Tacit Renunciation Resulting from Canon 188.4º of the 1917 Code of Canon Law Is Not a Penalty for Public Defection from the Faith

“Ob tacitam renuntiationem ab ipso iure admissam quaelibet officia vacant ipso facto et sine ulla declaratione, si clericus: A fide catholica publice defecerit.”
(1917 Code of Canon Law, Canon 188.4º)

“Any office becomes vacant upon the fact and without any declaration by tacit resignation recognized by the law itself if a cleric: Publicly defects from the Catholic faith.”

Many people confuse Canon 188.4º of the 1917 Code of Canon Law with Canon 2314 Section 1.1º, which states:

“Omnes a christiana fide apostatae et omnes et singuli haeretici aut schismatici: Incurrunt ipso facto excommunicationem.”

“All apostates from the Christian faith and each and every heretic or schismatic: Incur by that fact excommunication.”

Whereas the ipso facto excommunication for being a heretic is a penalty imposed by the Church, the tacit resignation of office is not in the nature of a penalty.  Rather, it is for an act performed (in this case public defection from the Catholic Faith such as in public manifest formal heresy) that is simply incompatible with the retention of an ecclesiastical office.  The following are screenshots from The Renunciation of an Ecclesiastical Office by Fr. Gerald McDevitt, S.T.L., J.C.L.:

“Canon 1325 § 2. After the reception of baptism, if anyone, retaining the name Christian, pertinaciously denies or doubts something to be believed from the truth of divine and Catholic faith, [such a one is] a heretic; if he completely turns away from the Christian faith, [such a one is] an apostate; if finally he refuses to be under the Supreme Pontiff or refuses communion with the members of the Church subject to him, he is a schismatic.”

“Canon 2197. A delict is:

“1.° Public, if it is already known or is in such circumstances that it can be and must be prudently judged that it will easily become known.”

My friends, public manifest formal heresy is simply incompatible with holding an ecclesiastical office because the public sin of manifest formal heresy per se (i.e., by its very nature) separates the heretic from the Church.  A non-member of the Church cannot hold an ecclesiastical office of the Church.  The separation would take place even if heresy was not specified as a delict (i.e., crime) in Canon Law.

All English translations of the 1917 Code are taken from:

Peters, E. N. (2001). The 1917 or Pio-Benedictine Code of Canon Law: In English Translation with Extensive Scholarly Apparatus. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

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