BLIGHTED LEAVEN WITHIN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
By Clark Logan
GUEST COLUMNIST, New York
ROCKVILLE CENTRE – LONG ISLAND. The Rockville Centre diocesan newspaper The Long Island Catholic featured a lead article in its May 19, 1999 issue called “Charismatics gather to feel the spirit of God the Father,” in which it reported that 1700 members of Charismatic Renewal gathered at Long Island’s University of C.W. Post Campus on May 15 “to feel the flame of the Holy Spirit.” Father John Patrick Bertolucci, a veteran of the Charismatic movement and associate pastor of Saint Ambrose’s Church in the Albany Diocese, was the featured guest speaker, who delivered the keynote address to his Charismatic audience. The day’s events, sponsored by the Rockville Centre’s Charismatic Renewal Office, was designed to celebrate 1999 as “The Year of the Father.”
The Charismatic movement has made tremendous inroads into the life of the Catholic Church on Long Island over the past 35 years and continues to be a strong religious sect. The movement has made such gains that it can truly be cited as a powerful force operating not only within the Rockville Centre Diocese but indeed within the entire modern conciliar Church throughout the world.
In the Protestant world, the Pentecostal movement has often led people to separate from their parent churches and found new ones. However, the Catholic Pentecostal renewal movement has manifested no such tendencies. On the contrary, the Charismatic renewal has moved into the heart of the Church, and, in every parish, the Charismatic presence is well-represented. Over the years, Charismatic Renewal has developed its own diocesan infrastructures, which closely collaborate with diocesan officials to form a sort of parallel church functioning within the broader ecclesial community. Many of the leaders of the Charismatic movement, both on the local and national levels, have been enthusiastic promoters of the new liturgy and have been chiefly responsible for many of the liturgical abuses and desacralization which abound in our local churches. Many others engage in liturgical functions as eucharistic ministers and lectors and hold key position in the religious instruction of adults and children, and some even provide therapeutic counseling and healing, while others exercise their Charismatic ministry in nursing homes and senior residences.
Under diocesan auspices, there are a number of seminars and workshops offered through the Diocesan Office of Charismatic Renewal, and all of the retreat houses on Long Island provide a wide variety of “prayer styles,” such as Eastern mysticism and centering prayer, from which the unsuspecting laity can choose. Of course, traditional and Marian prayers and devotions, such as litanies and novenas, are offered. However, the bulk of “prayer styles” promoted is Charismatic in nature, and the Charismatic Renewal Office for the Diocese of Rockville Centre publicly promotes Patti Gallagher Mansfield’s book As by a New Pentecost: The Dramatic Beginnings of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Steubenville University Press, 1992.
So-called Charismatic “healing masses” abound throughout Long Island. A healing mass is “staged” in a facility in Uniondale that is shared with the Indult crowd of the Latin Mass Committee. This raises questions regarding the prudential judgment of the Indult Committee in using this facility, because hosts allegedly “consecrated” at these healing masses are reserved there and later on might be distributed to those in attendance at the Indult Mass. Since there have been no assurances to the contrary, this is far from being a hypothetical case — however, I digress.
BASED ON A THEOLOGY OF EXPERIENCE, EMOTIONALISM, SIGNS AND SYMBOLS
According to a veteran leader in the Charismatic movement on Long Island, who was interviewed by Pete Sheehan in a series of articles on the Charismatic sect featured in The Long Island Catholic: “Prayer is the opening up to the power of the Holy Spirit and [to the] personal experience of the Spirit, a more clearly felt sense of the presence of God.”
Accordingly, in order for prayer to be efficacious, the individual has to feel something, and it is this experience which, when a person acquires it, makes him properly and truly a believer. Until he achieves the acquisition of an experience, he cannot be considered a believer. This false notion of prayer, once associated more with Protestant Pentecostal Churches, is pervasive throughout the parishes on Long Island. Many of the clergy here probably hold to this notion. What other reason can be cited for its pervasiveness among the laity? As to the question of what this opening up to the power of the spirit is, I will expand on this later.
