Question: "What are charismatic Roman Catholics?"
Answer: There is a charismatic movement within the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, the movement has been ongoing since the 1960s. Pentecostalism and charismatic practices have infiltrated nearly every denomination and church type, from Baptist to Lutheran, from Reformed to Catholic. Some use the term Pentecostalisation to refer to the spread of charismatic beliefs and practices into other churches.
In 2018 Pope Francis commissioned the Catholic Charismatic Renewal International Service (CHARIS), which emphasizes “the spread of Baptism in the Holy Spirit, the unity of Christians and service to the poor” (“CHARIS: a new service for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal,” www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2019-06, accessed 9/8/21).
Charismatic Roman Catholics are fully Catholic in their doctrine and practice, yet they also hold to the Pentecostal belief in a distinct baptism of the Holy Spirit that imparts the “charisms,” or gifts of the Spirit, including the sign gifts such as tongues and healing. According to Pentecost Today USA of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, “the basic focus of God’s plan is to renew the full role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church, including the foundational grace of ‘baptism in the Spirit’ and the exercise of the charisms” (www.nsc-chariscenter.org/covenant-of-understanding, accessed 9/2/21).
The charismatic movement within the Catholic Church is seen as a way to promote ecumenism, as Pope Francis has called “for the Charismatic Renewal to return to its ecumenical roots, that is, to work proactively towards Christian unity” (op. cit.). Groups with widely divergent theological beliefs can be brought together through shared experience. The push toward ecumenism is itself a reason to question the validity of the charismatic movement. Does doctrine matter? Would the Holy Spirit truly inspire people to pray to Mary, venerate the saints, or accept the infallibility of the pope? Is the church to be unified by our faith in what Scripture says or by our experiences?
Charismatic Roman Catholics mix two errors: Catholic teaching and charismatic teaching. As Catholics, Roman Catholic charismatics pray to Mary and the dead saints, accept the authority of tradition, confess their sins to a human priest, believe grace is conferred through physical means, and place faith in the Most Blessed Sacrament. As charismatics, Roman Catholic charismatics seek signs, speak in tongues, emphasize signal manifestations of God’s work, and hope to receive new inspirations from the Holy Spirit.
Tradition and experience are never good tests for truth. Catholicism still teaches the same sacramental salvation that has kept people in bondage for centuries. Charismatics still seek signs and miracles, despite Jesus’ warning about those who seek signs (Matthew 12:39). Better than seeking after new miracles is taking God at His Word. Simple faith is more pleasing to the Lord than a reliance on even the most dazzling sensory experience. As Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).