Tongues: church's stand


i recently attended a catholic charismatic meeting. there was a lot of praying in tongues.

i know what the concept of tongues is.
what i would like to know is : what does the church say about this?
does it encourage it or not?

my own parish priest does not allow charismatic meetings in the parish. this is reason for my doubt…

could someone help me, please?


Speaking in tongues is acknowledged as a real gift … a small one but real. Other gifts are more important. The problem is that it is faked too often. I’ve seen it many times and have never been convinced as to the authenticity of what I witnessed.

I was however surprised to learn that a crusty old nun like Mother Angelica resisted it with all her might and suddenly found herself speaking in tongues - much to her surprise.

If your parish priest does not allow it, it is likely because of the potential for abuse or because it frightens him. In either case obedience is called for.



but can you tell me the official stand of the church on this subject?


I am well experienced in the charisms of the Holy Spirit. Have prayed and prophesied in tongues as well as interpreted and prophesied in English. Also have had some measure of discernment of hearts. The latter two are the only gifts that manifest themselves now, and I am not active in Charismatic Catholic circles. I find that most of them ignore the scriptural guidelines and disciplines and I don’t care to be part of that.

1st Corinthians 14 gives some pretty clear instructions on what not to do and what to do during Mass. It’s my understanding that the church in Corinth was doing what a lot of Pentecostals do today. Everyone was speaking in tongues. St. Paul clearly gets onto them for that.

[size=][FONT=“Palatino Linotype”]23 So if the whole church meets in one place and everyone speaks in tongues, and then uninstructed people or unbelievers should come in, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if everyone is prophesying, and an unbeliever or uninstructed person should come in, he will be convinced by everyone and judged by everyone,
25 and the secrets of his heart will be disclosed, and so he will fall down and worship God, declaring, "God is really in your midst."
26 So what is to be done, brothers? When you assemble, one has a psalm, another an instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Everything should be done for building up.
27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let it be two or at most three, and each in turn, and one should interpret.
28 But if there is no interpreter, the person should keep silent in the church and speak to himself and to God.
29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others discern.
30 But if a revelation is given to another person sitting there, the first one should be silent.
31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged.
32 Indeed, the spirits of prophets are under the prophets’ control,
33 since he is not the God of disorder but of peace. As in all the churches of the holy ones

As an ex-deacon in an Assembly of God church I have to say that though I have prayed in tongues, prophesied in tongues and interpreted tongues, as well as discerning within me when it was not of the Holy Spirit I have no real interest in the Charismatic Catholic movement, for several reasons.

Mainly it is because of the kind of scriptural and liturgical abuses that I have witnessed in my days in the AoG . One time I nearly had to turn around during Mass and tell a guy to be quiet during the consecration.

My biggest gripe is that the vast majority of Pentecostals/charismatics I have encountered try to act like the passage above doesn’t exist and speak out without interpretation. None of that is scriptural and none of it is obedient either to the Word of God or to the Church. That is plainly wrong.

If I was in a Mass where that was allowed to happen, I would stand up and walk out and dare anyone to say a word to me about it.

Tongues is grossly overrated my friends. Certainly it can and does exist, but only in certain contexts and always in obedience. If the people cannot be obedient to the Word of God, then what does that tell you as to its source?

I agree with St. Paul when he said "But in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may instruct others also; than ten thousand words in a tongue. " (1st Corinthians 14:19).

The basic idea is that they teach that they will speak in tongues as a sign of being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is a very narrow and unscriptural view since there are several passages that show that there are many fruits of being filled with the Holy Spirit (See Galatians 5:22-23) other than speaking in tongues.

St. Paul in 1st Corinthians chapters 12-14 gives a pretty comprehensive discourse on it all and I suggest that anyone who has questions about this or is talking with a Pentecostal, (or even a Charismatic Catholic for that matter) read those chapters carefully.

You’ll also find that they make a pretty big deal out of Acts chapters 2 and 10. Using it as a platform to assert that speaking in tongues is like the primary sign that a believer is filled with the Holy Spirit, (which is not scripturally true). It’s important to read these passages objectively and realize that Pentecostals/Charismatics tend to read their own interpretations into them.

The other thing that is a problem (for me) with this is their theology. I have talked to charismatic Catholics who say precisely the same things that Evangelicals do as to “accepting Christ as one’s personal Lord and Savior”, which is nowhere found in scripture or in the historic teachings of the Church and is in fact an error that comes directly from non-Catholic preaching. And it’s wrong…

I no longer speak in tongues at all, though I enjoy praying in Latin sometimes. I no longer see any need for that in my life and in fact I feel a strong leading of the Holy Spirit away from that.

Are there some good and holy folks among the Charismatics? Yes, I know several. Do I go to their meetings and in any way give even the impression that I agree with charismatic/Pentecostalism? Not a chance.[/FONT][/size]


You might also peruse the following for balance.

Pope’s statements

Recognition by the Holy See


I don’t know what the Church teaches regarding tounges but here is my opinion:

I believe that tongues are a gift from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives people the ability to speak in foreign languages for the glory of God and the proclamation of the Gospel. The story at the beginning of the Book of Acts provides evidence for this.

