Looking for information about a movement called the Neocathecumenate Way.
THE NEOCATECHUMENAL WAY: PRELIMINARY ENQUIRY
Submitted for your consideration is our lengthy report relating to the presence of the Neocatechumenal Way at three Parishes of the Clifton Diocese, Great Britain : St Nicholas of Tolentino in Bristol, St Peter in Gloucester and Sacred Hearts at Chariton Kings in Cheltenham.
This report was compiled by Paul Anthony Melanson .
Paul is the coordinator of www.FaithfulVoice.com New Hampshire , USA
You may contact Paul at email@example.com
Paul can be reached at http://LasaletteJourney.Blogspot.com
What is the Neo-Catechumenal Way?
I am looking for information about a movement called the Neocathecumenate Way. I only read the article of Father Enricco Zofolli.He wrote about it and it was nothing good.It sounded like a cult.Could you please help me with that?
Letters and info will be offered as the following.
I discovered two more links on the NCW which may be of interest:
These articles allude to doctrinal errors within the NCW
(PLEASE NOTE: This Web version of the Report still has a number of errors and is not yet finished being processed, but is an interim attempt to get the information to more people. It is released on the anniversary of the Report's Publication and an improved online version is hoped for this Winter.)
Clifton , Great Britain
1 November 1996 Bishop Alexander
St Nicholas of Tolentino; St Peter and Sacred Hearts
THE NEOCATECHUMENAL WAY: PRELIMINARY ENQUIRY
Submitted for your consideration is our lengthy report relating to the presence of the Neocatechumenal Way at three Parishes of the Clifton Diocese, Great Britain : St Nicholas of Tolentino in Bristol, St Peter in Gloucester and Sacred Hearts at Chariton Kings in Cheltenham.
Appointed for the Enquiry at the beginning of the year, each member of the Panel knew nothing or very little about the Neocatechumenal Way. We looked on this start situation as very advantageous to all the 'participants', simply because the Panel had no preconceived ideas. In this way, we would be able more readily to assess all the representations (written and oral) with an open mind without a prejudiced attitude so that the Enquiry would be perceived by all as fair, open and reasonable. We still hope that this has proved to be the case; we believe that it has.
Given our starting position, the Panel has experienced a 'learning curve' about the Neocatechumenal Way. This has necessarily taken time but could not be avoided: we felt this to be necessary m order to understand the expressed views. As you know, two members of the Panel are unfamiliar with an investigation process of this kind; this has been another learning curve. Time will tell whether the experience has been beneficial.
As the Chairman, my role has necessarily been at the front but this does not mean that Valerie and Fr Barnaby merely added to the Panel in appearance. Their assistance has been invaluable, not just to bolster but to provide words of counsel; I appreciate this. I am most grateful for their unstinting assistance and sense of humour shown at just the right time. The investigating experience for Fr Barnaby is not made easier because fellow priests from the Diocese are part of the Enquiry process. I would ask that this be remembered.
We have met and worked as a team very regularly, more regularly during the report formulation period. At the beginning and end of our meetings, we prayed for guidance knowing also that others in the parishes had and were praying for the Panel We are most grateful for such necessary support and the co-operation of people either in writing or at the meetings. We wish to thank each priest: Canon O'Brien, Canon English and Fr Trafford for their help.
Finally, the Panel wishes to thank you for your co-operation by answering our questions some of which might have been difficult.
Valerie James Tom Millington Fr Barnaby Dowling
Father all powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Through Christ you bring us to the knowledge of
that we may be united by one faith and one baptism
to become his body.
Through Christ you have given the Holy Spirit to
How wonderful are the works of the Spirit,
revealed in so many gifts!
Yet how marvellous is the unity
the Spirit creates from their diversity,
as he dwells in the hearts of your children,
filling the whole Church with his presence
and guiding it with his wisdom.
[Preface of Christian Unity]
1 THE ENQUIRY
2 PAPAL SUPPORT FOR THE NC; PANEL APPRAISAL
3 THE NC WAY; PANEL APPRAISAL
PART 2 SUMMARY OF FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS:
A. THE ENQUIRY; VIEWS AND EXPECTATIONS
B. PERCEIVED PAPAL ATTITUDES TO THE NC WAY
C. INITIAL INTRODUCTION OF THE NEOCATECHUMENAL WAY TO THE CITY OF BRISTOL
D. SUBSEQUENT NC INTRODUCTION TO PARISHES AND DISCONTINUANCE
E. PARISHES WITH THE NEOCATECHUMENAL WAY:
i. ST NICHOLAS OF TOLENTINO
ii. ST PETER
iii. SACRED HEARTS
F. PARISH CLERGY AND ATTITUDES TO NC
G. BISHOP ALEXANDER AND THE NC
H. ATTITUDES OF VICARS GENERAL TO NC
I. NC CATECHESIS AND NC COMMUNITIES IN THE PARISHES
3. PERCEIVED PERSONAL BENEFITS OF NC WAY
K. THE LITURGY OF THE NEO-CATECHUMENATE
L. VULNERABILITY AND ADVERSE PERSONAL EFFECTS OF NC
M. ADVERSE REACTIONS TO NEOCATECHUMENAL WAY
N. THE SITUATION JUST BEFORE AND AFTER MARCH 1994
0. DECLINING MASS ATTENDANCES
P. ADULT CONVERSION; ROLES OF RCIA AND NC WAY
Q. SACRAMENTAL PREPARATION PROGRAMMES
R. EDUCATION AND YOUTH PILGRIMAGES
S. SECRETIVENESS AND EXCLUSIVENESS
T. NC 'AUTHORITY' AND 'CONTROL'
U. POSSIBLE FUTURE SOLUTIONS
V. CONCLUSIONS; CANON 212 AND RECOMMENDATIONS
1 THE ENQUIRY
1.1 At the beginning of January 1996, the Right Reverend Mervyn Alexander, Bishop of
Clifton, established a Panel of Enquiry to consider the claim made by some parishioners
in at least three parishes in the Diocese that their parishes have suffered harm and neglect
through the presence and activities of the Neo-Catechumenate. These views were made
known to Bishop Alexander in accord with Canon 212.
-- 1.2 Canon 212 states:
i. Christ's faithful, conscious of their own responsibility, are bound to show
Christian obedience to what the sacred Pastors, who represent Christ,
declares as teachers of the faith and prescribe as rulers of the Church.
- ii. Christ's faithful are at liberty to make known their needs, especially their
spiritual needs, and their wishes to the Pastors of the Church.
iii. They have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their
knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors
their views on matters which concern the good of the Church. They have
the right also to make their views known to others of Christ's faithful, but
in doing so they must always respect the integrity of faith and morals,
show due reverence to the Pastors, and take into account both the
common good and the dignity of individuals.
1.3 The Enquiry sought information from those who are members of the Neocatechumenal
Way, from parishioners of the three parishes who are not members and from persons
outside of the parishes or outside of the Clifton Diocese who wished to offer their views.
1.4 The Panel appointed for the Enquiry is: Mr Tom Millington (chair) a Member of the Lord
Chancellor's Panel of Independent Inspectors assisted by Mrs Valerie James, a Member
of the Diocesan Trustees and a former National President of the Union of Catholic
Mothers and by Fr Barnaby Dowling, Parish Priest of Wells.
1.5 After considering different enquiry methods, it was decided by the Panel to invite written
representations in answer to the question:
"what has the Neo-Catechumenate done for you and your Parish?"
1.6 Following the consideration by the Panel of the written responses received over a period
- of months from the parishes, public meetings were held on a separate basis for members
of the Neocatechumenal Way and for non-members. These meetings took place:
1. The Parish of St Nicholas of Tolentino in Bristol: for NC members on 27
April at the Dunstan Centre and for non-NC on 28 April at the Apostle
Room, Clifton Cathedral;
ii. The Parish of St Peters in Gloucester: for NC members on 8 June at the
'Upper Room' of the Church buildings and for non-NC on 13 June at the Parish Social Centre;
iii. The Parish of Sacred Hearts at Charlton Kings in Cheltenham: for NC members on 22 June at the Parish Hall and for non-NC on 29 June also at the Parish Hall.
1.7 In addition, the Panel has met the Parish Priests on an individual basis to seek clarification of matters in representations or at the public meetings, also to understand more clearly their involvement in and their commitment to the Neocatechumenal Way. These meetings took place with Very Rev Canon Jeremiah T O'Brien (PP of St Nicholas of Tolentino) on 24 July, with Very Rev Canon Michael English (PP of St Peters) on 1 August and with Fr Anthony D Trafford BA (PP of Sacred Hearts) on 26 July. The Panel also met the Vicars General: Rt Rev Mgr Canon Joseph C Buckley Prot Ap, JCD on 15 August and Rt Rev Mgr Canon William Mitchell MA JCL on 22 August to obtain clarification of their reported involvement at two of the Parishes in consequence of the NC. On 9 September, the Panel met the NC National Teams of Catechists (Fr Jose' Guzman, Mr & Mrs Lees, Mr & Mrs Hayward) in Bristol to obtain clarification about the Neocatechumenal Way generally and its objectives in particular. Individual people have also been interviewed by the Panel.
1.8 Prior to formulating this report, the Panel has met Bishop Mervyn Alexander DD to seek clarification on matters raised in writing or orally about the Neo Catechumenate or Neocatechumenal Way within the Clifton Diocese since the Autumn of 1979.
1.9 This presence goes back for some 17 years and over such a period, individual memories might not be so sharp or well remembered. Inevitably, events and their dates are not always explained on a consistent basis; there are contradictions. Though the submitted written and oral information has not been tested fully in an adversarial or judicial sense, the Panel has sought to validate information as far as possible. All the representations from the parishes and from outside have been considered by the Panel in formulating comments, conclusions and recommendations.
1.10 As indicated at the beginning of each public meeting in the parishes, the Panel regards
the main purpose of the Enquiry to assess whether the presence and activities of the a
Neocatechumenal Way has caused harm in each Parish and to what extent.
1.11 The Panel is grateful for the written and oral responses, for the warm welcomes when visiting the Parishes and the clergy; and not least for the many prayers inviting the Holy Spirit to provide the necessary powers of discernment, wisdom, patience, compassion and charity for the Panel and all involved during this necessarily lengthy investigation. The Panel much appreciates the typing assistance provided by Mrs Barbara Jones; her unstinting application to the task of creating this long report is commendable.
2 PAPAL SUPPORT FOR THE NC; PANEL APPRAISAL
2.1 In responses to the Panel, members of the NC point to and rely upon two papacies (by
- Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II) for the validity and credibility of the Neocatechumenal Way over the years. In responding to various points of clarification by the Panel, Bishop Mervyn Alexander explained: "On several occasions I was given literature emphasising the strong support of the Holy Father for the Neocatechumenal Way.." Hence this report begins by identifying the more important of numerous statements brought to the Panel's attention either in representations or in texts submitted with or without comment, that bear directly upon the Panel's task of assessing the effect of the NC Way at the parishes.
2.2 Some of the leading lay opponents of the Neocatechumenal Way perceive this Papal support to be gained on the basis of incomplete or even misguided information: for example, the Panel has been requested 'to discover' the documentation about the NC that is referred to in a papal letter of general approval for the NC Way on 30 August 1990. Whilst such 'discovery' is outside the scope of the Enquiry, the concern is noted by the Panel given the limited 'official information' about the Neocatechumenal Way provided for the Enquiry by the NC itself.
2.3 Fortunately, informative and seemingly authoritative documents are provided for the Panel by others. There is a caveat to this provision namely, that the specific source from whom the documents about the NC Way are obtained remains anonymous. The Panel
- respects the request for anonymity and, as far as possible, includes extracts from the submitted representations so that they are not readily attributed to a particular person.
2.4 Two letters from His Holiness Pope John Paul II on 30 August 1990 and 12 April 1993 about the Neocatechumenal Way are submitted by NC members pointing to the validation given by the Holy Father. These letters are reproduced below. Other or additional papal views are given in the book: "The Neocatechumenal Way according to Paul VI and John Paul II," a copy of which was delivered to each member of the Panel by the 'NC Itinerant Team of Catechists' on the evening prior to the first meeting with NC members at St Nicholas of Tolentino. The Panel's reactions to this visit are given later.
2.5 An editorial note explains that: "the present collection does not contain all the speeches and words of Paul VI and John Paul II....Here we report the texts of around forty meetings held with the NC Communities (general audiences, particular audiences, visits to parishes) out of more than sixty that have already taken place in the Vatican and the Diocese of Rome alone....Most of the speeches were made ad lib....and they retain all the strength and freshness of this spontaneity."
To Our Venerable Brother
Monsignor PAUL JOSEF CORDES
Vice President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity
Appointed "ad personam"
For the Apostolate of the Neocatechumenal Communities
Every time the Holy Spirit germinates in the Church impulses for greater faithfulness to the
Gospel, there flourish new charisms which manifest these realities, and new institutions which
put them into practice. It was so thus after the Council of Trent and after the Second Vatican
Among the realities generated by the Spirit in our days figure the Neocatechumenal Communities, initiated by Mr K Argüello and Ms C Hernández (Madrid, Spain), the effectiveness of which for the renewal of Christian life was acclaimed by my predecessor, Paul VI, as a fruit of the Council: "How much joy and how much hope you give us by your presence and by your activity... .To live and to promote this re-awakening is what you call a 'post baptism' way which will be able to renew in today's Christian communities those effects of maturity and deepening that, in the primitive Church, were realised by the period of preparation for Baptism" (Paul VI to the Neocatechemenal Communities, General Audience 8 May 1974 in Notitiae 96-96, 1974, 230).
I too, as Bishop of Rome, have been able to verify the abundant fruits of personal conversion and fruitful missionary impulse in the many meetings I have had in the Roman parishes with the Neocatechumenal Communities and their Pastors, and in my apostolic journeys in many nations.
These communities make visible in the parishes the sign of the missionary church and 'they strive to open a way for the evangelisation of those who have almost abandoned the Christian life, offering them an itinerary of a catechumenal type which goes through all those stages that the catechumens went through in the primitive church before receiving the sacrament of Baptism:
it brings them back to the Church and to Christ' (cf 'Postbaptismal Catechumenate' in Notitiae 96-96, 1974, 229). The announcement of the Gospel, the witnessing in small communities and the Eucharistic celebration in groups (cf Notification on the celebration of groups of the "Neocatechumenal Way" in L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO, 24 December 1988) is what enables the members to put themselves at the service of the renewal of the Church.
Many Brothers in the Episcopate have acknowledged the fruits of this Way. I want only to recall Mons. Casimiro Morcillo, the then Bishop of Madrid, in whose diocese and under whose government the Neocatechumenal Communities - which he welcomed with so much love - were born in the year 1964.
After twenty years of the life of these communities, spread throughout the five continents:
- taking into account the new vitality which animates the parishes, the missionary impulse and the fruits of conversion which blossom from the dedication of the itinerants and, lately, from the work of the families which evangelise in dechristianised areas of Europe and of the whole world;
- in consideration of the vocations to the religious life and to the presbyterate which have arisen from this Way, and of the birth of diocesan colleges of formation to the presbyterate for the new evangelisation, such as the REDEMPTORIS MATER of Rome;
- having examined the documentation presented by you: welcoming the request addressed to me, I acknowledge the Neocatechumenal Way as an itinerary of Catholic formation, valid for our society and for our times.
It is therefore my wish that the Brothers in the Episcopate - together with their presbyters - value and help this work for the new evangelisation so that it may be implemented according to the lines proposed by its initiators, in the spirit of service to the local Ordinary and in communion with him in the context of the unity of the local church and the universal Church.
As a pledge of this wish of mine, I impart to you, and to all those who belong to the Neocatechumenal Communities, my Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, 30 August 1990, 12 Year of the Pontificate.
Signed: JOANNES PAULUS ppII
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, Dearest Brothers and Sisters!
It is a cause of great consolation for me, just a few years since my appeal for a new evangelisation of Europe, to know that you are gathered in Vienna to reflect together upon the fruits of the missionary activity which the priests, itinerants and families of the Neocatechumenal Way are carrying out with a generous impulse and great zeal for the Gospel.
On the occasion of the opening of the work of the Special Assembly for Europe, on 5 June 1990, I noted with regret that in our continent many people are used to looking upon reality "as if God did not exist". Within such a perspective, I added, man "becomes the source of the moral law, and only those laws which man gives to himself constitute the measure of his conscience and of his behaviour" (Insegnamenti, vol XIII, 1, 1990, pp. 1517f). On the other hand, it cannot be denied that the Holy Spirit, by means of the Vatican Council, has raised up valid instruments with which to respond to the questions of contemporary man, and among these is also the Neocatechumenal Way. After various years, having regard to the results which have been achieved, I decided to encourage this experience in writing, in view of the new evangelisation, wishing that this experience be helped and valued by my brothers in the episcopate (cf letter of 30 August 1990).
Many of you are direct witnesses of such results and also protagonists through the help you have given to spreading this new ecclesial reality; therefore your reflection today is particularly important, as was that of the bishops of the American continent during the meeting last year in Santo Domingo.
The Neocatechumenal Way, in which the itinerants and the family missionaries mature, is able to respond to the challenge of secularism, the diffusion of sects and the shortage of vocations. The reflection upon the Word of God and the participation in the Eucharist make possible a gradual initiation into the sacred mysteries, to form living cells of the Church and renew the vitality of the parish by means of mature Christians capable of bearing witness to the truth through a radically lived faith.
This Way appears particularly qualified to contribute in dechristianised areas to the necessary reimplantatio ecclesiae, leading man in his moral behaviour towards obedience to revealed truth and even to reconstructing the very fabric of society, which has decayed due to a lack of knowledge of God and His love. Already, in some regions, nuclei of missionary families are being formed which can be the light of Christ and an example of life.
But such a mission would not be possible without presbyters prepared to accompany and sustain with their ordained ministry this work of the new evangelisation. I am grateful to the Lord who has willed to raise up numerous vocations and therefore the setting up of the diocesan and
missionary seminaries in various countries of Europe, called by the sweet name of the Virgin a Mary, "Redemtoris Mater".
I also place your meeting under her maternal protection and her powerful inspiration, that it may give you further impetus and courage in your apostolic commitment towards contemporary man, who needs the guidance of pastors and of witnesses sent by them, in order to know God, to invoke His name and to receive salvation from Him.
May the light of the Risen Lord, which we have solemnly celebrated in the Paschal Vigil continue to shine within you, sustaining you in your mission in the service of the Church and of the whole of humanity.
- From the Vatican 12 April 1993.
Joannes Paulus II
2.6 Whilst the general import of the approval letter on 30 August 1990 is constantly borne in mind by the Panel, there are several particular indicators within the text that seem so germaine to our task given the neutral question for would-be participants of the Enquiry:
"what has the NC done for you and your Parish?"
2.7 The first 'indicator' from the letter is:
"These (NC) communities make visible in the parishes the sign of the missionary church and they strive to open a way for the evangelisation of those who have almost abandoned the Christian life offering them an itinary of a catechumenal type which goes through all those stages that the catechumens went through in the primitive church before receiving the sacrament of Baptism: it brings them back to the Church and to Christ."
2.8 In the light of the representations made to the Panel (written and oral) part of our task is a
to assess whether the experience gained since 1980, when the first NC community was
formed in the Clifton Diocese at St Nicholas of Tolentino and St Patrick in Bristol, "does
make visible in the three parishes the sign of the missionary church." Another part of the a
task is to assess whether these NC communities bring back to the Church and to Christ
those in Bristol or Cheltenham or Gloucester "who have almost abandoned the Christian
2.9 The second main 'indicator' from the letter is:
"The announcement of the Gospel, the witnessing in small communities and the Eucharistic celebration in groups is what enables members to put themselves at the service of the renewal of the Church."
2.10 The submitted information and the meetings show that there are two or three small a
communities (generally about 20 to 25 in each) at the three parishes, where each
community celebrates the Liturgy of the Word during the week and on Saturday evening.
The latter situation stems from the edict on 15 March 1994 by Bishop Mervyn Alexander
that the Eucharist shall not be celebrated by the NC communities on Saturdays or
Sundays though this is permissible during the week. These 'celebrations' by the NC
together with the issues of 'service' and 'renewal' are considered separately for each
parish with findings and conclusions in a summary at Part II of this report.
2.11 In forming conclusions, regard is given by the Panel to a 'primary indicator' of Pope John Paul II at the conclusion of the letter namely:
"It is therefore my wish that the Brothers in the Episcopate - together with their presbyters - value and help this work for the new evangelisation so that it may be implemented according to the lines proposed by its initiators, in the spirit of service to the local Ordinary and in communion with him in the context of the unity of the local Church and the Universal Church."
2.12 From the representations (written and oral), it is apparent to the Panel (and to others) that
Bishop Alexander perceived initially (in 1979/80) the 'potential' value and help which this (NC) work for the new evangelisation might have within the City of Bristol. However, the evidence points strongly that this initial perception of the NC objectives and methods was not on the basis of being "well informed" or "well briefed or guided" by those seeking to promote an important evangelical role for the Neocatechumenal Way within this city. Section 4 below considers the NC Way introduction to the City in more detail.
2.13 It has to be stated that the Panel's perception of the NC objectives and method of implementation has 'evolved' through a gradual and at times a labourious process assisted thankfully by the submission of documented information about the NC mainly from those who are not members but who have a more than a fleeting interest. The Panel is well aware that some of the motives behind those submissions could be in question but it takes the view that this co-operation is well intentioned in the hope that the Panel's task is enlightened and lightened.
2.14 This contrasts markedly with the rather guarded approach by the NC itself in regard to the submission of documented information, seemingly a limited resource and especially so given the often repeated claim that the NC is an 'oral tradition.' Whilst their book:
"The Neocatechumenal Way. ..."is informative in general terms, with a significant amount of its space given to papal statements or homilies about the NC, hence the book title, this book is available to all via the bookshop; it is not a 'restricted document' with detailed and informative as well as accredited guidance about the NC objectives and catechetical methods.
