Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Charismatic Renewal- What's Wrong?!

Today was the holy feast of Pentecost, and I noticed that people weren't too excited about that. That is in large part due to the arrogance of many Catholics, who seem to make the Holy Spirit the third wheel. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR), however, is also to blame. In the United States of America if someone starts talking about the Holy Spirit working, all the sudden Catholics clam up and shut down; it's an instantaneous effect. They are ready to be mocked for the namesake of Jesus Christ, for His Eucharist, they are ready to profess that God is their Father. But the Holy Spirit is a danger zone, a vague amalgamation of everything mystical, unbelievable and gooey about the Christian religion... and is to be treated as quickly as possible and never more than as necessity would demand.

This is not primarily the fault of the CCR, but I will show what I mean. When people hear "Holy Spirit," most of them think," Power of God." as opposed to," God." Their concept of the Holy Spirit is contaminated by the bombastic and heretical displays of "the Holy Spirit" in Protestant communities. When a Charismatic Catholic says something like, "We want the Holy Spirit to show up!" Everyone goes," Oh, Jesus Christ! REALLY?" That's because they suddenly think of a Protestant televangelist crying profusely into a microphone, or babbling in "tongues" between points during his sweaty, loud, sales-pitch of a sermon. Or people get a mental image of someone "laying hands" on people and them being "slain in the Spirit." Or they remember some obnoxious Protestant friend, acquaintance, or family member telling them that they don't have the Holy Spirit and need to get a "real, deep, personal relationship" with Jesus Christ, and then they will be baptized in the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues. Finally, perhaps, they remember some deranged Protestant, or charismatic Catholic accosting them to tell them that the Holy Spirit has a message for them, or a prophecy.  

Catholics don't like to talk about the Holy Spirit for the exact same reason that Catholics don't like to have the scripture quoted to them. Protestants have hijacked the scriptures in their mind, and now the scripture, especially the Old Testament, belongs to "the heretics." Again, Catholics aren't comfortable with these things for the same reason many people aren't comfortable with sex. They make absolutely wrong associations with sex and it becomes something that will always be a little bit dirty.

In the average Catholic mind, but especially in the average traditionalist's mind, very one is doing fine and being Catholic until the Charismatics show up. And to be perfectly frank, that's because the Charismatic crowd is aging, which makes it easy to write off their strangeness as senility and naivety, but also because they are weird! That's right. I said it! Many members of the CCR are weirdos; many don't pass for normal, not by anyone's standards. So, being a Catholic and having the CCR around is kind of like going shopping at the mall... with your mom. You're there, trying as hard as you can to look surly and jaded so that everyone thinks you're cool. Then, all of the sudden, a piercing voice cries out from across the store," Hey! Is this 'COOL???!" You look up to see your mom holding the most uncool article of clothing in the whole store, and all the blood drains out of your face, as your worst nightmare comes true... everyone knows that you're related.

But here is the thing. There are two reasons why this has happened. There are two reasons why the CCR is dying out and why it is treated in this way by the laity and the priesthood, alike. The first reason is the most natural reason, which is wantonness. Many members of the CCR want to seem special by being able to have direct experience with the divine that they can lord over each other, and their fellow Catholics. That is precisely why the CCR is viewed like a mole on the Body of Christ by most Catholics. It's because the CCR has made itself into an auxiliary to the Church, instead of making the Church charismatic. They are constantly in need of convincing parishes that they need charismatic groups. That's a hard ticket to sell, and when it comes down to it, very often the people who want those groups either don't get them, or they have to resort to pointing out the fact that it is their right, and that they have the support of the bishop. That's terribly, terribly sad.

The reason that happens is because the CCR people come together to do "charismatic stuff" and talk about "charismatic things," but they aren't giving their charisms away. Here is exactly what I mean by that: It's as if they are set on fire, and they keep coming back together so that they can have a hotter fire; that's the wantonness I was talking about. By hotter, I mean that they keep coming together primarily to have a more intense experience with the divine. However, this means that the fuel get's burnt up; the CCR movement dies and goes away, because of wantonness.

As Catholics, we know that the sacrament of marriage points to the relationship of mankind with God. It is intended to exemplify for us that blessed union we have with God, through His Holy Spirit, by the will of the Father, and the sacrifice of His Son. One of the strongest elements of marriage is sex. We engage in sex, or we should engage in sex because we love our spouse, not because we love sex. If we engage in sex with our partners because we love sex, don't we reduce them to an object? Don't we do violence to their dignity and their humanity? And if we do harm, don't we know that whoever harms is more harmed than the one who was harmed? Absolutely we know that! We know it from the scripture, from the Church, and from the philosophers. Now, if we have an immature and selfish sexuality, and love sex instead of having sex be a means of love, will we not start doing anything to obtain that gratification? Will the person no resort to masturbation or pornography, eventually?

