Friday, 16 August 2013


Psychological underpinnings in the Neocatechumenate community

Report by Professor Alberto Picano

Psychiatrist at San Camillo Hospital in Rome


I would like to thank you for inviting me here, even if it's about something not so pleasant. This is about something that has created many bitter and painful divisions and has presented the problem of integrating many brothers and sisters. The problem, in fact, doesn't lie in Kiko and Carmen, but in the many, many people who hold a sincere belief and are unaware of the problematic issues. Anyhow, the problem should be confronted with love; we have to make an effort to love.

I have opened my life to the service of God (even my psychiatric duties), even though around me, Christianity is considered to be a heresy. I have always obtained extraordinary results because I have also tried to help others with grace. I support the Pope, I believe in the Catholic Church, I've been a volunteer, and I'm involved in a missionary association.

For twenty years, my mother has been a member of the Neocatechumenal Way, but my father didn't become a member. For this reason they were totally separated up until his death. I suffered tremendously and I have found it impossible to accept many of the things that have happened because they were things that go against my Faith. Another example, I was thrown out of the house even though I was a doctor and a successful person. I had been told by a catechist and by a psychiatrist in the Movement these very words: "We have bound your mother to obey and we have ordered her to throw you out of the house." A cloud of pain came down upon me and I left in grief. This allowed me to reflect on the things underlying this movement. The Lord has allowed this and now he has sent me many patients who are Neocatechumenate; with me they feel accepted and understood because I'm very familiar with the situation.

Breakup of the Family

The first problem is the separation of the family. If there is one person, for example, a spouse who is a Neocatechumen and the other isn't, this becomes irreconcilable because the sociological, grassroots structure for the Neocatechumenate is the community and not the family.

The family isn't a human institution. It's something sacred and is recognized to have been in the life of Jesus - even He was someone who needed family. It's an observable fact! Jesus was of the family even while He still belonged to the life of the Father (see the fifth joyful mystery where happiness didn't come so much from finding his Son [in the temple], as much as it did from having recognized the duplicity of nature. That is, the Son belonged to God the Father before he belonged to his parents). But this is always true: God was the one who wanted the family structure. Therefore, the family's existence has the right to come before the community structure.

Now in the community there is a situation of absolute obedience to the catechists (this was described before. Their manner is prophetic since it's inspired by God). A different definition of roles exists. Single families don't exist anymore, instead, a large family gathers all the members from various families and then within this big family the various roles of parents and children are defined. This is very similar to what occurs in the Jewish kibbutz. Here, because of the exigencies of this way of life - the needs for protection and for work to be done, children are the children of all the parents and all the parents are parents to all the children. There are many analogies between this pedagogic system and the family structure of the Neocatechumenate community where authority is vested in the catechist and not in the father.

This family structure in the community, however, brings with it a whole host of bigger problems. There are pathologies which crop up within the community. It can be proven that the authority figure of the catechist is nothing other than the manifestation of the desire for supremacy and control. These desires are manifested in a structure which gives greater doctrinal competence and jurisdiction to certain people who are then able to wield their power.

When competition breaks out between a man and a woman in this system, paradoxical situations result. You can find Neocatechumenal couples (man-woman) who in reality are the fathers-parents of the communal family. An emotional relationship can take on sexual connotations (not in the sense of there being any physical relations), but in the sense that the two become the father and mother of a large extended family.

Now, inside the "regular" family there are rules and arrangements which are quite well-defined. They serve to protect and establish the limits of everybody's role in the family. Incest, for example, is a behavioural marker that serves to define the reciprocal roles of parents-children and brothers-sisters. When an extended family, like that of the community, lacks this framework, there are no longer any sexual restrictions. There then can be pathological relationships between siblings in the community or altered relationships between parents and children. This is why God created the family structure.

Marital fidelity is necessary in order to have a couple that's stable and able to give precise bearings. When there's no longer a stable relationship within emotional relationships, there are no longer any sexual boundaries and "impure" relationships can form which in turn create altered impulses. This is where the community becomes tremendously dysfunctional.

For example, a woman revealed that her role had been the "lover" of the male-leader. She had fought against it because in reality she sexually desired him and despised her husband. She behaved almost to the point of hiding behind that leader in the community so as to not fail in carrying out her responsibilities. This woman had raised four of her seven children to be taught by this authoritative catechist rather than by her husband.


