visit which was said to promote healing and reconciliation, why did the archbishop authorize the printing of a story that has been at the root of so much contention? But of course, their view is NOT correct. May I encourage you to approach the archdiocesan legal counsel for his opinion to verify this assertion. 

MB: Seemingly, the goal of this new group is to get rid of the archbishop. Will there be any effort towards an objective review of issues?

TR: Dear Ms. Benavente, many people, including Mr. Perez, have attempted to "review the issues" with the Archbishop privately over many years and have been turned away. In fact, in 2010, a serious effort was made by all the clergy to reconcile their issues with the archbishop when together they sponsored a serious study of the problems by a Georgetown based group. But despite the great amount of time, effort, and money spent on the attempt which was formalized in the report CULTIVATING UNITY, it can be demonstrated that the archbishop disregarded the effort and the problems continued to mount.

Go here to learn more about this:

The people who formed the Concerned Catholics are busy men and women. They have other things to do. In fact, much of the credibility of this group stems not from their stated objectives, but from the fact that the entire community knows them and knows that they are accomplished business people. They only formed this group as a last ditch effort to get the Archbishop to pay attention. And instead of paying attention he accused them of being a group which "plots against the church."

Did the Archbishop make any attempt at "an objective review of the issues" before he accused them of such? Before he accused Fr. Paul, Before he accused Msgr. James? Before he accused Deacon Martinez? Before he accused Mr. Lastimoza? I sincerely hope you see the problem?

MB: How about seeking input from those actively in the Way for balanced perspectives? Otherwise, not all concerned Catholics in Guam are represented....How will others know of the opportunity to provide feedback?

TR: Dear Ms. Benavente, you are providing "feedback" in the PDN. Please continue to provide "feedback" by calling KUAM and ask to go on the show. However, I would caution you to study the Statute of the NCW before you do. Sadly, the problem is most in the NCW simply do only as they are told by their catechists and ignore the actual teachings and instructions of the legitimate authority of the church. The violation of the norms relative to the communion rite is a prime example. Sadly Archbishop Apuron himself obeys his catechists instead of the pope. This was clearly demonstrated when he was asked at a recent pastoral visit to produce the document which permits him and the rest of the NCW to digress from the liturgical books in its "eucharist". He said he would find it 'somewhere". That was over a month ago. But of course, it's been nearly ten years since he first publicly made such a claim and has yet to produce anything. He can't produce anything because it doesn't exist. Sadly, he is only repeating what he has been instructed to say. This is very dangerous for a bishop.

MB: What criteria is being used to determine the factors that are "dividing" the Church?

TR: Dear Ms. Benavente, there is  a long list of things. Here are a few: 1) the above noted heretical teaching of a neocatechumenal priest that Jesus "is a sinner", 2) the violation of canon law by the archbishop in his termination of Fr. Paul as pastor, 3) the public humiliation and defamation of a layman and his family both in accusing him of being a "danger to children" and insinuating that he was in a homosexual relationship with Fr. Paul, 4) the public humiliation and defamation of Msgr. James Benavente by the archbishop's going to the media with a list of charges against Msgr. James even before he gave Msgr. James a list of the charges against him, 5) the secretive deeding of a deca-million dollar archdiocesan asset to a third party without the required consent of the finance council and against the advice of the archdiocesan legal counsel, 6) the "hiding" of Fr. John Wadeson. I could go on. 

MB: Have they looked at testimonies from people who have, in fact, returned to the Catholic faith or have converted to Catholicism because of the Way? Have they listened to those who have experienced healing from abusive backgrounds, addictions, and from spiritless lives and those who have been helped to reconcile from estranged relationships, including with God?

TR: Dear Ms. Benavente, yes, they have and so have I, for many years in fact. They and I have no issue with your experiences and your personal improvements in life. The only issue is with all of the other items which are only partially noted above. 

MB: Will they look at the numbers of those who have answered the call to religious life, sacramental marriages, openness to life, church ministry, itinerancy or mission life? Can they objectively look at the parishes that have publicly denounced the Way saying that they do not want "us" in their parishes? Can they agree that rejection, prejudice and discrimination against those who choose other paths to spiritual growth are factors that destroy any community?

TR: Dear Ms. Benavente, sadly, when we look at the actual product of "those who have answered the call to religious life" at least through the RMS system, we have to wonder to what religion these men are actually called? Their theology is confusing, their practices strange, their care of the liturgy a mess, their disregard for local piety disdainful, and so on. We also must question this exaltation of  "itinerancy and mission life" when in fact we know that what is meant by that is going into existing Catholic communities and pulling people out of them and into the NCW. 

