Steve’s Writings

Unanimous Consent of the Fathers

By Steve Ray

The Unanimous Consent of the Fathers (unanimem consensum Patrum) refers to the morally unanimous teaching of the Church Fathers on certain doctrines as revealed by God and interpretations of Scripture as received by the universal Church. The individual Fathers are not personally infallible, and a discrepancy by a few patristic witnesses does not harm the collective patristic testimony.

The word “unanimous” comes from two Latin words: únus, one + animus, mind. “Consent” in Latin means agreement, accord, and harmony; being of the same mind or opinion. Where the Fathers speak in harmony, with one mind overall—not necessarily each and every one agreeing on every detail but by consensus and general agreement—we have “unanimous consent”. The teachings of the Fathers provide us with an authentic witness to the apostolic tradition.

St. Irenaeus (ad c. 130–c. 200) writes of the “tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome’ (Against Heresies, III, 3, 2), and the “tradition which originates from the apostles [and] which is preserved by means of the successions of presbyters in the Churches” (Ibid., III, 2, 2) which “does thus exist in the Church, and is permanent among us” (Ibid., III, 5, 1). Unanimous consent develops from the understanding of apostolic teaching preserved in the Church with the Fathers as its authentic witness.

St. Vincent of Lerins, explains the Church’s teaching: “In the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense “Catholic,” which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors” (Commonitory 2). Notice that St. Vincent mentions “almost all priests and doctors”.

The phrase Unanimous Consent of the Fathers had a specific application as used at the Council of Trent (Fourth Session), and reiterated at the First Vatican Council (Dogmatic Decrees of the Vatican Council, chap. 2). The Council Fathers specifically applied the phrase to the interpretation of Scripture. Biblical and theological confusion was rampant in the wake of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther stated “There are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads; this one will not admit Baptism; that one rejects the Sacrament of the altar; another places another world between the present one and the day of judgment; some teach that Jesus Christ is not God.  There is not an individual, however clownish he may be, who does not claim to be inspired by the Holy Ghost, and who does not put forth as prophecies his ravings and dreams.”

The Council Fathers at Trent (1554–63) affirmed the ancient custom that the proper understanding of Scripture was that which was held by the Fathers of the Church to bring order out of the enveloping chaos. Opposition to the Church’s teaching is exemplified by William Webster (The Church of Rome at the Bar of History [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1995]) who misrepresents the Council Fathers by redefining and misapplying “unanimous consent”.

First in redefining, he implies that unanimous consent means each Father must have held the same fully developed traditions and taught them clearly in the same terms as used later in the Church Councils. This is a false understanding of the phrase and even in American law unanimous consent “does not always mean that every one present voted for the proposition, but it may, and generally does, mean, when a [verbal] vote is taken, that no one voted in the negative” (Black’s Law Dictionary). Second he misapplies the term, not to the interpretation of Scripture, as the Council Fathers intended, but to tradition. His assertions are not true, but using a skewed definition and application of “unanimous consent”, he uses selective patristic passages as proof-texts for his analysis of the Fathers.

As an example, individual Fathers may explain “the Rock” in Matthew 16 as Jesus, Peter, Peter’s confession or Peter’s faith. Even the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the “Rock” of Matthew 16 as Peter in one place (CCC 552) and his faith (CCC 424) in another. Matthew 16 can be applied in many ways to refute false teachings and to instruct the faithful without emphasizing the literal, historical interpretation of Peter as the Rock upon which the Church has been built his Church. Webster and others emphasize various patristic applications of a biblical passage as “proof” of non-unanimous consent.

Discussing certain variations in the interpretations of the Fathers, Pope Leo XIII (The Study of Holy Scripture, from the encyclical Providentissimus Deus, Nov., 1893) writes, “Because the defense of Holy Scripture must be carried on vigorously, all the opinions which the individual Fathers or the recent interpreters have set forth in explaining it need not be maintained equally. For they, in interpreting passages where physical matters are concerned have made judgments according to the opinions of the age, and thus not always according to truth, so that they have made statements which today are not approved. Therefore, we must carefully discern what they hand down which really pertains to faith or is intimately connected with it, and what they hand down with unanimous consent; for ‘in those matters which are not under the obligation of faith, the saints were free to have different opinions, just as we are,’ according to the opinion of St. Thomas.”

