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Reflections: Coming Home (Heresy/Schism)


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Heresy / Schism

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Heresy/Heretics & Schism/Schismatics

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Heresy / Heretics & Schism / Schismatics

Also See: Those Outside the Church (Topic Page)

"After a first and second warning, break off contact with a heretic, realizing that such a person is perverted and sinful and stands self-condemned." (St. Paul, Ti. 3:10-11)

"I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you by (the) grace (of Christ) for a different gospel (not that there is another). But there are some who are disturbing you and wish to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach (to you) a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone preaches to you a gospel other than the one that you received, let that one be accursed! Am I now currying favor with human beings or God? Or am I seeking to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ. Now I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it, and progressed in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my race, since I was even more a zealot for my ancestral traditions." (St. Paul, cf. Gal. 1:6-14)

"For this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, as you heard from the beginning, in which you should walk. Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh; such is the deceitful one and the antichrist. Look to yourselves that you do not lose what we worked for but may receive a full recompense. Anyone who is so 'progressive' as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him in your house or even greet him; for whoever greets him shares in his evil works." (St. John, 2 Jn. 1:6-11)

"[I] the food of heresy" (Liturgical Year)

"A faint faith is better than a strong heresy." (St. Thomas More)

"Heresy...can but lead the people to eternal ruin" (Liturgical Year)

"I say and protest that it is as wrong to divide the Church as to fall into heresy." (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church, 4th century A.D.)

"[E]very true Christian detests heresy, and all that savors thereof!" (Liturgical Year)

"The toleration of heretics is more injurious than the devastation of the provinces by the barbarians." (Pope St. Gelasius I, 5th century A.D.)

"No one shall pray in common with heretics and schismatics." (Council of Laodicea, 365 A.D.)

"For not every sin, however grave and enormous it be, is such as to sever a man automatically from the body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy." (Pope Pius XII)

"[The right to bind and loose] are allowed to the Church, neither is allowed to heresy. For this right has been granted to priests only." (St. Ambrose of Milan, Doctor of the Church, c. 387 A.D.)

"Christ, who is afflicted beyond measure by the diverse heresies multiplying around Him, is faithfully sought by the heart alone of the Catholic Church." (St. Bede the Venerable, Doctor of the Church)

"There is one point in which I cannot agree with you: you ask me to spare heretics - or, in other words - not to prove myself a Catholic." (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church)

"[St. Antony] would not speak to a heretic, unless to exhort him to the true faith; and he drove all such from his mountain, calling them venomous serpents." (Butler)

"Even the heretics appear to have Christ, for none of them denies the name of Christ; yet anyone who does not confess all that pertains to Christ does in fact deny Christ." (St. Ambrose, Doctor of the Church)

"Liberation or immunity from this disease of heresy is possible only when the clergy are properly instructed, since 'faith...depends on hearing, and hearing on the word of Christ' (Rom. 10:17)." (Pope St. Pius X, "Editae Saepe", 1910 A.D.)

"Hold most firmly and never doubt in the least that not only all pagans but also all Jews and heretics and schismatics who end this present life outside the Church are about to go into the eternal fire that was prepared for the Devil and his angels." (St. Fulgence of Ruspe, 6th century A.D.)

"[I]t is a greater thing to employ spiritual arms in defending the faithful against the errors of heretics and the temptations of the devil, than to protect the faithful by means of bodily weapons." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Can. 2316 Whoever in any manner willingly and knowingly helps in the promulgation of heresy, or who communicates in things divine with heretics against the prescriptions of Canon 1258, is suspected of heresy." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"It is a certain, well-established fact that no other crime so seriously offends God and provokes His greatest wrath as the vice of heresy. Nothing contributes more to the down fall of provinces and kingdoms than this frightful pest" (St. Charles Borromeo)

"Can. 1324 It is not enough to avoid heresy, but one must also carefully shun all errors which more or less approach it; hence all must observe the constitutions and decrees by which the Holy See has proscribed and forbidden dangerous opinions of that sort." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"I answer that, As Jerome (Glossa Ordinaria in Osee [Hosea] 2:16) says, 'words spoken amiss lead to heresy'; hence with us and heretics the very words ought not to be in common, lest we seem to countenance their error." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"By the heart we believe and by the mouth we confess the one Church, not of heretics but the Holy Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic (Church) outside which we believe that no one is saved." (Profession of Faith Prescribed for Durand of Osca and His Waldensian Companions, 1208 A.D.)

"That, 'If it were possible' (Mt. 24:24), is spoken hyperbolically; not that the elect can be led astray, but He wishes to show that the discourse of heretics is often so persuasive, as to have force to prevail even with those who act wisely." [Origen ("the greatest scholar of Christian antiquity" - although he would eventually be excommunicated and be regarded as a heretic), 3rd century A.D.]

"Under the old law anyone who refused obedience to the priests was put outside the camp and stoned by the people, or else he was beheaded and expiated his contempt with his blood. Today the disobedient are smitten with the spiritual sword, or they are expelled from the Church and torn in pieces by the ravening jaws of demons." (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church)

"Christian is my name, and Catholic my surname. The one designates me, while the other makes me specific… When we are called Catholics it is by this appellation that our people are kept apart from any heretical name." (St. Pacian of Barcelona, c. 383 A.D.)

