Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Scripture and Sacred Tradition

From the Catechism:
75 “Christ the Lord, in whom the entire Revelation of the most high God is summed up, commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel, which had been promised beforehand by the prophets, and which he fulfilled in his own person and promulgated with his own lips. In preaching the Gospel, they were to communicate the gifts of God to all men. This Gospel was to be the source of all saving truth and moral discipline.”
76 In keeping with the Lord's command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways:
- orally "by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received - whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit";
- in writing "by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing".
80 "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal."[40] Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own "always, to the close of the age"
81 "Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit."
"And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching."
82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence."
83 The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus' teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit. The first generation of Christians did not yet have a written New Testament, and the New Testament itself demonstrates the process of living Tradition.
Tradition is to be distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical or devotional traditions, born in the local churches over time. These are the particular forms, adapted to different places and times, in which the great Tradition is expressed. In the light of Tradition, these traditions can be retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church's Magisterium.
97 "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God" in which, as in a mirror, the pilgrim Church contemplates God, the source of all her riches.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Teaching Authority of the Church

From the Catechism:

77 "In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority." Indeed, "the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time."

79 The Father's self-communication made through his Word in the Holy Spirit, remains present and active in the Church: "God, who spoke in the past, continues to converse with the Spouse of his beloved Son. And the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel rings out in the Church - and through her in the world - leads believers to the full truth, and makes the Word of Christ dwell in them in all its richness."

85 "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ." This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

86 "Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith."

87 Mindful of Christ's words to his apostles: "He who hears you, hears me," the faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.

88 The Church's Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes in a definitive way truths having a necessary connection with them.

91 All the faithful share in understanding and handing on revealed truth. They have received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, who instructs them and guides them into all truth.

92 "The whole body of the faithful. . . cannot err in matters of belief. This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation of faith (sensus fidei) on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals."

94 Thanks to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the understanding of both the realities and the words of the heritage of faith is able to grow in the life of the Church:

- "through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts"; it is in particular "theological research [which] deepens knowledge of revealed truth".

- "from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which [believers] experience," the sacred Scriptures "grow with the one who reads them."

- "from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth".

95 "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. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Fourth of July

In honor of the Fourth of July, I thought I would post a few quotes that are relevant to our nation’s founding principles. First a quote from the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…”

Our Founders recognized that our rights and freedom come ultimately, not from government or politics, but from a Higher Being - a Creator. Governments are established to protect these God-given rights, not to grant new rights where none existed before, and not to redefine human value and worth, but to protect what has already been give by our Creator. Absent this Truth, our system of government cannot survive. If we deny the source of our being and succumb to a Relativism devoid of God and unchanging Truth, the foundation of our nation crumbles, as John Adams pointed out:

"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

Our Republic was founded on the idea that there is a higher Being (a “Creator”) from Whom we derive our rights, and that moral Truth must inform the conscience of the people. We are all subject to a Greater Truth which defines our rights and our freedom and to which we are morally responsible. If our nation rejects this Truth then our man-made laws and our government will fill the void created in such a Godless society – our government would then assume the role of Supreme Granter of Rights and tyranny would ensue. Our basic rights and fundamental human dignity would be subject to the whims of our government unchained from God and Truth, and our rights could easily be changed or revoked. This is the "dictatorship of relativism" about which our current Pope spoke upon his election. And so, to Pope Benedict we turn for more on this subject [taken from the book Church, Ecumenism, & Politics]:

“The Christian faith awakens the conscience and substantiates ethics. It gives practical reason its contents and shows it the way. The real danger of our time, the crux of our cultural crisis, is the destabilization of ethics, which results from the fact that we can no longer grasp moral reasoning and have reduced reason to what is calculable…There is no way to get around it: we have to be converted again to a broader concept of reason as something rational. For the political system that means that society is never done but must be built anew again and again starting from conscience, which is the only way of securing it…Reason needs revelation in order to be able to function as reason. The reference of the state to the Christian foundation is indispensable for its continuance as a state, especially if it is supposed to be pluralistic.” (Chapter 11, pages 204-206)

“The state must recognize that a fundamental system of values based on Christianity is the precondition for its existence. In this sense it simply has to know its historical place, so to speak: the ground from which it cannot completely detach itself without falling apart. It has to learn that there is a fund of truth that is not subject to consensus but rather precedes it and makes it possible.” (Chapter 11, page 207)

“I am convinced that in the long term the rule of law has no chance of survival in a state that is radically and dogmatically atheistic and that it is necessary to reconsider this question fundamentally – as a matter of survival. I likewise venture to declare that democracy is capable of functioning only when conscience is functioning, and that the latter has nothing to say if it is not oriented to the validity of the fundamental moral values of Christianity, which can be put into action even without a Christian profession of faith, indeed, even in the context of a non-Christian religion.” (Chapter 12, pages 220-221)

It is not necessary that all citizens profess belief in the Christian God, but it is necessary that the state recognize a Higher Power to which it is answerable as a source of moral Truth. Christianity provides this higher Truth for us here in the West, and forms the cornerstone for the founding of our nation:

“The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principals of Christianity… I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.” (John Adams)

This is not a radical, far-right, Christian fundamentalist claim. It is as basic to our nation’s founding as the Constitution itself. Catholics should heed the voice of history and of our current pontiff and join the cause for recognizing the importance of faith and traditional moral values within society. We have as a forbearer the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, the American patriot, Charles Carroll:

“Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure...are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments."

With this in mind, and in the spirit of the holiday, this Fourth of July we should follow the recommendation of John Adams: “[July 4th] ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”