Surprises in Church History (PART II)
In Protestant circles, it is not uncommon to hear believers voicing their praise of St. Augustine’s theology but their skepticism of Catholic theology. Many are genuinely unaware that St. Augustine was a Catholic – a Catholic who was in harmony with the Catholics of his own day as well as the Catholics of today.
St. Augustine was a Catholic priest who preached that truthful doctrine was assured only by the Church whose bishops were direct successors of the Apostles; the Church whose chief bishop (pope) was a direct successor of St. Peter. The Catholic Church.
In fact, St. Augustine himself was a bishop in those same lines of succession from the Apostles that all Catholic bishops remain in today. His mentor, Ambrose of Milan, was also a bishop in those same lines of succession from the Apostles. Like every other Church Father, St. Augustine and St. Ambrose preached the authority of the Catholic Church on doctrinal and moral issues.
St. Augustine was a priest who celebrated the Sacrifice of the Mass, prayed for the dead, urged people to confess their sins to a priest, and warned that mortal sin would cause a person to lose salvation. Christians who repented and received forgiveness, St. Augustine said, would need to do penance.
St. Augustine, who helped the Catholic Church figure out which books were inspired and should be in the Bible, believed the Bible taught that the Body and Blood of Christ were truly present in the Eucharist; that Christians needed to eat and drink the Flesh and Blood of Christ for spiritual life. In fact, the Church Fathers unanimously held of the view of St. Augustine on the Eucharist (which continues to be the teaching of the Catholic Church). St. Augustine, like all other Church Fathers, taught that sins were forgiven in Baptism; that Baptism was regenerative.
St. Augustine said no Christian should question the fact that the Blessed Mother was without sin.
The first 178 pages of the book The Faith of the Early Fathers (Vol. 3) are devoted to quote after quote penned by St. Augustine himself.
The CHURCH FATHERS as a group.
Once a Protestant Christian comes to the realization that St. Augustine was profoundly Catholic, he or she still might assume that the rest of the Church Fathers were more Protestant in their beliefs. But what becomes evident is that every single Church Father was radically Catholic. For example, all respected the authority of the one Church and believed a person could lose his salvation.
Every single Church Father believed the bread really became the Body of Christ. Every single Church Father looked to the authority of the Catholic Church for truthful teaching. Not one Church Father (nor one Christian individual) endorsed the interpreting of Scripture apart from the Church united to Rome.
Every single one received their doctrines through the Apostles and their direct successors. Clement of Rome? This bishop of Rome was one of the first few successors of St. Peter. St. Irenaeus? He proved heretics were heretics by demonstrating their leaders were not direct successors of Apostles.
St Ignatius of Antioch? This bishop of Antioch knew the Apostles personally, was the first to use the term "the Catholic Church" in writing. He also upheld the Real Presence of the Eucharist and wrote that the Church in Rome "held of the presidency" of all the churches that made up the Catholic Church.
St. Jerome? He, too, believed Christians, by definition, must be in union with the pope: "I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but your blessedness [Pope Damasus I], that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built" (Letters 15:2 [396 A.D.]).
Strikingly, most of the significant Church Fathers were bishops themselves in the exact lines of succession that every bishop of the Catholic Church remains today. The term "Apostolic Succession" means every bishop of the Church must have been ordained through the laying on of hands by a bishop ordained in the same manner . . . going all the way back to the College of Apostles. It was a "non-negotiable" teaching of the Early Church. It remains a non-negotiable doctrine of the Catholic Church today.
THE HALF-BROTHER THEORY . . .
One modern Protestant theory that has gained popularity in recent decades is that Jesus had younger half-brothers (everyone knows Jesus did not have full brothers since Joseph was not his biological father).
However, documents from early Christianity clearly demonstrate that the “brethren of Christ” (a phrase in the Bible) was NOT interpreted as biological half-brothers. In fact, the early Church considered it heresy to even suggest such a thing.
In fact, even 1500 years after Christ’s death and resurrection, Martin Luther AND John Calvin and Uhlrich Zwingli (the 16th century Reformers themselves) still held the Catholic view that Mary was a life-long Virgin ("Ever Virgin").
Who exactly were the "brethren" of Christ who were mentioned in the Bible? St. Jerome himself said the brethren of Christ could NOT POSSIBLY refer to blood brothers. Note that St. Jerome is known as the "Father of Biblical Science.”
Jerome believed the word “brethren” referred to cousins of Jesus. Still, other historical documents suggest the "brethren" could be step-brothers of Jesus (children Joseph had before he was widowed (if he was widowed) and before he married Mary). I, personally, would suggest that cousins is the most likely meaning, especially given the fact that the Greek word used in the Bible sometimes was used to refer to cousins.
St. Jerome chided a heretic named Helvidius for even suggesting the "brethren" could be children of Mary. Speaking in the 4th century, St. Jerome said nobody had even suggested such a crazy idea up to his time.
The Catholic Church does not have an official teaching on whether the "brethren" are cousins, step-brothers, adoptive brothers, or a mixture of step-brothers and friends. Nor does the Church have an official teaching on whether Joseph a life-long virgin or was widowed with previous children (I personally believe he was chaste his entire life). But the Church has ALWAYS preserved the truth of the Blessed Mother's perpetual virginity.
Books on Early Church
Faith of Our Fathers by James Cardinal Gibbons, Four
Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words: Clement of Rome, Ignatius of
Antioch, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons (Rod Bennett), The
Catholic Controversy by Catholic Reformer St. Francis de Sales,
Faith of the Early Fathers: Volumes 1, 2, 3 (William A. Jurgens….this is a
compilation of passages from Pre-Nicene and Nicene Christian
writings…..jam-packed with quotes)
Books on Bible History: Where we got the Bible: Our debt to the Catholic Church (by Henry G. Graham)
Early Church Links: Theology
from the Patristic Age to the Reformation and Beyond, Tyndale's
Heresy, Church Fathers on the
Church and Papacy, Church
Fathers on Salvation, Baptism and Mortal Sin, Church Fathers on the
Fathers on Scripture and Tradition, The Counter-Reformation Papacy Respected
Protestant scholars on Peter, Petra and Petros More on Peter,
"Petra" and "Petros" Debate on "Petra"
"Petros" and "Peter" Peter the Rock St.
Peter the Rock St. Peter, first pope The Petrine Fact:
Peter’s New Name Scott Hahn explains papal
infallibility Origin of Peter
as Pope Peter and Papacy St. Peter, Prince of the
Apostles St. Paul's Tomb
Discovered in Rome
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