Neo-Catechumenals must adhere to the Roman Rite

The recent approval of the statutes of the Neo-Catechumenal Way had me scratching my head a little.

I was mostly wondering about their liturgical practices.

Frankly, I didn’t have time to read everything about this when it happened. Therefore I am very grateful that Sandro Magister has filled in the gaps for me.

Take a look.  My emphases and comments.

The Old Form of the Neocatechumenal Mass Is Illicit

This is established by the new statutes for the community founded by Kiko, imposed by the Vatican authorities. It is prohibited to take communion seated around a table. Homilies in dialogue form are also forbidden

chiesa neocatecumenali kiko rylko

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, June 23, 2008 – The Neocatechumenal Way has a new, definitive set of statutes. They were approved by the Vatican authorities last May 11, the feast of Pentecost, and officially handed down ten days ago by Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the pontifical council for the laity, to the international leadership group of the Way, made up of Francisco José (Kiko) Gómez Argüello, Carmen Hernández, and Fr. Mario Pezzi.

The previous statutes, dated June 29, 2002, were experimental and valid for only five years. So they had expired nearly a year before when the new statutes were approved.

The reason for this delay can be intuited by comparing the two texts. Especially in article 13, where the variations are most evident.

Article 13 concerns the celebration of the Mass. For the Neocatechumenals, this has always been the source of the sharpest contrasts with the rest of the Catholic Church.

Especially concerning the times and places of the celebrations.

The Neocatechumenals typically celebrate their Masses not on Sunday, but on Saturday evening, in small groups, separated from the rest of the parish community. And because each Neocatechumenal group corresponds to a particular stage of the Way, each group has its own Mass, in different places.

Then there are the features of the celebration.

The Neocatechumenals typically celebrate the Mass in the form of a banquet, around a large square table, taking communion seated. Moreover, together with the homily, the give a great deal of latitude for the spontaneous comments of those present.

At least, this is what they did until a short time ago. And as, in part, they continue to do.

On December 1, 2005, Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the congregation for divine worship, sent them a letter, in the name of the pope, to call them back to faithful observance of the liturgical regulations. And the following January 12, Benedict XVI in person urged them to obey. But in practice, this twofold reminder fell on deaf ears almost everywhere.

On February 22, 2007, in an audience with the clergy of Rome, Benedict XVI made it clear that the new statutes would not be approved if they did not follow these instructions.

And in the end, the pressure worked. The new statutes approved last May 11 require the Neocatechumenals to celebrate the Mass following the general liturgical regulations of the Roman rite. [Extraordinary use, I suppose… not.] They must receive communion standing.  [Ummm… can they kneel?] The homily can no longer be replaced with a variety of comments. Their Masses on Saturday evening will be "part of the Sunday liturgical service of the parish," and will be "open to other members of the faithful as well."

The only concessions: they can receive communion "while remaining in their places," and they can exchange the sign of peace before the offertory instead of before communion[That should be the case for the Novus Ordo, period.] But it must be noted that the latter arrangement is already used in the Ambrosian rite in the archdiocese of Milan. And in the near future, it could also be introduced into the Roman rite, according to what Benedict XVI himself foreshadowed in the post-synodal exhortation on the Eucharist, "Sacramentum Caritatis."  [Excellent.]

According to the new statutes, all of the Neocatechumenal communities in the world must immediately adhere to the new rules in celebrating the Mass.

The Neocatechumenal Way, founded in Spain in 1964, says that it is present in 107 countries on five continents, with 19,000 communities in 5,700 parishes in 1,200 dioceses. In total, it has about half a million members. It has 60 "Redemptorists Mater" seminaries all over the world. It has been active in Italy since 1968, and numbers 4,500 communities in 200 dioceses, with about 100,000 members.

After the new statutes, the "Guidelines for catechist teams," the instructional texts created by the founders Kiko and Carmen, are also supposed to be published soon. Following a long examination by Vatican authorities, they will be issued in a revised edition.

Here he posts the the old and new statutes in comparison.

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  1. Paul, south Midlands says:

    Did you miss off some of the post?

