What is the rite known as “the baptism in the Spirit”?
The rite of “baptism in the Spirit”301 was originally the distinctive mark of a Protestant sect called the Pentecostalists. It is a laying on of hands for the purpose of giving a palpable experience of the Holy Spirit and a participation of the charismatic gifts [gratiæ gratis datæ] of the first Christians, especially speaking in tongues.
What is the origin of this Pentecostal rite?
Pentecostalism was born during the night of December 31, 1900, to January 1, 1901, in Topeka, Kansas.302 In the hope of regaining the charisms of the Apostles (especially speaking in tongues), the Methodist pastor Charles Parham (1873-1929) laid hands on a girl named Agnes Ozman.303 She immediately began to speak an unknown language, which a Czech recognized the next day as his mother tongue. The experience continued on the following days, and Pastor Parham set out to preach his discovery. Arrested later on a morals charge (he was accused of sodomy), Pastor Parham was eclipsed by some of his disciples, like William Seymour (1873-1929).304
How did the new Pentecostal rite spread?
The “Pentecostalists” were at first rejected even by the Protestants (they were called “shakers” because of their contortions or “rollers” because some of them rolled on the ground during their services). They established their own chapels and organized themselves in very restricted groups. It was only during the 1930’s in Europe, and in the 1950’s in the United States, that their rite was taken outside of strictly Pentecostal churches to penetrate all Christian denominations. Pastor David du Plessis (1905-87) was the main architect of this “ecumenical” propagation of “the baptism in the Spirit.” At the end of the twentieth century, there were about 100 million Pentecostalists worldwide.
Are there precedents for the Pentecostal phenomenon?
The rite properly called “baptism in the Spirit” is new, but heretical sects have regularly experienced analogous phenomena throughout history. At the end of the seventeenth century, a wave of illuminism shook the Protestant Camisards of the South of France: people claimed they felt the Holy Spirit, they spoke in tongues and wept copiously. The same eccentricities occurred in 1731, at Paris, in the St-Médard Cemetery on the tomb of a Jansenist deacon: frenetic convulsions gripped entire crowds, ecstasies, speaking in unknown languages, “prophecies,” etc.
How can this type of phenomena be explained?
These strange phenomena can partly be explained by natural causes (uncontrolled nervousness, morbid psychic exaltation, hallucinations), but it is likely that the devil often intervenes. The first sign of diabolical possession indicated by the traditional Ritual for exorcisms is the person’s speaking in languages never before studied.305
Can people who call on the name of Christ with such fervor really be manipulated by the devil?
Our Lord Himself said:
Beware of false prophets….Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name and cast out devils in thy name and done many miracles in thy name? And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you. Depart from me, you that work iniquity. (Mt. 7:15, 21-23)
How did the Pentecostal rite penetrate into the Catholic Church?
The Pentecostal rite of baptism in the Spirit was spread in the Catholic Church by so-called Catholic “charismatics.” The “Charismatic Renewal” can be defined as “the Catholic branch of the Pentecostal current.”306
What is the origin of “Catholic” charismatism?
“Catholic” charismatism was born in the United States in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on February 20, 1967, the day on which two Catholic students at Duquesne University received the laying on of hands in a prayer group led by a Protestant minister and began to speak in tongues. They then used the same rite to transmit to other Catholics the powers thus received. On February 18, 1972, an engineer returning to France from the United States transmitted the baptism in the Spirit to Pierre Goursat, who founded the Emmanuel Community (the main French charismatic community) in 1973.307
What was the effect of the Pentecostal rite on the first Catholics who received it?
The laying on of hands produced the same effects in the Catholic students of Duquesne University as it did in Protestants. One of them recounted: “I was so joyful that all I could do was laugh as I lay on the floor.” Another testified: “The sense of the presence and love of God was so strong that I can remember staying sitting in the chapel for a half hour just laughing out of joy over the love of God.” And a third: “When hands were laid upon me, immediately it felt as if my whole chest were trying to rise into my head. My lips started trembling, and my brain started turning flips. Then I started grinning; I couldn’t help it.”308
What do these reactions show?
These unseemly reactions reveal diabolical intervention. Whereas the Holy Ghost makes order and discretion reign, the evil spirit, even when disguised as an angel of light, generally betrays himself by some grotesquery.309
Can the devil then inflame souls with the love of God?