"...those who make schism and are destitute of the love of God, who look to their own advantage rather than to the unity of the Church, who for any kind of trifling reason cut apart and divine the great and glorious body of Christ and destroy it in so far as they are able - men who talk of peace while making war." (St. Irenaeus, 2nd century A.D.)

"Heretics are to be converted by an example of humility and other virtues far more readily than by any external display or verbal battles. So let us arm ourselves with devout prayers and set off showing signs of genuine humility and go barefooted to combat Goliath." (St. Dominic)

"[St. Francis de Sales] proves that no authority can be said to exist in the Church of Christ unless it had been bestowed on her by an authoritative mandate, which mandate the ministers of heretical beliefs in no way can be said to possess." (Pope Pius XI, "Rerum Omnium Perturbationem", 1923 A.D.)

"Well done! You are famous throughout the world. Catholics revere you and point you out as the establisher of the old-time faith; and - an even greater glory - all heretics hate you. And they hate me too; unable to slay us with the sword, they would that wishes could kill." (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church)

"You cannot be excused on the score of ignorance, knowing as you do that in the city of Rome the episcopal chair was first conferred on Peter, who occupied it as head of the Apostles; in order that in that one chair the unity of the Church might be preserved by all, and that the other Apostles might not claim each a chair for himself; so that now he who erects another in opposition to this single chair is a schismatic and a prevaricator." (Optatus of Milevi, as quoted in the Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"In that He says that the bundles of tares are to be cast into the fire (Mt. 13:30), and the wheat gathered into barns, it is clear that heretics also and hypocrites are to be consumed in the fires of hell, while the saints who are here represented by the wheat are received into the barns, that is into heavenly mansions." (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church)

"Above everything else, the Bishop must be eternally on guard and continually vigilant in preventing the contagious disease of heresy from entering among his flock and removing even the faintest suspicion of it from the fold. If it should happen to enter (the Lord forbid!), he must use every means at his command to expel it immediately. Moreover, he must see to it that those infected or suspected be treated according to the pontifical canons and sanctions" (St. Charles Borromeo)

"I exhort you, then, to leave alone the foreign fodder of heresy and keep entirely to Christian food… For heretics mingle poison with Jesus Christ, as men might administer a deadly drug in sweet wine…so that without thought or fear of the fatal sweetness a man drinks his own death." (St. Ignatius of Antioch, hearer of St. John the Apostle, 2nd century A.D.)

"The uncleanness of leprosy betokened the uncleanness of heretical doctrine: both because heretical doctrine is contagious just as leprosy is, and because no doctrine is so false as not to have some truth mingled with error, just as on the surface of a leprous body one may distinguish the healthy parts from those that are infected." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Our Lord Jesus Christ, when in His Gospel He testifies that those who not are with Him are His enemies, does not designate any special form of heresy, but declares that all heretics who are not with Him and do not gather with Him scatter His flock and are His adversaries: 'He that is not with Me is against Me, and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth'" (St. Cyprianus)

"Can. 1364 §1 An apostate from the faith, a heretic or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication, without prejudice to the provision of Can. 194 §1, n. 2; a cleric, moreover, may be punished with the penalties mentioned in Can. 1336 §1, nn. 1, 2 and 3. §2 If a longstanding contempt or the gravity of scandal calls for it, other penalties may be added, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

"Those, indeed, who belong to God and to Jesus Christ - they are with the bishop. And those who repent and come to the unity of the Church - they too shall be of God, and will be living according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren: it anyone follow a schismatic, he will not inherit the Kingdom of God. If any man walk with strange doctrine, he cannot lie down with the passion." (St. Ignatius of Antioch, hearer of St. John the Apostle, c. 110 A.D.) 

"Can. 1325 § 2 After the reception of baptism, if anyone, retaining the name of Christian, pertinaciously denies or doubts something to be believed from the truth of divine and Catholic faith, [such a one is] a heretic; if he completely turns away from the Christian faith, [such a one is] an apostate; if finally he refused to be under the Supreme Pontiff or refuses communion with the members of the Church subject to him, he is a schismatic." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"But we believe in Holy Church, that is, the Catholic Church; for even heretics and schismatics style their assemblies 'churches.' But whereas heretics violate the faith by their false ideas about God, schismatics, by their wicked separation, cut themselves off from fraternal charity. Hence neither do heretics belong to the Catholic Church, for it loves God; nor do schismatics, for the Catholic Church loves its neighbor." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, 4th century A.D.)

"Hence the teaching of Cyprian, that heresy and schism arise and are begotten from the fact that due obedience is refused to the supreme authority. 'Heresies and schisms have no other origin than that obedience is refused to the priest of God, and that men lose sight of the fact that there is one judge in the place of Christ in this world' (Epist. xii. ad Cornelium, n. 5)" (Pope Leo XIII, "Satis Cognitum", 1896 A.D.)

"As often as the heretics allege the possession of the canonical scriptures, to which all Christians give unanimous assent, they seem to say: 'Behold the word of truth is in the houses.' But we should believe them not and abandon not the primary and ecclesiastical tradition. We should believe not otherwise than has been handed down by the tradition of the Church of God" [Origen ("the greatest scholar of Christian antiquity" - although he would eventually be excommunicated and be regarded as a heretic), 3rd century A.D.]