Charismatics advance the claim that “people who are logical and intellectually inclined look for Charismatic prayer because they feel something lacking in their faith.” In other words, there is a distinctive Charismatic prayer which is more efficacious than non-Charismatic prayer, since the former rather than the latter will provide what is lacking in their faith.
For the Charismatic, faith is primarily a matter of feeling and sentiment. “They might be practicing, active and involved Catholics, but sense that they are working hard at their faith without feeling the consolation of faith, the clear sense of God’s presence, love and support.”
When the disciples asked Our Lord how to pray, He taught them the Our Father. Simple. Not an emotional, energy-packed experience. Not a “gift” which some receive, while others do not, but a simple prayer which any man, woman or child can say.
The lives of the Saints clearly reinforce this truth. Their methods of prayer did not resemble sporadic outbreaks in unknown, unintelligible utterances. They became Saints on the traditional prayers of the Church: the Creed, the Our Father, the Glory Be, the Acts of Faith, Hope and Charity; the Act of Contrition, prayers based on the Psalms and, of course, the lifting of their minds and hearts in true religious sentiment in gratitude to God.
AN ECUMENICAL FORCE & IDEOLOGY
On a broader level, the Charismatic movement can be considered to be an ecumenical force within the official Church by the very fact that it is not an institution competing with other institutions, because it does not share the rejection of or contempt for institutions that is so widespread in our day. Charismatics have no hesitation at all in participating in interfaith prayer and worship services, despite Pope Pius XI’s prohibition of such promiscuous gatherings, as contained in his encyclical letter, Mortalium Animos.
Charismatic Renewal is well-equipped to work from within ecclesial structures for the cause of ecumenism, while avoiding the appearance of schism from the official Church. It is able to impose its ideology under the guise of renewal, unity, peace and social justice. The latest attempt to bring Charismatic renewal down to the parish level is not the Cross of our Savior, but a dead tree stump with sprouts of leaves among the dead branches.
As an ideology, the driving force of the modern Charismatic movement is humanitarian and naturalistic. It seeks to build an earthly habitat and to establish an illusionary world utopia of love and harmony and peace and justice by holding out an empty promise that a new springtime is in the process of dawning on mankind, as if its followers knew something from an esoteric or gnostic science. It is the total evisceration of the sense of the supernatural in the life of the Church.
THE PRINCIPLE OF VITAL IMMANENCE
The Charismatic belief system, as a whole, represents the introduction and development of the modernist principle of Vital Immanence, which Pope Saint Pius X condemned as a philosophical and theological error foreign to the Catholic Faith in his encyclical Pascendi. It is beyond the scope of this essay to present the principle of vital immanence; however, I invite the reader to refer to those passages in Pascendi that deal with this topic.
FATHER OF PENTECOSTALISM
Charismatic Renewal derives its inspiration mostly from Pentecostalism, which owes its origins and development to John Wesley (1703 – 1791), a former Anglican minister, who broke from the Church of England in 1738 and started his own religious sect popularly known as Methodism.
John Wesley worked on his book entitled A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, completed in 1777, describing what he believed and taught. He rebelled against the Calvinism of his day, with its belief in predestination and its notion of the total depravity and corruption of man. Wesley preached the “Baptism of the Spirit” and developed the theology of the “Second Blessing.” It was John Fletcher, a colleague of Wesley, who called the Second Blessing the Baptism of the Spirit and held that it was a personal, inner experience. The hallmark or sign of the manifestation of the Baptism in the Spirit is glossolalia, the incoherent, unintelligible utterances popularly known as “speaking in tongues,” which has no scriptural basis at all.
