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!


GFvonB said...

These three categories seem to exclude the possibility that something is indeed supernatural, but not from God (i.e.: the daemonic). I, for one, am pretty sure (based on conversations with an exorcist) that at least some of what is going on in Medjugorje and the charismatic movement falls into this category.

franciscoromero said...

Thanks for your comment. If you read carefully, the category of "constat de non supernaturalitate" includes the demonic. By "supernaturalitas" we mean that stricly, as including only the "divinely" supernatural, and not the "demonically" supernatural. So the demonic falls outside of it.

In any case, at least based on what I know (maybe if I met your friend, the exorcist I would change my mind) I do not yet think it is so evident that Medjugorje and the Charismatic movement are demonic.

It is difficult to see why the devil would cause such a profound compunction for one's sins as is experienced along with the gift of tears; or why he would carry out such incredible portents when the Name of Jesus is invoked and his [the devil's] own name reproached and sent to the foot of the cross; or even why he would produce such a sweet odor of roses when the message of Fatima is read. But, again, I'm just saying it is difficult to see how all of these events could be demonic; not that they are for sure divinely caused.

We traditionalists definitely are right about the true doctrine and the true worship of the Church, about the current crisis of the Church and about how She should return to its glorious traditions, etc. But it does not seem to me that we have a monopoly on God's mercy. After all, if faith is present, God can work miracles even in less-than-perfect circumstances to induce souls in the right path. At least that is what I thought he did with me.

GFvonB said...

Mea culpa, I missed that.

I'm not claiming that everything that happens at Medjugorje and in the Charismatic movement is daemonic, merely that some of it is. God can and does work miracles, even in the most unlikely of places.

Gregg said...

In order for something to be considered charismatic, I would think it would need to be more than merely expressive. As the name suggests, charismatic prayer is somehow related to the charismata of the Holy Spirit - talking in tongues, some sort of interior inspiration, a vision, prophecy, etc. Of course, any Catholic must believe that these do really occur, but where I think the Charismatics go wrong is to think that these things are far more common than they really are and that they can be channeled almost "on demand as it were".

Now, the errors of most Charismatics exceed these in my experience. Most are very anti-sacramental and they are often very disagreeable to the Tradition of the Church. They also often incorrectly think that the state of one's soul is indicated by the outward gifts that one receives.

Muriel said...

I have to disagree with you on your assessment on charismatic “worship”, because you base it on subjective experiences.

The human mind is a powerful instrument, and the healings you witnessed were in all likelihood temporary. If you had a chance for follow ups you would realize the “healings” were either due to natural causes or were the short-term variety. Let me guess, there were no seriously crippled people "healed". When God heals, the healing is complete and not temporary. That is not the case with charismatic “healings”.

Regarding your experiences, necromancers, occult mediums provide those too, (fragrance, feelings of peace, love, excessive emotions, religious zeal, etc.) These feel as real as the real McCoy.

Charismatic spirituality contradicts the Catholic faith. And the reason for that is quite simple. No collective, rational evaluation is possible: IT IS TECHNICALLY IMPOSSIBLE to bring SUBJECTIVE PERCEPTIONS, on which the Charismatic Renewal rests, INTO THE REALM OF CATHOLIC TRUTH.

Kevin Symonds said...

It is entirely possible that these visions at Medjugorje at demonic. When the 'Virgin' says, "The Bishop has no real love of God in his heart," that doesn't bode well that it is the Mother of God.


john konnor said...

john konnor said...