How to Judge Tradition?
In a valid Catholic Tradition we may distinguish four characteristics:
- Valid Tradition is scriptural.
This means that it must be based on a correct understanding of the inspired meaning of scriptural texts. In the history of the Church, such a correct understanding often went hand in hand with a new awareness of important issues. The new, correct interpretation of Scripture comes about through the undying activity of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
- Valid Tradition is informed.
For it to be informed, the carriers of the Tradition must have correctly understood the question and the issues that are at stake. As Pope Pius XII stated in Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943): There are many matters, especially historical, which were insufficiently or hardly at all developed by the commentators of past centuries, because they lacked nearly all information needful for elucidating them.
- Valid Tradition can be latent for many
The history of the Church demonstrates that we should study the past carefully. Underneath the practice and hidden under explicit texts, there may lie a contrary, but valid latent Tradition, a Tradition that is faithful to the teaching of the Gospel and transmitted through the centuries without always being explicitly recognised as such.
- Valid Tradition shows development through a dynamic growth.
True Tradition is not static. It grows; not in the sense that it differs substantially from the inspiration received from Jesus Christ and the Apostles, but in the sense that many of its latent implications are gradually realised with the help of the Holy Spirit.
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