List of heresies in the Catholic Church

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search

Heresy has been a concern in Christian communities at least since the writing of the Second Epistle of Peter: "even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them" (2 Peter 2:1). In the first two or three centuries of the early Church, heresy and schism were not clearly distinguished. A similar overlapping occurred in medieval scholasticism. Heresy is understood today to mean the denial of revealed truth as taught by the Church.[1] Nineteenth-century theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher defined it as "that which preserved the appearance of Christianity, and yet contradicted its essence".[2]

The Catholic Church makes a distinction between 'material' and 'formal' heresy. Material heresy means in effect "holding erroneous doctrines through no fault of one's own" as occurs with people brought up in non-Catholic communities and "is neither a crime nor a sin" since the individual has never accepted the doctrine.[1] Formal heresy is "the wilful and persistent adherence to an error in matters of faith" on the part of a baptised member of the Catholic Church. As such it is a grave sin and involves ipso facto excommunication. Here "matters of faith" means dogmas which have been proposed by the infallible magisterium of the Church[3] and, in addition to this intellectual error, "pertinacity in the will" in maintaining it in opposition to the teaching of the Church must be present.[4]

While individual branches of the Protestant Church have also used the concept in proceedings against individuals and groups deemed to be heretical by those branches, the lack of a central doctrinal authority has meant that beliefs can often not be unanimously considered heretical from the Protestant perspective. Likewise the Eastern Orthodox Church officially declares a heresy only at an ecumenical council, and currently accepts only the first seven Ecumenical Councils as ecumenical.

The following listing contains those opinions which were either explicitly condemned by Chalcedonian Christianity before 1054 or are of later origin but similar. Details of some modern opinions deemed to be heretical by the Catholic Church are listed in an appendix. All lists are in alphabetical order.

Early Christianity

Traditionally, orthodoxy and heresy have been viewed in relation to the "orthodoxy" as an authentic lineage of tradition. Other forms of Christianity were viewed as deviant streams of thought and therefore "heterodox", or heretical. This view was dominant until the publication of Walter Bauer's Rechtgläubigkeit und Ketzerei im ältesten Christentum ("Orthodoxy and heresy in ancient Christianity") in 1934. Bauer endeavored to rethink early Christianity historically, independent from the views of the church. He argued that originally unity was based on a common relationship with the same Lord rather than on formally defined doctrines and that a wide variety of views was tolerated. With time, some of these views were seen as inadequate. He went on to attribute the definition of "orthodoxy" to the increasing power and influence of the Church of Rome. In 1959, Henry Chadwick argued that all Christian communities were linked by the foundational events which occurred in Jerusalem and continued to be of defining importance in the forging of doctrinal orthodoxy.[5] MacGrath comments that historically Chadwick's account appears to be much the more plausible.[5]

For convenience the heresies which arose in this period have been divided into three groups: Trinitarian/Christological; Gnostic; and other heresies.

Trinitarian/Christological heresies

The term Christology has two meanings in theology: it can be used in the narrow sense of the question as to how the divine and human are related in the person of Jesus Christ, or alternatively of the overall study of his life and work.[6] Here it is used in the restricted, narrow sense.

The orthodox teaching concerning the Trinity, as finally developed and formally agreed at Constantinople in 381,[7] is that God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit were all strictly one being in three hypostases, misleadingly translated as "persons".[8] The christological question then arose as to how Jesus Christ could be both divine and human. This was formally resolved after much debate by the Ecumenical Councils of 431, 451 and 680 (Ephesus, Chalcedon & Constantinople III).

