What exactly are "satisfaction" and "justification" in Western Catholicism?


#1

Hi all, I've read some of Aquinas' writings on the idea that Christ offered satisfaction for our sins, yet this satisfaction is not the same kind as what Anselm describes in his theory of satisfactionary atonement, and it definitely isn't what the Reformers taught with their doctrine of penal substitution. But what exactly does "satisfaction" mean in the Latin Church, and how is it different in any meaningful way from not just the above two theories, but also from the recapitulation theory of atonement?

EDIT: I also thought I'd add in "justification" to this mix as well. Could someone explain that to me, too?

Thanks for putting up with me!


#2

I don't know the answer, but you might find some answers in the Catholic Enyclopedia (1917) article "Doctrine of the Atonement." (The CE is not, of course, definitive for Catholicism, but has a lot of useful information.)

I see that you're inquiring into Eastern Orthodoxy. Are you aware of the existence of Eastern Catholicism?


#3

As to your edit, have you read Trent's decree on justification? The Catechism talks about it starting in para. 1987, and the CE also has an article titled Justification.


#4

[quote="Ad_Orientem, post:2, topic:316471"]
I see that you're inquiring into Eastern Orthodoxy. Are you aware of the existence of Eastern Catholicism?

[/quote]

I agree with this. The OP should look into Eastern Catholicism if S(he) is interested into Eastern Christian spirituality and wants to try something different than the liturgies in the The Roman Catholic Church.

God Bless!


#5

[quote="Ad_Orientem, post:3, topic:316471"]
As to your edit, have you read Trent's decree on justification? The Catechism talks about it starting in para. 1987, and the CE also has an article titled Justification.

[/quote]

You know, funnily enough, I found the part on Justification in the Catechism a few minutes after I posted this topic :o Thank you for the links; the part from Trent especially was helpful. That's a council I'll be needing to research further, I think.

Also, I'll post the text of paragraph 1992. Can you please tell me if I have understood it?

Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life:
[RIGHT]Paragraph 1992[/RIGHT]

My understanding is that the Catechism is basically using the language of Christ as a sacrifice to God in order to say that He offered Himself up to reconcile us, justifying us (e.g. bringing us out from a state of sin and separation from God, to a state of grace and communion with God, cleansing us of sin and filling us with God's grace, making us able to further grow in holiness, righteousness, faithfulness, love and charity). Have I understood the teaching of justification correctly?

And likewise, "satisfaction" is the reconciliation between man and God, with us going from being enemies of God to being His friends and sons, and the relationship which was formerly one of estrangement going to being one of communion and love? Is this correct? If not, how?


#6

[quote="Ad_Orientem, post:2, topic:316471"]

I see that you're inquiring into Eastern Orthodoxy. Are you aware of the existence of Eastern Catholicism?

[/quote]

Yes! Very much so, and there are a lot of great people there. I was originally confirmed as a Roman Catholic, but then went over to a Byzantine Catholic Church for about two years (I even altar served there). I left the Catholic Church over disagreements with the Papacy, and disagreements with (read: misunderstandings of) Latin theology. I'm working on my disagreements and misunderstandings so that, if I were to join the Orthodox Church, it would be because Christ is guiding me there, and not because I have beef with the Catholic Church. However, I'm completely open to returning to the Catholic Church if my disagreements are resolvable and if I feel Christ calling me back.


#7

[quote="Shiranui117, post:5, topic:316471"]
justifying us (e.g. bringing us out from a state of sin and separation from God, to a state of grace and communion with God, cleansing us of sin and filling us with God's grace, making us able to further grow in holiness, righteousness, faithfulness, love and charity)

And likewise, "satisfaction" is the reconciliation between man and God, with us going from being enemies of God to being His friends and sons, and the relationship which was formerly one of estrangement going to being one of communion and love?

[/quote]

Let me preface this by pointing out I'm not a priest or theologian.

As far as I can tell, your understanding of justification sounds more or less correct, but your definition of satisfaction sounds more like another definition of justification.

Satisfaction is not the reconciliation itself, but one aspect of it, namely, reparation made for wrongs committed. This is perhaps an overused example, but if I break your window, you can forgive me, but the window still has to be repaired. Your forgiving me when I'm sorry is like justification (I think); my repairing the window, or paying for it, is like satisfaction. You can probably see how indulgences, purgatory, etc. fit in here.


#8

[quote="Shiranui117, post:6, topic:316471"]
I'm working on my disagreements and misunderstandings so that, if I were to join the Orthodox Church, it would be because Christ is guiding me there, and not because I have beef with the Catholic Church. However, I'm completely open to returning to the Catholic Church if my disagreements are resolvable and if I feel Christ calling me back.

[/quote]

Thanks for your openness; you sound like a person of integrity. If I may offer some food for thought, I went through a period of searching, too, some years back. In the end I became Catholic not because every doctrine passed some test of my own making, but because I came to see that there was a Church with divine credentials to teach, and that this Church was a lot wiser than me. It made things a lot simpler.


#9

Ahh! So in other words, justification is like God’s part; He forgives us and saves us. And satisfaction is like our part; we repent, and amend our lives and the harm we caused in our relationship with God and others?

If this is the case, then I think I can see the point that Satisfactory Atonement is making: Christ obeyed God completely, and gave His life as a satisfaction for our sins, not because God was out to punish someone, but because offering His most holy life and His perfect love to God was the way to make amends for a world that led sinful and often hateful lives?

I thank you for your advice, and I think it’s a very wise frame of mind!


#10

[quote="Shiranui117, post:9, topic:316471"]
justification is like God's part; He forgives us and saves us. And satisfaction is like our part; we repent, and amend our lives and the harm we caused in our relationship with God and others?!

[/quote]

Sort of, but not exactly. There's definitely a "God's part" and an "our part," but the terms "justification" and "satisfaction" have meanings that don't fit neatly into those categories. Justification is ultimately God's act, but He has so ordained things that it also requires our cooperation (cf. Eph. 2:8-9; Jas. 2:17-26). Satisfaction is indeed our part, but it only has worth insofar as it is united to our Divine Savior.

[quote="Shiranui117, post:9, topic:316471"]
Christ obeyed God completely, and gave His life as a satisfaction for our sins, not because God was out to punish someone, but because offering His most holy life and His perfect love to God was the way to make amends for a world that led sinful and often hateful lives?

[/quote]

This part sounds right to me, but again, I'm not a theologian. I believe St. Thomas says it would have sufficed for Christ to make one act of will, in order to make amends for fallen man (because of the divine perfection of His charity and infinite merit of His actions). But He chose a more perfect way which more clearly showed the depth of His unfathomable love for us.


#11

[quote="Ad_Orientem, post:10, topic:316471"]
Sort of, but not exactly. There's definitely a "God's part" and an "our part," but the terms "justification" and "satisfaction" have meanings that don't fit neatly into those categories. Justification is ultimately God's act, but He has so ordained things that it also requires our cooperation (cf. Eph. 2:8-9; Jas. 2:17-26). Satisfaction is indeed our part, but it only has worth insofar as it is united to our Divine Savior.

[/quote]

Understood.

This part sounds right to me, but again, I'm not a theologian. I believe St. Thomas says it would have sufficed for Christ to make one act of will, in order to make amends for fallen man (because of the divine perfection of His charity and infinite merit of His actions). But He chose a more perfect way which more clearly showed the depth of His unfathomable love for us.

Thank you, this makes sense, and fits in nicely with the Patristic models of atonement :)


#12

Glad I could help.


#13

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