Thursday, 8 May 2008

Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium - getting the relationship between them right.

Fr Z has closed off the combox on an article posted on his blog by Fr Dwight Longenecker:

The original article is presented as an argument against Anglicanism (ie the lack of the Magisterium), but lobs a few bricks at what he describes as 'rad traddies' along the way.

The real issue at stake in the article though - and what seems to have prompted the decision to close the combox - is the debate between conservatives and traditionalists on the proper relationships between Tradition, Scripture and the Magisterium.

As Mr Palad (a contributer to Rorate Caeli - noted in the combox:

"I’m surprised that nobody has yet commented on this passage:
“The Chair of Peter has four legs: Scripture, Tradition, Human Reason and I would add, Facts — Common Sense. On top of these four legs is the seat into which they all fit, and this — to extend the metaphor — is the magisterium. The magisterium is the united, continuous, living, universal teaching authority of the Catholic Church.”

This passage, I believe, encapsulates much that is wrong with current Catholic Apologetics. There is a tendency to overemphasize authority at the expense of objective Tradition, to elevate (not in theory, but in practice) the Magisterium to an equal if not higher place than either Scripture and Tradition, and the imagery here pretty much conveys that emphasis (Lest it be forgotten, the “three-legged stool” has also been incorporated into Catholic apologetics since the 1980’s, the three legs being Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium).

This kind of language is completely unknown to the Ecumenical Councils and to the theology of the old manuals, and can be productive of much mischief.

Doubtless, the magisterium is necessary. However, it is only the servant of Scripture and Tradition. We do not need a conception of the Papacy and of the Hierarchy that sees these as being somehow equal and autonomous in relation to Scripture and Tradition. We already saw in the 1960’s how a near-absolutist and postivistic view of ecclesiastical authority played a major role in the ruin of the Sacred Liturgy."

The article seems to reflect the view that the Magisterium effectively equates to Tradition, by defining what out of the past constitutes 'living Tradition', and thus rendering the Magisterium of previous ages irrelevant. It also has flow on effects on the role of Scripture.

Some of the other commentators have pointed to Fr Ripperger FSSP's excellent papers on this subject.

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