Is Desmond Tutu a heretic?

This thread might shock some, especially since Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was a hero of the Anti-Apartheid Struggle. But his religious views do not seem moral or ethical and in my opinion have undermined his status as an icon and moral spokesperson.

He supports abortion. He supports same sex marriage. His approach to the Israeli Palestinian conflict is grossly skewed and biased (he seems to think the Jews are to blame for all the misery in that region).

And now he has come out in support of euthanasia

His views at the very least, to my knowledge violate the teachings of the Anglican Church-of which he used to be a Bishop. At worst they seem to violate the core principles of the Christian faith.

Does that make him a Heretic?

As a layman, I would hesitate to label someone a heretic. But the answer is yes, Mr. Tutu in particular and the Anglican Church in general have departed from Apostolic Christianity.

I was a bit shocked also with him, but trying to be charitable I put it down to old age and he has gone a bit ga ga.

According to the BBC news the Church of England is going to do its Baptisms different in the future they quoted as saying more like Evangelicals, what way is this tell me ?

Desmond Tutu is incapable of being a heretic as he has never been a Catholic.

noun \ˈher-ə-ˌtik, ˈhe-rə-\

: someone who believes or teaches something that goes against accepted or official beliefs

I assume anyone who does not believe in all the doctrines of the Catholic church would be considered a heretic in the eyes of the church.

In turn, a Catholic would also be considered a “heretic” to those in the other churches, against their faith.

So I guess one way or another, at some point and to some group, we are all heretics.


Desmond Tutu wrote an amazing book about forgiveness. After that, I have read various things but are all these things true? Some nasty insults were hurled at him as he tried to convince black people in his country to give murderers a chance at admitting what they had done and perhaps, give them a second chance in society at the end of Apartheid. Those who had evidence against them but who would not admit to their crimes, faced justice. He wanted to avoid a civil war where revenge killings would be followed by more revenge killings. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Truth and Reconciliation? The world doubted but he managed to get it to work, along with the help of others and God.

To hear he is for more radical things recently, I just don’t get it.


I am not sure if there is a correlation between being declared a heretic and hell. I don’t think there is.

In any case, Archbishop Tutu (whom I consider a great man and an awesome example to the Social Gospel, to Christianity in the face of struggle) has never been claimed to be perfect. He may even have more freedom now that he does not have direct shepherding responsibility to come out on the side of his conscience.

I would think that Tuto’s thinking is based on justice (not just for the African people, but for all injustly treated groups including gays are experiencing)…that is true with heros who stood beside MLK…they too are standing up for gay marriage and so forth. The second area he seems to be standing for is “dignity” and that includes the dignity of dying.

So within those two principles I think one can understand the love and care this bishop has in expressing himself and standing out - which is a brave thing to do whether we agree or not -…

Other than understanding the context in which Tutu is coming from I think one can only pray for him and stay focused on our own lives…I have enough trouble being me never mind worrying about Tutu, whom I personally think has earned his way into heaven seven fold…

Bruce Ferguson

Hm? He is certainly at least a material heretic, meaning he believes error. Whether or not he is a formal heretic is not for any of us to judge in either direction. Maybe you mean he is incapable of being canonically censured for heresy?

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