Fishwrap: less than enthusiastic about new ITC document on “sensus fidei”.

Over at Fishwrap (aka National Schismatic Reporter), knickers are in twists over the recently issued document from the International Theological Commission, “‘Sensus Fidei’ in the Life of the Church“.

As you will recall, at Fishwrap, “sensus fidei“, closely related to “sentire cum Ecclesia“, means majority sentiment, deduced through an intricate algorithm involving feelings, polls, and the interpreters own liberal notions, which then can trump any divinely revealed teaching, all dogma (aka “church policy”), and, especially, “rules”, which are bad – unless liberals are making them, of course.

The Fishwrap writer, Robert McClory, (whose brief Fishwrap bio says: professor emeritus of journalism at Northwestern University, and has contributed to NCR since 1974. He is the author of Radical Disciple: Father Pfleger, St. Sabina Church, and the Fight for Social Justice and As It Was in the Beginning: The Coming Democratization of the Catholic Church), offers his insights into the deficiencies of the new ITC doc.  Here is a sample (my emphases and comments:

At one point, the writers consider the most important dispositions a Catholic needs for authentic participations [sic] in the sensus fidei (sense of the faith). “No single one can be discussed in an isolated manner; its relationship to each and all of the others has to be taken into account,” they write.

“The first and most fundamental is … active participation in the liturgy, especially the Eucharist, regular reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, discernment and exercise of gifts and charisms received from the Holy Spirit … There are countless ways in which such participation may occur, but what is common in all cases is an active solidarity with the Church.”

Now, this sounds pretty rigid. [Oh dear oh dear!  Can you imagine?  For someone to have a true “sense of the faith” they should be able to receive Communion, having gone to … CONFESSION?!?  What’s the world coming to?  But I like this next bit…] If taken literally, [HA! What the ITC really meant to say, was….] it could eliminate from authentic participation in the sense of the faith that overwhelming mass of Catholics who receive reconciliation irregularly. [Ummm… yep.] But I hope that is not the intent of the writers, and I do not think the writers intend to cut off those who attend Mass on a less-than-weekly basis. [No, that’s right.  Why would we call into question the perspective of those who get up on Sunday, yawn, stretch, and then go about their business without even having remembered Mass?  Or who remember and then choose not to go?  Or who have lived outside the state of grace for years?] Might Catholics who belong to intentional eucharistic communities [? More in this seriously messed up notion: HERE] or small faith groups [?] qualify as actively participating in the Eucharist? [No.] I think so, [Imagine my shock.] especially if they cannot tolerate abysmal liturgy, awful preaching or closed attitudes at the Catholic parish or parishes available to them. [“closed attitudes”… code for “No, you can’t do whatever the hell you want with your genitals.”] As the document notes, what is most needed is “an active solidarity with the Church” — that is, with the whole church. [Which includes, by the way, the HIERARCHY.]

And there is this:

The fourth disposition a faithful Catholic needs is “attentiveness to the magisterium of the Church, and a willingness to listen to the teaching of the pastors of the Church, as an act of freedom.” [Because there is no true “freedom” in the Church, properly understood, without willingness to “listen” (as a first step) to the Magisterium.  The next step would be…. ?] The document does not say immediate obedience is required, though the “magisterium is rooted in the mission of Jesus.” [Even the writer figured out that the next step is obedience.  But… hey!… why not defer it for a while?] Earlier in the document, the writers state that the sense of faith “enables individual believers to perceive any disharmony, incoherence, or contradiction between a teaching or practice and the authentic Christian faith … Alerted by their sensus fidei, individual believers may deny assent even to the teaching of legitimate pastors if they do not recognise in that teaching the voice of Christ.” [The point is that the faithful need, first, to know what the Church teaches.  Then they need to submit to what the Church teaches.  Then, if the hear something that is out of synch with the Church’s authentic teaching, then they can play their proper role.] The term “legitimate pastors” obviously includes priests, bishops and popes. [It is probably good that the writer included that last bit, since it wouldn’t be apparent to most readers of NSR.]

