Thursday, October 29, 2015

God's Law, Civil Law, and Liberty of Conscience in Catholic Doctrine

I would like to explore a little bit the Catholic Church's position on civil law and its authority, particularly as these relate to questions of how civil law relates to God's law and authority, secularism, sins against the "first table of the law" (i.e. false religion, blasphemy, etc.), and liberty of conscience.


A couple of relevant sections from the Catechism of the Catholic Church can be found here and here (particularly #1897-1904 and #2104-2109).  Here is how I would briefly summarize the basic Catholic position on civil authority:  God has created human beings and the universe in such a way that human nature naturally calls for certain forms of organization among human individuals with certain authority structures that go along with them--such as organizations of family and civil society (the state).  Since God is the author of the human nature that gives rise to these institutions, these institutions are ordained by God and therefore have his authority behind them.  Thus, in Paul's language (Romans 13:1-7), the "powers that be" are ordained of God and are thus ministers of God whom we are commanded by God's moral law to obey.  Since these institutions are "ministers of God," they do not have unlimited authority.  They only have authority when they are legitimately fulfilling their essential functions in a manner consistent with the objective moral law of God.  Essential human governments, then, are a sort of limited microcosm of God's government of the cosmos.  Just as God seeks to promote the good and condemn the evil in his government of the world, so human governments ought to rule according to God's moral law, promoting what is good and hindering or opposing that which is evil.

Since human governments, including the state, are under God's law and are ministers of God, the concept of secularism (understood as the idea that the state should refrain from endorsing any particular religious viewpoint or basing its laws on any religious viewpoint--in effect, that the state should embrace Agnosticism and base its laws on that assumption) is contrary to Catholic doctrine.  The Catholic worldview insists that just as human individuals are not morally autonomous but are under God's rule, so human societies, including civil societies, likewise are under God and are not autonomous or independent from God.  Pope Leo XIII articulated this viewpoint in opposition to Agnostic secularism very clearly in his encyclical Libertas issued in 1888:

15. What naturalists or rationalists aim at in philosophy, that the supporters of liberalism, carrying out the principles laid down by naturalism, are attempting in the domain of morality and politics. The fundamental doctrine of rationalism is the supremacy of the human reason, which, refusing due submission to the divine and eternal reason, proclaims its own independence, and constitutes itself the supreme principle and source and judge of truth. Hence, these followers of liberalism deny the existence of any divine authority to which obedience is due, and proclaim that every man is the law to himself; from which arises that ethical system which they style independent morality, and which, under the guise of liberty, exonerates man from any obedience to the commands of God, and substitutes a boundless license. The end of all this it is not difficult to foresee, especially when society is in question. For, when once man is firmly persuaded that he is subject to no one, it follows that the efficient cause of the unity of civil society is not to be sought in any principle external to man, or superior to him, but simply in the free will of individuals; that the authority in the State comes from the people only; and that, just as every man's individual reason is his only rule of life, so the collective reason of the community should be the supreme guide in the management of all public affairs. Hence the doctrine of the supremacy of the greater number, and that all right and all duty reside in the majority. But, from what has been said, it is clear that all this is in contradiction to reason. To refuse any bond of union between man and civil society, on the one hand, and God the Creator and consequently the supreme Law-giver, on the other, is plainly repugnant to the nature, not only of man, but of all created things; for, of necessity, all effects must in some proper way be connected with their cause; and it belongs to the perfection of every nature to contain itself within that sphere and grade which the order of nature has assigned to it, namely, that the lower should be subject and obedient to the higher. . . . 
18. There are others, somewhat more moderate though not more consistent, who affirm that the morality of individuals is to be guided by the divine law, but not the morality of the State, for that in public affairs the commands of God may be passed over, and may be entirely disregarded in the framing of laws. Hence follows the fatal theory of the need of separation between Church and State. But the absurdity of such a position is manifest. Nature herself proclaims the necessity of the State providing means and opportunities whereby the community may be enabled to live properly, that is to say, according to the laws of God. For, since God is the source of all goodness and justice, it is absolutely ridiculous that the State should pay no attention to these laws or render them abortive by contrary enact menu [sic]. Besides, those who are in authority owe it to the commonwealth not only to provide for its external well-being and the conveniences of life, but still more to consult the welfare of men's souls in the wisdom of their legislation. But, for the increase of such benefits, nothing more suitable can be conceived than the laws which have God for their author; and, therefore, they who in their government of the State take no account of these laws abuse political power by causing it to deviate from its proper end and from what nature itself prescribes. And, what is still more important, and what We have more than once pointed out, although the civil authority has not the same proximate end as the spiritual, nor proceeds on the same lines, nevertheless in the exercise of their separate powers they must occasionally meet. For their subjects are the same, and not infrequently they deal with the same objects, though in different ways. Whenever this occurs, since a state of conflict is absurd and manifestly repugnant to the most wise ordinance of God, there must necessarily exist some order or mode of procedure to remove the occasions of difference and contention, and to secure harmony in all things. This harmony has been not inaptly compared to that which exists between the body and the soul for the well-being of both one and the other, the separation of which brings irremediable harm to the body, since it extinguishes its very life. . . . 
20. But, assuredly, of all the duties which man has to fulfill, that, without doubt, is the chiefest and holiest which commands him to worship God with devotion and piety. This follows of necessity from the truth that we are ever in the power of God, are ever guided by His will and providence, and, having come forth from Him, must return to Him. Add to which, no true virtue can exist without religion, for moral virtue is concerned with those things which lead to God as man's supreme and ultimate good; and therefore religion, which (as St. Thomas says) "performs those actions which are directly and immediately ordained for the divine honor",(7) rules and tempers all virtues. And if it be asked which of the many conflicting religions it is necessary to adopt, reason and the natural law unhesitatingly tell us to practice that one which God enjoins, and which men can easily recognize by certain exterior notes, whereby Divine Providence has willed that it should be distinguished, because, in a matter of such moment, the most terrible loss would be the consequence of error. Wherefore, when a liberty such as We have described is offered to man, the power is given him to pervert or abandon with impunity the most sacred of duties, and to exchange the unchangeable good for evil; which, as We have said, is no liberty, but its degradation, and the abject submission of the soul to sin. 
21. This kind of liberty, if considered in relation to the State, clearly implies that there is no reason why the State should offer any homage to God, or should desire any public recognition of Him; that no one form of worship is to be preferred to another, but that all stand on an equal footing, no account being taken of the religion of the people, even if they profess the Catholic faith. But, to justify this, it must needs be taken as true that the State has no duties toward God, or that such duties, if they exist, can be abandoned with impunity, both of which assertions are manifestly false. For it cannot be doubted but that, by the will of God, men are united in civil society; whether its component parts be considered; or its form, which implies authority; or the object of its existence; or the abundance of the vast services which it renders to man. God it is who has made man for society, and has placed him in the company of others like himself, so that what was wanting to his nature, and beyond his attainment if left to his own resources, he might obtain by association with others. Wherefore, civil society must acknowledge God as its Founder and Parent, and must obey and reverence His power and authority. Justice therefore forbids, and reason itself forbids, the State to be godless; or to adopt a line of action which would end in godlessness-namely, to treat the various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow upon them promiscuously equal rights and privileges. Since, then, the profession of one religion is necessary in the State, that religion must be professed which alone is true, and which can be recognized without difficulty, especially in Catholic States, because the marks of truth are, as it were, engravers [sic] upon it. This religion, therefore, the rulers of the State must preserve and protect, if they would provide - as they should do - with prudence and usefulness for the good of the community. For public authority exists for the welfare of those whom it governs; and, although its proximate end is to lead men to the prosperity found in this life, yet, in so doing, it ought not to diminish, but rather to increase, man's capability of attaining to the supreme good in which his everlasting happiness consists: which never can be attained if religion be disregarded.

So the function of the state is to be a minister of God for the praise and promotion of good and the hindering and opposing of evil, as these are defined by God's moral law, within the bounds of civil society.  The state is, to the best of its ability, to protect the civil sphere from evil and for good.  The core of God's moral law is summarized in the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, the Ten Commandments "express man's fundamental duties towards God and towards his neighbor":

The Ten Commandments belong to God's revelation. At the same time they teach us the true humanity of man. They bring to light the essential duties, and therefore, indirectly, the fundamental rights inherent in the nature of the human person. The Decalogue contains a privileged expression of the natural law: . . . The commandments of the Decalogue, although accessible to reason alone, have been revealed. To attain a complete and certain understanding of the requirements of the natural law, sinful humanity needed this revelation: . . . We know God's commandments through the divine revelation proposed to us in the Church, and through the voice of moral conscience.

