Tradition, What is it? The Transcript of Part 2 of a Series of homilies on Tradition given by Fr. Ripperger.

This content is taken from a series of sermons given by Fr. Chad Ripperger on Sacred Tradition and it is transcribed here by Tony Capobianco.

Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter by Pietro Perugino (1481-82) . Location: Sistine Chapel Collection. This work is in the public domain. {{ PD-US }}

Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter by Pietro Perugino (1481-82) . Location: Sistine Chapel Collection. This work is in the public domain. {{PD-US}}

Permission to transcribe Father’s lecture was sought and permission was granted. The copyright remains that of Sensus Traditionis.

© 2019, Fr. Chad Ripperger - All Rights Reserved. © Sensus Traditionis 

Fr. Ripperger  0:00

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.


Fr. Ripperger  0:03

We continue the series on Tradition. We begin by stating that some authors distinguish from Tradition taken in a broad sense and Tradition taken in the strict sense. So If you recall some distinguish based on author, whether it's God or the apostles or the Church, but this is another way of distinguishing the Tradition which is important. Tradition in the broad sense includes all those things which are passed on in any way whatsoever and this even includes Scripture. Then there is Tradition in the strict sense, which is counter distinguished from Scripture. The import of this distinction is that Tradition taken in the broad sense constitutes everything which the Church passes on in any way.


Fr. Ripperger  0:45

The Tradition in the broad sense ought to be a homogenous whole. In other words, Tradition in  the broad sense is a single thing, a totality passed on to each generation. Even though the distinctions can be made within the Tradition about what can and cannot be changed. Tradition itself has a unity, since all the things of the past are handed on to the next generation, either in practice, in teaching, documents, and monuments. And This brings up the issue of the Magisterium  being bound to those things which are unchangeable, unless there's a sufficient reason for it. In other words, the Tradition is normally not changed. You don't change things. It is unfortunate that the prior generation was handed the Tradition intact, but chose to block it, to not pass it on.


Fr. Ripperger  1:43

So why shouldn't it change? Well, there's certain moral obligations on the side of the Magisterium not to change it. First, “Go and teach all that I have taught you”, this is a divine command. Also Saint Paul said, ”tradidi quod et accepi”, “I have passed on what I have received.” It is not the place of the person to receive it, to modify it and change it and pass it on, unless there is a sufficient reason to do so and that pertains only to those matters, which can be changed.


Fr. Ripperger  2:20

So why don't you  change it? Well Tradition is very similar to law, you don't change it because each time you change it, it erodes the force of the law. This is one of the problems with the fact that so many laws within the Church change, people don't even understand what the laws are. Most people don't even know what the fasting laws are. Most people don't know that they are supposed to abstain from meat EVERY Friday of the year but the moral to the story is that when you change something like that, it tends to erode the force of it (the law), that is the impact it has on people's minds. Changing the little things, the things that can be changed, makes people begin questioning, the bigger things or the more important things that that can't be changed, especially when you're changing a lot of it (laws). I mean, let's face it, they didn't come out of this last generation without the overhaul of everything that could be changed. What this did though is that it left people with the idea that, “Oh, well then everything is subject to change and if they can change it, well why can’t I change it?” This is a serious problem. Now you've got because it eroded the force of the concept of Tradition and the fact that we're bound to it morally... now you've got an entire generation of people who think that they're not bound to the Tradition, and they can change it as they will. This is a serious problem.


Fr. Ripperger  2:27

It's also against piety, to constantly change everything. Why? Because it's a rejection of the work of our forefathers. They've labored, they were passed the Tradition,  they passed it on intact, and  then they added to the Tradition things which would make it easier for us to understand the Tradition, accept it, and practice it. And by overhauling it, it's a form of rejection. It's like being disobedient, but not exactly. But it shows a lack of reference for those who went before us and the work that they did. This is clearly seen in the dismantling of the monuments. I mean, the fact that they gutted Churches was a sign that they had really no respect for those who went before them and the sacrifices they made for us.


Fr. Ripperger  3:58

It’s also a matter of justice, not to change the Tradition unless absolutely necessary. Why? Because you're depriving the baptized of those things which could help them, ie. the richness of the monuments and the perfections of these things aided people's spiritual lives. And by gutting them, it actually caused it to be more difficult for those who followed them to be able to accept the Tradition and to practice it faithfully.


Fr. Ripperger  5:00

It's also against Charity. If you love your neighbor, you want to make sure that they receive the Tradition as full as possible, to maximize the ease of their salvation. Gutting the Tradition has made it hard on all of us to save our souls. It has made it extremely difficult, but it also ravages the affections people have for the things of the Faith to which they have become attached. In other words people’s devotional life is wrapped up in these things and when they're ravaged like that, how's that charitable to the people that have this affection for these things that are rightly ordered? It cannot be interpreted as anything other than sinful. It cannot.


