Discussing the Sacrament of Penance, the CCC says:
Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. [CCC 1446, emphasis mine]
It seems to me that the CCC ought to have said the “grace of salvation,” or “Baptismal Grace.” After all, all of humanity is justified. We were justified before our Baptism.
The passage starts out by talking about the loss of Baptismal Grace, but finishes by talking about the restoration of the grace of justification (which we had before Baptism).
If Confession restored ONLY our justification then it puts out back to the state we were in BEFORE we were Baptized, so we would need to undergo Baptism again to recover our sanctifying grace. And, ummm, I’m pretty sure that’s heresy.
So, what is the Catechism talking about? The only explanation I see would be if Baptismal Grace was the same as the grace of justification, and I’m pretty sure that’s not right.
JUSTIFICATION, THEOLOGY OF. The process of a sinner becoming justified or made right with God. As defined by the Council of Trent. “Justification is the change from the condition in which a person is born as a child of the first Adam into a state of grace and adoption among the children of God through the Second Adam, Jesus Christ our Savior” (Denzinger 1524). On the negative side, justification is a true removal of sin, and not merely having one’s sins ignored or no longer held against the sinner by God. On the positive side it is the supernatural sanctification and renewal of a person who thus becomes holy and pleasing to God and an heir of heaven.
The Catholic Church identifies five elements of justification, which collectively define its full meaning. The primary purpose of justification is the honor of God and of Christ; its secondary purpose is the eternal life of mankind. The main efficient cause or agent is the mercy of God; the main instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is called the “sacrament of faith” to spell out the necessity of faith for salvation. And that which constitutes justification or its essence is the justice of God, “not by which He is just Himself, but by which He makes us just,” namely sanctifying grace.
Depending on the sins from which a person is to be delivered, there are different kinds of justification. An infant is justified by baptism and the faith of the one who requests or confers the sacrament. Adults are justified for the first time either by personal faith, sorrow for sin and baptism, or by the perfect love of God, which is at least an implicit baptism of desire.** Adults who have sinned gravely after being justified can receive justification by sacramental absolution or perfect contrition for their sins.** (Etym. Latin justus, just + facere, to make, do: justificatio.)
Note also the equation of “sanctifying grace” and “the grace of justification” here, as the product of baptism:
1266 The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptized sanctifying grace, the grace of justification:
enabling them to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him through the theological virtues;
giving them the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit;
allowing them to grow in goodness through the moral virtues.
Thus the whole organism of the Christian’s supernatural life has its roots in Baptism.
Then, see the similarity here, with respect to the activity of “baptismal grace”:
1303 Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:
it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, “Abba! Father!”;
it unites us more firmly to Christ;
it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross:
In essence, I think that you are drawing an unnecessary discrimination between grace and grace. The Grace of God is the Grace of God.
1996 Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God