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The Charismatic Element in The Church

The Charismatic Element in The Church

by Karl Rahner
from The Dynamic Element in the Church, pp. 42-83,

Published by Herder and Herder New York, 1964.

It is said that the Church was founded at Pentecost. It can also be said that Jesus established the Church by giving authority to Peter and the apostles. We hear an echo in Pius XII’s encyclical Mystici Corporis of the view that the Church came into existence on the cross as the second Eve and mother of all the living, sprung from the pierced side of the second Adam who died there. These statements need not be in contradiction, for each graphically expresses a facet of a complex occurrence which cannot be assigned a quite determinate moment and date because it concerns a society, not a physical event. To the nature of the Church there belongs her structure as a society hierarchically organized with a variety of offices and authorities, and also the Spirit animating her like a soul, as well as the manifestation of this gift of the Spirit, for she has to bear witness through history precisely as such a Spirit-endowed society. Consequently, mention is made of the cross, as the event in which in the Blood of the Redemption the Holy Spirit is given to mankind, and of Pentecost, when it is made known tangibly and by testimony that this Spirit has truly come.

1. The Charisma of Office

The Spirit is promised and given to the ecclesiastical ministry. The promise that the Lord will remain in his Spirit with the Church all days until the end of the world also applies to the official Church. For if that were not guaranteed by the power of the promise, the official hierarchy of the Church as such could revolt against God and against the truth and grace of Christ, could fall away from God, lose his grace. In that case she would really only be like the Synagogue which, founded by God in the covenant, broke the covenant. The Church would not be the new and everlasting covenant, the Church of the last days against which the gates of death cannot prevail. At all events she would not be the visibly hierarchically-constituted Church of the apostles, with her mission and discipleship, her ministry and Scripture, her written word, her visible sacraments, the Church of the Word made flesh. It would still be possible, of course, to hold even then that there was a “Church”, in so far as there were, and always would be, men seized and possessed by the Spirit that blows where it wills, so that the Church would ever be springing up anew. But that would not be the one abiding historical entity founded on the apostles and their enduring mission, remaining always the locus and visible manifestation of grace, its sacrament. Consequently the Spirit must be assured to ecclesiastical office as such, and so it is that the apostles and their disciples following them in historical succession are told that the Lord will be with them all days until the end of the world. It is not that men and the office they hold and their law are not in themselves in a position to rebel against the Spirit of Christ and to disown that Spirit, nor as if the Church, consisting as she does of men and therefore of sinners, were incapable of becoming the synagogue of Antichrist. But because the grace of God is not only offered to mankind as a possibility, but is promised to the Church as a victorious grace more powerful than sin, it is certain from the outset from God’s side and from him alone, that ecclesiastical office in what most properly belongs to it, in its essence, will not, though it could, be used by men as a weapon against God. To that extent, therefore, ecclesiastical office and ministry is charismatic in character, if we understand by charismatic, what is in contradistinction to what is purely institutional, administered by men, subject to calculation, expressible in laws and rules.

That ecclesiastical ministry does not rebel against God and his Spirit, that in the last resort it does not abuse its power and force against God, cannot be ultimately ensured by anything pertaining to this power itself as a juridical, tangible element. There is no question of lodging an appeal against an alleged abuse of this power with some other tangible court of appeal, nor of stirring up a revolution against this ministry by claiming that it has unmistakably and confessedly offended against the spirit and the letter of its foundation, so that in consequence it has lost its raison d’etre. And yet, because there is no section in the official constitution of the Church to which one could appeal against official authority and so be freed from its jurisdiction; and because the ministry cannot exclude by merely human means the mortal danger of an abuse of ecclesiastical authority that would destroy that authority itself; and because the official Church must, for all that, be preserved by God’s grace against fundamental abuse, there belongs to ecclesiastical ministry as such a charismatic element, transcending the institutional order. It is usually referred to among us Catholics as the assistance of the Holy Spirit that is accorded to ecclesiastical office and those who hold it. It is important, however, to be clear in one’s mind what is involved in this simple statement. It implies that this assistance cannot entirely be reduced to juridical terms. It is not to be identified with the divine wisdom of the Church’s laws, though both as principles of jurisprudence and as precepts of morality they prevent many abuses. It cannot be adequately translated into those laws. For, of course, there is no judicature in the Church where an appeal might be lodged from men to men, and there is no right to revolution. The first would abolish a human and tangible supreme court of appeal in the Church altogether, while the second would be a denial of the Church as an enduring visible historical entity with genuine continuity.

This is clearly to be seen, for example, in the fact that the highest seat of jurisdiction in the Church, the pope, also possesses competence to determine what his competence is. If he invokes his highest and ultimate authority, it is not possible to oppose his decision with the claim that he has exceeded his powers, acted ultra vires, and that his judgment is not binding on that account. For it is not possible to verify that he has kept within the scope of his competence by applying a criterion to him, as though by judicial process, to test his conduct. When he invokes his ultimate authority in making a decision, this action is itself the only guarantee that he has remained within the limits of his competence. But that means that such an office held by a human being, if it is not to be an absolute tyranny, must itself rise into a sphere to which no judicial criteria can be applied. It must necessarily itself be charismatic. And that means it is only conceivable if there is always added to it in fact and in idea a power which is itself indefectible, the assistance of the Spirit of God himself, permanently promised to it, even though this is not something that can be administered or comprised in legal terms.

Here, therefore, is an office which in order to be what it is, passes into the charismatic sphere. Consequently we also have here a case where the charismatic feature has not simply the character of being merely sporadic, intermittent. “Charismatic”, “irreducible to juridical terms”, “given only now and again”, are not the same thing. For that very reason, however, the “charismatic” retains its incalculable character. That is taken very much as a matter of course by a Catholic. He can only conceive the right functioning of an office, even of the highest in the Church, as the office (if we may so express it for the sake of clarity), acting in accordance with its true structure. He can very easily think of the office as functioning rightly because God so arranges things that it does not act, that the individual holder of office dies, that some power or other, external to it, impels it unexpectedly to act in a way different from what it would otherwise have done. It is clear, then, that according to Catholic belief the guarantee of the unfailing rightness of official action lies not in an intrinsic feature of the office as a human, juridical, tangible entity, but in God’s assistance alone, and this can make use of every conceivable means, not necessarily connected with the office itself. Of course, all this does not mean (and for our further reflections later it is important to stress the fact), that the office in each of its manifestations is markedly “charismatic”.

The theology of the Church has worked out with ever-increasing clarity when, to what degree and with what varying certainty this charismatic assistance of the Holy Spirit is promised to the Church’s ministry. That is not our subject here. Every Catholic Christian knows, for example, that the charisma of infallibility only belongs to papal teaching authority under very definite, clearly determined conditions. Everyone knows that the Church in the exercise of her pastoral office, in her legislation, administration, adaptation to the requirements of the age, pastoral practice, in her activity in art, learning and the shaping of Christian life in practice, can exhibit faults, omissions, partially mistaken developments, signs of sclerosis, reactionary tendencies. But it would be incompatible with the invincibly Christian character and holiness of the Church and contrary to an ecclesiastical spirit to maintain that, though infallible in her teaching, she is not, in her normal life and activity, under the guidance and direction of the Spirit promised to her; or if one wanted to hold with a sort of mental obstinacy (there are such people), that more or less everything is wrong that the Church has in actual practice done in the course of history, except her solemn dogmatic definitions, — as though the life of the Church amounted to practically nothing but sin and falling away from the mind of Christ. Such people may imagine they have a heroic love for the Church, of the “in spite of everything” sort. In fact, they consider themselves to possess a mind of superior discernment to that of the actual average everyday Church. They do not believe in the charismatic character that belongs to the Church’s ministry even in the world of every day, even under the routine of what is laborious and unpretentious and commonplace.