Trinitarian/Christological heresies
Heresy Description Origin Official condemnation Other
Adoptionism Belief that Jesus was born as a mere (non-divine) man, was supremely virtuous and that he was adopted later as "Son of God" by the descent of the Spirit on him. Propounded by Theodotus of Byzantium, a leather merchant, in Rome c.190, later revived by Paul of Samosata Theodotus was excommunicated by Pope Victor and Paul was condemned by the Synod of Antioch in 268 Alternative names: Psilanthropism and Dynamic Monarchianism.[9] Later criticized as presupposing Nestorianism (see below)
Apollinarism Belief that Jesus had a human body and lower soul (the seat of the emotions) but a divine mind. Apollinaris further taught that the souls of men were propagated by other souls, as well as their bodies. Proposed by Apollinaris of Laodicea (died 390) Declared to be a heresy in 381 by the First Council of Constantinople
Arabici Belief that the soul perished with the body, and that both would be revived on Judgement Day.[10] Founder unknown, but associated with 3rd-century Christians from Arabia. Reconciled to the main body of the Church after a council in 250 led by Origen.
Arianism Denial of the true divinity of Jesus Christ taking various specific forms, but all agreed that Jesus Christ was created by the Father, that he had a beginning in time, and that the title "Son of God" was a courtesy one.[11] The doctrine is associated with Arius (c. AD 250–336) who lived and taught in Alexandria, Egypt. Arius was first pronounced a heretic at the First Council of Nicea, he was later exonerated as a result of imperial pressure and finally declared a heretic after his death. The heresy was finally resolved in 381 by the First Council of Constantinople. All forms denied that Jesus Christ is "consubstantial with the Father" but proposed either "similar in substance", or "similar", or "dissimilar" as the correct alternative.
Collyridianism Belief that the Trinity consists of the Father, Son, and Mary and that the son is a result of marital union between the other two. Described by Epiphanius in his Panarion. The existence of the sect is subject to some dispute due to the lack of historical evidence aside from the writings of Epiphanius.[12]
Docetism Belief that Jesus' physical body was an illusion, as was his crucifixion; that is, Jesus only seemed to have a physical body and to physically die, but in reality he was incorporeal, a pure spirit, and hence could not physically die. Tendencies existed in the 1st century, but it was most notably embraced by Gnostics in subsequent centuries. Docetism was rejected by the ecumenical councils and mainstream Christianity, and largely died out during the first millennium AD. Gnostic movements that survived past that time, such as Catharism, incorporated docetism into their beliefs, but such movements were destroyed by the Albigensian Crusade (1209–1229).
Luciferians Strongly anti-Arian sect in Sardinia Founded by Lucifer Calaritanus, a bishop of Cagliari Deemed heretical by Jerome in his Altercatio Luciferiani et orthodoxi
Macedonians or Pneumatomachians ("Spirit fighters") While accepting the divinity of Jesus Christ as affirmed at Nicea in 325, they denied that of the Holy Spirit which they saw as a creation of the Son, and a servant of the Father and the Son. Allegedly founded in the 4th century by Bishop Macedonius I of Constantinople, Eustathius of Sebaste was their principal theologian.[13] Opposed by the Cappadocian Fathers and condemned at the First Council of Constantinople. This is what prompted the addition of "And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son is equally worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets", into the Nicene Creed at the second ecumenical council.
Melchisedechians Considered Melchisedech an incarnation of the Logos (divine Word) and identified him with the Holy Ghost. Refuted by Marcus Eremita in his book Eis ton Melchisedek ("Against the Melchisedekites")[14] It is uncertain whether the sect survived beyond the 9th century. They were probably scattered across Anatolia and the Balkans following the destruction of Tephrike.
Monarchianism An overemphasis on the indivisibility of God (the Father) at the expense of the other "persons" of the Trinity leading to either Sabellianism (Modalism) or to Adoptionism. Stressing the "monarchy" of God was in Eastern theology a legitimate way of affirming his oneness, also the Father as the unique source of divinity. It became heretical when pushed to the extremes indicated.
Monophysitism or Eutychianism Belief that Christ's divinity dominates and overwhelms his humanity, as opposed to the Chalcedonian position which holds that Christ has two natures, one divine and one human or the Miaphysite position which holds that the human nature and pre-incarnate divine nature of Christ were united as one divine human nature from the point of the Incarnation onwards. After Nestorianism was rejected at the First Council of Ephesus, Eutyches emerged with diametrically opposite views. Eutyches was excommunicated in 448. Monophysitism and Eutyches were rejected at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Eutychianism, or extreme Monophysitism, is also rejected by the Oriental Orthodox Churches
Monothelitism Belief that Jesus Christ had two natures but only one will. This is contrary to the orthodox interpretation of Christology, which teaches that Jesus Christ has two wills (human and divine) corresponding to his two natures Originated in Armenia and Syria in AD 633 Monothelitism was officially condemned at the Third Council of Constantinople (the Sixth Ecumenical Council, 680–681). The churches condemned at Constantinople include the Oriental Orthodox Syriac, Armenian, and Coptic churches as well as the Maronite church, although the latter now deny that they ever held the Monothelite view and are presently in full communion with the Bishop of Rome. Christians in England rejected the Monothelite position at the Council of Hatfield in 680.
Nestorianism Belief that Jesus Christ was a natural union between the Flesh and the Word, thus not identical, to the divine Son of God. Advanced by Nestorius (386–450), Patriarch of Constantinople from 428–431. The doctrine was informed by Nestorius' studies under Theodore of Mopsuestia at the School of Antioch. Condemned at the First Council of Ephesus in 431 and the Council of Chalcedon in 451, leading to the Nestorian Schism. Nestorius rejected the title Theotokos for the Virgin Mary, and proposed Christotokos as more suitable. Many of Nestorius' supporters relocated to Sassanid Persia, where they affiliated with the local Christian community, known as the Church of the East. Over the next decades the Church of the East became increasingly Nestorian in doctrine, leading it to be known alternately as the Nestorian Church.
Patripassianism Belief that the Father and Son are not two distinct persons, and thus God the Father suffered on the cross as Jesus. similar to Sabellianism
Psilanthropism Belief that Jesus is "merely human": either that he never became divine, or that he never existed prior to his incarnation as a man. Rejected by the ecumenical councils, especially in the First Council of Nicaea, which was convened to deal directly with the nature of Christ's divinity. See Adoptionism
Sabellianism Belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three characterizations of one God, rather than three distinct "persons" in one God. First formally stated by Noetus of Smyrna c. 190, refined by Sabellius c. 210 who applied the names merely to different roles of God in the history and economy of salvation. Noetus was condemned by the presbyters of Smyrna. Tertullian wrote Adversus Praxeam against this tendency and Sabellius was condemned by Pope Callistus. Alternative names: Patripassianism, Modalism, Modalistic Monarchianism
Tritheism Belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three independent and distinct divine beings as opposed to three persons of one being and one essence


