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History and Theology of Grace

Chapter III

Powers and Limitations of Fallen Nature

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Man is a bundle of contradictions. Newman called him the strange composite of heaven and earth, cloaking corruption yet weakness mastering power. “What sort of freak then is man,” wrote Pascal, “How novel, how monstrous, how chaotic, how paradoxical, how prodigious! Judge of all things, feeble earthworm, repository of truth, sink of doubt and error, glory and refuse of the universe!” [1]

Over the centuries poets and philosophers have written at length on the paradox of human nature, at once glorious and hideous, capable of mystic union with God or of eating with swine in the parable. Depending on the mood or theme, we get representations of human idealism as in Virgil’s Aeneid or of human depravity as in Schopenhauer. Both aspects have their element of truth, and common experience shows that men are more complex than the simple definition, “rational animal,” would lead us to suspect.

This complexity is more than might be expected of joining spirit and matter in one being. It arises from two other sources, both above the grasp of mere reason: that man has been elevated not only above brute creation but raised to a destiny with God by grace, and that man is not now what he once was or that God originally intended him to be. He has been sublimated to a supernatural order by divine love, and debased himself by his own sin.

Faced with this mass of contradictions, Catholic theology has steered a middle course between so exalting humanity that, without grace, we could aspire to heavenly beatitude, and so depressing our nature that nothing is left but sin. To maintain this balance, the Church has had to defend the true mean against extremists on either side, beginning with the Pelagians for whom free will is the only grace a man needs, and ending, or rather continuing with those who despair of man’s ability of himself to know any truth or do any moral good.

Autonomy and Impotence

The adversaries’ position on the necessity of grace may be viewed either from the standpoints of either ultimate destiny or the obstacles that stand in the way. On the first level the stream of theories from Pelagius to Luther and Calvin has been remarkably constant. Man’s destiny as originally intended by God is not a gratuitous elevation to the supernatural order but a function of his nature, to which humanity had a legitimate claim.

But there the parallel ends. Pelagianism and classical Protestantism equally recognized the fact of original sin. Their estimate of the fall, however, and of the consequences it had on man’s efforts to reach heaven was radically different. Pelagius and his followers were theological optimists, who saw no serious results of Adam’s sin infecting the human family; the Reformers were dogmatic pessimists, for whom the fall of the first man meant the collapse of human nature and the loss of every intrinsic good. Between them historically, and beyond them to the present day, is a variety of theories on the powers and limitations of the mind, soul and will. All these theories can easily bewilder us unless we see them in their proper setting.

Pelagian Optimism.

In the extant writing of St. Augustine we have a detailed exposition of the doctrine of Pelagius, Caelestius and their disciples. He often quotes them verbatim and always clarifies their meaning, in spite of the deliberate ambiguity of these classic exponents of moral naturalism.

The Pelagians at first made no mention of grace but only stressed man’s native ability to keep all the commandments, to practice all the virtues, and to attain eternal life. “They are such enemies of the grace of God as to claim that a person can keep all the divine mandates without it, which, if true, makes useless the Lord’s words to us, ‘without me you can do nothing’.” [2]

Under pressure from Augustine and others, the critics of grace shifted ground, at least verbally. To avoid condemnation they pretended to admit the necessity of grace, which for them was nature itself and its endowment of free will. “I am not denying God’s grace,” Pelagius protested, “since I defend human liberty.” On which Augustine commented, “How clever, but transparent.” [3]

At this point they developed the famous set of distinctions between possibility, will and action. Realizing they had to make some compromise on grace, they held that the possibility of willing and doing good comes from God alone, since He gave us our nature and the faculties of choice and action. But the choice and action themselves are only from man, with no help from God. They proceed solely from our own free will and are of our own making.

Further pressed by the opposition to recognize grace as something distinct from the free will, the Pelagians began to speak of grace according to the Scriptures, as a composite of such gifts as the Law and sacred doctrine by which God assists human weakness to help us know what to do and what to avoid. They added the “grace” of the forgiveness of sin. Still later, the benefits of the virtues were noted and Jesus Christ was proposed as a model for us to imitate.

These admissible graces, however, were all external. A distinction was made between possibility and assistance to possibility. By possibility they understood nature itself, by assistance they meant the Law, doctrine, revelation, example of Christ, miracles and the like, to help us acquire and persevere in the justice of God. They were eloquent in extolling graces of this type, but equally clear that there was no question of absolute indispensability. “Their function is only to enable men more easily to accomplish through grace what they are commanded to do by their own free will.” [4]

Meanwhile, the controversy reached a critical stage. What finally led to the exposure of Pelagianism and its condemnation, after previous acquittal by Pope Zosimus, (A.D. 418) was the question of baptism. Under Roman inquiry, Celestius published a book in which he declared that infants should be baptized “according to the rule of the Church, and according to the meaning of the Gospel. For the Lord has determined that the kingdom of heaven (the Church) should only be conferred on baptized person.” But when he came to explain what this means he denied that infant baptism removes original sin.

We did not admit, however, that infants must be baptized for remission of sins, as though to affirm there is sin by transmission. This is very alien from the Catholic meaning, because sin is not born with a man; it is subsequently committed by man. For it is shown to be a fault, not of nature, but of the will. It is fitting, therefore, to confess this, lest we seem to make different kinds of baptism. Moreover it is necessary to lay down this preliminary safeguard, lest, by the occasion of its mystery, evil should be said to be conveyed to man by nature, before it had been committed by man - to the disparagement of the Creator. [5]

At first Pelagius was either afraid or ashamed to make the same blunt admission. Augustine compares the two men by saying the one (Celestius) was more open, the other more reserved; or, at any rate, that one was more candid and the other more astute. But eventually Pelagius supported his “more pertinacious” disciple and declared openly that “Everything good, and everything evil, on account of which we are either laudable or blameworthy, is not born with us but done by us. For we are born not fully developed, with a certain capacity for either conduct. We are procreated as without virtue, so also without vice. Previous to the action of our own proper will, that alone is in man which God has formed.” [6]

In these words the dogmas of both men were contained. Infants are born without the contagion of sin from Adam. He fell, no doubt, but “Adam’s sin was injurious to himself alone, and not to the human race.” [7] At worst he set a bad example which the opposite good example of Christ may be said to counteract.

A final nuance to the Pelagian theme, after Zosimus’ censure, was to admit the possibility of some kind of special illumination of the mind, without letting go of the major premise. That is the notion that we have, antecedent to grace, the natural capacity to do good, avoid sin, and even reach Christian perfection.

Cassian’s Compromise.

The Semi-Pelagian theory arose from an uncritical attitude towards St. Augustine, whose critique of Pelagianism seemed to have left no room for free will.

Basically the difficulty was rooted in a certain confusion of the natural and supernatural by the ascetic Cassian, who was no theologian and whose interests were wholly practical. He did not see why man cannot achieve at least something by his own power in the supernatural order. He never claimed, as did Pelagius, that man was healthy in the order of grace; but neither would he go along with Augustine to say he was absolutely dead. He preferred to speak of man as being sick.

Cassian was right to affirm the integrity of the human will; he was mistaken to conclude from this that man of himself (a semetipso) could achieve anything towards the Beatific Vision. [8] In a later context we shall examine more closely Cassian’s idea of what we can do naturally to dispose ourselves for sanctifying grace; here we wish to see mainly his basic principles and their relevance to man’s power of persevering in grace and dying in the same.

There was never any doubt for Cassian that grace is supernatural, interior and penetrates to the very soul. In this he differed completely from Pelagius. But grace in the Cassian system not so much intended to cause an act of the will, as to cause a perfect act of the will. In other words, the last word in the economy of salvation should be given not to grace but to man’s free will.

On the subject of predestination, Cassian insisted on God’s will to save all men; but he paid no attention to another, sobering aspect of the divine volition, God’s consequent will. The same Lord who sincerely wants all mankind to be saved does not in fact save all mankind. Augustine faced this issue squarely, in order, as he said, to abase human pride and defend the teachings of faith on the eternity of hell. Cassian, therefore, was led by his own premises to deny God’s special regard for the elect and reduce predestination to a mere prevision of merits.

In the Semi-Pelagian theory, just as an unbeliever can by his powers merit supernatural grace to start on the pathway to heaven, so by his natural effort he can merit and obtain those helps of grace needed to persevere and grow in divine friendship. By the same token, it was held that perseverance is doubly dependent on man’s freedom. He can merit grace remaining in the state of justification, and “no one receives such perseverance as he is not permitted to resist, but such as anyone may voluntarily weaken or nullify.” [9]

The fixed prejudice in Semi-Pelagianism was the inability to see that God by His efficacious will grants to some and not to others the gift of final perseverance. From God’s viewpoint, He equally wills the salvation of all men, which depends, in the last analysis, on them alone. To be consistent, it was even proposed that the grace of baptism is given to some and denied to other infants through a divine prevision of the futurible merits or demerits. From beginning to end, from the initium salutis to finalis perseverantia, the will takes the initiative; grace does no more than cooperate - - which is an inversion of man’s relation to God.

Medieval Perfectionism.

A strange form of Pelagianism arose in the late Middle Ages and has since been associated with two groups of semi religious groups, the Beghards and Beguines. The Beguines were members of certain sisterhoods, founded in the Netherlands in the twelfth century. They lived a quasi-monastic life of considerable austerity, but were allowed to hold private property and to leave the community and marry. Their male equivalents were the Beghards, who were usually weavers, dyers, or fullers. They had a common purse and no private property.

It is believed these communities derived their names from Lambert le Begue (the stammerer), a revivalist preacher who died in 1177 at Liege. They soon spread to France, Germany and elsewhere. Their main purpose was to engage in the corporal works of mercy, along with specified times of contemplation and prayer; yet they had no common rule, mother-house, or superior.

Pious, devoted to works of mercy, and highly influential in promoting medieval devotion to Christ’s humanity and passion, these lay religious at one time (in some localities) were characterized by erroneous ideas on grace and free will. Finally, in 1215, the Lateran Council took steps to curtail their spread by decreeing that henceforth no religious order might be founded except in conformity with those already existing. A century later they were condemned by the Council of Vienne (1311-1312) for holding that “a man is able to acquire in this life so much and such a degree of perfection that he becomes impeccable and incapable of growing any more in grace.” [10] The argument adduced was that otherwise a person could become holier than Christ if he kept growing in sanctity. Behind this strange notion was the belief that grace is a kind of ad hoc assistance we occasionally receive from God, instead of a perennial inflow that we need to remain in God’s love, let alone to grow in holiness and avoid even venial sins.

Protestant Origins.

The “black judgment” of the Reformers on human nature is common knowledge. It is impossible to read a page of Luther’s Commentary on Genesis or of Calvin’s Institutes without feeling we have entered a different atmosphere of religious thought. What is less obvious is the consistency of the Reformers’ position, in which the necessity of grace became an absolute at the expense of man’s volition; and yet fundamentally the need was based on a revival of the Pelagian thesis that Adam’s original possessions were part of his essential nature.

Basic to the Reformed theology of grace was the principle that original justice was due to human nature by a strict right of essence. “Original righteousness,” wrote Luther, “was part of man’s nature (originalem justitiam esse de natura hominis)”,[11] This cardinal principle is never lost sight of, and forms the keystone to other, better known, features of classic Protestantism.

As a logical consequence, when Adam fell and lost the righteousness he possessed, his nature became essentially corrupt and his faculties were intrinsically vitiated. Nothing in Reformation literature is more emphatically asserted against the “scholastic innovators” who misinterpreted revelation and the Fathers.

“See what follows,” urges Luther, “if you maintain that original righteousness was not a part of nature but a sort of superfluous or superadded gift. When you declare that righteousness was not a part of the essence of man, does it not also follow that sin, which took its place, is not part of the essence of man either?” If this were so, then “there was no purpose in sending Christ the Redeemer,” and what can be said that is more unworthy of a theologian?[12]

He was impatient with those “who speak of our depraved nature in the manner of the philosophers, as if it were not depraved.” As theologians, “let us maintain that the reason in men is most hostile to God.” Instead of making light of the depravity we acquired, “let us emphasize it. Then we shall both regret deeply this state of ours and have a profound longing for Christ, our Physician, who was sent by the Father to heal those evils which Satan brought upon us through sin.”[13]

John Calvin was equally explicit. His concern was less about exhorting people to absolute trust in God than showing men how helpless they are before the divine majesty. While the Institutes dwell on the same theme, the classic treatment is in Calvin’s commentary on Romans, where the apostle graphically portrays the condition of fallen man.

