Authority has to do with an ability—the ability to be carefully listened to, the ability to produce a discourse that is persuasive. Real authority is therefore not enforced, but recognised. Catholics acknowledge that authority has to be transmitted and exercised through human organisation in succession, otherwise the original essence, the truth, would be lost. The transmission of this authority is what we call tradition.

Tradition is handed on and regenerated from generation to generation — bishops, Church Councils, and the women and men considered Doctors of the Church are not the sole responsible for this, but also people who have been ordained or have taken religious vows as well as every layperson. It includes Scripture, whose New Testament was written within the Church, whose canon was decided within her as well, but also other writings, doctrines, forms of devotion and liturgy, stories and images. Tradition therefore has to do fundamentally with memory. The most important role of the Church is to preserve memory. Her authority is rooted in the past of our present, in the ground that we stand on, in that which allows us to realise who we are as believers. There is beauty and splendour in this.

This tradition and memory is the tradition and memory of a community. In contrast with other churches and denominations, the Catholic Church is not a gathering of people who answer to a personal call. It is a community that you join or are born into. Each one of her members is unique and different, which makes for a diverse group that is bound together by the experience of the Divine in Christ.