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Good morning,

I just want to ask you if it is more serious heresy or schism.

Your sincerely

Answer of the priest


1.    First of all, it should be specified what heresy means and what schism means.

Heresy consists in the pertinacious denial of a truth of faith.

Persistent is those who, attracted by the error, go on in their own wrong belief anyway.

Heresy itself is a sin against faith.

The schism is instead: “it is the delight in the disunity of the assembly of the faithful, preserving the convictions and the cult of all the others” (St Augustine, Contra Faustus).

It is a sin against the theological virtue of charity.

2. Which one is the more serious between the two?

For St. Thomas the first, that is, faith. Here is his reasoning: heresy and schism are distinguished from each other on the basis of the things they directly oppose. In fact, heresy is opposed to faith, while schism instead is opposed to the unity of charity existing in the Church.

Whoever is devoid of faith is also devoid of charity because he is untied from obedience to the Pope. Therefore, “whoever is a heretic is also a schismatic; but not vice versa”, as St. Jerome notes: “I think that between schism and heresy there is this difference, that heresy implies a wrong dogma, while the schism merely separates from the Church”.

3.    Heresy and schism are distinguished in respect of those things to which each is opposed essentially and directly. For heresy is essentially opposed to faith, while schism is essentially opposed to the unity of ecclesiastical charity. Wherefore just as faith and charity are different virtues, although whoever lacks faith lacks charity, so too schism and heresy are different vices, although whoever is a heretic is also a schismatic, but not conversely.” (Somma teologica, II-II, 39, 1, ad 3).

4.    Father Tito Sante Centi, in translating and commenting on this affirmation of St. Thomas, writes: “The history of all schisms unequivocally demonstrates the truth of these affirmations: see, e.g., the Greek schism and the Anglican schism. However, we must not forget that since the schism constitutes a distinct kind of sin, it can stop without reaching heresy, as it happened in the great Western schism [1378-1417], when there were two popes and also three popes but without reaching heresies.”

I bless you and entrust you to the Lord,

Father Angelo

Translated by Emanuele Menchiari

Proof edited by Sara Bellei