Student For the moment I do not want to hear more arguments to prove that only someone erring pertinaciously should be considered a heretic because I will investigate with you all of these things again after this present work. And therefore make clear how reply is made to those points that I adduced to the contrary.

Master The first text which you brought forward to the contrary is Innocent III, Extra, De verborum significatione, c. Super quibusdam verbis [col.923], where Innocent III enumerates six kinds of men whom he asserts to be manifest heretics, namely those preaching publicly against the faith, those professing an error, those defending an error, those convicted before prelates, those who have confessed before them, and those condemned for heretical wickedness by them. Innocent's words have to be understood soundly, however, because otherwise someone would easily slip into errors because of them.

And so it is necessary to make a distinction about [the first kind, viz.] those preaching publicly against the faith because it can happen in four ways that someone preaches publicly against the faith: in one way because he preaches publicly that the christian faith is false, doubtful, groundless or uncertain, and such a man is undoubtedly a manifest heretic because such a man can not be found without pertinacity. For such a man is not ready to be corrected by the christian faith if he does not regard it as true, certain, and sound. Therefore he should be considered pertinacious and a manifest heretic. In another way it is possible for someone to preach publicly against the faith, preaching some error which is opposed to christian faith and protesting that he will never desist from his assertion. And such a man is pertinacious because he is not ready to be corrected. And therefore he should be associated with heretics. Thirdly it is possible for someone to preach publicly against the faith while protesting that he intends neither to defend rashly nor to hold anything against the faith. And because such a person shows that he is not pertinacious and that he is not in error out of malice or pertinacity but because of simplicity and ignorance he is not a manifest heretic and he should not be regarded as a heretic only because of such public preaching. And it is for this reason that in these times in which very many people try out of hatred, rancour, envy and malice to defame those who are better and wiser than they are with [an accusation of] heresy those who teach, preach and write make such protestations to show before everyone that they are not pertinacious. Fourthly, it is possible for someone to preach publicly against the faith simply, without any protestation that he does not intend or does intend rashly to defend or to hold anything against the faith. And such a person should not be considered a manifest heretic but he should be carefully examined about whether he clings pertinaciously to the error which he publicly preached. And if he is found to be pertinacious he should be judged a heretic. Before his examination, however, he should be regarded as catholic because anyone at all should be regarded as good before the opposite has been clearly proved. And so when it is not possible to be certain about the mental clinging [to an error] of such a person who preaches he should be adjudged catholic until the opposite be proved. For just as we should interpret in the best way those things about which there is doubt with what intention they were done, as we find in Extra, De regulis iuris, c. Estote [col.927], so when we do not know with what intention someone preaches against the faith, that is with the intention of clinging to it pertinaciously or with the intention of correcting himself if he has erred, we should interpret it in the best way, that is by supposing that he is ready to be corrected when the truth is evident to him.

About the second kind of person, that is those professing an error, they say that they should be considered pertinacious and therefore are manifest heretics. For a profession usually proceeds from a will that has been confirmed, and so those who profess an error opposed to catholic truth should be regarded as confirmed in their error. Therefore they should be held to be pertinacious. And it follows from this that all those who swear that they will preserve some error opposed to christian faith and who abjure any catholic truth should be considered to be among the pertinacious and the manifest heretics. For like a profession, so an oath and an abjuration suppose a strengthened will.

About the third kind of person, that is those who defend an error, they make a distinction, saying that it is possible to defend an error in two ways: in one way, without [making] a rash assertion, as it then so appears. And such people who defend an error whether verbally or in writing are not manifest heretics because they are prepared to be corrected when they discover the truth. In another way someone defends an error with a rash assertion, and such a person is pertinacious and a manifest heretic.

[See Significant Variants, para. 13.] About the fourth and fifth kinds, that is those who before prelates have been convicted of and have confessed to heretical wickedness, they make a distinction, because that wickedness can be reckoned either on the side of those who have been convicted or have confessed or only on the side of the error of which they have been convicted or to which they have confessed. If they have been convicted of or have confessed to heretical wickedness in the first way they are manifest heretics because such people have been convicted of or have confessed to pertinacity. However if the wickedness is only on the side of error, not on the side of those who have been convicted or have confessed, they are for this reason not manifest heretics. For the errors that Augustine, Jerome and Cyprian maintained, which were touched on earlier and for which they could have been convicted, were bad, yet they themselves were not bad. And therefore even if before prelates they had been convicted of or had confessed to those errors, they would not have been heretics.

About the sixth kind, that is those condemned without distinction for heretical wickedness, they say that they are manifest heretics if they have been rightly and justly condemned because no one should be condemned by formal sentence for heretical wickedness unless the wickedness is found not only in the error but also in the one erring. That wickedness in the one erring, however, is pertinacity. And therefore only the pertinacious should be condemned for heretical wickedness.

Student The above seem probable to me, but I wonder why Innocent did not make the above mentioned distinction.

Master The reply is that it was for the sake of brevity that he did not make a distinction at this point, because it is perfectly clear from other sacred canons that it is appropriate to make a distinction in the above way.

William of Ockham, Dialogus
part 1, book 3, chapters 6-11.

Text by John Kilcullen and John Scott,
Translation by John Kilcullen.