Monday, July 04, 2016

Being unfair to Catholic charismatics

This memoir/exposé on Catholic charismatics wasn't at all what I expected. There's plenty to criticize in the movement: its recent, Protestant origin (an ecumenical version of 100-year-old Pentecostalism), its honeymoon with Catholic liberals after Vatican II, when ecumenism was cool and these neo-Protestants were a perfect way to stick it to us traditionalists, its well-meant excesses (which segues into this piece) such as the "enthusiasm" Ronald Knox described historically and the "covenant community" cults; really the same problems as the Protestantism this movement came from (putting feelings and immediate religious experience above the church). Often right after the council, for believing Catholics it was the only thing on offer. Churchmen left and right (John Paul the Overrated's fans) were telling high-church folks like me to forget all that artsy old-fashioned stuff and "be open to the Spirit" and even accusing us of being outside the church by being disobedient. Huh. Giving the impression that the Pope should change centuries of practice on a whim (historically not how we operate); makes the Orthodox and the conservative version of high-church Anglicans look good in comparison. No wonder I was ecclesiastically confused as a young man. (I adopted the young-fogey moniker 13 years ago, a milestone on my long road back to the church.)

But although the movement seems to be waning, not, it turns out, the hope of the church, it has changed for the better. For one thing, they and the libcaths broke up. Inevitable really, considering the charismatics' roots in politically incorrect conservative Protestantism. These sincere folks 360ed back to the church, in fact as well as in name. Now they love Mary, Exposition and Benediction, the miracle stories of the saints, and the Pope. The few times a year I'm at Benedict the Great's reformed Mass, I see them lifting their hands in the orans position at the Our Father. I call them the other American Catholics who still go to Sunday Mass besides us trads. As far as I'm concerned, they're welcome at our Mass, and they're far more open to it now. (Steubenville U. has had Tridentine Masses.)

This piece takes aim at the movement's emotional excesses but strikes me as another snobbish, smartass, sophomoric testimony of "enlightenment" (such as people raised evangelical turned Episcopalians or honest secular humanists; usually they're just mad at God), this time making fun of... just another form of perfectly good folk Catholicism, fine as long as you realize these pious opinions and practices aren't required. Abusus non tollit usum; the danger of superstition doesn't mean we should turn Protestant.

The Holy Spirit still works in the world and miracles can happen.

5 comments:

  1. I am not Catholic but have great respect for the great thinkers like Aquinas and Anselm and Augustine. This respect give me respect for Catholics today though I realize there is not a direct line from these great people to the Catholic church today.

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    1. Thanks.

      I realize there is not a direct line from these great people to the Catholic Church today.

      Why not?

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  2. Most Catholics do not learn Aquinas. They might quote Aquinas to back some liberal agenda but that does not mean they are taking him seriously. Same with Anselm and Augustine. There is however some good work being done by Ed Feser and other schools of thought. For that they deserve to be complimented. But those are few.

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    1. I hear you, and as a traditionalist who thinks Aquinas was the greatest theologian, I regret it, but massive ignorance of him doesn't mean the church has broken with him. But Thomism, for all its influence, is only a method in the faith; it's not the faith. Good unlatinized Byzantine Catholics, for example, Orthodox in their praxis but loyal to our teachings, are Catholic too!

      The Reformed Episcopal Church used to have a school around here (they have a few parishes in the area); maybe it still exists. From what I was told, they taught more of Aquinas and the rest of Catholic Western civilization than many putative Catholics learn after Vatican II. That will change in the church: the old liberal churchgoers and churchmen are dying and the young churchgoers want real religion. The REC are fine conservative folk; basically real classic Anglicans like Cranmer: Reformed but open to the forms of the historic church, only they don't think those are essential (they don't claim to be the true church).

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  3. If they are smart enough to learn Aquinas then they must be doing good work

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