Tag Archives: Catholic Spirituality

Jansenism and Ireland

Jansenism and Ireland

Too often writers claim that classic Irish religious culture was “Jansenistic” or pessimistic and that Ireland was nothing more than an island with a dark and dreary religious history. Harsh critics point to the recent “scandal” in Galway where nuns were said to have buried unbaptized babies near an orphanage during the first half of the twentieth century. The Associated Press published a correction for the factual errors in its stories of June 3 and June 8, 2014.1 Many people did not hear about this apology by the AP.

Erroneous claims can be examined and dismantled. Newer scholarship reveals a more accurate picture of Jansenism and Ireland. This essay accordingly offers a different picture of the possible history of “Jansenism” in Ireland, stressing the resolute nature of the Irish spirit not to be dominated by external, non-Catholic influences.

Medieval European Catholicism was “abbey centered.” Early monastic life had evolved into the great abbatial sees. The monastic ideal was the only one for the Christian, and the laity absorbed “the culture of the monastery” into their morals and piety. For the Christian West the thought of St. Augustine (d. 430) overshadowed other Church Fathers, and his dominance shaped monastic spirituality as well as popular Catholicism. Noted historian Eamon Duffy called the pre-Counter-Reformation church in Ireland “profoundly Augustinian.”2 Medieval Augustinianism was “rigorist” by its nature, and so the darker moments of the Church’s history in Ireland surprise no one.

When St. Columban (d. 615) traveled from Ireland to France as a missionary, he brought monastic “rigorism” or “Celtic religious austerities” with him. He was exiled from France to Italy for criticizing the immorality of the Frankish court and the laxity of the bishops.3 The Irish were not accused of laxity since popularized rigorism was ingrained. It became cultural. Rigorism was an attitude and an orientation, discipline but not doctrine. For examples of northern European countries finding somber religion congenial, take note of Scandinavia and The Low Countries at this time.

But now a question arises: if the Jansenists were the “Disciples of Saint Augustine,” was this identification congruent with existing Irish tradition? The question is answered by specifying the source and quality of the Augustinianism under discussion. Popular rigorism derived from tradition and monastic heritage ‒ the remote past ‒ was quite different from the “university, elitist” reform movement (1615-1789) of the Early Modern period on the European Continent. There are two different sources, one in place in Ireland and the other an outside, foreign phenomenon. Jansenism fit into the conditions of French politics and the logistics of academic Louvain, not the remote situation of Ireland.

Native Irish religion in the Early Modern period was resistant to change. Foreign invaders might bring a new religion, but the indigenous Irish held on to what they had as integral to their identity. Even if the bishops capitulated to the English Reformation, the simple folk did not. In 1540 King Henry VIII declared himself King of Ireland, and in 1560 the Established Church there was erected by law.

In 1542 Saint Ignatius Loyola, on behalf of Pope Paul III, sent a delegation to Ireland to assess the religious situation. The report by his two trusted companions was negative. The local chieftains quarreled among themselves and some of the bishops were personally corrupt, which meant the clergy were likely the same. The report given to the pope in Rome by legates Alfonso Salmerón and Paschase Broët saw no hope. 4 Despite this report, the ordinary Irishman resisted the Crown’s attempt to rip out his ancient roots. That is why Felicity Heal can assert that the Protestant Reformation in Ireland failed in the sixteenth century.5 Accordingly, observed Robert Trisco, “This was the time when close connections were forged between the Catholic religion and Irishness.”6

Evidence about the work of Jesuit and other missionaries indicates that the Irish adopted the “Tridentine reform” rather late. Trisco refers to the historical work of Michael Mullet and writes that only slowly and after the mid-eighteenth century did “the Irish Catholics embrace ‘the Tridentine agenda of the Counter-Reformation’” and “eventually came to equate this Catholicism with their post-Gaelic national identity and to form the most convincingly Catholic people in Western Europe.”7

The Jesuits, of course, were the implacable enemies of the Jansenists, but there is no history of a “Jesuit ‒ Jansenist” conflict taking place in Catholic, post-Reformation Ireland. In France the reform movement called “Jansenism” lasted one hundred and fifty years, approximately 1640-1790. By mid-eighteenth century Jansenism had waned in France. The “patriarch of the Jansenists” and their last serious spokesman, Paul-Ernest Ruth d’Ans, died in 1728.8 When juxtaposed with the robust agenda the Jansenists carried out at all levels of French Catholicism, there is no reason to believe Ireland was an outpost for Jansenism as we now understand it.

Another important note is that in the Early Modern period there were no formal seminaries in Ireland for the training of the clergy. Irish students went abroad to France, Rome, Louvain or even Spain. They may have been conversant with the Jansenist politics of the day, but they would have been hard pressed to import such matters into a land where the Catholic Church struggled to survive. There may have been a few Irish Jansenists, but there was no Irish Jansenism. The common people would have been uninterested. Their church did not need reform along French lines. Importantly, Jansenism was a non-Tridentine model of church reform. This description simply does not match with the Ireland of the Early Modern period.

Survivals of pre-Christian Celtic religiosity might have been abundant, and even if they displayed “cultural rigorism” one may hardly call that “Jansenism” which was a product of Continental intellectuals. If the Irish clergy educated abroad returned home with moral “rigorism,” it was surely no more rigorous than the older “rigorism.”9 Rigorism and Jansenism are not identical.10 At the peak of the Jansenists’ strength, Ireland was either isolated or resistant to such a movement. Raymond Gillespie wrote that the Irish forged a genuine lay spirituality instead of a passive receptivity to theological ideas.11

There is also the likelihood that ancient Celtic liturgical rites survived a long while in Ireland before the legislated Roman liturgical reform supplanted them.12 Liturgy develops when the Church is free. Irish liturgy tended not to develop in the same way as German liturgy because of the lack of political freedom—clandestine Masses will always be understated and hasty. Just ask yourself about the existence of the seaside “Mass-Rock” tradition. The existence of this improvisation excluded all lavish liturgical growth.

Resistance to change in Ireland was a defense against annihilation. Adopting either theological or moral or political “Jansenism” would have meant change, and the stubborn Irish mentality was antithetical to religious change in a climate of oppression. Both Jansenism and Tridentism assumed and required change. The Jansenist ideal was the imago primitivae ecclesiae. To many in the Catholic Church this resembled misguided Protestantism with its historically inaccurate desire to revive some primitive, spiritualized church. This drive for a pristine invisible church and its virtues explains the Jansenist penchant for liturgical cleansing and the simplification of rites:

 An American scholar, F. Ellen Weaver, has analyzed the relevant documents, especially the ceremonial books and ritual books with their own notes, which pertain to this Jansenist interest in the reform of the liturgy. Nearly all the themes familiar in our own day after Sacrosanctum concilium were pursued by the Jansenist reformers – introduction of the vernacular, a greater role for the laity in worship, active participation by all, recovery of the notion of the eucharistic meal and the community, communion under both kinds, emphasis on biblical and also patristic formation, clearer preaching and teaching, less cluttered calendars and fewer devotions which might distract from the centrality of the Eucharist. Even the “kiss of peace” was practiced at Port-Royal, and a sort of offertory procession was found there and elsewhere among Jansenist liturgical reformers.13

The conclusion is that their program was a ‘thoroughgoing and more systematic Catholic reform envisioned by the Jansenists which Weaver calls their ‘lex docendi, lex orandi’—the law of teaching is the law of praying. In fact, the whole of their reform program was to seek its expression liturgically.

Even the eighteenth century Italian Jansenists of Tuscany and Pistoia centered their reform on liturgy:

Inside the parish church the service must be made congregational. And here doctrine entered. The liturgy was not an act done by priest for the people, it was ‘a common act of priest and people’. Therefore all the liturgy, even the prayer of consecration which was said secretly, should be said in a loud voice, and the congregation was to be encouraged to share. The reformers asked themselves whether logic must not demand liturgy in the vernacular instead of Latin, and plainly believed that in principle this would be right; but knew that in practice neither their people nor the Church at large would tolerate such radical departure from hallowed tradition. Nevertheless the people should be helped to understand by being provided with vernacular translations and by readings of the gospel in the vernacular after the Latin reading.’ 14

The obvious reason why the Jansenists received firm opposition to their liturgical ideas in Ireland is that such were understood to be staunchly Protestant. Today the same ideas are still rejected in some circles on the same grounds.

