People have this idea that "heresy" (boo! hiss! hate-speech alert!) must consist of some sort of denial of a Catholic truth, as in "Jesus is not divine" or "Mary was not assumed into Heaven" and so on. That's understandable. Most heretical assertions do consist of denials of Catholic truth.
But the Code of Canon Law describes heresy more broadly: "Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt … about some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith." 1983 CIC 751. Notice? Obstinate doubt about matters requiring assent is also heresy.
Ed is talking, of course, about form Notre Dame president Fr. Theodore Hesburgh's comments in a Wall Street Journal article in which he said "I have no problem with females … as priests, but I realize that the majority of the leadership in the Church would."
Ed doesn't conclude that Fr. Hesburgh has committed heresy — perhaps because (he can correct me if I'm wrong) because John Paul II's authoritative teaching in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis ("I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful"), though explicitly proposed "that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance," falls a hair shy of an infallible definition? (Added: I'm not saying that the teaching hasn't been infallibly proposed. It has — by the ordinary magisterium. I'm just saying it hasn't been solemnly defined by the extraordinary magisterium.)
Of course, whatever level of magisterial authority has or hasn't been brought to bear, the teaching itself is either part of the divine deposit of faith or it isn't. If it is, then Fr. Hesburgh has declared that he "doesn't have a problem" with opposing the will of Christ and falsifying the sacraments. It may not meet the canonical definition of heresy, but I for one want to stick a little closer to following Christ and being conformed to his will than just not technically committing heresy.
I'll be honest. When you read stuff like this, I can't help wondering how someone who has any faith at all, who actually believes that this stuff is not just made-up but is actually divine in origin — the Church itself, the sacraments, the priesthood — could possibly be so cavalier about it.
Even if you think, or suspect, or are open to the possibility that, contrary to the firm teaching of JP2 and the basically unanimous witness of 2000 years of tradition, the reservation of ordination to men is actually rooted in human culture rather than the will of Christ, can you possibly be so sure of that that you blithely say "I have no problem with..."? Not "I have no problem with people asking the question..." or "I have no problem with the possibility that..." but simply "I have no problem with women priests," full stop?
How about married bishops, or lay celebrants of the Mass, or baptizing in the name of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva? Would Fr. Hesburgh have a "problem" with those? If so, why? Because they're foreign to our cultural heritage, or because divine reality impinges in some way on all of this stuff? If I sound scandalized, well, I kind of am. I can deal to an extent with differences of opinion about where the foundation is, but at some point if you keep digging I can't help wondering whether you think there's actually a foundation at all.
Mark Shea likes to sidestep the issue of defining torture by suggesting that if we aim at treating prisoners humanely, rather than fixating on where the line is and how far we can go without actually technically torturing them, we won't accidentally torture them. In a similar vein, if we aim at fidelity to the Church rather than fixating on where the line is and how far we can go without actually technically committing heresy, we won't accidentally commit heresy.
It's hard to disagree with Ed's conclusion:
I think that to dismiss, with evident contempt, any part of Catholic truth is wrong, but for a famous priest to do so in regard to the very point that has metastasized into more formal excommunications than any other modern misdeed is disgraceful.