"Anyone who is outside this Church, which received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, is walking a path not to heaven but to hell. He is not approaching the home of eternal life; rather, he is hastening to the torment of eternal death. And this is the case not only if he remains a pagan without Baptism, but even if, after having been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he continue as a heretic." (St. Fulgence of Ruspe, 6th century A.D.)

"All who, regarding the sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, or regarding baptism or the confession of sins, matrimony or the other ecclesiastical sacraments, do not fear to think or to teach otherwise than the most holy Roman Church teaches and observes; and in general, whomsoever the same Roman Church or individual bishops through their dioceses with the advice of the clergy or the clergy themselves, if the episcopal see is vacant, with the advice if it is necessary of neighboring bishops, shall judge as heretics, we bind with a like bond of perpetual anathema." (Council of Verona, 1184 A.D.)

"Heretics bring sentence upon themselves since they by their own choice withdraw from the Church, a withdrawal which, since they are aware of it, constitutes damnation. Between heresy and schism there is this distinction to be made, that heresy involves perverse doctrine, schism separates one from the Church on account of disagreement with the bishop." (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church, c. 386 A.D.)

"Let them abandon heresy and return quickly to the Catholic Church. Let them neither doubt the possession of their inheritance nor despair of the forgiveness of their sins. For anyone who does not believe that within the Catholic Church all sins can be loosed deprives himself of the forgiveness of sins if, persevering the same hardness of an impenitent heart, he departs from this world alienated from the Church's society." (St. Fulgence of Ruspe, 6th century A.D.)

[Under the heading 'Sins Against This Commandment', the Catechism of the Council of Trent states:] "Against this [first] Commandment, all those sin who have not faith, hope and charity. Such sinners are very numerous, for they include all who fall into heresy, who reject what holy mother the Church proposes for our belief, who give credit to dreams, fortune-telling, and such illusions; those who despairing of salvation, trust not in the goodness of God; and those who rely solely on wealth, or health and strength of body." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"Heretical teachers pervert Scripture and try to get into Heaven with a false key, for they have formed their human assemblies later than the Catholic Church. From this previously-existing and most true Church, it is very clear that these later heresies, and others which have come into being since then, are counterfeit and novel inventions." (Attr. Clement)

"Therefore, heresy is so called from the Greek word meaning 'choice,' by which each chooses according to his own will what he pleases to teach or believe. But we are not permitted to believe whatever we choose, nor to choose whatever someone else has believed. We have the apostles of God as authorities, who did not themselves of their own will choose what they would believe, but faithfully transmitted to the nations the teaching received from Christ. So, even if an angel from heaven should preach otherwise, he shall be called anathema." (St. Isidore, 7th century A.D.)

"Heresy is of its very nature opposed to faith, but schism is of its very nature opposed to the unity of ecclesiastical charity. Since, then, faith and charity are different virtues - although whoso lacks faith lacks charity - so, too, schism and heresy are distinct vices; and while a man who is a heretic is also a schismatic, the converse is not true... At first sight and from one angle schism appears to be a different thing from heresy; yet there is no schism which does not fashion for itself some heresy - for example, that it is right to have left the Church." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"And as an incapability of taking food, or of retaining it when taken, is a sure sign of approaching death, so is it a strong argument for their hopelessness of salvation, when men either seek not the Word of God, or, having it, endure it not, but utter against God the impious cry, Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. This is the spiritual folly and mental blindness of those who, disregarding their lawful pastors, the Catholic Bishops and priests, and, abandoning the Holy Roman Church, have transferred themselves to the direction of heretics that corrupt the Word of God." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"I have learned however, that certain persons from elsewhere, who have evil doctrine, have stayed with you; but you did not allow them to sow it among you, and you stopped your ears so that you would not receive what they sow... Do not err, my brethren: the corrupters of families will not inherit the kingdom of God. And if they who do these things according to the flesh suffer death, how much more if a man corrupt by evil teaching the faith of God, for the sake of which Jesus Christ was crucified? A man become so foul will depart into unquenchable fire; and so also will anyone who listens to him." (St. Ignatius of Antioch, hearer of St. John the Apostle, c. 110 A.D.)

"If anyone, not having love - which belong to the unity of spirit and the bond of peace by which the Catholic Church is gathered and joined together - is involved in some schism, but rather than deny Christ he suffers tribulations…this is certainly not blameworthy; on the contrary... When the Apostle says: 'If I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing, it should be understood that he means that it would profit him nothing in respect to gaining the kingdom of heaven, but not in respect to his undergoing a more tolerable punishment in the last judgment." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, c. 417 A.D.) 

"The unity of the Church is manifested in the mutual connection or communication of its members, and likewise in the relation of all the members of the Church to one head' (St. Thomas, 2a tae, 9, xxxix., a. I). From this it is easy to see that men can fall away from the unity of the Church by schism, as well as by heresy... Wherefore as no heresy can ever be justifiable, so in like manner there can be no justification for schism. 'There is nothing more grievous than the sacrilege of schism....there can be no just necessity for destroying the unity of the Church' (St. Augustine, Contra Epistolam Parmeniani, lib. ii., cap. ii., n. 25)." (Pope Leo XIII, "Satis Cognitum", 1896 A.D.) 

