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Jakob Thorsen: Charismatic Practice and Catholic Parish Life

To defend his thesis, Thorsen turns to Italian sociologist Francesco Alberoni. Thorsen applies to CCR Alberoni’s sociological categorization of the “nascent state,” the temporary status of a movement in a state of dismantling, reshaping, and liberation from institutional prohibitions and repression. According to Alberoni, such movements must choose and/or accept one of three institutional responses: elimination, expulsion, or integration (e.g., the Medieval period response of the Catholic Church to reject the Waldensians but integrate Franciscans). The growing despair and exasperation of Guatemalan Catholics alongside the vision cast by Vatican II produced the perfect storm for change and discontinuity, an Alberonian “nascent state” for theological and ecclesial experimentation (68-71). The Guatemalan CCR, though a decidedly lay movement, benefited from the anarchic upheaval of Catholic and Guatemalan society. In their “nascent state,” the Charismatic Catholics of La Colonia and many of the burgeoning Latin American Charismatic Catholic communities had to choose between expulsion and possible breakaway or integration. Since their proclamation of a “personal encounter with Jesus” and a “personal Pentecost” found rapid acceptance among many of their Catholic peers, the Catholic Church had no choice but to acknowledge the growing presence of the CCR and therefore make integration possible. Similarly, leaders in CCR strove to locate themselves theologically and practically within their local and global Church.

Thorsen provides a superb historical and theological survey of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Latin America and a firsthand, nation-specific study on the intersection of Pentecostal experience and praxis in the Catholic tradition.

Thorsen remains careful not to overstate this thesis, for not all participants in CCR persist in the Catholic Church and many who do face ongoing challenges. He concludes with a futuristic look at CCR in light of the recent election of Pope Francis. Given Francis’s CCR proclivities that have included his recent visit to an international CCR event (the first Pope to do so) and his roots in Argentina, where he was appointed to serve as the CCR national supervisor by the Argentine Bishops’ Conference, Thorsen suggests that the Guatemalan CCR might serve as a foretaste of the incipient Pentecostalism of Global Roman Catholicism. According to Pope Francis, CCR is not primarily a “protection wall” against Pentecostal proselytizing, but a “movement to help extend the special charism of the Pentecostal and Charismatic tradition to the whole church… not merely tolerated or accepted but prescribed for all” (220).

I applaud the editors of this series for untiring commitment to their namesake “Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies,” and I heartily commend this book to the collection. Thorsen provides a superb historical and theological survey of CCR in Latin America and a firsthand, nation-specific study on the intersection of Pentecostal experience and praxis in the Catholic tradition. As a Catholic, he embodies the values of his tradition and provides this readership an outsider response to the CCR and Pentecostalism. Thorsen articulates well the beliefs and practices of Guatemalan CCR and positions their efforts within larger contexts such as Latin American society, the global CCR, and various hierarchical vantage points from regional dioceses to the Vatican. Thorsen will be an important reference for students, scholars, and missionaries interested in the growing presence of Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity in Latin America.

Reviewed by Martin W. Mittelstadt


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Category: In Depth, Summer 2018

About the Author: Martin Mittelstadt, M.Div. (Providence Theological Seminary, 1990), Ph.D. (Marquette University, 2000), serves as Professor of Biblical Studies at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. He primarily makes his living in the Gospels and Luke-Acts (see his The Spirit and Suffering in Luke-Acts: Implications for a Pentecostal Pneumatology (Bloomsbury, 2004) and Reading Luke-Acts in the Pentecostal Tradition (CPT Press, 2010)). Ongoing interests tend to convergence around Pentecostal / Charismatic studies with a special attention to Pentecostal – Anabaptist relations (i.e. Mennocostalism), and spiritual formation. See his bio and publications on his Evangel University faculty page.

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