2.15 There has not been a particularly open enlightenment for the Panel from the NC itself (locally and nationally) about objectives for the NC Way in a Parish role. Virtually at the last minute, following the Panel's meeting in September with the NC National Team, was a formal explanation submitted to the Enquiry; this is considered in Section 3 below. The circumstances of this Enquiry are not comparable to the broader situation perceived by some leading lay opponents of the NC Way when asking of the Panel: "Just how well informed or how well advised was the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II about the NC activities in parishes prior to indicating approval for the Neocatechumenal Way in the letter of 30 August 1990?" This stems from their perceptions of the NC 'modus operandi' at the parishes in Bristol, Cheltenham and Gloucester.
2.16 Insofar as the Panel is able to adduce, this general approval for the NC Way in August
1990 seems to have been influenced by factors gleaned or seen directly by the Holy Father during a 20 year period throughout five continents and described in these terms:
a. it brings new vitality which animates the parish;
b. it brings vocations to the religious life and the presbyterate with the consequent 'Diocesan Colleges of Formation' to the presbyterate for the new evangelisation.
- Another facet will be any 'documentation' considered about the NC Way; the Panel is not privy to this..
2.17 This Enquiry essentially seeks to adduce whether 'a new vitality' has been created to 'animate' the three Parishes since the NC Way introduction and of course in that context, to identity any vocational fruits attributed directly to the NC. The fruits of evangelisation, any new vitality and any animation are considered for each parish with the findings and conclusions gathered in the summary - Part II of the Report.
2.18 As for: 'the implementation of the new evangelization according to the lines proposed by the initiators,' the Panel understands this to mean the evangelization method of the NC Way in a Parish along the lines of the initiators: namely Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernández. Such lines are controlled and supervised by the NC National Teams Catechists from outside of the Clifton Diocese.
2.19 Whenever possible, the Panel has posed questions at meetings and interviews relating to the papal guidance about NC implementation: "....in the spirit of service to 'Bishop Mervyn Alexander' and in communion with him in the context of the unity of the local Church...." This guidance is interpreted by the Panel to mean that the Neocatechumenal Way should function as and where Bishop Alexander permits so that it is not or does not have the potential to become a cause of disunity within a parish. The expressions: "in the spirit of service to..." and "...in communion with..." are of the essence in this guidance, as is a most important word: 'unity' bearing in mind expressed views by Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II about the fundamental importance of the 'Parish' and 'Parish Community' (considered later).
2.20 It is known by the Panel that Bishop Mervyn Alexander initially regarded the NC as having something to offer in its goal of renewing faith and reaching out to those alienated from the Church. The Bishop has indicated this in a formal response to questions by the
"In the early days my hopes were that the NC could have become a parish group in harmony with other parish organisations. ft seemed it could offer a deeper understanding of Scripture and a stronger commitment to the Church. I had heard about the many priestly and religious vocations that had come from among NC members elsewhere. Also there were accounts of parishes being revitalised by the NC. I have always realised the importance of small communities within a parish and so this attracted me initially Opponents say that in effect the NC seeks to take over the parish and to direct sacramental preparation programmes."
2.21 The following section of the report considers 'The Neocatechumenal Way' in more detail but it is appropriate to quote here from their published book (at page 163):
"It does not seem possible to prove the hypothesis of those who say that in the parishes with Neocatechumenal Communities all other movements disappear and that the priests neglect these other movements."
"The Neocatechumenal Way is not a movement, an apostolic group or an association."
2.22 In a published critique about the Neocatechumenal Way, Mgr J Buckley (VG) asks the consequent question: "If it is not a movement or an association, what is it?" The Panel has not sought to answer this question but it explores, considers and reaches conclusions as to whether: "the NC at the three parishes has operated or does operate in the spirit of service to Bishop Mervyn Alexander and in communion with him in the context of the unity of the local Church..." The main findings and conclusions about the parishes are in the summary at Part II of the report.
2.23 In the letter of 12 April 1993 to Bishops, priests, itinerants and families of the Neocatcechumenal Way assembled in Vienna, Pope John Paul II praises their missionary activity. After recognising that the NC Way is able to respond to the challenges of secularism, the diffusion of sects and the shortage of vocations he stated:
"The reflection upon the Word of God and the participation in the Eucharist make possible a gradual initiation into the sacred mysteries to form living cells of the Church and renew the vitality of the parish by means of mature Christians capable of bearing witness to the truth through a radically lived faith."
"This Way appears particularly qualified to contribute in dechristianised areas to the necessary 'reimplantio ecclesiae' leading man in his moral behaviour towards obedience to revealed truth and even contributing to the very fabric of society, which is decayed due to a lack of knowledge of God and His love."
Again the concept of renewing the vitality of the parish is indicated: "by means of mature Christians capable etc..." which is of course referring to most of those present - to NC members in their missionary activity carried out with: "a generous impulse and great zeal for the Gospel."
- 2.24 Whilst this and other promulgated papal affirmation for the NC Way has to be considered, these letters in particular bear upon an often made point by those not in favour or those opposed to the NC that the NC Catechists and indeed their Parish Priest, uphold and encourage the NC Way as: "the only way to salvation." The Panel is quite satisfied that such proclamations have been made within the Parishes, though we cannot be certain of the precise context of such a pronouncement. However, it is necessary to record here the consistent response given individually to the Panel by each Parish Priest when asked directly about this:
"Such a stance is not and cannot be correct; it would be heretical for such a statement to be made."
2.25 In the letter of 12 April 1993, Pope John Paul II stated: "On the other hand, it cannot be denied that the Holy Spirit, by means of the Vatican Council, has raised up valid instruments with which to respond to the questions of contemporary man, and among these is also the Neocatechumenal Way." The Holy Father makes plain that the NC Way is but one among other instruments of Catholic evangelisation. This needs no
- further comment by the Panel.
2.26 In the context of this Diocesan Enquiry, it is not for the Panel to contemplate upon all of the reported statements by two papacies about the Neocatechumenal Way, but it is noticeable that the general affirmation for the NC by Pope John Paul II is not without qualification. In the general context of criticisms made by parishioners about the NC activities in their Parish, the Panel believes it very useful to bear in mind the more specific guidance given by the papacy about the Neocatechumenal Way to be found in the 'NC Book.'
Private audience for 2,000 Priests of the NC community (9 December 1985)
2.27 The Panel identifies extracts from this papal guidance that seem to be most apposite when later considering the representations made about the role of the Parish Priests and their involvement with the Neocatechumenal Way.
i. Pope John Paul II invites this audience to meditate upon the decree 'Presbytorium Ordinis' in which the Second Vatican Council gave its attention and care to the ministry and life of priests;
ii. His exhortation about the Church's expectations of pastors and priests is thought by him to have "a positive and beneficial influence on your communities and on individuals;"
iii. He acknowledges that "the aims proposed by your NC communities corresponds to one of the most agonising questions of the pastor of souls today, especially those in the great urban agglomerations;"
iv. Recognising the aim to reach the mass of baptised adults with little instruction in the faith, the Holy Father recognises also the consequent need for their position as leaders of the communities to be very clear: "so that your actions may be in harmony with real demands of the pastoral situation;"
v. He went on: "The first demand that is made on you is to know how to keep faith, within the community, with your priestly identity. In virtue of Holy Orders you have been signed with a special character which confirms you to Christ the Priest, so that you can act in His name. The sacred minister, therefore, must be welcomed, not only as a brother who shares the way in Community, but above all as the one who, acting in 'persona Christi' carries in himself the irreplaceable responsibility of Teacher, Sanctifier and Guide of souls, a responsibility which he can in no way renounce. Lay people must be able to recognise this reality from the responsible behaviour which you maintain. It would be an illusion to believe you can serve the Gospel by diluting your charism in a false sense of humility or in misunderstood manifestation of fraternity....Do not let yourselves be deceived! The Church wants you to be priests and the lay people you meet want you to be priests and nothing other than priests."
vi. He continued: "Another delicate and irrenounceable responsibility that
I hope you undertake is to build up ecclesial communion, not only within
your group, but with all members of the parochial and diocesan
communities. Whatever service has been entrusted to you, you are
always the representative of and the 'providi cooperatores' with the
Bishop to whose authority you should feel particularly united. In effect,
in the Church it is the right and duty of the Bishop to give directives for
pastoral activity (c f Canon 381) and everyone has the obligation to
conform to these. Do this is such a way that your communities, while
losing nothing of their originality and richness, can be inserted
harmoniously and fruitfully into the family of the parish and the diocese."
vii. There followed seemingly unequivocal guidance from the Holy Father; first: "It is the task of the pastors to make an effort to see that the parishes benefit from the positive values that these communities can bring and as a result be open to the communities. However it must be very clear that the communities cannot put themselves on the same plane as the parish community itself, as a possible alternative. On the contrary, they have the duty to serve the parish and the local Church. It is precisely this service given in conjunction with the parish and the diocese, that the validity of these experiences within the Movements and Associations can be seen."
"Here I offer another point for reflection: Exercising your ministry for
the guidance of the Neocatechumenal Communities, you do not feel sent only to one particular group but to serve the whole Church."... "The spiritual gift which priests have received in ordination, the Second Vatical Council reminds us, does not prepare them merely for a limited and circumscribed mission, but for the fullest, in fact the Universal mission of salvation...."
- 2.28 Whilst it is known by the Panel, as a fact that the three Parish Priests have attended NC events outside of the UK when Pope John Paul II was present, they do not indicate to the Panel that they were part of this 2,000 strong audience in 1985 though each, by that year, were adherents to the Neocatechumenal Way. Nor do they indicate to the Panel that they are aware of this papal guidance given in 1985 but it is assumed that this must be so particularly as it is included in the 'NC Book.' (pp191 - 196)
2.29 Those parts emphasised in the quoted extracts seem to be the most apt for our investigation, setting out an authoritative standard by which reasonably objective -assessments can be made about their NC involvements. Moreover, just as Bishop Mervyn Alexander thought initially (in 1979/80) that the NC could become 'a parish group in harmony with other parish organisations,' the Holy Father in 1985 appears to have felt likewise but exhorted the priests to ensure that 'your communities be inserted
harmoniously and fruitfully into the family of the parish...' The Panel believes that this could be regarded as a 'signal of disharmony' known by the Holy Father to exist in
consequence of the NC involvement at parishes; this of course is the prime purpose of -the Enquiry.
2.30 The 'signal of disharmony' seems to be a reasonable proposition because circumstances -
involving Pope John Paul I and the successor Holy Father are described in the 'NC
Book.' This explains (at page 16) that the initiators met John Paul I when he was the
Patriarch of Venice and who permitted the NC Way to his diocese: "He allowed the
Paschal Vigil to be celebrated all night confirming our praxis in everything in front of
some parish priests who had raised some difficulties." It also explains (at page 14) that
they first met the Holy Father in 1979 who, whilst Cardinal of Cracow had welcomed the
NC Way in his diocese and had defended the Saturday evening Eucharist in the
communities in front of certain parish priests.
2.31 As for the emphasised extract in (vi) above - 'the communities cannot put themselves on
the same plane as the parish community itself as a possible alternative,' this is the
substantial point raised in representations by those concerned about the NC in the light -
of their direct experience, or perhaps former involvement, over the years within their
parishes. The same applies to that part of the emphasised extract in (vi) above about
"exercising your ministry so that you do not feel sent only to one particular group but
serve the whole church"; there is a strong perception by those who are not NC, including
those with strongly expressed opposition to the NC, that the Parish Priests seem to cater
much more for 'their communities.' This is considered in more detail elsewhere with
findings and conclusions for each Parish in the summary at Part II of the report.
2.32 Finally in the context of this papal guidance, there is the emphasised point about the priest being "the representative of and the 'providi cooperatores' with the Bishop to whose authority you should feel particularly united." Despite the often expressed sense of obedience to Bishop Alexander by the three Parish Priests, and by the priest leader of the National NC Catechist Team, there is evidence to the Panel that the 'bond' or 'unity' with the Local Ordinary has not only been tested but found wanting in the past, particularly during a period leading to and after a meeting on 21 July 1993. The minutes of this meeting have been made available to the Panel.
2.33 Attended by the Vicars General and the three Parish Priests, the meeting's purpose was "to try and reach a common understanding and mind about the Neocatechumenal Way." The hope was that a 'live and let live' situation could be achieved at St Nicholas of Tolentino in Bristol, at St Peter in Gloucester and at Sacred Hearts in Cheltenham. Unfortunately a hoped for solution of compromise, whereby the NC Way would modify its activities in these parishes, was not forthcoming. A hoped for amicable solution to perceived problems did not materialise. Therefore not long afterwards, Bishop Alexander issued an edict to curtail and reduce the NC activities because of division and disunity at these parishes. This edict and its effects are considered for each parish with the findings and conclusion in Part II of the report.
Rebuilding the Parish basing it on the NC experience.
2.34 Given the differing starting points in the representations about the intended role of the Neocatechumenal Way in the "Parish" and/or the "Parish Area", considered elsewhere in the report, the Panel sees a need to highlight relevant Papal advice about the "Parish" and the NC, also derived from the 'NC Book.'
2.35 At a general audience on 12 January 1977, Pope Paul VI stated, amongst other things:
"The person who has been baptised needs to understand, to think over, to appreciate, to give assent to the inestimable treasure of the Sacrament he has received."
"We are happy to see that this need today is understood by the institutional Church structures: the parishes, the dioceses in particular, and by all the other religious families. In this area of structures, as I have said, the Parish is fundamental."
"Here we see a catechesis taking shape, which is subsequent to the one that baptism did not have. 'Pastoral Work for adults', as is said today, is taking shape, creating new methods and new programmes, and also new ministries. what a great need there is for people to help. And so we see catechists, sisters, and families too, who are becoming the teachers in their evangelisation that takes place after baptism...."
2.36 To the Panel in the context of the NC Way, clear guidance was provided by Pope Paul
VI about the: "institutional church structure - the Parish." This is worth repeating and
remembering because it is at the heart of the Panel's task - "The Parish is fundamental" within the "institutional church structure." Therefore any future reference to 'Rebuilding the Parish' or 'Transforming the Parish' should be within the context of 'the institutional church structure.' The Panel's assessments and conclusions are on that premise.
2.37 Some 5 years later, during a visit to the Parish of the Immaculate Conception at Cervellatta (Rome, March 1982), Pope John Paul II is reported to have stated that the Parish Priest must: "be in love with all the groups" - "but perhaps a bit more with your group. This could lead to favouritism but it has not ft seems to me that he has fallen in love with the whole of h is Parish. And the Parish is larger than your community but that is the way that Jesus arranged things " He went on a little later: "It (the NC community) is growing together with the Parish Priest and together with the parish." -"ten or fifteen years ago, he saw the difficulties of this parish, what there was and what was missing...."
2.38 Again the Panel perceives reasonably clear guidance here about the "Parish", particularly that the: "Parish is larger than your community", a point emphasised again some 3 years later at a private audience with 2,000 priests of the Neocatechumenal Communities referred to previously. In the message of March 1982, there is an acknowledgement that the: "NC community is growing together with the Parish" and pertinent reference to:
- "difficulties of the Parish" which might mean that desirable attributes were missing.
- 2.39 During a visit to the Parish of St Maria Goretti in Rome (31 January 1988) Pope John Paul II is reported to have stated: "I hope that you may receive all these fruits in this
Parish, which seems to me to be based as the Neocatechumenal experience."
"I think there is a way to rebuild the Parish on the basis of the Neocatechumenal experience. Of course this method cannot be imposed on everybody... It is authentic and is consistent with the very nature of the Parish, because just as each one of us Christians grows from baptism, so does the Christian community grow naturally from baptism." And then: "The Parish is the basic community in the Church."
2.40 Quite noticeably, Pope John Paul II explains that the Parish is the 'basic community' but the Neocatechumenal experience cannot be "imposed on everybody". This advice follows that given some three years previously; the NC communities should be "inserted harmoniously and fruitfully into the family of the Parish and the Diocese", also "it must be very clear that the communities cannot put themselves on the same plane as the parish Community itself" therefore words and descriptions such as 'Parish,' 'Parish Community,' 'the Parish is the basic community in the Church' leave little or no scope as to the interpretation of an objective: "to rebuild the Parish through the NC experience" and particularly where a Parish is experiencing difficulties." The Panel is satisfied that where reference to "Parish" is within papal guidance, it should be taken to mean the 'Parish Community of the Church' within a local area.
3 THE NEOCATECHUMENAL WAY; PANEL APPRAISAL
Discovery; Affirmation after Contradiction
3.1 On 7 March 1982, Pope John Paul II visited the parish of the Immaculate Conception at
the 'Cervelletta' Tor Sapinza, Rome and spoke to the Neocatechumenal Communities
there. Amongst other things he stated: "One fundamental word which always comes up
when listening in the Neocatechumenal way is the word DISCOVERY. Discovery is
always something great." and: "This discovery is all the more profound when it comes,
as an affirmation, after a situation of contradiction, of negation."
- 3.2 Contradictory evidence has been submitted to the Enquiry about the Neocatechumenal
Way. Since each member of the Panel either had very little or no knowledge about the
NC at the commencement of this investigation, thus obviating any preconceived ideas or
perceptions, there has been a process of Discovery and Discernment for the Panel in
trying to understand the objectives or aims of the NC particularly in regard to a Parish
and thence if possible, to resolve the contradictions.
The Neocatechumenal Way according to Paul VI and John Paul II
3.3 This 'NC book' includes the letter of Pope John Paul 11(30 August 1990) approving the
Neocatechumenal Way; this is followed immediately by a: "Brief comment for the
Vatican Press Office by Kiko Arguello relating to the letter of the Holy Father on the
What is the Neocatechumenal Way?
In the early Church, in the midst of paganism, a person who wanted to become a Christian had to follow an itinerary of formation in Christianity that was called the 'Catechumenate 'from the word 'catecheo' which means 'echo', 'listening.'
The current process of secularisation has brought many people to abandon the faith and the Church. Because of this a new itinerary of Christian formation needs to be opened up. The Neocatechumenal Way does not lay claim to forming a movement in itself but to helping parishes to open up a way of Christian initiation to Baptism, in order to discover what it means to be Christian. It is an instrument, in the parishes, in the service of the Bishops, to bring back to faith many people who have abandoned it. Today in the West many dioceses are trying to carry out catechesis for adults. The Neocatechumenal Way is a theological-catechetical synthesis, a catechism, a catechumenate for adults, an itinerary of Christian formation for modern man.
In the early Church, the catechumenate was formed of a synthesis between Word (Kerygma), Liturgy and Morality. The early Church had above all a Kerygma, that is an 'announcement of salvation'. This announcement of the Gospel that was made by apostles like Paul and Silas, brought about a moral change in those who heard it. They changed their lives helped by the Holy Spirit who accompanied the apostles. This moral change was sealed and encouraged through the sacraments. Concretely Baptism was given by stages. In this way the
primitive catechesis was a 'gestation' to divine life.
when the catechumenate disappeared over the following centuries, this synthesis of Kerygma - Change of life - Liturgy was lost. The Kerygma as a call to faith implied a moral decision no longer existed; it was transformed into a 'scholastic doctrine, Morality became an 'internal forum ' - a private act. The liturgy became the same for all.
The Neocatechumenal Way recovers this 'period of gestation', this synthesis between Kerygma, Change of life and Liturgy.
Why is it called Neocatechumenate?
Because the Neocatechumenal Way is essentially offered to those who have already been baptised, but who do not have an adequate Christian formation. Catechesis Tradendae affirms that the situation of many Christians in the parishes is of 'quasi catechumens'.
what is so newsworthy in this Letter of the Holy Father is that it recognises in the Neocatechumenate a Christian initiation for adults of a catechumenal nature, thus offering the dioceses a concrete instrument for evangelisation without making it into a religious order, a special association or a movement. Many times in the history of the Church the saints have tried to make the spirit of the Gospel come to life again in the people of God without necessarily encompassing it within a religious order. The time was not ripe. Today after the Second Vatican Council, the current reality of atheism and secularisation puts the Church in a position where the renewal of the catechumenate is absolutely necessary.
With this Letter, the Pope validates 25 years of an experience which started in one of the poorest suburbs of Madrid, and which now extends to 600 dioceses, 3000 parishes and 87 countries through a total of 10,000 communities and acknowledges the fruits of personal conversion and its missionary impetus. The renewal that has taken place in these parishes thanks to the Neocatechumenate has caused an extraordinary impulse for the mission, such that many catechists and even entire families have been ready to go wherever evangelisation is needed.
Another important fruit in the local Church is the flourishing once again, of numerous vocations (in the first half of 1990 alone, more that 1500 young men from the Neocatechumenal Communities felt the call to become priests) and it has given rise to the birth of missionary diocesan seminaries that can come to the rescue of the many dioceses that find themselves in difficulty in this time because of a lack of vocations. The originality of these seminaries is that they involve a serious Christian initiation - the Neocatechumenate - in the formation of presbyters. Thus in a very short time, many bishops have decided to open these seminaries in their dioceses: in Rome, Madrid, Warsaw, Medellin, Bangalore, Callao (Lima) Newark (New Jersey USA), Takamatsu (Japan) and many other countries where they have begun to function.
With this Letter, the Holy Father, having verified its fruits all over the world, formally acknowledges the Neocatechumenal Way as an 'itinerary of Catholic formation, valid for our society and our times' and hopes that all the
Bishops together with the presbyters value and help this Way in their dioceses -Rome 24 September 1990
3.4 In appendix I of their 'NC book' (at page 127 to 135), a brief synthesis about The Neocatechumenal Way by Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez is given. The footnote (at page 127) states: "These notes by Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez are taken from a brief document giving information on the Neocatechumenal Way that was prepared for Pope Paul VI in 1974 and which was also presented, with slight variations, to the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples in 1983." In the light of the footnote explanation, the Panel wonders whether 'these notes' (the synthesis) form the basis of the documentation submitted for approbation by Pope John Paul II.
