I am currently trying to better understand the Catholic teachings of tradition’s role in establishing doctrine. What seems odd to me is that the writings of the church fathers differ in doctrinal position (such as views on universalism). How does the Church curate these father’s views and how do the ideas of their authority or infallibility relate?


1 Answer 1


The Catholic Church believes it has been appointed by God through its teaching magisterium to faithfully define Tradition out of many traditions.

Tradition [with a capital T] is to be distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical or devotional traditions, born in the local churches over time. These are the particular forms, adapted to different places and times, in which the great Tradition is expressed. In the light of Tradition, these traditions can be retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church's Magisterium. -CCC 83-

It exercises this authority via bishops in communion with itself.

85 "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ."47 This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome. -CCC 85-

The Magisterium will define on a "serious scale" from mere beliefs to binding dogmas with the latter the most important and required of their faithful.

88 The Church's Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes, in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence of faith, truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes, in a definitive way, truths having a necessary connection with these. -CCC 88-

So, to answer the OP, yes there have been numerous different traditions in church history with some directly descending from apostles. A clear example is the doctrinal differences between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. But by believing that God has appointed itself the arbiter of truth, the Catholic Church is the decider of those traditions that are Tradition.

95 "It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls." -CCC 95-

This arrangement insures the Catholic Church's belief in its infallibility.

  • They are infallible because they say so? Commented Feb 27, 2022 at 18:11
  • @MikeBorden well, they do believe God has appointed what was originally the church at Rome to define Tradition and Scripture. The old on this rock argument. Tertullian has a great argument against that, but as it was only a tradition (opinion), then it may decide Tradition says elsewise. Still, it is very careful to narrowly define infallibility, but there have been questionable decisions. Pope Honorius. Baptism by heretics. Easter. And of course as noted, the Orthodox and Protestant Churchs certainly reject its claims and interpretations.
    – SLM
    Commented Feb 27, 2022 at 23:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .