Is Thomism monergistic


To begin, I’m a High-Church Anglican who’s always had an interest in the Thomistic theological tradition. I enjoy reading guys like Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange I’d call myself Augustinian theologically. I’m not a Calvinist because I don’t hold to double-Predestination( I do believe God has predestined his Elect, but he does NOT predestine anyone to reprobation)

I know there are two major schools of thought in the Catholic Church: Thomism and Molinism. Molinism is certainly synergistic. If I recall correctly, Thomism teaches that God chooses the Elect without considering their merits. Now certainly the Elect will perform good works and merit an increase of Grace, but if they are chosen without consideration of their merits, could one say that Thomism is in a sense Monergistic?

Also, any recommendations of modern(living) serious Thomistic theologians? Lagrange is excellent, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone equal to him today?


Neo-Thomism was pretty much short lived like the original Thomism. I doubt there are any equals to Lagrange today.


Thomism is as far away from monergism as you can get.


Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange was an outstanding theologian and Thomist. However, not all Thomists agree to the particular Thomism and interpretation of St Thomas Aquinas that Fr. Reginald holds too in all points of the teaching of St Thomas. In regards to monergism or synergism, I think we need to define exactly what we are talking about here. If by monergism it is meant that in the process of the justification of the sinner initiated by God’s grace, the human person makes no movement of their own free will and intellect, than St Thomas Aquinas is certainly not monergistic. For St Thomas explicitly teaches that in the process of the justification of the sinner initiated by God’s grace, a movement of the human person’s intellect in regards to faith and a movement of the free will quickened by charity is required. I think this is obvious if we consider the very nature of human beings whom God endowed with the spiritual powers of intellect and will. The human person’s free cooperation in the process of justification is an effect of grace provided that God’s grace is not resisted.

The proponents of monergism or synergism both acknowledge the need of God’s prevenient grace to be saved. The difference between the two camps lies in one sense whether the grace of God is resistible or irresistible. The protestant reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin taught that God’s grace infallibly and irresistibly brings about the salvation of the saved. The Catholic Church teaches on the other hand that God’s grace demands the free cooperation of the human person and his grace can be resisted as the Council of Trent declared. This is the official teaching of the Catholic Church regardless of the various schools of theological thought in the Church.

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange was obviously aware of the dogmatic teaching of the Council of Trent yet the kind of Thomism he adhered too taught of efficacious (irresistible) grace and sufficient grace. The division of grace into efficacious and sufficient grace is not something at least explicitly taught by St Thomas himself in his works from what I understand but was a development of later interpreters of St Thomas such as the dominican Domingo Banez in around the 16th century. According to Fr. Lagrange, sufficient grace is not really sufficient enough to be saved. Without God’s efficacious grace which infallibly and irresistibly brings about the cooperation of the human person’s free will, a human person will not be saved. Sufficient grace does not prevent a person’s resistance to grace, only efficacious grace forestalls resistance to grace. Fr Lagrange and this particular brand of Thomism had a way of explaining their teaching that didn’t contradict what the Council of Trent taught at least on the face of it. The Catholic Church allowed the Thomism which Fr Lagrange adheres too to be taught in the Church as well as Molinism without formally approving either school. The official teaching of the Church is what the Council of Trent taught and what we find in the current Catechism of the Catholic Church. The CCC says “God’s initiative [grace] demands man’s free response.”



For a different view from the Thomism of Fr. Lagrange concerning the interaction between God’s grace and man’s free will, predestination and related doctrines, I recommend an excellent work by Fr. William G. Most titled ‘Grace, Predestination, and the Salvific Will of God - New Answers to Old Questions’ (1997). Fr. Most underscores the problems with some of the doctrines of the kind of ‘Old School’ of’ Thomism of Fr. Lagrange as well as with the ‘older’ Molinism from the Jesuit school in light of recent magisterial teaching such as a more clearer understanding of the very sincere universal salvific will of God. Fr. Most draws upon the Church fathers, the principles of St Thomas Aquinas, Scripture, the official magisterium of the Church in laying down a solution to the centuries old and as it were insoluble problem to the doctrine of predestination and related doctrines. Following Scripture, the magisterium of the Church, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the solution Fr. Most gives is rather quite simple. Human beings really do have autonomous freedom. They can resist or not resist, cooperate or not cooperate with God’s saving grace. In this sense, their eternal destiny is in their own hands. The CCC says simply, ‘in God’s eternal plan of predestination, he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace.’ How this is related to predestination before or after foreseen merits or demerits, God’s foreknowledge and such, metaphysics, Fr Most explains.

Link to Fr. Most’s book online:


So just to be clear, can one still hold Fr. Lagrange position and be a Catholic. His position is identical to my own position as a High-Church Anglican.


This is a good question. I think the Catholic Church in recent times has laid greater stress on God’s universal salvific will than maybe in times past. For example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church quoting Vatican II in the chapter on baptism says:
“Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.” Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity (#1260). We know that St Paul says that God wills all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. In 2 Peter 3:9, Peter says that God does not "wish that any should perish but that all should reach repentance. The CCC says that Christ died for all men without exception.



