yesterday’s CCC post, I asked the meaning of sensus fidelium, a Church term meaning roughly “the sense of faith.” And what do you know?! By midafternoon I had the answer, thanks to Creative Minority Report, which reprinted Matthew Archbold’s piece in “Campus Notes”!
As Archbold points out,
Recently, the term has been misused to argue for same-sex “marriage,”
contraception and even women’s ordination. It’s a form of Magisterium by
Gallup in which a person argues that most Catholics agree with them on
an issue, so even though the Magisterium says otherwise, they hold the
trump card because of “sensus fidei.”
In other words, many Catholics today misunderstand the term as “that which us Catholics, at least some of us, hold to be true.” That way chaos lies.
Archbold cites the National Catholic Reporter’s recent endorsement of ordaining women on the grounds of sensus fidelium:
We have heard the faithful assent to this in countless conversations in
parish halls, lecture halls and family gatherings. It has been studied
and prayed over individually and in groups. The brave witness of the
Women’s Ordination Conference, as one example, gives us assurance that
the faithful have come to this conclusion after prayerful consideration
and study. . . .
You hear it in parish halls and at family gatherings, and pretty soon it’s the sense of the faith. Right?
The Pope points out the contradiction in a recent speech: “It is unthinkable to mention it [sensus fidelium] in order to challenge the teachings of the Magisterium.”
The confusion traces to the Second Vatican Council. (Like so, is the first time Catholics have been confused about its messages?!) The Pope said—
“The Second Vatican Council, while confirming the specific and irreplaceable role of Magisterium, stressed, however, that the whole People of
God participates in Christ’s prophetic office, thus fulfilling the
inspired desire expressed by Moses, ‘If only all the people of the LORD
were prophets! If only the LORD would bestow his spirit on them!’ (Num
The problem is, fifty years later, we all think we’re prophets.
The Pope points us to the VCII document Lumen Gentium:
“The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium thus teaches us on the
subject: ‘The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the
Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this
special property by means of the whole peoples’ supernatural discernment
in matters of faith when ‘from the Bishops down to the last of the lay
faithful’ they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals.” (n. 12).
Ahhh . . . “From the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful!” That’s a bit more unanimous than gossip in parish halls.
The Pope concludes:
“Today . . . it is particularly important to clarify the criteria
used to distinguish the authentic sensus fidelium from its counterfeits.
In fact, it is not some kind of public opinion of the Church, and it is
unthinkable to mention it in order to challenge the teachings of the
Magisterium, this because the sensus fidei can not grow authentically in
the believer except to the extent in which he or she fully participates
in the life of the Church, and this requires a responsible adherence to
We must “fully participate in the life of the Church.” We are called to “responsible adherence to her Magisterium.”
Thank you for clarifying that, Holiness. And Matthew Archbold too.