Jimmy Akin teaches heresy and doctrinal error

Jimmy Akin’s writings contain numerous grave doctrinal errors, some of which rise to the level of abject heresy. By means of these false teachings, he is leading faithful Catholics astray from the teachings of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium. My concern is for the many souls being harmed by his serious theological errors and his severe distortions of Catholic doctrine.

1. Heretical teachings on grave matters pertaining to salvation

Jimmy Akin teaches that Catholics may adhere to a modified form of Calvinism.

My accusation of heresy against Jimmy Akin on this topic is supported by the theological argument and quotations from magisterial documents in these lengthy articles:

Catholic Soteriology versus Semi-Calvinism – Part 1 – A refutation of Jimmy Akin’s heretical errors on predestination, grace, salvation

Catholic Soteriology versus Semi-Calvinism – Part 2 – The Canons of the Council of Orange with commentary refuting semi-Calvinism

Catholic Soteriology versus Semi-Calvinism – Part 3 – Does predestination imply that salvation is not available to all human persons?

Akin’s semi-Calvinist views subjugate free will to the will of God, such that the will of God always prevails. He gives free will no fundamentally determinate role in salvation, in accord with Calvinism, contrary to Catholicism. A distorted concept of predestination is partly to blame for his denigration of the role of free will in eternal salvation.

2. Heretical teaching on a grave matter of morals: intrinsic evil

Jimmy Akin rejects and contradicts definitive magisterial teaching on intrinsically evil acts.

Intrinsic Evil versus Proportionalism – A refutation of Jimmy Akin’s heretical errors on intrinsic evil and the moral object

What is Akin’s heretical error? He claims that intrinsically evil acts “include references to intent or circumstances in the nature of their object.” (By the way, in magisterial documents on ethics, an act is said to have a ‘nature’, determined by its moral object, but this object is not said to have a nature, as Akin has it.) He rejects the teaching of the Magisterium that certain acts are immoral due to an evil moral object, apart from the intentions of the person who is acting and apart from circumstances. He obviously does not understand at all what a moral object is, nor does he understand why some acts are immoral by their very nature. And as a result of this ignorance, he explains intrinsically evil acts as if they were based on intention and circumstances. His heretical error is to deny that intrinsically evil acts are irremediably evil, in and of themselves, such that neither a good intention, nor dire circumstances could transform the act from intrinsically evil to moral. On a practical level, he does not accept the traditional doctrine on intrinsically evil acts and on the absolute prohibition of such acts.

The result of this error is a new type of proportionalism, which uses the term intrinsic evil to refer to acts, but interprets that term so that a change in intention, or a change in circumstances, can supposedly make the act no longer intrinsically evil. (Father Martin Rhonheimer makes much the same error.) Akin teaches this error to the faithful, and he seems to have been successful in convincing many persons to adhere to this material heresy.

The teaching of the Church on intrinsically evil acts is infallible under the ordinary and universal Magisterium. Therefore, the rejection of Akin’s teaching is a heresy, not merely a doctrinal error. See this article: The Dogma of Intrinsically Evil Acts

3. Heretical teaching on a grave matter of morals: contraception

Jimmy Akin’s teaching on contraception is entirely contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium on contraception

Modern Heresies on Contraception – A refutation of Jimmy Akin’s heretical errors on contraception and marriage.

Largely on the basis of a spurious claim about the meaning of the Latin text of Humanae Vitae, Akin claims that the Church has never taught that contraception is immoral outside of marriage. He narrows the teaching of the ordinary and Universal Magisterium against contraception only to the use of contraception within marriage. Here is my article refuting this false claim about the Latin text on contraception.

And here is my article proving that the Magisterium has condemned the use of contraception outside of marriage.

But it gets worse. On the basis of his heretical understanding of intrinsically evil acts, Akin further claims that the Magisterium, in teaching that contraception is intrinsically evil, has not even ruled out the use of contraception by married couples, if they do not have a contraceptive intention, or if they are in difficult circumstances. Akin claims that intrinsically evil acts are evil due to intention and circumstances, and so he teaches that a non-contraceptive intention might justify the use of contraception. This claim is a grave doctrinal error, which combines his heresy on intrinsic evil with his heresy on contraception. In addition, Akin claims that the principle of double effect might justify the use of contraception, within marriage in difficult situations, even though the Magisterium teaches that contraception is intrinsically evil. By the time that Akin is finished explaining contraception to his readers, he has utterly destroyed the entire teaching of the Magisterium on this topic, and he has justified the use of contraception both in marriage and outside of marriage.