The Greek philosopher Plato (429 – 347 B.C.) could well have been speaking of Charismatics of our day when he examined the effects of intense religious healing on the minds of its adherents and found that among most there was a transient and temporary altered state of consciousness and impaired judgment which rendered worshippers vulnerable to psychosomatic manipulation. In his magnum opus Phaedrus and Timaeus, Plato wrote about those who were engaged in prayer associated with prophecy and interior locutions. According to Plato, they were possessed and out of their minds. Some of these religious exercises, he said, even brought physical healing to the worshippers. He further observed that persons who participate in such worship and receive private revelation, often accompanied by prophecy, vision or healing are demented or possessed. Hence, there is an acute need for Catholics to exercise vigilance in regards to arbitrary Charismatic claims that certain people have the gift of healing.
THE BIRTH OF THE “CATHOLIC” CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT
In August 1966, some lay professors of Duquesne University attended the Congress of the Cursillo movement, held at Notre Dame University. Apparently dissatisfied with the Catholic Faith, the Pearl of Great Price, they set out for something of their own choosing and hoped to find a novel spirituality in the Cursillo movement that had started in Spain before the Second Vatican Council. The Duquesne group had already been involved in the liturgical, ecumenical and peace movements of the Cursillo movement and had been disillusioned with all of them.
At the Cursillo Congress, they met Steve Clark and Ralph Martin, who were considered the leaders of the Ann Arbor community and who were coordinators of student activities in Saint John’s Parish, East Lansing, Michigan. Clark had just read a book in which he found certain ideas that greatly influenced him, and he in turn introduced the book to the lay professors of Duquesne University. It was entitled The Cross and the Switchblade, authored by David Wilkerson — an auto-biographical story of a Protestant pastor who was led by strong inner impulses of a vague idealism to abandon the life of a salaried parish minister and to embark on a self-appointed apostolic mission to the delinquents and drug addicts of Brooklyn. This book provided the Duquesne group with a kind of customized spirituality for which they were looking, and it provided them with the basis for their prayer meetings and discussions.
Needless to say, the ideas found in The Cross and the Switchblade represent a radical departure from the time-honored principles upon which authentic Catholic social action and renewal are based. The book’s author thinks he can replace these Catholic principles with something better. He and the Duquesne group would have done well to ponder the words of Pope Saint Pius X in his encyclical Our Apostolic Mandate:
“When we consider the forces, knowledge and supernatural virtues which were necessary to establish the Catholic City and the sufferings of millions of martyrs and the light given by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church and the self-sacrifice of all the heroes of charity and a powerful hierarchy ordained in heaven and the streams of Divine Grace, the whole having been built up, bound together and impregnated by the life and spirit of Jesus Christ, the Wisdom of God, the Word made Man — when we think, I say, of all this, it is frightening to behold new apostles eagerly attempting to do better by a common interchange of vague idealism and civic virtues.”
Then Ralph Keifer came across another book on Pentecostalism: John Sherrill’s They Speak in Other Tongues, which offered practical ways and means of attaining an experience of the spirit. In the Fall of 1966, the Duquesne group met for a period of planning, during which these University Catholic laymen asked themselves whether it might not be time to discuss matters with some Pentecostalists, despite the reputation of the latter for spiritual extremism and anti-Catholicism. W. Lewis, an Episcopalian minister, put them in touch with one of his women parishioners involved in the speaking-in-tongues movement. The meeting on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1967, brought the Duquesne group an invitation to take part in a prayer meeting the following Friday, January 13, with the speaking-in-tongues Pentecostalists.
In the early days of the infiltration of the movement into the Church — 1967 through 1975 — there was a great deal of discussion among the movement’s leadership and adherents as to the choice of a name for it. Yves Congar, O.P., commenting on the movement, stated: “We are seeing the beginning of a very promising movement. We must find for it a name that is beyond reproach.” His statement was quoted in the French journal La Croix, January 19, 1974.
It was not until Pentecost Sunday 1975, during an International Congress for followers of the movement held at Rome, that the name Charismatic was used. In his address to the participants of the International Congress, Paul VI said that he saw in the movement, “an opportunity for the Church.” While speaking extemporaneously in Italian at the end of the audience, he applied the word Charismatic to the movement for the first time. Father Walter Abbott, S.J., associate editor of America magazine, stated that at that moment “the Charismatic renewal was decisively accepted into the Catholic Church.” A few years later, Paul VI observing the auto-demolition of the Church, lamented that “the smoke of Satan, as though through some fissure, has entered the very sanctuary of the Church.”
Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens, Archbishop of Malines-Brussels and Primate of Belgium, was chiefly responsible for developing broad guidelines and policies regarding Charismatic beliefs and practices. On November 12, 1945, Suenens was appointed Auxiliary Bishop to Cardinal Van Roey, Archbishop of Malines. Upon the death of Cardinal Van Roey in August 1961, the name of the See was changed from Malines to Malines-Brussels, and Suenens was named to head the Archdiocese. On January 4, 1980, Suenens was succeeded by Godfried Danneels, bishop of Antwerp.
From 1974 to 1986, Suenens composed a series of six “Malines documents”:
· Charismatic Renewal with the assistance of Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B., the lead consultant
· Ecumenism and Charismatic Renewal, 1978
· Charismatic Renewal and Social Action in collaboration with Dom Helder Camara of Brazil
· Renewal and the Powers of Darkness with a forward by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
· Le culte du moi et Foi chretienne, 1985
· Resting in the spirit, “slaying in the spirit”
Based on feelings, emotionalism and experience, Baptism in the Spirit and the Outpouring of the Spirit stand at the core of Charismaticism, by which spirit empowerment is achieved. It has recently been called an “unleashing of the spirit” and is considered to be a manifestation that the individual has received the Baptism in the Spirit.
What does this mean? It means the overcoming of all psycho-social inhibitions and barriers which protect the individual from unacceptable social and immoral behavior. Charismatics maintain that spirit empowerment results in the elimination of rigidity and inhibitions that can stifle spiritual energies. Consequently, the line of defense against our deep inner impulses to act out is weakened. The liberation of physic resources from within the unconscious into the consciousness of the individual is not well-known and can have traumatic effects on the person’s psyche, on his personality and on interpersonal group dynamics which are operable in Charismatic prayer meetings.
Built-in psycho-social inhibitions are healthy and necessary, and by preventing an individual from acting out, it helps him not to sin. The normal person discerns the line beyond which actions become morally unacceptable, either internally or externally. To the degree that psychological restraints are weakened, to that degree are the passions excited. Before enslaving men, Satan first frees them from their psychological complexes and then liberates them from all psychological restraints to bring them under his yoke. Liberation and empowerment open the door for Satan to enter. It is known that at Charismatic prayer meetings there have been occurrences of diabolic manifestations which have alarmed both leaders and participants.
Liberation and empowerment, of which the Charismatic man boasts, are contrary to the virtue of humility, because they foster a sense of self-reliance and pride. On the contrary, liberation and empowerment do not strengthen faith; rather we see it as a sort of psychic drug that eventually will cause the degradation of the faith and the mental well-being of individuals.
Furthermore, the so-called Baptism of the Spirit and the empowerment that accompanies it place the individual at a spiritual and psychological risk, because he then becomes vulnerable to both internal and external suggestions. His sense of judgment is impaired, and consequently he is rendered unable to distinguish wheat from chaff, light from heat, and the authentic from the counterfeit.
WEAKENING OF INHIBITIONS AMONG YOUTH
Let us consider the effect of this on young men and women of 16-20 years of age at a Charismatic Youth Rally. Here we find them all in one crowd. Many, if not all, are immodestly and shamefully dressed. Let say a Charismatic friar comes on stage and starts strumming his guitar to rock music; let us say that this group of young men and women have just participated in a Charismatic prayer session, where psychological restraints have been weakened; let us say that a sex educator starts her public discourse regarding sexual matters. I say that in this setting the results can be disastrous, because this is a perfect recipe for the emergence of carnal impulses and desires which moral theologians call temptation. In short, the conditions of the highly charged emotional setting described above are such that they can constitute an occasion of sin for a great number of young people.
