Skip to comments.APOSTOLIC TRADITION: Consistency or Contradiction?
Posted on 08/18/2006 2:26:05 PM PDT by NYer
Question 13 of The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church now asks the following:
"In what ways does Apostolic Tradition occur?"
"Apostolic Tradition occurs in two ways: through the living transmission of the Word of God (simply called Tradition) and through Sacred Scripture which is the same proclamation of salvation in written form."
The Catholic concept of Tradition is among the most misunderstood and, consequently, misrepresented notions in Catholic teaching. It is widely regarded as a form of attachment to teachings and practices long past and gratuitously preserved. Even Catholics who esteem themselves as "modern" or "progressive" reflexively presume that the the concept of Tradition went by the way along with the practice of Confession and Holy Penance in the frenetic (and often mindless) changes following Vatican II. "Modern Catholics" and "Catholics bound to Tradition" are, to this way of thinking, not simply at variance, but but are polar (and polarizing) opposites. A "modern Catholic" eschews Tradition, and a Catholic bound to Tradition is an anachronism, someone unable to accommodate himself to present Church teaching.
Part of this confusion about Tradition derives from the contention between Catholics --- most often unfairly marginalized --- who hold to the Mass in Latin that preceded the liturgical changes following the Second Vatican Council which did not, in fact, abolish Latin, but merely permitted the vernacular, a latitude that was seized upon and which subsequently become a de facto mandate, much in the way that the organ was supplanted by the ubiquitous and vapid folk guitar even when the organ was given "primacy of place" and other instruments (drums, trap sets, pianos, cymbals, flutes, and the like, which presently afflict the faithful) were merely permitted. Those who held to Latin and the organ came to be known as "Traditionalists", a refractory lot, and those who promoted change for no cogent or at least coherent reason, strident "Modernists". The Modernists deem the Traditionalist refractory, the Traditionalists deem the Modernists strident. While the contention remains unsettled, the distinction remains nevertheless clear. It is the source of an aggressive and scandalous absence of charity on both sides.
But this is NOT what we understand by the notion of Tradition that we find in the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Etymologically, the word derives from the Latin traditio, a "handing over", a "giving over by means of words". We see this very clearly in the answer to the present question itself. It is another means (other, that is to say, from the written word, or Scripture) of transmitting, of passing on, of giving over, the teachings of Jesus Christ subsequent to the indited Gospels and Epistles. It was by means of Traditio that the life and teachings of Jesus Christ were communicated to the generations that preceded the first (and incomplete) written compilation of what we now understand as the New Testament. It was passed on by word of mouth. But it was not the passing on of something static, a handing on of a reliquary of sorts, a canon or codex of laws from which nothing more could be
extrapolated, something not alive in the hearts of those who spoke, but factoids in collective memory that could yield nothing more in light of subsequent experiences, of historical episodes that would more clearly define it, eliciting what is latent within it, often through the tribunal of suffering, persecution, and death.
Does this mean that the Gospel, the written Word of God, Holy Scripture, can be abrogated, abolished, supplanted, repudiated --- changed? No! Everything in Tradition (Traditio) follows from, appeals to, is latent within, Holy Scripture and cannot be contradictory to nor discordant with it. Tradition is not "another" teaching. It is the same teaching by other means. By word. By reflection. By prayer to the Spirit Jesus promised His Apostles Who would come after Him and Who would subsequently teach them all things, lead them into the fullness of truth.
It is particularly important to note the closing, indeed, the very last words, of the Gospel according to Saint John:
"There are also many other things which Jesus did; which, if they were written every one, the world itself,
Scripture is absolutely true. But Scripture alone is not the whole truth, it does not contain everything Jesus said, taught, and did. This is unfolding to us even now in the life of His Church which is His Body. It was not, for example, until Saint Bernadette, some 1800 years later, that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was formally promulgated and became part of the inexhaustible Treasury of the Church, binding upon all Catholics as true. It was not until 1950 that the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul into Heaven, was formally declared as revealed and became integral to the corpus of Catholic teaching.
Nothing proceeding from Traditio contradicts, still less contravenes, what is infallibly taught in Holy Scripture. It merely elicits from it what yet remains to be revealed in fullness.
He who thinks he can stifle the voice of God, constrain it to one place and one time, prevent further revelation by God, need only read the Acts of the Apostles to see that revelation is of God's choosing, not man's, and in His time ... not ours.
If the Church is the body of Christ, it is a living, growing entity. It is what it is, and unlike anyone of us cannot become something else. Just as Christ did not spring into being like Athena from the brow of Zeus, but was conceived, formed in the womb of the Virgin, was born, and grew up, and fulfilled his mission, so the Church, except that he did what he did without sin, and the Church fails, falters and recovers. But even Our Lord faltered under the weight of the Cross.
Even so, He set the example. He picked Himself up and kept on going to Calvary, where He said: "It is finished".
Thank the Lord that he knows that to be human is to be weak. He also knows --as we really do not--what we are capable of, for both good and ill. We range from angels to demons.
Strictly speaking, the Church does not, in fact cannot, "fail, falter and recover." If you mean popes or people or movements or theological theories or doctrines or priests, etc, yes of course they may change or fail. But there is no distinction between Christ and His Church in terms of moral infallibility. The Chruch's dogma cannot be wrong, as promised by Christ.
Catholism is a living religion, not a religion based on a book, but the Living Word, present in the world as Christ in his Church and through the Eucharist. The revealed truths of God (in His Church) have never altered.
The Church is a body of human beings, and it has all the weaknesses of human beings. Our Lord took upon himself that weakness. He failed to win over hiusown people. He came unto his own and his own knew him not. But by "sticking to his mission," he triumphed over the greatest failure of all, which is death. The Church is like Israel. He will never forsake themor us, but even when they had the ark of the covenant with them, they strayed. We likewise stray, but all have the assurance of victory if we follow the Way. It is not the Church that is the cloud by day and the pillar of fire at night, It is the Eucharist.
That would be true if the Church were MERELY a "body of human beings". That is the difference between the True Church and any other religion or even secular group. It is not "a body of human beings with all the weaknesses of human beings." It is the MYSTICAL BODY of Christ. Christ and His Church cannot be separated. This is a very common misunderstanding, the theology of which you can research yourself if you want. My intention is not to get into an argument, but offer this viewpoint because it was really illuminating once it was clearly explained to me. Thanks.
Mystical seems to me as a rather precious word, and I go back to my example of remembering that Jesus was true man although not merely man. The Church is infallible but not impeccable. Our Lord was both, yet he chose to be subject to the same laws that bind us.
*I think you typed that without sufficient consideration
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.