Date of Submission
Ekpo, A. O. (2013). The Sensus Fidelium and canon law: An exploration (Doctoral thesis, Australian Catholic University). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.4226/66/5a273b37f4650
More than fifty years ago Pope John XXIII convoked the Second Vatican Council to which about 2,500 bishops were invited from all over the world. It was at this Council, and in its reception over the years, that the sensus fidelium was re-discovered as an ecclesial reality and a theological insight that has characterized the Church since its inception. The central question of this study is how the sensus fidelium is expressed and received in the Church, and how the 1983 Code of Canon Law can help in its expression and reception. This study investigates the complex and varied ways through which the sensus fidelium is sought out, brought to expression, received and listened to in the Church. The study sets out to address questions such as: What truly is the sensus fidelium? When you look at the Church, where can you see the expression and reception of the sensus fidelium? Where in the Church can you see a practical manifestation of the sensus fidelium? Who are the people in the Church that constitute the sensus fidelium? What are the canonical structures in the Church that aid the expression and reception of the sensus fidelium as envisioned by the Conciliar Fathers? Addressing these questions will help the members of the faithful and the whole Church to integrate and apply to life the ecclesial and theological insight of the sensus fidelium as envisioned by the Conciliar Fathers. The study addresses the above questions in the light of the 1983 Code of Canon Law. In other words, the study investigates the ecclesial and theological insight of the sensus fidelium, highlighting particularly, how the canonical norms and structures of the 1983 Code of Canon Law aid its expression and reception in the Church. The study identifies the lay faithful, deacons, religious men and women, priests, theologians, canon lawyers, bishops, the Roman Pontiff and cardinals, as "agents" of the sensus fidelium - that is, people involved in aiding its ongoing expression and reception in the Church. It is proposed that these agents, together with canonical structures such as the parish pastoral council, the finance council, the presbyteral council and the college of consultors, the diocesan curia, the visit ad limina Apostolorum, the diocesan synod, the episcopal conferences and synods, the Roman Curia, ecumenical dialogues and the canonical institute of custom, are structures of the sensus fidelium and - when used to their fullest potential - can be useful instruments for the expression and reception of the sensus fidelium in the Church. The study argues that, for a fuller and richer expression and reception of the sensus fidelium to be realized, the agents and structures of the sensus fidelium must be used to their fullest potential. In order to do this, certain theological-applicative principles which promote unity and love, adequate consultation and receptive dialogue between the hierarchy and the people of God as a whole, must be borne in mind and integrated into the life of the faithful: the principle of the ecclesial image of "the people of God", the hierarchical principle, the principle of fundamental equality and dignity of all the faithful, the principle of sacramentality, the principle of communio, the pneumatological principle, the principle of receptive dialogue among the faithful. This study will highlight how all members of the faithful participate in and constitute the sensus fidelium, and how canonical norms and structures of the Code helps to promote and protect their involvement in the expression and reception of the sensus fidelium in the Church.
School of Theology
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Faculty of Theology and Philosophy
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