What are some examples of early schismatic movements which were not heretical?

By “early”, I man prior to 400 at the latest, preferably before 325.

How did the Church address such groups compared to heretical ones? (E.g. in terms of baptisms, orders, etc.)

Thanks for your information.

Here’s an excerpt from an article about schism from the Catholic encyclopedia (I made bold a part that I think is of particular interest):

Schism (from the Greek schisma, rent, division) is, in the language of theology and canon law, the rupture of ecclesiastical union and unity, i.e. either the act by which one of the faithful severs as far as in him lies the ties which bind him to the social organization of the Church and make him a member of the mystical body of Christ, or the state of dissociation or separation which is the result of that act. In this etymological and full meaning the term occurs in the books of the New Testament. By this name St. Paul characterizes and condemns the parties formed in the community of Corinth (I Cor., i, 12): “I beseech you, brethren”, he writes, “… that there be no schisms among you; but that you be perfect in the same mind, and in the same judgment” (ibid., i, 10). The union of the faithful, he says elsewhere, should manifest itself in mutual understanding and convergent action similar to the harmonious cooperation of our members which God hath tempered “that there might be no schism in the body” (I Cor., xii, 25). Thus understood, schism is a genus which embraces two distinct species: heretical or mixed schism and schism pure and simple. The first has its source in heresy or joined with it, the second, which most theologians designate absolutely as schism, is the rupture of the bond of subordination without an accompanying persistent error, directly opposed to a definite dogma. This distinction was drawn by St. Jerome and St. Augustine. “Between heresy and schism”, explains St. Jerome, “there is this difference, that heresy perverts dogma, while schism, by rebellion against the bishop, separates from the Church. Nevertheless there is no schism which does not trump up a heresy to justify its departure from the Church” (In Ep. ad Tit., iii, 10). And St. Augustine: “By false doctrines concerning God heretics wound faith, by iniquitous dissensions schismatics deviate from fraternal charity, although they believe what we believe” (De fide et symbolo, ix). But as St. Jerome remarks, practically and historically, heresy and schism nearly always go hand in hand; schism leads almost invariably to denial of the papal primacy. (Source)

As the above poster noted, ultimately a schismatic group will need to resort to some heresy to try to (rationally) justify its separation from the universal Church or her norms or laws.

But before that happens - and if you are schism hunting - the likely sources of schism are partisanship, as Saint Paul bemoaned in one of his letters.

Let’s say we live in a diocese where it became custom for a certain family to ordinarily lead that diocese even spiritually and normally this was just fine. Let’s say that, however, another family eager to gain influence and prestige resents this and desires to replace the lawfully elected bishop with their own choice. There’s no reason yet to think that there’s an actual heresy animating this, though of course vices and sins like jealousy and envy always lead us to worry about dangers for the integrity and virginal purity of Catholic faith.

We can also think of, based on the above, another situation in which the bishop -though orthodox in doctrine- is notwithstanding a complete failure, deeply immoral to the point of scandalous and frequently unjust in his administration of the diocese. Such a bishop would of course provoke resentment and possibly, if the matter is not successfully resolved by competent authority, even the election of a (so to speak) anti-bishop. Again there isn’t any heresy here but there is the high possibility of even a permanent schism on account of human faults or weaknesses.

But because of the Church’s nature and constitution, things cannot permanently remain like this without excusing yourself from the ordinary governance and operation of the Church (based in large part on Apostolic Tradition) without resorting to something that contradicts the Church’s rights to govern her own house and preserve her unity. So some excuse is proffered - often a charge, implicit or explicit, of heresy against the universal Church.

Other situations might just be family rivalries and rank personal ambition that disturbs the peace, order and tranquility of the Church or an unlawful aggrandizement of powers or authority and the like. All of this can cause schism without there necessarily being an outright heresy afoot.

The Luciferians come to mind (Lucifer died around 370). Lucifer was staunchly orthodox, and he suffered greatly at the hands of the Arian heretics. His only issue was that he would have nothing to do with former Arians who had reconciled with the Church, and in the process triggered a schism by ordaining a bishop without mandate. The schism did not last long after Lucifer’s death.

Thank you for your replies.
Just so you’re all aware, I asked this question in order to gain some idea of how the current situation where Rome considers Orthodox orders as valid although the latter are not in communion with the former (in other words, Rome sees the Orthodox Churches as schismatic rather heretical) might be resolved via the use of historical precedents.

porthos11, is that St Lucifer you refer to? Based upon what you said, might one also be able to count St Hippolytus as having been similarly schismatic?

KyrieEleison17, isn’t the case of Pope Benedict IX rather like that of the failure of a bishop whom you describe? Yet there were 3 Popes who are counted as legitimate who reigned between the time when he first became Pope and his final expulsion from Rome. May I please ask, how does Rome reconcile having had multiple Popes at the same time and these historical conflicts between them? (No offence intended; I sincerely would like to understand this.)

livingwordunity, thanks for the note. On your last words, I think it worth noting for my purposes that the Orthodox Churches recognise the primacy of Rome, yet only insofar as the Pope of Rome is first among equals and, though above all, ought only to act with the approval of all in matters pertaining to all. That said, the latter is a more recent concession/agreement which not all Orthodox yet agree upon.

All, is anybody able to provide a list (whether complete or partial) of groups which have needed to be baptised again upon coming to the Church (such as is the modern situation with the Mormons) and those which have not needed to be baptised (such as the modern Lutherans)?
Thank you.

The schism of St. Hippolytus might also be an example. He accused the Pope of being heretical (Sabellian, if I remember correctly) and the Church of being false (because its members were sinning a lot, especially contraception and adultery), so he declared himself the true Bishop of Rome and his flock the true Catholic Church, but I don’t think he himself was heretical (he was later reconciled and martyred).

See chapters 1, 2, 6, and 7 here (the whole work is on “all” heresies, and these chapters deal with those of the purported Catholic Church of Popes Sts. Zephyrinius and Callistus I):


I’m not KyrieEleison17, but I’ll add a note to this. Benedict IX was not considered the legitimate bishop the entire time. He abdicated twice (once was simoniacal, so there was some dispute whether it was therefore valid). Either way was only one ordinary bishop of Rome at a time in those cases.

Yes, antipope St. Hippolytus’ schism could be counted too. But unlike Lucifer, he did reconcile with Pope St. Pontian.

And yes, that’s the same St. Lucifer who is venerated in Sardinia, although I don’t believe his sainthood is recognized throughout the entire Latin church.

Thank you for clarifying these things.

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