4. Heretical teaching on a grave matter of faith: transubstantiation

Jimmy Akin’s teaching on transubstantiation utterly rejects:

the dogma of the Council of Trent that the substance of bread changes into the substance of the body of Christ, and the blood, soul, and Divinity become present by concomitancy, and that the substance of wine changes into the substance of the blood of Christ, and the body, soul, and Divinity become present by concomitancy.

Instead, he teaches the heretical idea that the substances of bread and of wine cease to exist, i.e. that they return to nothing (he even uses the words ‘ad nihilo’ and ‘annihilate’), and then the body, blood, soul, and Divinity of Christ become present, in their place, by what he calls multilocation.

Jimmy Akin’s heresy on Transubstantiation
More on Jimmy Akin’s heresy against the dogma of Transubstantiation

The very term, adopted by the Council of Trent — transubstantiation — refers to a transformation or change of the substance; hence, the ‘trans-‘ prefix used in the term for this dogma. The Church’s teaching on this point of dogma could not be more clear, and yet Akin teaches the contrary. And when his error is pointed out to him, he does not correct his public assertions on the subject.

Furthermore, IF any Catholic priest believes Jimmy Akin’s heretical teaching on transubstantiation, THEN that priest does not validly consecrate the Eucharist. In order for the consecration to be valid, the priest must intend to do what the Church does, and the Church intends a change of substance and concomitancy, not an annihilation of the substance plus multilocation.

More recently, Akin has asserted a new version of his heresy on transubstantiation:
Jimmy Akin’s new heresy on transubstantiation

5. Schismatic Error on Conciliar Anathemas

This next point falls more in the category of a schismatic error, rather than an heretical error. Akin claims that all of the anathemas issued by all of the Ecumenical Councils are now null and void. This claim is a schismatic error because it implies a rejection of Conciliar authority. These anathemas were issued by the authority of Ecumenical Councils, in conjunction with infallible teachings on matters of faith, morals, and salvation. A Conciliar anathema is essentially a proclamation that anyone who rejects a particular infallible teaching falls under a penalty of automatic excommunication. Every anathema also implies that the person is subject to a possible judgment of excommunication by a Bishop or the Holy See. (These are the two types of excommunication, 1. latae sententia, also called automatic excommunication, and, 2. ferendae sententia, meaning a brought judgment.)

But Akin nullifies all Conciliar anathemas [anathemata] by clever distortion and over-simplification. First, he explains that, in past times, the type of excommunication brought by a Bishop would be accompanied by a ceremony. Then he severely narrows his definition of anathema, so that it no longer refers to excommunication at all, but only to the ceremony that formerly accompanied a ferendae sententia type of excommunication. And since that ceremony is no longer used, he claims that there are no longer any anathemas in the Church, even ones issued in the past by Ecumenical Councils: “This means that nobody today is anathema in the sense that the term is used by councils….”

In effect, Akin is proclaiming that all past anathemas issued by any and all Ecumenical Councils are now null and void. This false claim is a severe schismatic error which could reasonably be anticipated to cause grave harm to many souls.

See my full explanation here: Anathema, Excommunication, and Heresy

6. Doctrinal Error on Infallible Definitions

Akin errs by claiming that “infallible definitions must be construed narrowly”. There is no such magisterial teaching; no Ecumenical Council has taught that infallible definitions must be interpreted narrowly.

Akin also makes the false claim that the infallibility of any teaching of the Magisterium depends on what is or is not manifestly evident to other persons (persons not exercising the Magisterium). “If it is manifestly evident that a particular proposition was intended then that proposition is defined infallibly. If it is not manifestly evident then it is not to be regarded as infallibly defined.” In effect, this transfers the power of infallibility from the Pope and the Bishops, to those person to whom a proposition would or would not be manifestly evident. Also, in all of the magisterial documents on infallibility, including the dogmatic definition of Papal Infallibility by the First Vatican Council and the Second Vatican Council’s discussion of all three types of infallibility, there is no assertion that an infallible teaching must be manifestly evident, under any interpretation of that phrase.

