Scrutinizing the First Scrutiny, Part II

Is your family an idol?

The world is full of many, many things that could potentially take the place of God in our lives, and it certainly behooves us to be on guard against these idols.  However, the Neocatechumenal Way’s First Baptismal Scrutiny Convivence,  in classic sectarian fashion, places an inordinate emphasis on the notion of one’s family as a potential “idol”. 

This convivence, which I describe here,  occurs after about two years of walking in “the Way”.  It starts on a Thursday evening, and ends on the following Sunday.

The Questionnaire on Idols

At around 11:00am on Saturday morning, the community is given a “questionnaire” on idols, to be completed in groups of seven or so.  The questionnaire has three questions:

  1. Do you believe that your work is according to the Gospel, and up to now have you accumulated wealth for you or for God?
  2. Are your affections (wife, husband, children, boyfriend, girlfriend, mother, father, brothers, sisters, friends, sex riches that you accumulate for yourself, or are they rather to help you live according to the gospel?
  3. Are you aware of your true relationship with money?  Is it your Lord?

Does anything strike you as peculiar about these questions?

I would not argue against work, affections, sex, and wealth as potential idols, but at least three things worry me:

  1. The affections that Kiko itemizes are dominated by normal family relationships.
  2. Many potential idols seem to be missing, and I would place some of these, like power and prestige, for example, far ahead of family relationships on a list of potential idols.
  3. “Sex” is not an affection, but rather an appetite or drive.  Many of our drives and appetites are prone to disorder and could in that sense be idols, but shouldn’t these too come before normal family relationships on any list of potential idols?  Gluttony, substance abuse…

For emphasis, let’s list these family relationships in the exact order given by Kiko:   wife, husband, children, boyfriend, girlfriend, mother, father, brothers, and sisters.

I believe that Kiko has an ulterior motive for emphasizing family as potential idols.  You see, in a sect, extended family relationships must be drastically diminished, or even ruptured, if the sect is to have full control over the member.  It will be much easier to give away family land or your Nana’s diamond ring in two years at the second Baptismal scrutiny if you’ve started to put your family relationships aside now.

Am I exaggerating?

By now, you may think that I am exaggerating the situation in order to score points against “the Way”.  But consider this:  At two other points in the convivence, one before the giving of the questionnaire, and one after the questionnaire, at the the Lauds celebrated on Saturday morning and again on Sunday morning, selections of scripture are read and expounded upon that include strong warnings about placing family ahead of one’s walk with Christ.  These are:

 Saturday Morning Lauds:  …If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple… Luke 14:25-35

and

 Sunday Morning Lauds:  Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.  He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;  and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10.34 -39

Jesus warned us about the possibility of family members obstructing our walk with Him because that is a real possibility.   But the problem we often see here is not that family members oppose Christ, but that family members oppose the sectarian nature of “the Way”.  This convivence sets the stage for convincing community members that all opposition of family members to Neocatechumenal sectarianism should be construed as opposition to Christ.    It conflates dedication to “the Way” with dedication to Christ, and it is becoming increasingly clear that this is not nearly always the case.   Throughout Guam and Micronesia, the Neocatechumenal Way seems to be attempting to replace the family, especially the extended family, with a Neocatechumenal community.  Ironically, in the eyes of many, it is “the Community” that is becoming the idol.

14 thoughts on “Scrutinizing the First Scrutiny, Part II”

  1. Neocat is good but it is very tireing. We have no time for our own family and thus i stepped down after four years.

  2. First of all, the Neocatecumenal Way has always defended the importance of the unity in the family. I think you should at least investigate better before you throw all your judgments and contradictions in a blog. You can´t say the NCW is encouraging people to hate their families, but the contrary. Through the Way, which is approved by the Pope as a valid Itinerary of Iniciation to the Christian Faith, many families have been reunited. And of course it´s all God´s work, he does everything, but I´m certain that the Way is one of the tools that God has given us to live and follow the steps of Christ.

    Peace, and may God bless you.

    1. Unity in the family…as long as both spouses are “all in”, right? But if one spouse isn’t too keen on the Way, watch out!

      Here in Guam, the indigenous culture is known for it’s tight knit extended families, which could provide an excellent basis for a nurturing Christian community. But not for the Way. It’s wreaked disaster upon us here. Kiko and his cohorts have no sense whatsoever of the dignity of indigenous cultures and the virtues to be found in them.

    2. The way does place alot of imperative on the family but it puts The Way first. If your spouse is not in the Way, even though he might be catholic you are placed under great pressure to get him to be a part of the comunity. This i have seen for myself. Why? What might happen?

      I have heard that you might be asked to leave the community if your spouse is not part of the community. This is perticuraly evil since at the point when they ask you this ideas NCW goes through your mind and spirit and it is a big part of your life.

      I don’t know if they might even ask you to leave your spouse but i would not be suprised.

