Tuesday, June 7, 2011

You're not speaking in tongues, you're just mumbling

Tuesday in the Pentecost Novena to the Holy Spirit
At charismatic prayer services (whether Catholic or not), it is not at all uncommon to hear individuals “speaking in tongues”. This phenomenon, as expressed in these meetings, is often claimed to involve deep spiritual movements such that the individual speaks almost without control – and by “speaks”, I do not mean to imply any intelligible speech, but rather only to state that the individual will pour forth various audible sounds.
On the other hand, it sometimes happens that this “speaking in tongues” is not claimed to be so much an external movement of the Spirit as a conscious act of the individual. At will, or at least mostly at will, the individual believer who has been “baptized in the Spirit” is purported to be able to “speak in tongues” – but again, this “speaking” is not the articulation of rational dialogue, but only the pronouncement of a random collection of syllables.
Rather than entering into a general discussion of the charismatic renewal (to which I, personally, am quite open; and which I think has helped many people), we will benefit from a consideration of the scriptural account of the charism of tongues. What is speaking in tongues? And ought we to imagine that this phenomenon would be common today?
[for a good discussion of this question from a more personal perspective please see this article from the Catholic Phoenix, which is a blog well worth adding to your regular reading list]

Speaking in languages
It is quite unfortunate that, in modern English-speaking cultures, the etymological link between “tongue” and “language” has been largely forgotten. Any who know the history of the word “language” will recognize the Latin root lingua by way of the Old French langage. Lingua is Latin for both “tongue” and “language, speech” (hence the modern English word, “lingual” as in “of the tongue”).
Hence, the charism “speaking in tongues” may just as easily be called “speaking in languages” – and this is the clear sense given in the Scriptures. By this gift of the Holy Spirit, the apostles and others were able to speak in languages which they did not know. Through this speech, the early Christian missionaries spread the faith to foreign lands with greater ease.
The Greek word used in the New Testament to refer to “speaking in tongues” is glōssa, “tongue” or “language”. This is the word used throughout the Pauline Epistles and also, most notably, in our Savior’s promise of this charism: And these signs shall follow them that believe: […] They shall speak with new tongues (Mark 16:17). Our Lord guarantees this gift together with the commission, Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). Here we witness something of the logic of the gift of tongues: In order that the disciples will be able to more effectively carry out their mission to evangelize all peoples, it will be necessary for them to speak the languages of all peoples. To this end, our Savior promises the gift of languages (or of tongues) to his disciples.
Again, we see this quite clearly in the reference to the miraculous speaking in tongues which occurred after Pentecost. The disciples spoke in tongues, meaning that they spoke in the languages of all those present. For this reason, people were amazed and said, And how have we heard, every man our own tongue wherein we were born? (Acts 2:8)
The apostles and the other disciples in the early Church were not mumbling random syllables when they “spoke in tongues”, rather they were speaking true human languages. These languages were previously unknown to them, but the Holy Spirit infused into their intellects a knowledge of these new tongues so as to be able to speak clearly and fluently to all peoples the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Faulty scriptural references
For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings (Romans 8:26). This passage is often referred to as a scriptural witness to “speaking in tongues”. However, the obvious meaning of the text rules this out: The groanings are unspeakable or unutterable. By their very nature they are not audible, for they are not uttered. The groanings of the Spirit are the deep movements of prayer, which occur within the recesses of the human heart; not external cries of the human tongue.
If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels (I Corinthians 13:1). Some will cite this verse as though the “tongues of angels” were the ramblings of the charismatic prayer groups. On two accounts this is quite silly: First, the speech of angels is entirely mental and inaudible, since they have no bodies but are pure spirits. Second, if the angles were speaking audibly, it certainly would not be a random collection of syllables, but a reasoned discourse. St. Thomas Aquinas, following the tradition (which can be found in works like the glossa ordinaria), believes that the reference to angels can either be understood to refer to those who govern the Church and are particularly entrusted with her missionary activity or to the instructions which men have received through the ministry of angels.
For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is without fruit (I Corinthians 14:14). Ironically, this verse, by which St. Paul criticizes the Corinthians for their excessive fascination with the gift of tongues, is occasionally invoked in defense of the senselessness of the charismatic “speaking in tongues”. It is true, according to St. Paul’s teaching, that the one who speaks in the tongue (and also, at a prayer service, most of those who hear it) will not understand the meaning. However, St. Paul does not state that the words themselves are meaningless, but that the language in which the individual speaks is not known to the hearers (nor even to the speaker). This is why St. Paul states that the gift of tongues is for the barbarian pagans, since by this gift the Christian missionary speaks in the foreign language and proclaims the Gospel with much power.
You’re just mumbling prayers (and that’s ok)
And what does all this mean for the charismatic prayer groups? Nothing too drastic. It is certainly possible to pray by simply muttering random syllables. There are times when even Gregorian chant can seem to approach this (though, in truth, the meaning of the words is essential to praying well with Gregorian chant; it nevertheless is also the case that certain chants are so exquisite as to draw the hearers beyond the words and into a higher realm).
I do not criticize the Catholic Charismatic Renewal for mumbling prayers. I do criticize those who claim that this mumbling (or, sometimes, yelling) is “speaking in tongues”. This common habit of denotation causes great confusion and tends to corrupt the meaning of the Scriptures.
So, to any charismatics who are reading this post: Please feel free to continue to pray as you are, but please stop claiming that this is a “charismatic” prayer or the “gift of tongues” – this mumbling is not the scriptural gift of tongues and, moreover, it is not a “charism” properly so-called. In truth, such sloppy language has done great harm for the charismatic movement, as it has led many Catholics to reject the movement all together.
Do people still speak in tongues today?
On the Vigil of the feast of Pentecost (i.e. Saturday in the Seventh Week of Easter), the Church gives us the following reading from an ancient African author as part of her official prayer (the second reading from the Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours). What is particularly striking about this reading is its highly critical stance toward charismatic movements, which often led to heresy in the early Church (we consider Tertullian and the other Montanists as a good example of this tendency in Africa).
“The disciples spoke in the language of every nation. At Pentecost God chose this means to indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit; whoever had received the Spirit spoke in every kind of tongue. […] It was love that was to bring the Church of God together all over the world. And as individual men who received the Holy Spirit in those days could speak in all kinds of tongues, so today the Church, united by the Holy Spirit, speaks in the language of every people.
“Therefore, if somebody should say to one of us, ‘You have received the Holy Spirit, why do you not speak in tongues?’ his reply should be, ‘I do indeed speak in the tongues of all men, because I belong to the body of Christ, that is, the Church, and she speaks all languages.’ […] This was the way in which the Lord’s promise was fulfilled: No one puts new wine into old wineskins. New wine is put into fresh skins, and so both are preserved. So when the disciples were heard speaking in all kinds of languages, some people were not far wrong in saying, They have been drinking too much new wine. The truth is that the disciples had now become fresh wineskins, renewed and made holy by grace. The new wine of the Holy Spirit filled them, so that their fervor brimmed over and they spoke in manifold tongues. By this spectacular miracle they became a sign of the Catholic Church, which embraces the language of every nation.”
We ought not to hold to the old wineskins (which is the charism of tongues), but rather ought to put the new wine into the new wineskins (which is the new evangelization and the spread of the Church throughout the whole world).

