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Catechism Project, #91-100

Today we see a paragraph from the Catechism that is to my mind perhaps the single most misunderstood quotation from Vatican II.  CCC #92 quotes from Lumen Gentium #12, which I quote below without the ellipses found in the Catechism as I find those words quite important in forming a proper understanding of the whole:

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. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the word of God. Through it, the people of God adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints, penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life.

The term in the second sentence “supernatural discernment in matters of faith” is frequently referred to in shorthand as the sensus fidei – you will frequently hear that term bandied about whenever someone is arguing that “the Vatican” has to get with the times and change its teachings to conform to what the majority believe.  Yet that understanding is completely undermined only two sentences later when that “[i]t is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority”, a.k.a. the Magisterium of the Church.  So when someone or even a group of someones demand the Church “update” its teachings, ask yourself only this:  is what they are asking really believed “from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful” or just a cadre of people who think they can bypass the Magisterium when it becomes inconvenient?

One other thing to ponder:  does it really “show universal agreement” on the topic, or only colloquial or even rather broad agreement?  Even broadly held beliefs when both not universal and held against the continued teachings of the Magisterium do not qualify for this categorization.  Remember that at one point the great majority of Christendom was under the sway of the Arian heresy – that did not make it right, that just made it powerful.  Power, despite all its attractiveness, can do nothing to make itself true.

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