Question About a Quote


Non-Catholics sometimes claim to “quote” from Catholic sources. These quotes often turn out to be misquotes or quotes out of context. One quote I recently found is, “Heretics may be not only excommunicated, but also justly put to death.” This quote is often attributed to the Catholic Encyclopedia (1911), v. XIV, p. 768. I cannot find this exact quote in online editions of the Catholic Encyclopedia. Does anyone with access to the 1911 edition know if this is one of those “sorta quotes?”


Father Anthony Cekada,
The Jansenist Heresy: Old Catholicism is Born
Old Catholics, New Schisms: Denying Papal Infallibility
Arnold Harris Mathew: Prelate in Wonderland
Joseph René Vilatte: Schismatic in Wisconsin
Some Old Catholics Today: The Ultrajectines Of Necedah
The Ultrajectines: Certain Reservations
Old Catholic Sects: General Observations
Some Schismatic Churches


Aquinas clearly stated: “Among unbelievers there are some who have never received the faith, such as gentiles and Jews. These are by no means to be compelled, for belief is voluntary… However, there are other unbelievers who at one time accepted and professed the faith, such as heretics and apostates of all sorts, and these are to be submitted to physical compulsion that they should hold to what they once received and fulfilled what they promised… Jews who have not accepted the faith should in no way be coerced into it. Those however who have accepted it should be compelled to keep it…” And further, he writes: “With regard to heretics there are two points to be observed, one on their side, the other on the side of the Church. As for heretics their sin deserves banishment, not only from the Church by excommunication, but also from this world by death. To corrupt the faith, whereby the soul lives, is much graver than to counterfeit money, which supports temporal life. Since forgers and other malefactors are summarily condemned to death by the civil authorities, with much more reason may heretics as soon as they are convicted of heresy be not only excommunicated, but also justly be put to death.”

I found the above quote here:

Also found more info here:


It’s there, as a quotation


The entire context is:
"(3) If in medieval times the Church adopted sterner measures against formal heretics, apostates, and schismatics than she adopts today, she did this not as a private individual, who must show only consideration and love, but as the legitimate governing authority within whose sphere also fell the administration of penal justice. The State must also inflict on the thief and revolutionary the legal punishment for theft and revolution, which are not punishable in the abstract. However repulsive, when judged from the more refined standpoint of modern civilization, the barbarous cruelty of medieval penal ordinances may be, as expressed even in the “Cautio criminalis” of the German Emperor, Charles V, against traitors, highway robbers, and notorious debauchers (impaling, breaking on the wheel), we may not for this reason condemn the whole penal system of that age as judicial murder; for the legal punishments, while indeed inhuman, were not unjust. Now, formal heresy was likewise strongly condemned by the Catholic Middle Ages: and so the argument ran: Apostasy and heresy are, as criminal rebellions against God, far more serious crimes than high treason, murder, or adultery. But, according to Rom., xiii, 11 sqq., the secular authorities have the right to punish, especially grave crimes, with death; consequently, “heretics may be not only excommunicated, but also justly (juste) put to death” (St. Thomas, II-II, Q. xi, a. 3). But there is no need to go back to the Middle Ages, since the present age likewise furnishes us with examples of extreme severity in the chastisement of certain crimes. With whatever disapproval the philanthropist may view the terrible punishments inflicted on those guilty of rape in parts of the United States, adjudging such penalties as excessive in their severity, the jurist will on the other hand seek their explanation in the special circumstances of time and place. American lynch law will not be unreservedly excused or justified, but, in judging it, allowance will be made for the imperfections of the existing penal procedure. The frequent inefficacy of the ordinary procedure is only too likely to excite the enraged populace to deeds of violence. Keeping these occurrences of modern times before our eyes, we will pass a much juster verdict on the Middle Ages. Catholics have, of course, no desire for the return of an age whose liberal, and in many respects admirable, state institutions were greatly marred by sinister penal ordinances. "

And this appears to be the section of Aquinas’ works that is being quoted (though the translation differs a bit)
scroll down to “P(2b)- Q(11)- A(3) Whether heretics ought to be tolerated?” for the full context but the pertinent bit seems to be

"P(2b)- Q(11)- A(3) — I answer that, With regard to heretics two points must be observed: one, on their own side; the other, on the side of the Church. On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death. For it is a much graver matter to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge money, which supports temporal life. Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death.

On the part of the Church, however, there is mercy which looks to the conversion of the wanderer, wherefore she condemns not at once, but “after the first and second admonition,” as the Apostle directs: after that, if he is yet stubborn, the Church no longer hoping for his conversion, looks to the salvation of others, by excommunicating him and separating him from the Church, and furthermore delivers him to the secular tribunal to be exterminated thereby from the world by death. "


When we present you with a quote, simply request that we give the link to the quote, so you can read its full context.


Thanks for replies to my question. All were helpful. The source of my question (near the bottom):

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