All this is merely intended to make it clear that office and spiritual gifts in the Church cannot be conceived as two totally distinct elements which happen to be united more or less by chance in a person who is endowed with office and yet at the same time with a charisma. Office itself and not merely the actual man who in fact holds office must be characterized by charismatic gifts if the Church with its hierarchical constitution is to remain to the end the Church of the abiding Spirit, which through God’s grace alone is incapable of falling in its totality from the grace, truth and holiness of God and of so turning the visible representative manifestation of grace (for that is what the Church is) into a synagogue devoid of the Spirit.

2. The Non-institutional Charismata

a. The Thesis

It would be just as false, however, if one were to suppose that the charismatic element in the Church is reserved to her official ministry. There are, in fact, earnest Catholics who are anxious to have a right mind about the Church and who hold the view, tacitly and in the background, but all the more operative and dangerous on that account, that the hierarchy is the only vehicle of the Spirit or the only portal through which the Spirit enters the Church. They imagine the Church as a sort of centralized state, and a totalitarian one at that. We must distinguish between what we may perhaps for our present purpose call an absolute claim made by the Church ,valid within certain limits and strictly circumscribed, and a totalitarian conception of the Church. For the Catholic the Church is absolute in the sense that he knows that the Church is the enduring and imperishable home of his salvation, the ground of truth, the inexhaustible well-spring of grace, the representative of the visible presence of Christ’s grace until the end. And all this refers to the hierarchical Church. Consequently, for anyone who has once accepted by faith this Church as the measure of his life, there is no point of vantage outside this Church from which he might oppose her, no court of appeal to which he might take a claim against her. If he struggles and argues with her, it is a struggle and a debate within the Church herself. He is speaking to the human members and ministers of this Church and appealing to guiding principles and a spirit which they recognize as their own and to which they concede they are themselves subject and willingly subject. For a Catholic every “clash” with the Church is always an occurrence recognized by the Church herself as an expression of her own life and only to the extent that it is such a thing.

In that sense, therefore, the Church is an “absolute” for the Catholic. Simply because she is one with Christ, who for him is the Absolute made man, and because she declares herself to be one with Christ. Here again, it is part of this faith in the union of the Church with Christ that she does not transgress the limits set to this unity (although there is a perpetual temptation to do so), in the spheres where as bride and handmaid she is distinct from her Lord and stands essentially apart from him. But this attribution of an absolute character does not involve a totalitarian view of the Church. Such a conception would be totalitarian if anyone were to think, explicitly or tacitly, that the Church is not liable to err in any of her actions; if it were supposed that al1 living impulses of the Church can and may only originate from her official ministers, that any initiative in the Church is only legitimate if it springs expressly or at least equivalently from above and only after it has been authorized, that all guidance of the Holy Spirit always and in every case affects ecclesiastical office, God directing his Church only through her hierarchy and that every stirring of life in the Church is the mere carrying out of an order or a wish “from above”. Such a false totalitarian view inevitably equates office and charisma, if any importance is left to this latter. But this is just what is not the case. For there are charismata, that is, the impulsion and guidance of God’s Spmt for the Church, in addition to and outside her official minstry.

Now this thesis is not a private opinion but a doctrine taught by the Church’s own magisterium, a doctrine of Scripture itself, and a truth lived and practised in the Church in every age, though this does not prevent its being more clearly and more explicitly realized by the Church’s human members at certain times.

b. The Church’s teaching

Pius XII wrote in the encyclical Mystici corporis: “But it must not be supposed that this co-ordinated, or organic, structure of the Body of the Church is confined exclusively to the grades of the hierarchy, or—as a contrary opinion holds—that it consists only of ‘charismatics’, or persons endowed with miraculous powers; though these, be it said, will never be lacking in the Church .... But when the Fathers of the Church mention the ministries of this Body, its grades, professions, states, orders and offices, they rightly have in mind not only persons in sacred orders, but also all those who have embraced the evangelic counsels and lead either an active life among men, or a hidden life in the cloister, or else contrive to combine the two, according to the institution to which they belong; also those who, though living in the world, actively devote themselves to spiritual or corporal works of mercy; and also those who arejoined in chaste wedlock. Indeed, it is to be observed, especially in present circumstances, that fathers and mothers and godparents, and particularly those among the laity who co-operate with the ecclesiastical hierarchy in spreading the kingdom of the divine Redeemer, hold an honoured place in the Christian society, and that they too are able, with the inspiration and help of God, to attain the highest degree of sanctity, which, as Jesus Christ has promised, will never be wanting in the Church ...." Christ “established that authority, determined by appropriate precepts, rights and duties, as the primary law of the whole Church. But our divine Saviour himself also governs directly the society which He founded; for He reigns in the minds and hearts of men, bending and constraining even rebellious wills to His decree.... And by this interior government He, ‘the shepherd and bishop of our souls’, not only cares for each individual but also watches over the whole Church: enlightening and fortifying her rulers so that they may faithfully and fruitfully discharge their functions; and (especially in circumstances of greater difficulty) raising up in the bosom of Mother Church men and women of outstanding sanctity to give example to other Christians and so promote the increase of His mystical Body.” (A.A.S. XXXV [1943], 200ff.; C.T.S. translation, The Mystical Body of Jesus Christ [London, 1948], pp. 13-14; 23-24).

If we reflect attentively on this teaching, it is possible for us to say that there are persons in the Church endowed with the charismatic gifts of the Spirit outside the sacred ministry. They are not merely recipients of orders from the hierarchy; they may be the persons through whom Christ “directly” guides his Church. Obviously office is not thereby abolished. The Lord, of course, guides and rules his Church, the same encyclical tells us, through the medium of the sacred ministry. Holders of office themselves can receive, in addition to the authority of their charge and its proper administration under the protection of the Spirit, direct impulsions of that kind from the Church’s Lord. But if Christ directly operates in his Church apart from the hierarchy, if he rules and guides the Church through charismata tthat are not linked to office and in this sense are extraordinary, and if, nevertheless, there is a valid and irrevocable official ministry in the Church, then harmony between the two “structures” of the Church, the institutional and the charismatic, can only be guaranteed by the one Lord of both, and by him alone, that is to say, charismatically.