Let us, then, be agreed: that men are as they are here described not merely by the defect of the depraved custom, but also by depravity of nature. The reasoning of the apostle cannot otherwise stand.
First of all he strips man of all righteousness, that is, integrity and purity; then of understanding. Indeed, apostasy from God proves lack of understanding, for to seek Him is the first degree of wisdom. This lack, therefore, is necessarily found in all who have forsaken God. He adds that all have fallen away or become corrupt so that there is no one who does good.
Then he adds the shameful acts with which – once they have been let loose in wickedness – defile their very members. Finally he declares them devoid of the fear of God, to whose rule our steps ought to have been directed. If these are the hereditary endowments of the human race, it is futile to seek anything good in our nature. [14]

All a man’s actions are consequently sins. Melancthon, friend of Luther and principal author of the Augsburg Confession, left no doubt of the fact. “Granted there was a kind of constancy in Socrates, chastity in Xenocrates, and temperance in Zeno, they are not to be considered true virtues but vices. Yet Pelagians (that is Catholics) deny that the force of original sin was so grave that all the works of mankind, and every effort of man, are sins.” [15]

Given the postulate that man’s nature is totally estranged from God, the human will is necessarily held in bondage. Except for divine grace, everything it does is a sin. The Reformers did not question that we have volitional power, but they denied its freedom to choose anything but evil. “Because of the bondage of sin by which the will is held bound, it cannot move toward good, much less apply itself thereto.” Nevertheless, “the will remains, with the most eager inclination disposed and hastening to sin.” If we do any good, the whole reason is God and no credit to us. “Therefore simply to will is of man; to will ill, of corrupt nature; to will well, of grace.”

Lest there be any doubt on this crucial point, Calvin, following Luther and followed by all the Reformed school, compares the necessity of man’s sinning with the necessity of God’s goodness or the devil’s malice.

Now, when I say that the will bereft of freedom is of necessity either drawn or led into evil, it is a wonder if this seems a hard saying to anyone since it has nothing incongruous or alien to the usage of holy men. But it offends those who know not how to distinguish between necessity and compulsion. Suppose someone asks them: Is not God of necessity good? Is not the devil of necessity evil?
Therefore, if the fact that He must be good does not hinder God’s free will in doing good; if the devil, who can do only evil, yet sins with his will - who shall say that man therefore sins less willingly because he is subject to the necessity of sinning? [16]

This estimate of human nature was not changed when the Reformers allowed that, although a man sins in all that he does, yet in those who are justified, their sins are not imputed because they are covered by faith. Sins are verily imputed to the unjustified, so that all their actions are not only sinful, ex hypothesi, but deserve everlasting punishment of and by themselves because they are the fruits of a fallen will.

Baianist Prelude.

There is a direct link between the Reformation and Jansenism, in the person of Michael de Bay, who identified the original status of Adam with the natural order. The Flemish theologian saw Protestantism at first hand; he represented the University of Louvain at the Council of Trent, convened to meet the Reformation crisis; and he was perturbed over the complacent intransigence of other Catholics on the crucial subject of grace and fallen nature.

Shortly after his appointment to Louvain, he announced his two-fold aim. First, he would free dogma from all the foreign elements that the Scholasticism of the Middle Ages had introduced into it and that constituted the sole obstacle to the conversion of Protestants. Second, he would study the Catholic doctrine on grace in its true sources, not the anathemas against Pelagius, but in the Sacred Scriptures and the writing of the early Fathers.

According to de Bay, when man came from the hand of God he possessed perfect righteousness, which theology has called sanctifying grace, but which ought rather be called natural because it was Adam’s by right of nature. In fact, man is truly man only when he accomplishes works meritorious of heaven. So far Baius was teaching straight Protestantism. But then he added a clarification and a corollary. Our will has been ruined by concupiscence, and is capable of nothing but evil in the spiritual order. “All the works of infidels are (therefore) sins, all the virtues of the philosophers are vices.” [17]

Baius, like Luther and Calvin before him, went to St. Augustine to discover his doctrine. And like them he drew the same conclusions. It is true there are patristic texts, especially in Augustine’s strong anti-Pelagian writings, in which it is forcibly asserted that from the beginning man was called to eternal life and to a special order of morality which alone is proportioned to that sublime end. But Baius, like the Reformers, saw in these polemic statements a destiny not only of fact but of right. Hence his persistent refusal to admit the supernatural character of those primitive gifts to Adam and Eve: his Pelagian optimism on the psychology of fallen mankind.

Baianism was a prelude to Jansenism. It began with the principle that original justice was due to man by an exigency (demand) of his nature. When Adam fell he lost his pristine state and with it his free will. We no longer have freedom from necessity (internal liberty of indifference) but only from external coercion.

Then the important Baianist contribution. In place of the free will, there is a two-fold love necessarily attracting the will: a vicious love or the love of perfect charity; so that as long as charity does not rule, malicious cupidity takes over. In sinners, of course, charity does not rule and therefore all the words, thoughts, and actions of sinners are sins of and by themselves. To make sure he was not misunderstood, he said, “Whatever a sinner, or slave of sin does, is a sin,” and “negative unbelief,” that is, non-acceptance of the Gospel, “among those to whom Christ has not been preached is a sin.” [18]

Bringing infidels into the picture was not a sophism. Its purpose was to emphasize the essentially sinful condition of man’s will in and by itself, as exemplified in persons who have not been touched by the saving grace of Christ.

After Baius’ condemnation, he submitted formally to the Holy See, although his subsequent writings show that he never actually gave up his opinions. He died nine years later in the peace of the Church. His influence might have ended there, except for Jaques Janson, Baius’ successor at Louvain, who discovered and encouraged one of his young students, Cornelius Jansen, to carry on the work of the former university chancellor.

Conquering Delight.

How thoroughly devoted Jansenius was to the memory of Baius may be seen from the original name of his magnum opus, on which rests his sole title to fame. He was going to call it Baii Apologia, but later changed his mind to call it Augustine, seu Doctrina Sancti Augustini de Humana Naturae Sanitate, Aegritudine, Medicina Adversus Pelagianos et Massilienses. Every word is significant. The avowed function of the book was to defend the orthodoxy of Baius, and to reform Catholic theology on the subject of grace in the light of St. Augustine’s doctrine against the Pelagians and French (Marseilles) Semi-Pelagians. Since Jansenius shared the former chancellor’s dim view of human nature, the terms aegritudo and medicina are misleading, except in the sense that grace can supply what man had lost without restoring him to a supernatural goal to which he was never destined.

Jansenius’ treatise was not published until 1640, after his death as Bishop of Ypres, a commune in northwest Belgium. It was the fruit of a lifetime of cold research, mostly of St. Augustine whom Jansenius said he had read through ten times. His biographer declares that he saw an old armchair with one arm turned into a writing table. It was in this chair that Jansenius studied and almost lived, for he rarely went to bed. [19]

The logic of the Augustinus is perfect, beginning with its three-fold status of human nature: innocent, fallen and repaired, each so technical that the whole structure of Jansenism depends on every detail. Running as a theme through the book is a preoccupation with the human will in its different stages of relationship to God.

In the state of original innocence, according to Jansenius, Adam had real liberty of active indifference regarding good and evil, to enable him freely to choose to sin or serve God. Along with this liberty he received divine assistance, a sine-qua-non help to which his nature had a right and of which it had need for a composite of body and soul. However, Adam could receive or reject this assistance, which was subject to his will. In addition he possessed other gifts and the prospect of eternal life.

Once the first man fell, the whole of human nature was changed through concupiscence to become diffused in Adam’s posterity. All that we have left is liberty from external constraint, unless on some rare occasion we are physically coerced to do another’s bidding. Yet merit and demerit remain, since they do not require internal freedom but only liberty from compulsion. Parallel with this theory of freedom, Jansenius followed Baius in claiming that whatever is not heavenly charity is vicious cupidity, and charity cannot be had without the grace of Christ. Unless a man has this grace he sins in everything he does.

Finally and most subtly, in the state of restored nature, Christ did not restore to us the pristine liberty enjoyed by Adam. He gives grace instead, which consists in the delectability of heavenly charity which the Holy Spirit infuses in the heart, in opposition to the pleasurableness of cupidity. In other words, because of the fall the moral will is a passive faculty which always leans on the side where the weight of attraction is stronger. Thus we can be influenced by two contrary delights: an evil one that proceeds from concupiscence (whether sensual or spiritual), such as the longing for honors, riches, worldly enjoyments or, simply egoism; or a good delight that emanates from God as our first principle and last end. This latter is beyond the capacity of nature alone, i.e. to elevate itself to such a motive of action and to be influenced by it. Hence only grace can effect our being, thus moved by God, to have God as our source and final destiny.

Such is our lot as fallen men. If grace is given to the will, we act irresistibly; if grace is not given, concupiscence will fatally conquer. [20] Nor is this all. Jansenius also described a balance or kind of tension between the two delights (of grace or concupiscence) that constantly operate on the will. The heart of Jansenist theology is the concept of delectatio victrix (conquering delight). According to him, “we necessarily act according to that which more delights us.” [21] Consequently, if the attraction of grace is greater than the proposed enjoyment of cupidity, it infallibly prevails and draws the will to what is good. Then we receive what Jansen called magna gratia, which means a delectatio victrix or conquering delight. But if this attractiveness of grace is less (parva gratia) then it produces only sterile action and no fruit of moral good.

As a logical corollary, Christ must not have died for all men but leaves a large number as a massa damnationis. To others He gives small graces (gratiae parvae) which lead them to faith. On still others He confers the great graces that lead to justification. No one, however, receives sufficient grace to avoid all sins. Some divine precepts are simply impossible and no grace is given to render them possible.

On the same grounds, Jansenius called it Semi-Pelagianism to say that man can resist grace. Either he receives grace in the form of a conquering delight, or he does not receive it, except, perhaps, in that futile guise of a parva gratia. If the grace comes, he inevitably consents; if it fails to come, he sins with equal inevitability. Those for whom Christ died receive grace and they will be saved; the others do not receive grace, (which is always efficacious) and are consequently lost.

Reflexions Morales.

Where Jansenius was heavy and speculative, two of his disciples, Arnauld and Quesnel, had a consummate mastery of their native tongue and were eminently practical. Except for them Jansenism would very likely have remained an academic theory with small impact on the lives of people, or at least never have become so widespread or devastatingly popular. We shall see Antoine (the Great) Arnauld in a later context. Our present interest is with Pasquier Quesnel (1634-1713), the ex-Oratorian, whose writings precipitated a theological revolution.

Quesnel was educated by the Jesuits and at the Sorbonne. At twenty-three entered Berulle’s Oratory where he was given charge of the junior members of the congregation. In 1672 he published Abrege de la Morale de L’Evangile, with a laudatory preface by the Bishop of Chalons-Sur-Marne. Its later editions, expanded and revised, became famous under the title Le Nouveau Testament en Francais, Avec des Reflexions Sur Chaque Verset, usually abbreviated to Reflexions Morales. As against the formalized methods of spirituality in the manuals, the work emphasized the close study of the Scriptures in order to grow in perfection.

Three years later he published a scholarly edition of the works of St. Leo the Great which, however, was placed on the Index owing to the Gallican theories developed in the footnotes. All the while Quesnel also favored Jansenism, though in company with his colleagues in religion he had signed the formula of Alexander VII three or four times. On account of his Jansenism he left the Oratory in 1685, but still continued to describe himself as “Priest of the Oratory.” In 1703 he was imprisoned by the Archbishop of Malines on orders from Philip V, but escaped to Holland. His subsequent life was filled with defenses of himself and the Reflexions which, commended by the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Noailles, went through many editions; but was condemned by Clement XI in 1708, and five years later by the same pontiff in the dogmatic Constitution, Unigenitus.

Quesnel never accepted the condemnation, and though he asked for and received the last sacraments, he appealed (against a papal prohibition) to a future general council for his vindication.

The Reflexions are saturated with the ideas of Jansenius, though the author avoids identifying himself with them too openly. Jansenius’ five propositions are hardly ever found in unequivocal form, but in the shape of brief comments, short prayers and reflections he links with the text of the New Testament maxims for the spiritual life derived from the thought of his master. St. Augustine is frequently quoted and so woven into the format that the characteristic edges and corners of Jansenism are well disguised.

Thus from Jansenius’ assertion on the irresistibility of grace there follows that sinners and pagans who have not been truly converted are wholly forsaken by grace and antecedently predestined for damnation. Quesnel offers this in such a way that most people would miss its appalling harshness. Again he casually mentions that faith is the “first grace,” or that forgiveness of sins is the “first grace” bestowed by God on the sinner; so that logically the unconverted sinner or pagan has never received grace of any kind, otherwise true faith and conversion would no longer be the first grace.

Constantly throughout the Reflexions, Quesnel proclaims that without grace, meaning efficacious grace as understood by Jansenius, man is utterly helpless to do any good. But his thesis is shrouded behind seemingly harmless and edifying expressions. Basing himself on St. Augustine, he prays, “In vain you command, O Lord, unless you give us to do what you command.” Or “assuredly, O Lord, all things are possible for him for whom you make them possible by Yourself working them in him.” He describes grace as “an effect of the all-Powerful hand of God, which nothing can hinder or restrict.”

Consistent with his master’s teaching, Quesnel upholds the claim that God’s salvific will extends effectively only to the elect; but here, too, he avoids crude expressions. In a note on Luke 5:13, for example, he says, “When God is willing to save a soul and touches it interiorly with the hand of His grace, no human will resists Him.”

Individual statements, out of context, often had an orthodox sound to them. But when the Reflexions repeated the same idea in varied terms, the average reader would certainly be affected by this unqualified Jansenism. What complicated the issue and did much to foster Quesnel’s ideas among the faithful was the Gallican policies of the French king and parliament. Their comprising attitude on papal authority favored the spread of a theory on man’s impotency that would otherwise have remained where it originated, in the churches of the Reformation.

The general impression of Quesnel is that he did not advance the Jansenist theses beyond Jansenius, but only slightly modified them and reduced their application to the realm of morals and spirituality. Actually Quesnel went beyond his preceptor by advocating a new concept of the Church, outside of which he said no grace is received. The Church in his vocabulary was not the visible, hierarchical society subject to the Holy See.

The characteristic mark of the Christian Church is that it be Catholic, comprehending all the angels of heaven, and all the elect and just of the earth and of all ages.
What is the Church except the assembly of the children of God abiding in His bosom, the adoptive ones of Christ, subsisting in His person, those redeemed by His blood, living with His spirit, acting by His grace, and awaiting the gift of the future life.
The Church, or the whole Christ, has the Word Incarnate as Head and all the saints as members.
Nothing is more extensive than the Church of God; because all the elect and all the just of all ages compose it. [22]

Accordingly, since only the elect or predestined are members of the Church, “No grace is given outside the Church.” If it were, grace would not be infallibly efficacious; it could be resisted by a free will that was still fundamentally sound. Quesnel’s dilemma, therefore, was either to admit that not only the predestined belong to the Church, but also persons who received the gift of faith but willfully failed to cooperate with divine grace - which undermines a cardinal principle of Jansenism; or restrict the Church to the elect and equate its members with those who receive grace - while excluding simultaneously the non-predestined from church membership and God’s efficacious grace from those who are not pre-destined.

Synod of Pistoia.

In spite of repeated condemnations, Jansenism not only continued in existence but spread to other countries outside of Holland, Belgium and France. Under pressure from Louis XIV, Jansenius’ great apostle, Antoine Arnauld, took refuge in Holland, where his followers were supported by the sympathetic Calvinist government. They elected one of their number, Cornelius Steenhoven, to the episcopate, and had him receive consecration from a Catholic bishop at that time under suspension. The schismatical sect established a diocese at Haarlem in 1742, and their organization, known as the Old Roman Catholic Church (De Oud-Roomsch-Katolieki Kerk), has survived to the present day.

Another and more significant group of Jansenists was established in Italy. Here the movement was along aristocratic rather than popular lines, as in France. Consequently its impact on the masses was less effective. Clerics in the highest ranks of society in Italy either openly or sympathetically espoused the principles of Jansenius and Arnauld. Among these, the most famous was Scipione de Ricci, nephew of the last Jesuit General before the suppression of the Society, and subsequently Bishop of Pistoia.

Born at Florence in 1741, he died in the same city in 1809, having ruled the diocese of Pistoia from 1780 until his forced resignation in 1791. Although related to the Jesuit General, Ricci conceived a hearty dislike for the Society already in his student days in Rome, where he came under the influence of Jansenist sympathizers. Returning to his native city, he wrote and spoke openly in favor of the Jansenists in France and Holland, and within a year of his ordination was publicly expounding Jansenius’ doctrine on grace. Not long after his elevation to the See of Pistoia, he joined the Grand Duke of Tuscany in an overt attempt to Jansenize the dioceses under his jurisdiction, if need be at the cost of severance from Rome.

Ricci’s extant sermons breathe the unmistakable spirit of Jansenius. It is a principle of faith, he held, that very few adults will be saved. Priests must ever keep this fact before the minds of the people, in order to draw them away from evil and move them to salutary repentance. Consequently, it is contrary to this established truth to give absolution freely or admit to Holy Communion the majority of penitents.

The climax in Ricci’s effort to reform his diocese was reached at the Synod which opened at Pistoia on September 18, 1786, in the Church of St. Leopold, under the presidency of the bishop. There were 234 participants, including 171 parish priests and thirteen religious. The theologian Tamburini, known for his Jansenism, was appointed “promoter” of the Synod. As Ricci remarked in his memoirs, Tamburini was to be “the leading spirit in this movement against “the old machine of papal monarchy.” [23] After ten days of session, the Synod published its decrees which, together with the Acts of the Council, fill two volumes in the modern edition.

In his correspondence with the Jansenist Church in Holland, Ricci expressed the hope of a similar establishment in Italy. Fortunately for the Catholic future of that country, this full flowering of Italian Jansenism was not supported by Ricci’s fellow bishops in Tuscany; only two out of sixteen are known to have been in sympathy with his ideas. He was also opposed, with violence, by the Tuscan laity. With his innovations, Ricci had outraged the most sacred sentiments of the people. They gave full vent to their fury, which did not subside until Ricci had taken flight. When the cathedral chapter joined the popular demonstration, the bishop had no choice but to resign, which he did on June 3, 1791.

Efforts were made to forestall a formal condemnation of the Synod of Pistoia, but Pius VI, “to fulfill his apostolic and pastoral duty,” caused eighty-five tenets to be cited from the records and decrees, each one to be censured separately to avoid any possible misunderstanding. On August 28, 1794, the Pope issued the Constitution, Auctorem fidei, incorporating the cited passages and corresponding censures.

Among the synodical declarations of Pistoia was a series taken almost bodily from the Augustinus and the Reflexions. One especially stressed the familiar distinction between the two kinds of grace, the small and the large, with a new touch that was absent in the older Jansenists.

The light of grace, when alone, only serves to make us aware of our unhappy state and of the gravity of our sin. In such cases grace produces the same effect which the Law (of the Old Testament) produced. God must, therefore, create a holy love in our heart and inspire a holy delight contrary to the love that is dominant in me. This sacred love and delight is, properly speaking, the grace of Jesus Christ and the inspiration of charity, by whose light we act with a holy love. This is the root from which good works are germinated. This is the grace of the New Testament that liberates us from the slavery of sin and constitutes us sons of God. [24]

The involved diction and preoccupation with a divine love that displaces self are typically Jansenist. Only one form of God’s action on the soul was a grace, they held: that which makes us do good (facit ut faciamus). It is not really a grace if the Holy Spirit merely touches the heart of man by His illumination and inspiration, leaving us the option of resisting His touch if we will.


Not long after Pistoia, another form of doctrinal depreciation of man’s nature arose in France and Belgium. Commonly known as Traditionalism, its main tenet was the assertion that all spiritual, moral and religious knowledge is based on a primitive revelation of God to man handed down in an unbroken tradition. Its origins were theologically based on the Reformation, since human reason was denied the power of attaining by itself to any truths, especially those of natural theology: it made divine faith in a revealed tradition the source of all religious knowledge. Historically it was a reaction against eighteenth century Rationalism in the direction of the other extreme. Where the Rationalists claimed that reason was alone capable of all truth, the Traditionalists pointed to the debacle in religion and philosophy which this arrogance produced; they said the opposite - reason of itself is incapable of any truth.

Among its chief advocates were L.G.A. de Bonald (1754-1840) and F.R. de Lammenais (1782-1854), whose four volumes Essai sur 1’indifference en matiere de Religion was most influential. In order to restore belief to the modern world the traditionalists aimed at removing it from discussion by individual reason and at imposing it by the authority of the common consent (sens commun) of mankind. Lammenais invested this common agreement with infallibility. He made submission to authority, proximately to human institutions but ultimately to God the revealer, fountainhead of man’s knowledge.

Without authority there is no existence, no truth, and no order. Principle and rule of our thoughts, affections and duties, authority reigns supreme over the soul which, in turn, lives only by faith, and which dies the moment it ceases to obey. Not to listen to the voice of authority is to know nothing, to understand nothing. Man’s intellect has no other foundation, no other source of certitude, no other basis than the great testimony which originally came from God himself, the infinite, unchangeable, and all-pervading wisdom. [25]

The tragic irony of de Lammenais’ exaltation of authority over reason was that he ended his life by repudiating the Church’s authority and denying such basic Christian mysteries as the divinity of Christ, eternal punishment and the supernatural order. He carried to their conclusion the premises which underly Traditionalism: a despair of man’s nature that postulates a denial of his elevation by grace and a concept of grace that means only an extrinsic remedy for human depravity.

Not all Traditionalists were so extreme. Modified forms of the doctrine were held by L.E.M. Bautain (1796-1867), A. Bonnetty (1798-1879), and G.C. Ubaghs (1800-1875). Gerhard Ubaghs was the chief representative of the Traditionalist Ontologism of Louvain. Professor of philosophy and later editor of the Revue Catholique, Ubaghs expounded a mitigated Traditionalism according to which the knowledge of metaphysical and moral truths is based on a primitive divine revelation handed on by oral tradition. This teaching he combined with the Ontologist doctrine of the direct contemplation of God by the intellect in the “objective ideas,” not unlike Calvin’s notion of the indwelling Spirit who teaches us now as He once taught the prophets of the Old Law.

Ubaghs and the Louvain school departed from Fideism (rigid Traditionalism) in not requiring divine revelation as the unique cause of our knowledge of all suprasensible realities. For them it was only a necessary condition. But they were at one with the Fideists in denying to the mind, without supernatural illumination, the power to know the truths of natural religion. Reading Ubaghs, one gets the impression of a religious mind that seeks to exalt God at the price of depressing man.

We cannot attain to the knowledge of any external metaphysical truth, such, namely, as pertains to anything which does not come under our senses, without first having received instruction from someone else, and, in the last analysis, without divine revelation.
External metaphysical truths cannot be demonstrated in the strict sense of the word.
The existence of God can never be demonstrated. We deny that the existence of God can be demonstrated.
Proofs for the existence of God are in the final analysis a kind of faith, or are founded on faith, by which we believe rather than understand. In other words, we are naturally persuaded that this idea is to be believed, although we cannot conclude it from mere intrinsic evidence. [26]

Traditionalism was condemned in several documents: de Lammenais in two Encyclicals, Mirari Vos Arbitramur (1832) and Singulari Nos Affecerunt Gaudio (1834). Ubaghs was censured by the Congregation of the Index in 1843; he submitted and soon after resigned his post at Louvain.

Centrality of Sin.

It is well to know that the Reformation estimate of human nature as a Massa damnata is not a historical relic. The notion that by the fall man did worse than injure his faculties because he lost the gift of integrity, that he debased his very nature, is more prevalent in modern thought than appears to the casual observer. A sign of its prevalence is the stature and acceptance of Reinhold Niebuhr, widely acclaimed to have been America’s greatest theologian of the present century.

Until his retirement in 1960, Niebuhr was for more than thirty years professor of Christian Ethics, then dean and finally vice-president of Union Theological Seminary. A shelf of sixteen books, including the monumental Nature and Destiny of Man, suggest some of his influence in shaping what critics have called a system of theological pragmatism, but which others insist is a blessed amalgam of religious ultimacy and vigor in dealing with social problems.

More than one commentator believes that the central, overwhelming idea of Reinhold Niebuhr is sin. Perhaps the general impression was best stated by a friendly critic who said that in spite of Niebuhr’s “profound sense of comprehensiveness of Christianity,” he has been guilty of overemphasizing sin in his reaction to modern sentimental versions of the Christian faith. Concerned over the neglect of man’s fallen nature, he is so busy rehabilitating this fact that other and equally important aspects of Christianity suffer from underemphasis.

In existential terms he defines sin as the unwarranted human claim to finality. “Man is mortal. That is his fate. Man pretends to be not mortal. That is his sin.” The variety of forms which this pretense assumes is myriad. Will to power and lust of the flesh are only generic names for a malady that infects even the noblest of man’s actions.

Pride, he explains, may be individual or collective. On the individual level it may be a thirst for domination exhibited in those who already enjoy social security and those who wish they did. When social forms persuade men they are secure, an incredible blindness to their finite nature overcomes them. Tyrants and dictators fondly imagine they are exempt from the common laws of suffering and death. Those who are socially insecure show their lust for power under the guise of a laudable search for security. It is the sin of those who, knowing themselves to be insecure, seek sufficient power to guarantee their security, inevitably at the expense of other life.

Less obvious but equally sinful is pride of intellect, found in those who pretend they are in possession of the final insight into truth. “Intellectual pride is thus the pride of reason which forgets that it is involved in a temporal process and imagines itself in complete transcendence over history.” [27] The mind begins innocently enough, in the pursuit of knowledge. But soon it goes beyond this modest aim and ends by saying that a final system of truth has been reached.

Moral pride is the pretension of finite man that his highly conditioned and imperfect virtue is the final righteousness, and that his very relative moral standards are absolute. The conflict which Jesus had with the Scribes and Pharisees is a classic example. They refused to submit to the test of divine law, preferring to set their own moral security independently. Being most subtle, the pride of morality is also the most vicious. Self-criticism and tolerance are unknown. “The whole history of racial, national, religious and other social struggles is a commentary on the objective wickedness and social miseries which result from self-righteousness.” [28]

At the acme of wickedness stands spiritual pride, which not only claims to possess final truth and virtue, but identifies these possessions with the will of God. Other prides are only means which lead to this quintessential form, when the individual leaps out of himself and brazenly claims self-deification. The zenith is reached when “our partial standards and relative attainments are explicitly related to the unconditioned good, and claim divine sanction. [29]

Since the social unit is formed of many individuals, the nature of collective pride remains the same. The group is more arrogant, hypocritical, self-centered and more ruthless in the pursuit of its ends than the individual. For one thing, the collectivity can more easily mask individual pretensions; it also tends to favor the outlook of the most aggressive and dominant members of society who, by definition, are the most proud.

