Monday, January 29, 2007

Reply to Questions About Catholic Mariology (and the Rosary) from a Recent Convert

By Dave Armstrong (1-29-07)

The following is my response to a Catholic convert, Jonathan, who described himself as "struggling." He had posted these questions under a post no longer on the front page of my blog. His words will be in blue. Please encourage this brother: especially those of you who are also converts, and particularly those who may have also struggled with various Catholic Marian doctrines.

* * * * *

As a recent convert to Catholicism I must admit that the most difficult and frightening thing for me to understand is the Catholic perception of Mary.

You're not alone, believe me. Ironically, this wasn't true in my case. My biggest beef by far was papal infallibility. But most of us who went through the conversion process struggled mightily with one or both of those issues, because they are perhaps the most radically different from the beliefs of most Protestants.

As a former 27 year Protestant the issue doesn't just lie with the Protestant concern of idolatry as much as just wanting to know how to properly approach the issue without either excess or neglect.

That's good. The idolatry thing is a big hurdle.

I have read a great deal on the church's teachings and discussed her with other Catholics but I for some reason still have difficulty grasping the concept. I do think that it is largely a result of excesses that play out in my mind as well as what has been ingrained in me about her from anti-Catholics (having been one myself as well).

The effects of our past allegiances and belief-systems do not go away immediately. I notice in my own life (after 16 + years since my conversion) that this is the case, particularly with things such as the liturgical calendar. I find it difficult to "resonate" with that in the way a cradle Catholic would and does, because it formed no part of my background prior to conversion. To me all days were pretty much the same. The concept of Lent would have appeared to me as harmless, but silly and unnecessary. Now I know better, but it is still difficult sometimes to relate to the rhythmic, cyclical Catholic liturgical calendar. And that is simply because of past ingrained habit.

I must first say I have recognized the RCC as the New Testament Church and stand by the Church having been guided into all truth by the Holy Spirit. For this reason I do accept the Church's teachings to her regard but nonetheless I do struggle with fully understanding them.

There is nothing wrong with that at all. That is precisely my task as an apologist: to help people to better understand and internalize why we believe what we believe.

I must first point out that my trouble does not lie in what is taught about her as far as the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, etc. are concerned. My primary trouble is in the acts of veneration and prayer so I was hoping to ask you a few questions to this regard.

Sure. It's my pleasure to be of any assistance that I can be to you (and by extension, others reading this who may relate to your struggles).

1) I was listening to the Journey Home program (EWTN) and (hoping I didn't take it out of context but) one of Marcus' guests had said something to the effect that the "Hail Mary" was the most important prayer one can pray. I understand that it is not necessarily about Mary but more in line with the life of Christ. However, in reviewing the prayer I find that when prayed Mary is most oft mentioned in its entirety. Granted it is largely due to the repetition of the prayer but still I find it difficult meditating on Christ when Mary is so prevalent in the prayer. If it is a meditation on Christ then why is Mary so heavily infused into the prayer?

One must understand the nature of the Rosary and the purpose of the repetition. Most of the words of the Hail Mary are, it should be noted, straight from the Bible. And it's incorrect to say that because "Mary" may be the word repeated more than any other in the Rosary, that, therefore, she is considered more important than Jesus, or the focal point of the Rosary meditation. The intent of the repetitions of the Hail Mary prayer is to form a sort of "background music," so to speak, to the meditations on (mostly) the life of Jesus.

It reminds me a bit of an analogy from my past as a trombone player in my high school band and orchestra. We had to play at graduations every year, the famous Pomp and Circumstance, by Edward Elgar. It was extremely repetitious. We'd play the thing over and over, until all the graduates had walked across the stage to receive their diploma. Almost needless to say (if you know me very well), I got pretty bored.

Now, was the purpose of the commencement ceremony to hear Pomp and Circumstance 741 times? No, of course not. It was to honor the graduates for their accomplishment in achieving a high school diploma. The music was the background, just as a soundtrack to a movie is. It's not a perfect analogy (few are), but the Hail Marys in the Rosary are, at least in part, a sort of rhythmic background to the meditations. It's a way (rather ingenious, when fully understood) to move forward in the prayer, and to avoid distraction (something we are all very familiar with when we try to pray).

We all learn to do more than one thing at a time in other areas of life. We can drive and listen to music or a talk show. We can mow the lawn and also keep an eye on our kids playing, and enjoy the blue sky and talk to our spouse (and chew gum!) all at the same time. The Rosary is another instance of doing two things at once.

You say it is difficult to meditate on Christ while repeating the Hail Marys. This is (like my difficulty in relating to the liturgical calendar), I would venture to guess, probably mostly a function of the unfamiliarity with the Rosary. It is initially very foreign to us former Protestants: especially an old "Jesus Freak" like I was: very unsacramental and informal in my former worship, and used to non-formal prayers (and I'm a very informal type of person, generally speaking).

It's very different from much of Protestant piety, just as things like penance and purgatory and prayers for the dead or asking saints to pray for us are quite foreign at first to the typical evangelical Protestant mind, such as mine was (and, I take it, yours). It is a "learned art," to a large extent. Your experience is common to many thousands of converts. Kimberly Hahn, for example, struggled with these concepts for years, but now she loves Catholic Marian devotion (as I do).

I think that, of all the things I deal with and discuss in the course of my apologetics, I love to write about the Blessed Virgin Mary the most, because it is such a beautiful, sublime part of Christian spirituality: full of profound depth and insight. Protestantism greatly impoverished itself when it minimized or eliminated, the full Catholic Mariology that remains intact in the Catholic Church. It was not always so. Martin Luther himself had a very high Mariology (including belief even in her Immaculate Conception). He wrote:

Our prayer should include the Mother of God . . . What the Hail Mary says is that all glory should be given to God, using these words: "Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ. Amen!" You see that these words are not concerned with prayer but purely with giving praise and honor . . . We can use the Hail Mary as a meditation in which we recite what grace God has given her. Second, we should add a wish that everyone may know and respect her . . . He who has no faith is advised to refrain from saying the Hail Mary.
(Personal Prayer Book, 1522)
Lastly, we find in the Bible, a similar sort of repetitious, chant-like form. Take, for example, Psalm 136, where the same exact phrase ("for his steadfast love endures forever" - RSV) is repeated for 26 straight verses! The same technique is used in popular songs, where the chorus repeats itself, and causes the hearer to remember the song better. The Hail Marys in the Rosary are somewhat like that. At least that is one way I and many others have understood the purpose of the seemingly (at first) "excessive" repetition.

2) I understand the Church looks at Mary as an example by which we should live our lives in that when God calls we should follow in absolute faith and without question. Why is Mary so highlighted in this regard over a great many others who have done the same i.e. Abraham, Moses, etc.?

Because Mary is unique, being immaculate, the Mother of God, and the New Eve, and assumed bodily into heaven. She was the one creature chosen by God to "reverse" the effects of the Fall. This is the New Eve, or Second Eve concept; discussed by many of the Church fathers, such as St. Irenaeus: Eve said no, and rebelled against God; Mary said yes to the angel and to God at the Annunciation, and was willing to bear God the son, so as to make salvation possible to men. So she is the very highest creature. Martin Luther made a wonderful commentary on this:
She became the Mother of God, in which work so many and such great good things are bestowed on her as pass man's understanding. For on this there follows all honor, all blessedness, and her unique place in the whole of mankind, among which she has no equal, namely, that she had a child by the Father in heaven, and such a Child . . . Hence men have crowded all her glory into a single word, calling her the Mother of God . . . None can say of her nor announce to her greater things, even though he had as many tongues as the earth possesses flowers and blades of grass: the sky, stars; and the sea, grains of sand. It needs to be pondered in the heart what it means to be the Mother of God.

(Commentary on the Magnificat, 1521; in Luther's Works, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan et al, vol. 21, 326)
Now she is the Queen of Heaven. I saw some interesting material recently (written by a young convert) that showed how, in the Old Testament, the Queen Mother was often mentioned. She had a high place of honor, right after the king. Jesus is now King, glorified in heaven, and Mary is His true nother. So she is the Queen of Heaven. It's all very biblical, and Revelation 12 even makes this a fairly biblically-explicit Marian doctrine.

For an introduction to Catholic Marian piety, I recommend reading first (of all my papers on the topic), "The Imitation of Mary."

3) When Pope John Paul II was shot in Turkey he cried out repetitively "Mary my mother..." but not once to my recollection did he call out to Christ.

The two amount to the same thing. There is no need to create a dichotomy. To ask Mary's intercession is to pray to God, because Mary goes to God and intercedes on our behalf. This involves an explicitly biblical principle as well. The Bible says that "the prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects" (James 5:16). The example given (5:17) was that of Elijah, who could stop or start the rain with his prayers.

Well, Catholics believe Mary is immaculate and sinless. Protestants agree with us that she is the Mother of God. This is an extraordinary person; very close to God: as close as any creature everwas or ever will be. We can and should (if we are wise) ask her to pray for us due to that proximity to God, because her prayers are more powerful than ours are. She can hear our prayers because she is (being in heaven) out of time and able to see happenings on the earth (see, for example, Hebrews 12:1).

Dead saints are far more alive than we are ourselves, and care about earthly happenings. In Revelation 6:9-10, dead saints are literally praying for those on the earth. In Revelation 8:3-4 (cf. 5:8), and angel is spoken of as having "the prayers of the saints". What is he doing with human prayers, that supposedly can only go directly from men to God?! It is because we can ask an angel (a righteous, non-fallen creature) to pray for us, too. How much more, then, can we ask Mary to intercede?

Then after his wounds healed he credited Mary to his survival and made a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe (I think that was the one) in honor of her.

Just as the person Peter raised from the dead would naturally have thanked him, without any implication that it was not God Who ultimately performed the healing. It's a false dichotomy.

Once again I failed to hear anything about Christ's intervention on the matter.

You actually did, once you fully understand Catholic Mariology, because to attribute to Mary any good thing always goes back to God: the one Who answered the prayer and Who created her immaculate in the first place. You're making the same mistake that Protestants habitually make (which is understandable; I would submit that this is, again, the force of habit in you), saying that to mention Mary at all is to somehow detract or subtract from the glory of God. Catholics don't look at it that way at all.

To us, all the glory goes to God, just as praising a great work of art is actually giving praise to the artist who created the work. Everyone knows this. If someone says, for example, that Michelangelo's Pieta is "magnificent" or "inspired art" it is understood that he is praising Michelangelo. Likewise, when a Catholic honors and reveres Mary (not worship, that can only be applied to God!), he is, by that same act, honoring God far more. And when he attributes an answered prayer or miracle to her, it is understood (or should be), that it was God Who answered by her intercession, which is powerful because she was immaculate, which in turn goes back to God Who made her immaculate by a special miraculous grace.

If the glory belongs to God and Christ is our Mediator to Him then was this an appropriate devotional matter

Absolutely; per the above explanation.

or does it fall in line with my next question?


3) I have often heard Catholics and non-Catholics alike say that Mary has special sway over Christ because she is His mother. Does this have to do with anything about why Catholics look to her so often or is this a misguided excess?

Yes (it's not excess, if rightly-understood and practiced); I explained that above, too. Mary has a special, unique place in salvation history because of her role as the Immaculate Mother of God and Mediatrix, and now Queen of Heaven. More on her function as Mediatrix below, because you ask about it, too.

4) I read some quotes from the Catechism that if you at once accepted the Marian dogmas but then doubt the truth of them you are considered anathema. Does the RCC consider her beliefs about Mary and veneration to her as necessary for salvation?

In the sense that one must accept the whole of the Catholic faith, yes. That doesn't mean that if someone doesn't fully understand a doctrine, that they will be damned, period. It's more a matter of consistency. The Catholic accepts the entire deposit of faith and Catholic dogma, because the Catholic antecedently accepts by faith and God's grace the divinely-protected authority of the Catholic Church, to uniquely preserve the fullness of Christian truth in the first place. Therefore, it makes no sense to pick and choose. Once one accepts the Catholic principle of authority, they must accept the whole ball of wax.

Again, that doesn't mean that every catholic will or must completely understand to the nth degree, every Catholic doctrine. But he must be willing to accept by faith that all Catholic doctrine is true. Then the apologist steps in and that point and can aid the Catholic believer in better understanding the biblical, historical, and intellectual rationale behind any particular belief (exactly what I've been dong in this paper).

5) Why is it necessary to believe the Dogmas? Example: The Assumption - How does it really hold any impact on ones faith? In the end, does it really matter whether she was or was not?

Absolutely. Mary was, once could say, the first Christian. She was the first to experience the full fruits of Jesus' Resurrection, by which all saved persons will be resurrected one day. Thus, the Assumption is supremely important, because it illustrates the effect of Jesus' Resurrection on all who are saved. It was altogether appropriate that Mary be immediately resurrected, rather than undergo decay, because she was an unfallen creature in the first place, and decay only comes as a result of the fall. Hence, she simply is what we all could have been. That's why she wis immaculate and was assumed into heaven. It all works together.

6) What is actually meant by Mediatrix and Co-redeemer?

Aside from the last question, these are things I have been pondering for quite some time now and haven't really found sufficient answers for. The last one just sprang to mind so I threw it in there having not actually looked it up yet. I know these questions are quite involved and I'm sorry for so many. Any help understanding these would be greatly appreciated.

You're welcome. No problem. I'm glad to be of any assistance. The issues of Mediatrix and Co-Redeemer are much-misunderstood and complex and not given to short summary (though not as complicated as often supposed). Therefore, I strongly recommend that people read an introductory treatment, rather than jump to inaccurate conclusions as to what is meant (which is very common).

Thanks for your questions. I look forward to interacting with you and others further, in the discussion below this post. God bless you. You have your whole life to better understand Catholic theology. You don't have to grasp everything fully all at once. Who ever achieves a truly" full" understanding, anyway? We're all constantly learning. That will never end. But we can all rest in the knowledge that there is such a thing as "the Church" - ordained by God to preserve theological truth, and protected by the Holy Spirit. We're not on our own. We dont have to reinvent the wheel in every generation, or on an individual basis. We can trust the truths that have been passed down to us. God sees to it that they are preserved intact.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Catholic Debate on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (vs. Mike Breslin)

By Dave Armstrong (1998)
The following exchange between myself and my friend Mike Breslin took place on my "Apologetics and Ecumenism" e-mail discussion list (except for the last portion of it, which was private - reprinted here with Mike's permission). Mike and I both consider ourselves (and each other) orthodox Catholics, faithful to the magisterium and papacy and Catholic Apostolic Tradition, which is what makes this debate so interesting. The charismatic movement is one of those areas - not yet strictly and infallibly defined by the Church - concerning which faithful Catholics can and do disagree. I will be maintaining that the "CCR" is a good and genuine spiritual movement within the Church, while Mike (although he doesn't deny some good fruit as a result of the CCR) takes the opposing view. Another list member's comments also appear briefly. My words will be in black, and Mike's will be in blue. I began my remarks by responding to a query about different "factions" in the Church.

* * * * *

Liberation theology, process theology, feminism, Mariolatry, etc. have all been condemned by the Church, but the charismatic movement has been accepted. The charismatic movement in its Catholic "wing" has not been condemned by the Church. I have seen statements by the pope and people such as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, which support and even encourage it. Many orthodox Catholics, however, seem to be suspicious of it, often on the grounds of it being a "Protestantizing influence." Or they consider it subversive of the Mass or distinctive Catholic piety or Catholic obedience, etc.
Yet a flourishing orthodox Catholic institution such as Franciscan University of Steubenville is closely connected with the charismatic movement, and I believe Scott Hahn, perhaps the most brilliant Catholic apologist today, is a charismatic, as are Ralph Martin and Alan Schreck, two well-known Catholic writers. I attend charismatic Masses occasionally. I've also attended healing Masses. To my knowledge, they have not been condemned by the Church. The movement also has implications for ecumenism which are very positive, in my opinion. I've heard that charismatic seminarians comprise a great percentage of up-and-coming priests, and that they are solidly orthodox as a group.

There are excesses among individuals, of course (as in, e.g., some alleged Marian apparitions). I have always strongly critiqued these, both as a Protestant and as a Catholic, but I won't throw the baby out with the bath water, and I consider myself a "moderate" charismatic. I don't regard this as contrary to orthodoxy at all. God intends His spiritual gifts to be perpetual. He certainly still heals. The degree and frequency of miracles may not be what we saw in the apostolic period, but they still occur. Mother Angelica's healing was a well-known recent example.

I would be interested to see those Catholics on this list who are skeptical of the Catholic charismatic movement, produce an official Church document which either discourages or condemns Catholic involvement. And if there is no such document, and if the movement is so pernicious, why has the Church not spoken, I would ask?

I find fault with your logic. I could also ask a similar question, to which I would be very interested in your answer: Why, I ask, does the Church tolerate bishops such as Rembert Weakland, who regularly lambaste and criticize Cardinal Ratzinger and the Pope in major media publications (e.g., New York Times, America)? Why does the Church not only not condemn dissenting bishops such as Weakland of Milwaukee, Clark of Rochester, Untener of Saginaw, or Gumbleton of Detroit, to mention just a few, but actually gives them considerable power by keeping them as the Ordinary of the dioceses/archdioceses? These prelates regularly call into question settled Church teaching. Possibly the answer to these questions of mine is also similar to the answer to your question above.

Well, this is simple: you are comparing apples and oranges. You are talking about disciplining or silencing or excommunicating dissenters. Everyone knows what the Church teaches on the various issues on which these people dissent. Why they are not clamped down upon is a large (and worthwhile) topic for discussion. I have my theories, but I need to keep to the subject at hand, and that question is a whole 'nother subject.

But your analogy really is no analogy at all, since Church teaching is clear on all the "disputed" issues. When it comes to the charismatic movement, however, we find no such condemnations. If it were wrong, certainly they would be there, since everything else imaginable (i.e., with regard to theology) has been discussed in official Church documents. The burden of proof lies with the skeptics such as yourself to produce the magisterial proclamations which discourage the charismatic movement. Lacking those, I think the anti-charismatic critique too often falls back upon mere prejudice, misunderstanding, and - most importantly - a wrongheaded equating of excess with essence, or, proverbially, throwing the baby out with the bath water.

If you have no Church teaching to back up your skepticism, you are relying upon private judgment as much as the charismatics, since you are going by your own opinion and emotions rather than the mind of the Church. There is some obvious irony in that . . .

I'm not relying on private judgment. I'm relying on the teaching of the saints and one of the popes from the last century, and Fr. John Hardon, who all consider a hunger for spiritual phenomena to be spiritually dangerous.

If His Holiness John Paul II can be wrong (as you argue below), so can former popes and saints. Note that you speak of a "hunger for spiritual phenomena." This is excess, and would be condemned by any thoughtful, educated charismatic. But here again you equate excess with essence, and that is where your observations are fundamentally flawed and fallacious. Any charismatic would admit excess and over-enthusiasm in the movement (no pun intended).

I argued that excess is to be altogether expected as part of the human condition. Our Lord Jesus, in the parable of the wheat and tares informs us that flat-out unbelievers would be mixed in with true believers in the Church, let alone mere imbalances and corruptions of true, sincere believers. The Apostle Paul dealt with problems such as incest in the primal church at Corinth, and had to rebuke the first pope, Peter, for his hypocritical behavior at one point. Welcome to the human race! That being the case, why are you so hard on charismatics, simply because they have some problems? If you are going to be this judgmental, at least do so across the board - and that is where your argument also breaks down, because it proves too much. All Catholic sub-groups (indeed all Catholics whatever) would have to be condemned, if they had to withstand the undue scrutiny of being equated with their flaws and shortcomings and "growing pains."

Because I saw so many bad effects coming from it. I saw people who didn't seem to value the sacraments, who disdained traditional Catholic devotions such as the rosary and Eucharistic adoration, who had a distaste for anything too "Catholic", who weren't the least interested in learning Catholic doctrine or apologetics because it didn't fit well with ecumenism. People who were not interested in doing anything that was just for Catholics.

Well, how do you know that these things did not flow every bit as much - if not more so - from inadequate catechesis and the espousal of liberal theological notions?

You're right, I don't know. I may even have painted all charismatics with some attitudes which were unique to some I have observed personally.

Very good. I appreciate the candor and honesty of this admission. Don't worry - I wouldn't discount your whole argument based on this statement. But we are all formed to some extent by our experiences and associations. I'm no different.

All of the deficiencies you note are perfectly consistent with nominal, liberal Catholicism and/or the wrong, false kind of "warm fuzzy," "E Fluvius Fluffyhead" sort of "ecumenism." So perhaps in past years that sort of thought tended to get mixed in with Catholic charismatic circles. People saw it as an excuse and opportunity to lean towards Protestant thought in several areas. But that was because they didn't know their faith in the first place. They didn't realize that everything in the realm of spiritual gifts, experience, the Holy Spirit, prayer, etc. was perfectly in accord with good Catholic theology and spirituality, and had been for hundreds of years. I think of, e.g., Thomas a Kempis' The Imitation of Christ, which even evangelical Christian bookstores love to carry on their shelves.

In like fashion, a Catholic in, say, 1975, who wanted to study the Bible with other Christians, would have looked around for a Catholic Bible study, found none, and so went to one of the myriad Protestant Bible studies. Yet does this prove that the Catholic Church is against the Bible? Of course not. But it does indicate that Protestants understood the value of Bible study far better than most Catholics - they were actually being better "Catholics" than Catholics were, with regard to that one aspect (the reverse would hold in matters of Tradition and sacramentalism - which many many evangelical Protestants have absurdly ignored).

But there was still the attitude that permeated the Ann Arbor group, as expressed to me by one of their coordinators, who told me that it didn't matter if one were a Presbyterian, a Methodist, or a Catholic. What was important was that we loved Jesus. That attitude positively permeates the Word of God community.

Well, there is a limited sense in which that is true, in an ecumenical setting. I would have to hear what this person would say about what you and I believe to be the unique ecclesiological status of the Catholic Church. If he claims to be an orthodox Catholic, he would have to agree to that. If he didn't, then I would wholeheartedly agree that this would be an instance of indifferentism.

In addition, even the Word of God community in Ann Arbor publicly acknowledged their tendency to be spiritual elitists, and the negative impact it had on evangelization. Now you can argue that these attitudes are excesses of the movement (as you have), but I'm not sure how you establish that. If half the charismatics carry these attitudes around with them, or even only 40%, are they excesses or a real spiritual danger which springs from the movement itself? How do you determine it?

You can only determine it by how the proponents explain the "creedal" beliefs of Catholic charismatics, just as you would determine any Catholic doctrine. But this argument of yours proves too much - as do all arguments about mere numbers and degree of hypocrisy, in my opinion. I could just as easily rhetorically turn the tables and assert, "since about 70% of self-described Catholics deny the Real Presence and the wrongness of contraception [etc., etc.], therefore, Catholicism by its essence produces 'spiritual danger.'" Clearly, this is false, and so, I would say - by analogy - is your argument above. If all of us struggle day by day with sin and temptation, then this is the nature of the beast, and we shouldn't be so hard on the particular shortcoming and faults of charismatics, over against their actual doctrinal beliefs, as set forth by the leaders of the movement.

So, to summarize, I think that the tendency of Catholics to become Protestantized is far more complex than a simple boogeyman of "charismatics." Correlation doesn't always equal cause. But I think this was far more true 15-20 years ago than it is today. Why? Because today charismatics (like many other Catholics) are learning their faith, and learning how to defend it, much more than they have in the recent past. Twenty years ago I didn't know a single "on-fire" Catholic who could defend their faith (admittedly, I didn't know many Catholics at all, but still . . .). Today, if I were still Protestant, I would know of 20-25 of my personal friends who have converted. It would be impossible for me not to notice that something was different in Catholic circles. That's how much things have changed. And I personally believe it is the beginning of a revival that I think will be fully apparent (or at least indisputable) when I am an old man.

St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, both doctors of the Church, strongly discouraged such attitudes, as did the pope I referenced. They discouraged it because it was spiritually dangerous. People eager for spiritual phenomena, for prophecies, visions, etc., will accept anything supernatural as coming from God, without any discernment. Yet we all know that the Devil can appear to us as an angel of light. He can also cause phenomena to occur.

Again, this is no argument, as virtually all charismatics would agree. You are slaying a straw man, my friend, and we help you slay it, but it does nothing to advance your case.

I'm not indulging in private judgment. If I were I would judge that all of these alleged charismatic phenomena are from the devil. I don't know where they come from.

I'm glad you add these nuances, but it seems to me that the pope and many others [see related treatise] do feel they know where they come from. With all due respect, I defer to their judgment.

But I find it amazing that these people claim that they are all from the Holy Spirit.

Note the extremity of the statement, betraying an underlying severe bias. No charismatic with half a wit (Catholic or Protestant) I know would deny the existence of counterfeit gifts or manifestations. In fact, they are far more aware of them than non-charismatics, in my experience, for the simple fact that they are interested in (and study) spiritual experience in the first place. I challenge you to find a single statement of any charismatic which would maintain that all "charismatic phenomena" are divine in origin.

How do they know!?! How do you know?!?

Well, generally speaking, they (and I) know from experience, Christian maturity, and spiritual intuition, just as any Christian feels that God "talks to them" on occasion, or leads them in a certain direction. Why do you apply a more stringent "discipline" to charismatics and not to any Christian who feels led by the Holy Spirit or God the Father in prayer, etc.?

Because being private, the average Christian who feels led by the God is not opening it up to public evaluation, nor is he forcing it on others. But the charismatic's extraordinary phenomena are very public, and as I said, the attitude, unspoken where not explicitly claimed, is that it comes from God.

Good point. So this gets back to the familiar non-charismatic complaint (both Protestant and Catholic) that charismatics create a "two-tier" state of affairs in which those who don't have the experiences or particular gifts are made to feel like outsiders or "second-class Christians." This happens a lot, and is very unfortunate, but I would say, nevertheless, that it isn't the essence of the outlook, as you assert, but only a sadly common corruption of it. Some Protestant pentecostal theologies, however, indeed institutionalize this, with their warped theology of the "baptism of the Holy Spirit," in its implications regarding those who don't receive it. I've heard Protestant charismatics claim that Billy Graham was not filled with the Holy Spirit because he isn't a charismatic. That's sheer nonsense, and arrogant and just plain silly to boot. I never believed in the "second work of grace" as a Protestant, nor that everyone should speak in tongues (clear from 1 Cor 12:1-11,27-31). I never signed on as a member of the Assemblies of God because I didn't accept their belief in the "enduement of power," evidenced by tongues. I thought that was ludicrous and unbiblical (per the above verses).

