“Steeped in Romanity” — Fr. Victor-Alain Berto

Articles written, translated or selected by John S. Daly

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The wave harmonious stretches forth,
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Than rings within our hearts and homes.
Cardinal Wiseman

Cardinal De Lugo On Heresy

5. Whether pertinacity is required for someone to be a heretic, and if so, of what kind.

All agree that pertinacity is required for someone to be a heretic, and that pertinacity is therefore equally necessary for him to incur the ecclesiastical penalties applicable to heretics. This emerges clearly from the decrees of councils which condemn those who pertinaciously hold the opposite of their teaching [references listed]. The question we must consider, therefore, is how great and of what kind this pertinacity must be.

Some writers agree with St. Isidore of Seville (Book 10, under the letter “P”) that the word “pertinacious” is so called because it is derived from “imprudenter tenentem” (“imprudently holding”), an etymology which seems to be approved by Suarez [reference given]. But others, with Varro, derive it from “pertendendo” (“persisting”). Others, perhaps more correctly, derive it from “per” and “teneo” so that pertinacious would mean “excessively tenacious”, as can be seen in Calepinus under the word “pertinax”, where he cites a number of examples in which the word is also used in a favourable sense. However, it is more frequently used pejoratively, and in the context we are currently discussing it undoubtedly signifies vicious and obstinate adherence to one’s own opinion against the mind of the Church.

Now that this has been established, the first point of doubt is whether pertinacity against the Church is required for heresy, or whether it is sufficient for a person to reject an object of faith which has been sufficiently proposed even if nothing has been proposed about the mind of the Church. For we said above (Disputation 1, Section 12) that there is nothing impossible in the idea that something be proposed as evidently credible and with the obligation of believing it, even though the authority of the Church be not itself proposed. And in this case one who dissented would sin against faith, by the sin of infidelity, and would lose the habit of infused faith; but whether he would be a heretic we discussed in the same Disputation, in Section 2, where we examined what doctrines constitute the object of heresy – and this question is discussed there. For this circumstance does not pertain to the subject [i.e. the person believing the heresy] but to the object, i.e. the doctrine which is being contradicted by the dissent. For this reason we said at that place that the case is purely hypothetical if it relates to public rather than private revelation, for in such cases the contrary authority of the Church is always put forward in opposition to the error. But if we accept the hypothesis, the dissident would not be a heretic properly speaking, because this term, by the usage of the Church, signifies one who opposes himself to the Catholic Church; so such a person [one who was not opposing himself to the Church] would not incur the censures and penalties of heretics. Nonetheless in the external forum he would be presumed to be a heretic because pertinacity against public revelation is presumed not to be found without pertinacity against the authority of the Church.

A second point, much more relevant to the present consideration, is whether there can be pertinacity before the person in error has been admonished of his error and has rejected the warning. Some authors think that this is necessary, and they hold that there must be quite a long period of time for it to become evident that the person is incorrigible and obstinate against the warnings and corrections he receives. In favour of this opinion are usually cited Silvester [reference given] and Archidiaconus, quoted by Silvester, who say that a heretic is one who publicly or secretly persists for a long time in error. But others interpret them as referring not to cases in which heresy has been committed directly, but to the presumption of heresy and of pertinacity in the ecclesiastical forum. But whether Silvester and Archidiaconus held it or not, the doctrine does seem to have been taught by Alciatus who says [reference given]:

“It is pertinacity that makes a man a heretic, for which reason one whose understanding of the Trinity is wrong is not a heretic unless he persists in his error after being admonished.”

And Menochius seems to teach the same thing, when he says [reference given]:

“For someone to be called a pertinacious heretic, it must be certain that he has been warned and instructed concerning the truth, and that, spurning this instruction, he persists in the same mind.”

For this view he cites Lupus and Turrecremata, to whom others add Palatius, Rubeus [reference given]. It is a view which can be supported by the words of St. Paul to Titus (3:10), “A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition avoid,” and the words of St. Augustine, who says [reference given]:

“Those who hold a diseased and perverse opinion in the Church of God, if they are admonished to hold what is wholesome and correct and contumaciously resist this correction, not wishing to amend their pestiferous and lethal teachings, but continuing to defend them, are heretics.”

But in fact what Alciatus and Menochius say can be understood in the same sense as what Silvester and Archidiaconus say; for they were jurists who treat only of the external forum, and it was with reference only to the external forum that they say that an accused person can be excused if he (a) was not admonished or rebuked and (b) was disposed to be corrected and to put aside his error if he had been admonished. But in the forum of God who examines hearts, if in his heart he were not truly prepared to correct his error, but rather already well knew that it was contrary to the understanding of the Church, the want of an external warning would not excuse him from contracting the stain of heresy.

So the common and most true judgement of theologians teaches that there is no need for this warning, or for length of time or delay, for someone to become a heretic and incur the penalties of heretics, but that it is sufficient for him to embrace error with full deliberation and express what he sees to be at odds with the understanding and definition of the Church. This is taught by Suarez [reference given], Cajetan, Vasquez, Valentia and countless others quoted and followed by Sanchez [reference given] and Diana [reference given] who, on the authority of others whom he quotes, well remarks against Alciatus and others that not even in the external forum is a warning and preceding correction always required for someone to be punished as pertinacious and that this is not observed in the practice of the Holy Office. For if it be certain by some other means – for example, if the doctrine in question be well known, or if it be obvious from the kind of person and other circumstances involved – that the accused person could not have been ignorant of the opposition of his doctrine to that of the Church, he will automatically be judged a heretic. The reason he is asked in his trial whether he knew that his view was contrary to the doctrine of the Church, is that, if he admits that he did, he will already be thought sufficiently to have confessed heresy and pertinacity.