For example, the fifth commandment is "Thou shalt not kill."  The underlying principle of this commandment is that human life belongs to God and is valuable to him, and that we are therefore to respect it.  In terms of civil law, this translates into prohibitions against murder.  The state works to protect and honor human life by forbidding life to be taken, trying to prevent life from being taken, and punishing those who take it.  Oftentimes, good civil laws are agreed upon by Christians as well as by people of other worldviews, even Atheists or Agnostics, because it is apparent to human reason that the breaking of these laws would be bad for the welfare of society.  This is obviously the case with civil laws against murder in a general sense.  But sometimes there might be disagreement over civil laws arising from different beliefs and values of different worldviews.  For example, it has become common of late, and it is becoming more common all the time, for those who hold a secular (Atheist or Agnostic) worldview to defend the legalization of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) in various circumstances.  PAS is the the intentional ending of one's own life with the aid of the medical community.  According to God's law (see the Catechism, #2276-2283), suicide is a grave sin because it is self-murder.  Our lives belong to God and they are valuable to him, and therefore we should not deliberately end them even if continuing to live involves great trials.  Rather, we should seek to use our lives for the service of God and man until God himself ends them.  But in a secular, Naturalistic worldview, our lives are seen as owned ultimately only by ourselves, and our only ultimate responsibility is to our own desire to live a happy life.  God either does not exist or cannot be known to exist, and so we owe no responsibility to him, and nothing is gained by seeking to live according to what are claimed to be God's commands but what are really only the commands of ancient human beings.  Within this worldview, a plausible case can be made that it can make sense in some circumstances for people to end their own lives.  If my life has become much more of a burden than a joy (say I am sick with some disease which causes a great deal of pain or loss of dignity), why should I not choose to end it rather than continue to suffer?  And if this is a reasonable choice, why should I not be able to enlist the aid of the medical profession in carrying out this intention, just as we make use of this profession to help us in so many other areas of life?  And therefore many secularists today argue that PAS ought to be legal.  Within a Catholic worldview, however, PAS can never be approved or endorsed by the state, nor can the state ever grant a right to it, for the state has no authority to authorize what God has forbidden.  The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in their Declaration on Euthanasia back in 1980, put the Catholic position this way:

It is necessary to state firmly once more that nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action. For it is a question of the violation of the divine law, an offense against the dignity of the human person, a crime against life, and an attack on humanity.


Ideally, human societies ought to root out all evils among them.  But, as the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13) reminds us, until the final judgment it will not be possible to root out all evil without destroying good (and thus perpetrating evil) as well.  Therefore, while the state can never grant a right to do evil or approve of evil, there are often occasions where the state must tolerate or refrain from punishing or thwarting evil to an extent.  In doing this, of course, just as in its punishing evil and rewarding the good, the state imitates God himself, the great Governor of the universe, who allows various evils to exist somewhat unhindered for a time in order to bring about a greater good.  One simple example of this sort of situation (on a small, very temporary scale) is when a thief breaks into a house and holds its inhabitants hostage.  Theft is a violation of justice, and so ordinary the state ought to thwart and punish it, but in this case the immediate attempt to thwart the thief would likely result in the deaths of the innocent inhabitants of the house, and so the police will wisely forbear to carry out an immediate apprehending of the criminal.  This is, of course, not the same as granting a license to the thief to steal or to break into people's homes.  The state will still attempt to apprehend the thief, but it will pursue this goal over a longer period of time and in a way that will also safeguard the safety of the innocents, which is in this case the higher value.  We can think of other situations that are not so temporary, where the evil is more entrenched and harder to uproot without causing more harm and so a longer and deeper tolerance is called for.  For example, some cities might allow gangs to exist for long periods of time at their heart, not because they approve of what they are doing, but because they cannot completely eradicate them without causing more harm than good.  Or the state might allow certain speech that is to some degree offensive, not because the speech itself is approved but because the results of curtailing the speech would be worse.  (Indeed, where to draw the line in this area and how to balance the various concerns properly is the subject of a large and long-standing debate in modern western culture over so-called "hate speech regulation.")

One area that in modern times in particular demands much careful, nuanced, and balanced consideration is the question of how modern societies ought to treat violations of what is often called the "first table" of the law--that is, the first three (or four, depending on how you divide them up) of the Ten Commandments which focus more directly on man's relationship to God rather than man's relationship to man--do not worship false gods, do not take God's name in vain, keep the Sabbath day holy, etc.  Of course, secularism is dead set against any civil prohibition or punishing of these types of actions, because from an Agnostic or Atheistic point of view these aren't evil actions at all but are of no importance.  Since God either does not exist or at least cannot be known to exist, why would it matter whether someone worships the God of the Bible or Zeus, or some statue in his backyard, or whether he engages in insulting speech regarding some imaginary deity?  One might as well criminalize the insulting of the Keebler Elves.  But things aren't so simple from the Christian point of view.  In the Christian worldview, God is the Supreme Being, and he is therefore of supreme importance.  He is the fullness and source of all being, all beauty, all worth, and all good.  If human individuals and societies ought to value life and protect it, how much more should they value the honor and true worship of the one true God and the preservation of the one true religion?  As Pope Leo XIII put it in his encyclical Libertas quoted earlier,

But, assuredly, of all the duties which man has to fulfill, that, without doubt, is the chiefest and holiest which commands him to worship God with devotion and piety. This follows of necessity from the truth that we are ever in the power of God, are ever guided by His will and providence, and, having come forth from Him, must return to Him. . . . God it is who has made man for society, and has placed him in the company of others like himself, so that what was wanting to his nature, and beyond his attainment if left to his own resources, he might obtain by association with others. Wherefore, civil society must acknowledge God as its Founder and Parent, and must obey and reverence His power and authority. Justice therefore forbids, and reason itself forbids, the State to be godless; or to adopt a line of action which would end in godlessness-namely, to treat the various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow upon them promiscuously equal rights and privileges.

Because of this, Pope Leo is not thrilled at the secular idea that every person has a right that ought to be acknowledged by civil authority to worship whatever he wants and in whatever way he thinks fit:

To make this more evident, the growth of liberty ascribed to our age must be considered apart in its various details. And, first, let us examine that liberty in individuals which is so opposed to the virtue of religion, namely, the liberty of worship, as it is called. This is based on the principle that every man is free to profess as he may choose any religion or none. . . . [W]hen a liberty such as We have described is offered to man, the power is given him to pervert or abandon with impunity the most sacred of duties, and to exchange the unchangeable good for evil; which, as We have said, is no liberty, but its degradation, and the abject submission of the soul to sin. . . . 
This kind of liberty, if considered in relation to the State, clearly implies that there is no reason why the State should offer any homage to God, or should desire any public recognition of Him; that no one form of worship is to be preferred to another, but that all stand on an equal footing, no account being taken of the religion of the people, even if they profess the Catholic faith. But, to justify this, it must needs be taken as true that the State has no duties toward God, or that such duties, if they exist, can be abandoned with impunity, both of which assertions are manifestly false.

This point has been made by many popes in recent times, as the subject over the past few centuries has become a pressing one.  For some examples, see Quas Primas, Immortale Dei, Quanta Cura, and the Syllabus of Errors.

However, on the other hand, there are other important principles and facts to consider.  One of these principles is that God requires of human beings that we worship, believe in, and obey him willingly and rationally.  We have been designed by God with the capacity to examine the world around us and to seek and arrive at truth as we follow the evidence where it leads, as well as the capacity to choose freely to follow truth once we have found it.  We have a moral obligation to do these things.  Therefore, we have a right to have sufficient freedom and "free space" to be able to perform these functions.  In short, we have a right to be granted room to perform the duties of forming our moral conscience and of following it.  How much "free space" we need to be able to do this will differ in different circumstances, depending on all the factors that make this task more or less easy for us.  In some cases, forming our moral consciences (that is, using our reason to examine the evidence and come to a a conclusion as to what is right and good) might be very easy and require little time and effort; in other cases, this process might require a lot of effort and time (such as when the question is a more difficult one, or when one has to overcome opposition arising from having been trained to think in a wrong way or from being surrounded by contrary or conflicting voices).  Oftentimes, we do not engage the due diligence necessary to form and follow our consciences to the best of our ability.  Sometimes we do engage due diligence, but to some degree of innocent ignorance or confusion we arrive at the wrong conclusion.  In this latter case, the question of what our duty is becomes more convoluted.  St. Paul addresses this kind of situation in Romans 14:13-23:

Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.  I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.  But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.  Let not then your good be evil spoken of:  For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.  For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.  Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.  For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.  It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.  Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.  And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

Here we have a situation where some people think that something is wrong to eat when in fact it is not.  But even though there is in fact nothing wrong with eating, the person who eats thinking he is doing something wrong is sinning, because he is making a choice (as he thinks) to break God's moral law.  St. Paul warns those who are not confused over what can be eaten and what cannot be eaten not to use their knowledge as an occasion to tempt into sin (to scandalize) those who do not have this knowledge.  Even if one's conscience is ill formed, it is always a sin to go against one's conscience.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in its excellent summary treatment of moral conscience, puts it this way:  "A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed."