The All-Ecompassing Institution

The community becomes a total institution because it must resolve all the problems of the people who belong and maintain that no solution which lies outside the community is possible.

I have a thirty-year-old man in therapy whose parents belong to the community. He came to me after he had been shut up in the house for four years. There, he had kept himself busy with the sole task of taking care of a bonsai. I thought he might have been schizophrenic, but instead, he was just a typical, unfulfilled adult whose only problems were sexual. So these were the reasons why he kept to himself.

His parents never talked to him about it, but they did bring him to the community hoping that he would talk with the catechists. Here lies another mechanism. Since there aren't any individual parents, but rather a whole collective of parents, this seemed to guarantee that son would be offered the best advice.

However, this man wouldn't talk to anyone if he or she wasn't one of his real parents. Therefore, he progressively became more and more reserved. The parents told him that the only people who were trustworthy enough were the people in the community and that's why they had tried to bring him into the community. But he didn't feel accepted because he was living with the pain of feeling guilty about his sexual problem (and that was part of it). All these people had resolved their problems in such a detached way. That made him feel like an outsider to them. This is what brought on his sense of alienation.

Anything outside the community was forbidden because that would have meant to betray his parents and betraying them was impossible for him because he was in great need of them. Therefore, the only thing left to do was to stay cooped up in the house.

After eight months of therapy he began to have confidence in himself again and to start acting autonomously. Without my knowing it, his parents were giving him sedatives while I was prescribing antidepressants. I said it was alright for him to go to the community, but I taught him that this was not the only recourse. I also taught him that he was the one who let himself feel alien to that world. In his mind it had been impossible to think that he could live with a burden like his inside such an institution that by definition was good.

It's necessary to tell these people that there's a different world outside the community where it's possible to live without feeling wrong or guilty.

If I'm not of the "salt", [that is, one of the "wise"], and I have only been "salted" [that is, one of the "knowing"], then my life has been classified like in sports - to Division II level. It's unacceptable that my child would live in a situation like that.

The Kind of People who Belong

It's necessary to ask ourselves why this movement exists and why it has been so successful. We need to find who we can speak to, what we can say, and what language we can use because it's also important to establish a dialogue with these marginalized people since they don't have any other hope in their lives.

Unfortunately, deep-down these people feel unfulfilled or like they're failures. The parishes don't have a pastoral for the failures, for the marginalized, for those who have made mistakes. Now, the Neocatechumenate are focusing on people who have no one who listens to them. These people are fully integrated straight-away in the community and brought to the same level as the others.

We, however, make the same mistake as the brother of the prodigal son. We are all brothers and sisters so we have to reunite the brother who has done wrong, to forgive him for what he has done as if it hadn't ever been done. The Neocatechumenate welcome people in this way and nothing is required of them. Just like all communities, it is a place - which is a factor in psychological and spiritual rehabilitation. "Ordeals bring patience, patience brings tested virtue, tested virtue brings hope and this will not disappoint."

Ordeals (like those experienced by people who have done wrong or who are outside the church) create patience and with it the ability to endure (the Way doesn't accept this because they say this ability to go on doesn't come from man). Our impetus doesn't come from labeling someone who has made a mistake and saying, "he's wrong!" This labeling mechanism is arbitrary. Instead, we have to feel our guilt and responsibility for our mistakes in front of God. This Movement exists because it succeeds in doing that. We need to learn to never ever label and to offer complete forgiveness - a pardon which gives back "the white robe" (which the confessor gives, not us), the "ring for his finger" (power), and "sandals for his feet" (that is, to return to life with dignity).

We tend to label people: "they're crazy", "she's a prostitute", "his father's a drunk", "she's a Neocatechumen!" We need to welcome and integrate these people. Unfortunately, these people are adults and they often don't find anyone in the parish who will listen to them and help them solve the problems in their relationships because usually more attention is paid to youngsters or the elderly. And usually, the ones who are making most of the mistakes are adults or young-adults. Instead, the Neocatechumenate are welcoming and they offer help. Even the Pope would be in favour of a way to integrate these brothers and sisters. The Church has no need for a doctrinal war. We need to establish many individual, human relationships, and teach them forgiveness.

[After a short pause, some people from the audience asked the following questions:]

Q. What are some recurring pathologies evident in people who have been a part of this movement?

A. All of these people demonstrate a weak personality, a feeling of failure, and an incapacity to face their own mistakes. They need to lock themselves up in a rigid system privy of communication, because otherwise, they would not be able to accept their own mistakes. It's the most common pathology to all people who confine themselves to communities, sects, dosed systems, etc... they don't accept their own limitations.

