The sensus fidelium and the sacramentality of the teaching church: A model based on the theology of Louis -Marie Chauvet

Andrew Brereton, Fordham University


The Catholic Church teaches that all baptized Christians are endowed with a supernatural sense of the faith. Based on this instinct, the faithful are able to engage in the ongoing historical task of incarnating their faith in their lives of work and worship. The expression of this interpretive faculty is the sensus fidelium. It allows the Christian community to respond creatively to changing circumstances. However, for the Catholic Church, there is always the potential for conflict between this expression of the more general authority of all believers and the official teaching of the magisterium. What the Catholic Church needs is a model of interaction between the magisterium and the wider sense of the faithful that neither undermines the authority of the former nor unduly restricts the creative energy of the latter. In searching for such a model I was led to the sacramental theology of Louis-Marie Chauvet. Chauvet builds his sacramental theology on what he maintains is the common structure of all interpersonal encounters. According to Chauvet, the salient features of such encounters are the experience of presence and absence and the necessity of symbolic mediation. Chauvet argues that his sacramental theology has implications for re-imagining all aspects of Christian existence. My thesis is that his theology offers important resources for constructing a model of fruitful dialogue among different parts of the church. The dissertation begins with an examination of the concept of the sensus fidelium---its sources, features and historical development. I examine and evaluate the theology of Chauvet and then use themes from his work to develop a model of exchange in the church that I call "sacramental dialogue." I also apply this model to some situations of conflict in the contemporary Catholic Church.

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Recommended Citation

Brereton, Andrew, "The sensus fidelium and the sacramentality of the teaching church: A model based on the theology of Louis -Marie Chauvet" (2007). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3255039.