Heretic or Just in Error? (Lets ask St. Thomas)

In my catechetical work I meet many groups of fervent catholics seeking to understand the perennial teachings of Church and engage the hard questions that we face today as Catholics. The other night I ran into an intelligent catholic who really liked using the word 'heretic' to describe anyone that disagreed with one of his ideas or beliefs. I happened to agree with most of what this person believed and said BUT I did take issue with his use of the word 'heretic' so loosely. 

Declaring someone a 'Heretic' is no small deal and I think its important to understand what a heretic actually is according to the Church and when someone might actually just be in error on a specific concept or topic. 

According to Canon Law "A heretic is a person who has been baptized and claims to be a Christian, but who pertinaciously denies or doubts a truth which must be believed with divine and Catholic faith (1325, 2)." (Canon 751 in the 1983 Code)


The key word is pertinaciously (or 'obstinately' in modern translations). Without true pertinacity, against that which they are in error about, the person is not technically a heretic and is rather 'someone who is in error'


Even St. Thomas explains in STh., II-II q.5 a.3 resp.


"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"


The difference can mean a world of difference when it comes to charitably discussing errors in belief with those who are in error... These days calling someone a 'heretic' is normally of no benefit in trying to bring that person to a greater understanding of the Truth. If someone IS a heretic then it is what it is BUT if they are simply in error about a topic I think its prudent to reason with them and explain to them the orthodox teaching as opposed to declaring them a heretic immediately without doing our part to respond to them, according to 1 Pet 3:15, with gentleness and respect


image from the 'Public domain'  St. Thomas Aquinas

Pope Francis to Confessors around the world


To hear confessions is a pastoral priority. Please, let there not be those notices: “Confessions are heard only on Mondays and Wednesdays from this hour to that hour.” You hear confessions every time they are requested. And if you are there [in the Confessional] praying, keep the Confessional open, which is God’s open heart.

- Pope Francis

Mission at Our Lady of the Mount (3/27/17 & 3/28/17)

I will be leading a lay catechetical mission Monday and Tuesday night starting at 6:30pm (3/27/17 & 3/28/17) at Our Lady of the Mount in Kalihi. During the season of Lent we are called to embrace the transformational nature of Sacrifice and to reflect on those things we can work on in our own lives as we prepare ourselves for the Sacred Paschal Triduum wherein we celebrate the life, death, and glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. 


For those of you attending the mission I have 2 downloads below that can help you revisit many of the concepts we discuss during the mission.



St. Basil on the Arian Crisis

"The danger is not confined to one Church... this evil of heresy spreads itself. The doctrines of godliness are overturned; the rules of the Church are in confusion; the ambition of the unprincipled seizes upon places of authority; and the chief seat is now openly proposed as a reward for impiety; so that he whose blasphemies are the more shocking, is more eligible for the oversight of the people. Priestly gravity has perished; there are none left to feed the Lord's flock with knowledge; ambitious men are ever spending, in purposes of self-indulgence and bribery, possessions which they hold in trust for the poor. The accurate observance of the canons is no more; there is no restraint upon sin. Unbelievers laugh at what they see, and the weak are unsettled; faith is doubtful, ignorance is poured over their souls, because the adulterators of the word in wickedness imitate the truth. Religious people keep silence; but every blaspheming tongue is let loose. Sacred things are profaned; those of the laity who are sound in faith avoid the places of worship, as schools of impiety, and raise their hands in solitude with groans and tears to the Lord in heaven. . . What is most melancholy of all, even the portion among us which seems to be sound, is divided in itself, so that calamities beset us like those which came upon Jerusalem when it was besieged." 

- St. Basil in his letter to the bishops of Italy and Gaul

image from the 'Public domain' via wikimedia commons St. Basial of Caesarea

Dispensation for St. Patrick's Day!