Despite Pope Paul VI’s deliberate insertion of §6-§9 into the General Instruction on the Roman Missal of 1969, an assortment of … (critics) continue to claim the reform was a Protestant conspiracy. They think the missal of 1570 is an immutable bulwark against Protestant influence, even though J.D. Crichton has rightly pointed out that this edition is nearly identical to the first printed one of 1474, several years before the birth of Luther. F. Ellen Weaver wrote that Dom Guéranger had a personal antipathy toward the Jansenist reform. In speaking of the innovations of Jacques Jubé of Asnières, she cites Guéranger as saying “it was an example of the deviations to which liturgy was liable when the Roman Mass books were not adopted.”15

Neither the popes, nor Archbishop Bugnini, nor Dom Botte, nor the Second Vatican Council, nor Dom Guéranger give the Jansenist liturgical reform movement any notice for being “ahead of its time” ‒ Jansenism is never mentioned either for its catholicity or its importance as an orthodox, or mostly orthodox, variant to the mandated liturgical reforms of Trent. Since the canons of Trent were introduced quite late in France, it had been left to individuals and small groups to conduct the Counter-Reformation by themselves in what looks to us now to have been an unsystematic way. Were it not for unfortunate political entanglements which are notorious, Jansenism might have been integrated into the mainstream of the church, not expelled from it. Though their liturgical ideas did not die, but resurfaced in Europe in different contexts, they were always tainted until well into the twentieth century. Jansenists have often been misunderstood or falsely blamed. Currently church historians are re-evaluating the sources and they are able to show that specific liturgical ideas … were flourishing in France and Italy during the early modern period when the Jansenists tried and failed to introduce them as reforms into the actual life of the Catholic church.”

Irish liturgical minimalism, for lack of a better way to describe the situation,16 was due to circumstances, not a clear reform plan such as the Jansenists and others proposed. We know more about historical Jansenism now than ever in the past.17 Research has uncovered the real face of this complex phenomenon. For too long, it was distorted by the victory of its foes. But whatever Jansenism was, it was not Irish. An Irish exile might have been involved with it, but in Ireland itself “Jansenism” would not have made sense. Some say without proof that “Jansenistic priests” took refuge in Ireland and spread their ideas to the people. But this hearsay remains hearsay. Any pastor will tell us how people have a way of doing what they want to do despite admonitions. The Irish clergy who were educated abroad may have been aware of Continental controversies, but importing these battles would have bewildered the average Irish Catholic.

Finally, while Jansenism was known for its “resistance to authority,” an Irish “resistance to authority” was not the same thing because the Irish resisted quite a different authority.18 In the penal era the threat was from outside. The threat was a hostile Crown seeking to destroy the one true Faith which held together the people of Ireland.

The threat to the Church today is from internal decline. The loss of faith plus aggressive secularism purveyed by the media are responsible. The Jansenists may be long gone but the enemy still lurks. For those wishing to remain faithful, defiance of secularism has a resource in orthodox liturgy. A bit of Catholic neo-rigorism might even help Ireland and other victims of secularism to keep their faith.

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1. DUBLIN (AP) — In stories published June 3 and June 8 (2014) about young children buried in unmarked graves after dying at a former Irish orphanage for the children of unwed mothers, The Associated Press incorrectly reported that the children had not received Roman Catholic baptisms; documents show that many children at the orphanage were baptized. The AP also incorrectly reported that Catholic teaching at the time was to deny baptism and Christian burial to the children of unwed mothers; although that may have occurred in practice at times it was not church teaching. In addition, in the June 3 story, the AP quoted a researcher who said she believed that most of the remains of children who died there were interred in a disused septic tank; the researcher has since clarified that without excavation and forensic analysis it is impossible to know how many sets of remains the tank contains, if any. The June 3 story also contained an incorrect reference to the year that the orphanage opened; it was 1925, not 1926. See http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kathyschiffer/2014/06/associated-press-apologizes-for-its-coverage-of-the-irish-orphanage-story/

2. Eamon Duffy, Faith of Our Fathers: Reflections on Catholic Tradition (New York: Continuum, 2004). Review by Jason Byassee in The Christian Century (19 April 2005).

3. Western Monasticism: A History of the Monastic Movement in the Latin Church by Peter King (Cistercian Publications, 1999).

4. The Society of Jesus in Ireland, Scotland, and England 1541-1588: “Our Way of Proceeding?” by Thomas M. McCoog, S.J. in Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought, Volume IX (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996). Review by Michael L. Carrafiello in The Catholic Historical Review (1 October 1997).

5. Felicity Heal, Reformation in Britain and Ireland in The Oxford History of the Christian Church (New York: The Clarendon Press; Oxford University Press, 2003). Review by Rosamund Oates in Albion (22 September 2004). Also A Guide to the Irish Jesuit Province Archives by Stephen Redmond in Archivum Hibernicum, vol. 50 (1996): 127-131.

6. Catholics in Britain and Ireland, 1558-1829 by Michael A. Mullett in Social History in Perspective (New York: St. Martin’s, 1998). Trisco adds: “…this book can be recommended only to those who are already familiar with the general history of the Catholic Church in the islands from the time of the accession of Elizabeth I to the end of the penal age.” Review by Robert Trisco in Church History (1 December 2000).

7. Op. cit.

8. Ernest Ruth d’Ans: “Patriarche des Jansénistes” (1653-1728): Une Biographie by Michel Van Meerbeeck in Bibliothèque de la Revue d’Histoire Ecclésiastique, fascicule 87 (Brussels: Éditions Nauwelaerts, 2006).

9. The Irish are well known for their mirth as well as for religious “rigorism.” Persecuted people such as the Jews and the Irish see how funny the world is, perhaps due to their transcendent faith.

10. “Jansenism” by Thomas O’Connor in The Oxford Companion to Irish History. O’Connor writes: “The frequent claim that Irish Catholicism was Jansenist-influenced springs from the tendency to confuse Jansenism with simple moral rigorism.”

11. Raymond Gillespie, Devoted People: Belief and Religion in Early Modern Ireland in Social and Cultural Studies in Early Modern Europe (New York: St. Martin’s Press, New York. 1997). Review by Fergus O’Donoghue, S. J. in The Catholic Historical Review (1 July 1998).

12. +Attila Miklósházy, S.J. wrote that in Scotland the Celtic rites may have held out until the eleventh century. The implication is that in Ireland they were absorbed into the Franco-Roman rites earlier than in Scotland. +Attila Miklósházy, The Origin and Development of the Christian Liturgy According to Cultural Epochs (Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2006), Vol. II, 403-405.

13. F. Ellen Weaver, “Jansenist Bishops and Liturgical-Social Reform” in Church, State, and Society Under the Bourbon Kings of France, ed. Richard M. Golden (Lawrence, KS: Coronado Press, 1982). Quoted in Jansenism and Liturgical Reform by Brian Van Hove, S.J. in the American Benedictine Review, vol. 44:4 (1993): 337-351.

14. Owen Chadwick, The Popes and European Revolution (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1981), 421.

15. F. Ellen Weaver, “Jansenist Bishops and Liturgical-Social Reform,” 64-65.

16. Sister M. Bertrand Degnan RSM, Mercy Unto Thousands (Westminster, Maryland: The Newman Press, 1957), 188.

17. See Jansenism: Catholic Resistance to Authority from the Reformation to the French Revolution by William Doyle in Studies in European History (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2001). The review by Jacques M. Grès-Gayer in The Catholic Historical Review (1 October 2001) must be read with care for a proper understanding of Jansenism. Grès-Gayer’s review is by itself a summary history of Jansenism.

18. Op. cit. Doyle quotes Weaver, Chadwick, Crichton and others.

Brian Van Hove, SJ
Alma, Michigan

http://www.hprweb.com/2015/02/jansenism-and-ireland/

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Adapted from “Jansenism and Liturgical Reform,” The American Benedictine Review, vol. 44, no. 4 (1993): 337-351 and also from “Jansenism, the Liturgy and Ireland,” Christus Regnat (Journal of St. Conleth’s Catholic Heritage Association), vol. 3, no. 1 (Christmas 2009): 15-18; [posted on Ignatius Insight 19 January 2010 to March 2015].

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Ash Wednesday

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Padre Pio and Cardinal Mindszenty

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Padre Pio Bilocated to a Communist Dungeon


Vaticanist Andrea Tornielli has published on the Vatican Insider site a serious testimony about Padre Pio’s bilocation to the Hungarian dungeon where Joszef Cardinal Mindszenty was imprisoned in the fifties.

The Hungarian anticommunist cardinal was a fierce adversary of the Vatican policy of detente toward Communist governments known as Ostpolitik.

Here is a summary of Tornielli’s article:

A new element has just been added to the collection of miraculous episodes that marked the life of Padre Pio. It is found in a recently published book presented on the 10th anniversary of the dedication of the new sanctuary of San Giovanni Rotondo where the Capuchin’s body is buried.

The testimony tells how Padre Pio bilocated to a jail cell in Budapest where József Cardinal Mindszenty, the Primate of Hungary, was incarcerated.

Bilocation is an extraordinary mystical phenomenon that causes a person to be in two places at the same time. Padre Pio had this rare gift. Eye witnesses in different places attested to his presence, described him, and even talked with him simultaneously.

