Vatican considers: How hard do bishops have to listen?

National Catholic Reporter

Joshua J. McElwee | Jun. 30, 2014

As the world’s Catholic bishops prepare for an October global meeting at the Vatican on family life issues, they face one central and disputed question: How much should the experiences and opinions of lay Catholics influence their discussions?

Listen too closely to laypeople, some say, and you run the risk of turning church teaching into a sort of popularity contest.

Ignore their experiences, others say, and you flirt with alienation from the faith as known by Catholics worldwide — particularly for bishops who prefer not to talk about sometimes controversial subjects like divorce and remarriage or use of birth control.

The church tries to solve that dilemma with the sensus fidei, a notion expressed particularly during the Second Vatican Council that Catholic believers have an innate ability to identify what the faith is.

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