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Mark Shea's Blog: So That No Thought of Mine, No Matter How Stupid, Should Ever Go Unpublished Again!
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Mr. Shea, I posted most of my response at the Register as Beccolina, but I want to thank you here for being fair and even handed about Charismatics. I was a (little) afraid you’d be on the “Keerazee weirdo Charismatics” side of things which I’ve run into very often. Then I would have to send you up to Our Lady of Perpetual Help for a talking to by my grandmother.
The Catholic Church: The Original Big Tent.
This piece sheds some light on folks I don’t know much about. A previous pastor of mine at a mostly EF parish, a wise, kind old man ordained in the 50s, always had good words for the Catholic Charismatic center a couple of miles down the road (which was always packed). Good enough for him, good enough for me.
Thank you, Mark, for this thoughtful short piece. The Church is indeed a very strange and diverse place…because it is meant to be a home for all mankind, and we humans are a pretty strange and diverse bunch.
It took a while for me, as a convert from Evangelical Protestantism, to experience such Catholic borrowing from Protestant culture as anything but a slap in the face. (“You only *thought* you went to a whole lot of trouble to leave this stuff behind! You can’t escape that easily! Bwahaha!”) It’s something that I’ve needed to mostly just get over, for my part; but I also think it’s something that those who are doing the borrowing need to be aware of and keep in mind. There are a lot of converts from Protestantism in the pews these days, and I’ve heard many of them express similar sentiments.
Also, at first blush it seemed to me that the charismatic movement was gratuitously running risks of being led into heterodoxy: by assimilation with Protestant/Pentacostal culture and worldview; through the privileging of emotionalism; or by reinforcing, wittingly or unwittingly, the contemporaneous hermeneutic of rupture in the Church. I must admit that I still harbor some skepticism there in theory.
But Mark rightly points out that there are many fine charismatic Catholics out there; and the charismatic communities have been around for a while now and haven’t run themselves off the rails. In practice, then, it seems just fine. Long may they flourish; and may they look kindly on my own strange ways.
It is important to remember the different backgrounds, and therefore points of view, different people have. You and Ryan above make very good points. I attended a Charismatic prayer group in my early 20’s where the leader was veering sharply into Fundamentalism and emphasized a “Just Jesus and Me” attitude that I found very discomforting. I regret not having the confidence and knowledge to speak up when she said things directly contrary to Catholic teaching. It’s always important to remember that teachings of the Church and the authority of the hierarchy (and obedience to that authority) take precedence over the opinions of a lay pray group leader. Those groups I have been part of that are still full of life are the ones whose eyes were always pointed toward God, Mary, the Church and the Sacraments. That is vital, I think, and without it, the life dries up leaving nothing but empty music and emotions.
I grew up as an evangelical protestant, in a “house divided”, so to speak, on the issue of the charismatic movement: my mom was decidedly in favor, and my dad decidedly against. My dad was very into people like John MacArthur, a Baptist-leaning evangelical who wrote a book called “Charismatic Confusion” attacking the movement…I say all that to say, I think if you look at things from a non-charismatic evangelical perspective, then the Catholic worldview is *fundamentally* a charismatic worldview, regardless of your feelings about the Charismatic Renewal as such.
Let me give you a “for instance”: from the perspective of the John MacArthur’s of the world, there are *no* miracles occurring today…”signs and wonders” supposedly ceased when the last book of the New Testament was finished, and saying otherwise is an affront to “sola scriptura.” We believe, by contrast, that every Saint that’s been canonized has at least two that are attributable to his/her intercession. Another “for instance”, non-charismatic (“cessationist”) Protestants typically believe that the Holy Spirit is really only active in the church today by means of the conversion/regeneration of the believer and his subsequent sanctification. We believe, by contrast, that the Holy Spirit is active in the consecration of the gifts at Holy Mass, preserves the Church from doctrinal error, is actively at work through blessed physical objects such as holy water, through relics, etc.
I don’t mean to imply that every Catholic in the world ought to stop what they’re doing and join the nearest Charismatic Renewal prayer group… I’m just saying to Catholics who might be worried about appropriating too much from the Protestant world: to the Baptists and Presbyterians, we already sound like a bunch of Charismatic loons before anyone even starts speaking in tongues or having “words of knowledge”
Ryan: This is why I refer to the “Charismatic Renewal” as the “Pentecostalist movement” in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church always has been and always will be ‘charismatic’, that is, the recipient of the charisms of the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that there will always be this jumping up and down, fainting, speaking in “tongues” going on. Matthew
Matthew, I completely agree that there won’t always be “jumping up and down, fainting, speaking in tongues,” etc. But I don’t think that means that we need to see the Charismatic Renewal as somehow fundamentally un-Catholic, either. We have a “higher” or “more active” pneumatology than many Protestants to begin with, so why see the Renewal as somehow “more Protestant”?
Back in the day, I believe that many evangelical Charismatics were kicked out of more established Protestant denominations because what they believed was an affront to “the sole sufficiency of the Scriptures.” To which I, as a Catholic, say “oh, you mean just reading the Bible isn’t enough? You need the active presence of the Holy Spirit to guide the Church? You don’t say…”
It tended to look “more Protestant” to me because, first of all, the movement was essentially imported from Protestantism; and secondly, I had interpreted this importation as: “You poor uncharismatic Catholics don’t have the gifts of the Spirit! Here; let our movement bring them to you! Now you can be orthodox like Catholics, but also Spirit-filled like Pentacostals!”
But you’ve described a different way of looking at it; to wit: “Of course these workings of the Holy Spirit, these gifts of the Spirit, belong in Catholicism if they are good and true…because the Spirit is constantly at work in the Catholic Church already, and always has been; and everything good and true should have a home in the Church!” That hadn’t occurred to me before, and it’s a much less threatening way to see it. Thank you.
No problem! And yes, I think you’ve expressed a large part of what I was trying to get at…
A lot of Charismatic Catholics recall that, just before Pentecostalism got off the ground in this country, Pope Leo XIII issued an encyclical calling for a renewed openness to the workings of the Holy Spirit, and also prayed the Veni Creator Spiritus to open the 20th century… and of course, just before the Charismatic renewal itself began, Pope John XXIII had prayed for a “new Pentecost.” That the immediate answer to these pontifical prayers came via our separated brothers and sisters need not surprise us: Peter is still universal Pastor, whether all the baptized are cognizant of that fact or not. I don’t think it’s too big of a stretch to imagine that his pastoral blessings can extend to his wandering Protestant flock…
I live in a small midwestern town ane missed that liberal graying nun who is trying to get dancing into the Mass.
Mark is right, Catholics concerned about this shouldn’t worry “what the Orthodox will think”. To start, they don’t think very much about it, but more to the point, what would a Catholic with any sense think? Why on earth does anyone have to ask? The same with the side order of dancing. Really? You have to ask?? It’s a very old one liner that the Corinthians got in the New Testament the same way Pilate got in the Creed. No one should use them as a model for liturgical practice. A Greek-Irish Orthodox priest once told me his Greek family are Corinthians. No one he says would take them as a great example 2000 years ago, and he says they’re not that hot now. He can’t understand why American protestants (and the occasional Catholic) are so enamored of them.
Think to yourself. When exactly was the last time someone supposedly prophesying or giving the meaning of an unknown tongue gave forth a message like “The Holy Spirit says ‘unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you’. You need to go to confession and receive communion frequently”. Does the charismatic *ever* mention the the Eucharist? Hmmmmm.
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