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Two types of heresies have plagued the Church from the beginning. God gives men and women free will to choose good or evil, to be faithful or unfaithful. One thing the great heresies have caused, in spite of chaos and the loss of souls, is the clarification of all the major doctrines of the Church. God brings good out of evil.
For a Catholic to accept heretical ideas constitutes a serious sin against the virtue of faith, given in baptism. The office of teaching belongs to Holy Mother Church, ecclesia docens. To purposefully deviate from Her teachings indicates a rebellious, fractious spirit.
Canon 1325 indicates that a person must know he or she is a heretic. But, guilt depends on many things, and there are levels of culpability. These two types of heresy can be seen in and out of the Church today.
The first category is "material" heresy, under which most Protestants fall. This category assumes good will, good faith, but involves ignorance. If one, for example, has never heard or discovered that Christ is truly Present in the Eucharist, one is a material heretic. However, if one has heard this true teaching, and rejects it after being told this truth, one falls into "formal heresy". Most likely, no Catholic can be a material heretic, as all Catholics have access to the true teaching of the Catholic Church and it is the adult responsibility of each Catholic to discover this teaching. One can have doubts, but these must be resolved as quickly as possible through study and prayer.
Formal heresy may be found in the Church today, most commonly in the forms of Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, universal salvation, and Modernism (the Modernist heresies). I have many posts on all of these heresies. A formal heretic publicly states his or her erroneous opinions and is culpable, incurring great sin and consequences. Public announcement is the key here. A person may have private views, and struggle to find the truth without being a formal heretic. Once a person has made their views known publicly, that person, lay or cleric, is a formal heretic.
The punishment is excommunication, which is automatic. Sadly, some Church leaders are in this position and allowed to spew heretical ideas, as we all have seen of late.
Ignorance must not be accepted in a Christian who has been shown the truth of the Catholic Church. However, faith is a gift, and one might have to acknowledge that a particular person has refused this gift, which is given in baptism.
Infidelity to the one, true, Church constitutes a serious position, endangering a person's soul. If one holds to an erroneous idea even after being told of the errors, one is responsible for this position.
Another consideration is that of "bad will", or the sin of "malice". Malice reveals an unrepentant heart, mind, soul. The great, condemned heretics exhibited malice: Arius, Luther, Calvin and so on. Hatred for Holy Mother Church underscores most heretical positions.
Some high profile clerics teach heresy publicly. Why they are not corrected publicly, and why their automatic excommunication is not revealed to the public for clarification for the confused faithful remains a mystery. One can only come to the conclusion that these priests have the support of their bishops in errors, or that the bishops, or even cardinals, enjoy some sort of protection because of their office, which creates a scandal in the Church.
|Playmobile Luther, not given to a certain sem|