3.5 Be that as it may, it is appropriate to include here extracts from this reported synthesis which seem to be the most apt and which, with other documented material about the NC, is borne in mind by the Panel when considering representations for each of the parishes.
3.6 Following the sub-title: "A concrete way of evangelising those who are far-away" the synthesis explains that the Neocatechumenal Way is lived out within the existing structure of the parish, and in communion with the Bishop, in small communities each composed of people who are different in age, social status, outlook and culture. The synthesis explains that the NC is not a group formed spontaneously, neither is it an association, nor a spiritual movement, nor an elite within the parish. Rather, it is a group of people who wish to rediscover and to live Christian life to the full; to live the essential consequences of their Baptism by means of a Neocatechumenate divided into different stages, like that of the early Church, but adapted to their condition as baptised persons.
3.7 However, the submitted evidence followed by questions of clarification or of validation at the meetings or at the interviews raises strong doubts in the minds of the Panel about the veracity of some explanations quoted in the preceding paragraph from the 'synthesis'. The last mentioned phrase for example: "adapted to their condition as baptised persons" is very misleading because the reality of the NC process, as explained to the Panel by NC members and non-members, assumes such an 'immature faith' in all parishioners that those who decide to follow the Neocatechumenal Way 'begin at the beginning' irrespective of their individual level in or understanding of the faith.
3.8 In other words, all new NC members are required to partake in the first stage of the process - the Kerygma and their progress beyond this initial stage to other stages is controlled strictly by the NC Catechists; the surprise discovery for the Panel is that this strict control is exercised by three 'outside Catechists' upon the Parish Priest. This is a matter of concern expressed in representations about NC control within the investigated Parishes and is a topic - 'NC 'Authority' and Control considered in Section 4 below.
3.9 The Panel recognises that 'the group' is not formed spontaneously because the submitted evidence shows that a 'community' evolves to suit the particular situation within the Parish. Our understanding originally was that, in theory, a new community is created following the annual general invitation to join the Neocatechumenal Way, the reality is
different. For example, details provided to the Enquiry indicate that whilst there might have been as many as four communities at St Nicholas of Tolentino in Bristol, there are now three. Similarly, submitted details indicate that some 10 to 15 people joined the NC at Sacred Hearts in Cheltenham each year during the 1988 to 1991 period, but there are only two communities there, the second of which has the young members.
3.10 An explanation is not offered to the Panel as to why the Neocatechumenal Way is not an association nor a spiritual movement, the latter probably being a quite apt description. There is an authoritative assertion to the Panel that their 'disassociation' relieves the NC Way of canonical obligations particularly in regard to official records and financial controls.
3.11 Whilst the Panel notes the explanation in this synthesis that "the NC is lived out within the existing structure of the parish" and the other explanation that the NC communities "do not impose themselves; they consider it a duty not to destroy anything, but to respect everything," there is considerable evidence from representors opposed to the NC or from those who take a more neutral ("live and let live") stance, that such guidance from the initiators is not followed in their parishes; this is considered in more detail elsewhere with findings and conclusions in the summary at Part II of the report.
3.12 Under the sub-title: "The Neocatechumenal Process" this synthesis explains that a primary objective is the formation of community, the latter being very imperfect at first. The synthesis thence explains that these communities are "born in the Parish" because this seems the most suitable place for the local Church to appear as the 'sacrament of salvation', without creating a parallel Church, without destroying anything but gradually taking on the reality of the Church of today and the period of transition through which she is going. Some leading opponents of the NC in the diocese question the theological validity of the Neocatechumenal Way and whilst the Panel is not called upon directly to deal with the point, there does appear to be a contradiction in terms whereby the NC process follows that of the early Church but seeks to 'take on the reality of today's Church'. The reality at the three Parishes, before and after the NC introduction, is considered and conclusions reached about this.
3.13 There are claims in the representations that the Neocatechumenal Way is a 'Church within the Church', that it creates a parallel Church though this is denied by NC members. The Panel comments about this perception of the NC after considering the details for the Parishes but notes here an explanation in the synthesis that: "the whole parish is called to conversion 'because ' most traditional Christians live their faith at a childish level as is clearly shown by the divorce between religion and life in them. Hence the absolute necessity for a serious process of conversion which takes place in our everyday experience." Whilst each of the Parish Priests explains to the Panel why they perceived a need for the Neocatechumenal Way to be introduced to their Parishes (considered elsewhere), the submitted evidence to the Panel shows that a sizeable number of people in each parish (100 to 250) responded initially to the NC invitation of renewal.
3.14 It is appropriate therefore to emphasise now that such responses indicate clearly to the Panel an awareness by the parishioners during the 1980's at St Nicholas of
Tolentino in Bristol, at Sacred Hearts in Cheltenham and at St Peter's in Gloucester, of a need to deepen their faith. The strong signal given then is that a sizeable number of parishioners welcomed an opportunity for 'Adult Catechesis' but only a limited number of these found the 'NC Process' acceptable; various reasons are given for this. Even if this investigation does not bear any other fruit, the Panel wishes to emphasise and to re-emphasise the signal given about the need for 'Adult-Catechesis'.
3.15 Copies of the 'Initiation Talks' have been submitted helpfully to the Enquiry together with tapes of 'convivences' attended by communities from St Nicholas of Tolentino as well as photographs of a baptism by immersion in the early 1 9809s at St Thomas More school within the Parish of St Nicholas of Tolentino.
3.16 An examination of these 'Initiation Talks' (Second Day: The Sign of faith) provides less than coherent explanations about the NC process; there are inconsistencies compared to the published 'NC Book' but it is possible to identify objectives. Importantly, the Parish is identified as the focus for a 'Pastoral of Evangelisation' because: "The world is gradually leaving the Church" and "The Parish Priest who today fails to begin a pastoral work for tomorrow, will be left with an empty church.... or with a group of people without an adult faith." The Panel does not know whether such an assertion is made on the basis of extensive research or experience o? is conjecture.
3.17 The second initiation talk poses a question: "what do we want to do in the Parish?" and within the answers there is a statement of intent: "We say to the Parish Priest: This pastoral is missionary for the ones who are far away These communities which we form are not for those who are in the parish but for those who never come." and: "This (Christian) community will end up by changing the pastoral work and the structure of the parish." Significantly, Kiko then states: "Thus we arrive to a new type of parish, an atomical parish made up of small Christian communities all in a way of conversion, on a Catechumenal Way, reliving Baptism in a Christian community." This 'new type of parish' is illustrated (by Kiko) to be in the form of cells (ie. the communities) with links to a larger central unit that, as explained to the Panel by the National NC Catechists, is the 'Local Church.'
3.18 As explained in the Initiation Talks, this concept of an "atomical Parish" involving a change to the Parish structure, contradicts the explanations in the 'NC Book' that existing structures of a Parish would not be harmed or altered. This in the Panel's view, gives credence to the perception by some representors of the three Parishes that the NC seeks to "Take-over the Parish" and for a number of reasons, this is opposed.
3.19 On the second day of the "Initiation talk" (by Kiko) there is an explanation that, in the process of conversion on a Catechumenal Way, a catechist leads the community in the catechumenate as "the brother of the one who knows." The evidence to the Panel with ensuing clarification from NC members and non-members substantiates that the catechetic process is undertaken by people outside the community and for the first
community at least, these are from outside the Parish or outside of the Diocese.
3.20 The role of the Parish Priest within the ambit of a community under catechesis does not seem to be that of a leader, but as one of the community subject to instruction and subsequent scrutiny prior to succeeding into the next stage of the NC process. As noted before, that progression is dependent upon an assessment by the 'outside NC Catechists' and will also be governed by the rate of progress by the community as a group including that of the 'slowest brother or sister.' This subservient role by the Parish Priest is perhaps not so surprising given the statement in the 'initiation talk' (by Kiko) that: "Badges are not worth anything here; nor priests, nor monks, nor nuns, nor Bishops." Taken literally, the traditional hierarchical arrangement within a Diocese is thus regarded by the NC as inconsequential; the Panel perceives this to be seriously at variance with the Holy Father's guidance to the NC about Episcopal authority and obedience.
3.21 Towards the end of the second day 'initiation talk', the community is described (1,y Kiko) as: "the efficacious sign the sacrament.... that you are the Son of God." The theological veracity of such an assertion is beyond the remit for the Panel. There follows (',y Carmen) "what it is necessary to do first of all is to evangelise those who are in the Church, re-evangelise the Church itself which is what the Pope and all the Bishops are saying." Whether that is a statement of fact is not clear but the Panel is mindful of Bishop Alexander's anticipation in 1979/80 that the NC Way had something to offer in its goal of renewing faith and reaching out to those alienated from the Church.
3.22 From this assessment of the 'initiation talks' it seems to the Panel that the NC objectives are: evangelise those who are in the Church; re-evangelise the Church; form communities in the Parish thence transform the Parish 'from a pastoral work concentrated on the sacraments to one of evangelisation" (reference: NC book page 129).
Presentation of the Way (1993)
3.23 By far the most informative document submitted to the Panel about the NC objectives, the reasoning behind the objectives and the NC process on implementation is a fifty-nine page transcript of a talk given by Kiko Arguello titled: "Presentation of the Way." That presentation we are advised was to Bishops meeting in Denver during 1993. Just over half of this presentation covers the background about Kiko himself and how the NC came into being.
3.24 Whilst it is not considered necessary to reproduce this presentation paper, salient extracts are necessarily given (below) because this tends to clarify objectives and the 'raison d'être' for the NC; it helps to explain noted inconsistencies from other submitted material about the NC. It is regarded by the Panel as authoritative because it emanates from one of the initiators and it is probably the most up to date, outlining the NC experience over a period of some 30 years until 1993.
3.25 These quoted extracts are taken sequentially from the paper; the first is at page 10:
i. The Way ends receiving a white Tunic
ii. I (Kiko) had an encounter with the Virgin Mary who said to me "it is necessary to make small communities like the Holy Family of Nazareth, which live in humility, simplicity and praise.
iii. All the first catechesis were created by the poor. That which John XXIII said, that the renewal of the Church would come through the poor, at least this is how it has been in the Way. These catechesis which we give in the parishes ,from which everything is born, were created by the poor.
iv. Other people don 't have any experience, they have a learned faith; they need an experience of the intervention of God in their history.
v. I (Kiko) had to die to myself
vi. We went to a bourgeois parish in Argues, but the rich people of the parish whom we had gathered for a catechesis about The Eucharist were not willing to listen to anyone catechize them, nor were they willing to let anyone call them to conversion. This business of calling to conversion is to make a moral judgement.
vii. We realised that the people were very covered over and that a way of descent, of going down into the waters of baptism, was necessary. ft was necessary to strip the people of false ideas. The people were not catechised, they thought they were Christians, that their Sunday masses were enough for them. They talked back at every point; the bourgeois parishes did not accept us; the pastor wanted us but the people were opposed We have discovered little by little, step by step, the necessity of a way of gestation in the faith.
viii. We have a base which is the tripod; the second Vatican Council speaks fifty-four times about this. It says that Christian life is based as a tripod: WORD, LITURGY and COMMUNITY We also discovered that a way of descent was necessary, in order to strip away false ideas, until the corpse of the old man was left in the waters of our baptism so that a new man, who is a new creation, could come up from these waters.... There is a new creation, and it is the divine nature which appears.
ix. The Neo Catechumenal Way is a time of formation: A long time.
x. ft is not a matter of duration; the important thing is whether fruits are given, whether conversion is really given, whether a new creation is truly given with signs and indications.
xi. The Neocatechumenal Way inaugurates a serious change in pastoral work of evangelisation without abandoning sacramentalization; this
means to continue the pastoral work inside the Church and also to reach the man who is outside
xii. It is necessary that faith be preceded by signs which open and predispose man to faith, to listen.
xiii. The parish is a huge conglomerate; I only go to Mass on Sunday and I don 't know the people. But Christ speaks of loving one another visibly
xiv. We believed this: that if in this parish there appears a small community which has an adult faith, in this dimension in which faith is made visible, that our love and unity will create such a big question mark for this man that he will unfailingly come and ask about our faith.
xv. The parish needs that we give it an instrument of evangelization; so we say to the pastor, we are going to give you this instrument.
xvi. So that the people of a parish understand what it means to call to faith someone who has no faith, we begin giving the catechesis without presupposing faith in anyone. Not with those who are far away, but rather with those from the parish.
xvii. We don't come to form a movement. We are opening a way of adult Christian initiation in the parish. Have we opened a way? Has a nucleus been constituted here, has this become a community of communities? Has the parish been transformed? Then we have finished our mission and we can go. There you have the communities for your parish and for your Bishop; now you can follow the pastoral plan of the Bishop, not that of Kiko.
xviii. The priests say: And those movements which have their own pastoral programme? what happens to the Bishop's pastoral plan? But we still don 't have a formed Christian. when he is formed there you have him! Look how he obeys you.... Do you need vocations? 1,200 vocations; for you, not for me; I don 't govern any priest.
xix. We find ourselves in front of two sorts of ecclesiology. We met priests who have a clerical ecclesiology. He is the priest. He is the one who evangelizes. He, not me, not the lay people. He doesn't know how to collaborate with us, because he has all the charisms. This is the way it was before the Council, clergy on one side and laity on the other.
xx. The word 'laity' has never been used in the Neocatechumenal Way. The clergy, a priestly class, doesn't exist among us. We are a body and there is a head and some members. Since this man has a clerical mentality, if lam a charisma which God has raised up to help him, he doesn't know what to do with me; he sees me as antagonist; he is jealous.
xxi. The charisms had all been assumed by the priest But he needs help.
They form this clerical mentality and when they change or die, their groups disappear. The next priest does his own pastoral work; they are always building up and tearing down, never doing effective things for the people, everything is at the service of the priest.
xxii. Then there is the "lay ecclesiology"; the priest who never dresses like a priest...Everything is democratic; everything is done democratically. These priests say that dialogue is necessary. The obedience that you (Kiko) ask for is an assault on human liberty. These priests have their own ideas. They question the Bishop....and the Pope.
xxiii. Thanks be to God that many of these priests have good intentions and they convert; they convert thanks to having terrible sexual disorders in their lives which make them suffer a lot. In the Way they are cured from these things and begin to be chaste; and they begin to be grateful towards that which has saved their priesthood
xxiv. Is a new ecclesiology possible? Is it really possible to help the Church in this Way? Yes. God has provided a solution by founding Redemptoris Mater seminaries where a new kind of presbyter, one capable of governing a process of Christian initiation, is appearing.
xxv. To open this evangelization in the parish we give a catechesis to form the first community. We invite those who are close to the parish. We say to the pastor: we don't do anything in the parish if you aren't at the centre of the first community. But the pastor protests that he can 't lead all groups (eg Legion of Mary, Focolarinos).
xxvi. You (ie the pastor) have to discern. This is a Christian initiation. The one who has the catechesis in his hands has the church of the future. You devote yourself to saying Mass. You have to govern this. If you govern i4 you have to know it We have a language; you have to know this language.
xxvii. We have a Neocatechumenal language. If you have a word to say in the Church, you create a new language, a new theology, new terms. If we weren't saying anything other than that which the ancients had said, we wouldn't be adding anything. The pastor has to know this in order to
- govern it.
xxviii. So the first community is formed lam a team that has come from outside. If the priest is changed the community is not destroyed because it isn't linked to the priest but to the team. Which means that when all the pastors have changed, the communities haven 't died.
xxix. After three years we tell the community to elect catechists and they come with their catechists to see how I preach. Because they are formed in an oral tradition, they aren't given a booklet and told to learn it.
xxx. A second catechesis is given and a second community is formed, then a third, a fourth and so on. Finally, the parish is formed into a community of communities; we've reached the structure of the parish.
xxxi. A priest needs a community because it helps him as a Christian. And his preaching gains; it becomes fresher, we give joy to his priesthood. And he confesses better. His faith is sustained by the brothers of his community who help him.
xxxii. As the communities grow in faith, there comes a moment in the Way in which the whole community has to work in the parish. In the parishes we take care of the catechesis for children, marriage preparation, visits two by two from door to door. Each community, at a certain step in the Way, has to work in die parish, everyone in what we call the pastoral work of mediation. This is because it says in adult catechesis that in his formation a Christian has to learn that he is a builder of the church. After the Reditio the whole community offer itself; then the pastor presents the group which will visit the sick, the group of Caritas, the Sunday liturgy preparation group. Votes are taken in the community and the brothers most fit for each of these missions are acclaimed. In all the parishes where the Way has been present for some years everyone is working in the parish's pastoral work
3.26 There is more to come from this "presentation paper by Kiko", but it is best to pause and give the Panel's reflections upon the matters above bearing in mind the written and oral evidence presented from the three parishes (including the Papal letters) and the information provided by the NC book.
3.27 This paper explains that the Neocatechumenal Way involves a long time of formation (item ix) at the end of which the brother or sister will receive the 'white tunic' (item i) after renewal of their baptismal promises. Evidence to the Panel shows that no NC member in the Clifton Diocese, or indeed anywhere in the United Kingdom, has reached the end of the NC Way; no one has received the 'white tunic' though the first community at St Nicholas of Tolentino in Bristol has existed for about 16 years. The expression - 'a long time' could therefore be quantified as 20 or more years.
3.28 As representors point out, this long time duration of the NC Way is not explained to potential or new members; questions are not answered (item vii). Thus a NC will not be aware at the outset, and perhaps for years, that their individual 'conversion' to adult/mature faith (item xiv) or their way of gestation in the faith (item vii) will stretch for many years ahead. On the other hand, Kiko regards duration as unimportant; the fullness of the 'conversion' is important (item x).
3.29 There is authoritative (ie Kiko) clarification that the NC method of catechising in a Parish is not dependent upon a booklet but is an oral tradition (items iii, xxix), intended to correspond (via observation) with the form of catechesis used by Kiko and which initially was created by the poor for the poor of Madrid. The Panel is of course mindful of Bishop Alexander's concern and that of others in the Diocese, that there has not been submitted to him details of the NC catechesis for examination and approval though this has been requested. There is therefore a demonstrable flaw, on the NC part, in the relationship with Bishop Alexander given the papal guidance of August 1990 whereby the NC Way is to function in the spirit of service and communion with the local Ordinary.
3.30 As explained in representations, the reactions by some parishioners (in the three parishes) to "this business of calling to conversion" (item vi) was of incredulity, anger and resentment because complete strangers (ie outside Catechists, the National NC Catechist Team) should castigate publicly their commitment to God and/or to suggest that they have no or little faith (item vii). Kiko explains (item xvi) that the catechesis begins without presupposing faith in anyone from the parish; some representors perceive such 'moral judgements' (item vi) to be arrogant and offensive.
3.31 In representations from the three parishes, there are often expressed concerns that the NC intends to take-over and/or to transform the parish though this has been denied by the NC; their book for example explains that existing structures would remain and be respected. Subsequent to the meeting on 9 September with the NC National Teams of Catechists, Fr Jose Guzman has written to the Panel about this fundamental concern; he states:
"In regard to the relationship between Neocatechumenate and parish it is important to understand that the very idea of a 'Neocatechumenal Parish ' is meaningless. ft has never been the intention of the initiators to establish the Neocatechumenal Way at the expense of other realities present in the parish. In his brief outline of the Neocatechumenate presented to Pope Paul VI in 1974, Kiko states that the communities 'do not impose themselves, they consider it a duty not to destroy anything, but to respect everything' (from the book 'The Neocatechumenal Way according to Paul VI and John Paul II, Page 129).
This can be seen in practice. In 1988 the Spanish Episcopal Conference made a statistical survey of all its parishes, in preparation for the congress 'The Evangelising Parish'. From the results, among other things, it emerged that where the Neocatechumenal communities are present, other apostolic movements tend to flourish more than in parishes without the Neocatechumenate. Fr Francisco Azcona San Martin, director of the Statistical and Sociological office of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, concluded that "it does not seem possible to prove the hypothesis of those who say that in parishes with the Neocatechumenal communities all other movements disappear, and that the priests neglect these other movements" (cited in the Appendix of 'The Neocatechemenal Way according to Paul VI and John Paul 1£ page 163). These statistics are worthy of note because the research was carried out by experts for the Spanish Episcopal Conference and not by members of the Neocatechumenate."
3.32 However, the authoritative explanation by the initiator in the Presentation Paper is preferred by the Panel and by the reality at St Nicholas of Tolentino. Kiko makes plain (items xvii, xxx) that the parish will be transformed into a community of communities, reaching its structure and there comes a moment in which the whole community (communities) has to work in the parish (item xxxii); this will involve various pastoral ministries. The genuine concerns by parishioners, particularly by those who are or 'were' active, are therefore not hypothetical; judging by the situation prevailing at St Nicholas of Tolentino in Bristol, the concerns are founded on fact.
3.33 It is wondered by the Panel how the planned transformation of a parish by the NC "in accord with the pastoral plan of Kiko rather than that of the Bishop" (items xvii, xviii), itself accords with the specific guidance of Pope John Paul II on 9 December 1985:
a. it is the right and duty of the Bishop to give directives for pastoral activity;
b. that communities cannot put themselves on the same plane as the parish community itself as a possible alternative.
There is no information from the NC to the Enquiry about the pastoral plan for each of the parishes though the Panel is aware, by reference to the 'Visitation Reports,' of an indicated long-term policy for St Nicholas of Tolentino but without expressed terms.
3.34 Evidence to the Panel shows that the Parish Priest not only has to agree to the introduction of the Neocatechumenal Way at a Parish, but the Parish Priest is also at the centre of the first community (item xxv). Though there might be existing association/societies/groups within the Parish, the Parish Priest is called upon to 'govern' and to understand the NC process of Christian initiation (item xxvi) including the new language and theology (item xxvii). Whilst this governing or central role accords with the exhortation by Kiko that the pastor has 'to discern', the representations indicate strongly that such 'discernment' and 'governing' gives rise to a sense of loss or of general disinterest by their pastor for the remainder of the Parish - including the associations because "he is too busy and too involved with the NC." As noted previously (para 2.37), Pope John Paul II has indicated that the Parish Priest must be 'in love with all groups'.