UPDATE: Some readers have rightly pointed out that there are many in the Catholic Charismatic movement who do not call this form of prayer "speaking in tongues", but rather "praying in tongues". I have two comments on this: First of all, I commend these charismatics for trying to make the distinction between their common form of prayer and the charism often active in the early Church. 

Still, I find the expression "praying in tongues" problematic for three reasons: 
1) The thrust of my article is not about the word speaking but about the word in tongues. "Tongues" means "languages", therefore to call the random association of syllables praying in tongues seems to me to be misleading.  
2) If we do decide to call this form of prayer "praying in tongues", we have to stop citing Scripture and comparing it to the phenomenon as it was present in the early Church. St. Paul and St. Luke (in Acts) are writing about speaking in tongues, not praying in tongues.  
3) Finally, "praying in tongues" is not listed among the charisms of the Holy Spirit (either by Scripture or by Tradition). Therefore, even if we call it "praying in tongues", we must also admit that it is not a charism properly so-called. It may still be a valid form of prayer (personally, I think it can be useful at times), but it is not truly "charismatic" prayer. 


James V. Kautz said...

I was raised as an evangelical Protestant with a dash of the charismatic movement but became Catholic when I was 23. Oddly, my own charismatic renewal didn't occur until I was Catholic. My experience with Protestant charismatic groups was that their faith was shallow and easily uprooted, and they also tended to take a hard line against anybody who didn't have the 'gift of tongues.'

I recall one man of Ukrainian background who found himself in the midst of a circle of charismatics praying over him to receive tongues. For whatever reason, the gift was not forthcoming, and the group's prayer was becoming more frantic and more desperate. He became very uncomfortable and wanted to escape, so he closed his eyes, raised his hands, and recited the Our Father in Ukrainian, which he had learned as a child. The group, unfamiliar with his ethnic background, rejoiced and praised God for sending him the gift of tongues.

Another alternative I've learned (on the lighter side) is to mumble the phrase, "Shoulda bought a Honda but I bought a Mitsubishi" over and over.

Nick said...

What about those who intentionally put on a show of speaking in tongues in order to pretend to be filled with the Holy Spirit, like some Protestants and Charismatics do? Are they lying or just foolish? This is something I've never figured out, but do lean toward "lying" when asked my opinion on the subject.

Also, I haven't been to one of the Charismatic meetings, but have seen the bad fruits of them in false prophets and evil movements.

Excluding good fruits, some of the bad fruits include:
- the former spiritual director of Medjugorje
- Marian Movement of Priests, founded by the heretical Father Gobbi (his "locutions" include strange doctrines attributed to the Virgin Mary)
- Intercessors of the Lamb, founded by the disobedient Mother Brown (she encouraged centering prayer and a strange form of exorcism)
- laity blessing people like a priest does, such as in the false apparition of Santa Fe
- demonic activity like "slaying in the Spirit", such as in the false apparition of Bayside

Good fruits are lasting spiritual fruits, such as conversion, prayer, normal Christian life, devotion to the Holy Eucharist, etc. All good is from God, so all praise and glory belongs to God.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Before things get too carried away in this comment box, I would like to assert that I myself am very open to the Catholic Charismatic Movement -- I have seen many good fruits in the lives of individuals.

I do not mean to be criticizing the Charismatic Renewal Movement in general nor to totally reject the charisms all together.

I only wish that people would stop calling it "speaking in tongues", since it is not. If they admitted that they were simply engaging in a highly emotional prayer-style (and stopped butchering the scriptural attestation of the true charism of tongues), I think the movement would be much more approachable and believable.

[therefore, those who totally throw out the Charismatic Movement (and who mock it all together) are taking a far more critical and radical position than I have taken in the article -- and, so long as we discuss in charity, disagreement is fine]

jbalconi said...

In defense of the Charismatics (I have not that gift), I must point out that the group in my parish revived the practice of Adoration. Someday perhaps we'll have Perpetual Adoration.

Dymphna said...

If a person suddenly speaks a different language they may have a gift. If they're just babbling and grunting then they're being silly or hysterical.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting that I came upon this blog post. I just came back from a Charismatic retreat last weekend. I think the babbling is pretty hokey but it was an okay experience as far as retreats go with the usual prayer, praise, small group, mass, adoration etc. However, there were several incidents that were of concern to me:

- Priest grabs base of monstrance still containing the sacred host with one hand without using the humeral veil; places monstrance on small nightstand in middle of circle of chairs almost within arms length to some people

- Priest holds monstrance containing sacred host without humeral veil and holds monstrance 5 inches from a retreat participant's face and has participant place hands onto base of monstrance; makes sign of cross with monstrance without humeral veil right in front of participant's face

Any comments? I was rather offended but trusted the priests and assumed they had special permission.

Anonymous said...


I attend an Assemblies of God Pentecostal church where speaking in tongues occurs. the only thing I have to say is that it is not God. I'm sorry, but it is not the Holy Spirit. Now, I'm not willing to say that completely about Catholic Charismatics, but these guys don't know what they are talking about and talking about it with sincerity doesn't make it so. If it were, then these people would have some sense when it came to wisdom and understanding of the scriptures, but they don't. Case and point: "When we get to heaven, we're going to be rich...we as Christians can do greater things than Jesus (Ref. to Jn 14:12)...If you ask anything from God he will give it to you (in Ref. to material goods and worldly honors, but making no reference to spiritual blessings)...believing that Peter sinned when he and the others chose Judas' successor." This is just a few. Now I know that this person is ignorant, though they have the word pastor in front of their name; all the bible reading in the world can't change that, but why? Because the Holy Spirit is not there. If the same spirit that leads them to speak in these tongues were the "Holy Spirit" don't you think they'd at least be able to speak a shred of truth about Christ and HIs Gospel, but that ain't happening. You'd think that "spirit" in charity would give more than just "tongues," but also a sliver of wisdom and understanding (two gifts from the Spirit as understood by the Catholic Church). So I apologize if I don't bow before the almighty gift of "tongues," because what use is it to speak in tongues if i conclude from my reading the Bible that Jesus was not Divine until after the resurrection (by the way, this was taught be people who spoke in tongues and "prophesied." Look up The Way International), is it really the Holy Spirit from God that is leading me? I just want to say to Satan, good try, but better luck next time.

Anonymous said...

Again, I don't want to knock the Catholic Charismatics, because from what I have seen from them is consistency with Scripture and the teachings of the Church. But what I've seen at other pentecostal meetings is radical even for Tertullian.

Mike X

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

To all "anonymouses",
If you want your comments to be posted in the future, please use some sort of id/tag/pseudonym, at least at the end of your comment.
Like so:

- Reginaldus

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Mike X,
I am very much in agreement with you. I only wish that the Catholic Charismatics would embrace the traditional spirituality in regard to the charisms of the Holy Spirit. As of now, most Catholic Charismatic groups are largely Protestant in their theology and spirituality.

