On March 15, 2014, Fr. Angelo Veraldi, a Neocatechumenal seminary professor from Italy, instructed permanent deacon candidates in Guam that “Jesus became a sinner” and that he “experienced the forgiveness of the Father.” This startling teaching launched me on a search for the foundations of this travesty in the teaching of the founder of the Neocatechumenal Way, Kiko Arguello.
I ‘ve gathered eight “exhibits”, taken from Kiko’s teaching, his writing and and his art, that led me to the conclusion that Kiko indeed has trouble with the Trinity.
Exhibit I , which I’ve already mentioned, is a lecture by a Neocatechumenal seminary professor sent to Guam to teach seminarians at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary and Archdiocesan candidates for the diaconate. It was the startling words of this professor that led me to investigate Kiko Arguello’s belief (or lack thereof) in the Holy Trinity. Exhibits II through IV are icons painted by Kiko, and Exhibits V through VIII are references to the Holy Trinity (or lack thereof) taken from the written teachings of Kiko found in the first four volumes of the Catechetical Directory of the Neocatechumenal Way, the catechetical writings that prescribe the first four of five years of a Neocatechumen’s walk in “the Way.”
These examples convince me that Kiko prefers to ignore the Holy Trinity and generally avoids any explicit mention of this fundamental aspect of our Faith in his art and in his teaching. Moreover, even when he broaches the topics depending upon the Trinity in his teaching, he displays a deformed or even heretical understanding of this important dogma. Indeed, Kiko Arguello has trouble with the Trinity.
On March 15, 2014, Fr. Angelo Veraldi, a Neocatechumenal seminary professor from Italy, instructed permanent deacon candidates in Guam that “Jesus became a sinner.” He said, in part:
“Jesus Christ experience[d] the psalms. He experience the love of God, the Father. 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.“
Consider Kiko’s icon, “The Annunciation”, below, on the left. You can see that he copies most of the features of his icon from older icons from the Eastern Church, like the one on the right. [To see enlarged versions of any image in this post, click on the image.]
Can you see any differences? How about this: in the ancient Christian icons from the East, the Holy Trinity was often symbolized by three rays. You can see an example of this from the older icon above. But Kiko deliberately removed this powerful symbol of the Trinity in his icon, replacing it with a single ray, as shown below in the zoomed-in images.
Replacing three rays with one may seem innocuous to you, but Kiko did the same thing when he painted his icon of the Baptism of Jesus (called the “Theophany” in the Eastern Church). Kiko’s version is on the left, below, and two ancient versions are on the right.
Let’s zoom in to see.
Kiko is inclined to remove the traditional Trinitarian symbolism of the Eastern Church from his artwork. We see a particularly egregious example of this in the next exhibit.
Perhaps Kiko’s most startling misuse of traditional Eastern Trinitarian symbology is found in his painting of the Holy Family, below, on the left. He bases it on Andrei Rublev’s 15th century icon, “The Trinity”, below, on the right. [To see enlarged versions of any image in this post, click on the image.]
To see what a travesty this is, let’s first look discuss the symbolism in Rublev’s icon, on the right. First, know that Rublev bases this icon on the biblical story of Abraham and the three Angels at the Oak of Mamre [Genesis 18:1-15]. In the Eastern Church, this icon is considered the template for all icons of the Trinity. All figures have identical faces, signifying that the Three Persons of the Trinity possess the same divine nature. All three wear blue, the celestial color, representing divinity. The Holy Spirit, on the right, also wears green, the traditional color of life associate with that Person of the Trinity in the Eastern Church. Christ, in the middle, also wears a robe dark crimson, signifying His Incarnation. and God the Father, the figure on the left, wears a shimmering purple garment, signifying His royalty. Behind the figure of God the Father, is the Father’s “house” with its many rooms [John 14:2].
Kiko completely strips the work of all of this traditional Trinitarian symbolism.
Kiko makes his trashing of the Trinity complete by writing on the top of his work. Let’s zoom in.
“Dios es Comunidad, Liturgia, Palabra” in Spanish, or “God is Community, Liturgy, Word” in English. Those of you who know something of the Neocatechumenal Way know that “Community, Liturgy, and Word” are the “tripod” (Kiko’s term) upon which the Neocatechumenal Way is founded. But Kiko’s “tripod” is not the Trinity. Is God “liturgy”?
