The role of tradition in modern ecclesiological problems

Mara Colette Kelly-Zukowski, Fordham University


In many debates over ecclesiological issues in the Church today implicit, if not explicit, appeals to Traditions are made. Seldom, however, is adequate attention paid to the precise understanding of Tradition which is being invoked. It is my contention that dialogue between participants in these debates could be aided by a greater focus on their underlying notions of Tradition.^ The first goal of this study is to present various modern views of Tradition which have grown out of either compliance or contrast with official Magisterial pronouncements. Chapter One discusses the Church's evolving understanding of Tradition as presented in official Magisterial pronouncements leading up to and culminating in Vatican II. The second goal is to highlight the limitations of the distinction recently drawn between the "constitutive" understanding of Tradition (which holds that Tradition sometimes provides us with doctrines which are not necessarily stated within Scripture, but which are certainly in conformity with it) and the "interpretive" view (which holds that Scripture must provide an explicit or implicit source for all that is contained within Tradition). Chapter Two focuses on the work of German theologian Hans Kung to illustrate the "interpretive" position. In Chapter Three I employ the thought of Karl Rahner (whom Kung labels "constitutive") to show how each of these views relies on differing understandings of the nature and method of revelation, the function of dogma, etc. The third goal is to posit an understanding of a hierarchy of truths within Tradition as crucial to the question of Tradition's normative value, especially in light of the evidence that some authentic church teachings have been changed. In Chapter Four I propose Scripture, reception, and a distinction between secundum se and in ordine as alia truths as criteria for establishing this hierarchy. The fourth goal is to show how a deeper understanding of Tradition might be instrumental in bringing both sides in some modern ecclesiological conflicts to a point of dialogue. In Chapter Five the issue of an exclusively male ministerial priesthood is analyzed in light of the appeals to Tradition which are invoked and the variant understanding of Tradition which underlie the debate. ^

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Recommended Citation

Kelly-Zukowski, Mara Colette, "The role of tradition in modern ecclesiological problems" (1995). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9520618.