Fr. Ripperger  5:45

Then there is also the sin of presumption involved in it all. To act over the Tradition and even to overhaul it and constantly changing it, even in small matters as if it's a your discretion is presumption. They don't know what God's full intent and will is regarding these matters. You know I tell people, gutting the Tradition and making the liturgical changes, this is particularly the case in the liturgy, is analogous to opening the hood of a car and looking inside. You look inside, there's all these wires, hoses, and various other things... you don’t have a clue about what they're there for and how they function but you decide you don't like it, because there's too much of it. So you start pulling the wires out. And then you wonder why the car won’t run. This is what happened in the last forty years. So what’s the moral of the story? Don’t presume that you know what you’re doing. Leave it alone. If you don't know why it's there, don’t touch it. To touch it is the sin of presumption, pure and simple. This means therefore that those who pass on the Tradition have an obligation to be selfless, and pass it on intact. I pass on what I have received, not, “I pass on what I like, or what I think, or etc.” The Tradition isn't  about us, it's  about God and the salvation of souls.


Fr. Ripperger  7:12

There's an author who distinguishes between ecclesiastical Tradition and human tradition. The human tradition can only produce human certitude. Human certitude increases and decreases with time, and can fail entirely. The ecclesiastical Tradition on the other hand, is human in so far as it is something which is the hands of man such as the monuments and things of that sort. But It is something far higher than mere human tradition. It is higher because the means of transmission is Christ’s Church which is directed by the Holy Ghost. The value of ecclesiastical Tradition does not depend on the number of witnesses as does human tradition. Nor does ecclesiastical Tradition rely on the person's learning, who passes something on. Rather the value of ecclesiastical Tradition is based upon the rank of the various persons in the Church and the assistance of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost and the rank of various persons teaching something or passing something on constitutes the basis of certitude of that part of the Tradition which they pass on.


Fr. Ripperger  8:04

The authenticity of the testimony of ecclesiastical Tradition remains at every point in the history of Tradition. In other words, ecclesiastical Tradition will always be passed on with the assistance of the Holy Ghost until the end of time. This gives us a certain amount of Hope. Sometimes you get Traditionalists who run around panicking and despairing. Don’t worry about it, it will get passed on. It doesn't mean that it's going to get passed on to everybody. Yet it must be admitted that the human element in the Tradition modifies the perfection of the Tradition, while all of those things necessary for salvation will ALWAYS be available to every generation. There can be a break in the ecclesiastical Tradition in its continuity and universality, in which a temporary partial eclipse of truth is possible regarding the Tradition.


Fr. Ripperger  8:54

What's this mean? It means that it is possible for a time that a portion of the Deposit of Faith may not be known, or acknowledged by the whole Church. In other words it’s possible for a number of the members of the magisterium to not understand, know, or even deny part of the Tradition. I want to expressly understand or distinctly attest to it by the leading organs of Tradition. In other words they themselves may not pass it on clearly but this is important because this tells us, especially today in a time of confusion and a time in which many members of the Magisterium, we must sadly admit, are at least material heretics, or at best grossly ignorant of the Faith that in point and fact it is still there, it is still available and we can receive it.


Fr. Ripperger  9:45

But this understanding that there can be an eclipse guards against what is sometimes called ”Papa Latria”, in other words, this I mentioned in a prior homily, there are those who run around practically giving worship to the Pope as they think that everything that he says is Gospel. They see that he (the Pope) sneezes and they think that they’d better write that down. You know, this is not what the Church envisions. This is why understanding exactly when the Pope is infallible, when the bishops in union with him are infallible, is so important. And it’s also important to know when and to what degree of certitude his teachings actually have. This also safeguards against sedevacantism as I mentioned.


Fr. Ripperger  10:31

The essential integrity, continuity, and universality of the oral Tradition, as required by the infallibility and indefectability of the Church and is modified by the imperfections of the human element are subject to the following laws. In other words, some  things are changeable, some things aren't. Of those things which are changeable we have to see okay, what are the laws that govern that? When can they change? What things can change?


Fr. Ripperger  10:58

First, nothing can be taught as part of the apostolic Tradition that is coming from the apostles which is not truly part of the apostolic Tradition. Apostolic Tradition here means all of those things necessary for salvation, which were handed on by God, either in the person of Christ, or revealed to the apostles by God as pertaining to salvation. In this sense the eclipse of the ecclesiastical Tradition does not admit of a loss of the passing on of those things necessary for salvation. Each and every generation until the end of time will be passed on all those things necessary for salvation. But, this does not mean that everyone in the Church will know everything for salvation but that the whole of those teachings necessary for salvation will be passed on in perpetuity until the end. This also means that the Magisterium itself will be passed on intact until the end of time.


