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CDF issues letter on relation between hierarchical, charismatic gifts

June 14, 2016

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has issued Iuvenescit Ecclesia [“The Church Rejuvenates”], a letter to bishops on the relationship between hierarchical and charismatic gifts in the life and the mission of the Church.

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with this present document, intends, in the light of the relationship between the ‘hierarchical and charismatic gifts,’ to underline those theological and ecclesiological elements whose comprehension will encourage a fruitful and ordered participation of the new groups in the communion and the mission of the Church,” the CDF begins.

“For this purpose, first, some key elements both of the doctrine of charisms found in the New Testament and of Magisterial reflection on these new entities are presented,” it continues. “Successively, based upon certain principles of systematic theology, identifying elements of both the hierarchical and charismatic gifts will be presented alongside some criteria for the discernment of the new ecclesial groups.”

Iuvenescit Ecclesia offers two guidelines for bishops in dealing withe new movements. On one hand it calls for "respect the particularity of individual charismatic groups, avoiding juridical straitjackets that deaden novelty." At the same time it afirms the need for "respect for the fundamental ecclesial regimen," and emphasizes that the movements should not "be considered in some way as running parallel to the ecclesial life or not ordered in relation to the hierarchical gifts."

At a Vatican press conference introducing the document, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, acknowledged that the emergence of new movements has sometimes caused conflict within the Church. "Despite the tensions inherent in this new integration, the fruits are far superior to the difficulties," he said.

In an interview with the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the prefect of the CDF, made a similar point, saying that the new movements have been "often a disruptive novelty," requiring guidance and correction. Comparing the movements with "children who come into the world unplanned," Cardinal Müller said: "Whoever's truly a mother or father loves that child once it arrives and cares for it, just like-- and sometimes even more than-- all the rest."

The new document has five sections:

  • The Charisms according to the New Testament
  • The Relationship between the Hierarchical And the Charismatic Gifts in the Recent Magisterium
  • Theological Foundation of the Relationship between the Hierarchical and Charismatic Gifts
  • The Relationship between Hierarchical and Charismatic Gifts in the Life and Mission of the Church
  • The Ecclesial Practice of the Relationship between Hierarchical and Charismatic Gifts

Among the charismatic gifts, states the Congregation, are “recent realities that can be described as groups of the faithful, ecclesial movements, and new communities.”

When “a gift presents itself as a ‘founding’ or ‘originating charism,’ this requires a specific recognition so that the richness it contains may be adequately articulated within the ecclesial communion and faithfully transmitted over time,” the Congregation continues. “Here emerges the decisive task of discernment that appertains to the ecclesial authorities.”

Among the Magisterium’s criteria for discernment are “the primacy of the vocation of every Christian to holiness,” “commitment to spreading the Gospel,” “profession of the Catholic Faith,” “witness to a real communion with the whole Church,” and “recognition of and esteem for the reciprocal complementarity of other charismatic elements in the Church,” according to the Congregation.


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