I mean, that's the whole purpose of being a charismatic, isn't it? They receive extraordinary manifestations from the Holy Spirit, don't they? Or am I missing something?

Well, this is exaggerated and cynical language, and I can't agree with it.

A private Christian can get spiritual direction (at least a Catholic can) from a priest, but it's at their option. It seems to me that when someone makes it public, as in the case of prophecies, then it cries out for discernment. It certainly shouldn't be assumed by everybody that it is genuine.

I agree. St. Paul clearly teaches this in 1 Cor 14:26-33,37-40. I used to make these same criticisms as an evangelical, and I will continue to do so as a Catholic, critiquing charismatic excess in our circles.

Never claimed that anyone couldn't know for sure, but it's one thing to know for sure and another to expect others to accept it also.

Okay. I can see more what you are saying, as you have explained it further. On the other hand, if you wish to maintain that no Christian can ever know "for sure" that God is leading them, then you have another major problem, and this would extend to all the great saints you cite, and all others who have claimed some "experience."

Yet you are arguing from a position that they do indeed come from the Holy Spirit, and who am I to throw a wet blanket on it all.

I never said all these manifestations come from God (some are simply self-generated, and not particularly divine or demonic), nor would any charismatic. My view is quite balanced and moderate, but you say that there is more bad than good in the movement. This is a huge judgment, and I don't think you have anywhere near the substantiation upon which to claim this.

This is private judgment when 1,300 people all start babbling together at once, on cue, and tell me that it's all from the Holy Spirit. How do they know? I don't know - - how do they? Because the Holy Spirit told them so! That's private judgment! They know, and you're "closed to the Spirit" if you don't just accept it all as genuine.

Again, this is caricature. I agree that some "babbling" is just that. What else would one expect in a large group of people, concerning a subjective experience? I don't see that as compelling grounds for outright rejection. Tongues are, after all, a biblical phenomena. You have to incorporate them somewhere in your thinking, if you are serious about being biblical and apostolic. You can always take the Baptist position that they have ceased altogether. But on what basis do you do that? Some of the arguments for "cessationism" that I have seen (even from otherwise respectable scholars) are laughable and ludicrous. Now the subjective aspect is a two-edged sword, ain't it?

I submit that a negative judgment from the Vatican doesn't necessarily prove much in the present situation of the Church. I would be interested to hear your views on it, though.

This is beside the point. I am talking about doctrine, not discipline. But you seem to reason here almost like an ultra-traditionalist. Would you make the same critique of Pope John Paul II that is often directed towards Paul VI, that he is a sort of "wimp," afraid to "lay down the law" against the liberals?


I'm very open on this issue. I will follow the Church's teaching wherever it falls - as always, but I have as yet seen little to justify what I consider excessive skepticism on the part of many of my friends.

"Little to justify"? How about the private judgment that runs rampant within the charismatic mindset? I think it would be great if you would address that to start off with.

Well sure. I readily admit (as I did above) that there is excess - even much. This is to be expected. Private judgment which deliberately runs counter to Catholic teaching (on anything) is, of course, impermissible. But excess and exaggeration can be found in many if not all sub-groups of Catholicism (and evangelicalism too). One might reply that some "anti-charismatics" tend to be excessively un-emotional, and allow religion to become too much of the "head," and mere legalism, and not enough heart. This certainly happens a lot. I say the Church is once again "both/and" on this matter: we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This involves emotions and passion and sometimes visible expression, and charismatics have a good understanding of that, nothwithstanding the excesses. St. Thomas Aquinas was a mystic and Marian and eucharistic devotee in addition to an extraordinary - perhaps unparalleled - mind. He understood the balance. Catholic charismatics are under the authority of their priests and Church teaching, and they are among the numbers of the orthodox in the Church, not the liberals and dissenters and nominal hordes.

I wasn't referring to "excess." Sure, excess by definition is bad. My claim is that private judgment is of the essence of the charismatic movement, not simply an excess indulged in by some.

The problem here is that in so stating, you cast into doubt all legitimate spiritual experiences of saints and others through the centuries, simply because they are subjective experiences. They may be verified or approved, sure, but in the final analysis they are personal and subjective. That's why, of course, as you know, the Church doesn't impose an obligation to believe in private revelations (such as Marian apparitions).

This is a huge problem in your outlook (particularly in the realm of "spiritual epistemology"). You also falsely assume that Catholic charismatics as a group are lone rangers who are not in touch with the spiritual direction of Church or pastor, or even directives of the prayer group they may be in. This is ludicrous. It might apply much more to Protestant charismatics, as private judgment is the Protestant principle to start with, but it is far too extreme of a judgment to apply to Catholic charismatics as their "essence." One mustn't over-argue a point: it will backfire because it is reduced to absurdity in application.

So if one doesn't engage in excessive emotionalism then one is excessively un-emotional? No middle ground, huh?

I didn't say that at all. Now you are caricaturing my position. :-) Note how I was careful to nuance and qualified my counter-argument:
    "One might reply that some "anti-charismatics" tend to be excessively un-emotional, and allow religion to become too much of the "head," and mere legalism, and not enough heart."
Three qualifications. I think that allows considerable middle ground and room for other viewpoints, don't you, Mike?

St. Teresa of Avila was a genuine mystic, not because she claimed to be (that would violate the virtue of humility) but because she met the requirements of being one. In her autobiography (which she only wrote under obedience to her superiors), she describes how she would automatically assume that any spiritual phenomena (visions, knowledge, ecstasy, etc.) were from the devil. She refused to trust her own judgment. She even tried to avoid the ecstasies and visions and stop them from happening, but she was unable to do so. She always went to her spiritual director for advice. Our Lord told her that he was not displeased with that attitude, that it was a proper one. He did not want people to trust their own judgment, to rely on themselves. He wanted people do distrust their own judgment and instead to rely on the Church and a priest spiritual director (she also told us we have to pray for a good spiritual director).

This is excellent. I don't think a Catholic charismatic would disagree at all.

But don't many, if not most, charismatics do precisely that: rely on their own judgment?

That is your responsibility to demonstrate, since you are asserting it. On what basis do you make such sweeping charges? A few experiences at Word of God years ago?

It's certainly what Protestants do.

Ah, but we are talking about Catholic charismatics. And they don't, by definition. I'm sure some do, but to make that the basis to condemn the movement in toto is a bit extreme.

One time, when her spiritual director was changed (being in a convent she didn't have control over who he was), the priest directing St. Teresa told her to stop praying completely as a way to stop the phenomena. Our Lord told her that that was too much. Within a week the priest was transferred and she had a new spiritual director (cute, huh?).

Yes, I like it. :-)

As to the Holy Father, yes he does say nice things about Charismatics whenever they visit Rome, but it's been my experience that, in addition to welcoming words, he almost always emphasizes things like "fidelity to the ecclesial Magisterium, filial obedience to pastors and the spirit of service with regard to local churches and parishes." Why, I wonder, does the Holy Father feel the need so often to emphasize such concepts when talking to Charismatics? Interesting, no?

This is perfectly consistent with my analysis. The excesses are real, and the pope is vigilant to address those. This is natural. But it seems to me that if you are correct: that the movement is essentially non-Catholic in theory and spirit and practice, then don't you think that Pope John Paul II would boldly point that out? This is a man who is not afraid to tell anyone anything they need to hear - be it Communists or Family Planners or our illustrious President. Yet you would have it that he is scared to speak the truth to charismatics???!!! I just don't get it. It is his job, on the other hand, to seek to prevent excesses and errors which can readily be observed (I have critiqued them for 16 years now, and once got "excommunicated" from a charismatic congregation in part because of my critiques - denounced from the pulpit!).

OK, Dave, I'll explain it to you. Yes, he's not afraid to tell Communists, family planners, and our illustrious non-Catholic President the truth (but not boldly). These people, most of whom are practical atheists, are into serious sin and are perverting many people through their activities. They are opposing God directly and the Pope openly rebukes them (although you'll notice that even with these people he is excessively polite and mild). However, he deals quite differently with people who are already good-willed (if misguided) Catholics, or people who could lead many Catholics out of the Church, such as disobedient bishops. I think you're comparing apples and oranges :). Non-Catholics openly opposing God are dealt with differently by the Pope than Catholics inside the Church.

Again, I say that this breaks down in light of the fact that dissidents are dealt with on the level of official documents, but charismatic theology is not. I don't think your analysis can get over that compelling objection.

POPE WELCOMES LEADERS OF ITALIAN CHARISMATIC RENEWAL VATICAN CITY, APR 4, 1998 (VIS) - Leaders of the Italian National Service Committee of Renewal in the Holy Spirit, also known as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, were received by the Holy Father this morning, who spoke to them of the various tasks facing ecclesial movements today, in particular the formation of the laity. The Pope recalled that "the Catholic charismatic movement is one of the many fruits of Vatican Council II" which stimulated "an extraordinary flourishing of groups and movements especially sensitive to the Holy Spirit." "In your life (as an ecclesial movement)," remarked John Paul II, "all those criteria of ecclesiality of which I wrote in 'Christifideles laici' must find their expression, especially fidelity to the ecclesial Magisterium, filial obedience to pastors and the spirit of service with regard to local Churches and parishes." "One of the most urgent tasks of the Church today is the formation of the laity," he went on. This "has as its basic objective the very clear discovery of one's own vocation and an ever greater willingness to live it in fulfillment of one's own mission. "This must, therefore, be one of your priorities. In today's secularized world, which proposes models devoid of spiritual values, this duty is more urgent than ever. Faith dies when it is reduced to a custom, to a habit, to a purely emotional experience. ... I know the Renewal in the Holy Spirit does all that it can to respond to this need." Encouraging them to persevere in their task, the Pope concluded: "In this world permeated by sadness and uncertainty, have the courage to collaborate with the Spirit in a new, great outpouring of love and hope on all of mankind." AC/RENEWAL HOLY SPIRIT/... VIS 980406 (290).

AMEN!!!!!!! Here you make my case for me. Thanks! :-) .The pope says the movement is "one of the many fruits of Vatican Council II" and that it stimulated "an extraordinary flourishing of groups and movements especially sensitive to the Holy Spirit," yet you are against it? Can you explain that to me, Mike? Who is more in line with the pope at that point? You or the charismatics whom he is praising (as well as instructing and exhorting to remain obedient to the Church)?

The Pope wasn't teaching anybody anything when he greeted the charismatic delegation in Rome. You're stretching things just a bit.

I think he teaches whenever he addresses the faithful, just as priests teach at every homily. C'mon! If you want to make the point that he is merely being diplomatic, or playing politician, then in effect you make the Holy Father a liar, and I know you wouldn't want to do that. You found fault with my logic; I have major problems with yours in this particular argument, but I would be happy, of course, to consider your reply. This is a discussion I have been eager to fully explore for some time now, so I hope we make the most of it. Besides, there aren't many areas where orthodox Catholics vigorously disagree with each other! :-)

I reject your logic here. The Pope is not necessarily a liar for being diplomatic.

If one utters a falsehood in the course of being diplomatic, it is still a lie, and that person has lied, and is a "liar" in a not necessarily deliberate sense. The pope says the charismatic movement is "especially sensitive to the Holy Spirit" and, "one of the many fruits of Vatican Council II." I'm sure he has said many other things as well. But that was just in the article you cited! You say, on the other hand: "I just think the bad outweighs the good." These are not two compatible viewpoints. If you are right, the pope has spoken falsehood, and is a liar at that point. A liar is "one that tells lies." They need not be deliberate. Look it up in the dictionary. It can be used both ways.

And indeed you are willing even to go against the pope on this one, as we see below. I find that an extremely troubling stance for a Catholic to take. Sure, technically and "legally" you can do so, but is that normative for an obedient Catholic, I would ask? Is it not filled with its own destructive consequences, even for a knowledgeable orthodox Catholic such as yourself? How often will you judge that the Holy Father is in error, because you disagree with him? You deny that that is private judgment?

While I believe the charismatic movement has many dangers and should be avoided, and it's spirituality is not authentically Catholic (coming from Protestants as it does),

I would assert that authentic Catholic charismatic theology and practice is wholly in accord with Catholic Tradition. Whatever is true in Protestantism is already derived from Catholicism.

I do not believe that everything associated with it is bad. No doubt the Holy Spirit is working in charismatics - - I never denied it! But that's not to say that there isn't bad stuff mixed up in it! The Holy Father is not lying if he's aware of the dangers inherent in it, and he is not lying to say that the movement as a whole is a fruit of Vatican II. It may even be his judgment that it is a good fruit of Vatican II.

I find this remarkable. I think you are desperately special pleading at this point.

He also could hold that some aspects of it are good - - I wouldn't dispute that - - I just think the bad outweighs the good. I think the Pope is acknowledging the good in the charismatic movement (increased zeal, devotion to Scriptures, etc.), while cautioning against the Protestantizing elements inherent in it. His statements to the charismatics are entirely consistent with this.

Can you produce a magisterial statement that actually asserts (beyond diplomacy) what you do, that it is "more good than bad," and "not authentically Catholic"? If not, then I think you are merely reading into the pope's words what you would wish was there, but which in fact is not. The proof is in the pudding.

OK, "bad" is a subjective and not very useful term in this discussion. Let me retreat for the moment and ask, if these forms of worship (praying in tongues, prophecy, etc.) are so good, why hasn't the Church incorporated them into her liturgy?

Good question; yet we know (unarguably) that both are biblical and legitimate charisms (which makes them "good," I would say). It is a fact, furthermore, that there are many legitimate Catholic forms of spirituality (and yes, worship) which are present outside the Mass. Marian apparitions; indeed all private revelations, visions, most miracles, etc., immediately come to mind as examples, as well as various devotional exercises such as the Stations of the Cross, the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, retreats, Novenas, fasts, the Rosary, the liturgy of the hours, Eucharistic processions and adoration, etc. Bible study in its standard discussion format and extended prayer meetings are not part of the Mass, either. Yet who would deny that all of these are beneficially and piously practiced by Catholics? So, although your question is valid (and I'd like to see other charismatics address it), I don't think it is a compelling or fatal objection to charismatic phenomena in and of itself.

Neither can you compare the movement to something like the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius or the rosary. I realize they are all outside of the Church's liturgy (official, public worship), and that's why you lumped them together, but there is a real difference between the level of endorsement.

I didn't intend to imply that the endorsement was on the same level. I never claimed anything of the sort. I was merely responding to your (legitimate) question about why charismatic distinctives have not been incorporated into the Mass. In my opinion, I think I demonstrated that point quite sufficiently, by analogy (i.e., that this is not a disproof in and of itself).

The rosary has been mentioned and promoted in numerous papal encyclicals, going back over a hundred years, and the Spiritual Exercises have been promoted by at least one pope, who because of them made St. Ignatius of Loyola the patron saint of retreats or missions.

Great. I agree, but this was not my argument in the first place. If anything, though, I think this would support my point over against yours, by showing that even these highly-commended practices are not in the Mass, either. Obviously, the Mass is not all-inclusive.

I don't believe any equivalent such official endorsement of the charismatic movement has occurred. So, no, there has been no "enthusiastic endorsement" of the charismatic movement by the Catholic Church.

OK, perhaps I chose my terms unwisely. Granted. Yet it has not been condemned, and it has been accepted in some fashion, as you admit yourself. This is the relevant point in our discussion. Why is that, if it is so harmful?

As forms of worship, they are not really consistent with the mind of the Church.

They have not been institutionalized within the Mass itself, but that doesn't rule them out altogether, any more than any of the above practices are impermissible. I sometimes see Catholics reciting the Rosary all through Mass (as I understand used to be common). This is as contrary to the active participation in the Mass which Vatican II stresses (and possibly distracting to others), as is someone praying in tongues at Mass. I personally think the offering of peace is very distracting also (my parish does not do that, as you know). How much that violates the rubrics, I'm not sure. But if charismatic worship is not "consistent with the mind of the Church," that brings us back to the question of why the Church hasn't so pronounced. We have, rather, enthusiastic endorsement, it seems to me.

I dispute your claim that we have "enthusiastic endorsement." A few polite greetings from the Pope to delegations of charismatics does not in any way constitute "enthusiastic endorsement."

I didn't mean just that (which would indeed be silly), but several statements I have seen. Someone on the list posted two such examples. I don't have more of them at my fingertips, but I have some things around, if you are asking for more similar examples. [see my paper, "Recent Popes' and Bishops' Statements Concerning the Catholic Charismatic Renewal"].

You don't like the CRC, but why should I regard your judgment as superior to the pope's? If you can't produce any authoritative Church documents "contra charismata," then on what basis can you expect me or others to yield to your own private judgment? That reduces to the very Protestant principle of authority you claim charismatics are smuggling into the Church!

And although you specifically move them outside of the Mass in your response above, I have witnessed them within the Mass.

I don't see how a bit of worship at the appropriate times is at all subversive (I've never witnessed prophecy myself - that would be more debatable, I think). This can occur within the different rates of speed with which priests proceed. There are times of reflection and silence, and of congregational singing during the Mass. Soft-spoken worship in tongues doesn't subvert the Mass, in my opinion, especially if the priest presiding is agreeable to it. I would hope you would rejoice that these Catholics are engaging in heartfelt worship, and enjoying the presence of God so much. That's far better than the millions of dead, nominal "Catholics" who frequent our pews, isn't it?

First of all, I've never witnessed "soft-spoken worship in tongues" during the Mass. It probably occurs, in places like Dallas, but not in my experience.

I just did, on Easter Sunday. I guess it depends on one's definition of "soft-spoken."

And at the most important "quiet time" of the Mass, right after Holy Communion when we are encouraged to mediate or contemplate the Lord we have just received, I was unable to do so because of all the loud "worship in tongues" going on around me. I found it quite impossible to pray with everybody babbling incomprehensibly around me. Maybe you are better able to shut out the noise than I am.

If it was so loud as to be distracting, I would tend to agree with you on this one. But - as an aside - you use this term "babbling" often. Do you deny that all instances of alleged tongues-speaking are genuine? If not, then why would you use a seemingly derogatory description of a clearly-taught New Testament gift?

Secondly, repeated comparisons (by your and others) to the common "nominal" Catholic who doesn't live out his faith proves nothing at all.

Strictly speaking, it wasn't meant to prove anything - it was just an added editorial comment on my part - no extra charge! :-)

I'm not promoting nominal, "dead" Catholics as the norm, the ideal, or the standard of comparison. Absolutely not. They do not belong in this discussion. Turning them into charismatics would be an improvement, yes, but not as much an improvement as making them into knowledgeable Catholics who worship just like their ancestors have for 1,900 years (yes, there's biblical evidence for charismatic phenomena practiced by the laity, but only in the city of Corinth as I recall).

I didn't say you were "promoting 'dead' Catholicism." Don't be silly! My point in effect was this: that even if you don't care for the charismatic style of worship, at least you could rejoice in the fact that your average charismatic Catholic has a tangible enthusiasm for God and a pious joy in His presence. Would you grant that much to them? But note how you appear to pit "knowledgeable" against "charismatics." Is that not an excessive contrast to make, and contrary to charity, if nothing else?

Yes, you'll say, they're abuses, but I from what I've seen in the past they were rather common and accepted, at least around my neck of the woods. And no one, not even the priests presiding at these Masses, made any movement whatsoever to correct these abuses which occurred during Mass. So much for the vaunted guidance of the Church, huh?

I would have to know the details, as I haven't seen such a thing, but were there abuses? Of course. Have Catholic charismatics learned a lot during the course of their recent growth? I'm sure they have. Does this prove that the movement is bogus and proto-Protestantism? It does not.

I didn't make myself clear. At all of the charismatic Masses I went to, at all of the prayer group meetings I went to, everyone accepted that all of the extraordinary manifestations were genuine. No one questioned any of it, nor made any attempt to discern any of it.

I admit this is a tendency, but you simply don't know what everyone felt in their own mind. You neglect to distinguish between personal opinion, and reluctance to be a "nonconformist" in a social setting, which we all are familiar with.

If one failed to participate, or failed to accept everything, the clear implication was that he was closed to the Holy Spirit.

This happens, but I think you would admit that it usually comes from lesser-informed laymen, rather than priests and prayer group leaders, etc. As such, it is no different than any group of Catholics.

I don't ever recall anyone attempting to discern or judge, even when prophecies were offered during the middle of Mass at the baptism of my nephew. They were just yelled out and everyone accepted them with loud "Amens!" There was nobody who even remotely came close to questioning any of it. Therefore, by clear implication, it was all from the Holy Spirit. I can't imagine what would've happened to me had I had the nerve to ask aloud if that last prophecy was really from the Holy Spirit.

Here I would be inclined to agree with you. I am always very skeptical of "prophecies." Even if what they state is true, the claim that they are directly from God is very serious and needs to be questioned by all Christians who value authenticity and spiritual verification (as with Marian apparitions and other personal visions - none of which are obligatory on all Catholics). This is an explicit Pauline concept.

So clearly, Dave, when all these millions of instances of extraordinary phenomenon are happening, and nobody ever publicly evaluates them or ever calls any of them into question, what am I to think except that they are all accepted as genuine?

I agree, but I would still point out that this is largely social reticence. If a priest allowed a clearly heretical or non-authentic prophecy to be uttered without correction, I would view that as an extremely serious and troubling occurrence. I'm not even sure prophecies should take place during the Mass, so we agree on much here.

Do you want to go to Ann Arbor, to one of the Word of God prayer group meetings on a Sunday, and speak up and call into question some of their prophecies or tongue speakings? I would love to hear about your experience! Obviously the operating assumption is that they are all genuine.

:-) If I heard something clearly heretical (or even contradictory) I certainly would. It would be a bit scary, but I would feel it my duty and would do it. And yes, I would give you a full report. :-)

Yes, you get points because your attitude seems to be more in-line with the Pope's. But I still think you're wrong, and appealing the pope's apparent attitude on this doesn't win the argument. Even if the Pope thought everything about the charismatic movement was bona fide from the Holy Spirit and Vatican II (something that hasn't been established), it still wouldn't settle it. Popes have been wrong before, as you know, when not intending to settle a matter for the whole Church (ex cathedra).

So you are willing to go against the pope on this, no matter what he teaches, huh Mike? And - apparently - Pope Paul VI and perhaps John XXIII? All these popes are wrong about the charismatic movement? I find that absolutely extraordinary. Since you are willing to dispute popes on this matter, perhaps you would like to go at it exegetically?

What authority? Just what authority does a pope's words of greeting to a delegation of charismatics carry? Please explain this to me. I'm confused. You act as if these popes had given solemn definitions or encyclicals regarding the charismatic movement. Are you getting carried away a little?

No, you are. They don't have to proclaim an infallible definition to be obeyed and to have their teaching accepted. There was no such pronouncement about the Assumption till 1950, or about the pope's infallibility itself till 1870, but you won't deny that both of those doctrines were firmly entrenched in Tradition - even explicitly for many hundreds of years. All the words of the pope carry authority and should be normally and routinely accepted and obeyed by the lay Catholic. Do we now need to argue that? Where is the fully infallible pronouncement against contraception? The liberals argued that Humanae Vitae wasn't such, so that they had every right to dissent from it. You argue the same way. I confess that this question is far less important than these other examples, but I have said that if the movement was so pernicious, there would have been some sort of pronouncement against it by now. Instead we have clear commendations and approval, notwithstanding at low levels of "authoritativeness." I think that is as plain as the beard on my chin!!

Dave, listen to yourself. You're mixing apples and oranges. The Church's moral teachings are not at issue here, nor are her doctrinal teachings, although you keep trying to bring doctrine into the picture. Humanae Vitae was infallibly taught, on both levels. All Church theologians agreed in 1931 that the doctrine on contraception was infallibly pronounced by Pope Pius XI in Casti Conubii. What this has to do with worship styles or spirituality is beyond me, though.

I confess I got a little carried away, in my elaborate constructing of analogies. Score one for you. :-)

Well, I guess I didn't mean to claim that the movement was "pernicious" - - I don't think I ever used that term. Spiritually dangerous is as far as I'll go.

True, that was my term. I don't see much difference, though.

And to try to buttress your papal case by calling the Pope's statements "low levels of authoritativeness." There's no authority to a Pope's greeting to a group of charismatics. My gosh, it wasn't a command and it wasn't even addressed to me!

It carries considerable weight simply by the fact that he uttered it. Your opinion carries weight because I know you and respect you, and know that you are an orthodox Catholic. How much more so the pope??!!! I think you can't see the forest for the trees on this point.

I never claimed that the Church teaches against the charismatic movement, so don't hold your breath waiting for proof.

Why don't you tell me, then, why you think that is, as I've requested several times (I've attempted to answer all your questions and challenges)? I find it extremely implausible, and a telling argument against your position.

All I'm going to do is to show it's dangers, based on the teaching of some doctor's of the Church and a little bit of reasoning. If you won't admit to dangers in the movement unless you see an authoritative Church decree on the issue, then let's stop now, because we both know there isn't any such thing.

I've admitted to dangers and excesses many times, but my rejoinder has been that we find this in all Catholic movements, and indeed in all people, so that it proves little one way or the other. Your formidable task lies in proving that these excesses and sins of individuals flow directly from the movement, from its essence, as the primary cause, as opposed to the world, the flesh, the devil, and that scourge of the earth: theological heterodoxy and liberalism.

Since Catholic authority is dismissed by your argument, what resort do we have but the Protestant method of individual interpretation of Scripture? :-) For most orthodox Catholics, the pope's words would be (and should be) sufficient to settle the matter.

I think you're missing the point. I do not have to produce magisterial documents discouraging the charismatic movement.

Why not? I still find it remarkable that you don't consider it odd that the Church has not spoken against this, if in fact it is as formidable an error as you maintain it is. Everything else, from Freemasonry, to socialism, to Anglican orders, to ecumenism and labor unions and cloning technology, etc. has been dealt with, but not this. I find that exceedingly odd, under your thesis.

My original thesis does not require the Catholic Church to formally discourage the charismatic movement in order to be valid.

Perhaps not in a formal logical sense, but I still find it very strange.

You can, of course, make such a requirement in order to accept my thesis, but this requirement of yours in no way invalidates my concerns, except maybe in your own mind.

Mine is an argument from plausibility and ecclesial authority. It doesn't have to flow directly from your particular argument, as it is my own counter-argument. My argument runs: "if the charismatic movement is a pernicious error, as you say it is, why has the Church not condemned it, and why has it, in fact, encouraged it, from what we can see?" But there are other logical problems wholly within your analysis, apart from my counter-reply. See below. :-)

My original thesis is that the charismatic movement introduces Protestant forms of worship, Protestant forms of thought, and Protestant theology into the Catholic Church.

