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Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma

The Distribution of Actual Grace

God's Freedom in the Distribution of Grace
or, the Gratuity of Grace

1. Grace cannot be merited by natural works either de condigno or de congruo. (De Fide.)

Against the Semi-Pelagians and the Pelagians, the Second Council of Orange teaches that no supernatural merit precedes grace: Nullis meritis gratiam praevenientibus debetur merces bonis operibus, si fiant. D. 191. The Council of Trent teaches that justification in adults commences with antecedent grace, i.e., "from their vocation, to which they are called, without merits existing on their part" (nullis eorum existentibus meritis). D 797. In the Epistle to the Romans St. Paul says that justification can be achieved neither by works of the Old Testament Law nor by observance of the natural law, but that it is a free gift of the love of God, "being justified freely by His grace" (3:24), cf. Rom. 3: 9, 23; 9:16. The concepts grace and natural merit are mutually exclusive. "And if by grace, it is not now by works: otherwise grace is no longer grace." (Rom. 2:6) Cf. Eph. 2:8 et seq.; 2 Tim. 1:9, Titus 3:4 et seq.; 1 Cor. 4:7.

Amongst the Fathers, St. Augustine especially defended the gratuity of grace against the Pelagians. Cf. Enarr in Ps. 30 Sermo 1, 6: "Why grace? Because it is given as a gift (gratis). Why is it given as a gift? Because thy merits have not gone before it." In Ioan tr. 86, 2: "It is not grace if merits have preceded it. But it is grace; therefore grace did not discover merits; it effected them." That the first grace cannot be merited is obvious from this that there is an intrinsic lack of a proportion between nature and grace (gratia excedit proportionem naturae) and because of the impossibility of meriting the grace which is essential to supernatural merit (Principium meriti non cadit sub eodem merito). Cf. S. Th. I II 114, 5.

2. Grace cannot be obtained by petitions deriving from purely natural prayer. (Sent. Certa.)

The Second Council of Orange teaches against the Semi-Pelagians that grace is not bestowed as a result of human petitions, but rather that grace works in us and makes us call upon God. D 176.

According to St. Paul's teaching, right prayer is a fruit of a grace from the Holy Ghost. "Likewise, the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings." (Rom. 8:26) "And no man can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost." (1 Cor. 12:3).

St. Augustine teaches that salutary prayer is an operation of the Holy Ghost. In view of Rom. 8:15, he says: "From this we know that also this is a gift of God that with sincere hearts and in the spirit we call to God. Thus they may imagine how much those deceive themselves who believe it is from ourselves, it is not given to us, that we ask, seek, knock." De dono persev. 23, 64.

Since the initiative in the works of salvation is from God, salutary prayer is possible only with the assistance of a grace which precedes our prayer.

3. Man of himself cannot acquire any positive disposition for grace. (Sent. Certa.)

By disposition is understood the receptivity of a subject for a form. A negative disposition merely removes obstacles which stand in the way of the assumption of the form, a positive disposition on the other hand makes a subject suitable for the assumption of the form in such a manner that he achieves a certain adaptation for the form in question, and the form appears as its natural perfection. Positive disposition for the reception of grace must be carefully distinguished from the so-called potentia obedientialis for grace, i.e., from the passive capacity immanent in the spiritual nature of the human soul (or in the nature of the angels) of receiving grace. A natural positive disposition for grace is not possible, since between nature and grace there is no inner proportion.

The Second Council of Orange teaches that the desire for purification from sin does not come from the natural desire of man, but is prompted by an antecedent grace given by the Holy Ghost. D. 177; cf. 179.

Taken from Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by TAN Books & Publishers, Inc.

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