The devil cannot inflame souls with the love of God, but he can give this impression to those who desire too strongly to feel the action of grace:
[T]he devil hath power to feign some false light or sounds, sweet smells in their noses, wonderful tastes in their mouths, and many quaint heats and burnings in their bodily breasts or in their bowels, in their backs and in their reins and in their members.
And yet in this fantasy they think that they have a restful contemplation of their God without any hindrance of vain thoughts; and surely so have they in a manner, for they be so filled with falsehood that vanity cannot disturb them. And why? Because he, that same fiend that would minister vain thoughts to them if they were in a good way–he, that same, is the chief worker in this work. And know thou right well that he would not hinder himself. The thought of God will he not put from them, for fear that he should be held suspect.310
Are similar warnings to be found in the writings of the saints?
St. Vincent Ferrer[, O.P.], in his Treatise on the Spiritual Life, teaches:
The first remedy against the spiritual temptations which the devil plants in the hearts of many persons in these unhappy times, is to have no desire to procure by prayer, meditation, or any other good work, what are called revelations, or spiritual experiences, beyond what happens in the ordinary course of things; such a desire of things which surpass the common order can have no other root or foundation but pride, presumption, a vain curiosity in what regards the things of God, and, in short, an exceedingly weak faith. It is to punish this evil desire that God abandons the soul, and permits it to fall into the illusions and temptations of the devil, who seduces it, and represents to it false visions and delusive revelations. Here we have the source of most of the spiritual temptations that prevail at the present time; temptations which the spirit of evil roots in the souls of those who may be called the precursors of Antichrist….311
Does this passage of St. Vincent apply to Pentecostalism and Charismatism?
It was precisely so that she could “speak in tongues” that Agnes Ozman asked Pastor Parham to lay hands on her. It was also to benefit from these extraordinary “charisms” manifested by the Pentecostals that the Catholics at Duquesne asked for the same laying on of hands.
Doesn’t the Charismatic Renewal accomplish some good, bringing back to the practice of Catholicism a certain number of souls and nurturing the piety of others?
The devil in his perspicacity knows how to lose a few to gain many. This is the teaching of Blessed Marie of the Incarnation:
Ecstasies, visions, and revelations are not a sure argument for the presence or assistance of God in a soul. How many have we seen who have been deceived by these sorts of visions? Even though they were the cause of the conversion or even the salvation of a few souls, it is nonetheless a strategy of the evil Spirit, who is content to lose a few to gain many.312
What advantage can the devil find in these displays of piety?
Pentecostalism not only revived and revitalized a moribund Protestantism, which risked leaving the Catholic Church an open field, but today it is allowing him to progressively take hold of Latin America313; the devil finds obvious advantages. Likewise, “Catholic” Charismatism perpetuates within the bosom of the Church the errors that are destroying it.
Isn’t the Charismatic movement against the post-conciliar desacralization of the Church?
It is precisely because it reacts against certain excesses that the Charismatic movement attracts Catholics troubled by the crisis, but only to bring them round to the conciliar errors! (in the same way that Pentecostalism brought back to Protestantism those who fled its excessive rigidity in droves).
Can you provide an example?
The Emmanuel Catholic Charismatic Community has reintroduced in many places adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Rosary, confession, etc. These “conservative” devotions have rallied very many disoriented Catholics. But this conservatism merely serves to conserve…the conciliar novelties! Who would deny that the sentimental scenes that the Charismatics know how to stage so well are the principal crutch still holding up the new liturgy?
What is the link between Vatican II and the Charismatic movement?
Vatican II is fully responsible for the introduction of the Pentecostal rite within Catholicism. Not only because John XXIII desired a “new Pentecost,”314 or because the Pentecostal pastor David du Plessis—who had worked so effectively to infiltrate the “baptism in the Spirit” into all the Protestant confessions—was invited to the Council as an observer (he was influential in introducing several passages on the charisms into the conciliar documents)315 but it was especially the Vatican II decree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, that led the Catholics of Duquesne University to receive “the baptism in the Spirit.”
How could this decree lead Catholics to “the baptism in the Spirit”?
Speaking about the communities separated from the Catholic Church, the Decree Unitatis Redintegratio states that “the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation.”316 It also says that “whatever is wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can contribute to our own edification.”317 These passages convinced the Catholics of Duquesne University to ask the Protestants for the imposition of hands on February 20, 1967.318
Like Vatican II, the Charismatic movement contributes to the upholding of a false ecumenism (Charismatism springs from ecumenism), to the confusion of the orders of nature and grace in every domain, to the weakening of the hierarchical authority willed by God, and to the forgetting of the ascetical side of the spiritual life.