The reason for this is clear: the external warning can serve only to ensure that the erring party become aware of the opposition between his error and the doctrine of the Church. So if he knows the whole subject much better himself from books and conciliar definitions than he could from the words of anyone admonishing him, there is no reason for a warning to be necessary for him to be pertinacious against the Church. Neither is any length of time necessary for this, because the authority and mind of the Church can be known very quickly and no less quickly deliberately rejected, as takes place in the case of other sins.

Good evidence of this is adduced from the contrary act – the act of faith – which a man can elicit very quickly, reverently submitting himself to the Church and embracing her teaching. Seeing that the nature of contraries is the same, no more time is required for a man pertinaciously to withdraw from the Church than constantly and most firmly to adhere to her. Nor is this contradicted by the words of St. Paul which are alleged in opposition; on the contrary, as Suarez remarks, they imply that the individual in question is already a heretic before the warning, because he says: “A man that is a heretic, after the first and second warning avoid.” The warning is required, therefore, to justify our separating ourselves from him – his incorrigibility being established by the warning – lest we endanger ourselves and waste our efforts with no hope of recovering him. We may add that this text is addressed to Titus, who, as he was a bishop, had to seek after wandering sheep after the manner of a shepherd in order to bring them back to the fold of the Church. But to private individuals it will often be more salutary to avoid a heretic straight away if they know that he sins not through ignorance but through malice; for they must look to their own good and beware lest, wishing to heal him, they expose themselves to danger of infection. Finally, in the same sense, St. Augustine, at the place quoted above, teaches that the heresy of one who has rejected correction is sufficiently certain, because before correction he could have excused himself on the pretext of ignorance, sometimes dishonestly and sometimes truly.

Hence, in the third place, doubt is often raised as to whether it is sufficient for the required pertinacity if someone who has been warned and rebuked by the bishop or by inquisitors does not acquiesce in their judgement, but persists in his error. The first opinion declares that it is sufficient; and this is held by Cardinalis, Bartolus, Penna, Farinacius and others quoted by Suarez [reference given], to whom may be added Castrus Palao [reference given]. The second opinion denies that it is sufficient, however, because the bishop and inquisitors are not infallibly correct in proposing a truth, and they do not have the assistance of the Holy Ghost to make what they say a trustworthy rule of belief; on the contrary, they may go astray and lead others astray in matters of faith, for which reason an individual might be prepared to believe the Church, but unwilling to believe the bishop and inquisitors, who are not the Church. This is the view of Cano, Vasquez, Sanchez and others [references given], Valentia, Torres, Salas and others quoted by Diana at the reference given above. Finally, the third opinion makes a distinction and says that the first opinion is true in the external forum, but the second in the internal forum – this is the view, more or less, of Suarez [reference given], Lorca and others cited and followed by Diana, loc. cit.

But I find the distinction between internal and external fora in this respect hard to admit. Because either the proposition made by the bishop and by the inquisitors is such that it truly imposes the obligation of believing – and in this case one who does not believe will be pertinacious in the internal forum also, because he is resisting a doctrine of faith proposed to him sufficiently to oblige him to believe it – or else the proposition is not such as to create an obligation in conscience to believe, and in this case not only will the individual who does not believe not be pertinacious in the internal forum, but likewise he cannot be judged pertinacious in the external forum either. This is because the external forum does not make a judgement contrary to the internal forum except on the basis of a presumption founded in some external circumstance sufficient to justify the presumption: hence, if the proposal [of the doctrine in question] made by the bishop or inquisitors in those circumstances is not of itself sufficient to make belief obligatory, one who withholds belief despite such proposal must not be judged pertinacious even in the external forum.

Suarez, however, rightly points out (loc. cit.) that generally the instruction and proposal made by a bishop or inquisitors is sufficient to oblige belief so that one who resists it is pertinacious; because generally it is not made without great consideration and learning, and is made only on those matters already defined and commonly received in the Church. The a priori reason for this is that, just as we are bound to believe Divine revelation, the certainty of which is not [in itself] evident to us, when the circumstances in which it is proposed to us are such as to make it evidently credible and impossible for us prudently to deny it, doubt it or fear that it is not so; so, likewise, it is not necessary that the proposal by the Church by which God speaks to us indirectly should be [in itself] evidently certain to us, if the circumstances in which this doctrine of the Church is proposed to us are such as to make it evidently credible to us that what is being proposed to us is a doctrine of the Church and that we cannot prudently doubt this or fear that it might not be so.

Now the circumstances which generally obtain are of this kind – generally, neither the pope nor the Church assembled in a council directly proposes these teachings to the faithful, but rather they do so indirectly through their ministers. But at the same time it is also true that sometimes the persons who propose the doctrine, or the circumstances in which the doctrine is proposed, are not such as to oblige everyone firmly to believe with Divine faith. On this subject I consider that caution is called for in differentiating between the learned and the unlearned referred to by Castro Palao (loc. cit. n. 6), following Sanchez and others, when he says that a learned man is more easily presumed pertinacious than an unlearned and rustic man if he dissents from mysteries proposed to him, because a rustic man can more easily be unaware of the rules of faith and the obligation of believing.

