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Grace ( gratia, Charis ), in general, is a supernatural gift of God to intellectual creatures (men, angels ) for their eternal salvation, whether the latter be furthered and attained through salutary acts or a state of holiness. Eternal salvation itself consists in heavenly bliss resulting from the intuitive knowledge of the Triune God, who to the one not endowed with grace "inhabiteth light inaccessible" ( 1 Timothy 6:16 ). Christian grace is a fundamental idea of the Christian religion, the pillar on which, by a special ordination of God, the majestic edifice of Christianity rests in its entirety. Among the three fundamental ideas -- sin, redemption, and grace -- grace plays the part of the means, indispensable and Divinely ordained, to effect the redemption from sin through Christ and to lead men to their eternal destiny in heaven.

Before the Council of Trent, the Schoolmen seldom used the term gratia actualis , preferring auxilium speciale , motio divina , and similar designations; nor did they formally distinguish actual grace from sanctifying grace. But, in consequence of modern controversies regarding grace , it has become usual and necessary in theology to draw a sharper distinction between the transient help to act (actual grace) and the permanent state of grace (sanctifying grace). For this reason we adopt this distinction as our principle of division in our exposition of the Catholic doctrine. In this article, we shall treat only of sanctifying grace. (See also ACTUAL GRACE. )

Santifying grace

Since the end and aim of all efficacious grace is directed to the production of sanctifying grace where it does not already exist, or to retain and increase it where it is already present, its excellence, dignity, and importance become immediately apparent; for holiness and the sonship of God depend solely upon the possession of sanctifying grace, wherefore it is frequently called simply grace without any qualifying word to accompany it as, for instance, in the phrases "to live in grace" or "to fall from grace".

All pertinent questions group themselves around three points of view from which the subject may be considered:

I. The preparation for sanctifying grace, or the process of justification.
II. The nature of sanctifying grace.
III. The characteristics of sanctifying grace.

I. JUSTIFICATION: THE PREPARATION FOR SANCTIFYING GRACE

(For an exhaustive treatment of justification, see the article JUSTIFICATION ).

The word justification ( justificatio , from justum facere ) derives its name from justice ( justitia ), by which is not merely meant the cardinal virtue in the sense of a contant purpose to respect the rights of others ( suum cuique ), nor is the term taken in the concept of all those virtues which go to make up the moral law, but connotes, especially, the whole inner relation of man to God as to his supernatural end. Every adult soul stained either with original sin or with actual mortal sin (children are of course excepted) must, in order to arrive at the state of justification, pass through a short or long process of justification, which may be likened to the gradual development of the child in its mother's womb. This development attains its fullness in the birth of the child, accompanied by the anguish and suffering with which this birth is invariably attended; our rebirth in God is likewise preceded by great spiritual sufferings of fear and contrition.

In the process of justification we must distinguish two periods: first, the preparatory acts or dispositions (faith, fear, hope, etc.); then the last, decisive moment of the transformation of the sinner from the state of sin to that of justification or sanctifying grace, which may be called the active justification ( actus justificationis ) with this the real process comes to an end, and the state of habitual holiness and sonship of God begins. Touching both of these periods there has existed, and still exists, in part, a great conflict of opinion between Catholicism and Protestantism.

This conflict may be reduced to four differences of teaching. By a justifying faith the Church understands qualitatively the theoretical faith in the truths of Revelation, and demands over and above this faith other acts of preparation for justification. Protestantism, on the other hand, reduces the process of justification to merely a fiduciary faith ; and maintains that this faith, exclusive even of good works, is all-sufficient for justification, laying great stress upon the scriptural statement sola fides justificat. The Church teaches that justification consists of an actual obliteration of sin and an interior sanctification. Protestantism, on the other hand, makes of the forgiveness of sin merely a concealment of it, so to speak; and of the sanctification a forensic declaration of justification, or an external imputation of the justice of Christ. In the presentation of the process of justification, we will everywhere note this fourfold confessional conflict.

