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#263600 11/20/07 10:10 PM
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Originally Posted by JSMelkiteOrthodoxy
This is not to throw the thread into a discuss of the use of the language of merit, but this is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (the current one)

2027 No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods.

So I am not crazy and I am not just being polemical and I do understand the context in which this passage is placed and I still think that it is theologically problematic. I understand that many would disagree with me and as I said, to get into this would be to derail the thread. I just wanted to be clear that I am not reading this out of a medieval manual or something from the Council of Trent.
Joe,

I thought your comments were very interesting and worth bringing over into a new discussion thread.

Is this really right out of the CCC? It does have a Semi-Pelagian ring to it. While this could probably be cleaned up by understanding the term merit in an analogous sense, I find it hard to justify its use in this way in something like the Cathechism, whose purpose is to clear up confusion on precisely such matters.

On the other hand, didn't Pelagius appeal to the Patriarch of Jerusalem, who initially found no fault with his writings (that is, until a guy named Jerome persuaded him otherwise)?

Anyway, you are not crazy and not just being polemical. The issue of merit is one of the most important in all of theology, since it involves the point at which God's absolute sovereignty comes into contact with the absolute freedom He has bestowed upon man. I look forward to getting into this.


Peace,
Deacon Richard

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From the Vatican text at http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P72.HTM :

Quote
2027 No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods.

This cannot, however, be divorced from the previous paragraph:
Quote
2025 We can have merit in God's sight only because of God's free plan to associate man with the work of his grace. Merit is to be ascribed in the first place to the grace of God, and secondly to man's collaboration. Man's merit is due to God.

2026 The grace of the Holy Spirit can confer true merit on us, by virtue of our adoptive filiation, and in accordance with God's gratuitous justice. Charity is the principal source of merit in us before God.

I agree with Fr. Deacon Richard, that there could be interpreted at least a hint of Pelagius in Paragraph 2027 without clarification. It will be interesting to see how the UGCC Particular Catechism resolves this.

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Thanks, Diak, for the your above response. Merit is a problematic term. While it is part of the theological inheritance of Trent, it is a term that has really been abandoned in the Catholic theology of the past 40 years.

Merit in Catholic theology does not mean what it means in Webster's Dictionary. As a theological term it presupposes the grace of God and indicates that our cooperation with God's grace is an occasion of receiving further grace.

While Protestants like to think that everything is grace and that a person has no part in his own salvation, this is clearly problematic. Even the will to say yes to the truth one has received is an act of cooperation.

Any attempt to act upon the gospel received by being charitable or merciful to one's neighbor again requires an act of the will. But even this act of the will is dependent on the grace of first having received the gospel and having the desire to act upon it. Furthermore, having attempted to act upon the gospel by loving God or one's neighbor, one grows spiritually from the experience. One grows in insight into the gospel, human nature, sin and grace and redemption. One also grows in sanctification. These benefits are "merited" by one's actions. But these actions are inseparable from the gospel received and the desire which God has placed in the heart. So, "merit" is applied to a further grace arising from an act which presupposed prior graces.

It is not pelagian or semi-pelagian as some Protestants have tried to accuse the Church of being.

For a complete explication of grace, free will, justification, etc. see the Joint Declaration on Justification.

It should be noted that discussions of merit usually take place in a polemical context as contemporary Catholic avoid the term for obvius reasons.

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Deacon Richard,

If you are interested in this topic, you should really do some study of it. The Joint Declaration on Justification between Catholic and Lutherans (this is an issue raised by Luther) resolved the issue and recognized that the problem was largely semantic. Both Catholics and Lutherans always recognized the roles of both grace and free will in sanctification and redemption but used terms in different senses.

The old canard "semi-pelagian" is equally applicable to the Orthodox and Catholics as liturgical churches. That we can have a sacramental life that actually effects grace is precisely what Luther opposed. His idea of the priesthood was that everyone is a priest. To him clergy are just ministers. The sacraments to Luther and Calvin were more symbolic than real. Part of his attack on Catholicism was upon the idea that such acts "matter" for our salvation. Lutheranism has backed down on this charge significantly.