What are the implications of the above considerations when it comes to civil law, particular in relation to sins against the first table of the law?  We  have seen that the state has a duty to oppose evil and to promote good.  False religion and blasphemy are great evils, and the state ought not to connive at them.  But at the same time, the state has an obligation to protect the right of citizens to form and follow their consciences (since to do so is a moral duty).  Therefore, the state must provide sufficient free space for citizens to have time and opportunity to examine the evidence in order to come to the truth in religious matters.  In a pluralistic, secular society like ours in the modern United States, this is often not an easy task.  While the objective evidence does clearly point to Catholic Christianity as the true religion, the multitude of contrary voices combined with the lack of proper training in how to sort through them and competently arrive at truth, combined oftentimes with bad religious and moral training inclining citizens to the wrong positions, creates a situation where the finding and arriving at truth in these areas can be very difficult and can require much time and effort.  (Of course, the degree of difficulty in terms of various aspects of religious and moral truth will depend partly on the degree of "apparentness" in particular truths.  The basic, fundamental truth that there is a higher Supreme Being with whom we have to do is more objectively "apparent" than some obscure point of Catholic theology in some minor area--although even in the more fundamental and "obvious" truths there can be confusion when it comes to consciously formulating and articulating the truth, so that oftentimes people might recognize "subconsciously" more than they could articulate to themselves or others consciously.)  The state will certainly need therefore to grant more time and space to citizens to work through these issues in our modern times than would likely have been needed, say, in medieval Europe at a time when nearly the entire population was Catholic and nearly everyone had had some basic training and upbringing in Catholic principles and were exposed to them (and pretty much to them alone) on all sides everyday.

And going along with this, of course, people in a modern pluralistic, secular societies are going to be more likely to fall into religious and even to some degree moral error--sometimes through their own fault and negligence, but also sometimes at least partly in spite of due diligence.  And this will create a situation where there will be many people who, through no or through relatively little fault of their own, are walking around with badly formed religious and moral consciences.  Since it is a sin to go against one's conscience, even a badly formed one, the state will need to take great care to avoid creating situations where people are coerced into sin.  The state must protect people in following their consciences even when their consciences are, to some degree, objectively wrong.  These observations of how conscience and civil law are to relate to each other, especially in our modern secular pluralistic societies, are central to Dignitatis Humanae, the Vatican II document in which the Church attempted to articulate some key principles in this area:

It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth. However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom. Therefore the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature. In consequence, the right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it and the exercise of this right is not to be impeded, provided that just public order be observed. . . . 
On his part, man perceives and acknowledges the imperatives of the divine law through the mediation of conscience. In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience in order that he may come to God, the end and purpose of life. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious. The reason is that the exercise of religion, of its very nature, consists before all else in those internal, voluntary and free acts whereby man sets the course of his life directly toward God. No merely human power can either command or prohibit acts of this kind.(3) The social nature of man, however, itself requires that he should give external expression to his internal acts of religion: that he should share with others in matters religious; that he should profess his religion in community. Injury therefore is done to the human person and to the very order established by God for human life, if the free exercise of religion is denied in society, provided just public order is observed.

So we have here a tension that requires careful balancing.  The state's job is to protect and promote good and to oppose and thwart evil according to God's law to the extent that it is reasonably able to do so.  On the one hand, there is the good of the true religion, honor, and worship of God and the corresponding evil of false religion and blasphemy; on the other hand, there is the good of protecting citizens in the fulfillment of their duty to form and follow their consciences and the corresponding evil of coercing citizens to sin or preventing them from being able to fulfill their duty to rationally and freely form and follow their consciences.  How are these competing concerns to be balanced?  Neither of them are absolute--or, in other words, both of them are conditioned upon each other (and upon every other relevant consideration).  There is to be liberty of conscience, but within due limits, the limits of a just public order.  There is to be the preservation and promotion of the true religion and honor of God, but within the limits of the state's obligation to avoid violating men's consciences.  There is not going to be a one-size-fits-all answer to how to balance these concerns.  Certainly, the principles of God's law (as opposed to secular or Agnostic or other principles of false worldviews) are to be the foundation for how these issues are to be decided in particular cases, but the particularities of the cases will be unique and therefore it will require active political prudence to decide how to balance the concerns in any given concrete situation.  The Catechism in its treatment of this question (#2104-2109--footnotes removed) puts it this way:

The right to religious liberty can of itself be neither unlimited nor limited only by a "public order" conceived in a positivist or naturalist manner. The "due limits" which are inherent in it must be determined for each social situation by political prudence, according to the requirements of the common good, and ratified by the civil authority in accordance with "legal principles which are in conformity with the objective moral order."

For example, as I said earlier, in the context of modern secular, pluralistic societies, there needs to be a lot more space given for conscience-formation than would have been the case probably at most times in medieval Europe.  If a person in a medieval European society were to have set up a golden calf in the middle of town, this would have been seen by everyone immediately and clearly as an attack on the honor of God and on the truth of the true religion.  It would naturally have been regarded as an act of treachery against the common core values of the society, and therefore the emphasis in that setting might best have been put not on respecting the individual conscience of the golden-calf-worshipper, but rather on protecting the just and good established values of the society and the honor of God and the true religion.  This is not to say that the state should have completely ignored the individual conscience of the idolater, but that the more immediate and greater value at stake in that setting probably would have been the objective immorality of his action considered in light of the perspective of the rest of the society.  However, in modern times, the setting up of a temple to a false god is regarded very differently by society.  It is not seen or likely intended directly as an attack on the God and faith of Catholic Christianity but as a natural expression of the consciences of particular groups within society.  In that context, the emphasis will probably be better put on protecting conscience than on punishing idolatry--not that idolatry should be considered acceptable, but that concerns about conscience would be more at the forefront.  Therefore, in modern times, there will probably need to be a greater emphasis overall on protecting conscience than punishing expressions of false religion per se.  In the United States today, it would be absurd to try to legislate overnight that expressions of non-Catholic religion should be prohibited and punished.  This would result in wide-scale serious negative reaction (even rebellion), and much of that reaction would be justified, for our action would simply make no sense to most modern US citizens, not necessarily because they are deliberately trying to fight the truth but because the idea of punishing non-Catholic religions as such would be so new to them that they simply would not be able to comprehend the rationale for it.  It would seem, and understandably so, like a fanatical attempt to impose an arbitrary tyranny over the society.  The focus at this time and in this place ought not to be on legislating bans on public displays of false religion but on evangelizing a non-Catholic culture--that is, on preaching the gospel so that individuals who make up the society can be brought to the truth.  When individuals are brought to the truth, this will naturally have the effect of altering society as well.  The Catechism puts it this way (#2105--footnotes removed):

By constantly evangelizing men, the Church works toward enabling them "to infuse the Christian spirit into the mentality and mores, laws and structures of the communities in which [they] live." The social duty of Christians is to respect and awaken in each man the love of the true and the good. It requires them to make known the worship of the one true religion which subsists in the Catholic and apostolic Church. Christians are called to be the light of the world. Thus, the Church shows forth the kingship of Christ over all creation and in particular over human societies.