[that said, I see more reverence at Mass at the University of Steubenville than at almost any parish church]

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Anonymous (1:22pm),
Such practices with the monstrance are not envisioned by the Church (the norms are expressed clearly in "Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass" and "Order for the Solemn Exposition of the Holy Eucharist") ... therefore, I cannot see how these practices are not abuses.

To me, there is little difference between parading the monstrance around (in a manner divergent from the Church's norms) and having liturgical dancers up around the altar.
In other words, I think you were right to be offended.

[still, we must not judge the intentions of the priests involved, for they probably do not realize just how far off they really are]

Anonymous said...

I am still a fairly new Catholic but was in the evangelical Charismatic church for over twenty years. All I can tell you is that I have no words to express how happy I am to be (though I still recognize some of them as friends) out of that mass of spiritual confusion. It wasn't all bad but it can't sustain a heart with solid spiritual food for the long term.

Anonymous said...


In all charismatic experiences (which were well guided by orthodox Catholic priests) they have always been very careful to make the distinction between "praying in tongues" and "speaking in tongues." The former occurs when folks pray in tongues, I've been told that they know the subject matter and even could provide what could be for lack of a better term a rough translation of what they're praying. Now "speaking in tongues", which is the topic of this post, is an whole different animal - when you speak in tongues there must, must, be a person present who can interpret tongues because when you speak in tongues it is a message for the community present or possibly an individual present in the community. What St. Paul rebukes in I Corinthians 14 is *speaking* and not understanding.


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

"Praying in tongues" ... fine and good; but they often say "speaking in tongues" ... also, they usually quote various Scripture passages in support of the phenomenon.

"Praying in tongues" is nowhere found in Scripture; that doesn't mean it is wrong ... it just means that they have to stop citing Paul's epistles and the numerous cases of "speaking in tongues" from Acts of the Apostles.

Also, St. Paul does not rebuke "speaking in tongues", he only says that its proper place is in missionary work and not liturgical prayer.

In any case, "praying in tongues" is not a charism ... at least it has never been listed among the charisms in the Catholic spiritual tradition. Therefore, this phenomenon is not really "charismatic prayer" ... it may be fine and good as far as it goes, but we have to recognize what it is and what it isn't.

Dismas said...

If I were ever to receive such a gift, my hope would be the ability to speak and understand Latin.

Maria said...

Didn't the first "pentecostal catholics" come from the laying of the hands of some protestant pentecostals? Did the Catholic Church get his doctrine, and espirituality from the Apostles who got it from Chist himself or can it come from a heretic sect?

Anonymous said...

I just don't get charismatic movements. What works for me is going into my room, closing my door and praying to my Father...like the Our Father for instance? Mt 6:6 I don't see why you need anything like this.

Marko Ivančičević said...

I'm open to CCR too. It actually lighted the fire of fervor for Church. Now i'm a .. well let's say i prefer the Tridentine Rite and that i feel monastic vocation...

Anonymous said...

Will somebody please explain to me Matthew 7, 21-23?

My personal experience is that they feel that because they "have" the Holy Spirit, they can do whatever they please. And this includes divorce and remarriage even without annulment! In my parish most are very well to do, prosperous, annuled and remarried, with maybe one or two older kids.
But oh yes, they all "have" gifts of prophecy, tongues, discernment, healing... You will never hear them talk about the Cross, about bearing the crosses in one's life, about the value of suffering, about the dark night of the soul. It is all healing, prosperity, spiritual experiences and the "joy" that the Spirit gives you. And if you are not happy, there is definitely something wrong with you...
Tell me, who is the spirit that encourages sweeping "annulments" from the pulpit and blatantly refuses to preach indisolubility?
Oh yes, very charismatic, but not eucharistic at all.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but these "charismatics" are simply fruit cakes. The Lord will have you speak in tongues if he sees fit and as Mother Angelica said "if nobody can understand what you're saying, maybe you should just shut up."

You want to be a true, hard core Catholic, get dedicated to the Mass in Latin and have devotion to our Blessed Mother. This is the essence of true Catholicism, not sitting in prayer circle spitting out gibberish.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Ok folks,
I'm serious ... if people don't start using pseudonyms, I am not going to publish their comments on this post.

At least leave a pseudonym at the end of the comment, like so:

- Reginaldus

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

To those anonymouses who are so critical of the Charismatic Movement,

I happen to know of many very disturbing things in very conservative movements ... for example, there is a large homosexual population among those single men who are advocates of the traditional Latin Mass (and I say this as a priest who regularly celebrates the EF).

Every movement has "fruitcakes" and disobedient people ... but there are still plenty of good and faithful charismatic Catholics. I know plenty of people who mumble nonsense in their prayers and are very good Catholics.
In fact, I myself am very open to that form of prayer ... it's just not "speaking in tongues" (and "praying in tongues" is a misleading term to use, imho).

Yes, we all have to live an authentic Christian life; yes, we all have to grow in devotion to the Eucharist and to the traditional practices of Catholic spirituality (especially mortification and mental prayer).
Still, that does not mean that there is no room at all for certain new spiritual expressions ...

On the other hand, I most certainly do sympathize with those who are bewildered by the apparent emotional instability of many "charismatics".

T said...


One point that could be made is that - how is the listener to know the difference between "random nonsense syllables" and prayers in a real foreign language?

A foreign language which I've never learned is going to sound like nonsense syllables to me when someone speaks it. Especially if it is from a language family that has rhythms that are very different than my native language or those I've learned.

In other words, I wouldn't be too hasty to jump to the conclusion that what I was hearing was simply nonsense syllables. That's a hard thing to prove. (And personally, I've heard too many stories of people wandering by when charismatics were praying/speaking in tongues and actually understanding what was being said (when the speaker didn't) to be comfortable dismissing it all out-of-hand as "nonsense syllables").

It is of course almost as difficult to prove it IS a legitimate foreign language. One would have to record it and consult experts. But proving it isn't a legitimate foreign language - might be flat-out impossible. There would always be the chance that it was the one language your experts had never learned anything about. :)

T said...

Another point that is related and might be of interest to those who've mentioned "slaying in the spirit" it's not an either/or between being the Holy Spirit and being a demon.

There are natural explanations. I was reading of some very interesting scientific explanations recently of seemingly "involuntary" behavior that is in fact under the subject's subconscious control and is a result of suggestion (expectation on the part of the subject). When suggestion/expectation was controlled, for the "involuntary" phenomenon disappeared (or became random instead of purposeful).

The experiments were not performed wrt Charismatics and the 'slain in the spirit' phenomenon (it wasn't mentioned or considered), but I immediately saw parallels. For instance, to perform the same experiment with respect to the 'slain in the spirit' phenomenon, one would compare the results at two separate prayer services of new people who did not know anything about Charismatic practices. The first group would experience a prayer service with a pre-service explanation (as is typical at such gatherings) about how some people can expect to be slain in the spirit, not to be afraid, there are catchers behind you and so on and so forth.