"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 deserts belong to the army from which they have deserted... Finally, excommunicated persons are not members of the Church, because they have been cut off by her sentence from the member of her children and belong not to her communion until they repent." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"Epiphanius, Augustine, Theodore, drew up a long list of the heresies of their times. St. Augustine notes that other heresies may spring up, to a single one of which, should any one give his assent, he is by the very fact cut off from Catholic unity. 'No one who merely disbelieves in all (these heresies) can for that reason regard himself as a Catholic or call himself one. For there may be or may arise some other heresies, which are not set out in this work of ours, and, if any one holds to a single one of these he is not a Catholic' (S. Augustinus, De Haeresibus, n. 88). The need of this divinely instituted means for the preservation of unity, about which we speak is urged by St. Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians." (Pope Leo XIII, "Satis Cognitum", 1896 A.D.)

"Sara said: 'Cast out the bondwoman and her son; for the son of a bondwoman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.' And the Church says: 'Cast out heresies and their children; for heretics shall not be heirs with Catholics.' But why shall they not be heirs? Are they not born off Abraham's seed? And have they not the Church's Baptism? They do have Baptism; and it would make the seed of Abraham an heir, if pride did not exclude them from inheritance. By the same word, by the same Sacrament you were born, but you will not come to the same inheritance of eternal life unless you return to the Catholic Church." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, c. 5th century A.D.)

"[The Holy Roman Catholic Church] firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart 'into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels' (Matt. 25:41), unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church." (Council of Florence, c. 1441 A.D.) [Denzinger 714]

"What the soul is to man's body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church. The Holy Spirit does in the whole Church what the soul does in all the members of one body. But see what you must beware of, see what you must take note of, see what you must fear. It happens that, as in the human body, some member may be cut off - a hand, a finger, a foot. Does the soul follow the amputated member? As long as it was in the body it lived; separated, it forfeits its life. So the Christian is a Catholic as long as he lives in the body: cut off from it he becomes a heretic - the life of the spirit follows not the amputated member." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, 5th century A.D.)

"Has the truth of your Catholic mother so failed you, who have been placed in the highest office of the priesthood, that you have not at once recognized yourself as a schismatic, when you withdrew from the apostolic sees? Being appointed to preach the Gospel to the people, had you not even read that the Church was founded by Christ our Lord upon the chief of the Apostles, so that the gates of hell might not be able to prevail against it (cf. Matt. 16:18)? If you had read this, where did you believe the Church to be outside of him in whom alone are clearly all the apostolic sees? ... Why, therefore, did you, already dearest in Christ, wander away from your portion, or what hope did you have for your salvation?" (Pope Pelagius I, 560 A.D.)

"[Question:] Whether when material schismatics at the point of death, in good faith seek either absolution or extreme unction, these sacraments can be conferred on them without their renouncing errors? - Reply: In the negative, but that it be required that they reject errors as best they can, and make a profession of faith." (Reply of the Holy Office, 1916 A.D.)

"Likewise, all other things I accept and profess, which the Holy Roman Church accepts and professes, and I likewise condemn, reject, and anathematize, at the same time all contrary things, both schisms and heresies, which have been condemned, rejected, and anathematized by the same Church. In addition, I promise and swear true obedience to the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Blessed Peter, the prince of the Apostles and the vicar of Jesus Christ. And that this faith of the Catholic Church, without which no one can be saved'" (Profession of faith from the Constitution "Nuper ad nos.", 1743 A.D.)

"These things, therefore, having been determined by us with all caution and diligence, we declare that no one is permitted to introduce, or to describe, or to compare, or to study, or otherwise to teach another faith. But whoever presumes to compare or to introduce or to teach or to pass on another creed to those wishing to turn from the belief of the Gentiles or of the Jews or from any heresy whatsoever to the acknowledgement of truth, or who (presumes) to introduce a novel doctrine or an invention of discourse to the subversion of those things which now have been determined by us, (we declare) these, whether they are bishops or clerics, to be excommunicated, bishops indeed from the bishopric, but priests from the priesthood; but if they are monks or laymen, to be anathematized." (Council of Constantinople III, 7th century A.D.)

"Hold most firmly and never doubt in the least that the Sacrament of Baptism is able to exist not only within the Catholic Church but also among heretics who are baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; but outside the Catholic Church it cannot be of any profit; nay, just as within the Church salvation is conferred through the Sacrament of Baptism upon those who believe rightly, so too, outside the Church, if they do not return to the Church, ruin is heaped up for those who were baptized by the same Baptism. For it is the unity as such of ecclesiastical society that avails unto salvation, so that a man is not saved by Baptism to whom it was not given in that place where it is needful that it be given." (St. Fulgence of Ruspe, 6th century A.D.)

