US theological society plans sensus fidelium theme for meeting

Members of a Vatican theological body are exploring just how hard bishops must listen to lay people.

If the members of the body, known as the International Theological Commission, want to go more in-depth on the topic of the sensus fidelium, they may want to consider traveling to Milwaukee next June.

The Catholic Theological Society of America, a 1,400-member group of U.S. theologians, plans to address the topic from a variety of angles during its four-day annual conference next summer.

Given the straightforward theme "Sensus Fidelium," the gathering is to hear presentations from six plenary speakers noted for their study of the topic, along with dozens of other talks on the subject.

In a letter on the CTSA website, the society's leaders say they chose the theme partly because 2015 is the anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council.

"What better way to celebrate the achievement of the council than to devote the convention theme to the sensus fidelium," they state. "This motif emerged in the council's affirmation that through baptism all the faithful are gifted and summoned to participate fully in the life and mission of the church."

"In the years since the council, sensus fidelium has been a disputed topic," the leaders continue. "It has sometimes been discredited for being sociological and not theological, and some fear it has fallen into disuse as suspect. Yet the council's retrieval of the local church, of synodality, and of the shared participation of all the baptized in the life and mission of the church, all find a vital source and orientation in the sensus fidelium."

The plenary talks during the 2015 gathering, which is being organized by the society's vice president, Fordham University theologian Bradford Hinze, will be given from three continents.

Among the speakers are Maria Clara Luchetti Bingemer of the Pontificia Universidade Católica in Rio de Janeiro; Gemma Tulud Cruz of the Australian Catholic University; and Social Service Sr. Anne Arabome, a native Nigerian who has taught at several U.S. universities.

The letter on the society's website also encourages theologian members to consider submitting papers answering questions on the topic for the conference.

Among questions posed:

  • "How does the sensus fidelium serve as an impetus for the development of doctrine and the recognition and reception of the faith of the church?"
  • "What is the role of the sensus fidelium in fundamental moral theology and in particular areas, such as, sexual ethics, human rights, poverty and economics, and war and peace?"
  • "Can controversy and conflict in the church and society surface disputed theological questions and foster change in the sensus fidelilum?"

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

This story appeared in the July 4-17, 2014 print issue under the headline: US theological society plans sensus fidelium theme for meeting .

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