Understanding the “Unanimous Consent” of the Church Fathers

jimmyakin.com | 8/14/2018 | Staff
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In 1546, the Council of Trent issued a decree which prohibited people from interpreting Scripture “contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.”

The meaning and significance of this concept has been widely misunderstood, so let’s take a look at the subject.

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Here are 15 things to know and share . . .

1) What was the context of the decree?

Council - Trent - Subjects - Errors - Protestant

The Council of Trent (1545-1563) was called to deal with two subjects: (1) doctrinal errors that were being spread by the Protestant Reformers and (2) internal reforms needed within the Catholic Church. Consequently, historian Hubert Jedin notes:

By the terms of the decision of 22 January [1564], dogma and reform were to be discussed simultaneously and every dogmatic decree was to be matched by a decree on Church reform (A History of the Council of Trent 2:87-88).

Decrees - Trent - Nature - Nature - Session

Therefore, the decrees of Trent are divided between those of a doctrinal nature and those of a disciplinary nature. Thus the fourth session of the Council thus released two decrees:

The first of these decrees was dogmatic (i.e., concerning doctrinal matters), and it dealt with which books the Catholic Church regards as sacred and canonical.

Decree - Church - Reform - Matters - One

The second decree concerned Church reform (i.e., disciplinary matters), and it’s the one that mentions the unanimous consent of the Fathers.

2) What subjects did the second decree cover?

Abuses - Reform - Council - Committees - Jedin

It dealt with several abuses that had been proposed for reform by one of the Council’s committees (Jedin, 70-71). The final, published form of the decree established several disciplinary norms:

Of all the Latin editions of Scripture then in circulation, the Vulgate would be used as the standard one “in public lectures, disputations, sermons, and expositions.”

One - Scripture - Contrary - Sense - Church

No one is to interpret the Scripture contrary to the sense held by the Church or the unanimous consent of the Fathers.

Printers are not to publish copies of the Scriptures unless they have been...
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