Addressing our Clergy
Sensus Fidei an instinct of faith

Catholic Teaching

May Faithful Catholics Criticize our Clergy?

A belief held by a high percentage of Catholics states that one should never criticize the clergy, even though this is not part of Church teachings. This ideology has been propagated by several Catholic publications; chiefly, by a very popular booklet called the Pieta, which contains many prayers and promises and has sold millions of copies. In the book is a one-page article pertaining to the criticism of priests, which includes: One should NEVER attack a priest, even when he is in error, rather one should pray and do penance that will grant him My grace again. No one should attack a priest - even a non-Catholic; however, it elaborates, stating we should let the priest continue, even defend him, pray for him and do penance for him.

How could we allow a priest to continue to commit a sin against another and not respectfully protest? This is not a teaching of the Catholic Church. Yet in the past century a priest published a much smaller booklet containing a similar prohibition against criticizing priests. He traveled the US like Johnny Appleseed, passing out these black covered booklets. Unfortunately, these thoughts have erroneously been absorbed into many other publications. I must point out: None of these booklets have an imprimatur (an official license by the Roman Catholic Church to print a religious book).

Reason tells us a person, whether he is a member of the clergy or not, must stop any sinful action. If we do not we are taking on the sin ourselves. If it were breaking a civil law and we withheld information we could even be criminally charged. Dozens of saints, statesmen and others also tell us this. One example is Edmund Burke: Evil will triumph only when good men do nothing. Defend your faith!

Additionally, The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), in a section pertaining to the laity participating in Christs kingly office states under paragraph CCC 909: Moreover, by uniting their forces let the laity so remedy the institutions and conditions of the world when the latter are an inducement to sin, that these may be conformed to the norms of justice, favoring, rather than hindering the practice of virtue. By so doing they will impregnate culture and human works with a moral value. Paragraphs 908 through 913 of the CCC inform the laity in the manner of their participation in the Church itself. We also know that to ignore the sins of another may result in our own sin.

The birth of The Defender itself was in response to the uncatholic actions of a priest. A parishioner was so distressed by the gross errors of his priest, he approached the priest several times and at times he included others as he should. However, he did not receive any satisfaction. At all times the parishioner adhered to the proper protocol and reverence for the priest. In desperation he began to write an article nearly once a week and mailed it to many of the parishioners informing them of the priests erroneous actions, or words, at the last Mass. Later a friend began to edit his articles. Other parishioners assisted in the mailing of these letters. At one point the priest put an article in the bulletin about legalizing the marriage of priests. The parishioners were really upset. It was enough receiving bad liturgy, but to pay for distributing erroneous teaching was more than they could handle. The objectionable article along with the bulletin and their letter was sent to their Bishop. This resulted in a meeting with the parishioners, the priest, and a representative of the Bishop. The priest was then chastised by the Bishop and forbidden to publish such articles. Thus began the publication of our newsletter, The Defender.

Of course very few of our articles in The Defender involve negative actions by the clergy. We publish Catholic teaching, the lives of the Saints (including the clergy), editorials and commentaries. We received the Fidelity Green Light Award for Excellence in Catholic Fidelity from We have received criticism of a few our critical articles in The Defender from some priests; however, we have received praises from many others. We have written many articles about outstanding clergy. One article about a priest of a medium size parish in southern Maryland described, among other things, how he had established a Perpetual Adoration Chapel within his church and had recorded two miracles resulting from this. When this priest died unexpectedly at a very young age, one of his parishioners called and asked for permission for our article to be read at his eulogy. We had similar requests from family members of another deceased priest.

One of our critical articles was about a bishop who publically sanctified a corrupt politician who had just passed away by declaring this senator was in heaven with his wife. The bishop was sanctifying a man who was an ex KKK leader and had not changed his ways. We met with a priest who objected to our article as he stated we should never criticize a bishop. We had a long lunch/meeting to talk this over. Father could not defend his position, but he would not relent. We treated Father with respect and reverence as we should and at a later time bestowed some honors upon him.

Another example of the above was when Notre Dames reputation as a Catholic university was seriously damaged by Notre Dame President, Father Jenkins 2009 decision to honor President Obama -- one of the Churchs more formidable adversaries on abortion. Father Jenkins stated the university was honoring Obama because of his office, not his policies, and declared it was a Notre Dame tradition to honor our presidents. This was untrue as proven in 2017 by Father Jenkins himself when he refused to honor the newly elected President Trump.

