Tag Archives: International Theological Commission

Theological commission defines role of sensus fidei in Church

A high powered theological commission, the International Theological Commission (ITC) gave a detailed definition to what Catholics mean when they say they have, or employ, a sensus fidei in Church life. Over the last decades various meanings have surfaced, and not all of them are correct. The ITC has stated in another place, “Catholic theology speaks 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.’” 

The focus of Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church historical method identifies (discerns) the authentic contributions to the sensus fidei, by two criteria: conformity to the apostolic tradition and active participation.

Concluding the 85th session of the The International Theological Commission, released a new document . “Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church” deals with the role of sensus fidei (the sense of the faithful) in the Church. There was one American on the sub commission that produced the “Sensus Fidei, Sister Sara Butler, M.S.B.T. (a former professor of mine).

The Catholic understanding of the sensus fidei “does not consist solely or necessarily in the consensus of the faithful. Following Christ, the Church seeks the truth, which is not always the same as the majority opinion. The Church values sociological and statistical research when it proves helpful in understanding the historical context in which pastoral action has to be developed and when it leads to a better understanding of the truth. Such research alone, however,” he insists, “is not to be considered in itself an expression of the sense of faith.” That was Pope John Paul II said. His successor the emeritus Pope Benedict XVI taught, “It is particularly important today 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 is because the sensus fidei cannot 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.”

As a technical term, sensus fidei describes the our ability as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, to discern how the Gospel of Jesus Christ is lived. The document’s works with with the survey sent to national episcopal conferences on the Synod of the Family.

What is a theologian? What purpose does the work of a theologian have? To be “In the Communion of the Church”

The public has been bombarded with the media’s assessment of nuns, church, the sexual abuse crisis, fidelity to the Lord, and the like. In some ways the media looks at the life of the Church and picks out the obvious problems of coherence. No doubt we have matters of concern that we have to work to correct; the adage: “the Church always needs renewal” is very true today. We rely on the Holy Spirit and the good work of Pope Benedict. The other day I found this review of a document written by members of the International Theological Commission (ITC), a group of theologians organized by the Pope to advise him on certain questions of theological questions of importance. Even the Pope needs advice! The ITC group is made up of a diversity of peoples from around the world. The ones I know personally are fine men and women, credible witnesses of the Lord. The review of Theology Today that follows is written by Father Paul McPartlan in which he synthesizes the document giving us the broad view of the work of Catholic theologian. What he highlights sits in contradistinction to what we’ve heard about the recent work of Sr Margaret Farley and other theologians who see themselves in a different light. I prefer to put my money the ITC and not on “envelop pushing, agenda driven” theologians. You?

Following its examination, in Chapter One, of the fundamental nature of theology, as the rational exploration of that faith which is a response to the proclamation of the Word of God, and prior to its extended reflection, in Chapter Three, on significant aspects of the rationality of theology, the new International Theological Commission (ITC) text, Theology Today: Perspectives, Principles and Criteria, carefully considers the ecclesial context of theology in Chapter Two. “The ecclesiality of theology is a constitutive aspect of the theological task, because theology is based on faith, and faith itself is both personal and ecclesial”, it says, emphasising that “it is through the Church that theologians receive the object of their enquiry” (n.20). Theological enquiry is therefore properly conducted within the living and life-giving milieu of the leiturgia, martyria and diakonia of the Church (cf. n.7). In short, as the chapter’s title indicates, it is necessary for theologians to abide in the communion of the Church.

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Pope encourages confidence that full communion with the Oriental Orthodox is possible

Pope with Oriental Orthodox bishops Jan 28 2011.jpgLast week members of the  International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, Pope Benedict gave a very brief letter encouraging courage and determination to work with the Holy Spirit in the work of full, visible communion between the churches. He said, “We can only be grateful that after almost fifteen
hundred years of separation we still find agreement about the sacramental
nature of the Church, about apostolic succession in priestly service and about
the impelling need to bear witness to the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
Christ in the world.” Watch a video clip of the presentation of the icon to His Holiness.

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The International Theological Commission meets with Pope: God “has gifted us with a reason in harmony with his nature”

The Pope met yesterday with the members of the International Theological Commission in plenary session, a bi-annual meeting, though I think the Pope only meets in a plenary session with the ITC once a year. I am familiar with several members of the group and I can attest to their diligent and honest work in theology for the good of the entire Church. The work of the ITC deals with some of the most interesting theological and philosophical questions these days. The ITC is working on questions of theological methodology, the question of one God for the 3 monotheistic religions and question of the Church’s social doctrine in the context of Christian doctrine. The ITC documentation is published in various languages and useful for one’s own theological reflection. There are several important points the makes about the vocation of a theologian and the nature of theology. He reminds us, namely, that a theologian does not work in a solitary way, that faith and reason are intrinsically linked and that theology is outward thinking and acting. Benedict XVI’s address to the ITC follows:

I receive you with joy at the end of your annual
plenary session. I would like first of all to express my heartfelt gratitude
for the words of homage that, on behalf of all, Your Eminence, in his capacity
of president of the International Theological Commission, addressed to me. The
work of this eighth “quinquennium” of the commission, as you
recalled, addresses the following very weighty topics: theology and its
methodology; the question of the one God in relation to the three monotheistic
religions; the integration of the social doctrine of the Church in the wider
context of Christian doctrine.

“For the love of Christ impels us, once we
have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. He
indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians
5:14-15). How can we not make our own this beautiful reaction of the Apostle
Paul to his encounter with the risen Christ? In fact this experience is at the
root of the three important topics on which you reflected in your plenary
session that has just ended.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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