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Referred works:

St. Irenaeus’ quote: Ante-Nicene Fathers. Roberts and Donaldson, Eerdmans, 1985, vol. 1, p. 415, 417).

St. Vincent’s quote: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Eerdmans, 1980, vol. 11, p. 132.

Luther quote: (Leslie Rumble, Bible Quizzes to a Street Preacher [Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1976], 22).

William Webster’s quote: (William Webster, 31).

Black’s Law Dictionary: Black’s Law Dictionary, Henry Campbell Black, St. Paul, MN: West Publ. Co., 1979, p. 1366.

Pope Leo XIII quote: Henry Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma [London: B. Herder Book Co., 1954], 491-492).

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The Last Nightmare
A Short and Terrifying Story by Steve Ray

Munchs-Vampire-to-go-up-for-auctionEverything went blank for a moment, but that moment seemed like eternity. He felt a motion, not with wind and breeze, but a motion none the less. He was traveling, moving, floating, transcending-he wasn’t really sure. The sudden blackness gave him time to regain his thoughts, just enough time to recapture the last moments.

Though his first thoughts were garbled and dreamlike, they slowly began taking shape, like a tree seen through a thick fog, slowly it all came back to him out of the swirling, traveling, blank void. Utter confusion was giving way to bits of clarity.

They had rushed him to the hospital. He remembered the sirens and the cold hands of the paramedics. Cold hands all over his body, probing and poking. Yes, there had been screams, he remembered now—and the sound of sobbing.

Then the horrendous sound resurfaced, a sound that could be felt. It was a sound that had subsumed his whole being, wrapping itself around him, ripping through him. Then the sound of crunching metal, broken glass, and twisted carnage. What must have lasted only seconds seemed to him a long and troubling nightmare—then the dark, foggy void.

For the rest of the 12-page terrifying story, click here.

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“How big was baby Jesus in Mary’s womb when Mary visited Elizabeth?” That is the question I asked myself while visiting the Church of the Visitation in Israel. What I learned was quite revolutionary and amazing. This is one of the best pro-life arguments from Scripture and one I’ve not heard discussed before.

It also says a lot about who Jesus was and the “stranger than fiction” event taking place in space and time in the womb of young girl about 15 years old.

Pictures sometimes show Mary very pregnant — better get to Bethlehem fast! But in reality that is not the case. In scientific terms Jesus was just a blastocyst, a few hundred miniature cells no bigger than a millimeter (0.039 inch).

At the Visitation, Jesus was a “blastcyst” like on the top right

How big was Jesus? Read this article I just wrote and step back in time to the first days of Jesus’ life taking on a human body even though you could have barely seen him with the human eye at the time.

Here is an excerpt from my new article “How Big Was Jesus at the Visitation?”

 “When Mary arrived for the Visitation, as we Catholics refer to the her visit, she was not “showing” yet. Isn’t if funny how we see pictures of a very pregnant Mary as though the baby was ready for Bethlehem. But in reality Jesus—100% God and 100% human — was so small he was practically invisible. 

 Though this blastocyst attached to Mary’s uterus had not seen the light of day He had created with his soon-to-develop eyes, nor breathed fresh air He had created with His still-to-develop lungs, yet He was very alive and very human. The cells were replicating at a rapid rate and they were already developing distinct bodily features. It contained the DNA—the genetic code of Mary.

 The microscopic cells were not just extraneous tissue in the mother’s body—something to be discarded, a disease or something. It was human life with a soul. From conception Every baby shares in the image of God and true humanity with inestimable value long before it takes it’s first breath—right from conception. 

 These replicating cells in Mary’s body were truly human life, God himself taking on human flesh. St. John tells us, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt (literally, “pitched his tent” of flesh) among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” John 1:14).

 One thing many people do not think about—what was Jesus’ size and the stage of development in the womb when Mary arrived at the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth? And, how did Elizabeth and the unborn baby John the Baptist react upon pregnant Mary’s arrival?” …

 Continue reading the full article, click HERE.

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Final Judgment based on “Faith Alone’?

January 26, 2018

Is “Faith Alone” the Basis for the Final Judgment? Dear Baptist Friend Jerry : I had no intention of writing you again this soon but after having dinner with your brother — and seeing a copy of the silly Protestant booklet you gave him entitled Studies In Contrasts: The Doctrine of Salvation (by Herb Vander […]

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Mary and the Other Body of Christ; How Many People were in the Upper Room and Why?

January 5, 2018

Since we are IN this room today, I thought I would share this again… The room was pretty full. It was warm but a gentle breeze was blowing—that would change. There was fear in the room. The Roman army was a thing to be feared, they had just crucified Jesus and it was a dangerous […]

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What Does the Word Catholic Mean? A History of the Word “Catholic”

October 28, 2017

As a Protestant, I went to an Evangelical church that changed an important and historical word in the  Apostles Creed. Instead of the “holy, catholic Church,” we were the “holy, Christian church.” At the time, I thought nothing of it. There was certainly no evil intent, just a loathing of the Catholic Church and a […]

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My Open Letter to Filipinos

October 13, 2017

[If you know someone from the Philippines ?? please share this letter with them.] We stepped into the church and it was old and a bit dark. Mass had just begun and we sat toward the front. We didn’t know what to expect here in Istanbul Turkey. I guess we expected it to be a […]

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Jesus Was A Jew and Why You Can’t Understand the Bible without Knowing That

September 27, 2017

Jesus was a Jew. This fact may escape the casual reader of the New Testament, but it is crucial to understanding Jesus and the book written about him—the Bible. Unhappily, in 21st century America we are far removed from the land of Israel and the ancient culture of Jesus and his Jewish ancestors. Let me […]

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My Response: Defending the Assumption & Queenship of Mary

August 15, 2017

Reposting a blog on Assumption I wrote ten years ago. Link to my long defense is here. The Assumption of Mary always ruffles the feathers of anti-Catholics. I understand why. I used to be in their camp — I joined them in lockstep chanting the same slogans and mantras against “Catholic Tradition” and “man-made dogmas.” But […]

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Meet St. Paul as he Writes to the Romans; A Brief Study to Make it Easy

June 23, 2017

I love St. Paul and love to write about him and his epistles. I also enjoyed traveling through six countries filming his life story and theology. St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans is often seen as impossible to understand except by theologians — and most skip right over this masterpiece. With hopes that you will […]

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Do Catholics Worship Mary?

June 20, 2017

In response to the show I did with Drew Mariani on Relevant Radio: I thought it would be a good time to respond to an e-mail I received a while ago. It was a questions from a friend wrote to ask me for my take on Mary. He was corresponding with someone that said Catholics […]

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Purgatory? Doesn’t that Deny the Work of Christ?

May 21, 2017

What’s the Deal with Purgatory? by Steve Ray Isn’t the finished work of Christ sufficient? Didn’t he pay for all my sins? Why the heck do Catholics teach that we have to suffer in Purgatory for our sins? Plus, the Bible never mentions purgatory so it must be an unbiblical doctrine, right. Wow! Sounds like […]

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Salvation by Faith Alone?

February 15, 2017

Since the days of Martin Luther it has been popular to reduce salvation to a sound bite. Salvation is not by works but by “faith alone.” However, the Bible seems to have another idea. In my book CROSSING THE TIBER I mention a few passages from Scripture to give a more biblical perspective. Here is […]

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Catholic Church: “Don’t Read the Bible!”

September 9, 2016

We often hear that the Catholic Church has forbidden the reading of the Bible! Have you heard this? Yeah, me too! But, this is another one of those big myths which has worked its way into the popular dialog but one that has not been proved from Church teaching and documents. There are two good […]

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The Cross & the Crucifix: Letter to a Fundamentalist

August 17, 2016

The Cross & the Crucifix (From a letter Steve wrote to a Evangelical Protestant who asked about the Catholic Crucifix) Dear Evangelical Friend: You display a bare cross in your home; we display the cross and the crucifix. What is the difference and why? The cross is an upright post with a crossbeam in the […]

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Nice Review of my Book “Crossing the Tiber”

June 15, 2016

The diocese of Tyler Texas has a beautiful glossy magazine and this issue is about apologetics. Excellent magazine. This month has a review of my book Crossing the Tiber and Hahn’s book Rome Sweet Home. The priest who wrote the article says these are “books to give away” and tells how he buys them for […]

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