So, Damian Thompson, do you believe in miraculous healing, or not? Do you believe in demonic possession, or not?
The whole Church was baptised with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and She manifests that baptism through a rich plurality of gifts, the charisms. The whole Church, and thus every member, is therefore both Pentecostal and Charismatic. Every gift is a charism, and each is always given for the good of the whole body, in response to Her evangelistic activity, in the context of Her sacramental life, and subject to Her gift of discernment. She exercises that gift within Her institutional life, because the institutional Church and the charismatic Church are inseparable; they are two aspects of a single reality. It is wholly unscriptural to impose any requirement that anyone exercise any particular charism in order to be considered a full, believing member of the Church.
There has never been the slightest doubt that the charisms include healing, exorcism, prophecy and words of knowledge, nor really even that they include speaking in tongues. Furthermore, healing is here understood as even those of us not raised in the Charismatic Movement understand it: it is the restoration of the human person to wholeness, which may or may not take the form of healing as understood by medical science, depending on what is known best to the Holy Spirit, Who is the Wisdom of God.
Similarly, the performance of exorcism is restricted to suitably qualified persons, and it is only ever used against the power of that objective evil which we can but thank God that we do not fully understand. Prophecy is recognised as the gift of being able to read the signs of the times and to communicate effectively what is thus read, so that it does always include the prediction of the future: foretelling is always integral to forth-telling. Words of knowledge are always relevant, always wise counsel and always independently verifiable. Speaking in tongues is never without the interpretation of tongues, and together they make it possible to understand where this would not otherwise be the case.
For example, as well as having been miraculously healed, the great Dominican Saint Vincent Ferrer was also blessed with the gift of tongues. Other than Ecclesiastical Latin and despite his English father, he had no language but Limousin, which was what they spoke in his native Valencia in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Yet he was a tireless itinerant missionary, preaching to tremendous effect in Aragon, Castile, Switzerland, France, Italy, England, Ireland and Scotland.
Whereas glossolalia is a twentieth-century running together of two Biblical Greek words in order to describe a twentieth-century phenomenon which does not occur in the Bible. Is it Saint Paul's “tongues of angels”? There is nothing in Scripture to support that view. The true gift of tongues is as manifested by Saint Vincent Ferrer OP, Biblical scholar, philosopher, thus doubly informed and doubly informing theologian, and thanks to that ongoing formation a gloriously successful preacher of the Gospel, not least to the Jews, precisely as an ordained priest and a solemnly professed Religious in perfect unity with the See of Peter.
Healing, exorcism, prophecy, words of knowledge, speaking in tongues, and the other charisms serve to re-root theology in experience and to call the whole Church to watch at all times for the Second Coming. They restore the integrity of the Liturgy by freeing it from over-formality and over-conventionality. And they release the ministries of women, young people, the poor, and others who experience marginalisation and oppression. Yet there is never any question of any one gift being used to decide whether or not someone has been “baptised with the Holy Spirit”, because it is the whole Church that has been so baptised. Nor need there be any degeneration into banal and incoherent services. And nor is there any transfer of ecclesial authority to parachurch leaders, because there is no parachurch.
I suspect that you believe all of this, Damian. I certainly hope that you do. But you have not said it. Instead, you have indulged in clever-clever ridicule of people who, however imperfect their practice due to the distortion inherent in any schism from Petrine Unity, do in fact believe what the Catholic Church teaches, if not on the wretched “prosperity gospel”, then certainly on the reality of miraculous healing and of demonic activity. Or is this really because of their adherence to Biblical standards of sexual morality?
And who are those people? In relation to a series of recent judgements, culminating, at least so far, in this year’s jaw-dropping ruling that Christianity formed no part of the basis of the law. Much has been made by the militant secularist and homosexualist lobbies of the fact that the couple in that case was of West Indian origin, as those against whom there have been a number of such pronouncements from the Bench have been of either Afro-Caribbean or African background. Christianity in Britain is being defined as a black thing, and thus a product of post-War immigration, in the way that Islam in Britain is being defined (not entirely accurately) as a brown thing, and thus a product of post-War immigration.
This may be utterly absurd, although African and Afro-Caribbean observance is the reason why churchgoing is more prevalent in London than in the country at large. But it is also potentially useful. The ferocious anti-Christianity of the senior judiciary, of David Cameron’s attempt to redefine marriage as not necessarily the union of one man and one woman (as the Attlee Government’s landmark legislation regulating marriage simply presupposed because it was so obvious), of Jo Johnson’s campaign to end prayers in the chamber of the House of Commons, and so on, is an attack on Black British culture as the attackers themselves have defined it. It is, in a word, racist. Let’s see them get out of that one. Let’s see you get out of that one, Damian.