Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Spirit and the Faithful

Tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday, and to mark the occasion I share today an excerpt from Richard R. Gaillardetz’s book By What Authority: A Primer on Scripture, the Magisterium, and the Sense of the Faithful.

This particular excerpt examines the teachings of Vatican II on the “sense of the faithful,” and is very pertinent given the recent statements by Archbishop Nienstedt on what he believes to be the impossibility of dialogue with the Catholic faithful who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and who faithfully dissent from church teaching on sexuality.

As Gaillardetz notes: “The Spirit builds up the life of the Church in different ways.” Church history shows that one such way is that of faithful dissent – a “way” that indicates that a certain issue is yet to be settled, that the Spirit is at work within the Church, and that respectful recognition of alternative perspectives is being called for – along with, at the very least, an attempt at dialogue.


One of the most important new developments in the council’s theological presentation of the Church was the renewed attention it gave to pneumatology, the theology of the Holy Spirit. For much of the history of Western ecclesiology, the role of the Holy Spirit had been eclipsed by a tendency to think of the Church almost exclusively in its relation to Christ. The Holy Spirit received very little attention. At Vatican II, however, we find a renewed appreciation that if, in some sense, Christ laid the foundations for the Church, it was the Spirit who continues to animate the Church, guiding it along its pilgrim journey.

. . . By appealing to the Holy Spirit as the source of all gifts the council was able to reconcile what had often been opposed. For almost four centuries Catholicism had rallied around authority of church office (e.g., pope and bishops) while classical Protestantism stressed the indispensability of charisms given to all the faithful. In [the document Lumen gentium] the council contends . . . that both office and charism find their source in the work of the Holy Spirit. The authority of church office and the Spirited insight of the faithful cannot be put in opposition to one another because they share the same source. The Spirit builds up the life of the Church in different ways. Even the teaching ministry of the Church, while exercised in a uniquely authoritative way by the ecclesiastical magisterium, also requires the Spirit-assisted insight of all the faithful.

For more of Richard Gaillardetz at The Wild Reed, see:
Reading the Documents of Vatican II (Part 1)
Reading the Documents of Vatican II (Part 2)
Reading the Documents of Vatican II (Part 3)
The “Perfect Papal Visit” Will Require a “Listening Pope”
Catholic Theologian: “The President of Notre Dame is Following the Example Set By the Vatican”

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Truth About the “Spirit of Vatican II” Finally Revealed!
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
Comprehending the “Fullness of Truth”
Celebrating and Embodying Divine Hospitality
Thoughts on Authority and Fidelity
Reflections on the Primacy of Conscience
The Question of an “Informed” Catholic Conscience
A Catholic Understanding of Faithful Dissent (Part 1)
A Catholic Understanding of Faithful Dissent (Part 2)
My Rainbow Sash Experience
“Take, All of You, And Eat” – Communion and the Rainbow Sash (Part 1)
“Take, All of You, And Eat” – Communion and the Rainbow Sash (Part 2)
“Take, All of You, and Eat” – Communion and the Rainbow Sash (Part 3)
“Receive What You Are, the Body of Christ”
No Place for Dialogue in Archdiocesan Newspaper

Recommended Off-site Links:
Archbishop Nienstedt Responds to Rainbow Sash Alliance - Progressive Catholic Voice (May 28, 2009).
Gays in Showdown with Archbishop About Pentecost Communion - Andy Birkey (Minnesota Independent, May 29, 2009).

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