(AP) The Catholic Church on the Pacific island of Guam has been devastated by allegations that its longtime archbishop sexually abused altar boys. But even before the scandal broke, Guam’s church was divided over another issue – the presence of a controversial European lay movement that became so toxic that a community of nuns fled to the mainland US in despair.
The battle on the tiny tropical US territory pits the Neocatechumenal Way lay group against critics on a majority Catholic island that was colonized by Spanish missionaries in the 17th century. The Way was founded in the 1960s in Madrid and is best known for sending families out on missions to evangelize in places where Catholics are either a minority or have fallen away from the Church.
For years, locals on Guam have complained that the Way represented a new missionary movement trying to introduce an unusual version of Catholicism to their church, which is the most influential institution on the island. The Way’s practices include celebrating Mass on Saturday night in special communities of 30-40 people seated around a table, rather than facing an altar in a church open to all.
Guam’s critics aren’t alone. Bishops in Japan, the Philippines, and elsewhere have sought to limit the Way’s activity in their territories, complaining of sectarian and culturally insensitive practices. [More]