3.35 From the frank explanations to the Panel by the Parish Priests, their NC 'governing' involves their own 'conversion' to the NC process, to become a NC and be subject to the various stages and scrutinies of the NC process as the community of which they are a member. Two of these priests initially were dismissive of the Neocatechumenal Way, one acknowledging that he resented (as did some parishioners) their approach; the third of these Parish Priests perceived the NC as a challenge.
3.36 There is evidence to the Panel that where the 'challenge' is not acceptable to a Parish Priest (in Section 4.D below), or he does not open the Parish door fully to the NC, any member of that Parish who is or who wishes to follow the Neocatechumenal Way seeks a NC community elsewhere; this can involve a round trip of 100 miles or more.
- 3.37 Given the preceding point that the NC is not accepted by a Parish Priest, it would be more correct to assert that some priests need a community (item xxxi) because this helps their calling to serve the Lord; there is evidence to the Panel about this. But there is also critical evidence to the Panel that, rather than enhancing his preaching (item xxxi) the pastor who is NC offers words of 'darkness' and a constant reminder about a personal cross along life's journey which some representors do not welcome.
3.38 The claim by Kiko that he does not govern any priest (item xviii) is probably correct
taken literally, but there is evidence to the Panel, and direct experience by the Panel, that there is a form of hierarchical control within the Neocatechumenal Way stemming from the head - Kiko Arguello. "where the NC communities exist within a Parish, it appears strongly to the panel that a form of 'NC Authority' is exercised by the NC National Team over the communities and this relates also to the Priest member of a community. As representors assert, their Pastor appears to be subject to dual authority. It seems to us that this 'additional authority' can be quite palpable given the papal guidance about Episcopal authority and obedience, the latter having to be in the spirit as well as in the letter of juridical authority."
3.39 Whilst noting the critique about the forms of ecclesiology (items xix to xxii), there is evidence to the Panel that 'shared ecclesiology' or 'collaborative ministry' exists and has existed for 10 years or more at St Peter's in Gloucester and at Sacred Hearts in Cheltenham without there being significant NC involvement so far. But the situation at St Nicholas of Tolentino in Bristol has changed over the years, involving displacement in particular ministries, so that there now exists an 'NC Power Base' in the catechetical and liturgical ministries. The transformation (item xvii) seems to be not far from completion there.
3.40 The Panel notes that this 'NC Power base' came to fruition just before the completion of a Diocesan report on the deployment of clergy. This 'NC Power Base' might be in accord with the NC objective that the whole community (communities) is expected to be involved in the Parish (item xxxii) but it seems most opportune, perhaps no more than a coincidence, that the 'NC Power Base' should come into being so as to ensure continuity of the NC at St Nicholas of Tolentino as envisaged generally by Kiko (item xxxiii), even when 'all the pastors have changed.'
3.41 Later pages of the presentation paper by Kiko explain the Neocatechumenal Way, as one akin to the Holy Family of Nazareth involving: Annunciation (the Kerygma), Gestation, Birth, Time of Nazareth, Baptism, Mystery of His Death and Resurrection. Kiko goes on to indicate:
i. The community has the 'mission' to be a mirror for the individual member who probably thinks that he/she is already 'converted 'But in the community there always appears the neurotic, the fool, the idiot, the proud one;
ii. they are together once a week for the celebration of the Word, on Saturday to
celebrate the Eucharist and once a month they have a 'convivence ' where each
- indicates the condition of his/her faith in their life. The community shows that it
is difficult for a person to accept another who bothers or destroys him/her. By
this, there is a discovery that the person has (very) little faith;
iii. the mission of the 'pre-catechumenate' period is to put the community to soak,
listening to the Word of God During this time, many people come from sin but
have not left sin. Listening to the Word they are soaked very carefully We have
to carry 'the lost sheep very carefully because the least carelessness will frighten
this person away;
iv. in these two years (1)re-catechumenate), descending a little bit, this brother/sister
discovers that he/she does not have eternal life within even though the person
goes to Mass. Because he/she responds to the sin of another (person) with sin,
with violence; the person does not have within himself/herself the ability to carry
the sins of the other. The person needs the divine nature;
v. when the person in community realizes that he/she does not have faith, or has little faith, we put the person in front of his/her baptism. The person asks: "what do I have to do to have faith?"; ask it of the church:
vi. we have discovered that conversion cannot occur in a person if first the person
does not have the injustices of his/her history (the cross of history), illuminated
for that person. We begin to talk about the cross and to ask the person: "Are you
willing to let us help you enlighten your cross or are you scandalized by the
monstrosity of your history, by what has happened to you in your life?"
vii. Then there is an exorcism, that of baptism, always in reference to the baptism
already received, baptism is not repeated The first part of baptism is renewed
in the first scrutiny The Bishop comes:
vi ii. In this first scrutiny we put the person in front of money, affections and before the cross. We say to the person: "Christ says that no-one who does not renounce all his goods can be my disciple". The goods referred to are the affections: wife, children. The person cannot be an idolater. After listening to the Word of God we put the person in front of his/her history, of his/her life today;
ix. The Bishop asks: "what is your cross?" The person answers publicly in the a
liturgy (the scrutiny). The Bishop asks whether this cross is illuminated by the
cross of Christ; what does it mean for the person? Because the person does not
rebel against the cross, nor against God, nor against their history, the process
of deepening the faith can begin. The person begins to discover what faith is,. that
it is a grace, a gift from God to be asked for;
x. There are three phrases: Pre-Catechumenate, Catechumenate and Election. The catechumenate begins with the first scrutiny Afterwards there is a second scrutiny where a sign with respect to goods must be given. Then there is an Initiation to Prayer; then the Traditio, the Reditio, the Our Father and the Election. After the Election, there is the renewal of baptismal promises (ie the white tunic).
xi. This process is known (by Kiko) as the rite of baptism of adults by stages involving three phases: Humility, Simplicity and Praise. In other words, the people realise that it is necessary to be small in order to be a Christian and that this simplicity can only be given by the Lord in prayer.
xii. We teach the brothers/sisters to pray an infused prayer; they pray the Psalter everyday like a priest. During the Lent and Advent seasons, they pray lauds in community before going to work. We have them discover the Paschal Mystery; this is the most important thing.
3.42 Since most of the final pages of the presentation paper by Kiko relate to the NC liturgy, their Eucharist and Baptism in particular, it is appropriate again to pause and to give the Panel's reflections about the NC process for the Christian Initiation of Adults - or perhaps 'further instruction' might be more apposite in some cases, bearing in mind the written and oral evidence submitted for the Panel's consideration.
- 3.43 There is written evidence to the Panel from NC members and Non-NC, as well as direct experience in consequence of the meetings with the NC communities at the three Parishes, that these have a spectrum of people ranging in age from 14 years to the octogonerian. These communities have five priests in total including one fairly recently ordained. The Panel is aware that these communities formerly had priests who are either elsewhere in the Diocese, elsewhere in the country or who no longer exercise their priestly ministry.
3.44 The Panel knows that these communities have the neurotic and those of less than normal capabilities or outlook (item I); the vulnerable are attracted as are the 'outsiders' previously at or near the edge of society. It also has those who variously demonstrated their faith prior to the establishment of the communities, from prayer groups for example, and they might have the proud ones (item i). There must undoubtedly be those of sound disposition in a cultural as well as a spiritual sense. The Panel has not sought to, nor would it be able to place the individuals into categories.
3.45 Nor would the Panel be able or would wish to form moral judgements though it understands, from this presentation paper and the submitted evidence, that the Neocatechumenal Way over a long time (20 years) seeks to lead people towards salvation. The fresh or new start involves a 'descent into the waters of baptism' by the individual, a sharing of their inner self with their brothers and sisters in a community until they are eventually deemed to have reached a 'mature faith'. This process is subject to periodic scrutinies by the NC Catechists. For some of the NC members and former members, this scrutiny process is a cause of considerable stress. [Dates of the scrutinies at the three parishes are submitted by the NC National Team; the first scrutiny in June 1983 (for St Nicholas and St Patrick's) with the last in May/June 1992 (for St Nicholas, St Peter and Sacred Hearts)]
- 3.46 As for the presence of the Bishop at the scrutinies (item vii), there to enquire about the individual's cross of life (items vi and xi), a NC member points out that the presence of
Bishop Alexander with the NC communities gives a seal of approval to the scrutiny process and to the NC itself indicating: "that it will not go off the rails as with other groups" experienced by the representor. The information given to the Panel about the Bishop's presence at the scrutinies shows that he attended a first scrutiny in June 1983 and again in November 1985 but not thereafter. Though there were scrutinies after 1985, the only inference to be drawn by the Panel is that these personal examinations by the NC Catechists, and in the presence of the community, do not enjoy the Bishop's affirmation. It is understood by the Panel that this has been made known.
3.47 The Panel has no doubts that the Neocatechumenal Way is beneficial to some people, but limited in number at a Parish judging by the numerical strength of the NC communities at the Parishes after so many years. The number at St Nicholas of Tolentino is stated by the NC (at the meeting) to be declining. That in the Panel's opinion cannot be attributed to the edict of March 1994 which precludes any new catechesis. The Panel has not sought details of membership; most of this can be gleaned by reference to the representations and the attendance lists at the meetings if necessary. There are those in the communities 'of the faith' previously, seemingly committed then in a prayer group (at Cheltenham) but seeking greater direction by means of the NC Way. There are those also in the communities without any previous belief or with antagonism towards God or to Christianity in particular.
3.48 In representations by Non-NC parishioners, there are perceptions of warmth and assistance by the NC members to one another within the community, but also of aloofness and spiritual superiority because they are in the 'Way.' Individual situations are cited where a person is perceived to have been harmed by the NC; some representations from former members explain this, also that pressure has been applied to join or to remain within the NC Way. From the representations, the Panel has little doubt that the NC Way has caused some spiritual, personal as well as mental anguish for people. In that regard, we are not forgetful of an explanation by Canon English that the NC itself causes 'division' within an individual, wondering whether or not to follow the NC Way.
3.49 This investigation shows that the NC Way lacks a definable structure as well as real clarity about evangelising objectives. This perhaps is not altogether surprising because the NC Way is in its infancy despite the alacrity with which it has spread. It is stated to have only an oral tradition. An initiator (Kiko Arguello) recognised that he awaited the inspiritation of the Holy Spirit to lead the NC Way to fruition. There is conflicting information as to whether the eventual aim is to transform the whole Parish to follow the NC Way, to have a 'community of communities.' From the papal guidance to the priests of the NC Way in 1985, it could be construed that such a transformation for a whole Parish is not possible because the NC communities cannot replace or take the place of the Parish Community. There is obfuscation about the aims and objectives for a Parish.
3.50 As far as we know, a pastoral plan has not been produced for the three parishes involved in substitution for any pastoral plan by Bishop Alexander, to quote a theme from the Presentation of the Way. Nothing appears to have been clarified with concerned parishioners about the future of their Parish. So many are under the impression that a NC take-over will occur sooner or later; their concerns are not allayed yet they see or are
aware of changes, described by some as subtle but nevertheless realised. There are complaints in the representations about a lack of openness by the NC Way; those are justified in the Panel's view. The Panel cannot help but applaud a commendable aim of the NC Way to steer people towards God from what is described by some NC representors as materialistic idolatry. Yet the NC process itself seems to be so dependent ultimately upon one person - Kiko Arguello, who not only appears to have the final say as to when a person after many years will receive a 'white tunic' but, as explained to the Panel, is the ultimate catechist.
4 A THE ENQUIRY; VIEWS AND EXPECTATIONS
4 A. 1 Section 1 of the report identifies the procedural facets of the Enquiry indicating that Bishop Alexander established a Panel of Enquiry to consider the claim made by some parishioners about perceived harm and so on under Canon 212. The parishes involved are: St Nicholas of Tolentino in Bristol, St Peter in Gloucester and Sacred Hearts at Charlton Kings in Cheltenham. Representations have been submitted from these parishes, from Non-NC, as well as from parishioners who explain that they no longer attend at their own Parish; the reason(s) is given, usually relating to the presence of the NC Way at their Parish.
- 4 A.2 In addition, we are advised in a representation from Fr Trafford (Sacred Hearts) that he
and the other parish priests involved in this investigation also requested an Enquiry when
meeting Bishop Alexander in June last year. He asserts that: "ft is very damaging for (he
Church and for the Pope that the NC Way is labelled as a 'Cult' or as a 'Sect' when this
is a charism which is deeply and wholly of the Church. Such things need authoritative
refutation." Prior to considering this representation from Fr Trafford, the Panel was not
aware that there had been a joint request for the Enquiry; some equivocation was
perceivable in that respect when the Panel sought clarification about this from Canon
- O'Brien and Canon English.
4 A.3 On the evening prior to the first meeting (with the NC communities) at St Nicholas of Tolentino, each member of the Panel was 'visited' at home by a member from the 'Team of Itinerant Catechists for the Neocatechumenal Way' (London); this visit was unexpected, unwarranted and potentially prejudicial to the open and fair objectives set by the Panel for the Enquiry. Perhaps more seriously, the hoped for personal privacy for the Panel disappeared as a consequence of such a visit. In considering the other evidence put to the Enquiry, the Panel has disregarded this 'procedural irregularity' in seeking facts as well as in assessing the validity of some assumptions and opinions.
4 A.4 Each member of the Panel received the 'NC Book' from the NC Itinerant visitor together with a personal letter. Amongst other things, the letter states: "We are the itinerant catechists responsible for the Neocatechumenal Way in Great Britain. We are glad that this enquiry into the Neocatechumenate is being held, so that the truth may come to light. We hope that a better knowledge of the Neocatechumenal Way will clear up any misunderstanding or bad feeling." After explaining that the book contains the discernments about the Neocatechumenate by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II with a hope that it is of assistance in the Panel's task, the latter continues: "When a new reality appears in the Church, it always arises perplexities and persecutions. Saint Ignatius of Loyola was happy when such investigations were held, because they were a service to the truth."
4 A.5 Notwithstanding the above noted misgivings, the Panel acknowledges and appreciates the stance taken by the NC National Team about this Enquiry. It perhaps does not need to be stated, but we hope that the Enquiry and our findings will be of service to the truth about the Neocatechumenal Way for Bishop Alexander and the Clifton Diocese. We are aware
of the interest from outside of the Diocese.
4 A.6 The response to the neutral question: "What has the Neo-Catechumenate done for you and your Parish?" far exceeds the Panel's expectation. We believe that this shows genuine concern by parishioners, some of whom may not previously have expressed a view about the presence of the NC Way at their Parish, either from a position of affirmation or from a neutral stance or from a position of opposition in the light of experience gained over the years. Sixty seven representations were submitted from parishioners or former parishioners or NC members who are not 'parishioners' at St Nicholas of Tolentino; a few representors of opposition to the NC Way likewise are not 'parishioners'. Sixty representations were submitted from St Peter's and one hundred and fifty two from Sacred Hearts.
4 A.7 In the main, the representations were submitted in the January, February and March period but there continued to be flirther representations with accompanying 'papers' or 'articles' about the NC Way after March. At the request of the Panel at the Non-NC meeting in Sacred Hearts (29 June), another seventeen representations were received almost all responding with ideas about 'solutions for the fliture.' Quoted extracts from representations are necessarily selective but the aim is to give the gist of the points made within the context of the selected topic. Numerous topics are raised; the most or the more important of these were identified by the Panel prior to the meetings (public and private) in order to obtain clarification or to offer an alternative proposition for comment at these
4 A.8 The meetings in each Parish were (')y intention) on a separate basis, for the NC members
and for Non-NC parishioners or persons with an interest (for or against) in the NC Way. a The aim was to hear different and probably opposing views without this giving rise to heated argument known by the Panel (from the representations) to have occurred previously at 'Parish Meetings.' The character of these meetings was markedly different. Generally speaking, there was an atmosphere of 'orderliness' and 'togetherness' at the NC meetings with an occasional forceful view expressed. Attendance (perhaps 40 to 50) probably reflected the numerical strength of the NC communities at each Parish.
4 A.9 At Sacred Hearts, the venue was the same for each meeting. That for the Non-NC was very well attended with perhaps as many as 150 people. The venue at St Peter differed; for the NC members it took place in the 'Upper Room' on a Saturday afternoon; for the Non-NC (and NC supporters) this took place on a weekday evening and, to the Panel's surprise, this too was very well attended with 100 or so present. In the belief that there would be insufficient capacity at the Dunstan Centre, the Chairman chose the Apostle Room at Clifton Cathedral as the venue for a meeting of the Non-NC at St Nicholas of Tolentino; this was a mistake and is acknowledged. Only about 30 people attended. Also in attendance were the media at this meeting and for the evening meeting at St Peter.
4 A. 10 The media did not attend the NC meetings. But the presence of a TV reporter outside the Dunstan Centre was not acceptable to the NC National Team and seemed likely to prejudice the meeting itself. In the event, the Chairman resolved the situation.
4 A. 11 A representor who is not NC, but who is clearly in support, hopes that the Enquiry seeks the truth as in a court of law, dealing only with facts and rejecting hearsay evidence or emotive sound bites. The Panel has explained at the NC and Non-NC meetings that the Enquiry is not adversarial though the co-operation of people is sought in offering the truth. Facts are welcome but the subjective responses of the NC and Non-NC are borne in mind by the Panel. That is an inevitable part of the investigation.
4 A.12 'Official' information from Diocesan sources has been used by the Panel with a view to verifying, if possible, whether or not assertions or opinions are tenable in the representations. 'Parish Returns', 'Visitation Reports' and 'Financial Statements' covering the relevant periods for each Parish have been considered.
4 A.13 There is a variety of expectations from the Enquiry; a few of these are noted here:-
xiii. 'My hope now is that the Enquiry will bring an end to our struggle. I welcome this Enquiry as a chance for outsiders to take an objective, disinterested overview. In our experience, it is very hard for people to grasp the enormity and depth of the problem or to appreciate the deep anxieties felt by the parishioners."
It is certainly true that the Panel members are not from the Parishes involved and hopefully, are able to take objective views about the NC Way presence at the three parishes. The overview necessarily attempts to form a balanced assessment of any advantages or disadvantages of the NC Way at the parishes, as gleaned from the representations and the meetings and the individual meetings with the clergy. The overview has regard to papal guidance about the Neocatechumenal Way and especially the guidance about the flindamental importance of the Parish in the Church's structure.
4 A. 14 At the end of a comprehensive representation from a NC is an expressed hope that:
"As a result of this Enquiry, some serious and ftuuful consideration might eventually be given to the lift and role of lay communities, of whatever description, in the Catholic Church.
This hope is set in the context of the Vatican II Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem), Article II, a short paragraph stating: "To attain the ends of their apostolate more easily it can be ofadvantageforfamilies to organise themselves into groups." This representor also refers to the Report of the National Pastoral Congress in Liverpool (1980); the section under 'Evangelization' is quoted: "We must devise a strategy that will establish apostolic groups as the base of the local community, so that our Parishes are a community of communities. " The last mentioned description is, by now, very familiar to the Panel in the context of the NC Way though our research reveals that the quote is not quite correct at the end; it should instead be "communion of
- 4 A. 15 The NC representor continues with a pointed and a very relevant comment:
"It was evidently not anticipated, either at Vatican II or at the NPC, that the presence of such a group or groups in a Parish might be seen by some other Catholics as a threat to the hft of the Parish as they know it, with a resulting reaction of considerable resentment and hostility. Vatican II certainly did not foresee this and, to my knowledge, the Church has not yet addressed the problem in any official document or statement."
Having previously quoted authoritative references about communities within the Church, this NC representor clearly recognises that there is a problem. The Panel notes particularly the expression: "as they know it."
4 A. 16 This Enquiry seeks to assess the extent of indicated problems and, after reaching conclusions about identifiable difficulties, to offer some recommendations for the way forward if possible. Bishop Alexander will doubtless decide whether this report, in total or in part, should be treated as an official document of the Clifton Diocese. We anticipate that this will be so. The Panel wonders also whether it could reasonably form the basis for a statement by the Conference of Bishops in England and Wales about the roles of 'lay communities' in the life of the Church; we are not aware that such a
statement has been made previously. The Panel is of the opinion that such a statement is desirable though recognising that this might not be possible for some time.
4 A.17 A post-meeting respondent concerning the future state: "Surely it is important to decide a ifthe NQ is of itselfa good thing or not. Therefore the teams's recommendation should
either say the NC is very good and ought to be introduced throughout the diocese or that the NC is bad for most people, or even, is intrinsically wrong and should be banned." Given the papal support for and experience of the NC Way, the Panel declines to become involved or to express views as to whether the NC is 'intrinsically wrong' though there might be a need to study later the 'NC Theology' and the 'NC Catechesis' in this country notwithstanding the indicated approval to the NC liturgical celebrations by the Congregation for Divine Worship.
4 A. 18 In the main, the Panel has regard to the general approval of the NC Way by Pope John Paul II though mindful, as indicated in Section 2 of the report, that this is not without qualification. An essential feature of the Panel's task is to conclude, in the light of the papal guidance, whether the NC Way has been beneficial or harmful overall to the three Parishes. And if it is perceived to be harmful, how can this best be rectified in the spirit of charity and care particularly as there are so many souls involved. We regard our Terms of Reference to be as in the preceding two sentences.
4 A. 19 Finally, at the meeting with Mgr J C Buckley (Section 4 H below refers), the Vicars General responsible for pastoral matters provided the Panel with a copy of his letter sent to the Editor of the Catholic Herald. The final paragraph states:
"My involvement with the Neo-Catechumenate has been and always will be with the understanding that the Bishop is the arbiter ofwhat needs to be done in order to pasture the flock of Clifton. As the Bishop has already chosen to deal with the
present matter through an enquiry team I am content to leave it there. I have already agreed to co-operate fully with the team whenever it wishes to consult me."
