The Catholic Charismatic Renewal In Latin America

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal In Latin America

Click to join the conversation with over 500,000 Pentecostal believers and scholars

Click to get our FREE MOBILE APP and stay connected



Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Latin America1

Henri Gooren

Department of Sociology/Anthropology, Oakland University

518 Varner Hall, Rochester, Michigan 48309


The Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) is the most important lay movement in the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America, yet it has received scant academic attention. After describing the start of the CCR, I discuss its expansion into Latin America, its self-understanding, outsider criticisms, responses of national bishops’ conferences, and two country case studies based on my first-hand ethnographic fieldwork: Nicaragua and Paraguay. I end with some general conclusions, chief of which is my analysis of the CCR as a globalized revitalization movement that aims to (re)connect individual Catholics to the Roman Catholic Church.


Catholic Charismatic Renewal; Latin America; revitalization movements

I believe that the Charismatic Renewal provides an answer to one of the most urgent pastoral questions now facing the Church today: how to transform nominal Christians into authentic Christians. Many must exchange a sociological or an inherited Christian- ity for a full and active life of faith, based on a personal decision and embraced with full consciousness.

— Cardinal Leo Jozef Suenens, quoted in Charles Whitehead, “Catholic Charismatic Renewal — At the Heart of the Church? Part III,” (1996) online at http://catholic, accessed September 10, 2010.

1 This article is based on the Bishop Walter Sullivan Lecture I gave at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA on October 13th, 2010. Thanks are due to Andrew Chesnut for organiz- ing the lecture and to John Hawkins and Amos Yong for their critical comments on the first draft of this article. The Nicaragua fieldwork was part of the Conversion Careers program, sponsored by the “Future of the Religious Past” program of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). The fieldwork in Paraguay was made possible with a grant from the Pentecostal- Charismatic Research Initiative (PCRI), sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation and admin- istered by the University of Southern California.

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2012 DOI: 10.1163/157007412X642399



H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207

Prehistory of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal

Outsider perspectives typically stress a long genealogy of the Catholic Charis- matic Renewal (CCR) by placing the movement in the context of the “charis- matic movement” that started in various mainstream Protestant churches in the USA and elsewhere in the 1960s.2 For insiders, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement was started by the Holy Spirit: “One day in 1959 Pope John XXIII startled Vatican bureaucrats by flinging open his office windows and call- ing for the Holy Spirit to send in a new wind of Pentecost to result in an aggior- namento (updating or renewal) for the church.”3 The institutional renewal was further developed during the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Two years later the first Charismatic Catholic prayer groups erupted at Duquesne Univer- sity in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and in Bogotá, Colombia. Were they a direct answer of the Holy Spirit to Pope John XXIII’s prayer? Would they offer a more up-to-date, more personal form of Catholic commitment better suited to the modern era? Could the Catholic Charismatic Renewal be both an answer to prayers and a renewal?

Andrew Chesnut rightly noted that the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Latin America, “the region’s most vibrant Catholic lay movement, has received precious little academic attention.”4 He was not exaggerating much. In recent years, however, some new studies appeared on the CCR in Latin America.5 In this article I present detailed ethnographic material from Nicaragua and Para- guay to supplement and elaborate the existing evidence provided by Edward Cleary and others that it makes sense to interpret the Catholic Charismatic

2 P.D. Hocken, “Charismatic Movement,” in The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, ed. Stanley M. Burgess and Eduard M. van der Maas, 477-519 (Grand Rap- ids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), at 479.

3 Oreste Pesare, Then Peter Stood Up (Rome: International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Ser- vices (ICCRS), 2000, 1).

4 R. Andrew Chesnut, Competitive Spirits: Latin America’s New Religious Economy (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 64. See also Hocken, “Charismatic Movement,” 497: “CR has been less researched and analyzed in Latin America than in North America and Europe.” 5 Edward L. Cleary, “The Catholic Charismatic Renewal: Revitalization Movements and Con- version,” in Timothy J. Steigenga and Edward L. Cleary, eds., Conversion of a Continent: Religious Change in Latin America, 153-73 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007); Edward L. Cleary, The Rise of Charismatic Catholicism in Latin America (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2011); Henri Gooren, Religious Conversion and Disaffiliation: Tracing Patterns of Change in Faith Practices (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2010). In Denmark, Jakob Egeris Thorsen is writing a PhD dissertation on the CCR in Guatemala. See Jakob Egeris Thorsen, “Charismatic Catholicism in Latin America,” paper presented at the NOLAN conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, Novem- ber 2010.


H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207


Renewal as a revitalization movement6 that aims to (re)connect individual Catholics to the Roman Catholic Church. My main question is how CCR growth is connected to globalization factors, its internal organizational structure, its relationship to the Catholic hierarchy, and context factors at the national and parish level.

The Ecumenical Start at Duquesne, USA and Bogotá, Colombia

The official history places the start of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (or CCR) at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in February 1967 dur- ing a spiritual weekend retreat in which thirty students participated with two professors who had already received baptism in the Holy Spirit in a Presbyte- rian Church earlier.7 These students spoke in tongues for the first time in their lives, and this marked their baptism in the Spirit. Within months, similar events among Catholics took place at Notre Dame, Michigan State, and the University of Michigan. Participants at these events soon felt a need to come together in ever bigger conferences.8

The official history of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal typically neglects to mention the events in Bogotá. “In October 1967, a group of Protestant charis- matics that included persons from the United States and Canada were visiting Colombia.”9 Two of these visitors were housed in Barrio Minuto de Dios, “a thriving low-cost housing cooperative in Bogotá,” led by an activist priest. Father Rafael García Herreros had many conversations on the Holy Spirit and his gifts with one of the visitors, Pastor Samuel Ballesteros. “Eventually in the early 1970s — the exact date is not clear — Father Rafael received baptism in the Spirit.” Minuto de Dios expanded further and became both an important charity organization and the first main center of the CCR in Colombia. The other main center was developed by Bishop Alfonso Uribe of Medellín, who started a peasant seminary with CCR influences in 1969. Both Father Rafael and Bishop Uribe had originally been leaders in the Catholic Action lay workers’

6 Cleary, “The Catholic Charismatic Renewal.”

7 The students had been reading Protestant literature on speaking in tongues by David Wilkin- son (The Cross and the Switchblade, 1963) and John Sherrill (They Speak with Other Tongues, 1964) to prepare for the retreat. See T.P. Thigpen, “Catholic Charismatic Renewal,” in The New Interna- tional Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, ed. Burgess and van der Maas, 460-67, at 460.