A. The Fiduciary Faith of the Protestants

The Council of Trent (Sess. VI, cap. vi, and can. xii) decrees that not the fiduciary faith, but a real mental act of faith, consisting of a firm belief in all revealed truths makes up the faith of justification and the "beginning, foundation, and source" (loc. cit., cap. viii) of justification. What did the Reformers with Luther understand by fiduciary faith ? They understood thereby not the first or fundamental deposition or preparation for the (active) justification, but merely the spiritual grasp ( instrumentum ) with which we seize and lay hold of the external justice of Christ and with it, as with a mantle of grace, cover our sins (which still continue to exist interiorly) in the infallible, certain belief (fiducia) that God, for the sake of Christ, will no longer hold our sin against us. Hereby the seat of justifying faith is transferred from the intellect to the will; and faith itself, in as far as it still abides in the intellect, is converted into a certain belief in one's own justification. The main question is: "Is this conception Biblical?" Murray (De gratia, disp. x, n. 18, Dublin, 1877) states in his statistics that the word fides ( pistis ) occurs eighty times in the Epistle to the Romans and in the synoptic Gospels, and in only six of these can it be construed to mean fiducia. But neither here nor anywhere else does it ever mean the conviction of, or belief in, one's own justification, or the Lutheran fiduciary faith. Even in the leading text ( Romans 4:5 ) the justifying faith of St. Paul is identical with the mental act of faith or belief in Divine truth ; for Abraham was justified not by faith in his own justification, but by faith in the truth of the Divine promise that he would be the "father of many nations" (cf. Romans 4:9 sqq. ). In strict accord with this is the Pauline teaching that the faith of justification, which we must profess "with heart and mouth", is identical with the mental act of faith in the Resurrection of Christ, the central dogma of Christianity ( Romans 10:9 sq. ) and that the minimum expressly necessary for justification is contained in the two dogmas : the existence of God, and the doctrine of eternal reward ( Hebrews 11:6 ).

The Redeemer Himself made belief in the teaching of the gospel a necessary condition for salvation, when he solemnly commanded the Apostles to preach the Gospel to the whole world ( Mark 16:15 ). St. John the Evangelist declares his Gospel has been written for the purpose of exciting belief in the Divine Sonship of Christ, and links to this faith the possession of eternal life ( John 20:31 ). Such was the mind of the Chritian Church from the beginning. To say nothing of the testimony of the Fathers (cf. Bellarmine, De justific., I, 9), Saint Fulgentius, a disciple of St. Augustine, in his precious booklet, "De vera fide ad Petrum", does not understand by true faith a fiduciary faith, but the firm belief in all the truths contained in the Apostles' Creed, and he calls this faith the "Foundation of all good things", and the "Beginning of human salvation" (loc. cit., Prolog.). The practice of the Church in the earliest ages, as shown by the ancient custom, going back to Apostolic times, of giving the catechumens ( katechoumenoi from katechein , viva voce instruere ) a verbal instruction in the articles of faith and of directing them, shortly before baptism, to make a public recitation of the Apostles' Creed , strengthens this view. After this they were called not fiduciales but fideles , in contra-distinction to infidels and haeretici (from aireisthai , to select, to proceed eclectically) who rejected Revelation as a whole or in part.

In answer to the theological question: How many truths of faith must one expressly ( fide explicita ) believe under command ( necessitate praecepti )? theologians say that an ordinary Catholic must expressly know and believe the most important dogmas and the truths of the moral law, for instance, the Apostles' Creed, the Decalogue, the six precepts of the Church, the Seven Sacraments, the Our Father. Greater things are, of course, expected from the educated, especially from catechists, confessors, preachers wherefore upon these the study of theology rests as an obligation. If the question be put: In how many truths as a means ( necessitate medii ) must one believe to be saved? many catechists answer Six things: God's existence ; an eternal reward; the Trinity; the Incarnation ; the immortality of the soul ; the necessity of Grace. But according to St. Paul ( Hebrews 11:6 ) we can only be certain of the necessity of the first two dogmas, while the belief in the Trinity and the Incarnation could not of course be exacted from ante-Christian Judaism or from Paganism. Then, too, belief in the Trinity may be implicitly included in the dogma of God's existence, and belief in the Incarnation in the dogma of the Divine providence, just as the immortality of the soul is implicitly included in the dogma of an eternal reward. However, there arises for any one baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, and entering thus the Church of Christ, the necessity of making an act of explicit faith ( fides explicita ). This necessity ( necessitas medii ) arises per accidens , and is suspended only by a Divine dispention in cases of extreme necessity, where such an act of faith is either physically or morally impossible, as in the case of pagans or those dying in a state of unconsciousness. For further matter on this point see Pohle, "Lehrbuch der Dogmatik", 4th ed., II, 488 sqq. (Paderborn, 1909).

