Ben asked:

[Editor's note: Ben asked about becoming Catholic in general, however I am taking one of his points of inquiry (which Fr. Dave actually re-stated and then answered) and am presenting it as a single question.]

I had an experience in a non-denominational church where they said there were things going on in the Catholic church that had no scripture to back it up.

Fr. Dave Dwyer replied:

"... There's a lot of Christian denominations that will use exactly that measuring rod, that litmus test that you just said, well you know if it's not in the bible then we shouldn't be [doing it], we're bible people ... what is most ironic about that theory ... is that is not in the bible. Nowhere in scripture does scripture about itself say that this is the only place you should get information about your Christian life. In fact, quite the opposite, Jesus says as he is getting ready to ascend to the father he says to those first believers, those first disciples and his apostles, he says you know I'm going away now. But what I will give you is the Holy Spirit that will teach and admonish you and remind you of every thing you need until I return.

He did not interestingly enough say, here guys, here's this book. And all you're going to need is in this book. And that is very honestly, that is ... a notion of sola scriptura ... a Latin phrase that means only the bible, or the bible alone and that there's no, there shouldn't be traditions or other practices or other spiritual or ritual practices that we can't directly see in scripture. That whole concept is only five hundred years old. And the traditions of the Church are two thousand years old.

So for the first fifteen hundred years of Christianity people were not saying, hey you only got the bible and if stuff's not in the bible I'm not believing it. They took for granted in those first fifteen hundred years that scripture was one of the ways in which God gave us this deposit of faith, and was certainly not the only way. And the way in which we proclaimed scripture and the ritual that we did around scripture and in fact way more important for the earliest believers, in the first centuries of the Church is the ritual of what they would call the breaking of the bread that we call the mass.

They were not all running around with bibles and highlighters and taking notes on their pastor's sermons. They were doing this important ritual act that we still do two thousand years later with some of the prayers that have been used from the very earliest centuries. We've got the first century evidence of a prayer that is almost identical to the prayer that we use as the eucharistic prayer ... For us as Catholics it certainly just makes sense that if Jesus said I'm going to give you the Holy Spirit to inspire you, to teach you, to remind you of things and he didn't specifically say only stuff in the bible, that we would say hey that prayer that we have from the first century, that somebody wrote down that sounds almost exactly like a description of the mass that is the tradition of the Church that the Holy Spirit has guarded over all these years. So we can't put that in the back seat to even the very important value that the revealed word of God and scripture has. We put those equal to one another.

Now obviously once you say that, Ben we have to parse out exactly what we mean by tradition. When we talk as Catholics about tradition we mean sacred traditions. So something like the example that I just gave. That it is not found in scripture. You will not find this first century description of mass and the prayers that we use now anywhere in the pages of the bible. Nor will you find the Nicene Creed that is really from the fourth century that almost all Christians today could agree on and many of them profess in their churches, even if they're saying 'sola scriptura, it's only in the bible'. And there's plenty of theology that the Holy Spirit inspired the community of the first three centuries of Christianity after the bible was done being written that is more refined. For instance, the theology of the trinity, and we look at the Nicene Creed and we say 'I believe in God the father almighty the creator of heaven and earth' and all the Christology, meaning the theology of Christ and who Jesus really is: a hundred per cent human, a hundred per cent divine. That is not explicitly in scripture either. And you say, well you can interpret this passage to mean that. Well, okay but once you start saying that then you're throwing sola scriptura out the window and we're interpreting, and we're using the Holy Spirit's help to in our day continue the tradition of revelation ... that God has given us.

So the very premise, Ben is where we start looking at it at least from our point of view as Catholics to say that, ok so any question like that so that the one that you asked about the Pope being the Vicar of Christ or someone might very easily ask well what about some of the doctrines of the Catholic church that you really can't find in the bible. Well what about purgatory? Well what about Mary being immaculate conceived and all that? So all of the answers to those questions ... is the answer that I just gave, which is the Holy Spirit has been informing the Church, inspiring the Church and teaching and reminding us of all that Christ wants us to know until he comes again. That's exactly what Jesus said. He never says, nor does it ever say anywhere in scripture that the only thing you can use is scripture.

If a mandatory document of any society wanted to have exclusive authority it should have a clause in there saying that. Any legal contract is going to say, and nothing else shall supersede this and if it does then this is what happens. Scripture doesn't say that. It certainly does say, and people will use this as a reverse logic, there is one in the letters of the New Testament it says, all scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching ... That's not logically the same as saying therefore only things that are inspired by God are found in scripture. It's the converse of that in fact ... What Jesus said is, I promise you the Holy Spirit. Now Jesus didn't also say, now make sure you have lots of rituals and you have popes and you have bishops and all that ... Jesus wasn't dumb and didn't think that he'd have to give us every little thing wrapped up in a guide book before he left. He gave us a dynamic living guider which is what the Holy Spirit really means: the paraclete ..."


© 2012 Busted Halo®

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of the answer provided. For the complete response download the podcast.

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Show air date: March 9, 2012

Name of show: Should I Become Catholic?

Guest comments by: Fr. Dave Dwyer

Question appeared in show: Entirety of the segment

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