Bishop Gracida: Sensus Fidelium

Bishop Rene Gracida

Over on his blog, Abyssus Abyssum InvocatBishop Rene Gracida, retired bishop of Corpus Christi, explains why he thinks it is the duty of the laity to speak out against the Kennedy Funeral:



some of what I had written about the scandal of the Ted Kennedy funeral was reproduced and posted on that Blog.
One person, Drew Black, sent in a comment to that Blog:

“Drew Black

Thank-you, Excellency for the courage to speak out, to put the truth into print. May I ask why it is the laity’s duty to formally criticize the Cardinal of  Boston?     It would seem that the most efficacious means of correction would come from the top. Authority in the church lies with its leaders. You must stand up publicly to one another. Please. We pray for you in this year of the priest.?Mary help you.

Thinking that others might be asking themselves the similar question “why did Bishop Gracida consider it the laity’s duty to formally criticize the Cardinal of Boston?” I decided to send an answer to Drew Black on that same Blog.  Here was my answer:

September 9, 2009 at 2:16 pm


Drew Black,

You ask “why is it the laity’s duty to formally criticize the Cardinal of Boston?”?In response I would refer you to the Historical Tracts written by the Servant of God, John Henry Cardinal Newman, in which he describes the situation in the Fourth Century when, he says, practically all of the Church’s bishops were tainted either with Arianism or Semi-Arianism, all except for the Pope and Saint Athanasius. The “sensus fidelium” of the laity saved the Church because they would not follow the lead of their bishops. The Pope and Saint Athanasius, relying on that “sensus fidelium” were able to carry the day at the Council of Nicea. Sometimes, history does repeat itself.

My point in referring to what Cardinal Newman wrote was that there are times in the life of the Church when the laity needs to make known to the Church’s hierarchy exactly what the sensus fidelium is with regard to whatever burning issue is affecting the unity of the Church at that moment.”

Bravo Bishop!  It is all too easy for we laity to sit back and leave protecting the teaching of the Church to the clergy.  Rubbish!  The teachings of Christ apply to the laity and the clergy both, and the laity cannot shirk the duty to point out when events are taking place within the Church that are in flat contradiction to that teaching.  The Church, the Bride of Christ, is no less precious to the laity, and when the clergy neglect their duty, that is no excuse for faithful members of the laity to forget theirs.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. If I may correct something. Athanasius carried the day AFTER the Council of Nicea. He was only an elder, not a bishop, during Nicea, so he wasn’t one of the participants. (He was appointed bishop in 328, 3 years after Nicea.) It was afterward, during the decades of battle over Nicea, that Athanasius won the day against the Arians.

    As _The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers_, 2nd series, vol. 4, quoting another author, put it: “[Athanasius] was molded by the Nicene Creed, did not mold it himself.”

    Of course, in the process of winning the battle, the Athanasian Creed (http://www.christian-history.org/athanasian-creed.html) was created–whether or not it was actually written by Athanasius–which is different from what the Nicene Creed teaches. (Nicene Creed: One God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ; Athanasian Creed: One God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; we can make an awful good argument that Nicea was “semi-Arian”)

    Also, I haven’t found anywhere that the “pope” is even mentioned concerning the Council of Nicea. In fact he wasn’t there, sending presbyters in his place. (NPNF says it was because of his age that he did not come.)

    In fact, it’s of note, in my opinion, that the only mention made of him is that the bishop of Rome is said in Canon 6 to have a similar authority (not a greater one) to that of the bishop of Alexandria.

  2. In regard to Saint Athanasius you are correct. He led the fight against Arianism after Nicea. In regard to the pope, the popes of the fourth century and the Church in the West in general were the bulwark against Arianism which was very strong in the East, which made the fight of Saint Athanasius in Egypt such an uphill struggle.

  3. I love the notion of the sensus fidelium. It is very much in the spirit of Vatican II, the affirmation that the Holy Spirit is working through all the faithful. Of course, that would mean that artificial contraception is permissible and monogamous homosexual relationships are also in play. I like this idea.

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