Charismatic Movement QUESTION from Jane on January 30, 2004
Dear Brother John-Paul
I was wondering how we should view the Catholic Charismatic movement, in particular with regard to their claims of miraculous healings. Naturally I don’t wish to appear critical of anything which encourages faith and comes from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. However, normally before any healing can be claimed to be miraculous it is carefully investigated by the Church, whether it is connected with established shrines like Lourdes or the intercessionary prayers of a particular saint. This can take months and sometimes years and quite rightly so because the Church would be open to censure if it claimed something to be miraculous that was actually either a normal natural or medical healing. There would also be scandal if a person died having thought they could be healed in such a way and not sought medical help.
A friend lent me a couple of magazines issued by a Catholic Charismatic group and in it there are oft quoted instances of healings being achieved during or as a result of Charismatic services or the actions/words of individual charismatics. This has been taken as a rebirth of the Church into a new Apostolic age when such phenomena were recorded of the immediate followers of Jesus.
My misgivings are twofold. First, is the suggestion that this indicates a return of something that has been lacking in the intervening 2,000 years. Second, that there is a sense of faith being strengthened by the miracles or at least attendance at one of these charismatically inspired groups, having previously been weak or uninspired, rather than the miracles being the result of already strong, inspired faith. I may be being unfair in the second assumption but that is how a lot of the stories come across to me. There is also the inference that you too can do this if only you have the right attitude, which might make some people feel inadequate if they cannot.
How do you view these claims?Thank you
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on February 11, 2004
Dear Jane and everyone:
Please excuse the big delay in getting to your question, Jane, and others who are pending. We have a major Server Crash on Saturday the destroy all files. So I have been busy getting things setup again. Then this answer to Jane took a couple of days to work on. God Bless.
I share in a variety of misgivings about the Charismatic Renewal. The issue is rather complex, but I will try to provide an analysis of the Charismatic Renewal based not only upon theological and Biblical study of the issue, but also upon personal experiences, and personal observations.
Note: I am planning on writing a formal essay on this subject. In the essay I will fill in some of the details that I am leaving out of this answer below.
There are good things about the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement of which I will list, but first I think I will begin with a little history and then identifying some negative aspects.
The first Charismatic outbreak in the Church was on Pentecost AD 33. This is when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles in the Upper Room to inaugurate the birth of the Church and to empower the Apostles to build the Church.
It is true historically, I think, that the charism gifts mentioned by St. Paul did fall into some disuse. There are a variety of reasons for that which I will not go into here, but I will say that one of the reasons for Vatican II and the teachings of Vatican II were specifically to bring about a new Pentecost, that is a re-vitalization of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the faithful.
As for the Movement, the modern Charismatic outbreaks took place among Protestants. Here is list with some very brief notes:
The first of these Protestant charismatic outbreaks was in 1648 in England when George Fox founded the Children of Light, also known as the Quakers. Fox denied the validity of clergy, liturgy and the Sacraments. Instead he taught a inner light, that was communicated directly to the individual soul by Christ.
Here, in this first instance of Protestant charismatic theology, we have already the beginnings of a subjective, emotion oriented, and presumptuous belief that God talks directly to the person without the need for any authority outside of self. This approach is also the beginning what was later to become the theology of self that we see in the so-called New Age movement.
The second Charismatic outbreak also in England in 1826. The development of premillennialism in the nineteenth century, and the revolution in prophetic and apocalyptic speculation concerning the 'rapture' and the return of Christ can be largely attributed to the Scottish, Edward Irving, also the forerunner of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, often called the Father of Pentecostalism.
The third Charismatic outbreak was the famous assertions and experiences of Joseph Smith who began the Mormon Church in 1830 after receiving a revelation.
Then we get into the more contemporary charismatic outbreaks:
The fourth Charismatic outbreak was in 1899 when Rev. Parham began his movement in Topeka, Kansas (later moved to L.A.).
The fifth outbreak in 1900 brought in the first non-Pentecostal group, the Russian Orthodox Church members in Armenia who moved to L.A. to avoid persecution.