How does Charismatism contribute to confusing nature and grace?
The desire to feel the action of grace (inherently intangible) is to expose oneself to the danger of confusing faith and religious sentiment (as the modernists do319), as well as divine inspiration and imagination, the theological virtue of hope and optimism, the life of grace and psychological well-being. Psychology, as it so happens, occupies an important place in Charismatic communities.320
What can be said, in the last analysis, about the rite of the baptism in the Spirit?
The Charismatics themselves do not quite know how to explain the rite of the baptism in the Spirit. It cannot be a sacrament since Jesus Christ instituted only seven. Thus they see it as a means of conversion, a reactivation of the sacraments of baptism and confirmation, or else a religious experience. But none of these explanations can account for the efficacy of a rite that seems to act of itself like a sacrament.
Can the baptism in the Spirit really be compared to a sacrament?
By linking spiritual effects to a specific rite, the baptism in the Spirit resembles the sacraments. But the latter transmit a grace that is not sensible (they leave us in the order of faith), while the other rite claims to make the action of God felt. Thus it can be defined as a caricature of a sacrament that transmits, not the grace of God, but a perceptible illusion of this grace. We know that the devil has the power to create this illusion in those who seek to experience physically the divine action.
Should the Charismatics be considered as possessed by the devil?
Those who receive the baptism in the Spirit are not for that reason possessed by the devil, nor even necessarily guilty of mortal sin (because of a certain ignorance of what they are doing). But they open themselves nonetheless to a diabolical influence that establishes them in an illusion, risks falsifying their spiritual life and blinding them to the crisis in the Church and to their own personal duty. Some give up the Christian life when, years later, the mirages vanish.
Should the healings and prodigies worked by Charismatics be attributed to the devil?
The devil cannot work miracles strictly speaking (which manifest an absolute power over nature), but he can produce prodigies (which use the laws of nature ingeniously). Undeniable miracles are not to be found among the Charismatics. They themselves acknowledge that a good number of healings that happen during their gatherings do not last.321 Besides, these outpourings in unknown languages during some Charismatic meetings have been identified as blasphemies by people knowing the languages who happen to be present.
The Pentecostalists cite the words of John the Baptist: “I have baptized you with water; but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost” (Mk. 1:8). But in reality St. John the Baptist was speaking here of the sacrament of baptism that our Lord was going to institute and which, as distinct from St. John’s baptism—a baptism of repentance—was to give the Holy Spirit. The difference between these two baptisms is clearly stated in the Acts of the Apostles (19:3-6).
It was also in the United States that spiritualism was born, in 1847, when the Fox family girls in the village of Hyderville (in New York State) tried to make contact with the poltergeist that haunted their house. Ten years later, spiritualism counted more than ten million adepts.
Agnes Ozman had requested this laying on of hands herself based on the Acts of the Apostles (8:17-19; 9:17; 19:6).
Bothered by the personality of Charles Parham, who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, some Pentecostalists today prefer to trace their movement to Seymour’s preaching in Los Angeles, April 9, 1906. That evening, the audience received the “baptism in the Spirit” and began to speak in tongues, to laugh, to cry, to sing, to clap their hands and stamp their feet so vehemently that the old house where they were meeting collapsed. Another Pentecostal illumination (analogous to the first, but independent) occurred in Great Britain in 1904 and considerably influenced French Protestantism. But “Catholic” charismatism, even in France, is linked to American Pentecostalism. See Arnaud de Lassus, Le Renouveau charismatique aujourd’hui, Supplement to Action Familiale et Scolaire, No. 162, pp. 48, 61-65, 135.
Rituale Romanum, tit. XI, c. 1, §3: “Signa autem obsidentis dæmonis sunt : ignota lingua loqui pluribus verbis….”
This is the definition given by the journal Tychique (review of the Charismatic community “Chemin Neuf” [New Pathway] in its July 1984 issue (No. 50).
The founders of other French Charismatic communities received the “baptism in the Spirit” either directly from Protestants (Gérard Croissant, called “Brother Ephraim,” founder of the Community of the Beatitudes), or through the intermediary of American Charismatics (Laurent Fabre, founder of New Pathway, received it from an American Jesuit.)
Testimonies quoted in the work by Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan, Catholic Pentecostals (Paramus, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1969), pp. 28, 64, 67.
