Sunday, July 16, 2017
THE NEOCATECHUMENAL WAY AND THE PROBLEM IN THE ARCHDIOCESE OF AGANA
This is the Introduction to my book TARGET EQUALS PRIEST: THE NEOCATECHUMENAL WAY AND THE MISSION TO DESTROY FR. PAUL GOFIGAN. I am copying it here as it provides a short summary of what the Neocatechumenal Way is and how it led to a big problem for the Archdiocese of Agana.
The Neocatechumenal Way is one of many “ecclesial realities” within the Catholic Church. The term “ecclesial reality” is really a term in search of a definition and is used to semi-identify a host of groups and movements that have arisen in the 50 or so years since the close of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).
These “ecclesial realities” are usually founded and formed by lay persons. While they often serve as a bridge between the church and the world, they also have a history of running into trouble. This is because unlike members of a religious order or diocesan clerics, lay people are not directly governed by or accountable to a religious superior; and the only time they fall within the orbit of church authority is when they seek some level of official recognition by the Church or desire to use church property.
The Neocatechumenal Way is unique among these “ecclesial realities” because it is a cross between a religious order and a lay movement. It is the only lay group to have its own seminaries and its own “order” of priests, formed and ordained to serve it. While technically these priests (they call themselves “presbyters”) are ordained in and for a diocese, the similarity to diocesan priests ends there. They have a different mission and often a different course of study and more often than not, are not from the diocese they are ordained in.
The other unique feature of the Neocatechumenal Way is that it has its own version of the liturgy. Other “ecclesial realities” may have a special Mass for their group now and then, but the Neocatechumenal Way has its own weekly “eucharist” separate from the parish, not just in location, but also in form and function.
But the real problem with the Neocatechumenal Way stems from its having a parallel hierarchy. While on the surface it appears to operate under the auspices of bishops and pastors, it really operates apart from bishops and pastors, and at the direction of a multi-tiered system of “catechists” and “responsibles”, with its founder, Kiko Arguello at the dictatorial top. And whenever any of this gets challenged, the standard answer is that they are getting their orders directly “from the Vatican.”
So Kiko has the best of both worlds. His organization runs at the expense of parishes and dioceses but he is not beholden or accountable to them because he gets his orders “directly from the Vatican.”
All of these things, the presbyters, the separate liturgies, the parallel hierarchy, and even a unique catechism, all under the control of a single layman - who has also crafted a massive money stream - combine to create an “ecclesial reality” that, to many bishops and pastors, is beginning to look like a parallel church, and many have begun to speak up and against the Neocatechumenal Way.
The problem in Guam is severely heightened by a bishop who not only supports the NCW, but who counts himself as one of its members. And so whereas, to the rest of the local church, he is the Archbishop, in the Neocatechumenal Way he is just one of the “brothers” where he sits at the feet of “catechists” and “responsibles” and is subject to them.
The Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way as approved by Rome in 2008 places the NCW completely at the service of the diocesan bishop. This is the normal way Rome deals with things. The bishop is always the first line of governance for all church-related affairs within a diocese.
But with the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Agana subject TO the NCW and not over it, it has become quite easy for those who run the Neocatechumenal Way to also run both the Archbishop and the Archdiocese. And so they have.
Over the last decade, and as the NCW presbyters have been ordained from the local NCW seminary, traditional diocesan priests have been pushed to the side and replaced with NCW presbyters, who in time, begin to integrate their Neocatechumenal practices into the parishes they now run.
Fr. Paul Gofigan is a diocesan priest of the Archdiocese of Agana, and for several years had been pastor of the largest parish on Guam, Santa Barbara in Dededo. While he dis not resist the advances of the Neocatechumenal Way to begin a community in his parish, he would not permit those practices which did not comport with Canon Law or were not permitted by the liturgical books and even the NCW’s own statute.
No other diocesan priest had yet stood in the way of the Neocatechumenal Way like this. It was only a matter of time before they would use force. And on July 16, 2013, they did.