Visions of Hope: Emerging Theologians and the Future of the Church pages:109-122
The weight and function of the sensus fidelium in actual deliberations and decisions on Catholic doctrine is minimal, if not lacking. Foundational to sensus fidelium is indeed establishing who constitutes the fidelium. Does it refer to all who have been baptized or are there qualifiers among the baptized-denoting some as ‘the faithful’ and others as not? The question on membership then becomes crucial. For centuries, the identification of the true ‘Church of Christ’ was taken into consideration from the relatively narrow perspective of one’s own confessional background. Either one was a ‘member’ in the full sense of the word, or one was outside the Church and deprived of all hope of salvation. To make this ecclesiological subject more relevant, this paper explores the background and content of the Conciliar doctrine of elementa Ecclesiae, linking this category with the doctrine of sensus fidelium to better understand the sensus ecclesiarum in order to come to a consensus. Those elementa must not only be considered in their being roman-catholic but also in their ‘ecclesial’ character. It becomes clear then that precisely because of this rather inclusive image of the Church, the sensus ecclesiae must consider not only the Roman Catholic faithful but also the other Christian believers in the whole process of discernment, as a sensus ecclesiarum. In taking the aforementioned ground discussions into consideration, we can say that the image that we have of the Church and of Church membership determines the understanding of sensus fidelium and therefore, of sensus ecclesiarum. This paper will bring the two above mentioned categories together from an ecclesiological viewpoint in order to show that the search for consensus Ecclesiae implies, at this moment, a search for ’consensus ecclesiarum’.