February 7, 2013

Why Does The Catholic Church Act Like It Knows It All?

Catechism Paragraphs 74 – 100

The catechism of the Catholic Church was put together to document in one place the key doctrines of the Church, and where they came from --- someone did not just make them up.  The section I read today documents a key underpinning of the Church’s authority:  Divine Revelation.  Section I Article 2 is on The Transmission of Divine Revelation.  Article 3 is on Sacred Scripture.

“God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1Tim 2:4)  74   Christ the Lord commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel.  This Gospel was to be the source of all saving truth and moral discipline.  75   The Church, the pillar and bulwark of the truth, faithfully guards ‘the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.’  She guards the memory of Christ’s words; it is she who from generation to generation hands on the apostles’ confession of faith. (1Tim 3:15; Jude 3.)  The Church our Mother teaches us the language of faith in order to introduce us to the understanding and the life of faith.”  171  

“In keeping with the Lord’s command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways:  orally,  by the apostles 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, and 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.”  76

“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.  77   This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it.  Through Tradition, the Church in her doctrine, life, and worship perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes.  The sayings of the Holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer.”  78


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.  81   Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.   (This is a key doctrine of the Catholic Faith).  82   Tradition is to be distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical, or devotional traditions, born in the local churches over time. These traditions can be retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church’s magisterium.”  83 


“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.  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.  85-6   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.”  87   


“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 having a necessary connection with them, in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence of faith.  88   The mutual connections between dogmas, and their coherence, can be found in the whole of the Revelation of the mystery of Christ.  In Catholic doctrine there exists and order or hierarchy of truths, since they vary in their relation to the foundation of the Christian faith.  90  All the faithful share in understanding and holding on revealed truth.  They have received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, who instructs them and guides them in all truth.  91   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.”  94  

“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.”  95

Can the Church err in questions of faith?  The faithful as a whole cannot err in faith, because Jesus promised his disciples that he would send them the Spirit of truth and keep them in the truth (Jn 14:17)  Although individual members of the Church can err and even make serious mistakes, the Church as a whole can never fall away from God’s truth.  The Church carries through the ages a living truth that is greater than herself.  We speak about a depositum fidei,  a deposit of faith that is to be preserved.  YOUCAT Q 13


“In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, but as what it really is, the word of God.  In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them.  104    God is the author of Sacred Scripture; (the words are) written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  105  The inspired authors teach the truth.  Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.  Still, the Christian faith is not a ‘religion of the book.’  If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, open our minds to understand the Scriptures.”  107-8   

“To interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words.  109   Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written.  The Second Vatican Council indicates three criteria for interpreting Scripture in accordance with the Spirit who inspired it.  111   1)Be especially attentive to the content and unity of the whole Scripture.  Different as the books which comprise it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God’s plan.  2) Read the Scripture within ‘the living Tradition of the whole Church.’  According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church’s heart, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God’s Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture.  113   3) Be attentive to the analogy of faith.  By ‘analogy of faith’ we mean the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves and within the whole plan of Revelation.”  114  

“According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses.  115  The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: ‘All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal.’  116   The spiritual sense.  Thanks to the unity of God’s plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs.  1) The allegorical sense.  We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ’s victory and also of Christian Baptism.  2) The moral sense.  The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly.  As St. Paul says, they were written ‘for our instruction.’  3) The anagogical sense (Gr: anagoge, ‘leading’).  We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem.”  117  

“It was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the list of the sacred books.  This complete list is called the canon of Scripture.  It includes 46 boos for the Old Testament and 27 for the New.  120   The books of the Old Testament bear witness to the whole divine pedagogy of God’s saving love:  these writings are a storehouse of sublime teaching on God and of sound wisdom on human life, as well as a wonderful treasury of prayers; in them, too, the mystery of our salvation is present in a hidden way.  122   The Word of God, which is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, is set forth and displays its power in a most wonderful way in the writings of the New Testament, which hand on the ultimate truth of God’s Revelation.  Their central object is Jesus Christ, God’s incarnate Son: his acts, teachings, Passion and glorification, and his Church’s beginnings under the Spirit’s guidance.”  124

“The Gospels are the heart of all the Scriptures because they are our principal source for the life and teaching of the Incarnate Word, our Savior.  We can distinguish three stages in the formation of the Gospels:  1) The life and teaching of Jesus   2) The oral tradition: For, after the ascension of the Lord, the apostles handed on to their hearers what he had said and done, but with that fuller understanding which they, instructed by the glorious events of Christ and enlightened by the Spirit of truth, now enjoyed.  3) The written Gospels.  The sacred authors, in writing the four Gospels, selected certain of the many elements which had been handed on, either orally or already in written form, in such a fashion that they have told us the honest truth about Jesus.”  125-6

“The Church, as early as apostolic times, and then constantly in her Tradition, has illuminated the unity fo the divine plan in the two Testaments through typology, which discerns in God’s works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son.  128   The New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old.  Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament.  129   The Church forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures.  ‘Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.’”  133

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