Manualist Monday: Benedict XIV on communicatio in divinis with heretics

After a rather extended hiatus, occasioned by some personal mortifications on our part and the subsequent onset of Lent, we return with a short piece, the posting of which has been far too long delayed. This is taken from the great treatise De synodo dioecesano of Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini, better known as Pope Benedict XIV—surely one of the most learned men to have graced the Chair of Peter, certainly as regards juridical and canonical subjects. The learnéd Pontiff here presents a brief but altogether luculent and forceful account of the Church’s traditional condemnation of communication in divinis with heretics, drawing from Scripture as well as the documents, decrees, and treatises of Councils, popes, and the theologians. (N.B. We have inserted hyperlinks and a few footnotes, in order to make immediately available to the curious and Latinate reader some further readings and sources to which Benedict makes reference.)


Benedictus XIV Pont. Opt. Maximus, De synodo dioecesano lib. VI, cap. 5, in Opera omnia (ed. Prati, 1844) vol. XI, p. 157ff.

CHAPTER FIVE.

Those things which were said in the preceding chapter, are confirmed by the example of the communion of Catholics with Heretics in divinis, and so also of the Matrimony of Catholics with Heretics.

I. The degree to which the Church has abominated the fellowship of Catholics with heretics, is clearly proved from the second epistle of the Apostle John, in which, in verses 10 and 11, he admonished his disciples in this wise: If any man come to you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house nor say to him, God speed you. For he that saith unto him, God speed you, communicateth with his wicked works. And moreover, from the epistle of the Apostle Paul to Titus, chap. 3, v. 10: A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid. Hence the same Apostle John, in order that he might precede others by his own example, refused to wash in the same bathhouse with Cerinthus the heretic, but said to his fellows: Let us flee more swiftly, lest the bathhouse, in which is Cerinthus the adversary of truth, should topple forthwith: as Irenaeus, Jerome, and Epiphanius testify. And St. Polycarp the bishop of Smyrna, instructed by the example of his Teacher, hostile and not daring to return the salutation to Marcion, who had greeted him, said: I know the firstborn of the devil. And so tenacious was the great Anthony in the discipline of this kind, that of him Athanasius writes, in De vita Antonii, num. 68, tom. 1, part. 2. Oper. pag. 847: Never did he communicate with the Meletian schismatics, considering from the beginning their proven malice and defection. Nor did he ever exchange words amicably with the Manichæans, or with any other heretics whatsoever, except for the sake of admonishing, in order that, their opinion being changed, they might hold to the godly Faith, regarding as he did their friendship and conversations to be harmful and pernicious to the soul; and he warned others likewise. Innumerable Canons of the Church have renewed this prohibition, but most of all do they press hard lest Catholics should communicate with heretics in sacred things, or lest they should frequent the gatherings of the same. Amongst the Apostolic Canons, the Forty-Fifth, known alternately as the Thirty-Seventh, sets down: Let the Bishop, Presbyter, and Deacon who should merely pray with heretics be deprived of communion: and the Sixty-Fifth, alternately the Sixty-Fourth or Fifty-Seventh: If any cleric or lay person should enter into a synagogue of the Jews, or of heretics, in order to pray, let him be put away, and separated. The Synod of Laodicea decreed something similar in can. 9 from the version of Dionysius Exiguus, tom. 1 of Collect. Harduinus col. 781: That Ecclesiastics are not permitted at the cemeteries of heretics, or to accede to those which by them are called martyr’s graves, for the sake of prayer or service: but ones of this sort, if they should be Faithful, are to be deprived of communion for a certain time. And the Fourth Council of Carthage, canon. 72. tom. 1. of Collect. Harduinus col. 983, which council Augustine praises in a sermon to the people of Mauretania Cæsariensis, says: One must neither pray nor sing psalms with heretics. Hence Cyril of Jerusalem, in catech. IV. n. 37. in fin. bids his catechumen to despise all the assemblies of the perfidious heretics: and the same is advised by the other Fathers, whom Christianus Lupus adduces in schol. et not. ad canon. Concil. tom. 5. edition. Venet. pag. 60 et seq. Read the rest of this entry »

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