The Church is Hierarchical and Charismatic

Today in the second reading from the Office of Readings was from sections 4 and 12 of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church from the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium.  It is apropos to the Novena in preparation for Pentecost and provides me with the opportunity to develop ideas I introduced in my last post.  There I posited that in the light of the teaching of the postconciliar popes the traditional and charismatic approaches to spirituality should not be considered fundamentally opposed, though much of what goes under the title of both “traditionalism” and “pentecostalism” is problematic.

I believe this is the sense of sections 4 and 12 of Lumen Gentium in which the Council indicates two things: that the Church is equipped and directed by both “hierarchical and charismatic gifts”; that it is “not only through the sacraments and the ministries of the Church that the Holy Spirit sanctifies and leads the people of God and enriches it with virtues, but, “allotting his gifts to everyone according as He wills, He distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank.”

The second point is remarkable, considering the fact that the charisms are distinguished from the sanctifying gifts of the Holy Spirit by the very fact that the exercise of the charisms does not have anything to do with personal holiness but with the edification of the faithful, as Bl. John Paul II says:

It should be kept in mind that the primary or principle aim of many charisms is not the personal sanctification of those who receive them, but the service of others and the welfare of the Church. . . in that it concerns the growth of Christ’s Mystical Body.

Nevertheless, the Council teaches that the charisms do contribute to the holiness of those who exercise them, even if indirectly, insofar as through them the faithful cooperate with the Holy Spirit in their use.

And while the Council itself declares that extraordinary gifts should not be sought after, the opposite caution is also given, namely the Spirit ought not to be extinguished.  Bl. John Paul II says that the charisms do not always have an “extraordinary or miraculous nature,” and as such belong to the ordinary life of the Church.  The sense in which this is true, according to Blessed John Paul is inasmuch as the Spirit speaks to the Church directly in the concrete circumstances of life.  Not everything about our faith can be reduced to a rule or “any particular discipline or to a plan of interventions established once and for all.”

Again, the bottom line is discernment, and it is difficult because while the hierarchical gifts (doctrine and sacraments) are always more fundamental “the Spirit blows where he wills; one can never expect to impose rules and conditions on him.”  So Bl. John Paul writes:

The Christian community, though, has the right to be informed by its Pastors about the authenticity of charisms and the reliability of those who claim to have received them. The Council recalled the need for prudence in this area, especially when it regards extraordinary charisms.

As I was finishing this post I found that just today Pope Francis said the following:

The Tradition of the Church affirms that the Spirit of truth acts in our hearts, provoking that “sense of faith” (sensus fidei), through which, as the Second Vatican Council affirms, the People of God, under the guidance of the Magisterium, adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints, penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life (cf. Dogmatic Constitution. Lumen gentium, 12). Let’s ask ourselves: are we open to the Holy Spirit, do I pray to him to enlighten me, to make me more sensitive to the things of God? And this is a prayer we need to pray every day, every day: Holy Spirit may my heart be open to the Word of God, may my heart be open to good, may my heart be open to the beauty of God, every day. But I would like to ask a question to all of you: How many of you pray every day to the Holy Spirit? Eh, a few of you I bet, eh! Well, a few, few, a few, but we realise this wish of Jesus, pray every day for the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to Jesus.

He is quoting also from Lumen Gentium 12, perhaps influenced by the second reading from the Office of Readings.  What he is talking about is both hierarchical (doctrine and sacraments) and charismatic (illumined and inspired).

Between the extremes of traditionalism and extremes of charismaticism we will need to find a middle way—not a compromise or a dialectic synthesis, but a legitimate balance that reflects the Church’s perennial ability to remain faithful to Her Lord.  She must preserve the Tradition entrusted to Her protection and serve the sheep entrusted to Her care.

When the Holy Spirit teaches us all things and reminds us of everything the Lord has said to us (cf. Jn 14:26), it has to do both with the perennial principles that do not change, and with the concrete realities which do.  This is why I believe that the Second Vatican Council is prophetic in ways that those, from the left or right, who have used and abused the Council, have never anticipated, because they simply are not open to the work of the Holy Spirit and refuse to hear what He is saying to the Church.


7 thoughts on “The Church is Hierarchical and Charismatic

  1. Father , a piece of your text makes remind St. John of the Cross! It was this, actually a quotation of Bl. John Paulo II.

