Monsignor Ronald A. Knox
There is, I would say, a recurrent situation in Church history – using the word ‘church’ in the widest sense – where an excess of charity threatens unity. You have a clique, an elite, of Christian men and (more importantly) women,, who are trying to live a less worldly life than their neighbours; to be more attentive to the guidance (directly felt, they would tell you) of the Holy Spirit. More and more, by a kind of fatality, you see them draw apart from their co-religionists, a hive ready to swarm. There is provocation on both sides; on the one part, cheap jokes at the expense of over-godliness, acts of stupid repression by unsympathetic authorities; on the other, contempt of the half-Christian, ominous references to old wine and new bottles, to the kernel and the husk. Then, while you hold your breath and turn away your eyes in fear, the break comes; condemnation or secession, what difference does it make? A fresh name has been added to the list of Christianities.
The pattern is always repeating itself, not in outline merely but in detail. Almost always the enthusiastic movement is denounced as an innovation, yet claims to be preserving, or to be restoring, the primitive discipline of the Church. Almost always the opposition is twofold; good Christian people who do not relish an eccentric spirituality find themselves in unwelcome alliance with worldlings who do not relish any spirituality at all. Almost always schism begets schism; once the instinct of discipline is lost, the movement breeds rival prophets and rival coteries, at the peril of its internal unity. Always the first fervours evaporate; prophecy dies out, and the charismatic is merged in the institutional. ‘The high that proved too high, the heroic for earth too hard‘ – it is a fugal melody that runs through the centuries.
Enthusiasm, a Chapter in the History of Religion by Ronald Knox, page one.