This is an abridged version of a pamphlet which waswritten after a great deal of prayer and soul searching. The author stresses that it is not intended to offend those involved in the Charismatic Renewal but was written in all charity and out of a sense of alarm that so many good people were being led astray.
~ The Risk Is Too Great
The Second Vatican Council says that when we look at the lives of the Saints we are shown a most safe path by which, among the vicissitudes of this world and in keeping with the state of life and condition proper to each of us, we will be able to arrive at perfect union with Christ, that is, holiness. It has been my experience that this "most safe path" of the Saints and the path of the Charismatic Renewal are very different ways, so different that charity and alarm compel me to speak out. The spirit of the Charismatic Renewal is simply not the spirit by which these sons and daughters of God were led.
Walk always with the Saints and never to tread a different path. Be faithful to the morning offering and to the mind of Christ Jesus who was obedient unto death, even death on a Cross.
St. John of the Cross says it is impossible to attain to the thicket of manifold riches of the wisdom of God without entering into the thicket of manifold suffering. Such is the way of the Saints, such is the way of perfection. But wisdom says "See, ye, that I have not laboured for myself alone?" No, you do not labour for yourself alone, you are one flesh with that flesh from which issues every grace. And so you carry your cross for the salvation of souls. Pentecostalism has no need of incarnational teaching of this kind. But the Charismatic Renewal will take you down the path of Pentecostalism, and the further you go down that path the further you get from the mission of Christ which is your mission. Lest you should ever put even one foot upon that path of seduction I offer you dear reader, an account of my "experiences".
TO THNK AS MEN THINK
I became involved in the Charismatic Renewal in 1977 when I was in my late twenties. I went to my first prayer meeting out of curiosity and from then on started to go every week. I came to believe that this form of prayer and spirituality fulfilled a need in me, or rather I was taught that this was so. Altogether, I was highly involved in the Charismatic Renewal for some five years. Leading prayer meetings, conducting seminars, arranging days of renewal, laying hands on the sick, depressed, lonely, etc. - all this became a way of life for me. I found myself preferring Charismatic Masses with guitars, modern hymns, emotional sermons, plenty of praying in tongues, etc. But my life was the Charismatic Renewal, not my Catholic Faith. Although I could say the correct things about my Faith, what was far more important to me was the Charismatic Renewal, though I would never have admitted this then. But slowly, slowly I began to develop non-Catholic attitudes, obedience went out of the window. I put Our Blessed: Lady into my life when it was convenient, only when convenient. I used her and the Church for my own ends. I was now capable of going to God on my own terms, I had a hot line to Heaven. The Saints were a thing of the past, so were good Catholic books, statues, of Our Lady and the Saints. What replaced them were signs and symbols such as car stickers with "Jesus lives" and the sign of the fish. My reading matter became Pentecostal paperbacks, books written by Catholic Pentecostals which lacked theology, but the lives of the Saints had no place in my life. I enjoyed prayer very much. When I found it difficult all I had to do was to start off in tongues and I would feel good, or to sit in the correct position doing breathing exercises and again the euphoric state would arise bringing me into direct contact with God. Yes, life changed for me in every way. Spiritually it could be wonderful, with some beautiful "highs" and when you got "low" all you had to do was to ask to be prayed over with the laying on of hands and all would be well.
YOUR WORDS FALL ON EMPTY AIR SAYS ST. PAUL
In my early days I remembered being present at the Dublin International Conference in 1978. Some three thousand priests were there and there were thousands of nuns. Goodness knows how many people joined the conference for the last three days, it was something like thirty thousand. Within a short time of entering the stadium I allowed myself to be saturated with the general enthusiasm. I experienced what I can only describe as a state of ecstasy. When the babbling of tongues reached a crescendo I remember tears streaming uncontrollably down my face. I felt very light, and my heart and body felt open to whatever God wanted to give me. Yes, I was open alright, but to what!! Every day the team of priests and nuns used to encourage everyone to pray in tongues, if you couldn't do it they would show you how. When the babbling started you just started to say the name of Jesus over and over again and gradually one was encouraged just to make noises like a baby gurgling. With the sound of tongues vibrating everywhere out they came, strange unintelligible sounds, but oh, they felt good. And that was it, you had the gift of tongues for ever. Not everyone receives the gift of tongues this way. Many of my friends received this gift in a much less sensational way, nevertheless how special one felt, how gifted. You had made the grade.
