A few weeks ago, Mark Shea posted about the Charismatic Renewal and its purported merits. While acknowledging vaguely the problems of the Charismatic Movement, he argues that the Church needs to meet people where they are. That I would agree with. However, the Church is supposed to meet people where they are and bring them to something better.
I posted a response, in which I was perhaps a little strong in my words, but I have serious problems with the theology of the Charismatic Movement. That is not to say the average person in the pews whom it serves, though I hope those people will grow to something better. That is to say the ideology behind the movement. Where the Radical Traditionalists go wrong by saying, “Everything since Vatican II is wrong,” Charismatics say, “Everything before Vatican II was wrong.”
I have no problem with belief in spiritual charisms. That is Catholic doctrine. The problem is that the Charismatics act as if it was not part of Catholic doctrine before they arrived. They do exactly what St. Paul warns against in 1 Cor 12: they use their “gifts” as a way to feel spiritually superior.
Charismatics and Traditionalists are guilty of the the same error, in different directions.
The reason this is relevant to this blog, however, has to do with my personal and direct problem with Charismatics: they believe the Gospel of Health, Wealth and Happiness.
I’ve seen Charismatics shun members of their “community” for becoming seriously ill. After all, Charismatic teaching is that Jesus will heal anyone with enough faith. So if you become sick, you’re obviously evil.
I’ve seen Charistmatics treat a man with Down’s Syndrome like a leper.
I’ve heard a Charismatic priest say from the pulpit that centuries of Catholic spirituality regarding suffering is “wrong.”
I’ve also known plenty of good Catholics who were involved in varying degrees with Charismatic spirituality, but most of them have been very subtle about it, or have been the first to acknowledge its flaws.
But those I’ve known who are most “into it”, attend the meetings regularly, etc., and readily identify themselves as “Charismatics,” tend to be very Pharisaical. They cannot cope with the reality of suffering.
Certainly, no one is perfect. But in this case, the flaws of the “bad Charismatics” are inherently tied to the teachings of their Movement. The “good Charismatics” would still be the way they are in the absence of taht movement and if involved in something else.
And the Movement does nothing to disabuse its members of their false notions.
Person 1: A secularist liberal who lives in a $500,000 house, makes six figures and shops at Belk. “I couldn’t bear to have a child with a genetic defect. How could I watch my child suffer?”
Person 2: A Charismatic Catholic who goes to weekly prayer meetings and daily Mass, but never lifts a finger to help someone who is sick or disabled or needy, because the Holy Spirit will cure that person if he or she has enough faith. The person is a Charismatic precisely because eh or she is looking for an easy comfort zone, a “religion that will make you happy,” as C. S. Lewis says. Seeing someone in suffering and need troubles that comfort level too much.