March 9, 2021


Is the gift tongues as it is practiced in the Catholic charismatic renewal a legitimate gift? I don't mean the gift of tongues where a person can speak a previously unknown language (xenolalia) but the "gibberish" or "baby talk" form of tongues. I believe this form of tongues is referred to as glossolalia. I am concerned with this gift because I think the biblical and historical evidence is vague and/or weak.


The Church recognizes the Charismatic Renewal and the gifts of the Holy Spirit (cf. http://www.ewtn.com/expert/expertfaqframe.asp) in existence today. However, there is no Magisterial pronouncement as to the nature of tongues, is it 'glossolalia (speaking in an unknown language),' or is it 'xenolalia' (ability to speak in a language that the person has not learned)? Is it jibberish or is it an actual language? The Church has never defined this officially.

Their are good Catholics on both sides of this debate that are faithful to Rome and would come out on the opposite side of the coin on this question. 

St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica Pt.II-II Question 176, the Angelic Doctor deals with the issue of tongues specifically. He makes it very clear that he believes that the gift of tongues is a real language given by God. St. Thomas Aquinas does say that the person receiving the gift may not understand what he is saying, but there is never a thought that what they are saying is not a real and understandable language.

This is certainly a secondary issue for us as Catholics, remember "In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials liberty (like tongues) and in all this charity"(St Augustine).

Our Lord Jesus Christ never spoke about speaking in tongues, he cared more about your interior life.

[EVIDENCE] Faithful adherence to the text of Sacred Scripture makes it obligatory to reject those opinions which turn the charism of tongues into little more than infantile babbling (Eichhorn, Schmidt, Neander), incoherent exclamations (Meyer), pythonic utterances (Wiseler), or prophetic demonstrations of the archaic kind (see 1 Samuel 19:20, 24) - http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14776c.htm

*Acts 2:4 “And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues (glossa),* as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”*[2:4] To speak in different tongues: ecstatic prayer in praise of God, interpreted in Acts 2:6, 11 as speaking in foreign languages, symbolizing the worldwide mission of the church (http://www.usccb.org/bible/acts/2#52002004-1).

*Act 2:6 “At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language” (dialektos – conversation, speech, discourse).

*Act 2:11 “both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues (glossa) of the mighty acts of God.”

Strong's Concordance - glóssa: the tongue, a language. 1100 glṓssa – tongue, used of flowing speech; (figuratively) speaking, inspired by God, like the evidence of tongues - speaking supplied by the Lord in the book of Acts to demonstrate the arrival of the new age of the covenant (i.e. NT times). [The normative experience of the 120 believers received "tongues (1100 /glṓssa) as of fire" (Ac 2:3) and miraculously spoke in other actual languages, i.e. that they could not speak before (Ac 2:4f). This sign was repeated in Acts 10:46, 19:6 – furnishing ample proof (three attestations) that the Lord had incorporated all believers into Christ's (mystical) body (1 Cor 12:13)].

Personally, I believe that alot of sincere Catholics fake it because it makes them feel good. Its dangerous to allow your emotions and passions to dictate how your practice your faith and yet thats what fuels the charismatic renewal - emotion, passion, mystical phenomena. Demons have access to your emotions and passions. When people say “I just open myself up to the spirit and the gift of tongues comes out.” There is a name for that, its called ‘channeling.’ This is where you allow a spirit to speak through you, this is dangerous and superstitious.The diabolical counterpart is that a demon in a possessed person will speak languages fluently and the person doesn’t have a clue what is being spoken out of his mouth. 

*Listen to this: Discerning Apparitions ~ Fr Ripperger (Exorcist) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q73aoHXsLq0&t=3199s Talks about the 3 kinds of speaking in tongues from 26:03 to 29:06.