B. The "Sola Fides" Doctrine of the Protestants

The Council of Trent (Sess. VI, can. ix) decrees that over and above the faith which formally dwells in the intellect, other acts of predisposition, arising from the will, such as fear, hope, love, contrition, and good resolution (loc. cit., cap. vi), are necessary for the reception of the grace of justification. This definition was made by the council as against the second fundamental error of Protestantism, namely that "faith alone justifies" ( sola fides justificat ).

Martin Luther stands as the originator of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, for he hoped that in this way he might be able to calm his own conscience, which was in a state of great perturbation, and consequently he took refuge behind the assertion that the necessity of good works over and above mere faith was altogether a pharisaical supposition. Manifestly this did not bring him the peace and comfort for which he had hoped, and at least it brought no conviction to his mind ; for many times, in a spirit of honesty and sheer good nature, he applauded good works, but recognized them only as necessary concomitants, not as efficient dispositions, for justification. This was also the tenor of Calvin's interpretation (Institute, III, 11, 19). Luther was surprised to find himself by his unprecedented doctrine in direct contradiction to the Bible , therefore he rejected the Epistle of St. James as "one of straw" and into the text of St. Paul to the Romans (3:28) he boldly inserted the word alone. This falsification of the Bible was certainly not done in the spirit of the Apostle's teaching, for nowhere does St. Paul teach that faith alone (without charity) will bring justification, even though we should accept as also Pauline the text given in a different context, that supernatural faith alone justifies but the fruitless works of the Jewish Law do not.

In this statement St. Paul emphasizes the fact that grace is purely gratuitous; that no merely natural good works can merit grace; but he does not state that no other acts in their nature and purport predisposing are necessary for justification over and above the requisite faith. Any other construction of the above passage would be violent and incorrect. If Luther's interpretation were allowed to stand, then St. Paul would come into direct contradiction not only with St. James (ii, 24 sqq.), but also with himself; for, except St. John, the favourite Apostle, he is the most outspoken of all Apostles in proclaiming the necessity and excellence of charity over faith in the matter of justification (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1 sqq. ). Whenever faith justifies it is not faith alone, but faith made operative and replenished by charity (cf. Galatians 5:6 , "fides, quae per caritatem operatur"). In the painest language the Apostle St. James says this: "ex operibus justificatur homo, et non ex fide tantum" ( James 2:2 ); and here, by works, he does not understand the pagan good works to which St. Paul refers in the Epistle to the Romans, or the works done in fulfilment of the Jewish Law, but the-works of salvation made possible by the operation of supernatural grace, which was recognized by St. Augustine (lib. LXXXIII, Q. lxxvi n. 2). In conformity with this interpretation and with this only is the tenor of the Scriptural doctrine, namely, that over and above faith other acts are necessary for justification, such as fear (Ecclus., i, 28), and hope ( Romans 8:24 ), charity ( Luke 7:47 ), penance with contrition ( Luke 13:3 ; Acts 2:38 ; 3:19 ), almsgiving (Dan., iv, 24; Tob., xii, 9). Without charity and the works of charityfaith is dead. Faith receives life only from and through charity ( James 2:2 ). Only to dead faith ( fides informis ) is the doctrine applied: "Faith alone does not justify". On the other hand, faith informed by charity ( fides formata ) has the power of justification. St. Augustine (De Trinit., XV, 18) expresses it pithily thus: "Sine caritate quippe fides potest quidem esse, sed non et prodesse." Hence we see that from the very beginning the Church has taught that not only faith but that a sincere conversion of heart effected by charity and contrition is also requisite for justification-- witness the regular method of administering baptism and the discipline of penance in the early Church.

The Council of Trent (Sess. VI, cap. viii) has, in the light of Revelation, assigned to faith the only correct status in the process of justification, inasmuch as the council, by declaring it to be the "beginning, the foundation, and the root", has placed faith at the very front in the whole process.