Gnosticism refers to a diverse, syncretistic religious movement consisting of various belief systems generally united in the teaching that humans are divine souls trapped in a material world created by an imperfect god, the demiurge, who is frequently identified with the Abrahamic God. Gnosticism is a rejection (sometimes from an ascetic perspective) and vilification of the human body and of the material world or cosmos. Gnosticism teaches duality in Material (Matter) versus Spiritual or Body (evil) versus Soul (good). Gnosticism teaches that the natural or material world will and should be destroyed (total annihilation) by the true spiritual God in order to free mankind from the reign of the false God or Demiurge.

A common misperception is caused by the fact that, in the past, "Gnostic" had a similar meaning to current usage of the word mystic. There were some Orthodox Christians who as mystics (in the modern sense) taught gnosis (Knowledge of the God or the Good) who could be called gnostics in a positive sense (e.g. Diadochos of Photiki).

Whereas formerly Gnosticism was considered mostly a corruption of Christianity, it now seems clear that traces of Gnostic systems can be discerned some centuries before the Christian Era.[15] Gnosticism may have been earlier than the 1st century, thus predating Jesus Christ.[16] It spread through the Mediterranean and Middle East before and during the 2nd and 3rd centuries, becoming a dualistic heresy to Judaism (see Notzrim), Christianity and Hellenic philosophy in areas controlled by the Roman Empire and Arian Goths (see Huneric), and the Persian Empire. Conversion to Islam and the Albigensian Crusade (1209–1229) greatly reduced the remaining number of Gnostics throughout the Middle Ages, though a few isolated communities continue to exist to the present. Gnostic ideas became influential in the philosophies of various esoteric mystical movements of the late 19th and 20th centuries in Europe and North America, including some that explicitly identify themselves as revivals or even continuations of earlier gnostic groups.

Gnostic heresies
Heresy Description Origin Official condemnation Other
Manichaeism A major dualistic religion stating that good and evil are equally powerful, and that material things are evil. Founded in 210–276 AD by Mani Condemned by Emperor Theodosius I decree in 382 Thrived between the 3rd and 7th centuries and appears to have died out before the 16th century in southern China.
Paulicianism A Gnostic and dualistic sect The founder of the sect is said to have been an Armenian by the name of Constantine,[17] who hailed from Mananalis, a community near Samosata. Repressed by order of Empress Theodora II in 843
Priscillianism A Gnostic and Manichaean sect Founded in the 4th century by Priscillian, derived from the Gnostic-Manichaean doctrines taught by Marcus. Priscillian was put to death by the emperor Gratian for the crime of magic. Condemned by synod of Zaragoza in 380. Increased during the 5th century despite efforts to stop it. In the 6th century, Priscillianism declined and died out soon after the Synod of Braga in 563.
Naassenes A Gnostic sect from around 100 AD The Naassenes claimed to have been taught their doctrines by Mariamne, a disciple of James the Just.[18] Dealt as heresy by Hippolytus of Rome
Sethian Belief that the snake in the Garden of Eden (Satan) was an agent of the true God and brought knowledge of truth to man via the fall of man Syrian sect drawing their origin from the Ophites Dealt as heresy by Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Philaster Sect is founded around the Apocalypse of Adam.
Ophites Belief that the serpent who tempted Adam and Eve was a hero, and that the God who forbade Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge is the enemy. Dealt as heresy by Hippolytus of Rome
Valentianism A Gnostic and dualistic sect Gnostic sect was founded by Ex-Catholic Bishop Valentinus Considered heresy by Irenaeus and Epiphanius of Salamis