In 2009, thousands of pro-lifers (including myself) went to Notre Dame to protest the award to President Obama. Thanks to a warrant by Father Jenkins, police arrested scores of pro-life demonstrators, both men and women, put us in handcuffs and hauled us off to jail. Two priests and several Protestant ministers were arrested. Notre Dame finally gave up prosecution of the ND88 after two years as it was an illegal arrest. We proved they had not done the same to anti-war and pro homosexual protestors.

Father Jenkins ignored Notre Dames bishop, the Most Rev. John D. DArcy, who later refused to attend the commencement. Father Jenkins also ignored the injunction of the USCCB which stated Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. A total of eighty-two cardinals, archbishops, and bishops joined Bishop DArcy in censuring Father Jenkins and Notre Dame. Former Ambassador to the Vatican, Mary Ann Glendon, returned her acceptance of Notre Dames highest award, the Laetare Medal. A student-organized rally and Mass on the quad in protest of Obamas appearance drew thousands, including Bishop DArcy, while a battalion of pro-life demonstrators marching on the fringe of the campus attracted national attention.

So, was it wrong for all of these Christians and clergy to protest these sinful actions of the priest? Again, reference the CCC 909 which instructs us to impregnate the culture and human works with a moral value. Using common sense, and the CCC, the answer to this question is, The thousands of protestors were right in what they did. But lets take another look. Lets take a look inside the Code of Canon Law (CIC/1983). The Code is built around the special authority that bishops and priests have in the Church. Author, Deal W. Hudson, has written on this, and I will quote some of his comments. He evaluates the Canon Law in the eyes of a journalist as this is his profession.

Canon law contains three delicts that outline the lawfulness of responsible criticism of an ordinary. In Hudsons view, canon law does condone criticism, but within the boundaries of respect for authority and the principle of unity in communion. The first canon acknowledges the right and duty to make matters known to pastors and, if deemed necessary, to others in the Catholic community. CIC 212 213. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons. As Hudson points out, it is important to note this canon specifies that any comment regarding a bishop be made in reverence.

The second canon specifies a recognition that any lay expertise, including journalism, should be exercised with the spirit of the gospel and within the Churchs Magisterium. CIC. 227. The lay Christian faithful have the right to have recognized that freedom which all citizens have in the affairs of the earthly city. When using that same freedom, however, they are to take care that their actions are imbued with the spirit of the gospel and are to heed the doctrine set forth by the magisterium of the Church. In matters of opinion, moreover, they are to avoid setting forth their own opinion as the doctrine of the Church.

Finally, the third canon explicitly warns against anyone inciting animosities. CIC. 1373. A person who publicly incites among subjects animosities or hatred against the Apostolic See or an ordinary because of some act of power or ecclesiastical ministry or provokes subjects to disobey them is to be punished by an interdict or other just penalties.

In summary, the Church does not forbid any qualified layman or journalist from offering criticism of the clergy - in fact under CCC 908-913 the Church encourages the laity to work with the clergy. However, under Canon Law the Church does require the criticism be in reverence and not demean the authority of the clergy or their office. There should be no problem recording events / decision by the clergy with reverence and without prejudice and bias. Remember, An error which is not resisted is approved; a truth which is not defended is suppressed. Pope Leo XIII, Inimica Vis, Dec. 8, 1892 Jim Fritz

Addressing the Clergy - Diligent Watchfulness and Respectful Correction

By Paul King


Jim Fritz has written on the subject of the Catholic faithful holding the clergy accountable for various errors and abuses related to the teaching of the Catholic Church, acts with moral implications, and secular affairs. A few remarks might be considered on the context in which these instances are occurring.


Cardinal Robert Sarah of the Curia in Rome has written a book called God or Nothing, a most excellent book, including his background in Guinea in Western Africa, in which he sets out the grave crisis of disbelief in our times. Many people do not care about God at all. Catholics, especially the young, as reported by the Pew Research Center in 2015, have departed from the Catholic faith in increasing numbers, and adults, too, more so than other Christians (maybe Protestants left sooner). Others, a very high percentage, do not attend Mass at all nor do they believe in the Real Presence. Meanwhile, the website of the U.S. bishops tells us of secular crisespolitical, economic, environmental, financial, etc. - which the bishops are addressing, and thus their dioceses and parishes.


Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, then president of the U.S. bishop's conference, acknowledged as much. On "Meet the Press" in 2012, he commented that the Church leadership "have gotten gun-shy ... in speaking with any amount of cogency on chastity and sexual morality." He seemingly blamed the laity, that they "got the impression [from the Second Vatican Council] that we should be chums with the world." But he admitted otherwise. In Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae what he said, "brought such a tsunami of dissent, departure, disapproval of the church, that I think most of us [bishops] . . . kind of subconsciously said, 'Whoa. We'd better never talk about that, because it's just too hot to handle.' We forfeited the chance to be a coherent moral voice when it comes to one of the more burning issues of the day." Further he stated, "in my almost 37 years as a priest, rare would be the times when I preached about those issues." In the law, we call that an "admission against interest."


