Essay on Heresy
Arnaldo Vidigal Xavier da Silveira
translated by John Daly
How Behaviour, Gestures, Attitudes, And Omissions Can Betray A Heretic.
In his encyclical 'Pascendi Dominici Gregis', Pope Saint Pius X said that the modernists were the most dangerous enemies of the Church because, instead of clearly admitting their heresy, they hid it in their hearts.
So if a Catholic were to judge that one ought only to combat the declared enemies of the Spouse of Christ he would be in the highest degree blameworthy. To admit that it was enough for someone to call himself a Catholic for him to become beyond reproach, no matter how ridiculous his words or actions might be would be to arrange absolute impunity for wolves in sheep's clothing who enter into the sheepfold. And with regard to people of good faith it would be to deprive them of the warnings and indications which could forearm them against error, or even rescue them from it if they had already been deceived by these impostures.
Wolves Inside The Fold
The position of those who are preoccupied with ensuring that wolves in sheep's clothing are not free to act among the flock is distressing. They are not understood and pass for victims of persecution mania who are pathetic in their fervour to discover heresies in everything.
For this reason this periodical has not restricted itself to fighting the internal enemies, but has always endeavoured to show that this fight is legitimate, appropriate, and even necessary. To promote this fight is to act according to the best traditions of the Church, it is to obey the recommendations of the Sovereign Pontiffs, it is to imitate the saints and to be attentive to the warnings of Our Lord: "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." (Matt VII-15.)
In the present article we are not going to demonstrate once more that "it is licit and even necessary to alert souls against enemies which are to be discovered even within their own household", that such an action is recommended by the popes, that it is not contrary to charity, that it does not arise from a systematically negative disposition.
We wish only to treat of a very particular point of the greatest importance in distinguishing with precision the enemy who has infiltrated the Church. The question which we are putting is the following:- "Is it necessary for a Catholic to defend by spoken or written words propositions contrary to the faith in order to become a heretic or a suspect of heresy? Can a person's range of attitudes, general outlook, behaviour and deportment characterise a heretic even if he does not say or write anything normally contrary to the Faith? In short:- can one fall into heresy by deeds?"
The theoretical and practical importance of this question is obvious. In the theoretical domain, it must be remembered that, according to Canon Law, the heretic who manifests his heresy exteriorly is IPSO FACTO excommunicated and excluded from the Church. It follows that the possibility of falling into heresy by the mere fact of practising certain acts has profound repercussions on the study of the Mystical Body of Christ as well as on diverse other aspects of Sacred Theology.
It ought nevertheless to be observed at once that one ought not to interpret every action which is irreconcilable with a dogma as a proof of a heretical disposition. In fact, a sinner, even if he believes in Hell, can, whether through weakness or through malice, behave as if he did not. He wants to enjoy life, hopes to repent before he dies and simply does not strive to conquer his bad habits. Does such a process turn him into a heretic? By no means. An action or a body of actions only reveal a heretical "animus" if, considered in relation to all their circumstances they unequivocally show that the person, apart from merely acting in a way that conflicts with a certain dogma, obstinately denies it or puts it in doubt.
In the practical domain it is clear, if simple actions are capable of exposing a heretic, that the number of excommunicates is greater than at first sight. Moreover, the battle against wolves in sheep's clothing acquires a whole new dimension once it is proven that it is possible to fall into heresy by practising certain actions. The idea that one can only deny an article of faith by words is current in Catholic circles. Led astray by this erroneous notion, many timid spirits feel that they are not up to resisting such and such an enemy who has infiltrated the Church. They suppose that they are attacking a brother in the faith, a member of the Mystical Body of Christ. Even when they admit that a particular attitude is theoretically erroneous or armful to the interests of our Religion, such people hesitate to denounce a Catholic. If one could only make them see that in such cases they are up against a heretic, a thousand unjustifiable interior resistances to the true faith would crumble.
The problem becomes still graver because "The originators of such errors are very frequently people of model private behaviour with which, far from serving the cause of good principles, they facilitate, instead, the propagation of evil by giving a disinterested and purely speculative character to such doctrines" (P. Correa de Oliveira. "Em Defensa ..", pg.100).
The enormous ravages which have decimated the flock of Christ would have been avoided if right from the beginning the wolves had been called wolves, that is to say if one had quickly snatched from them the disguise of the sheep, thus revealing the coarse, crabbed and hideous hide of the heretic.
