I say this in the spirit of the Exsultet.
O happy fault,
O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!
Currently I am reading Blessed John Henry Newman’s “An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine” and was thinking how much we owe to heretics.
Much of the Old Testament with the Judges, Prophets, and Chronicles show the ebb and flow of the faithfulness of the people of Israel. The Prophets were not exactly called to remind people what a good job they were doing worshiping God. Again and again the prophets called people back to true worship and had plenty of choice words about their current behavior. A faithful Israel would have made for a much shorter Old Testament.
The New Testament is much the same. Outside of the Gospels and the Books of Acts most of the letters address problems in the new Christian communities from liturgical abuses to scandals of members involved in sin. Again, faithful communities would have brought us a much shorter New Testament.
Moving in to the age of the Church things haven’t changed much. The development of doctrine owes much to heretics. Blessed John Henry Newman notes the two aspects of doctrinal development 1. Investigations of Faith, 2. Attacks of heresy. The major Ecumenical Councils of the Church were mostly called in response to attacks of heresy. This seems especially true for the Councils up through Trent. As a result of Arius we got a much more defined Christology and this has been the pattern. The Church is much more likely to respond to heresies and seriously disputed questions as the needs arise. On other theological questions she is willing to wait for the turn of centuries and for the investigations of faith to more fully elucidate some truth. For example the Immaculate Conception had been believed since the beginning of the Church. The theology involved was advanced by Blessed Duns Scotus in the 13th century and yet the Church waited till 8 December 1854 to have Pope Pius IX formally define it. The issue of providence of God with human free will was a theological battleground between Molinism and Thomism enough so that the pope of the time basically called a time out. The issue has been pretty much left on hold as far as doctrinal development goes. Again the Church is willing to let centuries and millenniums pass when it comes to doctrinal development and is quite willing to take her cues from the Holy Spirit in this regard.
Heretics get results and so thanks to heretics we get doctrinal action. So thank you heretics, I just hope you repented before you died.
Amen! Let’s hope and pray that the Divine Humour spared them.
I lean towards invincible ignorance myself.
The more we know about God, the more we love him. And we know more, because errors made us have to seek Him about his nature. I really like your insight about this.
St. Augustine once wrote that we owe heretics a sort of gratitude for forcing the early Church to clarify its thinking.
I’m convinced that Jansenism is still alive and well (did it ever really leave the room?) I’m not referring to moral puritanism but rather the notion that the sacraments require no human cooperation in grace. Traditional Catholicism tends to isolate the Holy Sacrifice as an action wholly intrinsic from lay worshipers. This is incompatible with the notion of free will and cooperation with grace. We live in grace, and not because we are in bondage to grace. The reception of Holy Communion is an act of the will. The temptation to deny this truth is strong in some corners of the traditional community.
That should be “extrinsic”, not “intrinsic”.
Also, I am a devout traditional Catholic who attends the EF exclusively. The previous is not a condemnation but rather a reflection on my own thoughts and the statements of fellow traditional Catholics.
are they really heretics before the doctrine is established?
Today we are blessed with heritics in the upper reaches of Catholic leadership in both clergy and in our universities. with the birth of the bishops conferences, we have organized heresy within the structure of the churce. At the same time, it appears that what the Pope says has very little impact as if after Vatican II, the power of Peter was severly limited by the bishops almost as if it now required for him to beg bishops to follow along with no consequences if they ignored him. We have all of the things that the Church gave us in canon law, tradition, scripture, and yet it is like these are merely guidlines we can choose to follow.
I wish that when dissent started out very visibily and vocally after Humanae Vitae on birth control, that the bishops and priests who came out in writing and verbally against it would have been severly chastied and if not repentent, to have be excommunicated. It would have save a lot of probelms over the next 4 decades and into the future. It would also have saved lives as those who thought about being Catholic and pro abortion, would not have found safe harbor in their open dissent. How many millions have been killed from this open dissent?