“This is why all human relationships are based on violence, the violence of one who forces the other to fulfill the law and vice versa.” Kiko Arguello, Neocatechumenal Catechetical Directory, Vol. I, p. 129, 7th Day
Kiko Arguello, founder of the Neocatechumenal Way, does not have a wife. Perish the thought. He does, however, have a stereotype of a wife, which he consistently presents to his followers and the Church. This stereotype is that of a wife as an enemy of her husband, a wife often beaten by that husband in his drunkenness, a wife who “kills” her husband with her defects and with her nagging and with her infidelity. Kiko’s outrageous words regarding femicide at Italy’s “Family Day” in 2015 reflect this stereotype, and it reflects Kiko’s deep seated assumptions regarding the typical marriage, especially the marriages of couples prior to joining the Way.
To see this stereotype in Kiko’s teaching, one only has to read the first volume of his secret Catechetical Directory, where he uses the word “wife” 105 times, while using the word “husband” only 32 times.
Here are all of the the sentences in that volume that contain the word “wife”, cut and pasted end to end. Count how many of the sentences describe enmity between a husband and wife. Count how many describe spousal abuse. Count how many describe infidelity.
There were two delinquents, a prostitute, some families of gypsies, Joaquin, a drunkard who used to beat his wife and made her life impossible, a lame boy with crutches. There I saw how a gypsy, who worked for fifteen days and then didn’t work for twenty-five, who used to send his children out everyday to beg for alms half-naked and his wife to sell false gold round the houses, radically change his life. Who was it who told this man that he had to go to work and send his children to school and not send his wife around like that? Don’t you see that I’ve gotten drunk, that I’ve beaten my wife, don’t you see that I’ve masturbated? How can he remain indifferent if he loves you, in front of the problems you have, in front of your envy, in front of the problems you have with your wife, at home, in front of your rage, in front of your drunkenness, in front of all the evil powers which assail you and bring you to death, how is this possible if God is love? Yours, concrete: that you hurt your foot, that your wife got angry with you, that your son has been suspended, etc. They don’t go to Mass just because the wife tells them: “Listen, Joe, we haven’t been to Mass for three weeks. What stops us from letting ourselves be killed by the wife, the mother-in-law, the husband, the co worker and the children? The Father is teaching all men through each person’s own history: through the child who runs away from home; through the wife who goes off with another man; through the discovery that you are a failure because, at 47 years old, you become aware that you have never loved anyone or cared about
anyone because you are completely selfish. Abraham would tell us exactly what the Scriptures say: when he was seventy-five and his wife was well past her childbearing years, when he no longer had the physical strength to make enough money to buy a land where he could rest, he fell into a deep crisis because he had neither a land nor sons. Leave them and, together with your wife, your two servants, your forty cows, your fifty lambs, start walking. But, with his wife, his servants and the animals, he starts out on a journey, even though he doesn’t know where he is going. His wife must have said to him: What a fool you are. His wife must have said: which God spoke to you? With his wife’s constant nagging he has come to half-doubt the Word. And look, this is my wife. My wife laughed too. Abraham saw the day of Jesus Christ when he saw that God, Yahweh, drew life from death, from the dead womb of his wife. We all have this temptation : not to accept this wife of yours, these children, this work you have. In his married life he doesn’t talk to his wife any more. Our society is a consumers’ society, a narrow-minded, middle class society, where we have exchanged Christian values for middle class values: to be honest at work, to have a house and a car, to be faithful to your wife, not to steal and kill. What are your desires, son, other than to have a good house like the one your father has, a car and a beautiful wife? And, of course, this does not interest your children at all because they see that your marriage is a failure, that you have never loved, you have never had time to think about whether you love your wife or not. Your only concerns are going to the football match or being a Milan supporter and you were not even aware that your wife was being unfaithful to you. Otherwise, when your son or your wife dies, you will not even be aware of it. That your wife and your son could get killed in an accident is impossible. You never think about the possibility that tomorrow you could have a stroke, that you could die, leaving your wife and children. You don’t go into the coffin with your wife but all by yourself. For Jesus Christ says: “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery‘ (to commit adultery one has to go to bed with a married woman other than your wife) but I say to you, if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. What makes you suffer is everything that destroys you, everything that kills you: your wife‘s defects, or of your husband, the person at work who annoys you, an illness you have, that you have been fired, that things in your home are not done the way you want them done, that