4 B PERCEIVED PAPAL ATTITUDES TO THE NC WAY
4 B. 1 In his representation to the Enquiry, Fr Trafford draws attention to part of the August
1990 letter of general approval for the Neocatechumenal Way by Pope John Paul II. The probable implications of this papal letter have been considered and the Panel's interpretation (without a canonical adviser) are given in Section 2 of the report. We do not therefore intend to repeat here the points commented upon earlier but to concentrate upon the extract and to demonstrate an understanding of points within it that bear upon his overall representation.
4 B.2 The first point relates to the evangelical fruits of the NC Way: "As Bishop of Rome I have
- been able to verify the abundant fruits of personal conversion and fruitful missionary
impulse in the many meetings I have had, in the Roman parishes with the NC
communities and their Pastors, and in my apostolic journeys in many nations." It is
obvious to the Panel that the Holy Father is describing his own 'first hand' experience as
the 'Bishop of Rome', gained in the particular (Catholic) circumstances of the Eternal
City and of course in the particular circumstances observed by him in 'many nations.' He
uses the word 'verify' - 'test the truth or accuracy of' - 'bear out' to quote just two of the
dictionary explanations; and he uses the word 'abundant' - 'plentiful' - 'rich in' to quote
again from a dictionary. Those authoritative observations are irrefutable in their particular
context or circumstances. In our opinion they cannot be ignored by anyone called upon
to consider the NC Way as an instrument of Catholic evangelization. The Panel has
regard to these.
4 B.3 We also have regard to the Holy Father's specific laudatory comments about the NC Way
- 'from experience': "taking into account the new vitality which animates the Parishes; the missionary impulse and the fruits ofconversion..." Again the Panel has regard to the particular observed circumstances. As the Bishop of Rome, the Holy Father has witnessed for himself that parishes have there and elsewhere been 'animated' with a 'new vitality'; they have been made 'more lively' or have been given 'life' to achieve a new 'capacity to endure and perform flinctions.' This is 'verified' by the Holy Father; he has seen this for himself. The Panel must accept that authoritative observation. This observation does not however state that all parishes in Rome have gained a 'new vitality' or have been 'animated' by the NC Way. Indeed evidence to the Enquiry suggests that perhaps no more that 25% of the parishes have the NC Way.
4 B.4 It should be noted that the Panel declined an invitation to visit Rome, albeit with some
reluctance, because our task primarily is to consider the particular circumstances in
Bristol at St Nicholas of Tolentino, in Gloucester at St Peter and in Charlton Kings
- (Cheltenham) at Sacred Hearts thence to assess if possible whether these parishes have
been made: 'more lively' or have been given 'life' or 'new capacity to endure and
perform functions'. In straightforward terms, have these parishes been 'animated' in
consequence of 16 years, 11 years and 8 years presence respectively of the
Neocatechumenal Way? The aim of the Panel is to reach conclusions about each having
regard to various topics or factors.
4 B.5 The quoted extract continues: "I acknowledge the NC Way as an itinery of Catholic
formation, valid for our society and for our times." The extract is then emphasised in the representation: "It is therefore my wish that the brothers in the Episcopate - together with their presbyters- value and help this work for the new evangelization so that it may be implemented according to the lines proposed by its initiators..." The quote ends at this point though the Panel is mindful that it continues so as to state: "in the spirit ofservice to the local Ordinary and in communion with him in the context of the Unity of the local church and the universal Church." The whole is identified earlier by the Panel as a 'primary indicator' of Pope John Paul II (at paragraph 2.11). Not noted previously was the word 'wish'. The Panel refers again to this word wish in B.7 below and in G.18 below.
4 B.6 As is to be expected, there are other NC representors who rely upon the perceived support by the Holy Father for the NC Way in such terms as: "In January 1988, the Pope warmly approved of the NC Way;"... "the Pope's writings about the NC Way are most supportive;"... "I know that it follows exactly all the teaching of Our Mother Church, uncomprisingly and emphatically, and is wholeheartedly approved by the Pope - who is God's vicar on earth and who has the ultimate earthly authority on right and wrong"... "It (ie the NC) is found world wide and its teaching, liturgical practice etc have been studied and authenticated by the relevant Congregations ofthe Church which has led to it being recommended by the Holy See as a means ofspiritual formation relevant for our time." This necessarily is a selection intended to convey the overall point by the NC members that the NC Way enjoys papal support.
4 B.7 We consider this general letter of approval in Section 2, noting that the papal affirmation is not without qualification, pointing in particular to preceding guidance by the Holy Father in December 1985 (at paragraph 2.28) also that the Holy Father makes plain that the NC Way is but one among other instruments of Catholic evangelization. Apart from two other points, little would be gained in the Panel's view by further comments. The
first relates to the last quoted extract and the word: 'recommended'; the Panel has not a been able to identify this word in the general letter of approval by Pope John Paul II
though this letter does state: "It is therefore my wish..." The second point is that such an expression does not convey to the Panel a directive or the like by the Holy Father; we interpret this to be discretionary, a matter for the local Ordinary, to judge having regard to the pastoral situation for which he is responsible.
4 B.8 A Non-NC representor comments in a broader vein: "I have been surprised that the very public written and spoken support ofPope John Paul for the NC movement has not been reflected by the Hierarchy of England and Wales. Perhaps it needs such a lead and involvement to move it to a more English Way." This last mentioned is very interesting and perceptive because it suggests a possible need for a modification of the NC process to reflect appropriately the 'English Culture' or that of the UK in general. This has been explored by the Panel but with only very limited signs of flexibility in response from the
4 B.9 Reference to a lack of interest by the Hierarchy is rather wide of the mark. The Panel is aware of indicated attitudes to the NC Way by some Bishops in the UK and the very recent published announcements by or on behalf of Cardinal Hume about NC seminarians
at Allen Hall and the NC presence in three parishes of the Westminster Diocese. An opponent of the NC Way has submitted to the Panel copies of letters received from the late Archbishop Worlock (November 1991) and from Cardinal Hume (November 1992). Amongst other things, Archbishop Worlock stated: "I am reasonably sure that reservations regarding this particular (NC) movement will find adequate expression
- amongst the episcopal delegates," the latter referring to a forthcoming (at that time) Synod of European Bishops.
4 B.1O As for the correspondence from Cardinal Hume (permission to repeat obtained), his expressed position was: "I do think that the NC, like many other Movements, is a growth point in the Church. ft certainly does help those who belong to it. But I do think that new Movements always need to change and develop. Any idea ofa Movement being divisive or claiming to be 'holier than thou' is, ofcourse, quite unacceptable." Cardinal Hume perceives positively that the NC Way is a growth point in the Church but obviously wonders whether the NC Way might be changed and developed to suit a different European culture, an idea put forward in the quoted extract above. Apart from the Easter Vigil, the seemingly stock answer is: "No change" and "This is a charism ofthe Church."
4 B. 11 It conveys to the Panel a 'mind-set' approach that unaccountably fails to recognise changes in the Church itself over the centuries, not least those stemming from the Second
- Vatican Council. Indeed, the existence of the Neo-catechumenal Way is seen to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, in consequence of that Council. The NC Way itself is described as a 'radical' way to formation, so different in application and over a long time to that of 'traditional Catholicism' in this country. Whilst appreciating the sense of loyalty by the NC communities in still meeting on the eve of the Sabbath for their Liturgy
- of the Word, as if to demonstrate the efficacy of the lines proposed by the initiators, they deprive themselves it would seen of the opportunity to celebrate their Eucharist in the week. This is permissible under the terms of the edict in 1994 and the subsequent extension to the end of the current Episcopate. It is difficult to understand such an unbending approach.
4 B.12 The Panel wishes to draw attention to the situation bearing in mind views about possible change to the NC process as indicated in representations. But this also signifies to the panel that the NC Way insists upon its own terms within a Parish, contrary to the unequivocal guidance given by Pope John Paul II and Pope Paul VI about the importance of the 'Parish' and the 'Parish Community.'
-4 C INITIAL INTRODUCTION OF THE NEOCATECHUMENAL WAY TO THE CITY OF BRISTOL
4 C 1 The heading refers only to the City of Bristol as the location for the NC Introduction to the Diocese of Clifton because there is no evidence to suggest that the 'NC Itinerants' (as they are known) called anywhere other than this City during September 1979. That is some 11 years prior to the papal letter of general approval for the Neocatechumenal Way (August 1990, report at Section 2) and some 5 years after the first reported (in NC Book) address to NC communities by Pope Paul VI on 3 May 1974.
4 C 2 Recollections about this NC introduction and initial visit some 17 years ago rest primarily with Bishop Alexander and the trio of Parish Priests, two of whom at the time (Canon O'Brien and Canon English) were (respectively but not as a Canon) the PPs of neighbouring parishes (St Nicholas of Tolentino and St Patrick) on the eastern side of the city's central area. The third PP Fr Trafford was (at the time) the recently appointed Curate (Assistant Priest) at St Nicholas who speaks Spanish. In September 1982 he became the Bishop's private secretary until January 1986 thence spending about a year away from the Diocese. Fr Trafford has explained to the Panel that this year was spent mainly as a 'NC Itinerant' in S. E. Asia and Ireland.
4 C 3 It might seem merely to be of historic interest for us to report the recollected information about the 1979 visit by the 'NC Itinerants.' The Panel nonetheless regards this recollection of events as an important part of the investigation, because it bears upon our conclusions as to what might or might not have been known by Bishop Alexander about the NC Way at the time.
4 C 4 There are differing recollections of events, not really surprising due to the passage of time
and the developing/developed controversy about the NC Way during the intervening
period. Recollections by Bishop Alexander might also be less precise because he has been
'visited' by 'NC Itinerants' on three occasions, seemingly on each occasion to announce
the 'Good News' of the NC Way. The first occasion was in 1979 (as noted earlier) again
in 1984 and again a few years later though the exact year is not known. It is known by the
Panel that the hospitality accorded to them on the last occasion was not the same as in
1984 when the Bishop invited the 'NC Itinerants' to have breakfast; this is described in
a published article: 'An Unusual Mission' (1)y Fr D Carthy) submitted for the Panel's
information. This article also refers to a gathering of some 900 NC catechists in Rome.
The Panel is aware that Canon O'Brien and Fr Trafford (then private secretary) attended
- this event in 1984.
4 C 5 In September 1979, it seems that two 'NC Itinerants' (a Spanish priest and an Italian layman) called at St Nicholas of Tolentino. This visit is described as providential by Canon O'Brien because a Parish Mission (by the Redemptorists) had not long been completed; there was a perceived need to maintain or to rejuvenate the impetus generated by the mission. Though Canon O'Brien was not present, Fr Trafford could converse in Spanish and was able to hear about the NC Way from these NC Itinerants whose English is described as very limited. Fr Trafford had heard previously about the NC Way and its radical form from a former tutor at Valladolid. The representation from Fr Trafford also
explains that the 'concept of community' was familiar to him in consequence of his voluntary work in the immediate years prior to his appointment to St Nicholas of Tolentino.
4 C 6 Fr Trafford admitted to the Panel that his initial understanding of the NC Way was limited; the ideas were difficult to grasp and that would also be so for Bishop Alexander. Canon O'Brien had not heard previously about the NC Way; he too acknowledged to the Panel that the NC Way is difficult to understand initially. Such is the impression conveyed to the Panel by Bishop Alexander in an answer to a question of clarification with him: "I knew very little about the NC Way at the time."
4 C 7 There are contradicting accounts, between those of Canon O'Brien and Fr Trafford as to whether the 'NC Itinerants' were or were not taken by car to meet Bishop Alexander at St Ambrose (Clifton). This might appear trivial but the Panel is aware that the Bishop does not speak Spanish; hence the presence of a Spanish speaking Fr Trafford would be helpful to serve as an interpreter and especially if; as explained to the Panel, this introductory meeting was lengthy. Apparently the NC Itinerants returned to St Nicholas of Tolentino, stayed there for 10 days and, with an indicated (or an implied) blessing from Bishop Alexander, they are reported to have visited 23 out of 24 Parishes within the city. Limited time is stated to have precluded their visit to other parts of the Clifton Diocese.
4 C 8 Canon O'Brien acknowledged helpfully to the Panel that Bishop Alexander could not have known much about the NC Way in 1979 but no ddubt thought it worthwhile: 'to give it a try.' That too is the candid response by Canon O'Brien about his own perception and an adverse reaction (initially) of the NC Way at the time. There is no evidence to indicate that Bishop Alexander gave a formal approval (ie in writing) for the NC introduction at St Nicholas of Tolentino or elsewhere in Bristol. However, the Panel is particularly mindful of the responses to them that: "the Bishop would not have been expected to prohibit the NC Way, given the evangelizing message conveyed to him by the NC Itinerants," and perhaps assisted directly in that regard by Fr Trafford. Our investigations reveal that other influencing factors could bear upon a tacit acceptance of the NC Way at the time in Bristol; these are considered a little later.
4 C 9 The Panel notes Bishop Alexander's stated recollections of the NC introduction believing
this to have stemmed from a meeting with Canon O'Brien and Fr Trafford, whom he a recollects was his private secretary at the time. However, the recollection about the latter
is awry because Fr Trafford became his PS in September 1982 after which no doubt opportunities presented themselves to discuss the NC Way. The Panel believes that Bishop Alexander was advised at the time, perhaps tentatively given the 'limited knowledge situation,' by Canon O'Brien and Fr Trafford (as the PP and Curate/AP) to allow the NC Way to be introduced at St Nicholas of Tolentino.
4 C 10 As noted previously, the Panel is mindful of the Bishop's stated perception about the NC Way: "it seemed to have something to offer in its goal ofrenewing faith and undertaking outreach to those alienated from the Church. Because I respected Canon 0 'Brien and Fr Trafford as good priests, I was ready to give permission for them to go ahead." It is not out of place to record here that such an affirmative view about 'these priests' (ie to
include Canon English) has been re-stated to the Panel by Bishop Alexander in the context of this investigation.
4 C 11 The NC Way was introduced at St Nicholas of Tolentino in Lent 1980 (on the basis of a detailed statement from the NC National Team - Fr J Guzman etc) but, as adduced by the Panel, there was no verbal or written guideline between Bishop Alexander and the NC Team of Catechists as to the form of catechesis or a specific requirement on the part of the Bishop to ensure that this 'radical form of adult catechesis' would actually be: "in service to and in communion with the local Ordinary." Perhaps because this papal guidance was still in the offing (by some 10 years), perhaps also because there was an unspoken and an understandable measure of 'trust' between Bishop Alexander and these 'good priests.' Whilst for a time any unspoken or loose understanding was not too consequential, it was to become so as the years progressed and reactions to the NC Way became more and more manifest.
4 C 12 Canon English, a former PP at St Patrick in Redfield, has explained helpfully to the Panel that the 'NC Itinerant' visit in September 1979 was not then welcomed because a Parish
- Mission was also in progress at St Patrick's. He also gained the impression that these itinerants, with their broken English, were not men of the Church. There were considerable problems in this Parish and, following the mission, it again became lifeless. Knowing vaguely about the NC Way, in bringing people to God, they were invited back to that Parish later in 1979. During the initial catechesis, thought by him to have been in 1980 or 1981, he and the NC catechists necessarily visited Bishop Alexander to explain
-- the situation.
4 C 13 The Panel is grateful for this explanation noting also that about 10 people joined the NC Way at St Patrick's but the successor PP (in 1983) was not keen to have the NC Way there. There is an explanation that some of the ten therefore joined a community at St Nicholas. Detailed information submitted to the Enquiry by the National NC team indicates: "Afier consultation with Bishop Alexander on 26.6.85, those remaining in the First Community at St Patrick's were invited to continue in the first Community at St Nicholas...."
4 C 14 As noted before, other Parishes in Bristol were visited by the 'NC Itinerants' during September 1979. There is a written account of such a visit by the former (now retired) PP of Sacred Hearts at Westbury-on-Trym; this account (made available to the Panel) describes: "a long and unpleasant skirmish with the original disciples sent to Chfton." Be that as it may, the submitted details and the representations (oral and written) show that only two parishes in Bristol, St Nicholas of Tolentino and St Patrick in Redfield, introduced the NC Way in response to the visit by the NC Itinerants in 1979. The vast majority of Parish Priests in Bristol at the time declined the NC Way invitation.
4 CiS Noted previously ("aragraph 3.35), Canon O'Brien and Canon English initially were dismissive of the NC Way and needed to be convinced about it. Fr Trafford saw the NC Way as a challenge. None of these priests could have had no more than a rudimentary grasp of this NC process; each has admitted frankly to the Panel that their current knowledge is so much greater but that is to be expected after 16 or so active years in the
NC Way. What is much less clear is the extent to which Bishop Alexander has been apprised of the NC process bearing in mind that in June 1993, he still wondered whether the NC Way could operate side by side with Catholic Association or groups existing in the parishes.
4 C 16 As if to underline the point about limited knowledge of the NC Way at the outset, there is a very pertinent reported comment by Kiko Arguello when addressing briefly the Synod on 'Penance and Reconciliation' at Rome in 1983. A paper submitted to the Enquiry about this Synod gives the comment at the outset: "I think that it is almost impossible in an intervention as short as this to understand what the NC Way is;" that comment is well understood by the Panel. Only with the valued help of submitted papers about the NC, especially the 1993 'Presentation of the Way' by Kiko Arguello referred to so extensively in the preceding section, has it been possible to fill in some gaps in our knowledge about the NC Way.
4 C 17 Unless Bishop Alexander had been apprised with reasonable clarity and detail about this 'radical process of adult catechesis' at the outset, and this obviously was not the case, the 'give it a try' approach is quite understandable and tenable. But when this trial of the NC Way illustrates flaws and generates adverse perceptions in the Parishes, this process of conversion is justifiably called into question when exercising Episcopal authority. Nevertheless, it seems to the Panel that very strong rumblings of concern or outright criticisms about the NC Way at St Nicholas of Tolentino were not wide spread for a
number of years after 1980 although Canon O'Brien acknowledges that some a
parishioners reacted with anger about the NC Way when it was introduced there.
4 C 18 The evidence leads the Panel to a conclusion that the NC Way enjoyed the tacit, ifnot an a
explicit, approval by Bishop Alexander to be at St Nicholas of Tolentino, and subsequently at St Peter in Gloucester and at Sacred Hearts in Cheltenham, as long as this
presence was on a 'side by side basis.' Though the papal letter of general approval for the a
NC Way did not materialise until some three years after the NC Way introduction at
Sacred Hearts, a responsibility was nonetheless placed upon the NC Way to ensure that
Bishop Alexander was well informed about these parishes and about the progress or
otherwise of this radical conversion process so that it could be seen to exist: "in the spirit
ofservice and in communion with the local Ordinary."
4 C 19 As for 'other influencing factors' mentioned earlier, aNC representor from Sacred Hearts Parish draws attention to (but does not submit) the Report of the National Pastoral Congress in Liverpool (1980) thence quoting part of the section entitled 'Evangelization.' The quote states: "We must devise a strategy that will establish apostolic groups as the base ofthe local community so that our Parishes are a community ofcommunities." The Panel is particularly grateful to this NC representor in providing such a timely reminder that the 'community' concept was a matter of discussion at the NPC in 1980, hence the consequent intention to form a strategy about this. Whilst there is no information to the Panel whether such a 'strategy' ever materialised, we are aware that months of preparation preceded that national event, that this Diocese had a particular interest in
Evangelization, and a key figure at the NPC came from this Diocese. a
- 4 C 20 The point is that the 'community concept' was uniikely to have been unfamiliar to Bishop Alexander and other leading clerics of this diocese at the time, that is prior to the NPC. That time (Autumn 1979/80) seems to have coincided with the unexpected arrival of the NC Itinerants in Bristol, offering the diocese generally and Bristol in particular an opportunity to form 'community of communities' on the NC Way basis. Set in the 'Catholic Community' atmosphere of the time, it is hardly surprising that the 'NC Itinerants' persuaded (if indeed real persuasion was necessary) Bishop Alexander to permit the introduction of the NC Way on a trial basis. As noted above, Bishop Alexander also listened to the advice offered to him by Canon O'Brien and by Fr Trafford who, by that time had experienced and had been touched by the idea of 'community.'
- 4 C 21 The NC representor from Scared Hearts makes a pointed and a very relevant comment:
"ft was evidently not anucipated, either at Vatican II or at the NPC, that the presence of such a group or groups in a Parish might be seen by some other Catholics as a threat to the life ofthe Parish as they know it, with a resulting reaction ofconsiderable resentment and hostility. Vatican II certainly did not foresee this and, to my knowledge, the Church has not yet addressed the problem in any official document or statement."
4 C 22 Although the NPC report has not been used to verify the above quote about 'community of communities,' the Panel has had recourse to the paper: 'The Easter People' produced in consequence of the NPC. The reform of structures within the Church in England and Wales is treated in a section called: 'A community offaith; bishops' conference, diocese, deanery, parish, groups.' Whilst the Bishops welcomed the development of small groups within parishes, describing them as: "a source ofstrength," they noted that they must not be: "exclusive in themselves nor seen as an alternative to Parish commitment." Thence it is stated: "Much will depend upon the Priest in the Parish as to how fully these groups are in fact integrated into the Parish community."
4 C 23 A pointed note of caution was therefore raised by the Bishops in 1980, that small groups must not be exclusive nor seen as an alternative to Parish commitment. Those words of warning seem to have been echoed by Pope John Paul II in 1985 as part of his address to
- 2,000 priests who follow the NC Way (para 2.27 above). The Panel perceives the guidance then given by the Holy Father to be unequivocal, directed to the priests whom our own bishops had, in 1980, recognised that much would depend upon them: "as to how fully these groups are integrated..." In the context of this topic, it is beneficial to repeat the papal guidance:
"It is the task ofthe pastors to make an effort to see that the parishes benefit from the positive values that these communities can bring and as a result be open to the communities. However it must be very clear that the communities cannot put themselves on the same plane as the Parish community itself as a possible alternative. On the contrary, they have the duty to serve the Parish and the local Church."
