The Evasion of the Category “Practical Heresy”

Now and again one hears a reference to “practical heresy”. What is this term?

I suppose the term is used to point out that some people, though they profess the true faith, act as though it were false. For instance, one might profess the resurrection but live anxiously, fearing death.

The term can be good if it is premised on the Anchor of Faith. Thus premised, it calls us to conform our lives to the Truth of this Faith. It calls us to cease to be hypocrites precisely by living up to our Faith (which is no ideal but Truth Itself).

However, if the term is used to deflate the confidence of solid orthodox Catholics, to show them up for not being the saints they are called to be, to the end that therefore these solid orthodox Catholics should cease learning their faith and spreading it with zeal, so that they might stop informing themselves about the True Tradition, so that they might not open their Denziger and learn it, so that they might stop being a nuisance and just keep quiet…. Well, such would be no fruitful use of the term.

For such use of the term would in the end constitute a call to dismiss (as “rigid”) the categories of orthodoxy and heresy. So used, it would be poison to our souls, robbing us of the compass whereby we might come to self-knowledge, repent of our sinful ways, make a true act of contrition, and so gain eternal life.

Hence, if someone uses the term to evade orthodoxy, let us evade the strategy by avoiding the term. If someone uses the term to call us to account in action, to conform our lives to Christ and make our faith the more firm, let us repent with him.