"Formal" heresy/schism?


What is the difference between “formal” schism and “formal” heresy, on the one hand, and their informal counterparts, on the other?


Usually the term “formal” is used vis-a-vis “material.”

The formal/material distinction has to do with intention. If I teach something contradictory to the Church’s teaching and I know it’s contradictory to the Church’s teaching, that’s formal heresy (well, if I’ve been officially warned not to do it, anyway, otherwise it’s just false teaching). If I teach something contradictory to the Church’s teaching, but I think that what I’m teaching is the Church’s teaching, then that’s material heresy.


Thanks! And how does that apply to schism?


Well, since schism is the rupture of ecclesiastical unity by rebelling against the bishop or the pope, it’s hard to imagine a scenario of material schism.

However, in the case of two men claiming to be pope where it is not certain who is the true pope, there is a material schism since both are acting in good faith but there is still a rupture of unity.

If it becomes clear which one is the true pope and the other maintains his claim, he would be in formal schism.


Are you thinking of the heresy and schism brought about by the originators of the separated churches as opposed to the heresy or schism of those now brought up in those churches who know no better? So Luther’s situation versus that of a present day Lutheran.


You’ve probably done it already, but here are the dictionary entries for schism and heresy.

formal division in, or separation from, a church or religious body;
the offense of promoting schism

1 a : adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma
b : denial of a revealed truth by a baptized member of the Roman Catholic Church
c : an opinion or doctrine contrary to church dogma


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.