"From that time at which our Savior said, 'If anyone is not reborn of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven,' no one can, without the Sacrament of Baptism, except those who, in the Catholic Church, without Baptism pour out their blood for Christ, receive the kingdom of heaven and life eternal. Anyone who receives the sacrament of Baptism, whether in the Catholic Church or in a heretical schismatic one, receives the whole Sacrament; but salvation, which is the strength of the Sacrament, he will not have, if he has had that Sacrament outside the Catholic Church. He must, therefore, return to the Church, not so that he might receive again the Sacrament of Baptism, which no one dare repeat in any baptized person, but so that he may receive eternal life in Catholic society, for the obtaining of which no one is suited who, even with the Sacrament of Baptism, remains estranged from the Catholic Church." (St. Fulgence of Ruspe, 6th century A.D.)

"The third mark of the Church is that she is Catholic; that is, universal. And justly is she called Catholic, because, as St. Augustine says, she is diffused by the splendor of one faith from the rising to the setting sun. Unlike states of human institutions of the sects of heretics, she is not confined to any one country or class of men, but embraces within the amplitude of her love all mankind, whether barbarians or Scythians, slaves or freemen, male or female... Moreover to this Church, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets belong all the faithful who have existed from Adam to the present day, or who shall exist, in the profession of the true faith, to the end of time... She is also called universal, because all who desire eternal salvation must cling to and embrace her, like those who entered the ark to escape perishing in the flood." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"The Church, instituted by the Lord and confirmed by the Apostles, is one for all men; but the frantic folly of the diverse impious sects has cut them off from her. It cannot be denied that this tearing asunder of the faith has arisen from the defect of poor intelligence, which twists what is read to confirm to its opinion, instead of adjusting its opinion to the meaning of what is read. However, while individual parties fight among themselves, the Church stands revealed not only by her own doctrines, but by those also of her adversaries. And although they are all ranged against her, she confutes the most wicked error which they all share, by the very fact that she is alone and one. All the heretics, therefore, come against the Church; but while all the heretics can conquer each other, they can win nothing for themselves. For their victory is the triumph of the Church over all of them. One heresy struggles against that teaching of another, which the faith of the Church has already condemned in the other heresy, - for there is nothing which the heretics hold in common, - and the result is that they affirm our faith while fighting among themselves." (St. Hilary of Poitiers, Doctor of the Church, c. 356 A.D.) 

"Can. 20. If anyone according to the wicked heretics in any manner whatsoever, by any word whatsoever, or at any time or place whatsoever illicitly removing the bounds which the holy Fathers of the Catholic Church have rather firmly established (Prov. 22:28), that is, the five holy and universal Synods, in order rashly to seek for novelties and expositions of another faith; or books, or letters, or writings, or subscriptions, or false testimonies, or synods, or records of deeds, or vain ordinations unknown to ecclesiastical rule; or unsuitable and irrational tenures of place; and briefly, if it is customary for the most impious heretics to do anything else, (if anyone) through diabolical operation crookedly and cunningly acts contrary to the pious preachings of the orthodox (teachers) of the Catholic Church, that is to say, its paternal and synodal proclamations, to the destruction of the most sincere confession unto the Lord our God, and persists without repentance unto the end impiously doing these things, let such a person be condemned forever, and let all the people say: so be it, so be it (Ps. 105:48)." (Lateran Council, 649 A.D.)

"If anyone therefore, as has been said, does not in agreement with us reject and anathematize all these most impious teachings of their heresy, and those matters which have been impiously written by anyone in defense of them or in definition of them, and the specifically designated heretics, we mean Theodore, Cyrus and Sergius, Pyrrhus and Paul, seeing that they are the rebels against the Catholic Church; or if anyone holds as condemned and entirely deposed some one of these who were in writing, or without writing, in any manner or place or time whatsoever rashly deposed or condemned by them (heretics) or by persons like them, inasmuch as the one condemned does not believe at all like them but with us confesses the doctrine of the holy Fathers - but, on the contrary (anyone) does not consider everybody who has been of this class - that is, whether bishop or priest or deacon or a member of any other ecclesiastical rank, or monk or layman - pious and orthodox and a defender of the Catholic Church, and also more firmly settled in the order to which he has been called by the Lord, but believes such (to be) impious and their judgments in defense of this detestable, or their opinions vain and invalid and weak, nay more wicked and execrable or worthy of condemnation, let such a person be condemned." (Lateran Council, 649 A.D.)

"Consequently whoever does not adhere, as to an infallible and Divine rule, to the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth manifested in Holy Writ, has not the habit of faith, but holds that which is of faith otherwise than by faith. Even so, it is evident that a man whose mind holds a conclusion without knowing how it is proved, has not scientific knowledge, but merely an opinion about it. Now it is manifest that he who adheres to the teaching of the Church, as to an infallible rule, assents to whatever the Church teaches; otherwise, if, of the things taught by the Church, he holds what he chooses to hold, and rejects what he chooses to reject, he no longer adheres to the teaching of the Church as to an infallible rule, but to his own will. Hence it is evident that a heretic who obstinately disbelieves one article of faith, is not prepared to follow the teaching of the Church in all things; but if he is not obstinate, he is no longer in heresy but only in error. Therefore it is clear that such a heretic with regard to one article has no faith in the other articles, but only a kind of opinion in accordance with his own will." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"The Church, founded on these principles and mindful of her office, has done nothing with greater zeal and endeavor than She has displayed in guarding the integrity of the Faith. Hence She regarded as rebels and expelled from the ranks of her children all who held beliefs on any point of doctrine different from her own. The Arians, the Montanists, the Novatians, the Quartodecimans, the Eutychians, did not certainly reject all Catholic doctrine: they abandoned only a certain portion of it. Still who does not know that they were declared heretics and banished from the bosom of the Church? In like manner were condemned all authors of heretical tenets who followed them in subsequent ages. 'There can be nothing more dangerous than those heretics who admit nearly the whole cycle of doctrine, and yet by one word, as with a drop of poison, infect the real and simple faith taught by our Lord and handed down by Apostolic tradition' (Auctor Tract. de Fide Orthodoxa contra Arianos). The practice of the Church has always been the same, as is shown by the unanimous teaching of the Fathers, who were wont to hold as outside Catholic communion, and alien to the Church, whoever would recede in the least degree from any point of doctrine proposed by her authoritative Magisterium." (Pope Leo XIII, "Satis Cognitum", 1896 A.D.)