Q. What illnesses does it bring about?

A. The problem is the individual removes all responsibility from him or herself; he loses his freedom, he has no more power of discernment, he has no more will power, and he is no longer conscious of his own errors. This results in a weakened individual who has no morale, no purpose, no hope, and no capacity to love. This person can take on a whole variety of illnesses.

Q. Are they pushed to suicide or severe depression?

A. No! I haven't seen this in my own practice nor do I have any statistics on this. Any closed system which forbids any connections with the outside world is a system which tends toward the pathological and does not help an individual's development. There are many cases like this. Certainly, the fact that there are no more precise, emotional points of reference, the fact that a child doesn't know who his own father is anymore, that a husband doesn't have a special relationship with his wife, but instead has an impartial relationship with a system rather than with another human being... these are all conditions that aren't beneficial to anyone's mental health. Rather, they bring about confusion.

From the spiritual point of view, sin is an individual failure. From a psychological point of view, it is a psychological malfunction. The people who end up entering these Movements are people who don't live parochial spirituality. People who have a strong faith don't join the Neocatechumenal movement.

I repeat my plea to pray for our change of heart and for forgiveness, because only by forgiving them can we help the Church grow. Any show of anger, rancour, or bitterness would be following in the same direction as the Neocatechumanate - the direction of self-righteousness and division. With our prayers we will be able to help them see true grace, true salvation, and true love. But we will do it only through forgiveness.


  1. The Neocatechumenal Way was founded in 1964 by a Spanish flamenco guitarist who is also a painter, Kiko Arguello, and his friend Carmen Hernandez, a former nun with a PHd. They started the religious movement in the shantytowns of Spain near Madrid, and administered religious advice to the poor.

    Soon, they earned the favors of the Vatican and moved to Italy, into much nicer homes and lifestyles.

    The Neocatechumenal Way calls itself an adult baptismal path, or Way, and dishonestly sneaks itself into parishes and churches by offering "courses" or "meetings" without revealing its name or purpose until the members have joined.

    They arrange marriages between community members, and couples often have 11 kids, even though the cult mandates members not love their spouses, since they must love Jesus and the cult instead, and Kiko. Kiko once said parents hug their children because they want to murder them, so don't be too attached to your kids.

    To advance to the next "stage" in the Way, members must pass humiliating public scrutinies, give up 10% of their income, and have the community intrude into their private life. They may also have to give up idols, things, people, or activities which are a distraction from the Way, even necessities like caring for children or visiting relatives who do not support the Way.


  2. I know members are told not to have sex before marriage, and that they must marry within a year of dating a person to reduce the likelihood of "sin".

    They are told to cut off contact with non-Way persons if those persons oppose the Way or will lead the member into "sin".

    Mothers have thrown their own children out of the house.


  3. It's also funny to see that it was founded by a Spaniard. I don't know what it is about Spanish roots (some think it goes back to the militance instilled into the culture after fighting the 800 year Moorish occupation of Spain), but almost all of these problematic sects are Spanish speaking.

    What these groups do is appeal to someone's desire to live a holy life. They will use the church, the sacraments, tradition, and teaching to appeal to the person. Many of the things they say will be true to church teaching (like sex before marriage being less than ideal), but then they'll mix in other things that aren't exactly true. The latter usually aren't doctrinal issues, they are usually behavioral things related to authority via a spiritual director or religious superior if they are in a religious community. They'll support the dysfunctional behavior by quoting saints and the church, but it is almost always taken out of context. Then they will usually take that to the point where disobeying a superior or even thinking for yourself is also sinful and that's where you start to get the really strange behavior.

    People with common sense, some proper background, and confidence can usually identify the problems and get out, but these groups are expert at tugging on a person's conscience. Very smart, capable people can be sucked in and it can take extraordinary circumstances to get out.

  4. They are all over Belfast and get promoted in Roman schools as principal's. CULTIC and SCARY!!

  5. I am scared of neocatechumenate fucking sect SCARY

  6. Hi!
    I started reading this, not knowing anything about the sect, in fact never heard of it. Within less than a minute's reading I had recognised all the traits of narrow minded, exclusivist sect beliefs so skipped the remainder to view comments. They share my perceptions. 'Nuf said!

  7. I really don't know, what to think of it.