However, I believe an authentic gift of tongues is rare. A lot of Charismatic Christians claim the ability to speak in tongues but I don’t believe most of them. Many seem to be speaking gibberish. Real tounges enable people to communicate with others. Penetocostals and charismatics do not communicate with other people in their own native tongue; a lot of them appear to be speaking an unknown, incomprehensible language. I don’t believe this is authentic. Tongues enable communication and understanding.

People speaking in genuine tongues should be able to have a lucid conversation with other people.


Exactly as I understood it when I was an AoG. Being baptized (by submersion of course) was not enough. One also had to be baptized by the Holy Spirit, which was only demonstrated through tongues or some other charism. And they ask us Catholics if we have any certainty of salvation…


we are encouraged in our parish to speak in tongues and I have tried, but I feel like a fool and just seem to be speaking nonsense. It does seem to be badge of honour and creates a bit of a ‘them and us’ situation.

This is interesting. People in our parish make a big deal of accepting Christ as their Lord and Saviour and I personally have done so in the sense that I made an act of faith in what Christ has done for me and applied to me in baptism and confirmation (which I think is legitimate as the sacraments have to be received in faith to be effective). There is much talk of being alive in Christ and of having baptisms in the Spirit and life-changing experiences, which leaves me feeling a bit left out. I love God and want to serve Him more than anything and yet I feel I am missing something.

I may discontinue trying to pray in tongues as well. If God wants me to I am sure He will initiate it.

you feel that strongly against it? I went to a charismatic renewal day recently and this woman interrupted Mass before the final blessing with her announcements and the priest prayed in tongues during Mass. I felt uncomfortable. There was an opportunity to be prayed with before Mass and I went up and this woman pressed her body into me as the priest prayed over me. I have had a bit of trouble lately in a spiritual sense and wonder if it was due to that prayer?


When the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles giving then the gift of tongues it was for a specific reason. It was to instill in the Apostles the gift of speaking languages so to preach the Gospel to the known world. It had a Divine purpose.

Speaking in tongues at charismatic assemblies serve no end…it is like a magic show that reaps no end but entertainment. If no one can understand a word what is the purpose?

The "tongues convert no one…from my personal point of view.


What you have written here could be applied to almost every protestant pentecostal charismatic church setting. Yet, manmy catholic Charismatics will downplay that saying that what they do is quite different:confused:

I accept as genuine all valid manifestations of the Holy Spirit, but when you go to these meetings and you are prodded urged and exhorted to exhibit them it just seems wrong. Add to that the fact that many of these same people will tell you that if you don’t receive something from the Holy Spirit, then you just aren’t trying hard enough, well I think it speaks for itself.

All I can really say is this, Satan and his demons are alive and well, no matter what the liberals and progressives among us say. And Satan and the demons, being fallen angels, can perfectly imitate angels, and they say that Satan is at his worst when he mimics an angel of light.

I say be careful, Very, very careful with asociating with charismatics of any denomination…


You may find these links helpful, and coming from ‘conservative’ Pope Benedict, we can put even more faith in his directive. He notes that there are difficulties, but they must be met with “prudence, patience and much love” in the matter of corrections, while not authorizing closure because of the problems that may arise.

In addition, you will quickly see that he endorses all the charisms of the Holy Spirit [which include ‘tongues’, or he would specifically exclude them], and cautioned against the danger of suffocating the charisms. This often occurs when people do not understand them, so they condemn them as evil.

VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2008 ( Benedict XVI is encouraging and praising the work of the Charismatic Renewal in its commitment to promote communion.

The Pope explained, “Difficulties and misunderstandings about particular questions do not authorize closure.” Recent decades, he added, have already contributed to overcoming “not a few prejudices, resistance, tensions.”

In this connection, the Pontiff indicated that “dialogue” and “collaboration” is the style to adopt, and that “prudence,” “patience" and “much love” --especially where correction is necessary – are the ways to be taken.

“Those who are called to the service of discernment and leadership,” the Pope said, “should not lord it over the charisms, but should rather beware of the danger of suffocating them, resisting the temptation to make uniform that which the Spirit willed to be multiform to concur in the building up and the enlargement of the one Body of Christ, that the same Spirit makes firm in unity.”


If i am not mistaken the Holy Father also said something to the effect that the Charisms must be carefully discerned, did he not? In other words, he doesn’t think that every manifestation of them is genuine and that all must be carefully examined in order to avoid the possibility of making a mistake.

That is pretty much the same thing that I said and what others have said.


I am not sure I can rest with this idea because, to be honest, I don’t know. I am reluctant to condemn them because I may be condemning God’s work. The core of my parish are ‘charismatic’, following our priest. I struggle with it, but I am not at the stage of condemning it. I would rather tolerate it and accept that it may be God’s doing. In fact, I have to say that it is God’s doing at this stage. Who am I to disagree? Some people do seem to have been ‘set free’ from various psychological ailments through it.


If i am not mistaken the Holy Father also said something to the effect that the Charisms must be carefully discerned, did he not?