Niebuhr singles out for special mention the Catholic idea of natural law. The purpose of the natural law, as he sees it, is to define for the free individual the proper performance of his functions, the normal harmony of his impulses and the normal social relation between himself and his fellows within the limits of the natural order. Yet there is no easy way to decide what, if anything, should be included in natural law. There are too many possibilities of man’s involvement in a limitless number of circumstances. Niebuhr makes no effort to catalogue what the law of nature prescribes, or even to state its basic elements. [30]

Instead he castigates all forms of finality on the content of the moral law, with stress on the Catholic pretension to fix the limits of man’s duties to God. The roots of this fixation, he says, reach back into the medieval theory of the Fall and its tenuous distinction between pure nature and the additional gifts of grace. “The primary mistake of Catholic theory is precisely the sharp and absolute distinction which it makes between the two. It speaks of an original righteousness which was lost in the Fall and a natural justice which remains essentially uncorrupted by the Fall.” [31]

His distrust of reason makes him impatient with any system of ethics which pretends to be fundamentally rational.

The sin of man perennially insinuates contingent and relative elements into the supposedly absolute standards of human reason. Undue confidence in human reason, as the seat and source of natural law, makes this very concept of law into a vehicle of human sin. It gives to the peculiar conditions and unique circumstances in which reason operates in a particular historical moment the sanctity of universality. The confidence of medieval Catholicism in the ability of an unspoiled reason to arrive at definitive standards of natural justice thus became the very vehicle of the sinful pretensions of the age. The social ethics of Thomas Aquinas embody the peculiarities and the contingent factors of a feudal-agrarian economy into a system of fixed socio-ethical principles. [32]

Niebuhr believes that all so-called natural or rational standards of morality are involved in sin. “There is no uncorrupted natural law,” and the only effect of claiming the contrary is to raise “ideology” to a higher degree of unreality, while it illustrates the force of sin in the pretense of sinlessness.

Catholic Middle-Ground

Since the dawn of Pelagianism to the present day the Church has consistently veered a middle course between the two shoals of despairing of man’s native powers because of the fall, or ignoring original sin and so exalting human nature that nothing is supposed to be impossible to man.

There is no set pattern to the rise of these contrary tendencies. They are always in evidence. Broadly speaking, however, they seem to follow a dialectic form where one emphasis, in theory or practice, evokes another of the opposite kind.

Thus Pelagianism in the early Church revolted against the complacency of those who so relied on grace as to ignore the correlated demands of the will. Semi-Pelagianism reacted against the polemic rhetoric of St. Augustine, which the zealous monks of Marseilles mistook for a threat to man’s liberty. In the early Renaissance the growing disregard for sound morals among the clergy and civil authorities provoked criticism of the Church among the Waldenses, Lollards and Hussites that exploded in the Reformation and placed all the emphasis on grace to the obscuration and denial of man’s freedom.

Since the Reformation, every major adversative position on grace in Christian thought has been deeply influenced by the classic Protestant thesis of man’s total depravity. Still extant in dominant areas and propounded by such leaders as Karl Barth, it directly occasioned Kantianism, which was nominally rationalistic, but actually despaired of man’s intellect to understand the noumena of things; it indirectly provoked the Enlightenment that went to the other extreme of extolling the mind and making reason, without grace and even without God, the measure of all truth; it helped to shape Jansenism and Traditionalism; the one postulating grace as a substitute for freedom in mastering concupiscence, the other making revelation replace reason in acquiring any knowledge.

At the present time, both extremes are still prevalent, of absolute self-sufficiency in modern secularism, and of near despair in the existentialism of Camus and Sartre - with satellite positions on either side that affect every aspect of human thought and behavior.

Few aspects in the Catholic doctrine on grace are more relevant to contemporary life and problems than the Church’s teaching on the powers and limitations of the mind to know truth and the will to do good. If divine guidance is needed in any field of knowledge, it is imperative in these fundamentals, because the whole structure of Christian faith and morality and, in fact, human society ultimately rests on them.

It seems best to dispense here with the strictly historical sequence of ecclesiastical documents and rather follow a more logical order: examining first the positive capacities of human nature, what can be done without grace or revelation, and then the negative limit of these powers, where the fallen state of man requires divine assistance.

Substantial Integrity of Mind.

Experience and authority suggest that man’s intellect has been terribly if not completely darkened by some primordial fall. Pascal’s graphic description is a fair picture of what the natural man is often tempted to paint. “I know not who put me into the world, nor what the world is, nor what I myself am, I am in terrible ignorance of everything. I know not what my body is, nor my senses, nor my soul, not even that part of me which thinks what I say, which reflects on all and on itself, and knows itself no more than the rest.” [33]

The early Reformers were not always consistent in denying man’s ability to know religious truth. In one place Calvin wrote “there is within the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity.” [34] Elsewhere in the same Institutes he was more logical. “We are drunk with the false opinion of our own insight and are thus extremely reluctant to admit that it is utterly blind and stupid in divine matters.” This means that “flesh is not capable to know God and what is God’s, unless it be illumined by the Spirit of God.” [35]

Yet the Council of Trent did not explicitly go into the question, perhaps because in Reformation times the great need was to defend freedom of the will in its encounter with God’s grace, and because the Reformers sometimes rose above their own principles; they preached total depravity but when it suited their needs were willing to compromise on the extent of its effects.

Not until the rise of Rationalism and its reactionary Traditionalism do we have a series of intense Church documentation on the subject. The problem raised by Traditionalists was the delicate one of the relation of faith to reason. If, as they claimed, man’s mind is naturally so darkened it cannot of itself know any religious truth but depends for everything on a primitive revelation, what if someone should challenge our Christian faith and demand evidence that Christianity is true? Are there no rational grounds for accepting the Christian revelation in preference over the Hindu or Mohammedan? If there are not, then one religion is as good as another, or at least we have no way of knowing which supposedly revealed religion, if any, is true.

This explains the Church’s preoccupation with establishing the mind’s competence to know what are called the preambles of faith, namely, those verities on which the credibility of the Christian revelation depends.

In 1840 Louis Bautain was required to subscribe to the thesis that: “Even though reason was rendered weak and clouded by original sin, it still has a sufficiently clear power of perception to lead us with certitude to the knowledge of the existence of God and to the revelation given to the Jews through Moses, and to the Christians through our adorable God-man.” [36]

Six years later, Pius IX came back to the same issue, stressing in his Encyclical Qui Pluribus the endowment of mind left intact by the Creator to allow us sufficient grounds for making a rational acceptance of faith. In fact, the obligation to inquire into Christian revelation when presented rests on this prior sufficiency of intellect, which can also recognize the dignity of submitting itself in faith to the infinite mind of God. [37]

Shortly after, Augustine Bonnetty’s writings were censured and he was ordered to accept several propositions similar to Bautain’s, except more detailed. “The reasoning process,” it was declared, “can prove with certitude the existence of God, the spirituality of the soul, and the freedom of man. Faith is subsequent to revelation and, one cannot validly appeal to it against atheism to prove the existence of God nor against a disciple of naturalism and fatalism to prove the spirituality and freedom of the rational soul.” [38] By implication, the unbeliever has sufficient intelligence to have these truths proved to him rationally. So that for all men, “the use of reason precedes and with the help of revelation and grace leads man to the same.” [39]

On the eve of the First Vatican Council and incorporated into its official Acta was a decree of the Council of Cologne (1860) that spelled out in detail all the essential elements in the Catholic teaching on the mind’s innate capacity for truth.

We declare that just as the will is able to perform certain good works, so also the intellect of fallen man can understand, with certitude and of its own resources, certain truths which pertain to natural religion, notably the existence of God. For the Apostle teaches regarding the gentiles that God, surely the true God as distinct from the world, can be known and was known from the natural manifestations through created things, and that the gentiles were to have given Him thanks. There was no question of a doubtful or uncertain knowledge; since what is manifested and what the intellect perceives is obviously most certain. Hence St. Augustine with other holy Fathers clearly teaches that some knowledge of God, commonly called natural religion, is produced by nature. [40]

The First Vatican Council canonized this doctrine by comparing the two modes of knowledge open to us by the author of Creation, the one natural and the other supernatural. After declaring that God created heaven and earth and governs all things by His providence the Council affirmed: “The same holy Mother Church holds and teaches that God, the origin and end of all things, can be known with certainty by the natural light of human reason from the things He created; for since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood through the things that are made!” [41] Then follows an anathema against those who should hold the contrary. [42]

In 1910, during the heyday of Modernism, St. Pius X drafted an oath which was recited annually in all Catholic seminaries, attesting that God’s existence is knowable by the natural light of reason (naturali rationis lumine) from the visible effects in creation. The knowledge is certain and even demonstrative on scientific grounds. [43]

Theologians further refine the nature of this knowledge and the character of man’s power to acquire it. They say it comprehends certain natural truths, including those that have to do with God and the moral law, though necessarily the scope and depth of understanding differ with different persons. “Some truths to some extent” is a simple, if not very precise, formula commonly used. We cannot, of course, make this comprehension too accurate or its possession too certainly convincing, otherwise there is risk of obscuring the moral necessity of revelation, also defined by the Vatican. Yet the function of revelation regarding natural truths must never be absolute. Its purpose is not to supply what could otherwise not be secured, but to expand in amount and clarity of knowledge, intensify in subjective certitude, correct in objective truth, and facilitate in acquisition.

By saying the mind can come to this minimal understanding, theology explains that both the external grace of revelation and the internal graces of the Holy Spirit are dispensable, without denying they may be present. The point is this. Our minds are not so debilitated by hereditary sin that they cannot know anything in the suprasensible order without remedial grace from God. On our part the capacity is not only physical, because we still have a mind, but also moral, in that the obstacles to such elementary knowledge are not so great that scarcely anyone overcomes them.

Native Capacity of Will.

If man’s nature were totally corrupt, his incapacity in things spiritual would span both faculties of mind and will. Historically the will was first impugned and the whole atmosphere of the Counter-Reformation was colored by this concern, to vindicate man’s ability, minus grace, to accomplish some spiritual good.

Several items complicate the issue. Catholic tradition has never questioned the weakening effects of original sin on the human will. In fact, St. Thomas believed these effects were more grave than on the mind. “Human nature,” he said, “has been more infected by sin in its appetite for good than as regards its knowledge of truth.” [44]

Moreover, as normally found in the manualists, it seems a purely academic question whether infidels and sinners can perform any naturally good acts. The manuals simply follow the declarations of the Church. These in turn were conditioned by the theories of the Reformers, de Bay and the Jansenists. Though put speculatively in the documents, the issue behind the censured theories was anything but speculative. It centered uniquely on the highly practical question of whether man’s freedom remains intact after the fall. By supposition, infidels and sinners were assumed to be without habitual grace, the first with none and the second without infused charity.

Can such people do anything morally good, or is every act they perform sinful? If not all of their actions are sinful, their wills are not wholly vitiated; if all they do is a sin, their nature must be essentially estranged from God.

The Reformers had a very dim view of man’s condition after the fall. What is less familiar is their thematic insistence that all the deeds of sinners are themselves additional sins. This had special reference to the acts of faith, hope and sorrow that the Catholic religion had always taught were necessary predispositions for the reception of sanctifying grace. Since in the Reformation system justification of a sinner is entirely God’s work, and man’s contribution is nil, whatever he does before being justified is sinful, even though ostensibly he performs acts of virtue or piety.

It is instructive to know that John Huss (1371-1415), the Czech Reformer, anticipated Luther and Calvin by over a century. His grievance was not unlike theirs: prelates and civil rulers who were not leading edifying lives. To deprive them of authority he hit on the idea of identifying their right to govern with the possession of grace. A sinful bishop or king, therefore, need not be obeyed. The Council of Constance condemned Huss and later had him burned at the stake. Among the censured opinions was one on the perfect disjunction between two kinds of acts.

The proximate division of human actions is as follows: they are either virtuous or vicious, because if a man is bad, then whatever he does is vicious; but if he is good, then whatever he does is virtuous. For just as vice, which is called a crime or mortal sin, universally infects the actions of a bad man, so virtue animates all the acts of a man who is virtuous. [45]

The canons of the Council of Trent are crisp in their clarity on the exact point at issue raised by the Reformers. They outlawed every theory which calls into question the power of the will to prepare itself for God’s sanctifying grace, claiming that “all works performed,” for example through faith or with actual grace, nevertheless “are truly sins or merit God’s hatred; or that the more zealously a person strives to dispose himself for grace, the more grievously he sins.” [46] Similar anathemas were leveled at anyone who calls it sinful to fear hell-fire or make an act of imperfect contrition as motives for humble repentance. [47]

Jansenism, whether in its prelude under Baius or development through Quesnel, also held to the same theory, although somewhat refined. Unless a man has the Christian faith and operates under the influence of charity, whatever he does is sinful. A statement censured by Rome as late as 1690 indicates that Jansenism was in the full stream of the Reformed tradition on the status of sinners before God. [48]

However, the main interest of the Jansenists was more sophisticated. In the state of repaired nature, they held, Christ did not restore to man his former liberty of will, but gives him grace instead. This efficacious drawing to the good (conquering delight) is not given to unbelievers, in whom concupiscence dominates. That is why whatever they do is automatically sinful.