"For since we have received, delivered to us by God, graces and doctrines...above man, (as, for example, the rule of a heavenly life, power against evil spirits, the adoption and the knowledge of the Father and the Word, the gift of the Holy Spirit) our adversary the devil goes about seeking to steal from us the seed of the word which has been sown. But the Lord, shutting up in us His teaching as His own precious gift, warns us, lest we be deceived. And one very great gift He gives us, the word of God, that not only we be not led away by what appears, but even if there is ought lying concealed, by the grace of God we may discern it. For seeing that the devil is the hateful inventor of evil, what he himself is he conceals, but craftily assumes a name desirable to all; just as if a man wishing to get into his power some children not His own, should in the absence of the parents counterfeit their looks, and lead away the children who were longing for them. In every heresy then the devil says in disguise, 'I am Christ, and with me there is truth.' And so it follows, For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draws near." (St. Athanasius, Doctor of the Church)

"The Cur of Ars once gave a medal to a Protestant who visited him, who exclaimed: 'Dear sir, you have given a medal to one who is a heretic. At least I am a heretic from your point of view. But although we are not of the same religion, I hope we shall both one day be in heaven.' The holy priest took the gentleman's hand in his own, and giving him a look which seemed to reach into his very soul, answered him, 'Alas! My friend, we cannot be together in heaven, unless we have begun to live so in this world. Death makes no change in that. As the tree falls so shall it lie. Jesus Christ has said, 'He that does not hear the Church, let him be to thee as a heathen and a publican.' And He said again, 'There shall be one fold and one shepherd.' and He made Saint Peter the chief shepherd of His flock.' Then in a voice full of sweetness, he added, 'My dear friend, there are not two ways of serving Jesus Christ; there is only one way, and that is to serve Him as He Himself wishes to be served.' Saying this the priest left him. But these words sank deeply into the good man's heart, and led him to renounce the errors in which he had been brought up, and he became a fervent Catholic." (St. John Vianney/Cure de Ars, Life)

"The Lord said that to those sinning against the Holy Spirit, it should not be forgiven either here or in the future world (Matt. 12:32). But how many do we know that sin against the Holy Spirit, such as various heretics...who return to the Catholic faith, and here have received the pardon of their blasphemy, and have enjoyed the hope of gaining indulgence in the future? And not on this account is the judgment of the Lord not true, or will it be thought to be in any way weakened, since with respect to such men, if they continue to be thus, the judgment remains never to be relaxed at all; moreover, never because of such effects is it not imposed. Just as consequently is also that of the blessed John the Apostle: There is a sin unto death: I do not say that prayer should be offered for this: and there is a sin not unto death: I do say that prayer should be offered for this (1 John 5:16, 17). It is a sin unto death for those persisting in the same sin; it is not a sin unto death for those withdrawing from the same sin. For there is no sin for whose remission the Church does not pray, or which she cannot forgive those who desist from that same sin, or from which she cannot loose those who repent, since the power has been divinely given to her, to whom it was said: Whatsoever you shall forgive upon earth... (cf. John 20:23); 'whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven' (Matt. 18:18). In whatsoever all are [included], howsoever great they may be, and of whatsoever kind they may be, although the judgment of them nevertheless remains true, by which he is denounced [as] never to be loosed who continues in the course of them, but not after he withdraws from this same [course]." (Pope St. Gelasius I, c. 495 A.D.)