8 Thigpen, “Catholic Charismatic Renewal,” 460-61.

9 All direct quotations in this paragraph are from Cleary, The Rise of Charismatic Catholicism in Latin America, 55.



H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207

movement. Together, their efforts and organizational skills are partly respon- sible for the strong position of the CCR in Colombia (see Table 1 below). Cleary notes that the social commitment of the two original leaders has been diluted and that the CCR now has a more spiritual focus, which thus downplays the connections between spirituality and social justice. In that sense, the develop- ment of the CCR in Colombia already foreshadowed the future direction of the movement in Latin America.

CCR Expansion into Latin America from 1970s Onward

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal started in the United States and Colombia in 1967. By 1969, it had reached Puerto Rico and Venezuela through networks of CCR-influenced priests, chief of whom was the U.S. Dominican Francis MacNutt. In 1970, MacNutt and Protestant charismatic leaders arrived in Ecua- dor and Peru. In the early 1970s, however, “Catholics and Protestants still viewed each other with suspicion if not outright hostility” in Latin America.10 Between 1971 and 1973, the CCR nevertheless made inroads in all Central American countries as well as in Mexico, Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. The last two countries, El Salvador and Cuba, were penetrated in 1977.

Table 1. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Latin America, 201011

Ranking Country Starting Total CCR Total Number

Year Community of Catholics


CCR as % of Catholics

1 Colombia 1967 11,685,000 41,732,700 28 % 2 Brazil 1971 33,980,000 141,581,400 24 % 3 Puerto Rico 1969 511,000 2,837,000 18 % 4 Argentina 1972 5,370,000 35,803,100 15 % 5 Chile 1972 1,624,000 11,603,000 14 % 6 Venezuela c1969 3,458,000 24,702,300 14 % 7 Bolivia 1969 1,027,000 8,559,700 12 %

10 Hocken, “Charismatic Movement,” 499.

11  Main source: World Christian Database, October 2010 (kindly provided by Dr. Todd M. John- son from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, email, October 29, 2010).

Source of Dominican Republic starting year: Hocken, “Charismatic Movement,” 498. Sources of Paraguay starting year: interview with Father Andrew Carr (Baltimore, MD, October 28, 2010) and recorded Paraguay interview number 37.


H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207


Table 1 (cont.)

Ranking Country Starting Total CCR Total Number

Year Community of Catholics


CCR as % of Catholics

8 Dominican Rep. 1974 887,000 8,519,300 10.4 % 9 Mexico 1971 9,773,000 97,733,400 10 % 10 Ecuador 1970 1,254,000 12,536,500 10 % 11 Peru 1970 2,723,000 27,227,400 10 % 12 Guatemala 1972 1,082,000 12,018,000   9 % 13 Panama 1973 214,000 2,382,600   9 % 14 Honduras 1971 531,000 5,895,000   9 % 15 Cuba 1977 468,000 5,849,000   8 % 16 Uruguay n.d. 182,000 2,272,100   8 % 17 El Salvador 1977 336,000 4,804,400   7 % 18 Costa Rica 1971 208,000 4,152,000   5 % 19 Nicaragua 1973 250,000 5,000,000   5 % 20 Paraguay 1973 112,000 5,614,000   2 %

Latin America 1967 76,658,000 470,622,000 16.3 %

The above data indicate that 16 percent of all Catholics in Latin America par- ticipate (or had participated) in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal by 2010. However, Table 1 shows that only two countries had really high numbers of CCR participants: Colombia (28 percent of all Catholics) and Brazil (24 percent). Out of the total number of 76.7 million CCR participants in Latin America in the year 2010, no less than 44 percent were Brazilians and 15 percent were Colombians. In all other countries, Catholic participation rates in the Charis- matic Renewal were much lower. Without Colombia and Brazil, the average CCR participation rate was almost 10 percent of all Catholics. In ten countries, the percentage of CCR participants was 8 to 12 percent of all Catholics. Puerto Rico, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, and Bolivia were all above the average; Para- guay, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and El Salvador were clearly below the Latin American average.

Brazil is the big success story of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. The CCR in Brazil grew from an estimated 2 million charismatic Catholics in 1980 to 4 million in 1994, 8 million in 1998, 9 million in 2000, and 11 million in 2010. These numbers apply to registered participants, each of whom tends to involve a retinue of associates not in the official count. The associated CCR community



H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207

in Brazil (including yearly visitors, ex-visitors, occasionally attending spouses, and children) is estimated at over three times that number: almost 34 million. Chesnut documented the important role of the mass media, especially televi- sion, in achieving this success. Brazil is the only country in Latin America in which the Catholic Charismatic Renewal controls two TV stations, which are competing fiercely with the TV station of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. Brazil is also the only country in which a singing CCR priest sells more records than secular rock groups.12

To really understand the success of the CCR in Brazil, however, a closer look at the local level is necessary. Dutch anthropologist Marjo de Theije analyzed the CCR and base communities (CEBs) together in Garahuns, a town of 100,000 in the northeastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco.13 Base communities are small groups of poor people who read the Bible and apply it to their own lives, which typically leads to social justice mobilization and projects.14 De Theije discovered that the local CCR group founded a day care center for street chil- dren, whereas “most area CEBs continue not to engage in political activism and projects.”15 This contradicted the expectation that CCR groups were typically more spiritually than socially committed and that CEBs excelled in social com- mitment but often downplayed spirituality. Moreover, de Theije documented that 12 percent of local parishioners were active in both groups at the same time, CCR and base communities, and saw no problem in this at all.16 De Theije points out various examples of the fusion of ideas and practices between both groups. Liberationist concerns about applying the Word of God in social proj- ects have affected CCR practices, as witnessed in their day care center for street

12 Chesnut, Competitive Spirits, 94-96.

13 See Marjo de Theije, All that is God’s is Good: An Anthropology of Liberationist Catholicism in Garahuns, Brazil (Utrecht, the Netherlands: PhD dissertation, Utrecht University, 1999) and Marjo de Theije, “CEBs and Catholic Charismatics in Brazil,” in Christian Smith and Joshua Prokopy, eds., Latin American Religion in Motion, 111-24 (New York and London: Routledge, 1999). See also Marjo de Theije and Cecília L. Mariz, “Localizing and Globalizing Processes in Brazilian Catholicism: Comparing Inculturation in Liberationist and Charismatic Catholic Cultures,” Latin American Research Review 43, no. 1 (2008), 33-54.

14 Henri Gooren, “Catholic and Non-Catholic Theologies of Liberation: Poverty, Self- improvement, and Ethics among Small-scale Entrepreneurs in Guatemala City,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 41 , no.1 (2002): 29-45.

15 De Theije, “CEBs and Catholic Charismatics in Brazil,” 111, 116.

16 Ibid., 119. Paraguay interview 23 confirmed that poor people in Paraguay sometimes also visited both CEBS and the CCR at the same time.