The Sixth outbreak, and the largest to that date, was the Azusa Street (L.A.) outbreak in 1906 founded by W.J. Seymour.
The Seventh Charismatic outbreak took place in 1959, also in L.A., and brought in many other denominations besides Pentecostals making the movement a inter-denominational one.
The Eight outbreak came out of the Jesus People Movement in 1967.
The Ninth Charismatic outbreak was the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in 1967 when a handful of students and university theology professors from the Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, got together for a retreat weekend.
The problem with the Catholic outbreak is that there were no mature spiritual directors who could guide the Renewal in the beginning. Thus, a LOT of borrowing from the Pentecostals took place. Later when some Pentecostals converted to the Catholic Church, they often brought some of the Pentecostal ideas with them.
This is the essential problem with many in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal -- contamination directly or indirectly with Pentecostal theology and praxis.
Pentecostal Charismatic experience was born with the errant idea of the inner light (personal insight) as authority, in effect if not in stated belief, over Scripture (or the interpretation of Scripture) and the Church. This is to be expected since the Pentecostal experience is almost entirely a Protestant experience (until 1967). Thus the tradition and tenet of individualism (which, by the way, is also a tenet of Satanism) from which the heresies of Martin Luther, Calvin and the other reformers derive, is the basis of the Pentecostal experience -- individual prophecies, individual messages from God, individual revelations, and individual and subjective interpretations apart from the guidance of reason or the Church.
Some of the false notions that derive from Pentecostal circles include, but are not limited to the following:
Baptism of the Holy Spirit as a second act of grace or if not that, as a time-defined and specific event of the Holy Spirit coming upon a person;
Requirement to be baptized in the Spirit to have an abundant and mature Christian life;
Requirement to speak in tongues as evidence of the baptism of the Spirit;
Focus and emphasis on Speaking in Tongues in daily life;
The Practice of speaking or singing in tongues en masse (in violation of Scriptural norms);
Practicing tongues without any objective test of the Tongues to see if they are really from God and instead assuming such because of perceptions of good fruit and subjective judgment;
The belief in a private prayer language in tongues (which is not supported in Scripture or Tradition that I am aware). Even if such a gift exists there is a tendency among some charismatics to confuse this personal gift with the charism gifts mentioned by St. Paul. (A charism gift must be a gift that builds up the Church, it is not a private gift).
Identification of only nine charism gifts;
Belief that all those baptized in the Spirit have in operation ALL of the charism gifts at their disposal when needed;
Baptism of fire as a separate experience to baptism of the Spirit, or other variations of this;
Focus and emphasis on the subjective charism gifts, such Prophecy (as they define it), Word of Knowledge, Word of Wisdom, Discernment, Tongues, Interpretation of Tongues, personal tongues language;
Focus and emphasis on the dramatic and sensational gifts, such as Healing and Miracles;
Tendency toward sensational and subjective experiences such as being slain in the Spirit, receiving a word from God for a particular person, mass tent-meeting healings, emotionally manipulative and sensational preaching to work a congregation;
Tendency toward the heresy of positive confession, ala Kenneth Hagen and Kenneth Copeland, which denies the theology of suffering and the idea of redemptive suffering and instead proclaims all people can be healed and if they are not it is because they do not have enough faith;
Many Catholic Charismatics indulge in the many of the same falsehoods as described above, or variations thereof. Items #2 and #3 are not usually found among Catholic Charismatics. Concerning item #1 Catholic Charismatics usually do not teach that the baptism of the Spirit is a second act of grace, but they often who report a specific time and date when they became baptized in the Spirit. Most of the other items are notions shared by many Catholic Charismatics in one degree or another.
I also should mention that in my personal experiences with Charismatics that I did not ever find a Protestant group that practiced the charism gifts properly according to Biblical regulations. On the other hand, I have found Catholic Charismatics who are level-headed and free from erroneous notions.
With that said, we can also observe some additional problems that are particular to the Catholic variety of the charismatic experience. Some examples of these problems are:
Superstitious thinking concerning the power of sacramentals. Non-Charismatic Catholics do this too, but within the Catholic Charismatic community this tendency can be observed as it is closely linked with the subjective nature of private revelations and messages that are popular in Charismatic circles;
Abuse of the Liturgy of the Mass
use of folk music
clapping and swaying with the music
people coming up around the altar
speaking in tongues
holding hands during the Our Father
people using the orans posture
Abuse of Church legislation on Deliverance and Healing Prayer
use of imprecatory commands and direct speaking to demons
borrowing Pentecostal notions of exorcism/deliverance that are inconsistent with Catholicism
improper use of Holy Oil in a fashion that blurs the lines between a lay use of oil and the priestly use, especially in the Sacrament of anointing
There also exists five major flaws among Pentecostals in Biblical Interpretation (Catholics share four of these mis-interpretations).
1) A major passage of Scripture used by Pentecostal Charismatics, but not usually Catholic Charismatics, to prove that there is some other kind extra-Sacramental baptism (immersion) of the Holy Spirit is Acts 8:14-17 (see also, Acts 10:44-47 and Acts 19:1-6).
This passage tells us that Peter and John went to visit the Samarian converts who had been baptized but not as yet received the Holy Spirit. Peter and John laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
It is easy to see why the Pentecostal Charismatics misinterpret this verse. Since they only accept Baptism and the Lord's Supper as pseudo-Sacraments and deny all other sacraments, there is no way for them to understand the context of this passage.
In fact, this passage in Acts refers to the Sacrament of Confirmation and NOT to some additional action of the Holy Spirit outside of the Sacraments.
Catholic Charismatics rarely fall into this misinterpretation. They see this properly as a passage about the Sacrament of Confirmation, but some few Catholics nevertheless treat the baptism of the Spirit in a way that almost rises to an additional Sacrament. This is not the norm, however, in Catholic Charismatic circles as far as I know.
2) The second passage that is misinterpreted by nearly all Pentecostal Charismatics and by significant numbers of Catholic charismatics is Matthew 3:11. This passage John the Baptist tells the crowd that he baptizes with water, but one will come who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and Fire.
Pentecostal and Catholic Charismatics tend to misinterpret this verse in favor of a notion that Baptism of the Holy Spirit and Fire means to be fully immersed into and consumed by the fire of the Word of God, or words to that effect. It is seen as a purifying factor to bring us closer to God in a more personal way outside of the Sacraments.
In actuality the fire referred to in this passage, to quote from the St. Escriva's Navarre Bible Commentary, ...points in a metaphorical way to the effectiveness of the Holy Spirit's action in totally wiping out sins [in the Sacrament of Baptism]. It also shows the life-giving power of grace in the person baptized.
The passage is referring to the Sacrament of Baptism, not some other work of the Holy Spirit described by the Charismatics.
3) It is often mentioned in Charismatic circles that the charism gifts number nine and are operational in all people baptized in the Holy Spirit. St. Paul disagrees.
St. Paul begins his teaching in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 with the purpose of the discourse on the charism gifts. He says, Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be uninformed.
Throughout the chapter St. Paul teaches about the true nature of charism gifts. In verses 7-11 St. Paul teaches that to one is given this gift, to someone else that gift, etc. and that these gifts are distributed to each one individually as he [the Spirit] wills. St. Paul emphasizes this point in verse 30 when he asks the rhetorical question, Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
Each baptized Christian has been given at least one charism gift, but we do not have ALL the charism gifts.
In addition, while St. Paul gives examples of nine gifts, this is hardly meant to be an exclusive and complete list. In my own studies I have discovered about thirty gifts mentioned in Scripture that may qualify as charism gifts. That list along with a summary of Church teaching on this subject can be found at: All About Spiritual Gifts.
4) Both Pentecostal and Catholic Charismatics tend to use the phrase Baptized by the Holy Spirit when they really mean an event in which they experience a release and outpouring of the Holy Spirit who is already present within them -- an experience in which a FILLING of the Spirit becomes profoundly real to them for the first time in their lives.
The use of the word baptism causes theological confusing since that word usually refers to the Sacrament, not some extra-Sacramental event. It is better to refer to this experience as a FILLING and not a Baptism of the Spirit.