Finally, there’s this:

[T]he writers declare: “The magisterium also judges with authority whether opinions which are present among the people of God and which may seem to be the sensus fidelium, actually correspond to the truth of the Tradition received from the Apostles. … Thus, judgement regarding the authenticity of the sensus fidelium belongs ultimately not to the faithful themselves nor to theology but to the magisterium.”

You can imagine how well that part went down.

You can read the ITC document yourselves.  It is good to have a bit more clarity about sensus fidei and sentire cum Ecclesia.  It could have been better, but it is a start.  But, if the Fishwrappers are unsettled by it, it is probably a sound piece of work.

Finally, may I remind you all of Lumen gentium (that’s from the -cue celestial music – Second Vatican Council) 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. 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” (Augustine, De Praed. Sanct. 14.27: PL 44.980) 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. Through it, the people of God adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints, penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life.

In other words, you can’t make it up.  You can’t, in the name of “being prophetic”, pick this and refuse that.  You can’t, and be Catholic, think apart from or over and against the bishops and Holy Father.  An appeal to “sensus fidei” apart from them is a sham.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. wmeyer says:

    Oh, Fishwrap we’d hardly know ye, were your knickers not in a twist.

    Incredulity, I’m sure, because really, such teaching, so consistent with Tradition, can’t possibly be supported by the fluffiest pope ever.

    But, if the Fishwrappers are unsettled by it, it is probably a sound piece of work.

    That might qualify as a new axiom.

  2. McCall1981 says:

    Every time I read something from Fishwrap, I am reminded of Genesis “… and you shall be as gods”. Their entire world view boils down to discarding God and putting yourself in His place (the oldest sins in the newest ways indeed). Very creepy stuff.

  3. THREEHEARTS says:

    here’s the problem Fr Z and perhaps you might address it. Which Bishops and priests are we to believe. When a priest in his homily said we never loose sanctifying grace once we are baptized twice this was the subject of his homily. The Bishop knew and never corrected him. Another priest said in the same church at a homily for Holy Thursday do not come to Holy Communion unless you have gone to confession recently. (Easter duty etc.) He was sent to Calvary… sorry Chicago for Liturgical training when the congregation complained to the Bishop. Another thinking theologian wrote in the Diocesan Paper. Do not stop receiving communion when you are approaching the altar even if you remember a mortal sin, as you will cause scandal. he was never censured and only two of the laity wrote a correction. Who then father do we follow the Local Ordinary and the two priests or the one who was censured. I look forward to your truthful answer.

  4. Marc M says:

    I had never heard of “intentional eucharistic communities,” so I just googled it. Uh. Whoa.

    If you decide to leave your parish, and start your own group, and say you don’t need priests, and don’t need Rome, and don’t need the Church… you’re Protestant. Or actually, these groups remind me more of Unitarian Universalists. This doesn’t make any sense at all to me. Why would these groups even WANT to call themselves Catholic?

    [Thanks for looking that up. That’s really messed up.]

  5. acardnal says:

    It seems the “Fishwrap” conveniently overlooked this statement in para 80 of subject document:
    “Resistance, as a matter of principle, to the teaching of the magisterium is incompatible with the authentic sensus fidei. “

  6. Lutgardis says:

    THREEHEARTS, the answer is in the ITC document and probably in your well-catechized heart as well:

    “63. Alerted by their sensus fidei, individual believers may deny assent even to the teaching of legitimate pastors if they do not recognise in that teaching the voice of Christ, the Good Shepherd. ‘The sheep follow [the Good Shepherd] because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run away from him because they do not know the voice of strangers’ (Jn 10:4-5). For St Thomas, a believer, even without theological competence, can and even must resist, by virtue of the sensus fidei, his or her bishop if the latter preaches heterodoxy.[78]In such a case, the believer does not treat himself or herself as the ultimate criterion of the truth of faith, but rather, faced with materially ‘authorised’ preaching which he or she finds troubling, without being able to explain exactly why, defers assent and appeals interiorly to the superior authority of the universal Church.[79]”

    The key is that the Catholic does not turn his or her back on his or her bishop or priest because what they are saying goes against his/her feelings, emotions, or personal thoughts, but because what they are saying goes against Catholic doctrine, which a proper Catholic has bothered to learn and internalize.