4 D SUBSEQUENT NC INTRODUCTION TO PARISHES AND DISCONTINUANCE
4 D 1 Details provided by the National NC team in September indicate that a NC catechesis was given in Advent of 1982 at St Bernadette in Whitchurch, stated to have been at the
- request of Fr Harding. These details also indicate that a 'follow-up catechesis' took place
in Advent 1983, but Fr Harding decided not to have further NC catechesis and the NC
Way was discontinued there.
4 D 2 A member of the Panel has met Fr Harding for more particulars. He explained that he was not happy about the NC presence; there were two particular grounds of concern:
c. There was an over-emphasis upon sin, not unlike 'Jansenism';
d. Questions were not answered except to the extent that the enquirer would be invited to attend the next NC meeting.
The NC method was not acceptable to him because, as the Parish Priest is accountable to the Bishop, it is necessary to know where the Parish is going in the future.
- 4 D 3 From the early representations, it seemed to the Panel that the NC Way had been
introduced at Holy Cross in Bedminster. That is confirmed in the submitted details from
the National NC team; a catechesis was given in Advent 1984 and then: "The team visited
Bishop Alexander to discuss the situation created by the retirement ofFr Nugent and the
arrival of a new PP. Since the new PP did not wish to have the NC in the Parish, the
community was discontinued as of2& 11.85. Individuals wishing to continue the NC were
- invited to jo in the second community at St Nicholas."
4 D 4 These submitted details show also that a catechesis was given during Lent 1982 at St Edmund, Calne at the request of Fr Meehan but: "this was to form a second community at St Patrick's and St Nicholas. The catechesis was halted on the eleventh evening as the PP had changed his mind and no longer wanted the NC in his Parish."
4 D 5 These details also indicate that a catechesis was given at St Peter in Gloucester during Lent 1985, following the earlier appointment of Canon English as the Parish Priest; and at Sacred Hearts in Charlton Kings during Advent 1987 following the earlier appointruent of Fr Trafford as the Parish Priest.
4 D.6 Although the NC Way existed initially (ie in 1980) at two parishes in the eastern part of inner Bristol, it was also introduced at two other parishes in the city not long afterwards, only to be discontinued by the Parish Priest after a very short period. At one of these, the Parish Priest discerned the NC process to be negative in approach; he was also concerned about the future of his Parish and mindful of his accountability to the Bishop.
4 D 7 Prior to the submission of detailed information in September, the Panel was not made aware about the introduction of the NC Way at St Edmund in Calne. There is no elaboration as to why it was discontinued there so quickly but we understand the reason for the discontinuance at St Patrick. Where discontinuance took place, this was at the
behest of the Parish Priest. We do not know whether these setbacks for the NC Way served as an early signal to Bishop Alexander in 1985 because it had been found wanting after an initial try in three parishes though the Panel is mindfiil that the NC communities at St Nicholas of Tolentino were formed from various parishes; it became and remains a focal point for the NC Way in Bristol.
4 D 8 It was known by the Panel from an early representation that the NC Way had been discontinued at St Patrick in Redfield, the writer expressing relief that this had happened after first explaining the initial involvement and reactions: "I attended the NC in the beginning when it came to St Patrkk's. ft was the wish ofFr English that we shouldjoin. But it soon became apparent that these meetings were not for me. ft did not make sense. IregardedFr English far more superior to those foreign people who wanted to teach me about God in a '?:ew way' - by going backwards." After explaining the adverse reactions at a personal level, the writer concludes: "There were many people who felt like me and were very glad when the NC came to an end and peace and unity was restored once more!" Whether there were in fact 'many people' cannot be assessed but the perception of restored peace and unity by this representor cannot be ignored by the Panel.
4 E PARISHES WITH THE NC WAY
4 E. 1 There are now three parishes with the NC Way: St Nicholas of Tolentino in Bristol, St Peter in Gloucester and Sacred Hearts at Charlton Kings in Cheltenham. Their Parish Priests are respectively: Canon J O'Brien, Canon M English and Fr A Trafford.
4 E 2 Information about these parishes is from various sources. Some is submitted by representors, some is provided directly to the Panel from official records after this has been requested. For ready reference, a table for each Parish has been compiled (included separately below) to show, as far as possible, the main identified features such as the Catholic population, Mass attendance, Catholic societies or groups and so on dating from 1973 (St Nicholas), 1979 (St Peter) and 1984 (Sacred Hearts). These dates relate to the situation prior to the appointments of the Parish Priests.
4 E 3 St Nicholas of Tolentino: is identified in the Diocesan Directory as Bristol No 2. The
centenary of its consecration was celebrated last year. At the Non-NC meeting, those
present explained that the Mass celebration, with Bishop Alexander as the Principal
Celebrant, attracted a congregation of more than 250 people that filled the Church. The
Panel has not sought authentication for the figure or about the capacity of St Nicholas.
4 E 4 The church and associated buildings are on the fringe of St Paul's, an 'Inner City Area'
with a poor reputation; the expression 'Inner City Area' is associated normally with social
deprivations in varying degrees and form. The generally accepted extent of the 'Parish
Area' includes St Paul's, Newtown, St Philip's Marsh, Russell Town (part), Upper
Easton, Lower Easton (part) and just beyond. At the northern extremity is St Thomas
- More Comprehensive School and St Maximillian Kolbe Chapel. The Panel is not
completely convinced that the description 'Inner City Area' fits the Parish Area; there are
parts not within the inner city.
4 E 5 Canon O'Brien explains in his representation that the 'Parish Area' has about 50,000 inhabitants with, it is believed, no more than 1000 people who attend a church on Sunday. He also asserts that there are literally thousands who suffer in a multiplicity of ways with: "Gods ofviolence, drugs and alcohol." It was wondered by the Panel whether such a bleak picture applies more to St Paul's than to the Parish Area generally but he has explained to the Panel that Easton is a difficult locality where the character, formerly terraced houses, was changed years ago. He cites other examples of change, including the M32 motorway provision (in the late 1970's or early 1980's) explaining that he found this Parish so different compared to earlier years as a curate at St Nicholas. He also quotes a view of his predecessor (Canon MeCarron) that: "the heart had disappeared from the Parish (ie in 1979) when taking over." Canon O'Brien nevertheless emphasised to the Panel that the Parish was not dead then and it is not dead now.
4 E 6 'Parish Returns' give details about the Parish, included in the accompanying table. There is presently one Mass at St Nicholas on Sunday (l0.30am) and a weekday Mass. Mass is celebrated at St Maximillian Kolbe Chapel on Sunday (9am) and at Horfield Prison (9am), where Canon O'Brien has been the Chaplain since 1981. From 'official documents,' Mass attendance since 1979 is indicated:
1979 1985 1987 1989 1991 1993 1994 1995
621 402 371 325 327 285 265 221
These figures tend to support assertions made in the Non-NC representations that: "Many people have left St Nicholas as a result ofthe NC" This is considered later by the Panel.
4 E 7 By contrast, members of Catholic Associations remain fairly steady with annual figures in the range of 'just under 90 to just over 100' for the 1985 - 1995 period. The indicated organisations are SVP, UCM, Legion of Mary, Neo-Catechumenate though these are not really perceived (1,y Kiko Arguello) to be a group or a Catholic Association. The 'Parish Return' for 1995 indicates that there are 19 (part-time) Pastoral Assistants (Parish Pastoral Staff) though their existence is denied by Canon O'Brien; reference to them cannot be clarified. A Finance Committee is required in a Parish by Canon Law 537. There were three members (Non-NC) in June 1988, two have since died and the third has moved from the Parish. In June 1993, the five members were all NC.
4 E 8 A Parish Council did not exist in November 1978. It is identified as 'Parish in Council' in 1983, meeting four times a year. It is similarly described in 1988 without reference to the meeting numbers or members. Though a representor explains that General Parish Meetings are of the past, another includes a copy letter of one to Bishop Alexander (19 November 1993) indicating that at least two Parish Meetings had taken place in the recent past; the procedures at the meetings are criticized. The 'Parish Returns' indicate a pronounced increase in the number of catechists between 1994 (22 No) and 1995 (45 No) compared to the preceding eight years when the number ranged from 10 to 19. Reasons for such an increase are not explained but might relate to the 'Core Group' arrangement and other facets formed in November 1993 by Canon O'Brien.
4 E 9 There is an adjoining school, St Nicholas Primary School, with about 186 pupils aged between 4 and 11 years. The Secretary of the Diocesan Schools Commission has been interviewed by the Panel Chairman due to specific concerns raised in the representations about the school and the NC. This is considered later.
4 E 10 Representors explain that there are buildings associated with the Church such as Parish rooms and another building, formerly a canteen, that is used for NC liturgies. The Panel has visited this room.
ST NICHOLAS OF TOLENTINO: PARISH INFORMATION
1973 1978 1983 1988 1993 1995
Gen 50,000 40,000 40,000 40,000
Catholic 2,500 3,500 3,200 2,000 2,000
Average 900 430 340 290 221
Average 10 15 25 25
Average 300 180 250 200 100
Easter 1,100 Not known 600 approx 250 approx
Congregatio Marginal Static Fluctuates Diminishing Diminishing
Legion of Yes 4 5
SVP Yes Yes 7 6
UCM Good 27 Yes 20 17
Guild of 21 6 5
Prayer Yes 19
RCIA Once a Being
Neo-Catechu 2 3 3
menate communities communities communities
To be 130 (80) 55 (137) 10 (36) 21 (29) Nil (23)
Parish Yes No Parish-in-C Parish
Committee ouncil Meetings
Finance 3 members 5 members
4 E 11 St Peter: the church, presbytery and associated buildings are located by a very busy road junction on London Road, close to the railway station as well as to the bus station. It lies by the city centre.
4 E 12 Canon English explains in his representation that Gloucester has a population of over
100,000 though less than 5,000 go to any church on Sunday. He asserts that over 95,000 are completely unchurched, that many have lost the sense of sacred and christian values are far from them. He cites the tragic examples of the 'West murders' of national
notoriety in recent local history and quite close to the church; he states: "We see how a close we are to death and how little respect there is for hfe." During the Panel's meeting with him, Canon English explained his perception of a 'Battle for God' in Gloucester given the loss of the special values mentioned previously and the recent provision nearby of places of worship for non-Christian residents.
4 E 13 Afier the appointment of Fr (Canon) English as PP in October 1983, the Mass provision at the weekends was reduced from 8 to 5. From the representations, it seems that a former Solemn High Mass was replaced by a 'less solemn liturgy without Latin.' From the 'official records' Mass attendance figures for the 1983 to 1995 period are:
1983 1984 1985 1987 1989 1991 1993 1995
2529 1573 1425 1187 1240 968 900 817
These figures tend to support assertions made in the Non-NC representations that: "Many people have left St Peter's as a result ofthe NC' but the Panel is mindful of at least two factors that bears upon these figures: one is the creation of a new Parish and the others are reduced provisions of Mass with a major change to the solemn liturgy.
4 E 14 The compiled table provides an at a glance view of the Parish details:
ST PETER PARISH INFORMATION
1979 1984 1985 1989 1993 1994 1995
General 35,000 90,000 60,000 60,000
Catholic 3,300 6,000 4,200 4,000 4,000 4,000 4,000
Av. Sunday 1,600 1,700 1,425 1,290 900 969 817
AY. Weekday 20 to 25 30 40 40
Av. Communion 1,100 1,000 400 700
Easter Duties 1,350 1,200 600 700
Congregation Diminish Static
Schools 3 3 3 3
Hospitals + + + +
Prison + + + +
Societies: KSC 40 + 24 +
CWL 20 + +
SVP 24 + 8 +
Mother Teresa + 10 +
Cath Assoc 140 335 121 121 35
Rainbow Club 20
Senior Citizcn 30
Special 9 24 40
Finance 7 5 4
Parish Council No Being +
NC 45 +
RCIA + +
Catechists 16 92 45 44 37
Pastoral Ass 2
Reception 10 4 8 10 11
First 45 44 62 15 49
4 E 15 The table is an aid in assessing changes between 1985 (NC introduction) and 1995. A number of societies existed in 1984 though the numbers involved are not recorded; the same societies with additions seem to exist. Quite marked changes in the numbers for Catholic Associations are illustrated over the period under consideration. Pertinently, there is a clear indication in 1984 of an intention to: "start the Neo-Catechumenate." In answer to a question about catechetical formation of adults is: "We are about to start the NC. We have hadfive Parish Renewal weekends during the lastyear." This is mentioned here; it provides clarification for the Panel because Non-NC representors wonder whether Bishop Alexander approved this introduction to the Parish.
4 E 16 In the period since 1983, there has been at least one Assistant Priest at St Peter namely:
Fr David Ryan (1985-1988), Fr Bamabas Page (1985-1991), Fr Philip Newman (1990), Fr Kevin Hennessey (1992 - 1995) and Fr Timothy Nurse (in post). In addition to these, priests from outside of the Diocese include: Fr Fechin McCormick (1991 - 1992) and Fr James McGuire SDB (in house).
4 E 17 Non-NC representors seek to demonstrate the characteristics of St Peter's prior to the arrival of Canon English towards the end of 1983. Perhaps the most informative scenes given abdut the Parish are from two people, one who was interviewed seems fairly ambivalent though knowledgeable about the NC, whereas the other is seriously concerned about the adverse effects of the NC upon the Parish. The latter explains in a representation that Mgr Roche was the PP for 50 years stating: "history speaks for him and of him but the Parish needed to be brought up-to-date into post Vatican II awareness. Fr Michael caused a very significant enhancement of what already existed but he made some unpopular changes; some were upset by this but others saw these changes as necessary to help move together as a Parish community." This view is endorsed by another writer who points out that: "Fr English was like a breath of fresh air.
4 E 18 The interviewed person explained that there used to be a 'Latin Mass' involving a 'four part choir' which attracted people from outside the Parish. The music attracted a congregation from a wider area who came to listen as well as those to attend Mass. This celebration was stopped when Fr English came; some parishioners were upset by this and the organist especially so. Mass times were changed. A 'Folk Mass' was introduced. The changed liturgical scene for Sunday Masses was disliked by some people. Another representor indicates that the number of Masses was reduced from 8 to 5, as confirmed by Canon English who also confirmed to the panel that people were upset by these necessary changes. The Mass attendance figures show a considerable reduction from 2529 in 1983, when Fr (Canon) English became the PP, compared to 1425 in 1985, when the NC was introduced to the Parish.
4 E 19 The Panel agrees with a representor that this 38% reduction in Mass attendance could not be attributed to the NC presence. That changes were instigated by Fr (Canon) English, as the new PP, is not a matter of argument nor is there substantive evidence to suggest that deep-seated resentment remains among parishioners at St Peter's about liturgical or other significant changes made 11 or 50 years ago. It is obvious to the panel that Canon English perceived quite properly the need to bring this Parish into a post Vatican II
situation, but there is no evidence to suggest that the spiritual and pastoral condition of St Peter's was fragile or parlous in 1985 50 that it needed to be 'revitalised' or 'animated' by introducing the Neocatechumenal Way. The 'introduction' is considered as a later topic.
4 E 20 A representor, not in favour of the NC, has submitted helpfully a 'Parish Profile'; this is reproduced for reference purposes:
LEADERSHIP: Canon M English Hospital Chaplain,
(Parish Priest) Governing Body of High School
Hon President Social Club
Promoter of NC
Fr Tim Nurse: Chaplain Infants School
(Assistant Priest) Prison Chaplain
& Confirmation Programmes
Fr Jim McGuire Hospital Chaplain
(Assistant Priest) Promoter of NC
MASS TIMES: Open and published
SACRAMENTAL LIFE: Open and published
LAY MINISTERIES: Eucharistic ministers
SISTERS: Poor Servants of the Mother of God, 2 help with the elderly and hospital; 2 teach full-time in Infants School
SCHOOL: Infants, Junior, High School
FUNDING: Published in bulletin, covenant system but big debt
LAY INVOLVEMENT IN PARISH-BASED ACTIVITIES (open and advertised):
SVP, Knights of St Columba
Sacramental Programmes, CWL
Playgroup, Mothers & Toddlers,
Co-Workers of Mother Teresa
Brownies and Rainbow Guides, Guides, Cubs and Scouts
PARISH CLUB: Used for all groups; managed by competent lay management and offering facilities to wider Gloucester community - particularly local elderly parishioners and others as a daily meeting place.
4 E 21 An opponent of the NC indicates that the Parish in Council organised a Mission some 3 or so years ago. There is a perception by this representor that: "Great fruits were born; people were again touched by the Holy Spirit. Yet hardly any growth was experienced because the PP indicated that the Parish did not need a return visit to assess whether progress had been made following the suggestion by the Mission." Because this point seems to be contentious, a copy of the Mission report has been submitted to and has been considered by the Panel; it is dated 3 November 1991, covering a 3 week Mission by the Zion Community that began on 12 October 1991. The report of this Mission is laudatory but the Panel perceives signs within the parts about 'Parishioners' and 'Parish Groups' that indicate scope for change.
4 E 22 For 'Parish Groups' the report indicates that: 'many individuals and families are committed to the NC community." These were met: "they are sincere, committed people with a genuine desire to grow in Christ." This part of the report suggests 'Open Days' for all groups for awareness purposes but pertinently states: "All the groups need to be recognised as equally contributing to the glory of God, personal sanctification and reaching out in love to others. To achieve this, there must be communication and discussion in an honest effort to appreciate each others' contribution to the building up of the Kingdom of God in the Parish family. " A little later is a pertinent comment: "Equal opportunity avoids division or destructive criticism - which is not of God. Instead everyone will affirm that good that is being done and recognise each other's call."
4 E 23 In the Panel's opinion 'division' and 'destructive criticism' were recognised by the Mission in October/November 1991; suggested means to deal with this were put forward. Significantly in the Panel's view, the report indicates that: "There is a hunger for spiritual growth in the Parish, a good sense offamily community and a great desire for the Parish to be more open;" and "There is a hunger for spiritual growth in the Parish, a good sense offamily community and a great desire for the Parish to be more open'." and "There is a desire by many to begin a Prayer and a Scripture sharing group." This is heartening because, in a way, it bears out a more general assessment by the Panel of a need for Adult Catechesis, but the 'NC Way is not regarded as appropriate by the parishioners. Even with the presence of the NC Way at St Peter's "there is (or was in 1991) a desire to begin aprayer anda Scripture sharing group. " The NC was clearly not regarded as a means to that end, nor for that matter was the RCIA.
4 E 24 This Mission report also indicates (under 'Parishioners') that: "The parishioners are prepared to commit themselves to the spiritual development and on-goingformation of
the Parish community - given the necessary training for the responsibilities involved" a
A little later, this part of the report indicates: "The potential for leadership is here among the people, with an eagerness for unity and sharing at all levels." The Panel regards the latter as a sign, detected by the Mission almost 5 years ago, that St Peter's was not a united Parish but there was an underlying wish for that to be so.
- 4 E 25 Sacred Hearts: is a post-war church (1957 Ded 15.10.82) with a presbytery and a large Parish hall. Fr Trafford very helpfully provides a description: "This Parish is predominantly home-owning and middle class - and the houses are not cheap. ft is a very active and 'involved' Parish with many good things going on. There is a spirit ofcooperation and good wilL This is well exemphfied in our Eucharistic Ministers who not only ensure that five ofthefr number are on duty at each Sunday Mass, but also take Holy Communion to nearly 40 sick or housebound people every Sunday after 10. OOam Mass. We also have a very busy and well-run Parish hall, not to mention other activities and groups." The compilation table below provides information about the societies and groups.
4 E 26 Descriptions about the Parish prior to or upon arrival of Fr Trafford at the beginning of
1987 are far too numerous to mention. In the main, they describe a Parish with many activities and attributes including those spiritual as well as social or material. A few are not wholly complimentary, expressing some reservations about the spiritual life or character of the Parish prior to 1987. However, an indicated Mass attendance during the weekdays of some 30 or so people is hardly an indicator of spiritual lethargy in the Panel's opinion.
4 E 27 Given the inevitable variety of descriptions as expressed by parishioners not in the NC
- Way and by NC members, it is not easy to select one in particular that could be regarded as truly representative though most are laudatory. In order to demonstrate this variety at the Non-NC meeting, twenty people were invited to identify (on a form) whether quoted extracts about the Parish could be attributed to a representor belonging to the NC Way, or to an opposer of the NC or to a non-committed parishioner without strong views; seventeen of these forms were returned for the Panel's consideration. One of these noted that 'supporters of the NC' had not been identified; some people in that category attended this meeting. On four of these returned forms was a comment in these terms: "A very difficult exercise," thus confirming the difficulty of selecting a representative description.
4 E 28 However the exercise was quite revealing because of the four highest accredited 'scores', two were correct in identifying the writer's category (Non-NC and NC) but the other two (Non-NC and NC) were not. These four quoted extracts are repeated:
xiv. "I have lived in the Parish for the past 4 years. As someone not in the Parish in what I have been told were 'better times' before the NC, I must say that I am encouraged that the active participation of the laity - as Eucharistic Ministers (about SO), Readers and first Communion Catechists (all ofwhich I understand already established before the NC arrived) - continues, as do the parent -run classes for children at non-Catholic schools, the pram and pushchair group and the J and P group, largely through the efforts of some committed parishioners, as indeed they should be in the modern Church. We have found the Parish to be a close-knit and friendly community despite the falling off in numbers."
