Heresy, being a deadly poison generated within the organism of the Church, must be ejected if she is to live and perform her task of continuing Christ's work of salvation. Each pastor in his parish, each bishop in his diocese, is in duty bound to keep the faith of his flock untainted; to the supreme pastor of all the Churches is given the office of feeding the whole Christian flock (Wilhelm). The power granted to the Catholic Church of expelling heresy is an important factor in the constitution of the Church. The power of rejecting heresy however needs to adapt into the social and political circumstances of the time. In the beginning, the Catholic Church exercises its power without an organization. The bishops were able to find heresies in their congregation and checking the progress with all its power vested upon it by the hierarchy. When a heresy gathered support and proved a danger to the Church, the bishops assembled in councils, provincial, metropolitan, national, or ecumenical to discuss the matter (Wilhelm).
In the early church, heresies were sometimes determined by a selected council of bishops, or ecumenical council, such as the First Council of Nicaea. Actually, the Catholic Church had little power to punish heretics in the early years, other than by excommunication, a spiritual punishment. ...Show more