Next year, World Youth Day (WYD) will take place in Toronto from July 23 – 28. In addition to these days, various diocesan events entitled “Days in the Diocese” will take place. James Francis Cardinal Stafford, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, is chiefly responsible for the preparations and overseeing of this huge event, in which over one million young people are expected to descend like a swarm of locusts on Toronto from various parts of the world.
Cardinal Stafford hopes to instill in the youth gathered on WYD a sense of tolerance and the exercise of freedom in a pluralist environment, where all can live with one another in respect of the faith and the opinions of each other. Stafford hopes to provide a vision of a Church that is open and welcoming. He added that, with some leaders of [renewal] movements, “We are exploring the possibility of introducing a healing prayer for youth in the program, especially from a psychological point of view.”
Your Eminence, rather than introducing the youth of WYD to healing prayer from a psychological point of view, wouldn’t it be far better to introduce them to a sense of Christian modesty and decorum by promoting the Magisterium’s position on modesty in dress? Wouldn’t it also be far better to promote at WYD a ban on provocative rap music which pretends to be Christian and on sex education which tends to arouse certain impulses?
The Charismatic network consists of an extensive array of affiliate organizations made up of religious and laypersons, who collaborate, coordinate and promote Charismatic renewal. They operate within the official ecclesial structures on local and national levels.
· Franciscan University of Steubenville is the veritable vortex of Charismatic activity and planning. Under the presidency of Fr. Michael Scanlan, T.O.R., Franciscan University has organized numerous summer Charismatic conferences, ranging from high-school age youth conferences to priests’, deacons’ and seminarians’ conferences. Some of the participants and attendees of the 1998 conference were Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, Scott and Kimberly Hahn, Karl Keating, Patrick Madrid, Ralph Martin and Bishop Sam Jacobs of the Diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana, and members of the community of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word (MFVA).
· The Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFR) was established in May 1999 as a Diocesan Institute in the Archdiocese of New York. It is located in the Bronx, New York, where it maintains several friaries. Among the founding members, who are former Capuchian friars, are Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Fr. Andrew Apostoli and Friar Stan Fortuna, known for his so-called Christian rap music at youth rallies and conventions and for his tapes and CDs marketed through Francesco Productions. The ubiquitous Frs. Groeschel and Apostoli have been hosts of a series of programs on Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network and have established a collaboration with the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word. Friar Stan Fortuna has appeared sporadically on EWTN. Fr. Benedict Groeschel and Friar Stan Fortuna have appeared at Charismatic youth rallies in the USA and Toronto, in close collaboration with Ralph Martin, one of the pioneer leaders of the Charismatic renewal movement, who pushed the movement into Eastern Europe, particularly into the Ukraine.
In an article that appeared in The Long Island Catholic dealing with the Charismatic movement’s assessment of its own strengths and challenges, Fr. Groeschel was described as an author and psychologist and a “longtime supporter of the Charismatic renewal,” who is following the future role of the movement in the Church. “Charismatic renewal is going to make a contribution to the growth of a fervent Catholic minority in the United States." He added that such fervent [Charismatic] Catholics believe in prayer experiences filled with reverence, adoration and devotion. With this whitewash description, it appears that Fr. Groeschel is attempting to put a face-lift on the public image of the renewal movement known for its spiritual excesses and extremism.
In a later interview in The Long Island Catholic, Groeschel laments the decline of Eucharistic devotion in the last thirty years, but fails to cite the reason why devotion has declined — namely, that many priests on Long Island no longer believe in the Real Presence and Transubstantiation. He sidesteps the issue entirely. He also attempts to rehabilitate Martin Luther by saying that the apostate monk “told others that the Eucharist is not just a symbol.” “Until the day of his death, Luther celebrated the Mass,” Groeschel said.
Fr. Groeschel failed to inform his audience, though, that the “Mass” Luther was celebrating was eviscerated of the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence and Transubstantiation and that Luther rejected the Mass as the Sacrifice of Calvary and taught that it was merely a memorial meal. We will not cite here Luther’s blasphemous remarks concerning the Catholic Mass and the Papacy.
