4th Lateran Council receive/defend/support heretics


Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215: “Moreover, we determine to subject to excommunication believers who receive, defend, or support heretics.”

Does this mean it’s sinful to support a pentecostal missionary for example?

What do they mean “receive” heretics? If I let a Protestant (as in one who’s Anti-Catholic) into my house, would this be a sin then?
If I let an adherent of a Protestant denomination into my house (a ‘material’ heretic), would I be sinning then?


you are reading to much into that quote. what it appears to say is that those who support the mission of the heretics are to be excommunicated.

So you give money to an anti-catholic organization, you host a event sponsored by a anti-catholic group.

To have dinner with a protestant isn’t not sinful, to have a coworker who is athiest pro abortion, etc. come into your house is not sinful, I could list hundreds of examples. What makes the most sense in reading this one quote is that those who actively support a heretical group or person to further their cause is acting contrary to the Church.


This canon is from 1215. It had significance at that time related to the goings-on at that time and the heresies and political situations of that day. In that time, heretics were also civil outlaws-- i.e. men without a country. They were not to be harbored and given material aid, as the whole point was to have them recant and return to the fold.

It is not 1215 now. We are under different canon law, different norms of ecumenism, etc. And those who are not and have never been Catholic are not heretics. (They are what we would call material heretics, they are not formal heretics).

In the realm of giving to non-Catholic religious groups and supporting non–Catholic missions, this is a prudential matter. If those chosen groups are anti-Catholic, aid causes in evangelizing or converting Catholics away from the Faith, etc, then one would be culpable for giving money to such groups. Culpable for the sin involved in such a choice, not excommunicated.


There is no longer an excommunication that applies to this case. This was essentially a canon law, a discipline that has been amended, altered, and ultimately revoked. When it comes to decrees and laws of the Church, there is much in the historical record that no longer applies. These citations must be read in context and with reference to the modern interpretations.

Today, the common sense rule would apply. catholictiger named certain situations that may be considered undesirable by practicing Catholics, but the Church would not impose a penalty for these activities. It is a matter of conscience between penitent and confessor.


If I’m not mistaken, it’s incorrect to describe modern-day Protestants as “heretics”. Since nearly all Protestants were born into and catechized into their Protestant faiths, they never had any Catholic beliefs to obstinately and willfully reject in the first place.


there are some protestants who are at-least material heretics. They may not be formal heretics but they could believe something that is contrary to the Truth.

There are some protestants that are modern forms of arians. They would be material heretics, just maybe not formal heretics.

What is the difference.

A material heretic is someone who believes something contrary to the truth. They may or not know they are heretics though. (we can be material heretics without knowing it and still be saved)

A formal heretic is the same thing just they have been told what you believe in contrary to the truth and they don’t convert.


Well, by actively giving money to a Pentecostal missionary, I’d be financially supporting a heretic (a material one probably).


that may come down to a case by case mission.

I use a academic bible software that is on the backbone of a protestant company, but because they have Catholic sections of their company while the owners may be material heretics I’m not supporting their destruction of the Catholic Church. I would ask does the pentecostal missionary try to promote anything that is contrary to the Catholic Teaching. Let’s say they give contraceptives to places that have high rates of aids, maybe they call Catholics followers of Satan, maybe they try and reduce the influence of the Catholic Church in very poor countries. Just because you support a non catholic organization doesn’t mean you are supporting heretics.

I think the important note is that one shouldn’t help someone who is actively supporting a heresy. Just because someone is protestant doesn’t mean they are heretics or are actively supporting something contrary to the Truth or seeking the destruction of the Church.


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