Suppose you were told you needed to give up access to two of the following for the rest of your life:
1. The Bible
2. Catholic tradition
3. A priest
Which of these two would you give up?
The answer should be obvious. You don't need a Bible or knowledge of any Catholic tradition to go to Heaven. But you do need a priest. You need him for confession. You need him so that you can participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and receive the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. You need him to administer the anointing of the sick when you are near death. You may be blessed to need him at your wedding. And you need him to bless you, your loved ones, and your belongings.
You also need him to guide you in how you should walk, to answer your questions about the faith, to help form your conscience.
Knowledge of the Bible and Catholic tradition is certainly good and helpful. They can help you grow and understand the faith better. But you don't strictly need them to go to Heaven or even to live a holy life. Millions of Catholics throughout history have lived holy lives and gone to Heaven simply by following the guidance of their local priests. There is no saint known for whipping out a copy of a church council's decree and quarreling with his priest about it.
When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He did not leave behind a copy of the Bible (Old or New Testament). He did not drop down a copy of Denzinger, or a list of dogmas for Peter to pass to his successors. He left behind men. No New Testament. No tradition. Just eleven men with no special training or education, no degrees or knowledge of philosophy. The entire world, every future generation, was entrusted to these eleven men and their successors.
This is where our salvation lies. In the pastors that Jesus Christ has set over His Church. All we need to do is follow them. Anything that leads us away from them is leading us to Hell.
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