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St. Thomas Aquinas
Summa Theologica

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  • SECOND PART
    • Aquin.: SMT SS Q[1] Out. Para. 1/4 - SECOND PART OF THE SECOND PART (SS) (QQ[1]-189)
      • Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] Out. Para. 1/1 - OF HERESY (FOUR ARTICLES)
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Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] Out. Para. 1/1 - OF HERESY (FOUR ARTICLES)

We must now consider heresy: under which head there are four points of
inquiry:

(1) Whether heresy is a kind of unbelief?

(2) Of the matter about which it is;

(3) Whether heretics should be tolerated?

(4) Whether converts should be received?


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[1] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether heresy is a species of unbelief?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[1] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that heresy is not a species of unbelief. For
unbelief is in the understanding, as stated above (Q[10], A[2]). Now
heresy would seem not to pertain to the understanding, but rather to the
appetitive power; for Jerome says on Gal. 5:19: [*Cf. Decretals xxiv, qu.
iii, cap. 27] "The works of the flesh are manifest: Heresy is derived
from a Greek word meaning choice, whereby a man makes choice of that
school which he deems best." But choice is an act of the appetitive
power, as stated above (FS, Q[13], A[1]). Therefore heresy is not a
species of unbelief.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[1] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, vice takes its species chiefly from its end; hence the
Philosopher says (Ethic. v, 2) that "he who commits adultery that he may
steal, is a thief rather than an adulterer." Now the end of heresy is
temporal profit, especially lordship and glory, which belong to the vice
of pride or covetousness: for Augustine says (De Util. Credendi i) that
"a heretic is one who either devises or follows false and new opinions,
for the sake of some temporal profit, especially that he may lord and be
honored above others." Therefore heresy is a species of pride rather than
of unbelief.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[1] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, since unbelief is in the understanding, it would seem
not to pertain to the flesh. Now heresy belongs to the works of the
flesh, for the Apostle says (Gal. 5:19): "The works of the flesh are
manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness," and among the others, he
adds, "dissensions, sects," which are the same as heresies. Therefore
heresy is not a species of unbelief.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[1] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Falsehood is contrary to truth. Now a heretic is one
who devises or follows false or new opinions. Therefore heresy is opposed
to the truth, on which faith is founded; and consequently it is a species
of unbelief.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[1] Body Para. 1/4

I answer that, The word heresy as stated in the first objection denotes
a choosing. Now choice as stated above (FS, Q[13], A[3]) is about things
directed to the end, the end being presupposed. Now, in matters of faith,
the will assents to some truth, as to its proper good, as was shown above
(Q[4], A[3]): wherefore that which is the chief truth, has the character
of last end, while those which are secondary truths, have the character
of being directed to the end.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[1] Body Para. 2/4

Now, whoever believes, assents to someone's words; so that, in every
form of unbelief, the person to whose words assent is given seems to hold
the chief place and to be the end as it were; while the things by holding
which one assents to that person hold a secondary place. Consequently he
that holds the Christian faith aright, assents, by his will, to Christ,
in those things which truly belong to His doctrine.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[1] Body Para. 3/4

Accordingly there are two ways in which a man may deviate from the
rectitude of the Christian faith. First, because he is unwilling to
assent to Christ: and such a man has an evil will, so to say, in respect
of the very end. This belongs to the species of unbelief in pagans and
Jews. Secondly, because, though he intends to assent to Christ, yet he
fails in his choice of those things wherein he assents to Christ, because
he chooses not what Christ really taught, but the suggestions of his own
mind.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[1] Body Para. 4/4

Therefore heresy is a species of unbelief, belonging to those who
profess the Christian faith, but corrupt its dogmas.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[1] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Choice regards unbelief in the same way as the will regards
faith, as stated above.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[1] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: Vices take their species from their proximate end, while,
from their remote end, they take their genus and cause. Thus in the case
of adultery committed for the sake of theft, there is the species of
adultery taken from its proper end and object; but the ultimate end shows
that the act of adultery is both the result of the theft, and is included
under it, as an effect under its cause, or a species under its genus, as
appears from what we have said about acts in general (FS, Q[18], A[7]).
Wherefore, as to the case in point also, the proximate end of heresy is
adherence to one's own false opinion, and from this it derives its
species, while its remote end reveals its cause, viz. that it arises
from pride or covetousness.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[1] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Just as heresy is so called from its being a choosing
[*From the Greek {airein} [hairein], to cut off], so does sect derive its
name from its being a cutting off [secando], as Isidore states (Etym.
viii, 3). Wherefore heresy and sect are the same thing, and each belongs
to the works of the flesh, not indeed by reason of the act itself of
unbelief in respect of its proximate object, but by reason of its cause,
which is either the desire of an undue end in which way it arises from
pride or covetousness, as stated in the second objection, or some
illusion of the imagination (which gives rise to error, as the
Philosopher states in Metaph. iv; Ed. Did. iii, 5), for this faculty has
a certain connection with the flesh, in as much as its act is independent
on a bodily organ.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[2] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether heresy is properly about matters of faith?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[2] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that heresy is not properly about matters of faith.
For just as there are heresies and sects among Christians, so were there
among the Jews, and Pharisees, as Isidore observes (Etym. viii, 3,4,5).
Now their dissensions were not about matters of faith. Therefore heresy
is not about matters of faith, as though they were its proper matter.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[2] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, the matter of faith is the thing believed. Now heresy is
not only about things, but also about works, and about interpretations of
Holy Writ. For Jerome says on Gal. 5:20 that "whoever expounds the
Scriptures in any sense but that of the Holy Ghost by Whom they were
written, may be called a heretic, though he may not have left the
Church": and elsewhere he says that "heresies spring up from words spoken
amiss." [*St. Thomas quotes this saying elsewhere, in Sent. iv, D, 13,
and TP, Q[16], A[8], but it is not to be found in St. Jerome's works.]
Therefore heresy is not properly about the matter of faith.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[2] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, we find the holy doctors differing even about matters
pertaining to the faith, for example Augustine and Jerome, on the
question about the cessation of the legal observances: and yet this was
without any heresy on their part. Therefore heresy is not properly about
the matter of faith.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[2] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Augustine says against the Manichees [*Cf. De Civ. Dei
xviii, 51]: "In Christ's Church, those are heretics, who hold mischievous
and erroneous opinions, and when rebuked that they may think soundly and
rightly, offer a stubborn resistance, and, refusing to mend their
pernicious and deadly doctrines, persist in defending them." Now
pernicious and deadly doctrines are none but those which are contrary to
the dogmas of faith, whereby "the just man liveth" (Rm. 1:17). Therefore
heresy is about matters of faith, as about its proper matter.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[2] Body Para. 1/2

I answer that, We are speaking of heresy now as denoting a corruption of
the Christian faith. Now it does not imply a corruption of the Christian
faith, if a man has a false opinion in matters that are not of faith, for
instance, in questions of geometry and so forth, which cannot belong to
the faith by any means; but only when a person has a false opinion about
things belonging to the faith.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[2] Body Para. 2/2