This is not to say that we cannot legislate on Catholic principles even today.  In areas where we would do more good than harm by doing so, we have an obligation to work for the promotion of just laws in every area of social concern.  There are many areas where the conscience of society is not so confused that it is impossible to conceive even today of making and enforcing laws and policies that promote goodness and justice.  Of course, this is the case with laws against murder and theft and other things about which we Catholics are generally in agreement with others in society, but it is also true in more controversial matters--like abortion and euthanasia--where it is still feasible to expect justice to be done.  Even when it comes to expressions of religious falsehood and especially blasphemy, there is, I think, still opportunity to more immediately influence laws towards greater justice and public decency in some particular cases and ways.  (See the Catechism's discussion of the relationship between civil law and the observance of the Lord's Day--#2187-2188--for another example of this.)  And, of course, even when it would be wrong or futile to try to apply immediate civil coercion in some particular area, our long-term goal should always include (among other things) working towards establishing as much justice in civil law and policy as possible.

In short, the balancing of competing values often calls for a limited tolerance of certain evils.  Pope Leo XIII put it this way in Libertas:

33. Yet, with the discernment of a true mother, the Church weighs the great burden of human weakness, and well knows the course down which the minds and actions of men are in this our age being borne. For this reason, while not conceding any right to anything save what is true and honest, she does not forbid public authority to tolerate what is at variance with truth and justice, for the sake of avoiding some greater evil, or of obtaining or preserving some greater good. God Himself in His providence, though infinitely good and powerful, permits evil to exist in the world, partly that greater good may not be impeded, and partly that greater evil may not ensue. In the government of States it is not forbidden to imitate the Ruler of the world; and, as the authority of man is powerless to prevent every evil, it has (as St. Augustine says) to overlook and leave unpunished many things which are punished, and rightly, by Divine Providence.(10) But if, in such circumstances, for the sake of the common good (and this is the only legitimate reason), human law may or even should tolerate evil, it may not and should not approve or desire evil for its own sake; for evil of itself, being a privation of good, is opposed to the common welfare which every legislator is bound to desire and defend to the best of his ability. In this, human law must endeavor to imitate God, who, as St. Thomas teaches, in allowing evil to exist in the world, "neither wills evil to be done, nor wills it not to be done, but wills only to permit it to be done; and this is good."(11) This saying of the Angelic Doctor contains briefly the whole doctrine of the permission of evil. 
34. But, to judge aright, we must acknowledge that, the more a State is driven to tolerate evil, the further is it from perfection; and that the tolerance of evil which is dictated by political prudence should be strictly confined to the limits which its justifying cause, the public welfare, requires. Wherefore, if such tolerance would be injurious to the public welfare, and entail greater evils on the State, it would not be lawful; for in such case the motive of good is wanting. And although in the extraordinary condition of these times the Church usually acquiesces in certain modern liberties, not because she prefers them in themselves, but because she judges it expedient to permit them, she would in happier times exercise her own liberty; and, by persuasion, exhortation, and entreaty would endeavor, as she is bound, to fulfill the duty assigned to her by God of providing for the eternal salvation of mankind. One thing, however, remains always true - that the liberty which is claimed for all to do all things is not, as We have often said, of itself desirable, inasmuch as it is contrary to reason that error and truth should have equal rights.

Note that a limited toleration of certain evils for the sake of the overall common good is not at all the same as the modern secular notion that religious pluralism is itself a good thing, that false religion is equal to true religion, that it doesn't matter what religion people practice, or that there is some kind of right people have to practice false religion, to blaspheme God, etc.  The Catechism puts it this way (#2108--footnotes removed):

The right to religious liberty is neither a moral license to adhere to error, nor a supposed right to error, but rather a natural right of the human person to civil liberty, i.e., immunity, within just limits, from external constraint in religious matters by political authorities.

The state, while it must sometimes tolerate evil, can never condone or grant any right or permission to practice it.

Published on the feast of St. Narcissus of Jerusalem

Monday, October 26, 2015

St. Francis de Sales on the Foundations of Authority in the Catholic Church

This is taken from St. Francis de Sales's work The Catholic Controversy (Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers, 1989), pp. 83-87:

     The Christian faith is grounded on the Word of God. This is what places it in the sovereign degree of certainty, as having the warrant of that eternal and infallible Truth. Faith which rests on anything else is not Christian. Therefore, the Word of God is the true rule of right-believing, as ground and rule are in this case one and the same thing.
     Since this rule does not regulate our faith save when it is applied, proposed and declared, and since this may be done well or ill,--therefore it is not enough to know that the Word of God is the true and infallible rule of right-believing, unless I know what Word is God's, where it is, who has to propose, apply, and declare it. It is useless for me to know that the Word of God is infallible, and for all this knowledge I shall not believe that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the living God, unless I am certified that this Word is revealed by the heavenly Eather (sic): and even when I come to know this I shall not be out of doubt if I do not know how this is to be understood,--whether of an adoptive filiation in the Arian sense, or a natural filiation in the Catholic.
     There is need, then, besides this first and fundamental rule the Word of God, of another, a second rule, by which the first may be rightly and duly proposed, applied, and declared. And in order that we may not be subject to hesitation and uncertainty, it is necessary not only that the first rule, namely, the Word of God, but also the second, which proposes and applies this rule, be absolutely infallible; otherwise we shall always remain in suspense and in doubt as to whether we are not being badly directed and supported in our faith and belief, not now by any defect in the first rule, but by error and defect in the proposition and application thereof. Certainly the danger is equal,--either of getting out of rule for want of a right rule, or getting out of rule for want of a regular and right application of the rule itself. But this infallibility which is required as well in the rule as in its application, can have its source only in God, the living and original fountain of all truth. Let us proceed.
     Now as God revealed his Word, and spoke, or preached, by the mouth of the Fathers and Prophets, and at last by his own Son, then by the Apostles and Evangelists, whose tongues were but as the pens of scribes writing rapidly, God thus employing men to speak to men; so to propose, apply, and declare this his Word, he employs his visible Spouse as his mouthpiece and the interpreter of his intentions. It is God then who rules over Christian belief, but with two instruments, in a double way: (1) by his Word as by a formal rule; (2) by his Church as by the hand of the measurer and rule-user. Let us put it thus:  God is the painter, our faith the picture, the colours are the Word of God, the brush is the Church. Here then are two ordinary and infallible rules of our belief: the Word of God, which is the fundamental and formal rule; the Church of God, which is the rule of application and explanation.
     I consider in this second part both the one and the other, but to make my exposition of them more clear and more easy to handle, I have divided these two rules into several, as follows.
     The Word of God, the formal rule of our faith, is either in Scripture or in Tradition. I treat first of Scripture, then of Tradition.
     The Church, the rule of application, expresses herself either in her universal body by a general belief of all Christians, or in her principal and nobler parts by a consent of her pastors and doctors; and in this latter way it is either in her pastors assembled in one place and at one time, as in a general council, or in her pastors divided as to place and time, but assembled in union and correspondence of faith; or, in fine, this same Church expresses herself and speaks by her head-minister.* And these are four explaining and applying rules of our faith;--the Church as a whole, the General Council, the consent of the Fathers, the Pope.
     Other rules than these we are not to seek; these are enough to steady the most inconstant. But God, who takes pleasure in the abundance of his favours, wishing to come to the help of the weakness of men, goes so far as to add sometimes to these ordinary rules (I refer to the establishment and founding of the Church) an extraordinary rule, most certain and of great importance,--namely, miracles--an extraordinary testimony of the true application of the Divine Word.
     Lastly, natural reason may also be called a rule of right-believing, but negatively and not affirmatively. For if any one should speak thus: such a proposition is an article of faith, therefore it is according to natural reason:--this affirmative consequence would be badly drawn, since almost all our faith is outside of and above our reason. But if he were to say: this is an article of faith, therefore it cannot be against natural reason:--the consequence is good. For natural reason and faith, being supported on the same principles, and starting from one same author, cannot be contrary to each other.
     Here then are eight rules of faith: Scripture, Tradition, the Church, Councils, the Fathers, the Pope, miracles, natural reason. The two first are only a formal rule, the four following are only a rule of application, the seventh is extraordinary, and the eighth negative. Or, he who would reduce all these rules to a single one, would say that the sole and true rule of right-believing is the Word of God preached by the Church of God.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Do Catholics Believe in Justification by Faith Alone?

One of the major classical Protestant objections to Roman Catholicism is that Catholics don't believe in the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone (or Sola Fide as it's often called).  So do we?  Let's see.

