Thursday, November 20, 2008

Justification by Faith

One of our contributors posted the following in another thread, where it was, as he remarks, somewhat off-topic. I took the liberty of moving it to a new thread right up front, as I think what he has to say is of considerable value, and worthy of discussion on its own merits.


I know this is off-topic, but has anyone else read what the Pope just wrote on justification by faith alone?

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider his teaching on our justification. Paul’s experience of the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus led him to see that it is only by faith in Christ, and not by any merit of our own, that we are made righteous before God. Our justification in Christ is thus God’s gracious gift, revealed in the mystery of the Cross. Christ died in order to become our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (cf. 1 Cor 1:30), and we in turn, justified by faith, have become in him the very righteousness of God (cf. 2 Cor 5:21). In the light of the Cross and its gifts of reconciliation and new life in the Spirit, Paul rejected a righteousness based on the Law and its works. For the Apostle, the Mosaic Law, as an irrevocable gift of God to Israel, is not abrogated but relativized, since it is only by faith in God’s promises to Abraham, now fulfilled in Christ, that we receive the grace of justification and new life. The Law finds its end in Christ (cf. Rom 10:4) and its fulfilment in the new commandment of love. With Paul, then, let us make the Cross of Christ our only boast (cf. Gal 6:14), and give thanks for the grace which has made us members of Christ’s Body, which is the Church. "

In Christ,
St. Worm


Anonymous said...

This is a commendable statement in many ways, as the Holy Father says at least twice "only by faith."
But "one thing thou lackest." It is still murky as to exactly what Justification really is. He writes,
"it is only by faith in Christ, and not by any merit of our own, that we are made righteous before God." I believe it has been established, at least lexically, that the verb to justify means not "to make righteous," but "to declare righteous." The entire Gospel hinges on that distinction.
I could go on, but I am sure I will have that opportunity as this thread develops.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for re-posting this. It's no secret this statement won't appease certain quarters of Protestantism, and it may very well require fuller explanation by Pope Benedict. I for one am fairly content with his explanation *here* -- but will the Piper's, Sproul's, and MacArthur's of the popular sector give much weight to these words?

I see nothing here a William Law, Jeremy Taylor, or John Wesley could object to -- but then again they'd be castigated. But what if Luther or Calvin read these words? Would they say that Pope Benedict has gone far enough?

Whatever the merits of the ECT (no pun intended), we should welcome any statements from Rome that explicate the gratuitous nature of salvation.

In Pax Christi.

Anonymous said...

Yet another reason to like B16.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

...since it is only by faith...

"Article XI. Of the Justification of Man.

We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification."

So, for the Anglican Article to teach "sola fide" is Protestant and therefore "un-Catholic." But, now that the Pope has taught "sola fide"...I leave it to you.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. Is this "ex cathedra?"

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart,

I wonder if B16 would every consider *expanding* on Trent's meaning, and allow that the Reformers were not on the whole arguing for an uncatholic understanding of Justification. The cause for ecumenism would be staggering if Rome could do more to bridge this gap.

Fr. Wells,
Are you contending the Pope's statement falls short of the true Gospel (i.e., is nothing but a false Gospel all the same)? Do our Eastern and Roman brethren fall under anathemas without a proper understanding of this distinction, regardless of how free they believe justification is? How are they different than Mormons and JWs on this count?

I've struggled in times past whether this understanding of justification really is the sine qua non of the Gospel. I might be dim here, but I see no rational grounds for arguing that the Pope's statement here is different in substance than Paul the Apostle's.

I'm by no stretch a doctrinal minimalist, but I see every reason to allow for some in-house disagreement on the exact mechanics of justification, so long as the gracious character is maintained.

Your fellow ACC churchman,
St. Worm

Anonymous said...

It is well and good that B16 has said that Justification is "fide sola," and in this he is only confirming earlier clarifications from important RC sources. He is headed in the right direction. But it would be helpful if he stated more clearly exactly what Justification IS. Article XI defines Justification Biblically: "We are ACCOUNTED righteous before God..." That is profoundly different from being "made righteous."
RC theology commonly telescopes the two dimensions of salvation into one,
leaving the sinner as only a "work in progress," so that in spite of his faith and union with Christ, nothing definitive has really happened for him.

