WHAT IS A HERESY?
"NEW" HERESIES AND "NEW" CATHOLIC TRUTHS
Student I would gladly know whether everyone is united in the thought that heresy should be described in the above way.
Master There are some people who think that heresy should not be described in such a way. They seem to rely on the following argument. Many false doctrines contrary to orthodox faith newly become heresies although they do not begin from the start to be falsities contrary to orthodox faith; therefore they are false doctrines contrary to orthodox faith before they should be regarded as heresies; we conclude evidently from this that not all false doctrines contrary to orthodox faith should be regarded as heresies. The antecedent seems evident because many heresies are new although previously they were false doctrines contrary to orthodox faith. For as we find in 24, q. 3, c. Notandum [col.1000], Pope Urban says, "St. Augustine, together with legates of the holy Roman church and his own holy bishops, excommunicated Pelagius and Celestine for introducing a new heresy into the holy church of God." We gather from these words that Pelagius and Celestine introduced into the church an opinion that at that time was a new heresy, and yet that opinion was previously contrary to orthodox faith. Before that opinion or assertion was a heresy, therefore, it was a false doctrine contrary to orthodox faith, and so that description is not convertible with heresy. Hence Gratian says in 24, q. 1, para. 1 [col.966], "Every heretic either follows a heresy already condemned or invents a new one." And at that place [s. v. quod autem; col.1382] the gloss says, "Say without distinction that whether he follows a new one," that is a heresy, "or an old one he is excommunicated, even if he is hidden." The gloss also says at that point [s. v. qui vero; col.1382], "If I knew that my prelate was a heretic because he invented a new heresy and yet he was not preaching it, I would celebrate in secret if he were to excommunicate me." We clearly find from these that there have been and can be new heresies, which, nevertheless, are not new falsities contrary to orthodox faith; and therefore not every falsity contrary to orthodox faith should be counted among the heresies.
William of Ockham, Dialogus,
part 1, book 2, chapters 1-17
Text and translation by John Scott.
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