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New Sub-type of Catholicism: Charismatic Catholics

National Public Radio’s Code Switch examined the role of Charismatic Catholicism in Latino communities. A number of differences are obvious to attenders of Saint Anthony of Padua Church in the Bronx — the service is led by a woman, people are swaying and putting up their hands, and one woman begins speaking in tongues.

As the author reports:

According to a recent survey conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, about one-third of Latino Catholics in the U.S. identify as Charismatic. For non-Latino Catholics, this number is closer to one-tenth, according to an earlier poll by the Pew Research Center.

One of the respondents in the story, Marvin Rodriguez, explained that the Charismatic movement allows him to “express [himself] in a different way, like applauding, laughing, and joy.” These sorts of experiences are not unlike what one would expect at a Pentecostal congregation, but are still relatively rare in Catholic masses.

By combining the Charismatic experience with the Catholic mass, Latinos have the opportunity for the spiritual experiences without breaking away from the Catholic church toward a Pentecostal one. As the article states,

Bronx native Johnny Torres is a former drug addict who joined the Charismatic Catholic movement 10 years ago. Growing up, his parents’ more tempered style of Catholicism never really caught his interest. “The first time I came over here, I started crying, my body started shaking, but I didn’t know what it was,” says Torres.

The question remains whether this type of worship will continue to grow within the Catholic church. Many conservative members of the Catholic church disapprove of the Pentecostal trends, but the growing Latino population in the United States continues to latch on to these experiences.

The Charismatic Movement in the Catholic Church is a combination of other religious cultural forms — Protestant Pentecostalism in particular — and works to reach a different demographic of religious individual. In what ways is this cultural borrowing beneficial or detrimental to the Catholic church at large?

Ellen Childs
About the Author
Dr. Ellen Childs holds a Ph.D. in sociology from University of Notre Dame. She is Website Director at StudyingCongregations.org