Saturday, May 28, 2005

Talking Sense

I saw a bumper sticker this week that made me think about Sensus Fidelium. It said: When People Lead Leaders Will Follow. Sensus Fidelium, this "sense of the faithful", calls us to lead. It acknowledges that the Holy Spirit flows through the people of the Church, and not just its leaders. That gift of the Holy Spirit brings an important job of each of us: to believe, accept or reject.

This from ARCC, the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church :

A very important event in the Church today is the re-emergence of an understanding of the Sensus Fidelium, what the Christian people believe, accept, and reject. It is here, the Sensus Fidelium, wherein resides the promise of Christ to protect us from error with the guidance of the Spirit. Church hierarchy (the rulers) have taught what to believe, accept, and reject, but always with acceptance or a corrective response by theologian (experts) and the faithful even from the very beginning.

In an informative letter on the subject, attributed to Call To Action, the Jesus Our Shepherd Community offers some powerful conclusions about how sensus fidelium works:
Sensus fidelium is the collective wisdom, the collective experience, the collective voice of all the faithful. It is in part the Spirit manifesting itself through the voice of the laity and the call for the bishops and ordained clergy to listen attentively. Sensus fidelium is a gift and a challenge to the future of our church.
I'm beginning to see that challenging is a good thing, all by design.

The letter also cites the thoughts of Cardinal John Henry Newman from another time - the 1850s:
The sensus fidelium is a branch of evidence that is natural and necessary for the church to consult...because the body of the faithful is a witness to the fact of the tradition of revealed doctrine and because their consensus throughout Christendom is the voice of the Infallible church.
Many times I've said to myself (and others): "I'd like to slap some sense into the Catholic Church." Now, it seems, it's actually our job.

But how? How do the faithful make themselves heard? How do the leaders listen?

That's my next area of exploration. I'm starting with Voice of the Faithful. That might be one way. I'm going to check out a local meeting next month. Meanwhile, blogging certainly seems like a quite modern day way to tap into sensus fidelium, I suppose.

The Vatican has made it easy for the faithful to be heard. You can reach Pope Benedict via email at In the spirit of sensus fidelium, what would you want our new Pope to hear?


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