Here is the doctrine of Sola Fide as defined by the classic Reformed statement of faith, the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 11, Section 1:

Those whom God effectually calleth, He also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous, not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness, but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

Here is a definition of justification from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1989-1992 (footnotes removed):

1989 The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus' proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. "Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.
1990 Justification detaches man from sin which contradicts the love of God, and purifies his heart of sin. Justification follows upon God's merciful initiative of offering forgiveness. It reconciles man with God. It frees from the enslavement to sin, and it heals. 
1991 Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God's righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or "justice") here means the rectitude of divine love. With justification, faith, hope, and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us. 
1992 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:

The Protestant doctrine of justification, Sola Fide, teaches that we are made acceptable to God solely because the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us.  Nothing at all can be added to this, nor can anything else make us acceptable to God.  Protestants believe that we are made inwardly holy in the process of sanctification, where the Holy Spirit conforms us in our inward lives and behaviors to the image of Christ, as a fruit of justification, but it is the imputation of Christ's righteousness alone (that is, the crediting of his righteousness and satisfaction to our account) that makes us acceptable to God.

So, is Sola Fide compatible with Catholic doctrine?  It depends on how we interpret certain aspects of it.  In particular, it greatly depends on how those who hold Sola Fide answer this question:  "How does sanctification fit into our relationship with God?  When you say we are acceptable to God solely on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ, do you mean that imputation alone, considered as distinct from sanctification, can actually make us fully acceptable to God so that because of it he no longer has any basis at all for any rejection of us but is in fact wholly pleased with us?  Imputation, considered as distinct from sanctification, removes all barriers to God's finding us wholly acceptable?  Or, rather, do you mean that imputation makes us fully acceptable to God in principle, but without bearing its fruit within us in sanctification it would remain in fact ineffective (because not fully actualized) and would thus not remove all the barriers to God's full acceptance of us?"

This is a hugely important question.  If we go with the former answer, it would mean that God does not have any moral concerns about our inward state or our behavior.  So long as Christ's righteousness is imputed to us, we could remain wholly unsanctified and yet be fully acceptable and morally pleasing to God.  There would be nothing to keep us out of his presence or stop the full showering of his acceptance and pleasure coming down on us.  Catholics cannot accept this point of view, for it trivializes sanctification and portrays God as morally blind.  It turns salvation into a legal fiction, where God simply manages to fail to notice our sinful condition and treats us as if we are what we are not.  Moral wickedness of character is something that is in its own nature displeasing to God, and we could not find full acceptance with God and be fully pleasing to him without its removal.  This is evident to reason, and the Bible also speaks in this way.  It testifies to us that we cannot be pleasing to God unless we are cleansed of our sins and made holy within.  It tells us that God will judge us in the end not solely on the basis of some kind of imputation but on the basis of our works (done by the power of the grace of God).  Clearly, to be rejected in the final judgment is not compatible with our being fully accepted by God!

However, if we go with the latter answer, Catholics can wholeheartedly accept the doctrine.  Catholics agree that salvation is wholly of grace.  As the Council of Orange (which Catholics fully accept) puts it (in Canon 22), "No man has anything of his own but untruth and sin. But if a man has any truth or righteousness, it is from that fountain for which we must thirst in this desert, so that we may be refreshed from it as by drops of water and not faint on the way."  All saving good that we possess is wholly a gift of grace, merited for us by the suffering and righteousness of Christ.  It is Christ's righteousness given to us as a free gift and not our own righteousness coming from ourselves which is the sole basis of our forgiveness of sins and our acceptance with God.  As Canon 12 of the Council of Orange puts it, "God loves us for what we shall be by his gift, and not by our own deserving."  Although Catholics do not use precisely the same language, they can fully accept the idea that it is Christ's righteousness imputed to us (credited to our account, given over to us as a free gift) which is the sole basis of our acceptance with God, but they would add that this gift is not complete unless what is imputed to us is also infused within us, becoming ours inwardly and impacting our actual life and behavior.  We are not simply to be reckoned as righteous, but we are to become truly righteous through our union with Christ.  If all we have is imputation, God would have given us with one hand what he takes away with the other, for we could never enjoy the benefits of imputation.  It would be like buying a house but only ever getting the title deed and never actually getting to live in the house.  This is why Catholics tend to include in the full idea of justification both the imputation component (that is, the giving over to us of what was before not ours) and the infusion component, as can be seen in the Catholic Catechism's description of justification above.  Both are necessary to bring about our complete acceptance with God, not because Christ's righteousness is not enough but because there are two parts to how we receive it.  But we don't want to get overly tied down with semantics.  If Protestants want to use the term "justification" to refer only to imputation and "sanctification" to refer to the infusing and outworking of Christ's righteousness in our lives, this is not as important as what is meant by this language.  So long as Protestants interpret their doctrine according to the latter way described above or in some similar way, so long as they admit that sanctification is needed to complete justification so that we would not in actuality attain full acceptance with God without it, Catholics can, I think, wholeheartedly embrace their point of view on this matter.

Surely this ought to count for something as we continue to dialogue with each other.  We both look for salvation and acceptance with God wholly on the basis of the righteousness of Christ and not on the basis of our own personal merit.  Isn't this the very core of the gospel doctrine of salvation?

For more on the Catholic doctrine of salvation, see here.

ADDENDUM 10/22/2015:  A follow-up question for Protestants:  "Do you believe that our good works merit God's favor?"

Let me clarify this a bit.  Of course our works considered as ours do not gain us any personal merit before God, as if we could boast of them and say we had earned God's favor by means of them.  All our goodness is an unmerited gift of God's grace.  However, the inward holiness produced in us by the Holy Spirit in our sanctification and the good works that flow from that are truly morally good.  That which is morally good "merits" God's favor.  The word "merit" simply means that something warrants something else.  The holiness given to us by the Holy Spirit, being good, is intrinsically pleasing to God, and so warrants his pleasure and favor.  He cannot but be pleased with and thus find rewardable true holiness.  Do you agree?

If you say that our holiness and our works do not merit God's favor in the sense defined above, this implies that our holiness isn't truly pleasing to God, that it does not warrant positive regard from him.  Catholics cannot accept this idea, for both reason and Scripture testify that God is truly pleased with the good works of the just, and indeed will grant the reward of eternal life to our good works at the final judgment (what greater testimony of approbation could there be than that?).  This does not give us any ground for boasting, for this goodness does not come from us and our own resources but from the grace of God through Christ.  It is Christ's righteousness in us and not our own righteousness that we have produced for ourselves, and so all the glory goes to God for it.  But Christ's righteousness in us surely is eminently good and pleasing to God.  (Augustine puts the two parts together in this way--I'm paraphrasing--:  "When God crowns our merits he is crowning his own gifts.")  Therefore, a perfectly sanctified being with no remnant of sinfulness left in him could not be sent to hell by God, for hell is an expression of God's displeasure, whereas such a being would be fully pleasing to him and fit for heaven.  God could not treat a sanctified being, whose character must be pleasing to him, the same as an unsanctified being, whose character is abhorrent to him--or he would be testifying that he has no regard for holiness and considers it no better than unholiness.  It would be eminently unfitting to have a being who loves God with all his heart existing in hell for all eternity (for the same reason it would be unfitting to have a being who hates God with all his heart existing in heaven for all eternity).

But if, on the other hand, you say that our holiness and works, produced by grace in us, are indeed truly pleasing to God and truly warrant his pleasure and favor, and yet we cannot claim personal merit on their basis because they are gifts from God, Catholics fully agree with this.  Again, as the Council of Orange puts it, "God loves us for what we shall be by his gift, and not by our own deserving."  Catholics use the term "merit" in reference to the holiness God has produced in us not in order to claim that we deserve something from God of ourselves, but to make clear that what God works in us is pleasing and precious to him (since it reflects his own image) and thus warrants his favor and good will.  If Protestants don't feel comfortable using the term "merit" in this way because they find it hard to separate the word from the Pelagian concept that we can earn God's favor by means of our own works produced from ourselves, that is not as important as the content of what they are trying to say.  So long as Protestants can affirm that although our holiness does not give us a basis to claim to earn God's favor, it is indeed truly pleasing to him and thus warrants in its own nature God's pleasure and favor, we have no disagreement in terms of the substance of our affirmations on this point.  And, again, I think this ought to count for something in our dialogue with each other.

ADDENDUM 6/3/16:  Here is a sermon I wrote as a Protestant, but it reflects (in Protestant language and in a Protestant context) a view on the relationship between justification and sanctification that Catholics could in substance agree with.  Here, here, and here you can find some criticisms of the form of the Protestant doctrine that has the problems I discussed above.

