Why a double standard?

This may seem offensive, but I have a question. If men like Luther and Calvin were right, why were Arius and Pelagius wrong? All these men disturbed the peace of the Church and held to their own opinion against that of the Magisterium, but Luther and Calvin are often portrayed as heroes, while Arius and Pelagius are denounced as heretics. Why the double standard? Furthermore, if one holds that the Church can be divided by schism into denominations, why were heretics like Arius and Pelagius then outside the Church? Why under a mindset that believes in a church split among denominations would heresy still be considered a possible category of error, and how would it be determined?

I have to go do the lawn but will check back later.

History is written by the winners.

Ever hear of the genocide of the Iroquois nation? Know why?

I’ve heard of the Iroqouis but not the genocide. I get the point. Were the Iroqouis the ones that were defeated at the Battle of Tippencanoe in 1809?

You seem to be assuming, as many conservative Catholics do, that heresy is just “whatever the Church determines to be heresy,” and the actual substantive issues don’t matter or are beyond our ability to talk about.

Obviously the people who think Luther and Calvin were right but Arius and Pelagius wrong do so because of substantive theological reasons. You can’t just bypass those.

The point about division is a valid one, although Arius and Pelagius aren’t your best examples, because I don’t think either of them was particularly divisive.

But certainly the early Christians did take as a matter of course that there could be only one Church, such that in any substantive division (I say “substantive” because there were temporary schisms involving questions of who was the rightful bishop in a particular place, etc.) one side must be the true Church.

They also took as a matter of course that the people not part of the true Church could not be saved unless they repented.

So both Catholics and Protestants have moved away from the early Christian view here.

Clearly Luther and Calvin (Calvin in particular, since Luther’s process of separating from the Church was more complex and less deliberate) were wrong in separating from Rome and the more traditional Christians who remained faithful to Rome (what you would call “the Catholic Church”). But the shoe is on the other foot.

Is Rome right, today, in denying communion to people whom it recognizes to be brothers and sisters in Christ?

The early Church wouldn’t have done that. They didn’t recognize heretics and schismatics as brothers and sisters in Christ.


The Catholic Church (not churchmen, but the Church itself) has long held that it is unlawful (spiritually speaking) to force someone to become a Christian, but for those who are baptized into the Catholic Church (most likely as infants) there is such a thing as lawful persecution and permissible coercion of a religious nature, but only if this baptized Catholic is a formal heretic who persists in teaching and believing things that are contrary to the Catholic Church and if he refuses to stop and recant when told to stop and recant.

The Catholic Church has given itself permission to use coercion in certain situations and to persecute in certain situations, and this permission covers the Church in all situations where teaching and belief is staunchly opposed to it. It doesn’t really matter if the heretic is a pacifist, or if there is no legitimate complaint pertaining to the misuse of Church property. The Church has given itself permission to do whatever it has to- coercion, persecution, exile, give them up to civil authorities for death- on the basis of wrong teaching and wrong belief, it the person in question was baptized Catholic and is in clear defiance of Church authority. The right to do all these things to heretics is considered a part of Catholic authority, as symbolized by the keys to the kingdom.

Catholics regularly pat themselves on the back for wiping out heresy, but are reluctant to talk about exactly how they got that done. The conversation changes just a bit when speaking of Calvinists and Lutherans, though, because those were not successfully wiped out. They were considered heretics by the Church in the same way that all other heretics were, and the Church did not just let them do what they wanted. The Church tried its best to wipe them out and, short of finding a way to force them to fall into line, just make their beliefs disappear and their adherents with it, if necessary.

I’m sure that Arians and Pelagians would have felt exactly the same way if their belief systems had survived. Let me finish that thought- if their systems had survived the persecution and coercion of the Catholic Church, which it gave itself full permission to do.

Come on people, how did you think Arianism and Pelagianism disappeared? Magic? Now they’re here for a couple of centuries, all of a sudden they aren’t. What’s your explanation? Did Catholic msisionaries use sound reasoning and persuasion? Did these things die out of natural causes? No, it wasn’t natural causes, and peaceful methods did not work so well. They went away because the persecution and coercion was very effective. With Calvin and Luther, it was not so effective in the short or long term.

Personally, I feel like Protestants typically don’t know very much about Church history prior to the Reformation, otherwise we wouldn’t be as inclined to give the Catholic Church a pass for its bad (albeit self-justified and self-excused) behavior for so much of its history pre-Reformation. Even if the Church was 100% on the side of truth and justice, you can’t use “defense of unity” as a pretext for religious coercion and religious persecution. It’s just wrong. You can’t do that. It was wrong in the 5th century (Donatism), it was wrong in the 12th and 13th centuries (Catharism), and it was wrong in the 16th and 17th centuries (Protestantism)- but it wasn’t until that last example that persecuted ex-Catholics lived to tell you that they have rights, which the Catholic Church has given itself license to violate. Wrongly, I might add.