And how do you propose he do that? Can you assume that each and every person who uses “prayer tongues” should go to the local pastor or bishop and “pray” in front of him? Unless he has the specific gift from the Holy Spirit called “discernment of spirits,” he would be unable to pass judgment on this and forbid it, since the language is unknown to him.

Where discernment it is critically necessary would be upon the gifts of healing, prophecy, or miracles, which are always under intense scrutiny so as not to deceive the faithful; whereas, the gift of tongues does not deceive anyone or harm anyone. If the person is ‘faking it,’ the only one who is harmed spiritually is the ‘faker.’

So as Nick9 said, we do well to avoid condemning God’s work, unless we have a specific call in the Body of Christ to discern and pass judgment. I doubt any of us fits that bill to listen to a prayer language and say for certain whether or not it is of the Lord’s doing. The old adage, myob, is a good rule of thumb.


[quote=Nick9]we are encouraged in our parish to speak in tongues and I have tried, but I feel like a fool and just seem to be speaking nonsense. It does seem to be badge of honour and creates a bit of a ‘them and us’ situation.

Then don’t do it, and don’t let them intimidate you. There are many gifts of the Spirit, and He breathes where He wills. Your gift may be the more practical one of teaching or administering - but just because these practical gifts are not ‘showy’ don’t be concerned that you are missing something, because tongues is the very least of the gifts.


As I have said, I support wholeheartedly all valid manifestations of the charisms. I just don’t think most of them are genuine, thats all. Some no doubt are. Others equally no doubt, are not. Historically, movements that claimed to be receiving the Charisms, after the days of the Apostles, were overwhelmingly proven to be heretical in nature. Various Gnostic groups and the Montanists come to mind among others. It is also useful to remember that speaking in tongues was also practiced in numerous pagan religions, in both the ancient Greek and Roman worship services as well as in Voodoo ceremonies of today,Hinduism. and Tibetian Buddhism. Historically it did not occur in the Catholic Church except in a few individual**** cases

Heck, even in scripture it says to test the spirits. Don’t believe everything that comes along no matter how good it looks. Use your judgement, think critically, use what God gave you.

Satan is very very cunning. How better to trick you than to make you think he was God and what is happening is truly from the Holy Spirit.

This modern idea that we have of accepting everything that comes down the road as being good was never ever accepted by the Church. Remember what Paul said in Corinthians and lets not forget my favorite 2 Peter Chapter 2, which many people today get real uneasy with.


I accept your caution as valid, palmas85. I was a little strict in saying that you condemned the charismatics. We need to be cautious and not make judgments about things we do not understand.


thanks Joysong. I do feel a bit guilty not being one of the in-crowd, but I am aware that there are many other Catholics who are just as unsuited to that style of prayer and worship as me. It is easy to feel that I am in the wrong, but I suppose it is an isolation experience which is in keeping with the walk with Jesus. :slight_smile:


Joy you can’t use the Holy Father to support your argument and then ignore the totality of what he said. He said to carefully discern and you cannot in good faith ignore that. And yes, speaking in tongues can hurt. As I understand it, these utterances are supposed to come from the Holy Spirit or at His behest do they not? Well lets say that the messages that are received are not sound doctrinally and are in fact fake . There will still be those who believe them to be genuine and their faith could be corrupted. Or the faith of the one who believes he is filled with the Spirit could also be corrupted.

I also believe if I am not mistaken that speaking in tongues does require interpretation does it not? I mean the genuine article that is. I do seem to remember Paul speaking about that at some length. In the early Church I don’t think it was used as a personal private prayer language, It had a distinct purpose didn’t it?.

As I said, if its valid I accept it. I just don’t think most of what is going on these days is. Thats all. I don’t condemn it. I look at critically, I test the spirits as it were.


[quote=Palmas]Joy you can’t use the Holy Father to support your argument and then ignore the totality of what he said. He said to carefully discern and you cannot in good faith ignore that. And yes, speaking in tongues can hurt.

Palmas, in every single thread on CCR or tongues, you have been demonstrably vehement in your condemnation of both. If we give you enough bandwidth, you will increasingly put forth your objections. Not a single thread where valid rebuttals were given have you listened or changed your opinion. That’s your right to believe as you will, but I submit that you are not qualified or appointed as God’s messenger to pass judgment on His work to the rest of the faithful.

As I asked earlier, how does the bishop discern?

As I understand it, these utterances are supposed to come from the Holy Spirit or at His behest do they not?

No they do not just come upon a person, but are under the control of the person speaking. It is obvious you do not understand this gift, and therefore, no words of mine will suffice to teach you, nor have any others been able to share their witness to you profitably.

I also believe if I am not mistaken that speaking in tongues does require interpretation does it not?

Only when it is a message for a group and is delivered in that fashion. “Prayer” tongues do not require interpretation, but are simply a prayer language used in private or in assembly, but which are not oracles sent by the Spirit, and therefore, need no interpretation.

Palmas, I am not going to get into another discussion with you, because you are closed and opposed. You may continue to condemn these charisms at your own risk of angering the Lord, and your own audacity of pronouncing them evil.

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