Answer to a Question

What Can People Judge In Regard To Heresy

Question: “Clarification of my above question: I assume you agree that a person can make a heretical statement or action but still not be a (formal) heretic. Also, to be established as or considered a formal heretic it must be officially determined and declared by Church protocol. Formal heresy cannot be officially established individually. Therefore when Canon Law refers to a heretic they are referring to someone officially established as such, and not on hearsay. You claim a candidate for the pope can be determined a formal heretic (before elected) without an official protocol and therefore disqualified. That is what I am asking you to prove.”

In order to answer this question and the more basic question of where is the Church today, we need to look at a few things first. First let us go to the Baltimore Catechism Number 4, Explanation of the Baltimore Catechism. Then we need to outline our positive duties in regard to the Pastors of the Church.

The Catechism On the Church

115 Q. What is the Church?

A. The Church is the congregation of all those who profess the faith of Christ, partake of the same Sacraments, and are governed by their lawful pastors under one visible head.

“All those who profess the faith,” etc. The Pope, bishops, priests, and people all taken together are the Church, and each congregation or parish is only a part of the Church.

“Partake”–that is, receive. “Lawful pastors”–that is, each priest in his own parish, each bishop in his own diocese, and the Pope throughout the world. “Visible head”–that is, one who can be seen, for invisible means cannot be seen.

402 Q. Are we obliged to contribute to the support of our pastors?

A. We are obliged to contribute to the support of our pastors, and to bear our share in the expenses of the Church and school.

On Heresy and Schism And the Profession of Faith

323 Q. Who are they who do not believe all that God has taught?

A. They who do not believe all that God has taught are the heretics and infidels.

There are many kinds of unbelievers: atheists, deists, infidels, heretics, apostates, and schismatics. An atheist is one who denies the existence of God, saying there is no God. A deist is one who says he believes God exists, but denies that God ever revealed any religion. These are also called freethinkers. An infidel properly means one who has never been baptized–one who is not of the number of the faithful; that is, those believing in Christ. Sometimes atheists are called infidels. Heretics are those who were baptized and who claim to be Christians, but do not believe all the truths that Our Lord has taught. They accept only a portion of the doctrine of Christ and reject the remainder, and hence they become rebellious children of the Church. They belong to the true Church by being baptized, but do not submit to its teaching and are therefore outcast children, disinherited till they return to the true faith. A schismatic is one who believes everything the Church teaches, but will not submit to the authority of its head–the Holy Father. Such persons do not long remain only schismatics; for once they rise up against the authority of the Church, they soon reject some of its doctrines and thus become heretics; and indeed, since Vatican Council I, all schismatics are heretics.

325 Q. Can they who fail to profess their faith in the true Church in which they believe expect to be saved while in that state?

A. They who fail to profess their faith in the true Church in which they believe cannot expect to be saved while in that state, for Christ has said: “Whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in Heaven.”

326 Q. Are we obliged to make open profession of our faith?

A. We are obliged to make open profession of our faith as often as God’s honor, our neighbor’s spiritual good, or our own requires it.

“Whosoever,” says Christ, “shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in Heaven.”

It is not necessary for us to proclaim in the streets that we are Catholics; neither need we tell our religion to impudent people that may ask us only to insult us; but when a real need of professing our faith presents itself, then we must profess it. Suppose you are stopping in a hotel in which you are the only Catholic. If flesh-meat is placed before you on a Friday in Lent you must quietly push it aside and ask for fish or other food; although by so doing you will show that you are a Catholic and make a silent profession of your faith. God’s honor and your own good require it, for you must keep the laws of God and of His Church on every possible occasion. Suppose again there were in the same hotel some indifferent Catholics, socially your equals or inferiors, who through human respect were ashamed to go to Mass on Sunday; then you should publicly go to Mass and even declare that you must go, for by so doing you would encourage these indifferent Catholics to follow your example. In that case your neighbor’s good requires that you profess your faith. In a word, you must keep up the practice of your religion even if by so doing you have to make an open profession of your faith and suffer for it. But suppose it is something that God or the Church does not command you to do but only recommends, such as blessing yourself before meals or some pious practice, you could in public omit such an action if you pleased without any sin or denial of faith, because you violate no law.

Catholic’s Duty of Obedience to the Church

“Obey your prelates, and be subject to them. For they watch as being to render an account of your souls; that they may do this with joy, and not with grief. For this is not expedient for you.” (Hebrews 13:17) Almighty God has placed two authorities over us, the Pope and the Bishop of our Diocese. The Church has added a third authority, that of the Pastor of our own Parish. We first of all have a duty of obedience to the Pastors of the Church, our own Pastor, our own Bishop and the Pope. To withdraw from that obedience is an act of schism. (Canon 1325: “if, finally, he refuses to be subject to the Supreme Pontiff, or to have communion with the members of the Church subject to the Pope, he is a schismatic.”)