H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207


children. Young CCR members were actively involved in politics, campaigning for the Workers Party and its candidate Lula.17

De Theije’s general conclusion is also worth noting: “observers usually emphasize the meanings of the movement in a national and international con- text, overlooking the peculiarities and distinctive traits of local elaborations of charismatic teachings. Just as the base communities are not simply liberation theology writ small, local prayer groups are not necessarily the direct expres- sion of the national and international charismatic movement.”18 Obviously, more research is needed to confirm whether or not local Catholics in other parts of Latin America are also combining participation in base communities and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

CCR Self-Understanding and Counter-Voices

Even though the organizational forms of the CCR have evolved over time, adherents claim that the central aim of the movement has always remained the same: “The Renewal exists to help people live a new life in the power of the Spirit — not to bring them into something called The Catholic Charismatic Renewal. We are renewed when we open ourselves to God and accept what he is offering us — the fullness of his Holy Spirit, there is no other way. This means that by our very nature we are different from other ecclesial movements.”19 Whitehead then quotes Cardinal Leo Jozef Suenens of Belgium, one of the main high-level promoters of the CCR: “To understand the Renewal as a ‘move- ment’ among other movements is to misunderstand its nature; it is a movement of the Spirit offered to the entire Church and destined to rejuvenate every part of the Church’s life.” Whitehead puts the CCR firmly at the heart of the Roman Catholic Church: “The goals of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal are the same as the goals and objectives of the Church itself, and are very well described in the preamble to the Statutes of the ICCRS. The Renewal seeks the conversion, salvation, and sanctification of all people and their unification into an effective

17 Ibid., 121. Lula later went on to serve two terms as president of Brazil (2003-2007 and 2007- 2011).

18 Ibid., 112.

19 Charles Whitehead, “What is the Nature of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal?” at 3 (2003), available at, accessed September 10, 2010.



H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207

assembly of God’s people.”20 CCR participants tell their conversion stories and give their testimony in public.21

In Latin America, as in the United States, opposition to the CCR in the 1970s came mostly from conservative bishops. Bishop Miguel García of Mazatlán, Mexico, for example, did not see the action of the Holy Spirit in the CCR but “the smoke of Satan that has infiltrated the church.” Bishop Antonio López of Durango, Mexico was the first among the hierarchy to ban the CCR from his diocese. He charged the CCR with “elitism, fundamentalism, Protestant con- tamination, ‘charismania’ (excessive emphasis on spiritual gifts), paraclerical- ism, and authoritarianism.” Chesnut rightly concluded that “the bishop’s prohibition of the fundamentals of CCR practice — clapping, ‘rhythmic move- ment,’ baptism in the Spirit, and all spiritual gifts — would strip the movement of its charisma and thus its distinguishing characteristic.”22

Responses of National Bishops’ Conferences to the CCR

In 1975, the U.S. bishops were among the first in the world to embrace the CCR — although noting that it required pastoral guidance.23 Yet, many bishops everywhere saw the CCR as a potential threat to their ecclesiastical authority. As Chesnut notes: “Many bishops and priests feared that with direct access to the Holy Spirit, charismatics would no longer feel the need for sacerdotal mediation.”24

Also in 1975, the Panamanian bishops’ conference was the first in Latin America to grant official recognition to the CCR. Within a decade, they were followed by the national bishops’ conferences of Chile, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Guatemala — all countries with robust Pentecostal growth at the time.25 The national Bishops’ Conference in Guatemala came out with a strong endorsement of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in 1986.26 This is not surprising, as Guatemala is the most Protestant country of Latin America, with

20 Whitehead, “What is the Nature of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal?” at 4. ICCRS stands for International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services, based in Rome.

21 Gooren, Religious Conversion and Disaffiliation, 90-91, 120-22.

22 All direct quotations in this paragraph are from Chesnut, Competitive Spirits, 72.

23 Thigpen, “Catholic Charismatic Renewal,” 464.

24 Chesnut, Competitive Spirits, 71.

25 Chesnut, Competitive Spirits, 88. Pentecostal growth in Costa Rica was still modest in the late 1970s, however.

26 The Panamanian Bishops’ Conference had expressed a great openness toward the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in 1975, but stopped short of full endorsement. See Kilian McDonnell, Char- ismatic Renewal and the Churches (New York: Seabury, 1976), 72-73.


H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207


one-third of its population identifying as evangelical.27 In the Guatemalan Bishops’ Conference document Guidelines for Charismatic Renewal, “they noted the fruits of the action of the Holy Spirit in terms of deepened spiritual lives of lay persons and priests. They repeated the commonly expressed fears that, without close watching on the part of authorized chaplains, ‘Charismatic groups easily go off tracks’ into such practices as peculiar kinds of prayers, exclusive attitudes (non-Pentecostal forms of prayer were frowned upon), and overemphasis on emotions.”28

Individual bishops in Colombia, Venezuela, and Mexico were among the most supportive of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the 1970s.29 By the late 1970s, liaison priests functioned at parish level to provide contacts between bishops and the CCR movement in almost all countries of Latin America. This followed similar organizational developments in Western Europe and the United States.30 In the United States, the CCR started with small prayer groups (1967-1970), some of which developed into collective covenant communities (1970-1975): “residential communities organized into households and often economically communal as well.”31 In the 1980s, the earlier emphasis on orga- nization in covenant groups was slowly giving way to more open parish prayer groups.32 In Latin America, national bishops’ conferences started to promote the Catholic Charismatic Renewal as a way to prevent membership losses to Pentecostalism. From its predominantly middle-class membership base, the movement gradually expanded into the popular classes. New prayer groups were formed in slums and shantytowns and mass rallies were organized in soc- cer stadiums.33

In the mid-1980s, the Latin American bishops openly manifested their great concern regarding the massive loss of their members to the Pentecostal “sects.” At a January 1985 meeting in Brasilia, for instance, the Latin American Episco- pal Conference (CELAM) issued pastoral recommendations to deal with the

27 Henri Gooren, “Reconsidering Protestant Growth in Guatemala, 1900-1995,” in Holy Saints and Fiery Preachers: The Anthropology of Protestantism in Mexico and Central America, ed. James W. Dow and Alan R. Sandstrom, 169-203 (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2001).

28 Cleary, “The Catholic Charismatic Renewal,” 165.

29 Hocken, “Charismatic Movement,” 499.

30 Ibid., 468.

31 Meredith B. McGuire, Catholic Pentecostals: Power, Charisma, and Order in a Religious Move- ment (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1982), 192.

