By Grace Alone?


Hi everyone-

I’m really exploring the Catholic faith of late (going to mass, reading the CCC, reading the Bible in a whole new light, reading authors like Scott Hahn and Steve Ray, etc.)

I was also going through some of the Catholic Answers Live archives, and heard Tim Staples mention that it is correct to say that we are saved “by grace alone.”

I was really excited by this idea, and it completely reconciles all of the questions I’ve been wrestling with concerning faith and works. It also seem to agree with the CCC, and the section on “merit.”

Recently, however, I’ve seen some Protestant claims to this idea of “grace alone” that say the Catholic Church does not teach this idea.

So my understanding is this:

Without the graces of God, we are incapable of turning in faith toward Him. God extends these graces freely toward all people. Through our free will, however, we can choose (or choose not) to cooperate with these graces. By this we come to faith in Jesus.

It is by faith that we continue to receive the graces of God. Once again, our free will allows us to choose whether or not we will accept these graces and perform the works that God desires. Our cooperation with all such graces are termed “merit.”

I know there are probably more than a few subtilties to this that I’ve left out, but is this a correct understanding of Catholic teaching?




That’s a good summary. This is why we cannot properly claim that our own merits are actually ours. Rather, even our merits are gifts from God, who is the source of all that is good.

– Mark L. Chance.


Yep that’s about it… The way I describe it to kids is… Grace is God’s invitation engraved on our hearts that allows us to believe… If we act upon that grace we have or come to have faith. With faith we learn about God (catechesis) and Acting upon this faith (imitating Christ) is merit or works…

Very simplistic but it helps kids understand…


Yes that is basically the Catholic position. However regarding “a few subtleties” the REAL issue is not subtle at all: Catholics and Protestants define grace differently, thus when a Protestant says “Grace Alone” Catholics do not agree because we mean something different than they do. Catholics certainly have a concept of “grace alone” but it is very different than Protestantism.

See this thread:


“Everything Is Grace” - Saint Therese of Lisieux

Yes, it is true that we are justified by Grace Alone, meaning that we cannot add anything to it or do anything apart from it.

However, a much fuller and more Catholic way of putting it is “By grace, through faith, working in love.” This summarizes the initial and persisting role of grace and the absolute necessity of our cooperation.


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