The Bishop of Lancaster issued last week liturgical norms for the Neocatechumenal Way, which apply to all in the diocese, in the interest of “fostering clarity” around the celebration of the Eucharist.
“The Neocatechumenal Way has been active in our Diocese for many years and has been a blessing to many people,” Bishop Michael Campbell, OSA, wrote in a May 28 statement issuing the norms.
“Recent years have seen a growing sense of unease about the multiplication of small community Masses in some of our already quite small parishes and about some of the differences in the way the Mass is celebrated among the communities of the Neocatechumenal Way,” he added.
The movement must celebrate Mass at a consecrated altar and members of the congregation who receive the Blessed Sacrament must consume it as soon as they receive it, Bishop Campell directed.
The Neocatechumenal Way is an ecclesial movement that focuses on post-baptismal adult formation in small parish-based groups. It was founded in 1963 by Spanish painter Kiko Arguello. Today it is estimated that the movement has about 1 million members, in some 40,000 parish-based communities around the world.
Bishop Campbell cited the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the liturgy and the Neocatechumenal Way’s statutes, and then noted that “every Eucharistic celebration is an action of the one Christ together with His one Church and its therefore essentially open to all who belong to His Church.”
“Here, I exercise my authority to establish norms regarding the regulation of the liturgy, as a way of fostering clarity concerning the celebration of the Eucharist,” the bishop wrote.
In the statement, five liturgical norms were reiterated for the Lancaster diocese.
The first stated that all Masses said on Saturday evenings “must be celebrated at a consecrated altar,” for “If we cannot find find unity among ourselves at the one Altar of Sacrifice, where else will we find it?”
The second norm stipulated that if the Neocatechumenal Way’s Mass is one of a parish’s regularly scheduled Masses, its special character be noted in the bulletin; if the Mass is in addition to a regularly scheduled Mass on Saturday evening, a portion of its collection should go to the parish.
The third norm stated that the pastor has the authority to direct how many additional Masses may be said.
In order to allow for the time it may take to rearrage Mass schedules such that all are said at a consecrated altar, the fourth norm said this condition takes effect on July 1.
The fifth norm concerned the reception of Communion. Bishop Campbell directed that, in accord with the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the celebrant of a Mass must consume the Body and Blood of Christ prior to distributing Communion, and that communicants are to consume the Body and Blood as soon as they receive the host or chalice. “There is to be no delay,” the bishop emphasized.
Neocatechumenal Way Masses typically direct that communicants hold the Eucharist in their hand and consume the Body of Christ only after everyone has been given a Host.
In a follow-up, clarifying statement issued June 6, the Diocese of Lancaster recalled that the “modest liturgical norms” were issued “by way of reminder” and that they “apply to all in the Diocese of Lancaster – not just to the Neocatechumenal Way.”
It added that the liturgy “belongs to the whole Church” and that even though the Neocatechumenal Way has its own statutes “these do not replace the principles given in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal or the role of Universal or Particular (liturgical) Law of the Church.”
The diocese added that “in no way should these norms be seen as punitive or issued for any other motive than simply reminding all of the liturgical norms of the Church and ensuring that the Liturgy of the Church in the Diocese of Lancaster is governed by the Diocesan Bishop.”
It also referred to a report that a representative of the Neocatechumenal Way, Paul Hayward, had said, according to the Catholic Herald, that “he had asked Bishop Campbell to hold off implementing the new norms until representatives of the Way had had a chance to meet him.”
The Lancaster diocese stated that while a meeting had been requested, “there was no mention at all of any desired-discussion of the norms in this request nor any mention of a request to delay these norms until such a meeting had taken place.”
Bishop Campell’s liturgical norms mirror those issued in March for the Archdiocese of Agaña.
Since the Neocatechumenal Way was founded, the group has sometimes been cautioned by the Vatican for inserting various novel practices into the Masses it organizes. These include practices such as lay preaching, the reception of Holy Communion while sitting, and the passing of the Most Precious Blood from person to person.