This rule must be understood with a distinction. For if it applies to the judgement of an accused person in respect of some propositions which he has uttered and taught, a learned man is more easily presumed to have said them with a heretical disposition, because it is presumed that he knew them to be opposed to the teaching of the Church and of councils, which a rustic man could have been unaware of, as is remarked, with Albertinus and many others, by Diana (loc. cit., in the chapter beginning “Notandum est tamen”). But if what is at issue is the pertinacity evinced when the accused person does not submit himself to the judgement of the bishop or inquisitors proposing some doctrine to him as one that must be believed and professed, I think that a rustic man is more easily judged pertinacious in respect of heresy if he resists than a learned theologian. For we have seen above, in Disputation 5, Section 2, that lesser motives of credibility suffice for a rustic man to oblige his belief than for a learned man who better penetrates the grounds for doubt; for which reason sometimes a rustic person who does not acquiesce in the judgement of the bishop or inquisitors cannot be excused from the pertinacity of heresy although a learned theologian could be excused from that degree of pertinacity required for heresy if he brought forward some probable reason for his not being obliged, which the rustic could not bring forward as he would not know one. This is admitted also by Lorca in the present disputation XLI, n. 21. I do not mean by this, however, that the judges of faith and inquisitors cannot in that case decide to condemn even the theologian as pertinacious; but I say that they cannot do so as briefly and easily as they could a rustic to whom it is enough to propose the doctrine of the Church. By contrast, should a learned theologian deny that the doctrine is the doctrine of the Church, and adduce prima facie convincing evidence [“fundamenta apparentia”] that his critics are mistaken and have condemned his assertions without justification, he must be satisfactorily answered and disputed with, and the grounds of the censure must be explained to him, so that he either is convinced or, in the judgement of wise men, ought to be convinced that the censure was deservedly passed. And if he does not acquiesce after this, he can reasonably be declared pertinacious, for a new declaration of the Pontiff is not needed in every individual case in order that those who err in the faith may be corrected and punished.

The fourth disagreement concerns whether this pertinacity implies the wish directly to resist the authority of the Church, or whether it be sufficient to wish this only indirectly. Suarez (Sect. III n. 22) says that one must wish to do so directly, but Vasquez [reference given] and Sanchez [reference given] say that it is enough to wish it indirectly. In fact, however, both sides are in agreement although they express themselves differently. They mean that there is no need for the contradiction – and the resistance against the authority of the Church – to be itself the formally intended end, as would be the case if someone denies certain truths specifically for the sake of contradicting the Church; a disposition which is what Vasquez and Sanchez refer to as directly wishing the resistance itself. They insist instead that it is enough to know the contradiction between an idea and the mind of the Church and nonetheless to hold it, whatever end this may be done for – whether financial gain, renown or some other motive – which they term an indirect wish.

And as a matter of fact this is most definitely true. Just as in other sins too it is sufficient to sin against obedience, justice, religion and other virtues even though the end formally willed is not the injustice, the disobedience or the irreligion, etc., so pertinacious sin is also committed against the authority of the Church by denying that which we know the Church to teach, even if we do not intend formally to contradict the Church.

With regard to the semantic disagreement, we prefer that, whenever opposition to the doctrine of the Church is recognised, the resistance be termed directly willed (following the usage of Fr. Suarez), despite its not being formally intended. The reason for this is that a person who wishes something necessarily connected with a given effect, even though he does not intend the effect itself, is said to will it directly, because by willing the cause he implicitly wills the effect which is virtually included in that cause. Thus, one who gives a pregnant woman a potion to abort an animated foetus is called a voluntary homicide because, even if he does not intend the slaughter of the foetus, and indeed would prefer that after being aborted it should live, he does nevertheless will the cause necessarily connected – per se – with the death of the child, and he is therefore said directly to will that death because without direct will of slaughter the irregularity of voluntary homicide is not contracted, as Suarez remarks together with all doctors [reference given].

So the will to believe what one knows to be contrary to the doctrine of the Church – an assent which cannot exist without resistance to the Church – is truly a direct will to resist the Church. Even so, this will can exist in two distinct ways:

(i) One may intend to resist the Church in such a way that the resistance itself and opposition to the Church is, conceived as such, the intrinsic object of the heretical will. This applies to anyone who foresees the contradiction he is about to place himself in with the mind of the Church and still wishes to contradict and oppose the Church – even if he does not intend this opposition formally and for its own sake, but only materially and for some other end, for instance to retain his own opinion or for the sake of renown or financial gain – as long as the act of will itself is intrinsically ordered to that resistance and contradiction as the object willed, albeit not formally but materially.

(ii) One may choose to resist the Church in such a way that the resistance is only an extrinsic object of the act of will. This is the case when one realises that the assent one is contemplating is in contradiction and opposition to the doctrine of the Church, yet one still wills that assent, without however saying, “I will to dissent from the Church,” instead declaring simply: “I will to deny the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.” And this will, given the recognition of the statement’s repugnance to the doctrine of the Church, wills the opposition to the Church and wills it directly, because it wills directly an assent which is opposed to the Church, and hence wills something which is, in reality, a formal opposition to the mind of the Church, although the act of will is not intrinsically determined to that object under this formality and in so far as it is an act of opposition to the Church.

