2cornucopias

Preservation of Catholic Heritage

In 13 History on 2014/11/07 at 12:00 AM

The Apostolic and Nicean Fathers preserved the original teachings of Jesus Christ which he gave to the Apostles and are abiding witnesses to this teaching, also referred to as “Sacred Tradition.”  Together, Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are primary and foundational to Christian Doctrine.  Both flow from the same source: Christ.

Sacred Tradition predates the Church Fathers; the Fathers did not invent Sacred Tradition, but are simply “timely witnesses” to Sacred Tradition which comes from Christ Himself.  To know the Church Fathers is to know Truth. The Fathers teach with authority and are witnesses to the unbroken continuity of Church teaching.

It’s interesting to note that the early Church Fathers did not include their own writings in the canon of Sacred Scripture.  Rather, they included only the writings of Christ’s apostles up to the writings of John.

What the Apostles and Church Fathers warned the Early Church of still holds true today.  Paul warned that heretical teachers would pervert Scripture.  Augustine explained that heresies would arise through Scripture being misunderstood properly.  Essentially, heresy is stressing certain passages of Scripture more or to the exclusion of other passages, interpreting Scripture at will and losing sight of the unity that exists in Scripture.  In short, heresy can occur when Scripture is interpreted or misinterpreted out of context of the cannon of Scripture in its entirety.

John Henry Newman wrote of  ideas or concepts that begot heresies in his day and which still spawn heresies now:

1. That truth and falsehood in religion are but a matter of opinion;

2. That one doctrine is as good as another;

3. That God does not intend we should gain the truth;

4. That there is no truth;

5. That we are not more acceptable to God by believing one thing than by believing another;

6. That no one is answerable for his opinions;

7. That they are a matter of necessity or accident;

8. That it is enough if we sincerely hold what we profess;

9. That our merit lies in seeking not possessing;

10. That it is a duty to follow what seems to us true, without a fear lest it should not be true;

11. That it may be a gain to succeed, and can be no harm or fail;

12. That we may take up and lay down opinions at pleasure;

13. That belief belongs to the mere intellect, not to the heart and will also; and

14. That we may safely trust to ourselves in matters of Faith, and need no other guide.

Unfortunately, Luther and Calvin originally cited the Church Fathers in justifying their interpretations, but, by emphasizing the doctrine of “Scripture alone,” they explicitly excluded the teachings of the Fathers of the Church.

St. Vincent of Lerins summed it up in a formula: “The Truth is what has been taught everywhere, always, and by all.   Blessed John Henry Newman, described the nature of their testimony more analytically: “The Fathers  do not say, ‘This is true because we see it in Scripture’ – about which there might be differences in judgment- but, “this is true because in matters of fact it is held, and has ever been held, by all the churches down to our times, without interruption, ever since the Apostles.” Newman maintained that “the Church teaches that the ‘common doctrine of the Fathers’ may not be opposed.”  He further wrote that this “consensus of the Fathers” is best discerned by the living Magisterium of the Church.

The First Vatican Council (1869-70) confirmed the decision of the Council of Trent (1545-63) saying that “it is not permissible for anyone to interpret Holy Scripture in a sense contrary to this, or indeed against the unanimous consent of the Fathers.”  Newman was cited consistently in discussions during Vatican II discussions.

It was after reading the writings of the Church Fathers that Newman himself, Oxford’s famous Anglican divine, became a Catholic.  In his “Apologia Pro Vita Sua”, he states: “I looked into the mirror, and I saw myself an Arian.”

Researching the writings of the Church Fathers may also lead you to a new home, a new Church.

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