“Excuse me, may I ask a question?”

A look at Kiko Arguello’s antipathy toward natural religiosity.

I’d like to give you some questions to ask the catechists if you find yourself in the third night of the initial catechesis of the Neocatechumenal Way.  On that night, the presentation will turn to the topic of “Natural Religiosity” and “Adult Faith.” Kiko’s approach toward natural religion, which is man’s natural inclination toward God, a sense of the sacred, and the offering of sacrifice and prayers of supplication, is significantly different from the approach of the Church.

In short, Kiko pits “adult faith” (which is a good and necessary thing) against “natural religion” (another good thing) and seeks to replace natural religiosity with adult faith.  The Church, on the other hand, teaches that adult faith is actually built on the foundation of natural religion and that grace can perfect it.

Kiko has a thirteen volume Catechetical Directory used by his catechists, and in the first volume of this directory, Kiko uses the phrases “natural religiosity” or “natural religion” at least forty times.  He acknowledges that man is naturally religious, and asserts that it is a good thing, but then goes on to say:

“But man, because of sin, corrupts it, trying to put God at the service of his own selfishness. In the catecheses I am referring to such natural religiosity corrupted by sin. (emphasis added)”[1]

Now, if we were asked about “natural religiosity corrupted by sin”, many of us would think of the Canaanites offering their children to their god Molech[2], or of Ahab and Jezebel and their Ba’al.[3]  However, that’s not what Kiko means at all by the term, and he quickly shows us this by drawing us a picture[4], which your catechist might draw for you too:

 Kiko's Natural Religion

The stick figure on the left is a priest, and the table in front of him is an altar.  The stick figure on the right is you.  And, lest you think that by “fear” Kiko means merely “an emotional response to danger”, he is very quick to tell us that he means “awe”, as in “awe of the sacred”:   “All natural religiosity is based on awe, on the sense of fear.”[5]  or

 “…if you happened to sit near the tabernacle, you felt your heart miss a beat because you were approaching the untouchable, the place where the sacred is.”[6]

So by “natural religiosity corrupted by sin“, he really means the tendency for people to hold priests, altars, sacrifice, and sacred places as important in their faith.  Kiko goes as far to proclaim, “Natural religiosity has infiltrated Christianity,”[7] and that “we Christians have an infantile faith of natural religiosity.”[8]

Kiko also impugns natural religiosity by consistently and pejoratively referring to our sacred places, our churches, as “temples”.  Here are some examples:

“…he immediately creates a religion, builds a temple, sets up an altar and makes a priest to serve as an intermediary…Little by little, things become complicated and religions degenerate. Since many people go to pray, to ask for things and to offer other ones in exchange, you need someone to take care of the temple. So some priests are put in place. The temple is full of people, especially when there are calamities.”[9]

Or further,

“In this religious scheme, what is sacrosanct is the temple and all that is connected with it, the altar, the priest and everything that is offered to God.”[10]

and,

“In natural religiosity, when things are going well, man does not worry about God; but when some misfortune happens, he runs to the temple.”[11]

If you hear the catechists parrot any of these statements, you might want to interrupt and say,

Excuse me, I have a question.  If that’s true, then don’t nearly all the Psalms express a natural religiosity? 

For example, “In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.”[12]  Or  “But I, through the abundance of thy steadfast love, will enter thy house, I will worship toward thy holy temple in the fear of thee.” [13]

Kiko also criticizes the sacrificial aspect of natural religion.  According to him,

 “God did not begin by refusing the sacrifices of goats and cows, but he began from there to lead his people to a purer liturgy and spirituality.”[14]

and

“In natural religiosity you need a priest with a beautiful cassock to administer the worship for you….”[15]

Kiko wants us to believe that God accepted the Old Testament sacrifices and priests rather reluctantly, and really did not intend the sacrifices to have any long term significance.

If you hear the catechists parrot any of these statements, you might want to interrupt and say,

“Excuse me, I have a question.  If that’s true, then why is the Old Testament loaded with examples of God commanding the sacrifice of animals?  Didn’t He intend them to prefigure Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross?

For example, in Deuteronomy, we read,But the holy things which are due from you, and your votive  offerings, you shall take, and you shall go to the place which the  LORD will choose, and offer your burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, on the altar of the LORD your God; the blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out on the altar of the LORD your God.”[16]

Or  you might say,

“Excuse me, I have a question.  Wasn’t the offering of temple sacrifices still quite the norm during Jesus’ time?”