Faith is the beginning of salvation, because no one can be converted to God unless he recognize Him as his supernatural end and aim, just as a mariner without an objective and without a compass wanders aimlessly over the sea at the mercy of wind and wave. Faith is not only the initiatory act of justification, but the foundation as well, because upon it all the other predisposing acts rest securely, not in geometric regularity or inert as the stones of a building rest upon a foundation, but organically and imbued with life as the branches and blossoms spring from a root or stem. Thus there is preserved to faith in the Catholic system its fundamental and co-ordinating significance in the matter of justification. A masterly, psychological description of the whole process of justification, which even Ad. Harnack styles "a magnificent work of art", will be found in the famous cap. vi, "Disponuntur" ( Denzinger, n. 798). According to this the process of justification follows a regular order of progression in four stages: from faith to fear, from fear to hope, from hope to incipient charity, from incipient charity to contrition with purpose of amendment. If the contrition be perfect ( contritio caritate perfecta ), then active justification results, that is, the soul is immediately placed in the state of grace even before the reception of the sacrament of baptism or penance, though not without the desire for the sacrament ( votum sacramenti ). If, on the other hand, the contrition be only an imperfect one ( attritio ), then the sanctifying grace can only be imparted by the actual reception of the sacrament (cf. Trent, Sess. VI, cc. iv and xiv). The Council of Trent had no intention, however, of making the sequence of the various stages in the process of justification, given above, inflexible; nor of making any one of the stages indispensable. Since a real conversion is inconceivable without faith and contrition, we naturally place faith at the beginning and contrition at the end of the process. In exceptional cases, however, for example in sudden conversions, it is quite possible for the sinner to overlap the intervening stages between faith and charity, in which case fear, hope, and contrition are virtually included in charity.

The "justification by faith alone" theory was by Luther styled the article of the standing and falling church ( articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae ), and by his followers was regarded as the material principle of Protestantism, just as the sufficiency of the Bible without tradition was considered its formal principle. Both of these principles are un-Biblical and are not accepted anywhere today in their original severity, save only in the very small circle of orthodox Lutherans.

The Lutheran Church of Scandinavia has, according to the Swedish theologian Krogh-Tonningh, experienced a silent reformation which in the lapse of the several centuries has gradually brought it back to the Catholic view of justification, which view alone can be supported by Revelation and Christian experience (cf. Dorner, "Geschichte der protestantischen Theologie", 361 sqq., Munich, 1867; Möhler, "Symbolik", 16, Mainz, 1890; "Realencyk. fur prot. Theol.", s.v. "Rechtfertigung").

C. The Protestant Theory of Non-Imputation

Embarrassed by the fatal notion that original sin wrought in man an utter destruction extending even to the annihilation of all moral freedom of election, and that it continues its existence even in the just man as sin in the shade of an ineradicable concupiscence, Martin Luther and Calvin taught very logically that a sinner is justified by fiduciary faith, in such a way, however, that sin is not absolutely removed or wiped out, but merely covered up or not held against the sinner. According to the teaching of the Catholic Church, however, in active justification an actual and real forgiveness of sins takes place so that the sin is really removed from the soul, not only original sin by baptism but also mortal sin by the sacrament of penance (Trent, Sess. V, can. v; Sess. VI, cap. xiv; Sess. XIV, cap. ii). This view is entirely consonant with the teaching of Holy Scripture , for the Biblical expressions: "blotting out" as applied to sin ( Psalm 1:3 ; Isaiah 43:25 ; 44:22 ; Acts 3:19 ), "exhausting" ( Hebrews 9:28 ), "taking away" [ 2 Samuel 12:13 ; 1 Chronicles 21:8 ; Mich., vii, 18; Ps. x (Heb.), 15; cii, 12], cannot be reconciled with the idea of a mere covering up of sin which is supposed to continue its existence in a covert manner. Other Biblical expressions are just as irreconcilable with this Lutheran idea, for instance, the expression of "cleansing" and "washing away" the mire of sin ( Psalm 1:4, 9 ; Isaiah 1:18 ; Ezekiel 36:25 ; 1 Corinthians 6:11 ; Revelation 1:5 ), that of coming "from death to life" (Col. ii., 13; 1 John 3:14 ); the removal from darkness to light ( Ephesians 5:9 ). Especially these latter expressions are significant, because they characterize the justification as a movement from one thing to another which is directly contrary or opposed to the thing from which the movement is made. The opposites, black and white, night and day, darkness and light, life and death, have this peculiarity, that the presence of one means the extinction of its opposite. Just as the sun dispels all darkness, so does the advent of justifying grace drive away sin, which ceases from that on to have an existence at least in the ethical order of things, though in the knowledge of God it may have a shadowy kind of existence as something which once was, but has ceased to be. It becomes intelligible, therefore, that in him who is justified, though concupiscence remain, there is "no condemnation" ( Romans 8:50 ); and why, according to James (i, 14 sqq.), concupiscence as such is really no sin ; and it is apparent that St. Paul ( Romans 7:17 ) is speaking only figuratively when he calls concupiscence sin, because it springs from sin and brings sin in its train. Where in the Bible the expressions "covering up" and "not imputing" sin occur, as for instance in Ps. xxxi, 1 sq., they must be interpreted in accordance with the Divine perfections, for it is repugnant that God should declare any one free from sin to whom sin is still actually cleaving. It is one of God's attributes always to substantiate His declarations; if He covers sin and does not impute it, this can only be effected by an utter extinction or blotting out of the sin. Tradition also has always taught this view of the forgiveness of sins. (See Denifle, "Die abendländischen Schriftausleger bis Luther uber justitia Dei and justificatio", Mainz, 1905)

