In 2014, the Vatican’s International Theological Commission published Sensus Fidei: In the Life of the Church. It addressed the belief that “the faithful have an instinct for the truth of the gospel, which enables them to recognize and approve genuine Christian doctrine and practice, and to reject what is false.”
Sensus Fidei translates from Latin as “meaning of the faithful”. This Vatican document said it allowed the faithful “not only to recognize what is in conformity with the Gospel and to reject what is contrary to it, but also to feel what Pope Francis has called ‘new paths for the way “in the faith of the whole pilgrims.”
After months of consultation with many thousands of practicing Catholics in Ireland, there is no doubt what the sense of the faithful on this island is saying to the Church. The vast majority want “new methods”. They want equality for women in the Church, at all levels, including ministry; they want LGBTQI+ people to be accepted and respected as fellow believers, and they want similar accommodations extended to divorced Catholics, remarried Catholics, cohabiting couples and single parents. They want a greater role for the laity in church decision-making.
They have made this clear in reports of their opinions from the 26 Catholic dioceses on this island as well as in three separate submissions from the Association of Catholic Priests, the Association of Catholics in Ireland and the group We Are Church Ireland, who were all gathered at a national assembly in Athlone on Saturday. This synthesis will be sent to Rome in August for consideration at the synod on synodality convened by Pope Francis for October 2023. Similar reports are in preparation in the Catholic world.
Unsurprisingly, many of those who took part in these Irish consultations expressed fears that, whatever they may think, “the views of the laity will be watered down at the higher levels of the Church in Ireland to reflect the views of the hierarchy. and the direction in which the bishops wish to take the Church,” as a diocesan report put it. That would run counter to this whole process.