Now it is no doubt a rule, a normative principle and a law for the spiritual gifts themselves, that they should operate in an “orderly” way, that they are not permitted to depart from the order prescribed by authority. As a consequence it is possible to use as a criterion of their authentic spiritual origin the fact whether or not they do this. Yet this formal rule alone would not of itself guarantee the actual existence of harmony. For though official authority might be sufficiently protected by the rule from merely apparent spiritual gifts, the charismata also need to be protected from the authorities. Provision has to be made that bureaucratic routine, turning means into ends in themselves, rule for the sake of rule and not for the sake of service, the dead wood of tradition, proud and anxious barricades thrown up against new tasks and requirements, and other such dangers, do not extinguish the Spirit.

No really effective remedy against them is ensured by the formal principle that official authority must not extinguish the Spirit, any more than it is merely by the punishment that in the long run always falls on authority if it trusts more to the letter than to the Spirit. The effective guarantee is not given by official authority and its principles alone. Even though the authorities can only sin against the spiritual gifts by transgressing the very principles of their own authority, it is not thereby excluded that those in office might not discern their own principles clearly enough in the matter, that they might do prejudice to them and be in danger of excluding the charismatic element from the Church as a nuisance. Safeguard that is effective and certain to be effective is only to be looked for from the Lord of both. He is the transcendent source of both, and he himself is the support that he promised to his Church always and victoriously, consequently he can ensure the unity of the two elements. Their ~mity cannot itself be institutionally organized, it is itself charismatic, though this charisma is promised to the Church as one that will endure till the end. It will have to be considered presently what practical conclusions follow from this fundamental idea, which is based on the papal teaching about spiritual gifts and immediate relationship to Christ on one hand, and the institutional component of the Church on the other.

We must add another remark here concerning the texts quoted above. Spiritual gifts need not necessarily and in every case occur in a miraculously extraordinary form. Every genuinely Christian life serves the Body of Christ, even if it is lived in an “inconspicuous” (rather than “unimportant”) place in the Church. It is the charismatic features of the Church as a whole which must in addition be of a striking character. FortheChurch, of course, is to be by her inexhaustible plenitude of holiness a sign set on high among the nations, and herself the proof of her divine origin and mission, as the First Vatican Council taught (Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum, No. 1794). St. Paul too assumes the same (for example in Galatians 3:2), for by the charismata the pagan is to recognize and acknowledge in adoration that “God is among you indeed”. But that does not mean that because the Church’s charismatic character functions as a mark of credibility, the spiritual gifts in her individual members must necessarily be something extraordinary. Leaving everything else out of account, there is heroic fidelity in commonplace, everyday things, the miracle of balance that hides its own miraculous quality in the serenity of the obvious. The Church teaches that even the lasting observance of the natural law, that is, of what belongs to the accomplishment of human nature as such in this world, requires a special help from God which in fact, ultimately speaking, men only receive from the grace of Christ. Consequently even the preservation of purely human moral excellence points, objectively speaking, to the power of grace. How much more, therefore, is this true of what exceeds the average manner of life such as is “generally” led, even if this feature that goes beyond the average appears very simple and not particularly noticeable precisely because of, not in spite of, its extraordinary and therefore, in our case, charismatic character.

We cannot here expound the teaching of St. Paul concerning spiritual gifts in the Church: see in particular 1 Corinthians 12-14; Romans 12:1-8; 16:1; Ephesians 4:1-16. The mere reference must suffice.(l) By way of summary of it, one might perhaps say that, for Paul, ecclesiastical offices can be spiritual gifts, but there are others. He regards ministries and other functions in the Body of Christ which by their nature cannot be institutionally administered, in the same perspective as gifts and tasks which the Spirit distributes, supports and combines, despite their diversity, for the life and well-being of the one Body of Christ. But at all events, and this is what is decisive for our purpose, Paul does not recognize only spiritual gifts that are bound up with office, ministries that are gifts of the Spirit both as office and as pneumatic enablement to fulfil the office. He recognizes other spiritual gifts as well, and recognizes them as just as important for building up the Body of Christ. Furthermore, these special charismata need not necessarily always concern extraordinary mystical things. The simplest help, the most commonplace service can be a charisma of the Spirit. Another striking fact is that Paul does not oblige the theologian by distinguishing between a gratia gratum faciens and a gratia gratis data, that is, between a grace that makes its recipient himself intrinsically holy and pleasing to God, and a grace only given “gratuitously” to someone for the benefit of others and the Church generally but which does not sanctify the recipient. Not that such a distinction is not possible and in many cases appropriate. Jesus himself, of course, drew attention to men who work miracles and yet displease him. But Paul does not make the distinction. On the contrary he only sees or only envisages the case where the charismata both sanctify the recipient and redound to the benefit of the whole Body of Christ simultaneously and reciprocally. It is a very evangelical way of looking at it. For how else could one truly sanctify oneself except by unselfish service to others in the one Body of Christ by the power of the Spirit? And how could one fail to be sanctified if one faithfully takes up and fulfils one’s real and true function in the Body of Christ, If both are done, and that by God’s Spirit, inconspicuously perhaps but in a truly spiritual way, that for Paul is a charisma of the Spirit of the Church, and it belongs just as essentially to the body and life of the Church as the official ministries.

Since this is noted by Paul and by the pope, is it really so very obvious that theologians in their treatises on the Church may simply say nothing whatever about it’ Yet that is what they do. In the outstanding new treatise on ecclesiology in the Spanish textbooks of dogmatic theology by Joachim Salaverri, for example, which goes far beyond what is usual with us in Germany in content, precision and bibliographical information, there is not a word about the charismatic element in the Church. All we find is a refutation, and rightly, of the theory of Sohm that any juridical element in the Church is in contradiction to her original charismatic conception. Of course, the charismatic element in the Church is not denied by theologians’ thinking they do not need to waste a word on it in their treatises on the Church. To them it seems too self-evident. But when supposedly obvious things are passed over in silence (2) or it is considered they are no doubt dealt with elsewhere and from other angles with other concepts, there is considerable danger of their being overlooked. That will become clearer when we raise the question what practical conclusions emerge from what has been said.

Since these practical applications have unavoidably a certain critical character, we may perhaps point out beforehand the following, which is also stressed in the encyclical Mystici Corporis, and which represents the third proof that the charismatic element belongs to the essence of the Church:This charismatic element has always, in fact, existed in the Church.

Unfortunately people have become accustomed to some extent to attributing to the early Church a certain charismatic endowment which is supposed to stand in contrast to the history of the later Church and not any longer to be found so often, and no longer to be so necessary (as Gregory the Great rather regretfully added even in his time). Now there is no doubt that the early days of an historical structure, its first beginnings which are the foundation of all that comes later, have a unique task to fulfil, when something truly historic and with enduring identity is in question. The moment of first love is unique and irrecoverable, just as summer or autumn cannot be like spring. Even the mind’s maturation in time cannot preserve eternal youth just as it is when one is really young. But the “charismata of early days” and “more charismata” are not the same thing. It is not clear what grounds there are for saying that the early Church was, in fact, more charismatic. Everything then was concentrated into a smaller space and consequently more noticeable. But even in the early Church not everything was charismatic enthusiasm. Moreover, the New Testament is an account which inevitably and quite rightly gives more attention to the great and holy events than to the human weaknesses that there certainly were even then. It goes without saying that as the Church grew, its “machinery” grew too, and the regulations for this were worked out more fully. But this is no proof that in the early Church the wind of the Spirit blew with more vigour than later.