ADDENDUM 1/1/18:  Here is another article I've just written up that gets at the same basic ideas and questions raised in this article in a bit of a different way.  The article's main new contribution is that I've given labels to the two different interpretations of the Protestant doctrine of justification.  I call the Catholic-friendly interpretation the Pro-Augustinian view and the Catholic-unfriendly interpretation the Anti-Augustinian view, in reference to how the two views compare to the substance of St. Augustine's ideas on justification.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Calvinism is Not as Bad as You Think

Note:  See here for a much more recent, updated version of my views on the relationship between Calvinism and Catholicism.

In an article about G. K. Chesterton (one of my favorite authors, by the way), Catholic writer Mark Shea made some comments about Calvinism.  I want to address them a bit because I see similar comments made about Calvinism all the time from Catholic writers.  Here is what he said:

My own introduction to him [Chesterton] came at a deeply providential hour in my life. As a very young Christian, I had just had my first taste of the destructive power of Calvinism and its cold diagrammatic god that might or might not love you depending on whether he felt like capriciously damning you. I had no tools for dealing with the icy logic of Calvinism when I happened across Chesterton’s sane and humane Orthodoxy, where he put into words what I had felt but could not articulate about philosophies and theologies you couldn’t argue with, yet knew to be inhuman and evil nonetheless:

I find these kinds of references to Calvinism very troubling, because they represent a serious misrepresentation of what Calvinism is.  (And I know something about that, having been a Calvinist myself for a little over 18 years.)  What Shea is referring to here is the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election.  Here is that doctrine described by the Calvinist Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 3:

God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. 
II. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions. 
III. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death. 
IV. These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished. 
V. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto: and all to the praise of His glorious grace. 
VI. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only. 
VII. The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as He pleaseth, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.

Here is the Westminster Confession on free will from Chapter 9:

God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined to good, or evil. 
II. Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom, and power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God; but yet, mutably, so that he might fall from it. 
III. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto. 
IV. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He freeth him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil. 
V. The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to good alone in the state of glory only.

And here is the Confession on our conversion to God by grace, from Chapter 10:

All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace. 
II. This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.

These texts describe the Calvinist view on these matters.  Now here's something interesting:  Nothing in anything quoted above is contrary to Catholic doctrine, except one thing--Catholic doctrine does not maintain that all who are converted by grace are given the gift of final perseverance, so in Catholic doctrine it does not necessarily follow that everyone who is (using the Confession's terminology) effectually called is kept by God's grace to the end as one of the elect.  (And even on this point, if we understand "effectual calling" in its fullest version to include not only a temporary conversion but also the gift of grace to persevere to the end, which Calvinists do indeed include in their idea of effectual calling in terms of their idea of its fullest implications in God's design, this would be in accord with Catholic doctrine.)

In fact, these doctrines articulated by the Westminster Confession have a well-established historic pedigree in the Catholic Church.  They were taught by St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, and have been taught by many others as well.  Those in the Catholic Church who follow Augustine and Aquinas in these points hold that these teachings follow necessarily from the official doctrines of the Catholic faith.  The Catholic Church has never condemned these views.  On the contrary, it has explicitly refused to condemn them.  It is true that there are other schools of thought in the Catholic Church (such as Molinism) which also have not been condemned and which teach on some points contrary to the above doctrines, but these alternative schools are not allowed to claim that the Augustinian position has been condemned or rejected as heretical by the Church.

Fr. John Hardon describes some aspects of the Augustinian view as held by the Banezian school of Thomism (which is a form of the Augustinian view that is officially allowed in the Catholic Church):

Transferring these norms to theology, Banezianism teaches that a twofold help of grace is needed for a salutary act. One help is less powerful and perfect; it predetermines the soul to certain indeliberate supernatural acts, and functions by way of stimulus or excitation. The other help follows on the previous, is more perfect and powerful, and assists the will to perform deliberate acts of free choice. The first kind of grace is called sufficient or stimulating (excitans), the second type efficacious, or assisting (adjuvans). 
These two graces, sufficient and efficacious, are essentially different, since the former gives only ability (posse) whereas the latter produces activity (agere). “Sufficient grace in a Thomistic sense is one that gives a man the power of doing something good; in order to have him actually do well or rightly use this ability, he needs another more powerful grace.” [9] This “more powerful” grace is called efficacious grace. It confers not only the power to act but the act itself. By definition, it includes the free consent of the will, whereas merely sufficient grace lacks that consent. 
More closely examined, efficacious grace is that additional divine aid which physically predetermines the human will, without taking away our free choice, both as to the exercise of our freedom and its specification or choice of a given object. “It never happens that the power which sufficient grace confers would either act or obtain its main effect, unless it were supplemented by an efficacious grace.” [10] This efficacious grace is a determination because it is absolutely impossible for the will, under its influence, not to perform the act which God has determined; it is in every sense a pre-determination since it comes before our consent, for the sake of that consent and in order to effect a consent. It is physical because it produces its effect by virtue of its own reality, intrinsically woven into its nature, and independent of any circumstance or consent of the free agent. 
If a man resists sufficient grace, he sins. [11] For a sin to take place, two decrees are required on the part of God: an eternal decree permitting the sin in this case and moreover the man to remain with sufficient grace only; another decree predetermining the sinner to the material element in the sin. Both factors are verified antecedent to God’s foresight of what choice the created agent will make. The sequence is something like this. God confers a sufficient grace on some person; He predetermines the individual to the material part of this sin, by which he resists the grace offered; thereby the man sins formally, consequently rendering the grace merely sufficient. In penalty for this sin he is deprived of the efficacious grace that would have predetermined him to place a salutary act. 
The relation of efficacious grace to predestination in the Banezian system follows naturally on the foregoing. God wants all men to be saved, unless a universal salvation would impede the achievement of higher divine ends or purposes. Antecedent to His prevision of their good or bad use of freedom, by a free and absolute decree on God’s part, He chooses certain persons for a definite measure of eternal glory. The rest of the human race He omits from this decree, which is technically called a negative antecedent reprobation. It is reprobation because it is not predestination to glory. It is negative and not positive because (other than Calvin) the object of the divine resolve is not eternal punishment but exclusion from the beatific vision. It is antecedent because God’s will on their fate is determined (in human language) before He foresees their merits or demerits.
God absolutely predetermines to give the help of efficacious graces, by which the predefined meritorious acts of the elect will infallibly take place. This predetermination is called extrinsic. But when God puts it into effect in time by means of physical premotion, as explained above, it becomes intrinsic predetermination, i.e., built into the free human will. As regards the negative reprobates, God orders their lives in such a way so that they receive only such graces as are finally merely sufficient. They do not die in the state of grace. . . , 
Before going on to evaluate the Banezian theory, it may be useful to summarize. The Thomistic explanation of how grace and free will are reconciled begins with the premise that God has eternally predetermined that some people should be saved, and to realize this aim confers effective (efficacious) graces on these elect. He therefore physically affects their free wills, and thus secures that they decide freely to cooperate with His grace. There is an inner power in efficacious grace which infallibly insures that the predestined freely consent to perform such salutary actions as will merit heaven. Consequently efficacious grace is essentially different from merely sufficient grace, which confers the power or ability to place salutary acts, but no more. Before this bare potency can be reduced to action, another and different divine help must be received, namely efficacious grace. Since God has eternally willed the free consent of His chosen ones to the efficacious graces He confers, He thus ineluctably brings about the salvation of those who are included in His loving decree. All the rest who do not come within the ambit of this election are permitted, through the abuse of their freedom, not to attain heaven. The divine motive for this negative reprobation is that God willed to manifest His goodness not only by means of His mercy, but also by means of His justice.