· The Fraternity of Priests was founded to introduce the Charismatic renewal into the ranks of the priesthood. In 1975. Franciscan University of Steubenville, under the leadership of Fr. Michael Scanlan, TOR, started the “Priests and Deacons Conference.” At practically the same time, Fr. George Kosicki, CSB, a Charismatic priest, started Bethany House of Intercession for Priests (1973 – 1983). Other priests were involved in Charismatic Covenant Communities throughout the country. In September 1980, some priests of the Diocese of Providence formed a “Priest Community.” At a “FIRE Rally,” the Providence group of priests took part, and the outcome was the formation of the Fraternity of Priests in September 1983.
· FIRE was formed in May of 1983 as the Catholic Alliance of Faith, Intercession, Repentance and Evangelization. It was formed as an outreach ministry of the Catholic Covenant Communities in Ann Arbor and Steubenville. Team members Fr. Michael Scanlan, Fr. John Bertolucci, Sr. Ann Shields and Ralph Martin were instrumental in the introduction of Charismatic renewal into the ranks of the priesthood, and often “Clergy Days” were held in conjunction with FIRE Rallies. The following bishops sit on the Board of the Fraternity of Priests: Sam Jacobs of Alexandria, Louisiana, Gilbert Sheldon of Steubenville, Ohio, Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Thomas Daily of Brooklyn, New York, and John Myers, formally of Peoria, Illinois (now from New Jersey).
CATHOLIC RESTORATION VERSUS CHARISMATIC RENEWAL
Charismatic renewal is blighted leaven within the Catholic Church, striving to maintain itself within Catholicism, in order to work its corruption throughout the Church. And by succeeding in avoiding the appearance of a sect, Charismatic Renewal has gained the approval of many Church officials, whose zeal in supporting and directing the movement is excelled only by their abhorrence for Catholic Tradition. Other churchmen make no effort to uproot Charismaticism from their dioceses, but concentrate on maintaining peace among everyone, while others are powerless to rid their dioceses of Charismaticism, so entrenched has it become.
The enemies of the Catholic Church are well-organized from within her very bosom to form a fifth column, the purpose of which is to undermine the Church. It is time to expose these dangers to the Catholic Faith that Charismatic Renewal promotes. It is time for Catholic Restoration to bring to light the rotten members that have infected the other members of the Church. It is time to tear off the masks they wear. Catholic Restoration and Charismatic Renewal are incompatible with each other and cannot coexist within the Catholic Church. Each is an obstacle to the goals of the other. Unlike their Protestant predecessors of the 16th century who broke with the Church, Charismatics have doggedly remained inside the Church and have no intentions of leaving or of relinquishing power. Charismatics should be called what they truly are: “Charischismatics.”
Charismatic Renewal has advanced its cause at the cost of the traditional teachings of the Church — in particular, by its total disregard for the Social Kingship of Christ by failing to speak out against religious liberty and ecumenism; its failure to raise its voice against the abuse of authority within the ranks of the hierarchy; and by its wholesale rejection of the traditional Catholic Mass in favor of a Protestant-style one, with all the accompanying abuses attendant upon it. Among the more extreme forms of Charismaticism, it will only be a matter of time before they acquiesce to the ordination of women.
They audaciously charge the Church with taking the wrong road — contrary to its indefectibility — and laud Vatican II as putting the Church back on the right way.
What is the final judgment on the Charismatic Renewal Movement? We will let the great Pontiff Gregory XVI render the verdict:
Blind that they are and leaders of the blind, inflated with a boastful science, they have reached that pitch of folly where they pervert the eternal concept of truth and the true nature of the religious sentiment. With that new system of theirs, they are seen to be under the sway of a blind and unchecked passion for novelty, thinking not at all of finding some solid foundation of truth, but despising the holy and apostolic traditions, they embrace other vain, futile, uncertain doctrines, condemned by the Church, on which, in the height of their vanity, they think they can rest and maintain truth itself.
PRAY FOR THE TRIUMPH OF CATHOLIC TRADITION