I recently received a copy of a letter from a Catholic in another country to his bishop regarding the “spiritual violence and extortion” that he experienced at a Neocatechumenal convivence I have X’d out certain details that would identify him, pursuant to his request.
The man provided his letter after first explaining to me the situation of his country.
I live in a country which is fairly sparsely populated, with very small Catholic Church and even smaller native Catholic population. Catholics of my hometown live in diaspora and almost everyone are immigrants so there is no native Catholicism here in my hometown. These days the NCW is majority in my hometown. This is a letter to a bishop about my experience.
I am a former Lutheran, confirmed in XXXXXXX. My hometown is in diaspora, but Mass have given me consolation both before and after my confirmation. When Father — ——— arrived into my hometown I was glad, for now there would be a Mass once a week and also more frequent possibility to confession. I also thought it to be positive that NCW missionary families arrived to my hometown.
However, there have been problems that culminated on the last weekend. Missionary families had few times invited me to their catechesis and events. I have not visited them and I declined politely and perhaps too equivocally. I am not sure if it is about cultural difference but I think that they ought to have understood that I am not that interested.
Few weeks ago some NCW members and Father — ——— invited me to retreat that would begin in Friday and end in Sunday. I was not told that it is NCW event. I did assume it would somehow come up during the retreat, perhaps in the songs or prayers etc, but only after I arrived there I found out that it was purely a NCW event and that it was completely from the beginning to the end part of NCW catechumenate. I was not informed about this and I did not give any consent to this.
“Retreat” was held in a remote location, in a summer camp that was rented and it was around 2 hours drive away from my hometown. I did not have a car, had arrived there with a NCW family. There were three NCW families present with Father — ——— and also a Slovakian Catholic family that is not part of NCW. In truth the “retreat” was hours upon hours of NCW teaching every day.
All the songs were NCW songs and I considered them manipulative. In the lyrics there was repeated this theme about how Lord abandoned part of Israel to the desert because they did not know His “ways”. Also there was “Song of Abraham” where Abraham meets the Lord in Mamre and Abraham asks that Lord would not “pass by”. Can this be understood in any other way except that this “retreat” was a special occasion that one must not take lightly and that there was a danger that Lord will leave us to the desert (and thus we would never arrive to the Promised Land) if one does not get to know “the Way” or that the Lord might “pass by”.
In the end of retreat in Sunday it was asked from me, from the Slovakian family and from two children of NCW families if we would want to continue on “the Way”. First this question was asked from the NCW children, then from the children of Slovakian family and then from the parents of that family and finally from me. I think that they were aware of my critical attitude and that is why they asked from me the last so that I would not break the chain of “yes” answers and that perhaps enough “yes” answers in a row would compel me to answer “yes”.
There were SOME good things about the “retreat”, but in its entirety it was very depressing and oppressive. The “leader/president” of the situation (who was not the priest) asked whether I would think that the community (NCW that is) might help me in a Christian life. I felt that I was presented with a sick and distorted dichotomy: if I answered yes then I would have to be a member of “the Way”, if I answered no then I would have meant that I do not need them as brothers and sisters in Christ. Perhaps I ought to have answered clearly “NO” but the entire situation was so oppressive that I answered “I need more time to think”.
To this answer the “leader” (a member of NCW family) said to me: “When Gabriel arrived to Mary with Good News, did Mary say that she needed more time to think?” I think this is spiritual extortion and spiritual violence.
Earlier in this “retreat” a certain member of NCW family had told us the goal of the “retreat” and “the Way” somewhat in this way: “the Way upon which we will go will be long but in the end of it this awaits us (points towards NCW crucifix) Towards this love we strive for with the help of God. If you do not want to come to “the Way” then that is ok. We are not here to force anyone, you are all free. If you do not want to come to “the Way” then it only means that you are already perfect, that you are like Christ and that you do not need him.”
I’d consider this to be spiritual violence and extortion. I was clear that this “Way” is “THE Way”, the way to the goal of a Christian life and mere “infantile” Catholicism is not enough. If one does not join “the Way” then he must consider himself already perfect.