  3. I’m glad I have found an intelligible insight into the corruptness of the NCW. I was brought up for 18 years in the community in the UK, and joined my own at age 15. Since leaving the NCW the relationship with my family has deteriorated from what were very close bonds to acquaintances.
    As a follower I believe I was convinced (brain washed is perhaps too strong a word) to believe that I was above the rest of humanity and that everyone else was not listening to the true word of God (or at least not in the proper way) and that I had to evangelise through the NCW to spread the ‘true’ word of God.
    Looking back, most of the followers had some form of family segregation and worryingly common was spouses having conflicting support for the NCW which caused upset in the family unit – this was very apparent in my parents relationship.
    Speaking from personal experience, the difficulty in having an amicable discussion with a Neocat is this idea of ‘hierarchy’ in that each follower will have a preconceived idea that they are inertly right in their teachings and judgements and anything contrary to that is seen as lesser and almost a waste of time.

    I am grateful to hear your efforts in exposing this poisonous cult, that has managed to leak into the catholic church, for what it truly stands for and the damage it is capable of having on the family unit. I believe that your efforts are saving families in your state and I hope your message will grow further on an international basis to avoid other young people, like myself, having to cope with the recovery after the NCW.

  4. Through Girard, the NCW is based on a Hegelian sense of inevitability and a body-language-based method that is given primacy over Christian and Scriptural values. Hence (i) some people who have been clingy are helped by this scrutiny, (ii) the many who haven’t been clingy are hindered, and (iii) some of each type allow themselves and their families to get sucked in inappropriately and become somewhat the stereotyped carbon copies, albeit with variations. The itinerants can’t tell the different kinds apart. Lip service is given to “charism” and “Holy Spirit” but these are often stifled by the above factors. I have seen members gradually become less able to see who is suitable to elect as responsible. That there will always be exceptions to “pros” and “cons” alike is part of the picture. Not all the details recounted occur everywhere or every time, e.g I’ve only known us to tell our stories once during scrutiny periods and my acquaintances assured me they were instructed not to be salacious if bearing witness before a congregation. The people who needed to put their marriages right usually do exactly that. That’s good in itself but it doesn’t prove that the entire balance of the scheme is right. I have seen catechists get heavy with some members at scrutinies (and not others), there isn’t enough flexibility about suggested frequency of attendance, and the entire Way should be seven years in length not twenty-seven. Eucharists don’t need to be so frequent. The extent of senior Church approval does get exaggerated in members’ hearing. Additionally severe problems are created by incompetent bishops in quite a lot of locations (including my location). I’ve seen a bishop cause much hurt by not rebuking outsider factions that were vicious, any more than he rebuked insider malpractice (he was excessively shy and uninterested altogether). I know I have not witnessed dishonesty with money but the dispensing of charitable funds could have been done in a way that didn’t look to the public like over-favouritism by a clergyman towards a specific recipient – in other words a greater number of needy recipients of smaller sums could have been identified. Itinerants divide communities in different parts of a diocese between different itinerant teams to try to prevent contact, and they prevent “new blood” coming into and refreshing any particular community. My verdict: they should look very hard and urgently at doing considerably better in all these areas. Failure to abandon Girardism in their method (which is the most crucial, usually unnoticed thing) would be telling. Instantly they must close down all communities in areas which have incompetent bishops! Weekday Bible studies using Leon-Dufour are the best feature.

    1. Let’s start with your statements about Girard, Hegel, “body language method”, and a sense of inevitability. Can you explain further what you mean? In my posts on the Way and Rene Girard, I concentrated on his non-sacrificial perspective and the animosity he shared with Kiko about Natural Religiosity. Girard had a very pessimistic view on ritual and its origins.

  5. Incompetence in dioceses and incompetence in the Way feed off each other to mutual self-deluded “benefit” (cloaking each other) that doesn’t benefit members or ordinary parishioners at all well. In localities where a sharp bishop is taking responsibility, it all works better, though even here exaggerating goes on and some of the other bad dynamics (dialectics) listed can occur. Among those whose job it is to take decisions there will always be differences on doctrine and ceremonies, but the key to the movement’s present nature is its Hegelism and the body-language-based substitute for Holy Spirit discernment (in “body language” I include the verbal mannerisms with which people “talk the talk”). It’s relevant that some parishioners object from the start because of this though they can’t spell it out like that. Well founded but poorly expressed objection may spark off viciousness among the public, adding to hurt exponentially, and those members who are of good will are thereby further disempowered to help those whom the movement has hurt already. To address this movement effectively among decision takers requires a hierarchy of truths in the objections as well as unusual amounts of prayer. Sorry if my explanation isn’t black enough, but having some grey areas.