Saying: The scribes and the Pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses. All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not; for they say, and do not.” (Matthew 23:2-3) As long as they sit in the chair of Moses, our duty of obedience and communion with our Pastors remains completely intact.

Saint Thomas Aquinas says: “He who approaches a sacrament, receives it from a minister of the Church, not because he is such and such a man, but because he is a minister of the Church. Consequently, as long as the latter is tolerated in the ministry, he that receives a sacrament from him, does not communicate in his sin, but communicates with the Church from. whom he has his ministry. But if the Church, by degrading, excommunicating, or suspending him, does not tolerate him in the ministry, he that receives a sacrament from him sins, because he communicates in his sin.” (III, Q64, A6 Ad2)

Who Is Our Pastor?

We will take the example of Saint Marys, Kansas in the United States. We will presume that the Pope is Francis, therefore Archbishop Joseph Naumann is Bishop of the diocese. Father Gerard Senecal OSB is pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Saint Marys. Archbishop Naumann was appointed in 2005 as Archbishop of the Diocese by John Paul II. He in turn appointed Father Senecal as pastor of Saint Marys. Those living in Saint Marys should therefore assist at Mass at Immaculate Conception. By indult, there is a Latin Mass Community outside of Maple Hill in communion with Pope Francis and Archbishop Naumann where people may also assist at Mass.

What About the Society of Saint Pius X?

The Society of Saint Pius X has not yet been recognized completely by Pope Francis, although negotiations are underway. On July 2nd, 1988 John Paul II excommunicated Archbishop Lefebvre and the four bishops he consecrated for schism. Although this has been remitted in regard to the four bishops, until full approval is given, one may not legitimately assist at Mass at the Society of Saint Pius X Mass Center.

Are There Any Precedent Cases For Our Times?

Western Schism

Saint Antoninus reports of the Western Schism: “Although it is necessary to believe that there is but one supreme head of the Church, nevertheless, if it happens that two Popes are created at the same time, it is not necessary for the people to believe that this one or that one is the legitimate Pontiff; they must believe that he alone is the true Pope who has been regularly elected, and they are not bound to discern who that one is; as to that point, they may be guided by the conduct and opinion of their particular pastor.” 1

Notice the word pastor, which indicates the people followed their pastor, who in turn followed his Bishop and the claimant to the Papacy that his Bishop followed. Although technically only those who followed the true Pope were not in schism, because the people, pastors and Bishops made a good faith effort to follow the true Pope, no one was considered as schismatic.

Letter of Saint Athanasius to His People

May God console you! What saddens you? … Is it the fact that others have occupied the churches by violence, while during this time you are on the outside. It is a fact that they have the churches, but you have the Apostolic Faith. They can occupy our churches, but they are outside the true faith. You remain outside the places of worship, but the faith dwells within you. Let us consider: what is more important, the place or the faith? The true faith, obviously. Who has lost and who has won in this struggle … the one who keeps the premises or the one who keeps the faith?

True, the premises are good when the Apostolic Faith is preached there; they are holy, if everything takes place there in a holy way.

You are the ones who are happy: you who remain within the Church by your faith, who hold firmly to the foundations of the faith, which has come down to you from the Apostolic Tradition. And if an execrable jealousy has tried to shake it on a number of occasions, it has not succeeded. They are the ones who have broken away from unity in the present crisis.

No one, ever, will prevail against your faith, beloved brothers. And we believe that God will give us our churches back someday.

Thus, the more violently they try to occupy the places of worship, the more they separate themselves from the Church. They claim that they represent the Church; but in reality, they are the ones who are expelling themselves from it and going astray.

Even if Catholics faithful to Tradition are reduced to a handful, they are the ones who are the Church of Jesus Christ.

Saint John Chrysostom on Obedience to Prelates

From Saint John Chrysostom, commenting on Hebrews 13:17:

Anarchy is an evil, and the occasion of many calamities, and the source of disorder and confusion. For as, if you take away the leader from a chorus, the chorus will not be in tune and in order; and if from a phalanx of an army thou remove the commander, the evolutions will no longer be made in time and order, and if from a ship thou take away the helmsman, you will sink the vessel; so too if from a flock thou remove the shepherd, you have overthrown and destroyed all.

Anarchy then is an evil, and a cause of ruin. But no less an evil also is the disobedience to rulers. For it comes again to the same. For a people not obeying a ruler, is like one which has none; and perhaps even worse. For in the former case they have at least an excuse for disorder, but no longer in the latter, but are punished.

But perhaps some one will say, there is also a third evil, when the ruler is bad. I myself too know it, and no small evil it is, but even a far worse evil than anarchy. For it is better to be led by no one, than to be led by one who is evil. For the former indeed are oftentimes saved, and oftentimes are in peril, but the latter will be altogether in peril, being led into the pit [of destruction].