D. The Protestant Theory of Imputation

Calvin rested his theory with the negative moment, holding that justification ends with the mere forgiveness of sin, in the sense of not imputing the sin ; but other Reformers ( Luther and Melanchthon ) demanded a positive moment as well, concerning the nature of which there was a very pronounced disagreement. At the time of Osiander (d. 1552) there were from fourteen to twenty opinions on the matter, each differing from every other; but they had this in common that they all denied the interior holiness and the inherent justification of the Catholic idea of the process. Among the adherents of the Augsburg Confession the following view was rather generally accepted: The person to be justified seizes by means of the fiduciary faith the exterior justice of Christ, and therewith covers his sins ; this exterior justice is imputed to him as if it were his own, and he stands before God as having an outward justification, but in his inner self he remains the same sinner as of old. This exterior, forensic declaration of justification was received with great acclaim by the frenzied, fanatical masses of that time, and was given wide and vociferous expression in the cry: "Justitia Christi extra nos ".

The Catholic idea maintains that the formal cause of justification does not consist in an exterior imputation of the justice of Christ, but in a real, interior sanctification effected by grace, which abounds in the soul and makes it permanently holy before God (cf. Trent, Sess. VI, cap. vii; can. xi). Although the sinner is justified by the justice of Christ, inasmuch as the Redeemer has merited for him the grace of justification ( causa meritoria ), nevertheless he is formally justified and made holy by his own personal justice and holiness ( causa formalis ), just as a philosopher by his own inherent learning becomes a scholar, not, however, by any exterior imputation of the wisdom of God (Trent, Sess. VI, can. x). To this idea of inherent holiness which theologians call sanctifying grace are we safely conducted by the words of Holy Writ .

To prove this we may remark that the word justificare (Gr. dikaioun ) in the Bible may have a fourfold meaning:

  • The forensic declaration of justice by a tribunal or court (cf. Isaiah 5:23 ; Proverbs 17:15 ).
  • The interior growth in holiness ( Revelation 22:11 ).
  • As a substantive, justificatio , the external law ( Psalm 108:8 , and elsewhere).
  • The inner, immanent sanctification of the sinner.
Only this last meaning can be intended where there is mention of passing to a new life ( Ephesians 2:5 ; Colossians 2:13 ; 1 John 3:14 ); renovation in spirit ( Ephesians 4:23 sq. ); supernatural likeness to God ( Romans 8:29 ; 2 Corinthians 3:18 ; 2 Peter 1:4 ) a new creation ( 2 Corinthians 5:17 ; Galatians 6:15 ); rebirth in God ( John 3:5 ; Titus 3:5 ; James 1:18 ), etc., all of which designations not only imply a setting aside of sin, but express as well a permanent state of holiness. All of these terms express not an aid to action, but rather a form of being; and this appears also from the fact that the grace of justification is described as being "poured forth in our hearts" ( Romans 5:5 ); as "the spirit of adoption of sons" of God ( Romans 8:15 ); as the "spirit, born of the spirit" ( John 3:6 ); making us "conformable to the image of the Son" ( Romans 8:28 ); as a participation in the Divine nature ( 2 Peter 1:4 ); the abiding seed in us ( 1 John 3:9 ), and so on. As regards the tradition of the Church, even Harnack admits that St. Augustine faithfully reproduces the teaching of St. Paul. Hence the Council of Trent need not go back to St. Paul, but only to St. Augustine, for the purpose of demonstrating that the Protestant theory of imputation is at once against St. Paul and St. Augustine.