Other Early Church heresies

Other Christian heresies
Heresy Description Origin Official condemnation Other
Antinomianism Any view which holds that Christians are freed by grace from obligations of any moral law. St Paul had to refute a charge of this type made by opponents because of his attitude to the Mosaic Law (Romans 3:8)[19] Some gnostics (e.g. Ophites and Nicolaitans) taught that since matter was opposed to the spirit, the body was unimportant. Similar views were found among some anabaptists in the sixteenth century as a consequence of justification by faith and later among some sects in seventeenth century England. Decree on Justification, chapter XV Council of Trent Few groups[who?] have declared themselves Antinomian, and the term has often been used by one group to criticize another's views.
Audianism Belief that God has human form (anthropomorphism) and that one ought to celebrate Jesus' death during the Jewish Passover (quartodecimanism). Named after the leader of the sect, Audius (or Audaeus), a Syrian who lived in the 4th century. The First Council of Nicaea condemned quartodecimanism in 325. Cyril of Alexandria condemned anthropomorphism at his Adversus Anthropomorphites
Barallot Held all things in common, even wives and children Were also called "compilers" due to their love of sensual pleasures
Circumcellions A militant subset of Donatism* See Donatism Outlawed by Emperor Honorius in 408 Relied on violence.
(often spoken of as a "schism" rather than a "heresy"[20][21][22])
Donatists were rigorists, holding that the church must be a church of saints, not sinners, and that sacraments administered by traditores were invalid. They also regarded martyrdom as the supreme Christian virtue and regarded those that actively sought martyrdom as saints. Named for their second leader Donatus Magnus Condemned by Pope Melchiades Donatists were a force at the time of Saint Augustine of Hippo and disappeared only after the Arab conquest.[23]
Ebionites A Jewish sect that insisted on the necessity of following Jewish law and rites,[24] which they interpreted in light of Jesus' expounding of the Law.[25] They regarded Jesus as the Messiah but not as divine. The term Ebionites derives from the Hebrew אביונים Evionim, meaning "the Poor Ones",[26][27] Justin Martyr considered them heretical at Dialogue with Trypho the Jew chapter xlvii In 375, Epiphanius records the settlement of Ebionites on Cyprus, later Theodoret of Cyrrhus reported that they were no longer present there.[28]
Euchites / Messalians Belief that:
  1. The essence (ousia) of the Trinity could be perceived by the carnal senses.
  2. The Threefold God transformed himself into a single hypostasis (substance) in order to unite with the souls of the perfect.
  3. God has taken different forms in order to reveal himself to the senses.
  4. Only such sensible revelations of God confer perfection upon the Christian.
  5. The state of perfection, freedom from the world and passion, is attained solely by prayer, not through the church or sacraments. ("Euchites" means "Those who pray")
Originating in Mesopotamia, they spread to Asia Minor and Thrace. Bishop Flavian of Antioch condemned them about 376 The group might have continued for several centuries, influencing the Bogomils of Bulgaria, the Bosnian church, the Paterenes and Catharism.[29]
Iconoclasm The belief that icons are idols and should be destroyed.[30] From late in the seventh century onwards some parts of the Greek Church reacted against the veneration of icons. In 726 the Emperor Leo III ordered the destruction of all icons and persecuted those who refused. The policy continued under his successors till about 780. Later Leo V launched a second attempt which continued till the death of the emperor Theophilus in 842 Condemned by Nicea II in 787 which regulated the veneration Leo III may have been motivated by the belief that the veneration of icons, particularly in the excessive form it often took, was the chief obstacle to the conversion of Jews and Muslims
Marcionism An Early Christian dualist belief system. Marcion affirmed Jesus Christ as the savior sent by God and Paul as his chief apostle, but he rejected the Hebrew Bible and the Hebrew God. Marcionists believed that the wrathful Hebrew God was a separate and lower entity than the all-forgiving God of the New Testament. This belief was in some ways similar to Gnostic Christian theology, but in other ways different. Originates in the teachings of Marcion of Sinope at Rome around the year 144.[31] Many early apologists, such as Tertullian on his Adversus Marcionem (year 207) condemned Marcionism Marcionism continued in the West for 300 years, although Marcionistic ideas persisted much longer.[32] Marcionism continued in the East for some centuries later.
Montanism The beliefs of Montanism contrasted with orthodox Christianity in the following ways:
  • The belief that the prophecies of the Montanists superseded and fulfilled the doctrines proclaimed by the Apostles.
  • The encouragement of ecstatic prophesying.
  • The view that Christians who fell from grace could not be redeemed.
  • A stronger emphasis on the avoidance of sin and church discipline, emphasizing chastity, including forbidding remarriage.
  • Some of the Montanists were also "Quartodeciman".[33]
Named for its founder Montanus, Montanism originated at Hierapolis. It spread rapidly to other regions in the Roman Empire during the period before Christianity was generally tolerated or legal. The churches of Asia Minor excommunicated Montanists.[34] Around 177, Apollinarius, Bishop of Hierapolis, presided over a synod which condemned the New Prophecy.[35] The leaders of the churches of Lyon and Vienne in Gaul responded to the New Prophecy in 177 Although the orthodox mainstream Christian church prevailed against Montanism within a few generations, labeling it a heresy, the sect persisted in some isolated places into the 8th century.
Pelagianism Belief that original sin did not taint human nature and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without Divine aid. Named after Pelagius (354–420/440). The theology was later developed by C(a)elestius and Julian of Eclanum into a complete system.[36] and refuted by Augustine of Hippo (who had for a time (385–395) held similar opinions[37]) but his final position never gained general acceptance in the East. Pelagianism was attacked in the Council of Diospolis[38] and condemned in 418 at the Council of Carthage[39] and the decision confirmed at the Council of Ephesus in 431.
Semipelagianism Belief that Augustine had gone too far in attacking Pelagianism and taught that some come to faith by mercy and grace but others through free will alone. This view arose in the East and were purportedly taught by John Cassian, who was opposed by Prosper of Aquitaine. Whether Cassian taught this is disputable. Condemned by the Council of Orange in 529 which slightly weakened some of Augustine's more extreme statements.[40] The label "Semipelagianism" dates from the seventeenth century.