Why merit would come up on this forum is rather beyond me. While "merit" is a Catholic term of the scholastic period, it is term that describes a theology shared by both Orthodox and Catholics regarding the way that sanctification and redemption take place.

One of the problems in Orthodox Catholic relations is the rather knee jerk reaction that Easterners have to second millenium Catholic terminology even when it describes shared theological positions. The scholastic era was a rich one for Catholics, Muslims and Jews. Aquinas, Maimonides and Ibn Sina were all using the Aristotelian methods for describing theological concepts and there was even pretty interesting cross over. One of the priests of my community has written extensively in this area. Unfortunately, the Orthodox were not part of this discussion as this was a period of collapse for the Eastern Empire. The wholesale rejection of scholastic theology is a residue of history and an untenable position theologically.

Deacon Richard, I am forced to ask you what you think is the point of ecumenical dialogue if it's conclusions are ignored and polemical accusations are still trumpeted.

As long as this goes on we frustration the desire of the Lord that we be one as he and the Father are one.

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One of the problems in Orthodox Catholic relations is the rather knee jerk reaction that Easterners have to second millenium Catholic terminology even when it describes shared theological positions.

And likewise another problem is the Western knee jerk reaction when the East expresses difficulty with the idea of "double procession" and the Filioque based on the Cappadocian Fathers and the Councils of Nicea, Constantinople and Chalcedon, using first millenium terminology.
Fr. Deacon Randolph

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Originally Posted by Diak
Quote
One of the problems in Orthodox Catholic relations is the rather knee jerk reaction that Easterners have to second millenium Catholic terminology even when it describes shared theological positions.

And likewise another problem is the Western knee jerk reaction when the East expresses difficulty with the idea of "double procession" and the Filioque based on the Cappadocian Fathers and the Councils of Nicea, Constantinople and Chalcedon, using first millenium terminology.
Fr. Deacon Randolph


This thread is not about the filioque. It is about a specific theological concept, Merit, which comes from a specific school of theology, scholasticism. My comment was not about the filioque, but about scholasticism.


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Originally Posted by Fr J Steele CSC
Why merit would come up on this forum is rather beyond me. While "merit" is a Catholic term of the scholastic period, it is term that describes a theology shared by both Orthodox and Catholics regarding the way that sanctification and redemption take place.
Fr. J.,

As I mentioned above, I found it rather interesting that when Pelagius appealed to the Patriarch of Jerusalem (after being censured by the Pope, who was influenced by Augustine), the Patriarch initially found his teachings acceptable. This suggests that the East has a way of looking at this issue of grace vs. freedom that differs from Augustine's, but I never got into it in any depth.

A few months ago, Joe was sharing about some things he had read on the subject, and I thought he might be interested in continuing the discussion.

Originally Posted by Fr J Steele CSC
Deacon Richard, I am forced to ask you what you think is the point of ecumenical dialogue if it's conclusions are ignored and polemical accusations are still trumpeted.
Well, I think the point is first and foremost to clarify our own understanding of the issues, as well as having the opportunity to come together and share.

I remember reading an interview with Jimmy Carter after he had mediated the treaty between Israel and Egypt. At times, Begin and Sadat were able to work together and discuss issues rationally, but often enough the talks would break down and they would find themselves reacting to old hurts and resentments. In these cases, Carter's job was to try and get things back on track, and he found it rather challenging.

I think there is more here than a mere intellectual exercise--it's more like re-establishing a relationship and getting to know ourselves better in the process.


Peace,
Deacon Richard

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Originally Posted by Fr J Steele CSC
Originally Posted by Diak
Quote
One of the problems in Orthodox Catholic relations is the rather knee jerk reaction that Easterners have to second millenium Catholic terminology even when it describes shared theological positions.

And likewise another problem is the Western knee jerk reaction when the East expresses difficulty with the idea of "double procession" and the Filioque based on the Cappadocian Fathers and the Councils of Nicea, Constantinople and Chalcedon, using first millenium terminology.
Fr. Deacon Randolph


This thread is not about the filioque. It is about a specific theological concept, Merit, which comes from a specific school of theology, scholasticism. My comment was not about the filioque, but about scholasticism.