Moreover, this theory must be rejected as not being in accordance with reason. For in a man who is at once sinful and just, half holy and half unholy, we cannot possibly recognize a masterpiece of God's omnipotence, but only a wretched caricature, the deformity of which is exaggerated all the more by the violent introduction of the justice of Christ. The logical consequences which follow from this system, and which have been deduced by the Reformers themselves, are indeed appalling to Catholics. It would follow that, since the justice of Christ is always and ever the same, every person justified, from the ordinary everyday person to the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of God, would possess precisely the same justification and would have, in degree and kind, the same holiness and justice. This deduction was expressly made by Luther. Can any man of sound mind accept it? If this be so, then the justification of children by baptism is impossible, for, not having come to the age of reason, they cannot have the fiduciary faith wherewith they must seize the justice of Christ to cover up their original sin. Very logically, therefore, the Anabaptists, Mennonites, and Baptists reject the validity of infant baptism. It would likewise follow that the justification acquired by faith alone could be forfeited only by infidelity, a most awful consequence which Luther (De Wette, II, 37) clothed in the following words, though he could hardly have meant them seriously: "Pecca fortiter et crede fortius et nihil nocebunt centum homicidia et mille stupra." Luckily this inexorable logic falls powerless against the decency and good morals of the Lutherans of our time, and is, therefore, harmless now, though it was not so at the time of the Peasants' War in the Reformation.

The Council of Trent (Sess. VI, cap. vii) defined that the inherent justice is not only the formal cause of justification, but as well the only formal cause ( unica formalis causa ); this was done as against the heretical teaching of the Reformer Bucer (d. 1551), who held that the inherent justice must be supplemented by the imputed justice of Christ. A further object of this decree was to check the Catholic theologian Albert Pighius and others, who seemed to doubt that the inner justice could be ample for justification without being supplemented by another favour of God ( favor Dei externus ) (cf. Pallavacini, Hist. Conc. Trident., VIII, 11, 12). This decree was well-founded, for the nature and operation of justification are determined by the infusion of sanctifying grace. In other words without the aid of other factors, sanctifying grace in itself possesses the power to effect the destruction of sin and the interior sanctification of the soul to be justified. For since sin and grace are diametrically opposed to each other, the mere advent of grace is sufficient to drive sin away; and thus grace, in its positive operations, immediately brings about holiness, kinship of God, and a renovation of spirit, etc. From this it follows that in the present process of justification, the remission of sin, both original and mortal, is linked to the infusion of sanctifying grace as a conditio sine qua non , and therefore a remission of sin without a simultaneous interior sanctification is theologically impossible. As to the interesting controversy whether the incompatibility of grace and sin rests on merely moral, or physical, or metaphysical contrariety, refer to Pohle ("Lehrbuch der Dogmatik", II 511 sqq., Paderborn, 1909); Scheeben ("Die Myst. des Christentums", 543 sqq., Freiburg, 1898).

II. THE NATURE OF SANCTIFYING GRACE

The real nature of sanctifying grace is, by reason of its direct invisibility, veiled in mystery, so that we can learn its nature better by a study of its formal operations in the soul than by a study of the grace itself. Indissolubly linked to the nature of this grace and to its formal operations are other manifestations of grace which are referable not to any intrinsic necessity but to the goodness of God ; accordingly three questions present themselves for consideration:

(a) The inner nature of sanctifying grace.
(b) Its formal operations.
(c) Its supernatural retinue. A. The Inner Nature