The already-known Hungarian episode was immortalized in one of the mosaics in the crypt of the sanctuary dedicated to Padre Pio. However, the new testimony contains details never published before.

The book, Padre Pio: his Church and Places Between Devotion, History, and Art, was written by Stefano Campanella, director of Padre Pio Teleradio and author of countless essays about the saint.

It contains a report by Angelo Battisti, director of the House for the Relief of Suffering (the hospital founded by Padre Pio) and typist at the Vatican Secretariat of State. Battisti was one of the witnesses in the saint’s beatification process.

Cardinal Mindszenty during the iniquitous trial

that convicted him.

József Cardinal Mindszenty, Archbishop of Esztergom, Primate and Regent of Hungary, was imprisoned by the Communists in December 1948 and condemned to life imprisonment the next year. He was falsely accused of conspiring against the government and spent eight years in jail and under house arrest until he was freed during the popular insurrection of 1956.
He then took refuge at the United States trade delegation office in Budapest until 1973, when Paul VI imposed his resignation and departure from the archdiocese.

The bilocation which took Padre Pio all the way to the cardinal’s cell is said to have taken place during those years.

Here is how Battisti describes the miraculous scene:

“The Capuchin with the stigmata, while [remaining] in San Giovanni Rotondo, went to see the cardinal to bring bread and wine destined to become the body and blood of Christ, that is, the reality of the eighth day [Easter Sunday].

“In this case, the bilocation acquires further significance as an anticipation of the eighth day, i.e. the Resurrection, when the body is freed from the limits of space and time.

“Also symbolic is the inmate registration number printed on his pajamas: 1956, the year of the cardinal’s release.

“As is well known,” Battisti recounts, “Cardinal Mindszenty was arrested, put in jail and watched around the clock. Over time, his desire to celebrate holy Mass strongly increased.

“One morning, Padre Pio presented himself before him with everything he needed. The Cardinal celebrated his Mass and Padre Pio served [as acolyte]; then they spoke, and finally, Padre Pio disappeared with everything he had brought with him.

“A priest from Budapest told me confidentially about the episode, asking if I could get a confirmation from Padre Pio. I answered that if I were to ask something like that, Padre Pio would drive me out of the room hollering.”

Padre Pio

Padre Pio.

Padre Pio
But on a March evening in 1965, at the end of a conversation Battisti asked the stigmatized friar:

“Father, did Cardinal Mindszenty recognize Padre Pio?”

– After a first reaction of irritation, the saint of Gargano answered:

– “Well, we met and talked and so you think he would not have recognized me?”

He thus confirmed his bilocation to the cardinal’s cell, which supposedly happened a few years earlier.

“Then,” Battisti added, “he became sad and said, ‘The devil is ugly, but they had left him uglier than the devil,'” referring to the mistreatment the cardinal suffered.

Padre Pio concluded: “Remember to pray for this great confessor of the faith, who suffered so much for the Church.”

Richard Cole’s “Catholic by Choice”

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kathyschiffer/2014/04/one-mans-amazing-journey-toward-the-catholic-faith/ 

One Man’s Amazing Journey Toward the Catholic Faith

Richard Cole was not much of a believer:  By his own admission, he didn’t pray, he didn’t worship.  He was in recovery following years of alcohol abuse.  Raised Methodist, he had fled the church of his youth to dabble in Zen, t’ai chi, New Age, witchcraft.

But then for his 49th birthday, his wife gave him the gift of silence:  a three-day stay at a Benedictine monastery, where he could read, study, write and simply “de-stress.”

Why Richard’s wife thought that would be a suitable gift for a nonbeliever, I don’t know.

And why it affected him so profoundly, initiating the life change that would propel him into the Catholic Church, I don’t know.  The Spirit moves where He will.

What I do know is that Richard’s book is a page-turner, a deeply personal recounting of his journey of faith.  Like the English poet Francis Thompson’s “Hound of Heaven,” God pursued Richard Cole, gradually revealing Himself in the Church.  But the story’s not all love and roses:  Cole, compelled by an inner voice to study and pray and learn more and more, also had doubts and difficulties, strained relationships with his family, and challenges at work.  His honesty about these challenges makes one all the more joyous when he is finally received into the Church.

*     *     *     *      *

I’ve read plenty of conversion stories through the years:  Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s Rome Sweet Home, Steve Ray’s Crossing the Tiber, Patrick Madrid’s Surprised by Truth with its testimonies from eleven converts and its sequels, Surprised By Truth 2 and Surprised by Truth 3, with 25 more.  Those stories have usually focused on theological reasons for embracing Catholicism.

Catholic by Choice: Why I Embraced the Faith, Joined the Church, and Embarked on the Adventure of a Lifetime is  not like those other “conversion stories”.   The force which drew Cole to delve deeply into the Catholic faith, to study the Scriptures, to attend Mass as frequently as possible, was not its historicity or its plausibility or its veracity.  Richard Cole’s faith journey seemed driven by deep emotion.  Cole describes it as “an intense, painful and utterly dazzling two-year period during which I fell in love with God, became a Christian, and finally entered the Catholic Church.”  

Reading Catholic by Choice, I was struck by Cole’s breathless amazement at things cradle Catholics may take for granted.  Seeing anew through his convert’s eyes, I found myself stepping back and appreciating the Mass and the familiar devotions.  Here, for example, is Cole’s description of his first encounter with Eucharistic adoration.

One evening after Mass I was wandering around and I discovered something called a Chapel of Perpetual Adoration.  When I first walked in, the place seemed dark and creepy.  All my Protestant feelers were twitching.  The air was stale and sweet with an odd smell, either incense or cheap disinfectant.  Three or four people were seated in the little pews, some praying, some just sitting.  In the front, there was a silver cross with a disk in the middle, which I later learned was the Eucharistic Host.  A young woman wearing a scarf looked up at me, then returned to her reading.  An old air conditioner was working hard in the background, kicking on for a few minutes, then kicking off.

I looked around and discovered a sign-in log beside the door.  And then I understood what was going on.  People were praying in this chapel, in front of the consecrated Host, but doing this around the clock!  Day and night, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day!  I looked through the log.  Sure enough, there were names for every slot.  Venancio was signed up for 2:00 to 3:00 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Lucille checked in at 6:00 a.m. every day for an hour.  Maria at 7:00 a.m.  I was astonished and fascinated.  It was a window into a part of Catholic devotion that I’d heard about but never seen before.  I said to myself, Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

I stayed a few minutes longer, but I couldn’t breathe in there.  I needed fresh air.  At home I told Lauren what I’d seen.  Oh yeah, she knew all about Perpetual Adoration.  ”You’ll be there someday, taking a shift,” she said.

That night I kept thinking about the chapel.  All night long there would be someone there, praying, maybe just sitting, but keeping watch.  Like a power utility, it never closed, never shut down.  Each person stayed until the next person showed up.

The next time I visited San Jose, I went straight to the chapel.  Outside I read a little bit about adoration:  neighborhoods where this occurs have lower crime rates, etc. etc.

I opened the door.  The minute I stepped inside I was almost overwhelmed with the impulse to throw myself down on the carpet in front of the host.  Suddenly the whole idea of devotion to the Eucharist made all the sense in the world.  This chapel was holy.  On the wall I noticed a small, handwritten notice:  ”Do Not Lie on the Floor.”

May I suggest that you read Catholic by Choice for yourself?  Whether you are an interested observer of faith, wondering why Catholics do the things they do, or a life-long Catholic who could use a booster shot of enthusiasm, you’ll enjoy Richard Cole’s honest, highly relatable and often funny story of his adult conversion to Catholicism.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kathyschiffer/2014/04/one-mans-amazing-journey-toward-the-catholic-faith/

Astride which Saint sits the mouse? Mother General knows for sure.

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James Likoudis on Pentecostalism [1973]

James LIKOUDIS, The Pentecostalism Controversy (http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=6587)

When the day of Pentecost came round, while they were all gathered together in unity of purpose, all at once a sound came from heaven like that of a strong wind blowing, and filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then appeared to them what seemed to be tongues of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them; and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in strange languages, as the Spirit gave utterance to each. Among those who were dwelling in Jerusalem at this time were devout Jews from every country under heaven; so when the noise of this went abroad, the crowd which gathered was in bewilderment; because each heard them speaking in his own language. And they were all beside themselves with astonishment; “Are they not all Galileans speaking?” they asked. “How is it that each of us hears them talking his own native tongue? There are Parthians among us, and Medes, and Elamites; our homes are in Mesopotamia, or Judea, or Cappadocia; in Pontus or Asia. Phrygia or Pamphylia, Egypt or the parts of Libya round Cyrene; some of us are visitors from Rome, some of us are Jews and others proselytes; there are Cretans among us too, and Arabians; and each has been hearing them tell of God’s wonders in his own language.” So they were all beside themselves with perplexity, and asked one another, “What can this mean?” There were others who said, mockingly, “They have had their fill of new wine.”

