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.