Presumption Of Law In Regard To Crimes In General

Canon 2199: “The imputability of an offence depends on the evil will (dolus) of the delinquent, or on the extent to which his ignorance of the violated law of his omission of proper diligence was culpable. Wherefore all causes which increase, diminish or destroy the evil will or culpability, automatically increase, diminish or destroy the imputability of the offense.”

Canon 2200: “The evil will (dolus), spoken of in Canon 2199, means a deliberate will to violate a law, and presupposes on the part of the mind a knowledge of he law and on the part of the will freedom of action. Given the external violation of a law, the evil will is presumed in the external forum until the contrary is proved.”

Let us consider some commentaries:

Penal Legislation in the New Code of Canon Law: “In the external forum, when a law has been violated, it is supposed to have been violated knowingly and deliberately, that is, through malice, unless the contrary be proved.”

A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law: “The rule here stated is evidently necessary for the public welfare. The laws are published by the authorities, and it is the duty of the subject to inform himself of these laws, for the legislator cannot inform each subject individually of the laws that have been passed. The authorities presume, therefore, that a subject knows the law, and, if he violates is, he is considered to have broken it willfully. If he claimed to be free liability, the burden of proof rests with him.”

And the application to heresy:

The Delict of Heresy: “The very commission of any act which signifies heresy; e.g., the statement of some doctrine contrary or contradictory to a revealed and defined dogma, gives sufficient ground for juridical presumption of heretical depravity. There may be excusing circumstances which excuse from grave responsibility in the external forum, and the burden of proof is on the person whose action has given rise to the imputation of heresy. In the absence of proof, ALL such excuses are presumed not to exist.” (The Delict of Heresy p. 35.)

Let us return to Dogmatic Theology: Christ’s Church: “Public heretics (and a fortiori, apostates) are not members of the Church. They are not members because they separate themselves from the unity of Catholic Faith and from the external profession of that faith. Obviously, therefore, they lack one of the three factors-baptism, profession of the same faith, union with the hierarchy-pointed out by Pius XII as requisite for membership in the Church (see above, p. 238). The same pontiff has explicitly pointed out that, unlike other sins, heresy, schism, and apostasy automatically sever one from the Church. “For not every sin, however grave and enormous it may be, is such as to sever a man automatically from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy”.

“By the term public heretics at this point we mean all who externally deny a truth (for example Mary’s Divine Maternity), or several truths of divine and Catholic faith, regardless of whether the one denying does so ignorantly and innocently (a merely material heretic), or wilfully and guiltily (a formal heretic). It is certain that public, formal heretics are severed from Church membership. It is the more common opinion that public, material heretics are likewise excluded from Church membership. Theological reasoning for this opinion is quite strong: if public material heretics remained members of the Church, the visibility and unity of Christ’s Church would perish. If these purely material heretics were considered members of the Catholic Church in the strict sense of the term, how would one ever locate the ‘Catholic Church’? Where would be its visibility? Where its unity? For these and other reasons we find it difficult to see any intrinsic probability to the opinion which would allow for public heretics, in good faith, remaining members of the Church.”

Van Noort points out: “For these and other reasons we find it difficult to see any intrinsic probability to the opinion which would allow for public heretics, in good faith, remaining members of the Church.”

CONCLUSION: Point 3: The Church follows the principle, guilty until proven innocent rather than the Americanist proposition innocent until proven guilty.