Bishop Silva grants a dispensation from abstinence from meat on Friday, March 17, 2017, St. Patrick’s Day, for anyone who wishes to take advantage of it.  However, if one chooses to eat meat on that day, another day close to it should be chosen to abstain from meat in order to preserve the importance of Lenten penitential discipline. (From CatholicHawaii.org)

In other significant St. Patrick news the Russian Orthodox Church now officially celebrates St. Patrick as saint as well as other western saints! CLICK HERE TO READ MORE


image via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Saint Patrick by Sicarr - Flickr

Rules for an Infallible Solemn Papal Definition (Repost)

Over the last several weeks I have been a part of several lengthy conversations on the limits of the Papal charism of infallibility. It is something that is often misunderstood by Catholics. Below the picture is a repost of a short article I put together several years ago to explain the specific conditions by which the charism of infallibility is invoked


The solemn definition concerning the Infallible teaching of the Roman Pontiff was given in the 4th session of Vatican 1:

"We teach and define that it is a dogma divinely revealed: that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when in discharge of the office of Pastor and Teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, is, by the divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, possessed of that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals; and that, therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, irreformable." (McNabb, V. (1907). The Decrees of the Vatican Council. 46–47)

This same teaching was reaffirmed in the new Catechism of Catholic Church:

"The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful—who confirms his brethren in the faith—he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals"(CCC 891)

The definition of Vatican 1 and its reaffirmation in Vatican 2 can be summarized into 3 core criteria

1. The Pope speaking  as pastor and teacher of the universal Church (The SUBJECT)
2. He DEFINES (The ACT)
3. A doctrine of faith or morals (The OBJECT)

(This criteria summary, including the allocation of the subject, act, and object, comes from the book ʻCathedra Veritatisʻ by John P. Joy, S.T.L. Its an excellent book that addresses the extent of Papal Infallibility. You can purchase the book at http://unamsanctamcatholicam.blogspot.com . I highly recommend it!)

The two most noted examples of solemn Papal definitions are ʻIneffabilis Deusʻ of Pius IX on the Immaculate Conception as well as Pius XIIʻs ʻ Munificentissimus Deusʻ on the definition of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. A quick look at those definitions is good way to see the rubrics set up in Vatican I in action. Ill add, in bold, the notes of subject, act, and object

"Accordingly, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the honor of the Holy and undivided Trinity, for the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith, and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own [subject] : "We declare, pronounce, and define [act] that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God [object] and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful." (Apostolic Constitution, "Ineffabilis Deus". Pope Pius IX,  Dec 8, 1854.)

"Accordingly, after We directed Our prayers in supplication to God again and again, and invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God, who lavishes His special benevolence on the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the victor over sin and death, for the increasing glory of the same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the whole Church, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul, and by Our own authority [subject] We pronounce, declare, and define [act] that the dogma was revealed by God [object], that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, after completing her course of life upon earth, was assumed to the glory of heaven both in body and soul." (Apostolic Constitution, “Munificentissimus Deus,” Nov. I, 1950)

In future blog posts Ill go through some of the other ʻsolemn papal definitionsʻ listed by modern theologians, under the criteria of Vatican I.

image from the 'Public domain' via wikimedia commons (PD1923)Vatican I. Karl Benzinger

Anglicanorum Coetibus - Bld. John Henry Newman Parish

A few weeks ago, while I was in California, I attended my very first  ʻAnglicanorum Coetibusʻ Ordinariate mass at Blessed John Henry Newman Parish in Irvine. It was awesome. It was done Ad Orientem and used what seemed to be a direct translation of the 1962 Missal , especially from the Preface onward. 


Interestingly enough they were celebrating the feast of the Chair of St. Peter (which happens to be the patron of their Ordinariate) and the priest spoke on the beauty of the papacy BUT also the limits of the charism of infallibility. Fr. Bartus is an excellent priest and I highly recommend going to visit his parish if you are ever in the Irvine area.

If you have never heard of 'Anglicanorum Coetibus' it is the Apostolic Constitution of Benedict XVI wherein he provided persnonal Ordinariates for Anglicans entering full communion with Rome. you can read the original document HERE