01 February 2007

The "H"-Word, Some More.

In re the next item down: on the other hand, maybe you are a heretic. Stephen Barr responds to E.T. Oakes:

While I agree with the general sentiment of Fr. Edward Oakes’ observations yesterday concerning the invidious or vituperative use of the word heresy, I feel that he is turning into a matter of sentiment what should be a matter of precise definition. If the word heresy is thought of merely as an insult or a taunt, then I agree that it is improper for Catholics to use it of Protestants, or Protestants to use it of Catholics. We should not be attempting to wound one another. Much better to call each other brothers.

The word heresy in Catholic teaching, however, has a very precise technical meaning today. It is not, as Oakes would have it, “explicitly [to] deny key doctrines of the faith.” The word key is not part of the definition of heresy given in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which reads: “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.”

The Catholic Church says that all things (though not only those things) taught by Ecumenical Councils as revealed truths under pain of anathema are to be believed “by divine and Catholic faith.” There are propositions on justification and other matters that were taught by the Council of Trent under pain of anathema. So, if a baptized person were obstinately to deny one of those propositions, the term heresy, as used technically by the Catholic Church, would apply to him.



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