Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By James Penrice

11/18/2010 (4 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 (4 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'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2014
Christmas, hope for humanity:
That the birth of the Redeemer may bring peace and hope to all people of good will.
Parents: That parents may be true evangelizers, passing on to their children the precious gift of faith.



Comments


More U.S.

REVENGE KILLING: Two New York City policemen gunned down in cold blood - revenge believed to be motive Watch

Image of Officers Liu and Ramos were working overtime as part of an anti-terrorism drill in Bedford-Stuyvesant before 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon when they were shot point-blank in the head by lone gunman 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who later shot and killed himself.

By Troy Dredge, Catholic Online

Without apparent rhyme or reason - NYPD Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were gunned down in cold blood as they sat in their patrol car this past weekend. "No warning, no provocation - they were quite simply assassinated, targeted for their ... continue reading


The Assassination of Two Police Officers in New York Reveals a City at a Crossroads Watch

Image of One of the officers, Rafael Ramos, was 40 years old, happily married and leaves behind his wife and two sons. The other officer, Wenjin Liu, was 32 years old and married only two months.

By Keith A. Fournier

The flames that fueled this lunacy were fanned by a Mayor who repeatedly and irresponsibly touted a racial narrative which attributed racial bias to the Police as he led this City through recent altercations between some police officers and some citizens. It was ... continue reading


The Pope, the Pets, the Paparazzi and the Propaganda Media

Image of Pope Francis pets a dog

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The passing on of this complete fabrication, as well as the embellishment which accompanied it, were not simply a matter of the secular press failing to comprehend this Pope. In fact, religious news sources, both Catholic and Protestant, jumped in. This all ... continue reading


A journey to the land of the free: Part One -- Beaten and scared young children flee violence and turn to the United States for hope Watch

Image of Many young immigrants have no more fight in them when they decide to cross the border, they're only trying to survive.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Blistered feet and filthy, blood-stained skin is the forlorn image of immigrants preparing to cross the border. With hopeful hearts and anxious minds, immigrants, of all ages, assemble to make the leap into their promise land. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Most ... continue reading


Pope Francis, the real architect behind the U.S.-Cuban thaw Watch

Image of With personal appeals, letters, and hosted meetings, the Vatican and Pope Francis can accurately be called the masterminds behind the recent thaw between the U.S. and Cuba.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The thaw in relations between the U.S. and Cuba took the world by surprise, but perhaps one man was not as shocked as the rest. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A senior official with the White House reported that Pope Francis made personal appeals to both President ... continue reading


Looking forward to your tax refund this year? Don't hold your breath. The IRS suffers after extreme budget cuts. Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Heavily stricken with budget cuts and new tax-related laws, the IRS considers implementing its own temporary shutdown. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Congress has recently cut the IRS budget by $346 million. The IRS' budget has been cut a total of $1 billion since ... continue reading


OBAMACARE DOES NOT WORK! Vermont gives up free healthcare plan as too expensive Watch

Image of Vermont's governor announced that a planned universal healthcare program for the state has been cancelled because the massive tax hikes would devastate the state's economy.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Peter Shumlin, the governor of Vermont, announced that he was canceling his longtime dream to create a single-payer health care system for his state. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The announcement came on December 17, citing problems with paying for the Green ... continue reading


The disgusting new fact of American life: More than 46 million Americans on food stamps for 37 straight month Watch

Image of Obama has been in office for about 70 months, and 37 of those months have seen the most amount of Americans on food stamps, ever!

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It is self-evident that President Obama continues to undermine the abilities of the lower class, enforcing government-reliance on those who can least afford it. The number of Americans on food stamps under Obama has continued along its record breaking path, as, ... continue reading


Faith in the United States' race relations hits a strikingly low point after no indictment verdicts Watch

Image of 57 percent of American's say race relations in the United States are bad, according to the latest NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Those are the words of Martin Luther King, Jr, a man who fought long and hard for a better today. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A land where discrimination no longer prevails is a reality that seems no ... continue reading


Why is he so upset? Because of the secret Republican time bomb in the government funding bill Watch

Image of The federal government has funding through the 2015 fiscal year, but Republicans will have many opportunities to fight the president's programs in that time.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Senate has approved a $1.1 trillion spending bill, aimed to fund nearly the whole of the federal government through the 2015 fiscal year, ending weeks of drama in Congress and relieving doubts that the government might be shut down again while Democrats and ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Daily Readings

Reading 1, First Samuel 1:24-28
24 When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, ... Read More

Psalm, First Samuel 2:1, 4-5, 6-7, 8
1 Hannah then prayed as follows: My heart exults in ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 1:46-56
46 And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for December 22nd, 2014 Image

St. Chaeromon
December 22: Bishop of Nilopolis, in Egypt. When the persecution was ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter