Friday, August 12, 2011

Quaeritur: Heresy, Apostasy, and Schism


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Quaeritur: What is the difference between heresy, apostasy, and schism.


Respondeo: "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." (1985 Code of Canon Law, Canon 751).

"After the reception of Baptism, if someone, retaining the name of 'Christian', pertinaciously denies or doubts any of the truths that are to be believed with divine and Catholic faith, is a heretic; if he totally departs from the Christian faith, he is an apostate; and finally, if he refuses to be subject to the Supreme Pontiff, or refuses to be in communion with the members of the Church that are subject to him, he is a schismatic."  (1917 Codex iuris canonici, Can. 1325, § 2).

Note that the sins of heresy, apostasy, and schism can only be committed after the reception of baptism.  This means that Muslims, Jews, pagans, etc. are not properly heretics, apostates, or schismatics. 

Note also that heresy is a pertinacious denial or doubt only of those things that are to be believed with divine and Catholic faith--i.e., that are contained in Divine Revelation and are taught by the Magisterium.  If someone denies a doctrine that is not part of Divine Revelation or are not taught by the Magisterium, that person is not a heretic, although he may be guilty of disobedience, may be sinning gravely, and may be in theological error.  Heresy, thus, is the highest form of theological error, but not by any means the only one.

Note also that it must be pertinacious, which implies that someone who falls into error but accepts the Church's correction is not a heretic.  It is only after being corrected and pertinaciously holding fast to the error that a person obtains all the marks of the heretic.


Cf. St. Thomas' questions on unbelief, heresy, apostasy, blasphemy, etc. in his Summa.

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