A theological doctrine or system rejected as false by ecclesiastical authority, heresy is distinct from schism (where the schismatic severs himself from orthodoxy), in so far as a heretic may remain within the Church. Although condemnation of heretics is not now considered as a natural corollary to religious conviction in the Protestant religion, the Roman Catholic Church maintains a distinction between those who willfully and persistently adhere to doctrinal error and those who adhere to it because of their upbringing. The former inquisition has been democratized into the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The word heresy is derived from the Greek [hairesis] which meant an act of choosing, and came to mean a set of philosophical opinions. The term acquired a tone of hostility and condemnation when taken up by Christianity; the distinction between orthodoxy and heresy was first drawn by St Paul. From the 2nd century, the Church became increasingly aware of the need to test the heretical, and penalties at this time were usually confined to excommunication. After the 4th century, penalties included confiscation of property and exile. In the 12th century the death penalty was introduced and as was the Inquisition, increasingly an instrument of political repression with the advent of Protestantism.