Are We Dealing With a Cult?
As many Catholics on Guam know, the Church on Guam is currently in a state of profound crisis. After much reflection, I have to ask, “Does the Neocatechumenal Way on Guam practice or exhibit any of the classic signs of cults and sects, and if so, which ones?”
ReGAIN, an organization whose mission is to reach out to, unite and support those touched or adversely affected by two other problematic Catholic movements, has published the following list of thirteen characteristics of cult-like organizations. Look through the list, and based on your personal experience or those of your loved ones, count those that apply to the Neocatechumenal Way on Guam. I count at least ten. How about you?
- The group is focused on a living leader to whom members seem to display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment. There is an unhealthy cult of personality around the founder of the NCW, Kiko Arguello.
- The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members. Is anybody really disputing this?
- The group is preoccupied with making money. Kiko’s “New Aesthetic” is quite a cash cow, as many are now beginning to see. Click here to read more about this.
- Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished. Catechumen’s are to listen. Questions are not are either not typically entertained at catechetical sessions.
- The leadership dictates -sometimes in great detail- how members should think, act and feel [for example: members must get permission from leaders to date, change jobs, get married; leaders may prescribe what type of clothes to wear, where to live, how to discipline children, and so forth]. There are many anecdotes regarding the excessive control the catechists have. One mother on Guam was told to have her 13-year old son circumcised. Members must ask permission to take off-island vacations. Young men are encourage to marry “a daughter of Israel” (i.e. a member).
- The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leaders and members [for example: the leader is considered the Messiah, or an avatar; the group and/or the leader has a special mission to save humanity].
- The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which causes conflict with the wider society. Some examples: Kiko’s followers do not worship with the rest of the faithful on Guam, and their youth do not travel with Guam’s faithful to World Youth Day.
- The group’s leader is not accountable to any authorities [as are, for example, military commanders and ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream denominations].
- The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify means that members would have considered unethical before joining the group [for example: collecting money for bogus charities].
- The leadership induces feeling of guilt in members in order to control them. Many anecdotes exist in our local community to assert this. Catechists exert incredible pressure on those who wish to leave, suggesting that their salvation is at risk.
- Members’ subservience to the group causes them to cut ties with family, friends, and personal group goals and activities that were of interest before joining the group. Guam’s families have a tight-knit structure, and countless report have come in describing how NCW membership erodes this structure and its obligations.
- Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group. Absolutely true. Once active, members no longer have much, if any, time to participate in the events of the wider community.
- Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members. There seems to be an attempt to replace Guam’s tight-knit family structure with the NCW community.
Tags: Camino Neocatecumenal, Cammino Neocatecumenale