Skip to comments.Heresy
Posted on 11/20/2006 4:38:07 PM PST by stfassisi
Heresy by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Heresy, from the Greek áßñÝóßò, hairesis, denoting "choice" or "thing chosen," in general refers to a doctrinal belief held in opposition to the recognized standards of an established system of thought. Theologically it means an opinion at variance with the authorized teachings of any church, especially when this promotes separation from the main body of faithful believers.
The New Testament and the early Fathers used the term occasionally to describe adherence to a particular sect; as Saint Paul said of himself, he lived "according to the most sure sect of our religion, a Pharisee (Acts 26:5). But soon the disparaging sense prevailed, and after St. Ignatius' letters to the Trallians and Ephesians (c. A.D. 108), it came more exclusively to mean religious dissent. By the time of St. Jerome (342-420), the word became fixed to designate a group cut off from the Church by reason of heterodox doctrine, as distinguished from schism which separated through disobedience to hierarchical authority.
From apostolic times the Church claimed authority to safeguard the deposit of faith handed down from Christ and consequently condemned what were considered substantial deviations from Christian orthodoxy. In the subapostolic age and before the year 200, no fewer than 40 distinct sects, usually named after their founder or leading exponent, are branded heretical by Christian writers. St. Irenaeus, writing Against the Heresies about 180, names at least 15, mostly of Gnostic origin, that were current in his day.
"If anyone," Paul wrote to the Galatians, "preach to you a gospel besides what you have received, let him be anathema (Galatians l:9). Reflecting the Church's concern to preserve the integrity of faith, the Fathers were never genteel in dealing with heretics. Polycarp called Marcion the first-born of the devil. Ignatius saw in heretics poisonous plants or animals in human form. Justin and Tertullian called their teachings an inspiration of the Evil One. Theophilus compared them to barren and rocky islands on which ships are wrecked, and Origen said they were pirates placing lights on cliffs to lure and destroy vessels in search of refuge. These primitive views were later tempered in language, but the implicit attitudes remained and were crystallized in solemn conciliar decrees. The familiar anathema sit (let him be anathema or excommunicated) appears to have been first applied to heretics at the Council of Elvira (Spain) in 300-306 and became the standard formula in all the general councils of the Church, such as that against Arius at the First Council of Nicaea (325), Nestorius at Ephesus (351), Eutyches at Chalcedon (451), and the Iconoclasts at the Second Council of Nicaea (787).
In the Roman Catholic Church, heresy has a very specific meaning, defined by canon law, which states that "Anyone who, after receiving Baptism, while remaining nominally a Christian, pertinaciously denies or doubts any of the truths which must be believed with Divine and Catholic faith, is a heretic" (Canon 1325, parag. 2). Accordingly, four elements must be verified to constitute formal heresy: previous valid Baptism, which need not have been in the Catholic Church; external profession of still being a Christian, otherwise a person becomes an apostate; outright denial or positive doubt regarding a truth which the Catholic Church has actually proposed as revealed by God; and the disbelief must be morally culpable, where a nominal Christian refuses to accept what he knows is a doctrinal imperative.
Objectively, therefore, to become a heretic in the strict canonical sense and be excommunicated from the faithful one must deny or question a truth which is taught not merely on the authority of the Church but on the word of God revealed in the Scriptures or sacred tradition. Subjectively a person must recognize his obligation to believe. If he acts in good faith, as is the case with most persons brought up in non-Catholic surroundings, the heresy is only material and implies neither guilt nor sin against faith, though it precludes actual membership in the Catholic Church.
Heresy in other communions has a variety of meanings, which are more descriptive than juridical since the churches do not recognize an ecclesiastical authority with the right to pass ultimate judgment on opposing doctrinal questions. Eastern Orthodox writers use the term broadly for all dogmatic positions which are said to contradict the first seven ecumenical councils, i.e., up to the Second Council of Nicaea. In the earlier stages of Protestantism, in Europe and America, the concept of heresy played a major role in shaping the various churches. Doctrines like absolute predestination and practices like infant baptism were orthodox or heretical depending on theological orientation, and the conflicting attitudes often gave rise to different denominations. Moreover civil rulers were authorized to protect their subjects from erroneous doctrines. The duty of civil magistrates, according to the Westminster Confession of Faith, was "to take order that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed. Presbyterians and others still provide that heresy is sufficient ground for deposition from the ministry.
