WHAT IS A HERESY? BOOK 2 CHAPTER 34 THE CONDEMNATION OF ERRORS THAT ARE NOT HERESIES ~ WILLIAM OF OCKHAM
THE CONDEMNATION OF ERRORS THAT ARE NOT HERESIES
Student These seem probable to me, but does it seem to some people that it is licit for someone else inferior to the pope to condemn errors of this kind?
Master There are some people who say that this is not licit for anyone inferior to the pope because, since it is not licit for them to condemn heresies, which are opposed to and harm the christian religion more than any other errors, it is much more the case that it is not licit for them to condemn other errors. And this argument seems to be confirmed. For a greater danger should be resisted more stoutly; but heresies are more dangerous to the christian faith than are other errors; he who is not permitted to condemn heresies, therefore, should not involve himself in other errors.
Other people say, however, that it is licit for inferior prelates to condemn errors of this kind. They argue as follows for this assertion. What has been licit for inferior prelates at any time and has not been revoked by the highest pontiff or by a general council is still licit for them; but it was once licit for other prelates to condemn errors of this kind, and this has not been revoked; therefore, etc. The major [premise] is clear; the minor [premise] is proved. For it is licit for anyone who is permitted to approve some truths to reject opposing false assertions. But it has sometimes been licit for inferior prelates to approve someone asserting a truth as holy, and as worthy of veneration as being holy by believers, because it has been licit for them to enter new saints in the catalogue of saints. Therefore it has been licit for them to reject and solemnly to condemn a false assertion that such people were not saints and should not be venerated by believers. It is, therefore, still licit for them to condemn some errors.
Student That argument does not seem to be conclusive against them because it proves only that it was at some time licit for them to condemn the error that says that such a person is not a saint. But it is not now licit for them to condemn such an error, just as it is not now licit for them to enter anyone into the catalogue of saints.
Master You do not fully understand their argument. For they do not intend to prove that it would now be licit for those inferior to the pope to condemn someone who asserts, or his assertion, that someone on behalf of whom God is said to perform miracles is not a saint, but they intend to argue that for the reason for which it was licit for them to condemn such an error it was also licit for them to condemn other errors from which, with the addition of other obvious truths, a manifest heresy can be inferred. Their power over other errors, however, has not been revoked. Therefore they can still condemn other errors, although they can not now condemn anyone asserting that someone for whom they say miracles have been performed is not a saint.
Student I understand the said argument more, and so explain how it replies to the argument of the others.
Master It is said that although they can not condemn heresies, they can nevertheless condemn many other errors more minor than heresies, because inferiors to whom greater affairs are known to be forbidden can undertake lesser ones since, as we gather from the divine law in Deuteronomy 1, it is necessary to refer greater affairs to greater men. Yet it should not be said that prelates are not bound to resist heresies, but they should not resist them by condemning them, but by announcing them to the highest pontiff or to a general council.