Monday, 10 December 2012

Catholic teaching is not determined by opinion polls...

Pope Benedict XVI made an important defense of tradition on Friday, in a speech that denounced the fake versions of the 'sensus fidelium' (sense of the faithful) so often claimed as the justification for their views by liberals.

The apostolic tradition

One of the more insidious of the liberal assaults on the Church is the claim that the Church should listen to public opinion in determining its practice and beliefs.

The traditional view, repeated over and over again by the current Pope, is that neither the Pope nor anyone else in the Church has the authority to change or 'update' its teachings, certain aspects of the liturgy, and certain practices.

There are, of course, some things that can be changed - but not those divinely instituted traditions that were entrusted to the Apostles and have been handed down through their successors.

Up until Vatican II, the Church clearly differentiated between those things that couldn't be changed, namely the divinely instituted commands of Our Lord (such as the ban on divorce) and divine commands made known to us through the Apostles, on the one hand; and ecclesial traditions (some of which can be traced back to the Apostles) ,which in theory at least, can be changed.  The current Catechisms distinction between big 'T' Traditions (which can't be changed), and small t traditions that can, rather blurs over and makes fuzzier the careful categories previously used, but can (with some effort) be construed to mean essentially the same thing.

The protections accorded to tradition

What protects those divinely mandated Traditions?

First and foremost the Magisterium.

But also of course, the 'sensus fidelium' that causes the people to cry out when those in authority become infected by heresy, such as the layman Eusebius who yelled out objecting to the assertion that Our Lady was not the Mother of God in the middle of a sermon given by the Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople around 420 (yep I always loved that particular example, tempted as I've been on occasion to yell out in the middle of certain sermons!).

The liberals seem to view the sensus fidelium as working like a kind of opinion poll.  Indeed, Cath Blog not very long ago even ran a piece recently urging 'catholics' to embrace the cafeteria!

So its good to see Pope Benedict XVI come out with a strong, corrective statement on just what constitutes the genuine 'sensus fidelium' in a speech to the International Theological Commission.  Here is the key section:

"Among the criteria of Catholic theology, the document mentions the attention that theologians must pay to sensus fidelium. It is very useful that your Commission has also focused on this issue which is of particular importance for the reflection on the faith and life of the Church. The Second Vatican Council, while confirming the specific and irreplaceable role of Magisterium, stressed, however, that the whole People of God participates in Christ's prophetic office, thus fulfilling the inspired desire expressed by Moses, " If only all the people of the LORD were prophets! If only the LORD would bestow his spirit on them! "(Num 11:29). 

The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium thus teaches us on the subject: “The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One,(111) 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. "(n. 12). This gift, the sensus fidei, constitutes in the believer a kind of supernatural instinct that has a connatural life with the same object of faith. It is a criterion for discerning whether or not a truth belongs to the deposit of the living apostolic tradition. It also has a propositional value because the Holy Spirit does not cease to speak to the Churches and lead them to the whole truth. 

Today, however, it is particularly important to clarify the criteria used to distinguish the authentic sensus fidelium from its counterfeits. In fact, it is not some kind of public opinion of the Church, and it is unthinkable to mention it in order to challenge the teachings of the Magisterium, this because the sensus fidei can not grow authentically in the believer except to the extent in which he or she fully participates in the life of the Church, and this requires a responsible adherence to her Magisterium."


Pro-Life said...

The only opinion poll in the New Testament ended in the words, "Crucify Him, Crucify Him" (St. Luke 23:21). Let us not make the same mistake as the crowd, and prefer the king of this world, Caesar, rather than Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the universe (cf St. John 19:15)

Iowa Mike said...

This says it all......It's Official.....the progressives and relativists are tossing hissy fits all over the place. This is totally fantastic.