MB: What about the disrespectful discourses in some of the social media perpetuated by some who profess to defend our Catholic faith? Will they review those websites and assess how name-calling, derision and mockery is a source of divisiveness?

TR: Dear Ms. Benavente, this is an obvious reference to me. The only name calling I have done is to call the archbishop a liar simply because I have no other name for it. It is demonstrable lie after demonstrable lie. But let's face it. I am new to the scene. The "divisiveness" you bemoan has been going on for nearly 20 years, ever since Fr. Pius planted his flag on Guam. The leadership of the NCW knows that. But because they had the archbishop on their side they were able to keep the rest of us shut up. 

MB: What does it say about the ethics of person(s) and organization(s) that underhandedly and secretively video tape spiritual gatherings then slant and distort images and information against the speakers and the people gathered in faith? These behaviors are unethical and immoral.

TR: Dear Ms. Benavente, the video tape you refer to was recorded by an attendee and the fact that the event was being recorded wasn't a secret. It was recorded and meant to be shared within the NCW. It was posted on the internet by one of your own and was shared. I don't know how it came to be shared with the rest of us. But I question the concern about the meetings being recorded and shared. If the NCW is what you tell us it is, why not let people experience how wonderful it is by sharing the recordings? The rest of the Catholic world does this. Video and audio recordings of Catholic conferences everywhere abound. 

MB: Is a campaign of hate and bigotry targeted toward those in the Way conducive to building Church?

TR: Dear Ms. Benavente, Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez, the founders of the NCW have a very different definition of "church". They believe that the model of parish-based Catholicism is dead and that their small-community model is the future of the church along with their questionable theology and their own form of the Mass. The rest of us have a right to question it.

MB: Some critics refuse to accept the rightful authority of the Vatican Council in its endorsement of the Way. By whose authority will Concerned Catholics base their decisions with regards to the Neocathecumenal practice of the Catholic faith? Will they accept the authority of the Vatican Council?

TR: Dear Ms. Benavente, may I ask which "Vatican Council" you are referring to? Those words normally refer to Vatican Council II. Vatican Council II said nothing about "the Way". If you are referring to the Pontifical Council of the Laity which oversees the NCW then yes, we accept its authority. We accept its authority as exercised in its approval of the Statute of the NCW. If only your leadership would adhere to it. You ask "by whose authority will Concerned Catholics base their decisions" relative to your practices. Answer: The Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way - which DOES NOT permit your leadership to violate the liturgical books as they do week after week. If you believe that they do not, then simply ask them to produce the "permission" which Archbishop Apuron says exists "somewhere." 

MB: What our community needs is a diversely represented organization to facilitate healing. Rather than fault-finding, instead acknowledge the strengths in our faith community and identify areas for improvement.

TR: Dear Ms. Benavente, may I suggest that you start one. 

MB: I sincerely appeal to Concerned Catholics to engage in a process that will allow all voices to be heard on this matter so that a genuinely Christian resolution to all concerns can be reached. Please do not tread on our rights and freedom to worship as we believe.

TR: Dear Ms. Benavente, for twenty years the NCW leadership had the ONLY voice which could be heard. The rest of us were forced to sit in our pews and listen to members of the NCW take over the homilies and hear how we in the pews were just "regular Catholics". We were forced to remain in our pews at the end of Masses awaiting the final blessing of the priest while NCW members went on with long advertisements about the Neocatechumenal Way. We were forced to listen to our own Archbishop publicly discredit the magisterium of the Church in favor of the teachings of Kiko Arguello. We were forced to watch our priests publicly humiliated so that the NCW would have free reign in parishes. We were lied to about the true nature of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary after having given many millions to it. We are now being lied to about the ownership of the property. 

For twenty years, the "regular Catholics" of Guam had NO VOICE. Now a group only a couple weeks old goes on a talk show for a total of 23 minutes talk time and the NCW is being persecuted and not heard?

MB: More importantly, if the Way is providing an option to help our island community with its high rates of suicide, teen pregnancies, domestic conflict, violence and substance abuse, why on Earth would anyone want to dismantle it?

TR: Dear Ms. Benavente, we don't want to dismantle it. We just want your leadership to stop lying to us and abusing the church that people like Mr. Perez's family worked decades to build. The NCW is perfectly authorized to function within the limitation of its Statute. It's too bad the NCW leadership has no regard for its own Statute or for the magisterium of the Catholic Church from whence it came. 

In conclusion and in the spirit with which you began your public letter, may I offer to be the first to participate in dialogue with you. I would gladly welcome the opportunity. Please do not be put off by my sometimes harsh and confrontational rhetoric on this blog. At times I feel it is necessary. Your family knows me and can attest to my sincerity. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Recommendations by JungleWatch