Fr. Most sums up the position of Fr. Lagrange on predestination and negative reprobation as “Before any consideration of the merits and demerits of man, God determines the eternal lot of each man.” This position also excludes any consideration on God’s part on resistance or non-resistance on man’s part to God’s grace because either resistance or non-resistance is essentially going to be an effect of either predestination or negative reprobation in the system of Fr Lagrange. How this position is reconciled with God’s universal salvific will is an impenetrable mystery as the thomists who held or hold this position readily admit. They commonly hold that the motive behind predestination and negative reprobation is the manifestion of the divine goodness by way of mercy and justice. There is no reason on the part of the individual man/woman/child why God chooses one for heaven or not but simply the divine will and the manifestation of the divine goodness by way of mercy in forgiving the sinner or justice in punishing the wicked. This is a pretty ‘hard’ doctrine. It came about from various sources and interpretations of various passages of scripture. One source is St Augustine’s interpretation of Romans 8-9 who applied what St Paul says here to the eternal destiny of individual people. St Augustine is no doubt one of the greatest exegetes of Holy Scripture in the Church but as Fr Most says, all or most biblical scholars today do not hold that St Paul was speaking of the eternal destiny of individuals in Romans 8-9. St Thomas Aquinas followed Augustine’s interpretation of Romans 8-9. All this Fr Most explains in the book I mentioned and more. It should be kept in mind that the position of Fr Lagrange and that particular thomism involving predestination, reprobation either negative or positive, efficacious and sufficient grace, etc., is not a position formally taught or officially approved by the Church in all its specifics as the official teaching of the Church but it is the position of a particular theological school of thought in the Church. I believe Fr Most in the book I mentioned sets down very convincing arguments against at least some of the positions of the Fr Lagrange thomism and the position of Fr Most I believe sounds more like the God we have come to know through Sacred Scripture and the magisterium of the Church. My intuition is that the theologians in the Church today would be more inclined to the position of Fr Most than some of the conclusions of the thomism of Fr Lagrange. This is not to fault Fr Lagrange but could be said to be a greater clarity received through the help of the Holy Spirit in recent times on certain biblical passages through recent biblical scholarship and various doctrines touching on the subject in question such as the sincere universal salvific will of God.


Well, prior to Vatican II, Thomism was being pushed as the standard school of thought in Catholic theology. Then in the early 20th century, there emerged the ‘New Theology’ (nouvelle theologie), which many Thomists (especially Lagrange) and popes prior to Vatican II were against. Vatican II however, allowed for this ‘New Theology’ to become the dominant school of thought, although it split into two camps, with the ‘conservative’ bishops and the ‘progressive’ bishops. To justify this ‘New Theology’, many theologians of that school of thought claim they are simply returning to the theology of the Church Fathers (most of whom they cite to support this however are the Greek Fathers), but it seems like they almost completely ignore Augustine, who was the most widely followed theologian in the West until Peter Lombard, after the 13th century, Catholic theologians mainly followed Thomas Aquinas but on an intermittent basis. Ask Rome which theologian you should follow to be Catholic, because it doesn’t seem to be Thomas Aquinas, Lagrange, or any other Thomist, at least not anymore.


Thomism saved my life. What do you mean by monergistic?


Are you aware that St Thomas Aquinas is the only theologian mentioned by name (on two occasions) in regard to the study of Sacred Doctrine or Theology in the documents of Vatican II? As Pope Paul VI said in his apostolic letter LUMEN ECCLESIAE (1974), “This was the first time an Ecumenical Council had recommended an individual theologian, and St Thomas was the one deemed worthy of the honour.” The name of St Thomas is mentioned in the Decree on the Training of Priests, Optatam totius, n.16: In order to cast light as completely as possible upon the mysteries of salvation, the students should learn to go into them more deeply and to perceive the connection between them through the use of speculation with St Thomas as their master.

There is a footnote (#36) attached to the above sentence which points us to an address given by Pope Pius XII, and an address and allocution given by Pope Paul VI. The Address (1964) given from Paul VI says: Those whose function it is to teach… should listen reverently to the Doctors of the Church, St Thomas chief among them. So great is the genius of the Angelic Doctor, so unalloyed his love of truth, and so profound his wisdom in penetrating, shedding light on and unifying among themselves even the loftiest truths, that his teaching is a most effective means not only of safeguarding the foundations of the faith but also of promoting its development along secure, healthy and profitable lines.

St Thomas is also mentioned by name in the Decree on Christian Education from Vatican II, Gravissimum Educationis, n.10: …this method follows the tradition of the Doctors of the Church and especially St Thomas Aquinas.

Confer also Pope Paul VI apostolic letter LUMEN ECCLESIAE (1974). English translation found here:


Pope Benedict XVI said, “In his encyclical Fides et Ratio, my venerated predecessor, Pope John Paul II recalled that ‘the Church has been justified in consistently proposing St. Thomas a master of thought and a model of the right way to do theology’ (No. 43).
“It is not surprising that, after St. Augustine, among the writers mentioned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, St. Thomas is quoted more than any other — some 61 times!"

Pope Francis claims that his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia is thomistic apparently in an attempt to ease the concerns some have for some of the statements found in it.


It’s strange then how hardly any theologian actually follows him. Some of the laity sometimes even disparage Thomas Aquinas.


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