We are told (Lk 18:14) that the publican who cried out "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner," went down to his house "justified." The participle here is in perfect tense (showing the finality of the judicial decree) and passive voice (suggesting Divine action). That parable could have been concluded in a number of other ways, but Luke went out of his way in his statement "went down to his house JUSTIFIED." Most modern interpretations would have said something like "went home determined to live a better life"
or "went home grateful that God gave him another chance." Without the full-orbed forensic interpretation, we are forced back to a moralistic and semi-Pelagian substitute for the Gospel.

St Worm: Is that little iota in homoiousion really such a problem?


Anonymous said...

Fr. Wells,

In all reverence to your holy office, you being a representative of my bishop and yours, I will refrain from my initial reaction to your bringing up Arianism as somehow comparable. We might as well ask if that one word "Filioque" is any more a basis to exclude us from the common faith of the Eastern Church, their complaints notwithstanding. Or, let us see if Luther's gripes against Zwingli's view of the Eucharist are sufficiently strong to preclude him from the faith. Perhaps C.S. Lewis's unwillingness to subscribe to a substitutionary view of the atonement might equally render him outside the Faith. And the list can go on.

I feel the weight of your concern, but have nothing sufficiently rational to hang my hat on here.

My questions were not meant to trivialize the importance of justification (I fully agree with the Homily on justification), but I'm sincerely looking for the biblical basis in arguing for a simple imputation-model of justification. I don't sympathize with Romanist errors (I'm not an Anglo-Papalist), yet given the broad history of our common heritage I have to wonder if more is being said about justification than is biblically warranted.

Blessings to you, dear Father.

In Christ,
St. Worm

Anonymous said...

St Worm, my friend and spiritual kinsman:
Perhaps I was too subtle in bringing up homoiousion in a discussion of Justification; perhaps the analogy is far fetched. Admittedly, the two topics are far apart. My point was simply that small issues, like that iota, can have vast ramifications in the larger picture of Christian doctrine. Just as many will say that
the defenders of the classic Reformational view of Justification
(which distinguishes it firmly from Sanctification) are being overly picky, so the same was said of St Athanasius as he refused to accept homoi- for homo-. There were those even then who asked "if more is being said than is Biblically warranted." But if he and the Church had compromised for "similar substance" rather than "same substance," we both can imagine how Christianity would have collapsed. The whole faith hung on that little iota. I believe we have a similar issue in
the insistence that "to justify" means to declare righteous, rather than to make righteous.

The Gospel surely tells us that God does both. The work of MAKING us righteous, i. e., restoring the image of God, recreating us in His own image and likeness, is a work in progress, surely not complete until the general resurrection at the last day. But the sovereign decree of DECLARING us righteous is already a fait accompli for those who believe in Christ. Because we have been accounted righteous already, when we were united to Christ by faith alone, we already have peace with God and there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

As Benedict's statement shows, RC theology has made much progress. Fr Fitzmyer's invaluable commentary on Romans in the AB series goes even further. Thomas Oden's fine little book "A Justification Reader" proves that the doctrine of Justification as taught by Luther and the other Reformers was well grounded in patristic theology, both Easern and Western.

To show that the Reformational issue is far from dead, listen to the so-called "Catholic apologists" on EWTN as they rant on and on about "salvation being through both faith and works," as they set James and Paul against each other. As fine as B-16's statement is, I cannot accept it as the "facts on the ground" description of operative RC theology.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous asked: Is this "ex cathedra?"

No. Ex armario. It's where he also keeps his convocation robes.

Anonymous said...

As has been pointed out, to be "declared" righteous is not the same thing as being "made" righteous. What's lacking in the Popes statement that needs clarification is the role of the Sacraments ie. the Church. The Sacraments are an essential part of the being "made" process.

It should be noted that he said in closing: "Paul knows that in the double love of God and neighbor the whole law is fulfilled. Thus the whole law is observed in communion with Christ, in faith that creates charity. We are just when we enter into communion with Christ, who is love." This is a rather un-Luteran statement. The "faith alone" mantra of Sacrament-free Protestants makes me nervous knowing that the word "alone" was a gloss of Luthers and a theological bomb shell.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Wells,

No doubt there's a great disconnect between the sounder theology of Pope Benedict XVI and the popular understanding of justification ("justifi-wha? is what many would surely say); and I didn't mean to sound like Rome has her stuff together in this regard.

I was only struck how substantially close the Pope was to more traditional Protestant thinking on this matter, and the ramifications for ecumenism. I applaud the Pope. His words, even if they include a transformative aspect of justification, need to be heartily adopted by the broader communion. It would change so much for our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters.