Thus, we have seen a movement of the clergy over past decades to engage in worldly affairs and the concerns of modern (secularized) man, and at the same time a neglect of the (too rigid?) doctrine of our faith and transcendental matters, which are critically important to the laity-namely, the salvation of their souls and those of their families, loved ones and friends, who are exposed to the dangers of relativism and rampant godless secularism. The clergy in turn influenced dioceses and parish churches, where the laity mainly interact with their local priest. 

A good example of the quandary faced by the laity today is shown in a crisis from the 1980s. American Catholic parents were threatened by an imposed "sex education" program using salacious materials required for Catholic school children, which was implemented by bishops who were accommodating modernists. The Catholic newspaper The Wanderer interviewed Canadian Archbishop (soon to be Cardinal) Edouard Gagnon (pronounced Gan-yon). In the interview Cardinal Gagnon was asked concerning the travesty of pornographic sex education materials distributed in the archdioceses of the notorious Archbishop Weakland (Milwaukee) and Archbishop Gerety (Newark): "...are you telling us that it is within the laity's competence to insist that our bishops obey" [Pope John Paul II]? He answered, "Oh, yes. And they have the means of doing that too. At one time a great number of bishops fell into Arianism and it was the laypeople who brought them back, and through the centuries it has been like that." Furthermore, Cardinal Gagnon agreed that Pope John Paul II "was afraid of schism," and affirmed that "the Church is tolerating a material schism in the United States, as opposed to a forfinalmal schism." That was 30+ years ago!

Concluding, he said, "It is false to say that one should obey and not protest when it is a question of defending Catholic truth, but one has to accept the sacrifice of fighting for the truth."

Cardinal Gagnon has been described as one of the greatest ever of the Canadian prelates. How often do we hear words like this from our current American prelates, except for the very few such as Cardinal Raymond Burke?

We should appreciate that today the laity, once more faced with a crisis of faith as great as the Arian Heresy, are called upon to bear the burden of defending their Catholic faith and tradition-diligent watchfulness of the clergy and respectful correction where necessary for the good of the Church.

May we all initiate once again the Leonine Prayers after every Mass, calling upon St. Michael the Archangel to "defend us in battle."

Paul King


Defenders of the Faith Educational Radio Association

James S. Fritz,

PO Box 427, Great Cacapon, WV 25422


January 4, 2017

Most Rev. Bransfield

Bishop of Wheeling - Charleston

1300 Byron Street

Wheeling, WV 26003


Your Excellency;


Subject: Posture after the Agnus Dei.

I am writing this letter in the hope of resolving the confusion over the issue of standing or kneeling after the singing of the Agnus Dei. To my knowledge it has been the custom to kneel during the adoration of Christ until the Catholic Church hierarchy recently allowed each diocese to determine if parishioners should stand after the Agnus Dei. According to our parish priest, Father Leonard Smith, our bishop, at the time of GIRM (43), made the decision for the parishioners in our diocese to stand. Father Leonard has repeated the need for us to stand on several occasions; however many of our parishioners continue to kneel during this time when the sacred host is held up by the priest for adoration. In our parish during daily Mass, with an average 20 parishioners, we will have as many as 16 people kneeling and four standing. During the Sunday Mass, of course, there is a lower ratio of those who kneel. Those who do stand feel the requirement to adhere to the authority of our bishop, which is commendable; however, as will be pointed out, we have been given the opposite instructions by our holy saints and previous authority.

Visitors from Maryland and Virginia are questioning our good sense. They often ask us, "Why do you stand when you are supposed to adore God?" To answer this, I reviewed a document called Sensus Fidei in the Life of The Church. It was published by the International Theological Commission in 2014. They had studied the nature of Sensus Fidei and its place in the life of the Church. It is a very interesting document. Basically, Sensus Fidei is an instinct of faith. These parishioners, who keep kneeling, even after being told to stand, are relying on an instinct of faith. They know it is not proper to stand when honoring God.

As the document states, "The Holy Spirit anoints them and equips them for that high calling, conferring on them a very personal and intimate knowledge of the faith of the Church. In the first letter of St John, the faithful are told: "you have been anointed by the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge," the anointing that you received from [Christ] abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you, "his anointing teaches you about all things" (1Jn 2:20, 27). As a result, the faithful have an instinct for the truth of the Gospel, which enables them to recognize and endorse authentic Christian doctrine and practice, and to reject what is false. This supernatural instinct, intrinsically linked to the gift of faith received in the communion of the Church, is called the Sensus Fidei, and it enables Christians to fulfil their prophetic calling."