Just my 2 cents...this isn't about the filioque...but I think what Diak was getting at was that the "street runs both ways"...thank you Diak...otherwise, I know I viewed it as a back-hand...I also think, in regards to Merit comming out of the specific school of scholasticism...this is 100% correct...however, it's simply another glaring example of the issues that arose when the West decided to "go it alone" without the rest of the Church...I'll duck now... whistle

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Originally Posted by Job
Just my 2 cents...this isn't about the filioque...but I think what Diak was getting at was that the "street runs both ways"...thank you Diak...otherwise, I know I viewed it as a back-hand...I also think, in regards to Merit comming out of the specific school of scholasticism...this is 100% correct...however, it's simply another glaring example of the issues that arose when the West decided to "go it alone" without the rest of the Church...I'll duck now... whistle

Chris


Baring in mind that the "rest of the Church" was already divided. The Assyrians were long gone by 1054 and the Oriental Orthodox (which easily could have been equal in size to the Greek party) had also been gone for centuries.

The split was very much between the Latins and Greeks...

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Father J,

With all due respect, and since the topic is that of the nature of merit in the Catholic Church, I have to take some issue with what I see as your over-emphasis on the Reformation-period use or misuse of the term "merit". You seem to me to be well-versed in Catholic-Protestant ecumenical dialogue, and I have no quarrel with what you say about that. And if, in English, the word has been discontinued in Catholic Theology, the only question I would have is what word has been coined to replace it?

The Latin "mereo; mereor" long predates its use in the Scholastic Period, and was used both by Latin Fathers such as Augustine (and presumably) Jerome, and also by the Latin Liturgy going back to its earliest known Collects.

During the period of classical and pagan Rome, the word was used sometimes to mean, indeed, transitively, "to deserve, earn", etc.; but intransitively, it had a much richer meaning: "to serve, especially, to serve in the army; to render service to someone/something", and several idioms grew up:

a) bene de re publica merere or mereri - "to serve one's country well";
b) equo merere - "to serve in the cavalry".

Thus, the Catholic priest would speak of "meriting" in the Liturgy in this sense of "serving [in] the Church", which, if poorly translated, might sound like gloating, but the issue here is not poor translation.

In the Latin Liturgy and in the Fathers it frequently means "to be able" by virtue of having been given the power -- "to be able because of having been enabled". In this sense, it reflects the idea of John 1, 12: dedit eis potestatem fieri filios Dei.

I have a copy of the NT (the NIV) owned by the International Bible Society (Protestant, I assume) where this is rendered: "he gave the right to become children of God". This is just wrong (in the sense of merit) relative to the traditional Catholic literal translation of the Latin "he gave them power to be made the sons of God". The Greek term being translated "exousia", might be understood to give a "conditional right" (to substance or property), but not a strict right in the modern sense. The Catholic English translation "power", is much better, because the power comes from Him.

Originally Posted by Fr J Steele CSC
[...] Why merit would come up on this forum is rather beyond me. While "merit" is a Catholic term of the scholastic period, it is term that describes a theology shared by both Orthodox and Catholics regarding the way that sanctification and redemption take place.

One of the problems in Orthodox Catholic relations is the rather knee jerk reaction that Easterners have to second millenium Catholic terminology even when it describes shared theological positions. [...]
(emphasis added)

So, I would object to your overly strict characterization of the "concept" as you did in the underlined phrases: it is not a late concept, it is not "scholastic", except insofar as it came to be defined by the Catholic/Protestant polemic, of the 16th to 20th Century. I don't think it should be understood simply in those terms, nor do a number of historians of the Latin Liturgy, such as Dr. Lauren Pristas, who have studied what the Liturgical reformers of the 1960's (the Concilium) did to the Latin Liturgy in their efforts to appeal, apparently, to the Protestants. This was done to the Latin originals, so it is not a matter of bad English translation. For details, see her article, The Collects at Sunday Mass: An Examination of the Revisions of Vatican II [faculty.caldwell.edu] .

God bless,
Michael

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OK I'll bite...

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Baring in mind that the "rest of the Church" was already divided.

The Church was not and is not divided...some decided they knew better than the Church and left it...simply some are in the Church and some are not (although everyone thinks they are)

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Bless, Father Steele!