Indeed, in the time of Jesus, the offering of temple sacrifices was still the norm!  If it were not so, then the constant references to the sacrifice of the Passover lamb in the Gospel of John would made no sense to the early Christians. If one holds, as Kiko does, that natural religiosity has infiltrated Catholicism and must be eliminated, it is no wonder that he has his followers worship apart from the rest of the baptized faithful, to protect them from being polluted by natural religion and by us, much as the Israelites of old separated themselves from their pagan neighbors.

The inclination of men, throughout history and across all cultures to offer supplications and sacrifices on altars is part of our God-given instinct and was meant as a foreshadowing or “type” of the New Covenant which brings them to perfection.[17]

Let us reject this sectarianism and instead follow the dictum of St. Thomas Aquinas, a Doctor of the Church:  “Grace does not destroy nature but perfects it.[18]


[1] Neocatechumenal Catechetical Directory, Vol. 1, p48
[2] Leviticus 18:21, as well as other places.
[3] 1 Kings 16:31-32
[4] Neocatechumenal Catechetical Directory, Vol. 1, p48
[5] Ibid. p57
[6]  Ibid. p51
[7] Ibid., p53
[8] Ibid., p63
[9] Ibid., p50 [10] Ibid., p51
[11]  Ibid., p53
[12] Psalm 18:6
[13] Psalm 5:7
[14] Neocatechumenal Catechetical Directory, Vol. 1, p55
[15] Ibid., p58
[16] Deuteronomy 12:26-2712:26-27 RSV
[17] Catechism of the Catholic Church 1350
[18] Summa Theologiae, I, 1, 8 ad 2: “gratia non tollat naturam sed perficiat”.   Tags:  Camino Neocatecumenal, Cammino Neocatecumenale

20 thoughts on ““Excuse me, may I ask a question?””

  1. Chuck, do you have the copy of Vol 1 Neo Catechumenal Way Catechetical Directory for Team of Catechists? I challenge you to read it with an open mind…

    1. Leonor Tabunar, you need not worry about what I have or don’t have, and you need not give me reading assignments. If you haven’t realized it yet, you someday will: you are basing your life on Kiko’s morass of half-truths and it will eventually damage you greatly.

    2. Leonor, you don’t know but It’s YOU that aren’t being able to read the Kiko’s catechesis with open mind, because you are part of the machine. You are inside, you can’t be really objective. In facts maybe you are not even able to read the Directory at all, because it’s a secret book.

      You are deceived but you don’t realize it.

  2. The following question does not relate to Kiko and the NCW directly. I ask it because it has been on my mind, and you, Chuck, are a thoughtful Catholic thinker: If we mean by metanoia, a change of heart/mind, a change of attitude/feeling/thinking, a change to adopting God’s way of seeing things, then how does this change come about? By assenting to something taught (i.e., catechesis), by reflecting on life experiences, by the way we take up suffering, by praying for it, by being gifted with it? Or by any combination of these? Further, to what extent does metanoia depend on an increase of faith, or an increase in love, or an increase in hope? (Or even an increase in fear of God?). Your thoughts, please.

    1. Timothy, I’d have to agree that our change of heart comes from a combination of the things you mentioned. That has been my experience. I’ve also come to the realization that the suffering that God has allowed in my life is indeed a test, but not one that God requires in order to find out more about my faith in Him. He already knows all about my faith and smallness. Rather, the suffering reveals the true state of my faith to me.

      1. Personally, I have experienced metanoia accompanied by an expanded heart (finding more and more people lovable, as God does) and becoming more and more accepting of suffering (as accepting as The Lamb).

    1. Oh Nestor-With-No-Last-Name,

      When you call me a “coward” you are judging me. Didn’t your catechist tell you that was forbidden?

      Actually, I have been asking these kinds of questions in a very public way for many years now. I don’t hide behind anonymity when I speak of Jesus Christ or of the problems of the Neocatechumenal Way. How about you?

      But now that I have your attention, Mr. Martinez, please answer the questions that I posed in the post. Pull out your copy of the Catechetical Directory if you need to.

      Thank you.

