Justification’s Cause

Here is an exercise for Protestant critics who say we Catholics believe in “salvation by works.” What follows is an enumeration of the causes of justification from chapter vii of the Council of Trent’s Decree on Justification. Please identify which of these causes are the works of men.

  • the final [cause] indeed is the glory of God and of Christ, and eternal life;
  • while the efficient cause is the merciful God, who gratuitously washes and sanctifies, sealing, and anointing with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the earnest of our inheritance;
  • but the meritorious cause is His most beloved only-begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when we were enemies, for the great charity wherewith he loved us, merited justification for us by His most holy Passion on the wood of the cross, and for us made satisfaction unto God the Father;
  • the instrumental cause, moreover, is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which justification never befell any man;
  • lastly, the sole formal cause is the justice of God; not that by which He himself is just, but that by which He maketh us just, that, to wit, with which we, being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and we are not only reputed, but are truly called, and are, just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost divides to every man severally as He will, and according to each one’s proper disposition and co-operation.

[emphasis added]

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Posted in Apologetics, Aquinas - Theology, Council of Trent, Justification

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