For example, a young university student calls himself a Catholic. He is active in working for movements which are said to uphold "farmers' rights", "workers' rights" or "students' rights". For a long time in such movements he has been linked with the communists and is accustomed to have them by his side. He does not call himself a Marxist and even claims to be a convinced adversary of every kind of atheism, but he is sympathetic towards socialism, even in extreme forms. Because of his struggles for the reforms of the avant-garde he has already been in trouble with the police, that police which he taxes with being "reactionary", "a tool of the capitalists," "an instrument of North American colonialism". He receives communion every day, but he reckons that the puerile practices of the "Church of Constantine" must disappear with a life of adult piety led by an enlightened Catholic of the "Church of Vatican II": for this reason he smiles disdainfully when he hears talk of the Heart of Jesus, of the Virginity of the Blessed Virgin, of devotion to the saints, of transubstantiation, of Hell, etc... He never directly attacks any dogma because he realises that to do so would injure his own cause; but he does not talk about these things and does not like to hear them discussed.
So we enquire, can one affirm that this young man is a heretic?
Internal Or External Heresies
To reply to this question we must first observe that as far as juridical effects are concerned there is an enormous difference between internal heresy and external heresy, that is to say, between the sin of heresy committed in the secrecy of one's conscience and that which is exteriorly revealed, constituting heresy in the canonical sense. In fact, as the Church is a visible society she can juridically punish only those sins which are visibly manifested. A sin which remains in the intimacy of one's conscience is a true sin and will be punished by God. The Church can forgive it in the tribunal of the confessional, but if the sin has not been manifested on the visible plane then it cannot be punished on that plane, i.e. it cannot be the object of ecclesiastical censures or penalties.
A man succumbs to a temptation against the Faith and in his heart he denies, for instance, the dogma of the eternity of hell. He does not admit this to anyone. Undoubtedly he has committed a mortal sin of heresy, but he is neither excommunicated nor excluded from the Church. He will be so only at the moment when he makes this heresy exterior.
It is a thesis adopted by the theologians that it is possible to make a heresy exterior and thereby incur the canonical penalties not only by words, but also by behaviour, attitudes, signs and omissions.
Indeed a simple nod of the head, a gesture of the hand or a physical expression can unequivocally indicate a thought. In a larger context a political stance, the silence of an authority or a public attitude can express, in relation to the circumstances, that someone who acts in a certain way, has such and such an idea.
No-One Disputes That It Is Possible To Fall Into Heresy By Actions
Before examining certain related problems - although they are of fundamental significance - that this thesis raises, we wish to show that there is nothing new or original in what we have just affirmed. On the contrary, as we have already said, we are dealing with a detail adopted by the theologians. Since, however, the prejudice that the only heretic is someone who states a heresy by his words or his writings is very deep-rooted, we wish to draw a little support by quoting reputable theologians:
"According to the general rule, to constitute external heresy and incur the censure, it is necessary and sufficient that the internal heresy should be manifested by means of some exterior indications. These indications are usually classified in two categories:- words and actions. Among 'words' are included signs made with the head or the hand or another part of the body, and for this reason the manner of communicating by which some people make themselves understood through signs formed by moving their fingers is sufficient. Among 'actions' must be included the omission of certain exterior actions, because sometimes the omission of an action evidences internal heresy quite as clearly as a positive action; for which reason heretics are frequently discovered by the very fact that they do not behave as Catholics." (De Lugo, disp. XXIII, sect. II, no.II.)
"External heresy is that which is manifested by exterior signs (words, signs, actions, omissions of actions)." (Merkelbach, pg. 570)
"External heresy is an error against the faith, revealed by a word or by some other exterior indication." (Prummer, pg. 365)
"To incur such an excommunication "latae sententiae, specially reserved to the Sovereign Pontiff," it is necessary that the heresy, after having been interiorly conceived should be exteriorly manifested by a word, a writing or an action." (Tanquerey, Syn. Theol., Mor. et Past., pg. 475)
"External heresy adds to the internal heresy a sufficient exterior manifestation, expressed by such words, signs or actions as would be conclusive." (Wernz-Vidal, pg. 444)
"Heresy can be exteriorly manifested in any manner by signs, writings, words or actions, as long as it becomes sufficiently clear that there is an adhesion which is true and clearly marked and, moreover, deliberate, that is to say, formal." (De Bruyne, col. 490)
"To incur the excommunication it is necessary that the interiorly conceived heresy be exteriorly manifested by some sign, word, action or writing - even when nobody is present or hears." (Noldin, vol.1 "Coml, de Poenis Eccl." pg. 48)
"It is of no moment (in order that the excommunication be incurred) whether the heresy be manifested alone or in the presence of others; whether it be by a word a writing or an action as long as it is realised that the heresy is implicit in the action." (Genicot, pg. 647)
"Internal heresy is that which is mentally conceived, but is not manifested by any exterior sign. External heresy is that which is declared by exterior signs: words, writings, actions, denials etc." (Peinador, pg. 103)
"Exterior heresy can be manifested by omissions, words or other perceptible signs." (Zalba, pg. 28)
"Excommunication is incurred by heretics, that is to say, those Christians who pertinaciously deny or doubt the truths of faith proposed by the Church, not merely inwardly, nor indeed merely outwardly, but inwardly and outwardly at the same time, by means of some indication - word, action or writing." (Lorio, pg. 258)
"For there to be a delict, it is necessary that apostasy, heresy or schism be outwardly manifested by means of actions or of words." (Miguelez-Almso-Cabreros, pg. 845)
The same thesis is supported also by the following authors: Suarez, disp. XIX, sect. IV, n.4-5; Disp. X G, sect. II n.8; Reiffenstuel, n.26; Schmalz-Grueher, II, 98; D'Annibale, "In Constitutionem..." II.31; Lehmkohl, pg. 656; Coronato, pg. 280; Cappello, pg, 5EV; Ferreres, pg. 743; Wernz-Vidal, pgs. 445,449,450. Michel, col. 2242-2243; Noldin, vol. II, pg. 26; Brys, pg.502; Arregul, pg. 7R; Peinador, pg. 74; Sipos, pg.608; Zaira, pg. 973.
Some Serious Difficulties
As we have already mentioned in passing there are big difficulties presented by the thesis according to which it is possible to become a heretic by practising certain actions. Let us examine some of them.
Can An Action Have An Unequivocal Sense?
An action, an attitude, a gesture or an omission can always have more than one meaning. Moreover, they can result from constraint, from diminution of mental faculties, etc. Does one not run the risk of committing grave injustices by accepting that it is possible to commit the delict of heresy and thereby to be excommunicated and excluded from the Church, by the fact of acting in a particular way?
The answer is obvious. No doubt some actions are ambiguous and admit of more than one interpretation. Someone who performs such actions will not become suspect of heresy. But it is equally clear that there are certain acts or bodies of acts which are unequivocal, that is to say, to which one cannot give more than one interpretation. As far as concerns the possibility of constraint, clearly there is one, but it exists no more in relation to actions than to spoken or written words. To avoid incorrect judgements about actions motivated by constraint, fear, ignorance, error, etc., the Law has elaborated meticulous and wise rules in the course of the centuries. Such precautions are also de rigueur in Canon Law. In the case which we are examining of heresy by actions, the canonical delict would only be pinpointed when it is certain that on the part of the offender there is full knowledge, criminal pertinacity in his attitudes, a heretical animus, etc. So we ought not to make rash judgements about actions which by their nature suggest a heretical spirit; but it cannot be denied that in many cases a person's ideas are unequivocally revealed by his behaviour.
An important observation ought to be made at this point by saying that we must not make rash judgements about ambiguous actions. Are we saying that a Catholic ought never to suspect his neighbour? That all suspicion is a rash judgement? Obviously not! The theory of rash judgement was thoroughly analysed by Dr P. Correa de Oliveira in some most authoritative articles published in 'El Legionario' in 1941. After proving that shrewdness is an indispensable virtue for men of all conditions, these articles show that Our Lord practised it and insistently recommended it. Evidence which is insufficient to make an unfavourable judgement on someone can nevertheless suffice to rouse a suspicion. And to rouse it is obviously a duty. The manager of a firm has a definite moral obligation towards his associates to suspect the employee whose behaviour he has noticed to be strange. A father has a duty to mistrust his son if he is showing signs of a grave spiritual crisis because it is only in this way that he can fulfil his duties as father.
Furthermore a favourable judgement may be unsound and consequently rash, to the extent that it may gravely injure the interests of a third party. A company manager who has an ungrounded confidence in an employee or a father who, by excessive "niceness" has formed a better opinion of his son than he deserves has made a rash judgement of acquittal and for this reason has not fittingly fulfilled his duty.
Applying these considerations to our subject, we must say that there is nothing rash in considering as suspect of heresy someone who has given occasion for it. On the contrary it would be rashness not to form this conclusion. And above all it would be rash to maintain that on principle one ought never to rouse suspicions of heresy: by so doing, one would facilitate the invasion of the sheepfold by wolves in sheep's clothing.
Can Pertinacity Be Demonstrated By Actions?
How is pertinacity to be proved in someone who does not say anything opposed to the faith? Does not pertinacity require a deliberate obstinacy which can only be manifested by words? We must also reply to this objection that words, like actions, are apt to characterise a pertinacious spirit quite unequivocally. In their way, just as kindness, zeal, hatred and pride can print themselves on a physiognomy and be expressed by an action or by a succession of gestures, so too can pertinacity.
Moreover, it must be noted that the word "pertinacity" has, in the definition of heresy a different sense from that which it has in everyday usage. In the usual dictionary meaning, "pertinacious" means very tenacious, obstinate, secretive, persistent, continuing for a long time, perseverant. This is also the meaning of the Latin word.
If pertinacity, so understood, were essential to the sin of heresy, this would only exist in the cases of intrinsic malice which may be frequent, but is difficult to prove; it could only be determined after a long period of observation; it would never be committed in a moment of weakness, for example of anger.
Now the moralists and canonists are unanimous in affirming that the Code of Canon Law (can. 1325,D.2) does not use the term in this sense. As Tanquerey teaches, "pertinacity refers to denying or doubting a truth of the faith", "Scienter et volente", that is to say, with full knowledge that this truth is a dogma, and with full adhesion of will. "For there to be pertinacity", he adds, "it is not necessary that the person should be admonished several times and persevere for a long time in his obstinacy, but it is sufficient that consciously and willingly (sciens et volens) he refused a truth proposed in a sufficient manner, be it through pride or delight in contradiction or for any other reason." (Tanquerey, "Syn. Th. Mor. et Past.", pg.473.) Even if he denies it "brevi mora", ie. for a moment, a very brief space of time (Tanquerey, "Brevior Syn. Th. Mor.", pg.95) because pertinacity in this context "does not indicate duration of time, but perversity of reason" (Zalba, pg.28). There can be pertinacity in a sin of heresy committed by simple weakness (cf. Caietano in II; II, II.2.).
Concerning the canonical meaning of "pertinacity" in the definition of heresy, see also: St. Thomas "Summa Theol." II; II, II. 2,3; "Super Ep. ad Titum Lect.", n.l02; Wernz-Vidal, pgs. 449-450 Merkelbach, pg.569; Prummer, pg. 364; Noldin. vol. II, pg.25; Avis, pg. 292; Peinador, pg.99; Regatillo, pg. 142; Journet pg.709.
Is A Warning Necessary In A Case Of Heresy By Actions?
Saint Paul insists that the heretic be rebuked once or twice before being avoided (cf. Titus 3;10). How then can one dare to claim that someone becomes a heretic by the mere fact of practising certain actions. When the canonists affirm that one can fall into the sin of heresy by practising certain actions, they neither say nor suggest that the other conditions required in the case of heresy by word cease to apply. Consequently a warning is necessary as a rule on the one hypothesis, just as much as on the other.
We say "as a rule" because the principle which Saint Paul states admits of an important exception. Commentators teach that the warning insisted on by the Apostle of the Gentiles serves to expose the sinner who denies a truth of the Faith, a truth which cannot, on any pretext, be denied. Yet the Church nevertheless has the prime concern of avoiding all ambiguity when she denounces the Heretical Animus.
Now there are cases in which there can be no such ambiguity. There are cases in which the heretic quite obviously knows that the truth which he denies or doubts is "de fide". There is no possibility, for example, that a doctor of theology might be unaware that Our Lady's Virginity is a dogma.
On the other hand, in a conversation or a lecture, even a doctor of theology can inadvertently let slip an incorrect expression which of itself would constitute heresy. Indeed it can be accepted that even with a book which he has written, and over which he has carefully pondered, a mistake may have slipped in without his noticing. But if the central thesis of the book is manifestly heretical, then it is no longer possible to accept a mistake, or an oversight. A warning would be superfluous.
De Lugo, quoting great writers of his day, unravels this important question as follows - "...Neither is it always demanded in the external forum that there be a warning and a reprimand as described above for somebody to be punished as heretical and pertinacious, and such a requirement is by no means always admitted in practice by the Holy Office. For if it could be established in some other way, given that the doctrine is well known, given the kind of person involved and given the other circumstances, that the accused could not have been unaware that his thesis was opposed to the Church, he would be considered as a heretic from this fact
The reason for this is clear because the exterior warning can serve only to ensure that someone who has erred understands the opposition which exists between his error and the teaching of the Church. If he knew the subject through books and conciliar definitions much better than he could know it by the declarations of someone admonishing him then there would be no reason to insist on a further warning for him to become pertinacious against the Church." (De Lugo, disp.XX, sect.IV,n.l57-158). See also: Diana, resol.36; Vermeersch, pg.245; Noldin, vol.i, "Compl. de Poenis Eccl.", pg.21; Regatillo, pg. 508.
Such a teaching, it might be objected, is found in the textbooks, but it has not been retained by the Code of Canon Law which establishes in canon 2233 n.2 the precise manner in which the accused must be rebuked and warned before any censure may be imposed.
