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The Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 2089 states: “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same.”
Formal heresy requires that four conditions be simultaneously met:
First, the person must have been baptized. The baptism need not have occurred in the Catholic Church, but it must be a baptism recognized as valid by the Catholic Church.
Second, the person continues his external profession of Christian faith.
Third, there must be outright denial, or at least positive doubt, regarding the doctrine.
Fourth, the denial or doubt must be pertinaciously held. Pertinacity is obstinate adhesion to a particular tenet. As long as one remains willing to submit to Catholic authority he remains a Catholic Christian at heart and his wrong beliefs are only transient errors and fleeting opinions.
Whether the sin of heresy is mortal depends on whether the person recognizes his obligation to believe. If he acts in good faith, as with most persons brought up in non-Catholic surroundings, the heresy is material but not sinful. If the person recognizes his obligation to believe and refuses to do so, the sin is grave.
The difference between heresy and apostasy is that the heretic denies one or more doctrines of Christianity, while the apostate denies Christianity itself.
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