Nick said something funny in the comments down below, and I thought it would be useful for some of you who weren't reading all the comments.
Nick quoted JB: To try to suggest that there was doctrinal and administrative unity is a far, far stretch.
Then Nick said: This, to me, is where the real issue rests. It's more about our starting assumptions than anything. To you, there is no such thing as "doctrinal and administrative unity" beyond the doors of each local congregation - to you it's a fiction of the Catholic mind. Given that, of course you're not going to even entertain the possibility of it when you read the Fathers or other historic documents.
From the Catholic end, your outlook is a form of deism, and I can see why Matthew said some of the things he did about you not really having faith.
If Nick is correct, then Cardinal Newman was guilty of deism:
Again, the six great Bishops and Saints of the Ante-nicene Church were St. Irenaeus, St. Hippolytus, St. Cyprian, St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, St. Dionysius of Alexandria, and St. Methodius. Of these, St. Dionysius is accused by St. Basil of having sown the first seeds of Arianism and St. Gregory is allowed by the same learned Father to have used language concerning our Lord, which he only defends on the plea of an economical object in the writer. St. Hippolytus speaks as if he were ignorant of our Lord's Eternal Sonship; St. Methodius speaks incorrectly at least upon the Incarnation; and St. Cyprian does not treat of theology at all. Such is the incompleteness of the extant teaching of these true saints, and, in their day, faithful witnesses of the Eternal Son.
Again, Athenagoras, St. Clement, Tertullian, and the two SS. Dionysii would appear to be the only writers whose language is at any time exact and systematic enough to remind us of the Athanasian Creed. If we limit our view of the teaching of the Fathers by what they expressly state, St. Ignatius may be considered as a Patripassian, St. Justin arianizes, and St. Hippolytus is a Photinian.
Again, there are three great theological authors of the Ante-nicene centuries, Tertullian, Origen, and, we may add, Eusebius, though he lived some way into the fourth. Tertullian is heterodox on the doctrine of our Lord's divinity, and, indeed, ultimately fell altogether into heresy or schism; Origen is, at the very least, suspected, and must be defended and explained rather than cited as a witness of orthodoxy; and Eusebius was a Semi-Arian.
Moreover, It may be questioned whether any Ante-nicene father distinctly affirms either the numerical Unity or the Coequality of the Three Persons; except perhaps the heterodox Tertullian, and that chiefly in a work written after he had become a Montanist: yet to satisfy the Anti-roman use of Quod semper, &c., surely we ought not to be left for these great articles of doctrine to the testimony of a later age.
Of course, as a 19th century writer, Newman goes on at some length like this. These are the "difficulties" that he felt he needed to overcome, in order to justify his assumption that the government of the church then, which Christ and the apostles somehow instituted, is the same as the government that exists in the Roman Catholic church now.
These "heterodox" teachings are the "seeds" that developed into the great and perfect faith of the Roman Catholic Church.
Continuing on with Nick's charge of "deism" -- here are a couple of definitions, along with a couple of responses from a historical Protestant confession:
Deism: the form of theological rationalism that believes in God on the basis of reason without reference to revelation
The WCF: Chapter 1.6: The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.
Deism: the belief in a god or gods who set the universe in motion, then ceased to interact with it...
The WCF: Chapter 3.1: Of God’s Eternal Decree: God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.