    With regard to the original article this seems most interesting

    The only concessions: they can receive communion “while remaining in their places,” **and they can exchange the sign of peace before the offertory instead of before communion.** But it must be noted that the latter arrangement is already used in the Ambrosian rite in the archdiocese of Milan. **And in the near future, it could also be introduced into the Roman rite, according to what Benedict XVI himself foreshadowed in the post-synodal exhortation on the Eucharist, “Sacramentum Caritatis”**

  2. Chironomo says:

    Thinking your post got truncated! I had already read Magister’s article… interesting but curious to me as well. What would be the point of approving what is essentially a “liturgical variation” if you then demand that it cease to be a variation? Am I missing something? I admit that I know little about the Neo-catechumenate except that they were not welcomed in the Archdiocese of Boston when I was serving there. I was under the impression that the movement centers around liturgical practice. Also, is there some pattern, other than the obvious one, to the recent news of various orthodox movements entering back into the fold?

  3. Maureen says:

    “Also, is there some pattern, other than the obvious one, to the recent news of various orthodox movements entering back into the fold?”

    Gather them in: the lefties, the righties;
    Gather them in: each silly lost sheep.
    They know the voice of their German Shepherd;
    He knows the flock Master gave him to keep.

  4. The Neocats do not recieve while kneeling. I was once told by a former member that they were taught Christ is equally present in the Word and the “Assembly” as He is in the Eucharist, so they do not show signs of devotion or reverance in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

  5. Phillip says:

    Just a question: are these neo-catechumenals the same as those who are part of the “charismatic movement.” Sorry, I just never heard the term neo-catechumenals ever before.

  6. EDG says:


    The Neocatechumenals are very big in Spain, where they were founded, and in many other parts of Europe, as well. They’re slightly charismatic, combined with a sort of social-gospel thing very typical of the era that produced them. They were frequently accused – correctly, in my mind – by Spanish Catholics of being very cultish in their community life and tending to separate themselves from their parishes and non-Neocat Catholics. As for the liturgy, they are stuck in the silliest moments of the 1970s, where everybody had masses in their homes, sitting around the coffee table, strumming guitars and extemporizing. For some reason, when I see these things in Spain, they look even more dated than in the US.

    However, they are orthodox in their faith and loyal to Rome, and a large number of Catholic university students relied on them to keep their faith during their years in the very hostile Spanish secular university environment. I would imagine this is why they were originally approved by JPII, even though they seem to have some rather dubious ideas about both the Mass and the Eucharist. If you had to compare them to anything, I’d say that “Lifeteen” would be about the closest US comparison. It’s a movement I don’t like, but it seems to make an impact on some people.

    I’m glad to hear that they’re getting their liturgical practice under control. Kiko Arguello, their founder, is getting on in years now, and I suspect that after his death, the organization will either dwindle away altogether or move towards some other form. I happened to see a You Tube video of them, and I noticed that a lot of the members now actually do not appear to be university students, but older people (I guess, students who never left but just aged with the group).

  7. Al says:

    Your comments about the Pax get me thinking. I’m beginning to envision a Benedictine Missal.

    What might it look like? Would it contain both forms of the ordo missae, with harmonised calendar and propers?

    Would there be interim steps towards a synthesised Mass, whereby the Novus Ordo re-acquires those elements it has lost – the offertory, the prayers at the foot of the altar etc, but still retains the oratio fidelium, a Pax before the offertory, and loses some of the dead-ends – the endless options, the multiplicity of anaphorae, the responsorial psalm?

    Would there be two separate Benedictine missals, one for each form of the mass? To what extent would either or both of the calendars be reformed?

    Or is this too big a project for Benedict to take on at this stage?

  8. Regarding receiving communion standing, there is nothing illegitimate in principle with this practice. It has been practiced in the Catholic East for almost 2000 years. I think the question is, “What is properly reflective of Western Latin piety?” In that regard, it seems that kneeling is much more in keeping with the Western Latin ethos.

    I have heard some good things about the Neocatechumenal Movement as far as catechesis is concerned. At least they make an explicit connection between liturgy and kerygma and catechesis! It seems that the Holy Father has decided that such noble evangelical efforts need to be solidly aligned with good liturgical praxis. My sense is that the movement will not die after Kiko, but rather be renewed through such an alignment and expand in its mission. There are even efforts to have Neocatechumenal Eastern Catholic communities.