We have already seen Baius’ proposition, censured in 1567: “that all the works of infidels are sins.” [49] A like statement occurs in the catalogue of Jansenist opinions proscribed under Alexander VIII, that “an unbeliever necessarily sins in every action he performs.” [50] But the most detailed exposition of Jansenism in its attitude towards those who lack the faith occurs in the dogmatic Constitution of Clement IX in 1713, which was a hundred and fifty years after Baius first came into conflict with St. Pius V.

A remarkable feature about the whole controversy was the Church’s position on St. Augustine, to whom Reformers and Jansenists appealed for all their arguments. Augustine was never censured. He was, in fact, quoted by ecclesiastical authorities in support of Catholic doctrine. To understand this paradox it is necessary to see the patristic tradition before and after Augustine, and between East and West.

Before Augustine’s time, the Greek and Latin Fathers spontaneously recognized that pagans were quite capable of placing morally good actions, though without too clearly distinguishing whether these were done by natural powers alone or also with actual grace. The Greek tradition was so strong it may sound (without being) almost Semi-Pelagian. “We must first select the good,” wrote St. John Chrysostom, “and then God adds what pertains to His office. He does not act antecedently to our will, so as not to destroy our liberty.” [51] Unlike the West, the Eastern Fathers did not have to deal with Pelagianism. Their polemics were directed against an oriental fatalist gnosis. They recognized antecedent grace, as Chrysostom when he said: “Although you cite faith, you owe it nevertheless to call,” and had no trouble admitting, as Nazianzen did, that unbelievers could “have good works precede true faith.” But without the contest against Pelagianism, they were never pressed to so emphasize grace that future generations could later quote them on the side of man’s total depravity or of unbelievers always committing sin.

Augustine could be thus quoted and had to defend himself against the charge laid by his own contemporaries. It is no coincidence that in Calvin’s Institutes, Augustine is directly cited more than eight hundred times, as often as all other ancient authorities (about fifty) put together. Yet time and again he “corrects” Augustine, pointing out that he misunderstood a passage in Scripture or otherwise went beyond the evidence. The truth is that St. Augustine certainly admitted that not all the works of sinners or unbelievers are sinful, since he recognized that they, too, have free wills.

Writing to his friend Simplicianus, he said “He does not sin in every act who has not yet been reborn nor has charity diffused in his heart.” [52] Or again, “There is a charity that is divine, and another human; and the human may be licit or it may be illicit. It is licit human charity by which a wife is loved. But see that this kind of charity is possible also among sinners, namely, among pagans, the Jews and heretics.” [53]

It must be granted, however, that Augustine more than once appears to say that all the actions of unbelievers are sinful. What did he mean? It seems he meant that the state of original sin extends to whatever a person does, depriving all his actions of true ordination to a supernatural end. Analogously, therefore, we can say they are, in a sense, suffused by the stain or original guilt. But their sinfulness is really no more or less than that of the original sin itself. Consequently these “sins” do not constitute a new guilt deserving of new punishment, as Baius and the Jansenists had taught. Without defending Augustine’s terminology, we can at least spare his reputation for orthodoxy, although he was the principal authority used by John Calvin and the subject of Jansenius’ classic book.

Augustine’s name is connected with a theory that arose among Catholics in the heat of the Jansenist controversy, which said that without the grace of at least imperfect charity an unbeliever sins, if not mortally, then venially. Since God never gives such grace to people who do not know Him, they sin venially in all their actions. Three men are associated with the theory, H. Noris, F. Belleli and J.L. Berti, who belonged to the so-called Augustinian school in the eighteenth century.

Henri Noris (1631-1704) was the outstanding representative among the Augustinians. His most important work was the Historia Pelagiana et Dessertatio on the Pelagian heresy, followed by a defense of the Augustinian doctrine of grace against that held by Luis de Molina. Approved by Rome, the book stirred a great deal of opposition and the author was denounced to the Holy Office for renewing Jansenism. Noris was acquitted of heresy, but forty years later the Historia was placed in the Index. In 1748 Benedict XIV ordered Noris’ writings removed from the Index, but his theories (shared by Belleli and Berti) are now abandoned by theologians.

However, the principles behind these speculations are not obsolete. According to the Augustinians, every good act requires the motive of supernatural charity, and an explicit intention of pleasing God as one’s final end - neither of which can be had without grace. It is hard to see how these conditions differ, in practice, from the demands made by Quesnel. If nothing else, they would confuse the faithful who rightly believe that an action is good provided it conforms to conscience and the natural law, and that an explicit intention to please God is nowhere required in the Church’s teaching as a necessary condition for placing every single act of virtue.

Observance of the Natural Law.

While the Church has resolutely defended human nature as intrinsically sound in spite of the fall, it fully recognizes that not all is well with man since Adam lost original justice and we have inherited his guilt.

Catholic theology agrees that because of original sin, the human race lost sanctifying grace, bodily immortality, integrity and the state of happiness enjoyed by our first parents. In patristic language, man was spoliatus in gratuitis. Although we are still capable of knowing God by the light of pure reason, and our free will has not been completely destroyed, we have become, in the words of Trent, “worse in body and soul.” [54]

St. Thomas distinguished four injuries that were inflicted on human nature through the fall of Adam. The wound of ignorance, in as much as reason has lost its facility for the knowledge of truth, especially in the religious and moral order; the wound of malice, through which the will is deprived of its ready inclination to good; the wound of weakness, which makes us weak in overcoming the trials incident to the practice of virtue, resulting in a deficit of the constancy and effectiveness demanded by the moral law; and the wound of concupiscence, or loss of integrity in the control of the appetitive faculties, so that pleasant things are spontaneously desired and tend to attract, antecedent to the dictate of reason and even in spite of it, while the unpleasant are instinctively shunned.

The first consequence of this condition is our need of grace to keep intact the moral law for any length of time. To isolate the essential elements involved, theologians use the hypothetical case of an unbeliever in original sin, destitute of all grace, whether habitual or actual, and ask if such a person could observe the natural moral law for some time, say for a few years or under grave temptations for several months. They answer negatively and derive their conclusion with dogmatic certainty from defined doctrines of the Church.

It may be well to anticipate the objection that this is purely academic, since God does not leave such a person for long without some help of grace. True, but in showing his need of grace we come to recognize with precision the limitations of our nature on its volitional side, similar to its debility intellectually in needing revelation for an adequate knowledge of natural religion. In both cases the physical capacity is there but also there is the moral necessity for help from the outside because of the obstacles involved.

Pelagians would naturally claim that we have both the physical and moral competence to keep the whole law, on their basic assumption that original sin did not directly affect anyone but Adam. Indeed on their principles, we could avoid all sin, even the slightest, for a lifetime, if only we put our wills to it; since the principal source of our weakness in moral matters is the ravages of inherited sin, which the Pelagians simply denied.

At the other end of the scale, classic Protestantism and Jansenism emphatically agree that without grace there is no observance of the natural law. But the need, they say, is more than relative (moral necessity) due to weakness. It is absolute and physical because all the progeny of Adam have had their freedom so thoroughly destroyed that only God’s intervention can supply what was lost.

Not to see the thoroughness of Reformed doctrine here is to miss the Church’s concern to safeguard man’s ability, of himself, to keep the divine commands, at the risk of denuding human nature of its most precious natural possession. Luther was lucidly clear. “Free will,” he repeated, “is purely passive in every one of its acts (in omni suo actu) which can come under the term will. A good act comes wholly and entirely (totus et totaliter) from God, because the whole activity of the will consists in the divine action which extends to the members and powers of both body and soul, no other activity existing.” [55]

Among the most comprehensive statements on the need of grace to observe the moral law occurs in the Indiculus against the Pelagians. “No one,” it declares, “not even he who has been renewed by the grace of baptism, has sufficient strength to overcome the snares of the devil, and to vanquish the concupiscence of the flesh, unless he obtains help from God each day to persevere in a good life.” [56]

The conclusion is that if even those baptized and in sanctifying grace need supernatural help, a fortiori the infidel in sin; and if such need is required each day (quotidianum adjutorium), certainly without it the law could not be observed for any length of time.

All that we read in the Scriptures confirms this sober judgment. St. Peter exhorts us to be ever watchful because the devil, like a roaring lion, goes about seeking whom he may devour. [57] St. Paul bids us put on the armor of God, to be able to withstand the snares of the devil, by every prayer and supplication praying all the time. [58] Christ Himself instructed us to pray, “lead us not into temptation,” and to watch and pray lest we enter into temptation. [59]

All this insistence on the necessity for constant prayer would be meaningless if the graces it seeks to obtain were not needed just as constantly to keep out of sin. This includes explicitly those in the divine friendship, and also by implication, those in original or personal sin.

Perseverance in Grace.

A new problem occurs as we approach the limitations of a person already in the state of grace. Can he persevere in God’s love without additional actual graces? If he can, for how long? And if he needs supernatural assistance to retain the infused virtue of charity, is something more still required to actually die in the state of sanctifying grace?

The answer to all these questions is a humbling admission of our complete dependence upon God. For though we are justified, we cannot long persevere in this possession without God’s special ongoing help which, we must add, He never denies. Moreover actual, final perseverance is another great gift we can infallibly obtain through prayer.

Theologians fairly agree on certain qualities of this special help to persevere for any time in supernatural charity. It is to be distinguished from such habitual graces as the theological virtues, gifts or fruits of the Holy Spirit; and also from the general divine concursus in the natural order: It is not a permanent habit nor a special privilege but an assistance in the form of actual grace.

There is less agreement on the exact nature of this assistance. A minority see it only as the gift of final perseverance by anticipation, which seems hardly satisfactory since not everyone who is now in the state of grace will necessarily die in that condition. Something extra appears necessary. Others prefer to call it the sum of all the actual graces a man receives through life or, best of all, an altogether distinct benefit over and above the stream of actual graces. As a common denominator it consists in that special sequence of actual graces which gives the justified man or woman the energy needed to persevere in the state of grace for a long time, in spite of any array of temptations to commit sin.

In Pelagian times, the Church emphasized the necessity of prayer against those who would have dispensed with this duty on the grounds of having all the strength in nature to meet any moral crisis. “Those reborn and healed (by baptism) must always beg for the help of God so they might persevere in good works and attain to a good end.” [60]

The Council of Trent returned to the same theme on the absolute necessity of prayer in order to keep the divine precepts. “No one should say it is impossible for the just man to keep the commandments of God, for that is a rash statement censured with anathema by the Fathers,” notably St. Augustine in his treatise on Nature and Grace. [61] “For God does not command the impossible; but when he commands, He warns you to do what you can, and to pray for what you cannot do, and He helps you so that you can do it.” [62] Then to clinch the doctrine, those are censured who would say the contrary. [63] The need of assistance is specified against anyone who claims that “without God’s special help it is possible for a justified man to persevere in the justice he has received, or says that with God’s special help it is impossible.” [64]

Behind the conciliar teaching stands the whole background of Scripture, with its frank statements about the dangerous struggle which the just man must undergo on the road to heaven. The correlative duty is therefore constantly to pray for help, without which the uneven contest between man and forces of evil cannot be won. Christ explicitly taught us only one prayer, which is a composite of seven petitions and in which are imbedded the terms “this day” and “daily” to show the constant call we should make on the divine mercy. We need God’s help to remain faithful to Him.

For our consolation, we know that the help we need will not be denied to us. The first proposition of Jansenius condemned by Innocent X read, “There are some of God’s commandments that just men cannot observe with the powers they have in their present state, even if they wish and strive to observe them; nor do men have the grace which would make their observance possible.” [65]

The whole tenor of revelation runs counter to such blasphemy, by telling us of God’s readiness to help in our necessities. The Psalms are a mosaic of divine assurance and of motives for perfect trust.

The Lord turns His eyes to the just and His ears to their appeal. They call and the Lord hears and rescues them in all their distress. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted, those whose spirit is crushed He will save. Many are the trials of the just man, but from them all the Lord will rescue Him. [66]
As a father has compassion on his sons, the Lord has pity on those who fear Him. For He remembers of what we are made, He remembers that we are dust. The love of the Lord is everlasting upon those who hold Him in fear. His justice reaches out to children’s children, when they keep His covenant in truth, when they keep His will in the mind. [67]

Christ emphasized that His yoke is sweet and His burden light. “This is the love of God,” St. John wrote, “that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” [68]

However, retaining sanctifying grace for any length of time is one thing, and dying in the sate of grace is something else. No doubt God’s help is not wanting to enable us to remain in His love until death, yet we know that some people do not persevere. Possible perseverance does not necessarily mean actual perseverance, for which another and greater gift is required. If required, how can we acquire it?

