Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect. Thus all Israel from Dan to Beersheba came to know that Samuel was an accredited prophet of the Lord.
1 Sm 3:19–20
The “natural” leaders in moments of distress were … the bearers of specific gifts of the body and mind that were considered “supernatural. ”
Max Weber, Economy and Society
Deciding whether charismatic leaders are prophets or heretics is a perennial problem for organized religion. For believers, the criterion of legitimacy is whether the leader is “accredited” by the Lord or, more generally, by the supernatural source or ground of the religion's myth system. The charismatic leader who is called to be a prophet in a religious organization must manifest hierophanic power at its highest and purest (see chapter 5). The litmus test of accreditation is the effectiveness of the prophet's utterances; for the Divine Being does not permit “any word of his to be without effect” (1 Sm 3:19). In times of religious distress, like the crisis generated by the priest shortage in the Catholic Church, how do charismatic leaders gain acceptance? How do their teachings, policies, and programs become effective? This chapter presents vignettes of charismatic church leaders and their attempts to establish effectiveness for reforming Catholic ministry.
Because of enormous pressures of loyalty to the pope, groups that challenge the Church to go beyond its bureaucratic routines must be discreet. They tend to keep a low profile. Nevertheless, large components of the international episcopacy, Catholic scholars, clergy, religious sisters and brothers, and well-informed and vocal laity often make concerted efforts to oppose strongly—if respectfully—many policies propounded by the papal alliance.