Is meticulous sovereignty compatible with Catholicism?

On another site, I am talking to a man from a Reformed Baptist Church background (basically Calvinist Baptists). He left that church because he could not handle the constant preaching about “meticulous sovereignty” or “meticulous providence”, i.e. absolutely everything that ever happens, no matter how bad, God willed it to happen exactly as it did. His wife had a miscarriage, and he found that doctrine extremely difficult to bear in light of that personal tragedy.

Now, I myself, although I am Catholic (and was brought up that way), I did go through a period of affiliation to Protestantism, and I picked up some rather Calvinist views during that time. So I am inclined to think along similar lines to the preaching at that Reformed Baptist Church - although I think the way they went about teaching it was pastorally horribly insensitive. But I am thinking that my current views on this issue may not be compatible with Catholic teaching, and I’d like to explore if they need some adjustments in that case. However, I am particularly confused about what exactly the Catholic Church teaches on this issue.

So, does the Catholic Church teach “meticulous sovereignty” or “meticulous providence”? Is her teaching on this matter the same as Calvinists, or different? If different, could someone explain the details of how the Catholic and Calvinist doctrines differ? (References to authoritative sources, such as the Catechism or decrees of the ecumenical councils or papal encyclicals, would be appreciated.)

Many thanks
Simon

Grace and peace!

Here’s a few links with some choice quotes.MAN’S FREEDOM

1730 God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. "God willed that man should be ‘left in the hand of his own counsel,’ so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him."26

Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts.27

“I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH”

268 Of all the divine attributes, only God’s omnipotence is named in the Creed: to confess this power has great bearing on our lives. We believe that his might is universal, for God who created everything also rules everything and can do everything. God’s power is loving, for he is our Father, and mysterious, for only faith can discern it when it “is made perfect in weakness”.103

"He does whatever he pleases"104

269 The Holy Scriptures repeatedly confess the universal power of God. He is called the “Mighty One of Jacob”, the “LORD of hosts”, the “strong and mighty” one. If God is almighty “in heaven and on earth”, it is because he made them.105 Nothing is impossible with God, who disposes his works according to his will.106 He is the Lord of the universe, whose order he established and which remains wholly subject to him and at his disposal. He is master of history, governing hearts and events in keeping with his will: "It is always in your power to show great strength, and who can withstand the strength of your arm?107

"You are merciful to all, for you can do all things"108

270 God is the Father Almighty, whose fatherhood and power shed light on one another: God reveals his fatherly omnipotence by the way he takes care of our needs; by the filial adoption that he gives us (“I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty”):109 finally by his infinite mercy, for he displays his power at its height by freely forgiving sins.

271 God’s almighty power is in no way arbitrary: "In God, power, essence, will, intellect, wisdom, and justice are all identical. Nothing therefore can be in God’s power which could not be in his just will or his wise intellect."110

GOD CARRIES OUT HIS PLAN: DIVINE PROVIDENCE

302 Creation has its own goodness and proper perfection, but it did not spring forth complete from the hands of the Creator. The universe was created “in a state of journeying” (in statu viae) toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it. We call “divine providence” the dispositions by which God guides his creation toward this perfection:

By his providence God protects and governs all things which he has made, “reaching mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and ordering all things well”. For “all are open and laid bare to his eyes”, even those things which are yet to come into existence through the free action of creatures.161
303 The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history. The sacred books powerfully affirm God’s absolute sovereignty over the course of events: "Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases."162 And so it is with Christ, “who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens”.163 As the book of Proverbs states: "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established."164

304 And so we see the Holy Spirit, the principal author of Sacred Scripture, often attributing actions to God without mentioning any secondary causes. This is not a “primitive mode of speech”, but a profound way of recalling God’s primacy and absolute Lordship over history and the world,165 and so of educating his people to trust in him. The prayer of the Psalms is the great school of this trust.166

For a little more, here’s Thomas Aquinas on free will.

Roughly, there’s a range of permissible opinions, upheld by the tension between the fact that we DO affirm man’s free will, but also the sovereignty of God over all things, through his direct workings, through providence, through the natures of the things He has created. As long as you neither deny free will (as it sounds like that pastor did, Calvinists, etc.), nor God’s sovereignty over all things (like Mormons, Open theists, certain modernists, etc.), then you’ll be all right. The Jesuit Luis de Molina did some interesting philosophical work during the Catholic Reformation, you could look that up too.

Best of luck, God bless you on your journey!

God willed that our material side is subject to Nature almost all the time.

His foreknowledge is a mind-bending concept because of what knowing is in His case. How existing beyond time as well as manifesting inside it in both indirect (typically material) and direct (typically spiritual) ways, interplays with this, even more so. (Spiritual in enlightenment to encouragement, and empowerment to virtue - myself being rather a beginner at the latter.)

“Meticulous” doesn’t mean “controlling”. Though I hadn’t heard the phrase, I think that at best, it means something far deeper and more uncomfortable, as those of us born with and acquiring disabilities have to grapple with. Someone I knew tried to demonstrate in his own way of living and his words, how God had shown us His intentions through various events (not just a misfortune in isolation) like He did to Jacob and to the people under Moses. Will we be able to say that like Israel, though limping we are “strong with God”?

I find “providence” a more characteristic word than “sovereignty”.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.