There should be no cavil about calling the grace of final perseverance a gift, but its specialized character needs explanation. It is special because it is distinct from the power of perseverance and distinct also from all other gifts of God. It is given only to the predestined, and those who receive it attain to eternal life. It is absolutely gratuitous on God’s part, since we cannot merit this gift in strict justice nor may anyone claim it merely because he is just. We might describe it as a complex of God’s special providence and protection, by which He arranges that the elect should conquer sin, practice virtue, and be taken away by death at the time when they are in the state of grace. [69]

This paramount benefit can be assured by humble and confident prayer, with an infallibility founded not in formal justice but in the generous promise of God. The prayer must be persevering, not once and again, but daily and as often as conditions allow, especially when temptations arise or circumstances remind us of our dependence on God. Hence the value of certain formularies like the Lord’s Prayer, with its plea to be delivered from the evil of eternal damnation, and the Hail Mary which ends with the invocation, “now and at the hour of our death.”

It is not surprising that the earliest declarations of the Church on the gratuity of final perseverance were made in Pelagian times, when the supernatural order was reduced to human activity. There could be no question that it is a special gift to die in the state of a grace whose very existence was denied. Yet the most explicit teaching occurs in the Council of Trent, which calls for some apologia.

Superficially we think of the Reformers as the last ones to call into question the gift of final perseverance. Their entire theology was bound up with grace and even protested against its compromise by Catholics who also required good works. But faced with the stark implications of their theory, they reconstructed tradition by shifting the emphasis from faith as an act of knowledge to faith as an operation of the will. The bed rock of the Christian edifice, therefore, became absolute confidence in God’s mercy, trusting uncompromisingly in His goodness and in the imputed merits of His Son. [70]

Accordingly, where Catholicism had always defined faith as primarily an intellectual assent to God’s revealed truth, the Reformers saw it as mainly a volitional reliance on the divine liberality. A man trusts implicitly that he is one of the predestined and this confidence makes him a believer.

He alone is truly a believer who, convinced by a firm conviction that God is a kindly and well-disposed Father toward him, promises himself all things on the basis of His generosity; who, relying on the promises of divine benevolence toward him, lays hold on an undoubted expectation of salvation. No man is a believer, I say, except he that, leaning upon the assurance of his salvation, confidently triumphs over the devil and death. [71]

Luther was more dramatically clear. “Every Christian must beware of ever doubting as to whether his works are pleasing to God. The just man lives by faith (confidence). Whoever has this shall not be damned, even though he commit sin.” [72]

In the light of these positions, it is less surprising that so much of Trent’s decree on justification should deal with the humble trust in God’s mercy while forbearing to presume that we are absolutely predestined for heaven. Both Trent and the Reformers might speak of perseverance as a gift, but the Catholic notion was poles apart from the other. In one case, the gift was independent of our merits and consequently not real perseverance at all. In the other it depended not only on God’s predestinating will but also on our full cooperation with His grace, which could be resisted (and for which we might be called to give an account of our stewardship) when actually estranged from God.

“This gift,” the Council declared, “can be had only from Him who has the power to determine that he who does stand shall stand with perseverance, and who can lift up him who falls. Let no one feel assured of this gift with absolute certitude, though all should have a most secure hope in the help of God.” [73] In the same way, “No one, so long as he lives in this mortal life, should be so presumptuous about the deep mystery of predestination as to decide with certainty that he is definitely among the number of the predestined, as though it were true that, because he is justified, either he cannot sin again, or, if he does sin again, he should promise himself certain repentance. For it is impossible, without a special revelation, to know whom God has chosen as His own.” [74] There was no provision in Reformation thought for lapsing from the divine friendship or, at least, from not being reinstated after a fall.

While not defined by the Church, it is common teaching in the schools that the grace of a happy death can be infallibly impetrated from the Divine bounty. The term “impetration” is technical and means an efficacious petition of a favor. Here it means a supplication which so moves God that He grants the petitioners actual perseverance. St. Thomas explains that “by prayer we impetrate even those things which we do not merit,” as when “a man by asking impetrates of God the gift of perseverance, either for himself or for others, although it does not belong to merit.” [75]

In practice the Church has imbedded pleas for perseverance into the Mass and liturgy, into countless prayer formulas, in the whole spirit of the faith, and even in certain approved private revelations which express the authentic Catholic mind: that God will call His faithful out of life when they are properly disposed, provided they fulfill the condition of earnestly asking Him for this gift. Yet no absolute certitude is possible, short of a personal divine communication to remind us that “we cannot command our final perseverance, but must ask for it from God,” [76] or, with St. Francis de Sales, that “though perseverance does not come from our power, yet it comes within our power” through explicit or implicit prayer. [77]

Avoidance of Venial Sin.

A final question has still to be answered. Granting that a person in sanctifying grace needs further, actual graces to avoid mortal sin, and to receive the great gift of perseverance to enter eternity while justified; does he also need special graces to avoid venial sins for any length of time? He does, and by that necessity hangs the final thread of our constant dependence on God.

It is remarkable how this aspect of the need for grace figured already in the ancient controversies. But then we remember that the whole issue was first raised by monks, e.g., Pelagius and Cassian, whose main concern was precisely with the relation of grace to free will in the pursuit of perfection, which, by definition, presumes the avoidance not only of grave but also of venial sins.

Pelagius and Celestius began preaching their doctrine in North Africa in 410 A.D. Within eight years, Pope Zosimus anathematized their doctrine in a catalogue of censures that became the foundation of our theology of grace.

The stress is on man’s continued lapse into sin, and the practical impossibility without special divine assistance to avoid all failing in the service of God. Pelagian perfectionists had reinterpreted St. John’s statement, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,” to mean a pious exaggeration, spoken in humility. [78] But they were wrong, “for the apostle could have said, ‘If we say we have no sin we exalt ourselves, and humility is not in us.’ However, since he says, ‘We deceive ourselves, and truth is not in us,’ he clearly shows that the person who says he has no sin is not speaking the truth.” [79]

Another Pelagian proof text was the petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our debts,” which they claimed was not spoken by holy persons (sancti) for themselves but for others, “because such a request is not necessary for them.” The theory is untenable since we read everywhere in Scripture of saintly men who included themselves in the humble acknowledgment of sins. “The apostle James,” for example, “was a holy and just man when he said, ‘In many things we all offend,’ why was the word all added? Was it not to express the same idea as we find in the Psalm, ‘Enter not into judgment with Your servant, for in Your sight no man living shall be justified.’ ” [80]

In Reformation thought no distinction was made between venial and mortal sins; logically because where grace operates, they said, it is always effective and no sin results, but where it is absent the whole weight of a man’s evil nature stands behind the fault. The Council of Trent took issue with this hard doctrine and gave it scriptural perspective.

Those who are sons of God love Christ; and those who love Him (as He Himself testifies) keep His words, which they certainly do with God’s help.
For granted that in this mortal life, however just and holy men are, they sometimes commit at least slight daily sins, which are also called venial. Still they do not on that account cease to be just. For the just say truthfully and humbly, “Forgive us our debts.” [81]

Otherwise good people should feel a special obligation to walk in the way of justice, since they already possess substantial holiness, and “advance through Jesus Christ, through whom they have had access to grace” in the first place. [82] Positively, therefore, the gift of sanctifying grace imposes the obligation of progress in virtue. It does not mean that “a man once justified cannot sin again and cannot lose grace, and that consequently the man who falls and sins was never truly justified.” Nor can it mean that a man once justified can avoid all sins, even venial sins, throughout his entire life without a special privilege of God (ex speciali Dei privilegio), as the Church holds in regard to the Blessed Virgin.” [83] Our dependence upon supernatural support is not constant, but coterminous with life and coextensive with the whole spectrum of moral conduct, down to shadows of venial sin.

Where does this ability to avoid all venial sin come from? Its root cause is concupiscence, the disorderly appetites of will and flesh that seek their objects independently of reason and the teachings of faith. Contributing factors are dullness of mind to recognize moral evil the moment it appears, and vacillation of freedom caught between choosing what pleases and what displeases God. Evil habits of long standing also exert their pressure as unexpected temptations from the outside may catch us off-guard. The devil’s malice is always scheming to exploit our tendencies and break down our reserve.

We must distinguish, however, between semi-deliberate lapses and sins that are fully deliberate. Open-eyed wilfulness is one thing, when a person does something wrong though conscious it is sinful. Another matter are those surprise attacks that catch us half unawares, in which neither full attention nor complete consent or both are present, although the matter is venially wrong.

Even canonized saints committed venial faults of surprise, when they were momentarily betrayed into some thoughtless remark, imprudent action, rash judgment, word against charity or act of deceit to cover up a fault. Newman’s famous observation stands. “The Catholic Church holds it better for the sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions in it to die of starvation in extremest agony, as far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one willful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse.” [84] And the conduct of the saints in deploring their least failings confirms this judgment. But the Church also understands the cast of our nature and the liability to sin because of the fall. While holding firmly to the objective malice of sin, it recognizes the subjective weakness of man.

Semi-deliberate failings, therefore, are not eradicable without God’s exceptional privilege, such as we may certainly affirm only of the Blessed Virgin. It is a privilege in the same category as the Immaculate Conception. We do not mean that God, as it were, established an “iron law of sin;” but that there is a general law by which He permits venial sins. He does not, in the present dispensation, wish to give persons in His friendship (not even the saints) such extraordinary graces that they always avoid all venial sins, including those of surprise or semi-deliberation.

Yet with prayer, sacrifice, and the sacraments, even semi-deliberate faults can be decreased and finally overcome. Benedict XII in his definitive Constitution on the beatific vision speaks of the “apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins and others of the faithful” who may have “no need of purification at the time of their death,” thus clearly indicating that complete purity of soul is possible at least towards the end of one’s life. [85] In the same sense we can say that certain outstanding saints and mystics, described by St. John of the Cross, may become freed from all venial sins after extreme purification by God and with the help of His special assistance - which is still not the lifetime or long years’ deliverance that requires an extraordinary privilege, in the technical sense of a priva lex or “private law” that relates to one person only and that runs counter to the general, in this case divine permissive, law of God.

In order to clarify what may otherwise be misunderstood, the situation herein described is not hypothetical. Actually and really, God does not give this privilege except rarely, to a few or only one, to Mary. Whereas when we spoke of an unbeliever needing grace, and the justified needing special help to avoid mortal sins for a long time and to die in sanctifying grace - the cases were purely fictional, albeit useful to point up the doctrine, since God will not deny the grace and special help according to His merciful providence.

The Perfect Prayer

Catholic doctrine on the necessity of grace for salvation and the limitations of fallen human nature is epitomized in the Lord’s Prayer. According to St. Augustine, “Whatever else we say when we pray, if we pray as we should, we are only saying what is already contained in the Lord’s Prayer,” which he also called “the hallmark of predestination.” [86]

The recitation of the Pater Noster has been woven into the fabric of Catholic piety since the days of the catacombs. It forms an integral part of the Mass and Canonical Hours, having Christ Himself as the author. “The same Lord who made us also taught us how to pray, that our petitions may be more easily heard when we speak in the words offered to us by His Son.” [87] In the early Church, the faithful were required to recite the Our Father at least three times a day. “He who made us to live, taught us also to pray, with that same benignity, to wit, wherewith He has condescended to give and confer all things else; in order that while we speak to the Father in that prayer and supplication which the Son has taught us, we may be the more easily heard.” “No Christian worthy of the name,” a seventh century council of Toledo decreed, “should omit the frequent recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, which is so highly commended by the Fathers;” and a ninth century Council of Rheims passed a law forbidding any Catholic, under penalty of sin, “not to know the Our Father, not to understand its meaning, and not to use it often in his prayers.”

Significance in the Theology of Grace.

A thematic implication that pervades all the teaching of the Church on the necessity of grace is the corresponding need of prayer as the normal channel for obtaining, retaining or growing in that gift without which no one can reach God. In view of this correlation it is more than passably important to know that we have in the Pater Noster a compendium of all the lessons that Christians should learn about prayer: how we should pray, what priority of values to observe, what objects to request, and how to state our petitions.

Moreover within the petitions themselves is enclosed the whole of the Christian religion in miniature. Christ has given us a composite of faith and supplication that has an efficacy, compared in patristic writings, with one of the sacraments. It is the one prayer most often recommended to obtain the gift of final perseverance. St. Augustine, and after him the Council of Trent, singled out the Oratio Dominica (Lords Prayer) as a quasi-sacramental means of obtaining remission for daily venial sins. “Since we live in the midst of the world, where no one can live without sin, the forgiveness of our faults is found not only in the sacred waters of baptism, but also in the daily repetition of the Lord’s Prayer. It is like our daily baptism.” [88]

St. Thomas’ analysis of the structure of the Pater Noster leans heavily on Augustine and emphasizes theological intimations that might otherwise be overlooked. Since prayer is an interpretation of our desires, he says, we should pray for those things which are proper for us to desire. In the Lord’s Prayer we are asking of God everything that may lawfully be ambitioned. It is therefore not only a catalogue of petitions but also a corrective for the affections.

Thus the first object of our desires is our last end. The second is the means to arrive at that end. But our destiny is God, to whom our affections incline in two ways: by desiring His glory and wishing to enjoy a share in His glorification. The first belongs to the charity by which we love God in Himself, the second to the charity by which we love ourselves in God. So the first petition asks that God’s name be hallowed, that He may be glorified, and the second that we may come to the enjoyment of this glory.