But Peter, with the eleven apostles at his side, stood there and raised his voice to speak to them; “Men of Judea,” he said, “and all you who are dwelling in Jerusalem, I must tell you this; listen to what I have to say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose; it is only the third hour of the day. This is what was foretold by the prophet Joel: “In the last times,” God says, “I will pour out my spirit upon all mankind, and your sons and daughters will be prophets. Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams (Jl. 2:28); and I will pour out my spirit in those days upon my servants and handmaids, so that they will prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs on the earth beneath, blood and fire and whirling smoke; the sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord comes, great and glorious. And then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:1-22)

It is clear that the Pentecost experience of the Apostles gave them a supernatural fortitude in the face of dangers and threats, peace in the midst of turmoil, and joy amidst pain and persecution. They performed miracles, such as healing the sick; they prophesied; they taught with power; they spoke in tongues1. (Cf. Acts 3:1-10; 4:30; 5:12-16) All of these abilities of the early Christians, called charismatic gifts, existed in abundance in the apostolic Church. After the death of the last Apostle, John, and a short fifty years thereafter, such miraculous powers ‘generally‘ disappeared. Prophecy and speaking in tongues — with a few exceptions as in the lives of some of the most remarkable saints — were unheard of in the Catholic Church as a mass phenomenon — until five years ago.

Today there are Catholic Pentecostals who insist there is a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit with all His charismatic gifts upon the Catholic Church. Interestingly, a similar claim was made 70 years ago by the founders of the modern Pentecostal sects.

The Jesuit scholar, Father John Hardon, has explained the origins of modern Pentecostalism:

“As a species of Protestant Christianity, Pentecostalism may be traced to the ministry of Edward Irving (1792-1834), pastor of a Presbyterian church in London. Irving had witnessed speaking in tongues and some cases of healing in Glasgow, Scotland. He reported back to his congregation in London that if only the people prayed earnestly, they, too, might be filled with the gifts of the Spirit. Soon after, some of his parishioners began to speak in strange tongues and prophesy …. By 1832 he had started his own congregation …. 2

His disciples, known as the Irvingites, were soon followed by Quakers, Shakers, and Mormons, and yet other sectarians, who similarly preached that external signs are an essential part of integral Christian belief and experience. In the United States sharp doctrinal divisions manifested themselves among the followers of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. The latter, as Father Hardon notes:

“…had never been much concerned with creedal orthodoxy. Experience of conversion and an awareness of the Spirit had always been more prominent in Wesleyan thought.”3

When Wesleyan Holiness groups who stressed a “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” united with the disciples of Irving, modern Pentecostalism may be said to have been born.

The Pentecostalist emphasis on the “Baptism of the Spirit” seems to have been derived from Wesley’s doctrine of entire sanctification. Whereas the Puritans had believed the process of Christian perfection was never consummated in this life, and entire sanctification comes only at or after death, Wesley was to insist on the possibility of the believer’s achieving an instantaneous completion of sanctification at any time in this life. Though Wesley never lost sight of a gradual “growth in grace” even among such “perfect” souls, his unfortunate use of the word “sanctification” where he meant “entire sanctification” was to cause much confusion among his followers.4

According to the earliest Pentecostalists, Christians who have already had the experience of conversion which is necessary for salvation, should seek a “second blessing.” This was another, more profound experience which accomplished the believer’s “entire sanctification,” and permitted him to lead a life of moral perfection, untroubled by any interior “root of sin.”5 Some Holiness writers proceeded to describe this specific experience as a “Baptism in the Holy Spirit.” While this second blessing might be an intensely emotional experience for the person receiving it, it was nevertheless essentially interior and subjective. In these writers, there was no consciousness of any external sign by which witnesses could be certain the “second blessing” was taking place. Then it was that:

“The most dramatic event in Pentecostal history occurred on New Year’s Eve, 1900. Before Charles Fox Parham, a lay Congregational preacher, left on a mission trip, he instructed his students at Bethel Healing Home in Topeka to investigate the subject of baptism in the Holy Spirit. When he returned, they told him that the gift of tongues was conclusively this Spirit baptism. They asked him to impose hands on one of their number, a Miss Oznam. The moment he did so, she was “filled with the Holy Spirit” and began to speak in several languages, besides talking in a strange tongue that not even accomplished linguists could understand. Before long, most of the students at Bethel became similarly gifted, and went out to preach the new gospel to all who would hear them.”6

To summarize: Pentecostals believe that the original Pentecostal experience recounted in the Acts of the Apostles of the New Testament was the normal experience of all believers in the primitive Apostolic Church, and that all believers even now are entitled to, and should aspire to, a similar experience of “Baptism in the Holy Spirit.” They further believe that, as at Pentecost, this outpouring of the Holy Spirit is manifested by the external sign of glossolalia, i.e., the speaking in strange tongues. Though there is some confusion among both Protestant and Catholic Pentecostals as to whether glossolalia as the initial sign of Spirit-baptism should be clearly distinguished from the subsequent, lasting gift of speaking or praying with tongues (which not all receive), it seems that most traditional Pentecostals will not recognize any genuine “Baptism in the Spirit” unless it has indeed been accompanied by the sign of glossolalia7. At any rate, it is this classical Pentecostal emphasis which has worked itself into the religious thinking of Catholic Pentecostals — to condition their entire religious experience.

It is interesting to note, moreover, that Pentecostalism is growing at an unprecedented rate throughout the world. Its adherents are estimated to range from fourteen to twenty million people. They pride themselves on the fact that their movement is growing nine times as fast as any other Christian denomination. In the United States, the number of Roman Catholics directly involved in the Pentecostal Movement varies from 15 – 50,000 (even larger numbers are projected at times by some news services and writers).

Perhaps it should be made clear that it is necessary to distinguish between:

  1. Pentecostals (divided into about 200 Protestant religious bodies in the U.S. – the most important being the ‘Assembly of God‘ which comprised a half million adherents in the U.S., and a million followers in other countries; the second largest American body being the ‘Church of God‘);
  2. neo-Pentecostals in the major Protestant churches (it is estimated that almost 1700 pastors of Episcopalian, Lutheran and other established churches promote a Pentecostal spirituality among their congregations); and
  3. the so-called Catholic Pentecostals who boast of 350 charismatic prayer groups in the U.S. and Canada, and publish their own magazine ‘New Covenant’ under the auspices of the National Service Committee for the Catholic Charismatic Movement.8

The Catholic Pentecostal movement began when four Catholic lay faculty members of Duquesne University attended a Pentecostal prayer meeting conducted by Episcopalians and Presbyterians in a Pittsburgh suburb in February, 1967. The four Catholic participants asked to have hands laid on them. A prayer group was then established at Notre Dame University. In January, 1971, a Charismatic Renewal Conference netted 4,000 registered participants, one-fourth of whom were priests and nuns. By February, 1973, 2,000 leaders from Catholic Pentecostal groups in 13 Eastern states, Canada and Puerto Rico attended the Eastern Regional Conference of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement. About 22,000 were reported to have attended the national Pentecostal meeting at Notre Dame University in early June, 1973. Various bishops have participated in its functions, and Bishop Arthur J. O’Neil, of Rockford, Illinois has formed an extra-territorial parish for the members of a “Community of the Holy Spirit” who entered into the following “Covenant Agreement“:

“We covenant ourselves, by God’s invitation to live our lives together, in Christ Our Lord and Saviour, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We agree to become a basic Christian community, to find within this fellowship (koinania [sic] ) the essential core of the Life in the Spirit, in worship and sacraments (Eucharistia), spiritual and moral guidance (kerygma and didache), service and apostolic activity (diakonia).

We expect the Lord to establish the inner structure or order of this community with all the ministry gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially with the foundational gifts of the Apostles, pastors, prophets, teachers, and evangelists.

We agree to obey the direction of the Holy Spirit manifested in and through these ministries in full harmony and under the spiritual harmony with and under the spiritual guidance of the Bishop of Rockford. To this end, we as covenant members, commit ourselves to prayerfully and sincerely seek the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

We recognize in this covenant a unique relationship one to another, individual to the community, and covenant community to all the faithful of the Rockford Diocese.

All of this is simply to take responsibility for those the Lord has given to us: to be a new family, members of the same Body, Brothers and Sisters working in the same mission He is entrusting to us as a People.

We know that we need to support the life of the community with our spiritual, material, and financial resources.