The word “trinity” only appears once in the body* of the 427-page English version Volume I of the Neocatechumenal Catechetical Directory:
“All of this he has fulfilled in Jesus, since he, brothers and sisters, really entered with human nature into the divinity, into the Trinity. He has achieved transcendence, he has been resurrected by God and he has entered into the Promised Land.” pp. 217-218, 10th Day
So Jesus “really entered with human nature into the divinity” and that he “achieved transcendence“, but wasn’t Jesus the second Person of the Holy Trinity and transcendent prior to His Incarnation? Kiko doesn’t say, because he never mentions the Trinity again in this work.
We also see this on page 11 of that volume:
” …He was a man like us and God was acting in him, performing signs so that it may be manifest that he was the Sent One of God, the Chosen One of God, for every prophet in Israel had to prove that he came from God, otherwise he was a false prophet. And he proves it with facts, performing miracles and uttering words that are fulfilled. The Father had to act in him to confirm that he was his envoy, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit to fulfill his mission.
For Kiko, then, Christ’s miracles were the work of the Father acting in him, and did not flow from Christ’s divine nature.
Moving on to another section of the first volume of his Catechetical Directory, we see Kiko trash the Trinity in a completely different way:
“Was it that God, like a kind of Moloch, was placated and satisfied with the sacrifice, with the blood of his Son? If so, what sort of God have we made for ourselves? We have arrived at thinking that God, like the pagan gods, satisfies his anger with the sacrifice of his Son. This is why it is normal for the atheists to say: what kind of God is this who discharges his anger against his Son on the cross? And what could we answer? Certain juridical and clumsy rationalizations of the theology of expiation and the Eucharist have brought us to these deformations, to believing in a “God whose ruthless justice would have demanded a human sacrifice, the immolation of his own Son.“ Vol. I of the Catechetical Directory, p 361.
Kiko is attempting to deny the sacrificial element of Jesus’ saving death by using a “strawman” argument, one that ignores the dynamics of the Trinity altogether. This straw man presentation ignores the dynamics of the Trinity by excluding the possibility that Jesus is both the priest (offerer) and the victim of the sacrifice of the passion and that His sacrifice on the cross was a self-offering, and that offering was made in the furnace of love that is the Holy Trinity.
I argue my point in depth here.
Kiko never uses the word “Trinity” at all in the body of the 160-page second volume of Kiko’s Catechetical Directory, which is dedicated to the First Scrutiny Convivence marking the second stage of the Neocatechumenal Way. He also makes no reference to the word “Trinity” in the 226-page fourth volume of Kiko’s Catechetical Directory, which is dedicated to the convivence of the Second Scrutiny stage.
I can imagine some people responding, “Oh, but the word ‘Trinity’ isn’t even mentioned once in the Bible!”
I respond that the Church has convened twenty-one Ecumenical Councils since the last book of the New Testament was written, and many of those councils have discussed and clarified the revealed truth of the Holy Trinity. We are no longer an infant Church, a Church in diapers. The truth of the Trinity is indeed part of the Good News, the Kerygma.
The word “Trinity” is mentioned only once in the 110 pages third volume of Kiko’s Catechetical Directory. This book is dedicated to the Shema Convivence, another stage of the Neocatechumenal Way. The “Shema”, which means “listen”, is the prayer found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might…“
Kiko’s only reference to the Trinity in this work occurs when he’s introducing a song:
These three young men, who sing and praise the Lord together to all of creation, are represented many times in catacomb paintings, because in the early Church these three young men expressed an image of the Church. The number three is the symbol of the Trinity of God, a symbol of the community, of the Church. These three young, praising God with their hands raised in the midst of the fire are the image of the Church in the midst of the world. Admonition to the “Canticle of the Creatures”, page 69, Sunday morning Lauds, Vol. 4, “Shema”
So “the number three is the symbol of the Trinity of God”. That’s really not telling us anything we didn’t already know about the Trinity. Kiko is really emphasizing the community in this passage, and not God.
- Andrei Rublev, The Holy Trinity
- The Three Rays and the Icon of the Annunciation