Our willingness to "cooperate" with grace is only by grace. Thus, we are not "synergists."

I hear many Catholics saying that we must “cooperate” with grace - and while this language is proper to Catholic teaching, it must be qualified. Most Catholics are comfortable with the idea of “synergism.” But we know from the Council of Orange that even our willingness to cooperate with grace can only be brought about by grace; therefore, any “cooperation” in the process must be attributed to God working in us, and not to our selves. This is directly opposed to strict synergism.

From the Council of Orange:

Canon 4. If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, “The will is prepared by the Lord” (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

Canon 5. If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism — if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). And again, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.

Canon 6. If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

Canon 7. If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, “For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, “Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5).

Do we actively or passively respond to God’s grace?

As noted at Orange, God restores our free will. It’s not that He overrides it, but that His grace “fixes” it such that it can move in step with God’s will.

If we respond actively, Orange responds, it is only due to the inspiration of grace. We can take no credit.

We’re certainly more synergistic than Calvinists, who believe we cannot *resist *grace:

**1993 Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom. On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent:

When God touches man’s heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God’s grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God’s sight.

2002 God’s free initiative demands man’s free response, for God has created man in his image by conferring on him, along with freedom, the power to know him and love him. The soul only enters freely into the communion of love. God immediately touches and directly moves the heart of man. He has placed in man a longing for truth and goodness that only he can satisfy. The promises of “eternal life” respond, beyond all hope, to this desire:

If at the end of your very good works . . ., you rested on the seventh day, it was to foretell by the voice of your book that at the end of our works, which are indeed “very good” since you have given them to us, we shall also rest in you on the sabbath of eternal life.52**

That God is the initiator does not remove all credit from the men he so moves. Orange was responding to the excesses of the Pelagians. But we must also remember Trent, which responded to the excesses of the so-called Reformers.

Trent does affirm the statements of Orange. See Session 6, Canons I & III:

CANON I.-If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.

CANON III.-If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema.

But as to the excesses (and please note Canon XXXII, as it seems to be contradicting exactly what you’re stating…):

CANON IV.-If any one saith, that man’s free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema.

CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

CANON X.-If any one saith, that men are just without the justice of Christ, whereby He merited for us to be justified; or that it is by that justice itself that they are formally just; let him be anathema.

CANON XI.-If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.

CANON XXIV.-If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.

CANON XXVI.-If any one saith, that the just ought not, for their good works done in God, to expect and hope for an eternal recompense from God, through His mercy and the merit of Jesus Christ, if so be that they persevere to the end in well doing and in keeping the divine commandments; let him be anathema.

CANON XXXI.-If any one saith, that the justified sins when he performs good works with a view to an eternal recompense; let him be anathema.

CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.

CANON XXXIII.-If any one saith,that,by the Catholic doctrine touching Justification, by this holy Synod inset forth in this present decree, the glory of God, or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ are in any way derogated from, and not rather that the truth of our faith, and the glory in fine of God and of Jesus Christ are rendered (more) illustrious; let him be anathema.

fhansen’s already quoted from the Catechism, particularly 1993 and 2002, which was my next stop. I suggest reading all of 1987 through 2029, but to quote a little more:

2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. the fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, **then to the faithful. **Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, **we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. **These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions…

Yes but even our assenting to God’s grace must be “moved and excited” by grace.

We “cooperate” in that we could reject grace, but even our acceptance of grace must be attributed to the working of grace.

This does not result in monergism or “irresistible grace”; as you noted above. We are not Calvinists. But it does refute strict synergism. Our cooperation is not out own, but a gift and work of God in us.

It’s possible by God’s grace because He restores our free will to what it should be. It is still our own will that does the cooperating.

As was once said to me, it’s not 100% God and 0% man, it’s 100% God and 100% man.

We can *reject *grace. The difference is like that between a savior saving a drowning man by forcing the life preserver on him, vs saving him by throwing the life preserver and expecting the man to grasp hold. In either case the savior is absolutely essential-the man drowns without him. In Catholicism man isn’t totally depraved, his will can still play a role, however small-which is exactly what God desires of us.

But it requires grace for our will to be restored, and it requires grace for us to accept grace.

The bolded is wrong and contradicts both Trent and the CCC.

Edit: The first does not imply the second.

God can give us credit for the gifts He has given us. This is true. We do, by God’s grace, merit rewards. In that sense, we receive credit. But this is not something of our own doing. It is the gift of God.

Yep-and yet we can *still *reject it. That’s a difference between us and Reformed theology depending on the variety.

I did not intend credit as meaning an amount due or owed, as in merit, I mean it in the second sense which you’re asking about.

You say it is not something of our own doing. That is incorrect. It is not initiated by us, nor is it possible for us to do on our own, but our doing is still 100% part of it, whereas your formulation rules our part in it out.

This is precisely the distinction I was referring to in the other topic, which Reformed and Lutheran theology, in my experience, doesn’t admit. We can agree on “faith working through love,” but when we break it down to this level as to what we actually mean, there are fundamental differences.

How is this mutually exclusive with synergism?

Yes, but how this works precisely is a mystery. Cooperation is from God but yet our will is truly free.

It is comparable to how the authors of Scripture could be inspired to write ONLY what God wanted written, but yet were able to exercise their free will to such an extent that Sacred Writ contains the imprint of each author’s personality.

It is an acceptable position to state that God grants His grace based on how He knows we will respond to it. Whether this amounts to man “taking credit” to some extent is an issue the Jesuits and Dominicans are no longer permitted to debate.

Yes, but whether we can resist efficacious grace depends on whether you accept the position of Banez or that of Molina. For Domingo Banez, efficacious grace moved the will infallibly, and he went to great pains to show how he believed this was reconciled with human freedom.

But either way the Church has settled on the teaching that man can resist God’s overtures at justifying/saving him. The will of man, to the extent he’s capable, is never totally uninvolved.

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