We agree that the scheduled community gatherings, Liturgical, prayer, and fellowship, are among our commitments and to be absent only for serious reasons.”9

On November 14, 1969, the Committee on Doctrine of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement which may be said to represent episcopal policy on the subject of Catholic Pentecostalism. It was a cautious, but generally favorable statement:

It seems to be too soon to draw definite conclusions regarding the phenomenon and more scholarly research is needed…. It must be admitted that theologically the movement has legitimate reason for existence. It has a strong biblical basis. It would be difficult to inhibit the work of the Spirit which manifested itself so abundantly in the early Church. The participants in the Catholic Pentecostal movement claim that they receive certain charismatic gifts. Admittedly, there have been abuses, but the cure is not a denial of their existence but their proper use. We still need further research on the matter of charismatic gifts. Certainly, the recent Vatican Council presumes that the Spirit is active continuously in the Church.

Perhaps our most prudent way to judge the validity of the claims of the Pentecostal movement is to observe the effects on those who participate in the prayer meetings. There are many indications that this participation leads to a better understanding of the role the Christian plays in the Church. Many have experienced progress in their spiritual life. They are attracted to the reading of the scriptures and a deeper understanding of their Faith. They seem to grow in their attachment to certain established devotional patterns such as devotion to the Real Presence and the rosary.

It is the conclusion of the Committee on Doctrine that the movement should at this point not be inhibited but allowed to develop. Certain cautions, however, must be expressed. Proper supervision can be effectively exercised only if the bishops keep in mind their pastoral responsibility to oversee and guide this movement in the Church. We must be on guard that they avoid the mistakes of classic Pentecostalism. It must be recognized that in our culture there is a tendency to substitute religious experience for religious doctrine. In practice we recommend that bishops involve prudent priests to be associated with this movement. Such involvement and guidance would be welcomed by the Catholic Pentecostals.10

This judgment by a committee of bishops is over three and a half years old. But it does not lay claim to be a definitive judgment and does not appear to be shared by other bishops, theologians and many of the laity who, as shall be shown, have good reason not only to be wary of such a movement, but also to expect confirmation of their evaluation of the pretended ‘charismatics‘ operating among them.

Also, Belgium’s Cardinal Leo Joseph Suenens, a frequent visitor to America and a supporter to many causes had this to say on Sunday, June 3, 1973 to the free-wheeling Pentecostal “spirit” gathering at Notre Dame:

“I see it [Pentecostalism] progressing powerfully, growing very fast everywhere… It’s no longer just an American phenomenon, but in all countries. It is a worldwide phenomenon…. It is a new taste of the gospel in its reality and simplicity. It’s important that we keep the doors open to this spontaneity. It’s an answer to the people’s desire to practice faith spontaneously to express it so they feel it.”

The AP religion writer, George W. Cornell reported that Cardinal Suenens:

“…[who is] a progressive leader in Roman Catholicism and a key figure in [the] reform initiated by Vatican Council II of 1962-1965, said the Council opened the way for renewal, but the “fruits of the spirit are providing the essential content for it.” (Globe Democrat, 6/4/73)

The following remarks are critical of the Pentecostalist phenomena in the Church. This writer wishes to make clear that he does not presume to usurp the judgment of the Church authorities whose proper prerogative it is to determine the authenticity and validity of any supernatural gifts allegedly exhibited among the faithful. Nor does he wish to be misunderstood as engaging in any personal condemnation of the motives of any particular individuals involved in the Catholic Pentecostal movement.

This writer hopes he is conscious of the remark of the wise Russian spiritual writer, Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, that “to correct one’s neighbor by condemning or reproaching him is not always an act of faith, but of foolish zeal, self-opinion and pride.” The work of judging individuals is the responsibility of those charged with the burden and duty of ruling their brethren. However, these novel “charismatic” happenings in the Church — for whatever they are — affect all Catholics one way or another because the authenticity of pentecostalist phenomena outside the visible communion of the Chair of Peter may be said to call into question the very credibility of the Catholic Church as the one true Church of Jesus Christ. And if the “charismatic renewal” of Catholic Pentecostalists is essentially a spurious and spiritually dangerous development in the post-conciliar Church, then the harm done the Church and persons may prove considerable. For this reason, the laity are obliged to examine this primarily lay movement of Catholic Pentecostalism with great care.

Father John Hardon, S.J., stated in an address to the Annual Conference for the clergy of the Archdiocese of New York:

“There are those who say we should just allow the Pentecostal movement to go on and then see what happens. But that is not in the best tradition of Christian prudence. If, as I personally believe, latter-day Pentecostalism is in the same essential stress with Gnosticism, Montanism, and Illuminism, we do not pass moral judgment on people but prudential judgment on an ideology.”

This ideology, Father Hardon maintains, constitutes a spirituality incompatible with Catholic doctrine and traditional Catholic spirituality. And here perhaps is the heart of the issue. A basic deviation from historic Christianity that was common to various heretical movements of the past — the Gnostics and Montanists of the early Church, and the Illuminists of the Reformation period all of whom are encountered in Father Ronald Knox’s classic “Enthusiasm” — is at the core of what is called the “Pentecostal experience”; namely, that the presence of God, previously a matter of faith, is now a matter of every-day experience. The claims of our contemporary Catholic Pentecostals are lucidly set forth by Father Hardon:

No less than on Pentecost Sunday, so now the descent of the Spirit becomes palpably perceptible. This perceptibility shows itself in three ways:

  1. In a personally felt experience of the Spirit’s presence in the one who receives Him. The qualities of this coming are variously described; but they cover one or more of the following internal experiences: deep-felt peace of soul, joyousness of heart, shedding of worry and anxiety, strong conviction of belief, devotion to prayer, tranquility of emotions, sense of spiritual well-being, an ardent piety, and, in general, a feeling of intimacy with the divine which, it is said, had never or only for sporadic moments been experienced before.
  2. Along with the internal phenomena, which themselves partake of the preternatural, are external manifestations that can be witnessed by others. Such are speaking in strange tongues, the gift of prophecy, the power of healing, and, it would seem, all the gamut of charismata enumerated in the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of St. Paul.
  3. Capping the two sets of phenomena, of internal experience and external manifestation, is the inspiration given by the Spirit to communicate these gifts to others. Normally a Spirit-filled person is the channel of this communication; he becomes a messenger of the Spirit to others and his zeal to act in this missionary role is part of the change that the divine visitation effects in him.11

It may be noted that the “baptism of the Spirit” which is considered as giving one the experience of a deeper and more intimate relationship to the Holy Spirit is commonly received through the imposition of hands, and that outside the regular prayer meeting. It is usual, however, that an individual can request the laying on of hands by the prayer group as a preparation for the “baptism of the Spirit.”

It is interesting to note that Catholic Pentecostal groups hold their meetings very often on college campuses as well as in church halls and private homes. Such Pentecostal meetings generally exhibit the following sequence of events. Participants at first pray in their own way in silence. Then a member of the assembly will utter a prayer of thanksgiving and praise. Another will read a Biblical text, and then improvise spontaneously a prayer based on the passage read. A hymn or song will then be sung by someone, and everyone may or may not join in the singing. A number of testimonies may be rendered, i.e., members will tell what remarkable things may have happened to them that made them aware of God’s forgiveness, mercy, and presence. Oftentimes, it may be a question of amazing “cures” and “healings.” A member may suddenly begin to sing softly in a language which is not recognizable. His neighbors may begin praying for an “interpretation,” or another member will render the “interpretation.” Someone may “prophesy.” Musical instruments such as guitars and drums are often in evidence, especially with younger audiences. At the end of the meeting, there may be exchanged the “kiss of peace” involving warm and fond embraces and actual kisses. For the most part the entire atmosphere of the meeting, though it is not as emotionally charged as some Protestant groups, nevertheless, bears the stamp of a revivalist camp meeting.

The central role “Baptism of the Spirit” plays in Pentecostalist spirituality has already been noted. According to Father F. A. Sullivan, S.J.:

…this “Baptism of the Spirit” gives one a new sense of the nearness of God; a new relish in prayer and reading Scripture; a new ability to meet demands of Christian life that previously one had found hard or impossible. The common factor in all these changes is perhaps best described as a new power which the person knows he did not have before and which he can only explain as the work of the Holy Spirit. In many cases this new power will also manifest itself in some kind of charismatic gift, most frequently in the ability to pray in tongues.12

Once again the fundamental problem confronts us: What to think of all this Spirit-baptism, Spirit-glossolalia, Spirit-healing, Spirit-inspiration, and other unusual phenomena ostensibly conveyed through the laying-on of hands by Spirit-filled people at Catholic Pentecostal meetings?

