Is Sacred Tradition “Inspired”? No; Only Sacred Scripture Is

Is Sacred Tradition “Inspired”? No; Only Sacred Scripture Is October 8, 2019
I received the following question from a friend, and replied to it:
Your “dialogue” vs. James White contained this back-and-forth:
WHITE: Now this assertion of a second inspired source of God’s truth has led, I feel, to some tremendously false beliefs.
ME: We don’t believe that tradition and Church proclamations are ‘inspired” but rather, infallible and authoritative / binding under certain carefully specified conditions. This is a surprising mistake from White on an elementary matter.
Fr. Mitch Pacwa disagrees with you:
In a [1999] debate between White and Fr. Pacwa on Sola Scriptura [ time: 1:00:50, cross examination section], White asked Fr. Pacwa, whether oral tradition is inspired, and Fr. Pacwa replied: 1. It has not been defined, 2. He thinks it is inspired even though there is some difference.
My comment/question:
I have always thought that tradition was inspired indeed. My understanding is that the Word of God is transmitted via two modes – Scripture and tradition – therefore, both Scripture and tradition are inspired. According to 2 Thessalonians 2:15 we should “hold fast to the teachings apostles passed on to us, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” If what was passed by letter is inspired, why what was passed by mouth not? It seems inconsistent to me. Could you comment on that please and give some resources you think support your claim, and could you comment on Fr. Pacwa´s reply? Thanks.
My reply follows:
Dei Verbum [Vatican II] refers only to Holy Scripture as inspired — never to Sacred Tradition: as you can see by searching “inspir” in that document.
For example:

9. 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. For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence. (6)

[Dave: the above explains the distinction best, in my opinion]

11. Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself. (1)

18. . . . The Church has always and everywhere held and continues to hold that the four Gospels are of apostolic origin. For what the Apostles preached in fulfillment of the commission of Christ, afterwards they themselves and apostolic men, under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, handed on to us in writing: the foundation of faith, namely, the fourfold Gospel, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. (1)

20. Besides the four Gospels, the canon of the New Testament also contains the epistles of St. Paul and other apostolic writings, composed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, . . . 

With regard to Fr. Pacwa (whom I greatly admire and respect), he was correct in saying that apostolic tradition can be referred to as the “word of God” because that phrase is used in a wider sense than Scripture alone in Scripture (see, e.g., many instances of prophets speaking the “word of God” or “word of the Lord”).
But I think he was sloppy in applying the term “inspired” to sacred Tradition, because it is a technical term referring to direct guidance by God of Holy Scripture as divine revelation, which is “God-breathed” (theopneustos, as White noted, and often rightly notes).
I believe that if you wrote to Fr. Pacwa and especially highlighted the above portions of Dei Verbum, that he would correct himself, and concede that he misspoke: as we all do at times. If not, I’d be very curious to see what he says, in light of what I have produced.
Likewise, Catholic Encyclopedia, “Inspiration of the Bible” never applies inspiration to Sacred Tradition.
And again, the Catholic Catechism in referring to inspiration, applies it solely to the Bible, not tradition (search “inspir” in the following section). The phrase “inspired tradition” never appears in it. See also:
CCC 81 “Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.”42
“And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching.”43
The same is found also in the latest edition of Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum: Compendium of Creeds, Definitions, and Declarations on Matters of Faith and Morals (43rd edition: San Francisco: Ignatius, 2012, edited in part by my good friend, Dr. Robert Fastiggi).
In the Index of Persons and Subjects (p. 1373), it has “Inspiration: of Sacred Scripture, A3bb . . . “
When we go to that section (starting on p. 1192), we find:
3. The Tradition of God’s Revelation
a. The Nature of the Tradition
The notion or characteristic of “Inspiration” never appears in this section, excepting a reference to “the inspired books” (i.e., Scripture).
b. Sacred Scripture
Here (pp. 1193-1195) we see a paragraph specifically devoted to “Inspiration” (of Scripture), and several other references.


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Photo credit: Pete unseth (11-28-09): Set of scrolls comprising the entire Tanakh [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication]

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