Pope remarks upon value of theology, real meaning of “sensus fidelium”

Human error and relativism, not monotheism, lead to violence.

From Vatican Information Service:

Vatican City, 7 December 2012 (VIS) – Benedict XVI today received in audience the members of the International Theological Commission following their plenary session. The Pope expressed his appreciation for the message prepared by the Commission regarding the Year of Faith, which “illustrates well the specific way in which theologians, in loyal service to the truth of faith, may share the Church’s evangelising impulse”.

The message revisits the themes developed more fully in the document “Theology today, Prospectives, Principles and Criteria”, which embodies, in a sense, “the genetic code of Catholic theology, or rather, the principles which define her identity and as a consequence, guarantee her unity in the diversity of her manifestations. … In a cultural context in which some have been tempted to deprive theology of its academic status on account of its intrinsic links to faith, or to disregard the confessional aspect of theology, at the risk of confusing it with religious sciences, your document provides a timely reminder that theology is in essence confessional and rational, and its presence within university institutions guarantees a broad and complete vision of human reason”.
The Pope mentioned that among the criteria of Catholic theology, the document mentions the attention theologians should reserve for the ‘sensus fidelium’. “Vatican Council II, confirming the specific and irreplaceable role of the Magisterium, emphasised that the People of God as a whole participate in Christ’s prophetic role. … This gift, the ‘sensus fidei’, constitutes in believers a sort of supernatural instinct which shares a vital connaturality with the very object of faith. … It is a criterion for ascertaining whether or not a certain truth belongs to the living depository of the apostolic tradition. It also has a proactive value as the Holy Spirit never ceases to speak of the Church and to guide her towards the fullness of truth. Nowadays, however, it is particularly important to specify the criteria which permit the authentic ‘sensus fidelium’ to be distinguished from its imitations. This is not in fact a form of ecclesial public opinion, and it would be unthinkable to refer to it to challenge the teachings of the Magisterium, since the ‘sensus fidei’ cannot truly develop in a believer other than to the extent to which he participates fully in the life of the Church, and it therefore necessitates responsible adhesion to her Magisterium”.
“Nowadays, this supernatural sense of the faith of believers leads to a vigorous reaction against the prejudice according to which religions, and in particular monotheistic religions, are intrinsically predisposed to violence, especially on the pretext that they lay claim to a universal truth. Some maintain that only a ‘polytheism of values’ would guarantee tolerance and civil peace by conforming to the spirit of a pluralistic democratic society. … On the one hand, it is important to remember that faith in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, meets the rational demands of metaphysical reflection, which is not weakened, but rather strengthened and deepened by the Revelation of the mystery of the Triune God. On the other hand, it is necessary to emphasise the form that the definitive Revelation of the mystery of the Triune God takes in the life and death of Jesus Christ, led unto the cross like ‘a lamb that is led to the slaughter’. The Lord offers a radical refusal of any form of hate or violence in favour of the absolute primacy of agape. While throughout history there have been or indeed there are forms of violence carried out in the name of God, these cannot be attributed to monotheism, but rather to historical causes, and in particular to human error. It is, rather, an oblivion to God that immerses human society in a form of relativism, which ineluctably generates violence. Once the possibility of referring to a form of objective truth is negated to all, dialogue becomes impossible and violence, whether declared or concealed, becomes the rule governing human relations. Without opening up to the transcendent, which enables us to find answers to our questions on the meaning of life and how to live in a moral fashion, man becomes incapable of acting with justice or committing himself to peace”.
“If the rupture in man’s relations with God brings with it a profound imbalance in relations within mankind itself, reconciliation with God brought about by Christ on the Cross, ‘our peace’, is the fundamental source of unity and fraternity”, continued the Holy Father. “This also links to your discussion on the social doctrine of the Church within the doctrine of the faith as a whole. It confirms that social doctrine is not an extrinsic addition but, without neglecting the contribution of a healthy social philosophy, draws its basic principles from the same source as faith. This doctrine renders effective, in the great variety of social situations, the new commandment that the Lord Jesus gave to us: ‘Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another'”.


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About Carl E. Olson 1207 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.