  6. Vulnerable outsiders are (in effect) the Way’s “pretend” target population while those who are already parish insiders are their “real” target population in those localities where corners have been getting cut. In practice, bishops and priests must work very hard and alertly to suitably (according to individual need and aptitude) “insert” members into central parish life effectively, they mustn’t think they can sit back. Something like the Way needs diocesan authorities to “hijack” its best features and relate individually to parishioners, and enable parishioners to relate to each other in a less mechanistic framework. Objections to Bible studies in homes are not valid – everyone should have been doing it all along and no permission has ever been needed for it. I believe the evangelising often works well in that other movements can reap where the NCW has sown.

  7. Chuck, it was through you I recently heard of Girard and am relying on digests of digests such as are found on philosophy web sites. What follows is not a good explanation but it describes my thought processes in recognising the dialectics I have referred to, in what I have seen.

    It appears some NCW catechists heavily imply nearly all behaviour is copied, though what I personally was taught in the NCW was more sophisticated than that. Whilst a “mimetic” acting-out of the Abel scenario is implied in some aspects of ritual I get the impression Schmidt’s view of repeated revelations and Covenants through Mankind’s ups and downs would appear more truthful than the reported Girardian sense of a continuous trend (which comes over as Hegel-influenced).

    The mechanistic procedure of assuming one is or isn’t “ready” based on one’s bodily stance or vocabulary, together with an attitude that one needs to be manoeuvred by “herding” with a community of overly fixed membership for excessively many years, give the game away better than doctrines which have at some times and in some places been better than those sadly fairly frequently attested such as in your country.

    I’m not a scholar in the field. But I thought that if the mechanistic spirit was exchanged for more trust in God, NCW catechists would be less driven to give some members a hard time over some issues and would be better able to cater differently for those who are already insiders in the Church, and for vulnerable outsiders, respectively (I was the latter, and was along for the ride because I valued the Bible studies, and I by chance happened to give the “right” answers at scrutinies, and they weren’t much interested in me because I’m single). They would be less pushy, more collaborative and less anxious to take advantage of “pushover” bishops who want to “look like” evangelisers without putting in their own share of the effort.

    They trust in God greatly in some ways but not seemingly in discernment. They are not exactly against one belonging to other movements but by trying to crowd our schedules they made it tricky to do so in practice. I would advocate a lot of less intensive periods during the Way. I have noticed an improvement in manners from “my” NCW catechists in exactly the period those of the ones you know seem to have been getting bad (their manners were good, then bad, then good).

  8. Dialectic = being manoeuvred = mechanistic.

    All the other evils listed (which are variable as to time and place, and which church leaders have always held open to debate) flow from this.

    However, the rest of the Church also needs constructively critiquing. Look at the debate on Tim’s about liturgy and touching on catechesis. Towards people on the fringes, like my ancestors, there has been an apathy about catechising them as to trusting in God (as opposed to merely “doing Church”) going back way way before the Council. There, the dialectic is “benevolently” ignoring the “faithful” which produces its own varied forms of equal and opposite reactions. We need an end to dialectics altogether and the Holy Spirit instead.

    The NCW is one case study and maybe not the most typical in its being overt.

    By actively looking for bishops in the mould of (one whom we are sad to hear of), as an opening to “easy pickings” to “prove their point” NCW leaders are sadly participating in great evil in my individual opinion. If they would refuse to approach such bishops but only harness responsible-minded ones, people will get hurt less and, who knows – it might even eventually open the door to adhering to statutes and decrees.

  9. Maybe it was an extra cynical swindle that those who “catechised” me used teachings far nearer usual Catholic ones, than those you’ve borne the brunt of in Guam.

    A blend of intercession and actively preaching, teaching and evangelising always was supposed to be present in the Church in the laity as well as clergy (in a variable blend from one individual to the next). We always were supposed to gain support, induction and training in these tasks from within the body of Church members. In the course of many years in a “community” we were helped to dabble in these a little, without reference to the parish – it should have happened far more, and quicker.

    A model promoted by Louis XIII, XIV and XV of France based on Berulle (the Sodalitium’s role model incidentally), in which clergy are on a pedestal, had gained traction throughout the Latino world and the Irish diaspora as well as parts with French heritage.

    Apathy to catechise regarding trusting in God while living in a world that has changed rapidly over the last 125 years (and not just catechising as regards “doing Church”) has apparently disguised that millions of families fell away functionally, probably well before the 1960s. The standard of belief in most seminaries probably became attenuated way before that date as well.

    My family of origin never prayed together. I am interested in any church that can tell me how to trust God. But I do know that you are going through a battle more severe than mine.

    As the world looks increasingly queer, so will new growth in the Church. I advocate a hierarchy of truths, so that besides promoting accuracy, and rooting out the incompetence with which Kiko and Carmen have been sabotaging their own movement, some more esoteric minor details could be relegated to relative obscurity. Blessed Leo XIII and St Pius X called for good focus.

    Sorting out the wheat from the chaff among NCW foibles and gambits – and non-NCW foibles and gambits, alike – is not a task for the intellectually faint of heart.

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