You may download the letter here.
You may download the letter here.
In a recent post, Dr. Peter Chojnowski pulls the following quote from Cardinal Louis Billot regarding material and formal heretics (emphasis by Dr. Chojnowski):
“Heretics are divided into formal and material. Formal heretics are those to whom the authority of the Church is sufficiently known; while material heretics are those who, being in invincible ignorance of the Church herself, in good faith choose some other guiding rule. So the heresy of material heretics is not imputable as sin and indeed it is not necessarily incompatible with that supernatural faith which is the beginning and root of all justification. For they may explicitly believe the principal articles, and believe the others, though not explicitly, yet implicitly, through their disposition of mind and good will to adhere to whatever is sufficiently proposed to them as having been revealed by God. In fact they can still belong to the body of the Church by desire and fulfil the other conditions necessary for salvation. Nonetheless, as to their actual incorporation in the visible Church of Christ, which is our present subject, our thesis makes no distinction between formal and material heretics, understanding everything in accordance with the notion of material heresy just given, which indeed is the only true and genuine one. For, if you understand by the expression material heretic one who, while professing subjection to the Church’s Magisterium in matters of faith, nevertheless still denies something defined by the Church because he did not know it was defined, or, by the same token, holds an opinion opposed to Catholic doctrine because he falsely thinks that the Church teaches it, it would be quite absurd to place material heretics outside the body of the true Church; but on this understanding the legitimate use of the expression would be entirely perverted. For a material sin is said to exist only when what belongs to the nature of the sin takes place materially, but without advertence or deliberate will. But the nature of heresy consists in withdrawal from the rule of the ecclesiastical Magisterium and this does not take place in the case mentioned [of someone who is resolved to believe all that the Church teaches but makes a mistake as to what her teaching consists in], since this is a simple error of fact concerning what the rule dictates. And therefore there is no scope for heresy, even materially.”
(Cardinal Louis Billot S.J., De Ecclesia Christi, 4th edition, pp.289-290. Translated by John S. Daly)
I am glad that Dr. Chojnowski posted this quote because I have heard it said so many times, even amongst Traditional Catholics, that a Catholic who holds a heresy, even without him knowing it, is a “material heretic”. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! This is a misuse of the term “material heretic”. A “material heretic” is one who admits he is not a Catholic (e.g., an Anglican), but acts in good faith and is of such good will that he would be ready to become a Catholic if he came to know the truth about the Catholic Church being the one true Church of Jesus Christ.
In regards to one in the Conciliar Church, it is wrong to apply the term “material heretic” to him. He may hold to a teaching that is matter for heresy, but unlike the Anglican, he truly believes himself to be a Catholic and submits himself to the same Magisterium and hierarchy as does the Traditional Catholic, despite his adhering to a false religion. Hence, he is not a “material heretic”.
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In a post dated April 2, 2018, Mr. Sean Johnson writes in his blog Sodalitium Pianum that in 2007 he and his wife to be had to sign this form of the SSPX U.S.A. District prior to the priest consenting to marry them. Mr. Johnson points out the statement of most interest on page 1 of the form relevant to the recent marriage that took place in a Novus Ordo parish (emphasis mine):
“Moreover, I insist on my right to receive all the sacraments in an entirely traditional way, and consequently refuse to have my wedding celebrated by a priest who celebrates the new Mass, or in a church in which the new Mass is celebrated.”
What a difference between the SSPX of Archbishop Lefebvre and the neo-SSPX of Bishop Fellay!
I would love to see the form currently required by the SSPX in Canada or the U.S.A. to be signed by a couple intending to marry. If anybody has either, please send it to me at email@example.com.
As a side note, the same form noted by Mr. Johnson also contains the following (emphasis mine):
“Moreover, I have grave objection, in conscience, in asking for the Indult granted by His Holiness Pope John Paul II (October 3, 1984), even should it be allowed in my parish, since its application is based upon a compromise, namely the acceptation that the New Mass is a licit Catholic rite and that the traditional Mass does reflect our refusal of the errors of Vatican II.”
Here is another piece of evidence that the SSPX of Archbishop Lefebvre rejected the New Mass. Yet we have His Excellency Bishop Richard Williamson now of the public position that one may actively attend the New Mass under certain circumstances, and the likes of Mr. Johnson defending him. Hmm. But does that not transform the New Mass into a licit Catholic rite, at least under certain circumstances? Confusing. That’s the false resistance for you!