The concept of the “sensus fidelium” represents the teaching that church leaders and the people possess a “shared spiritual instinct for the truth of the faith,” as our package of reflections by Catholic News Service explains.
‘Sensus fidelium’: The sense of the faithful
Jesus’ promise for the Holy Spirit to “guide you to all truth” applies to the apostles, the pope and the bishops, and to the faithful collectively. This “sense” represents a profound unity that is crucial to the church’s identity.
An instinct: Always faithful
Nourished by prayer and worship, the faithful gain knowledge and understanding of the faith from the community of believers that is the church, writes Catholic catechist Daniel Mulhall.
‘Sensus fidelium’: A sacred ‘common sense’
Although Catholics may be unaware of it, they possess a kind of spiritual instinct that helps to guide the church. John Henry Newman described a “breathing together” of church teaching and people’s lived experience.
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I like the sense of the faithful expressed in Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium 12 which says: “The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One,(111) [cf. 1 Jn 2:20, 27] 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” (8*) [Cf. 1 Cor. 10: 17] 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.”