How are Heresies Determined?

How are the conclusions within a ecumenical council determined? For any such heresy or other faith issues in the past; are they voted on? are they required to come to full agreement? How does this work?


I’m interested too.

In general I guess they are sort of voted on. But something like Nicea, they engaged in fierce debate which concluded with the majority forming the Nicene creed. Then everyone was given the opportunity to sign agreement to the creed. Those who didn’t were heretics.

I can’t say that wikipedia is a reliable source, but in this case the description is reasonable in so far as my reading has taken me.


By a consensus (majority) vote of the Council, duly ratified by the Pope.

For any such heresy or other faith issues in the past; are they voted on?

The decisions of a General (Ecumenical) Council are always “voted on” by the delegates in attendance. They are then presented to the Pope for ratification. The Pope may ratify or decline the decisions.

are they required to come to full agreement?

An Ecumenical Council only needs to have a majority agreement (50%+1) to pass its findings to the Pope for ratification.

I think this is debatable and probably depends on the rules set for each Council–some, for example, require a supermajority, etc. Regarding whether decisions could truly be said to be conciliar decisions, for example, Cardinal Bl. John Henry Newman argued from history and precedent that “moral unanimity” was necessary.

They have all been thiat way, so it’s hard to argue against what he proposes. The rule you propose is untested, but, given the authority of the Pope, it would likely yield the same result–it just may more rightly be considered a papal decision than a concilliar one.

What is moral unanimity?

Edit: I just googled it, and came across this EWTN article. It seems to say that union with the Pope is all that is necessary for the body of bishops to teach with moral unanimity, and thus with infallibility. The difference between that and DavidFilmer’s answer is that it doesn’t necessarily require official and explicit ratification from the Pope, in order for it to be infallible. Do I have that right?

I’m interested in the title question:
How are Heresies Determined?

Material heresy pertains to ideas. Formal heresy pertains to persons.

Every infallible teaching of the Magisterium, whether taught under papal infallibility, conciliar infallibility, or the ordinary universal magisterium, is a dogma of the faith. All infallible teachings require the full assent of faith (theological assent). An idea is material heresy if it is contrary to, or essentially incompatible with, any infallible teaching of the Magisterium.

A person commits the sin of formal heresy by obstinate denial or obstinate doubt of any infallible teaching of the Magisterium. Formal heresy is a knowing and deliberate act. If a person mistakenly adheres to an heretical idea, out of ignorance, the fault is not formal heresy.

The non-infallible teachings require the religious submission of mind and will (religious assent), a different type and lesser degree of assent. Disagreement or doubt pertaining to a non-infallible teaching is not heresy.

I would add that all of the above applies to Catholics only.

That is, a person who has been a Lutheran since birth could not be considered a heretic, even if he embraces material heresy.

Very briefly: a ‘heresy’ starts out as a school of thought that develops amongst credible Christians within the Church, and is determined to run against an established orthodox belief, that hasn’t been declared as dogma.

Hence a conflict is identified; a deviation from orthodoxy; a point of view or perspective that is well-grounded–that is, generally well enough grounded that it cannot be summarily dismissed.

So either a council is convened, or the Pope may simply address it directly–and the issue is processed by the council, against scripture, against the writings of the Church Fathers, against Sacred Tradition…against the deposit of faith.

IOW, it’s the Church, checking herself if you will (“as in…hey…maybe we missed that one…maybe this guy (the person championing the new school of thought) is on to something”).

The school of thought ‘has its day in court’ so to speak; After the matter is discussed and debated, the council rules on it (does not have to be unanimous–not sure any council has ever been decided unanimously, actually). If it is determined to be anathema, it is declared a heresy.

Then it is presented to the Pope, for ratification–then declared a heresy.

Just my crude understanding.

There is no way to know moral unanimity without them all putting their teaching in writing of broadcast

In general

2089"*[FONT=Arial]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;[/FONT]


[FONT=Arial]The Great Heresies in history[/FONT]

Just to add to the above (still, rather crude)–the parties championing the heresy, upon its declaration as such, are afforded the opportunity to renounce their ‘championing’ thereof, and to assent to the Church’s authority. If they do so, they are not heretics; if not, then they are considered heretics.


That was an excellent article. It showed where “Sullivan” a “theologian” was wrong and why his opinion was wrong on his view of [/FONT]Ordinatio Sacerdotalis not being infallible teaching on a male only priesthood.

JPII in that document, was infallibly confirming his brother bishops on the teaching of a male only priesthood.

IOW as the article states “It is the Pope who exercised infallibility in his Apostolic Letter, “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.” It is this confirming exercise in infallibility that gives us the confidence that the ordinary and universal magisterium has taught infallibly”

Re: Difinitive used in the document

“definitive.” The root word for “define” here is “finis,” meaning “end” or “limit.” Defining a doctrine “puts an end to freedom of opinion on the matter, and sets limits to the communion of faith.”

Without the infallible closure on that subject by JPII , that subject would always remain open for debate in the minds of people like Sullivan. If I’m not mistaken, I think this last statement gets to the heart of your question.

What last statement? The last sentence in the EWTN article, or your signature?

When I wrote

"Without the infallible closure on that subject by JPII , that subject would always remain open for debate in the minds of people like Sullivan. "

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