The second group would receive no such explanation and as far as possible all visible cues hinting at it would be removed (ie no obvious "catchers" or similar provisions). If there is a natural cause for the phenomenon along the lines mentioned above, the second group would have few to no instances of being 'slain in the spirit' and the first group would have quite a few.

If both groups have similar numbers, only then could one begin to wonder if there was some supernatural cause - and from there wonder whether it was from the Holy Spirit or some other spirit.

J. Proctor said...


I greatly appreciate your careful wording which does not attempt to "not offend" simply, but to speak what you see as the truth without pointed insults...some of the commentators didn't quite get that memo.

In regard to the gift of/praying or speaking in tongues, St. Paul certainly accepted it as a true gift and that it could be accepted in the Church meetings in small quantities (1Cor 14:17) and only if there was an interpreter present. *(opinion:We have no _need_ of this in the liturgy today b/c we have two millenia of Tradition (admittedly, I'm including Scripture here), tradition, history that the Holy Spirit, working through the Church, uses as the common manner of instruction. *In my opinion, this is why the gift of prophecy is also not an active part of the liturgy today.)

Unless I'm misreading your article, you make two main assertions: Tongues have no place in the liturgy; and, What is commonly referred to as "praying/speaking in tongues" simply isn't.
To the first, I would agree completely so long as the gift were not denied to those praying silently after receiving Christ in the Sacrament. "Let each of them keep silence in church and speak to himself and to God." (1Cor 14:28)

To the second, I also give a guarded assent...your explanation/definition of the gift of tongues (languages) seems to be in perfect agreement with St. Paul's. However, I advise a cautious approach to large generalizations. St. Paul definitely accepted prayer from the gift of tongues as a personal prayer and as a personal manner of praise and thanksgiving. He even claimed that he wanted "all to speak in tongues." (1Cor 14:5) Further, in vs 39, the Apostle forbade the forbidding of tongues, but insisted that "all things should be done decently and in order (v.40)."

While there are absolutely those who falsely profess or misuse the gift of tongues, it is a logical fallacy to suggest that the gift isn't real b/c some, even many (it's not my place to suggest a percentage, nor do I have to evidence to do so) of those any of us have seen seem to be falsely professing or misusing a holy gift. I do note that you did not claim that the gift is never real. I just wanted to point out that it can be and we should be encouraging of it...though our greater emphasis should be on the public gifts.

Ricardo Galvan said...

Father, when there is no difference between the Protestant and Catholic "Charismatic" movements, when both claim to have possession of the same "gifts", but yet we know for a fact that the Protestants are heretics, how then do we justify Catholic Charismaticism?

I am fully aware of these people. I used to be ONE OF THEM. I would not go so far as to say they are possessed by demons... but they certainly are possessed with self-delusions and vanity. In the end, all of the "gifts" they claim to have are false. They are manifestations, at best, of their own mental insanities. Flopping on the floors like fishes, speaking in tongues, having visions and prophecies every other day... It's madness, and extraordinarily dangerous.

It is not compatible with Catholicism, which teaches self-control, sobriety, and contemplation... all things the Charismatic movement lacks.

Anonymous said...

@ T (June 7, 2011 9:35 PM)

Studies have been done on the patterns in their speech. Some notable observations include the absence of foreign sounds that would be unknown to the speaker and the almost universal failure of the speech to be identified as any known language.

An appeal to the ignorance of experts strikes me as facile, as it is resorted to by every crank and charlatan.

By the way, I have also heard rumors of people walking by hearing something said in a language they know - but I also heard a rumor about someone who understood Mandarin describe what he heard as something so disturbing that you wouldn't even hear it from a prostitute in the street.

Look up Felicitas D Goodman and William J Samarin for more information, and look up the song "Prisencolinensinainciusol" for an elegant illustration of nonsense posing as language.

- Joe

Anonymous said...

This "movement" is not necessary, to put it in a kind and mild way. It focuses oneself - that is how error and even unholy "spirits" enter.

Adore God and keep The Holt Traditional Catholic Faith, Mass, and Sacraments, doing The Will of The Father, The Teachings of Christ, and The Promptings of The Holy Spirit Who dwells within us and only leaves when we sin.

That is enough.

Stay away from these things of pride which invite "spirits" both unwanted and denied by mumblers.

Barbara Fryman said...

I'm most uncomfortable with the Us vs. Them attitudes with in the Church. I think this article was a beautiful example of clarifying what is faulty with a movement, but doesn't attack the movement itself.

I myself am rather traditional and enjoy a Latin mass if I can find one once in a while, but I have lovely friends who are very into the Praise and Worship type of gatherings. As far as I am concerned that is a testament to the "Many parts, all one body" definition of the Church. As long as their dogma is correct, their hearts are faithful and their purpose is growing in communion with God, I think it can only strengthen us to have different movements in this wonderful faith of ours.

Anonymous said...

My name is Pol Llaunas, I'm a Spanish religion journalist, and also a member of the Charismatic Renewal since 2002.

According to PewForum 2006 great survey in the USA, about 38% of self-defined "charismatics" are also self-defined as Catholics, and about half of self-defined Charismatics "pray in tongues".

I like these link explaining the difference between "speak in tongues" (xenoglosia) and "pray in tongues" (glossolalia, the non-discursive prayer). It is more or less the standard Catholic Charismatic position on this topic.


I completely agree, by my own experience and observation, in the idea of "praying in tongues" as a door to other charisms and gifts.

Maybe in the USA there is some confussion in language and understanding because of the influence of pentecostal evangelics, but in Spain it is quite clear that we "rezamos en lenguas", not "hablamos en lenguas", unless somebody really speaks a non-learned language... something I have never seen.

But people I knew told me of a prayer meeting in which somebody from Andalucia was praying and tongues and then speaking in Basque, a language non related to any other and very difficult to learn. In the room there was a Basque boy who was a protestant and told them, amazed, that the other person was praising to Virgin Mary in Basque!!!

Anonymous said...

Fascinating discussion. I, too, am open to the Charismatic Renewal, although I don't think it's for me.

Regarding the "Gift of Tongues"... I think there is another form of the Gift that we should all pray for every time we encounter someone who needs to talk about something spiritual, emotional, or painful, or who comes to us for advice or comfort. We should quietly, in the privacy of our own mind, ask the Holy Spirit to give us the words this person needs to hear. I can't tell you how many times I have done this, and during the conversation a good thought comes out of my mouth that I had never thought before, and it is indeed what the person needs to hear. And it's all in English!

I know it's not as exciting as the Gift of Tongues in which foreign languages are spoken, but I believe it is just as much the Gift of Tongues, and perhaps it is more appropriate or helpful in today's world than the form described in Scripture.

- Maddog

Anonymous said...

What a refreshing article. It says what I've long thought. I had a friend whose sister kept bugging him and bugging him to go to a charismatic prayer service. Finally, he said he'd go, but if he saw any humbug, he was out of there!