For want of a better word I call it a gift, a facility is more correct, a natural one. I saw many strange happenings that week. Looking back I think I saw or witnessed healings, only minor ones though. I was told the more serious cases took longer, needed more faith, more prayer. I met the then Fr. Francis McNutt, I remember people commenting how like Christ he was. And even now, though it can be clearly seen where his spirit was leading him, his books are made available to members of the movement and Catholics everywhere. He was able to hold an audience with his captivating presence. Many claimed to have been healed by him. One particular woman told me she had been cured of cancer after being prayed over by Fr. McNutt. I discovered later that this was not so. It is so easy to be carried away by enthusiasm. I have prayed over people and imagined a cure. I have been prayed over myself and imagined a cure. It would take too long to write about other instances of over active imagination. A great, great danger is when a person desires a sickness and sometimes is able to produce the symptoms of an illness in order to be cured. Whether this is because they crave attention or are concerned with God's reputation, I do not know, but I do know that this does happen, and to good, seemingly well-balanced people.
REJOICE RATHER THAT YOUR NAMES ARE WRITTEN IN HEAVEN
Associated, in the movement, with the gift of healing, is that of deliverance or exorcism. If a person has the gift of healing he is, quite likely, able to cast out evil spirits. I have known people suffering from nervous or emotional disturbances to be given to understand that they need deliverance. And so it happens that members of the movement who have the gift of deliverance are surrounded by people in need of deliverance. It is as though devils come flocking to the feet of the gifted ones in order to be cast out. No need for Canon Law on this matter. And it is a matter that is something quite different from the use of holy water and other sacramentals of the Church. Incidentally, the prayer group I was in was led by nuns, themselves schooled and directed by a priest, a Religious, who is known to call himself a guru. This recollection brings to mind Hinduism and how its practices can threaten acceptance of Our Lord's claim to be the door by which all must enter. But this is another matter, though not entirely. I continued the exercises and practices performed during that week and, as I said before, I became quite an expert. I mixed only with Charismatic Catholics; they gave me strength and support. The prayer group I belonged to became my life-line.
Socially things changed too. The prayer group I belonged to became my family. Anglicans, Methodists, Pentecostals, all denominations, we all prayed together, it didn't matter, we were all the same. We all sang folk songs to God and held our hands, we were one in the Spirit, it didn't matter what religion you were, God loved us and that was enough.
MOUTHPIECES OF GOD
I recall a priest saying "a wonderful thing about this Charismatic Renewal is that there is room for pride". How sad that these sincere people are coaxed by Satan into turning from humility to pride. It is this pride which Satan uses as his tool to destroy the Church from within, and that makes the movement divisive, splitting Religious communities, parishes, and often even families. Where before there existed a group hearing, as a group, one authoritative voice from outside (e.g. the twelve apostles listening to Our Lord and conscious that each was hearing the same thing - a Religious community, a parish, a family listening to the voice of Tradition and the Magisterium) now we have an individual listening as an individual to an interior voice and relaying it to others as a divine proclamation. This supposed gift of prophesy is used in prayer meetings, Masses, and any other Charismatic gathering. It is not unusual to have contradictory messages proclaimed during these meetings. One person (speaking as Christ) will call for silence, another (speaking as Christ) will call for music, prayer and praise. At this time someone with the gift of discernment will decide which is from God and so be it - you follow his command. This prophesying is also carried further. Outside of the Mass, prayer meetings, gatherings, etc., messages are given in the name of Christ, maybe to a parish, a diocese, a country, the world. Often of course, the message will be a call to fasting, prayer, etc. which is good, but they do not seem to realise that this knowledge has been given to them by the Holy Spirit, through the Church. They, the prophesiers, imagine that they are inspired directly by God; this results in the Church becoming redundant; they listen to their own inner voice instead of the voice of the Church. The pleadings and warnings of Mary and the Seers of Fatima fall on deaf ears; year after year they fall on deaf ears. But when, in 1966, Keifer and Bourgeois bring the Pentecostal message, these deaf children of the Church thrill to the sound.
USE AND INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE
It is said that the Charismatic Renewal has brought people back to the reading of Scripture. It is true that they take the Bible in their hands, but when they read it they do not put on the glasses of the Church's teaching. Unfortunately too, it encourages people to use the Bible in a superstitious manner. Opening the Bible at random to see what God has to say to them or seeking direct answers about a particular situation - these are just a couple of ways in which the Bible is used. Surely this is a form of sortilege, and sortilege is condemned by the Church.