32 This CCR periodization for the United States is based on Thomas L. Csordas, Language, Charisma, and Creativity: The Ritual Life of a Religious Movement (Berkeley, CA: University of Cali- fornia Press, 1997), 5-6.

33 Chesnut, Competitive Spirits, 75, 82-84.



H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207

surging competition for members with Pentecostalism: “The first recommen- dation called for ‘revalorizing the sense of action of the Holy Spirit in all church life.’ More explicitly, point two recommended actively accompanying the CCR so that associated priestly participation would serve as testament to the value of the Spirit in the church. The third prescription urged greater pastoral atten- tion to the most vulnerable sectors (the urban poor, youth, migrants, and women) of the church through base communities, renewed liturgy, embracing popular traditions, and social and health pastorals.”34

The emphasis on faith healing in the CCR has gradually expanded to include broader pastoral care to its participants. This was part of a wider project to evangelize among nominal Catholics and bring them back to the church with a high commitment. To this end, Catholic charismatics copied successful Pente- costal evangelization methods, such as home visits.35 The greater episcopal recognition of the CCR in the 1980s also implied increased supervision of the movement. To help them regain both control and distinctiveness, the national bishops’ conferences made a concerted effort to move the Virgin Mary to the center of the CCR to distinguish the lay movement more clearly from Protes- tant Pentecostalism.36 The bishops supervised the functioning of the CCR groups through the diocesan liaisons and the local parish priests. By the 1990s, local priests were told by the hierarchy to encourage the formation of a CCR prayer groups in their parish if none were active already. This explained the rise and subsequent strengthening of local parish CCR prayer groups in most Latin American countries in the second half of the 1990s, including in Nicaragua and Paraguay.

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Nicaragua

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is by far the most successful Catholic group to compete with Pentecostal churches on the religious market in Nicaragua. My 2005 and 2006 fieldwork in Managua focused on competition for members among various religious groups: two charismatic Catholic groups, the Pente- costal Assemblies of God, the neo-Pentecostal mega church Hosanna, and the

34 Ibid., 85.

35 Ibid., 94.

36 Ibid., 89-92. Cleary, The Rise of Charismatic Catholicism in Latin America, Chapter 3, men- tions that “Colombians and Mexicans early on included Mary in the Charismatic movement, while further south in the lower Andes and Southern Cone Catholic Charismatics included Mary after a period of neglect.”


H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207


Mormon Church. As with the other churches, I selected the two CCR groups after visiting about six different ones. One was bigger and more middle-class; the other was smaller and with only low-income participants. In both groups the main leaders and at least four or five random participants were studied in- depth through semi-structured, recorded interviews and direct observations in church and often in their homes as well.

Paradoxically, Nicaragua ranks among the countries in Latin America with a lower CCR presence (see Table 1). In the year 2010, the total CCR community was estimated at 250,000 or about 5 percent of all Catholics in Nicaragua.37 While this percentage may seem inconsequential, given the low participation of so many “nominal” Catholics the active involvement of some 5 percent of the church implies that the Charismatic Renewal represents the majority of active Catholics in Nicaragua.

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal arrived in Nicaragua in December 1973. Especially among the middle classes it had great success in the 1980s, when being an active charismatic Catholic was an act of rebellion against the left- wing Sandinista government.38 A second growth period started in the late 1990s, when various new groups, including the two groups I studied, were formed in Managua at the initiative of local parish priests.

Charismatic Catholic meetings in Managua generally took place weekly at the local parish church building. At first glance, a Catholic charismatic meeting closely resembled a Pentecostal meeting. There were loud and emotional open- ing prayers, followed by a long period (at least thirty minutes) of joyous gospel songs sung at full volume. Many of the songs were actually borrowed from the Pentecostals and were accompanied by swaying and loud clapping. There was almost always a sermon by a lay leader, usually someone from the leadership committee, who used Bible quotes for moral instruction. After more songs, the final prayers were again a cacophony, as everyone prayed his or her prayer in a loud voice simultaneously.

The differences with Pentecostalism, however, were visible in the many exclamations honoring Holy Mary. To give one example in Spanish: “Quién causa tanta alegría?!” “La virgen de María!” In English: “Who causes such joy?!”

37 World Christian Database, October 2010 (kindly provided by Dr. Todd M. Johnson from Gor- don-Conwell Theological Seminary, email, October 29, 2010).

38 Source: recorded interview with Dr Enrique Alvarado Abaunza, national leader of the Cath- olic Charismatic Renewal, 1988-2002; Managua, April 24, 2006. The Charismatic Catholic growth period in the 1980s thus coincided with the (Protestant) Pentecostal boom of that same decade. See, e.g., Henri Gooren, “The Religious Market in Nicaragua: The Paradoxes of Catholicism and Protestantism,” Exchange 32, no. 4 (2003): 340-60.



H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207

“The virgin Mary!” However, there were also exclamations honoring Jesus Christ: “A su nombre?” “GLORIA!” “A su reino?” “VICTORIA!” In English: “To His name?” Deafening chant from the group: “GLORY!” “To His Kingdom?” “VIC- TORY!” These exclamations would typically be repeated at various times during the meeting. Often, there were also repeated Hail Mary and Our Father prayers. Occasionally (to be specific, only once during the four or five months I attended each group in 2005 and 2006), the local parish priest would honor a Charis- matic group with a visit and perhaps give a short motivational talk.39 I studied two Charismatic Catholic groups in Managua: one in Monseñor Lezcano in the west and one in Bello Horizonte in the east. Both were led by a committee of lay leaders. However, these committees functioned very differ- ently. The predominantly middle-class Bello Horizonte group was bigger and far better organized. Both groups were formed in the late 1990s at the initiative of local parish priests to counter desertion to Pentecostalism.

Monseñor Lezcano is a huge low-income neighborhood in western Mana- gua.40 Although considered unsafe by night (after 6 pm), it did not have a youth gang.41 The Lezcano Catholic parish is called Sagrado Corazón de Jesús: Sacred Heart of Jesus. It had a very modest Charismatic Catholic group of about twenty core members, including two men, named Nueva Vida en el Espíritu Santo or New Life in the Holy Spirit. The typical regular participants were women over fifty who had never belonged to a Protestant church. The leadership committee consisted of three women who had always been staunch Roman Catholics: doña Carmen, the educated sixty-five-year-old leader called pastora (pastor), a treasurer, and a secretary. For special group activities, like the Easter dinner, the same five women in the group always did all of the work. The emphasis of the charismatic group in Lezcano was on group worship and on teaching its par- ticipants the correct Catholic doctrine and Bible exegesis.

