If a Catholic disagrees with any Church teaching, they are considered a heretic, correct?

If a Catholic disagrees with any Church teaching, they are considered a heretic, correct?

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (emphasis mine) :

“2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. “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; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.””

I want to make sure before I start telling Catholics who support gay “marriage”, contraception, abortion, etc. that they are heretics.

You have to be careful. Most Catholics that support these things are poorly catechized, and have been more catechized by the secular culture than the Church. That’s just how it is. And, though a person be a material heretic, one can only be deemed a formal heretic after repeated attempts at correction through the Church. And only the Church can deem a person to be a formal heretic. What you can say, though, is something like this: “You do know you support something that the Church has deemed to be an intrinsic evil (as for SS"M”, state “impossible”), correct?" If they say, “Yes”, then ask, “Do you consider yourself a faithful Catholic?” If they say, “Yes” again, then ask, “If you consider yourself a faithful Catholic, why do you support something that the Church forbids?” And go from there. This will show you their line of reasoning - and it’s usually the case that their line of reasoning falls back on the secular culture being more effective at evangelizing than the Church, because their line of reasoning will generally be the same as the overall secular culture. (By the way, if they say, “No” to the first question, it’s because of truely poor catechesis - and the beginning of a teaching opportunity).

Even if they are (heretics), name calling is likely to drive them further away rather than to lead them to the truth.

On a board periodically filled with offensive questions, this one certainly makes the list.

Zenkai, you’re going to a) parade around calling miscellaneous people heretics; and b) ask total random strangers on an anonymous internet forum if that’s “correct”?

How in creation do you think this will help ANYTHING?

Do you think you’re going to educate someone, or lead them to Christ, by calling them names, and coming off like a sanctimonious you-know-what?

How about you look at the plank in your own eye first, OK?

It’s a great way to make friends. I would encourage it. :wink: Can you let me know how it works out?



Yes. That’s the definition of heretic in our mainstream dictionaries. Might “heretic” mean something different in the Catholic world?


One of the things I admire most about most Catholics that I’ve met (as a recent convert, myself) is the way they often approach topics with the greatest charity. Instead of criticizing others, they try to see the best in people and gently lead them to the truth. I believe in the NT that’s referred to as “seasoning with salt.” My recommendation is that you gently instruct people with whom you disagree, and not take a combative approach that nearly certainly will result in them having the very human reaction of digging in their heels.

I would not recommend calling them heretics. You don’t want to antagonise people further and push them out.

Use the opportunity to educate respectfully. Remind them that the Church does actually teach that abortion, adultery etc are mortal sins.

I usually word it with a question to clarify exactly what they think the teaching is e.g. “why do you think abortion is not breaking the fifth commandment?” and from their answer you can build a conversation and take it from there. I also email ewtn articles or youtube clips to help other Catholics or Prots who are interested. Some examples below.

Plant the seed.



Heretic is a strong word so I encourage you to use that word very carefully. Furthermore, it depends on which teaching the person is in disagreement with. For example, is the person attacking the trinity or the divinity of Christ, the sacredness of the bible. For example if the person is claiming that Jesus was hung from a tree then yes that is heretical.

But if someone simply disagrees with the church’s teaching on topics such as abortion, same sex marriage, the ordination of women etc which tend to be some of the major contentions of people today.I wouldn’t call them being heretical because people have the right to disagree on these topics. People have reasons for their opinions which we can’t change but simply respect them for where they are coming from.

I agree with being careful about using the word ‘heretic’. In the past this word led to persecutions, killing and torture.

Also, it’s very difficult to define someone as a heretic (according to canon law) if he or she doesn’t know any better. If somebody learned something heretical from a parent or teacher, it’s not their fault for being trusting.

So yeah, when I was young and zealous and stupid, I threw around words like heretic very blithely.

Now I am old and a lot more penitent, and I watch my words. There’s no point in winning an argument if it means losing souls to Hell.

Maybe it could be softened, as in, “You’re a heretic, but I forgive you.”

I see this occasionally in regards to pro-life. Sometimes, a Catholic that goes to church every Sunday will say that they are opposed to abortion but do not believe in legislating it because they believe in separation between church and state. My response is to gently remind them that we do not leave our Catholicism in the church after Sunday Mass. We are expected to take our teachings outside of the church and put it into practice in the world.

I know that my views on a lot of subjects have changed to be more in line with traditional Catholic teaching as I matured in the faith. In my opinion, this is a “phase” that many people go through and they need our help. I think that learning to defend the faith is instrumental in being able to evangelize others and help them learn to carry the message too.

No…they are simply seekers that have not fully awakened to the deeper truths of our faith. We are ALL sinners…instead of accusing (one meaning of Satan) and inviting division why not simply stand tall on your understanding…for example I believe that life is a gift of a new eternal soul from God and therefor it is not our place to kill anyone from conception to natural death (invite unity instead)

I have non-Catholic friends who use examples such as the OP’s heretic within the Church to invalidate the claims of the Church’s unity. I’ve tried the line of reasoning about poor training, but they still respond that the ‘why’ doesn’t change the fact of the matter.

How can we claim that the Church is united (ie everyone holds the same essential beliefs of faith) without committing the no True Scottsman’s fallacy (ie special pleading)?:shrug:

God does not rush to judge us. He gives us a lifetime. I see no reason why we should try to rush a judgment on others.

I had the good fortune to receive a briefing from a Priest theologian at the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith in the Vatican. The CDF is charged with determining whether there is good reason for the Pope to declare someone not in compliance with Church teaching - a heretic if you will. Often it takes the CDF several years of investigating and review. Often that review asks theologians from many faiths all over the world to comment on the charge. The one under investigation is also given opportunities to clarify his views. All of the input is reviewed, discussed, and finally presented to the Pope for decision. The Pope considers the report and may decide as He chooses.

Knowing how careful the Vatican is and how much LESS trained I am, there is no way I am prepared to label anyone a heretic. And I have no authority to make such a judgment.

I also agree with powerofk: You have to be careful. Most Catholics that support these things are poorly catechized, and have been more catechized by the secular culture than the Church. That’s just how it is.


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