The Theological Censures

The following is my paraphrase and synthesis of the Catholic Encyclopedia (NewAdvent) on the Theological Censures of the Catholic Church. I have quoted and given a link to the entire section at the end of this article.


A discussion of the Theological Censures may be divided into three (3) main categories:

(I) The significance and definitions of condemned propositions.
(II) The expression of condemned propositions.
(III) The consequences of condemned propositions.

 (I) The significance and definitions of condemned propositions:

NOTE: I posit that the censures in this section can additionally be categorized as the following, which is evidenced by the aforementioned Encyclopedia's descriptions of such:
i. Dangerous Errors: All censures in sections A, B, & C.
ii. Undetermined: The censure in section D - Temeratia (rash).
iii. Safe Errors: All censures of section E. (By "safe," I mean "not dangerous to one's salvation.)

A. Hæretica (heretical)
1. A proposition is heretical when it goes directly and immediately against a revealed or defined dogma (ie. a dogma de fide).

B. Erronea (erroneous), 
1. A proposition is considered erroneous if it contradicts established theological principles or truths grounded in both faith and natural reason.

C. Approximations to heresy or error.The following catagory includes censures which are given for propositions which approximate heresy or error, but cannot be considered heretical or erroneous:

1. Hæresi proxima (next to heresy), 
a. A censure is designated as next to or proximate to heresy when its opposition to a revealed and defined dogma is not certain, or chiefly when the truth it contradicts, though commonly accepted as revealed, has yet never been the object of a definition (proxima fidei). 

2. Errori proxima (next to error), 
a. The censure which is designated as being next, or proximate to, error is one whose opposition to "established theological principles or truths grounded in both faith and natural reason" (error) is not certain, or chiefly when the truth it contradicts, though commonly accepted as established, has yet never been established officially by the magisterium. 

NOTE: This censure of errori proxima is of less frequent use than that of rashness or temerity.

D. Temeratia (rash)
a. Opposition to sound common opinion (communis), and this either for paltry reasons or no reasons at all.

E. True, yet imprudently expressed propositions. The following propositions noted below may be correct in themselves, but owing to various circumstances of time, place, and persons, are prudently taken to present a meaning which is either heretical or erroneous. These may be what one could consider as potentially "safe" errors, as they may be safe in themselves.
1. sapiens hæresim, errorem (smacking of heresy or error),
2. suspecta de hæresi, errore (suspected of heresy or error). 
 3. To this group also belong some special stigmata with reference to determined topics, e.g. 
a. the preambles of faith (infidelis, aversiva a fide), 
b. ethical principles (improbabilis, non tuta), 
c. history (antiquata, nova) 
d.  Holy Scripture (verbo Dei contraria)

(II) The expression of condemned propositions:

A. Ambigua (ambiguous), 
1. A proposition is ambiguous when it is worded so as to present two or more senses, one of which is objectionable;

B. captiosa (captious), 
2. captious when acceptable words are made to express objectionable thoughts;

C. male sonans (evil-sounding), 
3. evil-sounding when improper words are used to express otherwise acceptable truths; 

D. piarum aurium offensiva (offensive to pious ears)
4. offensive when verbal expression is such as rightly to shock the Catholic sense and delicacy of faith.

(III) The consequences of condemned propositions. This third group of censures are directed against any propositions that would imperil religion in general, the Church's sanctity, unity of government and hierarchy, civil society, morals in general, or the virtue of religion, Christian meekness, and humility in particular.

A. Subsannativa religionis (mocking of religion), 

B. Decolorativa canodris ecclesiæ (defacing the beauty of the Church), 

C. Subversiva hierarchiæ (subversive/undermining of the hierarchy), 

D. Eversiva regnorum (destructive of governments),

D. Scandelosa, perniciosa, periculosa in moribus (scandalous, pernicious, dangerous to morals), 

F. Blasphema, idolatra, superstisiosa, magica (blasphemous, leading to idolatry, superstition, sorcery), 

G. Arrogans, acerba (arrogant, harsh), etc.

--------

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:


We may divide them into three groups according as they bear principally upon (1) the import, or (2) the expression, or (3) the consequences, of condemned propositions.

(1) Hæretica (heretical), erronea (erroneous), hæresi proxima (next to heresy), errori proxima (next to error), temeratia (rash), etc.

A proposition is branded heretical when it goes directly and immediately against a revealed or defined dogma, or dogma de fide; erroneous when it contradicts only a certain (certa) theological conclusion or truth clearly deduced from two premises, one an article of faith, the other naturally certain. Even though a statement be not obviously a heresy or an error it may yet come near to either. It is styled next, proximate to heresy when its opposition to a revealed and defined dogma is not certain, or chiefly when the truth it contradicts, though commonly accepted as revealed, has yet never been the object of a definition (proxima fidei). The censure next, or proximate to error, whose meaning may be determined by analogy to the foregoing, is of less frequent use than that of rashness or temerity, which means opposition to sound common opinion (communis), and this either for paltry reasons or no reasons at all. A still finer shade of meaning attaches to such censures as sapiens hæresim, errorem (smacking of heresy or error), suspecta de hæresi, errore (suspected of heresy or error). Propositions thus noted may be correct in themselves, but owing to various circumstances of time, place, and persons, are prudently taken to present a signification which is either heretical or erroneous. To this group also belong some special stigmata with reference to determined topics, e.g. the preambles of faith (infidelis, aversiva a fide), ethical principles (improbabilis, non tuta), history (antiquata, nova) and Holy Scripture (verbo Dei contraria), etc.