1. As we have seen that sanctifying grace designates a grace producing a permanent condition, it follows that it must not be confounded with a particular actual grace nor with a series of actual graces, as some ante-Tridentine theologians seem to have held. This view is confirmed by the fact that the grace imparted to children in baptism does not differ essentially from the sanctifying grace imparted to adults, an opinion which was not considered as altogether certain under Pope Innocent III (1201), was regarded as having a high degree of probability by Pope Clement V (1311), and was defined as certain by the Council of Trent (Sess. V, can. iii-v). Baptized infants cannot be justified by the use of actual grace, but only by a grace which effects or produces a certain condition in the recipient. Is this grace of condition or state, as Peter Lombard (Sent., I, dist. xvii, 18) held, identical with the Holy Spirit, whom we may call the permanent, uncreated grace ( gratia increata )? It is quite impossible. For the person of the Holy Ghost cannot be poured out into our hearts ( Romans 5:5 ), nor does it cleave to the soul as inherent justice (Trent, sess. VI, can. xi), nor can it be increased by good works (loc. cit., can. xxiv), and all this is apart from the fact that the justifying grace in Holy Writ is expressly termed a "gift [or grace] of the Holy Ghost " ( Acts 2:38 ; 10:45 ), and as the abiding seed of God ( 1 John 3:9 ). From this it follows that the grace must be as distinct from the Holy Ghost as the gift from the giver and the seed from the sower; consequently the Holy Spirit is our holiness, not by the holiness by which He Himself is holy, but by that holiness by which He makes us holy. He is not, therefore, the causa formalis , but merely the causa efficiens , of our holiness.

Moreover, sanctifying grace as an active reality, and not a merely external relation, must be philosophically either substance or accident. Now, it is certainty not a substance which exists by itself, or apart from the soul, therefore it is a physical accident inhering in the soul, so that the soul becomes the subject in which grace inheres; but such an accident is in metaphysics called quality ( qualitas, poiotes ) therefore sanctifying grace may be philosophically termed a "permanent, supernatural quality of the soul ", or, as the Roman Catechism (P. II, cap. ii, de bap., n. 50) says "divina qualitas in anima inhaerens".

2. Sanctifying grace cannot be termed a habit ( habitus ) with the same precision as it is called a quality. Metaphysicians enumerate four kinds of quality :

  • habit and disposition;
  • power and want of power;
  • passion and passible quality, for example, to blush, pale with wrath;
  • form and figure (cf. Aristotle, Categ. VI).
Manifestly sanctifying grace must be placed in the first of these four classes, namely habit or disposition; but as dispositions are fleeting things, and habit has a permanency theologians agree that sanctifying grace is undoubtedly a habit, hence the name: Habitual Grace ( gratia habitualis ). Habitus is subdivided into habitus entitativus and habitus operativus. A habitus entitativus is a quality or condition added to a substance by which condition or quality the substance is found permanently good or bad, for instance: sickness or health, beauty, deformity, etc. Habitus operativus is a disposition to produce certain operations or acts, for instance, moderation or extravagance; this habitus is called either virtue or vice just as the soul is inclined thereby to a moral good or to a moral evil. Now, since sanctifying grace does not of itself impart any such readiness, celerity, or facility in action, we must consider it primarily as a habitus entitativus , not as a habitus operativus. Therefore, since the popular concept of habitus , which usually designates a readiness, does not accurately express the idea of sanctifying grace, another term is employed, i.e. a quality after the manner of a habit ( qualitas per modum habitus ), and this term is applied with Bellarmine (De grat. et lib. arbit., I, iii). Grace, however, preserves an inner relation to a supernatural activity, because it does not impart to the soul the act but rather the disposition to perform supernatural and meritorious acts therefore grace is remotely and mediately a disposition to act ( habitus remote operativus ). On account of this and other metaphysical subtleties the Council of Trent has refrained from applying the term habitus to sanctifying grace.

In the order of nature a distinction is made between natural and acquired habits ( habitus innatus , and habitus acquisitus ), to distinguish between natural instincts, such, for instance, as are common to the brute creation, and acquired habits such as we develop by practice, for instance skill in playing a musical instrument etc. But grace is supernatural, and cannot, therefore, be classed either as a natural or an acquired habit; it can only be received, accordingly, by infusion from above, therefore it is a supernatural infused habit ( habitus infusus ).

3. If theologians could succeed in establishing the identity sometimes maintained between the nature of grace and charity, a great step forward would be taken in the examination of the nature of grace, for we are more familiar with the infused virtue of charity than with the hidden mysterious nature of sanctifying grace


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The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

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