Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

From the April AD 2003
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

    Question: Certain Catholic friends are telling me that is necessary to be baptized a second time. Does this have something to do with the "Born Again Christians," and is it a part of Catholic teaching?

    Answer: Baptism imparts an indelible character to the soul that cannot be removed -- and once received validly it is impossible to receive the Sacrament a second time. Most Catholics are baptized as infants, but the age at Baptism is immaterial. Some Protestant denominations claim that Baptism requires the assent of an adult intellect, but this reflects a view in which the Sacrament reduced to a ceremony that has no real effect in itself, but merely demonstrates the faith held by the recipient. The Catholic teaching is that the Sacraments have power in themselves to bring about the graces which they signify. An infant (or a retarded adult) can place no internal intent to reject the Sacrament, so it is effective as long as it is validly conferred.

    Confirmation can loosely be called "Baptism with the Holy Ghost," and might therefore be referred to, somewhat inaccurately, as a "second Baptism." But here again, the age at which Confirmation is received is immaterial -- the Sacrament is effective as long as no obstacle is placed to receiving it. The Sacrament conveys an increase of sanctifying grace, the strengthening of our faith, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost:

Wisdom to direct our lives to God
Understanding to know the mysteries of faith
Counsel to warn us of dangers to our salvation
Fortitude strength to do the will of God
so we may discover the will of God
Piety to love and obey God
Fear of the Lord so we may dread sin.1

    In the early Church, when our numbers were small, after a period of study and probation called the catechumenate, Christians were baptized and confirmed in the same ceremony by the local bishop. When Catholicism became legal and began to flourish shear numbers and distances made it impossible for everyone to be baptized by the bishop. This difficulty was multiplied when Christianity became the almost universal religion of Europe and infants could be baptized with the relative certainty of their being raised in the Faith. For the most part infants and adults began to be baptized by their parish priest, with Confirmation waiting until an opportune visit by the bishop. (In the Eastern Catholic Churches priests continued the practice of Confirming immediately after Baptism, although only with Chrism consecrated by the bishop.)

    The folks to whom you referred may be members of a Pentecostal denomination, or may be Catholics who have adopted the errors of one of the Pentecostal or Charismatic movements. We will put this in historical perspective in a moment, but Pentecostalism is generally a phenomenon of the mid to late 1800s -- created by Protestants who recognized no Sacrament of Confirmation, and had no priests or bishops to confer it -- but who recognized that our Lord had promised to send the Holy Ghost to His followers, and had visibly done so in several instances recorded in the Scriptures. The Pentecostal "Baptism of the Holy Ghost" usually takes the form of a laying on of hands by a lay minister or group of believers -- it is generally expected to be accompanied by dramatic emotional or physical reactions in the recipient. "Some went into cataleptic trances, others contracted the 'jerks', laughed the 'holy laugh,' babbled in unknown tongues, or got down on all fours and barked like dogs to 'tree the devil.'"2 The unknown tongues are often not real languages like those of the Bible, and sometimes sound quite unholy or contrived. And the physical manifestations are not a one time occurrence like the Sacrament of Confirmation, but may be repeated with some frequency. It is impossible to pinpoint a "founder" of the Pentecostal movement but the origins seem to be in the Methodist "Holiness" movement along the US frontier. Charles Grandison Finney (Western New York, c.1821); and Charles F. Parham (Topeka, Kansas, c.1900) are named among the early preachers of the movement.3

    Just before His ascension into heaven our Lord commissioned the Apostles to:

    Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you.... He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned. And these signs shall attend those who believe: in my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak in new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it will not hurt them; they shall lay hands upon the sick and they shall get well.4

    The Pentecostal claim is to continuity with these signs promised to the Apostles, and with the phenomena associated with the descent of the Holy Ghost on Pentecost and described elsewhere in the New Testament (chiefly in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles to the Corinthians), but the facts hardly support the claim. The physical effects of the Holy Ghost, called "charismata" or "charismatic gifts," seem always to convince people (usually Jewish) of the truths of the Faith, or of some aspect of it. At Pentecost the Holy Ghost descended on those in the Upper Room, waiting as they had been ordered by our Lord ten days earlier at His Ascension.5 The physical phenomena -- the sound of a violent wind, and tongues of fire -- were external to the recipients, and the speaking in tongues seems to have been a gift given more to the hearers -- "devout Jews" who "heard, each in his own language in which he was born," than to the preachers.6

    The deacon Philip preached in Samaria, worked miracles, converted many Samaritans to the Faith, and baptized them. Yet the Samaritans did not receive the Holy Ghost until the Apostles Peter and John came to visit the new Christians. (Deacons may baptize but are unable to confirm, and Philip is just later seen to baptize but not confirm an Ethiopian dignitary.) Apparently there was some external sign of the Sacrament being conferred by John and Paul, but as the Samaritans had already been converted there was no speaking in tongues reported.7