How then does Paul say, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves”? Having said above, “whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation” (c. ver. 7), he then said, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves.”

What then (you say), when he is wicked should we obey?

Wicked? In what sense? If indeed in regard to Faith, flee and avoid him; not only if he be a man, but even if he be an angel come down from Heaven; but if in regard to life, be not over-curious. And this instance I do not allege from my own mind, but from the Divine Scripture. For hear Christ saying, “The Scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat.” (Matt. xxiii. 2.) Having previously spoken many fearful things concerning them, He then says, “They sit on Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they tell you observe, do; but do not ye after their works.” (Matt. xxiii. 2, 3.) They have (He means) the dignity of office, but are of unclean life. Do thou however attend, not to their life, but to their words. For as regards their characters, no one would be harmed [thereby]. How is this? Both because their characters are manifest to all, and also because though he were ten thousand times as wicked he will never teach what is wicked. But as respects Faith, [the evil] is not manifest to all, and the wicked [ruler] will not shrink from teaching it.

Moreover, “Judge not that ye be not judged” (Matt. vii. 1) concerns life, not faith: surely what follows makes this plain. For “why” (He says) “beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matt. vii. 3.)

“All things therefore” (He says) “which they bid you observe, do ye” (now to “do” belongs to works not to Faith) “but do not ye after their works.” Seest thou that [the discourse] is not concerning doctrines, but concerning life and works?

Heresy Is a Species of Unbelief

So says Saint Thomas Aquinas. Heresy and apostasy are the two kinds of unbelief a baptized person can turn in to.

Bear not the yoke with unbelievers. For what participation hath justice with injustice? Or what fellowship hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath the faithful with the unbeliever? (II Corinthians 6:14-15)

In the Church we are yoked with our fellow Christians and under obedience to our Pastors as we considered above. After Jesus disclosed the doctrine of the Mass, Saint John reports (John 6:67): “After this many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with him.” This going back is returning to their unbelief, that is departing from the Faith. If someone departs from the Faith, he becomes an unbeliever. This is why Saint John Chrysostom obliges us to depart from Pastors, who have lost the Faith. Pope Leo XIII says in Satis Cognitum: “No one, therefore, unless in communion with Peter can share in his authority, since it is absurd to imagine that he who is outside (the Church) can command in the Church.”

“The Holy fathers teach unanimously not only that heretics are outside of the Church, but also that they are ipso facto deprived of all ecclesiastical jurisdiction and dignity.” Saint Robert Bellarmine, de Romano Pontifice, book 2, Chapter 40. When the Fathers of the Church are in unanimous agreement, the Church considers their judgment to be infallibly true. From this we must conclude that heretics are outside of the Church and can have no authority or office in the Church.

Ipso Facto Nature of Heresy

“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. As we said before, so now I say again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema.” (Galatians 1:8-9)

“A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid: Knowing that he, that is such an one, is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment.” (Titus 3:10-11) Let us consider the note in the Douay-Rheims Bible: “”By his own judgment”: Other offenders are judged, and cast out of the church, by the sentence of the pastors of the same church. Heretics, more unhappy, run out of the church of their own accord, and by doing so, give judgment and sentence against their own souls.”

Pope Vigilius, Second Council of Constantinople, 553, ex cathedra: “The heretic, even though he has not been condemned formally by any individual, in reality brings anathema on himself, having cut himself off from the way of truth by his heresy. What reply can such people make to the Apostle when he writes: As for someone who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned (Titus 3:10).”

Catechism of the Council of Trent: “Hence there are but three classes of persons excluded from the Church’s pale: infidels, heretics and schismatics, and excommunicated persons. Infidels are outside the Church because they never belonged to, and never knew the Church, and were never made partakers of any of her Sacraments. Heretics and schismatics are excluded from the Church, because they have separated from her and belong to her only as deserters belong to the army from which they have deserted. It is not, however, to be denied that they are still subject to the jurisdiction of the Church, inasmuch as they may be called before her tribunals, punished and anathematised. Finally, excommunicated persons are not members of the Church, because they have been cut off by her sentence from the number of her children and belong not to her communion until they repent. But with regard to the rest, however wicked and evil they may be, it is certain that they still belong to the Church: Of this the faithful are frequently to be reminded, in order to be convinced that, were even the lives of her ministers debased by crime, they are still within the Church, and therefore lose nothing of their power.”

