On the eve of a meeting of 7000 members of the Neo-Catechumenal Way in the Aula Paul VI at the Vatican earlier this week, leaders of the movement announced that the Pope would use the occasion to sign a Decree from the Congregation of Divine Worship formally approving the group’s peculiar liturgies. No such thing happened. Approval, such as it was, came instead from the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and extended only to the Neo-Catechumens’ non-liturgical practices, which do not include their insistence on lay preaching, saying Mass while sitting around a table, standing during the Eucharistic Prayer, and receiving Holy Communion in a seated position after passing the Precious Blood around from hand to hand.
The Neo-Catechumenal Way, which numbers about a million people, was warned several years ago by Pope Benedict XVI against its non-liturgical innovations and given two years to abandon them. While a Vatican official has told Catholic News Agency that the movement has “obtained no new permissions whatsoever,” it seems also not to have followed the Pope’s earlier directives. If it had, why should the Neo-Catechumens have expected to have their practices vindicated by Benedict this week?
Apparently the Vatican has been moving in an uncertain fashion against the Way, whose adherents seem to believe that being a baptized, confirmed, and practicing member of the Catholic Church is spiritually insufficient, and that added Grace (obtained only by following the Way) is necessary for a full experience of, and appreciation for, the Faith. My admittedly limited contact with the Neo-Catechumenal missionaries suggests to me that they are controlled hysterics and neurotics, whose preferred religious ethos is essentially enthusiastic. The Vatican’s tempered indulgence (since 1968) of this cult, which could have arisen only in the wake of the liturgical reforms of Vatican II but exceeds them by far, defies explanation.
Chilton Williamson, Jr.