  7. Oh Father, thank you, that was hilarious!

  8. Midwest St. Michael says:

    [“closed attitudes”… code for “No, you can’t do whatever the hell you want with your genitals.”]

    Oh. My. Goodness!

    Once again, the great Fr. Z made me LOL. :^) What is that now?… Oh, probably 1,429 times since 2007.

    Keep it up Father and Stephen Colbert will be asking you to contribute. ;^)


  9. jflare says:

    I must confess to being as perplexed as Marc M; the whole thing about “intentional eucharistic communities” threw me a curve too. I, too, googled the term; I came up with one that was the same as the link Fr Z provided, another was for a group that proclaimed that these are “altnerative” options for Vatican II Catholics. Evidently, the presence of an actual ordained priest is…optional.

    Looks like sheer madness to me. They’re trying to have a “church of the people”, but I can’t see how they can say that they have a church at all. If you do not have an ordained priest, you do not have a sacrament for the Eucharist or Confession. Period.

    As Marc commented, these would seem to be effective Protestants, but without the intellectual honesty of proclaiming oneself a Protestant.
    What a mess!!

  10. Reconverted Idiot says:

    Was pleased to read this a week or so after I started following this blog:
    “A US blogger, Fr Z is famous for his fisks – sharp and revealing comments – that are anti-Catholic or dissenting from the truths of the Faith”
    — Companion to Faith. CTS Do860. Page 67.

    I would add the word “rightly” before “famous”.
    Thanks for the LOLs, but especially for the insights, Father. You never fail to edify.

  11. Reconverted Idiot says:

    oops, bit of a typo-muddle in that^.

    “…fisks – sharp and revealing comments – of articles and posts that are ….”


  12. revueltos67 says:

    Re: “But, if the Fishwrappers are unsettled by it, it is probably a sound piece of work.”

    In the great progressive tradition of John Kerry, the article’s author voted for it before he voted against it.

  13. Elizabeth D says:

    No reasonable person could think fallen-away Catholics who start their own “church” have a sound sense of the Faith. Unfortunately, there are more than a handful of religious sisters who are actually among those who choose “alternative liturgies” over going to Mass. (There needs to be greater attention to the problem of fallen-away Catholic religious sisters, I have brought this up with the LCWR–and they did get my letters and Sister Janet Mock replied though not to that specific topic.)

  14. incredulous says:

    Elizabeth D, that’s a pretty stunning link you provided. I am absolutely incensed at the way the church handles such blatant heretics as these disobedient “nuns” and then crushes traditionalists such as Father Wylie.

    Or, that Michael Voris is not allowed to use the word “Catholic” in his apostolate, yet for fifty years National Catholic Reporter have gotten away with the use of the word Catholic in a publication that promotes what borders on heresy often.

    I can’t even believe the dislike of the SSPX, for example, as opposed to the tolerance of pro-infanticide nuns in LCWR. It’s mind boggling. It’s just the standard, run-of-the mill deification of liberalism and progressiveness with all the associated double standards and unfairness against main stream conservatives.

    I feel very queasy and outraged after reading the article you linked to. Thanks a bunch. ;)

  15. frjim4321 says:

    The author seems to be quite on the liberal side judging from the titles of his books.

    That being said, I would expect the ITC to be reactionary and restrictive in is current interpretation of the s.f.

    I suspect a valid understanding of s.f. coming from its history in antiquity would be somewhere between the two extremes.