Saint Thomas Aquinas comments: “Now it may be asked whether all heretics are thereby excommunicated. And it seems not, because it is said: “A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid” (Tit. 3:10). I answer that a person might be called a heretic either because he errs solely from ignorance, and then he is not on that account excommunicated; or because he errs through obstinacy and tries to subvert others, and then he falls under the canon of the sentence passed. But whether he was then and there passing sentence on heretics by these words is open to question, since sentence was later passed against heretics in the Councils. Yet it can be said that perhaps he was showing that they deserved to be excommunicated.”

Ipso facto in Canon Law means by the very fact. Father Staislaus Woywod comments on Canon 2233: “for penalties latae sententiae are automatically contracted by the offense. Canon 2232 provides: “When a declaratory sentence is issued, the penalty has retroactive effect to the moment when the offense was committed.” There are two types of sentence, condemnatory and declaratory. Declaratory sentences are issued, declaring that the penalty has already been contracted as provided by Canon Law. There are a number of offense, which are punished by automatic excommunication in addition to heresy, apostasy and schism.

The Catholic Encyclopedia reports on heresy: “The spiritual penalties are of two kinds: latae and ferendae sententiae. The former are incurred by the mere fact of heresy, no judicial sentence being required; the latter are inflicted after trial by an ecclesiastical court, or by a bishop acting ex informata conscientia, that is, on his own certain knowledge, and dispensing with the usual procedure.”

“All apostates from the Christian faith and each and every heretic or schismatic incur the following penalties:

“1. ipso facto excommunication;

“2. If they have been admonished and to not repent, they shall be deprived of any benefice, dignity, pension, office or other position which they may hold in the church; they shall be declared infamous, and, if they are clerics, they shall after renewed admonition be deposed;

“If they have joined a non-Catholic sect or have publicly adhered to it, they incur infamy ipso facto, and, if they are clerics and the admonition to repent has been fruitless, they shall be degraded. Canon 188, paragraph 4, provides, moreover, that the cleric who publicly abandons the Catholic Faith loses every ecclesiastical office ipso facto and without any declaration”, Canon 2314, paragraph 1

The Laity’s Duty In Regard to Faith

“The faithful are bound to profess their faith publicly, whenever silence, subterfuge, or their manner of acting would otherwise entail an implicit denial of their faith, a contempt of religion, an insult to God, or scandal to their neighbor. Any baptized person who, while retaining the name of Christian, obstinately denies or doubts any of the truths proposed for belief by the divine and Catholic faith, is a heretic; if he abandons the Christian faith entirely, he is called an apostate; if, finally, he refuses to be subject to the Supreme Pontiff, or to have communion with the members of the Church subject to the Pope, he is a schismatic.” Canon 1325, paragraph 1.

Note well that we are bound to profess our Faith publicly. Further we are bound to educate ourselves in the basic teachings of the Catholic Faith to the level of the Catechism of the Council of Trent. Our Pastors are obliged to teach us from that catechism, which is why the Council of Trent ordered it prepared.

Pope Saint Pius X ordered Pastors to set aside time each Sundy for the teaching of catechism to all of their flock, adults as well as children in the Encyclical, Acerbo Nimis. Then he states: “In this matter, they are to use the Catechism of the Council of Trent, in such a way as to cover in four or five years all the matter relating to the Creed, the Sacraments, the Ten Commandments, Prayer and the Commandments of the Church, and also the matter on the evangelical counsels, grace, the virtues, sin and the four last things.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia reports: “Other synods, and the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) under Pope Innocent III, repeated and enforced this decree, especially the Synod of Toulouse (1229), which established inquisitors in every parish (one priest and two laymen). Everyone was bound to denounce heretics, the names of the witnesses were kept secret; after 1243, when Innocent IV sanctioned the laws of Emperor Frederick II and of Louis IX against heretics, torture was applied in trials; the guilty persons were delivered up to the civil authorities and actually burnt at the stake.”

Saint Thomas Aquinas writes: “In cases of necessity where faith is in danger, every one is bound to proclaim his faith to others, either to give good example and encouragement to the rest of the faithful, or to check the attacks of unbelievers: but at other times it is not the duty of all the faithful to instruct others in the faith.” (II.II Q3 A2 reply 1)

Practical Application

What do we do, when it is our own Pastor, who had doubted or denied the Faith and is subverting us with his teaching? We appeal to our Bishop. What do we do, when it is our Bishop? We appeal to the Pope. What do we do, when it is our Pope? There is no precedent in history to guide us, but we do have the general teaching of the Church, which we are considering.

We Have Already Judged

When we made the decision to depart from the Conciliar Church, we have already judged that our Pastors have departed from the Catholic Faith, which according to Saint John Chrysostom we are permitted and even obliged to do. We cannot remain idle in regards to the Faith. We have a duty to preserve our Faith and to avoid anyone and anything that would harm our Faith.

If we haven’t judged that, then we have departed from our lawful pastors and committed an act of schism. There is no middle ground.

1 Studies in Church History, volume 2, page 530