This is a lot to prove, and involves much subjectivity. While I would grant it in part, I would go on to say that some of these forms of worship are not bad, provided they do not subvert the Mass (or are outside the Mass, such as at prayer meetings), and that others which are "un-Catholic" are matters of excess, which Catholic charismatics themselves would be quick to condemn. The same would go for the theology and "forms of thought," although I would hasten to add that not everything in Protestantism is against what we believe (as you would surely agree), and some things would be quite beneficial to us. E.g., who could deny that the Protestant emphasis on Bible study and a personal relationship with the Lord are good things (even with their own peculiar excesses)? These are Catholic elements at bottom, and are actually part and parcel of our own Tradition, but our Protestant brethren have been used by God to emphasize these things anew to us Catholics, in recent times. And this has been clearly stated in Church proclamations on ecumenism.

I grant that my thesis would be strengthened by magisterial proclamations from the Church discouraging the movement, but I don't think the absence of such proclamations invalidates it.

Fair enough. I will pick it apart from its own inherent weakness as a thesis. :-)

Getting back to my analogy which you consider to be an apples to oranges comparison, the whole point of the analogy with dissenters was that I think similar concerns from the Vatican are dictating how they respond to both situations. While the situations are indeed different, I think the Church's response to both situations is motivated by the same concern. The Pope won't discipline heterodox or disobedience prelates for fear of a break with the Church; he doesn't want to drive people out of the Church. I think the Vatican also doesn't discourage charismatics for fear of driving some of them out of the Church. Lord knows many have left the Church already in Ann Arbor [Michigan; Word of God community] without any such discouragement from the Vatican; simply because the rest of the Catholic Church wasn't adopting pentecostal forms of worship fast enough. I can't prove this motivation on the part of the Vatican vis-a-vis charismatics, but I think it's true.

Ok; this is a good presentation of your argument, and is plausible and a valid concern; however, I already replied that the two situations are not analogous because the Church has previously spoken about the doctrinal wrongness of dissent, whereas it has made no such pronouncement about charismatics. It has also done so about other possible and real schismatics, such as the Lefebvrites and SSPX-ers and "quack Marian apparitionists" (such as Bayside). Even if I grant that the Church does not want to create a schism (which is certainly possible in this instance), there is still the disanalogy (is that a word?) of the doctrine not being condemned, so that possible worries about schism do not prove that there are corresponding doctrinal concerns: in other words, the distinction between schism and heresy. But it seems to me that your argument rests upon the notion that charismatics are heretical. This is why I keep asking you why the Church has not spoken out against this heresy, as you see it. It makes no sense to me - it just doesn't fit.

I'm not sure why you're talking about doctrine; I'm not. We began this thread talking about forms of worship, not doctrine. I never claimed that charismatic forms of worship violated doctrine, so why do you keep coming back to doctrine? I'll state it once again: Charismatic worship is dangerous because it introduces Protestant forms of thought, worship, and theology.

It is unavoidable. A theology of worship is doctrine, and you said it yourself: "Protestant forms of thought, worship, and theology." Thought and theology (especially the latter) are doctrine. I don't see that that is arguable.

I don't wish to pursue it because it's not an issue with me. I brought it up as part of an analogy. I have no wish to stray from the subject at hand, neither do I reason like an ultra-traditionalist. So let's drop this particular topic, shall we?

Fine. I only pursued it because you brought up the liberals, and I thought I was just taking your logic to its final conclusion.

No, I never claimed that charismatics are heretical, and none of my concerns for the movement revolve around doctrine directly.

I don't see how you can make that separation completely, as I mentioned last time. Everything is doctrinal in the final analysis, so this is about the doctrine of worship. There is a term "liturgiology." I don't know if the doctrinal study of liturgy comes under that category, but what liturgists do and study can't be separated from doctrine and theology.

Perhaps I don't understand your point above. My concerns fall under the "pastoral" label, rather than doctrinal.

Well, then you will have to elaborate what you mean by pastoral concern. My point was that if charismatics are neither schismatic nor heretical, then where's the beef? They are not schismatic because they haven't left the Church. Individual ones have, but then so have several million other sorts of Catholics. Catholics leave the Church for many reasons (all, I think, illegitimate and inadequate in the final analysis, of course), but that takes us away from our subject. If you don't charismatics are heretical, then what does it mean for you to say:
    "Charismatic worship is dangerous because it introduces Protestant forms of thought, worship, and theology."
Sooner or later, one arrives at the theology which undergirds the practice and worship methods and expression of the gifts. One might classify this under Pneumatology (the study of the Holy Spirit), as charismatics (by definition) emphasize the charisms, which are given by the Holy Spirit. So (Catholic) charismatic theology is either orthodox or heretical. If the former, your objections collapse, except for the correcting of abuses, which we already agree with, anyway. If the latter, then I continue to assert that it is exceedingly strange and implausible that the Church hasn't condemned the false theology, as it has condemned all other false and heretical beliefs I can think of.

If you wish to say that "charismatic forms of worship" are of the essence an instance of sheer liturgical abuse, then you must explain why the pope speaks of charismatics in glowing terms. Of which other liturgical abuse (which are legion) does he speak in such a fashion? We know that such abuses have been much discussed in Church documents. But where is the pronouncement about charismatics, which you apparently place in the same category? It's commendable for you to want to do more research, as you admit below, but for now, you don't give me much to work with, other than your own opinions, and references concerning St. Teresa's opinions, with which I totally agreed.

Don't you think people are attracted to the charismatic movement due to exactly this spiritual hunger for the extraordinary phenomena? Why else would they be attracted if not a hunger for spiritual phenomena?

For one thing, perhaps they simply had a spiritual experience (without particularly seeking it), and figured out that that was part of the spiritual life, benefited from it, grew closer to God as a result of it, felt more inner joy, and hence pursued it further, and joined with those who could relate to such experiences. In this instance, the "hunger" would be more so for God than for the experience. The experience is thus a means to an end, as it should be. As long as no dichotomy is made, and experience isn't made the end of the spiritual life, but - on the contrary - a means to God, I see no wrong in it, and nothing contrary to Catholic spirituality.

Or perhaps they desired a closer relationship with God, more fellowship, more corporate prayer. None of these have to do directly with experience or the gifts, but charismatics stress, and do well in these areas. I must say that - speaking of my own odyssey - these sorts of things drew me closer to Catholicism (in baby steps at that point), not further from it. One charismatic prayer meeting I attended showed me that Catholics loved the Lord as much as my fellow evangelicals. It was the papal encyclical on Mary on the back table which made me feel that Catholics were lacking in true theology. Ditto for the music of John Michael Talbot, who is a charismatic, I'm pretty sure. So commonality doesn't always lead one away from the Church, but often to it. One can walk both ways on a bridge.

None of the above aspects are contrary to Catholicism, so they fill an ecumenical function, among other things. They are elements which evangelicals and Catholics hold in common; charismatics have a better understanding of this, and so it becomes a manifestation of the Church which appeals to Protestants who will usually notice the distinctives of Catholicism and oftentimes be put off by those.
Furthermore, I would say that charismatics excel at emphasizing the feelings and emotions and passions, which are altogether proper when we ponder what God has done for us. One could seek that "deeper walk" with God which all Christians ought to pursue, without necessarily having or seeking spiritual experiences. Again, charismatics are more spontaneous in emotional expressions of worship and praise. I see that (within proper bounds and propriety) as exciting and encouraging, and quite in accord with the true spirit of Vatican II and the Bible itself (read many of the Psalms - this is patently obvious). You don't. Why that is, is perhaps the deeper issue here that must be explored. But in any event, there are several reasons for being attracted to charismatic Catholicism other than an imbalanced "hunger," so that your rhetorical question does not hold.

I understand now, from these and many other posts from others on this list, that my exposure to the movement was unbalanced. I also think that, as I alluded to in a previous post, many in the movement have turned towards authentic Catholicism (indeed many charismatics never left in the first place).

Very good. This is an excellent and open-minded attitude, and you admit that this list was helpful to you. I hope all here have your spirit of being willing to learn (and you have taught many here, too, I'm sure). I think we have all learned a lot in the many discourses and threads on this list - I know I have.

As I said previously, I think the problems are of the essence of the movement, not of excess.

This is a very serious charge, and - needless to say - I don't think you have established this at all as of yet.

I may not have made my case convincingly, but please don't misconstrue my concerns to be of excess.

I don't. I understand full well what you are saying. You are being very honest and straightforward. I like that. I didn't say that was your own viewpoint, but rather, I have been arguing that what 
you claim is "essence," is in fact "excess," and admitted to be such by charismatics themselves.

I really think they are of the essence, not merely shortcomings or failure to live up to the ideal. I think the ideal is flawed, hence the whole thing is flawed.

Then - again - I think you need a lot more "ammo" than what you have provided.

I don't think the Pope ever claimed that every instance of praying in tongues or prophecy uttered by a charismatic Catholic was genuinely from the Holy Spirit.

Of course not. He doesn't have to do so, nor does this have any relation to my "case." As I said, no thoughtful charismatic would claim this in the first place.

His statements are judging the movement as a whole, not every individual expression of it.


Charismatics, by the very reason of their existence as a separate form or style of Christianity (if they're not different then why the label?), define themselves as having the Spirit. Or are you going to deny that Charismatics claim a special connection to, or manifestation of, the Holy Spirit?

Well, I think they would say they place an emphasis on the spiritual gifts, and feeling and emotion, not that they are spiritually superior simply in doing that. This is no different in essence or purpose from any number of Catholic movements. Dominicans don't claim to have a lock on reason and logic, nor Missionaries of Charity on love and care of the poor, nor Trappists on silent contemplation, nor Franciscans on simplicity and childlike faith, nor Jesuits on teaching and evangelistic skill and zeal, etc. Rightly understood, charismatics would not say that non-charismatics didn't "have the Spirit." If they did, this would clearly be non-Catholic teaching (esp. with regard to confirmation). But they could say they had something to offer by way of understanding and experience, and I see nothing wrong with that, if there is no heresy. All of us are prone to spiritual pride. It would be grossly unfair to pin that on charismatics more so than other sorts of Catholics. As you say, you are attacking the very essence of the movement . . .

So they claim this special manifestation of the Holy Spirit, and therefore everything that comes from them is, if not by definition, then by assumption, coming from the Holy Spirit.

They might assume that individually, but the existence of counterfeits or self-induced "experiences" would not be denied by most, I don't think.

Don't you agree that the assumption by everybody involved in the charismatic movement is that they have extraordinary charisms granted to them by the Holy Spirit?

They don't see them as extraordinary, so much as "ordinary" - that everyone should possess one or more spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:7,11,31). Therefore, if a Catholic or any other Christian seems to give no place to the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts, it is he who is abnormal or deficient in spirituality, rather than the charismatic being "extraordinary" or unusual. It's all in your perspective, and the Bible (St. Paul) is pretty clear about this, it seems to me.

This is what I picked up, both from the Ann Arbor group and a very small charismatic prayer group which got started in the large (2,700 families) suburban parish we used to belong to.

What did you pick up? With all due (and considerable) respect, I don't think you understood the point I was making. I cited Scripture. What's your argument against that?

I didn't have any overwhelming urge to start babbling nonsense, or shouting out praises to God in English. I prefer to pray quietly, following the example of thousands of Catholic saints over the centuries.

I said not a word above about either tongues or loud praises, or the relative desirability of praying quietly. I was making a larger point about the spiritual gifts in general, but you read into it what you are most concerned about ("babbling nonsense," as you call it). I don't speak in tongues myself, but you see how vigorously I am defending the legitimacy of both tongues and all the charisms.

I tried to get myself to do what the other eight or nine people were doing, I tried very hard. Not only did I not feel the Holy Spirit prompting me to speak in tongues, I couldn't even manage it with all of my own natural will power.

The point isn't will power or self-exertion, but being open to the Holy Spirit and what He desires to give to you. There are many gifts. Many charismatics will say that tongues is the least of the gifts (note, e.g., 1 Cor 14:18-19). As I understand it, tongues do not come from within, as a natural phenomena, but from without: from the Holy Spirit's prompting (I believe Rom 8:26 might be cited in this vein). It isn't a matter of "getting yourself to do it," at least not when properly understood. That may occur in some unsophisticated Protestant pentecostal circles, but I think it's lousy theology, and coercive to boot. This group you were in may have been warped in this fashion, or else you may have (understandably) projected such opinions onto them when in fact they weren't there.

The clear but subtle attitude was there was something wrong with me.

This is what I mean. How was it so clear? Did anyone actually say something to that effect? It's natural to feel "inferior" in a group setting (in any number of circumstances) when one is different or feels in his own mind "deficient" in some way.

I obviously couldn't continue to go to the prayer group meetings if I couldn't do what they were there to do. I didn't think they were going to put up with an outsider indefinitely. I must've been like a wet blanket on their activities.

Again, I'm not sure, but I don't believe that most Catholic charismatics believe that the gift of tongues is for everyone (1 Cor 12:11,30). This is why I have never felt "inferior" or "second-class" in the least, and I have moved in many charismatic circles. I also am pretty sure that much of what passes for tongues is merely people's self-willed utterances. Otherwise, I don't think it would be so nearly-universal among charismatics. There is an argument about the existence of a "prayer tongue" apart from the gifts, but I don't want to pursue that rabbit trail at this point. Each person can only examine themselves as to whether their own tongues-speaking is from the Spirit or psychologically- or emotionally-driven, from the will: mere self-produced "babbling."

