What does a charismatic do with 160 million Roman Catholics? Whilst that may sound like the start of a joke, it is actually an important question. It is a question posed by the existence of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, a movement within the church of Rome purported to comprise some 160 million members in 2013, and which practices the charismatic gifts of prophecy, healing and tongues. The dilemma which this movement presents for charismatics arises from two issues; firstly the charismatic propensity of making the outward manifestation of the supernatural gifts the sure evidence of the infilling or baptism of the Holy Spirit, and secondly the existence of those same supposed gifts within the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
The general view within Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement has always been that the sign gifts, particularly speaking in tongues, are the evidence of a person being baptised with the Holy Spirit. These same manifestations however exist within the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in a form which is identical with, or indistinguishable from, that evidenced by Protestant charismatics. How can this problem be answered by a charismatic who would not normally recognise the Church of Rome as an orthodox form of Christianity? Either he must accept that the Roman Catholics who exhibit these signs are also saved and filled with the spirit, or he must reject their tongues, miracles and other manifestations as being counterfeit.
If his answer be the first option then he has a huge problem, or rather 160 million of them. Will he really suggest that millions of devout Roman Catholics are actually saved, despite the heretical teaching of their church on the doctrine of salvation. It is important to understand that the Roman Catholics who manifest these signs have not come to a place where they question the teaching of their church, rather many of them declare that their charismatic experience has given them a greater appreciation of the mass, and made them more devoted to Mary. Are they perhaps somehow converted but simply not aware of it? The scripture knows of no such concept and to argue for 160 million such cases is absurd. This is not a few people scattered here and there, believing something other than their church's official teaching on the doctrine of salvation. Those within the Catholic Charismatic Renewal are most certainly Roman Catholic in the fullest sense, still lost in the superstition of their church, and not true converts who have yet to see the error of their system.
If the charismatic then chooses to reject the Roman Catholic's manifestations as counterfeit (as he ought) he still has a problem, for they show no difference to his own. The tongues sound the same, so how then can he reject theirs and not his own? Is the charismata of the Roman Catholic only a counterfeit? If so can he then point to the distinguishing marks of his own tongues and healing which might show his to be different and more genuine than theirs? If he argue that he can accept one and not another based on his personal knowledge of the testimony and theological orthodoxy of the person involved then he only adds another layer of subjectivity to the already subjective charismatic experience. If he can readily dismiss the claims of a Roman Catholic charismatic in this way, how then How can he complain when a cessationist does the same with his claims? If he can declare a Roman Catholic's sign gifts not to be genuine, then how can we not do likewise with the tongues and healings of regular pentecostals, particularly as they both exhibit the same lack of equivalency with the gifts that are found in the New Testament.
When considered logically the honest charismatic must feels himself to be tied in knots over this matter. If he is faithful to the Protestant faith then he knows Rome to be wrong, and so must somehow subjectively reject its signs whilst being certain of his own identical claims. The charismatic's best option when faced with this Roman dilemma is not the acceptance of the papist's claim, nor the inconsistent rejection of it whilst accepting this own. Rather it is to understand that the gifts of tongues, healing and prophecy have ceased, a matter to which church history clearly attests. 1st Corinthians 13:8-10 states that' Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.'