Medieval heresies

Medieval heresies
Heresy Description Origin Official condemnation Other
Bogomils A Gnostic dualistic sect that was both Adoptionist and Manichaean. Their beliefs were a synthesis of Armenian Paulicianism and the Bulgarian Slavonic Church reform movement. Emerged in Bulgaria between 927 and 970 and spread into the Byzantine Empire, Serbia, Bosnia, Italy and France.
Catharism Catharism had its roots in the Paulician movement in Armenia and the Bogomils of Bulgaria, with a strong dualist influence against the physical world, regarded as evil, thus denied that Jesus could become incarnate and still be the son of God. First appeared in the Languedoc region of France in the 11th century and flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries. Catharism had its roots in the Paulicians and the Bogomils with whom the Paulicians merged. Condemned by papal bull Ad abolendam After several decades of harassment and re-proselytizing, and the systematic destruction of their scripture, the sect was exhausted and could find no more adepts. The last known Cathar prefect in the Languedoc, Guillaume Bélibaste, was executed in 1321.
Free Spirit Mixed mystical beliefs with Christianity. Its practitioners believed that it was possible to reach perfection on earth through a life of austerity and spiritualism. They believed that they could communicate directly with God and did not need the Christian church for intercession. Condemned at the Council of Basel in 1431 Small groups living mostly in Bohemia, now the Czech Republic, during the 14th and 15th centuries.
Fraticelli (Spiritual Franciscans) Extreme proponents of the rule of Saint Francis of Assisi, especially with regard to poverty, and regarded the wealth of the Church as scandalous, and that of individual churchmen as invalidating their status. Appeared in the 14th and 15th centuries, principally in Italy Declared heretical by the Church in 1296 by Boniface VIII.
Henricians According to Peter of Cluny, Henry's teaching is summed up as follows:
  • Rejection of the doctrinal and disciplinary authority of the church;
  • Recognition of the Gospel freely interpreted as the sole rule of faith;
  • Refusal to recognize any form of worship or liturgy; and
  • Condemnation of
    • the baptism of infants,
    • the Eucharist,
    • the sacrifice of the Mass,
    • the communion of saints, and
    • prayers for the dead.
Henry of Lausanne lived in France in the first half of the 12th century. His preaching began around 1116 and he died imprisoned around 1148. In a letter written at the end of 1146, St Bernard calls upon the people of Toulouse to extirpate the last remnants of the heresy. In 1151 some Henricians still remained in Languedoc, for Matthew Paris relates that a young girl, who gave herself out to be miraculously inspired by the Virgin Mary, was reputed to have converted a great number of the disciples of Henry of Lausanne.
Eastern Orthodoxy Belief that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, that the divine essence is distinct from the divine energies (Palamism), and the rejection of papal primacy. Originating in the Photian schism and the Great Schism of 1054. Condemned at the Second Council of Lyon in 1274 and the Council of Florence in 1439.
Triclavianism Belief that three, rather than four nails were used to crucify Christ and that a Roman soldier pierced him with a spear on the left, rather than right side. Attributed to Albigenses and Waldenses Supposedly condemned by Pope Innocent III, but most likely never actually considered a heresy by said Pope.[41]
Waldensians (Waldenses or Vaudois) A spiritual movement of the later Middle Ages Begun by Peter Waldo, a wealthy merchant who decided to give up all his worldly possessions and began to preach on the streets of Lyon in 1177.[42] Condemned by papal bull Ad abolendam Waldensians endured near annihilation in the 17th century. Descendants of this movement still exist. Over time, the denomination joined the Genevan or Reformed branch of Protestantism.