Furthermore we are directed to the end of our existence either by something essential or something accidental to salvation. A thing can be essential either directly, according to the merit by which we deserve beatitude because we are obedient to God, and in this sense we ask that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven; or it may be only instrumental, although essential, because it helps us merit heaven, and in this sense we say, “Give us this day our daily bread,” whether we understand this of the Eucharist or of the bread of the body, which is symbolic for a sufficiency of food.

We are also directed to heaven accidentally, by the removal of obstacles that stand in the way. There are three possible barriers to the beatific vision: sin, temptation, and evils, from whatever source they arise. Hence the last three petitions for remission, protection and deliverance from everything that may hinder our journey to God.

The structure of the Lord’s Prayer, according to St. Thomas, can be schematized in a way that shows each petition as a successive step in the logical process just described. Our destiny may be considered either 1) objectively, as the glory of God, or 2) subjectively, as man’s beatitude in heaven, which is attained positively and 3) directly, by doing the will of God, or 4) instrumentally through the bread of the Eucharist and our bodily sustenance; and negatively by removing the obstacles, which are 5) sin and its prelude, which is 6) temptation, and its just retribution, which is 7) the evil of God’s punishment for sin.

Doctrinal and Moral Interpretation.

No other formula of prayer in the Church has been more widely commented upon. Practically all the Fathers of the East and West have written either full length treatises or extensive studies in their homilies on the Gospels according to Matthew and Luke. They considered it, with Tertullian, a summary of the whole Gospel (breviarum totius evangelii) [89] and therefore worthy of repeated exploration. Among theologians the outstanding commentary is by Thomas Aquinas, and among mystics the spiritual classic of St. Teresa of Avila.

For our purpose we shall follow the lead of St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621), whose opusculum Expositio Orationis Dominicae has a rare combination of features that specially commend it in a study of divine grace. Bellarmine based his analysis on the earlier and more elaborate treatment by St. Augustine, the great expositor of grace in Catholic Christianity; he was the prime mover in facing the challenge of Baianism, recognizing its insidious character and paving the way for the later conflict with Jansenism, which was nothing but Baianism reborn. Living in the maelstrom of the Reformation, Bellarmine’s basic positions on grace and free will did more than any of his contemporaries to clarify and critically compare the teachings of the Reformers with the teachings of traditional Catholicism.

However, the commentary which follows is not a bare translation of Bellarmine. Using him as a basis it draws upon other writers, notably Augustine, Peter Canisius, and modern ecclesiastical authorities among the Roman Pontiffs. The ensemble is intended to give a deeper insight into the most efficacious prayer for grace known to the Christian faith. Bellarmine recalls that “if, as Christ Himself says, whatsoever we shall ask the Father in His name He will grant us, what should be our assurance of being heard if we pray to God not only in the name of Christ but in the very words that passed His sacred lips?” We might add, in the very words He taught us to pray for that supernatural influx without which no one can see God.

“Our” in the Lord’s Prayer is an eloquent reminder to the rich and prosperous not to pride themselves on their possessions of mind or body or despise others as less honorable. In the term “Our” they confess all Christians to be their brethren under God. All the faithful are reminded of the peace and unity that should exist among them if they expect God to answer their prayers. If we are all children of one Father, there should be among us only one heart and soul, symbolized in the unity of the one expression, “Our Father.”

Judging by the comments of men like Cyprian, Ambrose and Chrysostom, one lesson Christ wished to teach by having the Pater Noster begin with the first person plural was that a generic form of prayer is preferable to the more specific. Not that specific petitions should not be made, but, other things being equal, joining my prayers with those of others carries a unique motive power with God. It gives voice to the spirit of charity on that most personal level of our dealings with the invisible world. And even looked at “selfishly,” the general form is more beneficial to the one praying. While each person is praying for everyone else, all are praying for one another. If I said only, “My Father,” no one would be praying for me except I myself; whereas in the form prescribed by Christ, all Christians the world over are praying for me. This is spiritual utility raised to its highest degree.

To whom is the Lord’s Prayer addressed? To all three persons of the Trinity, although nominally we seem to be speaking only to God the Father. Whatever God does outside of Himself, here being invoked in our favor, is done by the whole Trinity, since among the persons there is only one will, one power, one nature and one divinity.

Although addressed to the triune God, the Lord’s Prayer is specially directed to God as our Father, not only or immediately as our Creator but as the Father who adopted us into His own divine household in the supernatural life. The Pater Noster is, in effect, the characteristic prayer of the New Testament. As the Jews on Mount Sinai were impressed with their position as the servants of Yahweh we are now not servants but sons of God, and so are bidden to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven.”

Two interpretations are given of what is meant by “heaven.” One is that heaven refers to the minds and hearts of the faithful, in whom the Lord dwells by grace as in His tabernacle. More literally we should understand the physical heavens above, which are symbolic of the abode where God dwells. He is still everywhere but there the glory of His presence is most fully manifest to the angels and saints who behold Him face to face. Since heaven is our real home, we are urged to turn our hearts away from earthly things as much as possible and fix them on that eternal country where a loving Father waits to hear our prayers and grant us what we wish.

“Hallowed be Thy name” does not imply that the name of God is not holy. God is infinitely perfect so that nothing can be added to His perfection or taken away from it. Yet the Lord can be sanctified and His name hallowed by men. We therefore ask that the name of God may be better known and more honored among His creatures. It is the expression of an ideal towards which to strive, and that the world more closely reaches with every unbeliever who finds the true faith, every sinner who gives up his sin, and every person who grows in reverence and submission to the name of God.

The second petition follows logically from the first, since we are to seek our own beatitude only subordinately to the glory of God. But what Kingdom are we asking to come when we pray, adveniat regnum tuum, because the Scriptures speak of kingdom in various senses, from the kingdom of nature to that of heavenly glory?

There can be no question of a natural kingdom as an object of prayer, since God already rules over all created things. This kind of kingdom has existed in the past and will continue into eternity, no matter how the wicked try to subvert the order of God’s providence. In this sense Mordechai spoke to Yahweh, “O Lord, almighty king, all things are in Your power and there is none that can resist Your will.” [90]

The kingdom of grace extends to all the faithful in the Church of God, where the Lord rules over His elect by dwelling in their hearts. It was of this kingdom that Christ prophesied that “the Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all scandals.” [91] Accordingly when we pray for the advent of God’s kingdom we ask for the speedy coming of the kingdom of faith in which the things of God and not the creations of man will hold the first place. We ask for the subversion of the kingdom of ignorance and error, of that kingdom in which sinners cast themselves into everlasting fire. We pray for the coming of the kingdom of divine grace, that it may reign in us by the indwelling Spirit, and that the kingdom of malice may be destroyed. For the Lord reigns in the hearts of the just as the devil rules in the souls of the wicked. Sinners prefer slavery to Satan over the freedom which comes from obedience of sons to God their Father.

When we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we ask for the establishment of the Catholic Church throughout the world, that it may grow and advance not only in numbers but in holiness of life. We ask that soon there may be but one flock and one shepherd, that the enemies of peace and unity may be humbled, that the Church may be guided by leaders and priests who are outstanding in virtue and remarkable for the depth of their faith.

But the kingdom of God in the truest sense is the kingdom of glory, already begun in the souls of the blessed and destined to reach perfection on the last day. [92] From that time on, all the power of demons and wicked men over the souls of the just will cease. Only God and His adopted sons will reign. Therefore we ask that this kingdom which was promised may certainly come to us. We ask that what we have hoped for may not have been sought in vain. We ask that our desire of becoming heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, may be fulfilled according to His words, “Fear not, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you a kingdom.” [93]

Theologians commonly distinguish two kinds of will in God, the divine signified will and His will of good pleasure. The former includes all the commands and prohibitions which He imposes on rational creatures, and by which He indicates what He wants done or avoided. His will of good pleasure, however, is absolute, is always fulfilled and no creature can impede it. Illustrative of the first type are the words of Christ, “Whosoever does the will of my Father, who is in heaven, he is my brother, and my sister and my mother.” [94] The Old Testament abounds in examples of the second type. “All things, whatsoever He will, the Lord has done in heaven and on earth.” [95] Consequently the principal object of the third petition is not the absolute but the signified divine will, since we are asking that God may give us the grace necessary to not only obey His commands, but to go beyond the simple obedience to precepts and to live also according to His counsels. [96]

Remarkably the petition does not say, “Do Thou perform Thy will in us,” nor even, “May we do Thy will,” but simply, “Thy will be done.” This is to make us understand that obedience to the law of God, expected of us with the help of His grace, is not exclusively the work of God, or entirely the fruit of our will. It is the result of a combined action between God and ourselves.

However, while we pray especially for the strength to fulfill the signified will of God, we do not exclude the other. Quite as necessary as obedience to the divine law is the patience we need to accept the will of God’s good pleasure without murmuring or complaint, no matter how painfully His hand may rest on us. It was this will that Christ asked might be fulfilled when He prayed in His agony, “Not my will but Thine be done.” [97]

The phrase, “on earth as it is in heaven,” has been variously understood. By heaven we may understand the spirit, and by earth the flesh, as suggested by St. Paul, that “the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.” [98] We ask, then, for a perfect harmony between flesh and spirit, so that just as the spirit is conformed to the law of God, the flesh may be subject to the spirit, and thereby also conformed to the divine law.

The most common explanation is the literal one, where heaven is generic for the Church Triumphant in glory and the earth means the Church militant in its present exile. We plead that by God’s grace we may obey Him with something of the obedience of the angels and saints in heaven, who serve the Lord with joy and exultation, with alacrity and no constraint. They are so inflamed with the love of God that nothing gives them greater pleasure than the ready fulfillment of all His commands. [99]

A correlative interpretation is that just as the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon and stars, perfectly obey the will of God and follow the course He laid out for them, so we may act in the moral conduct of our lives.

The supplication, “Give us this day our daily bread,” is one of the most critical passages in the Gospels. Everything depends on what we mean by “daily bread.” This, in turn depends on two basic dogmas of faith: the Real Presence and the prevenient grace that invites cooperation but may be resisted by the free will.

There is no problem seeing in the bread requested all the material sustenance that we need. From the moment we enter the world, we need food, drink, clothing, sleep, health and a home to live in - all of which are implicitly contained in the one word “bread”. But the fourth petition only begins there. It would be incredible that the Lord would have us beg for bodily food and ignore the spiritual nutriment of the soul, especially since He cautioned in the same sermon, “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat,’ or ‘What shall we drink,’ or ‘What are we to put on?’ For your Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be given you besides.” [100]

It is not surprising that the Reformers, like Calvin and Melancthon, would have nothing but material food understood by the “bread” of the Lord’s Prayer, excluding spiritual sustenance which patristic tradition has always included. They denied the bodily presence of Christ in the Eucharist and did not recognize grace as a gift which could be accepted or rejected, implied in the notion that bread offered could be either taken or refused.

Among the spiritual nutrients of the soul, none is more necessary than the Holy Eucharist, which the ancient Fathers and the councils of the Church saw expressed in the bread for which Christ told us daily to pray. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven,” Christ described Himself when making the promise of the Eucharist. Unless we eat this Bread, there can be no strength, no consolation, no growth in the spiritual life. Without this Bread, on the words of Christ, we shall die. [101]

St. Augustine was so sure of the Eucharist as the primary sustenance intended by the Lord’s Prayer that he went to great lengths to excuse the contrary custom which by then had crept into the Eastern Churches of not receiving Holy Communion daily. “Although this bread is called a daily bread,” he said, “in the Eastern countries there are very many who do not partake of the Lord’s Supper every day; nevertheless they occasion no scandal by not partaking. They are not condemned as disobedient, because their ecclesiastical superiors do not command them to partake.” [102] He might have added, however, that the bishops in the East were by no means pleased that the immemorial custom of receiving Communion daily had fallen into disuse. Speaking a few years after Augustine, St. John Chrysostom gave a series of homilies at Antioch, in which he deplored the infrequency with which many approached the Holy Table, and he urged the daily reception of the Sacrament.

When St. Pius X restored the traditional practice in modern times, he explained in the prologue of his decree on Frequent Communion that in reception of the Blessed Sacrament, “frequent” means daily. Arguing from the analogy of food used by Christ, and the “all but unanimous interpretation of the Fathers” that daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer means daily Communion, he concluded that “the Eucharist Bread should be our daily food.” [103]

The petition, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” refers to our sins and the offenses of others. This is clear from the parallel passage in St. Luke, “forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us,” and from the explicit statement of Christ which follows on the Lord’s Prayer, that “if you forgive men their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you your offenses. But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offenses.” [104]

Sins are called trespasses or debts because whoever sins does injury to God, thus becoming indebted to Him and owing satisfaction. When a man sins he disturbs the objective order, which carries with it the sanction of reparation. Atonement or restitution is owed by the one who violated the law. God has also entrusted to each one a soul that He expects to be cultivated and tilled like the vineyard of the Scriptures. He looks for this vineyard to bear fruit in its time. To this end He has given us talents of nature and grace to assist our labors until He comes. We owe to God, even if we have failed Him, and don’t have it, the profit He expected.