Both manifestations of the will to resist the Church suffice to constitute that pertinacity which makes one a heretic, because in both cases the will opts for a dissent by which it is recognised that the intellect will be in disagreement with the doctrine of the Church. Just as one who decides to eat flesh meat on a day of fasting, while aware that this is forbidden by the Church, wills to violate the precept of the Church, even if the act of will itself is not always intrinsically directed against the prohibition as its formal or material object, but only determinatively [“specificative”] to the object which is forbidden, namely the enjoyable eating of flesh meat which is nevertheless recognised and proposed by the intellect as forbidden; for this is the factor which entitles us to say that a forbidden object and the violation of an ecclesiastical precept are directly willed.

In the fifth place, there is disagreement as to whether, for heretical pertinacity, one must recognise the opposition between his opinion and the doctrine of the Church which has infallible authority in proposing, and also recognise that she does in fact propose the contrary of what he holds. First of all, it is certain that there is no need [in order to be a heretic] to believe that the contrary of his opinion is true and of faith and nonetheless to dissent from it. For, as Sanchez [reference given] well points out, it is impossible to dissent from an object which one simultaneously and actually judges to be true or judges to be part of a body of belief which is infallibly true. For this reason, neither can it be necessary to know and believe that the contrary is proposed by the Church which has infallible authority in proposing it; for dissent from this judgement would also be impossible, as it would amount to believing something to be false which one simultaneously believed to be proposed by a Church unable to propose anything false – which is obviously self-contradictory, as the terms themselves make clear.

So for someone to be a heretic, i.e. pertinaciously to oppose the authority of the Church, it is enough that (a) the infallible authority of the Church and (b) its definition of the contrary dogma should be proposed to him in such a way that, even if he chose not to believe either, nonetheless he could have done so, having seen the duty to believe both, and having seen that they could not prudently be denied, doubted or hesitated over. For by the very fact of, on the one hand, dissenting, and, on the other hand, denying that the Church has infallible authority in proposing, or – if he grants that the Church has this authority – of denying that the dogma contrary to his opinion has in fact been proposed by the Church, he has already pertinaciously rejected the teaching of the Church sufficiently proposed to him. And this is in fact how heretics do sin – they either do not in fact believe that our Church has infallible authority in proposing or do not believe that dogmas contrary to their position are proposed by [what they take to be] the true Church, as Suarez remarked [reference given]. But because both points are proposed to them in such a way that they can and should believe it, they are said to be, and are, heretics pertinaciously opposed to the authority and teaching of the Church.

Similarly it is not necessary, for someone to sin gravely with the sin of infidelity against the Divine truthfulness and authority, and pertinaciously resist it, that he should believe the proposition at issue to have been revealed by God; for otherwise scarcely would anyone ever dissent. It is enough that the Divine revelation be proposed to him in such a way that he can and must firmly accept and believe it. So, by analogy, for someone pertinaciously to defy the Church – which is the essence of heresy – it is enough for the infallibility of the Church and her proposal of the doctrine in question to be proposed to him in such a way that he can and ought to believe it; and if, under those conditions, he dissents from it, by that very fact he pertinaciously rejects the authority and definition of the Church sufficiently proposed to him with the obligation of accepting and believing it.

The first consequence of this is that a man is not excused from pertinacity sufficient to make him a heretic just by being prepared to be put right and to acquiesce in the teaching of the Church if he is convinced by her through argument, as is noted by Sanchez, with Vasquez, Ledesma and others [reference given], Sanchez adding that the contrary is not probable. The same is taught by Suarez [reference given] and others. The reason for this is clear; namely, that such a person is not prepared to consent to the authority of the Church, but only to the reasons and arguments adduced by her in confirmation of her definition, for which reason he pertinaciously resists the authority of the Church.

Secondly, it follows that a person can also be pertinacious and a heretic without knowingly denying anything defined and proposed by the Church if he (a) does not know what the Church has defined in some matter, but (b) adheres to his error with the disposition of not abandoning that opinion even if he knew that the Church had defined the contrary. Thus Suarez [reference given] and Sanchez with others whom he quotes [reference given]. And this is true even if the Church had not in fact defined anything on that point, as is taught by the same Sanchez [reference given] with Cajetan, Navarre and Vasquez. Indeed, the same applies to one who mistakenly thinks that something has been defined by the Church, when in fact it has not, but nevertheless himself holds the contrary view. Simancas [reference given] says that such a one sins gravely, but is not to be judged a heretic in the external forum; but others, cited and followed by the same Sanchez [reference given], rightly teach the contrary, even with regard to the applicability to such a case of the penalties incurred by heretics. This is understood to apply when the person concerned has outwardly manifested both aspects of his disposition; namely (a) that he holds a particular opinion, and (b) that it is contrary to what he thinks the Church has defined. The reason for this is plain. In all these cases something is denied the denial of which is genuinely contrary to the faith and teaching of the Church: namely, the infallibility of the Church in proposing. Hence it is not just by opinion or conditionally, but absolutely and in fact, that such an individual pertinaciously resists the authority and teaching of the Church as to a dogma which the Church has sufficiently proposed.

