Tradition In The Roman Catholic Church
is equal to the Bible!
Tradition plays an important role in the belief and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. For the Roman Catholic is there great comfort to be found in the idea that a particular belief or practice "has always been" believed or practiced by their Church. This is a major reason why non Catholics have such difficulty understanding how Catholics can believe and practice things that are obviously not found in the Bible. Under the Roman Catholic system, Bible authority is not absolutely necessary. The Church teaches, believes it, and practices it, therefore it is true. While a Roman Catholic, I could not understand why non Catholics were always bringing up the Bible and trying to disprove my beliefs by it. Certainly the Bible was important, but to my mind it did not present all the truth necessary. To grasp all of the truth, one had to accept both the Bible and Roman Catholic Tradition. I believed that the leaders of the church knew what was best, that they had always known what was best, and that when something new was defined and added to the tradition that it was the truth, plainly and simply. Further study has shown me that tradition is not so clear cut and obvious, actually it is rather obscure and the process whereby something becomes defined as a belief and practice of Roman Catholic tradition absolutely defines logic and sound reasoning.
What Is Tradition?
Trying to define "tradition" as it applies to the Roman Catholic Church is not as easy as it may seem. It is not a matter of merely looking in a book of Catholic belief and finding a definition. I looked in 5 different such books and found 5 different definitions. That should tell us something right at the beginning. The clearest definition I found, as well as one that encompasses the basics from the others, is from the book, The Roman Catholic Church, by John L. McKenzie, S.J. on p. 212. McKenzie states;
"Tradition can be viewed as channel and as content, to use a modern phrase. As content, it is a body of doctrine Tradition as channel thus becomes the teaching authority, the only authentic spokesman of Roman Catholic belief. Tradition can therefore be called living, for at any given moment it exists in the teaching authority."
So tradition includes not only the body of belief and practice unique to Roman Catholicism, but also involves the teaching authority of the church itself at any given time enabling it to define further traditions.
The whole idea of tradition as it is now found in the Roman Catholic Church was not defined until 1546 by the Council of Trent, and then it was done to counter the reformers of the Protestant Reformation who demanded scriptural authority for religious practices. The Council decreed:
"seeing clearly that this truth and discipline are contained in the written books and the unwritten traditions which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ Himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down even unto us, transmitted as it were from hand to hand, following the example of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates, with an equal affection of piety, all the books of the Old and New Testaments....and also the said traditions...preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession." The Question Box, Rev. Bertrand L. Conway, p. 78).
You may have noticed in the decree by the Council of Trent that those traditions which they venerate equally with the Old and New Testaments are "preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession." That is very important. In Roman Catholicism "no proposition can be declared an article of faith unless perpetual belief in the church can be affirmed of it." (The Roman Catholic Church, p. 212). Because of this, when the Roman Catholic teaching authority defines a new tradition as an article of faith, they teach that they are merely defining something that has already been believed by the Church. The devout Roman Catholic takes great comfort from that, I know that I did. How surprised I was to discover that when solid evidence of "perpetual belief" is lacking, the Roman Catholic authorities merely fabricate it. Let me give you a few note worthy examples.
From the book, The Roman Catholic Church, p. 212, we find;
"In the definition of the Mariological dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, it was evident that literary evidence of these beliefs was lacking for the earliest centuries. The Roman Catholic concluded from the literary evidence in which the beliefs are found that the beliefs were as old, at least in an implicit form, as the church itself, and thus was enabled to declare that these articles had always been believed in the church. The Roman Church, however, does not depend solely on literary and historical evidence; it depends on its own consciousness of its belief,...In the two dogmas mentioned, it was the consciousness of perpetual beliefs which are in harmony with these dogmas and which are themselves confirmed by these dogmas."
Consider that quote. As far as the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary are concerned, the Roman Catholic Church admits that there is no evidence from the earliest centuries of the church that indicates that the early Christians, guided by the apostles and those who had known the apostles, believed in them. So they moved into literature from later centuries and there they believe that they found these dogmas at least implied. So they move forward on the assumption that these later century Catholics must have gotten their ideas from someplace, so that proves that the Church always believed in these two dogmas. They then define the dogmas and their definition of them acts as final proof that the church "perpetually believed" in them. In other words essentially what the Church says is; we believe it now, we wouldn't make a mistake, so that means the church has always believed it despite the fact that there is no evidence from the earliest centuries that they did. You can judge such reasoning for yourselves.
