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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Doesn't Scripture condemn "traditions of men"? So why does the Catholic Church identify tradition as "sacred"?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Question:  Doesn't Scripture condemn "traditions of men"?  So why does the Catholic Church identify tradition as "sacred"?

In the Gospel of Mark Jesus professes: You disregard God's commandment but cling to human tradition--Mark 7:8.  It is apparent that Jesus is condemning those human traditions which are contrary to the Divine Will of God.

Are there any human traditions that the Catholic Church practices which meet this objection?

Of course not!

Firstly, we must be able to distinguish "tradition" with a small "t", which is, essentially "customs", and Sacred "Tradition" with a capital "T".  (This distinction is really only for the purpose of this email.  Sacred Tradition is often written with a small "t".  It's only an intellectual distinction I'm trying to convey here.) 

What are some examples of traditions of the Catholic church?
-not calling the holy men and women of the Old Testament saints.  Thus, it's just a custom that we don't call Moses "St. Moses" or Isaiah "St. Isaiah".
-kneeling while praying
-knowing that Mary's parents were Sts. Joachim and Anne.  iI's just a custom handed down from the first centuries.
-making the sign of the cross before/after we pray

None of the above traditions/customs, while indeed human and man-made, are contrary to the Divine Will of God.  Thus, Jesus does not condemn these Catholic practices.

Now, as for Sacred Tradition, this is quite different from customs/traditions.

Sacred Tradition is the Word of God, in oral form, entrusted to the Apostles and handed on through the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. 
God gave us Scripture, and He also gave us Tradition.  The 2 are to be given equal reverence.  In other words, those Christians who believe in the Bible-Alone (Sola Scriptura) are not receiving the Fullness of Truth, for they are lacking the Word of God which has been revealed through Sacred Tradition.

One common source. . .

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." 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".

. . . two distinct modes of transmission

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."

Apostolic Tradition and ecclesial traditions

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. Catechism

What are some examples of Sacred Tradition?
-the canon (or list) of books for the Bible.  We only know, through what the Apostles received from Jesus and the Holy Spirit, that the Gospel of Thomas is NOT inspired, but the Gospel of Mark is.  For there is nothing in Scripture which tells us "this book comes from God" and "this book does not."  (And even if a book did declare itself to be inspired, does that mean it is?  The Koran, the Islamic holy book, claims this for itself!)
-the dogma of the Trinity--not found (explicitly) in Scripture.  This was revealed later by the Holy Spirit to the Church.
-the dogma of the Hypostatic Union, that is that Jesus had 2 natures--one divine and one human.  Not found in Scripture, but we know this because of Sacred Tradition.

"In this discussion it is important to keep in mind what the Catholic Church means by Tradition. The term does not refer to legends or mythological accounts, nor does it encompass transitory customs or practices which may change, as circumstances warrant, such as styles of priestly dress, particular forms of devotion to saints, or even liturgical rubrics. Sacred or apostolic tradition consists of the teachings that the apostles passed on orally through their preaching. These teachings largely (perhaps entirely) overlap with those contained in Scripture, but the mode of their transmission is different.

They have been handed down and entrusted to the Church. It is necessary that Christians believe in and follow this Tradition as well as the Bible (Luke 10:16). The truth of the faith has been given primarily to the leaders of the Church (Eph. 3:5), who, with Christ, form the foundation of the Church (Eph. 2:20). The Church has been guided by the Holy Spirit, who protects this teaching from corruption (John 14:25-26, 16:13)

Thus, while the Bible does condemn "traditions of men", it upholds and proclaims the Sacred Tradition of the Church--that is, the oral teaching of the Church handed down by the Apostles.
For more in-depth study visit these websites:

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect
1 Peter 3:15

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