This small Catholic charismatic group in Monseñor Lezcano had no electric band, but most of the time a man in his thirties with a strong voice, playing an acoustic guitar, brought more vigor into the group’s singing. New visitors rarely

39 Brigham Young University anthropologist John Hawkins (personal email to author; March 16, 2011) remarked that he never saw this happen during his visits to Charismatic Catholic groups in Guatemala.

40 From 1912 to 1951, Monseñor Lezcano was the first archbishop of the diocese of Managua. His modest statue can be found on the corner of the city block where the parish church is located.

41 The much poorer adjacent neighborhood Edgard Lang, however, had two youth gangs, which were notorious for their drug-related violence. Some of the women from the Monseñor Lezcano Charismatic group lived there.


H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207


arrived in the Lezcano group and they had no formal evangelization activities. When someone new came, it was always a friend or relative of other partici- pants. The group was not growing.

Bello Horizonte is a predominantly upper-lower-class and middle-class neighborhood in eastern Managua, near the Rotunda Bello Horizonte. Its local parish is called Pío Décimo, after Pope Pius X. They had a huge Catholic Char- ismatic group of over two hundred visitors, many of whom were young people. It was founded in 1998 by Alfonso Baldioceda and Carlos Hernández, two uni- versity graduates who were at that time in their mid-twenties. Both founders could be heard almost daily on the Catholic radio station, Radio María Estrella del Mar (Radio Mary Star of the Sea).42

The primary objective of the Bello Horizonte Charismatic group, as stated by both the original founders and the current leaders, was evangelization. In a meeting with Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo in 1998, the Cardinal decided that they should found an Evangelization Ministry. But in 2006 the group actu- ally organized three sorts of activities. Every Monday night, there were cell groups of eight to ten people: the grupos de oración or prayer groups. On Wednesday nights they had classes teaching Catholic doctrine and Bible exege- sis to about sixty core members. Friday nights were reserved for the general meeting, from around 7 to around 9 pm.

According to Alfonso Baldioceda, the people who arrived at the general meeting on Friday were “Catholics, ex-Catholics, and Protestants.” The group was “created to offer the inactive Catholic a place for Christian meeting. The people . . . what they’re looking for is peace in their soul. Because it’s not just the economic problems, but also family problems, children involved in alcohol, in drugs; marital problems.”43 I talked to two former Pentecostals after various Friday meetings. This confirms that the group was an effective instrument of the Catholic Church in Managua in competing with non-Catholic religious groups like Pentecostals.

The Bello Horizonte group had an active evangelization group that contrib- uted to radio programs on Radio María, produced colorful brochures, and actively encouraged participants to bring new people. They invited new people themselves as well, often colleagues from work. The evangelization group leader was an energetic man in his thirties. The general group leader or

42 Alfonso worked as a news reporter for Radio Corporación; Carlos owned a small textile printing business. No CCR leader insisted on anonymity in this study.

43 Source: recorded interview with Alfonso Baldioceda, March 14, 2006. As an outsider, I was not allowed to visit the Monday and Wednesday activities unless I (re)committed myself to the Catholic faith.



H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207

coordinator was a sixty-two-year-old car service station owner, Ezequiel Pavón. Just like Carlos Hernández and Alfonso Baldioceda, these men had gone through an intense conversion experience. Such conversions were common among Charismatic Catholic leaders in Managua.44

The Bello Horizonte leadership committee consisted of five people who rotated every three years and who could always ask for advice from the original founders. They had a coordinator, a spokesperson, a treasurer, a secretary, and a leader of the evangelization groups. They used to have an electric band of four (drums, electric guitar, bass guitar, and keyboard), but only the keyboard player remained active in the group. Although this limited the appeal of their worship on Friday night, they also had a small choir of three singers. I noticed that most visitors were well dressed; many even had cellular phones. These were not the poor people of Monseñor Lezcano: most seemed quite well off. Another difference with the Lezcano group was that women formed only a small majority. There were many children.

There were usually at least a dozen first-time visitors on each Friday night, who were always asked to stand up during the meeting. Members of the evan- gelization group would approach them to welcome them, engage in small talk, write down address information, and follow up upon their return to other meetings. On some nights, all adult visitors would receive brochures, contain- ing the life history of a Polish nun or a special prayer to Mary. All of these meth- ods were directly copied from Pentecostal churches and they were quite successful. In the period in which I attended the Friday meetings, roughly from February until May 2006, the attendance varied between 100 and 250 people, with the average gradually growing toward about 200.

Both Catholic Charismatic Renewal groups I studied in Managua were formed on the initiative of the local parish priest but run entirely by local lay leaders after the priest subsequently left them to their own devices. Among the lower-class women in Lezcano this resulted in informal meetings with a less hierarchical organization. There were no resources for evangelization and the lay leaders often had little education. Hence, new visitors arrived only when a regular participant brought them in, and they rarely continued participating.

44 See also Janneke Brouwer, Nieuwe scheppingen in Christus: Bekeringsverhalen van protes- tante evangélicos en katholieke carismáticos in Masaya, Nicaragua [“New Creations in Christ: Con- version Stories of Protestant Evangélicos and Catholic Carismáticos in Masaya, Nicaragua”] (Utrecht, the Netherlands: M.A. Thesis in Cultural Anthropology, Utrecht University, 2000) and Gooren, Religious Conversion and Disaffiliation. Cleary, “The Catholic Charismatic Renewal” like- wise suggested that Charismatic Catholics all over the world, and especially in Latin America, stress the importance of having a conversion experience.


H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207


All members had a Catholic background; none had experienced a conversion career that included participation in a Pentecostal church. This confirmed that the Catholic Charismatic Renewal could be an effective means for competing with other churches in Nicaragua, but the success hereof seems to be more determined by local leadership and local class structures than by a national Catholic Charismatic Renewal organization.

