how many heretics?

How many laypersons in the Church today are heretics?
How many religious or priests in the Church today are heretics?
How many Bishops in the Church today are heretics?

It’s important to distinguish between mere material heresy and formal heresy. Material heresy occurs whenever a person believes, asserts, or teaches a doctrinal error that meets certain conditions. To be material heresy, an idea must pertain to an important matter of faith, morals, or salvation. The idea must either have been taught infallibly by the Magisterium, in any of the three ways that the Magisterium teaches infallibly, OR it must be an idea clearly and definitively taught by Tradition or Scripture.

However, the heretic does not deny all important truths of faith, morals, and salvation. An apostate is someone who rejects the Faith in its entirety. A heretic always denies something substantial of the Faith, but also always retains something substantial of the Faith. Protestantism is material heresy; all Protestants (knowledgeable adults, at least) are material heretics. If a Catholic converts to Protestantism, he has converted into heresy. But if any Christian were to convert to Judaism or Islam, he would be an apostate, not a heretic. For he has rejected so many important truths of the Christian Faith that it cannot stand.

[1 Corinthians]
{15:17} But if Christ has not risen, then your faith is vain; for you would still be in your sins.

If anyone believes that Christ has not risen, or that Christ is not God Incarnate, then the entire Faith is vain; it cannot stand. Therefore, such a belief is apostasy as well as heresy.

Formal heresy is an actual sin. A person commits formal heresy by knowingly choosing to adhere to material heresy. When the knowledge and choice are both full, then the act of formal heresy is an actual mortal sin. However, any act of formal heresy is objectively a mortal sin.

Very many Catholics in the Church today are in a state of material heresy. They obstinately deny or obstinately doubt the definitive teaching of the Magisterium on matters of morals: that direct abortion is always gravely immoral, that contraception is always gravely immoral, that premarital sex is always gravely immoral, that Tradition and Scripture are infallible, that the Magisterium can teach infallibly and require the faithful to adhere to those teachings, that Christ is present in the Eucharist in body, blood, soul, and Divinity, and many other teachings. It is difficult to say how many Catholics who adhere to material heresy do so with a knowing choice, such that they are committing the objective mortal sin of formal heresy. But the number is not small.

Many priests and religious have also fallen into material heresy, and again a substantial number of these are also committing formal heresy, though it is difficult to perceive how many.

Even a number of Bishops have fallen into material heresy. For example, at the 2008 Bishops’ Synod on Scripture, the Bishops could not obtain a sufficient number of votes to assert that Sacred Scripture is entirely inspired and entirely infallible. Their working document contained the heretical claim:

“In summary, the following can be said with certainty … with regards to what might be inspired in the many parts of Sacred Scripture, inerrancy applies only to “that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation” (DV 11)….” (INSTRUMENTUM LABORIS, n. 15, c)

But the final document dropped that heretical assertion, but also failed to make any statement of believe in total inerrancy and total infallibility. Both are the infallible teaching of the Magisterium. But so many Bishops have rejected this infallible teaching, thereby falling into material heresy, that they were unable to teach on the subject at all. In place of 15.c. quote above, this suggestion was substituted:

“The synod proposes that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith clarify the concepts of inspiration and truth of the Bible, as well as the relationship between them, so as to better understand the teaching of Dei Verbum 11.” (Chapter 1, proposition 12, Inspiration and Truth)

And there are other matters of faith and morals from which certain Bishops have strayed. A recent controversy in South American about a direct abortion of twins given to a young girl at a Catholic hospital, and a more recent direct abortion given to a woman at a Catholic hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, revealed that even the Magisterium’s teaching against direct abortion is not adhered to by all Cardinals, Bishops, priests, and religious.

It is difficult to say how many Bishops, priests, and religious have fallen into material heresy, but the problem is certainly serious.

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