In fact, there has always been the charismatic element in the Church. We must glance into Church history, though more into the hidden everyday history than the official, “great” Church history. If in doing so we reflect on fundamental principles rather than enumerate facts, that is legitimate within the framework of such considerations as these. Church history is not here being studied for its own sake.

The Spirit has always held sway anew in the Church, in ever new ways, always unexpectedly and creatively, and bestowed his gift of new life. He has never abolished official authority and laws, which after all derive from one and the same Spirit, but again and again brings them to fulfilment in ways other than those expected by the “bureaucracy”, the merely human side to office, which exists even in the Church. And he has again and again brought the hierarchy and the whole institutional element to recognize this influence of the Spirit. That is not the least of his repeated miracles. The love of martyrdom was a charisma which existed side by side in the early Church with cowardice, calculation and compromise. Charismata too were the numerous waves of monastic enthusiasm which led to ever new religious communities from Anthony and Pachomius down to the many smaller foundations of the nineteenth century, even if many such later foundations appear to have sprung more from shrewd, almost secular, aims and from a need for organization, than from an original impulse of the Spirit.

3. The Possibility of Institutional Regulation of a Gift of the Spirit

With regard to such charismatic enthusiasm for the evangelical counsels, which can only be followed through God’s grace, it must be realized that not only the first emergence of such a mentality, which, of course, nearly always forestalls or occurs apart from and indeed, all appearance, in spite of the institutional elements in the Church, but also the institutionally organized transmission and canalization of such gifts and graces of the Spirit, belong to the charismatic component to the Church. Not only Francis but the Franciscans too are charismatics if they really live in a spirit of joyous poverty. What would Francis mean to the Church if he had not found disciples throughout the centuries? He would not at all be the man of charismatic gifts in the sense we have in mind here, but a religious individualist, an unfortunate crank, and the world, the Church and history would have dropped him and proceeded with their business. But how could he possess disciples, many disciples, who have really written into the actual history of the Church something of the ever-young grace of the Spirit, if these disciples and the soul of the poor man of Assisi had refused on principle to be faithful to this Spirit of theirs under the yoke of ecclesiastical law, of statutes, vows and the obligation that derives from the liberty of 1ove? It is precisely here that it is clear that the charismatic element belongs to the Church and to her very ministry as such. She has the courage, the astonishing and impressive courage, and many holders of office may well not realize what they are doing thereby, to regulate the charismatic element in the Church’s life, to formulate “laws” concerning it, and to “organize” this Spirit. You have someone trying to do what according to the gospels is only possible by God’s gift, what one can only “take” if it is given from above, something that proclaims that the form of this world passes and that the last hour has already struck. He is offering his heart to God, that it may only think the things of God; telling God that in the adventure of love for him and as an expression of faith, he will renounce earthly love in marriage. He acknowledges this love for God. And the Church listens, receives this profession, administers it, binds the man who has made it, holds him to it in God’s name. She is convinced, therefore, that the man who has made it has been taken at his word by God, that he truly possesses the charisma of Christian virginity. She knows, therefore, that God, because the Church does not release him from this obligation, (which is after all that of his love), will also give him the grace to keep his promise. The Church lays down rules for such a life, makes a state of life out of this spiritual gift, similar to, or rather proportionately similar to the difference of status between the sacred ministry and those who hold no office. In the Latin Church she even combines her ministry and the state of life of celibate charismatics (at what a tremendous risk), and consecrates as her priests only those who declare in conscience before God that they have the grace to be able to take this venture upon themselves. She holds these consecrated servants of her sanctuary to their word and never releases them (though she could) from this obligation.

The Church must be very conscious indeed in this, her institutional and official activity, that she is the charismatic Church. In this she shows the sternness of exuberant life and the inexorability that is a sacred necessity of the greatest things. She knows that only too often, as far as we can see, ultimate fulfilment and maturity is denied to such charismatic enthusiasm, that the holy venture of voluntary poverty, of a holy renunciation of earthly fulfilment, of contemplation in silence and obscurity, is only blessed with meagre fruits. And so it may sometimes seem as though the Church, harsh to the individual and his perhaps tragic lot, were only using such abundance of idealism for her own ends. It is not possible to conceive the official Church and hierarchy as the institutional organizer and administrator of the gifts of the Spirit in the Church, unless one sees her from the start as being herself, she the law-giving Church, first and foremost the Church of the charismata.

The sixteenth century Reformers did not intend, of course, to reject the evangelical counsels as such, at least that was not the first intention; Scripture attests them too plainly. And it was only liberal rationalism of the eighteenth century sort, with little understanding even of the faith of the Reformers, that thought itself obliged to be cleverer and wiser than Scripture in these matters. But what the Reformers could not see, was that things of that kind could have anything to do with the visible Church and her officials and laws. They envisaged the Church in such a way that the hierarchy was really only a human form of organization, even if an unavoidable one, to meet religious needs. The Church of the later Middle Ages whose official ministries conducted themselves in a far from charismatic manner, did not make it easy for them to see her otherwise. And so for them spiritual “office” properly speaking was only to be found where the gospel is preached in such a way that it pierces the heart in judgment and justification. A ministry of which even the theory was secularized in this way could obviously not claim to “administer” the evangelical counsels which are a spiritual gift. On those premisses, such a rejection is understandable. If the ministry were 110 more than an institution belonging to this world (even though established by God, like the authority of the state, for example), it could not, in fact, “administer” the free charismatic gifts of the Spirit. Anyone who can only see ecclesiastical office in that way, as an external expedient of an external order, and not as the efficacious sacrament of inward grace, cannot admit that the Church regulates and administers the evangelical counsels, but must deny that to follow them in the Church can constitute a “state of life”

4. Lesser and Greater Spiritual Gifts

To return, however, to the point we had reached in our reflections. The Church throughout her history has always been charismatic. The excursus we have just made was perhaps not superfluous, if it has clarified what that means. For from that it follows that if the official Church is also the guardian and guide of the charismatic element, if she herself possesses the gift of discernment of spirits, then the charismatic element is not to be looked for solely in what is very rare and extraordinary; that is practically beyond the reach of such guidance and only needs it in a very indirect and general way. It is not, of course, as if everything to do with God and his Spirit can and must be regulated and realized in the same way. There is certainly a domain which cannot be directly administered by the Church, (3) but we cannot simply identify this with the realm of the spiritual gifts and so degrade the official Church into an external, bureaucratic, administrative machine. Our excursus can serve to indicate that in the Church there is much more that is charismatic than one might at first think. How many human, beings in the Church keep alight in the cloister the flame of prayer, adoration and silence? Is the intensity and magnitude of this phenomenon, even when one includes all its human and mediocre and ossified elements, all the dead wood, something to be taken for granted? Or is it astonishing, a grace and a miracle?