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Paraguay

The fieldwork in Asunción in July and August 2010 focused on renewal in churches by mapping and analyzing the impact of Pentecostalism on main- stream Paraguayan society. This process of Pentecostalization affected both the Roman Catholic Church and the historical Protestant churches such as the Baptists, Methodists, and the many Mennonite groups in Paraguay. Fierce com- petition for members with successful Pentecostal groups drove other churches to adopt some of their elements, such as music and worship styles, evangeliza- tion methods, faith healing, and sometimes even speaking in tongues.45 The Catholic Charismatic Renewal arrived in Paraguay in 1973 with U.S. Redemptorist Father Andrew Carr, CSsR at the parish Perpetuo Socorro in Asunción.46 Especially among the middle classes, it had great success between 1975 and 1980. A second growth period started in the 1990s under the central CCR organization in Barrio Herrera, which was very professional and organized many special events and mass meetings at soccer stadiums. In the 1990s a Pen- tecostal-Charismatic renewal movement spread rapidly among various older Protestant churches, but also in the Roman Catholic Church. The total percent- age of Roman Catholics has decreased from 98.1 percent in 1970 to 93.3 percent in 1992 and 89.6 percent in 2002.47 The Catholic Charismatic Renewal had 106,480 participants in 1995, representing about 5 percent of all registered Catholics48 but close to 40 percent of all active Catholics. Since the 1990s the Bishops’ Conference has reluctantly tolerated the Catholic Charismatic

45 Henri Gooren, “The Pentecostalization of Religion and Society in Latin America,” Exchange 39, no. 4 (2010), 355-76.

46 Sources: interview with Father Andrew Carr (Baltimore, MD; October 28, 2010) and recorded Paraguay interview number 37. Paraguay interview number 31 gives 1972 as starting year. 47 Wikipedia, Religion in Paraguay (2008), available at in_Paraguay, accessed October 28, 2008; David B. Barrett, George T. Kurian, and Todd M. Johnson, World Christian Encyclopedia, Second Edition (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 587.

48 Barrett et al., World Christian Encyclopedia, 588.



H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207

Renewal in order to keep Catholics from converting to Protestantism. Around 2005, the Paraguayan bishops’ conference curtailed the mass meetings and put an end to the central CCR organization.49 Like their counterparts in Nicaragua, the bishops now encouraged the formation of new CCR prayer groups at the parish level, at the initiative of local parish priests or local lay leaders. Interestingly, Paraguay is the country in Latin America with the least pres- ence of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. The total CCR community in 2010 was estimated at 112,000 or only 2 percent of all Catholics in Paraguay.50 Yet, these statistics turn out to be highly inflated. One CCR leader in Asunción told me there were eighty-four parishes in the metropolitan area of Asunción.51 Only two or three parishes did not have a CCR prayer group. Most groups had between twenty-five and thirty members (not counting children); two had groups of seventy. One group, Sagrado Corazón de Cristo, had between 300 and 400 visitors (see below). This would amount to a maximum total of 2,800 CCR participants for all of Asunción (80 × 30, plus 400). Ciudad del Este and Encar- nación had much smaller groups, and outside of these major cities the CCR did not have a strong presence. This would lead to a national total number of CCR participants of between 5,000 and 8,000 at best. It is hard to believe that by add- ing children, relatives, ex-charismatics, and sympathizers one would get to fourteen times that amount (as estimated in the official statistics above). I would argue that the total number of CCR participants is, in fact, much lower — perhaps 15,000 to 25,000 in all of Paraguay.

I studied two groups of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Asunción in depth: the Central Assembly (Asamblea Central) in Barrio Herrera and Sagrado Corazón de Cristo (“Sacred Heart of Christ”) in Barrio Madame Lynch. Both were located in predominantly middle-class neighborhoods with big houses, nice gardens, and paved roads. The Asamblea Central originally started around 1980 as the only CCR meeting place in Asunción, in a huge house donated by one of the early leaders of the movement: Father Vicente Bogado (1922-2002). Until 2000, over 1,500 people met various times a week here. After the bishops decided to decentralize the movement around 2005, prayer groups were formed at almost all parishes of Asunción.

In July and August 2010, the Central Assembly in Barrio Herrera met every Wednesday from 2:30 pm until around 5:30 pm. The first half hour was always

49 Source: recorded Paraguay interviews numbers 13, 28, 29, and 32.

50 World Christian Database, October 2010 (kindly provided by Dr. Todd M. Johnson from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, email, October 29, 2010).

51  Source: recorded Paraguay interview number 29 with the archdiocese coordinator of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Asunción; August 11, 2010.


H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207


dedicated to reciting the Rosary time and again, with usually only a few elderly women present. Typically most participants at this time were servidoras, the volunteer ushers who wore white vests with a picture of the serene face of Holy Mary on the back and the text “La virgin de paz” (“the virgin of peace”). The meetings always started punctually at 3:00 pm with worship songs and prayer. After the collection of donations, there were typically more songs and a short sermon by one of the lay leaders. The meeting ended around 4:00 pm, when the priest arrived for Mass. At most meetings in July and August 2010, I observed between forty and seventy people present — in a huge space with about 1,500 chairs. Mass would end around 5:30 pm. Some of the servidoras sold pastries and cocido (strong herbal tea) after the Mass ended.

One of the important former leaders of the Central Assembly was José Tomás Martínez. Born in 1963, he studied business at the Catholic University of Asun- ción and in London, England. In 1992, in his first year of marriage, his wife wanted him to leave, because “he continued to live as a bachelor,” going out at night, drinking, dancing, and womanizing. His wife got involved in a CCR group through friends and they invited him to come. He did not like it very much, but when he drove some of the group to visit an older woman who had tried to commit suicide three times, something special happened. They arrived at her home, prayed for her by the laying on of hands, and afterwards he sat down. “I felt an internal voice that told me: ‘I love you, I love you just as you are.’ And I started to cry, cry, cry . . . . I cried of happiness for about three days and three nights. I felt forgiven by God. I felt loved by God and that made me start a life of compromise. I started to read the Bible. I was reading the Bible in another way; I realized it was God’s answer to my questions. I think it was a very radical con- version, very strong. My attitudes changed. I used to be a very aggressive man; I liked to get into fights. But ever since God touched me, I became calmer. I never got into another fight again.”52 José soon became a coordinator for the CCR at parish, diocese, and finally national level. He started preaching, gradu- ally made a name for himself, and was invited to preach in over thirty coun- tries. José Martínez has published three books and in 2010 was National Coordinator of Lay Leaders in Paraguay.

The other CCR group I studied in depth was Sagrado Corazón de Cristo, located in the parish with the same name in Barrio Madame Lynch. It is a beau- tiful parish church with nice chandeliers on the ceiling, twelve stained-glass windows, and a huge crucifix. The building has room for four hundred people and it was usually full on Tuesday night, when the CCR group met right after

52 Recorded Paraguay fieldwork interview number 13, Asunción; July 21, 2010.



H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207

Mass ended, usually around 7:30 pm. Almost all of the people who were at Mass left and hundreds of new people arrived for the CCR meeting. All the surround- ing streets would be jammed with parked cars, while the parking ground behind the parish building was also half full. This CCR group was founded in the early 1990s by a sixty-five-year-old charismatic leader called Alejandro Bogda, a for- mer chemical engineer who has gained great fame in Paraguay as a CCR healer and preacher. The group first met in the home of a participant, but it became so big that they had to look for a bigger location. The priest at Sagrado Corazón was sympathetic to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and offered his parish church as a meeting place.

