This is the sort of thing that makes me nervous about Catholicism: the Touchstone magazine blog includes a comment today on the Reflections on Covenant and Mission put out by the bishops’ committee not long ago. The comment points out that in a recent piece in America members of the committee that wrote the report dealt with inconsistencies between that document and statements in Paul and Hebrews by claiming “The magisterium can explicitly contradict an idea of an individual New Testament author because the Catholic tradition is one of commentary, not of sola scriptura (Scripture alone).”
To my mind the justification for accepting the authority of the Church is that it is the guardian of what it has received. It seems to me that view makes the Church a liberating force that proclaims truths that don’t depend on any of us and not a tyranny that binds us to accept whatever the dominant faction in the hierarchy, or those who claim expert knowledge, see fit to tell us. I thought that the traditional view was that public revelation ceased with the death of the last of the apostles, and that legitimate “development” of doctrine is not a matter of legislating new truths but making explicit what was already and has always in substance been believed. If that is so it ought to be visibly so. To the extent such a view of the mission of the Church is obscured it becomes harder to recognize in the Roman Catholic Church its legitimate authority.