A Written Abjuration of Heresy is NOT required
To become Catholic: Learn the faith, be baptized and make a good confession
After receiving a valid baptism and learning the Catholic faith (See the Penny Catechism on this site by clicking here), there is one more thing to do.
Make sure you abjure your heresy. A heresy contradicts the teachings of the Catholic Church and will damn your soul. Abjuration officially renounces this heresy. If you called yourself ‘catholic’ but then discovered that you are not, then you have believed a heresy. For instance, if you thought a person could die in any religion and still get into Heaven, then you believed in the Salvation Heresy. It is directly opposed to the Salvation Dogma — namely, ‘no Salvation outside the Catholic Church’. You would need to wholly reject this heresy to become Catholic. How do you do so?
If we lived during normal times, you would go to the local parish priest and ask him for help. He would catechize you properly, make sure you’re baptized validly, and would arrange with the diocesan bishop to receive your abjuration. Accordingly, a short written statement would be drawn up that denounces any heresy you had believed and also includes a formal Profession of Faith. Having signed this abjuration and made your profession, the bishop would then lay his hands upon you in penance. That is to say, you would be received back into the Church with the bishop absolving you of your grievous sin of heresy. You would then be inside the Catholic Church and within the Hope of Salvation.
They are mistaken who say an abjuration is necessary today.
There are some who say that in the mind of Pope Pius XII the question of the need for the ABJURATION OF ERRORS is no longer
OPEN TO DISCUSSION, and that the Church teaches us through Her Liturgy that the Ritual that the ABJURATION OF ERRORS is NECESSARY. This is not so. It was once true, in the days when we had a Catholic diocesan system with Bishops (Ordinary’s) who ruled in the Church. But this is not our situation today.
No abjuration is needed, because there are no bishops
Only the Bishop, when, there was one could receive a heretic or apostate back into the Church. Canon law explains how the abjuration was made in the presence of the local Ordinary (Bishop) or his delegate. But, we have none today. Canon 2314 is the place where we will see this law.
Thus, we read in A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law by Rev. Stanislaus Woywod, Volume II, Imprimatur, Aug. 25, 1943, part three, para. # 2155, page 465:Title XI: OF OFFENSES AGAINST THE FAITH AND UNITY OF THE CHURCH. (It states Canon 2314 # 1.) Then:
“Absolution in the internal forum from the excommunication mentioned in the preceding paragraph is reserved in a special manner to the Apostolic See. If, however, the offense of apostasy, heresy or schism has in any way been brought to the external forum of the local Ordinary, even by voluntary confession, the Ordinary – but not the vicar-general, unless he has a special mandate – can absolve the repentant sinner in the EXTERNAL forum by his ordinary authority, after the juridical abjuration has been made, and the other conditions demanded in law have been fulfilled. When he has been thus absolved from the censure, the offender may then be absolved
from the sin in the INTERNAL forum by any confessor. The abjuration is made in juridical forum, when it takes place in the presence of the local Ordinary or his delegate and at least two witnesses (Canon 2314, # 2.)
Unfortunately, though, these are not normal times. The Great Apostasy has erupted into the open and people who are supposed to be Catholic are not truly Catholic. This includes men who are supposed to be priests, bishops and even popes. They are actually heretics & apostates. They have denied what the Catholic Religion teaches. Invariably this denial revolves around the Salvation Dogma. Since 1965 and the end of the Second Vatican Council, ostensible popes & bishops have blatantly taught that human beings can die in the practice of a false (read: non-Catholic) religion whilst ending up in Heaven.
What to do when there are no Bishops
So how is a person to abjure his heresy, assuming he was baptized validly before he fell into heresy, when there is no bishop with jurisdiction to receive it?
One frequent notion is that you write up an abjuration of your heresy on your own, sign it, and then become Catholic. While a nice idea (there’s certainly nothing intrinsically wrong with writing your own abjuration), the notion is flawed. This is because these folks make signing an abjuration a sacrament, instead of the obedience that it truly is.
Think about it. The Sacrament of Baptism is what enters a human being into the Roman Catholic Body of Christ. This is why even babies must have water baptism in order to enter Heaven. Then, if as an adult you fall into mortal sin, the Sacrament of Penance is what restores you to the state of saving grace. This includes mortal sins against the Catholic Faith — to wit, heresy or schism. It’s only that, in the case of heresy, the bishop necessarily reserves to himself the right to absolve such sins since it is he who governs a diocese in the footsteps of an apostle, and who must excommunicate or readmit into the unity of his local flock within the Catholic Church.