(2) Ambigua (ambiguous), captiosa (captious), male sonans (evil-sounding), piarum aurium offensiva (offensive to pious ears), etc.

A proposition is ambiguous when it is worded so as to present two or more senses, one of which is objectionable; captious when acceptable words are made to express objectionable thoughts; evil-sounding when improper words are used to express otherwise acceptable truths; offensive when verbal expression is such as rightly to shock the Catholic sense and delicacy of faith.

(3) Subsannativa religionis (derisive of religion), decolorativa canodris ecclesiæ (defacing the beauty of the Church), subversiva hierarchiæ (subversive of the hierarchy), eversiva regnorum (destructive of governments), scandelosa, perniciosa, periculosa in moribus (scandalous, pernicious, dangerous to morals), blasphema, idolatra, superstisiosa, magica (blasphemous, leading to idolatrysuperstitionsorcery), arrogans, acerba (arrogant, harsh), etc.

This enumeration, though incomplete, sufficiently draws the aim of the third group of censures; they are directed against such propositions as would imperil religion in general, the Church's sanctity, unity of government and hierarchy, civil societymorals in general, or the virtue of religion, Christian meekness, and humility in particular.

The authority of theological censures depends upon the source from which they come and the intention with which they are issued. Condemnations coming from the seat of infallibilitypope or council, and vested with the usual conditions of an ex cathedra pronouncement are themselves infallible, and consequently require both our external obedience and internal assent. There is no reason for restricting the infallibility of the censures to the sole note heretica as some theologians would do. The difference between the note of heresy and other inferior notes is not one of infallibility, but of different matters covered by infallibility. The note of heresy attached to a proposition makes it contradictory to an article of faith, which is not the case with other notes, even if they are infallible. Condemnations coming from another source which, however, is not infallible are to be received with the external respect and implicit obedience due to disciplinary measures, and moreover, with that degree of internal assent which is justified by circumstances. In every case the extent of outward compliance, or of interior submission, or both is determined by a proper interpretation of the censures:

  • Sometimes, as in the condemned propositions of Pistoia, there is little room for doubt, the precise meaning of the condemnation being explained in the very tenor of it.
  • When categorical propositions are condemned in their import, and not in their wording or consequences only, their contradictories present themselves for our acceptance as de fide, proximæ fidei, certæ, or communes as the case may be.
  • Condemnations issued on account of bad wording or evil consequences should at least put us on our guard against the hidden falsehood or the noxious tendency of the proposition.
  • Modal propositions require special attention. The principal modalities in use are in individuo, in globo, prout iacent, in sensu ab auctore intenta. Propositions are not always, as was the case for the errors of Pistoia, condemned one by one, the proper qualifications being attached to each individually (in individuo). In the case of WyclifHusLutherBaius, Molinos, Quesnel, etc., to a whole series of propositions a whole series of censures was attached generally (in globo). This mode of general censure is not ineffectual. To each of the propositions thus condemned apply one, or several, or all of the censures employed--the task of fitting each censure to each propositions being left to theologians. Again, some propositions are censured according to their obvious tenor and without reference to their context or author (prout iacent); while others e.g. those of Baius, Jansen, etc. are stigmatized in the sense intended by their author (in sensu ab auctore intento). Obviously the Church does not claim to read into the mind of a writer. What she claims is an operative doctrinal power including the double faculty of pointing out to her children both the error of a doctrine and the fact that such an erroneous doctrine is contained in such a book written by such an author. In such cases, a Catholic is bound to accept the whole judgment of the Church, although some theologians would make a difference between the assent due to the condemnation of the error and the assent due to the designation of the book or author.
  • Vague censures of this kind, Damnandas et proscribendas esse, are more in the nature of simple prohibitions than censures. They mean that a Catholic ought to keep clear of such teachings absolutely, but they do not point out the degree of falsehood or danger attached to them.
  • In a general matter, censures are restrictive laws and, as such, to be interpreted strictly. A Catholic is not debarred from the right of ascertaining, for his own guidance or the guidance of others, their legitimate minimum; but the danger, not always unreal, of falling below that minimum should itself be minimized by what Newman calls "a generous loyalty toward ecclesiastical authority" and the pietas fidei.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Boy Dreams - A Short Story

The Sexual Abuse Scandals in the Catholic Church

Why Catholics Owe Assent to Fiducia Supplicans