Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Forgotten Sins of Heresy and Schism

From ChurchPop:
“Heresy,” “apostasy,” “schism.” Do these words seem foreign to you? They may seem antiquated and medieval; like they represent something the Church used to be, but has long since abandoned. If that’s what you think, you may be surprised to learn that all three are officially recognized and defined in both the current Catechism and the Code of Canon Law. These things are still sins – and serious ones at that!

Here’s how the Church defines them:

Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith.

Apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith.

Schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him. (CIC 751; CCC 2089)

There are a few important things to note here.

First, these apply to people “after the reception of baptism.” So, e.g., someone who is not a baptized Christian cannot be a heretic by denying a truth of the Christian faith.

Second, notice that heresy requires “obstinate” denial or doubt of a truth of the faith. If a Christian denies a truth of the faith, e.g., out of ignorance, they are not guilty of heresy.

In such a case, the Church makes a distinction between what’s called material heresy and formal heresy. Material heresy is when a person denies a truth of the faith, though they may or may not be culpable. Formal heresy is when a person denies a truth of the faith and is culpable. For example, most Catholics, if you asked them enough theological questions, probably believe some material heresy (the Catholic faith is complicated!). They are probably not formal heretics, however, since their material heresy is probably simply due to ignorance. You can’t commit these sins on accident. (Read more.)

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