Sects declared to be heretical by the Catholic Church


Heresy Description Origin Official condemnation Other
Protestantism[43] Protestant groups display a wide variety of different doctrines. However, the early Reformers all stressed the five solae (1) Sola scriptura ("by Scripture alone"); the conviction that only the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments should be used to form doctrine, in contradistinction to the Catholic view that both Scripture and the magisterium of the Church set dogma. (2) Sola fide ("by faith alone"); the conviction that believers are justified by faith in Christ alone, rather than faith in Christ and good works. (3) Sola Gratia ("by grace alone"); the conviction that believers are saved by God's grace alone, and not by human works. (4) Solus Christus ("by Christ alone"); the conviction that the work of salvation is entirely the work of God through the mediatorial work of Christ alone. (5) Soli Deo Gloria ("for God's glory alone"); the conviction that the work of salvation is entirely for God's glory alone. [44][45]

Some believe the great diversity of Protestant doctrines stems from the doctrine of private judgment, which denies the infallible authority of the Catholic Church and claims that each individual is to interpret Scripture for himself.[46] However, the early Reformers warned against private interpretation, emphasizing, instead, the connection and continuity with the ancient church, and its dogma.

Began with Martin Luther's 95 Theses in 1517, and later developed by other Protestant Reformers. Condemned by the Council of Trent, held in Trento, Italy from 1545 to 1563.[47] Since the mid-20th century, the attitude of the Catholic Church to Protestantism has changed, as evidenced by ecumenical relations with Protestant Churches.[48] Then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, wrote that:

There is no appropriate category in Catholic thought for the phenomenon of Protestantism today (one could say the same of the relationship to the separated churches of the East). It is obvious that the old category of ‘heresy’ is no longer of any value. Heresy, for Scripture and the early Church, includes the idea of a personal decision against the unity of the Church, and heresy’s characteristic is pertinacia, the obstinacy of him who persists in his own private way. This, however, cannot be regarded as an appropriate description of the spiritual situation of the Protestant Christian. In the course of a now centuries-old history, Protestantism has made an important contribution to the realization of Christian faith, fulfilling a positive function in the development of the Christian message and, above all, often giving rise to a sincere and profound faith in the individual non-Catholic Christian, whose separation from the Catholic affirmation has nothing to do with the pertinacia characteristic of heresy. Perhaps we may here invert a saying of St. Augustine’s: that an old schism becomes a heresy. The very passage of time alters the character of a division, so that an old division is something essentially different from a new one. Something that was once rightly condemned as heresy cannot later simply become true, but it can gradually develop its own positive ecclesial nature, with which the individual is presented as his church and in which he lives as a believer, not as a heretic. This organization of one group, however, ultimately has an effect on the whole. The conclusion is inescapable, then: Protestantism today is something different from heresy in the traditional sense, a phenomenon whose true theological place has not yet been determined.[49]

Counter-Reformation movements

Heresy Description Origin Official condemnation Other
Febronianism An 18th-century German movement directed towards the nationalizing of Catholicism, the restriction of the power of the papacy in favor of that of the episcopate, and the reunion of the dissident churches with Catholic Christendom Practice and ideology condemned by Pope Pius IX's Syllabus of Errors, Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Immortale Dei, and the First Vatican Council Compare with Erastianism
Gallicanism The belief that civil authority – often the State's authority – over the Catholic Church is comparable to that of the Pope Practice and ideology condemned by Pope Pius IX's Syllabus of Errors, Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Immortale Dei, and the First Vatican Council Compare with Erastianism
Jansenism A branch of Catholic thought which arose in the frame of the Counter-Reformation and the aftermath of the Council of Trent (1545–1563). It emphasized original sin, human depravity, the necessity of divine grace, and predestination. Originating in the writings of the Dutch theologian Cornelius Otto Jansen, Jansenism formed a distinct movement within the Catholic Church from the 16th to 18th centuries. Condemned by Innocent X's bull Cum occasione on 31 May 1653.
Josephinism The domestic policies of Joseph II of Austria, attempting to impose a liberal ideology on the Church. Practice and ideology condemned by Pope Pius IX's Syllabus of Errors, Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Immortale Dei, and the First Vatican Council Compare with Erastianism

19th century

19th century heresies
Heresy Description Origin Official condemnation Other
Jehovah's Witnesses Religious movement which expects the imminent return of Jesus. Jehovah's witnesses believe in a one-person God. No Trinity. Jesus is the first thing God created (as Michael the Archangel).[50] It follows the teachings of Charles Taze Russell The Gruppo di Ricerca e Informazione Socio Religiosa of the Milan Catholic Dioceses declared in a convention in May 2011 that the doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses is incompatible with Catholic dogma
Mormonism Religious movement that believes in a "Godhead" of separate and distinct beings: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as well as a Heavenly Mother. Further, it is believed that all humans as children of God can become exalted, or in other words, "As man now is God once was: As God now is, man may be." Joseph Smith founded the movement in Western New York in the 1820s, and published The Book of Mormon, which he claimed to have translated from writing on golden plates in a reformed Egyptian language. Mormons would say that theirs is the truest form of Christianity, while acknowledging that other Christian denominations hold a lesser truth. While accepting the validity of the traditional Christian Bible, Mormons also attribute scriptural authority to the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Mormons believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ but do not accept the doctrine of Trinity. Mormons worship Jesus Christ and God the Father exclusively (and not Joseph Smith, whom they believe to have been a prophet only), and by this qualification meet the definition of non-Trinitarian Christianity.