From this point our view broadens out into the history of the charismatic element in the Church and it becomes clearer that this seldom if ever means something that in the normal outlook of a secular historian would require to be given special prominence. It is not necessarily the case either, we hasten to add, that this grace-given charismatic element must necessarily be found only within the bounds of the visible Church. The idea of special spiritual gifts, at least when each individual case is viewed separately, does not include that of being an exclusive privilege. Consequently if in what follows we point out charismatic features in the Church and the impression is formed that such things after all exist outside the Church as well, and even outside Christianity, that is no argument against what has been said. For the Christian knows, confesses and feels it in no way a threat to the uniqueness and necessity of his Church, that there can be and is God’s grace and the grace of Christ outside the Church. He does not prescribe to what heights that grace can raise a human being without, and before, incorporating him or her into the sacrament of grace, the Church. It is not even by any means settled in theology that any instance we observe anywhere in the world of the observance of the natural moral law, even in a single act, is, in fact, only a natural act without the supernatural elevating grace of Christ, even though it is not performed by a Christian frqm consciously supernatural motives. It is quite possible to hold that as a matter of fact in all or nearly all cases where a genuine spiritually and morally good action is actually accomplished, it is also, in fact, more than merely such an act. The grace of Christ surrounds man more than we think, and is deeper, more hidden and pervasive in its application in the depth of his being than we often imagine. It is quite conceivable that wherever a human being really affirms moral values as absolutely binding, whether expressly or merely in the actual unreflecting accomplishment of his nature, intrinsically orientated as this is beyond and above itself towards the absolute mystery of God, he possesses that attitude of authentic faith (even if only virtually), (4) which together with love, suffices for justification and so makes possible supernatural acts that positively conduce to eternal life.

If this is taken into account, it becomes even clearer that we have no right to assign arbitrary limits to the grace of God outside the Church and so make spiritual gifts and favours simply and solely an exclusive privilege of the Church alone. But on the other hand this does not mean, either, that we are not permitted to see the charismatic element in the Church where it really exists within her, not in the great pages that belong to general world history merely, but in hidden fidelity, unselfish kindness, sincerity of disposition and purity of heart, virile courage that does a duty without fuss; in the uncompromising profession of truth, even when it is invidious; in the inexpressible love of a soul for God; in the unshakable trust of a sinner that God’s heart is greater than ours and that he is rich in mercy. All that and very much more of the same kind is by the grace of God what it really is, and what only the believer can correctly appreciate in its full profundity and endless significance, for the unbeliever underestimates it. It is the work of grace and not of the human heart, which of itself alone would be evil, cowardly and empty.

Now are there not things of that kind everywhere in the Church, over and over again? Have we any right to observe morosely that they really ought to be even greater, more splendid and more powerful? At bottom, of course, we often don’t want to see and experience such greater things out of genuine love of these holy possibilities of mankind, but because we ourselves would have a more comfortable and agreeable time in life if there were even more of such divine goodness in the world. Isn’t it often rather our own egoism we should blame for our being so blind to the splendid things there are, that we act as though it were all a matter of course, or of no importance. If we had real humility and goodness we would see far more marvels of goodness in the Church. But because we are selfish ourselves, we are only ready to see good, good brought about by God, where it suits our advantage, our need for esteem, or our view of the Church. But this unrecognized goodness, and even charismatic goodness, is found in the Church in rich abundance. That is not altered by the fact that more is brought into God’s barns than is consigned in the pages of newspapers, and magazines, histories of civilization and other such human halls of fame. Can it not be charismatic goodness to be a patient nursing sister, serving, praying, and asking nothing else of life. That does not mean it is always so. Nor need one fail to recognize that even genuine virtue is rooted in temperament, social origins, custom and other pre-moral conditions, just as a beautiful flower grows from mould. But only a blind and malicious mind can no longer see, on account of the imperfection of all human things, or because of the facile discovery that even the most authentic moral excellence has its antecedent non-moral conditions, that despite all that and in it all, there can be charismatic goodness and love, fidelity and courage.

Persons of that kind, who cannot thankfully admire this goodness effected by the Spirit in the Church, and outside it, might inquire whether they themselves accomplish the things they refuse to think remarkable. Consider a mother’s life. It is no doubt true that she has a narrow outlook, instinctive care for offspring drives her on; probably she would not have a much better time in this life if she were not so devoted a mother. That and more of the same kind may be true and in many cases is true. But just as life on the biological level presupposes chemistry, yet is more than chemistry (even though many theorists fail to see this), so it is, proportionately speaking, in these matters. There are good mothers whose virtue is from God above, a gift of the Spirit and of his unselfish love. And there are many such gifts of the Spirit that are the charismata in the Church. The ones mentioned are only meant as isolated examples. It is in these that the lif e that most truly characterizes the Church is accomplished, not in culture, the solution of social questions, ecclesiastical politics, the learned treatises of theologians, but in faith, hope and love, in the longing for eternity, the patience of the Cross, heartfelt joy. Ultimately the whole Church is only there so that such things may exist, so that witness may be borne to their eternal significance, so that there may always be people who really and seriously believe that these gifts here on earth and hereafter in eternity are more important than anything else. It remains true, of course, that men are frequently required to do these apparently small things of eternity among apparently greater temporal matters. And it is true that what has been said must not be made a pretext and easy excuse for narrow-minded mediocrities who lack this and that quality but flatter themselves that they are citizens of heaven because they are simply second-class citizens and philistines on this earth, and who want to award the “common man” a halo that he doesn’t deserve in a matter where a more aristocratic awareness of difference of level and achievement would be more authentically human.

Of course, if it were a question of writing a history of the charismatic element in the Church, one would have to speak more explicitly than has so far been done here about the great spiritual gifts, about the great saints in whose creative example quite new possibilities of Christian life can be seen; about the great figures of Church history who walked like true guides and shepherds before the people of God on its journey through this world of time and led it into new historical epochs, often without realizing themselves what they were doing, like Gregory the Great who himself was expecting the end of the world and yet became the father of the Middle Ages in the West. Of the great thinkers and writers, too, who took up again the ancient Christian view of life and succeeded in so expressing it that a new age could make that Christianity its own. And the great artists who did not speak about the religion in which God became a man of this earth, but gave it visible shape, representing it in ever new forms and so actually and concretely represented something which, without such corporeal embodiment, only too easily asphyxiates in the mere depths of conscience or evaporates as it were into unreality in the abstractions of the mind. In other words, one would have to speak of all in the Church who had a special, unique historical mission of great import for the Church and through her for the world. It goes without saying that no detailed account can be given here of all these great charismata.

Now, to add another fundamental observation, these charismata are not only properties of the Church’s essence which only the eye of faith perceives (all the charismata are that), but they are also criteria that convince and lead to faith, by which the Church is to be recognized as a work of God. This is not the place to go into the difficult question, one of the most important questions of Fundamental Theology, how and on what presuppositions such criteria of true belief can be recognized by human reason, which, in faith, has to perform a “reasonable service”, rationabile obsequium. What is the role and scope of reason and of deliberate reflection expressible in rational terms; what is the function of grace; how do the light of faith and rational grounds of faith mutually support one another in the actual accomplishment of faith? This general problem has a particular application here from the fact that the charismatic element in the Church is not only an object of faith but by its plenitude and enduring presence and its perpetually renewed vitality, can be a motive of faith. Here we can only stress this fact. The first Vatican Council, taking up a thesis of Cardinal Deschamps, emphasizes (Den-zinger, 1794) that “The Church herself is a great and enduring motive of credibility and an irrefutable testimony to her divine mission by her wonderful growth, eminent holiness and inexhaustible fruitfulness in all good, and by her Catholic unity and unshakable stability.” By the nature of the case this implies that the great charismata of the Church in her temporal and spatial unity and totality, in which these gifts appear to the gaze of the unprejudiced as a special characteristic of hers, are not only an object of faith but also a motive of faith.