you don’t earn enough money, that your boss is a rascal …Therefore, you cannot accept the defects of your wife because they kill you, or certain attitudes of others that destroy you and you cannot accept this. In the moment your “I” transcends itself in the other, whoever this is: your colleague , the poor man on the street corner, your wife or your child … in the measure you are able to transcend yourself in the other, loving him, you fulfill yourself, you fulfill the law. Why is man not satisfied with this kind of flat happiness that society proposes: car, wife, house, bringing up the children and that’s all? Why is man not happy even though he has a wonderful house, a fantastic wife, marvelous children? And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. How can I love my wife or my children if their defects destroy me? You can get close to and love your wife and someone else but only up to a certain point, just so long as they may not destroy you. Poor wife! Since all the husband is interested in is being loved and the wife too, the war is already there. He doesn’t have much time to think about these things because all day long he is earning his bread swinging the pick by working like mad (even if he has the same problems with his wife; only that he solves things more quickly, maybe even by beating her … ). Who is able to let himself be killed by the enemy, loving him, who is able to let himself be destroyed by his wife, to let himself be crucified by the defects of his companion? Your wife perhaps? I get home, I find the house dirty, there is nothing ready to eat because my wife has been busy with other things, or she has done something that has made me angry or she has hurt me … Or a man who arrives home very late and never thinks about his wife who is always at home alone working all day. The wife, in fact, is right. Thus the husband, so that he doesn’t suffer too much, so that he doesn’t have to put up with the situation of tension and silence for long, is forced by his wife‘s violence to do her will in the end. And this also happens when it is the wife who does something wrong. He believed that God was able to give him a son even though his wife was old and barren. Because this shows him that he is selfish, that he doesn’t love his wife, that he is bourgeois, that he looks for his own interest in everything, that he leaves the house because the children disturb him, etc. This is also what depth psychology says: that when someone is angry, for example, because he quarreled with someone on the bus who stepped on his foot, then he will take it out on his wife at home. You get home and sit in front of the television or read the newspaper without taking the least bit of notice of your wife. So he sends you an illness, he allows you to fall in love with someone else’s wife or allows you to fall, because he loves you and he wants to take you out of the situation you have gotten yourself into by calling you to conversion. Suppose your wife went to confession today, when she comes home she does not speak to you. You can imagine what a husband who does not go to Church will think of the forgiveness that his wife has received. He does not know what to do, because his life has no meaning: his wife is too old to have children; he feels he has no vigor left. And Abraham believed that this God was powerful enough to give him a son (even though he was old and his wife was barren) and to give him a land. Imagine Abraham’s wife, Sarah, what did she think …And he thinks: Well, maybe the son which God has promised me is one I have to get by going to bed with my wife‘s slave? The son of the promise is not Ishmael, but the one who will be born from your barren wife, from Sarah. He lies and says that his wife is his sister so as not to get killed, but everything goes wrong for him. Sarah, his barren wife, has a son who is named Isaac, which means “laughter.” For on that day Abraham and Sarah laughed with joy because at 90 years old he had a son from his barren wife. God does not leave you alone and orphaned, but through this catechesis he wants to enlighten your reality, to put your life in perspective, so that then you can understand why your wife died, why you are a failure at your job, why you are not happy; so that you can understand your existential reality of today. Abraham had two sons, one from the slave and the other from the free woman, and the one who inherited the promise was not the son of the flesh, the son of his reason, but the son born of faith, the son which God had promised he would have with his barren wife. If you have put your security in money, in the family, in your children, in your wife, and truly you do not feel fulfilled, God invites you to leave your securities, your clan (not physically) and to put your trust not in them, but in him. Scriptures (there is not one God of the Old Testament and one of the New Testament) from the dead womb of his wife, from death, God takes out life, fulfilling what he promised. Well, imagine what Abraham must have thought when he had his son whom he had always wanted but had never managed to have; imagine what he must have felt to have him now when he was 90 years old and his wife was barren. God had said to him: I swear to you that your wife will have a son, although she is barren; and you who are old will have a land. If God tells Abraham to kill his son, just see what Jesus Christ says: “Whoever does not hate his son, his father, his mother, his wife, his own life, cannot be my disciple” (see Lk 14:26). And so he will always put the love he