Published by Claudio Duchetti (fl.1565 - 1585)
Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae: A session of the Council of Trent, apostolic lawyers seated at left before a large audience of speakers and ecclesiastic delegates
Inscription Content: Lettered in palque above centre: 'Congretatio patrum generalis ... / theologi et uirisperiti',
329 millimetres x 488 millimetres
The British Museum, London
Just published on the Vatican website is an important document by the International Theological Commission entitled Theology Today: Perspectives, Principles and Criteria.
It has been a long time in the gestation
The initial work was begun in 2004-8 and the present text was only approved on 29th November 2011.
Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, only now has authorised its publication
It is an important document about the nature of Catholic theology today, what is meant by a "Catholic" theology, the role of the theologian (in particular, his or her role in the Church) and the rights and duties of the theologian.
It is a particularly important document in the run up to the Year of Evangelisation
One of the main issues in Catholic theology since Vatican II has been the idea of the "sensus fidelium" ("the sense of the faith that is deeply rooted in the people of God who receive, understand and live the Word of God in the Church"). On occasion it has been used almost as a slogan, or if there is no other argument, one could always call on it to support almost any proposition
In an important section, the Commission explain and define what is the sensus fidelium and what it is not. And how cautious theologians should be in declaring what they see as genuine and valid statements of the "sensus fidelium"
"3. Attention to the sensus fidelium
33. In his First Letter to the Thessalonians, St Paul writes:
‘We constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers’ (1Thess 2:13).
These words illustrate what Vatican II referred to as ‘the supernatural appreciation of the faith [sensusfidei] of the whole people’, and ‘the intimate sense of spiritual realities’ that the faithful have, that is, the sensus fidelium.
The subject of faith is the people of God as a whole, which in the power of the Spirit affirms the Word of God. That is why the council declares that the entire people of God participates in the prophetic ministry of Jesus, and that, anointed by the Holy Spirit (cf. 1Jn 2:20, 27), it ‘cannot err in matters of belief’.
The pastors who guide the people of God, serving its faith, are themselves first of all members of the communion of believers. 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’.
34. The nature and location of the sensusfidei or sensusfidelium must be properly understood. The sensus fidelium does not simply mean the majority opinion in a given time or culture, nor is it only a secondary affirmation of what is first taught by the magisterium.
The sensusfidelium is the sensus fidei of the people of God as a whole who are obedient to the Word of God and are led in the ways of faith by their pastors. So the sensusfidelium is the sense of the faith that is deeply rooted in the people of God who receive, understand and live the Word of God in the Church.
35. For theologians, the sensus fidelium is of great importance.
It is not only an object of attention and respect, it is also a base and a locus for their work. On the one hand, theologians depend on the sensusfidelium, because the faith that they explore and explain lives in the people of God. It is clear, therefore, that theologians themselves must participate in the life of the Church to be truly aware of it.
On the other hand, part of the particular service of theologians within the body of Christ is precisely to explicate the Church’s faith as it is found in the Scriptures, the liturgy, creeds, dogmas, catechisms, and in the sensus fidelium itself.
Theologians help to clarify and articulate the content of the sensus fidelium, recognising and demonstrating that issues relating to the truth of faith can be complex, and that investigation of them must be precise.It falls to them also on occasion critically to examine expressions of popular piety, new currents of thought and movements within the Church, in the name of fidelity to the Apostolic Tradition.
Theologians’ critical assessments must always be constructive; they must be given with humility, respect and charity:
‘Knowledge (gnosis) puffs up, but love (agape) builds up’ (1Cor 8:1).
36. Attention to the sensus fidelium is a criterion for Catholic theology. Theology should strive to discover and articulate accurately what the Catholic faithful actually believe. It must speak the truth in love, so that the faithful may mature in faith, and not be ‘tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine’ (Eph 4:14-15). "