Also here’s a list of strange teachings I heard (the theme of the “retreat” was supposed to be Eucharist):
- “primitive Church” only gathered in catacombs and homes and was really small until Constantine turned Christianity into a state religion in 314 AD. Also “primitive Church” was morally better than the later one
- after this the liturgy of the Church was covered in “excess” rituals and “the core and meaning” of eucharist, baptism etc were lost and hidden from the people
- Council of Trent froze entire development until Vatican II
- Only after Vatican II and Kiko Arguello’s NCW the core and heart of the early church has been revealed again, NCW is practically what Vatican II proclaimed or at least its most genuine expression
- Ezra and Nehemiah were mentioned, I guess because just like they rebuilt Jerusalem and the Temple, so will NCW rebuilt the Church that had been lost and destroyed for more than 1500 years
- the Host of the Ordinary Mass was object of contempt and a demeaning word was used of it (I do not remember what it was) because it was not “proper bread”
- it was claimed that the early church did not have infant baptism (this one was the strangest one and I am not sure if they actually wanted to mean it… but still it was said)
- modern Judaism was used as a source in the NCW arbitrary reconstruction of the “early church”
- teaching about “the salt, the salted/enlightened and of Judas”… NCW is the Salt, those influenced by it the salted/enlightened and “Judas” are the people outside of its influence, people who are against it and people who “are hard to live with” (this reminded me of actual catechesis I received in my real RCIA where Father — ——— claimed that although many Catholics come to the Mass, perhaps only 1% of them are the salt, whereas 99% are “infants”, “children”, “not adult Catholics” etc. So this judges 99% of Catholics who come to the Mass. I think this contradicts the Gospel where Christ says “do not judge that you be not judged” and “you must become like children”)
- prayer in which a faithful hold the hands together was considered to be inferior. It was “better” to pray so that hands are on the sides or in front of you, with open palms
- during NCW “liturgy” it was told that the Christ’s Body must not be eaten right away and that it will not be given directly to the mouth. I have always assumed that faithful will always have a freedom to receive the Eucharist directly to mouth
- there was no kneeling during the Eucharistic prayer
- like in prosperity “gospel” it was advised to pray for “concrete things” (success in school, work, family life), more “spiritual things”, like repenting heart, were not mentioned
- NCW had a “special permission” to sing hallelujah during Lent. I am not sure if this is correct, but considering everything else said, I am pretty skeptical
Here’s a list with some things that I remember from the “retreat”, there are possibly more that was there but I do not remember right now. I might note that Father — ——— did not claim most of these things and neither did he say the things mentioned above that were spiritual violence. However, he was the one who translated everything to the Slovakian family, so he should have corrected the things said.
About the “retreat” and the Slovakian family: they have arrived here, to a foreign country, they have very few people they know here, they know XXXXXXXX only few words and their English is not good. They are here, separated from their family, from their friends and from the Catholics of their country. There are pretty few Catholics in the area and now most of the “actives” are NCW members. I can’t see this in any other way than that this is predatory behavior and that they are in vulnerable situation and this situation was taken advantage of. I do understand that “retreat” will be organized in a place that is peaceful. But I do think that it is sick that this kind of event is organized so far away. In my opinion this was an attempt to convert and brainwash people.
NCW has also affected to the celebration of Ordinary Mass. During Mass they do not kneel during the Eucharistic prayer. This causes friction in the Mass because when I kneel myself, I start to blame and accuse myself “I hope I will not try to be better than them”. This takes away my concentration on the Mass. I feel that I have no “spiritual space” in the Mass. There have been cases where people who come rarely to the Mass are confused because majority of the people in the Mass acts systematically in a different way.
This feels horrible to say, but since Father — ——— is my confessor, not with this “retreat” a doubt has crept into my mind whether I can trust 100 % that the confessional seal will not be broken. I do not think that anything has been said outside the sacrament, but I still think if some things said in the “retreat” were directed to me and what I have said during confession. This however is just an assumption and I can’t absolutely say that this has happened.
I do not think that this is healthy and ethical practice of a Christian faith. I have not discussed about it with members of NCW since I feel pretty tired after the “retreat” and I am spiritually broken.
Father, I am not sure what to do.
Yours, — —–
So this was my experience of NCW and my letter to the bishop. I hope he does something.
Tags: Neocatechumenal Way