Ergo why the bishop lays his hands upon the penitent, baptized sinner who abjures heresy and not one of his diocesan priests. It’s because a bishop governs a diocese, and it’s his responsibility to excommunicate or readmit the baptized souls in that diocese — and not a mere diocesan priest, who does not have the authority to govern or excommunicate, etc.
Yet what if there’s no priest or bishop to hear your confession? What then?
Ah… here’s where Sacred Tradition helps us out, a sacred tradition that the Council of Trent affirms. Because if there is no priest or bishop available, are we then condemned to hellfire in the deadliness of our mortal sins with no escape or recourse to be had?
Of course not. Any well-instructed man knows that a Catholic with perfect contrition may confess his mortal sins directly to Heaven if there is no priest or bishop to whom he may turn. For more information about this please go HERE.
The same goes for abjuration as it does for Confession. Abjuration is simply the confession and renunciation of a mortal sin against the First Commandment, which is what heresy or schism amounts to. And because this kind of mortal sin normally causes excommunication, for which the bishop of your diocese is jurisdictionally responsible, then it is up to him, normally, to receive you back into the communication of the Catholic Church and so reverse the excommunication which started your spiritual dilemma. Hence, if there is no bishop to whom you may confess and renounce your heresy, then you are permitted to confess and renounce your sin of heresy directly to Heaven, with perfect contrition, begging forgiveness.
This is what readmits into the Communion of the Catholic Church when there is no bishop available.
So what about a written abjuration? What is that slip of paper all about?
It is a practical means of recorded testimony, that’s all. Under normal circumstances, it must be done. That is what the Church’s Canon Law requires. To refuse to do it under normal circumstances is an act of grievous disobedience, a mortal sin. It is, in fact, rebellion. And thus why it would cause one not to enter back into the Catholic Church if someone said he wanted to abjure his heresy, but was unwilling to sign the written abjuration that his diocesan bishop required from him. It would be a clear indication that this person is not serious, that rebellion still poisons his soul.
But under our abnormal circumstances? What then?
The situation is very different. For instance, ask yourself a few questions:
Who gets to decide what an appropriate abjuration is? And who collects these documents once they’re signed? Are we to send copies to every Catholic we know or can find out about? What if that amounts to hundreds — even thousands or millions — of Roman Catholics? Must we send a copy to every single Catholic in this situation? And what if somebody thinks our written abjuration is insufficient? What then? Who gets to say so, and how is anyone to know the correct opinion…if any? Moreover, what if someone doesn’t know how to write? Or can’t compose very well, or isn’t learned enough to have a theological understanding of all the different kinds of heresy there are nowadays?
Then what? My dear soul, this is where it gets ridiculous.
No one is required to be a learned theologian in order to save his soul. Nor is writing or reading and signing long abjurations required.
And yet there are people who still believe that written abjurations are absolutely necessary to salvation for baptized persons after committing heresy during the Great Apostasy when there are no bishops. Some have created gigantic, written, catch-all abjurations for the Great Apostasy that, after several years in the making, are impossible for the simple layman to comprehend.
Make a good confession
This is nonsense. And it appeals only to other fundamentalist persons who can’t see the forest for the trees. The bottom line is this:
The Catholic Church requires written abjurations under normal circumstances because it is an excellent tool for providing legal testimony as to what this person did in the eyes of the Hierarchy of the Church. If not literate, literate witnesses can be provided to testify by their signatures that the illiterate man did indeed attest to the written abjuration, which was obviously read aloud for his convenience. The bishop’s office keeps these documents within his diocese; there is no need for endless copies to be provided for every single Catholic that exists. Nor is there an exceedingly complicated abjuration composed — the abjuration used is either a standard one that is simple and to the point, or else it is tailor made to suit the abjurer’s ability, knowledge & predicament. We say again to drive it home:
A written abjuration is not a holy sacrament but is instead an act of obedience to the practical dictates of Holy Mother Church’s Canon Law under normal circumstances. Where those circumstances do not apply — because the situation is abnormal — the requirement is merely that a man make a good confession to Heaven of his mortal sin of heresy with perfect contrition, and with the intent to appear before a bishop who has proper jurisdiction in order to perform his duty fully as an abjurer if ever a chance should arise in the future.
That said, my dear reader, we have but one thing left to ask:
Are you, indeed, Catholic?
Or is it just a meaningless title, one that no longer signifies what it used to signify?
If truly Catholic, then I rejoice with you in the Hope of Salvation. Your reward is potentially great!
But if not, then I beg you… please do what it takes to become truly Catholic. There is no other way to save your precious & immortal soul.
I am here to help you if you need it. But it’s up to you to do what you need to do.