Author Topic: Devine, Rev. Arthur. (1897). "On Heresy".  (Read 88 times)

Joe Cupertino

Devine, Rev. Arthur. (1897). "On Heresy".
« on: December 08, 2017, 12:35:21 AM »
The Creed Explained; or An Exposition of Catholic Doctrine
Rev. Arthur Devine (1897)



Chapter VII.
On Heresy.

1. Heresy here referred to an the principal sin against faith amongst Christians.2. What is meant by heresy.3. Heresy objectively taken, or an heretical proposition.4. Heresy subjectively taken or considered as a sin in the soul.5. Ignorance excuses from formal heresy.

1. There are many sins against faith which may be explained more in detail under the First Commandment.

Here, it is only necessary to refer to the sin of infidelity; or rather to the species of it, called heresy. I have used the word so frequently in explaining the nature and qualities of faith, that I consider it necessary to explain the nature of the sin of heresy itself. A clear understanding of the meaning of heresy will be a great help to secure right ideas as to our faith, and a protection against error.

I must call attention, in the first place, to the distinction given above, between divine faith and divine-Catholic faith. We give divine faith to every truth revealed by God; but that it may be the object of divine-Catholic faith, it must be proposed by the Church to be believed by all as tne word of God.

2. Heresy is an error against divine-Catholic faith, as it consists in the denial of some truth revealed by God and proposed by the Church. Thus, for example, Gallicans who denied the Papal Infallibility before the definition of the Vatican Council, were not guilty of heresy, because, although that truth was revealed by God, and could be believed by divine faith, it had not been defined or proposed by the Church as the object of faith. Any one wilfully denying or disbelieving in the truth since its definition, becomes guilty of the sin of heresy, as the Papal Infallibility as defined in the Vatican Council is now the object of divine-Catholic faith.

3. Heresy objectively taken. An heretical proposition is that which is directly opposed to a dogma of Catholic faith ; thus the proposition, " Christ is not man," is heretical because it is directly opposed to the dogma, "Christ is truly man."

If a proposition be only indirectly opposed to a dogma of faith, it is not to be considered heretical, but it may fall under some other ecclesiastical censure, such as proximate to heresy or - erroneous.

The malice of an heretical proposition, as distinguished from other censured and condemned propositions, consists in this, that being directly opposed to divine revelation, it expressly denies the word of God, and immediately destroys Catholic faith as it exists in the soul of one who, up to that time, has believed with true faith.

It is necessary to impress upon the minds of the faithful the two things that are required for a Catholic dogma, namely, that it be revealed by God, and that it be proposed by the Church to be believed by all. All who are Catholics must hold that such a dogma is truly revealed, and that it is necessary to believe it with divine and Catholic faith.

These dogmas are made known by the Church (a) by the definitions of Ecumenical Councils, confirmed by the Pope; (b) by the definitions of the Pope himself teaching ex cathedra.  (c) by the manifest faith of the Church, as held and taught by her pastors, in such a manner, that any one who should dare to deny the particular truth thus universally held, would immediately be regarded by all as a heretic, as in the case of Nestorius; (d) by the manifest sense of the Sacred Scriptures and divine tradition, as universally admitted and received in the Catholic Church. If the sense of a particular passage of Scripture, or some teaching of tradition, be not clear. or if disputed amongst Theologians, the matter thus disputed, or not clearly manifested, would not be the object or faitft, inasmuch as it is not yet proposed by the Church to be believed by all.

The proposition of the Church, in one or other of the foregoing ways, is necessary that a dogma may be the object of Catholic faith, and that its opposite may be heretical, because the whole body of Catholic doctrine, revealed through Christ and His Apostles, was entrusted to the Church and to her teaching, and to her alone. She was instituted in this world by our diviae Lord, that she might preserve, diffuse, teach and inculcate that doctrine until the end of time.

It is therefore the Church, and she alone, that can authoritatively and infallibly teach what is and what is not revealed truth, and what is injurious to, or at variance with, the doctrine of Christ.

It is certain that it would be heresy to deny, not only a revealed truth proposed by the Church, but even to deny the fact of its revelation after the Church's definition. It generally happens that a man who denies a revealed truth, denies at the same time the fact of its revelation, but not necessarily; for a man might admit that Moses worked miracles, and that Christ was truly man, and yet deny that these were revealed truths. In such a case, by the very fact of denying that the dogma is revealed, he denies that it is to be believed by faith and on divine authority, and that, therefore, it can be rejected without injury to, or taking away from, the divine authority; which would be a heretical assertion or proposition.

4. Heresy subjectively taken. Heresy in this sense is a voluntary error of a Christian against some truth of Catholic faith. That, therefore, a Christian may be called a heretic it is necessary (a) that he err, (b) that he err in faith, and (c) that he err in faith knowingly and willingly.

(a) Error is contained in the judgment, hence an act of judgment is required for an act of heresy. As to doubt, if the doubt be positive, viz., "perhaps our Lord was not born of a virgin "; it is heretical, inasmuch as one thereby judges that a truth which God has revealed is not certain. If the doubt be negative, that is, without affirming or denying anything either by word or thought, it is not heretical, because there is no act of judgment formed.

(b) The error must be in those things which belong to faith; that is, those things that are contained in the Word of God, written or unwritten, and which are proposed to us by the Church to be believed as explained already.

(c) The error must be known and wilful; that is, the pertinacity of the will is required tor formal heresy.

5. Therefore one who errs through ignorance, even vincible ignorance, is not a formal heretic. If the ignorance is vincible, the man has sinned against the precept of learning his faith; but his error is not heretical, as it is not accompanied by that pertinacity of will which belongs essentially to an act of heresy; so that, Christians outside the Church, and living in ignorance of the truth, cannot individually be called heretics, or pronounced guilty of heresy, even if the ignorance be vincible, and even if it be so grave as to be what Theologians call affectata. Although they may be sinners, they cannot be called heretics as long as they are in a state of ignorance. Those who are in invincible ignorance. and live according to their conscience, are not only free from heresy, but even from sin in their errors.

That a man incur the excommunication of the Church, as the penalty inflicted for the sin of heresy, it is necessary that he manifest externally his error by some human act, either in word or deed. If, thinking of the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, he should disbelieve the real presence in his mind, he would be guilty of the sin of heresy; but, if he should express that by saying "I do not believe that Christ is really present in the Blessed Sacrament", he would incur the penalty of excommunication, and this, even though no one might be present to hear the expression.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2017, 12:43:39 AM by Joe Cupertino »