What is the difference between an apostate and a heretic? And would protestants be called apostates or heretics?
The terms have been used somewhat hazily throughout history, but the general difference is that apostasy involves renouncing the divinity of Christ or belief in God, whereas heresy is when a person protests a dogma of the faith, such as the Immaculate Conception.
From the CCC 2089:
Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith
From the CCC 817 and 818:
In fact, “in this one and only Church of God from its very beginnings there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly censures as damnable. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church - for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame.”
The ruptures that wound the unity of Christ’s Body - here we must distinguish heresy, apostasy, and schism- do not occur without human sin:
Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers.
“However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers … All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church.”
Protestants are material heretics. Their culpability is limited if they were born into it, but it is still a heresy, and so they are still heretics.
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