Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By James Penrice

11/18/2010 (5 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Sensus fidelium literally means 'sense of the faithful.'

When dissenters challenge the Church, we are given an opportunity to study the truth that is being attacked. In a continuing series of articles on this misguided movement, Catholic Online considers the real meaning of sensus fidelium--and reveals a stunning admission by one of the leaders of the American Catholic Council.

St. Augustine--not the American Catholic Council--helped to define sensus fidelium.

St. Augustine--not the American Catholic Council--helped to define sensus fidelium.

Highlights

By James Penrice

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

11/18/2010 (5 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: american catholic council, acc, dissent heterodoxy, heresy, faithful, magisterium,


GRAND RAPIDS, MI (Catholic Online) - Catholic Online has been reporting about the American Catholic Council (ACC), a dissent group planning a national convention in June of 2011 "in the spirit of Vatican II." Like many such groups, ACC misconstrues-either inadvertently or intentionally-the Church's teaching about sensus fidelium ("sense of the faithful") to justify their agenda.

Article VIII in the ACC "Catholic Bill of Rights and Responsibilities" states: "Every baptized Catholic has a meaningful role to play, through sensus fidelium, in the interpretation of the Gospel, the Church's Tradition, and the Church's structure." One gets the sense here that a baptism certificate becomes an ecclesial voter registration card-that anyone who can merely produce one is entitled to help shape Church doctrine. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sensus fidelium literally means "sense of the faithful." The term originated with the early Church Fathers, and refers to unerring truth sensed or recognized by the entire body of the faithful-from the Magisterium to the last of the laity, according to St. Augustine. The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) issued at Vatican II said this about sensus fidelium in section 12:

"The holy people of God shares also in Christ's prophetic office; it spreads abroad a living witness to Him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity and by offering to God a sacrifice of praise, the tribute of lips which give praise to His name (cf. Heb. 13:15). The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, (cf. 1 Jn. 2:20, 27) 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. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the word of God (cf. 1 Th. 2:13)."

The Glossary to the Catechism of the Catholic Church gives an abbreviated definition which is helpful: "Sensus Fidei: a supernatural appreciation of the faith (Sensus fidei) shown by the universal consent in matters of faith and morals manifested by the whole body of the faithful under the guidance of the Magisterium." The Magisterium is a gift. The Lord promised He would not leave us orphans (John 14:8) and that the Spirit would guide us into all truth (John 16:13).

The Catechism again helps us to understand one of the ways in which He fulfills that promise: "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ."47 This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome." (CCC, 85)

Foundational to sensus fidelium, of course, is establishing who constitutes "the faithful." Does it refer to all who have been baptized, as ACC suggests, or are there qualifiers among the baptized-denoting some as "the faithful" and others as not? Lumen Gentium's reference to 1 John 2:20, 27 provides a key.

These two verses are from a broader passage (1 John 2:18-27) in which the Apostle distinguishes between dissenters who were once members of the body but have placed themselves in opposition, and those who have remained loyal to the faith given them in baptism. He holds that the anointing of the Spirit is manifested through the latter. Verses 26-27 are to the point: "I write you these things about those who would deceive you. As for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, so that you do not need anyone to teach you. But his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false; just as it taught you, remain in him."

Obviously there are some baptized who dissent from the authoritative teaching of the Church and others who assent. Lumen Gentium asserts that baptism doesn't automatically ensure that one continues in the company of "the faithful"-there is a responsibility placed upon the baptized to give assent both inwardly and publicly to authoritative teaching. Section 11 declares that "reborn as sons of God, [the baptized] must profess before men the faith they have received from God through the Church."

This responsibility has been reiterated in The Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Having become a member of the Church, the person baptized belongs no longer to himself, but to him who died and rose for us. (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor. 5:15.) From now on, he is called to be subject to others, to serve them in the communion of the Church, and to obey and submit to the Church's leaders, (cf. Heb. 13:17) holding them in respect and affection. (cf. Eph. 5:21; 1 Cor. 16:15-16; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; Jn. 13:12-15)" [#1269]

Any of the baptized who dissent from the faith of the Church-which Vatican II emphatically reaffirmed as the faith authoritatively taught by the Magisterium-have separated themselves from "the faithful."

ACC operates under the premise that there are "truths" which their leaders recognize but the Magisterium does not. Not only does this reject the Vatican II affirmation of Magisterial teaching  as "not just the word of men but truly the word of God," but by logic it would render sensus fidelium impossible to attain. Lumen Gentium dogmatically defined sensus fidelium as applying to "the entire body of the faithful when from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals." Universal agreement among "the faithful" is not possible if "the faithful" includes both those who assent to the Bishops' teaching and those who do not. Under ACC's understanding of sensus fidelium, it would be impossible for this property to even exist.

Concurrently, it is important to understand that sensus fidelium does not mean that universal consent of the faithful is necessary for a doctrine to be true, or that doctrine becomes true by virtue of such consensus. It means that universal consent is possible because the doctrine is true in the first place. Truth emanates from God and comes to the faithful-not the other way around. When the entire body of the faithful recognizes the truth through "supernatural discernment"-not by human reason alone-sensus fidelium becomes the prophetic witness spoken of in Lumen Gentium.

This is what is meant by "The holy people of God shares also in Christ's prophetic office." When the entire body of the faithful agrees with the truth, it is a powerful and prophetic witness to the rest of the world. When "the faithful" is divided, it is a sad and pathetic witness of an institution showing only its human limitations and rejecting its divine identity.

