Hardon says grace not substance?


There’s this new Catholic convert on a protestant board who is using Father Hardon and his take on Aquinas to say that grace is not a thing, it’s just a “form” that the soul has, but that it is not a created ontological thing. I found this disturbing. I had always thought that sanctifying grace is not “shaping” your soul into something but that it is an actual POSTIVELY CREATED essence, a THING that inheres in your soul and makes you supernaturally alive and with a spiritual mark of beauty.

Is there any professor on grace here to clarify this issue?



I think that the description of grace (and here we are talking about created grace, or course) as an accidental form is a fairly traditional way of speaking.

What is it exactly that you find troubling? Can you explain a bit more?



to tell the truth, i have no idea what is meant by accident versus substance, other than to know that substance ontologically exists, that is, a substance is a THING. What the hell is meant by accident, i don’t know. But I thought that the Church says that they who are in sanctifying grace are truly SUPERNATURALLY ALIVE. I had thought that life is like energy. I guess it isn’t. Evidently, according to Hardon, the soul doesn’t possess an onotologial life, it is just like the following: if supernatural life is like you soul is smiling in its form, and the soul in mortal sin is frowing, then, according to Hardon’s analogy, when you are “supernaturally alive”, your soul does not possess an ontological created essence of Divine Life, but rather, God has simply “molded” your soul into a smile, whereas it was formerly frowning.

Personally, I don’t think this is Good News. If God has simply “sculpted” me into a smile in my inner being, instead of imparting an ontological light that inheres in me and makes me supernaturally shine, I don’t find that something to celebrate. Not only that, it means I have led alot of people astray, because I did not understand that I was in error in giving apologetics to others.



I think I see where you are coming from. Without seeing the other side of the conversation you are having. . .its hard to engage this topic.

But, maybe our conversation can shed some light for both us.

When you talk about a “thing” do you mean a material thing? Because in that sense, our life isn’t a “thing” per se. But if you can use the word “thing” to describe both material AND spiritual notions, as well as properties and powers – then life, and grace would be a “thing.”

A substance is a thing which doesn’t need something else as a ground for it to exist. An accident is a thing which does need something else to exist in – namely a substance. So if we were to conceptualize grace as a substance, we would have to maintain that grace can exist on its own. . . but that seems impossible doesn’t it? Grace, like life, has to exist IN something.

Does that help at all?



Also, perhaps you can PM me with a link to the message board and I can take a look at it too?



Dear VC,

actually, you are helping me here. And yes, by ‘thing’, I meant EITHER material or spiritual. And yes, I was well aware that both actual and sanctifying grace are spiritual realities and not material (“of course!” :slight_smile: ).

What you have said is helpful. You see, I have no formal education in theology. I’m a mathematician by trade, which means the only philosophy I’ve ever studied, is the brute philosophy of modeling materialistic phenomena.

Perhaps, for the benefit of others, you could elaborate on what really sanctifying grace is?

Is it then like a spiritual light and power that, admittedly needing something else to exist in (in this case, namely the soul), that, as a spiritual “thing”, not only molds the soul into supernatural beauty but that also, invisible to the human eye, truly makes the soul “shine” with supernatural beauty of faith hope and love, or that at least will do so in heaven?

I’m sorry, I’ve never charted into this territory.

I could PM you the site. It’s theologyweb.

thank you so much already for your kind help, VC, and i look forward to another response from you.




I read briefly over the thread in question, and it doesn’t look like there is anything too controversial there – although its a bit complex and convoluted at first glance.

I think your description if quite fine, except you might want to shy away from “light” and “power” and speak more about “quality”. So you could say that sanctifying grace is a real quality infused in the soul by God, and which inheres in the soul habitually (unless lost).

Furthermore you are spot on about the effects of Sanctifying Grace as imparting a “supernatural beauty” to the soul, as well as infusing the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.

What do you think?


thanks, VC! :slight_smile:

That sounds good to me. Yeah, that thread was over my head. this eddie money song goin in my head “i wanna go back and do it all over again…” If I could change the past, I’d become a priest or a theologian. it’s too late.

But I can be an evangelizing lay person!

thanks again, VC, you have great knowledge, but you impart it with love and humility, which I admire.

Grateful to you through Her,



You are very welcome. Thank you for the compliments.

I admire your fervor and obvious love for Our Lord and His Church.



You are welcome for the compliments, and may God Bless you.



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