This objection does not stand up, because this canon applies only to "ferendae sententiae" censures, ie. those which are inflicted by the superior or by the ecclesiastical judge. When the censure is "latae sententiae", that is to say when the accused incurs it automatically by the fact of having committed a certain crime, the warning is not necessary. In this case, as a fine old legal maxim has it, "Lex interpellat pro homine", the law calls to account, instead of the man (cf. Palazzini, col. 1298).
The excommunication which falls on the heretic is "latae sententiae" (Canon 2314 n.l). It becomes clear, as a consequence of this, that the Code of Canon Law has also accepted the principle that a warning is not always necessary for pertinacity to be revealed.
Actions Which Are Canonically Suspect Of Heresy
The study of heresy demands an analysis of the juridical aspect of suspicion of heresy.
The fact is that the Code of Canon Law lists numerous actions which, of their nature, give grounds for suspicion that someone who practises them is a heretic. Usually it is only the heretic who practises them, but in reality they could also be explained by causes other than heresy.
Before seeing how the Church proceeds in such cases in order to determine whether she is dealing with a heretic or not, let us examine the delicts which, according to canon law, create a suspicion of heresy.
- To marry with an explicit or implicit agreement that all or some of the children will be educated outside the Catholic Church (can. 2319 n.2). The reason is obvious. If, in a mixed marriage, the Catholic partner is content for the children to be educated in, for example, the Protestant religion, this is probably because he believes that Protestantism allows one validly to praise God. And it is a heresy to believe that the Catholic Religion is not the only true one.
- Consciously to submit one's children to a non-Catholic minister for Baptism (canon 2319 n.3).
- Consciously to submit one's children or those entrusted to one to the upbringing or teaching of a non-Catholic religion.
- To throw away the consecrated species, likewise to throw them or to carry them with one for an evil intention (canon 2320). For it is right to suspect that one who commits such crimes does not believe in the Real Presence, or that judging from his hatred for the sacred species he denies other dogmas.
- Obstinately to remain under excommunication for a year (Canon 2340 n.l). For whoever acts so does not believe in the juridical power of the ecclesiastical authorities or denies other dogmas.
- Consciously to confer or receive Holy Orders by simony. According to canon law, the suspicion of heresy in this hypothesis can even fall on a person who has been raised to the episcopacy (canon 2371). The commercialisation of the sacraments shows such a scorn for everything most sacred in Holy Church that one is forced to conclude that whoever is responsible for it believes in no dogma at all.
- Knowingly and willingly to assist in any manner the propagation of heresy (canon 2316).
- Actively to assist at the sacred functions of non-Catholics or to take part in them (but excluding a simple passive presence arising from a civic office or social necessity for a grave reason and as long as there be no risk of scandal (canon 2316). The reason behind this canon is clear; to participate, without being obliged to, in non-Catholic religious ceremonies is to suggest that they are pleasing to God.
- To appeal to a General Council from the laws, decrees or orders of the Sovereign Pontiff, whatever may be the status of the person so appealing, whether royal, episcopal or cardinalatial (canon 2332). Anyone who appeals to a Council from a papal decision would implicitly admit to a superiority of the Council over the Roman Pontiff, which is a heretical thesis.
Concerning the canonical cases of suspicion of heresy one can consult:- Wernz-Vidal, pgs 451-452; Tanquerey "Brevior Syn. Tb. Ivor" pg.386; Vermeersch, pg.316; Capello pg. 552 et seq.; Ferreres, pg.743; Sipos, pg.609; Regatillo, pg. 5; Iorios, pgs. 253 et seq., 260 et seq.
Canonical Measures Against One Who Is Suspected Of Heresy
How does the Church proceed in order to determine whether one who is suspected of heresy is actually a heretic?
Canon 2315 affirms that "the suspect of heresy who, once he has been admonished, does not remove the cause of the suspicion is to be prohibited from legitimate actions [the denomination given by canon 2256 n.2 to certain juridical actions:- to be sponsor of baptism or confirmation, to vote in ecclesiastical elections, to manage ecclesiastical goods, etc.] and, if he be a cleric, when the warning has been once repeated in vain, he will be suspended a divinis [ie. forbidden to celebrate Holy Mass and to conduct other religious actions proper to clerics]; and if the suspect of heresy does not amend himself in the space of six full months, starting from the moment when he incurred the penalty, he will be considered as a heretic, subject to the penalties of heretics." Let us observe from this how patient and prudent the Church is in respect of such people. In addition to the warning which must be reiterated in the case of a cleric, she gives six months for the retraction or for ultimate clarifications before imposing the penalties proper to heretics. These penalties are not automatic; rather, they must be imposed by the bishop who may ultimately have reasons for not putting them into effect.
