CARDINAL BILLOT DECLARES FR. KRAMER’S USE OF THE TERM MATERIAL HERETIC TO BE “PERVERTED”.
Fr. Paul Kramer continues his social media campaign against the authors of TOFP. In a recent post, he wrote:
Kramer: “I have only begun to refute the mean spirited and sacrilegious vilification that Salza & Siscoe have spewed against me … and I will continue to do so for so long as it remains necessary. … I have only scratched the surface of their profound confusion on points of doctrine, resulting from their incapacity to correctly understand basic theological concepts.”
After claiming we misunderstand the term material heretic, he proceeds to provide his definition:
Kramer: “The material heretic accepts the authority of the revealing God, professes the Creed, and thus does not reject the formal object of faith, but, errs ignorantly on the matter, being unaware that his opinion materially opposes some truth of revelation. Such a one still adheres to the formal object of faith … Hence, material heretics remain faithful sons of the Church. … Those who because of simplicity and invincible ignorance err materially do not consciously, i.e. scienter, prefer their own judgment to the teaching of the Church, in which consists the sin of infidelity and the form of heresy.”
What we see is that Fr. Kramer understands the term “material heretic” to refer to Catholics – “faithful sons of the Church” – who err materially in good faith. He says that such persons are only material heretic since they do not “prefer their own judgment to the teaching of the Church.” But is this the correct use of the term “material heretic,” or has Fr. Kramer “entirely perverted” the “legitimate use of the expression”? We will allow Cardinal Billot to answer this question for us.
In the following citation, we will see that, according to one of the greatest Thomists of the 20th Century, a material heretic is not a Catholic who errs in good faith, but rather a non-Catholic – that is, one who has chosen something other than the Church’s Magisterium as his rule of faith (e.g., the “bible alone”, a local Protestant minister, etc.).
Here is Cardinal Billot’s definition of a material heretic and a formal heretic:
Cardinal Louis Billot S.J., De Ecclesia Christi: "Heretics are divided into formal and material. Formal heretics are those to whom the authority of the Church is sufficiently known; while material heretics are those who, being in invincible ignorance of the Church herself, in good faith choose some other guiding rule. So the heresy of material heretics is not imputable as sin and indeed it is not necessarily incompatible with that supernatural faith which is the beginning and root of all justification. For they may explicitly believe the principal articles, and believe the others, though not explicitly, yet implicitly, through their disposition of mind and good will to adhere to whatever is sufficiently proposed to them as having been revealed by God. In fact they can still belong to the body of the Church by desire and fulfill the other conditions necessary for salvation. Nonetheless, as to their [i.e., the material heretics] actual incorporation in the visible Church of Christ, which is our present subject, our thesis makes no distinction between formal and material heretics [in other words, neither material or formal heretics are members of the visible Church], understanding everything in accordance with the notion of material heresy just given, which indeed is the only true and genuine one. For, if you understand by the expression material heretic one who, while professing subjection to the Church's Magisterium in matters of faith [i.e. a professing Catholic], nevertheless still denies something defined by the Church because he did not know it was defined, or, by the same token, holds an opinion opposed to Catholic doctrine because he falsely thinks that the Church teaches it [this is Fr. Kramer's definition], it would be quite absurd to place material heretics outside the body of the true Church; but on this understanding the legitimate use of the expression would be entirely perverted. For a material sin is said to exist only when what belongs to the nature of the sin takes place materially, but without advertence or deliberate will. But the nature of heresy consists in withdrawal from the rule of the ecclesiastical Magisterium and this does not take place in the case, since this is a simple error of fact concerning what the rule dictates. And therefore there is no scope for heresy, even materially" (Cardinal Louis Billot S.J., De Ecclesia Christi).
The above teaching of Cardinal Billot, who is recognized, even by Sedevacantists, as one of the greatest Thomists of the 20th Century, expresses precisely how we use the term in “True or False Pope?”
In light of what the brilliant Cardinal wrote above, we have the following questions for Fr. Paul Kramer:
1) Do you accept the terminology used by Billot, which defines a material heretic, not as a Catholic who professes a material heresy, but someone who has chosen a rule of faith other than the ecclesiastical Magisterium?
2) And do you agree that a material heretic is not a member of the visible Church, as Cardinal Billot taught? If so, why did you say this: “material heretics remain faithful sons of the Church.” How would you respond to the Cardinal who accuses you of perverting the legitimate use of the term?
3) If you disagree with Billot’s terminology, explain where he erred. And if you agree with him, please explain where we erred in the book, since we used the expression exactly as the Cardinal explained it above, and even cited him as our authority (see pp. 102-103).