The third consequence is that the merely habitual disposition not to believe something even if one knew it to be defined by the Church is not sufficient for pertinacity: see Vasquez [reference given], Turrian [reference given], Coninch [reference given]. These authors use the expression “merely habitual disposition” for the case in which someone (a) is so far attached to his error, which he is indomitably persuaded is the truth, that, if he knew the mind of the Church to be opposed to it, he would still persist in his opinion; but (b) has never made any act of will by which he has decided, for any reason or in any circumstances, to depart from the mind of the Church – indeed he at present wills to consent to the Church in all things. Thus explained, there does not seem to be any doubt that the man is not yet a heretic for as long as his disposition remains embryonic [“in actu primo”] and never matures into actually [“actus secundus”] despising the authority of the Church.

To be frank, I think that only with difficulty would a case occur in which someone actually preferred the authority of the Church to all other arguments and nevertheless adhered so strongly to his error that, if he knew it to be contrary to the mind of the Church, he would still not depart from that opinion, without implicitly preferring his own arguments to the authority of the Church in the assent he currently gives to the error, at least conditionally. Nevertheless I do not deny that it might occasionally occur, for the will is often so attached to some object that, if it were to realise that the object was forbidden, it would still not desist. While the prohibition is unknown, however, there is no sin, and an act of attrition or contrition for sins and appreciative love of God above all things can concur with this affection, for which reason we conceal from weak penitents certain prohibitions lest, scared by the difficulty of the thing, they fall away from the act of repentance or from the necessary intention of fulfilling all precepts. This disposition is very often found in the will, but it could occur in the intellect on account of the unusual character of some man; even so, this would occur much more rarely than in the will, given that the will is more easily and more strongly drawn to sensible good. This is shown by the fact that it is less commonplace for a mother to bewail her sins than to bewail the sufferings or death of her child although appreciatively she may grieve more for her sins. But the intellect does not seek the good but the true, and is therefore less attracted by passions and sensible things and more by truth, no matter where it may appear from. For this reason, someone who truly prefers the authority of the Church to all other arguments will not usually have the habitual disposition that, if he knew his opinion to be contrary to the mind of the Church, he would still remain in his error.

Suppose now that the same individual had at some point by an interior act formed the intention of not acquiescing in the judgment of the Church if ever a reason opposed to that judgment should occur to him, and had subsequently retained this state of mind habitually, but had never manifested it externally. And suppose that subsequently he came to hold some error opposed to the Church’s teaching while invincibly ignorant of its being so opposed and that he exteriorly manifested that error. Would such a person be an external heretic?

He can certainly be seen to have sinned internally with the malice of heresy when he formed that state of mind, as is plain from what has been set out above. But he does not seem to incur the penalties of heretics by what happened later, because the habitual interior disposition is merely concomitant with the present error. In the same way that one who kills his enemy while invincibly supposing him to be a wild animal, and after having used due diligence, does not incur the penalties of homicide even if he would have killed him just the same if he had known that it was his enemy, because his concomitant ignorance excuses from the penalties; so too the man in the above hypothesis cannot incur the penalties of heretics, since he does not exteriorly manifest his heretical disposition – and he cannot intend to manifest it when he neither thinks nor knows in any way of the opposition which exists between his error and the teaching of the Church. This seems to be the opinion of Coninch [reference given] but we shall have more to say about this subject in the following section.

Fourthly arises the question: in what sense it is true that a protestation of faith excuses from pertinacity, as is affirmed by some, cited by Castro Palao [reference given]. The answer is that this statement must be taken with a pinch of salt. In the first place, such a protestation can provide grounds for conjecture that the person who made it [if he affirms something heretical] was saved from sin by invincible ignorance, or that at least some kind of ignorance, perhaps vincible, ensured that there was no heresy strictly so-called (see next section); since someone who protests that he wants to think with the Church in all things is presumed not to want to put himself in opposition to the same Church five minutes later. But to be accurate, this does not constitute a definite proof that the pertinacity required for heresy is absent, especially if the protestation was made just before, but at some distance (morally computed). For this pertinacity, as we have seen, can be consummated in an instant or in a very short time. Hence, just as one who at one moment intends to keep all the commandments of God, nevertheless, only an hour later, when some occasion or some grave temptation presents itself, may sin mortally, so too the intention to agree with the Church can, when temptation arises, be changed into pertinacity against the Church. Moreover, we have said above that pertinacity can exist in someone who does not believe that a particular article is proposed by the Church, if he does see that one ought to believe this; because in that case he can still have the intention not to believe what the Church proposes. He can say at the same time: “I believe everything that the Church believes,” and “I do not believe this article, however, because I do not believe that the Church proposes and believes it.” Notwithstanding his protestations he would be pertinacious and a heretic as we have seen above.