"Can. 2314 § 1 All apostates from the Christian faith and each and every heretic or schismatic: 1° Incur by that fact excommunication; 2° Unless they respect warnings, they are deprived of benefice, dignity, pension, office, or other duty that they have in the Church, they are declared infamous, and [if] clerics, with the warning being repeated, [they are] deposed; 3° If they give their names to non-Catholic sects or publicly adhere [to them], they are by that fact infamous, and with due regard for the prescription of Canon 188, n. 4, clerics, the previous warnings have been useless, are degraded. § 2 Absolution from the excommunication mentioned in § 1, sought in the forum of conscience, is specially reserved to the Apostolic See. But if, however, the delict of apostasy, heresy, or schism has been brought in any manner to the external forum of the local Ordinary, even by voluntary confession, that same Ordinary, but not the Vicar General without a special mandate, can by his own ordinary power absolve one duly recovered in the external forum, the prior abjuration being conducted juridically and observing those other things that in law ought to be observed; and one thus absolved can thereupon be absolved from sin by any confessor in the form of conscience. Abjuration is considered juridically done if it happens in the presence of the same local Ordinary or his delegate and at least two witnesses." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"With regard to heretics two points must be observed: one, on their own side; the other, on the side of the Church. On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death. For it is a much graver matter to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge money, which supports temporal life. Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death. On the part of the Church, however, there is mercy which looks to the conversion of the wanderer, wherefore she condemns not at once, but 'after the first and second admonition,' as the Apostle directs: after that, if he is yet stubborn, the Church no longer hoping for his conversion, looks to the salvation of others, by excommunicating him and separating him from the Church, and furthermore delivers him to the secular tribunal to be exterminated thereby from the world by death. For Jerome commenting on Galatians 5:9, 'A little leaven,' says: 'Cut off the decayed flesh, expel the mangy [one] from the fold, lest the whole house, the whole paste, the whole body...burn, perish, rot, die. Arius was but one spark in Alexandria, but as that spark was not at once put out, the whole earth was laid waste by its flame.'" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church") [Note: The reader is reminded that one must not take any action harmful to another person.]

"But at all these acts of godliness, dearly-beloved, which commend us more and more to God, there is no doubt that our enemy, who is so eager and so skilled in harming us, is aroused with keener stings of hatred, that under a false profession of the Christian name he may corrupt those whom he is not allowed to attack with open and bloody persecutions, and for this work he has heretics in his service whom he has led astray from the Catholic Faith, subjected to himself, and forced under divers errors to serve in his camp. And as for the deception of primitive man he used the services of a serpent, so to mislead the minds of the upright he has armed these men's tongues with the poison of his falsehoods. But these treacherous designs, dearly beloved, with a shepherd's care, and so far as the Lord vouchsafes His aid, we will defeat. And taking heed lest any of the holy flock should perish, we admonish you with fatherly warnings to keep aloof from the 'lying lips' and the 'deceitful tongue' from which the prophet asks that his soul should be delivered; because 'their words,' as says the blessed Apostle, 'do creep as doth a gangrene.' They creep in humbly, they arrest softly, they bind gently, they slay secretly. For they 'come,' as the Savior foretold, 'in sheeps' clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves;' because they could not deceive the true and simple sheep, unless they covered their bestial rage with the name of Christ." (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church) 

"Indeed, you are aware that from the first ages called Christian, it has been the peculiar artifice of heretics that, repudiating the traditional Word of God, and rejecting the authority of the Catholic Church, they either falsify the Scriptures at hand, or alter the explanation of the meaning. In short, you are not ignorant of how much diligence and wisdom is needed to translate faithfully into another tongue the words of the Lord; so that, surely, nothing could happen more easily than that in the versions of these Scriptures, multiplied by the Biblical societies, very grave errors creep in from the imprudence or deceit of so many translators; further, the very multitude and variety of those versions conceal these errors for a long time to the destruction of many. However, it is of little or no interest at all to these societies whether the men likely to read these Bibles translated into the vulgar tongue [that is, the language of the people], fall into some errors rather than others, provided they grow accustomed little by little to claiming free judgment for themselves with regard to the sense of the Scriptures, and also to despising the divine tradition of the Fathers which has been guarded by the teaching of the Catholic Church, and to repudiating the teaching office itself of the Church... We again condemn all the above-mentioned biblical societies of which our predecessors disapproved... Therefore let it be known to all that anyone who joins one of these societies, or aids it, or favors it in any way will be guilty of a grievous crime." (Pope Gregory XVI, "Inter praecipuas", 1844 A.D.)

"There are some who promise men deliverance from eternal punishment, if they are washed in Baptism and partake of Christ's Body, whatever lives they live. The Apostle however contradicts them, where he says, The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkeness, revelings, and such like; of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Let us examine what is meant here. He who is in the unity of His body...the Sacrament of which body the faithful receive when they communicate at the Altar; he is truly said to eat the body, and drink the blood of Christ. And heretics and schismatics, who are cut off from the unity of the body, may receive the same Sacrament; but it does not profit them, may, rather is hurtful, as tending to make their judgment heavier, or their forgiveness later. Nor ought they to feel secure in their abandoned and damnable ways, who, by the iniquity of their lives, desert righteousness, i.e. Christ; either by fornication, or other sins of the like kind... [M]en cannot be members of Christ, and at the same time members of an harlot." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church)

"Protector of the Christian people! What other motive hadst thou, in all thy labors, but charity? What else but a desire to defend the weak from danger induced thee not only to preach against error, but to drive its teachers from the flock? How many simple souls, who were receiving divine truth from the teaching of the Church, have been deceived by the lying sophistry of heretical doctrine, and have lost the faith? Surely the Church would do her utmost to ward off such dangers from her children; she would do all she could to defend them from enemies, who were bent on destroying the glorious inheritance which had been handed down to them by millions of martyrs! She knew the strange tendency that often exits in her heart of fallen man to love error; whereas truth, though of itself unchanging, is not sure of its remaining firmly in the mind, unless it be defending by learning or by faith. As to learning, there are but few who possess it; and as to faith, error is ever conspiring against it, and, of course, with the appearance of truth. In the Christian ages it would have been deemed not only criminal, but absurd, to grant to error the liberty which is due only to truth; and they that were in authority considered it a duty to keep the weak from danger, by removing them for all occasions of a fall; just as the father of a family keeps his children from coming into contact with wicked companions who could easily impose on their inexperience, and lead them to evil under the name of good." (Gueranger)

