From Pope St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (1981):
The discernment effected by the Church becomes the offering of an orientation in order that the entire truth and the full dignity of marriage and the family may be preserved and realized.
This discernment is accomplished through the sense of faith,11 and is therefore the work of the whole Church according to the diversity of the various gifts and charisms that, together with and according to the responsibility proper to each one, work together for a more profound understanding and activation of the word of God The Church, therefore, does not accomplish this discernment only through the Pastors, who teach in the name and with the power of Christ but also through the laity: Christ “made them His witnesses and gave them understanding of the faith and the grace of speech (cf. Acts 2:17-18; Rv. 19:10), so that the power of the Gospel might shine forth in their daily social and family life.”12 The laity, moreover, by reason of their particular vocation have the specific role of interpreting the history of the world in the light of Christ, in as much as they are called to illuminate and organize temporal realities according to the plan of God, Creator and Redeemer.
The “supernatural sense of faith”13 however does not consist solely or necessarily in the consensus of the faithful. Following Christ, the Church seeks the truth, which is not always the same as the majority opinion. She listens to conscience and not to power, and in this way she defends the poor and the downtrodden. The Church values sociological and statistical research, when it proves helpful in understanding the historical context in which pastoral action has to be developed and when it leads to a better understanding of the truth. Such research alone, however, is not to be considered in itself an expression of the sense of faith.
Because it is the task of the apostolic ministry to ensure that the Church remains in the truth of Christ and to lead her ever more deeply into that truth, the Pastors must promote the sense of the faith in all the faithful, examine and authoritatively judge the genuineness of its expressions, and educate the faithful in an ever more mature evangelical discernment.14
Christian spouses and parents can and should offer their unique and irreplaceable contribution to the elaboration of an authentic evangelical discernment in the various situations and cultures in which men and women live their marriage and their family life. They are qualified for this role by their charism or specific gift, the gift of the sacrament of matrimony.15
10 Cf. Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, 12.
11 Cf. 1 Jn 2: 20.
12 Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, 35.
13 Cf. Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, 12; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Mysterium Ecclesiæ, 2: Acta Apostolicæ Sedis [AAS] 65 (1973), 398-400.
14 Cf. Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, 12; Dei Verbum, 10.
15 Cf. John Paul II, Homily for the Opening of the Sixth Synod of Bishops, 3 (September 26, 1980): AAS 72 (1980), 1008.
— Familiaris Consortio 5