Fr. Ripperger  12:01

What does that mean? It means that those who hold that basically the Pope and all the bishops in union with him are in heresy and therefore do not have the offices which they they hold, deny that there's a Magisterium. Why? Because the Magisterium is part of jurisdiction, which has to be passed on by those in the Magisterium. Well if there’s been a block or a break in the Magisterium and that basically none of  the bishops now have jurisdiction, because the sedevacantist bishops don't have jurisdiction, that means that in point and fact the Tradition has failed.  This is an absolute heresy. There's absolutely no way around that.


Fr. Ripperger  12:43

Second, the essential and necessary truths will always be expressly taught, admitted and handed down by the Church. It does not mean that every single Pope, Bishop, priest or teacher will do so. It merely means that the Church as a whole will pass on the whole of the teachings necessary for salvation to each and every generation. It is possible that the truth becomes so obscured that not all of the members of the Church will know and profess all the teachings of the Church or that only a few will know. This teaching is assured for us in a period of ecclesiastical doctrinal obscurity. Even if there's a lack of clarity in various parts of the Church regarding the authentic teachings of the Church, nevertheless the teachings are available. Many of them (the Authentic Teachings) available in the monuments; that is in books and things of this sort.  The unfortunate part of the obscurity is that many faithful are led into error. There can be a variety of factors which can cause the obscurity but in either case, the Magisterium must do everything possible, to teach with the greatest clarity possible and to seek to pass on the Deposit to every member of the Church by catechetical instruction and to those outside the Church by means of evangelization. Now therein lies the rub. There has been a systematic violation of the virtue of supernatural prudence by the obscurity of teaching in documents coming out of the Magisterium. And it’s also against Charity because Charity seeks the salvation of people's souls and what's best for them. By making things obscure, so people don't know what's going on isn't helping people, it is harmful to their spiritual lives.


Fr. Ripperger  14:28

But it's also against prudence. Why? Well, it's false, it’s human prudence, in fact it’s carnal prudence to  honestly think that well, “if we tone these things down then maybe we can get the Protestants in (The Church)”, and this is ludicrous. The fact of the matter is that people convert when the doctrines of the Church are made clear to them. Faith comes through preaching. Obscuring things isn't preaching and therefore they're not going to convert. This isn't helping matters. This is contrary to supernatural prudence. They've got to stop it and start teaching more clearly.


Fr. Ripperger  15:06

There are two basis of certitude for something from Tradition. One is duration. If it has always been taught and it is a matter of the Faith as St. Vincent of Lérins says, sometimes called Vincentian Canon, “Ubique, semper, ab omnibus” or in English, “Everywhere, always, and by all.” If something has always been taught, everywhere and by all, in that we're talking about those that are in union with the Holy Father who are orthodox, then it is in point and fact, infallible and we know for a certainty that it cannot be changed.


Fr. Ripperger  15:46

What's an example of that? That you cannot engage in Communicatio in Sacris with non Catholics. You cannot even pray with non Catholics. This has been taught everywhere, and by all the Fathers of the Church all the way up to and in point and  fact, the Church Herself  said that this was an infallible teaching pertaining to the natural law and the divine positive law, was irreformable and NO ONE could dispense from it. Priests aren’t teaching that anymore. 


Fr. Ripperger  16:08

The foundation for holding for the second (basis of certitude) is authoritative definition. The foundation for holding for some truth from Tradition is fourfold; 1.) If the Tradition is universal regarding the doctrine, it is a matter of Faith. 2.) If it is authoritatively defined, it is a matter of the Faith. The authoritative definition is passed on by the ecclesiastical Tradition becomes an irreformable, that is, an unchangeable and irrevocable, in other words, you can't take it back; becomes part of it (the Tradition) in that way. 3.) Non-authoritative teachings become part of the Tradition and their certitude is based upon the rank of those who teach it. For example, if several Pope's have taught something then that is more authoritative than a bishop. 4.) Lastly, the longer the Tradition, the greater certitude of its truth. Why? Because we come back to my observation in a prior homily, the longer it's around the more we know it’s God's will, the more we know it's true because God will not allow error to persist in the Church over its duration. The longer it's there, the more certain we can be that God recognizes this truth. The Tradition is beautiful but we have to come to knowledge of it if we're ever going to be able to fully appreciate that beauty.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen.

© 2019, Fr. Chad Ripperger - All Rights Reserved. 

© Sensus Traditionis 

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Part 2 of the tradition sermons where Father explains what is tradition. What can be changed & what cannot?