The structure of the CCR meetings here was similar to the Central Assembly: The meetings always started with worship songs and prayer. After the collec- tion of donations, there were typically more songs and a long sermon by Ale- jandro Bogda. He is a great speaker who used humor and lively body movements to keep the audience attentive. Six or seven lay leaders would afterwards lay on hands while praying over (almost) all people in the audience. Every meeting included a long time when lay leaders were speaking in tongues and another lay leader would translate their words. Once a month, they ended their meeting with testimonies, which could continue until well after 10:30 pm. This CCR group had an excellent music group, consisting of two key board players and singers.

I interviewed a total of eleven participants in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Asunción, Paraguay in July-August 2010. Five were CCR leaders and six were active CCR participants. Nine CCR adherents told me they formerly had been “lukewarm” —meaning not very committed — Catholics until learn- ing about the CCR and subsequently getting involved with it.53 Only two, one of whom was a priest, were already committed Catholics before joining the CCR. This strongly suggests that the CCR was successful in reactivating Catholics in Paraguay.


Returning to a question posed at the beginning: Why has the Catholic Charis- matic Renewal in Latin America received so little academic attention? First, after a radical initial phase of communal living and ecumenicalism, the visibil-

53 Source: recorded Paraguay fieldwork interviews numbers 13, 23, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33, 34, 37, and 38.


H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207


ity of the CCR in the Roman Catholic Church has decreased to a point where it is much less visible nowadays in many Latin American countries. Second, the CCR is only one strong lay movement among at least a dozen others that are currently active in trying to transform Catholicism — even though the CCR claims a unique position, because its members believe that the Holy Spirit ini- tiated it. Third, some researchers may have avoided the topic because it is not easy to make sense of the CCR, both empirically and theoretically. Why is that?

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is a movement full of paradoxes. It is a Catholic lay movement that started in ecumenical cooperation and worship with Protestant Charismatics. The early CCR developed its own “covenant groups” that were independent from the institutional church, bypassing the authority of the hierarchy in favor of direct access to the Holy Spirit. The CCR developed a new liturgy, characterized by joyful hymns that were often bor- rowed from Protestant Pentecostalism, the swaying of the body, the sharing of testimonies, and an appeal to personal conversion through the acceptance of Jesus Christ. To gain institutional acceptance, however, the CCR gave up its cov- enant groups and independent preachers, embraced Holy Mary and the pope, and became a lay movement in favor of Catholic orthodoxy. The CCR enjoyed strong growth in the 1980s by organizing mass rallies centered on faith healing, but the hierarchy put an end to these around 2000 and CCR growth stagnated after that. The CCR pioneered the use of mass media, particularly in Brazil and the Philippines, but is now almost invisible in the mass media of Nicaragua and Paraguay.

I argue that in a historical perspective, it makes sense to interpret the Catho- lic Charismatic Renewal as a revitalization movement that aims to (re)connect individual Catholics to the Roman Catholic Church.54 The anthropologist Anthony Wallace originally defined a revitalization movement as “a deliberate, organized, conscious effort by members of a society to construct a more satisfy- ing culture.”55 A prophet would start a reform of a traditional religion to bring it more in line with current events and thus change the local culture. Wallace focused on Native American cultures, but his revitalization movement concept

54 The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is thus also an instrument of intensification, as devel- oped by Lewis Rambo: “the revitalized commitment to a faith with which the convert has had previous affiliation, formal or informal.” See Lewis Rambo, Understanding Religious Conversion (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993), 13.

55 Anthony F.C. Wallace, 1956, “Revitalization Movements,” American Anthropologist 58, no. 2 (1956), 265.



H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207

remains widely popular.56 The case studies of Nicaragua and Paraguay show that the CCR is revitalizing Catholic lay participation rather than bringing about direct institutional change.

David Lehmann, however, denies the Catholic Charismatic Renewal much influence within the Roman Catholic Church, let alone in wider society. Leh- mann adheres to an extremely limited definition of a movement as “something which brings about major change — in the institutions and culture of a reli- gion, or in society, or sometimes both. But to bring about change a project of transformation is required, and this is what the Renewal lacks, and it explains why despite their millions of followers, they have had fewer historical conse- quences than the small band of the People’s Church and liberation theology.”57 I think that Lehmann misses the point that the transformation process in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which most certainly exists, is aimed at reacti- vating individual Catholics and not at directly transforming the institutional church. As we saw earlier, in order to gain a foothold in the Church and obtain the approval of clergy and bishops, the CCR had to affirm its loyalty to the lead- ership time and again. This explains why the center of gravity of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal gradually shifted away from the more prophetic, and harder to control, covenant communities to the more conventional prayer groups under supervision of parish priests and bishops. There can be no doubt that the charisma of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal has been routinized and subdued by the church hierarchy.

In both Nicaragua and Paraguay, the hierarchy decentralized the CCR and put an end to its mass meetings centered on faith healing. If Andrew Chesnut is correct in stating that the main attractions of the CCR are individual access to the Holy Spirit and faith healing without having to renounce veneration of Mary,58 the bishops have effectively neutralized the main appeal of the CCR and severely curtailed its revitalization potential. Yet, the hierarchy has also become much more appreciative of the benefits of the CCR over the last two or three decades after they coopted the movement. The bishops’ conferences of almost all Latin American countries have praised the movement for its com- mitment, its evangelization activities, its skilled use of mass media, its empha-

56 Some authors consider that Christianity originally started as a revitalization movement within Judaism under the prophet Jesus. See, e.g., C. Phillip Kottak, Cultural Anthropology,Twelfth Edition (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2008), 295.

57 David Lehmann, “Dissidence and Conformism in Religious Movements: What Differences Separates the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and Pentecostal Churches?” in “Movements” in the Church, ed. Alberto Melloni (London: SCM Press, 2003), 134.

58 Chesnut, Competitive Spirits, 82-84, 89-92.


H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207


sis on the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of all believers, its involvement in pastoral attention to vulnerable sectors (such as the urban poor, youth, migrants, and women), and its renewed liturgy and music. Above all, the bish- ops in Latin America (and elsewhere) cherish the proven capacity of the Cath- olic Charismatic Renewal to reactivate nominal Catholics and counter the process of church desertion that is feeding the growth of Protestant Pentecos- talism. This is a concern of the Catholic hierarchy worldwide and it explains part of the globalization dynamics that are visible within the CCR.