This quote from a Non-NC parishioner, was identified correctly in 15 of the 17 returned forms. It describes some characteristics of the Parish as it exists now noting particularly:
'the falling off in numbers' (during the past 4 years). Importantly in the Panels' view there is reference to : "largely through the efforts of some committed parishioners" whom we identify as Non-NC and have reason to believe that their commitment has remained consistent over the years in order to retain the numerous activities noted below in 'Parish Information.' Amongst some of the reasons noted in representations is a determination to carry on or to retain control notwithstanding a perceived lack of direct encouragement by their PP because his interest is (stated to be) directed mainly to the NC Way and its members in the Parish. The Panel is mindful of some views expressed that their commitment would be in question were the strained situation at Sacred Hearts to remain unresolved.
xv. 'The Parish, for me at any rate, before Fr Tony's arrival was very much a shallow veneered social organ isation and, if like me, someone did not fit in, they were simply ignored"
This quote, from a NC representor, was identified correctly in 12 of the 17 returned forms. Seemingly these were able to recognise (or perhaps to empathise with) the particular personal situation described, thence perhaps to relate this to NC members critical of an aspect in the Parish sometimes commented upon in less than favourable terms in other representations. In one representation at least, a proponent of the NC is indicated to have said: "There is no love in this Parish." That judgemental assessment, if reported correctly by the representor, seems to be an isolated view.
xvi. "The Parish was recognised then (ie in 1974) to be an excellent Parish. ft was well organised with modern liturgy and particular blessed in lay participation. Parishioners were rightly proud of their Parish, but, if there was one criticism which could be made it was that this pride had begun to turn into selfcongratulation and even to complacency
ft was clear to us that before Rev Trafford called his first NC meeting, the word had been spread that several key people who were important organisers would strongly oppose its introduction to the parish. They bridled at what they saw as an implicit criticism of their own previous efforts and way of hfe.
ft has to be said that we find a majority ofparishioners are not aware or concerned about pro' or 'anti' NC factions. They belong to what they and we still perceive as, an above average well organised Parish, headed by a deeply respected and well-loved PP."
This quote, from a Non-NC representor, was identified incorrectly in 13 of the 17 returned forms. There are less than complimentary comments, some are particularly pointed in referring to complacency and apparent reactions to perceived criticisms; these are not unusual traits nor is it unusual for those involved as organisers in a Parish to wonder and worry whether their roles will continue upon the appointment of a new PP. This quote might nonetheless convey more than an element of truthful discernment, that all was not as well as might be thought in the Parish, hence the need for some change.
The Panel does not regard the quoted representor to be a supporter of the NC.
xvii. "I came to Charlton Kings in 1987 The Parish is predominantly home-owning and middle class. ft is a very active and 'involved' Parish with many good things going on. There is a spirit of co-operation and good will. We also have a very busy and well run Parish Hall, not to mention other activities and groups."
This quote is part of the description by Fr Trafford; it was identified incorrectly in 14 out of 17 returned forms as being from a Non-NC writer. The Panel clarified with him whether the 'present tense' description in the last quote could be applied also to the past, he agreed. We therefore take the description as applicable for the 1987 situation at Sacred Hearts. While noting the caveats in quote (iii) that all was not entirely fine, the Panel wonders how the introduction of the NC to such an 'involved' Parish could bring about further 'animation' because on the face of it, it could not be described as 'inactive.'
SACRED HEARTS PARISH INFORMATION
1984 1987 1989 1991 1994 1995
Gen Population 12,000 - 30,000 +
Cath. Population 1,300 - 1,400 2,500 3,000 3,000 3,000 3,000
Av. Sunday Mass 600-700 600 676 656 497 442
Av Weekday Mass
Easter Duties More than 50% No idea No idea
Congregation Increasing Static Diminishing
Schools No + +
Hospitals + + + see
CWL + + +
Mother Teresa + + +
Legion of Mary + + +
Young Wives + +
Altar Servers +
Folk Group +
CMAC + +
NC + +
Newman + +
Carmelite 3rd + +
Justice & Peace
Journey in Faith
Parish Council + +
RCIA + +
Womens Group +
Reception 6 1 11 3 18 2
First Communion 18 22 12
Youth Groups +
Confirmation 54 54 52 3 28 2
-4 F PARISH CLERGY AND ATTITUDES TO NC
4 F 1 Ths topic is based upon the written representations to the Enquiry from Canon O'Brien,
Canon English and Fr Trafford; it is also intended to cover points of clarification made
at the (public and private) meetings with the Panel - the respective dates for the latter are
24 July, 1 August and 26 July. The Panel wishes to acknowledge the courtesies and
assistance given to us when we visited their parishes. Though realising that an
introductory paragraph for each might not be necessary, we do so to indicate an
understanding about their priestly ministry.
4 F 2 Canon O'Brien: He was ordained in 1946, celebrating his Golden Jubilee this year. Bishop Alexander presided at the celebration Mass at St Nicholas of Tolentino; the church was flill. The Panel attended. He became a Canon of the Clifton Diocese in September 1986 and is a former Dean of the Bristol East Deanery. For the past 16 years, he has been a NC explaining in the representation that: "The NC is one ofthe many ways ofpersonal renewal that have arisen within the Church since the Vatican Council." The Panel is grateful for an acknowledgement that the NC Way is one of a number of ways for personal renewal.
4 F 3 He explains that after appointment as PP of St Gregory's in Salisbury (March 1966), more than thirty (charismatic) prayer groups were established in different parts of that Parish. Looking for something more radical and after studying 'Marriage Encounter,' he perceived this to be a source of renewal for the Church at its base and subsequent experience showed this apostolate to have an impact on the Parish. Couples either were not interested or were unmarried at St Nicholas Parish; in fact, eleven marriages were convalidated in one year by him. Realising that 'Marriage Encounter' was not appropriate, he explains how he was introduced to the NC in 1980 following the NC Itinerant visit in the autumn of 1979.
4 F 4 His representation explains that: "in focusing their attention on me as a man and as a Priest, those speaking about the NC told him 'bluntly' that the renewal ofthe Parish must start first in the heart of the PP." This radical approach was resented at first but it has enabled him to focus on the priorities of his personal life particularly with a greater awareness about the paramount importance of prayer. An initial reluctance to join the NC disappeared after 1 year. The NC provides for his ongoing personal conversion and renewal; he thanks God for this 'special grace!' but acknowledges that the NC Way is not for everyone. He is at the Reditio stage of the Way.
4 F 5 As for the Parish, Canon O'Brien explains that a mere handful of homes had a Bible prior
to the NC introduction but the reverse is now so amongst practising parishioners. There
is no reference in the representation to Mass attendance figures; in clarification to the
Panel he explains that there is a decline throughout the Western World; it is worse in
some areas including the Parish Area. He acknowledges that some people have moved
elsewhere for Mass because of the NC Way; figures are not known, old parishioners have
died; others have moved. He wonders whether Mass attendance is the sole criterion to
assess the health and spirituality of the Parish.
4 F 6 Though silent in the representation about any divisions in the Parish in consequence of the NC Way, he explains very helpfully to the Panel that people in the Parish were opposed to the NC Way from the beginning; at the very first meeting there was aggravation. There have been signs of division from the beginning; there has been resentment and hostility to the NC Way even before the leading opponents appeared; hatred was demonstrated at meetings. There has been an uneasy existence for a number of years. The Easter Vigil situation brought things to the boil. The impression is that Bishop Alexander is aware of Parish restructuring with the NC at the centre. Canon O'Brien would like it to happen at St Nicholas of Tolentino; street mission is essential.
4 F 7 Canon O'Brien believes the NC Way is not a movement but a way of renewal for the Church. He acknowledges that Bishop Alexander could not have known very much about the NC Way in the beginning but like himself thought he would give it a try. Doubtless the Bishop learned a great deal more from Fr Tralford when he was his Private Secretary; there must have been discussions particularly about the first scrutiny. Implicit approval was given to the introduction for the NC Way; there were no formal guidelines from Bishop Alexander. Though the NC Way has existed in the Parish since 1980, more time is needed for it to animate the Parish. There is a need for the NC Way; it is a package that cannot be changed. It is doubted whether it could be modified.
4 F 8 Fourteen of the Non-NC representors (out of 29) offer views about their parish priest; the Panel regards these as personal and not for inclusion in the report. That said, there are strong criticisms about his involvement with and commitment to the NC Way tempered to a degree by an acknowledgement that it is very difficult for a priest in an Inner City Parish. Another point emerges too; this is loyalty to Canon O'Brien. One of these writers can be quoted in the Panel's opinion: "The majority ofthe Parish, although feeling very hurt, wish to remain loyal to the traditions ofst Nicholas - borne out by many donations" and so on. Another states: "Most parishioners are not given to writing to the Bishop to express their concern - loyalty to our PP plays a big part in this." The Panel recognises the loyalty point about by Canon O'Brien at St Nicholas of Tolentino.
4 F 9 None of the NC representors refer to Canon O'Brien but a warm acknowledgement is provided in a later representation from a NC seminarian in Rome who is from the Parish. An initial impression gained by the Panel at the NC meeting in April was of a strong affinity between Canon O'Brien and the NC members (the brothers and sisters) but the realisation is that it is more than mere affinity; as a NC, he is a member of the community; he follows the NC Way and is subject to its programme as for any other member of the community. His catechesists are akin to a spiritual director.
4 F 10 It is impossible for the Panel to offer a comprehensive assessment about his priestly ministry; his Chief Pastor will know Canon O'Brien far more that we could expect to gain in relatively short meetings. Nevertheless, the Panel is impressed by the frank responses to questions; to an acknowledgement given without equivocation that it would be an aim to re-structure St Nicholas of Tolentino with a street mission as is found in Italy. The impression is of a very experienced priest whose wish to spread the Good News is not dimmed. The Panel is mindful of the point that Bishop Alexander would be expected to give a very good reason why the NC Way should be discontinued. We are also mindful of the wide respect for Canon O'Brien.
4 F 11 Canon English: He has been a priest of the Clifton Diocese since 1958. He became a Canon in June 1990 some 10 years after becoming an NC.
4 F 12 In his representation, he explains an involvement with the Legion of Mary and the Young Christian Workers indicating their value for the Church's mission prior to the Vatican Council but it became very difficult to continue with these and other organisations after the Council. He remarks that the time following the Council was one of a great excitement and anticipation, reminding the Church of the need to assist in meeting the world's problems. There was a changed atmosphere in the post-Vatican II Church, a situation prevailing in 1980 when introduced to the NC Way at St Patrick in Bristol.
4 F 13 Explaining that initially (in Autumn 1979) he was very much opposed to the NC Way, because he could not visualise the possibility of small communities in the Parish system but "eventually Isaw that Ineededto change." Indicating that the Prayers of the Church became more meaningful in consequence of the NC Way, also that: "The celebrations of
- the Eucharist and other Liturgies have become far more meaningful and living realities." He indicates a personal change for himself outside of the celebrations making better use of his time.
4 F 14 In addition, Canon English has seen many changes in the lives of other people who are NC. Examples are quoted: "People who were caught up in drugs and drink and other vices were able to change their ways and come back to be active members of the Church.... Marriages were rebuilt and several couples became open to hfe."
4 F 15 At our meeting with Canon English, he explained that people are being 'catechized' by the outside world; there is a need to be aware of this. The NC Way provides for his renewal as a priest; there is a need to replenish to compensate for: "the giving ofself in the priestly ministry to others." In this respect the NC Way is a blessing. He is very convinced that the NC Way is a necessary instrument of the Holy Spirit to combat secularism and atheism in Gloucester; he is also concerned about the influence of other religions in the City.
- 4 F 16 Canon English looks upon the NC Way as essential for his own spiritual renewal. It is most important for a priest to receive as well as to provide pastoral assistance; a two-way process is necessary to avoid becoming a 'Professional Priest.' The commuruty context of the NC with its catechesis serves his renewal purpose. Therefore the NC is personal; it facilitates spiritual growth in a deep and continuous way for him. Attendance in Rome (February 1983) at a meeting organised by the NC communities on the theme:
'Reconciliation and Penance in the Mission of the Church' has had a profound effect. The meeting was addressed by Kiko Arguello and Pope John Paul II.
- 4 F 17 In most of the Non-NC representation, there are glowing tributes to Canon English. These are personal and are not for the report; he is aware of their tone. A few representors refer to his involvement with the NC perceiving this to have differing effects upon him personally and upon his position as the parish priest. He rejects assertions passed on by
the Panel (verbally) that he is trapped by the NC also that the NC has a hold on him. As for the concern that personal confidences might not be respected, Canon English is very satisfied about the confidential trust within a community during the personal sharing process.
4 F 18 Canon English confirms that he is a member of the First Community at the Initiation to Prayer stage having had to start afresh following his move from St Patrick's. As for claims of exclusive dedication to the NC, he explains that the community meets on
Tuesday for about 1 Y2 hours (the second comm meet on Wednesday) and, taking into a account the convivences, on average he spends a maximum of4 hours per week with the
NC. He is aware of the assertion about the time with the NC but believes that such criticisms would not arise were he to be away from the Parish on recreational pursuits; it is the 'association aspect' which causes people to react in his opinion.
4 F 19 The Panel is in no doubt that Canon English gains so much from and is committed to the NC Way. He points to the personal hurt experienced against the charges, in July 1993, that the Parish relied largely upon the Assistant Priest for the day-to-day affairs allied to scurrilous rumours at the time of impending suspension. It is heartening for the Panel to note that he perceives the Enquiry to be of benefit in helping to reveal the truth about the NC Way so that this helps Bishop Alexander to discern and thence to make a decision.
4 F 20 We recognise the validity of the point he makes about 'association' which could cause exaggerated perceptions by those not in favour of the NC Way. Nevertheless such perceptions relate to a concern that the 'Pastor' prefers a particular group of people rather than others in a Parish. Whilst we realise that this involvement is not merely an 'association' but entails a deep spiritual awareness and growth, it might be that the quite clear guidance by Pope John Paul II to priests in the NC Way is being forgotten; he warns about the risks of seeking to relate too much with the NC Way in the Panel's interpretation. That said, there is nothing in the representations to indicate that those in need at the Parish are neglected; the opposite is the case.
4 F 21 Fr Trafford BA: He has been a priest of the Clifton Diocese since 1973. He joined the
NC Way in 1980 after being in the company of the NC Itinerants staying at St Nicholas
of Tolentino for a week in Autumn 1979. He was at the time a Curate/AP to Canon
O'Brien. Between September 1982 and January 1986, Fr Trafford was the Private
Secretary of Bishop Alexander. In 1986, he served outside of the Clifton Diocese as a NC
Itinerant in South Korea and the Republic of Ireland.
4 F 22 In his representations Fr Trafford recalls his seminary period (1967 to 1973) at the English College in Vallodolid describing those years just after the Second Vatican Council as turbulent and chaotic. Theology professors are stated to have been full of enthusiasm for the new Rites and the new-look Church but the reality of subsequent Parish Life was a severe shock because barely anything had changed. He explains how, at Chipping Sodbury (1973 - 1978), he became increasingly involved in work at hospitals for the disadvantaged and with organisations for the handicapped children, providing experience with people dependent upon others. With this volunteer involvement, a strong sense of bonding or community was experienced. The Panel recognises that in this early period of his priestly ministry, the seeds of 'community' were experienced by Fr Trafford; as he explains: "I saw how important community was." He was clearly touched by this.
4 F 23 He explains the circumstances of the NC Itinerants arrival at St Nicholas of Tolentino:
"We were offered a Way, which would be on-going, which wouldform us as priests along with our people, and which would bring deep renewal of the Vatican Council to the Parish by evangelizing it. We were both familiar with Evangehi Nuntiandi (1975)." He had not forgotten: "the uncompromisingly evangelizing history" of his seminary days and realised that the NC Way offered (for nothing as with all God's gifts) the means to do this. He explains also his awareness of a need to change and to grow spiritually in his vocation as a priest.
4 F 24 Fr Trafford explains that just over 8 years after the initial catechesis, there are two communities: "a total ofabout 50 adults ranging from 14 to 87 years." Responding to accusation that the NC is perceived by outsiders to be an 'elite', he comments: "They are truly only an elite in the sense that God chose them from 30,000 people for whom I have responsibility. The numbers would probably be higher had there not been active opposiU6n (well orchestrated) from within the Parish and from Bristol." The Panel is in no doubt about the latter charge of active opposition from within and outside the Parish.
4 F 25 He perceives the NC Way as: "giving the possibility ofbecoming mature in faith" and to:
"seek the nature of Christ" pointing out that: "Nobody in the Church of Jesus Christ shouldfeel excusedfrom receiving catechesis (C.T.45)." He looks upon the NC Way and the community as helping him to grow in faith, to constant conversion, to be faithfiil to his priestly ministry, not to forget his real mission and to encourage preaching with authority what the Church teaches rather than what the world wants to hear. Citing numerous realities faced constantly in life as a priest, he looks upon the community as a place where he is deeply in touch with all humanity and which: "does not allow me to settle down and be comfortable." The NC Way pulls him towards Heaven and in his view answers the urgent call of the Church for the clergy to have on-going formation: "because of the rapid changes in the social and cultural conditions of individuals and peoples among whom priestly ministry is exercised, but also because ofthat 'new evangelization' which constitutes the essential and pressing task of the Church at the end of the Second Millenium" (Pastores Dabo Vobis 70).
4 F 26 In a considerable majority of the Non-NC representations (110 total), there is reference to Fr Trafford. These are personal and are therefore not included in the report. There are approbations in various ways, particularly in regard to unstinting pastoral care for those who are sick or for the elderly or the disadvantaged, and about his deep spirituality demonstrable at Mass in particular. A few of the representors perceive that the NC Way helps his vocation; there are complimentary representors with caveats of varying degrees relating to NC involvement or influence; there are those more strongly critical of perceived NC influence upon him. It must be noted that the letters with criticisms far outweigh in number those that are complimentary.
4 F 27 The Panel's investigations show that his NC experience over a relatively short time (1980
- 1987) must have created a deep impression upon Fr Trafford. The Panel believes it reasonable to conclude that by January 11987, the NC Way had been imprinted deeply into his mind and heart as a Christian on a journey towards God, as a priest called to assist others in the goal and within the ambit of the NC community over a long period of time. His mind was then set, firmly set on the NC Way; he seems to have been unmoved in that regard over the years between 1987 and more recent times. During these years he has of course been bolstered by the National NC Catechists no doubt also subject to their influence. And during those years the perceptions by some parishioners about the effect upon him as their Pastor are not or are becoming less complimentary.
4 F 28 The Panel is in no doubt that Fr Trafford retains a very strong desire and determination to evangelize, with a very strong commitment to bring outsiders to the Church and to know God. In his representation, he indicates a spiritual responsibility for many many more people in the general locality than those who are at Mass on Sundays at Sacred Hearts. Meritorious as that spiritual objective is, sight cannot be lost of the immediate responsibility as a Parish Priest and especially in a situation without an Assistant Priest. As Pope John Paul II warns: "Do not be deceived." in this NC involvement.
4 F 29 Given this mission approach directed to those outside of the Church, it appears to the Panel that there might be an inherent conflict of spiritual interest for him; perhaps a flindamental incompatibility in a secular vocation, as between the primary role of the PP in caring for an existing flock having faith in a variety of ways and levels and the more directed spiritual role of a missionary serving a wider catchment yet within a supportive but specific Christian community in his Parish sharing his strong spiritual commitment or vision in this 'particular way.' And in the 'NC Way' that does not (apparently) and will not compromise in what they the NC, regard as the best or indeed the only way towards a God in some reported instances.
4 F OVERVIEW BY THE PANEL a
4 F 30 In section 2, the Panel draws attention to the papal guidance in the 1990 letter of general approval for the NC Way noting in particular the 'primary indicator' by Pope John Paul II of his 'Wish' that Brothers in the Episcopate - together with their presbyters - value and help this work for the new evangelization. As we note previously (at 2.12), Bishop Alexander perceived initially (in 1979/80) the 'potential' value and help which this (NC) work for the new evangelization might have within the City of Bristol. However, we also indicate our conclusion that this initial perception of NC Way objectives and methods were not on the basis of being 'well informed' or 'well briefed or guided' by those seeking to promote an important evangelical role for the NC Way within this City. Bishop Alexander admits to the Panel that he knew very little about the NC Way at the time; the investigation shows that to be so with the three priests because they too admit to this. The Panel is gratefill for these concessions.
4 F 31 The Panel is satisfied that in 'not disapproving of the NC Way,' it was on the basis of a tacit agreement or understanding that this should be for a trial period. It could hardly be expected to be otherwise without a clear picture of what it might entail, how parishioners might or might not receive this so called 'radical method of formation.' In other parts of
the report, the Panel considers numerous topics that include 'perceptions about the NC Way,' both for and against; those impressions are gained from experience during a period of 16 years or so. This period is of course less in the other two parishes. Nevertheless the Panel believes that sufficient information is to hand enabling satisfactory conclusions to be drawn for the three parishes under investigation by virtue of Canon 212.
4 F 32 In reaching conclusions, the Panel also has regard to other papal guidance about the NC Way; this is considered in Section 2 of the report. Of particular significance in considering the priests who are adherents of the NC Way is the guidance by Pope John Paul II given in 1985 (included in the NC Book) and noted within paragraph 2.27 above; it is considered by the Panel in subsequent paragraphs. This section 2 also notes the papal views about "Rebuilding the Parish basing it on the NC experience." This too is borne in mind.
4 F 33 It seems to the Panel that the highlighted extracts of the papal guidance in paragraph 2.27 are particularly relevant to the investigation. These are repeated for convenience:
xviii. "It would be an illusion to believe you can serve the Gospel by diluting your charism in a false sense of humility or in misunderstood manifestation of fraternity...Do not let yourselves be deceived! The Church wants you to be priests and the lay people you meet want you to be priests and nothing other than priests."
xix. "Whatever service has been entrusted to you, you are always the representative of and 'prividi cooperatores' with the Bishop to whose authority you should feel particularly united."
xx. "However it must be very clear that the (NC) communities cannot put themselves on the same plane as the Parish community itself as a possible alternative."
xxi. "Exercising your ministry for the guidance ofthe NC communities, you do not feel sent only to one particular group but to serve the whole church."
