Rorate Caeli

The Neocatechumenal Way sits for the Lord and says: "We don't care, we already obey!"

From an interview (in Italian) with the spokesman of the "Neocatechumenal Way", Giuseppe Gennarini, regarding the stern letter demanding the correction of its wrong liturgical practices; the most revealing portions are translated below:

Do you mean to say that the use of [common] bread is foreseen by the liturgical books and is, therefore, absolutely allowed?

It is not we who say this, this is clearly written in the [2002] Roman Missal. It recommends the use of bread which has the appearance of bread (though lightly baked) and leaves the use of the host for when "numero sacram comunionem [sic] sumentium aliaeque rationes pastorales id exigunt" - art 321 of the Roman Missal [He means the GIRM.] This means that hosts are to be used when the number of communicants demands its use or for any other pastoral reason. This is the general law of the Church on the liturgy. It is often those who criticize who are responsible for abuses...

And, regarding the distribution of wine [sic] and the way of reception of Communion (sitting, instead of standing or kneeling), will anything be changed?

Regarding the modes of distribution of either the bread [sic] or of the wine [sic], the letter established a final term, a period during which this [sitting] mode is allowed. A period of two years, exactly those years which remain of that period of time -- five years -- begun with the approval ad experimentum of the statutes of the Way, in 2002. This aspect of the distribution of the bread and of the wine enters thus within this broader picture, in which is inserted the letter of the Congregation.

Nonetheless, the problem of how to perform the distribution of both species is a problem which is much larger than us, which concerns the whole Church and which represents today one of the most complex questions. It has been tried in the past years to distribute the wine with the use of a little spoon (which has been a disaster), with the use of a straw (which has been even worse), there has been an experience with intinction, which is however contrary not only to what the Gospel dictates, but even to the liturgical books themselves. Now the cup is being tried, but it is clear that in a large church the faithful are not willing to communicate in a cup... In sum, the matter is serious and it is truly difficult to find a way which helps to perform the
distribution of both species. In the interior of small communities, the distribution of the cup is often feasible because the number of the faithful is limited and all know one another.

Therefore, if I understand correctly, there will not be changes in practice in the next few years. Everything will thus remain as it has been?

In these two years everything will be evaluated and pondered, in the whole itinerary of recognition of the Neocatechumenal Way. On the distribution of communion, there is a temporary allowance, at the end of which we will see what will happen. Let one thing be clear: if it were an irreverent practice, certainly a period of two years for its elimination would not have been given.

Otherwise, I would like to stress that the letter of the Congregation is a private letter, whose real contents are known only to Cardinal Arinze and Kiko Arguello, Carmen Hernandez, and Father Mario Pezzi, and any use of a private document as a public decision is illegitimate and improper. Even if it were confirmed that the contents of this letter are completely authentic, this would not change its nature as a
private and reserved instrumentum laboris. That is, to consider this letter as if it had power of Law would be as if we considered the Instrumentum Laboris of the Synod on the Eucharist as having equal value as the final document of the Synod.

I had already shared the opinion that the Neocatechumenal Way (which arrogantly calls itself "The Way") could not care less about the document, first made public by my favorite Vaticanist, Andrea Tornielli, in the end of December. As I had said:
Groups like the Neocatechumenal Way probably also do not care much about the recent "edict" regarding their liturgical activities and choices. Who will make sure the rules are followed? No group fears Rome because they sense, in this pontificate as in the recent ones, that Rome has no teeth. The Mother and Teacher of Churches, the Holy Roman Church, is to them an old lady with no strength, no teeth, no willpower, nothing but irrelevant words, "sicut paleæ ante faciem venti, et sicut favilla quam turbo dispergit" (Job, 21: as chaff before the face of the wind, and as ashes which the whirlwind scattereth).

And in this small, minuscule, portion of the interview of the spokesman of "The Way", we can clearly see the grave problems of this truly sectarian group.

(1) The misinterpretation of Church Documents -- for instance, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.