As well as being patient and prudent, the Church is just, and justice requires energy. Beyond certain limits, it is necessary to cut from the organism the diseased member who has excommunicated himself and excluded himself from the Church and, moreover, constitutes a threat to the faith of others.
According to the mind of the Church the censures must be imposed with proportion and propriety, but there must also be rigour and severity, if this be necessary:- cf canon 2214 n.2; 2241 n.2; Wernz-Vidal, pg. 180 et seq. Vermeersch, pgs. 236-237, 259; Regatillo, pgs. 500-501, 523.
The cases of suspicion of heresy listed above are those foreseen by the Code of Canon Law. Nevertheless, as the theologians observe, there are also extra-canonical cases of suspicion of heresy. There is suspicion of heresy, says Wernz-Vidal, in the exercise of magic, of charms or of divination; in very grave abuses of the sacraments as for example with the crime of solicitation in confession, in the violation of a sacramental secret, in the fraudulent confection of the sacraments by a person who has not received priestly ordination, in crimes against ecclesiastical authority which give legitimate grounds for suspicion that the accused has erroneous ideas not about the person who wields it, but about authority as such, as is also the case with those who become members of the sects which, whether openly or secretly, hatch plots against the Church or civil society. (...) These cases which were cited by the doctors in the "ius novissimum" (ie. in the Canon Law which was in force before the promulgation of the present Code in 1917) continue "of their nature" (ex natura rei) to give grounds for suspicion of heresy, but juridical suspicion exists only in the nine cases specified in Canon Law, which we have just listed. For the same understanding, see D'Annibale, "In Constitutionem..." n.31.
We draw the reader's attention in a particular way to this distinction between the canonical and extra-canonical cases of suspicion of heresy. With regard to the former, the Code foresees, defines and sanctions the hypothesis. With regard to the latter, there is no direct reference to them in the ecclesiastical laws, but the nature of the action itself forces one to suspect that the person who does it is, in his inmost heart, a heretic. One who performs magic, for example, probably denies a dogma, even if the Code be silent in this respect.
We are led to wonder whether the many actions which, of their very nature, create suspicion of heresy, but are not foreseen in the present canon law, are for this reason to remain unpunished. The significance of this question is capital. And it is all the more so in that many authors, who treat of the canonical delict of suspicion of heresy, think that this juridical clause includes only those expressly foreseen by the law (Cappello, pg. 553; Vermeersch pg-316; Brys, pg.504; Zalba, pg.30; Iorio, pg. 26).
Perhaps it will prove necessary to assert that the Church, good and indulgent mother that she is, punishes only the nine cases cited, giving free rein in any other cases to her recalcitrant children.
Other Actions Tainted With Heresy And Not Foreseen In The Code Of Canon Law
Before replying to this query, let us complete the framework within which it must be analysed. In fact, there are other categories of actions connected with heresy, which were punished under the "ius vetus" (ie. primitive canon law) and which do not figure, at least explicitly, in the Code. These actions are:- to believe in a heretic, to favour one, to receive one and to defend one.
Concerning these delicts, see - Suarez, disp. XXIV, sect,I; De Lugo, disp. XXV, sect.i; Schmalz-Gruber, n.91 et seq.; D'Annibale, "Suminula...", pg. 8; Wernz-Vidal, pg. 450 et seq; Michel, col. 2244.
"Believers" - Those Who Believe In, Or Are Disposed To Relieve In, A Heretic
The "believers", i.e. those who believe in a heretic or accord credit to him are "those who, in bad Faith, accept by an intellectual judgement at least one heretical doctrine put forward by a heretic, even if they do not adhere to a particular sect." This delict presents little interest for our study seeing that "believers" do not differ in essence from heretics and for this reason are included among the delicts of heresy if the other conditions are not absent, (Wernz-Vidal, pg.950). In fact, somebody who accepts a heretical doctrine is a heretic so that this distinction between "believers" and heretics who are affiliated to a particular sect can help us only in clearly establishing that both are excommunicated, even if the latter incur particular penalties provided for by canon 2314 n.l (3).
Nevertheless, as Suarez points out, the term "believer" must likewise embrace "those who, without giving their assent to errors, still go to hear heretics in such a disposition of mind that they would readily associate themselves with their opinions if they found agreeable the arguments and reasons adduced by them", (Suarez, disp. XXIV, sect. 1, n.3). The same teaching is also expounded by De Lugo (disp. XXV, sect. 1, n.3) and Schmalzgruber (n.92).
