Sunday, April 7, 2013

Making Sense of Tradition

After spending the past few posts outlining what tradition is, what it isn't, and why it matters, I would like to conclude with some general thoughts, and  how Catholics can have a discerning mind with these matters.

First, how does one know if we are dealing with Apostolic Tradition, when they aren't Church historians or theologians?  In this case, the simplest answer really is the correct one.  The Church is very clear on matters of Aposotolic Tradition.  On issues of Apostolic Tradition, the Church is protected by infallability.  We can have confidence that if the Catholic Church proclaims something as an Apostolic Tradition, it is an Apostolic tradition.

Unfortunately, that really doesn't matter much to our present discussion.  Many will take this simple truth to incorrect extremes.  Infallability simply says that the Church will be prevented by the Holy Spirit from error.  They take it to mean that every action by every member in authority of the Church, whether it be a priest or pope, is the work of the Holy Spirit, and we need to "see where the Spirit is trying to lead us."  In plain english, SHUT THE HECK UP.  This is the standard line a lot of the intelligentsia of "conservative" Catholicism is telling traditionalists.  This attitude wasn't Catholic before, and it still isn't Catholic.

Speaking bluntly, the Holy Spirit was still in control of the Church 100% during the days of Benedict IX and Alexander VI.  Out of the 266 Roman Pontiffs, only 90 are either canonized saints or beatified.  While .338 is a great batting average in baseball, this does not bode well for the concept that all (or even most) of what Popes do in every action is the cause of the direct work of the Holy Spirit.  Is there a chance that the Spirit is speaking through the actions of a Pope, just as He wills through any of us?  Of course.  Yet that requires discernment.  Sometimes the Roman Pontiff, like any leader, makes a judgement call with great intentions, but things do not turn out the way he wishes.  Recognizing this truth does not make one any less of a Catholic.

So what do you do if those in authority are making judgement calls that you think will be counter-productive?  First and foremost, one has to know their state in life.  If you are not a theologian or a liturgical scholar, you should realize that your words will probably carry little weight against those who are such scholars.  (Most Bishops and Popes have theology degrees, several of them in fact.)  As a result of that, you should always be willing to acknowledge your limited knowledge, and how you could be wrong.  If you feel compelled to speak in public, this should cause you to temper sweeping judgements.

Another thing to remember is that nobody is preventing you (unless you are under some order from a bishop of course) from promoting your approach, provided it does not contradict faith and morals.  Want to advocate that everyone should discover the Latin liturgy?  Think the previous forms of the
Mandatum are wise, and that the laws should stay as they are?  Then say so, and do not let the internet apologists of the intelligentsia shout you down otherwise.  Believe me, they will try.

Finally, remember that you (most likely) are not an authority figure.  So do not presume to bind upon others.  If the Church has specifically approved something that is within their right to approve, you cannot go around telling others that they cannot do it.  Loathe it as I might, I cannot tell the church down the road they are sinning by using altar girls, or that they  have abandoned Sacred Tradition in doing so.  Far too often people throw around terms such as modernist, rad-trad, schismatic, etc.  If we do nothing else, how about we let the Magesterium give such labels as they see fit, as they actually have the authority to do such?

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