Friday, March 18, 2011

Heretical and schismatic false martyrs (Fr. René Hedde, O.P.)

Whether a non-Catholic can be a martyr?
Answer: In the negative.

"The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church" -- Pope Eugene IV at the Ecumenical Council of Florence, Bull "Cantate Domino"

"No Christian shall forsake the martyrs of Christ, and turn to false martyrs, that is, to those of the heretics, or those who formerly were heretics; for they are aliens from God. Let those who go after them be anathema." -- Local Council of Laodicea, Canon 34 (363)

This is a very rough translation of a section of the article "Martyre" by Fr. René Hedde, O.P. in the 1928 Dictionnaire de théologie catholique 10.1:233.

9. Heretical and schismatic false martyrs (c. XX). – We can distinguish two cases, one in which the heretic dies to defend his heresy, or one in which he dies for a doctrine common with the true faith.

The second case is more interesting, but even then the victim will not be considered a martyr, for, says Benedict XIV, though he died for the truth, he did not die for the truth given by faith, since he has no faith. At the same time he admitted in a heretic who denies a point of faith, a supernatural habitus, but informed by faith; this view is widely rejected by theologians. He who has no faith, cannot die for the faith. Benedict XIV then speaks of the heretic invincibiliter, that is to say, of he who is in his error "in good faith" and if he dies for a true point [article] of faith, can he regarded as a martyr? Benedict XIV responds with an important distinction: he will be coram Deo, but not coram Ecclesia. He will be coram Deo, provided he is habitually disposed to believe anything that would be proposed by the legitimate authority, because he is not culpable according to the word of St. John: "Si non venissem et locutus fuissem eis, peccatum non haberent," XV, 22; he would not be a martyr coram Ecclesia, which judges from the outside, and which, noting his external heresy, is reduced to speculate his internal heresy. We see how this distinction proposed by the eminent canon lawyer can give satisfaction to the most difficult [questions]. But once it is admissible to recognize as a martyr coram Deo the heretic invincibiliter who dies to defend a doctrine common with Catholic truth, does she not need to recognize him even if he dies with the same sincerity to defend an erroneous assertion that he believes belong to the Christian Credo? We see from these examples how the concept of martyrdom that, at first sight, seems very clear and sharply defined, in reality poses many questions that are difficult to answer with certainty.

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