Skip to comments.[T]radition and [t]radition (and just what is the difference?) [Ecumenical]
Posted on 10/24/2009 1:41:38 PM PDT by Salvation
Yes, I know youre tired of hearing about it, but one of our most faithful supporters, and a man whose opinion I deeply respect, has posted two highly critical comments in Sound Off in response to my In Depth Analysis from September 23rd, On Waffling, Tradition, and the Magisterium. Both posts challenge not just this particular article but more generally the manner in which I have always portrayed the conflict between Traditionalists and the Church.
The posted criticisms assert three points: First, that my use of the term Traditionalist is simply incorrect; second, that Traditionalists almost never interpret tradition; and third, that the whole controversy is really over tradition not Tradition; that is, the controversy is about prudential decisions. As will soon be clear, these three criticisms all hinge on a single disagreement, but let us take each in turn:
Definition of Terms: I noted in the article that people use the term Traditionalist in different ways, which is why I made a point of defining precisely how I intended to use the term. To my critic, apparently, my effort to clarify the terminology was rather like defining white as black: Not just unhelpful but actually wrong. There being no definitive standard, I cannot insist that others use the term incorrectly, but I can state that in my own circles, the terms Traditionalist and Traditionalism are consistently used to denote not Catholics who love past traditions, and who oppose many of the prudential decisions and Church disciplines of the past fifty years, but precisely those who have carried this opposition to the point of separating at least partially from the Church and asserting that the Church has fallen into doctrinal error regarding the meaning of Sacred Tradition itself.
I would further argue that this is the most appropriate use of the terminology, because adding the suffix ism or ist to any word is supposed to indicate the elevation of that word into a complete system of thought which excludes alternative equivalent systems. Thus it makes sense that a phrase such as traditional Catholic (in which "traditional" is an adjective modifying the noun "Catholic") would refer to a Catholic who is particularly attached to traditional practices within the Church, while the word traditionalist (which is a noun) should denote a person who has elevated this attachment into a theory which excludes the validity of other preferences and points of view. In any case, given the obvious differences in the way these terms are used, the most important thing is to clarify ones own use of them, thereby also clarifying the object of one's judgments and criticismsin other words, those, and only those, whom this shoe fits.
Interpretation of Tradition: The statement that traditionalists almost never interpret traditionthat, in fact, there is rarely any dispute over what the tradition has beenmisses the entire point of the article. It is certainly true that there is little controversy over what various traditions (small t) have been, as compared with current practice, for such a controversy involves easily observable changes in liturgical forms, devotional practices, disciplinary rules, and the like.
But we have no guarantees for the salutary character of any of these traditions, which are not matters of Revelation, whereas Tradition with a large "T" is guaranteed by God Himself precisely because it is one of our two sources of Revelation. Moreover, Sacred Tradition is not written down anywhere, and its meaning and requirements are preserved perfectly only in the mind of the Church. The whole burden of my article was to show that whenever someone thinks the requirements of Tradition (big T) are clear, he had better first check with the Magisterium of the Church, which alone has the authority to rightly decide that question. If someone argues that Tradition means or requires something other than what the Magisterium is currently insisting that it means or requires, then that person has self-evidently latched on to an incorrect understanding (a false interpretation) of what Tradition means or requires.
The Quarrel is over [t]radition not [T]radition: Except that it isnt, at least not the quarrel Im talking about, which is the whole point. Certainly there are innumerable quarrels over the wisdom of the Churchs prudential decisions as represented by her current disciplines and modes of pastoral administration. But we can quarrel about these as much as we like without separating in the slightest degree from one another or from the Church herself. Everyone knows (or ought to know) that these are the result of human reasoning and human conclusions, that they could be helpful or hurtful to any given person at any given time, and that they might or might not be well-suited to the needs of the Church generally in any particular place or epoch. And in so knowing, each Catholic will allow to himself the same possibility of error that he allows to the Church, and so accept serenely, if he is spiritually sound, the decisions of ecclesiastical authority, even while working for improvement.