By your last statement above, is someone like me who feels no urge from the Holy Spirit to pray in tongues "abnormal or deficient in spirituality"?

Absolutely not. I have previously argued that this was my view, citing the Apostle Paul. What you have done here is interpret my statement at the top of this post as referring primarily to tongues, but it was a general statement.

I guess either God has let me down (by not giving me the gifts) or you are improperly setting yourself up as a judge of another's spirituality.

Of course I'm not. If I felt as you are arguing here, I would be condemning myself, as I don't speak in tongues, either. There are many gifts, and I believe most biblical scholars feel that the New Testament listings are not exhaustive. I'm sure you have one (or more) of these. Paul clearly teaches us that every Christian does (1 Cor 12:6-7,11,31; 14:1).

Certainly [they feel that] their prophecies and praying in tongues are from the Holy Spirit, no? Or has my logic broken down? It seems to me that you're trying to deny that their actions are assumed to be from the Holy Spirit, when the only reason they exist as a separate group is because they are the people who manifest charisms from the Holy Spirit. You can't have it both ways. Will you grant me that the underlying assumption is that the phenomena exhibited by the charismatics are from the Holy Spirit?

On the whole, yes. I'm just saying that no one (with half a brain or a working knowledge of Scripture) thinks all the experiences are that, as you stated. True, one basically assumes this in a group setting. You tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the other person. That's just the way "Christian group psychology" works. But I am not as troubled by that as you are (with the exception of the prophecy scenario). I'm much more troubled by lukewarm, liberal, compromised, ignorant, uncharitable, fornicating or contracepting or greedy Catholics than by charismatics who love the Lord with all their heart, but who may get excessive in doctrine or deed on occasion.

If not, then why are they off by themselves worshiping in that way?

Probably because of being judged harshly by people like you! :-) Or else I would say that we all like to be with like-minded people, or those of similar backgrounds. This is why 11-12 on Sunday mornings is the most segregated hour of the week. You and I go to traditional parishes with Latin masses and decent music in order to be with others of like mind. What's wrong with that?

And if all of their charisms are assumed to be from the Holy Spirit, how do they get away with assuming that? Shouldn't every instance of public phenomena be subject to discernment? If not, then why not?

I agree, and so should all charismatics (I think most would).

We're talking about pastoral issues, here not doctrinal. This is a pastoral issue; the question of how to administer the Church. There is no requirement that I believe that every practical judgment a pope makes is correct.

No, but it is a very good policy. Better that than having a questioning attitude, because that is prone to all the errors of private judgment and individualism that we claim to detest when it occurs in other Christian groups. It is always good to be obedient to the pope's teachings, whatever level of technical infallibility they may possess.

I really don't see how my opinion that the charismatic movement is not authentically Catholic, and carries dangerous patterns of thinking from Protestantism, has anything at all to do with doctrine. If so, specify the doctrine I'm denying.

Alrightey, what about the notion that all believers are granted one or more spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit? Or that an authentic gift of tongues exists today? Or whether should "be filled with the Spirit," as an ongoing process (cf. Eph 5:18; Gk. sense, "filled continually")?

OK. What doctrinal teaching of what pope is involved in accepting the charismatic movement as good? To use a colloquialism, either put up or shut up.

:-) Tentatively, the above propositions, from my last comment.

Specify the doctrine I'm not accepting or dissenting against, or drop this line of attack. I find it somewhat offensive that you keep trying to paint me as a dissenter without specifying what doctrine I've dissented from.

I'm not saying you are a dissenter - I've already explained that. You must understand that I argue from analogy quite a bit (it comes from my love of Newman: he was very fond of that technique in argument, and his Essay on Development - which basically caused me to convert - consists almost wholly of analogical arguments). But I would say that you are falling short (in this one instance) of the obligation of obedience and assent to the pope's (technically non-infallible) words, according to the ordinary magisterium. I may be all wet (I haven't done an exhaustive study on that), but that's my opinion, based on my understanding of that doctrine.

Similarly, either produce a command of any pope regarding the acceptance of the charismatic movement as good and authentically Catholic, or drop it. You're making accusations you haven't backed up.

I have produced some commendations - a few courtesy of you :-) (not commands - I don't need to do that to prove my point, I don't think).

If the Pope commanded me to accept the charismatic movement as good and authentically Catholic, I probably would, but we both know he's not going to do that. He may express his opinion that it is good and authentically Catholic, but he has not commanded it of anyone else.

I think it's straining at gnats to expect a command, any more than he would command you to believe in Fatima. This is not that sort of thing. But if he has said it is good, or a "fruit of Vatican II," etc., doesn't it give you the slightest pause that you take a view that it is more bad than good? I would have thought long and hard about that if I had disagreed with my pastor (as an evangelical), let alone the Supreme Pontiff. I continue to find this very curious, knowing you as I do.

Show me his commandments which need to be obeyed, and I'll gladly obey them. Otherwise drop your implication that I'm disobedient to the Pope because I think the charismatic movement is spiritually dangerous and not authentically Catholic.

What would you call it, then? You certainly disagree with him, but you don't like it when I attach the terms "dissent" or "disobedience" to that. I am only referring to this one notion.

Or are you going to slam Cardinal Ratzinger for recently admitting that the Novus Ordo of Pope Paul VI was a radical break with tradition, just like the more traditional-minded Catholics have been saying for years?

Ah! but he is in a much higher position than you, and as such speaks with far more authority, so that this doesn't give you the right to routinely dissent from the pope, on technical legal grounds. That is frighteningly close to notions about authority and dissent of the typical schismatic "Catholic," I'm afraid. And that should give you pause, if nothing else.

Where do you get off accusing me of "routinely dissenting from the pope"?????? Because I don't agree with a greeting he gave to a group of Italian charismatics? Please, Dave, don't over-react. Please justify your use of the word "routinely dissent." It offends me.

I apologize for this statement. Please allow me to explain: I was not overreacting, but arguing rhetorically, and in so doing I used a poor and unfortunate choice of words. Furthermore, I'm not just referring to the one greeting to the Italian delegation, but to the many statements on charismatics I have seen. I cited one from Pope Paul VI in the present exchange. What I intended to convey by "routinely dissent" was "casual dissent" (as opposed to "frequent") meaning that I don't think it is justified for a Catholic to reject the pope's words short of extremely compelling reasons for doubt, by virtue of the authority of the "ordinary magisterium." I think this is solid Catholic teaching. The Declaration Pastor Aeternus from Vatican I states:
    . . . This power of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, which is truly episcopal, is immediate. Regarding this jurisdiction, the shepherds of whatever rite or jurisdiction and the faithful, individually and collectively, are bound by a duty of hierarchical subjection and sincere obedience; and this not only in matters that pertain to faith and morals, but also in matters that pertain to the discipline and government of the Church throughout the whole world . . .We declare that the judgment of the apostolic See, whose authority is unsurpassed, is not subject to review by anyone; nor is anyone allowed to pass judgment on its decision . . .
In Lumen Gentium 25 (Vatican II), we read:
    This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and that one sincerely adhere to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated.
The new Catechism, citing the above section 25, states (#892):
    . . . To this ordinary teaching the faithful 'are to adhere to it with a religious assent,' which, though distinct from the assent of faith, in nonetheless an extension of it.
Now I know there are nuances to this whole notion of "ordinary magisterium," and canon lawyers have a field day exploring loopholes. I don't pretend to be well-acquainted with all that, nor - frankly - do I desire to be. The bottom line for me is that I think we are to be obedient to the pope in all of his statements, unless there is very good reason to suspect something he says. In my opinion, you have not demonstrated anything nearly compelling to justify your opposition to popes in this regard. I compared this to the schismatic approach in that in both instances there appears to be a reliance on private judgment over against a pope's opinions.

I do not attend what's called the Tridentine Rite, but I know that the present Mass is a sharp break it.

Well, it would take some doing to prove that it is a flat-out corruption, as opposed to a development of the Old Mass. No one can say it is invalid without thereby becoming schismatic. And if it is valid, it seems to me that it cannot be defined as a "radical break" in the fullest sense of that word (as, e.g., in many of the new teachings of Protestantism).

I'm not in spiritual danger for admitting that, or for admitting that some of the changes have had bad effects.

Strictly speaking, no, and I might agree with some of that analysis, but you have not maintained that the Novus Ordo is "essentially" flawed, and "more bad than good," as you have said about charismatic thinking.

Also, I know of very good, highly orthodox priests, who will admit that Pope Paul VI exercised very bad judgments over the Church, especially regarding some of his Episcopal appointments (most of our worst bishops were appointed during his reign), and specifically in the Archbishop he appointed to revise the Mass. That doesn't take away his powers and authority as Pope, nor his charism of infallibility, but neither is one suffering spiritual harm to admit the obvious. So I don't think your argument above has any merit to it. Keep in mind I'm speaking of Church administration, not doctrine or teaching.

You try to make this simply a "pastoral" matter, or one of discipline and administration, but I don't think it is that simple, as I have tried to argue. I wonder if you have grasped that point of mine yet. Frankly, I don't see that your critique is coherent, and much of it seems emotionally-based. Parts of it have some validity, but overall it has too many holes for me to accept it. If you had restricted yourself to excess, your critique would have had considerably more force, and would have been more convincing to the impartial reader, but you insist on attacking essence, so I think you have a lot left to establish and prove - and all so far with no Church statements on the matter to back yourself up.

The point I was making with regard to Ratzinger was that his judgment had been made by thousands of people before him, and it was not heretical or imprudent to come to a common sense judgment before the Pope or his right-hand man does. Ratzinger's judgment didn't make it true; it was true for the last 30 years.

I don't disagree with him, because - as far as I understand - he is not saying the New Mass is invalid, or a "corruption" of the old. Thus it is not as "radical a break" as those words would imply at face value.

I never used the word "corruption" - you did. I don't believe it is a corruption. I never said it was invalid either.

I agree I was going beyond our immediate argument here. I was anticipating where this argument might lead, and had in mind much more the schismatics than you. Sorry.

I'm not a schismatic.

I never said you were. At most I said I thought you argued as they do in certain instances.

The term "radical break" is used to distinguish it from "organic development."

Well, this is confusing terminology. I would have to look at exactly what Cardinal Ratzinger said. It seems to me we must regard the New Mass as a development, lest we fall into the schismatic mindset on this. If something isn't a legitimate development, what is it? Well, in the standard terminology of Newman on this matter, we call it a "corruption."

I don't want to argue over this issue here. The point I was making is that we are allowed to use common sense without waiting for a high official from the Vatican to approve it.

And I say we can trust the pope's words and be obedient to them, coming as they do from the Supreme Pastor of Christendom. I thought this was fairly straightforward . . .

Since we are dealing with pastoral issues here (how you pray or worship), there is no doctrinal statement or creed that define charismatics separately from other Catholics.

I have already argued that this would come under the theological category of "pneumatology," as it has to do - by its very title - with the Holy Spirit, and the gifts He distributes. That's part of theology proper, the theology of God - at least to some extent. Yet you don't see this whole discussion as a matter of doctrine or heresy at all. I don't get that.

You can't compare official positions, only prayer and worship practices. That's why I confused by your attempts to dismiss all of what I see as the negative aspects of the charismatic movement as mere "excesses." What's an excess and what's of the essence? It doesn't seem clear to me.

That's for you to establish, I think. Until you do, I think you ought to be extremely hesitant to describe something as the "essence" of a movement, when its proponents would be quick to condemn it as excess. You admit yourself it is hard to tell, yet you still boldly make the charge. In my opinion, you would do well, in charity and humility, to assume an agnostic stance on this until you do figure that out. Similarly, how often do we hear about supposed "Mariolatry" and "paganism" and "worshiping of idols" from our anti-Catholic friends? They think (in fact, are thoroughly convinced) that such things are of the essence of Catholicism, don't they? They define us right out of Christianity because of it. But we know better. And non-believers in general are always quick to point out Christian hypocrisy as an alleged disproof of Christianity. But we know better than that, too, don't we?

No one (sensibly) gives up their belief simply because there are always hypocrites and "spiritual ignoramuses" to be found. Many people leave denominations or church groups because of hypocrisy and sin in its history or members, but I have never taken that to be a valid reason, unless such sin was institutionalized in that group. By the same token, the Psalms would have to be ditched because David was a first-degree murderer and adulterer; Paul's epistles tossed because he killed Christians; the disciples (including Matthew and John) suspect because Judas (chosen by Jesus Himself) was among their number . . . someone like Jimmy Swaggart comes out smelling like a rose next to these folks. Yet this is our Bible and apostolic Tradition!!!!!

Another question for you: Don't you think the charismatic movement has divisive tendencies?

As an excess, yes. But so do many Catholic movements (traditionalists and people really into Marian apparitions immediately come to mind).

My sense is that charismatics won't be really happy until all worship as they do.

Yet you don't show much indication that you are happy to allow them to worship as they do; and apparently assume that their form of more demonstrable worship is inferior to yours. Isn't that a double standard? Not only that - you assert that there is more bad than good in the movement. On the other hand, I don't see charismatics running down the traditional Mass and all the perfectly good and valid forms and customs and traditions which go with it. The charismatic parish in Ann Arbor, e.g., doesn't allow altar girls. That parish also incorporates Latin into every Mass.