A GOSPEL CONTRARY TO THE TRADITION YOU RECEIVED
It is true that many will say, as indeed I myself said many times, that this new movement in the Church has brought them back to the Faith, especially if they have been lapsed. Yes many people have been brought back to a "practice" of the Faith, but not because of a need they have for the Church and its teachings, not because of obedience to the Faith, but in response to a kind of revivalism - and this happens to all (Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans, Catholics, etc.) no matter what their religious beliefs. But slowly and surely this revivalism, this Pentecostalism, grows and grows within one until one's original attitudes (Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran, etc.) become unnecessary even though they are not rejected.
THE TRUE ISRAEL
I believe it is impossible for anyone who is involved in the Charismatic Renewal to remain in full accord with the teachings of the Church and the tradition of our Faith, be he Cardinal, Bishop, priest or layman. The Spirit of Pentecostalism is contrary to the spirit of our Faith. I must warn against the notion that some people need the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement because they find in it a great help which the Church and her Saints cannot give; a notion that goes on to say that everything depends on leadership and that a good leader will keep the group faithful to the Church. What happens within each one is a slow but sure dismantling of the spirit of Catholicism and this goes on so gradually that it takes a long time before the victim becomes aware of it, if ever. A time comes when one is no longer aware of being, the true Israel, of being one body with Christ, fed on the very flesh He took from Mary and perfected in all virtues, fed on that flesh that through Mary makes us descendants of David, descendants of Abraham to whom was said "In your. seed will all the nations of the world be blessed"; one is no longer brother or sister to the Saints of the Church, and rather than listen to the modern Saints (in whom God shows us his face and speaks to us the things our times need to hear) one rushes after spiritual nonentities no matter what their religion. In fact one becomes an individual with a direct approach to God and not a member of a body of which the Son of God and Son of Mary is the head. So true is this that the leaders reach a point where they exclaim "we must find room for Mary in our movement". Then comes a spate of books on Mary written not out of love for Mary but out of desire to defend the movement. The Charismatic Renewal movement is always supreme.
From Mary's many apparitions and appeals one apparition is seized upon to be given special publicity and prominence. Suddenly the leaders are interested in Medjugorje, the groups are circularised, and one is asked with breathless enthusiasm "Have you heard of Medugorje?" And so it comes about that Mary's pleas are heard. The leaders are to be obeyed. The Holy Father speaks of Fatima - little or no response. The 'Charismatic' leaders speak of Medjugorje - enthusiastic obedience.
NECESSITY OF THE CHURCH
May I add that during my time in the Charismatic Renewal, I was always led and directed by Catholic priests and nuns. Even during this time I was aware of the importance of correct leadership, so I looked to our Charismatic priests and Religious for guidance. It was to no avail. By their teaching, their spirituality, their enthusiasm for seeking the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, I was led astray. It was at a Charismatic leaders meeting which was held in a convent that I heard the necessity and importance of the Blessed Sacrament played down by a nun. Again I have often heard it said that we do not need Saints today because the Holy Spirit is now working in all in a special way. One of the leaders for the north of England claimed one day that probably there was no Purgatory.
I was told I was too dogmatic because I said "to Jesus through Mary". These were Catholics speaking, but I admit that most of what they say is correct, maybe verbal remembrances from the past. This enables them to defend themselves by using the correct phrases" but the words they speak do not express their own spirituality which by a very, very gradual process is taking them away from the concept of the Church as "the mystical body of Christ" and, as such, a necessary instrument of salvation for all.
The change in their spirituality need not be apparent in their external behaviour in church. If their behaviour in church is different, it is usually more outwardly devout.
Rather, the change reveals itself in many liberal attitudes that lead to serious abuses. I know many well-educated Catholics and even Religious who encourage non-Catholics to receive the Blessed Sacrament. I know of Ministers of the Eucharist who will take the Blessed Sacrament with them for protection against demonic influences. I know Catholics who in general make no distinction between "Mass" said by Catholic priests and that by Anglican ministers. In each case I am talking about members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Surely if this movement is "calling priests to holiness" these things should not happen. And these things are not extraordinary happenings in the movement nor are they confined to one area.
