I am sure many of you know about the really hot debate among protestants in regards to election. Where does the Catholic Church stand on this doctrine?


It would help if you posted a summary of the doctrine of election as understood by Calvinists and Armanists.

This link should help:

God bless,

A better question than “where does the catholic church stand on this issue?” would be “where do you stand?” I am supporting more and more of the TULIP doctrine the more I study it. The biggest obstacle I face right now is reconcilling man’s responsibility for his sin and not coming to Christ if God created him that way… how is he held responsible at judgement… especially if he has no chance of coming to Christ unless God compells him. :shrug:

Aside from perseverance of the saints, Thomists (especially those associated with Banez) are strikingly similar to Calvinists. They were opposed by the Molinists, who accused them of being so similar to the Calvinists that they strayed outside the bounds of Catholic teaching. In turn, the Thomists accused the Molinists of being semi-Pelagian. The Molinist teaching has been described as virtually identical to the Arminian reconciliation between free will and predestination. The scientia media is the only real difference, and it really makes nothing substantially different- it just describes the same thing in a manner that’s a bit more well-developed from a philosophical standpoint.

The Thomists and the Molinists each tried to have the other teaching condemned. Both failed and were prohibited from talking about it. I happen to think both sides were right in their accusations, but that the Molinists were the ones who fell outside the bounds of Church teaching while the Thomists- though very similar to Calvinists- actually maintained a high degree of fidelity to Aquinas. If you look at the right parts of Summa Theologica, you’ll see what I mean. I also think the Church’s mutual non-decision effectively changed the boundaries of Catholic teaching, such that a Molinist portrayal of free will, election, total depravity, and grace now fits within Church teaching where it once did not. But that’s just my non-Catholic opinion.

Officially, Molinism and Thomism are both acceptable (albeit contradictory) teachings that each fall within Church teaching. They are closely related to Arminianism and Calvinism, respectively.

If you look up Banez and Molina on Catholic Encyclopedia, you’ll learn their stories. If you look up Thomism and Molinism, though, I think you’ll see some Molinist bias. You shouldn’t expect to see a NPOV on those pages. Additionally, Jimmy Akin’s “A Tiptoe Through Tulip” will tell you all about the similarities between Thomism (this kind, anyway) and Calvinism. That’s the focus. It doesn’t get into the other side of the issue (Arminianism/Molinism), so you’ll need other resources to help you make that comparison.

Basically, the CC is officially ok with both systems, but Catholic scholars aren’t allowed to argue about it. It threatened to tear apart an already-reeling post-Reformation CC the last time they did that. It initially looked like the Molinists (which consisted of many Jesuits, though not all of them) would be the ones making the choice between renouncing their teaching or getting excommunicated. They weren’t showing any signs of recanting and plenty of signs that they’d fight to the very end, and I think that had a lot to do with the change of course and eventual non-decision.

Here are some helpful Catechism quotes re: predestination’s role in our salvation:

  • CCC 1308: “the baptismal grace is a grace of free, unmerited election.”

  • CCC 1037: “God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end.”

  • CCC 600: “To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of ‘predestination’, he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace.”

Some Catechism quotes put free will and predestination together, like in Mary’s case:

  • CCC 488: " ‘God sent forth his Son’, but to prepare a body for him, he wanted the free co-operation of a creature. For this, from all eternity God chose for the mother of his Son a daughter of Israel…that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined mother…"

  • CCC 2022: “The divine initiative in the work of grace precedes, prepares, and elicits the free response of man.”

St. Augustine’s position on election and free will, as explained in this Catholic Encyclopedia article (scroll down to “His System of Grace”), explains the Church’s understanding very well.

He held that the human will, though free, cannot accomplish anything good in the supernatural order, except by grace, not even cooperate with God’s grace. God accomplishes salvation in those He has predestined in this way: He breaks through the hardness of their heart, stays their spiritual blindness, and they, seeing Him as the fulfillment of all that they are made for, freely choose to embrace Him. So grace produces the free cooperation of the predestined, and yet their choice remains free.

Hence this paragraph of the Catechism:

  • CCC 1432: “The human heart is heavy and hardened. God must give man a new heart. Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to him: ‘Restore us to thyself, O LORD, that we may be restored!’ God gives us the strength to begin anew. It is in discovering the greatness of God’s love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him. The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced.”

It is because of this that we say the most truly free acts of man are those acts which God predestines. For in order to prepare us to make the right choice, God prevents whatever would blind us, and then we are making a choice in our full capacity, rather than in the limitedness of the soul weighed down by sin.

I hope that helps. God bless!

The Catholic Church takes a more “middle of the road” approach, but even this isn’t the best way of putting it since the issues are a lot bigger than that. The most important thing to keep in mind is that both Calvinist and Arminans operate with a flawed theological structure, and thus it’s causing them to come to incorrect conclusions. The Catholic Church, being the One True Church, doesn’t build from flawed foundations, and thus it’s answers are right, even if it doesn’t satisfy the Calvinist or Arminan sides.

I’d say a touchstone of orthodoxy stems from Adam in the Garden: If Adam did not have free will, then the Fall was out of his control and God effectively caused the sin. This is blasphemy. Yet Providence is the doctrine in which God not only knows all events in history, but ‘guides’ all events in history in a real sense. The Catholic position is that both Free Will and Providence (a better term than Predestination) are both true and somehow both work together. Given that God is outside of time, this is not illogical, and avoids many moral dilemmas. This is akin to how God is holding everything in the universe together, including every atom of our body, and present everywhere to some degree, yet God also remains separate from us such that pantheism is avoided.

Hi cooterhein,

You have been studying! I’m a lay apologist but honestly, I don’t know enough about this subject but it’s very interesting! I tried to read a book entitled “Predestination” by Fr Garrigou-Lagrange. I still have it and made my way through about half of it. It’s tough. I recognize the language you are using and you are inspiring me to maybe look at it again. I’ve always been a Thomist but am willing to look at all of it. Thanks for your post!

May I suggest doing a word search in your favorite bible research program for the words elect,election, predestination, predestined, chose and chosen. Then you can make up your own mind as to what scripture is saying.

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