Suarez then adds that people who had been several times present regularly, at the meetings of heretical sects ought to be considered as "believers." So here is a very clear case of a delict proximate to heresy committed not by word but by action.
Abettors Of Heresy
Abettors of heresy "are those who by the practice or the omission of a particular action accord to heretics an advantage which favours the development of the heretical doctrine" (Wernz- Vidal, pg. 450). Let it be noted that to make oneself guilty of abetting heresy it is necessary to have given assistance to a heretic qua heretic. It is obvious that if a doctor, for example, treats a sick Protestant he is not for this reason an abettor of heresy. The same qualification, mutatis mutandis, is also valid for those who defend and receive heretics as we shall shortly discuss.
Concerning the manner of abetting heresy by omission, De Lugo writes "they abet the heretic by omission who, being bound by their charge to pursue, punish and expel a heretic, nevertheless neglect these duties. For example, the magistrates to whom the bishop or the inquisitors have recourse or to whom they entrust the heretic to be chastised. And also the inquisitor and prelates of the Church themselves if they neglect some part of the obligations of their charge, thus abetting the heresy. The same must be said of the other servants of the Holy Office and also of the private individuals to whom this charge is entrusted by those who have the power to impose it on them; and likewise of the witnesses who are obliged to speak the truth during a legitimate interrogation, but conceal it in order to benefit the heretic." (De Lugo, disp. XXV, sect. 1, n.6.) For the same understanding, refer to Suarez, "De Fide", disp. XXIV, sect. I, n.6; Schmalzgruber, n.94.
Those Who Admit Heretics
These are "those who conceal or receive heretics in their domicile or some other place so that these latter can escape from a juridical inquiry and the penalties which they have deserved" (Wernz-Vidal, pg.450-451). De Lugo observes that, for this to be a discernible delict, "it suffices, as all the authors affirm, to receive the heretic(s) on a single occasion, just as with those who present themselves as defenders or allies of the heretics... This censure falls not only upon those who receive and conceal a heretic, but, as before, upon the magistrates or the authorities who receive them in their towns or provinces in such a way as to afford them protection to remain freely in the sect to which they belong." (De Lugo, disp. XXV, sect. I, n.4).
Defenders Of Heretics
The "defenders" are those who do not interiorly adhere to the heretical doctrine but, nevertheless, defend it by word or writing against those who combat it. In the same category are those who protect by force or other unjust means the person of heretics against a legitimate persecution (1) resulting from this heresy (Wernz-Vidal, pg.451).
(1) This word is used in its etymological sense of a juridical pursuit.
Some of the texts which we have just cited about "believers abettors, receivers and defenders" of heretics might seem to be completely anachronistic and outdated by the modern practice of the Church. We cite them nevertheless for two reasons.
First, they clearly establish that, even in our own days, there are many Catholics who fall into such sins allied to heresy. In fact, today as at other times, there are those who listen to heretics being well disposed in their regard, those who grant them advantages, who abet the propagation of heresy, those who, being obliged by their function to punish heretics, neglect to do so, etc.
Besides, a theoretical study of heresy cannot be confined to an analysis of the modern situation. The wickedness of our times has led the Church to tolerate in her legislation processes which do not correspond to the ideal order after which she and her children aspire and for which they struggle without ceasing. The texts cited above indicate, at least according to the proper nature of things, the obligation to pursue heretics in a completely Catholic society. Such were the principles in force in the Middle Ages of which Leo XIII said in the encyclical Immortale Dei: "There was a time during which the philosophy of the Gospel governed the states. In this era the influence of Christian wisdom and its divine virtue informed the laws, institutions, popular customs, all the classes and all the activities of civil society. Then the Religion instituted by Jesus Christ, solidly established in the degree of dignity which is due to it, was everywhere flourishing thanks to the support of the Princes and the legitimate protection of the magistrates. Then, the Priesthood and the Empire were united in a happy harmony and the courteous exchange of good services. So organised, civil society produced fruits surpassing all hope, fruits of which the memory remains and shall remain, inscribed as it is in the multiplicity of documents which no artifice of the enemy shall be able to pervert or obscure."
Canonical Impunity For So Many Sins Allied To Heresy?
Having reached this point in our study, we can repeat the question which we set ourselves: do the many sins allied to heresy but not provided for in canon law remain unpunished under the present Code?
The answer is an absolute negative.
In fact, we might affirm a priori that practices so harmful to the Faith cannot remain unpunished. Unilateral disarmament on the part of ecclesiastical authority would be tantamount to allowing a wolf to make himself at home within the fold of Christ.