There is evidence the latter perspective exists among the ACC leadership. In an email correspondence with me, one of the members of the ACC national planning committee made a distressing admission. Out of fairness to this person I will protect their anonymity; I did not identify myself as a writer in our correspondence, and this person indicated afterwards that they were speaking on their own behalf, not in the name of ACC. The latter point is irrelevant, as this person does claim to speak for ACC in other venues, and the personal opinion expressed here would discredit anyone who claims to be Catholic from speaking on behalf of the Catholic Church and its ecumenical councils. This ACC leader wrote to me:

"We two clearly have different starting places intellectually when talking about Church structure. For me, it is patently human made-and that is wonderful! We humans are the ones who decide what we proclaim to be 'from God' after all. So, if we mess it up, we have no one to blame other than ourselves."

Vatican II-in whose name the American Catholic Council claims to act-dogmatically reaffirmed the Catholic Church as divinely established by Jesus Christ upon the hierarchical structure of Peter and the Apostles, whose divine authority today's hierarchy of the Pope and Bishops inherit. As long as the American Catholic Council continues to act in the name of the Catholic Church and Vatican II, Catholic Online will continue to expose their errors and educate the faithful about the true Catholic teachings which Vatican II reaffirmed.

_____

James Penrice is an author of nine books, a correspondent for Catholic Athletes for Christ, and a contributor to Catholic Online.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copyright 2015 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for April 2016
Universal:
Small Farmers: That small farmers may receive a just reward for their precious labor.
Evangelization: African Christians: That Christians in Africa may give witness to love and faith in Jesus Christ amid political-religious conflicts.



Comments


More U.S.

Christian student shockingly dropped from master's program for practicing religious rights Watch

Image of Andrew Cash was discriminated against for practicing his religious rights (YouTube).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Andrew Cash practiced his religious rights at Missouri State University - and was dismissed from the master's program in counseling as a result. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to the Catholic News Agency, Cash was referring same-sex couples to another ... continue reading


Not a newsflash, U.S. government authorized use of propaganda on American people...in 2013. Here's who to blame Watch

Image of Obama signed the amendment into law in 2013.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Does the news seem a little too pro-American to you? Does it seem reporters pull punches and that the real issues are ignored? Perhaps that's the result of a quiet change to the law that took place in 2013. A law banning the use of government propaganda on the American ... continue reading


The cost of incarceration: What can we do? Watch

Image of What can we do about overpopulated prisons and ex-cons' ability to find work (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)?

By Matt Hadro (CNA)

Experts from across the political spectrum are calling for criminal justice reform, as a new White House report shows the human and economic costs of the current justice system. Washington D.C. (CNA) - "This is a singular moment in one of the most challenging issues ... continue reading


Sickening portrayal of Jesus pinned to a dartboard presented as art in university library Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

An appalling portrayal of Jesus plastered to a dartboard was posted up as artwork inside the Art Library at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The "art piece," titled "Vitruvian Man," shows Jesus nailed to the dartboard ... continue reading


Which bathroom should you use? And why is this a question? Watch

Image of Figuring out which restroom to use isn't supposed to be a dilemma.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The American people are seemingly obsessed with public restrooms these days and precisely how people use the potty. The fear is being stoked by concerns that individuals who "self-identify" as the opposite sex, will take advantage of liberal policies and assault ... continue reading


Prayer Is the Path to Real Freedom Watch

Image of Prayer is the lifeline of a Christian

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Jesus said to his disciples: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. CHESAPEAKE, VA. ... continue reading


Why is Obama now sending 250 MORE troops to Syria? Watch

Image of U.S. President Barack Obama will be sending more troops to the Middle East.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

U.S. President Barack Obama announced 250 more special operations forces are to be deployed to Syria within the next few weeks. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) -  Obama stated: "Just as I approved additional support for Iraqi forces against ISIL, I've decided to ... continue reading


Entire family slain among outrageous marijuana operation Watch

Image of The Pike County killings are most likely drug-related.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Pike County, Ohio saw eight murders on Friday with the youngest victim described as 16-years-old and the oldest at 44. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine released a statement on Sunday during a news conference to mention marijuana ... continue reading


We Are all Going to Die.How Are We Living? Watch

Image of We decide whether we use time for bearing good fruit or are used by time as a tyrant who frightens us as we fruitlessly try to resist his claim on our perceived youth. This act of choosing rightly helps us to develop a disposition; a way of living that involves the proper exercise of our human freedom aided by grace. When time is welcomed as an opportunity for bearing the fruits of love and holiness, we receive it in love, perceive it as a field of choice and build an environment for holiness

By Deacon Keith Fournier

We are to live as though time really does matter. We are invited by grace to give ourselves away for others; to imitate the One who gave Himself for the entire human race. We are invited to pour ourselves out as Jesus did. If we live life this way, when we face Him on ... continue reading


CNS fires editor in chief following anti-religious freedom tweets Watch

Image of Tony Spence has been asked to resign as Editor in Chief of Catholic News Service.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The Catholic News Service has asked for the resignation of their Editor in Chief over concerns that his personal agenda has placed him at odds with his ability to lead the service. Tony Spence resigned last week over concerns that his social media posts contradicted ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 15:7-21
7 and after a long discussion, Peter stood up and addressed them. 'My ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 96:1-2, 2-3, 10
1 Sing a new song to Yahweh! Sing to Yahweh, all the earth!2 ... Read More

Gospel, John 15:9-11
9 I have loved you just as the Father has loved me. Remain in my ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 28th, 2016 Image

St. Peter Chanel
April 28: In St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr (Feast day ... Read More