Here are some comments from a well-known Catholic theologian--Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange--who himself held this Thomist, Augustinian view:

The Semipelagians, as we see from the letters of SS. Prosper and Hilary to St. Augustine, admitted: (1) that man does not need grace for that beginning of faith and good will spoken of as the "beginning of salvation," and that he can persevere until death without any special help; (2) that God wills equally the salvation of all, although special graces are granted to some privileged souls; (3) consequently predestination is identical with the foreknowledge of the beginning of salvation and of merits by which man perseveres in doing good without any special help; negative reprobation is identical with the foreknowledge of demerits. Thus predestination and negative reprobation follow human election, whether this be good or bad. 
Such an interpretation eliminates the element of mystery in predestination spoken of by St. Paul. God is not the author but merely the spectator of that which distinguishes the elect from the rest of mankind. The elect are not loved and helped more by God. . . . 
Against these principles, St. Augustine, especially in his writings toward the end of his life(1), shows from the testimony of Holy Scripture that: (1) man cannot, without a special and gratuitous grace, have the "beginning of salvation," and that he cannot persevere until the end without a special and gratuitous grace; (2) that the elect, as their name indicates, are loved more and helped more, and that the divine election is therefore previous to foreseen merits, which are the result of grace; (3) that God does not will equally the salvation of all. . . . 
It [that is, Canon 9 of the Council of Orange] concerns efficacious grace by which we not only can but actually do what is right. The fact that God operates in us, enabling us to act, is verified in every free act disposing us to salvation. We cannot at all see how this free determination disposing us to salvation, as a free determination, should escape the divine causality. The obvious sense of the text is, that God works in us and with us, as St. Paul says: "It is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish."(19) There is a grace that is efficacious in this sense that it is effective of the act, although it does not exclude our co-operation, but in a mysterious way starts it. Canon twelve formulates the principle of predilection: "God so loves us, as we shall be by the gift of His grace, not as we are by our own merit." Taken from Prosper's fifthy-sixth sentence, it follows immediately from this that God so much the more loves us, as we shall be better by the gift of His grace. In other words, no one would be better than another, if he were not loved more by God. In the quotation of this canon,(20) there is reference in the margin to the "Indiculus" on the Grace of God,(21) where it is said: "There is no other way by which anyone is pleasing to God except by what He Himself has bestowed." Therefore, one is not more pleasing to God than another, without having received more from Him. If, on the contrary, grace became efficacious in actu secundo by our consent, then it would follow that of two men who received equal help, one would become better, and this without having been loved more, helped more, or having received more from God. This is not what the Council of Orange declares, or the "Indiculus" on grace, which latter is a collection of the declarations of the Roman Church, compiled in all probability by the future pope St. Leo I. This collection of declarations by the Church met with universal reception about the year 500.(22) If it be so, how is it possible for the salutary act, in so far as it is a free determination, not to depend upon the efficacy of grace, but to be the cause of this efficacy?

As you can see, the very same ideas of "unconditional election" and "efficacious grace given to some and not others" which Mark Shea calls "destructive," "cold," "diagrammatic," "capricious," "icy logic," "inhuman," and "evil" turn out to be doctrines taught by some of the most prominent Doctors of the Catholic Church and which have been explicitly protected from censure as officially heretical by the Catholic Church.  According to many Catholic saints and Doctors, these doctrines are biblical and follow logically from the central doctrines of the Catholic faith.

Because Calvinism as a movement is a heretical movement and exists in opposition to the Catholic Church, many Catholics have sought to distance the Augustinian view from the Calvinist view.  In doing so, many Catholics have ended up misrepresenting Calvinism.  Here is an example from Fr. Hardon (who was quoted above):

A truly sufficient grace is sufficient for placing a salutary act. It carries with it the power of producing such an act. Jansenius denied "merely sufficient grace." He could not see how a grace could be truly sufficient and yet not be efficacious. He conceded that a grace could be absolutely sufficient for man, if it were viewed apart from his present circumstances and difficulties; but if it were viewed relative to these circumstances and remained "sterile," then it was not sufficient in his present condition. Against him we hold that there exists a grace that is truly and relatively sufficient, and yet inefficacious. 
By a truly efficacious grace is meant one that will be (is) infallibly followed by the act to which it tends, e.g. contrition. If you receive such a grace, even before your will consents to it, that grace is infallibly “sure of success;” it will infallibly procure your consent, produce that act – of contrition. But although it infallibly procures your consent, it does not necessitate you to consent: it leaves you free to dissent. Your will will infallibly say "yes" to it, but it is free to say "no.” Luther, Calvin, and Jansenius denied the existence of such a non-necessitating efficacious grace: an efficacious grace, they maintained, necessitates you to consent: you cannot resist it or dissent from it. 
The disagreement between the Dominicans and the Jesuits [that is, between the Thomists and their theological rivals the Molinists] is, of course, not over Catholic dogma: both sides firmly maintain the existence of a truly sufficient inefficacious grace and of a non-necessitating efficacious grace. They differ over the best way to explain these two graces; how are we to reconcile the infallible efficacy of efficacious grace with 1. human liberty and 2. truly sufficient but inefficacious grace? The Jesuits point out to the Dominicans that their grace is “so efficacious” it seems logically incompatible with human freedom and with a truly sufficient but inefficacious grace; the Dominicans in turn point out to the Jesuits that their human freedom is “so extreme” it seems to make man determine God’s operation.

Hardon points out that the theological enemies of the Thomist/Augustinian view (primarily the Molinist Jesuits) try to paint the Augustinian position into the corner of denying true free will and thus contradicting a central Catholic doctrine.  In their efforts to extricate themselves from this accusation, the Augustinian Catholics have sometimes ended up caricaturing the Calvinist position, trying hard to show that they are not fatalists or necessitarians like those Calvinists are thought to be.  Now, let me make a concession at this point:  There are those among the Calvinists who are indeed fatalists and necessitarians--that is, who deny the true voluntary nature of human choices.  But formal, official Calvinism at its best has never done so, but quite the contrary, as we saw earlier in our quotations from the Westminster Confession.  The Jansenists (another heretical sect also labeled fatalistic and necessitarian) were officially condemned by the Catholic Church for, among other things, denying that all men have been given "sufficient grace" to follow Christ.  This is indeed a serious problem, and some Calvinists apparently have shared this problem as well.  God has given all men a command to trust in his grace and turn to him in reliance on that grace.  If a person does not have sufficient grace available to him to do this, he would have no grace to rely on, and so would have a valid excuse in his neglect of the command--a man cannot be justly commanded to do what he cannot do even if he wills to do it.  So this position would indeed destroy moral responsibility and legitimate freedom.  I would argue that Jansenism could have accommodated itself to Catholic orthodoxy on this point, so far as I can see.  From what I know of the Jansenist position, I think that a willingness to recognize "sufficient grace" in the Catholic sense would have been consistent with their being able to preserve their (legitimate) core concern to maintain the full graciousness of salvation.  I would even argue that their core concern required them to accept the basic idea of "sufficient grace."  I think their continued resistance to the Church in this matter was owing to an unwarranted stubbornness (whether well or ill motivated on the part of individual Jansenists).  But, as it turned out, they did continue to resist.  The Calvinist view at its best, likewise, I would argue, is perfectly consistent with "sufficient grace," and while this terminology may not be used often by Calvinists, the idea is present in the best representations of Calvinist theology.  Fr. Hardon, in the quote just above, says that Luther and Calvin "denied the existence of such a non-necessitating efficacious grace: an efficacious grace, they maintained, necessitates you to consent: you cannot resist it or dissent from it."  This makes it sound as though Luther and Calvin believed that efficacious grace works by means of, in effect, dragging a person against his will to salvation, or saving him without or against his will.  But this is a seriously inaccurate caricature of their positions, so far as I understand them.  I've already quoted the Westminster Confession above, which describes the working of efficacious grace in this way:

All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.

Note that according to the Confession, efficacious grace works not by dragging someone against his will but by opening his mind and heart so that he comes freely and rationally to turn to Christ.  Luther made the same point in his writings.  Here is a quotation from his famous Bondage of the Will (trans. J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston [Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1957], 102-103):

I said “of necessity”; I did not say “of compulsion”; I meant, by a necessity, not of compulsion, but of what they call immutability. That is to say: a man without the Spirit of God does not do evil against his will, under pressure, as though he were taken by the scruff of the neck and dragged into it, like a thief or footpad being dragged off against his will to punishment; but he does it spontaneously and voluntarily. And this willingness or volition is something which he cannot in his own strength eliminate, restrain or alter. He goes on willing and desiring to do evil; and if external pressure forces him to act otherwise, nevertheless his will within remains averse to so doing and chafes under such constraint and opposition. But it would not thus chafe were it being changed, and were it yielding to constraint willingly. This is what we mean by necessity of immutability: that the will cannot change itself, nor give itself another bent, but, rather, is the more provoked to crave the more it is opposed, as its chafing proves; for this would not occur, were it free or had ‘free-will’. Ask experience how impervious to dissuasion are those whose hearts are set on anything! If they abandon their quest of it, they only do so under pressure, of because of some counter-attraction, never freely – whereas, when their hearts are not thus engaged, they spare their labour, and let events take their course. 
On the other hand: when God works in us, the will is changed under the sweet influence of the Spirit of God. Once more it desires and acts, not of compulsion, but of its own desire and spontaneous inclination. Its bent still cannot be altered by any opposition; it cannot be mastered or prevailed upon even by the gates of hell; but it goes on willing, desiring and loving good, just as once it willed, desired and loved evil. Experience proves this too. How firm and invincible are holy men, who, when forcibly constrained to sin, are the more provoked thereby to desire good – even as flames are fanned, rather than quenched, by the wind. Here, too, there is no freedom, no ‘free-will’, to turn elsewhere, or to desire anything else, as long as the Spirit and grace of God remain in a man.

