"Catholics teach the same as Protestants on justification and sanctification"


Over in the venerable Eastern Christian forum, a rather bizarre comment was offered that I thought might be more appropriately pursued in this forum…

w_stewart contends:

TO which was it was responded by an ex-Catholic who serves as a priest from the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia:

Is Fr. Ambrose (Russian Orthodox Church) accurate in his thinking that ***“Catholics teach the same as Protestants on justification and sanctification”***?


Isn’t that like asking a soldier who went AWOL
"What does the Army believe in?"


TO be fair, I don’t think him authoritative in the least.

But he is putting this out there, and in this forum, where there are a goodly number of committed apologists, I am looking for some serious responses.

A claim of such magnitude, deserves some serious Catholic response.

For the record, I simply don’t belive the sincerity of some of the posters on the ECF… I find some of it terribly contra-distinctive, polemic and controversalist. For the most part, I don’t bother…

But when a venerable member of ROCOR with 18K+ posts to his credit posits "Catholics teach the same as Protestants on justification and sanctification" some serious response is warranted.


I believe what he would be talking about would be the Joint Declaration on Justification by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church.



Yes. That is what he is talking about.


I regularly get a common difference in this:

Catholics have the understanding of “initial” Justification by grace. Whenever we sin or harm that relationship, we have confession and penance, to which I always hear that that is a denial of the sufficiency of the Cross. Most Protestants have the same idea about justification by grace, but deny the “working out” part of salvation afterward. Justification seems to be a one time thing. So I don’t see how it is the same.

I can’t speak to the Russian Orthodox belief.


I think a major difference is that Catholics view justication and salvation as one and the same thing. Protestants use justification in a different sense. Salvation is a process seen as having multiple parts, regeneration, justification, sanctification and glorification. Depending upon whether one accepts “once saved always saved” justification may be a one time event or something dependent on maintaining faith. Protestants do not deny “working out” your own salvation but that is what we mean by sanctification. Sanctification is a life long process by which we try to be holy. It is not completed in this lifetime.


Since Martin Luther was an Augustine monk, much of his theology is like Catholic theology. Luther believed that faith alone is all that’s need for justification and salvation. In fact, he even put “alone” in Romans 4 to say “faith alone”, instead of “faith.” Luther’s interpretation of James 2 is where the line is somewhat blurred. Luther believed there is a dead faith and a working faith. Instead of the Catholic equation: faith + good works=salvation, Luther’s equation was: faith–>good works–>salvation.

So Luther thought that good works were a natural result of a working faith. Catholics believe there is only one faith, and we can choose to act on that faith or not. We have faith working through love, or in other words, faith working in a system of grace, by which actual and sanctifying grace are introduced.


I think the OP said “sanctification”, not “salvation” if that makes a difference in your response.


In general I just ignore Fr Ambrose remarks.


That is rude. He is a very good and wise priestmonk.


In his domain, yes, but I tend to disagree with most of his interpretations of Catholic teachings.


That’s fine if you disagree with him. But it is rather uncharitable for you to declare that he be ignored. :frowning:


Haha, I corrected it, I forgot the “I”.


Yes, Mickey, we know that is what is being talked about. Question is, does it then indicate that “Catholics teach the same as Protestants on justification and sanctification” ?


The simple answer is no. Why? Because the Lutherans who signed the document don’t speak for all non-Catholic Christians.

These fora provide amply evidence of the divergence of meanings of the words, much less their application to our lives.


The Catholic Church put forth a response to some of the statements in the Joint Declaration noting the areas where we would differ from the Lutheran position. (Please note that the Joint Declaration was only with one sect of Protestantism - not all Protestant faiths!)

Just a brief quote - hopefully enough to wet your appetite to read the whole response.


  1. The major difficulties preventing an affirmtion of total consensus between the parties on the theme of justification arise in paragraph 4.4 *The Justified as Sinner *(nn. 28-30). Even taking into account the differences, legitimate in themselves, …from a Catholic point of view the title is already a cause of perplexity. According, indeed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in baptism everything that is really sin is taken away, and so, in those who are born anew there is nothing that is hateful to God… For Catholics, therefore, the formula “at the same time righteous and sinner”, as it is explained at the beginning of n. 29 (*Believers are totally righteous, in that God forgives their sins through Word and Sacrament…Looking at themselves…however, they recognize that they remain also totally sinners. Sin still lives in them…"), *is not acceptable. This statement does not, in fact seem compativle with the renewal and sanctification of the interior man of which the Council of Trent speaks. …
    End quote.

Response to the Joint Declaration

You can read the Joint Declaration itself on the following website.

The Church has signed joint declarations with other denominations also - on various topics - but it is the one signed with the Lutherans that has received the most publicity.


Noticed the websites I gave did/will not paste in completely. If you do a google search on
Response of the Catholic Church to the Joint Declaration
Joint Declaration on Justification Catholic Lutheran
you will get the connections.

Sorry; don’t know why they won’t copy completely.



Nita, the links work just fine, they’re just shortened when they’re posted.


Thank you Nita, I was able to link to it.

I was familiar already with the document. I still find the assertation that "Catholics teach the same as Protestants on justification and sanctification" to be odd and bothersome as a blanket statement.

So far I think it would have been more accurate (but of course less flamboyant and polemic) to say that ***some ***Protestants teach similar to the Catholic Church at some levels. Certainly the Lutheran signatories did not seem to embrace sacramental theology - part and parcel of the Catholic view of salvation - in the same fashion as Catholics. Though a small minority may have, they are just that.

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