They went in sat down, and some guy came up to the mic and said, "We're going to now practice speaking in tongues. Everyone repeat after me. Butter pecan, butter pecan, butter pecan..." On and on. My friend got up and walked out.

Similarly, my wife went to one of these things. She said people were crawling up and down the aisles barking like dogs and hiking their knees against the pews like they were going to pee like a dog. Needless to say, that was the end of that.

Although the Charismatic movement can be somewhat good as a beginning experience to perhaps get one's spiritual life started, it's very lacking for any long-term spirituality. It's emotion-based, which is unsustainable. It brings you up to this high emotional peak, and just leaves you there. The essence of the spiritual life is service. That never really enters into the equation, though. Without service, there's no point to it.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Regarding the distinction between "speaking" and "praying" in tongues ...

I think that this is an attempt at a helpful move on the part of the charistmatic movement.
Still, the point I have tried to make in the article is that "tongues" means the same as "languages" ... I'm really not sure that "praying in languages" is the best way to think about the popular charismatic prayer-style.

Again, I am not at all trying to reject this particular form of prayer ... but I do think that the charismatic movement would do well to stop referring it to "tongues" in any sense.

In truth ... why not call it "spiritual mumbling"? After all, sometimes this form of prayer does not even make much use of the human tongue but simply comes up from deeper in the throat (as in deep groans or wailing).

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

What you refer to has indeed been recognized by many as a charism of the Holy Spirit!
In the middle ages it was called the "grace of words" and was connected to the Holy Spirit's Gifts of Wisdom and Knowledge. (cf ST II-II, q.77 -- http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3177.htm )
Peace! +

Anonymous said...

"I happen to know of many very disturbing things in very conservative movements ... for example, there is a large homosexual population among those single men who are advocates of the traditional Latin Mass (and I say this as a priest who regularly celebrates the EF)."

I know this is off topic so I hope you don't mind that I am asking about it, but would you be willing to elaborate or explain a little more of what you mean in this quote? It confused me because you say they are single men. To me that means that they are not in same-sex relationships and are trying to live in continence. Is that what you meant? If it is, then what is disturbing about their liking the TLM or advocating for it? Is there something perverse at work?


dominic1962 said...

Read "Catholic Pentecostals", the people or started the CCR were "baptized in the Spirit" by PROTESTANTS. They got their "gifts" from PROTESTANTS. Right off the bat there is something seriously wrong about this. How can the Christ instituted Sacraments of the Catholic Church possibly be supplemented with the inane babblings of (at least material) heretics?

CCR has benefited people because it filled a hole left by the jettisoning of traditional piety after VII and God can write straight with crooked lines. Same with the cult of Medjugorje and various other bigger or smaller recent spirituality/piety movements. If mumbling one's rosary was a problem, these new movements are much more problematic and dangerous than a superficial traditional piety ever was.

If people want to pray w/ mumbles, why not go back to the rosary or the (old) breviary? At least that's traditional, and you still get that little emotional release of vocalization.

Dismas said...

In Defense of Charismatics -

First, let me say, I too share many of the same aversions and concerns mentioned above regarding the Charismatic Movement. However, I've had first hand experience with these people for many years. Both my mother and a brother were involved with a charismatic prayer group for years, my brother still is. As crazy and distastful this movement may be for some, myself included, I have to defend it. First hand, I've seen and experienced the growth in faithfulness and miraculous fruits of many.

My mom was involved for years. She tried to get me involved. I attended a few times, didn't like it for many reasons which I won't outline here, and stopped attending. Although she respected my decision, she was disappointed. Later, my Mom became involved in other prayer groups in the area; Legion of Mary, RCIA sponser, etc. At some point she began praying all three mysteries of the Rosary everyday plus the Liturgy of the Hours. She developed quite a reputation in her parish. Our phone never stopped ringing with prayer requests. These requests didn't come from only members of her prayer groups but also parishioners as well, even those from other parishes in the area. Everyone knew if you needed prayer, to call my Mom, "she's a prayer" (verb). If the calls weren't for requests, they were in thanks for prayers answered/favors received.

One might wonder about my Dad during all this. All my life he never attended church and was never religious. Largely I think I'd call him agnostic. He was never interested in religion, was never brought up in religion and never discussed religion, that was up to my Mom regarding us kids, he didn't care, do what you want, leave him out of it kind of attitude.

After he retired late in his 60's, low and behold, Dad becomes a catechumen, goes through RCIA, is baptized and confirmed. Ask anyone in my family, they'll tell you its a miracle.

My Mom is gone now and Dad is on his own. However he still attends Mass every Sunday, prays the rosary and says the Liturgy daily.

Say what you will about the Charismatic Movement, but I can't criticize too much, I've seen tremendous growth in our faith, love for our church and miraculous fruits.

Anonymous said...

I had understood the miracle at Pentecost, regarding the words of the Apostles being heard in all sorts of languages, to not be that the Apostles were suddenly able to speak every applicable language and say what needed to be said but that they spoke once, preaching their "sermon" once, using one "language." This one discourse was understood and heard by all in his own particular language.


Anonymous said...

Dear Fr. Reginaldus,
What do you think of the scriptural argument used in the link posted by Anonymous(5:41):

St. Paul described praying in tongues as a gift of personal prayer. And it’s meant for the growth of individual prayer life, by bringing us to a deeper experience of prayer.

“For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 14:2).

So perhaps its not inappropriate to call it 'praying in tongues'?

Anonymous said...

@ [Anonymous] Pol Llaunas June 8, 2011 5:41 AM

An Andalucian repeating memorized Basque to which she had easy access and likely exposure is unremarkable.

But if I may deconstruct your anecdote, I noticed you avoided the obvious explanation and instead focused on the irrelevant facts that Basque is a nonindoeuropean isolate and that the identifier wasn't Catholic, as if this makes the incident more believable; and this unfortunately speaks directly to your credibility as a journalist. The triple exclamation points didn't help either :-)

- Joe

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I apologize, my earlier comment on the TLM was not that clear.

What I meant to say is this: Though there are certainly some charismatics who are leading immoral lives and have serious emotional problems, still there are also many who are good. Therefore, we ought not to throw out the whole movement just because of a few bad apples.

To this end I pointed out that there have been some problems in certain traditionalist groups (and I listed homosexuality as one of these problems). Certainly this is not a large problem and the vast majority of non-married men (which is what I meant by single men) who attend the TLM do not struggle from this emotional and psychological disorder. However, there have been pockets where this is a problem -- and I myself have noticed some issues with effeminacy among certain single (non-married) adult men, and I would consider this to be emotional instability (even if they live chastity).

What I mean to say is that, as the charismatic movement can attract highly emotional men and women (who treat it as an emotional release); so too there is some danger that the TLM can attract effeminate men (who treat it as a bit of dress-up).

