Appealing to Catholic tradition to support Catholic tradition is like pulling themselves up by their boot straps.
Only an outside authority can confer authority to someone or something else. Nobody gets it by self-declaring it.
And those listening to a spirit in their head as their outside authority think their own personal interpretation of Scripture is the same as God's word.
How curious that the Catholics must use Holy Scripture to insist the Church was established upon St. Peter, the giving of the power to bind and loose, to forgive or retain sins and any other such things that they deem came from Christ, but then assert that their "traditions" have authority over Holy Scripture. Do they not see a circular reasoning here? From http://www.the-highway.com/tradition_Webster.html:
In the history of Roman Catholic dogma, one can trace an evolution in the theory of tradition. There were two fundamental patristic principles which governed the early Churchs approach to dogma. The first was sola Scriptura in which the fathers viewed Scripture as both materially and formally sufficient. It was materially sufficient in that it was the only source of doctrine and truth and the ultimate authority in all doctrinal controversies. It was necessary that every teaching of the Church as it related to doctrine be proven from Scripture. Thomas Aquinas articulated this patristic view when he stated that canonical Scripture alone is the rule of faith (sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei).1 Additionally, they taught that the essential truths of Scripture were perspicuous, that is, that they were clearly revealed in Scripture, so that, by the enablement of the Holy Spirit alone an individual could come to an understanding of the fundamental truths of salvation.
The second is a principle enunciated by the Roman Catholic Councils of Trent (1546-1562) and Vatican I (1870) embodied in the phrase the unanimous consent of the fathers. This is a principle that purportedly looks to the past for validation of its present teachings particularly as they relate to the interpretation of Scripture. Trent initially promulgated this principle as a means of countering the Reformation teachings to make it appear that the Reformers doctrines were novel and heretical while those of Rome were rooted in historical continuity. It is significant to note that Trent merely affirmed the existence of the principle without providing documentary proof for its validity. Vatican I merely reaffirmed the principle as decreed by Trent. Its historical roots hearken back to Vincent of Lerins in the fifth century who was the first to give it formal definition when he stated that apostolic and catholic doctrine could be identified by a three fold criteria: It was a teaching that had been believed everywhere, always and by all (quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est).2 In other words, the principle of unanimous agreement encompassing universality (believed everywhere), antiquity (believed always) and consent (believed by all). Vincent readily agreed with the principle of sola Scriptura, that is, that Scripture was sufficient as the source of truth. But he was concerned about how one determined what was truly apostolic and catholic doctrine. This was the official position of the Church immediately subsequent to Vincent throughout the Middle Ages and for centuries immediately following Trent. But this principle, while fully embraced by Trent and Vatican I, has all been but abandoned by Rome today in a practical and formal sense. This is due to the fact that so much of Romes teachings, upon historical examination, fail the test of unanimous consent. Some Roman Catholic historians are refreshingly honest in this assessment. Patrologist Boniface Ramsey, for example, candidly admits that the current Roman Catholic teachings on Mary and the papacy were not taught in the early Church:
Sometimes, then, the Fathers speak and write in a way that would eventually be seen as unorthodox. But this is not the only difficulty with respect to the criterion of orthodoxy. The other great one is that we look in vain in many of the Fathers for references to things that many Christians might believe in today. We do not find, for instance, some teachings on Mary or the papacy that were developed in medieval and modern times.3
At first, this clear lack of patristic consensus led Rome to embrace a new theory in the late nineteenth century to explain its teachings the theory initiated by John Henry Newman known as the development of doctrine. In light of the historical reality, Newman had come to the conclusion that the Vincentian principle of unanimous consent was unworkable, because, for all practical purposes, it was nonexistent. To quote Newman:
It does not seem possible, then, to avoid the conclusion that, whatever be the proper key for harmonizing the records and documents of the early and later Church, and true as the dictum of Vincentius must be considered in the abstract, and possible as its application might be in his own age, when he might almost ask the primitive centuries for their testimony, it is hardly available now, or effective of any satisfactory result. The solution it offers is as difficult as the original problem.4
The obvious problem with Newmans analysis and conclusion is that it flies in the face of the decrees of Trent and Vatican I, both of which decreed that the unanimous consent of the fathers does exist. But to circumvent the lack of patristic witness for the distinctive Roman Catholic dogmas, Newman set forth his theory of development, which was embraced by the Roman Catholic Church. Ironically, this is a theory which, like unanimous consent, has its roots in the teaching of Vincent of Lerins, who also promulgated a concept of development. While rejecting Vincents rule of universality, antiquity and consent, Rome, through Newman, once again turned to Vincent for validation of its new theory of tradition and history. But while Rome and Vincent both use the term development, they are miles apart in their understanding of the meaning of the principle because Romes definition of development and Vincents are diametrically opposed to one another. In his teaching, Vincent delineates the following parameters for true development of doctrine:
But some one will say. perhaps, Shall there, then, be no progress in Christs Church? Certainly; all possible progress. For what being is there, so envious of men, so full of hatred to God, who would seek to forbid it? Yet on condition that it be real progress, not alteration of the faith. For progress requires that the subject be enlarged n itself, alteration, that it be transformed into something else. The intelligence, then, the knowledge, the wisdom, as well of individuals as of all, as well of one man as of the whole Church, ought, in the course of ages and centuries, to increase and make much and vigorous progress; but yet only in its own kind; that is to say, in the same doctrine, in the same sense, and in the same meaning.5
First of all, Vincent is saying that doctrinal development must be rooted in the principle of unanimous consent. That is, it must be related to doctrines that have been clearly taught throughout the ages of the Church. In other words, true development must demonstrate historical roots. Any teaching which could not demonstrate its authority from Scripture and the universal teaching of the Church was to be repudiated as novel and therefore not truly catholic. It was to be considered heretical. This is the whole point of Vincents criticism of such heretics as Coelestius and Pelagius. He says, Who ever before his (Pelagius) monstrous disciple Coelestius ever denied that the whole human race is involved in the guilt of Adams sin?6 Their teaching, which was a denial of original sin, was novel. It could not demonstrate historical continuity and therefore it was heretical.
But, with Newman, Rome redefined the theory of development and promoted a new concept of tradition. One that was truly novel. Truly novel in the sense that it was completely foreign to the perspective of Vincent and the theologians of Trent and Vatican I who speak of the unanimous consent of the fathers. These two Councils claim that there is a clear continuity between their teaching and the history of the ancient Church which preceded them (whether this is actually true is another thing altogether). A continuity which can they claimed could be documented by the explicit teaching of the Church fathers in their interpretation of Scripture and in their practice. Vatican I, for example, teaches that the papacy was full blown from the very beginning and was, therefore, not subject to development over time.
In this new theory Rome moved beyond the historical principle of development as articulated by Vincent and, for all practical purposes, eliminated any need for historical validation. She now claimed that it was not necessary that a particular doctrine be taught explicitly by the early Church. In fact, Roman Catholic historians readily admit that doctrines such as the assumption of Mary and papal infallibility were completely unknown in the teaching of the early Church. If Rome now teaches the doctrine we are told that the early Church actually believed and taught it implicitly and only later, after many centuries, did it become explicit.
From this principle it was only a small step in the evolution of Romes teaching on Tradition to her present position. Rome today has replaced the concept of tradition as development to what is known as living tradition. This is a concept that promotes the Church as an infallible authority, which is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who protects her from error. Therefore, whatever Romes magisterium teaches at any point in time must be true even if it lacks historical or biblical support. The following statement by Roman Catholic apologist Karl Keating regarding the teaching of the Assumption of Mary is an illustration of this very point. He says it does not matter that there is no teaching on the Assumption in Scripture, the mere fact that the Roman Church teaches it is proof that it is true. Thus, teachings do not need to be documented from Scripture:
Still, fundamentalists ask, where is the proof from Scripture? Strictly, there is none. It was the Catholic Church that was commissioned by Christ to teach all nations and to teach them infallibly. The mere fact that the Church teaches the doctrine of the Assumption as definitely true is a guarantee that it is true.7
This assertion is a complete repudiation of the patristic principle of proving every doctrine by the criterion of Scripture. Tradition means handing down from the past. Rome has changed the meaning of tradition from demonstrating by patristic consent that a doctrine is truly part of tradition, to the concept of living tradition whatever I say today is truth, irrespective of the witness of history. This goes back to the claims of Gnosticism to having received the tradition by living voice, viva voce. Only now Rome has reinterpreted viva voce, the living voice as receiving from the past by way of oral tradition, to be a creative and therefore entirely novel aspect of tradition. It creates tradition in its present teaching without appeal to the past. To paraphrase the Gnostic line, it is viva voce whatever we say. Another illustration of this reality relates to the teaching of the Assumption of Mary from the French Roman Catholic historian, Joussard:
In these conditions we shall not ask patristic thought as some theologians still do today under one form or another to transmit to us, with respect to the Assumption, a truth received as such in the beginning and faithfully communicated to subsequent ages. Such an attitude would not fit the facts...Patristic thought has not, in this instance, played the role of a sheer instrument of transmission.8
So, in effect, the new teaching of tradition in Rome is no longer that of continuity with the past but living tradition, or viva voce whatever we say. Instead of sola Scriptura, the unanimous principle of authority enunciated by both Scripture and the Church fathers, we now have sola Ecclesia, blind submission to an institution which is unaccountable to either Scripture or history. That blind submission is not too strong an allegation is seen from the official Roman teaching on saving faith. What Rome requires is what is technically referred to a dogmatic faith. This is faith which submits completely to whatever the Church of Rome officially defines as dogma and to refuse such submission results in anathema and the loss of salvation, for unless a Roman Catholic has dogmatic faith, he or she does not have saving faith. Romes view is based on the presupposition that the Church is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and is therefore infallible. She cannot err. But the presupposition is faulty. Historically, the Roman Church has clearly proven that she can and has erred and is therefore quite fallible. Her gospel is a repudiation of the biblical gospel.
This is where we ultimately arrive when the patristic and Reformation principle of sola Scriptura is repudiated for the concept of living tradition and an infallible magisterium the embracing of teachings which are not only not found in Scripture or the teaching of the early Church, but which are actually contradictory to Scripture and in many cases to the teaching of the Church fathers.