Perhaps Benedict might be thinking more like an Osiander, but how wonderful would that be?

Blessings, dear Father.

Anonymous said...

I like the Holy Father's statement even more when I read it in its entirety. His definition of faith is simply breath-taking. See

Here is a fascinating quote:

"That is why Luther's expression "sola fide" is true if faith is not opposed to charity, to love. Faith is to look at Christ, to entrust oneself to Christ, to be united to Christ, to be conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence, to believe is to be conformed to Christ and to enter into his love. That is why, in the Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul develops above all his doctrine on justification; he speaks of faith that operates through charity (cf. Galatians 5:14)."

If B-16 will just (1) acknowledge that Justification is a forensic decree of acquittal, quite distinct from the internal renovation of the sinner, and (2) explain how the whole thing can be reconciled to the Enchiridion of Indulgences, then I will be satisfied and fall silent. It goes without saying that this necessitates a radically new conception of the Intermediate State, one more akin to EO and Anglicanism.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Wells,

Indeed the more I read the sermon the more encouraged I became.

Whether or not the Good Bishop finally means to say justification is purely forensic (can't see that happening), I am nevertheless delighted in the force of the words we find here. I don't see him as a harbinger of heresy by any stretch. Do we have lots of work to do? Sure. But we all must remember we're not trying to convert Mormons or Sabellians -- this is our Mother of Old in a very real way. We've had family disputes. But she's family all the same.

Anonymous said...

Rev'd up wrote:
"The "faith alone" mantra of Sacrament-free Protestants makes me nervous knowing that the word "alone" was a gloss of Luthers and a theological bomb shell."

Hans Kung provides a long list of Luther's predecessors who also used the word "sola" as their exegesis of "apart from the works of the law." This included St Thomas Aquinas himself. It becomes tiresome to see this old canard tossed around, years after its falsehood has been demonstrated.
While Luther deserves numerous criticisms (neglect of sanctification, tendencies toward antinomianism, etc) I have never heard him called "Sacrament-free."
That makes nonsense of his debates with Zwingli and shows utter ignorance of his defiant words,
"Ego baptizatus sum." But when someone challenges the Holy Father's sacramental awareness (really!), we cannot expect poor Luther to be spared.

poetreader said...

I'm afraid I bristle every time I hear the word "sola" or "alone". I immediately expect (and usually rightly) that I'm going to hear a one-sided and somewhat distorted presentation of the Gospel. You see, no theological truth stands "alone", but each one has effect only in context. One can start with a Trinitarian observation. God is ONE, and that is beyond question, but is He "sola una", "only one" His nature is only percieved (insofar as men can perceive it) if He is also seen as three, and the threeness has meaning only in the context of the unity.

I take this as a general theological principle.

Sola Scriptura is impossible because Scripture cannot be alone, it always exists within the life of the Church, within Tradition, and cannot be effective otherwise.

Sola Fide has a similar problem. As St. James says, "Faith without works is dead." In other words, if there are no works, there is no faith. Faith simply is never sola. It cannot be.

Now, there is a great deal of discussion possible as to just how faith and works operate together. If Luther had been willing to follow his own advice about avoiding extremes, and said what he needed to say without inserting deliberately divisive words, like 'sola', the course of the Reformation would have been quite different and the distortions reflected in Trent would not have become dominant, nor the distortions refelected in various Protestant writings.

Now we end up haggling angrily over definitions of terms thayt seem not to have been firmly fixed in definition in Patristic or medieval periods.

Both "justification' and 'sanctification' have been used in a variety of different ways and all camps are able to quote Fathers in their own support, and all definitions end up clashing in the seemingly eternal debate between predestination and free-will, both of which are strong Scriptural principles even though our logic does not easily reconcile them.

I like the pope's statement very much indeed. I could easily live with it. It says enough to put grace in the forefront without saying enough to bind one to a limiting theory of how it all works. I need Jesus. I need Him to pronounce me clean. I also need Him to keep me clean. Beyond that I can (and should) think a lot of thoughts, and grapple with an attempt to understand, but, if I ever think I've got it fugured out, I can be sure of one thing: I'm wrong -- I've missed something vital.


Anonymous said...

Might I also commend the following article:

in which one may read:

Before affirming it as pope, Joseph Ratzinger had practiced as a theologian this intimate union between exegesis and theology. In his book "My Life," indicating the reasons for the profound differences between his theology and that of Karl Rahner, he wrote: "I, on the contrary, precisely through my formation was marked above all by Scripture and by the Fathers, by a form of thought that was essentially historical" (p. 93).