But when the quarrel extends to Tradition (note, again, the big T), we are talking about things that are Divinely guaranteed, and about which we may not disagree. We are talking about not whether the Novus Ordo is a fine liturgy, but whether it is valid; not whether current ecumenical activities are bearing fruit, but whether the Churchs Magisterial understanding of the theological relationship between, say, Catholics and Protestants, is false; not whether pluralist states work well, but whether the Second Vatican Councils doctrinal defense of religious liberty contradicts previous Magisterial texts on the same subject.
In other words, it is my contention that Catholics cannot pit their understanding of Tradition against the contemporary Magisterium of the Church, as if they alone rightly understand Tradition while the Magisterium of the Church does not. My critic may argue that nobody does this, and so nobody ceases to be Catholic as a result. If thats true, well, then I find myself delighted to have no quarrel with anybody. But neither Pope Benedict nor, for example, the Society of St. Pius X, agree, which is why they are engaging in special talks to see if they can overcome their doctrinal differencesall of which are based on the question of what is and is not required by Tradition with a huge, and hugely absolute, T.
Definition of Terms:
Interpretation of Tradition:
The Quarrel is over [t]radition not [T]radition:
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See the linked article above for the background of Mirus’ followup post of this article.
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Obama Says A Baby Is A Punishment
So I like what he says about Magisterium and tradition.
“Reality tells us there are only two religions in the world. There is the religion of human achievement, the religion of works, the religion of the flesh, the religion that says you can be good enough, holy enough, religious enough, spiritual enough. And there is the one other option, the religion of divine accomplishment, the religion of faith, grace, mercy and not of the flesh but of the Spirit and they do not mix.
The scribes and the Pharisees were the architects of and the purveyors of and the exemplars of a religion of human achievement. Their salvation and acceptance with God, their hope of eternal life in heaven depended upon what they did, what they did morally and what they did religiously and ceremonially.
The Lord, however, offered a completely different religion, a religion of faith and grace, depending upon the Holy Spirit, a religion of divine accomplishment where salvation and acceptance and heaven depended on what God did...not what men do. Certainly most of humanity vastly is committed to the religion of human achievement, that men can be good enough, religious enough to gain heaven if they just have a measure of goodness, think good thoughts occasionally, do good deeds. Better yet, if they believe in God, attend some religious services, go through some religious acts or rites or ceremonies...this religion comes in many names and many forms but it is all the same. It is all the wrong choice. It is all Satan, just packaged differently.” ~ John Macarthur
Those are the political operatives.
I’m sorry. I don’t see the connection between your post and the topic of the thread.
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One reason for this is that we are sometimes surprised to find that there is more agreement, though viewed with different eyes, than one thought.
For example, recently I was told that what I thought certainly was not Catholic thought. My interlocutor was so emphatic that I finally checked with a priest. He agreed with me that it is God who calls us and enables us to see the good in Him and in His gospel and it is He who enables us to respond. His way of saying it was, "The only thing WE can contribute is sin."
My guess is that a lot of Protestants would be surprised to hear us say that. But I think that might be a good thing. We may talk about "merit", and that may push some people's buttons. But our prayers suggest that merit is not something we earn, but is a further gift from God. So for example, we pray for Mary's intercession, that she might ask God to make us worthy. we don't expect to be worthy on our own, but with God's help and with the prayers of the whole Church, well, who knows what might happen?
We don't think "worthiness" is something we can attain on our own toot. We eagerly praise God because every good gift comes from Him, every one, including our good deeds (if any.) At the end of the Rosary we ask God to make our meditations on various aspects of our Lord's life and His favors to Mary .. we ask Him to make all that a way He can conform us to Christ. We don't think praying a Rosary does that UNLESS God generously gives us that unmerited gift.
So, if I may, rather than taking us to task, which might be appropriate in another venue, share with us your vision of how God blesses us, undeserving as we are, with knowledge of His Truth, because of His Love which He gives to us not because we are good but because He is.
Surely, in an ecumenical setting, we can put off arguing for a while and join in praise of God for His generosity which always provides more than we can imagine or pray for. I know I will be happy to hear how God revealed His love to you.