What role did the church fathers play in the development of the Roman Catholic Church?

A question from a reader: What role did the church fathers play in the development of the Roman Catholic Church?

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12 Responses to “What role did the church fathers play in the development of the Roman Catholic Church?”

  • Matthew says:

    Catholicism isn’t Christian. They worship the pope when they should be worshiping Jesus, man made rules, teach works for salvation, added books to the Bible, worship statues and loads of other idolatry. It can’t save. Only Jesus can. Please pray a sincere prayer with all of your heart admitting to Jesus you are a sinner. Have full faith that His blood pays off all of your sins and accept His gift of everlasting life. I pray that God blesses you with peace. Amen.

  • Fireball says:

    1 is wrong. They ARE Christians…who is he to judge?
    they didnt….their early church was simpler but some catholics are saved..

  • man of chance says:

    they set the rules and traditions of the church and determined how each section of the bible should be interpreted (literal, symbolically, and etc.) oh and Matthew Catholics are Christians but not all Christians are Catholics. Catholics also didn’t added books to the bible Christian Denominations took away books from the bible to make salvation just in faith not in action and for other reasons they disagreed with the church

  • velvt_wi says:

    ‘matthew’ is clueless if he thinks roman catholics worship the pope or anyone other than god. ignorance is really pathetic, particularly when combined with judgemental rantings.

  • Jimbo says:

    None, they were all dead at the founding of the Roman Catholic Church.

  • cristoiglesia says:

    They insured that the teaching of Jesus and the disciples would endure for all times through apostolic succession. They are what is built on the foundation of the disciples. St. Ignatius of Antioch who was the disciple of St. John and St. Peter defined the Church as those gathered around the bishop and the Church fathers were those Bishops upon which the truth was passed on to future generations guaranteeing that the fullness of truth would endure for all times as Jesus promised. They were and are the guardians of the truth. God bless!

    In Christ
    Fr. Joseph

  • imacatholic2 says:

    Here is a nice article on the Fathers of the Church: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06001a.htm

    With love in Christ.

  • Bobq says:

    My answer will consider Church Fathers as the men involved early, before talk of an organized Church began in earnest, around 180 AD. It was about this time that the delay in the expected second coming of Jesus Christ was becoming a problem among Christianity’s followers. There were also a number of rival Christian groups led by men who considered themselves equal to Jesus and which had significant memberships.
    The Church Fathers were the men who sorted out valid writings from the assortment in circulation, and kept records of Books in use during their lifetimes. The key individuals in my mind were: Clement (30 -97 AD) and Ignatius (50 – 115 AD), both early Bishops of the Church at Rome; Papias ( 60 – 135 AD) Bishop of Hierapolis; Polycarp ( 69 – 156 AD); Ireanus ( 130 – 200 AD); Clement of Alexandria ( 150 – 215 AD).
    It is very interesting to see the opinions of these men on the validity of some of the Books we find in today’s Bible.
    Ireanus held 4 Gospels, 13 Pauline Epistles, Acts, 1 Peter, and 1 & 2 John as scripture. He rejected James and Hebrews and was skeptical about the authenticity of Revelations. He also held the Shepherd of Hermas as scripture.
    Papias knew of both Mark and Matthew, but nonetheless composed 5 Books of his own, “An interpretation of the Lord’s words” based on his conversations with the “elders”, men who had first person encounters with the Apostles. Papias ignored Acts, all of the Pauline Epistles, John and Revelations.
    The first listing of Books being used in services on an equal level with the Old Testament comes from a Roman Apologist, Justin, writing in 130 AD. Justin lists the 3 Synoptic Gospels, ignores John, Revelations, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles. Historians point out that Gnosticism made heavy use of the Apostle Paul and that perhaps in 130 AD, Paul-related material may have been controversial.
    It is very difficult to point to the beginning of today’s Roman Catholic Church. None of the Church Fathers I have used above indicate knowledge of such an entity. It was around 400 AD that Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. The famous Historian Eusebius
    writing from that time makes no mention of a Roman Catholic Church or Pope, although he is a Bishop himself.
    The official Roman Catholic Church position is that the Apostle Peter was the first Pope and it has an unbroken line of Popes from that time to the present. This does not seem to be the case, since Peter’s official position was Bishop of the Church at Rome until his death by crucifixion in 64 AD.
    Eusebius gives a list of all the Bishops in various Churches in his Historical “Church History” without mentioning a Pope.
    Sometime in the Dark Ages, say around 500 AD, even later, around 700 AD is my guess as the official start of the Roman Catholic Church that exists today. The early church fathers had absolutely nothing to do with it.

  • Veritatum17 says:

    Profound. Those we refer to as the Church Fathers are the early leadership of the Church following the martyrdom or passing of the Apostles. These were the leaders who guided the Church in the Faith, who defended the Church against persecution and heresy, and who, following the fall of the Roman Empire, essentially were the sole beacon of light that Western civilization had – the organizers of defense against the barbarian hordes, the providers of social services (“hospital” derives from “hospidium” – the portion of a Bishop’s budget that was to be steered towards the poor, the sick and the orphan) and the settlers of disputes.

    The Church Fathers and their writings contribute a continuity to Catholicism because when we look at how they lived their faith and how they understood their faith, we see a strong correlation with modern Catholicism.