Fr Wells: I think you might be tilting at a (typically) bad Vatican translation and summary. The fuller Italian version appears to say (my Italian being terrible) that the question of justification means 'how are we made righteous/just in the sight of God'. Given that we are talking about a God's-eye view, and God is the Judge, we are talking about a juridical 'making', which is a declaration.

Anonymous said...

Good points, ed

Perhaps it would be less polarizing and confusing if instead of asserting one is "justified by faith alone" (which seems to contradict James 2:24), one should use the more biblically comprehensive formula:
One is "justifed by faith working through love (cf Gal 5:6) apart from the 'deeds of the Law' (cf. Rom 3:28)". Certainly this is something Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, and other patristically minded Protestants can agree on

Perhaps it is also helpful to remember that just as there is an initial justification from the moment we are first "in Christ" (which is apart from any merit of ours), there is also a final justification in which eternal life will actually be rendered to those who "WORK what is good" (Romans 2:6-10). The key of course is recognizing those works for which the believer will be rewarded eternal life are nothing more than the fruits of faith--the results of our active abiding in Christ (John 15). Even James states that it's these works of love that "complete our faith" (James 2:22)--in contrast with the "works of the law", things like circumcision, food laws, Sabbaths and the like (which was the focus of Paul), or by extension any system of meritorious works whereby which we try to reckon ourselves righteous apart from our union with Christ

Doubting Thomas

Anonymous said...

Ed says,
"Sola Scriptura is impossible because Scripture cannot be alone, ..."

Ed, if that were true, it would be impossible for the Church to define
a Canon.

"and all camps are able to quote Fathers in their own support,"

Lots of heretical movements pressed the same claim. This opens a door for epistemological skepticism.

You can do better, Ed!

poetreader said...

Anonymous of 12.56, whoever you are (some kind of handle would make conversation easier)

I don't really uinderstand what you're trying to say. Please, read my paper at

this gives a little fuller treatment of what I am saying -- but the thing is that there would be no canon if Scripture were expected to stand alone without the witness of the church. Please consider all that I say before making a facile answer. Then, if you wish to disagree, do so.


Anonymous said...

Ed: Rome has said (correctly in my view) that ONLY SCRIPTURE may be serve as liturgical readings at Mass. Does this make you uncomfortable?

Our liturgy speaks of Christ as "our ONLY Mediator and Advocate." Does this make you bristle with indignation?

Sandra: I was not aware of a possible translation problem. Are you aware of a considerable scholarly debate over the translation of the verb dikaiow?
The Pope's statement (which I like very much, inspite of the caveat I am filing) is quite in line with the CCC, which I feel has been reliably translated, and which is flawed by a mushy and murky definition of Justification.

poetreader said...

Ed: Rome has said (correctly in my view) that ONLY SCRIPTURE may be serve as liturgical readings at Mass. Does this make you uncomfortable?

Our liturgy speaks of Christ as "our ONLY Mediator and Advocate." Does this make you bristle with indignation?

Please, let's not be silly. It is certainly quite obvious what I mean. Read my paper, please.


Anonymous said...

"Are you aware of a considerable scholarly debate over the translation of the verb dikaiow?" No, but from my cursory checking of the number of meanings in the dictionary, I can see how it might arise. The Vatican's English translations reached their nadir a couple of years ago when Pope Benedict commemorated 'all the dear cardinals who kicked the bucket in the past year'. Of course, I wonder if there is a problem going even from Greek to Latin. The Italian 'fa giusto', 'made righeous', is merely a reordering of the Italian version of 'facere' and 'justus', which are the roots of 'justification'. It is possible that the juridical sense of 'justify' is more likely to be assumed in some languages than others. The world is a Babel, after all, and jots and tittles are bound to be lost, inserted and misinterpreted.

Anonymous said...

Ed wrote:

"I'm afraid I bristle every time I hear the word "sola" or "alone".

I thought that "every time" meant "every time" without exception. When I introduce a couple of possible exceptions, he suggests
with great dignity "let's not be silly." I would respectfully suggest that there are few things sillier than hyperbole you are unprepared to support.

Ed, I did read your paper.

poetreader said...