      Charles White
      Tamuning, Guam USA

  3. Hello to all, I am a person looking to deepen my understanding and experience of faith and God. Fortunately or unfortunately I am also a scholar and researcher-in social science, not in religion or theology. I am trying to find some kind of home or community with which to connect in the Catholic Church but I am finding that the Church is not that welcoming or safe for intellectuals. Long story short, I saw this announcement that basically said “Jesus loves you the way you are–come to hear the good news on Mondays/Wednesday’s. ” I found myself in a Neocat initial catechesis-never having heard of the group before. The announcement did not disclose the nature of the group. I went for two sessions and am home writing this instead of going to session 3. The only people who spoke were the catechists and priest. Not one single participant asked a question-the culture was clearly anti-dialogical. The circle diagram was presented with basically most people being called Judas. Miracles were labeled as essentially unjust. Regular Mass was subtly denigrated with comments about how it’s not really a community because you don’t know many people at regular Mass and they certainly aren’t your friends because you don’t know if they’ll give you their money. It was clear to me that being asked to turn over money wan’t too far down the road. Then there were the stories about Kiko. The more I thought about it the more it felt cult-like and I felt deceived that even the name of the program was not announced and kept hidden. I’m saddened, still wondering if there is a place for Catholics who happen to be intellectuals-I view my intellectual skills as a gift from God-I didn’t do anything to deserve them-I just received them and tried to put them to use. There’s no way what I saw and heard would have any interest for intellectuals or critical thinkers and I can’t help but believe there should be some place for us in the Church but I have yet to find it. Maybe someone has suggestions???

    1. Thank you, Trying, for your comments. They confirm much of what I wrote.

      I encourage you to keep searching for your place in the Church, and for an intellectual community within it that builds up your faith. That’s the irony of this – that real personal renewal does indeed come through the building of small communities, but without the heavy-handed leveraging of the Neocatechumenal Way.

      Perhaps there are other Catholics in your area or parish that would be interested in participating in a Catholic Book club or something like that. Once a month or so, pick a provocative book by a trusted author and meet to share its insights. You could even pick a Papal Encyclical, like Laudato si, Pope Francis’s latest. Are there any Catholic Universities in your area? That might be a good place to start.

      How about small group scripture sharing? Two good resources that I know about are the Word Among Among Us, and The Little Rock Scripture Study.

      A number of years ago I took a few online courses from the Catholic Distance University which I found to be very stimulating. Maybe check them out.

      It probably will take a good dose of patience, but keep us posted!

  4. Natural religiosity. I was told it was equivalent to old ladies who pray rosary all day long thinking they need to earn Gods salvation.

    NCW implies it has nothing to do with natural religiosity and that its true Christianity.

    The fact is that its an perfect example of what natural religiosity is. Because when God does not provide they tell you that:
    You did not do enough in the comunity.
    You did not obey your catechists.
    You did not went on the pilgrimage.
    You were in rebellion.
    You did not do enough…. pushups?
    You did not …. pray enough?

    if people praying the rosary are naturally religious they are noobs compared to NCW members which are climbing up the Babylon tower called NCW.

  5. Kiko rejects the notion of sacrifice as part of “natural religionª. I wonder if he realizes that all of the Fathers of the Church defend the doctrine of the sacrifice of the Mass, which of course was rejected by Luther and his followers. In my estimation, Kiko is a neolutheran, as he seems to hold that we are steeped in sin and that it is impossible to get out of it. The rejection of sacrifice, the sacred and transubstantiation is also Lutheran. He and Carmen also hold that the Council of Trent introducced Aristoteliasm into the Church. In fact, they don’t like Trent at all. Bishop Anastasius Schneider stated correctly that the NCW is a Protestant/Jewish masquerading within the Church.

  6. To:Trying , do not give up on The Catholic Church. Are you Catholic ? I am convert. And yes it is hard sometimes to get to know people in the Church and to find your place. Perhaps if you talked to the Priest in your parish he can point you in the right direction . EWTN has a lot of programs that are helpful. And a book club is a great idea. Perhaps you could even start one.

  7. In connection with sacrifices, God revealed that He did want more. He revealed this at least twice in the Psalms, but also in the books of 1 Samuel and Hosea:

    “Offerings you do not want, I would give them to you; you have no pleasure in burnt sacrifices. The sacrifice that pleases God is a contrite spirit, a broken and beaten heart, oh God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51: 17-18).

    “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire–but my ears you have opened–burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require” (Psalm 40:6).

    “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).

    “I don’t want your sacrifices—I want your love; I don’t want your offerings—I want you to know me” (Hosea 6:6).

  8. Thomas Hennigan and Timothy Guile,

    It comes from the power of the (real) Holy Spirit which comes through grace abounding. Neither Luther, nor Kiko, nor sadly even most Catholics and Protestants, believe in grace abounding. Christian existing is usually merely scraping by in gloom.

    If you join the NCW scheme, you get stuck like it – those who don’t have actually brought faith with them from somewhere else (which gradually wears thin). Testimonies are never from people who “completed” the “way” like me, they are from people about eight years in, or eight months, especially youngsters who exaggerate. It does take quite a long time for the “excitement” to wear off!

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