It is very probable that at Masses called Charismatic Masses you will find a great deal of emotional expression. How eagerly their devotees hasten to them. How excitedly they invite others to come to a Mass better than any they've been to before. Often such Masses are much longer than usual because there enters in an element of "doing one's own thing", dancing, clapping, singing, tongues, prophecy, etc. If one let one's emotions show at a football match, it is argued, why not be demonstrative in the presence of God. I have danced around sanctuaries holding hands with priests, nuns, laypeople. This is often termed "dancing in the Spirit" and occurs mostly after Holy Communion, though not always. Sometimes people are prayed over for the release of the Spirit, or Baptism in the Spirit, in the Sanctuary of the church. This ceremony happens both outside of Mass and during Mass. Often I have seen dozens lying on the floor of the sanctuary, priests climbing over bodies in order to reach another waiting victim, who after being prayed over with the laying on of hands will quite likely oblige and fall to the ground. According to Charismatic theology this spectacle of fallen bodies is a sure sign that the Holy Spirit is present and is sometimes referred to as "slain in the spirit".
This or that parish is said to be "alive". Alive? But with what life?
WARNING GIVEN BY THE POPES
I remember times when I have used certain phrases of the Holy Father for the benefit of the Charismatic Renewal. After all, the backing of the Holy Father is needed if the Charismatic Renewal is to survive in the Church. One has only to investigate Church history to see how often "enthusiasm" has sprung up in the Church and been rejected. The Church has seen it all, there is nothing new. Pope Paul VI on Sept. 3rd 1969 at Castelgandolfo referred to phenomena which "not only offend canon law but also the very heart of Catholic worship, since we find them, dispensing with the institutional structures of the authentic, real and human Church, in the false hope of setting up a free and purely Charismatic Christianity, but which is -really amorphous, evanescent and blown about by any passing wind of passion or fashion. " On Sept. 24th 1969: "Many who talk about the Church today say they are inspired by a prophetic spirit. They make risky and sometimes inadmissible assertions, and appeal to the Holy Spirit as if the Divine Paraclete were at their service at all times; they sometimes do this, unfortunately, with an unspoken intention of freeing themselves from the Church's Magisterium, which enjoys the assistance of the Holy Spirit. May God grant that this Presumption of elevating a personal judgement or personal experience into a rule or criterion of religious doctrine may not cause havoc. May God never allow that treating these private opinions as charismatic gifts and prophetic inspirations should lead astray so many good and well-meaning people." On Oct. 25th 1972: "a pretentious charismatic sufficiency will not preserve an authentic vivifying presence of the Holy Spirit in these spiritualistic trends, in which, sadly enough, it is often easy to see dissent or profane mentalities infiltrated. The needs of the Church are very different.
Pope John Paul I had a lot to say, and said it before his election. His very short life as Vicar of Christ on earth, only thirty-three days, providentially brought to the notice of the world what he had written. Addressing St. Theresa of Avila in his book Illustrissimi he says:
Charismatic experiences are not anyone's private reserve. They may be given to anyone: priests and laymen, men and women. It is one thing though, to be able to have visions, and quite another to actually have them. In your Libro de las fundaciones I find written: "a woman penitent told her confessor that the Madonna often came to see her and stayed talking for over an hour, revealing the future and many other things to her. And as something true occasionally emerged from all the nonsense, it all seemed to be true. I realised at once what it was all about ... but merely told the confessor to wait for the result of the prophesies, to find our for himself about the penitent's way of life and to look for further signs of sanctity in her. In the end ... it was seen that her visions were all fantasies." Dear St. Theresa, if only you could come back today! The word "charisma" is squandered. All kinds of people are known as prophets, even the students who confront the-police in the streets, or the guerrillas of Latin America. People try to set up the Charismatics in opposition to the pastors. What would you say? You who obeyed your confessors, even when their advice turned out to be the opposite of that given to you by God in prayer?"
