I’m much impressed by the numerous thoughtful comments on my post ‘Oh Dear . . .’ of yesterday; and there are one or two points which they have raised which I should like to take up in due course.
However, I was pondering over it yesterday, and it seems to me that there is a very dangerous potential consequence of holding the position under discussion – the ‘canonisation’, if you like, of tradition over Papal authority – namely that if it is developed to its logical conclusion it can lead to a position which it would be very hard indeed to justify.
The argument is that tradition is superior to Papal authority, so that the Pope is unable to interfere with any established traditions of the Church.
Well, to consider but one example, I think that position has only to be considered to be dismissed as utterly unacceptable.
The ‘tradition’ that the Jewish people were wholly responsible for the death of Our Lord is a very ancient one, and was until comparatively recently enshrined in the liturgy of one of the most sacred days of the year.
However, regardless of what popes before them had done, Popes since B. John XXIII have seen fit to amend the Good Friday liturgy to eliminate the phrase ‘perfidious Jews’ (and have made various other pronouncements) to ensure that neither the Catholic Faithful, nor anyone else, is misled about the Church’s attitude towards the Jewish people; because, whatever the theological background to the expression, its use nowadays implies many things which the Church does not believe, and does not wish to appear to imply that it believes.
Now the extreme traditionalists would, presumably, suggest that this should not have been done, because the perfidy of Judaism was part of the tradition of the Church, and so was simply not capable of being changed . . . but that surely has only to be stated to be seen to be unreasonable. The Church’s understanding of this matter has developed dramatically in the last fifteen hundred years; and to suggest that it cannot express those developments, so that the great love of God is made fully known to all mankind, is not only ridiculous – it is also offensive : because it suggests that it is more important to maintain some historical theological position than to represent God’s infinite love and mercy to ALL His world.
So : whilst the Pope does not have (as one of my commentors properly reflected) to ‘go off on a frolic of his own’ (to use the English legal phrase), he has every right to prune, fertilise, and cultivate the Deposit of Faith so that the truths of the Faith are always applicable to the realities of God’s world providing only that he does not actually change it bodily - and that is, ultimately, between him and God.
Am I wrong ? So far, I don’t think so.