Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Heresy hunting
With Kevin Miller and de Lubac, I'm not that big at making heresy hunting an important part of my theological work. Nor should anyone, especially amateurs. One of the problems with amateur heresy hunters is that they don't know the difference between formal and material heresy (the latter better called, perhaps, "error").
Pertinacity, that is, obstinate adhesion to a particular tenet is required to make heresy formal. For as long as one remains willing to submit to the Church's decision he remains a Catholic Christian at heart and his wrong beliefs are only transient errors and fleeting opinions."
The other is that they don't know the significance of what is called "theological notes," or the level of authority of a given pronouncement or document. The relationship between the degree of heresy and the theological weight of a teaching is always kepf clearly in mind:
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 a point 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.(Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908)

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