Many Protestant sects do not accept Mormons as true Christians, however, and no major Christian group accepts the validity of Mormon baptisms – a former Mormon would need to be re -baptized.[51]

20th-century movements

Heresy Description Origin Official condemnation Other
Americanism A group of related heresies which were defined as the endorsement of full freedom of the press, liberalism, individualism, and separation of church and state, and as an insistence upon individual initiative, which could be incompatible with the principle of Catholicism of obedience to authority. Condemned by Pope Leo XIII on his letter Testem benevolentiae nostrae in 1899
Community of the Lady of All Nations The movement believes that its elderly founder, Marie Paule Giguère is a "reincarnation" of the Virgin Mary Founded by Marie Paule Giguère in Quebec in 1971. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith determined on 11 July 2007 that her followers had been excommunicated.[52] Also known as Army of Mary
Modernism Evolution of dogma in time and space Alfred Loisy, George Tyrell, Ernesto Buonaiuti Condemned by Popes Leo XIII and Pius X in a series of encyclicals between 1893 and 1910[53]
Positive Christianity A term adopted by Nazi leaders to refer to a model of Christianity consistent with Nazism. With the fall of the Nazi regime in 1945, Positive Christianity as a movement fell into obscurity. It continues to be espoused by some Christian Identity groups,[54] but has been rejected by mainstream Christian churches.
Reincarnationism Belief that certain people are or can be reincarnations of biblical figures, such as Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. Doctrinal Note of the Catholic Bishops of Canada concerning the Army of Mary[55] and Tribus circiter on the Mariavites.
Santa Muerte Worship or veneration of Santa Muerte. Criticized, called blasphemous, described as devil worship, and declared incompatible with Christian faith by Catholic leaders,[56][57][58][59] including the Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico City[60] and some Catholic Bishops in the United States[61] Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, has repeatedly denounced devotion to Santa Muerte, calling it "the celebration of devastation and of hell."[62] Commentators note that it is relatively rare that a folk saint is condemned by Vatican officials.[63]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Cross, F.L.; Livingstone, E.A., eds. (1974). "Heresy". The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (2 ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  2. MacGrath, Alister E. Christian Theology Blackwell: 2001, p.153
  3. Ott, Ludwig. Manual de Teología Dogmática Herder, Barcelona:1968, p.31
  4. Prümmer, Dominic M. Handbook of Moral Theology Mercier Press: 1963, Sect. 201
  5. 5.0 5.1 MacGrath, Alister E. Christian Theology Blackwell:2001, p.152
  6. MacGrath, Alister E. Christian Theology Blackwell:2001, p.345
  7. Hanson, R. P. C. "The Doctrine of the Trinity as achieved in 381". In Studies in Christian Antiquity, T & T Clark, Edinburgh 1985, pp. 234f
  8. Hanson, R. P. C. "The Doctrine of the Trinity as achieved in 381". In Studies in Christian Antiquity, T & T Clark, Edinburgh 1985, p. 244
  9. Kelly, J.N.D. Early Christian Doctrines A & C Black: 1965, p.115f
  10. "Church Fathers: Church History, Book VI (Eusebius)". p. Chapter 37. Retrieved 4 April 2017.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Kelly, J. N. D. Early Christian Doctrines A & C Black: 1965, p.227f
  12. Block, Corrie (2013-10-08). The Qur'an in Christian-Muslim Dialogue: Historical and Modern Interpretations. Routledge. p. 186. ISBN 9781135014056.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Kelly, J.N.D. Early Christian Creeds Longmans:1960, pp.339f
  14. P.G., lxv, 1117.
  15. "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Gnosticism". Retrieved 24 December 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Bart D. Ehrman Lost Christianities. Oxford University press, 2003, p.188-202
  17. Constantine-Silvanus". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Accessed 2 September 2008.
  18. Hippolytus Philosophumena 5, 2
  19. Cross, F.L.; Livingstone, E.A., eds. (1974). "Antinomianism". The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (2 ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  20. Chadwick, Henry. The Early Church Pelican:1967, p.123
  21. Frend, W. H. C. Saints and Sinners in the Early Church Darton, Longman & Todd:1985, p.102
  22. "Donatism". Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1974.
  23. "Donatism". Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  24. Kaufmann Kohler, "Ebionites", in: Isidore Singer & Cyrus Alder (ed.), Jewish Encyclopedia, 1901–1906.
  25. Francois P. Viljoen (2006). "Jesus' Teaching on the Torah in the Sermon on the Mount". Neotestamenica 40.1, pp. 135–155. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>"Jesus' Teaching on the Torah in the Sermon on the Mount" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 June 2007. Retrieved 13 March 2007. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. G. Uhlhorn, "Ebionites", in: A Religious Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology, 3rd ed. (edited by Philip Schaff), p. 684–685 (vol. 2).
  27. The word is still in use in that sense in contemporary Israeli Hebrew
  28. Henry Wace and William Piercy (1911). A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. Retrieved 1 August 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. S. Runciman, The Medieval Manichee: A Study of the Christian Dualist Heresy (Cambridge, 1947)
