Monday, June 26, 2006

Charismatics and Medjugorje


What is your opinion of the purported appartions associated with Medjugorje and why? And what is your opinion of the "charismatic" movement in the Catholic Church?

As a preface to my reply, let me quote an excerpt from Colin B. Donovan, STL on the different types of pronouncements that the Church (or the local bishop) may make on a given reported apparition:

The decision of the local bishop should be one of the following: 1) constat de supernaturalitate (established as supernatural), 2) constat de non supernaturalitate (established as not supernatural); or 3) non constat de supernaturalitate (not established as supernatural).

1. Constat de supernaturalitate. An apparition judged supernatural (formerly called worthy of belief) has manifested signs or evidence of being an authentic or truly miraculous intervention from heaven. This judgment is possible when there is evidence of supernatural phenomena, sound doctrine, moral probity, mental health and sound piety of the seer(s) and enduring good fruits among the faithful. The issue of supernaturality is one that deserves to be explored more fully.

2. Constat de non supernaturalitate. The judgment that an alleged apparition has been shown to be not supernatural means it is either clearly not miraculous or lacks sufficient signs of the miraculous. Private revelation, for example, which is doctrinally dangerous or which manifests hostility to lawful authority could not come from God. It could even be demonic, especially if there are extraordinary signs accompanying it. The devil gladly mingles truth and lie to deceive the faithful, dazzling them with signs and wonders to give credence to his message. His purpose is to separate them from the Church, either by getting them to believe things contrary to the deposit of the faith or to act contemptuously of Church authority. An attitude of pride and judgment toward the Church is a clear sign of his presence. An alleged revelation may also only be a pious rambling, consistent with faith and morals, but lacking evidence of being anything more than the product of human effort. No fraud need be intended, only an active imagination. Finally, it may be that the doctrine may be sound and there may be phenomena, but insufficient to demonstrate supernaturality. In this latter case, there would seem to be a possibility of revision.

3. Non constat de supernaturalitate. Finally, it may not be evident whether or not the alleged apparition is authentic. This judgment would seem to be completely open to further evidence or development.

This distinction is useful for assessing, not only (I) Medjugorje, but also (II) the Charismatic Movement.

I. As far as Medjugorje goes, I would lean towards saying (3) non constat de supernaturalitate. I mean this with regards to the apparitions and messages themselves, and not with regards to the plethora of reported "miracles," "strange pictures," etc. which surround the apparitions.

On the one hand, I have heard sceptics (traditional Catholics, as a matter of fact) offer convincing evidence that its all fake. On the other hand, I have been to Medjugorje, and I can sincerely say that I strongly felt the presence of Our Lady there. But this is merely from an experiential (subjective) point of view, so that doesn't really have much theological weight.

Also, I do not know the reported apparitions well enough to make an objective theological judgment on them (i.e., to say that they are orthodox or heterodox).

So I have not yet reached a final conclusion on the matter. I wouldn't worry about it too much though. I would rather worry about Fatima, which positively (1) constat de supernaturalitate, and to this day remains ignored by the Church today, especially the hierarchy. For the most part, the message of Medjugorje does not really go beyond that of Fatiima. If you are faithful to Our Lady of Fatima you are automatically faithful to Our Lady of Medjugorje. (Medjugorje does push fasting, saying the rosary, frequent confession, etc. a bit further than Fatima, though, so that is good; but other than that, the message of Medjugorje is already "included" in that of Fatima.)

II. As far as the Charismatic movement goes, I would have to make a sub-distinction. There is the issue of (A) whether the events that reportedly occur in charismatic events (e.g., healings, prophecies, speaking in tongues, etc.) are supernatural, and then the question of (B) whether this type of worship is appropriate within the context of the liturgy.

A. I would be strongly inclined to say that at least some charismatic prayer meetings do positively (1) constant de supernaturalitate. During my years prior to becoming a traditionalist Catholic, I experienced during Catholic charismatic prayer meetings what at least seemed like supernatural events. For example, I have seen people being cured instantaneously of their illnesses and handicaps: people who previously had paralisis were walking; people with severe arthritis immediately healed; etc.

I witnessed, together and simultaneously with dozens of others, a sweet and unmistakeable scent of roses filling the air during rosary mediations at a charismatic prayer meeting--at a place where there were certainly no roses nearby. (Interestingly, those meditations were based on the message of Fatima).

I have also witnessed "miracles" in the order of grace. I once personally received the grace of a profound repentance and bitter compunction for my sins, accompanied by an incontrolable need to weep profusely (something which I am not at all inclined to do by temperament). Catholic charismatics call this "the gift of tears," based on early Syrian monastic spirituality.

So I am strongly convinced that God can, and sometimes does, act (supernaturally) through these prayer gatherings. After all, whether you do it in Latin or in unintelligible tongues, "where there are two or three gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them." (Ubi enim sunt duo vel tres congregati in nomine meo ibi sum in medio eorum. Mt. 18:20)

B. Nevertheless, "Charismatic worship" is obviously and completely out of place within the Roman Rite--in fact, Catholic liturgy in general. That is just not the way we Catholics worship God liturgically. The liturgy has its own principles and rubrics which are not to be tampered with.

Outside the liturgy, however, I do not (yet) have objections against charismatic worhsip in general. (Some particular practices are unsound and/or objectionable. Here I simply speak in general, meaning by "charismatic worship" simply a very expressive style of prayer.)

My thinking is: if you want to throw your hands up in the air when you pray and say halleluia a thousand times, go ahead... just don't do it during Mass!

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