“Whatever they don’t like, whatever they don’t understand, is a heresy.”

Via the Laudator:

Erasmus, letter to Albert of Brandenburg (November 1, 1519), tr. Robert Blackley Drummond:

Nunc alia res est haereseos crimen, et tamen ob quamlibet levem causam, hoc statim habent in ore, ‘Haeresis est, haeresis est.’ Olim haereticus habebatur qui dissentiebat ab Evangeliis, ab articulis fidei, aut iis que cum his parem obtinerent authoritatem. Nunc si quis usquam dissentiat a Thoma, vocatur haereticus; imo si quis a commenticia rations, quam heri sophista quispiam in scholis commentus est. Quicquid non placet, quicquid non intelligunt, haeresis est. Graece scire haeresis est. Expolite loqui haeresis est. Quicquid ipsi non faciunt, haeresis est. Fateor grave crimen esse vitiatae fidei, sed non oportet quidvis trahere in quaestionem fidei.

Now the charge of heresy is another thing, and yet for any light cause they take the cry on their lips, ‘It is a heresy.’ Formerly he was considered a heretic who dissented from the Gospels, from the Articles of Faith, or from those doctrines which enjoyed equal authority with them. Now if any one dissents from Aquinas he is denounced as a heretic; nay, he is so if he dissents from any piece of reasoning which any sophist fabricated yesterday in the schools. Whatever they don’t like, whatever they don’t understand, is a heresy; to know Greek is a heresy; to speak with a good accent is a heresy; whatever they do not do themselves is a heresy. I confess it is a grave crime to corrupt the faith, but every subject ought not to be made a question of faith.

I enjoy Erasmus, by the way.  I’ve read letters and a couple works along the way, mostly with the distinguish Latinist, Fr. Reginald Foster.  I have wonderful memories of reading his Stultitiae Laus while sitting under the great Roman pines on summer evenings, sipping cold white wine.  We read his letters to such as Thomas More, Henry VIII, Martin Luther.  Everyone wanted correspondence with Erasmus.  His Latin is polished an marvelous and is wit like a razor.

One of these days I will dig up some of the images of etchings for Praise of Folly from a famous edition of his complete works.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Patruus says:

    You might perhaps enjoy this presentation of Erasmus’ colloquium “Proci et Puellae” sympathetically read by William du Cassé and Milena Minkova with synchronized text display –


  2. Jeanette says:

    I’m pretty sure that the CDF under Cardinal Ottaviani has assured us that the Index Librorum Prohibitorum retains it’s moral force in a gravely binding fashion: http://cctld.it/storia/informazione/index/notificatio_14_6_66.pdf .

    That being the case, if all the works of Erasmus of Rotterdam appear on the Index, why are these being talked about as if it were an indifferent action to read these? Were they removed from the Index?

  3. SonofMonica says:

    Jeanette: Index Librorum Prohibitorum was formally abolished in 1966 by Pope Paul VI. The document you linked to essentially explains that the moral force of the Index only requires that the conscience be aware that these and other books can be dangerous if ingested without precaution. There is no canon law or punishment for reading them. We are just required to be on guard. Cardinal Ratzinger, when acting as head of CDF explained that historical situations can change that take away the harm to the faithful that some works can do. The worst that Erasmus was ever charged with, as far as I know, is making it easier for Luther to start the Reformation by not condemning him strongly enough. That ship has sailed.

  4. Gregorius says:

    I doubt the index is still binding. And even if it is, I don’t think Erasmus’ private correspondence counts as part of his opera.

    I’ve been studying Latin for a few years now, but I still don’t know enough to translate the various passages Fr. puts up from time to time. Do I just need to sit down with a dictionary and learn vocab? And what dictionary do I use?

  5. John Pepino says:

    Dear Fr Z.,
    Your computer betrayed you by correction: ‘commenticia rations.’
    By the way, do you speak Latin? [Whaddyou think?]


  6. Suburbanbanshee says:

    If you would, go listen to Fr. Z’s patristics podcaZts, and you’ll hear that Father does indeed speak Latin. :)

  7. AnAmericanMother says:

    John Pepino,
    In the deathless words of any suspicious Southern farmer in “dirt road” territory:
    “You ain’t from around here, is you?”
    Seriously, welcome aboard and stick around. There is much to learn here. I limp along on two years of junior high school Latin and what I have managed to pick up singing in a (very traditional) choir, but I learn something new every time I stop by.

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