  30. Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church art. Iconoclasm
  31. (115 years and 6 months from the Crucifixion, according to Tertullian's reckoning in Adversus Marcionem, xv)
  32. Janos, N. A. Berdyaev (Berdiaev); translated by Fr Stephen. "Marcionism". Retrieved 24 December 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. Trevett 1996:202
  34. Tabbernee, Prophets and Gravestones, 25.
  35. Tabbernee, Prophets and Gravestones, 21–23.
  36. Kelly, J.N.D. Early Christian Doctrines, p.360f.
  37. Frend, W.H.C. Saints and Sinners in the Early Church, p.126)
  38. "Transcript From The Council of Diospolis (Lydda) Against Pelagius, 415AD". Retrieved 26 June 2018.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  39. Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion by William L Reese, Humanities Press 1980 p.421
  40. Kelly, J. N. D. Early Christian Doctrines, p.370f
  41. Bompiani, Sofia (1899). A Short History of the Italian Waldenses: Who Have Inhabited the Valleys of the Cottian Alps from Ancient Times to the Present. Barnes. p. 38.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  42. Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 874–876
  43. "The Great Heresies | Catholic Answers". Retrieved 28 October 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  44. "A Brief Introduction to sola scriptura". Lutheran Theology: An Online Journal. 2011-01-18. Retrieved 28 October 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  45. Schreiner, Thomas R. (2015). "Justification by Works and Sola Fide" (PDF). The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. 19 (4).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  46. Hynson, Leon (2005). "The Right of Private Judgement". The Ausbury Theological Journal. 60 (1).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  47. Buckley, Theodore Alois (1851). The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent. London: George Routledge and Co. ISBN 978-1298542946.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  48. Power, Maria (2007). From Ecumenism to Community Relations. Irish Academic Press. ISBN 9780716533801. This change came in 1964 with Vatican II's Decree on Ecumenism, which 'signalled a more positive attitude towards ecumenism among Catholics worldwide'. This change in attitude by the Catholic Church, and the Protestant Churches' reaction to it, was one of the most crucial factors in the development of contact between the hierarchies of the Protestant and Catholic Churches.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  49. Joseph Ratzinger (1993). The Meaning of Christian Brotherhood. Ignatius Press. p. 88. ISBN 9780898704464.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  50. Rose book of Bible charts, maps, and timelines
  51. Granquist, Mark (10 April 2018). "THE NEW (AND OLD) RELIGIONS AROUND US" (PDF). Luther Seminary EDU.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  52. "6 Catholic Nuns Excommunicated For Heresy". Associated Press. 27 September 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  53. Modernism (Roman Catholicism)#Official Church response
  54. "Positive Christianity - Part 1 by Pastor Mark Downey of Kinsman Redeemer Ministries". Retrieved 24 December 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  55. Doctrinal Note of the Catholic Bishops of Canada concerning the Army of Mary The Army of Mary, through their misguided interpretation of Catholic teaching, would in effect not only rob Mary of her unique, irreplaceable role in salvation history, but their so-called "reincarnation" of Mary all but renders superfluous Mary's on-going intercession in heavenly glory. The Mary of the Gospel and Catholic tradition is in heaven, not on earth. It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that Mary's life is both unique and historical, and as such cannot be repeated, reproduced, or otherwise "reincarnated" ... The presumed private revelation upon which the Army of Mary bases its claim to legitimacy does in fact introduce new and erroneous doctrines about the Virgin Mary and her role in the economy of salvation history. It significantly adds to Christ's definitive Revelation. It would have its followers believe, for example, that their "Immaculate" is co-eternal with the Triune God, and that although she was once the historical mother of Jesus, she is now "reincarnated" and "dwells" in the very person of the recipient of these presumed private revelations.
  56. Gray, Steven (16 October 2007). "Santa Muerte: The New God in Town". Time Magazine.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  57. "Vatican denounces Mexico Death Saint". 9 May 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2018 – via<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  58. Chesnut, R. Andrew (22 February 2016). "Pope Francis vs. Santa Muerte". Retrieved 26 June 2018.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  59. "Vatican in a Bind About Santa Muerte". National Geographic. 14 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  60. Barillas, Martin (31 October 2009). "Santa Muerte is no saint, say Mexican bishops". Spero News.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  61. Contreras, Russell (20 February 2017). "U.S. Bishops join Mexican colleagues, denounce 'Santa Muerte'". Associated Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  62. Chesnut, R. Andrew (18 May 2013). "Death to Santa Muerte: The Vatican vs. the Skeleton Saint". Huffington Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  63. Rezac, Mary (4 November 2017). "Have you heard of Saint Death? Don't pray to her". Catholic News Agency.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links