The Church Complete Lesson 31: Schisms

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The Church had to experience some unfortunate schisms in Her first centuries of existence due to the heresies.

The Nestorian Schism happened in 431 A.D.: the followers of Nestor, Bishop of Constantinople, did not accept the decisions of Ephesus Council and broke up with the Roman Church.

The Monophysicism Schism took place in 451 A.D.: this group did not accept the decisions of Calcedonia Council concerning the two distinct natures of Jesus Christ.

Then the great schism of Michael Cerularius and the Eastern Orthodox group followed in 1054; in 1517, Martin Luther’s schism and the Protestantism; in 1534, Henry VIII, King of England, also broke with the Roman Church and created the Anglicanism. Brazil also witnessed a schism in 06/07/1945, which gave birth to the Brazilian Catholic Churches.

Schisms are not necessarily caused by heresies. Heresies are doctrines that go against the truth revealed by God and proposed by the Church. Heretic people are those who do not accept being corrected by the Church and stubbornly cling to their misconceptions.

It is worth quoting Saint Augustine: “Do not think that heresy is an outcome of obtuse minds. Only bright minds could beget heresy. The brighter a mind, the bigger its aberrations.”

“Formal” heretic people are those who have personally committed the sin of heresy and schism and have thus excluded themselves from the communion with the Church, even though they may keep their baptismal character. “Material” heretic and schismatic people are those who were born inside heretic and schismatic communities although they are not the authors of the heresy or schism. They belong to the imperfect communion with the One and Only Church of Jesus Christ.

People often ask about the salvation of adults who die without being baptized or die with a Baptism received outside the perfect communion with the Catholic Church.

The Sacrament of the Baptism is God’s Will and the normal pathway to mankind salvation (see Matthew 16, 16). Though the Church has acknowledged different means of salvation since Her primordial times, like martyrdom and the “explicit wish” for Baptism. The Church has also acknowledged the “implicit wish for Baptism” since the XVI Century: in other words, pagans who obey God and lead a righteous life according to non-catholic beliefs can be saved, for if they knew about the necessity of Baptism they would have asked for it. They are people of good will.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms that:

 “ For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament” (CCC # 1259).

 “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.”62 Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity” (CCC # 1260).

Vatican Council II also confirms this doctrine. According to Lumen Gentium:

“Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.); But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all men be saved. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”, the Church fosters the missions with care and attention” (Lumen Gentium # 16).


Professor Felipe Aquino


Professor Felipe Aquino is a widower, father of five children. On TV Canção Nova he presents the program “Escola da Fé” [School of faith] and “Pergunte e Responderemos” [Ask and respond], on Radio he presents the program “in the heart of the Church”. On weekends he preaches deepening meetings throughout Brazil and abroad. He wrote 73 books of Catholic background by publishers, Loyola and Cleopas and Canção Nova. His teacher’s Twitter: @pfelipeaquino