As you know, I love the Latin Mass myself, yet I also like charismatic Masses on occasion. I don't see that they are mutually exclusive any more than different liturgical rites in the Church are. The Church is big enough to include all these things. This is part of its glory. One Mass may have Gregorian Chant, another spontaneous praises and contemporary worship music. As long as the Mass isn't subverted, the important thing is to worship God from the heart and soul and mind, in whatever form this takes place (worship in silence is wonderful, too).

Yet I'm sure this is a historical and cultural phenomenon that will eventually go away (it seems to be confined primarily to English-speaking cultures).

In equating it with mere historical happenstance you argue like the Orthodox do against the papacy. :-) Secondly, you neglect to see that there are cultural differences (beyond the charisms issue) which are legitimately incorporated into the Mass. Lousy and embarrassed congregational singing is very much a result of Anglo-Saxon reticence and tempering of overt emotions. I know all about this - I grew up Methodist. LOLOL We see the difference even in black Catholic churches. Who's to say that is more spiritual? Silence and solemnity is great, but so is expressed passion and heartfelt emotion, when appropriate. I want excellent aesthetics in church, whether we are talking about "traditional" church music or contemporary. But I stray . . . this is one of my pet peeves, being a musician of sorts.

There are many people, such as myself, who won't worship in such manner until they feel the Holy Spirit urging them.

I couldn't agree more. This has always been my view.

Or, as you may want to characterize us, we are just spiritually deficient.

I've never said that (nor do I think my words ever implied it). I choose my words very carefully when I write, and I would never assert such a thing. What I said above was:
    "If a Catholic or any other Christian seems to give no place to the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts, it is he who is abnormal or deficient in spirituality."
This is based on explicit biblical teaching about the universality of spiritual gifts (cited a few paragraphs above), and I was not speaking only of tongues.

I know of a few who've left the Church for precisely that reason. Do you see the laity being split into two camps, one pentecostal and one traditional, over this? I see it as a possibility, although I'm not sure.

I suppose so, given human nature. It's sad; there's no reason for it. On the other hand, there is some chance that orthodox Catholics will realize they mustn't fight amongst themselves, with liberal theology and secularism and paganism all around us: "barbarians at the gate," as Chuck Colson puts it.

I realize, as I think more about this, one of my problems in dealing with the charismatics is that they are sort of like Protestants in the sense that they have no authority in their movement.

They have the pope and bishops, just like you and I.

Any time I point to the scandalous or heretical things some of their leaders may say or write, I will get back the response "that's wrong, anyone would condemn that, but it's an excess." They have no official "position" which I can attack; there are just activities some of them engage in and things some of them say which are in error, but that will all be dismissed as "excesses, to be rightly condemned." I don't think I can win a contest with those kind of ground rules.

You may believe this, and that's fine, but I think that is simplistic in light of two pope's favorable comments, etc. In my opinion, you haven't given me nearly enough to convince me that the movement is "essentially" in error. That is an extreme position too, as far as I know, with the knowledge I now have. I have no stake in this one way or the other, but I have to have some solid reasons to adopt the highly critical opinion you have. For myself, I simply need more information. I'm debating this for the very reason that I wanted to fine-tune my opinion on the charismatics. I'm open to reading anything you can give me on these matters.

Don't people join the Catholic Charismatic Renewal precisely to experience the extraordinary phenomena associate with it? Isn't that why they undergo "baptism of the Holy Spirit"?

I don't know. I would hope not, as that smacks of spiritual immaturity to me. I think most would say they want to feel closer to God, and to have the "power" in the Christian life which He desires them to have, in order to overcome sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil. Nothing wrong with that, that I can see.

St. Teresa of Avila expresses precisely the same dire warnings, but I haven't yet come across them as I re-read her writings.

I still don't think this attacks the "essence" of charismatic spirituality, as you seem to think.

If you read these masters of the spiritual life (their doctrines on, and methods of, prayer is what made them Doctors of the Church), and take their teachings to heart, how could you want to be charismatic?

Speaking for myself, I want to become whatever God wants me to be, whatever He calls me to. As I believe in the existence of all the spiritual gifts, I will accept whichever one the Spirit sees fit to grant to me. Thus far, I believe I have, e.g., the gift of discernment.

It all seems so straightforward to you. But if it is indeed so, why is it that Popes Paul VI and John Paul II don't appear to take this "opposed" viewpoint that you do? They are our shepherds, and Heads of the Church, so if they can't even warn against something you feel is so obviously detsructive and dangerous, then one can only conclude that they are and were lax in their duty, no? And if they were not lax, and it doesn't have this earth-shaking importance you seem to think it has, then I respectfully submit that you should lighten up a bit, and at least show deference to popes' views, even though you disagree with them.

I did dig up the following quote, from the New Catholic Encyclopedia (NY: McGraw-Hill Book Co., prepared by an Editorial Staff at the Catholic University of America, Wash. D.C., 1967):
"Teaching Authority of the Church (Magisterium)" / Subsection: "Ordinary Exercise of Teaching Office" (vol. 13, p. 962):
    The ordinary exercise of the teaching office of the pope as supreme pastor is called universal because it is directed to the whole Church . . . it is not necessarily infallible. It is, however, authoritative, and if the pope should make a definitive pronouncement on some controverted subject, this could no longer be regarded as a matter of free debate among theologians (Denz 3885). Nevertheless, just because the pope should express his opinion or show his approval of something, it is not to be thought that he always wishes to close the debate.
I realize there is enough room left here for you to hold your opinion that your dissent from "informal" papal statements is justified and proper with regard to the subject at hand, but, nevertheless, I thought this was an interesting statement.

Fr. Hardon states in his Pocket Catholic Dictionary (NY: Doubleday, 1980, p. 238):
    When the ordinary magisterium is also universal, that is, collectively intended for all the faithful, it is also infallible.
Likewise, in The Catholic Catechism (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1975, pp. 36-7), Fr. Hardon states:
    What must a Catholic believe? The answer is disarmingly simple:
      'By divine and catholic faith everything must be believed that is contained in the written word of God or in tradition, and that is proposed by the Church as a divinely revealed object of belief, either in a solemn decree or in her ordinary, universal magisterium.'[ Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, ch. 3, "Of Faith" / Denzinger 1792 (3011) ]
    . . . the transmission occurs either by way of occasional, solemn teaching, as in the case of an ecumenical council; or by means of the perennial exercise of the Church's official teaching authority. It is especially this second form of transmission, found in the ordinary and universal teaching of the Catholic hierarchy, that has come under assault by those who want nothing less than solemn definitions as an index of obligation to believe.
Also, If you haven't noticed, a large number of the proponents and followers of the phony apparitions that have been cropping up as result of Medjugorjie are charismatics. They were it's biggest initial promoters and they continue to promote it and it's offshoots, such as Conyers, Georgia.

Yes, and orthodox Catholics spawn (in a certain sense) wacko "traditionalist," schismatic Catholics. There are correlations which can always be drawn, but causation is a bit more complex.

The Conyers phenomenon has been denounced by the Bishop of Atlanta, an orthodox bishop who has asked people not to go there. I believe the previous bishop also judged negatively on it. But that doesn't stop them.

Well, it's curious to me that you will readily accept the verdict of local bishops with regard to Medjugorje, yet discount the Holy Father's words with regard to the charismatic renewal. Are these bishops' words infallible? Do they need to be in order to be authoritative and worthy of obedience? This is my point. I am happy to accept the words of both bishops and popes, as a matter of obedience. Don't be too concerned about my use of the word "neutral." Spain was neutral in World War II. But does that mean that Franco leaned towards Hitler? No, of course not. I have no intention of pursuing Medjugorje on a devotional level myself (in fact I just discouraged an acquaintance of mine from going on a pilgrimage there). I agree with you, for the time being. But I recognize that people have biases. Therefore, I would love to see a debate on it pro and con, if such a thing can be found.
I was trying to find some information pertaining to how informal statements by the pope (in addresses, etc.) are to be received by the faithful, whether technically infallible or not. I fully expected that you would reply as you did. I am always trying to anticipate my opponent's response when I am engaged in dialogue.

Demonstrate that the Pope's words to the Italian charismatics were meant for all the faithful. If they weren't, this quote you lift has no relevance.

I wouldn't say they were intended for all the faithful. That would be silly. But anything short of an infallible statement (of whatever kind) is open to be discounted by Catholics? How far does that principle extend? If you know, please tell me. On the other hand, I continue to maintain that it is implausible for the popes not to have proclaimed definitively against the CCR if it is as harmful as you assert. Your only reply to that thus far has been the "avoiding schism" scenario. I think that is grasping at straws, far more than anything I've said.

Are you trying to convince me that it is now part of the Catholic Church's infallible teaching that the CCR is authentic and to believed in by all?

No. Rather, I am trying to determine when it is proper to dissent from a pope's teaching, at any level.

You have a lot of groundwork yet to do to establish that the Pope's approval of the CCR is either:
1) "solemn teaching, as in the case of an ecumenical council or"
2) "by means of the perennial exercise of the Church's official teaching authority"
It can't be the Church's extraordinary Magisterium, because neither a council nor a papal ex cathedra statement has been issued regarding the CCR. Nor can it be part of the Church's ordinary universal Magisterium, because the CCR is a very, very recent development and has never been "taught" (if that's the term) everywhere and at all times by the Church. You strike out on both avenues of infallibility for the CCR.

I haven't claimed that it was infallible. I have drawn the distinction between infallible and authoritative.

The Pope has not made a formal study of the CCR and pronounced a formal judgment to the entire Church regarding the CCR. Neither has he written an encyclical letter or any kind of formal document regarding the CCR. You are really grasping at straws here, Dave. You are trying to make informal statements into something formal and binding on the entire Church.

I never said that. You are grasping at straw men! What I have argued was that it was strange that no negative pronouncement has been made (granting your opinions for the sake of argument). And I continue to be amazed that you can so casually present your opinions on the charismatics as almost self-evident for any Catholic who is familiar with St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, etc., all the while not having any qualms about dismissing two popes' affirmative statements on the grounds of those not being infallible. In fact, the Holy Father is, I believe, an expert on the subject of St. John of the Cross. Do you really think he would be so foolish as to contradict one of his "masters" just in order to be diplomatic and "political?"

That's why it's a good thing that a Pope from the Middle Ages made that glaring mistake, when he taught a congregation in a sermon that we aren't judged after death until the Last Day. I think you're aware of the case. When controversy arose, he held his ground, then appointed a commission to investigate the question. He died before it finished, and the head of the commission was then elected Pope, whereupon he ruled, to settle the issue for the entire Church, that we are judged "soon" after death (real soon).

So you expect some commission to pronounce definitively against the CRC? Close down Franciscan University of Steubenville as a heretical, heterodox institution?

Bottom line is that people have a wide latitude to engage in the spirituality of their choice. I don't know that the Church will ever pronounce against the CCR. She may allow it to coexist along with traditional Catholic spirituality indefinitely. The Church may let the "market" decide which is best for people. So don't necessarily make this issue of mine with the CCR as soul-threatening as a doctrinal heresy. It isn't nearly as serious.

If that is so, then why the vehemence and felt certainty of your own opinions? I know there have been some great and intense arguments in the history of the Church, but if you recognize some latitude on this question (as you seem to be doing in this post), then (with all due respect) I think you should lessen your "dogmatism" and rhetoric accordingly.

I think it is an issue that good Catholics can disagree on.

Very good. I agree.

Although I think all of the evidence is on my side that it contains spiritual dangers.

If so, it ought to be condemned by the Church. Matters of mere excess have already been addressed by the Church.

The Pope has not commanded me to obey his endorsement of the CCR. You have not established that at all. So accepting the Pope's opinion of the CCR is not required of me or any Catholic.

Again, please tell me when it is proper to disbelieve what a pope says, and in what other instances you do so. I am talking authority and obedience, not infallibility.

I think it depends on whether or not he's talking authoritatively on something, and expecting obedience. The words of his on the CCR seem to me to be personal endorsements, without any intention of commanding Catholics world-wide to agree with his opinions. Do you disagree?

Yes; I think they are too sweeping and affirmative in order to be dismissed that lightly. Although they are obviously not commands to all Catholics, yet they are of such a profundity that a Catholic ought to take serious notice, and - if one isn't willing to accept the movement - hopefully be willing to allow the latitude for other Catholics to practice what popes have approved and endorsed (to whatever degree you think that is).

Your analysis doesn't seem to me to allow for him to express an opinion without him intending to impose it on all Catholics, or to bind all Catholics to his opinion on the CCR.

This isn't true. In my section above on non-infallible papal utterances, there was all sorts of middle ground.

What is it exactly about his statements that leads you to think it's anything other than his personal opinion?

As I said, their sweeping and extraordinarily enthusiastic nature, and the way in which it is so casually assumed that this is a move of the Holy Spirit, for the benefit of the Church (with popes and Cardinals even using the term "new Pentecost" or similar expressions). One can't help but notice this.

What do you think of the explanation that the movement is a fruit of Vatican II because, while not being authentically Catholic, it has saved many people from leaving the Church, and brought many back into the Church who had left it? This doesn't require one to accept it as good in itself, but something that God can bring good out of.

