Okay, so, I was reading some articles, and I happened across one which mentioned decrees by the Council of Trent and the first Vatican Council, which state that noone, even the Roman Catholic Church herself, is to teach anything which is contrary to the “unanimous consent of the Fathers”.
Now, the overall gist I got from this is that if the “Fathers” expressed an opinion in a particular fashion, then Rome cannot contradict that. I had a few specific questions…
In English, the word unanimous literally means to be of one mind. Such inherantly implies being without division and being in total agreement with one another on this concept. However, I’ve heard that Roman Catholics do not hold to this interpretation of the word unanimous. So, could someone please provide for me a Roman Catholic view on this phraseology?
Additionally, can someone explain how such an interpretation does not in fact contradict these facts…
- Unanimity requires that noone is in disagreement. I’ve not seen a single doctrine which hasn’t had at least one detractor to it among the early fathers.
- Moreover, for the fathers to have been unanimous on a subject, silence cannot be assumed as being in agreement with a particular view. This itself discounts unanimity, for I know of almost no issue on which every church father spoke at all.
- Seeming agreement on certain points of a doctrine cannot be construed as agreement on the whole of a doctrine.
- It seems to me that something which may or may not have been done in the past is the declaration of a chruch father as a heretic whenever his teachings began to disagree with Rome. How do we objectively determine who these early fathers are?
A prime example of the early fathers not being in unanimous consent on a subject is the primacy of Peter (and by extension, the papacy). Origen wrote that Peter was the rock, and from that, Roman Catholics often cite two or three sentences to say that Origen fully supported the modern doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. However, a closer inspection (of Origen’s Commentary on Matthew) shows us that he in fact taught that Peter was blessed, was the rock, had the keys, and the power to bind and loose, because of his faith. Further, Origen states that anyone who likewise has such a faith as Peter had, can also be called the same – blessed, having all the power, authority, and promises that were given to Peter. This is clearly not in coordination with the current dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church.
(Note, here I would like to stay out of scripture and dogma, and simply focus on the meaning of “unanimous consent”, and then apply that to the early fathers and see what we get.)