You don’t get to force people to believe and teach a certain way. You shouldn’t be proud of yourself for the success your church has had in doing so. The way the Catholic Church has excused itself for crimes against heretics is basically indefensible, and if Protestants knew more about history Catholics would be embarrassed for their church affiliation far more often than they are proud of it.

To your question, though. Why are some heroes and the others heretics? The beliefs of the heretics did not survive, nice try but you were wiped off the map. The heroes have their names on churches that you can drive around and see today, quite easily. And how is the peace of the Church? Has this rupture plunged the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ into violent unrest? Actually no, it would seem that all the violence abated once the Catholic Church stopped with the persecution and coercion of people who believed the “wrong” thing.

Kind of makes it seem like the Catholic Church was a giant part of that whole violence problem all along, doesn’t it?

Probably because there are no self-identified Arian or Pelagian churches out there, or if there are, they are relatively obscure.

It’s kind of like the joke about Dominicans and Jesuits.


Can you share without incurring an infraction?

I know that one. I think it’s been told on this sub-forum at some point, but I can’t remember when or exactly where.

It basically says that the Dominicans were highly effective in eliminating the Albigensians (which is not entirely true strictly speaking), and the Jesuits were not so effective in eliminating Protestantism. There’s some variations on the theme, sometimes asking what’s the difference between these orders or which order is “better.” Done in a joking manner, of course.

I just made the whole thing completely not funny.

Anyway, here is the actual joke that I know of.

Two men considering a religious vocation were having a conversation. “What is similar about the Jesuit and Dominican Orders? ” the one asked.

The second replied, “Well, they were both founded by Spaniards — St. Dominic for the Dominicans, and St. Ignatius of Loyola for the Jesuits. They were also both founded to combat heresy — the Dominicans to fight the Albigensians, and the Jesuits to fight the Protestants.”

“What is different about the Jesuit and Dominican Orders?”

“Met any Albigensians lately?”


Actually, it’s not true at all, strictly speaking. :slight_smile: Dominicans eliminating Albigensians, that is.

Are there still Albigensians around?

No, they mostly got killed somehow.

What does that have to do with the Dominicans?

Also, the Jesuits were not founded to fight Protestantism.

Do you even know why St. Dominic started his Order of Preachers in the first place?

It was founded to preach the Gospel, combat heresy, and present Catholic exemplars out and about in the community who are committed to voluntary poverty and living fairly impeccable lives.

Is that about right?

Read through this. newadvent.org/cathen/01267e.htm

Especially this part.

“Two Spaniards, Diego, Bishop of Osma and his companion, Dominic Guzman (St. Dominic), returning from Rome, visited the papal legates at Montpellier. By their advice, the excessive outward splendour of Catholic preachers, which offended the heretics, was replaced by apostolical austerity. Religious disputations were renewed. St. Dominic, perceiving the great advantages derived by his opponents from the cooperation of women, founded (1206) at Pouille near Carcassonne a religious congregation for women, whose object was the education of the poorer girls of the nobility. Not long after this he laid the foundation of the Dominican Order. Innocent III, in view of the immense spread of the heresy, which infected over 1000 cities or towns, called (1207) upon the King of France, as Suzerain of the County of Toulouse, to use force. He renewed his appeal on receiving news of the assassination of his legate, Peter of Castelnau, a Cistercian monk (1208), which judging by appearances, he attributed to Raymond VI.”

For what it’s worth, St. Dominic was more committed to peaceful attempts at righting the ship than Pope Innocent III was.

Okay, but do you know how he went about fighting heresy? Hint: it had to do with the name “Order of Preachers.”

St. Dominic was a great man. He was not violent toward heretics, and he was not favorable toward the killing of the people he was trying to convert. He went about fighting heresy by founding an order that trained some incredible men to live incredible lives, by evangelizing, and by living out the Gospel day to day.

St. Dominic did a wonderful job, but the heretics were not very cooperative and very few of them converted. Then they all died. St. Dominic was not pleased with that turn of events, but there wasn’t much he was able to do to stop it. It was Pope Innocent III who was primarily responsible for making that happen, so St. Dominic wasn’t in much of a position to stop it.

I mean, if he had been more successful and if the peaceful strategy had led to better results, then that would have been that. But it didn’t work out that way.

Thank you for your reply. The reason he started his Order of Preachers was because he wanted to try preaching to the heretics, in order to convert them. He did have success, but how many were converted isn’t really known, as far as I know. He started a convent for the women whom he had converted back to the Church, so that they would be looked after and safe, and not fall back into old habits. If memory serves, that group of nuns still exists today, and they will soon be celebrating their 800-year anniversary. The nuns were started about a year before the OP’s officially became an Order…

I should mention, too, that it was Pope Innocent lll who encouraged, guided, and supported St. Dominic in his mission to convert the heretics. Pope Innocent was completely behind St. Dominic in his work.


We know a lot about what happened during the dark ages thanks to Catholic monks, not exactly on the winning team.

Good one! :extrahappy:

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