The MOST Theological Collection: Grace, Predestination and the Salvific Will of God: New Answers to Old Questions

"Pt. 1: Research in the sources of revelation - Ch. 2: Explicit texts of the Magisterium of the Church"


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21. The explicit statements of the Magisterium on our question are very few, although many things have been said implicitly by the Magisterium, as we shall see in the following chapters.

The second council of Orange, held in 529 A.D., was not a general council. However, because of the special confirmation given it by Pope Boniface II, the canons of this council have the force of a solemn definition. In the epilogue of this council we read:1 "We not only do not believe that any persons have been predestined by divine power to evil, but also, if there are any persons who wish to believe so great an evil, with all detestation, we say anathema to them."

The statement clearly rejects at least positive reprobation before consideration of demerits. However, it does not, at least not clearly, say anything about negative reprobation.

The council of Trent made a similar statement:2 "If anyone says that the grace of justification comes only to those predestined to life, and that all the rest who are called, are really called, but do not receive grace, since they are predestined to evil by divine power: let him be anathema."

22. Two particular councils are often cited in discussions of this matter, the council of Quiersy, held in 853 A.D., and the council of Valence, held in 855 A.D. Historically it is clear that these two councils were opposed to one another on certain matters. Some theologians today think the differences were not very great. It is difficult to judge the matter. However, the two councils at least seem to have practically the same thought on our question. The council of Quiersy taught:3 "Almighty God wills all men without exception, to be saved, even though not all are saved. The fact that some are saved is the gift of Him who saves: the fact that some are lost, is the merit of those who are lost."

The council of Valence taught:4 ". . . [the council] holds, in regard to divine predestination . . . that in election, the mercy of God precedes good merits [on the part of men]: but that in the damnation of those who are lost, evil merits precede the just judgment of God."

So these two councils at least seem to hold a difference between the manner of predestining and the manner of reprobating. For in predestining, the mercy of God comes before any good merits on the part of men, so that men are saved, fundamentally, by divine mercy. But in reprobating on the other hand, evil merits on the part of men come before the judgment, so that those who perish, perish through their own demerits.

(In chapter 15 we shall consider the intervention of the Magisterium in the Congregations de Auxiliis).

23. Conclusions:

1) Positive reprobation before prevision of demerits has certainly been condemned by the Magisterium.

2) Reprobates are certainly not deprived of all grace.

3) At least probably, the particular councils hold that the manner of predestining differs from the manner of reprobating. If they hold this, they probably would not approve an opinion which puts both predestination and reprobation before prevision of merits, nor an opinion which puts both after. Probably they would say that one should be before, and one after prevision of merits.

However, as we have said, the precise sense intended by the two particular councils is not entirely clear, especially because of their opposition to each other. Furthermore, whatever their intention may have been, the councils of Valence and Quiersy were only particular councils, and so lack definitive dogmatic weight.


1 DS 397 (DB 200).
2 DS 1567 (DB 827).
3 DS 623 (DB 318).
4 DS 628 (DB 322).