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Catechism Project, #80-90

I’ll admit it, I chuckled when I started reading this section.  There is simply so much packed into these paragraphs it verges on the comical to even attempt to make a single post about it.  I mean we start with explaining how Scripture and Tradition are a common source with distinct modes of transmission (CCC #80-82), touch briefly on the difference between big-T Tradition and little-t tradition (CCC #83), explain the Magisterium of the Church (CCC #85-87), and close with an explanation of Dogma (CCC #88-90).  So … yeah, just a bit of a broad set of topics to cover.  In fact so broad there’s simply no way I’m going to do it.  In the end, most all of this is boiled down beautifully in CCC #82:

As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, “does not derive her certainty about all revealed truthts from holy Scriptures alone.  Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.” (DV 9)

The Church, from the beginning, is entrusted with transmitting and interpreting the Good News.  We see examples of this throughout the New Testament but none so clear and concise as St. Paul’s plea to the Thessalonians in 2 Thes 2:15: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.”  “Hold to the traditions” – notice he does not say “read the Scriptures”, although clearly studying the Old Testament would have been an understood part of those traditions.  Notice also by whom these traditions were taught: “which you were taught by us” – the “us” in this case being St. Paul and his close companions, or as we might find it today the Bishops, Priests and Deacons.

Someone once told an analogy comparing ignoring the Magisterium of the Church in favor of individual interpretation of Scripture to performing surgery on yourself in lieu of utilizing the services of a doctor.  Yes, it might work – the result might be exactly what it should have been, and indeed if it is you will have learned quite a bit in the process.  But there are an untold number of ways it could go awry because, say, you mistook an artery for a muscle fiber.  Call me a coward, but when the One who is the author of all life gives a job to the Church, I’m going to defer to His decision on the matter.  The object is never to “turn your brain off” and just “pray, pay and obey” – no, it’s much, much harder; our job is to sentire cum ecclesia – to “think with the Church”.  Every word in that phrase is critical.  Engage your brain, wrestle with Revelation, but when you come up with an answer different from that of the Church don’t presume it’s because you are wiser than the Church and have thought of something she has not.  I for one am not about to get into a theological debate with St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Gregory the Great or any of a whole host of others.  But like I said, I’m a wimp.

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