  • komodo says:

    As the apostles started churches and Christianity spread, they appointed men to lead those churches. They also gave direction on how the various church communities could appoint their own leadership. These became the first bishops (also translated as “elders”) and priests (“presbyters”). Even the Bible documents this, along with the formation of the diaconate.

    “Church fathers” can refer to these, and also to formative theologians, authors, apologists and historians from the early centuries. The role they played varied from person to person and depended on their own state in life and relationship to the church.

    Some were leaders of individual churches, or entire dioceses. Some were lay men who lived exemplary lives or made public arguments for Christianity. The ones that are most often remembered are the theologians and early church leaders who acted and wrote boldly in the first few centuries of Christianity. In their actions we see them carrying out the instructions that were handed on to them by the apostles, but also applying their wisdom and insights to events specific to their congregations. They wrestled against early attacks against Christianity, both by the secular state, but also by those who misunderstood it and started various schisms. The latter had a variety of different understandings regarding God, Jesus, man, the Church and the sacraments.

    One of the key things that the church fathers did was face these challenges and clarify them for both their contemporaries and future Christians. I honestly can’t think of many key theological points in Catholicism that weren’t persuasively argued if not completely settled, at least in principle, in the first few centuries of Christianity.

  • sebastian c says:

    as a matter of fact the church fathers talked both about the primacy of peter and his successors as well as an organized church.

    Irenaeus of Lyons [120-180 AD] Adversus Haereses (Book III, Chapter 3)
    “But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the succession of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the succession of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul, that church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. With that church [of Rome], because of its superior origin, all the churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world, and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition”

    Clement of Alexandria [150-215 AD] Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved?
    “[T]he blessed Peter, the chosen, the preeminent, the first among the disciples, for whom alone with himself the Savior paid the tribute [Matt. 17:27], quickly grasped and understood their meaning. And what does he say? ‘Behold, we have left all and have followed you’ [Matt. 19:27; Mark 10:28]” (Who Is the Rich Man That Is Saved? 21:3–5 [A.D. 200]).

    Tertullian [160-240 AD] Scorpiace
    “For though you think that heaven is still shut up, remember that the Lord left the keys of it to Peter here, and through him to the Church, which keys everyone will carry with him if he has been questioned and made a confession [of faith]” (Antidote Against the Scorpion 10 [A.D. 211]).

    Origen [185-254 AD] De Principiis (Book IV)
    “You cannot deny that you are aware that in the city of Rome the episcopal chair was given first to Peter; the chair in which Peter sat, the same who was head-that is why he is also called Cephas [‘Rock’]-of all the apostles; the one chair in which unity is maintained by all” (The Schism of the Donatists 2:2 [A.D. 367]).

    Origen [185-254 AD] Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Book XIII)
    “[I]f we were to attend carefully to the Gospels, we should also find, in relation to those things which seem to be common to Peter . . . a great difference and a preeminence in the things [Jesus] said to Peter, compared with the second class [of apostles]. For it is no small difference that Peter received the keys not of one heaven but of more, and in order that whatsoever things he binds on earth may be bound not in one heaven but in them all, as compared with the many who bind on earth and loose on earth, so that these things are bound and loosed not in [all] the heavens, as in the case of Peter, but in one only; for they do not reach so high a stage with power as Peter to bind and loose in all the heavens” (Commentary on Matthew 13:31 [A.D. 248]).

    Clement I, Pope [27-97 AD] First Epistle
    “Owing to the sudden and repeated calamities and misfortunes which have befallen us, we must acknowledge that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the matters in dispute among you, beloved; and especially that abominable and unholy sedition, alien and foreign to the elect of God, which a few rash and self-willed persons have inflamed to such madness that your venerable and illustrious name, worthy to be loved by all men, has been greatly defamed. . . . Accept our counsel and you will have nothing to regret. . . . If anyone disobey the things which have been said by him [God] through us [i.e., that you must reinstate your leaders], let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger. . . . You will afford us joy and gladness if being obedient to the things which we have written through the Holy Spirit, you will root out the wicked passion of jealousy” (Letter to the Corinthians 1, 58–59, 63 [A.D. 80]).

    Jerome, St [347-420 AD] To Pammachius Against John of Jerusalem
    “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. Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house is profane. Anyone who is not in the ark of Noah will perish when the flood prevails” (Letters 15:2 [A.D. 396]).

  • lyn1136 says:

    The Early Fathers were the first generation of priests raised to the priesthood by the Apostles themselves. They learned the doctrine from the Apostles, who learned it from Christ. Both Apostles and Early Fathers explained and taught the True Doctrine faithfully repeated to the next generation of Patristic Fathers.

    A Dictionary does the same thing. It defines a doctrine or a word, and puts the meaning into terms which can be understood, using other words and root words. But it always means the same thing, not something different.

    Therefore, it cannot be said that the Early Fathers “played” in the “development” of doctrine. What they did was “report” the doctrine of Christ, a doctrine which did not “evolve” or “develop” in any way, for it was whole and true from the very beginning.

    It can never be said that Christ is not whole and true. His Doctrine is Whole, True, forever.
    It does not change, it can not change.


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