Tradition, the Church, and the World – Catholic World Report

The dispute over the continuing value of the Traditional Latin Mass has drawn attention to the question of tradition and its role in the Church. That’s a complicated matter. Tradition is important, but not the most important thing. It has a strong human component, so divine revelation and natural law limit its authority. When the Pharisees asked Jesus why his disciples broke the tradition of the elders, he answered “why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:1-3) On the other hand, it is through tradition that revelation is passed on and our understanding of natural law developed. That is why Jude urged the brethren “to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints,” (Jude 1:3) and Paul told the Thessalonians to “stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.” (2 Thess 14) Once the apostles passed away, it fell to saints, councils, popes, bishops, theologians and all the faithful to receive, apply, develop, and pass on the complex of beliefs and practices that constitutes the tradition of the Church. We live by the Faith, but also by the Catholic tradition that embodies it. Historians can help us understand the specifics of how all this has happened. But there’s one aspect of the matter that hasn’t drawn much expert discussion because it’s too open-ended: the role of tradition in human life generally. That’s hard for us to discern, because tradition is so pervasive, and it’s difficult to discuss in America today, because the accepted public view of things provides no way to make sense of it.

Tradition, the Church, and the World – Catholic World Report

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