The document goes on to state how, on the one hand; the Sensus Fidei refers to the personal capacity of the believer, within the communion of the Church, to discern the truth of faith. On the other hand, the Sensus Fidei refers to a communal and ecclesial reality: the instinct of faith of the Church herself, by which she recognizes her Lord and proclaims his word. The Sensus Fidei in this sense is reflected in the convergence of the baptized in a lived adhesion to a doctrine of faith or to an element of Christian praxis. This convergence (consensus) plays a vital role in the Church: The consensus fidelium is a sure criterion for determining whether a particular doctrine or practice belongs to the apostolic faith.

This document indicates how theologians highlighted the active role of the whole Church, especially the contribution of the lay faithful, in preserving and transmitting the Church's faith; and the magisterium implicitly confirmed this insight in the process leading to the definition of the Immaculate Conception. The document demonstrates how the faithful (as distinct from their pastors) have their own, active role to play in conserving and transmitting the faith. They emphasized "the Church" is not identical with her pastors; that the whole Church, by the action of the Holy Spirit, is the subject or "organ" of Tradition; and lay people have an active role in the transmission of the apostolic faith. The magisterium endorsed these developments, both in the consultation leading to the definition of the glorious Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and in the Second Vatican Council's retrieval and confirmation of the doctrine of the Sensus Fidei.

After well documented descriptions of numerous examples, the document goes on to state "The Catholic Church therefore needs to be attentive to what the Spirit may be saying to her by means of believers in the churches and ecclesial communities not fully in communion with her."

Three principal manifestations of the Sensus Fidei in the personal life of the believer can be highlighted. The Sensus Fidei enables individual believers:

1) to discern whether or not a particular teaching or practice which they actually encounter in the Church is coherent with the true faith by which they live in the communion of the Church,

2) to distinguish in what is preached between the essential and the secondary, and

3) to determine and put into practice the witness to Jesus Christ they should give in the particular historical and cultural context in which they live.

The Sensus Fidei also enables individual believers to perceive any disharmony, incoherence, or contradiction between a teaching or practice and the authentic Christian faith by which they live. They react as a music lover does to false notes in the performance of a piece of music. In such cases, believers interiorly resist the teachings or practices concerned and do not accept them or participate in them. This is demonstrated in my initial observation of the majority of parishioners, at our daily Mass, kneeling for the adoration of Christ after the Agnus Dei -- as they should.

Thanks to the Sensus Fidei, and sustained by the supernatural prudence which the Spirit confers, the believer is able to sense, in new historical and cultural contexts, what might be the most appropriate ways in which to give an authentic witness to the truth of Jesus Christ, and moreover to act accordingly; i.e., the believer kneels to honor Christ.

Kneeling is the appropriate posture. Whether it be in doctrinal or disciplinary matters, we should show obedience to legitimate Church authorities (cf. 1 Tim. 3:15; Mt. 16:18-19; Lk. 2:51; Phil. 2:8.x) Indeed, Jesus is our model of obedience, for it is through His obedient suffering and death that we are able to partake of His one, life-giving sacrifice under the appearances of bread and wine (cf. Heb. 5:7-10; Gen. 14:17-20.)

Sometimes the people of God, and in particular the laity, intuitively feel in which direction the development of doctrine would go, even when theologians and bishops are divided on the issue.

Lack of reception of the decision for each bishop to decide the position of the parishioner after the Agnus Dei indicates the decisions has been taken by those in authority without due consideration of the experience and the Sensus Fidei of the faithful, or without sufficient consultation of the faithful by the magisterium. Those who made this decision should have taken care to ensure there is responsible exchange of freely held and expressed opinion among the People of God.

There is also the basic issue of instilling in the faithful reverence for our Eucharistic Lord. We stand for many events in life, but kneeling is a distinctively prayerful position, whether for praise or penance. With the aid of God's grace, following the norm for kneeling and encouraging preaching on the Real Presence would do much to promote a renewal of Eucharistic belief and piety.

Bishop Bransfield, I respectfully request you take the actions of the faithful into consideration and make a new decision in regard to the parishioners kneeling after the Agnus Dei, based upon a true consensus fidelium. Asking the blessing of Your Excellency through the Immaculate Heart of Mary!


CC Father Leonard Smith

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Apostolic Nunciature

James S. Fritz

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