Of course, the use of this motive of faith in apologetics is not perfectly easy. The matter cannot, however, be pursued here. We discern the limits of something that was emphasized earlier, that there are gifts of the Spirit even outside the one visible Church. What we have said does not, however, mean that the situation of the Church is simply the same as that of the Christian and non-Christian world outside the Church. The eye of faith and the human mind seeking faith with the support of grace can recognize that the charismata which are found everywhere have, nevertheless, in the Church their home and native air and their most intense historical development, because more than any other historical entity she proves herself to be, again and again and ever anew, the Church of the great charismata.

5. The Consequences

a. Toleration of a charisma by official authority

If the structure of the Church is of this double kind and if her harmonious unity is ultimately guaranteed only by the one Lord, then office-holders and institutional bodies must constantly remind themselves that it is not they alone who rule in the Church. We have already sufficiently emphasized that God’s Spirit will ensure that they do not rule in that way and in decisive matters will not wish to do so. But this fact in no way means that temptations to the contrary never arise or that such a maxim is superfluous because its final accomplishment is guaranteed. Neither the efficacious grace given in God’s salvific acts nor the indefectible promise to the Church of the assistance of the Holy Spirit renders such a maxim superfluous. It is important for office-holders and their subjects, too, to keep it clearly before their minds. Both must realize that in the Church which has this charismatic element, subordinates are quite definitely not simply people who have to carry out orders from above. They have other commands as well to carry out, those of the Lord himself who also guides his Church directly and does not always in the first place convey his commands and promptings to ordinary Christians through the ecclesiastical authorities, but has entirely reserved for himself the right do this directly in a great variety of ways that have little to do with keeping to the standard procedure and the “usual channels”.

In the Church there are not only movements that have to owe their origin to higher authority in order to be legitimate. The official hierarchy must not be surprised or annoyed if there is stirring in the life of the spirit before this has been scheduled in the Church’s ministries. And subordinates must not think they have nothing definite to do until an order is handed down from above. There are actions that God wills even before the starting signal has been given by the hierarchy, and in directions that have not yet been positively approved and laid down officially. Canon law concerning equity and the force of custom contra or praeter legem might be thought out from the point of view of this charismatic element in the Church. By such concepts canonists not only leave legitimate room for humanly significant development in the law, but also for the impulse of the Spirit, even if and in spite of the fact that these points in the Church’s body can also, of course, become the focus of infection by the all-too-human element. Executive authority in the Church must, therefore, always cultivate the awareness that it is not, and may not be, the self-sufficient planner, as though in a totalitarian system, of all that is done in the Church. It must keep alive the consciousness that it is a duty and not a gracious condescension when it accepts suggestions from “below”; that it must not from the start pull all the strings; and that the higher and, in fact, charismatic wisdom can sometimes be with the subordinate, and that the charismatic wisdom of office may consist in not shutting itself off from such higher wisdom. Ecclesiastical authority must always realize that a subject’s duty of obedience, and the fact that such authority has competence to determine what its competence is, neither makes the subordinate devoid of rights as against authority, nor guarantees that every action of authority in the individual case is correct and the one willed by God.

b. The “democratic” Church

Seeing that there is a divinely-willed dualism of charisma and office of a permanent kind in the Church, then, the “monarchical” Church, with its authority deriving from above downwards, has, nevertheless, also something of the nature of a democracy—the opposite of a totalitarian system. The name does not matter and nowadays to some people the word democracy will not seem a special title of honour, seeing that everybody everywhere is supposedly in favour of democracy even if we in the West use it to mean precisely the opposite of what is called by that name elsewhere. But if we do consider what ultimately constitutes a democracy, it is, of course, not a voting paper in everybody’s hand (for those voting papers when collected together can be very tyrannical), but a society where no single authority holds all power combined, where there is a plurality of really distinct powers, so that the individual always knows he is protected to some extent by one from the excessive power of the other. In this sense every healthy state has been a pluralist state and consequently to that extent democratic. Under any constitution such a concentration of power can occur that, in fact, freedom is abolished, though that is not to say that it is equally easy, whatever the written constitution, for freedom to be abolished by a monopoly of power.

This helps us to a better grasp of what characterizes the Church’s constitution. It is “undemocratic” because her office and authority, being founded directly by God himself, have for mankind final jurisdiction in their own domain. There is no absolute right to resistance or need for it in that domain, because God himself guarantees that the authority will not abuse its formal right in a materially decisive way. But there is not on that account in the Church any absolute monopoly of real power at any one point, that is, in this case, in her hierarchy. Not because that sort of thing is, in fact, never altogether feasible (it is not so even in the cruellest and most ruthless tyranny), but because it is contrary to the very nature and purpose of the Church as embodied in her ministry itself. This does not aim even on principle and in intention at gathering to itself all real influence. It sets limits to itself and this limitation which allows due scope to other forces of a non-official kind is itself guaranteed by God. To that extent, therefore, the Church is a hierarchical system, but only because its summit is God, and likewise a system in which power and authority are distributed, that is, a sort of democracy though of its own special kind.

From what has been said it is clear that even in the Church, something can originate from among the people. Not from the people of this earth merely, but from the people of God in the Church, the people of God that is guided directly by God. Con sequently there is also quite rightly something in the Church of the nature of a popular element. A religious study of this popular element that regarded itself as a genuinely theological study could begin at this point to define its nature and importance. To the extent that the host of believers, where it is united in heart and soul, can be the point of entry for guidance from above, it is possible in certain circumstances to discern the Spirit of the Church in it and in what it does and feels. It, of course, remains true and goes without saying that this people is the people of God, existing in the society of the Church organized by Christ, and consequently can never stand in fundamental contradiction to the ecclesiastical authority which gives it social form and structure. There have repeatedly been times in the Church’s history, the eighteenth century Enlightenment, for example, when many a gift of God’s Spirit to his Church was better preserved by this simple and prayerful people than by many of the “princes of the Church”.