(2) The assumption that IT is the interpreter of Scripture, in the flabbergasting words of the spokesman of "The Way" when he condemns the communion by intinction as ANTI-BIBLICAL. I am completely convinced that the decision on communion in ONE species, canonised by Trent, is fruit of the wisdom of the Church, as the confusion regarding the distribution of the Precious Blood shows. However, one cannot deny that, as far as communion under both species goes (allowed under exceptional circumstances by Vatican II), intinction is probably the best and less messy choice. WHO are these people in "The Way" who consider themselves main interpreters of what "the Gospel dictates"?

(3) The assumption that the Church spent hundreds of years denying the "proper way of celebrating the Eucharist" as "dictated" by the Gospel to her faithful; this is implicit throughout the interview.

(4) The absurd statement that a letter for the correction of abuses in the corrupt liturgical practices of "The Way", approved by the Pope, is as non-authoritative as a preparatory document for discussions of bishops in a Synod of Bishops.

(5) The clear way in which the correction of the most bizarre of the abuses of "The Way" (namely, sitting communicants) is considered an authorization. The two-year period, which should be considered a graceful concession in the spirit of "non-rupture" defended by this pope, is considered a mere suggstion, "at the end of which we will see what will happen".
It actually makes a lot of sense: if they sit for the Lord, why would they stand up to obey His Vicar?


  1. I've heard the line about everyone else being wrong on common bread by one of our own university chaplains.

    But, they seriously tried to use a straw to suck up the Precious Blood, and then admitted it?

    What disturbs me most is that they have their seminaries in the dioceses of Chaput, Myers, and Pell.

  2. Being a lawyer by trade, and knowing something about how alleged disciplinary documents have worked during the last forty years, my own view is that the Way is probably pretty much in good faith in treating the supposedly stern injunctions of the Vatican as a non-event. Remember that telling the Way to conform to the current authoritative pronouncements (for example, the current GIRM) is telling them to appeal to documents riddled with options and exceptions and escape hatches and overrides. This enables the Vatican to placate the conservative suckers while leaving the objects of criticism to continue doing pretty much what they feel like doing. Cf. the Republican alarums and excursions on abortion that somehow never seem to get anywhere.

    Look: the Way's liturgical pecularities were no secret when when the Vatican gave its statues temporary approval. If the Vatican were really interested in cracking down, that would have been the time to do it. All the evidence suggests that this is more eyewash.

    But the real problem with the Way is that its theology is basically Lutheran. Go chase down the stuff that Christian Order in England has published over the years. A now-deceased Italian Passionist named Enrico Zoffoli published at least one big fat book demonstrating their heterodoxy. For a shorter account, look up the stuff by Mark Alessio, a former member of the Way, in The Remnant and Catholic Family News. If the Vatican doesn't mind their being Lutherans, do you really think it much cares about their messing around with the Mass? And if the Vatican doesn't care, why be scandalized that Chaput, Myers and Pell either don't know or don't care what they've taken unto their bosoms?

    P.S. A straw-like device was one of the techniques used in the first millennium, according to Father Fortescue's "The Mass." The problems with all the ways of communicating reverently under both species are obviously why it was abandoned in the Latin rite. Gennarini's pooh-poohing intinction is disingenuous, since it's the most workable technique for a large congregation and is, I think, standard in the Greek church, both Catholic and schismatic.

  3. I am a member of a precatechumenate community in Wyoming. I must first say that all members of "The Way" I have ever encountered are explicitly and unreservedly obedient to the Holy Father. So, whatever His Holiness offers as corrections will be followed without question.
    Secondly, in spite of the pejorative language used by many commentators, I have observed a much broader expression of a deep Eucharistic piety among the followers of "The Way" than I have observed in most parishes, and I have been a lot of parishesaround the country. One thing I believe is missed by many commentators on the way is that the Neocatechumenal Way is just what the name implies, a way of formation based upon the understanding that to be a Christian is to be open to conversion by the teachings of the Revelation of Our Lord and the Prophets who preceded him as conveyed to us by the Sacred Tradition. It is not an Order, or a Sodality, or a prayer group, but simply a group of people who are asking The Lord to act in their lives.

  4. Re: the final straw

    Receiving the Precious Blood through a tube of some sort (usually referred to as a fistula)is actually a very ancient practice, dating back to at least the time of Charlemagne. It remains, to this day, the method by which the Pope receives the consecrated wine at a traditional Solemn Papal Mass. See the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Chalices, for more information.

    Of course, this doesn't excuse the "Way"'s shenanigans.

    By the way, don't try a Google Images search to see what a fistula looks like. Trust me.

  5. 1. Yes, fortunately or not, the straw-like instrument is openly allowed in Redemptionis Sacramentum (and one can only guess the mess it may cause).

    2. I do not believe any current peculiar practice is justified by specific characteristics of the old Papal Rites, especially regarding instruments destined to the Pontiff alone.

    3. I do not believe in "good faith", Jack McFarland. Not from them. Good faith is quite different from "lying low" and disregarding liturgical corrections because a "period of grace" was given, while the group "waits to see what happens".

    Thanks to all for your visits and comments. Keep the discussion going on: I always accept corrections.

  6. Enjoyed Jack McFarland's world-weary comments. Are they realism or cynicism? I'm not sure. They do remind me of Michael Davies' dictum (that has now become something of a byword, I think) that in reading even the most orthodox document, full of pious exhortations--it's not what is enjoined, but what is permitted, that counts.

    However: isn't Ockham's razor the proper tool to use here? First permitting, then suppressing these abberant behaviors may reflect nothing more than a change of Popes. I take it they were approved by the (indulgent? romantic? negligent?)JPII, and now squelched by his apparently more realistic and grown-up successor. Isn't this consistent with BXVI's corralling of the Assisi Franciscans? I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.

    Scotus' interesting comments on the fistula notwithstanding, widespread distribution of the Precious Blood is inherently messy, awkward, superfluous, and a virtual invitation to sacrilege. Why in the world was it re-introduced to general usage? Didn't the Council order redundancies, duplications and excesses removed from the Mass? Wasn't the Novus Ordo touted as a stripped-down, speeded-up, streamlined version of the Mass, more in tune with today's go-go pace? As is so often the case, what we actually got seems to be the opposite of what was called for. Why?

  7. Entering the strange world of the Neo-Catechumenal Way. I hacve posted some illuminating pictures and further links on my blog. I will try to add some more material over the next few days.

  8. I have been a member of a "first community" for almost a year now, and have been very torn by what I've seen there.

    What they offer is both good and bad, IMHO. They strictly adhere to Magerterial teaching. I enjoy the way they approach scripture, tho in my community we could use some authoratative guidance with that.

    Where they get it so desperately wrong in in their approach to the Holy Eucharist- the MOST IMPORTANT THING! I've read that they do things in other communities that we do not do in ours. The priest or deacon always distributes Communion, under both species. We have never passed It one to the other.

    But they do sit to receive, which I will not. I have stopped going to their masses because of this, and only attend the Liturgy of the Word meetings.

    Also, to the credit of our pastor, we do celebrate the mass in the church, to the dismay of our catechists, who would prefer we celebrate in the basement. I consider doing that an insult to the poor imigrants who sacrificed to build a magnificent church over one hundred years ago, and also to the millions of Americans who gave their lives over the last 230 years so that we could practice our faith without hiding in the basement to do it.

    I can understand the attraction of the group to someone who is looking for the real Catholic Church and cannot find it in parishes, certainly not on a Sunday. My suggestion is to look for an orthodox religious community to get involved with. If you can do some volunteering with them and attend some of their services, you will see that the real Church survives. I am fortunate enough to know the Franciscans of the Renewal, in the NY metro area. They may be a little "modern" for a strict traditionalist, but they are very Marian, pro-life and have a deep devotion to the Holy Eucharist. I love their liturgies as I love the Tridentine Mass I attend on Sundays.

    Other communities I would recommend are the Sisters of Life, Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa's group) or the Missionaries of the Poor (Father Ho Lung's group in Jamaica.) I'm sure there are others in other parts of the country.

    I've gone on for too long. Thank you for your time.

  9. Thanks for the info on the fistula - very interesting!

  10. NEver heard of GC's using a straw: the consecrated elements are mixed, and administered with a spoon.

  11. Anonymous12:43 PM

    May I suggest that you all read the interview with Cardinal Arinze found on this link:

    The interview gives us a definite picture of what transpired behind the scenes with regard to that letter which Mr. Gennarini claims is "private" to Mr. Arguello, Ms. Hernandez and Fr. Pezzi, and whose contents are known only to them. IT IS NOT PRIVATE.


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