The fouteenth-century English mystic who wrote The Cloud of Unknowing (one of the basic texts of Carthusian novices) wrote:
Many wonderful gestures follow them that be deceived in this false work. Some be evermore smiling and laughing at every other word that they speak, as they were giddy girls or silly jesting jugglers lacking behaviour. Better far were a modest countenance, with sober and demure bearing of body and honest mirth in manner.
I say not that all these unseemly gestures be great sins in themselves, nor yet that all those that do them be great sinners themselves. But I say that if these unseemly and disordered gestures be governors of that man that doth them, insomuch that he cannot leave them when he will: I say then that they be tokens.…And this is the only reason why I set so many of these deceits here in this writing: for why, that a ghostly worker shall prove his work by them. [English version: tr. Father Augustine Baker, O.S.B. (London: Burns, Oates and Washbourne, 1924), Ch. 53.]
The Cloud of Unknowing, Chapter 52. The same author explains:
They conceive a false heat wrought by the fiend, their ghostly enemy, caused by their pride and their fleshliness and curiosity of wit. And yet, peradventure, they ween that it is the fire of love gotten and kindled by the grace and the goodness of the Holy Ghost….This deceit of false feeling, and of false knowing following thereon, hath diverse and wonderful variations, according to the diversity of states and the subtle conditions of them that be deceived. (Ch. 45)
St. Vincent Ferrer, “Treatise on the Spiritual Life,” in Rev. Fr. Andrew Pradel, O.P., Saint Vincent Ferrer of the Order of Preachers: His Life, Spiritual Teaching, and Practical Devotion, tr. from the French by the Rev. Fr. T. A. Dixon, O.P. (London: R. Washbourne, 1875), p. 181 [available online through Google/books].
Blessed Marie of the Incarnation (Madame Acarie), quoted by Lassus, Le renouveau charismatique aujourd’hui, p. 154. Blessed Jordan of Saxony (1190-1236) had to exorcise a certain Brother Bernard. Possessed by the devil, he preached in such a penetrating manner, with such a touching accent, such a pious air, and such profound words that he brought everyone who heard him to tears. Once the possession was discovered, however, he switched tone and pronounced only obscenities. When the Blessed asked him “Where are your beautiful speeches?” he answered: “Since my ruse has been discovered, I want to show myself as I am.” (Jordan of Saxony, O.P., Libellus de principiis ordinis praedicatorum, §110-119.)
See above, Question 1.
John XXIII, Apostolic Constitution Humane Salutis officially convening the Second Vatican Council (December 25,1961).
The Constitution Lumen Gentium (on the Church), §12:
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. By these gifts He makes them fit and ready to undertake the various tasks and offices which contribute toward the renewal and building up of the Church, according to the words of the Apostle: “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone for profit.” These charisms, whether they be the more outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation for they are perfectly suited to and useful for the needs of the Church.
The Decree Unitatis Redintegratio (on Ecumenism), §3, in The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, S.J., editor (New York: The America Press, 1966), p. 346. See above Question 47.
Ibid., §4, p. 349.
“As Catholics, they had been reassured by the Council, which had stated: ‘Whatever is wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can contribute to our own edification.’ After studying the matter, they decided to ask a group of Pentecostalists to pray for them and over them.” Mario Panciera in Présence Chrétienne, No. 12 (April 1989), cited in the Courrier de Rome (SiSiNoNo), No. 111 (February 1990), p. 2.
The confusion between faith and the religious sentiment is the fundamental error of modernism condemned by St. Pius X. See above, Question 11.
The members of the Well of Jacob community conduct P.H.R. sessions (Personality and Human Relations) in the spirit of the American psychologist Carl Rogers, who played an important role in the elaboration of the techniques of group dynamics (Lassus, Le renouveau charismatique, pp. 69-70). The New Pathway community, which recruits heavily among health professionals, proposes a medicine integrated with spirituality. The Beatitudes community is also heavily involved in psychotherapy. It is paradoxical that to perpetuate itself a movement that identifies itself as “charismatic” should need to specialize in human psychology, which the charisms of the Holy Spirit, on the contrary, should be able to move effortlessly and alone.
One of them explained it thus: “We sometimes see someone begin to be cured but then relapse several days later; that person preferred being sick and helped by others to a healthy autonomy, or else refused to make the efforts to persevere and progress towards complete health, physical, psychic, or spiritual.” (Yves Jehanno, L’Enjeu du renouveau charismatique [Paris: Fayard, 1988], p. 93.) It could not be more clearly shown that it is a question not of miracles but of simple prodigies (which help nature to produce an effect, but do not have power over it).