Monday, November 29, 2010

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal/Movement: My Thoughts and Reflections

Before I begin my commentary I would like to make it very clear that I have nothing against Catholic charismatic movements or communities and certainly don't want to smear a particular community's reputation by sharing my thoughts about the charismatic movement itself, but having said that, now being on the outside looking in, there are a few things that I would like to say that some may not see as being favourable. I only say what I'm about to say in this entry because of my own heartfelt desire to live an orthodox Catholicity, faithful to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in me as it is conferred to me through the Sacraments of Church. If I make a comment about a particular unnamed charismatic group, please be aware that what ever my thoughts on this are they are not indicative of all charismatic groups and I fully acknowledge the good work they do and the gifts they offer to Catholic Christians wishing to deepen their relationship with almighty God.

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If the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is something you're unfamiliar with, then I suggest you do some background reading first (here's a little something for that: and

So I'd like to begin with my own experiences first. I spent a great deal of my life in a charismatic Catholic community (which shall remain nameless), and now that I stand from the outside looking in, I realise although they were a Catholic community much of what they did and said was very, very Protestant. For example, if you weren't or could not pray in tongues, then you apparently did not have the Holy Spirit in you at all and that you needed to be baptised in the Holy Spirit (baptism of fire/spirit) to receive the spiritual gifts. When I told them I received the Holy Spirit at my Confirmation, they insisted, which effectively treated my Confirmation and the Holy Spirit that is conferred to me through the Sacraments as superfluous. They also insisted on mandatory tithing (the first 10% of your income) which is something Christians are not bound to due to it pertaining to Mosaic law. Christians should certainly give alms and give to their local parish, but not a prescribed amount.

Some comments about some charismatic "trademarks":

"Vibrant Masses" (Charismatic Masses) - All I see them as now is as a highlight reel of liturgical abuses.

"Prophecy" (Prophetic Word) - Private interpretations of scripture where it was being - in a sense -"horoscoped" and welcomed as a form of public revelation.

"Healing" (Healing Ministry) - I've had personal experiences of being healed physically; this, by my own admission, is what kept me from leaving this particular community I was in any earlier.

"Speaking in Tongues" (The Gift of Tongues) - All I hear now is babble and there were some that made attempts to interpret this "tongue wagging" as prophetic word.

As I said in the prelude to the formal part of this blog entry, I'm certain this is not indicative of all charismatic Catholic communities and I am aware that there are other charismatic communities that devote their energies more to charismatic praise and worship (which I personally haven't got a problem with). In other words, they avoid emulating Protestant-Pentecostal models of praise and worship; the focal point is always on the Mass (i.e. on Jesus Christ, the bread of life which came down from Heaven) and faithfulness to the teaching authority of the Catholic Church..

But let's get a bit more specific. I'm going to cite a few paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church in lieu of a couple of the things I've spoken about above. The rest I'm going to leave up to you. I've shared with you my own personal thoughts and feelings on the charismatic movement, but I don't want my personal experiences to be that influences your own position or thoughts of the charismatic movement. The following is merely food for thought.

First, in response to "prophecy" (Prophetic Word):
"The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ." Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.
Throughout the ages, there have been so-called "private" revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.
Christian faith cannot accept "revelations" that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such "revelations".
Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 66-67 
In response to charismatic Masses:
The harmony of signs (song, music, words, and actions) is all the more expressive and fruitful when expressed in the cultural richness of the People of God who celebrate. Hence "religious singing by the faithful is to be intelligently fostered so that in devotions and sacred exercises as well as in liturgical services," in conformity with the Church's norms, "the voices of the faithful may be heard." But "the texts intended to be sung must always be in conformity with Catholic doctrine. Indeed they should be drawn chiefly from the Sacred Scripture and from liturgical sources."
Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1158 
In response to "healings" and the "gift of tongues" (i.e. charisms):
Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world.
Charisms are to be accepted with gratitude by the person who receives them and by all members of the Church as well. They are a wonderfully rich grace for the apostolic vitality and for the holiness of the entire Body of Christ, provided they really are genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit and are used in full conformity with authentic promptings of this same Spirit, that is, in keeping with charity, the true measure of all charisms.
It is in this sense that discernment of charisms is always necessary. No charism is exempt from being referred and submitted to the Church's shepherds. "Their office [is] not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good," so that all the diverse and complementary charisms work together "for the common good."
Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 799-801 
And further to that, one of the key documents to be promulgated by Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, Pope Paul VI said this:
These charisms, whether they be the more outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation for they are perfectly suited to and useful for the needs of the Church. Extraordinary gifts are not to be sought after, nor are the fruits of apostolic labor to be presumptuously expected from their use; but judgment as to their genuinity and proper use belongs to those who are appointed leaders in the Church, to whose special competence it belongs, not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to that which is good.
Lumen Gentium, par. 12
In summary, all Catholics should exercise careful judgement and discernment when involving themselves in charismatic movements. Scripture tells us:
"Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil." - 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22
I hope you have found this insightful.

Thank you again for reading and God bless you. 


  1. Very insightful and interesting post there Stephen. I went to reply here, but overshot the limit on the comment box. If you are interested, my response is on my blog:

    Be interested to hear your thoughts.

    Ave Maria!

  2. Tom, your experiences mirror my own. The community I was involved with also "utilised" Rick Warren's 'A Purpose Driven Life' and played Hillsongs (aka "Hill$ongs") music like it was going out of fashion.

    And on the "gift" of tongues, the more I read and studied scripture the more I realised - even as a charismatic back then - that this gift of tongues was a type of antidote to the Babel confusion. Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit enabled them to speak in languages they were not learned in (Acts 2:4-8), not the "babble" charismatics confuse this gift with.

  3. Stephen,
    I'm so glad you've written on this. Having dated a Protestant Charismatic for over a year I've become significantly more aware of this movement although quite "conservative" in my viewpoint on it. I've become very interested in the role this movement has played in the Catholic Church as a result. I've been curious to know how active a role this movement still plays in the Church today and I'd definitely love to read more about it. Thanks for the write up.


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