The *sensus fidelium * is not necessarily a simple concept that is easily defined in one sentence. Here is a summation of what it is:
- By the gift of the Holy Spirit, ‘the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father’ and bears witness to the Son (Jn 15:26), all of the baptised participate in the prophetic office of Jesus Christ, ‘the faithful and true witness’ (Rev 3:14). They are to bear witness to the Gospel and to the apostolic faith in the Church and in the world. The Holy Spirit anoints them and equips them for that high calling, conferring on them a very personal and intimate knowledge of the faith of the Church. …
- As a result, the faithful have an instinct for the truth of the Gospel, which enables them to recognise and endorse authentic Christian doctrine and practice, and to reject what is false. That supernatural instinct, intrinsically linked to the gift of faith received in the communion of the Church, is called the sensus fidei, and it enables Christians to fulfil their prophetic calling. …
- As a theological concept, the sensus fidei refers to two realities which are distinct though closely connected, the proper subject of one being the Church, ‘pillar and bulwark of the truth’ (1Tim 3:15), while the subject of the other is the individual believer, who belongs to the Church through the sacraments of initiation, and who, by means of regular celebration of the Eucharist, in particular, participates in her faith and life. On the one hand, the sensus fidei refers to the personal capacity of the believer, within the communion of the Church, to discern the truth of faith. On the other hand, the sensus fidei refers to a communal and ecclesial reality: the instinct of faith of the Church herself, by which she recognises her Lord and proclaims his word. The sensus fidei in this sense is reflected in the convergence of the baptised in a lived adhesion to a doctrine of faith or to an element of Christian praxis. …
It is important to note:
But Pope Benedict XVI, in a recent speech to the International Theological Commission, clarified what “sensus fidelium” means and what it does not mean. The Pope said pointedly, “It is unthinkable to mention it (sensus fidei) in order to challenge the teachings of the Magisterium.
Also important to note is:
Therefore Lumen Gentium speaks first about the people of God and the sensusfidei that they have, and then of the bishops who, through their apostolic succession in the episcopate and the reception of their own specific charisma veritatis certum (sure charism of truth), constitute, as a college in hierarchical communion with their head, the bishop of Rome and successor of St Peter in the apostolic see, the Church’s magisterium. Likewise, Dei Verbum teaches that the Word of God has been ‘entrusted to the Church’, and refers to the ‘entire holy people’ adhering to it, before then specifying that the pope and the bishops have the task of authentically interpreting the Word of God. This ordering is fundamental for Catholic theology. As St Augustine said: ‘Vobis sum episcopus, vobiscum sum christianus’.
And finally, from a homily of Pope John Paul ll:
- “Vobis … sum episcopus, vobiscum sum christianus” (“For you I am a bishop, with you I am a Christian”): these words of St Augustine were re-echoed loudly in the texts of the Second Vatican Council, in its magisterium.
Recently, I read a blog that referenced the *sensus fidei * as a means of gauging the authenticity of Amoris laetitia, but that is an improper use of the sensus fidelium according to what Pope Benedict XVl said to the International Theological Commission; and, improper by all that I have read about it being a criterion for Catholic theology. Nevertheless, the blog brings up some points to think about. Here is a link to the blog:
Any other insights into the sensus fidelium would be appreciated.
I can only imagine what priests and bishops and tribunals must deal with on a daily basis given the state of marriage since Vatican ll. Ultimately, my question is this: What role did the *sensus fidelium * play in Amoris laetitia’s formation?