Questions and answers
Doctrinal Commission – International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services
Whoever becomes a disciple of Christ, Paul teaches, must “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:22–24).
Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a great grace, an empowerment for continuing conversion and holiness. All Christians, but especially leaders, must be people of holiness, integrity and good character. They must be reasonable, thoughtful, and selfless, and must avoid all impurity, idolatry, hatred, jealousy, anger, rivalry, and pride.
St. Paul teaches that a leader, “as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Tit 1:7–9). Paul strongly condemns a disordered life as slavery to the selfish tendencies of the flesh (Gal 5:19–21; Eph 4:17–19), which are contrary to the good fruit produced by the Spirit (Gal 5:22–23).
If a leader of a prayer group or community lives in moral disorder, this grieves the Holy Spirit, blocks the spiritual growth of members, and creates disunity.
Sins to which leaders can be tempted include pride; hypocrisy; boasting; lust in all its forms; the love of money, material possessions, and honours; and the refusal to submit to legitimate Church authority.
Leaders must guard especially against pride, which can result from entrusting excessive responsibility to the newly-converted, or from the exercise of charisms that are considered prestigious such as prophecy, words of knowledge, and healing. Remember that the exercise of charisms does not prove one’s holiness or maturity.
Pride can lead one to criticise others, challenge authority, and reject reprimands. Criticism and judgement can in turn destroy harmony in a group.
Similarly, an attachment to material possessions, envy, or the desire to get rich quickly are traps that subject a person to the grip of the idol “mammon.”
When a brother in leadership compromises sexual purity (through adultery, cohabitation, or pornography), it causes grave scandal and can lead to even more serious sins such as corrupting the young under the guise of spiritual accompaniment.
Sometimes a prayer group leader lacks discernment and exposes the community to spiritual influences contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church. For example, if he attends non-Catholic churches, he may be exposed to groups infected with spiritualism that experience false prophecies, false visions, counterfeit gifts of healing and deliverance, and false tongues.
Satan also tempts leaders through sins of omission: lack of repentance, neglect of reading the word of God, laxity in prayer, inadequate practice of the sacraments, resistance to the Holy Spirit, the propensity to be guided by mystical messages and visions instead of walking by faith, and spiritual complacency.