Sorry if I sounded abrupt, Fr.
Wells, but I was certainly startled that no attention was being given to the context in which I was speaking, meaning, of course, the insertion of "sola" where the Scripture does not use it, as Dr, Luther indeed did. I wasn't sure, from the somewhat garbled signature, whether that was really you, or I would have known you had read my paper -- and thanks for doing so.

Anyhow, what are friends quibbling about here -- I'm sure you and I are in substantial agreement.


Anonymous said...

Sandra: I have read the Holy Father's remarks carefully and I see no reason to suppose that this fine document has been damaged through bad translation. But even if I allow for that possibility, I have to read them in the context of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which we can be sure was carefully and accurately translated.

Take such statements as these from the CCC:

1989. "Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man." The Catechism therein quotes from the Council of Trent with perfect approval.

1993 "Justification establishes cooperation between God's grace and man's freedom." There is the Gospel according to Benjamin Franklin, God helps those who help themselves. This is not the Gospel of the NT, that God comes to the rescue of those who are dead in their trespasses and sins and unable to cooperate.

1995 "By giving birth to the 'inner man,' justification entails the sanctification of his whole being."

Here, in the most definitive statement of RC doctrine in our time, is the persistent blurring of two distinct dimensions of salvation. One dimension is the sinners's progressive, always incomplete in this world, interior renovation and rehabilitation. RC theology is quite good, for the most part, in describing this ongoing work.

But the other dimension, wherein the Gospel hangs, is the decisive, once-for-all, objective decree of the righteous Judge, who pronounces the verdict "Pardoned and acquitted" over the helpless sinner who is still internally rotten and bleeding. This dimension allows the helpless wretch (think of the thief on the cross) who has made no progress whatever in sanctification, to be pronounced "righteous!" so that already there is no condemnation for him, since he is "in Christ Jesus." As Paul wrote, "God commendeth his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." It must follow that while we are yet sinners, we have been fully pardoned and acquitted. Otherwise, there would be no peace with God.

When those two dimensions are not clearly understood as distinct, the message of the Gospel is shriveled into a moralistic little message of self-help. The "cooperation" spoken of in CCC is hardly more than a semi-Pelagian treadmill of works-righteousness through endless unprofitable "spiritual exercises."

Benedict's remarks seem to show a way out of this spiritual labyrinth, this theological blind alley. I do hope that his words were accurately translated and that they will be given as much attention in Hanceville, Alabama, as they are given here.

Jerry said...

A quotation from "Anglican Catholic Faith and Practice" by Archbishop Haverland:

"Good deeds do not earn us salvation. Rather good deeds are a natural response to God's free and unelicited gift of grace to man in Christ. God gives grace freely in the first instance. Thereafter God calls his people to cooperate with his grace by a 'godly, righteous, and sober life'." (p.1160

Jerry said...

The point to be gleaned from the Archbishop's comment is, I think, that while justification has a forensic element, it is not merely forensic. Abraham's faith, on account of which he was "reckoned righteous" (the forensic element) was not only a one-time interior disposition, but a continuing faithfulness which allowed him to continue in the path once begun. Justified by faith "in the first instance", we must cooperate with God's continuing (and continually unmerited) provision of grace in order to bring justification to its happy conclusion in the life of the world to come. We cannot merit salvation, but we can certainly lose it if we do not cooperate with the continuing provision of grace in the Sacraments, in prayer, and in ascetic struggle.

Anonymous said...

Fr Wells: Seems to me that 'the other dimension, wherein the Gospel hangs' is the obvious meaning of such a juridical term as 'justification'. If only our brethren up the Tiber would stop trying to be so clever and look at the plain meaning of words. To me, a declaration of righteousness by the ultimate Judge is a condition precedent to the inception of a process of inner sanctification. And 'works' are a necessary indicium of faith. Whether that's enough to make me an heretic, or enough for me to reject others who apply their labels differently as heretics--I think not. Seems we're all on the same page and describing the same process, but shifting the limits of certain labels.

Of course, if you are culturally comfortable with expressing the entirety of the faith in short answers like some form of Napoleonic legal code, you're probably going to wind up in more trouble with your definitions than if you resist that temptation.

Anonymous said...

Sandra, I could almost hug you for writing

"If only our brethren up the Tiber would stop trying to be so clever and look at the plain meaning of words."

Yes. Just get out the Greek NT, the lexicons and theological wordbooks whuich are the common property of us all, and do the homework. The Jesuit Fitzmyer, the Anglican Leon Morris, and the Calvinist Michael Horton all come out about the same place.