In any case, I probably should not have gotten into the whole issue!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Dan, I will be discussing the matter of the preaching of the Apostles on Pentecost in a post later this week (probably Saturday).
For now, I will simply say that I am certain that the Apostles spoke in multiple languages and that it was not merely that the audience heard the one language (Aramaic) in many languages ... after all, the miracle is in the speaking not in the hearing (it is "speaking" in tongues, after all)!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Please see my UPDATE, in which I discuss "praying in tongues" ... I will point out that 1 Cor 14:2 does refer to "one who SPEAKS in a tongue" ... moreover, "a tongue" is a language.
The words which come out of such a man are meaningful words which profess the mysteries of the faith -- so I don't think that St. Paul is referring to the modern charismatic prayer-style called "tongues".

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the clarification, Father. I know it wasn't the issue you were discussing but it simply caught my eye so thank you for indulging me. Yours is an interesting observation. I have also noticed issues among some traditionalists that seem to basically be different expressions of the same issues that can be observed on the opposite side of the spectrum (which they propose to be acting against). Fallen human nature is what it is, I guess. There are only so many vices, after all, but a wide variety of expressions and outlets and excuses.


T said...

@Joe (June 8, 2011 2:14 AM )

That's very interesting, and sounds like exactly the sort of verification I was meaning when I said, "record it and ask the experts." It sounds like the people who were recorded in that instance were indeed frauds.

Which doesn't surprise me at all. There's a lot of pressure to conform in these groups. Thus, even supposing the phenomenon to genuinely be supernatural in a few cases, there's going to be a lot of people consciously or unconsciously faking it.

I've talked with at least one individual who had a very pushy "charismatic" youth group leader growing up. The pressure to conform was so great that she and others were definitely faking the "slain in the spirit" thing just so they wouldn't get on the bad side of the youth leader.

And that's leaving aside cases where the subject might experience as passive/involuntary a "slain in the spirit" event that he or she was actually actively causing (albeit subconsciously) as a response to suggestion.

Parallel comments could probably be made about "praying/speaking in tongues" events. Probably a person could incorrectly experience that as involuntary as well.

Anonymous said...

Some of Holy Doctor Chrysostom's commentary on the verses from 1 Cor 14 seem to support your claim that 'tongues' are languages and meant for missionary work:

"Wherefore then did the Apostles receive it before the rest? Because they were to go abroad every where. And as in the time of building the tower the one tongue was divided into many; so then the many tongues frequently met in one man, and the same person used to discourse both in the Persian, and the Roman, and the Indian, and many other tongues, the Spirit sounding within him: and the gift was called the gift of tongues because he could all at once speak various languages. [...] For if a man should speak only in the Persian, or any other foreign tongue, and not understand what he says, then of course to himself also will he be thenceforth a barbarian, not to another only, from not knowing the meaning of the sound. For there were of old many who had also a gift of prayer, together with a tongue; and they prayed, and the tongue spoke, praying either in the Persian or Latin language , but their understanding knew not what was spoken. "

But I still don't understand why Paul says "speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him" how does this fit with the idea that it's a foreign language meant for missionary work?


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Father. Looking forward to it.


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

St. Thomas is in the same line as St. John Chrysostom ... commenting on 1Cor 14:2 he writes, "Therefore, when the Apostle mentions here about speaking a tongue, he means an unknown language not interpreted; as when on might speak German to a Frenchman without an interpreter, he is speaking in a tongue."

I suppose that St. Paul says "speaks not to men but to God" because (presumably) only God understands the language at the time -- not that the words are not from a real language, but only that none of the men present at the prayer service speak that language.
If, on the other hand, the language is spoken when out in the missions, then (presumably) the foreign peoples will understand and the speech will not be merely to God (i.e. understood only by God) but also to men (i.e. understood by those to whom the missionary is speaking).

That is my best shot at an explanation! :)

Michelangelo said...


Michelangelo here, thank you very much for answering my questions posed a few days ago in another subject. I was active in the Charismatic Renewal years ago, and like Dismas, my mother's spiritual life really developed and also took on other dimensions, such as daily Mass, praying the liturgy of the hours and a deeper dedication to reading the Bible and intercessory prayer. I have met several people who claim to have been healed from incurable diseases through Mom's intercessory prayer.

I also developed in my spiritual life through the good guidance of solid Catholic priests and laymen who were in leadership roles in the various prayer groups I attended. I think this is key.

Normal Catholic formation has to do with the whole person, and a healthy pious lay association in the Church forms its participants intellectually, spiritually, liturgically, etc, according to its "charism" or mission. Some Catholic Charismatic prayer groups are/were very good and solid, others, not so much. The choral "prayer in tongues" at the Cathedral in Bridgeport, back a few years, was hauntingly beautiful. The specific examples of one speaking in a tongue and another interpreting it, were regular occurrences, the subject of which was typically an exhortation to holiness. Currently I am a daily Mass altar boy, and a lay Carmelite, and working on my personal conversion daily. So I would say from a personal point of view, the movement has been a good thing for me, though I don't have a lot of experience personally with speaking in tongues.

Do you think, Father, that the stories of Ss. Jean Vianney and Padre Pio confessing people in their native languages is a specific application of this charism, or does this phenomenon, assuming it is true, fall into a separate category of the Grace of the Holy Spirit? God bless you.

Anonymous said...

The Charismatic movement is much more than speaking in tongues, it also involves singing songs of praise, giving testimonials of God's work in our daily lives, a deeper prayer life, and a closeness to fellow Catholics. As well, it has brought me closer to the Catholic Church and the Marian devotion. As for speaking in tongues, it is very rare that we hear anyone in our group speaking in tongues, but at the end of the meeting we mostly all pray in tongues when we pray over our prayer petitions; it's a nice getaway from the more conscious form of prayer. Do I always pray in tongues, no I still prefer the Our Father as an answer to all my prayers.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Yes, I do think that when Vianney and Padre Pio could confess people in a foreign language this was a participation in the charism of speaking in tongues -- it is not the full charism as it was in the early Church (since the apostles could speak many many languages at will), but it is certainly something of this charism.

Also, I would point out that St. Francix Xavier was said to have possessed this charism when he evangelized India (though I do not know the whole story here, apparently he was gifted with a sudden knowledge of many of the Indian languages).

Finally, I would say that these saintly confessors also had the gift of words -- i.e. to know exactly the right word to say at the moment and to speak with a supernatural authority.

There is no doubt of this: Charisms are still alive and well in the Church (at least among many of the saints).

Chatto said...


I posted this article on Facebook, having several friends who are in involved in the CCR here in the UK. One of them has asked how we can tell the difference between 'speaking in Tongues' in the biblical sense, and 'praying in tongues' in the charismatic sense, unless everyone present has the gift of interpretation, and so can tell the difference. Is there an a priori way of telling the difference? After all, what might sound like mumbling to me may be Cantonese, or French, for all I know!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You may find the update I posted at the bottom of the article helpful.