More on this topic in my post: When is a teaching infallible? Must all infallible teachings be manifestly evident?

Heresy on Confession in kind and number

Jimmy Akin’s latest attack on the infallible doctrines of the Roman Catholic Faith is on the topic of the Sacrament of Confession. He claims that the requirement to confess the number of times that an actual mortal sin was committed can be removed by extenuating circumstances. This claim directly contradicts the teaching of the Council of Trent and the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Canon Law. Akin has the audacity to first quote the relevant section of Canon Law, before making the baseless claim that this requirement is removed by extenuating circumstances.

Conclusion

Are these false accusations of heresy, as Akin claims? My accusations of heresy are based on Akin’s public teachings. The content of his assertions are clear and undeniable. I present a lengthy theological arguments to support each accusation of heresy, citing numerous magisterial documents. Akin has not replied with a theological argument to support his theological positions or to refute my accusations. I believe that my articles on this subject prove to the knowledgeable and faithful Catholic that Akin’s positions, on the points in question, are material heresy.

Is it uncharitable for me to accuse him of heresy? Akin has chosen to make public assertions about grave matters of faith, morals, and salvation. Therefore, his public teachings are subject to criticism, especially in the form of a theological argument. I am not accusing a person of privately believing a heresy, but rather of publicly teaching heresy. So a public accusation, proven by theological argument, is not unjust to Akin. Moreover, my articles warning the faithful about these grave doctrinal errors provide justice and charity to those souls who are being led astray by him. On the other hand, it is profoundly uncharitable for Akin to teach grave doctrinal errors to many souls, and to claim that these errors are the teaching of the Church. He is leading many souls astray from Christ, and I have a moral obligation to speak out against his errors.

Let me close by saying that, in my understanding, the false teachings of Jimmy Akin are neither subtle errors on advanced theological points, nor disagreements on open theological questions. Akin’s errors are severe doctrinal errors on fundamental teachings of the Church in matters of faith, morals, and salvation. These errors are of a type that one would expect from a new student or a new convert, or even from a Protestant who has not converted and is attacking the Catholic Faith. These are not the type of errors that one would expect from someone who presents himself as a teacher and leader among Catholics. Akin’s errors, considered as a set, indicate a profound ignorance of basic magisterial teaching on important doctrines of faith, morals, and salvation, a willingness to severely distort magisterial teaching, and an inability to form a sound theological argument on any topic. And yet this man presents himself as if he were a teacher of the Faith.

[Matthew]
{15:12} Then his disciples drew near and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees, upon hearing this word, were offended?”
{15:13} But in response he said: “Every plant which has not been planted by my heavenly Father shall be uprooted.
{15:14} Leave them alone. They are blind, and they lead the blind. But if the blind are in charge of the blind, both will fall into the pit.”

{23:13} So then: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! For you close the kingdom of heaven before men. For you yourselves do not enter, and those who are entering, you would not permit to enter.

Do any of these teachings of material heresy constitute formal heresy? Yes. In my opinion, Jimmy Akin has committed formal heresy against the dogma of transubstantiation; he has knowingly chosen to believe and teach heresy on the Eucharist, in clear, direct, and open opposition to infallible magisterial teaching. Therefore, by this sin of formal heresy, Jimmy Akin has fallen under the anathema of the Council of Trent, is automatically excommunicated, and has — by his own choice — departed from the Catholic Faith.

Akin may well also have committed formal heresy on the other subjects discussed in this article, including salvation, intrinsic evil, and contraception. And yet he continues to be “Senior Apologist” for Catholic Answers and a columnist/blogger for National Catholic Register. It is absolutely astounding that so many persons who openly teach abject heresy, can nevertheless retain their positions in Catholic institutions, including colleges, universities, and Catholic publications.

UPDATE: new articles on Akin’s errors concerning contraception: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and Bible translator
9 June 2011 (updated July 2011, Nov 2011, March 2012)

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