Reflecting on my fieldwork experiences in the CCR in Nicaragua and Para- guay, I was struck by the global character and expressions of the movement. There was very little in the worship, preaching, healing, and evangelizing that was typically Nicaraguan or Paraguayan.59 In the Paraguayan CCR, for example, only the songs written by Silvia Mariella Vera Díaz and Fernando Biedermann sometimes exhibited a local flavor in lyrics, rhythm, and instruments. When the archbishop of Asunción, Monsignor Pastor Cuquejo, wrote a succinct his- tory of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, he focused entirely on events in the United States and other Latin American countries and did not mention the CCR in Paraguay even once.60

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal offers styles of worship, preaching, heal- ing, and evangelizing that make participants feel part of a truly global move- ment. Famous local preachers and singers are part of international CCR networks and frequently travel to other countries in Latin America (and some- times to the United States and Spain). Hence it should come as no surprise that the most innovative theoretical interpretations of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal emphasize and analyze its global character.

Anthropologist Thomas Csordas offers an appraisal of the Catholic Charis- matic Renewal as a uniquely global and postmodern movement.61 Csordas puts more emphasis than I am comfortable with on the apocalyptic element of the CCR by concluding: “the Charismatic Renewal weaves the cosmic time of salva- tion history into the fabric of everyday life, speeding it up and lending it a sense of urgency with the notion that the movement is part of a preparation for the

59 Cf. de Theije and Mariz, “Localizing and Globalizing Processes in Brazilian Catholicism,” 41.

60 Pastor Cuquejo, A los cuarenta años de un ‘Nuevo Pentecostés’: Reflexiones sobre una corriente de gracia llamada Renovación Carismática, 1967-2007 (Asunción, Paraguay: Universidad Católica and Archdiocese of Asunción, 2008).

61  Csordas, Language, Charisma, and Creativity; Thomas L. Csordas, “Global Religion and the Re-Enchantment of the Word: The Case of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal,” Anthropological Theory 7, no. 3 (2007): 295-314.



H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207

‘end times’ before Christ’s second coming.”62 A second problem I have with this assessment of the CCR is that it is not specific enough: it describes Protestant Pentecostalism (especially the early Azusa Street variant) far better than the CCR. Csordas finishes by postulating that “the increasing articulation of the world social system generates an ideological impulse towards formulations of universal culture such as the Catholic Charismatic movement.”63 A similar explanation has been used to explain the worldwide success of both Mormon- ism64 and Pentecostalism.65

Anthropologists de Theije and Mariz conclude their comparison of global elements in liberationist Catholicism and the CCR in Brazil by stating that “the emotional and personalized style of the CCR permits certain continuity with elements of popular culture.”66 But neither in Nicaragua nor in Paraguay did I encounter many Catholics who used to be involved in popular Catholi- cism, the cofradía brotherhoods, or the cult of the saints. Most CCR partici- pants were middle-class and more highly educated, while the typical participants in popular Catholicism were lower-class and had less education. Such a monocausal class analysis of the CCR, however, is too limited and ulti- mately unsatisfactory. In Nicaragua, many poor people did participate in the CCR, even though the leadership of most groups in Managua was made up of middle-class professionals.

Political scientist Edward Cleary sees many positive effects of the growth of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Latin America. He first mentions “a nota- ble reinvigoration of religious practice at the grassroots.”67 Second, Cleary iden- tifies a marked increase in priests, seminarians, sisters, and lay leaders. Third, the “CCR has reinforced Catholic identity and adherence to the church.” Fourth, Charismatic Catholics express a high level of confidence in the church and its leaders. Fifth, “charismatics are re-creating aspects of popular culture” by offer- ing alternatives to promiscuous sexual behavior and machismo, counseling young people, and adapting popular music and songs for their worship meet-

62 Csordas, “Global Religion,” 310.

63 Ibid., 311.

64 Henri Gooren, “The Mormons of the World: The Meaning of LDS Membership in Central America,” in Revisiting Thomas F. O’Dea’s “The Mormons”: Contemporary Perspectives, ed., Cardell K. Jacobson, John P. Hoffman, and Tim B. Heaton, 362-88 (Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press, 2008).

65 David Martin, Tongues of Fire: The Explosion of Protestantism in Latin America (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990); David Martin, Pentecostalism: The World Their Parish (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002).

66 de Theije and Mariz, “Localizing and Globalizing Processes in Brazilian Catholicism,” 51.

67 All direct quotations in this paragraph are from Cleary, “The Catholic Charismatic Renewal,” 169-70.


H. Gooren / Pneuma 34 (2012) 185-207


ings. Sixth, “charismatics tend to be more generous than other Catholics in con- tributing economic support to the church.” And finally, “charismatics are missionaries; they want to make converts. Thus, more than most other lay renewal movements, charismatic Catholics use aggressive tactics to meet the challengers from other religions.” Cleary’s main conclusion is confirmed by the ethnographic material from Nicaragua and Paraguay: the Catholic Charismatic Renewal has greatly strengthened the capacity of the Roman Catholic Church to compete for members with other churches in Latin America. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Latin America is a revitalization movement that aims to (re)connect individual Catholics to the Roman Catholic Church by offering them an intensification of their faith through an encounter with the Holy Spirit.



  • Reply October 20, 2023


    Troy Day what are your thoughts concerning this?

    • Reply October 20, 2023


      Tony Schneider man I got to consult with Tony Richie on this one
      BUT Philip Williams is a full blooded Catholic if you wanna ask him

    • Reply October 20, 2023


      Tony Schneider, thank you. I’m convinced that no sect or denomination has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit. The waters of the Spirit overflow banks and burst through man-made dams to irrigate the dry land and make deserts flourish.

    • Reply October 20, 2023


      Tony Richie thank you for your response.

  • Reply October 20, 2023


    My grandma was a Catholic and she became a Catholic charismatic in the 70’s, here in Mexico.

    I’ve always been concerned about this movement in the Catholic Church because they still promote and practice unbiblical Catholic doctrines like praying to Mary, intercession of saints, the mass, etc. but at the same time, they have to attend a “pre-baptismal” meeting where the gospel (the real one) is preached and they make a decision to put Christ as their savior (as evangelicals do at the altar call).

    Are they really born again? Is this a counterfeit movement? I don’t know.

    • Reply October 20, 2023


      Gerardo de Dominicis Philip Williams grannie was a Catholic Pentecostal too

  • Reply October 21, 2023


    Total deception. There is no salvation in Rome. God rebuked Rome with a Reformation and Rome never repented. The RCC is a false church, a broad way leading to destruction.

    • Reply October 23, 2023


      well now Ed Blackburn I know Philip Williams would beg to differ cause he visited the pope and informed him of finding Noah’s boat in Poland

    • Reply October 23, 2023


      Troy Day go count your beads!

    • Reply October 23, 2023


      Philip Williams counted yours and there aint but 2-3 brain beads

    • Reply October 23, 2023


      Troy Day time for you to Hail Mary until your penance is completed.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.