Now a thing may be of the faith in two ways, as stated above (FP, Q[32],
A[4]; FS, Q[1], A[6], ad 1; FS, Q[2], A[5]), in one way, directly and
principally, e.g. the articles of faith; in another way, indirectly and
secondarily, e.g. those matters, the denial of which leads to the
corruption of some article of faith; and there may be heresy in either
way, even as there can be faith.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[2] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Just as the heresies of the Jews and Pharisees were about
opinions relating to Judaism or Pharisaism, so also heresies among
Christians are about matter touching the Christian faith.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[2] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: A man is said to expound Holy Writ in another sense than
that required by the Holy Ghost, when he so distorts the meaning of Holy
Writ, that it is contrary to what the Holy Ghost has revealed. Hence it
is written (Ezech. 13:6) about the false prophets: "They have persisted
to confirm what they have said," viz. by false interpretations of
Scripture. Moreover a man professes his faith by the words that he
utters, since confession is an act of faith, as stated above (Q[3], A[1]
). Wherefore inordinate words about matters of faith may lead to
corruption of the faith; and hence it is that Pope Leo says in a letter
to Proterius, Bishop of Alexandria: "The enemies of Christ's cross lie in
wait for our every deed and word, so that, if we but give them the
slightest pretext, they may accuse us mendaciously of agreeing with
Nestorius."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[2] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: As Augustine says (Ep. xliii) and we find it stated in the
Decretals (xxiv, qu. 3, can. Dixit Apostolus): "By no means should we
accuse of heresy those who, however false and perverse their opinion may
be, defend it without obstinate fervor, and seek the truth with careful
anxiety, ready to mend their opinion, when they have found the truth,"
because, to wit, they do not make a choice in contradiction to the
doctrine of the Church. Accordingly, certain doctors seem to have
differed either in matters the holding of which in this or that way is of
no consequence, so far as faith is concerned, or even in matters of
faith, which were not as yet defined by the Church; although if anyone
were obstinately to deny them after they had been defined by the
authority of the universal Church, he would be deemed a heretic. This
authority resides chiefly in the Sovereign Pontiff. For we read [*Decret.
xxiv, qu. 1, can. Quoties]: "Whenever a question of faith is in dispute,
I think, that all our brethren and fellow bishops ought to refer the
matter to none other than Peter, as being the source of their name and
honor, against whose authority neither Jerome nor Augustine nor any of
the holy doctors defended their opinion." Hence Jerome says (Exposit.
Symbol [*Among the supposititious works of St. Jerome]): "This, most
blessed Pope, is the faith that we have been taught in the Catholic
Church. If anything therein has been incorrectly or carelessly expressed,
we beg that it may be set aright by you who hold the faith and see of
Peter. If however this, our profession, be approved by the judgment of
your apostleship, whoever may blame me, will prove that he himself is
ignorant, or malicious, or even not a catholic but a heretic."


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[3] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether heretics ought to be tolerated?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[3] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It seems that heretics ought to be tolerated. For the Apostle
says (2 Tim. 2:24,25): "The servant of the Lord must not wrangle . . .
with modesty admonishing them that resist the truth, if peradventure God
may give them repentance to know the truth, and they may recover
themselves from the snares of the devil." Now if heretics are not
tolerated but put to death, they lose the opportunity of repentance.
Therefore it seems contrary to the Apostle's command.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[3] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, whatever is necessary in the Church should be tolerated.
Now heresies are necessary in the Church, since the Apostle says (1 Cor.
11:19): "There must be . . . heresies, that they . . . who are reproved,
may be manifest among you." Therefore it seems that heretics should be
tolerated.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[3] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, the Master commanded his servants (Mt. 13:30) to suffer
the cockle "to grow until the harvest," i.e. the end of the world, as a
gloss explains it. Now holy men explain that the cockle denotes heretics.
Therefore heretics should be tolerated.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[3] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, The Apostle says (Titus 3:10,11): "A man that is a
heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid: knowing that he,
that is such an one, is subverted."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[3] Body Para. 1/2

I answer that, 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.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[3] Body Para. 2/2

