Saint Lawrence Brindisi, 'Doctor of the Apostolic FAith' ['Apostolic Doctor'], Excerpts and Catholic 460 commentary upon his early 17th Century 3 Volume Hypotyposes of : Volume I, Martin Luther, volume ii, the Lutheran Church and Doctrine, and, volume iii, Polycarp Leyser

On abusing the term 'heretics'...

"A simple error contrary to the faith of Christ does not make one a heretic for, otherwise, all pagans, Jews, Turks, and all who believe many things contrary to the truth of the Christian faith, would fall under the name of heretics. Rather, in order to be called a heretic, an individual needs to uphold an error that is contrary to the truth of the faith and to profess that same error. Even then one is not yet justly called a heretic unless he defends his error with culpable obstinacy, as Augustine clearly says: 'Those who defend their opinion, however false and perverse, but without stubborn ill will, especially those who have not generated their own error with bold presumption, but have received it from parents who had been led astray and had fallen into error, and who, moreover, are searching for the truth with earnest solicitude, and are prepared to be corrected when they have found it, are by no means to be reckoned among the heretics.' Augustine also teaches elsewhere: 'A heretic is someone who entertains an unsound and distorted opinion in the Church of Christ and who, when he is warned to return to what is right and sound, stubbornly resists and refuses to change his pestilential and contagious dogmas, but persists in defending them.'" ...The above quote is from Saint Lawrence Brindisi's Hypotyposis of Martin Luther, Section One, Dissertation Four, translated by Fr. Vernon Wagner, O.F.M. Cap.

Catholic460.commentary on the above...

“On abusing the term 'heretics' ”

Saint Lawrence Brindisi is the "Doctor of the Apostolic Faith” or “Apostolic Doctor.” He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1959 so that we could learn from him what the Apostles truly held, what we must defend so others can come to true faith in Christ, and how to witness it to our contemporaries. He spoke the truth in love and was to be a model of what Saint John XXIII hoped the Second Vatican Council would accomplish. Saint Lawrence never appeased the enemies of the one true faith of God, nor was he interested in appeasing the status quo of social abuses. While he led the last crusades in Eastern Europe with a crucifix held aloft in his hand (as the Christian armies charged to repulse the invading Ottomans), he also asked that in Rome the crucifixes be removed from walls of the Jewish ghettos to ensure our brothers and sisters were not harassed by the majority Christian population.

Personal sin is the Christian’s truest enemy

The Christian's enemy is neither the Muslim nor the Jew. His true enemy is personal sinfulness, the cruel desire of the devil to enslave us, and worldliness. Christians hold that every human, regardless of race or religion, biological sex or social structures, are each and every one made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). By the love for Christ which impels us, we are bound to share the fullness of God's revelation and the only saving Gospel of Jesus who is true God and true man. The Christian’s true enemy is arrogance and lack of love for the truth ... that enemy is within each one of us. We have disordered self-love and lack of self-knowledge which comes from lack of accepting Jesus as Lord. The repeated line of Donald Sutherland in the Italian Job remake is insightful: "I trust you. I just don't trust the devil in you." Catholics are no longer fighting the same devils of the 16th and 17th Century ... devils which we Catholics empower by our own personal corruption and refusal to convert our lives.

While we proclaim to be the one true Church, the laity have often left it up to others to represent Christ instead of living in Christ themselves by on-going repentance from sin and striving to grow into the grace of Christ. We have been cultural and nominal Christians instead of true disciples of Christ who should hunger and thirst to implement true righteousness (the justice and love of Christ). Saint Lawrence would not want us engaging today the lay descendants of Luther's revolution (and other Protestant revolutionaries) in the same brutal tone that Brindisi addressed Luther's authoritative successors (who continued Luther’s obstinacy in error). We must distinguish between formal heresy and material heresy.

The fact of the matter is, and I say this from decades of evangelical experience, most adult lay Catholics are also well-intentioned material heretics in vast need of education and conversion. They are like Apollos, at the beginning of Saint Paul’s time, who asked, “What Holy Spirit? We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:2). Apollos was spreading the teaching of Jesus without even knowing about Trinitarian baptism! Yet, he listened to Paul and the correction instead of promoting himself and creating a faction/party (a heresy). Still today, many Catholics would not know to pray daily to the Holy Spirit to be led and filled by Him to accomplish their needed development in Christ. They do not know they are called to become sharers in the divine nature (cf. 2 Pet 1:4) through a lifetime of dedicated discipleship in Christ (cf. Eph 4:15). The world saturates Christian thinking before the domestic churches can form them.

Material heretics are not truly heretics

Within Christianity, ‘heresy’ now refers to profession of a false understanding or opinion about the essential doctrines of belief which keep a community working together (having the same ends and means to ends). The heretic is no longer united in one heart with the community and is disruptive to authentic unity and fellowship by what he professes. They are even outside the bounds where diversity is permissible within the unity of faith. One can be materially in heresy but not formally in heresy. To call such person a ‘heretic’ is a misuse of the term, as St. Augustine and St. Lawrence make clear in the passages quoted at the start of this commentary.

‘Material’ heresy means to misrepresent the faith or doctrines of the community, but to do so unwillingly and in ignorance ...there is no bad will nor intention to revolt involved. Such a person can still be of one heart with the community even if objectively professing incorrectly on a matter. Externally, a ‘material’ heretic appears to be at odds with the community, but interiorly the person does not mean to do so and they wish to be in communion with the original community and its lawful successors of authority. This is why Saint Lawrence quotes the greatest Western Church Father, Saint Augustine, to remind us that material heresy does not make one a heretic in the Christian sense of the term.

On the other hand, formal heresy is not done in ignorance. It is purposeful separation from lawful authoritative successors and understandings of a community. Formal heresy is inseparable from intentional revolt and revolution. Today, it is most often committed by authoritative representatives who should know better ... especially, ‘Catholic’ journalists, professors, priests and bishops. They become heretics when they break from the past understanding of the Catholic communities that preceded them, not by way of authentic development and continuity, but disruption and elements foreign to unchanging foundations. They knowingly break from fellowship of mind and heart with the community that lawfully preceded them.

Some heretics are revolutionaries in terms of their unorthodox approach to doctrine and belief and not to the doctrine itself. Concerned more for the letter of the law than the authentic spirit, they do not accept authoritative and lawful developments which conform diachronically (in a direct line of succession into the past) to the Apostolic Tradition. Such heretics are ‘rigorists’ and ‘purists’. The other extreme are the capitulators who ‘update’ doctrine simply to suit the itchy ears of contemporaries or fit-in to the trends of the times. They deny intrinsically evil acts, profane reception of the Sacraments, or they deny the supernatural character of divine revelation. Such heretics are the ‘trendies’. Both legalists and trendies separate believers from the heart of Christ by serving personal ideology and ego instead of Jesus. Christ can only be adhered to through sincere discipleship in communion with the one true Church.

Faithful Catholics support Vatican II and its authoritative implementation

All revolutionaries ignore the clear and devout intentions of their forefathers and what the Church Fathers sought to teach and defend. The Apostolic Faith and intentions are evident to them as found in the liturgies (the lex orandi, lex credendi) which the Apostles (and their lawful successors) bequeathed to us and of which John 6 and 1 Corinthians 11 are a secondary testimony (along with all the New Testament). Jesus gave us true worship (cf. Jn 4) which the Apostles preserved and handed-on. The Scriptures witness to the Tradition. The Scriptures have been clarified in light of the one Tradition and by the lawful successors to the Apostles through the ecumenical councils in union with Rome (including Vatican II). In the words of Idris Elba in the Dark Tower, revolutionaries “have forgotten the face of their father.” They are heretics and separate the hearts of the faithful from the heart of Jesus Christ, who has shown us the Father.

They lack authentic love because they lack the Holy Spirit who is the love of the Father and the Son, one God and undivided. Revolutionaries divide the Church (as Luther did), rather than bring unity. Sin divides the Church, as other sinful and arrogant Popes and bishops have done by their scandals. Christians divide the Church when they refuse to accept the task of restoring and recapitulating all things in Christ and of implementing the Gospel in the today of the Church. Cardinal Ratzinger said it best:

"To defend the true tradition of the Church today means to defend the Council. It is also our fault if we have at times provided a pretext (to the ‘right’ and ‘left’ alike) to view Vatican II as a ‘break’ and an abandonment of tradition. There is, instead, a continuity that allows neither return to the past or a flight forward, neither anachronistic longings nor unjustified impatience. We must remain faithful to the today of the Church, not the yesterday or tomorrow. And this today of the Church is the documents of Vatican II, without reservations that amputate them and without arbitrariness that distorts them."

published: June 22, 2020 Copyright

Cardinal Brandmueller 2019 Lecture on Understanding Vatican II

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New excerpts and commentaries on Saint Lawrence Brindisi will be posted weekly. The commentary is provided by Matthew A. Tsakanikas, STL, STD. Click the icon button at the bottom of this page or the "About" link to learn more about the author and the mission of the site. CLICK HERE FOR RECENT BRINDISI POSTINGS