has for his wife or for himself above everything else. And if God says to you: Go there and you say: My wife says no … and since your love for your wife is greater, you will not obey God. So your wife is your god. He lives with his two sons because his wife has died. Why does God permit the cancer my wife has? You also remember how when Isaac is old and blind, he is deceived by his wife Rebecca and by Jacob so that Isaac’s blessing falls on Jacob. Then he is taken to the house of Potiphar whose wife wants to go to bed with him. If there is someone here who is enslaved by something, by sex, by the defects of his wife, because one of his sons is ill and another does not study, because his daughter has become a hippie, because he cannot stand his work, because he does not earn enough, because he has discovered that he is neurotic, because he is up to his neck in debts, or for any reason whatsoever, if you have an event of death which today encircles and closes you in, this word comes to your help today, comes to bring you out of this slavery and to invite you to pass to freedom. But then tomorrow (the same thing that happens to you when you come out of Mass), when you get angry with your wife, you forget everything and you do not take this Word upon yourself. Every man has this temptation: of triumphing, of not accepting our existential reality, the reality you have now: this wife, so ugly and longfaced, with whom you find yourself; this drunken, rude husband; this daughter who comes home late at night; this son who has turned out mediocre. Even if I were in the depths of the earth, even if my wife were to die, even if my children were to leave home and spit on me, even if I am a sinner, God is great and he is love; he will take me out of here and he will raise me up because he loves the sinner. It says: remember when you couldn’t stand anybody, when you didn’t get along with your wife, when you were leading a miserable little life, when you had no joy, when you found yourself in Egypt, in slavery. And he went on: “I’ve lived all this for years without realizing it had any connection with the Eucharist my wife spoke about. In this sermon we really shall hear everything: this new man who doesn’t judge, who doesn’t love money more than God, who doesn’t resist evil, who, when struck on the left cheek, offers the right one, who, if someone wants to rob him of something, doesn’t stop him, who doesn’t resist evil, (not evil in general but the concrete evil which his wife does to him at home, or the husband or the children or what they do to him at work), if someone forces him unjustly, just imagine today, in this era of justice and dissent, how these words sound, to walk for one mile under a heavy load until he cannot take it anymore, he walks two miles: he doesn’t do only what they justly demand but also what they unjustly oblige him and twice as much! This new man loves the enemy and doesn’t resist evil, he doesn’t judge, he doesn’t desire the wife of his neighbor. Mass on Sunday and not much more; then you go home, quarrel with the wife and, if the following Sunday you want to go to Communion, you go to Confession and that’s enough. This fellow, who is an architect, for example, who works and makes good money, who owns a house in the country where he spends the weekends with his wife and children, this man has met some people who don’t think the way he does. You will die in your own family, for your wife, for your friends, for your children. I knew someone who was wanted to fulfill himself through going to lots of meetings, yet all the time his wife was making a cuckold of him (forgive me), because he wasn’t able to love her, because he never spent time with her. And on the other hand, if there is an adult man in the community, later the wife and the children join. And when are your wife, your children, your co-workers, your boss your enemies? But tomorrow, if your wife doesn’t put the children to bed at the time you want her to: what a mess; you will have a go at each other and quarrel … A serious commitment is letting yourself be killed by your wife; by the pastor (if you are an assistant), who maybe is an impossible old man who makes you say five masses while he’s resting. The Christian, instead, dirties his hands with the sin of others, with the sin of his wife, the sin of the structures, because he loves men and understands them. If someone complains, if the wife is saying all day long: but what a mess; I’ve had enough! Because the same God who said: “Let there be life” and the light was, is the same God who will say to the darkness with which someone comes to the catechesis – who comes along black, hating his wife and wanting to kill her; and that other person who has come for what other reason I don’t know, because he is destroyed and doesn’t accept himself – this same God will say a word to the darkness in his heart, through you, with your word. The husband crucifies the wife and the wife the husband. He’s talking, for example, about someone who starts to look at the wife of his neighbor in the community and so to destroy the Body of Christ. He said that the year before he had been the responsible of a community, married to a fat, ugly wife, who had a head a bit like this and they had two children. His wife knew about what was going on and so did the children. He, who couldn’t stand his wife, who detested her with all his soul, twice tried to leave the girlfriend. This brother got up to say that for a year and a half he had been back living with his wife. He had fallen in love again with his wife.