What is the process whereby a tradition becomes defined and part of Roman Catholic teaching and dogma? The Roman Catholic answer demonstrates how far we must go to attempt to prove something that is not contained in God's Word. In truth, there is no set process or formula accepted and recognized by all Roman Catholic theologians. John L. McKenzie states in his book, The Roman Catholic Church, with surprising candor, the following;
"Whatever be the process, it cannot be a process of deduction. Thomas Aquinas, by what he thought flawless logic, proved that Mary could not have been immaculately conceived; even the prince of theologians had his blind spots. Duns Scotus, by an argument which does not so much defy logic as ignore it, was convinced that she was. The Roman Church does not conceive that it arrives at such beliefs by logic...Regarding both the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, the Roman Church, experienced a constant surging in itself toward the affirmation of these dogmas. At the risk of hypostatizing the institution, one can say that this surging, which went on for centuries before the declarations, gave the Roman Church a kind of inner compulsion to declare itself."
There you have it. Tradition, which is held with an equal degree of pious affection as is the Bible by the Roman Catholic Church, is arrived at not by logic and a reasonable consideration of the evidence, but by a constant surging within the Church itself to believe something. That is the same as saying that for a long time the church wanted to believe something, we now believe it, it must be true. Also, if we now believe it, that proves that the church always believed it.
My friends, that is just not good enough.
The Catholic Church teaches that there are two sources of understanding God's revelation of His will. These are God's Word, the Bible, and the teachings and
"We find God's revelation in Sacred Scripture and in Tradition" (New Parish Catechism, p. 11). "Sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God, which is entrusted to the Church....Thus it comes about that the Church does now draw her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Hence, both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal feelings of devotion and reverence... . It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others" (Vatican II, Const. on Divine Revelation, Chp. 2, Sec. 9). "Christ did not leave his followers a religion in the sense of a 'package of clear well defined truths'...the Holy Spirit guides each generation to add it's own understanding to them...Nor did the apostles sit down and write a handbook of the Christian faith... The Church often asserted apostolic sanction for tradition and usages that could not be traced to apostolic writings...While the Bible contains God's original revelation, yet the Bible cannot be understood alone.
The Church's living tradition is necessary to understand it. None of the biblical authors had any idea of writing a book which would of itself give us all of God's revelation" (Christ Among Us, p. 166 169). "Like two sacred rivers flowing from Paradise, the Bible and divine Tradition contain the Word of God ...of the two, Tradition is to us more clear and safe" (Catholic Belief, p. 33.)
But the Catholic Bible says: In regard to the true wisdom of God that, "God has revealed this wisdom to us through the Spirit. The Spirit scrutinizes al/ matters even the deep things of God. Who for example, knows a man's innermost self but the man's own spirit within him? Similarly, no one knows what lies at the depths of God but the Spirit of God... We speak of these, not in words of human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, thus interpreting spiritual things in spiritual terms" (I Cor 2:10 13). "May you learn from us not to go beyond what is set down, so that none of you will grow self important by reason of his association with one person rather than another" (I Cor. 4:6). "For even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel not in accord with the one we delivered to you, let a curse be upon him" (Gal. I :8). "I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God leading everyone who believes in it to salvation, the Jew first, then the Creek" (Rom. 1: 16). "All Scripture is inspired of God and is useful for teaching for reproof, correction, and training in holiness so that the man of God may be fully competent and equipped for every good work " (II Tim. 3: 16 17). "In reply he said to them: 'Why do you for your part act contrary to the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition!'...This means that for the sake of your tradition you have nullified God's Word" (Mt. 15:3, 6).
The Catholic Church teaches that Tradition is a safer and clearer guide in religious matters than the Scriptures. It teaches that "Tradition is the way Christ's Church understands and lives his teachings" (Christ Among Us, p. 167). Therefore since the "Bible cannot be understood alone" it is necessary to refer to the Traditions of the Church in order to properly understand God's will. IF this is true, WHY did the Bereans in Acts 17 11 after hearing two "official spokesman" for the church STUDY THE SCRIPTURES to see if what Paul and Silas had taught were true? Remember we will be judged by God's Word and not the traditions of men (Jn. 12:48).
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