With some exceptions, heresy in modern Protestant churches must be extreme and "industriously spread" before action is taken against a member of the clergy. The rule of faith in these cases is the Bible, and the norm of orthodoxy, in the spirit of John Wesley, is an inclusive Christianity. "We believe," he said, "Christ to be the eternal, the supreme Good. But as to all opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think." More commonly the heresy must "strike at the vitals of religion," as in agnosticism or atheism, to be officially proscribed.
A few denominations in the Lutheran and Evangelical tradition excommunicate even the laity, if "convicted of denying a fundamental truth necessary to salvationthe deity of Christ, vicarious atonement, or the resurrection of the dead." This may be done only after due admonition has been given and the person shows himself to be an incorrigible sinner and unbeliever." In practice, however, the churches seldom resort to these measures.
Good article from the late Father Harden.
Father Hardon was wonderful. When I asked him for advice, he was blunt, compassionate, and so very wise. A great man and priest.
It is always useful to define the term. If a had a quarter for each time the distinction between the schism, which we technically have with the Orthodox (although it is discouraged to use such harsh a term), and heresy, of which we accuse the Reformers, is muddled up, I'd be a rich man.
When I asked him for advice, he was blunt, compassionate, and so very wise. A great man and priest.
Father Hardon knew that in the Eucharist there is TRUTH in all things.
He did not worry about being politically correct-so to speak
This looks like a good one!
We could do a lot worse than to slough off all the modern accretions of political correctness, timidity, and the feminine softness (weakness) in language used when comfronting such evils
He shall also judge those who give rise to schisms, who are destitute of the love of God, and who look to their own special advantage rather than to the unity of the Church; and who for trifling reasons, or any kind of reason which occurs to them, cut in pieces and divide the great and glorious body of Christ, and so far as in them lies, [positively] destroy it -- men who prate of peace while they give rise to war, and do in truth strain out a gnat, but swallow a camel. For no reformation of so great importance can be effected by them, as will compensate for the mischief arising from their schism.
St. Augustine....There is nothing more grievous than the sacrilege of schism....there can be no just necessity for destroying the unity of the Church"
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans
... CHAPTER VIII.--LET NOTHING BE DONE WITHOUT THE BISHOP.
See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.
CHAPTER IX.--HONOUR THE BISHOP.
Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness [of conduct], and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God. It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil.
*Pope Benedict is known as a great Patristics Scholar. I hope he cuts loose one day and ends up sounding like St. Ignatius.
Bad news < tounge in cheek>
Now let's have a group hug while singing, "Jesus loves us, this we know".
Seriously, I have more respect for RCs who tell me I'm a heretic than this watered down stuff. At least the hardcore RCs don't mince words.
Absolutely. Give me a good ol' Vatican I Catholic any day over the milk toast Vatican II Catholic. :O)
For the benefit of any lurking potential Christians, I have to say that I wear that heretic moniker quite proudly...
In fact, if I wasn't one, I'd strive to be one...
So did Dathan and Korah.
And now the bad news: heretics can't read the bible. Kind of makes prooftexting obsolete, since what, the 3rd century?
Ask Tertullian: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0311.htm
Heretics not to be allowed to argue out of the Scriptures. The Scriptures, in fact, do not belong to them.
We are therefore come to (the gist of) our position; for at this point we were aiming, and for this we were preparing in the preamble of our address (which we have just completed),--so that we may now join issue on the contention to which our adversaries challenge us. They put forward the Scriptures, and by this insolence of theirs they at once influence some. In the encounter itself, however, they weary the strong, they catch the weak, and dismiss waverers with a doubt. Accordingly, we oppose to them this step above ,all others, of not admitting them to any discussion of the Scriptures.
If in these lie their resources, before they can use them, it ought to be clearly seen to whom belongs the possession of the Scriptures, that none may be admitted to the use thereof who has no title at all to the privilege.
Since I'm a heretic anyway, kinda doesn't matter now, does it?
Hi, Alex. Didn't see your name in the heading of us heretics. My apologies. 8~)
Shhhhh...That's one of those nasty little secrets that gets denied in public...
(Otherwise, he'd be St. Tertullian.)
Why do you put your tongue in your cheek? You do agree, don't you, that the divisions among Christians are shameful? Even if you disagree strongly with the Catholic Church about many issues, don't you at least regret that [from your point of view, the Church is in such a state that] you can't be in full communion with the Catholic Church?
As I said the Creed every week as an Anglican, I got to the point where I could no longer in good conscience say the line "We believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church", on account of the word "One". I realized that I was not really practicing what I was saying I believed; I wasn't working toward the reunification of all Christians. I was content with divisions. That convicted me.
I would say that the catholic church is in tacked with the Reformers.