To your point on scholasticism and the East, there was indeed a school of scholasticism in both the Greek and Ruthenian Orthodox Churches, especially during the Kyivan Baroque Period of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Clearly, St Peter Mohyla's "Catechism of the Orthodox-Catholic Christian Church" was a product of scholasticism at its zenith in the East.

And I would have to join with McDonald in asking what term has replaced that of "merit" in Catholic theology today? Has it simply been discarded altogether?

And did not at least one Catholic-Protestant theological commission agree on merit to mean that "God wants His Gifts of Grace to us to be our merits?"

Alex

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Dear Simple Sinner,

Thank you for your post on the Church being divided - but of what relevance is your point to this discussion?

I've completely missed it, sorry.

Alex

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Originally Posted by Orthodox Catholic
Bless, Father Steele!

To your point on scholasticism and the East, there was indeed a school of scholasticism in both the Greek and Ruthenian Orthodox Churches, especially during the Kyivan Baroque Period of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Clearly, St Peter Mohyla's "Catechism of the Orthodox-Catholic Christian Church" was a product of scholasticism at its zenith in the East.

And I would have to join with McDonald in asking what term has replaced that of "merit" in Catholic theology today? Has it simply been discarded altogether?

And did not at least one Catholic-Protestant theological commission agree on merit to mean that "God wants His Gifts of Grace to us to be our merits?"

Alex


Alex and Michael,

Thanks for your comments and you raise a good question. The term that has replaced "merit" in Catholic (Latin) theology is "cooperation." The fact that one cannot replace the term merit with cooperation in a sentence says a lot about how Catholic theology has changed. There has not been a mere substitution of one term for another. Instead, the entire syntax of the discussion has completely changed. I should add that cooperation functions differently in Catholic (Latin) theology from merit. Merit is a soteriological term. Mechanical questions around salvation have virtually disappeared in contemporary Catholic theology, though this may change with the current influx of Protestant theologians into the Catholic Church over the past 15 years and now accelerating.

What are Catholics (Latins) talking about if not soteriology? All kinds of things, but mostly I would say, Christian anthropology. What is man? Cooperation shows up in lots of ways in both liberal and conservative theology. Liberals speak of co-creation--that humanity not only cooperates on an individual level with grace for individual salvation, but that the human race is so at the center of God's creative act that all of creation is impinged not only by divine will but by human intervention. This sounds like environmentalism or something and it is, but only partially. It was an insight first employed to explain culture and language--civilizations. Conservatives use the term co-redemptrix for the BVM and show how there are parallels between the necessity of Eve in the fall and the necessity of Mary in the redemption. While the term co-redemptrix overstates the case (Mary is NOT a co-redeemer even for those who favor co-redemptrix) this position makes all kinds of interesting statements about subjects such as feminism as a dimension of Christian anthropology and even soteriological issues.

The best way to answer the question "whatever happened to merit?" is to say that the focus has shifted.

Alex, I am glad to learn that there is a scholastic school among the Orthodox. It does make me wonder why the term "scholastic" is spoken of so bitterly be Easterners, though.

Michael, you are right, I was not aware of the use of the term "merit" prior to the scholastics. That fact that its use extends back to the Latin Fathers may be an indication of just how different Eastern and Western theologies were even prior to the divided church. And, just as we have to live with different liturgies of the patristic age, we have to live with different theological emphases as well. I suppose this is why JPII speaks of the two lungs. Apparently, twas always thus.

Job, if the Ravenna document is ever approved or received in the East, then the claim that the Church is undivided will have to be dropped. What is a church without its protos?

I should also say that yes, I am more versed in the Protestant attack mode. Merit is a very dirty word for them. I am not sure from the comments above how the East actually sees merit in soteriology or cooperation in anthropology. The idea of divinization does not seem to answer the question "how?" And perhaps Eastern theology doesnt ask such a question. Am curious though.

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Originally Posted by Job
OK I'll bite...

Quote
Baring in mind that the "rest of the Church" was already divided.

The Church was not and is not divided...some decided they knew better than the Church and left it...simply some are in the Church and some are not (although everyone thinks they are)


A fair enouigh qualification, I am of the same or similar opinion - with a different thinking on what constitutes "the Church"... But I was of the thinking a quick point could be made without lengthy reference to such qualifiers...


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