by Fr. Chad Ripperger, F.S.S.P. - Spring 2001
Because God Himself entrusted the Deposit of Faith to the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church is inherently traditional. Since all men by nature desire to know,3 the Church cannot help but develop an ecclesiastical tradition. Once man was given the Deposit of Faith, he naturally reflected upon the Deposit resulting in a greater understanding of it. That understanding was then passed on. This also means that the Church herself would pass judgment upon the Deposit in magisterial acts and these magisterial acts become part of the ecclesiastical tradition. The ecclesiastical tradition, therefore, was formed over the course of time, in the life of the Church throughout the twenty centuries of its existence. This also indicates that one must distinguish between that which pertains to the Deposit and that which does not. The Church sometimes passes judgment on the Deposit of Faith in order to clarify the teaching contained within the Deposit for the good of the Church, such as when Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. Other magisterial acts are merely extrinsic to the Deposit of Faith and do not necessarily point to anything within the Deposit, but which may be connected to the Deposit in some way. This would include some ordinary magisterial acts as well as matters of discipline. However, more is contained in ecclesiastical tradition than just the acts of the Magisterium.
The first principle was the Deposit of Faith itself. Catholics used teachings within the Deposit to develop schools of spirituality, Church discipline and legislation, as well as all of the other things that pertain to ecclesiastical tradition. Since the teaching of Christ must govern the life of the Church, it was necessary for any authentic extrinsic tradition (e.g., canon law) to be consistent with those teachings. Anything that was contrary to the teachings contained in the Deposit caused the Church great affliction but over time was cut off from the life of the Church. Here we have in mind those who develop heterodox teachings of their own (heresies), as well as spiritualities and customs which are contrary to the teachings of the Church.
[M]odern thought, with a jealous susceptibility, considers the notion of immanence as the very condition of philosophizing; that is to say, if among current ideas there is one which it regards as marking a definitive advance, it is the idea, which is at bottom perfectly true, that nothing can enter into a man’s mind which does not come out of him and correspond in some way to a need for expansion and that there is nothing in the nature of historical or traditional teaching or obligation imposed from without that counts for him.…”5