In 1971, Archbishop (now Cardinal) Timothy Manning of Los Angeles saw fit to issue a pastoral letter clearly warning Catholics of “excessive emotionalism, credulity, and sought-after charismatic displays (which) question the genuineness of the activity of the Spirit (in baptism of water) and open the devotion to people of peripheral stability.” Recently, in his General Audience, February 28, 1973, our Holy Father Pope Paul VI singled out for criticism those who esteem “the charismatic elements of religion over the so-called institutional ones.” He went on to rebuke those who:

engage in the search… for spiritual facts in which there enters an indefinable and extraneous energy which, to a certain extent, persuades the one who experiences it that he is in communication with God, or more generically with the Divine, with the Spirit, indeterminately. What do we say about this? We say that this tendency is very risky, because it advances into a field in which auto-suggestion, or the influence of imponderable physical causes, can lead to spiritual error.

The possibility of spiritual delusion in seeking to make grace sensibly felt is obviously very real. The best spiritual writers and theologians of the Catholic tradition, such as the great Doctors of the Church, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, have continually warned the faithful of spiritual seduction, spiritual deceit, and mutual self-deception in the matter of extraordinary gifts. In other words, the masters of the spiritual life openly contradict the new Pentecostalist spirituality’s emphasis on seeking visible signs of God’s Presence and action. And it is this precise counsel of the greatest theologians of the spiritual life which has been declared irrelevant by the leading Pentecostalist apologists such as Father Edward D. O’Connor.13

It is very natural that in an age of acute spiritual confusion, doubt and anxiety that souls seeking spiritual satisfaction and security should, in fact, seek experiential verification of Christian dogma in their own lives through “Pentecostal experiences”; but the dangers are many. Curiously, Pentecostal literature admits of errors, misunderstandings, mistakes and disorders accompanying the spiritual flights of their enthusiasts — not the least of which is a pronounced anti-hierarchical and anti-Institutional Church bias which permeates the attitudes of adherents, e.g., pro-Pentecostalist Father Robert Wild is constrained to admit:

… It would be true to say that most of these un-healthy tendencies (fundamentalist interpretation of Scripture, para-clericalism, and a divisive moral rigorism) exist in varying degrees in the charismatic renewal today, just as they existed in various degrees in the 2nd century. Whether any of them will assume unnatural proportions and lead to deeper aberrations — sects and heresies unnamed — only time will tell. The current literature is very much aware of the dangers.14

Moreover, the effects of ordinary Christian infant baptism are ignored or neglected in favor of a basically up-scriptural “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” which is theologically very confusing. Catholics know (as a matter of faith) that a person who has received the sacrament of Baptism is now living a life of grace which God in His ordinary economy simply does not accompany with extraordinary phenomena. Indeed both the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation are in practice relegated to second class status by the emphasis on a “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” considered as distinct from them. Some of our Catholic Pentecostals do not appear to understand that:

“the initial gift of the Spirit (in Holy Baptism) is none the less real for not being experienced or accompanied by charismatic manifestations; and that experience cannot be taken as the criteria of truly living in the Spirit.”15

Nor can the gift of tongues claimed by the Pentecostals bear the theological weight which their practice assigns to it. In Acts 2:1-22, the gift of tongues was most assuredly a miraculous phenomenon. But St. Peter and the other Apostles spoke an intelligible language which was heard by the power of God in the intelligible languages of the many foreigners present. Their gift of tongues was not the unintelligible gibberish uttered in Pentecostal meetings. In 1 Corinthians Chapter 14, the reference to strange tongues also admits of intelligible languages. And, as St. Paul relates, the languages spoken by those who had never learned them, were intended by God to be a sign to the unbeliever. How speaking pure gibberish could be a sign of God’s work to anyone has never been satisfactorily explained. St. Paul also tells us, moreover, that “talking with a strange tongue” was rather inferior to the “gift of prophecy,” and that he would rather speak five words in church with his understanding in order to instruct others, than 10,000 words in a “tongue.” It was time for the Corinthians, whom he was rebuking for various disorders in their ecclesial life, to grow up!

It should also be noted, particularly in view of what had actually occurred in Catholic Pentecostal meetings, that the following teaching of St. Paul has been ignored:

If there is speaking with strange tongues, do not let more than two speak, or three at the most; let each take his turn, with someone to interpret for him, and if he can find nobody to interpret, let him be silent in the church, conversing with his own spirit and with God…. And women are to be silent in the churches; utterance is not permitted to them; let them keep their rank, as the law tells them: if they have any questions to raise, let them ask their husbands at home. That a woman should make her voice heard in the church is not seemly.16

A major point that needs stressing is that absolutely no evidence has ever been provided that the tongues spoken at [any] Pentecostal gatherings are intelligible foreign languages spoken on this planet. But such intelligibility is an essential requirement of Scriptural teaching!

For many, the main appeal of the Pentecostal is the speaking in tongues described in Acts 2:1-21. The claim is made that this event is being paralleled in widespread Christian experience today. But again, the case for this collapses since the most knowledgeable Scripture scholars maintain that the initial Pentecostal experience was confined to the Apostles (and the Mother of God), and was not in fact shared by the 120 Christians who are mentioned in Acts 1:15.17

The Pentecost event was pre-eminently a manifestation of the Spirit among the members of the Apostolic hierarchy, and if we are to look at it as a model for latter-day speaking in tongues, then the tongues should rightfully appear among the members of the hierarchy! — and not to every Tom, Dick and Harry, or, as Martin Luther once expressed it:

“No yokel is so rude but when he has dreams and fancies he thinks himself inspired by the Holy Ghost!”18

As far as the modern revival of the gift of “prophecy” is concerned (and prophecy is considered here in the biblical sense, not so much as future prediction, but rather as the courageous proclaiming of the facts of Christ before the people), it is disconcerting to acknowledge that at Catholic Pentecostal meetings (often attended by many Protestants) those doctrines which are uniquely Catholic, e.g., the Papacy, the visible oneness of the Church, devotion to the Virgin Mother of God, the veneration and intercession of the Saints, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, etc., are conspicuously absent. In fact, such doctrines are never alluded to, or suppressed because of an “ecumenical togetherness” where the concept of an invisible Christian Church made up of true believers takes precedence in the consciousness of those Catholics participating, over the visible historical institutional Catholic Church founded by Christ upon Peter: that Church which Vatican II teaches possesses the “very fullness of Christ’s grace and truth.”19

It is also disconcerting and a matter for reflection that one of the key founders and writers of the Catholic Pentecostal Movement is Kevin Ranaghan. In 1968 when “Humanae Vitae” was issued by the See of Peter, Mr. Ranaghan had the unenviable distinction of being one of the 600 signers of a notorious statement rejecting the doctrinal teaching of the Encyclical! Was Mr. Ranaghan guided by the Holy Spirit when he did this? [ Fortunately, Mr. Ranaghan when ordained as deacon later, recanted his dissent. — J.L.]

Equally vexing is the fact that Catholic Pentecostals believe it is possible to acquire experience of the Holy Spirit’s presence by an “instant mysticism” — push-button fashion, so to speak. But the lives of the saints teach us that extraordinary graces such as the sensible perception of the Holy Spirit may indeed be given; but usually after a severe ascetic preparation; i.e., after much worship, prayer, fruitful reception of the Sacraments, fasting and other acts of penance.

It is no secret that many members of the “charismatic movement” have clearly emerged from a background of psycho-neurotic and emotional disturbance and/or a background of spiritual aridity. It is understandable that they would tend to interpret anything “new,” exciting” or “unusual” as authentic charisms.

Dr. Josephine Ford, one of the leaders of the Catholic Pentecostals at Notre Dame University, for example, has written:

Many people speak about an “anointing” from the Lord. This appears to mean a certain feeling within them. Some people feel burning in their hands or even some sensation between the shoulders… Although these anointings may be quite genuine, they do not seem to be absolutely necessary, and we must be careful they do not arise from a psychological need or from a need of self-identity.19

This is good advice, and it should be applied to all so-called Pentecostal phenomena. If this were done, most of the alleged extraordinary Pentecostal “gifts” could be susceptible to a quite natural explanation. This is not to deny that certain graces may indeed have been granted to Pentecostalists in good faith, and that certain spiritual needs have been satisfied. One need only insist as Father Hardon, S.J., does:

Pentecostalism is not a mere movement; it is, as the ending “ism” indicates, an ideology. And as such it is creating more problems objectively than it solves subjectively. In other words, even when it gives symptomatic relief to some people, it produces a rash of new, and graver, issues touching on the Catholic Faith and its authentic expression by the faithful.20

There can be no doubt that one of these issues is our contemporary charismatics’ pretension that they have been spiritually renewed and regenerated when they may well have not!

Unfortunately, some of our charismatics are in no position to really compare their present experiences with the experiences of the Saints of God — those saints whose lives and works they hardly know. Thus they have no way of contrasting their present state of religious exaltation and enthusiasm with genuine Catholicism.

