One need not look very far in Catholic circles nowadays to find some mention of “sensus fidelium” which literally means “sense of faith.” But its literal meaning has almost become besides-the-point in modern usage. Recently, the term has been misused to argue for same-sex “marriage,” contraception and even women’s ordination. It’s a form of Magisterium by Gallup in which a person argues that most Catholics agree with them on an issue, so even though the Magisterium says otherwise, they hold the trump card because of “sensus fidei.”
A recent example is The National Catholic Reporter’s endorsing of women’s ordination. They wrote:
Our message is that we believe the sensus fidelium is that the exclusion of women from the priesthood has no strong basis in Scripture or any other compelling rationale; therefore, women should be ordained. We have heard the faithful assent to this in countless conversations in parish halls, lecture halls and family gatherings. It has been studied and prayed over individually and in groups. The brave witness of the Women’s Ordination Conference, as one example, gives us assurance that the faithful have come to this conclusion after prayerful consideration and study – yes, even study of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.
But Pope Benedict XVI, in a recent speech to the International Theological Commission, clarified what “sensus fidelium” means and what it does not mean. The Pope said pointedly, “It is unthinkable to mention it (sensus fidei) in order to challenge the teachings of the Magisterium.