Has the sensus fidei disappeared?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | May 20, 2015

In the Office of Readings for today we encounter this passage from Lumen Gentium (12):

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" they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals.

Is there any matter of faith—any doctrine of the Church—on which we can assume “universal agreement” among Catholics today? Can you point to any defined doctrine and say with confidence that 100% of the people in your parish on Sunday morning would affirm it? Is there any dogma that is not contradicted, or at least questioned, by a theologian teaching at an American Catholic university?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: shrink - May. 20, 2015 6:28 PM ET USA

    I think this is a problem of nomenclature and governance. Nomenclature: The problem finds a solution when one clarifies the meaning of the words "faithful" and "Catholic". Self-attribution of "faithful" and/or "Catholic" is not sufficient for an ontological determination. Only those who believe the deposit of Faith, as defined by the Church are "faithful" and "Catholic". Governance: determines non-belief; now that bishops no longer excommunicate, we don't know who is "faithful" or "Catholic".

  • Posted by: koinonia - May. 20, 2015 6:04 PM ET USA

    At this time it is reasonable and significantly less taxing to focus simply on the creed- the Nicene Creed- in particular. The answer is "No." This says a great deal, and to quote an infamous quip by former President Bill Clinton, "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is." This is the reality of the contemporary order. In other words when the self-evident proves elusive it's clear there is a long, long way to go...

  • Posted by: Jason C. - May. 20, 2015 3:38 PM ET USA

    If one disagrees then they aren't "a member of the body of the faithful." Except...wait, can we agree on that?