Oftentimes, they fail to understand that Satan is quite able to produce “signs and wonders” to mislead even the elect (Matt. 24:24) and create the illusion of spiritual good to achieve his evil ends. Spiritual writers such as St. Ignatius of Loyola teach us that this lying spirit can produce pseudo-virtues — “love,” “patience,” “joy,” “hope,” and “peace,” etc. — for he is the Great Deceiver. The testimony of historical Catholicism is that such so-called virtues are not grounded in faith and obedience to Apostolic doctrine and authority but mask spiritual pride and spiritual greed. The Gospel makes clear that Satan and his fallen angels have the power to twist the truth, to confuse, to caricature, to mimic God’s works, and to appear as an “angel of light.” (2 Cor. 4:3f.)

The learned English Benedictine Dom Peter Flood, a physician as well as a Doctor of Canon Law, wrote in this vein concerning his “grave concern” over the spread of Pentecostalism among certain English Catholics:

This phenomenon is in most instances little more than “mass hysteria.” The so-called “speaking in tongues” in no way parallels the post-Pentecostal speaking out with tongues which was given to the Apostles, so that each of their hearers heard them in their own tongue. Those who have studied it in the U.S.A., have rightly described it as meaningless gibberish. The whole movement has its prototype in the “holy rollers,” “shakers,” and other such stupidities beloved of the less educated Americans. It easily lends itself to illusion and even to diabolic intervention. I have known priests who got involved in it to have lost their Faith. The dangers of self-deception are obviously very great, and it is to be hoped that the laity will not be misled by enthusiasts and that no member of the Hierarchy will approve of it. It is not thus that the Holy Spirit guides the Church.21

Dom Flood alludes to facts that other commentators have made; namely, that Pentecostalism in the Catholic Church constitutes an influx of Protestant notions that have in fact led some Catholics out of the Church or into religious indifferentism. Interestingly, Dr. Josephine M. Ford, a woman lay theologian at Notre Dame University, found herself obliged to confess how she had been “excommunicated” by her fellow Catholic Pentecostalists who have banned her from their meetings. Dr. Ford laments the elitism, spiritual arrogance, and spirit of Protestant sectarianism which has developed among her fellows in the movement she herself did so much to foster and encourage. Her Pentecostalist brethren will no longer give the “eucharistic kiss of peace” to her nor to those not of their “in-group.”22

Yet another informed writer on Catholic Pentecostalism, Father Anselm Walker, wrote the following in an issue of the “Texas Catholic Herald” in 1971:

“It is evident to all, and ought to be evident to the Catholic dupes of Pentecostalism, that this is alien fire that now burns upon the altar of Catholic hearts, and that there now awaits the divine judgment and doom for those who so act.”

This same priest, whose experience has included much study of the Pentecostalist movement in Protestantism, sharply criticized the action of Catholic Pentecostalists who use the laying-on-of-hands for the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit”:

“Having attended hundreds of Pentecostal services as a youngster, I can vouchsafe for the fact that this gesture is something new, fondly imagined and misunderstandingly contrived by our Catholic Pentecostals. At no Pentecostal service either in the Assemblies of God or in the Oneness Pentecostal Churches or in the other sects have I seen anyone lay hands on anyone else for the communication of the Holy Spirit…. Since Pentecostalists in their Catholic variety claim to communicate the Holy Spirit thusly, it is evident that this is an innovation, and since it claims to do what Baptism and Confirmation do or have already done, it is then a parody of a sacrament no matter how well-intentioned it is or what effects the adepts claim to receive from it….”

Any favorable reception to Pentecostalism in the Catholic Church will seriously hamper hopes of reunion with the Eastern Orthodox churches. A Russian Orthodox monk drawing upon the riches of the Eastern monastic tradition bluntly declares the Pentecostalist movement to be attributed to spiritual deception — “prelest“:

If we look carefully at the writings of the “charismatic revival” we shall find that this movement closely resembles many sectarian movements of the past in basing itself primarily or even entirely on one rather bizarre doctrinal emphasis or religious practice. The only difference is that the emphasis now is placed on a specific point which no sectarians in the past regarded as so central: speaking in tongues…. Here already one may note an over-emphasis that is certainly not present in the New Testament, where speaking in tongues has a decidedly minor significance, serving as a sign of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and on two other occasions (Acts 10 and 19). After the first or perhaps the second century, there is no record of it in any orthodox source, and it is not recorded even among the great Fathers of the Egyptian Desert, who were so filled with the Spirit of God that they performed numerous astonishing miracles — even raising the dead. The Orthodox attitude to genuine speaking in tongues, then, may be summed up in the words of Blessed Augustine (Homilies on John, VI:10): “In the earliest times the Holy Spirit fell upon them that believed, and they spoke with tongues which they had not learned, as the Spirit gave them utterance. These were signs adapted to the time. For it was fitting that there be this sign of the Holy Spirit in all tongues to show that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That was done for a sign, and it passed away.” And as if to answer contemporary Pentecostals with their strange emphasis on this point, Augustine continues: “Is it now expected that they upon whom hands are laid, should speak with tongues? Or when we imposed our hand upon these children, did each of you wait to see whether they would speak with tongues? And when he saw that they did not speak with tongues, was any of you so perverse of heart as to say – These have not received the Holy Spirit?23

The same writer takes occasion to remark:

“Modern Pentecostals, to justify their use of tongues, refer most of all to St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (chaps. 12-14). But St. Paul wrote this passage precisely because “tongues” had become a source of disorder in the church of Corinth; and even while he does not forbid them, he decidedly minimizes their significance. This passage, therefore, far from encouraging any modern revival of “tongues,” should, on the contrary, discourage it — especially when one discovers (as Pentecostalists themselves admit) that there are other sources of speaking in tongues besides the Holy Spirit!”

Nor does our Russian Orthodox theologian hesitate to declare Pentecostalism to be “in complete contradiction of Orthodox tradition and prophecy”:

Can any … sober Christian possibly confuse these dangerous psychic games with the gifts of the Holy Spirit? There is nothing whatever Christian, nothing whatever spiritual here in the least. This is the realm, rather, of psychic mechanisms which can be set in operation by means of definite psychological or physical techniques, and “speaking in tongues” would seem to occupy a key role as a kind of “trigger” in this realm. In any case, it certainly bears no resemblance whatever to the spiritual gift described in the New Testament and, if anything, it is much closer to shamanistic “speaking in tongues” as practiced in primitive religions, where the shaman or witch doctor has a regular technique for going into a trance and then giving a message to or from a “god” in a tongue he has not learned…. (This) comparison with shamanism will not seem terribly far-fetched, especially if we understand that primitive shamanism is but a particular expression of a “religious” phenomenon which, far from being foreign to the modern West, actually plays a significant role in the lives of some contemporary “Christians”: mediumism.24

A Byzantine Catholic writer, Helle Georgiadis, editor of the ecumenical review, “Chrysostom“, reinforces the judgment of the above Russian Orthodox theologian:

“From the standpoint of Eastern spirituality the contemporary Pentecostal movement appears as a positively alien environment for growth in the life of the Spirit. At first sight this may seem paradoxical for a spirituality so closely identified with apophatic theology. Moreover, the East has always taken prophecy and healing and similar manifestations in its stride. But there are two aspects of Pentecostalism which are alien to Eastern tradition. Wordless utterances may manifest themselves in individual cases, even in very holy people, but to seek to cultivate “speaking in tongues” in this sense would seem to deny redeemed man’s dignity and destiny as co-heirs with Christ, and the Holy Spirit’s mission to enlighten the minds and hearts of men.

The other aspect is the stress laid by Pentecostalists on experience which is ‘felt’. Here again, though individuals may sense an almost tangible awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence, the search for experience which is apprehended through the senses has always been seen as a dangerous and unwarranted goal for the Christian to pursue.”25

Much more could be written concerning the spiritual dangers resulting from involvement in the Catholic Pentecostal Movement — whose “piety” and accompanying physical phenomena are so contrary to traditional Catholic spirituality, both Eastern and Western. Perhaps the best work which reveals the basically unorthodox features of Pentecostalism and similar “enthusiastic” religious movements leading to spiritual shipwreck is Father Ronald Knox’s unsurpassed “Enthusiasm“.26It remains a ‘must reading’ for today.

In conclusion, it may be recalled that Archbishop Robert Dwyer of Portland, Oregon, not too long ago in various columns affirmed his belief that the ancient Gnostic heresy had been revived in the spiritual pretensions of Catholic Pentecostals — who hang very loose to the Church as it is and who seem to condemn the spirituality and pious practices of our saints. What is so disturbing to some informed observers of Pentecostalism within the Church is that a continued “laissez-faire” attitude in our country may lead to further spiritual deception and emotional injury among poorly instructed Catholics. Furthermore, if the phenomenon of “tongues” may in some cases be pathological or demonic in character, the spiritual welfare of those involved in Pentecostal activities is gravely endangered.