It is well known that, in the ecclesiastical order, just as much as in the civil order, positive law neither should nor can punish all offences. In wishing to repress by law all that they believe to be bad, the Socialists, for example, end up by establishing a completely unnatural juridical regime and one which is above all incomparably more unjust than the injustices which they believe - or purport to believe - they are eliminating.
There are certain crimes, however, which the Law cannot leave unpunished, because they are fundamentally contrary to the social order. If such crimes went unpunished, they would spread and threaten the very existence of society. Likewise, in the civil sphere the laws cannot leave unpunished homicide or attempted homicide, assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, etc.
In the same way, the delicts close to heresy which are analysed above are such that Canon Law cannot cease to punish them in one way or another.
How could it be imagined that the suspects of heresy could spread their venom among faithful souls by their scandalous actions without ecclesiastical authority providing any means to incapacitate them? How could it be imagined that the abettors of heresy had full citizen's rights in Holy Church? That they could inject a lethal virus into the Mystical Body of Christ, left without any means of defence against them?
A priori - we repeat it - we could already be assured that Canon Law censures criminal acts close to heresy. And in fact we find in the Code diverse legal means of punishing such actions. Although we do not intend to exhaust the subject, we shall point out certain of these means.
Many of the actions cited above undoubtedly fall under canon 2316 according to which "he is suspect of heresy who knowingly and willingly assists in any way the propagation of heresy". Thus the person who commits a criminal action is treated like any other suspect of heresy according to canon 2315 which we have analysed.
Some authors consider that this is the situation with all "receivers, defenders and abettors" of heresy in the present Code. As far as concerns "believers," they either fit into this category or else they are directly heretical as we have seen.
The question might have been reckoned as settled were it not for the two following considerations:- certain canonists exclude from canon 2316 delicts of omission (Vermeersch, pg. 317); and others affirm that "receivers, defenders and abettors of heresy" do not, as a general rule, fall under this sanction, even if they fall under other canons.
Thus Sipos (pg. 603) considers that they fall under canon 2209 n.7, which censures praise of a crime committed, participation in its fruits, concealment of the guilty party, etc.; he scarcely reserves for canon 2316 the hypothesis of assistance for the propagation of heresy.
Wernz-Vidal (pg. 451) places them under the diverse paragraphs of canon 2209 and, only to a very limited degree under the seventh. The other paragraphs consider notions of complicity, incitement to the crime, co-operation in its accomplishment, collaboration by negligence in the exercise of one's own office, etc. On the hand, many authors leave open the possibility of including all the delicts close to heresy under canon 2315, which censures the suspicion of heresy. In fact, these canonists believe that the specific crime of suspicion is committed not only in the nine cases foreseen by the law, but also in every case which reveals by its nature that the offender denies some dogma, (cf. Sipos, pg. 609; Regatillo, pg. 573). This possibility is not admitted by.- Vermeersch, pg. 316; Cappello, pg.553, Brys, pg.509; Zalba, pg. 30; Lorio, pg.260.
Finally we must observe that even on the ridiculous hypothesis that no law censures delicts close to heresy, there remains an open canonical path allowing sanctions:- the juridical character of heresy.
In fact, canon 2314 n.l, declares that heretics incur excommunication ipso facto. As we have seen, it is just as possible to fall into heresy by actions as it is by words and writings. Thus, by the very nature of things and not simply by a canonical disposition, one who commits a delict dose to heresy becomes suspect of heresy.
And also by the very nature of things, a suspect must be treated as a suspect.
What would happen if no law censured the delicts which have been mentioned? Before a case of suspicion of heresy, the bishop, the superior, or even a zealous friend could summon the suspect or in some cases would have to summon him - asking him to remove the grounds of the suspicion. If it proved necessary then one would have to have recourse to a second warning according to St. Paul's precept. One could give a certain time for the retraction if circumstance demanded. Finally, if everything proved useless, the heretic would be exposed according to canon 2314 n.l.
So we repeat that it would be absurd to imagine a canon law in which sins allied to heresy remained totally unpunished, leaving open the doors of the fold to the most ravening of wolves who always present themselves in sheep's clothing. With regard to knowing if such sins are covered by such and such a canon, the divergence among the authors is there to show us that there is more than one juridical way to punish a particular delict allied to heresy. Thus the laws, far from being in abeyance, are so copiously and unmistakably present as to create no little perplexity among the canonists.
In our own day, replete as it is with declared heresies, it is nonetheless the disguised and diffuse heresies which constitute the gravest threats to the faith of every Catholic and Christian Civilisation. We hope that we have contributed to resisting them by showing that not only by words, but also by gestures, actions, signs, attitudes and omissions it is possible to fall into external heresy.