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Title: Theological Reception, Sensus Fidei, and Catholic Doctrine
Subtitle: An Analysis and a Proposal
Author(s): LAWLER, Michael G. , SALZMAN, Todd A.
Journal: Marriage, Families & Spirituality
Volume: 29    Issue: 2   Date: 2023   
Pages: 184-196
DOI: 10.2143/INT.29.2.3292584

Abstract :
This essay is ultimately an exercise in what Karl Rahner called practical theology, which is theological reflection on the church’s actual situation. It explains that situation, not in the classicist way by deducing concrete action from abstract theological principle but in the historically conscious way in which action is suggested by the inductive description of the church’s situation. This suggestion is critically tested for meaningfulness in light of both the received Catholic tradition and the actual historical circumstances. To recognize the church’s actual situation and to perform the necessary theological reflection, Rahner argues, practical theology must utilize sociology. The Second Vatican Council concurs, teaching that 'in pastoral care sufficient use should be made, not only of theological principles but also of the findings of secular sciences, especially psychology and sociology'. By making use of these sciences, it asserted, 'the faithful will be brought to a purer and more mature living of the faith'. The social sciences have an important part to play in manifesting and interpreting both what the church actually believes and what it ought to believe and do in response to what it believes. In this essay, we do three things. First, we consider two Catholic theological realities, reception and sensus fidei; second, we consider the relationship of these two realities to the data of social-scientific research, focusing specifically on the sexual ethical doctrines with respect to artificial contraception and homosexual acts; third, we judge that this data shows an undergoing dramatic development in the church with respect to the two doctrines under consideration and we propose that this development is in line with previous doctrinal developments that have taken place in the church and, like those other developments, should be formally recognized by the church’s Magisterium.

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