TO BE A HERETIC IS IT ESSENTIAL TO BE PERTINACIOUS?
Disciple Though I could ask many questions about this matter, nevertheless, because few or no catechumens are now found, or unbaptised persons behaving as baptized, and I have wanted the present work to be made mainly so that I would better understand the controversies ventilated among the Christians of our times, I turn to the last element of the description given above. It seems superfluous to put "pertinaciously", since every Christian should be added to the number of the heretics if he simply doubts or errs against Catholic truth.
This seems provable, first, by a text of Innocent III. As we read in Extra, De verborum significatione, c. Super quibusdam [col.923], writing to the Count of Toulouse, he says: "Your devotion has asked of us who are to be called manifest heretics. Upon this we have decided that you should be given the answer that those should be understood to be manifest heretics who publicly preach against the Catholic faith or profess or defend an error, or who have been convicted or have confessed before their prelates, or have been condemned judicially by them on a charge of heretical wickedness". In these words there is no mention of pertinacity. Anyone, therefore, who preaches publicly against the Catholic faith, even if he does not err pertinaciously, must be considered a heretic.
Pope Celestine, as Pope Nicholas reports, seems to think the same. As we read in 24, q. 1, c. Ait Celestinus, he says: "If anyone has been excommunicated or stripped of his office as bishop or cleric by Bishop Nestorius or by others who follow him (from when they began to preach such things), it is manifest that this man remains and has remained in our communion, and we do not judge him to have been removed; because it was not possible for anyone to remove another by his sentence if he had already shown that he himself should be removed". By these words we are given to understand that as soon as someone begins to preach against Catholic truth, he straightway loses the power to excommunicate others. From this it follows that such a person should be regarded as a heretic. And yet someone can preach things contrary to Catholic truth without pertinacity. Therefore for it to be the case that someone should be considered a heretic it is not required that he err or doubt pertinaciously.
Blessed Jerome also seems to testify to this. As we read in 24, q. 1, Haec est fides [col.970], he says, writing to a pope, "But if this confession of ours is approved by the judgment of your Apostleship, whoever wants to blame me will prove himself unskilled or malevolent or even not a Catholic but a heretic". Here also there is no mention of pertinacity. Therefore it is superfluous to put "pertinaciously" in the above definition.
Also, no one except a heretic is entangled in the condemnation of heretics. But, on the testimony of Gelasius, 24, q. 1, c. 1, "Whoever falls into a heresy at any time condemned entangles himself in its condemnation", where the pope does not distinguish between one who falls pertinaciously, or not pertinaciously, into a heresy at any time condemned, and, consequently, neither should we distinguish. Therefore, whoever falls, whether pertinaciously or not pertinaciously, into a heresy at any time condemned should be reckoned a heretic.
Gelasius also seems to assert this openly, as we read in the same causa and question, c. Maiores [col.966]. He says: "Once the author of any insanity, and likewise the error, has been condemned, they judged it to be enough that whoever should at any time share in this error would be bound by the original sentence of its condemnation".
Pope Felix seems to agree with him. As we read in the same causa and question, c. Achatius (ii) [col.966], he says: "It is therefore necessary that he fell into the sentence (if the scales are just) that the author of the error, together with his successors, had received by agreement of the synod". In these texts these supreme pontiffs do not distinguish between those who fall into heresy pertinaciously and not pertinaciously, and yet they say indefinitely and universally that the followers of heretics lie under a like sentence. Therefore "pertinaciously" is superfluous in the definition above.
Also, Jerome says, commenting upon the Epistle to the Galatians (included in 24, q. 3, c. Haeresis [col. 997]): "Therefore, whoever understands Scripture otherwise than as the sense of the Holy Spirit demands (by whom it is written), though he does not withdraw from the Church, can nevertheless be called a heretic, and he is choosing from among fleshly works those which are worse". From these words it is clear that everyone, whether pertinaciously or not pertinaciously, understanding otherwise than as the sense of the Holy Spirit demands is a heretic. Therefore "pertinaciously" is unsuitably put in the above definition.
Also, Pope Stephen, not distinguishing between pertinacious and not pertinacious doubt, says indefinitely, as we read in Extra, De hereticis, c. 1: "One who is doubtful in faith is unfaithful". Therefore everyone who doubts about the faith, whether pertinaciously or not pertinaciously, should be considered unfaithful and consequently a heretic. [See Significant Variants, para. 10.] But it is a bigger thing to err than to doubt; therefore everyone who errs against the faith, whether pertinaciously or not pertinaciously, should be considered a heretic.
Also, Pope Nicholas, as we read in 24, q. 1, c. Aperte, says indefinitely: "He who, preaching such things, is unsteady in the faith was not able to depose or remove anyone". From these words we gather that everyone who is unsteady in faith is deprived of all ecclesiastical power. But this is only because he is a heretic. Therefore everyone who is unsteady or doubtful in faith, whether pertinaciously or not pertinaciously, should be considered a heretic. From this it follows that everyone who errs against the faith, even not pertinaciously, should be reckoned a heretic.
Gratian agrees with these. In 24, q. 1, para. His auctoritatibus [col.981], he says: "By these texts it is clearly shown that as soon as someone begins to teach something against the faith he cannot depose or condemn anyone", and consequently such a person teaching against the faith, even if not convicted, should be regarded as a heretic.
Also, faith that is not firm is not true faith. Hence a general council says, as we read Extra, De summa trinitate et fide catholica, c. 1 [col.5], "We firmly believe", obviously suggesting that every Catholic should believe firmly. Hence also in the Athanasian Creed it is contained: "This is the Catholic faith; unless each one believes it faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved"; faith should therefore be firm. But one who doubts in faith, even if not pertinaciously, does not have firm faith, but unfirm, as Bernard testifies. In [De consideratione], addressed to Pope Eugenius, Book 5, he says: "Faith, if it hesitates, is unfirm". Therefore one who doubts about the faith does not have true faith, and consequently should be reckoned not a Catholic but a heretic.
These are the objections that strike my mind against the above description of a heretic. However, because that description seems plausible, say how those who thus describe the heretic answer the above.
part 1, book 3, chapters 1-5.
Text by John Kilcullen and John Scott,
Translation by John Kilcullen.