Well, that's what is going on with the CCR. When they only come together for the "experience" of the Holy Spirit, and not because they love the mission or because they love the Holy Spirit, they are doing violence to the Holy Spirit of God. Further, they are creating deep wounds within themselves that are not easily healed. What if they obtain a few of these experiences, but then later are faced with the reality that they cannot make God act? Won't they feel rejected, and won't their faith suffer? Won't they do what all addicts do, and try to find a way to make it happen? Won't they resort to formulas to make the Holy Spirit "show up?" And won't they keep coming back to the same place to get their fix? Yeah. And who's to blame? Not the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately, many members of the CCR and many CCR groups are perpetually trapped in this cycle. They are engaged in a form of masturbation, and just as a sense of shame accompanies the one type, it also accompanies this type. This is another reason that CCR members often turn away from the community, and into their own created community. If they were not ashamed, they would not be turning inward, as if to take blows on their backs. This is how the CCR becomes and remains an auxiliary, instead of going out and sharing the gifts, soberly.

The second reason that the CCR gets treated so badly is that they have suffered greatly at the hands of the progressive movement. This is twofold. On the one hand, in the eyes of the Progressive agenda, the CCR is a legal catalyst for change, to bring about their own warped agenda. To their perverted outlook, the CCR is a godsend that is meant to level the playing field and make the priesthood and laity indiscernible from each other. This is a sort of "ecclesiastical Marxism." It's as if they wish to say," We can wield the Holy Spirit as good and better than the priesthood." The problem with that, of course, is that one does not 'wield' the Holy Spirit. We are wielded by Him. Another permutation of this error is that some in the CCR can tend to look at the priest a power source, a covering for their mission. The problem with this is that they are, and must be, participating in the mission of the priest. A priest does not, for instance, participate in the mission of a parish staff; rather, the parish staff exists solely to assist and facilitate the mission and vocation of the priest. The priest isn't a "spiritual battery" on loan from the diocese.

So, these things are a problem, but not nearly as bad as the one I'm about to mention. I had said that the final reason was twofold. Well, the other half of it is that false ecumenism has infiltrated the CCR. There has been a  woefully lamentable copycat culture in so much of the CCR on the individual and community level, and the people they're copying are the Protestant Evangelicals. There is nothing that the Roman Church despises more than a novelty, and that is what the CCR has largely reduced itself to: a hackneyed novelty, borrowed from those outside of the One True Church. Protestant praise and worship music is found there, raising of hands, "words of knowledge," prophesying, a disorganized and Protestant species of prayer (seeking to manipulate God into action), etc. Further, as in similar Protestant prayer groups, the leadership is top heavy with laity, and that isn't necessarily the fault of the lay persons involved. It's a problem created by the reality of the CCR's image; for a priest to get deep into the CCR, and in some cases to have anything to do with it at all, is vocational suicide. If you're priest that holds "healing Masses" or hangs out with the CCR, you're branded a freak by your confreres, they'll turn their backs on you... and so will their parishes. So, their backs are put against the wall and are forced to opt for either extremely limited 'obligatory' involvement or none at all.

There is a lurking notion amongst many charismatics that the Holy Spirit cannot work without chaos. That is a purely Protestant notion, and it's based on the idea that chaos leaves open room for the Holy Spirit to do whatever it wants to. The best way to describe this phenomenon is to call it a paradoxical formula for making the Holy Spirit "show up." That's no good, and it's un-Catholic. Our greatest revelation of the Holy Spirit is in the Mass, a very organized entity to be sure.

This copycat culture arose because they were jealous of what they thought the Protestants had, as if the Protestants have something which the Catholics don't. They have forgotten themselves, that we are the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church in whom the fullness of the truth abides. That wantonness pops it's ugly head up again. There is a big, big difference between spiritual wantonness and spiritual hunger. One thing many in the CCR don't realize is that first of all, and I can speak from extensive experience, is that Protestants tend to embellish and fantasize about the activity of the Holy Spirit in their own community. If a person get's sick, Satan is attacking them! It's not because "brother so and so" ate bacon for the last 20 years and is dying, now. And if brother so and so stops eating ten pounds of bacon a month, begins exercising, and gets a new lease on life... THE HOLY SPIRIT DID IT! If their church faces closing down, it's because Satan is fighting against their community. It's not because their pastor was a dope and told everyone that their church was 501C3 status for the past five years when it wasn't, giving out tax write-off forms and the government wants its money, now.

In many ways, the CCR is envious of nothing other than the assertions of a juvenile faith, and a juvenile interpretation of phenomenon. However, to go a little further, the Holy Spirit works in an extra-ordinary fashion amongst Protestants, for the very reason that they don't have what we have. They don't have a sacramental faith like the Churches of the Apostles do. The Protestants "need" what we might call substitutes in place of the sacraments, because without them they cannot justify their faith, because there is no substance to it. That's the big disconnect. Many CCR don't realize what they are jealous for.

