Catholic Charismatic Renewal now extending influence within the Catholic Church in new ways

After more than fifty years of existence, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal’s (CCR) influence is now spreading in the Catholic Church through groups that are adopting some Charismatic practices while not wanting to be identified as Charismatics, writes Valérie Aubourg (Catholic University of Lyon) in Social Compass (June). Based on her research in France, Aubourg distinguishes four “seasons” in the history of the CCR, starting with the initial introduction of the Pentecostal experience within the Catholic Church (1972–1982); then a period of routinization, with the various CCR groups becoming integrated into the framework of the institutional church and dealing cautiously with such practices as prophecies and deliverance while being less involved in ecumenical activities with non-Catholics (1982–1997); and subsequently, under the influence of the third wave of Pentecostalism, a reactivation of emotional elements and growing interactions with evangelicals.

The fourth stage has seen the broader introduction of Pentecostal elements within the Catholic Church—at the same time that the diocesan groups of the CCR are aging and declining. This may take place through groups in which charisma is not expressed (such as through speaking in tongues and prophecy) but spontaneous prayers and praise are encouraged. Discussions of biblical passages are not primarily theological but relate to the life and feelings of the participants. Some parishes also attempt to develop new models aimed at making the faithful into “missionary disciples.” Such efforts often start with the Alpha Courses that have played a major role both in the diffusion of Pentecostal practices and tools within Catholicism and in the creation of an international and interconfessional network. The first to introduce the Alpha Courses were actually Charismatic communities, such as the Emmanuel Community, which are also in charge of parishes and continue to play a significant role. This new stage in the Charismatic Renewal shows that the “evangelicalization” of Catholicism is not limited to self-identified Charismatics but is being encouraged by the current church leadership in the hope that Catholics will emulate the missionary zeal of evangelicals and create change in the church’s culture by introducing Pentecostal elements.

(Social Compass,