Catholic Theology Tradition and Scripture are considered one and the same within the Catholic Church and are both part of the sacred deposit of faith. Tradition includes practices such as the Eucharist and the belief that Christ is present, while tradition includes beliefs such as purgatory. Thus, Tradition is backed by Scripture, while tradition is according to culture and era. To Catholics, Tradition refers to the beliefs and practices that Jesus conveyed to the Apostles for the benefit of mankind: “…remember me in everything and maintain the traditions as I have delivered them to you” (Divine).
According to St. Paul, these traditions were taught through writing, such as letters, orally, and by examples of actions: “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (Divine). The Catholic Church teaches that with the death of the last Apostle so too ended the time of “divine revelation,” however these unchanging truths may be altered only for the sake of new generations in terms of language and ideas in order to present Christ’s teachings (Divine).
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The purpose of the Catechism is to expose doctrine and help mankind understand faith, and “is oriented towards the maturing of that faith, its putting down roots in personal life, and its shining forth in personal conduct” (Catechism). It is the responsibility of instructors to adapt methods and presentations of doctrine according to cultural and social differences (Catechism). According to the Catholic Church, Sacred Scripture reins above any other writing and deserves the highest form of reverence.
It is essential to understanding Jesus and his teachings (Divine). To reveal His goodness, God speaks to mankind in human words. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Indeed the words of God, expressed in the words of men, are in every way like human language, just as the Word of the eternal Father, when he took on himself the flesh of human weakness, became like men…Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses imself completely” (Catechism). Because Scripture is the word of God, meaning God is the author, the Catholic Church constantly finds nourishment and strength, for these words are the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Catechism). According to the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation from the Second Vatican Council, the holy mother Church holds the Old and New Testaments in their entirety as sacred and canonical, since God acted through these human authors to reveal His word (Divine).
Thus, all Scripture is divinely inspired for the purpose of teaching truth and discipline so that man may be sufficiently equipped for God’s work (Divine). Regarding the interpretation of Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church cautions that particular attention be given “to the content and unity of the whole Scripture” (Divine). Because the composition of the books differ, it is a “unity by reason of the unity of God’s plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart,” thus the term “heart of Christ” refers to Sacred Scripture (Divine).
Scripture must be read and interpreted in the same spirit as it was written and the living tradition of the Church “must be taken into account along with the harmony which exists between elements of the faith” (Divine). The Catechism states that Scripture must be read within “the living Tradition of the whole Church,” for Scripture is written in the Church’s heart and the Church carries within her Tradition the “living memorial of God’s Word” (Divine). Therefore, it is the Holy Spirit who gives the Church the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture: “…according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church” (Divine).
Although many point to 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work,” this passage does not provide an argument that Scripture without Tradition is the sole rule of faith (Divine). For 2 Thessalonians 2:15 states “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (Divine). Moreover, the Scriptures that Timothy refers to were of the Old Testament, thus the Scriptures of the
New Testament were not necessary for a rule of faith (Divine). To attribute any meaning to Scared Scripture, one must believe in something other than Scripture: “an interpretation of Scripture” (Divine). Therefore, “sola scriptura” does not refer to the sole belief in scripture, but rather the belief in its interpretation (Divine). The Catholic Church claims to have the true interpretation of Scripture, for not only does she present extra-biblical authority to provide interpretation, she also provides continuity in teaching the truths Jesus revealed to the Apostles, which constitute the true interpretation of Scripture (Divine).
Writings by these first Christians demonstrate that the teachings were the same then as now, thus this preservation given to the Apostles “along with the manifest continuity and unity of belief throughout time and place” are essential characteristics of the Catholic Church (Divine). Within the Catholic Church today, there are groups such as Catholics United for the Faith, Regnum Christi, Opus Del, that encourage orthodoxy in their interpretation of the teachings of the Vatican (Smietana).
Some churches have moved the tabernacle from the center of the church to emphasize the Mass and the presence of Christ in the reception of the Holy Communion, however many claim that this experiment has failed because the Church lost the sense of the sacred that had been the hallmark of Catholic worship (Smietana). According to Father Richard Simon, that loss of the sacred is also seen in the decline among Catholics in the belief in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Fr. Simon wrote, “If we don’t believe in the Real Presence, we might as well close the church” (Smietana).
The 5th century theologian, Vincent of Lerins, claimed that there is great progress and development in the Church and that this progress and development must be in fundamental continuity with what preceded it (Guarino). Thus, theology must be timely and vigorous, and able to respond to its times in order to develop new insights that nurture growth and doctrinal development (Guarino). Vincent refused a static idea of faith and doctrine, yet cautioned that there is an indefeasible impulse to development n doctrine, but it must be “properly husbanded if it is to bear good fruit” (Guarino). There are traditions within the Catholic Church that are not supported by Scripture, such as Purgatory and the Assumption of Mary, yet Catholic theologians claim that traditions and Scripture are one, and both are seen as a deposit of faith (McBrien). In the January 1996 issue of the National Catholic Reporter, Richard McBrien notes that one issue that continues to distinguish between pre- and post-Vatican II Catholic theology deals with the relationship between Tradition and Scripture (McBrien).
Before Vatican II, many Catholic theologians defended certain teachings that were not found in the Bible, referencing two sources of revelation, Scripture and Tradition which they assumed had been taught by the Council of Trent in the 16th century (McBrien). It was in defense against the Protestant view of “sola scriptura” that led the Council of Trent to formulate its teaching on Scripture and Tradition, however McBrien claims that Trent simply wanted to renounce the biblical absolutism of the reformers who placed no value at all on tradition (McBrien).
Moreover, claims McBrien, Trent did not understand Tradition to mean a continuing process that includes the whole life of the church, nor did it make a distinction between “Tradition: what pertains to the essence of the faith; and traditions: those elements that may come and go in the history of the church without any essential effect on the faith” (McBrien). Belief that Christ is present in the Eucharist is rooted explicitly in Scripture, while the devotion known as Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was not practiced until the early 14th century (McBrien).
While the belief in Christ presence will forever remain a part of the deposit of faith as a Tradition, the tradition of Benediction may disappear without consequence (McBrien). The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation teaches that Scripture and Tradition form one sacred deposit of revelation and that Tradition encompasses the “whole life, witness, teaching and worship of the church,” thus Tradition is a living, dynamic reality that “develops in the church with the help of the Holy Spirit” (McBrien).
According to Catholic theologians, Tradition is never independent of Scripture, therefore is something is not found in Scripture, then it is not in Tradition, even if it is a legitimate tradition of the Church (McBrien). Work Cited Catechism of the Catholic Church. Preparation for Internet by Charles Borromeo Parish, Mississippi. Retrieved June 10 2006 from: http://www. vatican. va/archive/catechism/p1s1c2a3. htm Divine Tradition and Sacred Scriptures. The Augustine Club at Columbia University. 1999. Retrieved June 10 2006 from: http://www. columbia. edu/cu/augustine/a/sola_scriptura. html Guarino, Thomas G. Tradition and doctrinal development: can Vincent of Lerins still teach the church? ” Theological Studies. March 01 2006. Retrieved June 10 2006 from HighBeam Research Library. McBrien, Richard P. “Tradition still in shadow of scripture. ” National Catholic Reporter. January 26 1996. Retrieved June 10 2006 from HighBeam Research Library. Smietana, Bob. “A turn in the right direction? Across Catholic and Protestant churches, “orthodoxy movements” have sprung up to hold on to and defend what they see as the one true way of their particular tradition. ” U. S. Catholic. May 01 2003. Retrieved June 10 2006 from HighBeam Research Library.