Theologians explain sensus fidei regarding Church teaching

When Church teaching is rejected by large numbers of the faithful, action is called for, the International Theological Commission has written.

The commission has published a document called “’Sensus Fidei’ in the life of the Church”.

It has been approved by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, and was posted to the Vatican website.

The commission acknowledged there are occasions when the reception of magisterial teaching by the faithful meets with difficulty and resistance.

In these instances, Catholics “must reflect on the teaching that has been given, making every effort to understand and accept it”, the commission said.

“Resistance, as a matter of principle, to the teaching of the magisterium is incompatible with the authentic sensus fidei,” it continued.

At the same time, the theologians said, “the magisterium must likewise reflect on the teaching that has been given and consider whether it needs clarification or reformulation in order to communicate more effectively the essential message”.

The commission defined the sense of the faithful as a spiritual instinct that enables a believer to judge whether a particular teaching or practice is in conformity with the Gospel and apostolic faith.

The document acknowledged “the faithful have an instinct for the truth of the Gospel”.

But it said there are situations in which Catholics claim to be relying on that instinct when, in fact, they are promoting deviations from the Christian faith, particularly on moral issues.

Referencing the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, the commission rejected the idea that Catholic laity must blindly obey everything the pope and bishops tell them.

But they emphasised the importance of assuming Church leaders are correct and trying to understand teachings.

Prayer, regularly receiving the sacraments, studying and being an active member of the Catholic community, are needed before claiming to be able to discern that a church teaching needs adjustment, they added.

The commission also noted that in the history of the People of God, it has often been not the majority, but rather a minority which has truly lived and witnessed to the faith.

In a recent US survey of 16,582 Catholics, only one per cent accepted the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception in its entirety.


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