    “It should be kept in mind that the primary or principle aim of many charisms is not the personal sanctification of those who receive them, but the service of others and the welfare of the Church. . . in that it concerns the growth of Christ’s Mystical Body.”

    I hope I might not seem pedantict. I just like talking about the books and texts that I have alredy read. They are about topics very dificult to find someone who you can talk about it.

  2. Father, if you allow me, I would like to add a quotation from St. John of the Cross (that has to do with the topic), cause I think he is one best authors of mistic theology, although he can be very mispresented because all he say is said in a conventual context and I would like to divulge him too.


    Which begins to treat of the fifth kind of good wherein the will may rejoice, which is
    the supernatural. Describes the nature of these supernatural good things, and how
    they are distinguished from the spiritual, and how joy in them is to be directed to
    IT now behoves us to treat of the fifth kind of good
    4. With respect to the first kind of benefit — namely, the temporal —
    supernatural works and miracles merit little or no rejoicing on the part of the soul;
    6291 Corinthians xii, 9-10.
    6301 Corinthians xii, 7.
    for, without the second kind of benefit, they are of little or no importance to man,
    since they are not in themselves a means for uniting the soul with God, as charity
    is. And these supernatural works and graces may be performed by those who are
    not in a state of grace and charity, whether they truly give thanks and attribute
    their gifts to God,631 as did the wicked prophet Balaam, and Solomon, or whether
    they perform them falsely, through the agency of the devil, as did Simon Magus, or
    by means of other secrets of nature. These works and marvels, if any of them were
    to be of any profit to him that worked them, would be true works given by God. And
    Saint Paul teaches us what these are worth without the second kind of benefit,
    saying: ‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not
    charity, I am become as a sounding bell or metal. And though I have prophecy and
    know all mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, even as much as
    may remove632 mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing, etc.’633 Wherefore
    Christ will refuse the requests of many who have esteemed their good works in this
    way, when they beg Him for glory because of them, saying: Lord, have we not
    prophesied in Thy name and worked many miracles? Then Christ will say to them:
    ‘Depart from Me, workers of iniquity.’634

    Click to access Ascent.pdf

  3. Charasmatic Catholics are among some of the staunchest churchmen that I know. Despite leaning towards the other end of the spectrum myself, I have to be forthright and give them their due; Good men, one and all. I can say the same of many of my more traditional friends. However, the point you made about troubling tendancies and extremes from both sides needing to be checked is very true. The indignance one might feel pulsating from beneath the veils dotting the pews were one to wear the wrong outfit at a Latin Mass is no less inappropriate than the annoyance at the over-active, near gymnastics exhibited at the Sign of Peace, or the perpetual arms up “feeling of the air” so common at a Mass with a Charasmatic priest and congregation (or, further, the strange and sometimes gutteral chatter from the pews and even the priests on the altar as various junctures of the Mass, including the consecration… this is the juncture at which I will find myself wondering “What is going on here?!”). I hope, in his own way, Pope Francis, like his predecessor, leads a quiet teaching campaign about the habits of good Christians. in general, and, the good and bad habits that have attached themselves to the liturgy in recent decades.

  4. I love Mr. V.’s comment! I though his thoughts very sensible (sensatos). I think I can say I would say the same things!
    One thing I like in Charismatic people is that they believe in the existence of the Devil and the evil spirts. And they pray exorcism prayers wich they use to call deliverance prayers. But why am I saying this? I’m saying that because many priest don’t believe anymore in such things. I know that is a little bit other point, but has to do with the Charismatic Renew (Renovação Carismática).
    But I have to say that I see many bad things in Charismatic people too, at least in my country. In Brazil, many Charismatic people, perhaps the most of them, are terriblely ignoramus (são tremendamente ignorantes). They don’t read the Cathecism, and don’t use to study the Doctrine of the Church and put all their confidence in the extraordinaries gifts (carismas extraordinários). Of course I know some Charismatic catholics who are good Catholics, but they are few. I hope I haven’t gone so far away in my comment.

  5. I’m happy to see that Pope Francis has an attachment with the Charismatic Renewal. Because of that, I think we can call him a Charismatic Pope (um papa carismático). I believe that he will help the Church become more spiritual and leave all burocracy in it is mired (toda burocracia na qual a Igreja está atolada).

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