4 F 34 It is in the context of the aforementioned that the Panel now gives views about the 'evidence,' that is the presentations by each priest to the Enquiry bearing in mind also the points of clarification given helpfiilly and willingly when we met on an individual basis. The Panel also bears in mind views expressed in representations by parishioners about 'authority', 'loyalty' and so on; this necessarily includes reference to the so called
- 'authority' perceived by parishioners to be exercised without proper cause by the 'NC National Team.' This is considered as a topic. The Panel hopes that each priest, Canon O'Brien, Canon English and Fr Trafford will read the points made below in the context of papal guidance; we urge them to do so.
4 F 35 It seemed incomprehensible to the Panel that each of the Parish Priests had not referred to Mass attendance at their Parish on Sundays in their written presentation to the Enquiry.
We wondered whether this might be an accidental oversight upon reading the presentation from Canon O'Brien some weeks before receiving the presentations from Canon English and Fr Trafford. This omission was in itself a surprise but more perplexing because it was a common omission. Whilst a consistency of approach to the provision of information or otherwise to the Enquiry could perhaps be expected, this omission was unexpected bearing in mind the following:-
a. The background of controversy about the NC Way in their parishes;
b. The existence of the Enquiry itself which we had been advised (in writing) was requested by the priests;
c. The known assertions by parishioners, particularly those opposed to or not in favour of the NC Way, that the NC Way had caused demonstrable harm as evidenced by defections to other parishes for Mass on Saturday evening or Sundays;
d. The availability of official figures about Mass attendance that would (and do) form a substantive point in the arguments of others;
It seemed inconceivable to the Panel that this important matter was not addressed or covered in their presentations to the Enquiry.
4 F 36 This posed a substantive question for the Panel, the lay members especially: "How could a Parish Priest not be mindful of Mass attendance on Sunday in his Parish over the years?" especially in regard to a formally promoted Diocesan investigation under Canon Law into claims of harm to their Parish due to the presence of the NC Way. This commonality of approach, and the omission itself, seemed rather implausible and so unhelpfiil to their cause. Whilst the Panel recognises that Mass attendance is not the sole criterion to assess the spiritual well being of a Parish, it is very important indicator of the Roman Catholic well being; an action of a practi sing Catholic for all to see as a matter of importance in Faith.
4 F 37 The Panel has been puzzled seriously by this omission, especially as the figures submitted to the Enquiry do not paint a particularly healthy scene at each Parish; there is a very pronounced decline, well above the general rate for the diocese. This is considered as a topic. Hence the Panel had to ask each Parish Priest about Mass attendance; explanations were given and are noted by the Panel. However, the omission was all the more striking because in their presentations to the Enquiry, each priest provides an unfavourable picture of their general area - 30,000 people for whom Fr Trafford has responsibility, 100,000 people in the City of Gloucester and 50,000 in East Bristol and so on.
4 F 38 Understandably, each priest refers to particular aspects or features to be found within 'their areas'; the quotes are:
a. "Gods of violence, drugs and alcohol'
b. "Loss of the sacred and Christian values"
c. "Education is an obsession"
It seems to the Panel that each priest is 'looking out' beyond his immediate members who
form the Parish Community as a whole. This to the Panel is the 'mission concept,' a second strand of the NC form of evangelization explained in the Presentation of the Way paper. The points above are made seriously, seemingly to justify the NC Way existence in the Parish and yet the investigation shows that only at St Nicholas of Tolentino has the NC Way reached the 'door-to-door' stage of evangelization outside of the Church itself; we understand that the NC stage was reached in 1993 or thereabouts. So far, there are no significant indicators that people have responded directly.
4 F 39 Each priest regards the edict of March 1994 as an impediment to evangelization, perceived to help all those people who no longer worship God on Sundays and who otherwise would be reached by the NC Way. The Panel cannot agree that the edict prevents 'evangelization.' We are quite sure that this would be the last thing that Bishop Alexander would wish to achieve. The opposite is the case; the very reason why he agreed to the NC introduction in the first instance. The stance is perplexing by the priests; it seems to be a contradiction in terms towards their own pastoral flock on Sundays. The Panel cannot accept for one moment that each is unaware of the hurt experienced by their parishioners, some in their Parish for many years and 'loyal.'
4 F 40 Some of these loyal but very concerned parishioners, concerned for their 'Pastor', express the sense of hurt or even bewilderment that they see themselves as of limited, little or no consequence because their Parish Priest is so engrossed or so immersed by the NC Way. There are many representors who perceive the main or predominant interest of 'their priest' to be with the NC Way. At a public meeting, a parishioner opined: "They have a priest, we have a chaplain;" this was not challenged by others as an unfair assessment. Views of a similar tone are expressed in numerous representations by those not in the NC Way. The Panel cannot accept the counter-point by the NC Way that such people are 'jealous' or 'resentful;' those are most unhelpful responses in such a sensitive pastoral situation.
4 F 41 The Panel well understands that explained personal benefits for a priest who walks 'The Way' and equally, we understand why it is necessary for a priest to be with his community in the NC journey. But in consequence of this involvement, especially where there are two or more communities in a Parish but there is only one priest - the Parish Priest, his NC involvement must inevitably be quite demanding in time. This involvement is noticeable to parishioners. Whilst some of the expressed concerns could be exaggerated, the consistency of adverse comment speaks for itself in the Panel's assessment. The message conveyed is: "The NC Way is so important to...."
4 F 42 Moreover, whilst none of the representors claim that they have been neglected as an individual when in need of pastoral help, the message is that out 'Pastor' is either unaware or is neglectful of the hurt we feel because of the NC Way presence with his consequent conimitment to it. It seems to the Panel that parishioner responses reflect the very point, the warning given by the Holy Father in 1985 to priests who follow the NC
Way: "Do not feel that you are called to serve one particular group" and perhaps also, "do not let yourselves be deceived"" The Panel wonders whether such specific guidance
- is forgotten by each of the priests in earnestly following the NC Way. Only the priests themselves will really know.
4 F 43 It is apparent to the Panel, that the NC Way 'anhnates' existing members of the faith to a perceived (ie by the NC) deeper faith. A number of representors explain, either by first-hand experience or by observation, that the NC member is conditioned to think in the NC Way; the Panel has elsewhere in the report described the approach as akin to a mind-set; the view is set predominantly along the NC Way. The priests acknowledge that: "I had to change." The surprise for the Panel is not that 'good priests' felt the need to do so, but to do so in such a radical way.
4 F 44 Whilst they have gained personally, the wider and much larger Parish family feel that their pastoral needs have suffered in consequence. The Panel concludes that such perceptions are quite justified and that their sufferings should end. This inour view can come about by recognising, for the good ofthe Parish community, that the trial period for the NC Way has run its course. We recommend accordingly.
4 G BISHOP ALEXANDER AND THE NC
4 G. I The introduction of the NC Way to the City of Bristol is considered earlier, setting out the recollections of those involved during September 1979; Bishop Alexander was necessarily involved. He was 'visited' by the NC Itinerants though there remains uncertainty as to whether they were accompanied at the time by Fr Trafford to act as an interpreter and as an initial commentator about the NC Way. In the event, it appears that Bishop Alexander did agree to the introduction of the NC Way at St Nicholas of Tolentino in the Autumn of 1979 and probably a little afterwards at St Patrick given that the initial catechesis took place in both parishes during Lent 1980.
- 4 G.2 We again have regard to the expressed view (4.C.8) that: "the Bishop would not have
been expected toprohibit the NC Way," allied to the 'Catholic Community' atmosphere
prevalent at the time and to the verbal response by Bishop Alexander to the Panel: "I
knew very little about the NC Way at the time," that might otherwise have led him to
refuse permission. The Panel not only appreciates such an unequivocal answer but
understands why that was so on the basis of our own 'learning curve' about the NC Way
during the past 6 months or so.
4 G.3 As indicated earlier, it is known by the Panel that Bishop Alexander initially regarded the NC Way as having something to offer in its goal of renewing faith and reaching out to those alienated from the Church. We are grateful for the formal response about this to the Panel: "In the early days my hopes were that the NC could have become a Parish group in harmony with other Parish organisations. It seemed it could ojfrr a deeper understanding ofScripture and a stronger commitment to the Church. I had heard about the many priestly and religious vocations that had come from among NC members elsewhere. Also there were accounts of parishes being revitalised by the NC. I have always realised the importance of small communities within a Parish and so this attracted me initially Opponents say in effect the NC seeks to take over the Parish and to direct sacramental preparation programmes."
- 4 G.4 This response reinforces our earlier expressed conclusion that the pastoral climate was
right, there was a favourable atmosphere towards the concept of 'Catholic Community'
in 1979/80 in the process leading to the NPC at which this would be a subject for
discussion. We note also that the Initial 'attraction' of the NC Way stemmed from a long
standing realisation about the importance of small communities in a Parish. Thus the
'visit' by the NC Itinerants was opportune to say the least or providential as perceived by
others who later provided more information and probably advice about the NC Way. It
is a matter of conjecture as to whether that advice or information was soundly based.
4 G.5 Submitted to the Enquiry is a copy of a letter (12 March 1994) sent by the Vicars General (Mgr J C Buckley, Mgr W J Mitchell) directly to members of the NC communities which, amongst other things states: "The Bishop made it clear, first ofall, that he had allowed these communities to be set up on an experimental basis. That experiment, heftlt, had proceededfar enough and there were certain elements in the movement ofwhich he could not approve;" the background context of this letter is considered later. The particular point of importance to the Panel is whether or not the NC introduction was on an
'experimental basis' or otherwise, and upon what terms of reference or guidelines (if any) did Bishop Alexander accept the introduction to the City of Bristol in 1979/80 and elsewhere in later years.
4 G.6 The Panel has sought answers from the NC and from Bishop Alexander. At the NC meeting at St Nicholas of Tolentino in April, there was a rather resounding 'No' when the Panel enquired about their views as to whether the introduction had been 'an experiment.' However, any adverse reactions by the NC members to the letter from the Vicars General cannot entirely be discounted in their response. We give much greater credence to the later helpful response by Canon O'Brien that Bishop Alexander could not have known much about the NC Way in 1979 but no doubt thought it worthwhile to try this method of evangelization. As noted earlier (4 C.8 above), there is no evidence to indicate that Bishop Alexander gave a formal approval in writing. But that in itself is not so surprising given the indicated respect for the priests by Bishop Alexander, no doubt with a strong element of trust in their roles as Parish Priests acting in 'persona Christi' (papal audience, 2.28 above) and, from a practical aspect, guidelines could hardly be set if so little was known initially about the NC Way.
4 G.7 Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that the NC Introduction was on the basis only of a tacit agreement by Bishop Alexander without any mutually accepted terms of reference or pastoral guidelines. The Panel is also of the view that this initial support for the NC Way was not unqualified and in exercising his Episcopal authority, it was and is the right and duty of Bishop Alexander to review the pastoral effects of this NC introduction from time to time. (Canon 381 at paragraph 2.28 vi above).
4 G.8 One of the NC representors makes the point that the presence of Bishop Alexander at an NC liturgical celebration gave personal re-assurance about the validity of the NC Way:
"that it would not go off the rails as experienced in other movements." The Panel has therefore sought to assess the extent of this direct involvement noting first the acknowledgement by Bishop Alexander that he presided at a number of ceremonies and secondly, from the recorded details provided helpfully by the NC National Team. These show attendances at the three parishes, mostly after a catechesis but on very limited occasions following a NC scrutiny; the last recorded presence by Bishop Alexander was in Advent 1991 at Sacred Hearts parish. Although there have since been NC celebrations other members of the clergy have attended instead of Bishop Alexander. The constmction could therefore be that the Initial support for the NC Way had waned after 1991 although this may not have been made clear to the NC and to the parish priest. The priests are of the opinion that this was not indicated by Bishop Alexander.
4 G.9 In the period between 1980 and 1991, the evidence tends to show that the support was demonstrable. First by the probable awareness of Bishop Alexander that the three priests (Canon O'Brien, Canon English and Fr Trafford) attended NC international gatherings in 1983 or 1984; secondly by the continued NC involvement of Fr Trafford during his service as private secretary to Bishop Alexander culminating in agreement for him to serve in aNC role outside of the Diocese; third by the appointments of Fr (later Canon) English and Fr Trafford to parishes where the NC was to be introduced, though there is uncertainty as to whether Fr Trafford apprised Bishop Alexander of an intention to do so;
finally by the 'introduction' of two Spanish families in 1990 to serve at St Nicholas of Tolentino and the area of St Paul's in particular. This came to light in a representation from the couple and has been considered by the Panel.
4 G. 10 The representations from the Spanish family explains that they offer their lives to the NC Way as a 'missionary family' in foreign lands - as NC Itinerants and after their
involvement in Chile: "we came to the Chfton Diocese when your Bishop Menyn asked for families to help in St Nicholas Parish;" this was a surprise for the Panel upon first reading. Therefore copies of correspondence have since been submitted for the Panel's information and consideration following the NC meeting at St Nicholas of Tolentino attended by this Spanish family. It was made plain at the meeting that Bishop Alexander had requested such involvement; it is confirmed in the correspondence. The 'invitation' from Bishop Alexander expresses a wish to 'encourage the mission.' The letter is dated 23 November 1990, some three months or so after the papal letter of general approval for the NC Way in which there is reference to the 'dedication of the itinerants and lately from the work of the families which evangelize in the dechristianised areas of Europe...' The Panel does not know whether this letter of approval had any bearing upon the invitation decision but we have explored the background.
4 G. 11 Details submitted from the NC National Team indicate that in April 1990 a team met Bishop Alexander at St Ambrose to discuss, amongst other things: "the proposal to invite missionaiyfamiliesfrom NC communities to come to St Pauls to live." The team included the NC catechists from London and, because the visit ?elated also to St Nicholas, the Panel assumes that Canon O'Brien would also have been a member. We also have reason to believe that Bishop Alexander may have been reluctant initially to the idea of inviting families but was persuaded eventually upon advice from Canon O'Brien that these families could give a powerful witness by their presence and example. Whether our supposition about the circumstances is correct, the point is that support for the NC Way existed in November 1990.
4 G. 12 That support however was not without a knowledge by Bishop Alexander of some opposition to the NC Way at the three parishes. This we believe was manifest at Sacred Hearts, probably at St Nicholas of Tolentino and perhaps to a less marked extent at St Peter. Though invited by Non-NC representors (those clearly opposed to the NC Way) to inspect their letters of complaint or concern 'to the Bishop', we have not done so but some of this correspondence forms part of their representations in any event; we are aware therefore of adverse reactions in the 1980's. Another source for this awareness arises from a document 'Clifton Diocesan Synod 1988, Working Pariy Reports, Volume Two', in the Chairman's possession arising from earlier service for the Diocese.
- 4 G. 13 Under the title 'Laity' and the sub-heading 'Particular Problems' it is stated at (e): "In one
region of the diocese, grave concern and distress was brought to the attention of the
working party Q)oth publicly and privately) over the emergence of the 'Neo-
Catechumenate on this issue, making a one-sided view possible. However, we were struck
by the depth ofhurt and concern expressed about this movement's development, which
- needs to be noted. Opinions were divided as to whether time has healed at all." It must
be concluded that Bishop Alexander was aware of adverse perceptions about the NC Way
in 1990 and 1991 but nonetheless still hoped that there was scope for an amicable existence with the NC Way as a 'Parish Group'; 'in harmony with other Parish organisations.' (paragraph 4 G.3)
4 G.14 The Panel is particularly mindful of a representor's perception of Bishop Alexander's approach to an indicated problem in consequence of the NC Way as: "gentle, reasoned anddiplomatic." In accepting that perception, we also have reason to believe that Bishop Alexander sought to promote a policy of 'live and let live', and consistently so as opposition to the NC Way developed. Upon later reading of our report, Bishop Alexander will realise from our independent assessments of the evidence that such a policy regrettably has not and will not succeed. We come to conclusions, explained later, that the NC members do seek t6 play a very involved part in sacramental preparation programmes, as well as other facets of Parish life, in accord with the explained objective by the initiator (paragraph 3.25 xxxii above).
4 G. 15 Submitted evidence allied to our investigations show clearly that the NC situation had, by 1993, become a serious pastoral problem due to the persistent and more intensive adverse reactions at the three parishes though not to the same degree in each. For example, the strained pastoral situation at St Peter in Gloucester does not seem to have been (ie in 1993) 50 heated as at St Nicholas of Tolentino and at Sacred Hearts. That might still be the case given a description from a representor at St Peter that: "there is not a running sore mentality here," seeking no doubt to illustrate that the problems there were/are not so pronounced.
4 G. 16 Earlier in the report and in the context of papal guidance about the NC Way (',aragraphs
2.32 and 2.33 above), the Panel notes the circumstances on 23 July 1993 when a meeting was called: "to try and reach a common understanding and mind about the Neocatechumenal Way. " As noted, the hope was that a 'live and let live' situation could still be achieved at the parishes. Whatever the misgivings by Bishop Alexander about the NC Way in 1993, it is clear to the Panel that the way forward might still be on the basis of co-operation, mutual understanding and trust in the search for an amicable pastoral solution. Notwithstanding, a subsequent meeting with the NC National Team led by Fr J Guzman, and thence mindful of their counsel to seek advice from the main recipient of the 1990 letter of approval, Bishop Alexander felt it necessary to exercise Episcopal
authority by promulgating an edict in March 1994. a
4 G.17 By that time, experience of the NC Way had been gained at several parishes within the Diocese beginning in 1980. The Panel does not know whether Bishop Alexander received adverse feed-back from the Parish Priests in the early 1980's, because the NC Way was discontinued there (Holy Cross, St Bernadette, St Edinund and St Patrick). He clearly received adverse reactions from many parishioners at St Nicholas of Tolentino, St Peter and Sacred Hearts, causing his Initial attitude of support for the NC Way to change following a 'trial period' or 'an experiment', whatever the expression. Whereas in 1979/80 the pastoral climate was right to introduce the NC Way, it seems to the Panel that in the light of experience the climate had changed and perceptibly so by 1991 or thereabouts.
4 G. 18 It is so much easier to consider situations in hindsight but the Panel cannot help but wonder whether in his own hindsight, Bishop Alexander would have preferred a pastoral situation without the NC Way at seven parishes in his care. Although the NC Way introduction took place ten years in advance of the papal letter of approval in 1990 (ie at St Nicholas of Tolentino and at St Patrick) the Panel concludes that Bishop Alexander was, and remains, very mindful of the 'wish' by Pope John Paul II that "brothers in the Episcopate value and help this work for the new evangelization." It is also reasonable to conclude that this encouragement ought not to be in doubt bearing in mind particularly the papal exhortation about the importance of the Parish.
411 ATTITUDES OF VICARS GENERAL TO NC
4 H. Though representations were not submitted to the Enquiry by the Vicars General, the Rt Rev Mgr Canon J C Buckley Prot Ap JCD and the Rt Rev Mgr Canon William Mitchell MA JCL, representations from others show that they were obviously aware of the NC Way situation, that they were mindful and concerned about the developing pastoral difficulties and were involved, one way or another, over the years and particularly in more recent years. A suggestion by the NC to the Panel is whether this involvement could be justified and whether it was warranted; the latter of course is a matter ofjudgement. Bishop Alexander and others will know much more about the background circumstances than the Panel, particularly those leading to the edict of March 1994 that followed almost immediately the joint letter from the Vicars General referred to previously.
4 H.2 The Panel has met each Vicar General on an individual basis to clarify some matters raised in the representations and at the (public and private) meetings. As for the justification or power to be involved, as might be expected this was explained by Mgr Buckley. Nevertheless, the Panel also had recourse (for earlier reference) to the previously mentioned report of the Clifion Diocesan Synod (1988) under 'Structures and Constitutions.' The role of the Vicars General is explained (page 186): "the Vicar General has a share in the govern ence of the whole diocese and has 'ordinary 'powers accordingly ('ordinary 'power means that which the law attaches to the office - not that which is delegated)." The reference also explains that the Bishop's Council comprises the VG and Episcopal Vicars. The Panel is in no doubt that juridical power exists with the office of Vicar General and that this has been exercised on that basis by the Vicars General in regard to the NC Way.
- 4 H.3 Submitted as part of the representation of an opponent is the 'paper' by Mgr J C Buckley:
"The Neo-Catechumenate" (An attempt at a Pastoral Appraisal) and other 'papers'. These
have helped in the Panel's understanding about the NC Way though it has to be stated
that the 'Presentation of the Way' paper by Kiko Arguello is treated as authoritative; it
has therefore been considered in detail by the Panel (Section 3 above).
4 H.4 Our meetings with the Vicars General help to confirm that each has, in the past attended or has presided at NC liturgical celebrations. This was normally instead of Bishop Alexander and in one instance, as a participant to experience the NC liturgy from the 'floor' as it were. Details submitted from the NC National Team indicate an involvement by the Vicars General as follows:
1. Mgr Buckley; Lent 1985 at St Peter
Preside at Liturgy of the Word and present Bibles.
ii. Mgr Mitchell; Lent 1986 at St Nicholas
Preside at Liturgy of the Word and present Bibles.
II November 1987 at St Nicholas
Sunday PM liturgy of First Scrutiny for second
Mgr Mitchell; May/June 1992
Meeting with NC including Canon English and
Meeting with NC including Canon English and
It is evident to the Panel that each Vicar General has taken part in a NC liturgical celebration thereby affording an insight to the reality of these and probably adding to their knowledge and perceptions about the NC Way; the Panel believes those perceptions, overall, are adverse.
4 H. 5 Representations show that the Vicars General have had a direct involvement at meetings with parishioners. Minutes of such meetings have been submitted for the Panel's information and consideration. They tend to show that efforts have been made to resolve
concerns on a pastoral basis though it is fairly common knowledge that Mgr Buckley has a expressed deep concern about the theology of the NC Way, about the 'modus operandi'