By contrast, someone who says, “I believe everything which is sufficiently proposed to me to oblige me to receive it as being proposed by the Church,” would be incapable, for as long as this disposition remained efficacious, of refusing to believe some particular article which he saw to be proposed to him with the obligation of accepting it as being proposed by the Church; because in such a case he would have two entirely contrary acts of will. Hence, the authors mentioned are speaking of the presumption of pertinacity in the external forum and they say that a protestation of faith and the acceptance of the doctrine of the Church serves to offset this presumption, as Suarez also observes [reference given]. But even this moderate interpretation is of restricted application according to other writers who are quoted and followed by Castro Palao [loc. cit.]. It applies when the words [expressing the error] are doubtful or when the matter which the error concerns is obscure so that there can be no presumption of its being sufficiently known.

If, however, the subject is one of which knowledge is presumed, the principle does not apply, and a protestation of faith does not excuse from heresy and pertinacity. The circumstances of the subject, the person involved, etc., must all be weighed up to assess whether they are such as to outweigh the presumption of pertinacity in the external forum or to leave it in force: among other authors who address this topic reference can be made to Farinacius [reference given].

6. Ignorance, how it excuses or does not excuse from heresy

We have said that for heresy to exist and for its penalties to be incurred there must be pertinacity on the part of the subject, whereby he places himself in opposition to the Church. A celebrated question is whether he must knowingly enter this state of opposition so that any ignorance, even culpable ignorance, though it would not excuse from grave sin, would nevertheless excuse him from heresy and its penalties. With regard to invincible ignorance and that ignorance which is not mortally culpable, but only venially culpable, there is no doubt that it excuses, because no one can be a heretic or incur the penalties of heresy without mortal sin. I take it for granted also, on the basis of what has been said in the preceding section, that heresy and pertinacity can exist even in the case of someone who does not believe that the Church teaches the article [of faith] which he is denying, provided that the obligation to believe that the Church proposes it has been sufficiently proposed to him. The difficulty arises when a misbeliever (a) is unaware of this obligation because he had not encountered sufficient motives of its evident credibility, and yet (b) the fact that he is unaware of his obligation, and has not encountered sufficient motives to recognise it, is due to his own grave fault, since he is unwilling to think or know about the Church’s teaching.

The opinions of the doctors are diverse. The first says that no gravely culpable ignorance excuses from heresy. This is the view of Sotus, whom Suarez [reference shortly to be given] says to have been the initiator of this opinion. It also the view of Ludovicus Lopez and Palatius, also cited by the Suarez [reference given] and Lorca came to agree with them [reference given], abandoning the contrary opinion which he had formerly embraced [reference given]. And indeed it is certain that Lorca had persevered in his earlier view until he came to treat expressly of this topic in the passage first referred to above, for in the same volume de Fide [reference given] he still fiercely defends it. It is possible that his death prevented him from correcting this text thereby giving rise to a self-contradiction in the same volume with only a small space between the two passages – a contradiction noticed by Hurtado [reference given], though Hurtado is wrong to cite in favour of this opinion Lorca’s text at [reference given] where he says nothing to do with the subject.

The second opinion admits that gravely sinful ignorance does not excuse from heresy when the ignorance is excessively crass and easily vincible. This is the opinion of Sayrus, thought to be probable by Valentia, both of whom are cited by Suarez, loc. cit.

The third opinion admits it only when the ignorance is affected. This is the view of Cano, Navarre, Corduba and Torrensis, cited by Suarez in the same passage, and Valentia [reference given].

The fourth opinion distinguishes two sorts of affected ignorance. Those who hold this opinion maintain that ignorance which is affected owing to a false opinion hostile to the Church, as though the Church’s proposal did not much matter, or in order more freely to err in the Faith, does not excuse from heresy; but that if it is affected only from negligence and weariness of learning, or some such cause, it does not make a man a heretic. This is the view of Thomas Sanchez [reference given] and others who follow him.

The main reason is the one we have ourselves given in the texts just referred to; namely, that the infused habit of faith is never expelled on account of a sin against faith committed through ignorance. This is because a man does not lose the habit of faith as long as he remains able to elicit acts of Divine faith concerning the articles which have been sufficiently proposed to him. So a man loses his faith by committing a completed sin of infidelity, because by doing so he is rejecting faith insofar as it depends upon himself and he cannot, as long as he remains in that disposition, believe with an act of Divine faith, and from the due will of pious affection, any article which may be proposed to him. And this indisposition is not brought about by a sinful dissent which is due to ignorance; because in this latter case a man can still have a universal and devout intention to believe most firmly all things which are sufficiently proposed to him as having been revealed by God, even if he has no intention of being diligent in finding out what God has revealed. Such a man sins against faith, but is not simply and absolutely faithless; indeed he is still one of the faithful, believing all things that have been revealed by God and sufficiently proposed to him. Hence, substantially the same applies in our case, namely that no-one is simply and absolutely a heretic unless he knowingly withdraws from the [belief of the] Church; for one who withdraws through ignorance remains in such a disposition that he can accept and most firmly believe whatever is sufficiently proposed to him as being a dogma of the Church. Consequently, just as he who denies [an article of] faith through even culpable ignorance does not lose faith or forsake it, so too one who withdraws from the doctrine of the Catholic Church through even culpable ignorance does not lose catholicity, or withdraw from the Catholic Church; and therefore he is not a heretic, because, notwithstanding that sin, he can still sincerely say that he believes most firmly everything which the Church has proposed and taught. This will become clearer in the light of the solutions I am about to offer to the many arguments commonly brought against this opinion by its opponents.

