Before I really get into the bulk of what I want to type, I want to quote what the catechism has to say concerning tradition.
78 This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through Tradition, “the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes.” “The sayings of the holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer.”
It has become a common trend for most digruntled Catholics to view the past as a time in which Catholicism was truly being guided by God. This can be seen in the groups such as the Society of St. Pius X, the Old Catholics, and Holy Roman Empire eccentrics. People are starting to affiliate what true Catholics teachings are with specific individuals, secular entities, or even specific councils. To be more direct towards the eccentrics, they tend to assert that the Church is lacking due to not having a strong secular arm. I say this is wrong considering that the Church holds to the belief that the Christian faith is being guided by the Holy Spirit towards truth. Due to the Holy Spirit, it can be said that “the gates of Hades will not overcome it [The Church]” (Matt. 16:18).
To assert that a particular time was more “Catholics” or more “Christian” than the present, one is endorsing the belief that the Holy Spirit was more present in a particular time than it was in another. Catholic apologist Adrian Fortescue confidently believed that it is absurd to think in such a way. He even went so far as to say that idealizing the past is more detremental to the faith as Sola Scriptura. As he writes in The Early Papacy, “we have exactly the same confidence in the divine guidance of the Church in 1870 as in 451”.
Fortescue was dealing with a time when a group within the Anglicans were interested in returning back to Rome on the condition that they be permitted to have a older more “accurate” view of the papacy. What they considered to be an accurate view was the one held by the Synod of Chalcedon in 451. Romanized Anglicans wanted an authentic constitutional papacy that once guided the Church ages ago. This is in contrast to the statements of papal infallibility made during Vatican I during 1868-70. Catholics, in response, began delving into the old records of the Church in order to find documentation in support of Vatican I’s statements on the papacy. Fortescue, on the other hand, moves away from the search for ancient vindicating documents. Instead, he focuses on the teaching that the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church in the same way it has always guided the Church. Doctrines in the year 1870 are just as guarded by the Spirit as those in 451. For it is taught that the Holy Spirit is the agent in which grace is bestowed upon the Church so that it can teach infallibly. The Catholic Catechism states:
"737 The mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit is brought to completion in the Church, which is the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. This joint mission henceforth brings Christ’s faithful to share in his communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit prepares men and goes out to them with his grace, in order to draw them to Christ. The Spirit manifests the risen Lord to them, recalls his word to them and opens their minds to the understanding of his Death and Resurrection. He makes present the mystery of Christ, supremely in the Eucharist, in order to reconcile them, to bring them into communion with God, that they may “bear much fruit.”’
To conclude this rather short note, I just want to say that, regardless of any ambiguous side effects to councils or events, Christ made a guarantee that the Church would not be overcome by Satan. As such, it becomes apparent that Fortescue is right in asserting that the teachings of the Church are as true in the present as it was in the past. The Church is not the Church of Augustine, Aquinas, Tertullian, John Paul II, or any man. It is the Church instituted by Christ, watched over by the Father, and guided on its mission by the Holy Spirit.
Peace be to you all. Have a truly uplifting Lent.