It has been asserted by some that in order for Protestants to prove their case, we have to prove that the statements of the early church are statements with which modern Catholics could not agree. As long as modern Catholics can agree with the early church, then the Protestant position is unjustifiable.
The early church fathers are not so easily parsed. For one thing, they were not usually dealing with the same debates as those which took place in the time of the Reformation. At times they will sound Protestant, and at times they will sound Romanist. It would therefore be anachronistic for either side to say that the early church fathers were Romanist or Protestant. Such categories did not exist in the early church. I would argue that the Protestant position must depend not on the early church fathers, but on the exegesis of Scripture. However, historically, if Protestants can prove that the Protestant position is compatible with the early church fathers, then we will have proven that the Catholic excommunication of us is invalid, and invalid on two counts: first of all, the Protestant position is biblical; secondly, it is compatible with the early church fathers. We do not have to prove, therefore, that modern Catholics cannot affirm the early church fathers. We only need prove that Protestants can affirm what the early church fathers teach. And even there, we need not prove that we have to affirm all of what they teach. For even Romanists admit that the early church fathers certainly did not always agree on everything.
Most scholars agree that Luther wanted to reform the church, not leave it. He stayed in the church until he was excommunicated. The Romanists were certainly not interested in the truth at the Diet of Worms. They did not ask to debate Luther’s positions at all, from Scripture or from the fathers. They only wanted him to recant. That is not a debate.