I don't think that we should call it "praying in tongues", because "tongues" means languages and not simply mumbling.
[I do not think it is helpful to separate a biblical sense from a charismatic sense ... since the charisms are based on scriptural attestation, I would want the "charism"atic movement to use the word "tongues" in the same way St. Paul did]

Regarding how we can tell it is authentic tongues ... a trained linguist could tell (after study), but there is certainly no easy a priori way. [most of the time, the excessive repetition of the same sounds indicates that it is not a true human language]

However, St. Paul seems to think that it is a bad idea to speak in tongues (in the sense of the true charism) if there is not someone there to interpret.

John 1:23 said...

I myself am a Protestant, I do hope that isn't a problem to my posting here. Specifically I am an Independent Baptist Preacher. I personally do not agree with the doctrine of 'tongues' as is taught amongst some other Protestant denominations. I very much enjoyed reading this article, agree with its premise, and found it quite enlightening. I would like to make these two contributions to this comment chain:

1. Among those whom speak in 'tongues' now days, how many of them can actually speak a foreign HUMAN language? I have heard of groups speaking in tongues in foreign countries and having to say 'Hallelujah' to explain to the natives what they were doing, because they could not speak the native language. This is a direct contradiction to how the gift of 'tongues' in the Bible is stated to operate.

2. I feel it can be a matter of lying, and peer pressure. One finds them self in a congregation that teaches one MUST speak in 'tongues' to be Saved (enter Heaven) and the congregation will frantically seek to aid that person in gaining this gift from God. The person eventually caves and mumbles nonsense just to appease the congregation, and their own conscience. I feel that in some cases it can be more malicious lying, the reason for this would probably vary from money, to reputation.

I do hope I wasn't out of line commenting on this. I have two dear Catholic friends that showed me this article as we had discussed our agreed dislike of the 'tongue' doctrine. Again, I thoroughly enjoyed this article.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@John 1:23, You are most certainly welcome to comment here! Obviously, this is a blog intended for Catholic theology; hence, all the articles are written primarily for a Catholic audience.
Still, it is my hope that many non-Catholics would also find the articles helpful on some level as well.

regarding your particular comment ... I agree that there are certainly some cases where individuals "fake it", but I also think we have to be very careful to not make a blanket attack. So, I sympathize with your concerns, but I also add that there are many good and honest people who are charismatics (in fact, I presume that most of them are good, honest people) -- and we wouldn't want to through everyone into the same bag.

On the level of doctrine, however, I (like you) do not see how this "mumbling" can be called either speaking or praying "in tongues".

Peace to you! +

Kathleen said...

Years ago, I was involved with the charismatic renewal, and it nourished my love of scripture as the living word of God.

I want to caution some of the posters (above) about nutty people, unstable people, troubled people, gullible people, and people of below-average attractiveness, intellect and economic status:

If any segment of the church attracts and welcomes such people, respects them, ministers to them, and helps them feel valued and loved by God and by that circle of friends, there's a good possibility that that segment of the church is a blessing to us all.

I am the leader of an utterly orthodox parish bible study. My spiritual director thinks that the fact that we have a few "eccentrics" in the group is a sign of its spiritual health. Unfortunately, it's the "eccentrics" who express the most enthusiasm for bible study, and some people think the group is a little odd.
Don't judge the whole charismatic renewal too hastily.


Seraphim said...


An old spiritual father of mine was a monk on Mount Athos for twelve years before he left to profess union with Rome. He told me that in his monastery they would chant very long melismas on the word "Alleluia", for as long as an hour and a half (!) at a time. None of them of course entertained any delusions about it being a foreign language. This would seem much closer to the kind of glossolalia you mentioned as being a legitimate form of prayer, since Gregorian chant also employs long melismas.

In Christ,


Anonymous said...

I personally, I like the non-Charismatic style. Here in Indonesia, Charismatic movement is getting bigger. I have no problem with the people that have interest in Charismatic prayers, but if I have to choose whether to go to mass with a charismatic group as the choir or the one with a choir of a bunch of old people singing rather flatly off the note, I'll definitely go with the second option. Why? Because when I do, unfortunately, attend a mass with charismatic style, it just doesn't give me the one thing I hope to experience from a mass, solitude. All the clapping and dancing, bla bla bla.. It's just too much for me.
even more to that, it feels as if I'm not in a catholic church but instead as if I'm going to my friend's church, Pentecostal church, or any Protestant church.
I remembered that there is case about a charismatic catholic group that went from being all Sola Gratia to the Lord to some sort of weird cult.
So, I'm saying no to Charismatic style. I'm more in to Examen, look in to one's self is way harder than saying 'Thank you, I love you God', out loud.I don't see any spirituality in Charismatic prayers aswell, n for me Spirituality is very important.

In Christ Our Lord,

Elizabeth said...

I'm not a member of the Charismatic Movement but I have met one person and heard of others in the Catholic Charismatic movement, who were actually speaking in a recognized language, although it was not a language that they had learned. They only found out when someone at a prayer meeting understood what they were saying.

Dawn said...

As a Protestant I was involved in the Charismatic movement, often with a slight wariness at some of the oddness. Now as a Catholic, I would take the Mass any day over a Charismatic worship. For me, it is reality and truth over feelings.

But I have to say, I feel just as disconnected when I attend a Latin Mass. Can't understand a thing. To me, this is like speaking in tongues without an interpreter, which I think St. Paul says we are not to do.

Amma D.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Dawn (Amma D.),
Certainly, your thoughts were echoed by a young Fr. Joseph Ratzinger ... for he also held (though I don't think he still does) that a good portion of the Mass had to be in the language of the people, so that they might understand it.

However, I would point out that the comparison between Latin Mass and speaking in tongues is a bit off:
1) As much as I love Mass in Latin, I am not so bold as to claim it is a charism of the Holy Spirit! :)
2) St. Paul criticized that many people were speaking in tongues all at the same time and in a chaotic fashion ... this, of course, is nothing like the Traditional Latin Mass.
3) You do have an interpreter for Mass in Latin -- it's your Latin/English hand-missal ... in any case, it shouldn't be to hard to figure out what "Dominus vobiscum, Et cum spiritu tuo" means!
4) Most the Mass, the priest isn't talking to the people anyways ... why do they need to understand (or even hear) what he is saying?
5) Unless you know Hebrew, you can't "understand" the words "Amen" and "Alleluia" ... do you find these words to be equally troubling? Is "Amen" really that much more difficult than "Et cum spiritu tuo"? [I admit that the whole Mass in Latin is a challenge, but we also must recall that Latin isn't the only foreign language at Mass]

In any case ... although I have a great love for the Usus Antiquior (i.e. the "Latin Mass"), I must admit that there is something to be said for the inclusion of some amount of the vernacular ... the Holy Father has allowed for this (in the readings) with the promulgation of the motu proprio on the TLM.

Also, I would add that some of the prayers of the priest -- especially the Eucharistic prayer -- could be said silently and in Latin, since it is not entirely appropriate for the people to hear them (he is speaking to God, not to men). This is the opinion of Pope Benedict as well.

Peace! +

To Know the Lord said...