    In ICXC,

    Father Deacon Daniel

  9. The article mentions the making of “concessions,” namely that they can receive communion in place, and that the sign of peace is moved. It begs the question as to why any concessions are being made at all. Every member of “The Way” that I’ve confronted in comboxes is in a complete state of denial about this whole thing.

  10. Romulus says:

    The remedy to the liturgical statutes is but a Band-aid on a gaping wound. IMHO there still appear to be grave defects in the statutes.

    As I read them, the new statutes constitute the NCW as a self-authenticating entity. In other words, the Way itself is to be “accompanied” but not supervised by a curial body; it alone is the final arbiter of its implementation and authenticity. As for the diocesan bishop, short of threatening to eject the Way from his diocese, I see no way for him to ensure on a continuing basis that the Way is teaching sound doctrine and conducting lawful, valid, and reverent liturgies.

    The Catechetical Directory against which so many serious accusations have been laid, continues inexplicably as a secret document available only to the initiates.

    I would like to know the truth of the report that Kiko Aguello reserves to himself control over all vessels, fixtures, etc. to be used at the Way’s liturgies, and if so, by what authority he does so.

    Control: As the catechumens progress through various “stages” of the Way, the catechetical team exercises “an important role of discernment” as to [their] readiness” (article 28). Given what I’ve already indicated about the functional autonomy of the Way, it appears that spiritual authority is being vested in persons who may be not ordained or subject to any vow of obedience to the hierarchy.

    Notwithstanding canon law’s demand that even the mightiest metropolitan archbishops submit their resignations at age 75th, Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez, the “international Responsible Team”, are statutorily installed for life as the supreme leadership of the Way. This, in a body that prescribes for its pre-catechumens “a time of kenosis in order to learn to walk in humility”, is a bid for consolidation and retention of power that’s frankly breathtaking. For its part, this international Responsible Team is to be perpetuated by nomination, by an Electoral College that nominates its own members in turn (art. 35). The names of the nominees are to be “deposited” with the Pontifical Council for the Laity, whose sole power is to confirm or else reject the entire slate of (between 80 and 120) Electors.

    In practical terms, this strikes me as perilously close to a mandate for a cultic para-church, managing its affairs and (far more importantly) the cure of souls as a law unto itself. I am very disappointed at this turn of events.

  11. Pierpaolo says:

    Magister is not always 100% accurate when he reports on the Neocatechumenate.

    He underestimates the numbers by half and has lost 12 seminaries somewhere.

    It was also never the praxis in the Neocatechumenate that the Homily should be replaced by echoes on the liturgy of the Word.

    That Card. Arinze’s letter fell on deaf ears is simply untrue. The Neocatechumenate has more than 1 million members and rather than each parish inventing a separate way of conforming to his instructions we waited for guidance to be given as to exactly how to receive communion (since following the missal exactly was not a practical option due to the fact that many Eucharists take place in small rooms where ques are impossible). Instructions have now been given and I can assure everyone that communion was received standing already on Saturday 22nd.

  12. BJ says:

    My experience of the NC catechesis was a poor one. I attended 5 out of their 6 introductory catechesis to see if all this stuff on the internet about them was really true. While I can’t say I heard anything outright heterodox I would say their teachers were poorly prepared and didn’t seem to know a great deal. They seemed to be unaware of what they did not know. It really wasn’t any better than what passes for catechesis these days – and that isn’t saying much.

    Specifically the guy who spoke on The Fall didn’t seem to know the details at all. He didn’t mention sanctifying grace and I can’t remember hardly any references to grace, the redemption or sacraments. In five weeks I learnt next to nothing. I know a couple and their family who have been in The Way for about 20 years and similarly their knowledge seems to be very poor. Now I can see why.

    At no point in the catechetical sessions did the instructors use or refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and when I asked one of them about this at the end one of them said to me, and I quote ‘you don’t expect me to read all that’ (yes, I’m being 100% serious). At this point I totally lost interest in them.

    I will be very interested to see their catechetical directory when it’s finally published. Maybe they go into more detail as you go along but I wasn’t impressed by the initial contact. The people in it seem nice enough but their knowledge isn’t brilliant and isn’t any better than the average Catholic out there. They seem like yet more badly catechised Catholics to me.

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