Since we are all bidden to pray, “forgive us our trespasses,” it must mean that we are all sinners. With the certain exception of the Blessed Virgin, all men are at some time infected with the stain of sin. This is why even the saints could rightly ask for pardon, not just from humility, but because they had really sinned.

The context of the petition shows that not all sins are mortal, but some only venial or, as the Council of Trent calls them, “light and daily sins.” A person does not cease to love God if he commits them, although they are offensive to His majesty and demand sorrow and expiation. The implication is that after baptism we still have a chance for repentance, and that the Lord’s Prayer has remissive power not only for venial faults but is also useful to move the divine mercy after grave sins are committed.

We do not add the words, “as we forgive those who trespass against us,” with the idea that God would imitate us and learn to have mercy after our example. But we bear witness to ourselves that mercy is pleasing to Him and the forgiveness of injuries an infallible means of obtaining pardon for our sins. Christ will be satisfied with nothing less if we hope to obtain His mercy. “Forgive, and it shall be forgiven unto you.” According to St. Augustine, no matter how earnestly a man prays or how sorry he may be for his sins, unless he is also ready to forgive his neighbor, God will not pardon him. “Would he make out infinite Truth to be a liar, when Christ said, ‘If you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you’?” [105]

Two requests are implied in the petition, “lead us not into temptation.” We pray to be delivered, as far as possible, from temptations that God would otherwise permit to assail us; and to be protected from falling under those temptations which He actually allows.

The most important thing about temptations is that we cannot escape them in this life, which is one unremitting temptation, “for the flesh lusts against the spirit.” [106] No matter where we turn, temptations are there to meet us: we are tempted in food and drink, in hunger and sobriety, in riches and poverty. But if temptations are inevitable, are they useful? Yes, and even necessary. Through temptation we become familiar with our weakness, and so enabled to fulfill the maxim, Cognosce te ipsom. Through temptation we are saved from the demon of self-exaltation, our souls are cleansed and enlightened, and we are effectively moved to come to the assistance of others because our sympathy for them has been aroused by the knowledge of ourselves.

Take away temptation and what happens to patience, fortitude and constancy? Without trial how can these and other virtues not only exist, but also be preserved and made to grow? “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus,” says the Apostle, “shall suffer persecution,” which is synonymous with temptation. The more holy were God’s saints, the more severely He tried them in the crucible of temptation.

While temptations are so useful, they are still dangerous. Struggle with them is an uncertain issue. It would be presumption to ask for them. It is a mark of humility to decline them and ask God not to lead us into them, if that be His will. [107]

But how reconcile this with the statement of St. James, “My brethren, count it all joy when you shall fall into divers temptations”? [108] The reason is that although temptation is not to be asked for, in the sense of relished and desired; once it has come upon us, we should bear it not only bravely but even gladly. We also know that what is tolerated is not necessarily loved. Speaking of temptations, St. Augustine observed that Christ bade us to bear them, not love them, for no one loves what he bears, even when he loves to bear it. And though he rejoices to bear what he suffers, still he would rather be spared what he has to bear. Sometimes we read in the lives of the saints that, after a revelation about their eventual victory over temptations; they asked for more trials, exposed themselves to more dangers, or went out in search of more persecutors. These may be examples we can rightly admire, but not imitate.

Those who are seriously striving to please God must be specially on their guard against temptations that might be called native to them: discouragement and pusillanimity, as though, they were abandoned by grace; instability in their state of life; a lack of esteem for the guidance of authority, particularly in what concerns the worship and service of God; aspiring to heights which exceed their capacities by adopting uncalled-for practices of zeal and devotion; failing to weigh and examine daily their defects and remorses of conscience; taking half-hearted measures to conquer natural inclinations and bodily emotions; not consulting God before entering on a duty or when faced with a decision; lacking in that prayerful spirit which befits a soul that is walking in the presence of her Lord; and looking at the example of those who are tepid and weak instead of those who are fervent and strong.

No matter what view we take of this petition of the Pater Noster, the object of prayer is to avoid sin in the future. In one sense the stress is on the intention of the one praying, in the other on the words of his prayer. For we are asking for two things: to be strong in resisting temptation, and to be spared the temptations themselves. In either case we appeal to God’s mercy for help, knowing our own weakness and the power of evil in the world, the flesh and the devil. One aspect that might be overlooked is the function of enlightening grace in forestalling and conquering temptations. The divine light we receive enables us to avoid needless exposure to heavy trials that God foresees would be too much for us; it also tells us what means to use in overcoming present temptations, which call not only for volitional strength of resistance but also mental alertness to outwit the evil spirit and conquer unruly passions by strategy.

Nowhere does the spirituality of the East and West appear more different than in the explanation of the last petition, “deliver us from evil.” The Greek Fathers without exceptions say the evil from which we beg to be delivered is the evil spirit. They are partly led to this interpretation by the Greek version which reads, “from the evil one,” But more cogently their preoccupation with the devil in the contest of man’s salvation is very distinctive; more so than in the West. The Latin Fathers, like Ambrose, may include the devil as partial object of this petition but they prefer to say we are asking for deliverance from all the evils that afflict us in consequence of Adam’s sin or that may befall us after death. [109]

The Church’s authority stands behind this broader object, since the Canon of the Mass adds the following prayer immediately after the Pater Noster as a form of corollary. “We beseech You, O Lord, to deliver us from all evils, past, present and to come, so that, strengthened by the aid of Your mercy, we may ever be free from sin and secure from all disturbance.” [110]

We may look upon the last petition as an extension of the preceding one. It is as though we said, “We pray to be spared not only from temptations that would lead us into sin but, as far as expedient for our salvation, from every kind of evil.”

Thus we pray that the penalties we have to suffer may be truly medicinal and corrective, and may not rather weaken our defense against the avowed enemies of the soul. We pray to be delivered even in this life from those dreadful punishments that God’s anger is justified in sending for our own and others’ sins. We recall how the human race has been made to suffer because of Adam’s fall, and how David’s own fault of pride brought vengeance on all his people.

We pray not to be broken or depressed under the weight of adversity, and not to become impatient lest the evil we suffer make us worse instead of better. We pray to be delivered from the fires of purgatory, deserved for our many sins. It will be no comfort that purgation after death is not eternal; it is more grievous than any sufferings we shall ever experience on earth, and should be considered God’s retribution for those who had sinned and failed to expiate the penalty by salutary penance and prayer. When God punishes a man in this life, or moves him by grace to punish himself, He means to spare him in the life to come. No one is ever punished twice for the same crime.

Finally we ask to be delivered from the everlasting pains of hell, possible only through the remission of sin. Conscious of our misery and unworthiness to be forgiven, we implore the divine mercy and trust in God’s goodness that He will not demand in the end what our rebellion against Him had justly deserved.

A number of Greek and Syriac manuscripts, mostly of a later date, have a doxology after the seventh petition, “For Thine is the kingdom, and power, and glory forever. Amen.” Several Greek Fathers, notably Chrysostom, also comment on these words in their explanation of the Lord’s Prayer. However, it is certain that the addition was not part of the original Gospel text but introduced by way of the Eucharistic liturgy. It occurs in the Didache (from the first century) and, in a longer form, in the Byzantine rites of Sts. Basil, James, Mark and John Chrysostom. Thus it corresponds to our formula, “We beseech You, O Lord, to deliver us,” in the canon of the Mass according to the Latin rite. [111]

Chapter III - References

[1] Blaise Pascal, Pensees, 131, trans. A.J. Krailsheimer (London: Penguin, 12995), 34.

[2] St. Augustine, “De Haeresibus”, 88, MPL 42, 47.

[3] St. Augustine, “Sermo 26”, 7, MPL 38, 174.

[4] St. Augustine, “De Gratia Christi et de Peccato Originiali”, I, 29, MPL, 44, 375.

[5] Ibid., II. 5-6; CCC 403.

[6] Ibid., 14; CCC 404.

[7] Ibid.; CCC 405

[8] St. Cassian, “Collationes,” XIII, 12, MPL 49:925.

[9] St. Hilary, “Letter to St. Augustine,” MPL, 33:1009.

[10] DS 891.

[11] Luther, Commentary of Genesis, 3:7,167.

[12] Ibid., p.166.

[13] Ibid., 3:1, 143-144.

[14] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Christian Education, 1936), II, 3, 2.

[15] Philipp Melancthon, Loci Communes, Erlangen: A. Deichert, 1890), 22.

[16] Calvin, Institutes, II, 3,5.

[17] DS 1925.

[18] DS 1935, 1968.

[19] Claude Lancelot, Memoires (Geneva: Slatkine Reprints, 1968), I, 103, II, 308.

[20] CCC 1732, 1742, 2515.

[21] Jansenius, De Gratia Christi, VIII, 6.

[22] DS 2472-75; CCC 830-31, 834, 836-38.

[23] Memoria de Scipione de’Ricci, (Firenze: F. Le Monnier, 1865), I 490.

[24] DS 2621.

[25] Felicite’ de Lammenais, Essai sur 1’indifference en Matière de Religion (Paris: Tournachon-Molin & H. Seguin, 1820), 197-198; CCC 35, 36.

[26] Gerhard Ubaghs, Theodiceae Elementa, (Louvain: Vanlinthout et Vandenzande, 1843), 73, 220.

[27] Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man (London: Nisbet & Co. Ltd., 1945), 208.

[28] Ibid., 213.

[29] Ibid.

[30] CCC 1954-60; cf. Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in the Modern World [Lumen Gentium] (1965), 10.

[31] Niebuhr, op.cit., 297.

[32] Ibid., 297-298.

[33] Blaise Pascal, Pensees, New York, p.194.

[34] Calvin, Institutes, I, 3, 1.

[35] Ibid., II, 2, 19.

[36] DS 2756.

[37] DS 2778: CCC 156, 274, 1706.

[38] DS 2812.

[39] DS 2813: CCC 35-6.

[40] Collectio Lacensis, ed. G. Schneemann (Friburgi Brisgoviae: Herder, 1890), 4:17, 299.

[41] DS 3004, CCC 32.

[42] DS 3926.

[43] DS 3537-42.

[44] St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-II, 109, 2, 3.

[45] DS 1216.

[46] DS 1552.

[47] DS 1558, 1677-78; CCC 1451-53.

[48] DS 2311.

[49] DS 1925.

[50] DS 2308.

[51] St. John Chrysostom, Homilia XII in Hebraeos.

[52] St. Augustine, Ad Simplicium, 1,2.

[53] St. Augustine, Sermo 349, 1.

[54] CCC 37, 399, 400, 1008.

[55] Luther, Werke (Weimar: H. Böhlau, 1884), 2:421.

[56] DS 241.

[57] I Peter 5:8.

[58] Ephesians 6:11.

[59] Matthew 6:13, 26, 41.

[60] DS 380; CCC 2744.

[61] St. Augustine, “De Natura et Gratia,” 43, MPL, 44, 271.

[62] DS 1536.

[63] DS 1568.

[64] DS 1572.

[65] DS 2001.

[66] Psalm 33:8-10.

[67] Psalm 102:6, 8.

[68] I John 5:3.

[69] CCC 2016.

[70] CCC 154-55.

[71] Calvin, Institutes, III, 2, l6.

[72] Luther, Werke (Weimar), 2:44ff.

[73] DS 1541; CCC 1817.

[74] DS 1540.

[75] St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa I-II, 14, 9.

[76] St. Thomas Aquinas, De Veritate XXIV, 14.

[77] St. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God, trans, Rev. Henry Benedict Mackey, O.S.B. (Westminister, MD: Newman Book Shop, 1942), III, 4:140.

[78] I John 1:8.

[79] DS 228.

[80] DS 229; James 3:2; Psalm 142:2; CCC 827.

[81] DS 1536-37.

[82] DS 1537.

[83] DS 1573; CCC 411, 493; cf. Lumen Gentium 56.

[84] John Henry Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Mea, (London: Longmans, Green, 1906) 5; CCC 311.

[85] DS 1000-1001.

[86] St. Augustine, Letter 121, 12, MPL 33, 466; CCC 2762.

[87] St. Cyprian, “The Lord’s Prayer,” The Treatises of Cyprian, trans. Rev. Ernest Wallis. Ph.D., The Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325; Ante-Nicene Fathers (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publications, 1995), 2, 448; CCC 2607, 2610, 2614.

[88] St. Augustine, “Enchiridion” 81, MPL 40, 270.

[89] CCC 2761.

[90] Esther 13:9.

[91] Matthew 13:41.

[92] CCC 2816, 2821.

[93] Luke 12:32.

[94] Matthew 12:50.

[95] Psalm 113:3.

[96] CCC 2822, 2823, 2826, 2827.

[97] Luke 22:42.

[98] Galatians 5:17.

[99] CCC 2823.

[100] Luke 12:22, 31; CCC 2830.

[101] CCC 2837.

[102] St. Augustine, Sermon on the Mount, II, 7, 26; CCC 1389.

[103] Pius X, On Frequent and Daily Reception of Holy Communion [Sacra Tridentian] (1905), paragraph 2.

[104] Luke 11:4, Matthew 6:14-15.

[105] CCC 2842-45.

[106] Galatians 5:17.

[107] CCC 2847.

[108] James 1:2.

[109] CCC 2850-53.

[110] CCC 2854.

[111] CCC 2855.

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