I was raised as a Catholic but to my shame left and later became a Protestant evangelical pentecostal and spoke in tongues again to my shame. To convince protestants that this is not of God, one must exegete 1 Co 14. If you will accept our Orthodox brothers, a great book is In Peace Let Us Pray to the Lord by Fr Alexis Trader. He writes from the perspective of the desert fathers and readings from the Philokalia (from the time when the Church was one). An awesome read and our awesome God that through His kindness He has lead me to repentance and acceptance back home into the Catholic Church in which I was raised. God is good.


david meyer said...

I was "saved" in an Assemblies of God (pentecostal) church at age 15. I tried and tried, but could never speak in tongues. In that church you are a second class christian if you don't, so I was not let into any positions of leadership. (the youth leader of the youth group). Eventually I realized that it is all just a scam. People just babble. What possible benefit is there to people mumbling, babbling, and yelling giberish? Is it just an inocent thing that we can look past? No. It is something unseen in the first 1900 years of the church. Whether you call it "praying in tongues" or spealikg, it is bad news. I personally think it is satanic, but again, that is my personal opinion from personal experience.

At the very least we should agree that it is something Catholics should not engage in. Like centering prayer, yoga, being slain in the spirit, etc... these things are all about us, not the Lord. If you want to pray to God in a freeform way, why do you need to babble? You don't, it is all just for show and totally out of line.

Now that I became Catholic last year (I am 36) I am really embarased that Catholics seem to have been infected by this silly practice that should have remained in the Protestant sects it originated with. Why must Catholics wallow in that mud?

speaking/praying in tongues should be repudiated by every Catholic unless it is like the kind found with St. Francis Xavier or the New Testament. Otherwise it is foolish distraction at best, tempting evil at worst.

Vincent said...


Thanks Elizabeth. Most, if not all bloggers here have sounded paternalistic to the Charismatics, when they said, "I am open to Catholic Charismatic Movement". This also sounds sympathetic to their cause. In the first, place what you call Catholic Charismatic Movement is quite different from what you have in the Catholic Church. What you have in the Church is, Catholic Charismatic Renewal ( CCR). What the CCR needs is not "open to" or "sympathy" rather it needs participation of all in the Church. Catholic Charismatic Renewal and the Church are not mutually exclusive, they are on the same side of the one coin. CCR is not only about speaking in tongues. It also about other Gifts and more importantly about the Fruits.surely, nobody will doubt the authenticity of the divine origin of the Fruits.

The issue of tongues has been controversial since even the time of the Apostles. You don't need to understand what is being spoken unless there is an interpreter. The Apostle Paul have tried to explain this phenomenon of tongues in Acts 10:44-47; 1Cor 14: 1- 25. It is true there are abuses that does not abrogate speaking in tongues. It is not only in CCR, it exists in every organization. CCR is an authentic catholic group.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Interesting that you mention the "Fruits of the Holy Spirit" ... are you aware that the Catholic tradition has always maintained that the fruits are NOT "things" which we "possess" or have "recieved"?

Rather, they are actions ... the 12 Fruits are the actions which spring from the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit.

... this is yet another example of the poor use of language which troubles me about the Catholic Charismatic Renewal -- persons involved in it regularly speak of the fruits as things which are given by God and held or possessed by the believer [and, simply, this is not what the fruits are ... they are not things, they are acts].

Vincent said...

Sure they are acts, which are not self willed but enabled by God (Holy Spirit). Capping on words does not help in this type of discussion. Fruits and of course gifts are not proprietry or copyrighted to the individual involved. Gifts emanate from the Holy Spirit and so the fruits which spring from gifts. Abuses have been acknowledged, it did not start today.

My previous contribution is to correct the erroneous opinion that RCC is pitiable. In fact that's how " Fruits " came into the picture. I am ware people have "irreconcilable" prejudices against RCC. Your counter-attack seem to suggest you are one of them. You are a pastor and theologian probably. It would be fatal presumption to think you have never before read the scriptures I cited. Definitely you must have also read some Church documents and Church heirachical opinions and exhortations regarding RCC activities and conducts. We can start from there.

Thanks for the opportunity your posting provided to express this contrary opinion. Let me state again, tongues in the present time is not an anathema nor a "mumble". It is a reality, abuses arising from ignorance and pride notwithstanding. It is normal that what people don't understand they rubbish through caricature or reducing it to self-pity.

Anon Imis said...

I'm concerned about the rise of Corinthian abuses growing among my friends, my own parish, and archdiocese. How do we discern what is true? What is the most charitable way of voicing concerns without alienating friends and family that accept or claim charisms? Or, how can a healthy dialogue to discern truth take place within a community if there is a real fear of abandonment, disunity, and rejection?

“It is in this sense that discernment of charisms is always necessary. No charism is exempt from being referred and submitted to the Church’s shepherds.” (CCC 801)

Do you think the Church be investigating claims of charisms? If someone claims to have the gift of prophecy or message for the entire Body, shouldn't we all be concerned? I want to know if what they are saying is true. How come there is so much concern about discerning the validity of Marian apparitions, but charismatic prophecies and messages get a free pass?

“If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.” (1 Cor. 14 27-28)" It seems that St. Paul's advice is out-rightly ignored. Why aren't tongues recorded and interpreted by known interpreters? Shouldn't two interpreters have the same interpretation of the same recording?

This excerpt below has shed some light to me concerning the abuses at Corinth, so has the Navarre Bible and Haydock commentaries:

'There is enough in St. Paul to show us that the Corinthian peculiarities were ignoble accretions and abuses. They made of "tongues" a source of schism in the Church and of scandal without (14:23). The charism had deteriorated into a mixture of meaningless inarticulate gabble (9, 10) with an element of uncertain sounds (7, 8), which sometimes might be construed as little short of blasphemous (12:3). The Divine praises were recognized now and then, but the general effect was one of confusion and disedification for the very unbelievers for whom the normal gift was intended (14:22, 23, 26). The Corinthians, misled not by insincerity but by simplicity and ignorance (20), were actuated by an undisciplined religious spirit (pneuma), or rather by frenzied emotions and not by the understanding (nous) of the Spirit of God (15). What today purports to be the "gift of tongues" at certain Protestant revivals is a fair reproduction of Corinthian glossolaly, and shows the need there was in the primitive Church of the Apostle's counsel to do all things "decently, and according to order" (40).'

-- Catholic Encyclopedia, 1917, "Gift of Tongues: Corinthian Abuses" --


I really do want to know the truth and live according to it, and am completely willing to be wrong, but I feel like I'm stuck between choosing truth and friendship.

Thank you for your blog post.

Anonymous said...

I hear you Anon! Personally I grew up in a Pentecostal church and still currently attend. But as i get older (22) and actually got saved I read the Bible more. This topic along with Zionism has been my main focus. I believe if the gift of tongues are used it should be as Paul says orderly. If more than one does it the church is not biblically sound. Also the interpretation should be a praise psalm or prayer. As Paul says men to God. If my church has someone give a message but the interpretation is a prophecy (god to men) what's going on? Any thoughts?

Joseph Alexander

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