Small Christian Communities: A New Danger to the Parish
Communities (also called Small Faith Communities) are a relatively new fad
springing up all over the country. It is a group from a parish that meets
together at least once a week for prayer, and for what they call "faith
sharing". It is to be no more than 6 to 8 members per group.
The following is
a sample from Quest: A Reflection Booklet for Small Christian
Communities, Fall, 1997. The booklet follows the liturgical year according
to the new calendar. The program includes the participants reading the Gospel
and Lessons from the Sunday Mass of that week. Then there are a series of
"faith-sharing" questions where each member of the group, one-by-one, shares
his feelings and experiences in relation to the general theme of
In truth, it is simply a Rogerian encounter group structure where
there are no right and wrong answers.
Scripture passages are read, and the written commentary from the booklet
recited, members of the group are encouraged to discuss "faith sharing"
questions. What follows was taken from the November 2, All Souls Day section:
Notice the emphasis: You, you, you, you!
- What frightens you about death?
- Recall one personal experience that reinforced
your belief in life after death.
- What is one practice surrounding death that helps
you believe what Jesus teaches about death?
- Confronting death helps one to live life fully. How true a
statement is this in your experience?"
After this "faith
sharing", where each member has bared his soul, revealing his innermost
feelings on sappy discussion questions, the group is then encouraged to
"Response in Action". The first suggestion of this November 2 outline
"Read an article or book about Cardinal Bernardin's
life and death. See when you can identify your experience with
We see, then,
that this is a subjective, experiential based religion where a group of
parishioners meet once a week in order to pool their collective
Modernism: The Religion of Experience
"experientially based" religion comes directly from "New Evangelization"
literature. Paulist Father Kenneth Boyack, in his book Creating the
Evangelizing Parish, says that for Catholics, evangelization must be
"experientially based, open to the whole range of human life".
emphasis on religious experience, which is a hallmark of the
Vatican II Church, bears a disconcerting resemblance to the Modernism
explicitly condemned by Pope St. Pius X.
In his Encyclical
Pascendi, Pius X warned that for the modernist, religious experience is
"For the modernist believer" (as distinguished from the
modernist as philosopher, Ed.) "... it is an established and certain
fact that the reality of the divine does really exist in itself and quite
independently of the person who believes in it. If you ask on what foundation
this assertion of the believer rests, he answers: in the personal
experience of the individual."
This new emphasis
on religious experience - especially within Small Christian Communities -
should keep any serious Catholic at arms length from these novel fads which no
longer resemble traditional Catholic doctrine and practice.
A New Way of Being Church
Those who promote
Small Christian Communities boast that it is a "new way of being Church". It
claims to encourage strong connection to the parish, and the actual stated goal
is to restructure the parish so that it becomes a "community of
communities". What they call the restructure of the parish, however,
will actually be the dismantling of the parish.
In 1997, I
attended the "Creating Evangelizing Parishes" meeting in Western New York to
learn of these new practices first hand. One of the seminars was entitled
"Small is Good" by Father Ron Bagley who was promoting Small Christian
Father Bagley said that if he had a choice between sending people
to catechesis or to Small Christian Communities, he would send them to Small
Christian Communities. Once again within this new religion, we have the primacy
of sentiment and experience over doctrine.
also said that he is part of a Small Christian Community of prison chaplains,
and then told us, "I'm the only Catholic member."
We see, then,
that the Small Christian Community is essentially a modernist and
ecumenically-based structure. One of the many dangers of this new movement is
that it opens the door for the establishment of "faith-sharing" cenacles
composed of Catholics and members of false religions. Father Bagley's
interfaith group of prison chaplains is a prime example.
however, was condemned by Pope Pius XI in his great encyclical, Mortalium
Animos. Interfaith activity was also condemned, among other places, by Pope
Leo XIII who said:
"Since the Catholic religion is the only true religion,
to put the other religions on the same level with it is to treat it with the
gravest injustice and offer it the worst form of insult."
The Call to Action Connection
At this 1997
seminar, Father Bagley praised the Quest booklet mentioned earlier, and
also strongly recommended the works of Father Art Baranowski of Detroit who has
developed and promoted Small Christian Communities in the United States. Father
Baranowski says that Small Christian Communites are a means to "re-invent the
Significantly, this same Father Baranowski travels within the
circles of the notorious Call to Action syndicate, and is a regular
speaker at the annual Call to Action (CTA) conference, whose list of
lecturers include celebrated revolutionaries like Charles Curran, Rosemary
Ruether, Tissa Balasuriya, Matthew Fox, Theresa Kane, Bishops Thomas Gumbleton
and Raymond Lucker.
Some of the
lectures at this CTA Convention were entitled "The 21st Century Parish, A
Practical Model" (on Small Christian Communiteis), "Gay/Lesbian Spirituality",
"A Feminist Liturgy", "Imagining Future Church: Small Christian Communities",
"The Catholic Lesbian and Gay Agenda, What Do We Want?"
It is no small
matter, then, that the most notorious cadre of radicals in the Church, Call
to Action, recognize Small Christian Communities as complementary and
necessary to their overall agenda of restructuring the entire Church on
the basis of "progressive Catholicism" - which is simply another name for
It must be noted that Small Christian Communites are a main
ingredient in a new ecuemincal/pentecostal program being introuced in entire
dioceses called SINE, Systematic Integration of the New
Baranowski also receives favorable press from the radical National Catholic
Reporter. In 1993, that newspaper wrote a glowing report about a conference on
Small Christian Communities held in Saint Paul, MN in August of that year.
Baranowski was one of the speakers. Also present was Peter Eichten, pastoral
administrator of St. Joan of Arc parish, Minneapolis - one of the few
commentators who really gives the game away regarding the true purpose of Small
that some of the these small groups mistakenly see themselves as merely
"extensions of the clergy's ministry." He then said that Small Communities, in
contrast, "take the Second Vatican Council seriously" and "see their ministry
based in baptism" - which, in this context, means the erroneous over-emphasis
of the importance and authority of the laity to the detriment of Catholic
doctrine on the importance and authority of the sacramental priesthood.
By contrast, the
traditional (pre-Vatican II) Papal teaching on the Lay Apostolate and Catholic
Action emphasizes that the laity must live the life of sanctifying grace, be
well formed in the traditional doctrine of the Church, be nourished by the
sacraments, and then exercise an uncompromising Catholic influence in the
world. Within this true teaching, the proper distinction between priesthood and
laity is meticulously safeguarded.
Hence it can be
stated that the true goal of these Small Christian Communities is the
establishment of a lay-led church. Its purpose is to give permanent structure
to the modernist "priesthood of the people" delusion.
It is no
surprise, then, that radical groups like Call to Action zealously
promote Small Christian Communities. As one Call to Action board member
boasted, "We are beginning to create a new church instead of fixing the old
one" - and Small Christian Communities are major building blocks of this new
construct of apostasy.
This is digested from a 4 part series by John
Vennari entitled "Catholicism Dissolved, The New Evangelization," printed in
Catholic Family News, Oct. 1998 through Jan. 1999.
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