I still have issues with some Catholic Dogmas. The main one and “dealmaker” or “dealbreaker” for me is Justification. I have read extensively on what the Church teaches. From the CCC:
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.
The Catholic view as I understand it means that the initial Grace of Justification is through unmerited Grace. Once we receive Justification by Grace through Faith we are then not only declared Righteous but in Justification we are actually made Righteous through “Sanctifying Grace” IE the Holy Spirit working in us and because of this we can “Merit” by “good works” and resisting sin “Final” or true Justification and thereby be able to be finally “saved”.
This all sounds well and good, except for one thing, it is not what the NT teaches, especially St. Paul in his Epistles. I have studied and studied both sides of this issue from both the Catholic position and the Reformed position and at this time I agree with the Reformed Protestant position.
If salvation is by Grace through Faith then adding “Merit” or “works” to Salvation slaps Christ in the face and denies Grace. I know the Catholic view; our “merits” are only because of Grace. Restated from above with some “edit”: “Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity we can then merit for ourselves the graces needed for our attainment of eternal life”. This is NOT what St Paul teaches.
Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.
And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works
I find it difficult and hard to believe and if I simply cannot hold to the Catholic positions stated at Trent and now in the Catechism. What should I do? Am I a Heretic in the eyes of the Catholic Church? Do I remain in the Catholic Church? I am not sure what to do. As of now I cannot in good conscience believe what the Catholic Church teaches about Justification.
Something else to ponder. The horror of divine judgment is almost palpable in Catholic theology. Such fear, according to Catholic theology, may move the sinner to the beginnings of faith. For that reason fear ought to be, and is, cultivated. But then the Catholic apologists for justification by faith and works enters to declare to this terrified sinner facing the reality of the eternal wrath of the holy God that the pardon and forgiveness which they seek which Reformation theology teaches is “only an external application of Christ’s justice,” it is "just simply a legal exchange according to the Reformation view. The quaking sinner looking for a sure resting-place for his faith is told to look away from the pardon of God, and the sacrifice of Christ which satisfied divine justice. They are only legal; they are insufficient. The sinner is told to look elsewhere – he is told to look to himself!! Is this “gospel?” Is this “good news” to the sinner’s ear. By thus trivializing God’s forgiveness (a legal category), the Catholic dogma has the effect of minimizing with it the divine justice that demands such pardon, and, most importantly, the Savior who satisfied the holy demands of that divine justice to secure for sinners that full and free pardon.
If the Biblical terminology of justification is examined – in both the Old and New Testaments – one sees forensic, juridical language. With very few exceptions the legal concept of “a declaration or vindication of righteousness” is the meaning of the Biblical terms for justification. It is only by wresting the Scriptures that these terms can be forced into consistency with the metaphysical description of justification demanded by Catholic dogma.
And again I ask If I have to “merit” by Grace my Justification where is the Good News of the Gospel “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. The lip service that my “merit” is caused by my will co-operating with God’s grace is not “good news” to a wretched sinner like me. I still have to depend on “I” to save “I” (me).