‘A convert, and a fairly recent one’ : that’s me, and it means that there are still things which I come across which I find anything from confusing to downright impossible to understand : and one of these latter I encountered recently in a post on another blog.
I’ve always realized that there are some Catholics who have a ‘thing’ about liturgy and tradition; what I’ve discovered, however, is that there are some Catholics who appear to believe that liturgy and tradition are so important that they take precedence of everything else, including papal authority . . . and that I find extraordinarily difficult to get my head around.
Of course I understand that tradition is crucial to the Church, and to the perpetuation of the Deposit of Faith : but my understanding was that one of the reasons why Our Lord gave power to Peter was to ensure that the Church would always have one person who could, inerrantly, interpret tradition to – and in the light of – the world so that the teachings of Christ could be seen afresh in every generation.
It appears, however, that this is not the case – at least in the minds of some Catholics – and that if the Pope comes into conflict with tradition then tradition must win because it’s been there longer. As the blogger I referred to earlier said, ‘The Catholic Tradition is more solid than the arbitrary decisions of self-important Popes’ !
I’m sorry; but if tradition must always relate only to the oldest authority, then nothing can ever change. English Common Law relies on tradition; but it does not automatically assume that the oldest authority must be right – it considers all the relevant authorities in light of the circumstances, and determines what the correct decision is – and I’d always assumed that this was, in effect, what the Pope did; collate and consider the authoritative traditions and teachings of the Church, seek the advice of competent experts, and then determine the Church’s position on that case at that time.
One of the reasons I became a Catholic was because I came to recognize that – however sincere and right-minded they were – reliance on my own opinions was not a safe path to Heaven : but that the Catholic Church offers the security of reliance on the teachings of the Church, as expressed by the Pope. If I follow those teachings, I cannot sin; and though he may have to answer for them on the Day of Judgement, I shall not.
I respect those who, in conscience, feel unable to subscribe to this position; but I’d value the opinion of a competent theologian as to whether they’re really Catholic.