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Posted March 3, 2006

Book: New Ecclesial Movements: Communion and Liberation, Neo-Catechumenal
Way Charismatic Renewal
Author: Tony Hanna
Alba House, NY, 2006, pp. 282

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

An introduction and analysis of the phenomenon of the new ecclesial movements that have sprung up in the Roman Catholic Church, mostly in the wake of the Second Vatican Council and almost exclusively spearheaded by highly motivated and uncompromisingly dedicated lay persons. Just as the Second Vatican Council was a significant surprise to the Church and the world, so too the emergence of these new groups has caused more than a little stir. Almost like an unexpected pregnancy, their arrival has brought a mixture of joy and dismay. Some, like Pope John Paul II, see them as a hope for the Church in the midst of difficult times; others, among them a number of bishops and high ranking officials in the Church, see them as usurpers and divisive at a time when the Church needs unity and clarity. This study looks at both sides of the question impartially and in examining three of them in some depth (Communion and Liberation, the Neo-Catechumenal Way and the Charismatic Renewal), concludes that “by concretely realizing the ecclesiology of Vatican II, these movements are putting before the Church a model of Christian communion” which promises to profoundly change the Church of our time for the better.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Charismatic Renewal

The year before he died, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, a supporter of many renewal movements, in addressing the Charismatic Renewal movement in his own Archdiocese said: “It is my first conviction that one of the greatest fruits of the Second Vatican Council is the rise of the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church.

The charismatic movement entered Catholic life in early 1967. At a retreat weekend some students from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh experienced a profound conversion and new power and the presence of the Spirit in their lives. Gradually they were able to name the experience and to call it the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” The expression baptism in the Spirit refers to the experience of the past gift of the Spirit passing into present power. This experience does not replace the sacramental life of the Church but describes what should happen to people when they are baptized and confirmed, although it often does not happen. It can be described in the language of classical Christian spirituality as a “second conversion,” when the living of one’s Christian life comes alive in ways not previously thought possible. Charismatic Renewal stresses elements which are central to Christian life: conversion and commitment to Christ. These are not past events of one’s sacramental history, but a new gift of God to the believer, regardless of one’s past religious experience.

Baptism in the Spirit

A key dimension of the experience of Charismatic Renewal is baptism in the Spirit. It is not a second baptism but a profound deepening and in some ways an appropriation of one’s initial baptism. Much theological reflection has been given to this topic. In 1991, a leading Catholic scripture scholar, Fr. George Montague, S.M., former head of the Catholic Biblical Association, and a leading Catholic ecumenical theologian, Fr. Killian McDonnell, O.S.B., published a major study analyzing the theological and scriptural aspects of the “charismatic experience.” Their findings are quite significant.

In brief, they conclude that the charismatic experience of “baptism in the Holy Spirit” is in essence what Scripture and the Fathers of the Church for the first eight centuries of the Church’s life describe as being integral to the experience of the sacraments of Christian initiation. Based on Patristic evidence they state:

Thus, from Carthage in North Africa, Poitiers in Gaul, Jerusalem in Palestine, from Caesarea in Cappadocia, from Constantinople, and from Antioch, Apamea, Mabbug, and Cyrrhus in Syria, we have witnessed to the reception of the charisms within the rite of initiation. . .Once again, accepting the baptism in the spirit is not joining a movement, any movement. Rather it is embracing the fullness of Christian initiation, which belongs to the Church.

While the more unusual, to our time at least, features of the Charismatic Renewal such as speaking in tongues, prophecy and healing, tend to draw the most attention, the most important feature is that which is termed “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” or the fundamental encounter with Christ and the filling with the Holy Spirit that the New Testament presents as normal for Christian initiation. Terminology can be debated, external expressions can vary, but the underlying reality and experience seems to be something for the whole Church. And indeed, many movements in the Church are witness to the varied aspects of this same reality. One could say that the work of the movement is to lose itself in the wider Church.

Table of Contents:

Foreword (Archbishop Sean Brady)


Section One: The Phenomenon
1. Features
2. Three movements examined

Section Two: The Foundations
3. The emergence of the laity
4. Vatican II: a watershed
5. Ecclesial movements within the history of charisms

Section Three: Impact on the Church
6. The Marian profile of the Church
7. The Petrine Role
8. Universal and local Church: the perennial tension

Section Four: Assessments and Conclusions
9. Hopes and dangers