The CCR is rejected by most Catholics for the same reason that Catholicism is rejected by most people. Most people have a faulty understanding of Catholicism because a Catholic with a faulty view of Catholicism gave them that view, or an immature Catholic didn't know how to present reasons for their faith. Sadly, most Catholics don't seem to know what the Catholic faith is. Similarly, most people in the CCR don't seem to really know or understand what the CCR is. If the CCR has no sense of itself, it will go away, because,"... the Holy Spirit is not the author of confusion."

Many in the CCR lust for the mystical and miraculous experience of the divine. But just to highlight why that is wrong, St. John of the Cross,"... considers any desire for private revelations and visions to be both unnecessary and an insult to God's providence." ( The greatest thing that the CCR can set before its eyes is the fact that they are meant to be a "renewal." They are a harkening back to times past, in the early Church when the Spirit was strong and to be seen everywhere in actions. They've only to remember how Catholicism became great.

The whole purpose of the CCR is not to create little enclaves of extraordinary involvement with the Holy Spirit, but to ignite a movement within the whole body of Christ, the society of all Christians that will heighten the level of involvement with the Holy Spirit and draw back to the true faith the lost sheep of the House of Israel, the Church, and to strengthen those who are already strong. The purpose is to not only have greater hope, but to be a visible sign of and reason for it.

Does anyone in the CCR imagine that their purpose in existing is to making it so that everyone in the Catholic Church raises their hands during worship, prophesy, speak in tongues, etc? No! That is not the purpose. Earlier, at the beginning I said that it was like the CCR was a bunch of people who were on fire, and that they preferred to burn together; that they were selfish, without meaning to be. They exist to facilitate the ministry of Christ. Recall the scripture and the words of Christ," I have come to set a fire in the earth, and how I wish that it were already blazing!" The CCR is not doing this. Sure, they wish that the world was blazing, but what are they doing about it? Praying? Worshiping? And in what manner? Is it a Catholic manner? And is this really what they are supposed to be doing?

Don't we know that it is through works that we must advance the kingdom, too, if not more so? Does the CCR avail itself to the Spirit of Charity through good works, or primarily through enthusiasm and prayer. Perhaps, it is best to hear St. Anthony of Padua on the matter, he says plainly what I hint to, namely that the CCR should be manifesting a more intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit, manifesting the Renewal more through works. I am no one, but at least hear him, because he was a great miracle worker and the very kind of man that the CCR member wants to be," The man who is filled with the Holy Spirit speaks in different languages. These different languages are different ways of witnessing to Christ, such as humility, poverty, patience and obedience; we speak in those languages when we reveal in ourselves these virtues to others. ACTIONS speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak. We are full of words but empty of actions, and therefore are cursed by the Lord, since he himself cursed the fig tree when he found not fruit but only leaves."

He continues," We should speak, then, as the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of speech. our humble and sincere request to the Spirit for ourselves should be that we may bring the day of Pentecost to fulfillment, insofar as he infuses us with his grace, by using our bodily senses in a perfect manner and by keeping the commandments. Likewise we should request that we may be filled with a keen sense of sorrow and with fiery tongues for confessing the faith, so that our deserved reward may be to stand in the blazing splendor of the saints and to look upon the triune God."

The CCR must not be a movement of lip service, seeking only to be warmed by the light, but not seeking to warm. The CCR must not be wanton; it must not forget itself and its Beloved. The CCR must not be a light that shines inward, or it is darkness; it must shine outward. The heart and purpose of the CCR is of divine origin. It must be stewarded, it must be faithful, or it will be punished. It will suffer the way the Church has with the Great Schism and the Reformation. It will suffer death. The CCR can and should look to precedent in the early Church for itself, and it should rid itself immediately of all adulterations, and copycating of what is happening amongst those deceived by heresy. These are hard words, but it is the hard truth of it, and I don't think I'm deceived in saying so, nor that I deceive anyone by saying so.

"Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and choice, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim." ~Aristotle~


  1. You're very right about the typical Charismatic seeking out of an "experience." This is what made me so uncomfortable when my college roommate talked about her experience of being slain in the spirit, and attending a conference to find out what her particular charism was. I couldn't put it into words then, though. I have often wondered what happened to Charismatics who experience spiritual dryness, or who simply no longer get that emotional high.

    I do want to say that not all Charismatics are inward-turning. My college friends who were part of the CCR constantly invited new people, Catholics and others, to their events. My friend who was convinced that he had a gift for healing (of the psychological, rather than physical variety) would offer to pray over anybody who had a problem. They were all much more bold in their evangelizing efforts than your average Catholic. Nevertheless, there is a lot about CCR that makes me uneasy, and you've articulated the reasons for that admirably.

  2. I'm glad that you understood where I was going with this. We cannot learn to distrust the Holy Spirit because of people who do not know themselves. The CCR has but to do one thing... return to the first love.