Student There is something further I will ask about the condemnation of heresies. For it seems to me that every error that is opposed to and inconsistent with divine scripture in any way at all, whether openly or secretly, may be added to the number of the heresies; it is certain however that theologians offer opposed opinions about those matters that pertain to sacred scripture, while nonetheless striving to support all their opinions with divine scripture and trying to reject opposed opinions through the same sacred scripture; some of these said opposed opinions, therefore, are added to the number of the heresies. Does a pope sin culpably, therefore, by neglecting to condemn heresies of this kind?

Master Some people say that the pope does not sin at all in allowing theologians to hold as their opinion assertions of this kind which are in truth of fact heretical, and this seems provable by the following argument. It is not heretical to allow what is permissible since sometimes what is impermissible is allowed without sin; but it is permissible to hold as an opinion errors of this kind which have not been condemned explicitly because such an opinion does not make the one who holds it a heretic as long as he is prepared to be corrected; [See Significant Variants, para. 7.] the pope is without sin, therefore, in allowing theologians to hold as their opinion errors of this kind which are in truth of fact heresies.

Others think that many highest pontiffs have sinned culpably in allowing heresies of this kind to be held even as an opinion. They prove this first as follows: not only should heretics be rooted out of the church but also heresies, as the general council found in Extra, De hereticis, c. Excommunicamus [col.1685] attests; it indicates that bishops who have been negligent or remiss about purging their dioceses of the leaven of heretical wickedness should be deposed; if therefore he to whom it pertains in accordance with the office with which he is charged to root out heresies has been negligent or remiss, he can not be excused from culpable negligence or laxness; but it pertains to the highest pontiff to purge the whole church of heresies, not only those already explicitly condemned but also any others at all; those who have supported the holding or teaching of such heresies, therefore, have sinned culpably.

Student It does not seem that the pope is bound to purge the church of new heresies that have not been condemned explicitly, but it is enough for him to purge it or keep it purged of every heretical wickedness already condemned explicitly.

Master They reject this, saying that a pope who neglects to oppose and condemn heresies which newly rise up is not imitating the apostles and holy fathers who very swiftly condemned heresies as they came forth. Yet it is necessary for the Roman pontiff to cleave to their footsteps if he wants to join them in the heavenly homeland. Highest pontiffs who have neglected to condemn heresies of this kind, therefore, have sinned.

Student The apostles and holy fathers condemned heresies because they found pertinacious assertors of heresies of this kind. Therefore since theologians have not been pertinacious assertors of heresies which they think are not opposed to catholic truth, the heresies which they have taught only as an opinion should not be condemned by Roman pontiffs.

Master They try to attack in two ways that excuse for the Roman pontiffs. Firstly, because the latter have not known whether theologians would cling pertinaciously to their heretical opinions because they have not made any inquiry about this at all; they have been negligent or remiss, therefore, in inquiring about the truth in order to resist dangers to the church. The second is as follows: a greater danger should be resisted more strongly, diligently and swiftly; but a greater danger threatens the christian religion from heresies held publicly as an opinion and propounded than from burdensome and evil customs because, even if those propounding their opinions were not to adhere to them pertinaciously, it should nevertheless be feared lest simple students hearing assertions of this kind taught by great doctors and argued for strongly and not condemned by catholics be induced by the plausibility of arguments they do not know how to refute to a pertinacious adherence to those heresies, and lest pestiferous errors begin to be venerated and defended pertinaciously as catholic truths; but burdensome and evil customs should be very quickly repressed lest they be adopted by the impious as a right and privilege, as Pope Nicholas affirms, as we find in dist. 8, c. Mala [col.14]; it is much more the case, therefore, that howsoever heresies come forth they should be completely rooted out and condemned lest they be approved as catholic truths by those who are simple and may be misled.

Student That last argument is clear; but the first seems to lack all plausibility because according to the sacred canons an inquisition should not be made into anyone unless he has first been accused, as we find in Extra, De accusationibus, c. Qualiter et quando [col.745] and in many other places; but theologians have not been accused about heresies; therefore, highest pontiffs should not have made an inquisition into them.

Master They say that that is not an adequate excuse, because although theologians have not been accused of having been heretics yet they were accused of having taught heresies; so indeed many theologians now think that other theologians teach heresies as doctrine, even if they would not want to affirm that they should be reckoned among heretics. For together with this affirmation many also think perhaps that all Thomas's opinions which were once condemned at Paris should be judged as heretical. Some also believe that all his opinions which the archbishops of Canterbury condemned should be reckoned among the heresies. For some people most firmly believe that to say that the will can will nothing against the actual judgement of reason smacks of manifest heresy, because, as they say, it [this doctrine] takes away every merit and demerit. Some people also believe that to say that there is nothing in man except one substantial form conflicts with orthodox truth. Some people also think that many of Scotus's opinions should be reckoned among the heresies. For they think that to say that the wisdom of God may in some way be distinguished in reality from the essence of God contradicts the divine simplicity and, consequently, conflicts with catholic truth. They think the same about lesser unity, numeral unity and the priorities which he locates in God and about practically numberless other opinions he holds. Many think the same about many of Egidius's [Giles of Rome's] opinions. It is notorious therefore that theologians are well known to teach heresies as doctrine, although they are not regarded as heretics. Because of this reputation, therefore, highest pontiffs ought to have been moved to have had an inquiry made.

Student Perhaps such a reputation had not reached the highest pontiffs.

Master They say that this lacks all probability because it is not at all plausible that the condemnations of the opinions of Thomas and of others, which were often solemnly and publicly pronounced at Paris and in England, had been unknown to the highest pontiffs, especially since some members of the Order of Preachers appealed to the Roman curia against the condemnation published in England by the archbishop of Canterbury of some of Thomas's opinions and for that reason they [the appellants] had gone to Rome. Therefore they say that even if the report that those opiners were heretics did not reach the Roman pontiffs, it was nevertheless not unknown to them that their opinions had been condemned in Paris and in England. Therefore they ought to have proceeded to the making of an inquisition, on the example of the holy fathers who made an expert inquisition into Arius, Eumonius, Macedonius, Nestorius and many others and their teachings before they were convicted as pertinacious defenders of heresies, and on the example too of Innocent III who, as we find in Extra, De summa trinitate et fide catholica, c. Damnamus [col.6], proceeded to the making of an inquisition and a condemnation although Joachim was never a pertinacious defender of his error and although a most fully qualified doctor of that time, Richard of St. Victor, adhered, but not pertinaciously, to the same error.


  1. Hmmm. But I wouldn't treat William of Ocham as an authority in theology. But, even so, his arguments stand or fall on their own merits.

  2. Hmmm. But I wouldn't treat William of Ocham as an authority in theology. But, even so, his arguments stand or fall on their own merits.

  3. yea...I know the same old smear.....he's the father of modern democracy... the father of Martin Luther... the father of Protestantism...the father of the new mass....etc....The man defended the right of the Holy Roman Emperor and the man called out a heretical pope and he died a faithful Roman Catholic...its the lot of those today who call occam a heretic are the same ones who perpetuate modern democracy with their votes and engage in political eccumenism with protestant hereitcs.

    And yet you find no fault with what he wrote...



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