I consider the Holy Ghost to be the most abused member of the Holy Trinity in the last fifty years. God the Father is vague enough and distant enough for people to mostly leave Him alone. There are no churches devoted to God the Father, no manipulation of His image. Sure, many feminist thinkers have a problem with us calling God, “Father”, but they don’t seem too important. God the Father sits up there, watching, the agenda of no one.
Once you get to the Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, then you get all sorts of crazies coming out of the woodwork who claim that Jesus said this, Jesus did that, Jesus wouldn’t like the Church the way it is now, “Jesus, save me from your followers”, etc. So saying that the Holy Ghost is more abused may seem inaccurate. I would contend, however, that the Second Person of the Trinity is used to it. They have been doing that to Him for the last two thousand years, so it isn’t exactly news. People have been wondering what would Jesus do since He ascended into Heaven, so we can just blow all of that stuff off at this point.
But the Holy Ghost, the New Pentecost, the movement of the Spirit, and speaking in tongues… that stuff has become a theological cottage industry in the last fifty years. People feel moved by the spirit. Theologians feel that He is too anonymous, too misunderstood: “we haven’t yet understood pneumatology”. I have read such posturing in thinkers as diverse as Cantalamessa, Zizoulas, Congar, and so forth. In my hometown, the Mexican charismatics get together on Pentecost to share the “Spirit”, bathe in the “Spirit”, be moved by the “Spirit”. I have never been comfortable with this stuff. But the Holy Ghost is too ghostly to defend Himself from all of this. And usually, when people talk like this, they usually mean to say under their breath: “yeah, because we’ve been doing stuff wrong so far, our faith has been that of the ‘frozen chosen’, and by golly, things have to change!”
So I am immensely unsympathetic to this sort of thing. For me, it seems that people use the Holy Ghost for all sorts of stupid agendas. Let’s change the Mass, because the Holy Ghost told us so. Let’s tack on more mysteries to the rosary, because it seems good to the Holy Ghost and to us (but mostly to us). Let’s slam the religion that came before us because we are more “spirit-filled” than our predecessors. Yeah, I get really tired of the Holy Ghost getting mentioned so much, and I think He is too. (It seems good to the Holy Ghost… nah, just playin’). People think they have the Holy Ghost because they’ve got “good feelings” inside them, they feel good about God, they feel “on fire” with God, and they feel more fervent than everyone else.
Well, maybe I am just a lukewarm cultural Catholic who reads too much, but I still think we should have a fifty year moratorium on mentioning the Holy Ghost in religious literature except for the mandatory prayers. Maybe we have to learn that the Holy Ghost is a “still small voice” who speaks sometimes in fire, but most of the time in a gentle breeze, unnoticed by time, unpretentious like the household chores. People want to get their jollies off of religion, but maybe they need to get their jollies off of more normal things and their fervor from more mundane sources. God knows we can’t even get basic things right now. What makes us want to be mystics so badly?