c. Inevitable disagreement in the Church

If by her very nature there is necessarily a multiplicity of impulsions in the Church, then a legitimate opposition of forces is not only, in fact, unavoidable, but is to be expected and must be accepted by all as something that should exist. It is not just to be regarded as a necessary ‘evil. Only impulses that in the human sphere flow from a single source cannot be felt to be “dialectical”, opposed. But when in the Church’s case various influences flow from God into the Church, some through the ministry, others directly to members of the Church who hold no office, it is clear that God alone can fully perceive the mean of special gifts cannot be abolished. ing, direction and divinely-willed purpose of these. If for no other reason than that man, being finite even as a member of the Church, makes his plans in relation to what he cannot foresee. A number of forces like this within the Church here on earth must be felt by human beings themselves as disparate and opposed, precisely because they are unified by God alone. Of course, it is true, as Paul says, that the various gifts of the one Spirit must work together harmoniously in the unity of the one Body of Christ. But since the gifts are one in the one Spirit but do not form one gift, that unity of the Body of Christ itself is only fully one in the one Spirit. For the rest it is true that no one singly forms the whole. No one has every function. Whatever the breadth and the will to wholeness, to understanding, to assimilation, the plurality Ultimately only one thing can give unity in the Church on the human level: the love which allows another to be different, even when it does not understand him. This makes it more understandable that charity is not only present in the Church as though in a container, but itself belongs to the actual constitutive elements of the Church, in contradistinction to all other societies. For only then can the Church be one in spite of her dual structure. The principle that charity brings with it implies that each in the Church may follow his spirit as long as it is not established that he is yielding to what is contrary to the Spirit; that, therefore, orthodoxy, freedom and goodwill are to be taken for granted and not the opposite. Those are not only selfevident human maxims of a sensible common life built on respect and tolerance for others, but also principles which are very deeply rooted in the very nature of the Church and must be so. For they follow from the fact that the Church is not a totalitarian system. Patience, tolerance, leaving another to do as he pleases as long as the error of his action is not established—and not the other way round, prohibition of all individual initiative until its legitimacy has been formally proved, with the onus of proof laid on the subordinate—are, therefore, specifically ecclesiastical virtues springing from the very nature of the Church. We have an example of this attitude in the Codex Iuris Canonici, canon 1323, § 3: It must be proved not presumed that a theological proposition has been solemnly defined.

We must learn, then, even as members of the Church, to let others be, even when we do not understand them, even when one has the “feeling” that they don’t think as one “really” should, that is, according to one’s own particular dispositions. It follows that there must be schools and trends in theology, in the spiritual life, in church art and in pastoral practice. Anyone who does not admit this is tacitly asserting that there could be a place in the Church from which all those matters were directed in detail, authoritatively, in a way binding on all and in all, so that all other persons would be merely the executors (and of a most passive and repetitive sort) of quite definite detailed views and commands. But that is just what is not the case. Even in theology it is not so; even, that is, in theory, which after all is more susceptible of unanimity than practical matters are. Of course, there are always naive and over-enthusiastic souls whose secret wish and ideal is, in fact, represented by what the opponents of papal infallibility at the time of the first Vatican Council always painted on the wall of their untheological imaginations as a nightmare danger, namely that the infallible pope might simply settle al1 theological questions by his infallible pronouncement. One should ask oneself for once just why, strictly speaking, that really will not do, seeing that after all he has authority for something of the sort. If one attentively considers the simple and rather foolish question, one realizes that it is really the case, as we noted above, that the plenary powers of the highest authority in the Church, which are not subject to the check of any other human court of appeal, are not by any means the whole source from which, and in accordance with which, that highest authority acts. There belongs to it too the assistance of the Holy Spirit, which cannot be completely expressed in juridical terms, and his guidance in the actual exercise of those plenary powers. Moreover, in the present case it has to be noted too that human truth in fact is of such a kind that even in theology to settle one question, even correctly, raises three new questions that remain to be settled. Only simple-minded people fail to realize that, and think the pope, if he were only willing, could change dogmatic theology into a collection of defined propositions. For that matter it is only necessary to glance into Church history to see that there has never been a trend in the Church which in the long run was wholly and solely right and triumphed to the exclusion of all others. And trends or programmes only put themselves completely in the wrong when they put themselves outside the Church in schism. One alone has always been completely right, the one Lord of the Church who, one in himself, has willed the many opposing tendencies in the Church.

What has been said would be quite misunderstood if anyone drew the conclusion that everything in the Church must be left to go its way, that no one may have the courage to offer opposition to another trend in the Church, to utter warnings against it, to challenge it to real and serious combat. Such a view would, of course, amount to denying that the different kinds of movements and tendencies truly do develop within the one Church so that each must be balanced by the others. It would also involve maintaining that no tendencies can appear iI1 the Church except as a gift of the Holy Spirit. But this is false. So we must also be able to have the courage (for this can be the precise function given by the Spirit to a particular member of the Church), to say No in the Church, to make a stand against certain trends and spirits, even before the official hierarchy itself has been alarmed. In fact, such a protest can be God’s means of rousing his ministers to act. One must have this courage, even if one must tell oneself, knowing the limits of one’s own judgment, that probably the further history of the Church will show that one was not entirely right, that one was only one servant among many of the one Lord of the Church, and not the only one to represent him, in fact, that the Lord was also acting in that other person whom one had the task of putting in his place, and convincing of his limitations.

d. The burden of a charisma

That is why a charisma always involves suffering. For it is painful to fulfil the task set by the charisma, the gift received, and at the same time within the one body to endure the opposition of another’s activity which may in certain circumstances be equally justified. One’s own gift is always limited and humbled by another’s gift. Sometimes it must wait until it can develop until its kairos, its hour has come, when that of another has passed or is fading. This painful fact is to be viewed soberly as an inevitable consequence of there being one Church and many gifts. If the words are taken seriously and not emptied of meaning, “many gifts” implies that one person has a gift that another has not. How could that other person show an understanding of a gift that is only possible to its possessor who is called to exercise that precise function in the Church? Even supposing we had all the goodwill and tolerance that we could or should have, it would still not be possible to show another and his gift and task that understanding and enthusiasm which he expects and is tempted to claim his mission justifies and requires. Outside the Church the man with a mission may, of course, be misunderstood and persecuted, but he can flee to those who esteem him and recognize his mission and a community can be founded and centred on this mission. In the Church this is only possible to a much more limited extent, for example by the founding of an order or similar social structures in the Church which are legitimate and derive part of their meaning and justification from this need for social response to a new mission. In general someone in the Church who bears the burden of a charismatic mission to the Church and for the Church, must remain in the circle of his brethren. They will tolerate him when things go well but perhaps reject him and in any case show little understanding of him. The authenticity of a charisma, which after all is for the Church and into the Church, not out of her, is shown by the fact that the person so endowed bears humbly and patiently this inevitable sorrow of his charismatic endowment, builds no little chapel for himself inside the Church in order to make things more tolerable, does not become embittered but knows that it is the one Lord who creates a force and resistance to it, the wine of enthusiasm and the water of sobriety in his Church, and has given to none of his servants singly the task of representing him.