Our present Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, when he addresses Charismatic groups follows the usual format. There is a kindly greeting. There is a word of pleasure and approval that they have gathered in Rome because their choice of Rome shows that they understand the importance of being rooted in that Catholic unity of Faith and charity which finds its visible centre in the See of Peter. Then he teaches, and the teaching, if analysed, is a series of warnings. In general these are:-
Time and again the Holy Father stresses the need for good leaders and good priests with the requisite theology. But in practice, if these leaders and priests become part of the Charismatic Renewal and do not remain outside it, they become moulded by it, gradually moulded by emotional experiences which overthrow in them that which constituted them a possible safeguard for others. If they remain outside, they carry no weight because these Charismatics are not charismatics in the sense that St. Theresa of Avila was.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FEELINGS
Psychologically many may be helped by this so-called Pentecostalism (Charismatic Renewal) but is it worth sacrificing our Faith for this, when a psychologist could produce the same results? People do not seem to realise that the supposed cures, mental and physical are either attained by psychological or natural means. The things they claim to be supernatural are most certainly natural. I acquired an amazing gift of producing faintness in the person I was praying over, but in the Charismatic circles this is called "resting in the Spirit". Both the person being prayed over and the "layer on of hands" are being misled into thinking that God is working in them in a very special supernatural way, hence one's ego is raised beyond belief. Charismatics glory in what they call Religious Experience and they hanker after it. They will flock to any teacher no matter what his religious beliefs, who will offer a "Religious Experience" to them. So they take to themselves teachers of their own choosing - Charismatic priests, ministers of other churches and laypeople of all kinds.
They will advertise themselves as calling people to holiness but the holiness they offer is not notably the holiness of sanctifying grace and uniformity with God's will. Rather it is in effect "Pentecostalism" within a Catholic setting.
I write as someone who has experienced the inside of Pentecostalism, as someone whose attitude was changed so subtly that I believed with all my heart that I was right in the Pentecostal practices and spirituality that I followed. I found it so easy to get people involved in the movement, it demands so little, no intellect, no will, just the emotions. But bringing them back to the Truth is a different matter.
I realise how difficult it is for individuals to separate themselves from Pentecostalism. Once you are really involved it becomes a way of life, everything revolves around the prayer meeting, seminars, the particular ministry you are attached to. Your friends are Charismatic, you talk the same language. One even prefers Charismatic pilgrimages and holidays to any other. In fact one can actually feel threatened without the Charismatic circle for support. There are different degrees of involvement in the Charismatic Renewal, much depends on your position in life. But even the minimum involvement has an adverse effect on the Faith.
MY FATHER'S HOUSE
It is now over two years since I had anything to do with Charismatic Renewal. Looking back I see how blinded I was by pride, how my arrogance was fed with this so-called "freedom of prayer". The traditional prayers of the Church were not used in prayer meetings, one's own prayers were better. The modern hymns (which could be sung anywhere and by anyone) became a must at Holy Mass. Catholic hymns which expressed the teaching of the Church in all its fullness were shunned. In any case the Pentecostal mood of the Charismatic Renewal called for a different kind of music.
Thank God and His blessed Mother I began to realise what the Faith was about. I rediscovered the Catechism and with it the realisation that the Church and her sacraments and her teachings are necessary for salvation. It came to the point when I had to choose between Pentecostalism and the Church. Leaving Pentecostalism meant losing friends, a change in social life, embarrassment and many misunderstandings. I did choose, I came home. I came back to a wonderful family, with Our Lady as my Mother and the Angels and Saints as my brothers and sisters. I returned too, to our Catholic hymns, with words professing the fullness of truth without ambiguity or error. I had a wonderful Catholic upbringing, a good Catholic school where I was fed daily on the Catechism. Yet even with all this I allowed my Faith to be compromised and diluted. I was lucky to have a good, obedient priest who insisted that our prayer group be Catholic. Respecting him I obeyed. He pushed the lives of the Saints at me, and brought me back to the Rosary (which as a child I had said every night with my family) and Our Blessed Lady. At first I tried to be a good Catholic and a good Charismatic, putting Our Lady alongside healing services, introducing good books and having Charismatic services in front of the Blessed Sacrament. It was impossible. Imperceptibly, whether one likes it or not, one loses the grasp of the Faith.
I now love my Catholic Faith, the Faith that our martyrs died for, and I ask God to forgive me for whatever harm I have done in influencing others and bringing them into Pentecostalism. I am now a catechist and realise more than ever the need for complete obedience and loyalty to the Pope, our supreme Pastor on earth. I realise now what the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is all about, how central it is, how everything leads to it and derives from it. This truth and all the truths of our religion are slowly but surely eroded by Pentecostalism.
Pentecostals, be they Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, pure Pentecostals, what you will, are characterised by the PENTECOSTAL EXPERIENCE and (in essentials) by the METHOD OF PRODUCING IT. The experience is immediate, powerful and satisfying. It produces a great desire for more of the same and a great zeal to bring others to share it with them. The EXPERIENCE and the METHOD of producing it become (unwittingly and very gradually in the case of Catholics) more important, more central than any other element of religious worship. THIS IS THE DANGER.