IS IT FOR CANONISTS, OR FOR THEOLOGIANS,TO DECIDE WHO IS A HERETIC? WILLIAM OF OCKHAM BOOK 1 CHAPTER 11
"Some think, excuse me if I use the word, that in order to be good Catholics, we have to breed like rabbits - but no" Pope Francis On The Plane To Rome
Student: IF I WERE to put forward to you everything about the above matters that I am reflecting on in my mind, and you were to reply to it all in the way you have begun, we would produce a very large book. So putting those things aside I come to another question linked to those discussed above. I have often heard that someone's assertion is catholic, yet he himself is not catholic, and that sometimes someone's assertion is shown to be heretical and yet he himself is not counted among the heretics. It seems from this that it can pertain to some people to judge what assertion is catholic and what heretical and to others to determine who should be considered a heretic and who a catholic. For this reason I ask whether it pertains to theologians or to canonists to distinguish between those who are heretical and those who are orthodox.
Master: Some canonists seem to think that it pertains chiefly to them to judge between heretics and catholics. For that opinion it can be argued as follows. To distinguish heretics, and consequently to judge between catholics and heretics, pertains more chiefly to those who reflect on heretics more carefully and with more deliberation. Such people are the canonists. Thus a sufficiently long special title on heretics has been inserted in the book of Decretals. There is also treatment, often copious, of heretics in the Decretum. However, mention is rarely made of heretics in theology. Thus the word "heretic" is found in only one place in the bible, namely in Titus 3[:10]. It pertains chiefly to canonists, therefore, to separate heretics from the orthodox.
But others regard the above opinion as completely false, saying that it pertains to theologians to judge who should be regarded as a heretic and who a catholic, but that canonists have the power to show with what penalty someone should be punished according to canon law after he has become a heretic. Similarly, although a secular judge does not know how to convict someone as a heretic, yet after someone has been abandoned to him by the Church as a heretic, he is not ignorant of the punishment that should be inflicted on him according to civil law. Therefore, if someone has been accused as a heretic before an ecclesiastical judge, the latter first has to consult theologians about how he must convict such a person and then ought to subject him through the canons to a worthy punishment.
Moreover, they show that theologians chiefly distinguish between heretics and the orthodox, saying that no one should be considered a heretic unless he adheres to a heresy with pertinacious vehemence. But it chiefly pertains to theologians to determine not only what assertion should be numbered among the heresies but also what adherence should be considered pertinacious. Therefore, etc.
WILLIAM OF OCKHAM, DIALOGUS
part 1, prologue and book 1
Text and translation by John Kilcullen and John Scott
as at december, 2003