"To me, a declaration of righteousness by the ultimate Judge is a condition precedent to the inception of a process of inner sanctification."

EXACTLY, EXACTLY, EXACTLY!!!! And the key words are "predecent to the inception of." I am elated.

"And 'works' are a necessary indicium of faith."

This is "justification" in James,
whereas your first statement is "justification" in Romans/Galatians

I tried to write about the two dimensions of salvation without using the hot button words J and S.
We have now found common ground!
To God be the glory!

Anonymous said...

Fr Wells: There I was thinking I was out of my depth and should probably just shut up, and it seems I scored the jackpot. What's important, I think, is that we are describing the same process, whatever words are used. Only one point I have left over from your previous post: I don't trust anything that comes out of the Vatican in English, after what they did to the liturgy. One needs to go to the Latin part of their website to know what they are really saying ;-)

Anonymous said...

Bad translations of Vatican documents would be a thread in itself. There is a good blog devoted to that topic, "What Does the Prayer Really Say," which I dip into from time to time. I would suspect the principal culprits are not Vatican bureaucrats but politically correct American FC's, who have inflicted many injuries on Biblical and liturgical translations. For example, "Fratres" becomes "Brothers and sisters," and the Reproaches in the Good Friday Liturgy (one of the most splendid jewels of all worship) are made to disappear in the English rendition. The response "et cum spiritu tuo" became "and also with you" in English, even though other European languages rendered it literally. The document "Liturgicam authenticam" was written to deal with exactly this problem. So you may be on to something with your suspicions.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

You said, quoting the CCC:

'"Justification establishes cooperation between God's grace and man's freedom." There is the Gospel according to Benjamin Franklin, God helps those who help themselves. This is not the Gospel of the NT, that God comes to the rescue of those who are dead in their trespasses and sins and unable to cooperate.'

I disagree, since the definition of justification there used includes regeneration, they are still putting synergistic cooperation after the grace that enables it. You have effectively said in the past that regeneration by grace alone leads to the changed heart's saving faith upon which all else follows. The CCC is agreeing with you on that point, but using different language. "Justification [=regeneration plus forgiveness in CCC terminology] establishes cooperation" is what it says, NOT "cooperation establishes justification". There is no question that the RCC teaches that unmerited prevenient grace makes later cooperation with grace possible by "freeing" the will from bondage to sin, so to speak, which is the same as your "God comes to the rescue of those who are dead in their trespasses and sins and unable to cooperate."

Let us not forget that even according to the Calvinist ordo salutis the way God comes to the rescue of the spiritually dead is to grace them preveniently, regenerate them and thus enable or cause their act of saving faith, which is still their freely willed act. Aquinas, the classic theologian of RC soteriology said similar things. E.g., "a man receives the effect of Baptism by the power of the Holy Ghost, not only without Baptism of Water, but also without Baptism of Blood: forasmuch as his heart is moved by the Holy Ghost to believe in and love God and to repent of his sins" [Summa Theologica, P(3)-Q(66)-A(11)]. And: "The entire justification of the ungodly consists as to its origin in the infusion of grace. For it is by grace that free-will is moved and sin is remitted. Now the infusion of grace takes place in an instant and without succession." [P (II-I)--Q(113)--A(7)].

So, the RCC clearly teaches that grace comes first, then comes cooperation. There is no question of cooperation being needed to "acquire" justification. But once God does rescue us, we are able to cooperate, as both sides agree.

Part of the problem here is not only the fact that you interpret St Paul's "justification" as being necessarily exclusively imputational (which the Fathers did not), whereas the RCC almost exclusively emphasises impartational connotations and ignores imputational ones (again unlike St Paul and the Fathers), but that you and they are even slightly different in the usage of "sanctification". The RCC always includes regeneration (and restoration from mortal sin to a state of grace) in sanctification, whereas you seem to distinguish these and mostly limit the term sanctification to spiritual growth in ethical holiness. This would not be an issue except that you also seem to interpret RC statements about the relationship between justification and sanctification according to the latter definition of sanctification and thus accuse them of making justification dependent on moral progress ab initio. But, in fact, when they connect initial justification and sanctification they are referring to the utterly gratuitous and fundamental ontological change by God in us (the monergistic "creation" of the "new man"), not the consequent changes involving our cooperation and constituting the "progressive ... renovation" to which you refer (i.e., the synergistic transformations as we "put on the new man"). All this is clearly seen in the CCC, a well as Aquinas and the Tridentine decrees.