Monday, December 5, 2011

Seripando on the theory of the duplex iustitia

"'Has the justified, who has performed good works in a state of grace and with the help of actual graceboth of which stem from the merits of Christand who has thus preserved both inherent justice, so completely met the claims of divine justice that when he appears before the judgment-seat of Christ he obtains eternal life on account of his own merits?  Or is he in need, in addition to his own inherent justice, of the mercy and justice of Christ, that is, of the merits of His Passion, in order to supplement what is wanting to his own personal justice?  and this in such wise that this justice is imparted to him in the measure of his faith and charity?'"

     One of the two questions submitted to the theologians by the Council of Trent on 15 October 1546 in response to the "vote" cast by the Augustinian Girolomo Seripando on 8 October (Hubert Jedin, A history of the Council of Trent, trans. Dom Ernest Graf, O.S.B. (London:  Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1961), vol. 2 (The first sessions at Trent, 1545-47), p. 249).  This vote "raised a problem the discussion of which was destined to delay the conclusion of the debate for many weeks" (247):  "a question had cropped up which would have to be thoroughly examined once more.  It was not the case that any serious doubts about the fundamental principles of the Catholic doctrine of justification had arisen in the minds of its members.  They all conceived it as an entitative, supernatural elevation, through sanctifying grace and the meritoriousness of good works performed in a state of grace.  Ultimately the only question was the formulation of an acknowledged element of Christian piety, namely the relation of the justified to Jesus Christ, his Saviour" (248-249; cf. Seripando's stress on the significance of union with Christ on 26-27 November (286-287)).  This distinction between "the fundamental principles of . . . doctrine" and "an acknowledged element of Christian piety" was an important one to some:  "For Stephen [of Sestino] this imputation [of 'the perfect justice of Christ'] is a postulate of practical piety:  'Do not let us talk of transcendental matters, let us not attempt to square the circle, but let us speak in the light of our own experience.'  Personal experience and the experience of the Saints . . . teach us that when the Christian reflects on the dreadful judgment to come, he has recourse to God's mercy and the merits of Jesus Christ.  Another Augustinian Hermit, Gregory of Padua, similarly appealed to the personal experience of Christians.  In theory he rejected the doctrine of the insufficiency of inherent justice but in practice he advocated the imputation of the justice of Christ for, he asks, which of us, when he considers his own life, will presume to assert that he has adequately satisfied every one of God's demands?" (254-255, emphasis mine)  The Servite Mazochi, for his part, distinguished between speaking "'to scholastics as a scholastic'" and speaking as an "ordinary Christian" (255).  Etc.
     Ultimately, though, Seripando's "question of a twofold justice" (248), though never formally condemned (Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, vol. 14, col. 1934), was answered by the Council in the negative.
     Thus, I have yet to put my finger on anything like the "Silentio" I remember David Willis once speaking of.  According to Willis if memory serves, Seripando posed a question similar to the one posed by Gregory of Padua above ("Which of us, when he appears before the judgment-seat of Christ, will presume, etc."), and got from the Council Fathers only a stunned (because dumbfounded) "Silentio" in reply.  Rather, opposition to "la théorie de la double justice" (Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, vol. 14, col. 1933-1934; cf. vol. 8, cols. 2182-2185) seems to have been pretty vigorous from the moment Seripando invoked it.  Indeed, at least three of the Fathers "expressed a willingness o be judged on the basis of their works" (McCue, 52-53).
     But:  I have read only very superficially in this area, and would be more than happy to stand corrected.  (I am particularly interested in confirmation of the tale as I remember Dr. Willis telling it.)

Further scholarship that I should probably examine (in progress):

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