"Or the heretics are compared to wolves. For wolves are beasts who lay in wait...and prowl about the shepherds' cottages... [They] pry out ... absent or slothful shepherds; they the throat, that they may quickly strangle... [They are] ravenous beasts, with bodies so stiff that they cannot easily turn themselves, but are carried along by their own impetus, and so are often deceived. If they are the first to see a man, it is said, they by a certain natural impulse, tear out his voice; but if a man first sees them, they quake with fear. In like manner the heretics lurk about [the fold of Christ], howl near the cottages at night time. For night is the time for the treacherous who obscure the light of Christ with the mists of false interpretation. The inns of Christ, however, they dare not enter, and therefore are not healed, as he was [at] an inn who fell among thieves. They look out for the shepherds' absence, for they can not attack...when the shepherds are by. Owing also to the inflexibility of a hard and obstinate mind, they seldom if ever turn from their error, while Christ the true interpreter of Scripture mocks them, so that they went forth their violence in vain, and are not able to hurt; and if they overtake any one by the subtle trickery of their disputations, they make him dumb. For he is dumb who confesses not the word of God with the glory which belongs to it. Beware then lest the heretic deprive you of your voice, and lest you detect him not first. For he is creeping on while his treachery is disguised. But if you have discovered his unholy desires, you can not fear the loss of a holy voice. They attack the throat, they wound the vitals while they seek the soul." (St. Ambrose, Doctor of the Church)

"Do not (therefore) because of a love of ostentation, which is always next to pride, remain in the vice of obstinacy; since in the day of judgment no one can excuse himself... For although it is evident from the word of the Lord Himself in the Sacred Gospel (cf. Matt. 16:18) where the Church is established, let us hear nevertheless what the blessed Augustine, mindful of the opinion of the same Lord, has explained. For he says that the Church of God is established among those who are known to preside over the apostolic sees, through the succession of those in charge, and whoever separates himself from the communion or authority of these sees, is shown to be in schism. And following additional remarks (he says): 'If you are put outside, for the name of Christ you will also die. Suffer for Christ among the members of Christ; clinging to the body, fight for the head.' But the blessed Cyprian...among other things, says the following: 'The beginning starts from unity, and the primacy is given to Peter, So that the Church and the chair of Christ may be shown (to be) one: and they are all shepherds, but the flock, which is fed by the Apostles in unanimous agreement, is shown to be one.' And after a few (remarks he adds): 'Does he who does not hold this unity of the Church believe that he has the faith? Does he who deserts and resists the chair of Peter, on which the Church was founded, have confidence that he is in the Church?' Likewise after other remarks (he asserts): 'They cannot arrive at the reward of peace, because they disrupt the peace of the Lord by the fury of discord... Those who were not willing to be at agreement in the Church of God, cannot remain with God; although given over to flames and fires, they burn, or thrown to wild beasts, they lay down their lives, there will not be [for them] that crown of faith, but the punishment of faithlessness, not a glorious result (of religious virtue), but the ruin of despair. Such a one can be slain, he cannot be crowned... For the crime of schism is worse than that which they [commit] who have offered sacrifice, who, nevertheless, having been disposed to penance for their sins prayed to God with the fullest satisfaction. In this case the Church is sought and solicited; in the other the Church is opposed. So in this case he who has fallen, has injured only himself; in the other, who attempts to cause a schism deceives many by dragging (them) with himself. In this case there is the loss of one soul; in the other there is danger to many. Certainly the one knows that he has sinned and laments and bewails (it); the other puffed up with pride in his sin and pluming himself on the sins themselves, separates sons from their mother, seduces the sheep from the shepherds, disturbs the sacraments of God, and, whereas the former having stumbled sinned once, the latter sins daily. Lastly although the lapsed, if afterwards he acquired martyrdom, is able to secure the promises of the kingdom; if the other is slain outside of the Church, he cannot attain to the rewards of the Church.'" (Pope Pelagius II, 585 A.D.)

"Return to submission to Mother Church, a submission as honorable as it is salutary, and know that we keener desire than that of your salvation." (Pope Benedict XI)

Also See: Heresy / Heretics / False Teachers (Catholic Basics Reflections) | Duty to Reject Strange Doctrine | Error / Truth | False Opinions Influence / Pervert Actions | Against Religious Indifferentism | All Non-Catholic 'churches' Must Be Sunk in Pernicious Errors | Cannot Have God For Father Without Church For Mother | Heaven Cannot Be Entered Without the Keys | Necessity of Being Catholic For Salvation | Non-Association with Heretics / Schismatics | Personal Interpretation of Scripture / Rejection of Truth | Necessity of Union With the Roman Pontiff (Vatican View Reflections) | Against Modernism / Novelty (Latin Mass & Catholic Tradition Reflections) | Heresy / Error (Topical Scripture) | The Anathema is an Act of Love | Flier: Breaking Off Contact With Heretics

Can Catholic Dogma Ever Change?

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