Misconception: Catholic’s base their beliefs on tradition and don’t really read the Bible.
True Catholic Teaching: The teaching authority of the Catholic Church is obtained both from Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Magesterium. The Magesterium is the teaching authority of the Church comprised of the Church’s Bishops, led by the Pope to interpret the truths of the Faith. Catholics believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. It is a gift from God that reveals His great plan of salvation for us all. However, since it was written by humans at a specific time and in a specific place, Catholics do not believe that everything we need to know about God is contained in the pages of Scripture. As John says at the end of his Gospel, “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.” The Catholic Church’s Traditions are those things that the Apostles witnessed and handed down by word of mouth and by example over the years, but were not recorded in the final version of the Bible.
The idea of sola scriptura is one that is very prevalent in Protestant denominations. Sola scriptura is the notion that scripture alone is the foundation of faith, and contains all revealed truth in Christianity. A common misconception that Protestants hold is that since Catholics do not believe in sola scriptura, we therefore do not know the bible, and do not promote the importance of reading and applying the teachings of sacred scripture to our lives. However, this understanding of Catholicism is not correct.
Again, the teaching authority of the Catholic Church is obtained both from Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Magesterium. Protestants tend to overlook the importance of Sacred Tradition in an effort to hold scripture as their sole basis of faith. Catholics do observe Sacred Scripture with high importance, as it is the inspired word of God. It is actually through the eyes of apostolic Tradition that scripture can be most fully understood, because they are so closely tied. The Second Vatican Council on Divine Revelation, says:
“Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end.”
The composition of the New Testament in fact, was not begun until nearly two decades after Christ’s death, and the books were slowly completed during the span of about fifty years. During this time, Christianity was based solely on tradition. That is, the teachings that were passed down from Christ’s apostles, which were received from the lips of Jesus, or through divine revelation or inspiration. The Second Vatican Council on Divine Revelation, says:
“For sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit. To the successors of the apostles, sacred Tradition hands on in its full purity God’s word, which was entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit.”
Christ instituted His Church as the authentic authority to interpret scripture, and to transmit, instruct, and explain the essential tenets of Christianity. It is in this way that the teaching authority of the Catholic Church utilizes both Sacred Scripture as well as Sacred Tradition to guide the faithful.