    The first Gentiles (non-Jews) to be baptized represented a problem for Peter who was only beginning to understand that one might become a Christian without first being a Jew. Being accustomed to the idea that only Jews were God's chosen people, the Jewish Peter required convincing -- which the Holy Ghost provided by coming upon Cornelius and his household, causing them to speak in tongues, and thereby convincing Peter of the truth that Gentiles might be baptized as well as Jews.8

    Paul wrote his letter to the largely Jewish (and rather unruly) community at Corinth (cf. Acts xviii) to correct abuses in their practice of the Faith. Among other things, he urged that any sort of charismatic activity must be directed to the edification of the church; either by prophecy in plain language for believers, or in tongues with interpretation for nonbelievers. Realistically, he warned that an assembly speaking in tongues is apt to convince a newcomer of the assembly's madness. If there were no interpreter for the two or three who might be prompted to speak in tongues they were simply to remain silent. "God is a God of peace, not of disorder."9 Paul was not praising the Corinthians for speaking in tongues, telling them, rather, that they might do so only with the greatest moderation, or not at all.

    Paul went on to Ephesus, were he baptized and confirmed about a dozen Jews who had been instructed by Apollos, who knew only of the baptism of John. Not surprisingly, the men spoke in tongues when they received the Holy Ghost, and Paul remained there for three months preaching in their synagogue.10

    Paul spoke of prophecies disappearing and tongues ceasing and knowledge being destroyed -- but it is not exactly clear when these things would happen and for whom.11  He may well have meant for everyone, perhaps at the particular or the general judgment. But he might just as well have meant to say that these things would cease for his Jewish converts in Corinth when the Church had been more fully established and organized -- perhaps in 70 AD when the Temple had been destroyed as our Lord predicted, "until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled," when the general judgment would get underway.12 And perhaps not coincidentally, we hear no more in Scripture of speaking in tongues after Paul's stay in Ephesus around 53 AD -- not even in the writings of Saint John, who is regarded as the most mystical of the Apostles.

    Pope Clement, writing to settle a division among the unruly Corinthians about 95 AD suggested that their charismatic gifts were a thing of the past: "the reward was a deep and shining peace, a quenchless ardor for well-doing, and a rich outpouring of the Holy Ghost upon you all. You were full of aspirations to holiness...."

    With the death of Saint John, the last Apostle, in about the year 100, public revelation came to an end.13  We hear very little of charismatic gifts after this year.

    Ignatius of Antioch (d. 116) says nothing of tongues in his epistle to the Ephesians, and speaks only generally of the gifts of the Holy Ghost in other writings, notably an epistle to Saint Polycarp and one to the Church at Smyrna. We find no mention of charismata in the writings of Polycarp or Saint Cyprian of Carthage.

    Saint Irenæus of Lyons (d. c.202) does write of healings, prophecies, and tongues, but he is clearly citing hearsay testimony.14  The healings he mentions are in response to public prayer, rather than to charismatic healers going about the countryside; the "tongues" appear to be languages learned with the help of God. It is possible, too, that Irenæus was "polishing his Church's apple," recounting signs that would have indicated its holiness without bothering to determine that such things were still going on -- the Church of Lyons and others that followed Eastern customs were in trouble with Rome for celebrating Easter on the "wrong" date. And Irenæus did live in fear of persecution (he died a martyr), which seems in Church history to bring out claims of charismatic gifts.

    Saint Justin, Martyr (100-166) is sometimes quoted:

Now, it is possible to see amongst us women and men who possess gifts of the Spirit of God; so that it was prophesied that the powers enumerated by Isaiah would come upon Him, not because He needed power, but because these would not continue after Him....

but it is clear in the context of his dialog with the Jew Trypho that he was writing about the time when Christ was alive.15

    By the fourth century Saint John Chrysostom was able to make the positive statement about the charismatic gifts that "they used to occur, but no longer take place."16  Apparently they ceased a while before he wrote. A bit later, in one of his famous commentaries, Pope Gregory the Great, would teach in the form of a rhetorical question:

    Is it so, my brethren, that because you do not see these signs, you do not believe? On the contrary, they were necessary in the beginning of the Church, for, in order that faith might grow, it required miracles to cherish it withal; just as when we plant shrubs, we water them until we see them thrive in the ground, and as soon as they are well rooted we cease our irrigation.17

    "Holy laughter," barking at trees, and charismatic catalepsy are, of course, mentioned nowhere in Scripture or in the works of the Fathers!

    So, we see that the charismatic gifts were relatively rare in all times (with the exception of their abuse in Corinth), and generally disappeared with the close of public revelation. They seem to have been provided during Apostolic times to get the Church going quickly, and then to have been withdrawn. Of course, God still can and does work miracles, but these are occasional gifts given to few people, and hardly ever a permanent power to be worked at will.

    We also see, however, that charismatic powers like prophecy, healing, and tongues have been claimed by heretics over the centuries. In order to "prove" the Church wrong and themselves right -- to assert the correctness of some neww doctrine(s) at odds with the orthodox Catholic Faith -- heretics have been known to resort to working "signs and wonders." The claim to have a direct line to the Holy Ghost has been advanced by most heresies to make the Church and Her immemorial teachings seem unnecessary, outmoded, or simply wrong. Particularly when the heresy claims previously hidden information, or predicts the imminent end of the world, the Holy Ghost is often said to be its inspiration.

    An early (and colorful) example was the heresy of Montanus, a late second century Christian in Phyrigia. The Montanists' devotion to penance quickly turned to rigorism and then to outright moral excess. Montanus and his followers claimed to have revelations urging even more rigorous penance in preparation for the soon to come end of the world. Montanus claimed to have been overshadowed by the Holy Ghost so as to become greater than the Apostles, and perhaps greater than Christ Himself. One of his many female disciples claimed an apparition of Christ "Herself" in the form of a woman.18  The Montanists eventually petered out as the world unexpectedly failed to end -- but not before recruiting the renowned Tertullian, who had shown so much earlier promise in his defense of the Faith.

    Limited space prohibits a description of the various heresies and heretics claiming charismatic gifts and knowledge directly from the Holy Ghost. The list would certainly include Gnosticism, the writer Origen, Joachim of Flora, the Anabaptists, Ranters and Quakers and Shakers, Camisards, Jansenists, Weslyians, Irvingites, and the Disciples of Christ. Some would include Martin Luther, at least for his emphasis on private interpretation of Scripture through the Holy Ghost, and for preparing the groundwork for future Protestant Pentecostalism. We have already mentioned the Holiness movement above, and other modern day Pentecostals and Charismatics including those of the Novus Ordo ought to be on the list.19

    The voice whispering in Pope John XXIII's ear, taken for that of the Holy Ghost, and saying "ecumenical council" brought about the debacle of Vatican II and its aftermath.20 Only a few years later would Pope Paul VI talk about the "autodemolition of the Church," and observe that "the devil has done it; through some crack the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God."21 Perhaps not surprisingly, Pope John's "voice" and his Council ushered in the unheard of phenomenon of Catholic Pentecostalism.

    We will close with just a few words as to why Pentecostalism represents a great danger to good Christians.

    While God always can and sometimes does work miracles through His followers, they have always been generally rare and hardly ever worked "to order" at the command of the gifted person -- virtually all of the exceptions to this were the work of the Apostles. Pentecostalism, on the other hand, is a mass movement, claiming to work miracles with regularity, often quite apart from the Catholic Church founded by Christ and employing ceremonies and powers unknown to the Church. Such mass movements have their own agendas and expectations of their members -- members who are usually attached to the movement with fervent emotional bonds.

    No one can tell for sure whether a mystical experience is the work of God, the work of the devil, or simply originates in the mind or body of the one experiencing it. The devil will do good works if, eventually, he can cause a soul to do something evil. And self delusion is a common way in which people harm themselves. Moral theologians and spiritual directors are virtually unanimous that no one ought to seek after mystical experiences (some hold that doing so a sin), and that no one ought to act on a purported mystical experience without the advice of his confessor. The local bishop will have to approve before a mystical experience can be made public.

    Given the difficulty of discernment, it is foolish indeed for a person to open themselves up "to the Spirit." God, if He wishes, can act through any obstacle. It is the devil, or our own foolish pride, that require our consent to bring us to perdition. Perhaps it is best to close with the words of our Lord:

There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.22


    1. Cf. Baltimore Catechism#2, Q. 176-184.
    2.  George Brown Tindall, David E. Shi, America: A Narrative History (New York: Norton, 1992), p. 482.
    3.  Ibid., Collier's Encyclopedia, s.v. "Pentecostal Churches" and "Holiness Churches in the United States."
    4.  Matthew xxviii: 18-20; Mark xvi: 16-18.
    5.  Acts i: 4
    6.  Acts ii: 1-21. It is certainly arguable, though, that the gift is to the preacher for the success of his ministry.
    7.  Acts viii: 4-40.
    8.  Acts x: 1-48.
    9.  1 Corinthians xiv: 1-40.
    10.  Acts xviii: 23-28; xix: 1-12.
    11.  1 Corinthians xiii: 8.
    12.  Luke xxi: 24ff.
    14.  Irenaeus, Adversus hæreses, , 2.32.4; 5.6.1; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, V: vii.
    15.  Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, LXXXVIII
    16.  St. John Chrysostom, beginning of Homily XXIX on First Corinthians   See also Homily XXXIV on prophecies disappearing and tongues ceasing and knowledge being destroyed.
    17.  Gregory the Great, commentary on Mark.
    18.  M.L. Cozens, Handbook of Heresies, pp. 24-25.
    19.  A cautious reader might consult the sometimes anti-Catholic work "Encyclopedia of Pentecostal History [200 AD - 1900 AD]"
    20.  Pope John XXIII, Opening Speech to the Council, October 11, 1962
    21.  Pope Paul VI, speech of June 24, 1972.
    22.  Matthew zziv: 24


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