In the first place, these opponents argue on the basis of St. Augustine’s words [reference given]: “Those who defend their opinion, no matter how false and perverse it may be, without pertinacious insistence, and who with all solicitude seek the truth, prepared to correct their opinions when they have found it, are not to be counted among heretics.” In these words Augustine excuses from pertinacity and heresy only those who solicitously seek the truth, not those who do not bother to look for it, and much less those who deliberately run away to avoid finding it.

The fifth opinion, which is sounder and more common, says that any ignorance, even crass and affected, excuses from heresy and the penalties incurred by heretics. This is held by Bannes, Azor, Aragonius, Coninch, and others cited and followed by Castro Palao [reference given], Suarez [reference given], and Hurtado [reference given], who adduces many others in agreement. This opinion I also embraced earlier in this work [reference given], and I continue to approve it. Some writers, however, try to prove this on the grounds that the sin committed by someone who knowingly withdraws from the Church is of a different moral species and has a specifically different malice from the sin of one who does so unknowingly, but with culpable ignorance, despite the fact that in other matters sins committed knowingly or in culpable ignorance belong to the same species. This argument I have denied and attacked at length [reference given], where I have proved that no sufficient reason can be adduced for this distinction and that the same rule is therefore applicable also in sins against faith, so that the precise point is not at the root of any specific difference. So various reasons are brought forward by its proponents to support this opinion.

The answer to this argument is that Augustine at this place does indeed excuse those who err while nonetheless seeking the truth; but as for those misbelievers who are not seeking the truth, while not excusing them, he does not say that they are heretics. He declared what was certain and refrained from discussing what was less certain. After all, it was certainly not his intention to condemn as heretics those who, while seeking the truth, do not do so “with all solicitude”.

Moreover, this argument is a two-edged sword, because in other places Augustine [references given] declares that only those persons are heretics who, having been admonished, and recognising that the Church teaches the contrary of their opinion, still pertinaciously resist. He says: “Those who hold some diseased and perverse opinion in the Church, if, when they are corrected, in order to bring them to the correct and wholesome view, contumaciously resist, and are unwilling to amend their pestiferous and deadly doctrines but insist on defending them, are heretics.” He teaches the same thing in Book 4, Chapter 16 of his work Baptism against the Donatists, saying that one who, through error, believes the same as Photinus becomes a heretic for the first time when, the doctrine of the Catholic Faith being made known to him, he prefers to reject it and chooses that which he had held. It might more plausibly be argued on the basis of these texts that one is not a heretic, not only as long as one errs through ignorance, but even for as long as one has not been admonished; but this conclusion would be excessive, as we have seen above.

The second objection made is that in other matters a sin committed through ignorance shares the same malice as the corresponding sin committed knowingly and belongs to the same species; for one who kills through culpable ignorance is a homicide, and one who fornicates through culpable ignorance is a fornicator, and so on. Therefore – the opponents of our position argue – one who embraces heresy through culpable ignorance will also be a heretic. They base this on the principle that directly voluntary sins and indirectly voluntary sins belong to the same species of sin, which can be established by induction from the other sins.

The authors put forward various solutions to this argument; solutions which are quoted, and attacked by Hurtado [reference given] and I too have opposed them at length – loc.cit., On Penitence – and I shall therefore not repeat them now. In the same place I have also denied that there is any difference in this respect between heresy and other sins, for, just as disobedience, whether committed ignorantly or knowingly, belongs to the same species, so the circumstance of being committed in knowledge or ignorance makes no distinction of kind in the case of sins against faith. In other words, the sin of a heretic does not differ in moral species from the sin of a person who errs through gravely culpable ignorance; but it does differ in degree, on account of the circumstance of knowledge, which increases the gravity within the same species of sin; and, by reason of that circumstance and the greater gravity, it makes the denomination “heretic” appropriate and incurs the penalties which are due to heretics, and which, in the absence of that circumstance, would not be incurred. This doctrine Suarez [reference given] admits to be probable and to be a sufficient answer to the argument put forward. It is attacked, however, by Hurtado [reference given]. First, he attacks it on the grounds that, although there is no difference as to objective species between a voluntary action done in ignorance and the same action done knowingly, nonetheless they differ in their intrinsic physical and moral species, because express knowledge makes the act more voluntary. Secondly, he maintains that this difference is more manifest in the sin of heresy, because the sin of heresy, when it is committed through ignorance, has for its object the refusal of study and diligence, whereas the same sin, when it is committed knowingly, has for its object the rejection of the authority of the Church – two things which manifestly differ in moral species just as much as the sin of a man who denies revelation to have taken place differs in species from the sin of one who denies the infallible veracity of God, and consequently denies His authority.

And in this respect the example of homicide is different. In the case of homicide, whether it is committed knowingly or through culpable ignorance, the injury inflicted and the knowledge which is, or is not, possessed, relate to the same object, namely the life of a man. By contrast, in our case a different object is injured from that which is known; for one who sins against faith through ignorance denies only the revealed object, having no wish to know that the Church has proposed it, whereas a heretic denies the revealed object and the authority of the Church, which he knows to be opposed to him. On this basis Hurtado’s reply [reference given] to the argument that I have put forward is that, whatever may be the case with other sins, and granted that they do not differ in species according to whether they were committed knowingly or in ignorance, nonetheless in this matter it is entirely different. This is because through heresy the authority of the Church is injured, whereas it is by no means injured or denied by one who errs through ignorance, since such a person, indeed, rather believes and admits the infallible authority of the Church in proposing.