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 Gal. 5:9, "A little leaven," says: "Cut off the
decayed flesh, expel the mangy sheep from the fold, lest the whole house,
the whole paste, the whole body, the whole flock, 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."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[3] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: This very modesty demands that the heretic should be
admonished a first and second time: and if he be unwilling to retract, he
must be reckoned as already "subverted," as we may gather from the words
of the Apostle quoted above.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[3] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: The profit that ensues from heresy is beside the intention
of heretics, for it consists in the constancy of the faithful being put
to the test, and "makes us shake off our sluggishness, and search the
Scriptures more carefully," as Augustine states (De Gen. cont. Manich. i,
1). What they really intend is the corruption of the faith, which is to
inflict very great harm indeed. Consequently we should consider what they
directly intend, and expel them, rather than what is beside their
intention, and so, tolerate them.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[3] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: According to Decret. (xxiv, qu. iii, can. Notandum), "to be
excommunicated is not to be uprooted." A man is excommunicated, as the
Apostle says (1 Cor. 5:5) that his "spirit may be saved in the day of Our
Lord." Yet if heretics be altogether uprooted by death, this is not
contrary to Our Lord's command, which is to be understood as referring to
the case when the cockle cannot be plucked up without plucking up the
wheat, as we explained above (Q[10], A[8], ad 1), when treating of
unbelievers in general.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[4] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether the Church should receive those who return from heresy?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[4] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that the Church ought in all cases to receive those
who return from heresy. For it is written (Jer. 3:1) in the person of the
Lord: "Thou hast prostituted thyself to many lovers; nevertheless return
to Me saith the Lord." Now the sentence of the Church is God's sentence,
according to Dt. 1:17: "You shall hear the little as well as the great:
neither shall you respect any man's person, because it is the judgment of
God." Therefore even those who are guilty of the prostitution of unbelief
which is spiritual prostitution, should be received all the same.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[4] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, Our Lord commanded Peter (Mt. 18:22) to forgive his
offending brother "not" only "till seven times, but till seventy times
seven times," which Jerome expounds as meaning that "a man should be
forgiven, as often as he has sinned." Therefore he ought to be received
by the Church as often as he has sinned by falling back into heresy.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[4] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, heresy is a kind of unbelief. Now other unbelievers who
wish to be converted are received by the Church. Therefore heretics also
should be received.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[4] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, The Decretal Ad abolendam (De Haereticis, cap. ix) says
that "those who are found to have relapsed into the error which they had
already abjured, must be left to the secular tribunal." Therefore they
should not be received by the Church.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[4] Body Para. 1/3

I answer that, In obedience to Our Lord's institution, the Church
extends her charity to all, not only to friends, but also to foes who
persecute her, according to Mt. 5:44: "Love your enemies; do good to them
that hate you." Now it is part of charity that we should both wish and
work our neighbor's good. Again, good is twofold: one is spiritual,
namely the health of the soul, which good is chiefly the object of
charity, since it is this chiefly that we should wish for one another.
Consequently, from this point of view, heretics who return after falling
no matter how often, are admitted by the Church to Penance whereby the
way of salvation is opened to them.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[4] Body Para. 2/3

The other good is that which charity considers secondarily, viz.
temporal good, such as life of the body, worldly possessions, good
repute, ecclesiastical or secular dignity, for we are not bound by
charity to wish others this good, except in relation to the eternal
salvation of them and of others. Hence if the presence of one of these
goods in one individual might be an obstacle to eternal salvation in
many, we are not bound out of charity to wish such a good to that person,
rather should we desire him to be without it, both because eternal
salvation takes precedence of temporal good, and because the good of the
many is to be preferred to the good of one. Now if heretics were always
received on their return, in order to save their lives and other temporal
goods, this might be prejudicial to the salvation of others, both because
they would infect others if they relapsed again, and because, if they
escaped without punishment, others would feel more assured in lapsing
into heresy. For it is written (Eccles. 8:11): "For because sentence is
not speedily pronounced against the evil, the children of men commit
evils without any fear."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[4] Body Para. 3/3

For this reason the Church not only admits to Penance those who return
from heresy for the first time, but also safeguards their lives, and
sometimes by dispensation, restores them to the ecclesiastical dignities
which they may have had before, should their conversion appear to be
sincere: we read of this as having frequently been done for the good of
peace. But when they fall again, after having been received, this seems
to prove them to be inconstant in faith, wherefore when they return
again, they are admitted to Penance, but are not delivered from the pain
of death.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[4] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: In God's tribunal, those who return are always received,
because God is a searcher of hearts, and knows those who return in
sincerity. But the Church cannot imitate God in this, for she presumes
that those who relapse after being once received, are not sincere in
their return; hence she does not debar them from the way of salvation,
but neither does she protect them from the sentence of death.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[4] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: Our Lord was speaking to Peter of sins committed against
oneself, for one should always forgive such offenses and spare our
brother when he repents. These words are not to be applied to sins
committed against one's neighbor or against God, for it is not left to
our discretion to forgive such offenses, as Jerome says on Mt. 18:15, "If
thy brother shall offend against thee." Yet even in this matter the law
prescribes limits according as God's honor or our neighbor's good demands.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[11] A[4] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: When other unbelievers, who have never received the faith
are converted, they do not as yet show signs of inconstancy in faith, as
relapsed heretics do; hence the comparison fails.





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