No; frankly, I think that is special pleading. I think you would have a very difficult time finding any other practice or belief system which is consistently spoken of in such glowing terms (and yes, including strong implications that it is very Catholic indeed) by popes and bishops, yet is somehow inherently "un-Catholic" and "quasi-Gnostic," as one prominent critic seems to believe. I think the whole scenario you try to paint stretches credulity beyond the breaking point. On the other hand, if you can simply admit that there are excesses (even many), but that the movement is a good and Catholic thing at bottom, all these difficulties disappear. Between the two choices, there is no contest. If the popes (and bishops) had either not spoken on this, or in a much different, more reticent tone, then you might have a case, and I would be quite glad to follow their lead, but as it stands, I can't agree.

Here's my ultimate problem with the charismatic movement:
    It is irrelevant to discourse about the charismata in the New Testament, or theologies about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. No believing Christian denies either the charisms or the gifts. The question at stake is not of faith, but of fact.Are the so-called charismata truly charismatic? If they are, then we stand in the presence of a cosmic miracle, more stupendous in proportion - -by reason of sheer numbers - - than anything the Church has seen, I would say, even in apostolic times.
    [Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.]
Don't you think that, given the numbers of Catholics (not to mention Protestants) experiencing extraordinary charism/phenomena, this is?

1. I wouldn't assume that all instances of alleged charismata are genuine (and I'm sure you wouldn't).
2. If it is "a miracle on an unheard of scale," then praise God for it! It certainly wouldn't be the first time God has surprised His people (and the world) by an outpouring of His grace.
3. There have been many remarkable moves of God in the past, such as the extraordinary conversion of Mexico (in large part due to Our Lady of Guadalupe).
4. The "miracles" of today may be many in number, but most observers (including myself) would say they differ greatly in kind and quality from those of apostolic times. We don't see, e.g., many people raised from the dead today.

I don't think there were very many even in apostolic times were there? All I can recall is the one St. Paul raised from the dead after he/she fell out of the window. Correct me if I'm mistaken, but one instance of raising from the dead doesn't qualify as "many."

That said, I think the above statement is a bit overly-dramatic.

Regardless of how many individual saints have experienced such things in the past, and their number is not real large, it's never been known in recorded history to have happened on a scale like this, and that's an understatement.

Yet if any saints or other believers have had these gifts and experiences, then there is precedent, and that should be sufficient to dispel much of the a priori doubt regarding authenticity or plausibility.

The issue is not about precedent, so a lack of precedent does not cause any a priori doubt on my part. Only the incredible magnitude of the events. Now I ask you, given what's been happening, shouldn't we have had greater notice of this by the Church?

Not necessarily. That presupposes that we always know what God is going to do next in His Grand Plan.

Your statement confuses me. You seem to be saying that I expect the Church to take notice because I have a presupposition that the Church knows what God is going to do next. I have no such presupposition. In fact, I presuppose that the Church does not know what God's plan is, therefore she should not expect this unprecedented world-wide miraculous phenomena, and therefore the Church should be very surprised and excited about it.

Some things will catch us by surprise.

Yes, exactly my point. Why doesn't the Church seem very excited or surprised about what's happening? It's on an unprecedented scale.

Great increases in an activity, practice, or prevalence of a belief need not be immediately suspect, as long as there is a "kernel" of the practice or belief throughout Church history.

Granted. I agree. I'm playing Devil's advocate for a moment. Why isn't the Church hierarchy raving about what's been happening for the last 30 years?

I think of the analogy to the ecumenical movement, which has only really flourished and been emphasized in the Catholic Church since Pope Pius XII (for about 50 years). This was not a major emphasis by the Church prior to that time, and there were good reasons for that. Various heresies, Protestantism, etc., constituted "competing truth claims" to the Church, and hence the Church assumed a "defensive" / "Catholic Reformation" stance for several hundred years.

Yet the kernel of ecumenism and a less strict interpretation of "no salvation outside the Church" was there at least since St. Augustine and the struggle with the Donatists, when it was decided by the Church that Donatists re-entering the Catholic Church need not be re-baptized. In other words, baptism administered outside the Church proper was considered valid. Protestant trinitarian baptisms are viewed in the same way. This was the seed of the earnest ecumenism we see today: baptismal character and regeneration across many Christian denominational lines. Schismatic Catholics today claim that ecumenism is "un-Catholic," "indifferentist," "modernist," etc. ad nauseum, because it has been supposedly only recently devised. But this isn't true: development can occur in spurts and starts. Such "ultraconservative" Catholics make the same point about the Catholic stance on religious liberty, saying that it contradicts former Catholic dogma, and was an "invention" of Vatican II. The same reasoning holds with regard to religious liberty.

So just as ecumenism has only recently come into the foreground in Catholic thought and practice, without explicit precedent, yet not without seeds throughout Church history (and explicit sanction of infallible Vatican II); in like fashion, so can the charismatic renewal flourish suddenly in our own time - seemingly something very new, yet with much scriptural justification and enough continuance throughout Church history to legitimize it (not to mention the original Pentecost itself).

I'm afraid I entirely missed your point. You seem to be switching boats in mid-stream. You went on at length about development of doctrine, all of them good examples and which I'm familiar with, and then you try to compare an outpouring of millions of miraculous phenomena with doctrinal development. Apples and oranges. An unprecedented outpouring of extraordinary, miraculous phenomena is not analogous to the development of Catholic doctrine.

Explaining the development of doctrine does not explain why the lack of surprise and excitement by the Church over the fantastic outpouring of extraordinary charismata upon literally millions of Catholics throughout the world. I mean, the popes for the last 30 years have barely commented on it, and even when they have it's usually been on the occasion of a visit to the pope by a delegation of charismatics.

Besides, it is more in the way of a revival, and there are many definite historical parallels, if one wishes to discuss great revivals.

But this is not just a revival. You can't dismiss it as a revival. Remember, these are miraculous charismatic phenomena, including praying in tongues, prophecies, healings, and, [in the Toronto Blessing] being glued to the floor/wall, uncontrollable laughing/crying, and roaring, barking and the making of other animal sounds. This is not just a "revival."

The point which I haven't seen you come to grips with, and gives many people a hard time, is the scale of the thing. You are asking me to believe in an unprecedented outpouring of miraculous phenomena - - surely you will agree with that word, no? - - yet you cannot explain the seemingly low-key, very occasional notice that popes and bishops have accorded this outpouring of miraculous grace. It doesn't do any good to point to the few precedents for this phenomena on a much lower scale in the past - - I acknowledged that up front. You need to deal with the scale of the thing, and why the curious lack of excitement by the same hierarchy that has approved it all as authentic.

I think my compilation of papal and bishops' quotes demonstrate that there have been quite a few comments.

Over a thirty year time span? Some of the comments you forwarded are greetings the popes have given to delegations of charismatics who have visited those popes at the Vatican. Do you have any idea how many addresses like that the Pope gives out each week, let alone over a thirty year timespan? I think mention of the charismatic movement only made it into two encyclicals, and even then only briefly (I'll have to carefully re-read your previous post). That's not much, considering that these miraculous phenomena have been occurring to so many millions of people for so many years now.

My gosh, I would think that the popes would've been trumpeting these miraculous events, these extraordinary happenings on a cosmic scale, to everyone far and wide. Why the almost studied silence from the Church on these happenings? I mean, even the charismatics themselves are hard pressed to come up with more than a handful of papal mentions of the events. If the present Pope really believes they are from the Holy Spirit, why hasn't he joined in, or at least taken more notice of such a stupendous miracle?

Well, I think you are somewhat exaggerating (rhetorically) the impact of what you call for the sake of argument a "stupendous miracle." My own opinion is that sufficient notice of it has indeed been taken by the Church. It is certainly spoken of in very enthusiastic ways. This current argument of yours is very subjective.

It may be, but I'm trying to get you to see that all is not well in Denmark. The Church's approval says, on the face of it, that it's all legitimate (or most of it). Yet on the other hand she is rather blase about the whole thing. Something's not right with this picture. But I guess it looks alright to you.

I don't see how we could reach accord on this.

You're right. I think we've said everything there is to say on it.

My impression from reading histories (such as Warren H. Carroll's) is that the Church tends to move slowly, even in doctrinal matters. I recall reading on a number of occasions where the Church delayed, usually do to the caution or inaction of a Pope, in addressing matters. The Church takes her time, even though in the meantime many souls are misled. I bet if you looked up the history of Jansenism, for instance, you will find that it spread for decades, if not a century, before the Church formally denounced it (I'll look it up tonight). And that's part doctrinal, part spiritual.

But this holds true for false as well as true doctrine, so this point doesn't much help to resolve our current debate. I can understand the Church acting slowly (as indeed it usually has), but then it doesn't make sense for the popes to be so extremely supportive in their statements if in fact this is a false and dangerous doctrine/practice. If it were a truly open question, the popes (it seems to me) should have been silent, or less effusive in their "praise," at any rate. And for your analogy to hold, you must find papal statements extolling the virtues and benefits of Jansenism. Of course you can do no such thing, so this point fails to establish your assertion.

Since we're dealing here with what amounts to an experiential, emotional-based spirituality, much less serious than a doctrinal heresy, I would expect the Church to move much more slowly, if she ever speaks formally against it. She may not. She may ignore this until it either dies on its own, or grows into ever more strange directions (like the Toronto Blessing) and the urgency to deal formally with it increases.

Again, positive statements are inconsistent with such a hypothetical prudence and reticence to pronounce.

You raise a good question, to which I don't know the definitive answer.

Well thanks!

In hindsight I may have come on too strongly with this issue, over-emphasizing my objections because of what the movement originally looked like 25 years ago (remember all those examples and incidents that you dismissed as "excesses"?).

Fair enough; although you nevertheless still seem reluctant to yield your bottom line contentions about the movement's "essence."

Now that it's splintering and a significant portion are moving back into traditional Catholic spirituality, it may just disappear on its own.

Don't bet on it! :-) You sound like atheists and other non-Christians talking about the eventual disappearance of Christianity or Catholicism (or a massive change in some fashion).

You seem to think, "well, if it's so bad, why hasn't the Church condemned it?" It's not that bad. I believe that it's an immature form of worship, emotionalistic and over-emphasizing the experiential, encourages private judgment, and can be very addicting. That's not exactly comparable to, say, Arianism, is it? We don't necessarily expect the Church to condemn it unless she judges it to be a large and serious threat to people's souls. I don't think it is a large and serious threat to people's salvation.

Well, alright. One might get a different impression, reading your words, and those of other critics. I have argued all along that if the renewal was such a bad thing, the Church would surely have condemned it by now. I have yet to hear a solid answer to that contention.

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is not such a bad thing. The movement is an excess, a danger. I never meant to claim or imply that's it's evil. Besides, the issue isn't why the Church hasn't warned the faithful about it - - the issue is why she has approved it.

As to failing to condemn the movement, don't you think it's more amazing that the Church took over 20 years to warn the faithful about the poison Curran was spewing forth in the largest Pontifical Catholic university in the United States? The Church turned a blind eye while this guy (and others like him) polluted the minds of the laity and of seminarians for more than 20 years. Surely he and his ilk (e.g., Kung) were more dangerous than the CCR. Yet nobody was warned - - in fact Curran was given tenure (surely an endorsement) and he was invited to speak on Church property in many dioceses. How's that for approval? Granted, not papal approval, but practical approval. Many strange things happen in the Church.

I let my friend Mike have the final say in this last "round." One has to stop somewhere. :-) The following questions were from another member of my list (her words in purple):

I would like to just pick up on one thing you said which brought some questions to my mind.

Great. These are very worthwhile questions.
    "Each person can only examine themselves as to whether their own tongues-speaking is from the Spirit or psychologically- or emotionally-driven, from the will: mere self-produced 'babbling.' "
Do persons in the charismatic movement regularly examine themselves in this regard?

I don't know. I would suspect not, but I hope they do. Oftentimes, I think that a person feels their gift has been confirmed as genuine, by God and fellow Christians and experience, so that subsequently, they accept it as genuine without much further verification.

How do they discern? Can anyone trust themselves when it comes to such things?

Well, this can be a difficult problem, in my opinion. I would say (as I did in my ongoing exchange) that this boils down to the same epistemologically as is the case with any spiritual experience or felt directing by the Holy Spirit. There is an inherent subjective element. Since I don't speak in tongues myself, it would be better to ask someone who does about this.

I understand that some, if not most, charismatic communities have orthodox priests to guide them, but how much of a role does the priest take in the discernment process for each individual charismatic as an advisor? Does the case vary from community to community? Forgive my ignorance, I am in no way, shape, or form a charismatic and I am trying to understand.

This I can't answer either, since my own experience has been almost all in Protestant charismatic communities.

As a side note, I have met many a charismatic who has left the movement to go on to a more contemplative type of prayer life. I've often thought that perhaps the movement is just a beginning for people to move on to something deeper. These have stated that they have grown up. I use the word "deeper" and "grown up" for that is how these ex-charismatics have said it to me. They have moved on from the "babbling" (as one poster put it), into silence. Quite a change I'd say.

Not from personal experience, but as a general observation, one might speculate that in such cases, the persons involved were not yet spiritually mature in their "charismatic phase," so that when they started to grow in the Lord a bit, they equated their earlier immaturity with the "bankruptcy" of charismatic spirituality. Or they were in charismatic circles where true excesses occurred, and they equated those with the whole movement. They are thinking "either/or" when it is a matter of "both/and." This is plausible to me, anyway, having closely observed Christians of many stripes for 21 years now.