Heresy: plain and not so simple
In Traditionalist circles the accusation of Heresy is fairly 'rampant' in its use. It is important however to understand the distinctions and degrees of Heresy. (source:Catholic Encyclopedia)
Heresy differs from apostasy. The apostate a fide abandons wholly the faith of Christ either by embracing Judaism, Islamism, Paganism, or simply by falling into naturalism and complete neglect of religion; the heretic always retains faith in Christ. Heresy also differs from schism. Schismatics, says St. Thomas, in the strict sense, are they who of their own will and intentionseparate themselves from the unity of the Church. The unity of the Church consists in the connection of its members with each other and of all the members with the head. Now this head isChrist whose representative in the Church is the supreme pontiff. And therefore the name of schismatics is given to those who will not submit to the supreme pontiff nor communicate with the members of the Church subject to him. Since the definition of Papal Infallibility, schism usually implies the heresy of denying this dogma. Heresy is opposed to faith; schism to charity; so that, although all heretics are schismatics because loss of faith involves separation from the Church, not all schismatics are necessarily heretics, since a man may, from anger, pride,ambition, or the like, sever himself from the communion of the Church and yet believe all the Church proposes for our belief (II-II, Q. xxix, a. 1). Such a one, however, would be more properly called rebellious than heretical.
Degrees of heresy
- Both matter and form of heresy admit of degrees which find expression in the following technical formula of theology and canon law.
- Pertinacious adhesion to a doctrine contradictory to apoint of faith clearly defined by the Church is heresy pure and simple, heresy in the first degree.
- But if the doctrine in question has not been expressly "defined" or is not clearly proposed as an article of faith in the ordinary, authorized teaching of the Church, an opinion opposed to it is styled sententia haeresi proxima, that is, an opinion approaching heresy.
- Next, a doctrinal proposition, without directly contradicting a received dogma, may yet involve logical consequences at variance with revealed truth. Such a proposition is not heretical, it is a propositio theologice erronea, that is, erroneous in theology.
- Further, the opposition to an article of faith may not be strictly demonstrable, but only reach a certain degree of probability. In that case the doctrine is termed sententia de haeresi suspecta, haeresim sapiens; that is, an opinion suspected, or savouring, of heresy (see THEOLOGICAL CENSURES).