Two observations must be made on this theme of the burden of a spiritual gift in the Church. One is, that to suffer opposition to the charisma within the Church is no proof against the mission from above and the authenticity of the gift. Certainly the Church has the right and duty of discernment of spirits even to the point of completely rejecting a claim that this or that spirit is from God. But that does not mean that every contradiction, delay, distrust that is aroused in the Church or her authorities against a charisma is itself a sign that this prophet has not been sent by Yahweh. The criteria for distinguishing between the legitimate opposition of the Church to a deceitful spirit and false enthusiasm on one hand, and the painful resistance of the Church to the mission of her own Spirit in a true “prophet” on the other, are known in their main features and need not be expounded in more detail here. They are the rules which the Church and her theology lay down regarding her teaching authority, its various levels and their binding force, and the equally discriminating rules about ecclesiastical obedience. In this respect another thing must be said. To apply these rules correctly in more difficult cases is itself a charisma, a special gift. For who can tell always and at once, precisely and definitely, when self-defence of a charismatic mission against the mistrust, difference or hesitation of holders of ecclesiastical office, or even against their actual opposition, is a sign of higher charismatic insight and fidelity to his own mission, and when an attitude of illegitimate revolt against ecclesiastical authority? Why, for example, were the Jesuits right in acting as they did when they resisted Pius V’s attempt to impose solemn choir-office on them? Why were they not breaking their own rules of thinking with the Church? Why was it a praiseworthy action on the part of the representatives of devotion to the Sacred Heart not to allow themselves to be put offby the rejection which they first met with from the Holy See? How often can one really remonstrate with the competent authority with petitions, pressure and so on, without by that very fact offending against the ecclesiastical spirit? When is as minimizing an interpretation as possible of an ecclesiastical prohibition, in order to continue to preserve as much room and freedom of movement for an endeavour that has the appearance of contradicting it, quite definitely compatible (as even the practice of the saints shows), with an ecclesiastical spirit, and when not? Such questions show (and that was their only purpose here), that it can itself be a special gift given only to the humble and brave, obedient yet independent and responsible saint, to discern where the burden of opposition to a mission is the cross which blesses a genuine mission and where it is a proof that the endeavour has not its origin in God. There too it is clear that it is not possible completely to comprise in plain rules of law the stirrings of the Church’s life, that a charismatic element remains.

The second thing to be said about the burden of a charisma is that the inner necessity that links charisma and suffering in the Church, of course gives no patent to the authorities, and others devoid of special gifts, to be lacking in understanding, and blind and obstinate. Sometimes one has the impression that there are people in the Church who infer from Gamaliel’s words (Acts 5:38ff.), that the authenticity of the Spirit is shown by its not being extinguished by the most frivolous and malicious opposition from other people, and that consequently they have the right to put the spirit to the test on the largest possible scale. Of course, it is not possible to extinguish the Spirit in the Church, God sees to that. But it is quite possible for a human being by his sloth and indifference and hardness of heart to extinguish a true spirit in another. Not only is it possible for grace to be without fruit in the person for whom it is intended, through his own resistance, but it can be given to someone for another’s benefit—it is then called gratia gratis data or charisma—and remain without fruit because rejected by the person for whom it was given, although it was faithfully received by the one who received it on another’s behalf. We must not be Jansenists in our doctrine of the charismata, either, and hold that all these special gifts must be given as gratiae efficaces, infallibly producing their effect. There are also gifts which through men’s fault remain without effect for the Church. Gamaliel for that matter drew from his maxim the contrary conclusion to that of the people we have in mind. He inferred that one must be as tolerant as possible towards a spirit whose origin one cannot yet clearly make out. Ecclesiastical authorities cannot, therefore, do wrong on the grounds that a spirit will triumph in the end even against their opposition, if it really comes from God. Otherwise they cause suffering beyond what is unavoidable, do wrong to God, to those endowed with spiritual gifts and to the Church.

Anyone even slightly familiar with the history of the Church knows of sufficient examples of suffering of that kind by those gifted by the Spirit. St.John of the Cross was thrown into a horrible dungeon by his own brethren, St. Joan of Arc died at the stake, Newman lived for years under a cloud, Sailer of Ratisbon was denigrated in Rome by another saint, Clement Maria Hofbauer, and only became a bishop when it was really too late, Mary Ward was for a long time in the custody of the Inquisition and yet, of course, she was right about her mission, nevertheless. In the controversy about the nature of the love of God, Fenelon was disavowed, not without reason, by Rome, but his adversary Bossuet who seemed to have triumphed was not much nearer the truth than his less powerful opponent. In her foundations St.Teresa of Jesus, certainly to her great sorrow, had to undergo much persecution on the part of ecclesiastics, and use a lot of ingenuity and ruse in order to succeed. From the beginning of the Church down to the present day there have been great and small instances, of these and similar kinds, of the sufferings of the charismatic individual, and there will continue to be. They are unavoidable. They belong to the inescapable “necessity” of suffering by which Christ continues to suffer in his members until the end. And he willed that these his members should also causeone another to suffer.

e. The courage to receive new gifts

A final remark by way of conclusion. One must learn to perceive such charismata when they first appear. Jesus himself observed that the children of those who killed the prophets put up monuments to them, but this did not reconcile him to the prophets’ fate. It is good and has its uses if the prophets are renowned and canonized when they are dead and their charisma has been officially recognized. But it is almost of greater importance to perceive such gifts of the Spirit on their first appearance, so that they may be furthered and not choked by the incomprehension and intellectual laziness, if not the ill-will and hatred, of those around them, ecclesiastics included. That is not very easy. For the institution is always the same and develops, to the extent that it does develop, from the palpable, unambiguous principles it embodies from the outset—though this is not to dispute the creative and spontaneous element even in the juridical development of the Church, at least in its ius humanum But the charismatic is essentially new and always surprising. To be sure it also stands in inner though hidden continuity with what came earlier in the Church and fits in with her spirit and with her institutional framework. Yet it is new and incalculable, and it is not immediately evident at first sight that everything is as it was in the enduring totality of the Church. For often it is only through what is new that it is realized that the range of the Church was greater from the outset than had previously been supposed. And so the charismatic feature, when it is new, and one might almost say it is only charismatic if it is so, has something shocking about it. It can be mistaken for facile enthusiasm, a hankering after change, attempted subversion, lack of feeling for tradition and the well-tried experience of the past. And precisely those who are firmly rooted in the old, who have preserved a living Christianity as a sacred inheritance from the past, are tempted to extinguish the new spirit, which does not always fix on what is most tried and tested, and yet may be a holy spirit for all that, and to oppose it in the name of the Church’s Holy Spirit, although it is a spiritual gift of that Spirit.

(1) E. A. Allo, Premiere Epitre aux Corinthiens (Paris, 1935), pp. 317-388; B. Marechaux, Les charismes du St. Esprit (Paris, 1921); D. Th. C. IV, 1728-1781; D. B. Suppl. I, 1233-47; H. J. Brosch, Charismen und Amter in der Urkirche (Bonn, 1951); O. Karrer, Um die Einheit der Christen (Frankfurt, 1953), pp. 50-90

(2) In H. Haag, Bibellexikon (Einsiedeln, 1951), we read, col 541: “Yet the gifts of the Spirit do not belong to the essence of the Church. This is not primarily charismatic but institutional, that is to say, built up on the apostles and their authority.” One can see that the pope is after all more “progressive” than a progressive biblical dictionary of this sort. can that objectively false statement really be justified by saying that it presupposes a more restricted conception of the charismata than ours,

(3) See K. Rahner, Gefahren im heutigen Katholizismus (Einsiedeln, 31955), pp. 11-38: Der Einzelne in der Kirche.

(4) See on this point K. Rahner, Schriften zur Theologie III (Einsiedeln, 1956), p. 429


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