“Before beginning this celebration, I bring you a greeting. Before I left this morning, I was with Pope Francis, and I told him: ‘Holy Father, I have to leave soon. I’m going to Rimini where there are thousands upon thousands of faithful of the Charismatic Renewal: men, women and young people.’ With a great smile, the Pope said: ‘Tell them that I love them very much!’ Upon leaving the Holy Father, Archbishop Fisichella recounted, the Holy Father added: ‘Look, tell them that I love them very much because I was responsible for Charismatic Renewal in Argentina, and that’s why I love them very much.’”
I would suggest that the influence of the charismatic movement is evident in many of the words and actions of Pope Francis. In particular, the following strikes me noteworthy:
Pope Francis focused on the first reading from Acts which recounts the first steps of the Church which, after Pentecost, went out to the “outskirts of faith” to proclaim the Gospel. The Pope noted that the Holy Spirit did two things: “first it pushed” and created “problems” and then “fostered harmony within the Church.” In Jerusalem, there were many opinions among the first disciples on whether to welcome Gentiles into the Church. There were those who said “no” to any agreement, and instead those who were open:
“There was a ‘No’ Church that said, ‘you cannot; no, no, you must not’ and a ‘Yes’ Church that said, ‘but … let’s think about it, let’s be open to this, the Spirit is opening the door to us ‘. The Holy Spirit had yet to perform his second task: to foster harmony among these positions, the harmony of the Church, among them in Jerusalem, and between them and the pagans. He always does a nice job, the Holy Spirit, throughout history. And when we do not let Him work, the divisions in the Church begin, the sects, all of these things … because we are closed to the truth of the Spirit. “
There is an ongoing struggle between the left and the right to define and describe the relationship between the doctrinal and pastoral teaching of the Church. This is roughly the difference between the definition of doctrinal principles and their application in the concrete circumstances of daily life. It is not exactly the same thing as the difference between the hierarchical and charismatic aspects of the Church, but it would be safe to say that the charismatic movement is more pastorally oriented and the conservative/traditional non-charismatic side of the Church is more hierarchic and rigid in the application of doctrine. Pope Francis in appealing to the example of the early Church is calling for balance.
Some confuse the progressive side of the Church with the charismatic and not without reason, because the charismatic movement has shown itself to be more accommodating to the new and has taken its cue from the Protestant Pentecostals. But in actual fact, in spite of the difficulty to integrate various aspects of charismatic inspiration into the ecclesial structure, charismatics over time have shown themselves largely to be eager for such integration and quite Eucharistic and Marian. Furthermore, they have been at the forefront of the Church’s efforts at evangelization.
This does not address the very real problems with various aspects of the charismatic movement, principally hinging, I believe, on the question of the discernment of spirits. Indeed, charismatics are out of the box. However, both sides of the debate are going to have to come to terms with the fact the real answers are complex and involve a process of discernment is not resolved by simply checking off a list.
It seems to me that Pope Francis is suggesting that the ultimate solution cannot be conceived in terms of left/right or progressive/traditional, but ought to reflect the original intentions of Blessed Pope John XIII in respect to Vatican II to apply the perennial teachings of the Church in a new way to modern times. This is the work of the Holy Spirit and it is creative, although it involves the risk of erring in matters of discernment. Perhaps this is in part an explanation of why Pope Francis makes frequent references to both the Holy Spirit and to the Devil. He warns that their can be no dialogue with the Devil, but at the same time the Holy Spirit cannot be tamed.
Pope Francis says that the Church is driven by the Holy Spirit and not by bureaucrats and militants. In this, I believe he is criticizing both the horizontalization that occurs when the Church adopts the secular corporate model. But he is also criticizing the programmatic zealotry that occurs when there is a failure to understand what is actually happening on the ground and a failure to respond to it in a way that both corresponds to the mind of the Church and is inspired. Here as well, he is calling for balance, and this is the work of the Holy Spirit.
I believe Pope Francis will continue to show that he himself is out of the box, though in a truly Catholic way, and will also continue to defy attempts to file him away appropriately.