  16. HobokenZephyr says:

    Does this mean that if I attend a regular old Mass at my regular old parish I’m a member of an Unintentional Eucharistic Community? I’ll have to share that with father after Mass today.

  17. BLB Oregon says:

    The story reads as if the author has either not been taught to do a competent examination of conscience or else wants to pretend that he hasn’t. He has certainly heard of the precept of the Church concerning the obligation to faithfully attend Mass on Sundays and holy days.

  18. Kerry says:

    This sentence, “…it could eliminate from authentic participation in the sense of the faith that overwhelming mass of Catholics who receive reconciliation irregularly…”, when passed through the Yogi Berra translator reads, “Well, if people don’t wanna go to confession regularly, how you gonna stop ’em?”

  19. incredulous says:

    ” A sister in her late 50s who has spent much of her religious life working in a parish responded, “You’re not honoring my anger.” ”

    Really? We are called on to “honor” abortion promoting heretical nuns’ anger? Wow, Jesus has asked us to honor the anger of a lunatic?

    That makes me angry. I wonder if the “Sister” will grant my anger the honor she feels is due hers.

    Is this real? Seriously?

  20. Kerry says:

    On the other hand, as “Intentional Eucharist Communities” sounds like Catholic is what we say it is, why then do they care what the Church has to say? Why not just decide to be right, and maybe keep to themselves?

  21. Marc M says:

    @ incredulous-

    Regarding the National Catholic Reporter, I believe I’ve read that the bishop where they publish has somewhat officially asked them not to use the word “Catholic” in their name, and they’ve responded, hey, this is America, you can’t tell us what to do. Which, legally, is true. So at least there’s been an attempt. Perhaps Voris was simply obedient where NCR was not.

    @HobokenZephyr- you made me literally LOL, and now everyone at Cracker Barrel thinks I’m weird.

  22. Charles E Flynn says:


    I suspect that you are a member of a Eucharistic Community that is intended by its present members but was unintended by the members of the Eucharistic Communities from which the members migrated.

  23. Mike says:

    “somewhere between the two extremes”: oh, dear, mustn’t risk seeming reactionary and restrictive, must we?

    Ah, moderation, that Laodicean virtue by which in the specious “Spirit of Vatican II” I can “agree to disagree” with the Truth Who was crucified for me; that principle by which I justify sin and damn myself through obstinacy; that snare from which I can only be saved by seeking mercy through contrition, penance, and a firm purpose of amendment. Time for me to get to confession soon, methinks.

  24. incredulous says:

    Hi Marc M,

    This is from their wikipedia entry… your mileage may vary as to the veracity:

    “NCR publisher Thomas C. Fox responded denying the implication that there was a decades long animosity between the bishopric and themselves, especially noting that “Bishop John Sullivan and Bishop Raymond Boland — had cordial relations with NCR.” He pointed out that NCR is a member of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada whose honorary president is Bishop John Wester who also serves as the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference as its chairman of the Committee of Communications. He closed by noting an NCR editorial in November 2012 had called on Finn to resign or be removed from his position after Finn was found guilty “of failing to report suspected child abuse involving a local priest””

    Seems to me that there is a here…

  25. In other words, in order to be counted among the faithful, one must, in fact, be Catholic? You’re kidding!

    This is what I argued for here:

    You cannot have Catholicism apart from authority. Uttering those words, declaring “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God,” when you do not even know all that those words encompass is to say, “I believe and will believe whatever the Church tells me to believe.” The one who speaks those words is announcing to God, to the Church, and to the world, that he is choosing to submit himself to the authority of the Catholic Church. It is a choice to recognize and acknowledge the Catholic Church as THE authority on all matters of faith and morality.

  26. Loyolalaw98 says:

    Padre Z – What Fishwrap neglects to mention in the McClory bio is that he is an ex priest. In 1964 he was Associate Pastor at St. Sabina in Chicago, now the haunt of Fr. Phleger.

    [Is he? Why am I not surprised.]

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