Wednesday, April 22, 2015
The Age Of The Neocats (Part II)
Why is there such opposition to the Neocatechumenate?
First of all, because there is opposition to all the movements from local bishops and clergy. This is nothing new: St Thomas Aquinas had to defend the Dominicans against the local clergy in Paris; after the Council of Trent bishops whose hearts were not in real reform and renewal did not want the Jesuits in their dioceses.
G K Chesterton noted that whenever there has "appeared, in Catholic history, a new and promising experiment, bolder or broader, more enlightened than existing routine, that movement" was always "upheld" by the papacy, while it was "naturally more or less negatively resisted by the bishops... [and] the clergy... Official oligarchies of that sort generally do resist reform."
Secondly, the Neocatechumenate is especially controversial because it operates within rather than externally to parishes. The main bone of contention is the Saturday evening Mass celebrated for a community or communities.
However, we already have children's and family Masses in parishes from which adults and single people are not excluded, nor have parishioners ever been excluded from Neocatechumenal Eucharists, contrary to popular rumour.
The statutes specifically state that these Eucharists are "part of the ordinary liturgical pastoral work of the parish and are open also to other faithful"; the same would be true of a Tridentine Mass.
They recognise that the Neocats are entitled to have a Mass in their own style, with a number of liturgical innovations (others that were originally permitted on an experimental basis have been disallowed), but it is open to all parishioners, and is no more divisive than a folk or Latin or Tridentine Mass is in a parish.
Anyway, Pope Benedict has firmly rejected the charge of divisiveness as the decisive criterion: "Faith remains a sword and may demand conflict for the sake of truth and love," he has said. And he also has condemned that "attitude of intellectual superiority that immediately brands the zeal of those seized by the Holy Spirit and their uninhibited faith with the anathema of fundamentalism", a charge regularly levelled at members of the Neocatechumenate.
At the time of the Council of Trent what the Church needed above all was a body of highly trained clergy: the charism of St Ignatius Loyola was provided by the Holy Spirit. In this post-conciliar time the greatest need is for baptised Catholics who are not merely sacramentalised but deeply formed in the faith: the Holy Spirit has given the Church the Neocatechumenate.
I believe that June 13, 2008, the day its statutes were formally approved, will be recognised as a significant date in the history of the Church.
Fr Ian Ker teaches theology at Oxford and is a parish priest