As stated previously, the statement of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine is over three and a half years old. Surely, it is time for an urgent re-examination and re-evaluation of Pentecostalism and its conclusions. [ Now thirty years later, the doctrinal and spiritual excesses found in the Charismatic Renewal Movement still appears to warrant the concern of Catholic bishops, priests and laity. — J.L. ]

FOOTNOTES

  1. Cf. Acts 3:1-10; 4:30; 5-12-16.
  2. John Hardon, S.J., Christianity in the Twentieth Century (Doubleday and Co., N. Y.; 1971), p. 211.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Cf. John L. Peter’s Christian Perfection and American Methodism (Abingdon Press, N. Y., 1956), p. 63.
  5. Cf. the article by Father F. A. Sullivan. S.J., “Pentecostal Movement” in Gregorianum (Vol. 53 Fasc. 2, 1972), pp. 238-265.
  6. John Hardon, S.J., op. cit., p. 211.
  7. Cf. Father F. A. Sullivan, S.J., op. cit., p. 261.
  8. This three-fold division is made by Father F. A. Sullivan, S.J., idem, pp. 238-240.
  9. Cf. the brochure by William F. McMahon on the Community of the Holy Spirit, Geneva, Illinois, wherein is also stated that “Baptism in the Holy Spirit is normal expectation of members after instruction and prayer.” Also, “participating membership is open to those who wish to share in the life of the Community of the Holy Spirit, who are not members of the Catholic Diocese of Rockford; i.e., Catholics of other Dioceses, and other Christians of various Christian Churches. The degree of their participation is subject to the general and particular law of the Church and the Diocese.”
  10. James Byrne, Threshold of God’s Promise: An Introduction to the Catholic Pentecostal Movement (Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, Indiana; 1971), p. 78.
  11. An address given by Father John Hardon, S.J., to the New York Archdiocesan Clergy, April 20-21, 1971.
  12. Sullivan, op. cit.
  13. Father Edward D. O’Connor, The Pentecostal Movement in the Catholic Church (Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, Indiana; 1971), p. 180.
  14. Cf. Father Robert Wild’s article “Is the Charismatic Renewal in the Church a New ‘Montanism’?” in Homiletic and Pastoral Review (Dec., 1972), pp. 67-72.
  15. Cf. Father F. A. Sullivan, S.J., op. cit.
  16. Cf. 1 Cor. 14:34-36.
  17. Cf. the article “Charismatics and Pentecostals” in Christian Order (Oct. and Nov., 1972) wherein Father Joseph Crehan, S.J., notes: “modern commentators, e.g., G. W. Lampe and C. S. Williams agree on this way of taking the passage.” p. 572.
  18. Werke, (Erl. ed. 53), p. 342.
  19. Dr. Josephine Ford, The Pentecostal Experience (Paulist Press, N. Y.; 1970), p. 54.
  20. Address, op. cit.
  21. London Catholic Herald, Aug. 11, 1972.
  22. National Catholic Reporter, July 15, 1972.
  23. The Orthodox Word, March-April, 1972.
  24. Ibid.
  25. Chrysostom, (Winter, 1972-73), pp. 139-140.
  26. Father Ronald Knox, Enthusiasm (Oxford University Press, N. Y.; 1961), p. 622.

IMPRIMATUR
September 11, 1973
Most Rev. Charles R. Koester
Vicar General of St. Louis

Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 44/3, Autumn 2012, 43-45, Letters to the Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Editor:

Many thanks to you and to Barton T. Geger, SJ., for the Summer 2012 number of STUDIES, The First First Companions. We have waited so patiently for this topic to be addressed with such detail.

William V. Bangert gives us scarcely three sentences about the “first first” companions, and Barton T. Geger gives us thirty-eight pages, for which he deserves praise. Let us hope the next contribution to this fascinating, under- researched theme will be four hundred pages in length in any language.

One concern. There may be just a whiff of it, and it may not be conscious, but Father Geger seems to accommodate himself to the Protestant-dominated historiography of the Reformation. Reformation history has nowadays become decidedly critical of the Protestant truth claims of Saint Ignatius’s day and beyond. Perhaps Geger is needlessly casual when he mentions two precise symbols of “Catholic corruption” — the Old Orders and the Inquisitions. There are implications for these symbols.

We read on page 5: “… widespread among the faithful at this time was hope of a grass-roots reform movement in the Church, one untainted by associations with canonical religious life, which suffered from a reputation for laxity and decline.” Again on pages 2 and 5, he writes that some Illuminati were sentenced to burning at the stake, or that Ignatius himself might burn at the stake (p. 19). These assertions if taken without explanation may serve to mask the complex architecture of penalties possible in a Roman legal system. Due to Roman law, it was a lot harder to get burnt at the stake than we may think. Calvinists in Geneva had no moderating Roman law and did more heretic burning and witch burning than the Catholics did in Spain.

The Roman Church in England and in Spain did not need a deep reform as alleged by traditional Protestant propaganda. In regard to Germany, Hubert Jedin wrote that the Catholics were winning the debates on the subject of the Bible by the 1530s. No sane person could charge that the Bible was chained for the purpose of keeping it from the people.

Indeed it is difficult in the English speaking world to get beyond the Protestant position concerning Catholic corruption in faith and morals in the sixteenth century. This viewpoint dominated our current legacy for a very long period of time — for example, misrepresenting the history of the inquisitions and the Old Orders, what Geger refers to as “canonical religious life.” In his Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor (2009), Eamon Duffy exposes the “myth” of the corruption of the Old Orders.

Likewise, secular historians with no particular religious allegiance have emerged to reconsider the inquisitions seriously beginning in 1965 with Edward Peters’s Inquisition and continuing with Helen Rawlings and other inquisition specialists, including Henry Kamen.

I highlighted this inquisition scholarship a bit while reviewing God’s Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World by Cullen Murphy (posted on Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight as “Hysterical Anti-Catholic History” [February 23, 2012]; posted on Homiletic and Pastoral Review, March 7, 2012); also in my The Inquisitions of History. The Mythology and the Reality (posted on Ignatius Insight, April 29, 2008; revised abridged version posted on Roma Locuta Est, January 13, 2012).

We are digging out from under the rubble of Protestant-driven biases about the virtues of the Reformation, especially in the English-speaking world, where those old biases are so popularized. Brad S. Gregory in The Unintended Reformation (2012) rejects any positive view of the Reform. Younger than Christopher Dawson, who decades ago tried to dispel the misleading appellation “the dark ages” in favor of an enriched understanding of the Catholic formation of Europe, Gregory has significantly helped our thinking since the appearance of his book earlier this year.

Now Eamon Duffy has just published “The Story of the Reformation Needs Reforming,” which is definitely worth our earnest study and attention at http:/ / http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/ 9350681 / The-story-of-the -Reformation-needs-reforming.html.

An aggressive annihilation of the medieval religious synthesis brought us to our present desperate straits, as Charles Taylor put forth in his Secular Age (2007). Let us assimilate newer findings to correct the record for Catholic truth claims, notably for the era of our Holy Founder.

In a Fallen World there will be ecclesiastical corruption, but how is it to be measured?

Brian Van Hove, S.J.
Alma, Michigan
***

Editor:

I wish to note two errors in my essay “The First First Companions.” On page 25, I asserted that Simon Rodrigues (d. 1579) outlived all the other companions, when in fact the last survivor was Nicolás Bobadilla (d. 1590). And on page 5, note 16, the citation should read “Auto 75.”

Brian Van Hove, SJ., has written a thoughtful response, in which he suggests that references to Ignatius’s peril at the hands of the Inquisition were perhaps a bit overdone; the result of my having played unwittingly into a long-standing distortion of Protestant historiography.

I am not especially well read on the history of the Inquisition, and so I take in good stead–and consider quite plausible–the possibility that Father Van Hove is correct about the historical bias. I leave that to the experts.

Did I increase the drama by making Ignatius sound closer to the stake than he really was? To be sure, it is difficult to know just how close he came. The fact that he was investigated eight times by the Inquisition, that public knowledge of those investigations preceded him from Spain to Paris to Italy, and that some of his followers fled during the Roman crisis, are all suggestive. But most notable is “Autobiography,” no. 59, in which Ignatius and Figueroa warn each other about the possibility of being burned at the stake. Figueroa was Vicar General in Alcalá for the Archbishop of Toledo, and repeatedly assisted in the investigations of Ignatius. So the very fact that Ignatius would say something like that to Figueroa was meant to imply that the times were dangerous, and no one was safe. Curiously enough, despite Ignatius’s own problems with the inquisitors, he continued to value their work, and he even brought lapsed Catholics to them to be reconciled to the Church. Hence, I doubt that he was being casual when he related the exchange with Figueroa in the “Autobiography,” a text which (it is always important to remember) was written for the edification of future Jesuits. Ignatius wished to communicate that he had been in real danger.

Barton Geger, S.J.
Regis University
Denver, Colo.