Ecclesial movements and Church hierarchy are "co-essential" and must live in harmony
A Letter Iuvenescit Ecclesia (The Church rejuvenates), published today by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith states that the “institutional” Church is not in opposition to a Church "of charity." The problem of "recognition" of "authentic" charismatic gifts and the "criteria" for such recognition.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Ecclesial movements and the Church hierarchy are "co-essential" to the life of the Church – the fundamental task of which is evangelization - and this results in the need for their "harmonic connection" that avoids conflicts or impossible parallels.
An analysis of that reality and of the criteria for such a fruitful coexistence between what are both gifts of God is the central point of the Letter Iuvenescit Ecclesia (The Church rejuvenates), published today by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The publication of the document – signed by the Cardinal Prefect Ludwig Müller and Archbishop Secretary Luis Ladaria - was ordered by the Pope.
"This co-essential element - said Card. Müller presenting the document - finds its ultimate root in the inseparable relationship between the divine incarnate Logos, and the Holy Spirit (cf. IE, 11), and shows how, in the same perspective revealed by God’s plans, is not permissible to oppose a "Church of the Spirit "to an "Institutional Church", because hierarchical and charismatic gifts are always mutually implicated one in the other, albeit in a rational, hierarchical manner. Nevertheless, because of the native human frailty - and the inevitable infidelities to God's plans that follow it - in fact, the natural tension of dialogue between these gifts, it is often transformed, and can increasingly be transformed, into a dialectic".
The 17 pages of the letter, addressed to the bishops of the Catholic Church, open with the statement that "the invitation of Pope Francis to be a Church which “goes forth” leads to a rereading of the whole Christian life in a missionary key. The work of evangelization touches every dimension of the Church: from ordinary pastoral ministry, to her proclamation to those who have abandoned the Christian faith and, in particular, to those who do not know Jesus Christ or have always rejected Him.In the essential work of new evangelization, it is now more than ever necessary to recognize and value the numerous charisms capable of reawakening and nourishing the life of faith of the People of God." The charisms are "gifts of indispensable importance for the life and mission of the Church", "recognized as a manifestation of the “multiform grace of God”. However, they must have a "fruitful and ordered participation " in the communion of the Church, and are not permitted to "withdraw the obedience owed towards the ecclesial hierarchy”, or “bestow the right to an autonomous ministry".
The examination of the New Testament, then, excludes "a contrast between the different charisms." And the Second Vatican Council considers the authentic charism "of essential importance as gifts for life and for the mission of the Church".
"The antithesis between an institutional Church of the Judeo-Christian type and a charismatic Church of the Pauline type, affirmed by certain reductive ecclesial interpretations, in reality lacks a foundation in the texts of the New Testament". One can not, therefore, oppose a Church “of charity” and a Church “of the institution,”, because in the Church "the essential institutions are charismatic," and "charisms must be institutionalized to have coherency and continuity." In this way, both dimensions " concur to make present the mystery and the salvific work of Christ in the world”. "I In short, the relationship between the charismatic gifts and the ecclesial sacramental structure confirms the coessentiality between hierarchical gifts –of their nature stable, permanent, and irrevocable– and the charismatic gifts. Even if the historical forms of the latter are not guaranteed to remain always the same, nonetheless the charismatic dimension will never be lacking in the life and mission of the Church".
The document addresses, at this point, the problem of "recognition" of an "authentic" charismatic gift and offers of "criteria" for such recognition, a task that is " that appertains to the ecclesial authorities".
These criteria are: to be instruments of holiness in the Church; engage in missionary spread of the Gospel; fully confess the Catholic faith; witness to an effective communion with the whole Church, accepting with loyal readiness its doctrinal and pastoral teachings; recognizing and respecting other components in the Charismatic Church; humbly accepting moments of trial in discernment; having spiritual fruits like love, joy, peace, humanity; looking at the social dimension of evangelization, being aware that "concern for the integral development of the most abandoned by society cannot be lacking in an authentic ecclesial reality".
There are also two other key criteria for the legal recognition of new ecclesial realities, according to the forms established by the Code of Canon Law: the first is " respect for the particularity of individual charismatic groups, avoiding juridical straitjackets that deaden the novelty which is born from the specific experience." The second criterion relates to "respect for the fundamental ecclesial regimen, this way favoring the effective insertion of the charismatic gifts into the life of both the particular and universal Church. Thus, any danger that the charismatic entities might be considered in some way as running parallel to the ecclesial life or not ordered in relation to the hierarchical gifts is avoided”.
The document also highlights, how the relationship between hierarchical and charismatic gifts should take into account the "essential and constitutive relationship between the universal Church and the particular Churches." This means that the gifts are given, yes, to the whole Church, but that their dynamic "can only be realized in a concrete service to the diocese, which is" a portion of the People of God entrusted to the pastoral care of the bishop assisted by his priests' ". And " the new charismatic entities, when they possess a supra-diocesan character, must not consider themselves as completely autonomous from the particular Church; rather, they should enrich and serve her precisely through that particularity which is shared beyond the confines of a single diocese".
The charisms, in addition, also represent "a real chance" to live and develop the Christian vocation of every individual, whether it be through marriage, priestly celibacy, or ordained ministry. The consecrated life "is placed in the charismatic dimension of the Church", because its spirituality can become "a significant resource" for both the lay faithful and presbyterite, helping both to live a specific vocation.
The letter also urges everyone to look to Mary, "Mother of the Church", her "complete docility to the action of the Holy Spirit: faultless docility in faith and transparent humility": through her intercession, it is hoped that "the charisms abundantly distributed by Holy Spirit among the faithful are meekly accepted and put to good use for the life and mission of the Church and for the good of the world".