Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Charismatic grace does not produce holiness

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 07, 2014

I was reminded this morning of an important fact about grace while reading about the results of the Apostolic Visitation of U.S. women religious conducted in 2009 and 2010. Apparently, a final report is nearly complete and will be released soon.

In speaking with reporters about the process, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz (Prefect for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life) also answered some questions about the ongoing reconstruction of the Legionaries of Christ. Many have wondered whether it is possible to affirm the charism of the Legion when it was imparted by a founder who was guilty of “seriously and objectively immoral behavior”, “real crimes”, and a “life devoid of scruples and of genuine religious meaning” (according to the Vatican's official judgment).

The Cardinal Prefect made an important point in response:

Something we are becoming more and more aware of is that you must distinguish between the founder who brings a charism and the charism itself. This is a distinction we are learning to make because, honestly, it applies not only in the case of the Legionaries, but we have several similar cases, both ancient and new. Not all founders who bring the church a grace that is good and beautiful live according to the grace they communicate. This is something we must recognize. This is how it is.

This is indeed how it is. Charismatic grace is given for the building up of the Church. Although anyone who recognizes a charismatic grace in himself (the gift of healing, for example) ought certainly to be inspired to strive for holiness, there is no intrinsic connection between charismatic grace and holiness in the recipient of that grace. Those who have the gift of healing are not necessarily holy. Speaking in tongues is not a sign of superior sanctity.

This is why St. Paul says: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7) but “if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1).

One of these things is not like the other. Charismatic grace and sanctifying grace are not the same.


Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: jmjusa - Sep. 11, 2017 3:44 PM ET USA

    Archbishop Chaput's column covered some of this... worth reading.

  • Posted by: ahaggard138528 - Sep. 09, 2017 12:54 AM ET USA

    I heard that Fr. Richard John Neuhaus called the USCCB "the Democratic Party at prayer". Maybe he was on to something.

  • Posted by: space15796 - Sep. 08, 2017 10:05 PM ET USA

    Plus, Bannon is right. Catholic Charities is raking in federal dollars for resettling refugees, making Catholic Charities, among other groups, an agency of the federal government - follow the money. With little or no oversight and no commitment at all after 3 to 4 months. This is a very lucrative arrangement, while we taxpayers foot the bill.

  • Posted by: jackbene3651 - Sep. 08, 2017 7:48 PM ET USA

    Perhaps dogma does not live so loudly in many of our bishops.

  • Posted by: feedback - Sep. 08, 2017 11:45 AM ET USA

    I have a feeling that the USCCB's quick and angry response to Bannon (and earlier to Trump's ending of DACA) had more to do with politics than genuine moral outrage. Whatever angers or pleases the Democratic party, happens to anger or please the USCCB. It looks that way.

  • Posted by: bkmajer3729 - Feb. 11, 2014 6:53 PM ET USA

    Jeff, while the theory is correct - Charismatic grace is not Sanctifying Grace - something still seems amiss. I want to be open minded and give the benefit of the doubt to the clean house. "...something we must recognize." God will heal if they and we allow Him / His grace to work. Time will reflect the fruits of change. Until then, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me".

  • Posted by: koinonia - Feb. 11, 2014 8:23 AM ET USA

    The difficulty with this order aside from the obvious abuses among leadership involves a disordered fervor among some followers. Catholics must fix their gaze on the Good Lord and on the essentials of the Faith. When we become intemperate in our allegiance to specific organizations and/or personalities we begin to have difficulty with reality. Thus the "Alice in Wonderland" references. The Church is essential to the baptized; the Legion is not. Facing reality often demands of us courage.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Feb. 10, 2014 7:04 AM ET USA

    I agree with Frodo. The Legion proved by the election of Fr. Robles as its leader that nothing really has changed in its ranks. All this talk of discerning there a charism there that its founder clearly didn't have is, for me, more of the smoke and mirrors that allowed this spiritual disaster to get as far as it has. If we follow the Cardinal Prefect's line of reasoning, soon we will find ourselves tolerating every kind of outrage lest we destroy some hidden charism. That way lies insanity.

  • Posted by: Frodo1945 - Feb. 08, 2014 9:07 PM ET USA

    What is this, Alice in Wonderland? So the corrupt founder had the charism but couldn't live it out. How could he or anyone else even recognize in in the life he led or was it a case of "do as I say, not as I do" ? Why are they looking for the charism if it was always present? I'd like to know what the other "similar cases" are. This is not fixable and I hope someone figures that out and admits it.