In addition, whenever the term Baptism of Fire, Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Baptism of Water, etc. is used in the Bible it NEVER refers to some extra-sacramental event. Those phrases always refer to the Sacrament of Baptism and/or the Sacrament of Confirmation. Thus it is Biblically inaccurate and theologically clumsy to use the phrase Baptism of the Spirit in the way Charismatics use it.
5) Both Pentecostal and Catholic Charismatics speak of a private prayer language. The usual passage of Scripture they use to suppose the existence of this private tongue is 1 Corinthians 13:1 -- If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
It is a serious stretch that would rival a man with a 60 inch waist trying to get into sweat pants with a 32 inch waist size to suggest this passage as anything to do with a private anything.
The point of the teaching here is that the exercise of gifts without love is pointless. To emphasize this in a literary hyperbole St. Paul says that even if one spoke in the highest language of the angels it would STILL be a clanging cymbal unless it is spoken with love. While St. Paul may be referring to the tongues of angels as the highest degree of the gift of tongues, it refers to the GIFT OF TONGUES as in one of the charism gifts that he just spoke about in Chapter 12 and not some other tongues that are private.
Even if a private prayer language exists, it is NOT one of the charism gifts. It does not qualify precisely because it is private. St. Paul make it clear that the charism gifts are of a public nature given to individuals for the building of the Church. In 1 Cor 12:7 he tells us that the manifestation of these charism gifts are for the common good. If that is not enough St. Paul makes the point for clearly in 1 Cor 14:7: He who speaks in tongues edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the Church. Tongues is not to be practiced UNLESS one can interpret and tongues interpreted rises to the level of prophecy 1 Cor 14:5: ...He who prophesies is greater than he who speaks in tongues, UNLESS some one interprets, so that the Church may be edified.
St.Paul goes on with this theme in verses 6-12 about how tongues without interpretation is useless. Then in verse 13 he again appeals for the need to interpret.
In verse 20 St. Paul, probably weary over these petty disputes over the charism gifts, tells the Corinthians (and us), Brethren, do not be children in your thinking.... Then beginning in verse 26 St. Paul gives the regulations for the administration of tongues that two or three should speak in tongues and then ONLY if there is someone to interpret.
An interesting note: the childishness of the Corinthian Church about charism gifts and other matters caught the attention of Pope Clement I. The Pope issued a warning to the Corinthian Church to get their act together upon pain of sin. This is interesting because this papal letter in or around AD 67 PROVES that the first century Christians understood the Pope to be the universal pastor and the Prime Minister of the Church with authority over the whole Church. If this were not so, then the Pope as Bishop of Rome could not have issued the letter he wrote to Corinth sine Corinth was in a different diocese.
Anyway, in none of all this discourse is there any mention of a private prayer language. The reference to an angelic language was mentioned by St. Paul to make a point, and besides the passage does not imply that an angelic language would be a private prayer language.
The Pentecostal experience on the Day of Pentecost certainly had nothing to do with a private prayer language. It was the Apostles preaching and the people hearing that preaching in their own various languages. It was a public manifestation for a public building of the Church.
There is no Biblical support for a private prayer language that I can find.
Do to all these misconceptions and misinterpretations that all stem from a Pentecostal understanding of the baptism of the Spirit, any group, Protestant or Catholic, that adopts these problematic notions needs to be considered cautiously no matter how good and faithful a person they are to the Faith and the Church. These misinterpretations compounded by the predominance of subjective and emotive thinking is a recipe for problems, sometimes serious problems.
GOOD NEWS ABOUT THE CHARISMATIC RENEWAL
On the positive side of things the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church has brought a freshness to the Church that is born from an enthusiasm and devotion. Most of us are spiritual coach potatoes and the Charismatic renewal has urged of that couch.
St. Paul tells us to fan into flame the gift that is within you. Charismatics certainly try to fan the flame. For this I applaud them.
This experience with the Holy Spirit should have taken place when we were Confirmed, but for whatever reasons that didn't happen the Renewal is a place that many can rediscover the power of the Holy Spirit within them.
God Bless,Bro. Ignatius Mary