The House Falls and the Sensus Fidelium

Posted September 19, 2017 1:09 pm by Editor

The House Falls and the Sensus Fidelium

I am sure there have been psycho popes in the past, as much as there have been a few heretical ones, as there have been downright wicked ones.

Quite recently there was quite a lot of talk on the web, not from serious media though, of ‘schism’. I suspect there was a feeling that somehow the “dubia cardinals” would rise up and by some strange legal act would create a new pope. There was also discussion of the invalidity of Pope Francis’ election that was pure nonsense. 

Pope’s theologically hold office by popular acclamation and acceptance by the Church of Rome and the bishops and clergy throughout the world, how they get there isn’t that important. ‘Legality’ doesn’t quite enter into it, in the past armies have, as have bribery or imprisonment and torture of opposing Cardinals. Simple question: who do we pray for at Mass? Except for odd people it’s Jorge Bergoglio reigning as Pope Francis. There is no other Pope.

I am told that the old question Suarez and others raised about the deposition of a Pope has become a popular subject for doctoral study in certain Canon Law faculties. There was a conference on it in Paris recently.

I am not sure that the relationship of Church and pope works quite so cleanly, especially today. A proper understanding of the sensus fidelium gives a clue. “The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice …… And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.” It is not a formal act that separates the sheep from the stranger, it is simply they don’t hear him. In the same way that the people heard Jesus and didn’t hear the scribes and pharisees because “he spoke with authority”.  In the same way “one cannot pick figs from thorns”, and houses built on sand will fall and lamps hidden under tubs do not give light to the house, one can tell a tree by its fruit.

Schism does indeed have a legal definition but the main problem is that our churches, our seminaries, our convents are empty, people aren’t marrying. Though people might turn out in vast numbers to see the spectacle of a pope in the streets of Bogata on a Brazilian beach in reality they simply don’t hear him. It is the same with bishops and priests: the sheep do not hear them or follow them.

This is what “schism” is really about in modern times, it is not sharp division of ecclesiastical institutions but lapsation, a refusal or inability to hear the Church’s leadership.  Like the scribes and Pharisees, separated from Christ, they have no authority. Speaking in their own voice they have nothing to say. In fact as we see today in surveys bishops are mistrusted even more than local priests, when they are true pastors they are effective and loved but so often they have merely an administrative role distinct from the word of God.

There has been a lot talk about the older form of the Mass and Orthodoxy attracting young people, I think this is true, or at least it produces vocations and committed Catholics but it is not necessarily something to celebrate, it appears to be attractive because the rest of the Church is failing.

Like older form of Mass, the older form catechesis, of preaching, or living as a priest or even being Church is all linked to the fons et culmen the Mass. Change the rites and the theological ground is changed, rock can easily become swamp or quicksand, and the house …. it falls.

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