Chapter II:46: Critique of the Roman Catholic Position on the Authority of the Fathers, Part 2

2.  We say here that the things requisite for the Criterion of true Interpretation, enumerated by our AUTHOR, are wanting, especially Infallibility, on account of the fallibility of all the Fathers; who, whether they be regarded as individuals separately, or all conjointly, were not Prophets nor Apostles, who, having been furnished with an immediate calling and extraordinary gifts, had a special claim to Infallibility: but were men, fallible and liable to error, into which they also frequently fell for want of the knowledge of the Original Languages, from the common errors of the time, from the zeal of disputation, etc. That the individuals were fallible, the Papists everywhere concede:  but what is true of the individuals, is also true of the many or all, gathered together from the individuals; for the whole retains and presents again the nature of the integrating parts:  and, although authority increases with respect to degree because of multitude, yet it is not changed in kind, that the human might rise to the divine.  The dogmatic and exegetical Errors of the Fathers, whether peculiar to some, or even common to a great many, are also set forth by us in a long series; which neither Bellarmine, nor Sixtus Senesis in his Præfatione to book V of Bibliothecæ Sanctæ, pages 324, 325, or other learned men in the Roman communion are able to deny.  Consult the Writers commended above:  HEINRICH ALTING, Theologia Elenctica nova, locus II, controversy IV with the Papists, pages 78, 79; JEAN DAILLÈ, libris duis de Usu Patrum ad ea definienda Religionis capita, quæ sunt hodie controversa, book II, chapter IV, pages 252-294; RIVET, tractate de Patrum Auctoritate, which is set before Critici Sacri libris quattuor, opera, tome 2, chapters IX-XI; SPANHEIM, Historia Ecclesiastica, Century IV, chapter V, § 4, column 848, § 2, column 851.

3.  Moreover, we argue against the Papists from the Lack of unanimous Expositions of this sort, since the Father frequently disagree and rarely agree: and a judgment concerning the Consent of the Fathers is hardly able to be made, since many writings of the Fathers have perished, and the Commentaries upon the whole Bible of exceedingly few or none survive; concerning many writing it is hardly evident whether they proceed from the Fathers themselves, for not a few counterfeit and spurious have been pawned off for ages as the γνησίοις/legitimate or genuine writings of the Fathers, with Eusebius, Jerome, and Augustine already lamenting over this matter; and, on the other hand, those genuine monuments of the Fathers that survive are discovered to have been variously interpolated, and to have been corrupted with respect to sense, not only by the carelessness and ignorance of copyists, but also by the audacity of the monks, who, before the invention of the art of printing were almost alone in the possession of the Fathers in their monasteries, corrected and emended them at will; and especially by the wickedness of the Jesuits, who, with new Indices composed, which they call Expurgatory, removed from the monuments of the Fathers what things were adverse to their superstition, but replaced what things seemed to be advantageous for fostering it: and so this infallible Criterion of true Interpretation is extremely difficult for the Learned themselves, but altogether impossible for the common people to search out, from whom the private Judgment of Discretion is certain taken away in this way:  see HEINRICH ALTING, Theologia Elenctica nova, locus II, controversy IV with the Papists, page 80; HOTTINGER, Dissertationum miscellanearum Πεντάδι, Dissertation II; DAILLÈ, libris duis de Usu Patrum ad ea definienda Religionis capita, quæ sunt hodie controversa, book II, chapter V, pages 295-304, book I, chapters III, IV, pages 11-120; RIVET, tractate de Patrum Auctoritate, which is set before Critici Sacri libris quattuor, opera, tome 2, chapters XII-XIV; GERHARD, Confessione catholica, tome I, pages 602-608; SIXTUS SENENSIS, Bibliotheca Sancta, book IV at the end, pages 320-323.

4.  But finally, whatever the Papists may boast concerning the Consent of the Fathers, and however they may wish to appeal to that; the Papists themselves repudiate the Authority of the Fathers, and freely draw back from it, whenever it is not advantageous to their cause, while they give more credence to one supreme Pontiff, than to a thousand Augustines, Jeromes, and Gregories, as Cornelio Musso, Bishop of Bitonta, preached on Romans 14, and wrote on page 606.[1] Erasmus on Jerome, tome 3, page 28, wrote: When it is advantageous, the authority of Jerome prevails among us: when it is not advantageous, he hardly prevails at all: and afterwards they condemn us as too little trusting, while none believe less rightly than those that believe whatever.  Let us hear one Melchior Cano, who, in his locorum Theologicorum, book VII, chapter III, after he had prefaced from AUGUSTINE, “God willed this felicity to be in the divine volumens alone, that in them there would not be any error,” rightly subjoins, “Every one, no matter how learned and holy, is mistaken sometimes, is bling occasionally, slips from time to time….  And so the Ancient Fathers shall be read by us with reverence indeed, but as men, with discrimination and judgment:”  see CALVIN, Præfatione Institutionis Christianæ Religionis ad Gallicum Regem, *5, 6; TURRETIN, Theologiæ Elencticæ, locus II, question XXI, § 10; DAILLÈ, libris duis de Usu Patrum ad ea definienda Religionis capita, quæ sunt hodie controversa, book II, chapter VI, pages 305-352; RIVET, tractate de Patrum Auctoritate, which is set before Critici Sacri libris quattuor, opera, tome 2, chapters VII, X; GERHARD, Confessione catholica, tome I, book I, generalem partem II, chapter XIII, pages 569-602; PETRUS ZORNIUS,[2] Historia Eucharistiæ Infantium, chapter XII, § I, pages 140-143.  The Fathers themselves did not desire that so much would be made of their writings:  see above on Chapter I, § 32; add HEINRICH ALTING, Theologia Elenctica nova, locus II, controversy IV with the Papists, pages 80, 81; TURRETIN, Theologiæ Elencticæ, locus II, question XXI, § 9; RIVET, tractate de Patrum Auctoritate, which is set before Critici Sacri libris quattuor, opera, tome 2, chapter II; DAILLÈ, de Usu Patrum, book II, chapter II, pages 212-233.  Concerning the opinion of today’s Greeks about this matter, and against it, see JAKOB ELSNER, nieuwste Beschzyving van de Grieksche Christenen in Turkyen, chapter V, § 28.

What things our AUTHOR has concerning holding all things to the last jot, have regard to the words of the Glossator Decreti Gratiani, which in defining the state of this Controversy I cited above.

[1] Cornelio Musso (1511-1574) was a Conventual Franciscan and Bishop of Bitonta in southern Italy.  He was one of the great preachers of his day, called the “Italian Demosthenes”.  Musso was prominent in the debates over Justification at Trent, and wrote a commentary on Romans.

[2] Peter Zorn (1682-1746) was a German Lutheran theologian, historian, and linguist.  He held a variety of academic posts.

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