This doctrine of Hurtado I find unsatisfactory from both angles. In the first place it falsely supposes that in other sins the presence of knowledge or ignorance introduces a specific, moral, intrinsic difference, which I have shown at greater length to be false – as the common opinion holds – loc. cit., On Penitence. The difference between other sins and sins against faith cannot be explained in this way. For just as the life of man is injured by homicide committed with culpable ignorance, so, the authority of the Church is injured and offended by material heresy committed in culpable ignorance, since it is sufficient for this to take place that one realise at least the danger of resisting the Church. And this danger can be recognised even by one who errs through culpable ignorance. It can be recognised just as much as someone who kills a man through culpable ignorance, despite his not knowing that what he thinks to be a beast is in fact a man, nevertheless recognises the risk of killing a man and his duty to employ diligence and investigate the matter; were it otherwise, he would not contract the guilt of homicide. Similarly, when the sin of culpable ignorance concerning matters of faith is committed, the person responsible adverts to the danger of departing from the teaching of the Church; so our question of whether such an individual is a heretic or not returns.

And for this reason Hurtado’s distinction has no place. Just as homicide, whether committed knowingly or in ignorance, injures the same object, because culpable ignorance does not take away knowledge of the danger of killing a man, which suffices for the same objective malice to exist in both acts, so too, error in faith, whether perpetrated knowingly or through culpable ignorance, injures the same object, namely the authority of the Church, because ignorance does not obstruct advertence to the obligation of investigating, in view of the danger that is at hand of departing from the teaching of the Church. What difference could be assigned between the two kinds of sins is hard to see.

Moreover, the example which Hurtado adduces about the specific objective difference between someone who denies the fact of God’s revelation and someone who denies His truthfulness, is not well founded, nor is it relevant.

In the first place it falsely supposes that those two sins comprise different kinds of sin within the category of infidelity. We, however, have said above that those two sins can differ in kind for a different reason. One who denies the veracity of God offends against reverence due to God through mental or external blasphemy, and to that extent sins, not only against faith, but also against religion, a virtue which is not always offended against by a person who denies actual revelation – for such a one sins only against faith. But insofar as the two sins are opposed to faith, they do not differ in kind, but only in their degree of gravity within the same species. Hence, in due proportion, the same is to be said of one who errs against the authority of the Church. For although one who denies this authority offends the Church more than one who, while conceding it, culpably denies that a particular doctrine is to be proposed by the Church, nevertheless these two sins do not differ in kind insofar as they come under the heading of infidelity. If they differ at all, it will be under another heading – that of special contempt and irreverence towards the Church.

That is why I add that the example in question is not relevant to the issue. And indeed it can be turned back upon the person who employs it, because, if denial of the truthfulness of God differs by species within the genus of infidelity from the simple denial of the fact of revelation, it would have to be said that the sin of one who denies the authority of the Church differs in species from the sin of one who denies only a definition or proposal made by the Church, since the latter does not deny the Church’s infallible authority in proposing.

But then we can reduce our question to the sins of two individuals, one of whom one believes and admits the authority of the Church in proposing, but the other of whom knowingly denies that such and such an article is proposed by the Church. When we say “knowingly”, we do not mean by simultaneously believing that it is proposed, for this would be impossible at the same time as dissenting from it. Rather we mean by having such motives for believing it to be proposed that he could deny this only through imprudence: but the other denies the same thing, but through culpable ignorance, not attending to the motives which he could easily find whereby it would be made proximately credible to him that the proposal was made by the Church.

So let us compare the sin of each party. All are agreed that the first is a heretic, because he pertinaciously denies an article proposed by the Church and the proposal of which by the Church is evidently credible to him – which suffices for pertinacity and heresy, as we have seen above, since he is ignorant of none of those things which are required for him to [have to] accept the proposal of the Church. But the second is not a heretic in the opinion of Hurtado, nor in our own opinion, because he rejects the proposal of the Church on account of ignorance. Yet neither of them denies the authority of the Church, but both deny the fact of proposal by the Church; therefore the sin of a heretic does not differ always from the sin of one who errs through ignorance, depending on whether the authority of the Church be denied or not denied.

The same argument can be used in the example brought forward by Hurtado, for which reason I have said that it can be turned back on him. This is because, although it is true that the sin of one who denies the truthfulness of God is specifically different, from the point of view of infidelity, from the sin of one who denies the fact of revelation alone, nonetheless this difference is not found between the sins of two persons, of whom neither denies the veracity of God, but both deny the fact of revelation, the one doing so through culpable ignorance, and the other without it [i.e. in full knowledge]. Of these two persons, the first would lose the habit of infused faith, whereas the second would not lose it and consequently only the second sin would be infidelity properly so called – and in this case the difference could not be derived from the different objects denied, since neither person would be denying the truthfulness of God, but both would be denying the facts of revelation alone.

© This translation copyright John S. Daly. All emphases have been added in the translation, either to bring out the full meaning or to draw attention to an especially significant passage.

Source: Cardinal de Lugo, Disputationes Scholasticae et Morales, Disp. XX, De Virtute Fidei Divinæ.