Now, it can reasonably be argued that Luther got himself into trouble for the same reason that the Jansenists did--not because (at least in this case) he was affirming something in its essence contrary to Catholic doctrine, but because he refused to submit in obedience to the authority of the Church and so chose to define his position in opposition to the doctrine of the Church rather than in accord with it.  Like the Jansenists, Luther could have been more careful and willing to be corrected in order to articulate his core concerns in a manner not offensive to the accepted articulation of Catholic doctrine.  For example, Luther liked to use the term "free will" to refer to the idea of a human will that is independent of God and which cannot be moved by anything outside of itself to one thing or another (philosophers label this idea of the will "libertarian").  But in using the term in this way, he created the impression that he was denying that humans are capable of truly voluntary acts and thus threatening human responsibility.  (In actuality, Luther simply held a different philosophical view of the will, called by philosophers today "compatibilism"--a view which is inherent in the Augustinian way of thinking about the will.)  Luther could have consented to allow the Church to shape his articulation of doctrine on this point without having to give up what was valid in his core concerns.

According to Calvinism, can a person refuse to be converted when God's grace is working to convert him?  It depends on what you mean.  Fr. Hardon described the Catholic answer in this way:

If you receive such a grace, even before your will consents to it, that grace is infallibly “sure of success;” it will infallibly procure your consent, produce that act – of contrition. But although it infallibly procures your consent, it does not necessitate you to consent: it leaves you free to dissent. Your will will infallibly say "yes" to it, but it is free to say "no.” 

This is exactly the Calvinist view as well.  If by "can" you mean, "If the person wanted to, could he refuse to come to Christ?", the answer is yes.  If by "can" you mean, "It might actually happen that the will, being converted by efficacious grace, actually will refuse to come to Christ," the answer is no.  Calvinist philosopher Jonathan Edwards described two different definitions of inability, which he called "moral" and "natural" inability (from Part I, Section IV of his well-known book, The Freedom of the Will).  When the will is determined to something (which it always is, to some degree or another), there is a moral inability to choose the opposite, but not a natural inability to do so:

What has been said of natural and moral Necessity, may serve to explain what is intended by natural and moral Inability. We are said to be naturally unable to do a thing, when we cannot do it if we will, because what is most commonly called nature does not allow of it, or because of some impeding defect or obstacle that is extrinsic to the Will; either in the Faculty of understanding, constitution of body, or external objects. Moral Inability consists not in any of these things; but either in the want of inclination; or the strength of a contrary inclination; or the want of sufficient motives in view, to induce and excite the act of the Will, or the strength of apparent motives to the contrary. Or both these may be resolved into one; and it may be said in one word, that moral Inability consists in the opposition or want of inclination. For when a person is unable to will or choose such a thing, through a defect of motives, or prevalence of contrary motives, it is the same thing as his being unable through the want of an inclination, or the prevalence of a contrary inclination, in such circumstances, and under the influence of such views. 
To give some instances of this moral Inability.— A woman of great honour and chastity may have a moral Inability to prostitute herself to her slave. A child of great love and duty to his parents, may be thus unable to kill his father. A very lascivious man, in case of certain opportunities and temptations, and in the absence of such and such restraints, may be unable to forbear gratifying his lust. A drunkard, under such and such circumstances, may be unable to forbear taking strong drink. A very malicious man may be unable to exert benevolent acts to an enemy, or to desire his prosperity; yea, some may be so under the power of a vile disposition, that they may be unable to love those who are most worthy of their esteem and affection. A strong habit of virtue, and a great degree of holiness, may cause a moral Inability to love wickedness in general, and may render a man unable to take complacence in wicked persons or things; or to choose a wicked in preference to a virtuous life. And on the other hand, a great degree of habitual wickedness may lay a man under an Inability to love and choose holiness; and render him utterly unable to love an infinitely holy Being, or to choose and cleave to him as his chief good. . . . 
But it must be observed concerning moral Inability, in each kind of it, that the word Inability is used in a sense very diverse from its original import. The word signifies only a natural Inability, in the proper use of it; and is applied to such cases only wherein a present will or inclination to the thing, with respect to which a person is said to be unable, is supposable. It cannot be truly said, according to the ordinary use of language, that a malicious man, let him be never so malicious, cannot hold his hand from striking, or that he is not able to show his neighbor kindness; or that a drunkard, let his appetite be never so strong, cannot keep the cup from his mouth. In the strictest propriety of speech, a man has a thing in his power, if he has it in his choice, or at his election: and a man cannot be truly said to be unable to do a thing, when he can do it if he will. It is improperly said, that a person cannot perform those external actions, which are dependent on the act of the Will, and which would be easily performed, if the act of the Will were present. And if it be improperly said, that he cannot perform those external voluntary actions, which depend on the Will, it is in some respect more improperly said, that he is unable to exert the acts of the Will themselves; because it is more evidently false, with respect to these, that he cannot if he will: for to say so, is a downright contradiction; it is to say, he cannot will, if he does will. And in this case, not only is it true, that it is easy for a man to do the thing if he will, but the very willing is the doing; when once he has willed, the thing is performed; and nothing else remains to be done. Therefore, in these things, to ascribe a non-performance to the want of power or ability, is not just; because the thing wanting, is not a being able, but a being willing. There are faculties of mind, and a capacity of nature, and every thing else, sufficient, but a disposition: nothing is wanting but a will.

The Augustinian doctrine of election and efficacious grace, affirmed both by many Catholics and by Calvinists at their best, is not the icy cold, horrible, inhuman doctrine that many try to make it out to be.  It preserves two key doctrines of the Catholic faith (well, it preserves many other key doctrines as well, but I want to focus on these two right now):  1. The absolute sovereignty of God.  2. Salvation by grace alone.  God is absolutely sovereign.  Nothing can happen which can thwart his intentions for the creation.  If some people end up rejecting God of their own free will and going to hell, is this something that God is powerless to prevent?  Sure, it is a terrible evil, but does God watch it happen, saying to himself, "Oh, woe is me!  If only I could prevent these kinds of things from happening!  I wish the universe was a place where more of my ideals could be realized!  But, you have to take what you can get . . ."?  Of course not.  Nothing can happen which God either has not caused to happen or permitted to happen according to his own perfectly wise and good and un-thwartable eternal plan.  But if God could prevent evil, particularly the evil of some people ending up in hell, why doesn't he?  Well, since God hates evil and cannot will it for its own sake, it must be because he is able to bring some greater good out of it.  And here we must remember what our condition is as creatures of God and fallen creatures at that.  As creatures, we cannot merit from our own resources the eternal  happiness of sharing in the life of God in the Beatific Vision.  As fallen creatures, we are sinful and deserving of eternal damnation.  God does nothing unjust, unrighteous, unloving, or inappropriate to human beings when he permits them to end up in eternal damnation because of their sins.  So long as it is consistent with the greater good, God could appropriately have left all of us in a state of sin and allowed us to fall into eternal perdition.  But God has chosen to be merciful as well as just.  He has chosen to send his Son to redeem the human race.  He has procured sufficient grace for all of us to turn to Christ if we will, and he has chosen to give efficacious grace to his elect--chosen not on the basis of any merit of their own, but solely on the basis of God's good and merciful pleasure--in order to effectively bring them to Christ and keep them in Christ for all eternity.  Thus everything the elect have that brings them to salvation, including the good will by which they choose Christ, comes entirely from God's grace as a free gift.  God is able to offer salvation to mankind and to save his elect efficaciously because Christ has made a sufficient atonement for the sins of mankind.  Thus, as the apostle says (Romans 3:26), God can be both just and the justifier of the one who is united to Christ.  Those who end up in hell will have no one to blame but themselves.  God loved them as his creatures and offered them eternal salvation, and they freely rejected it.  God did not owe them efficacious grace to cause them to turn to Christ, and he did nothing inappropriate in not granting such grace to them.  He did not refrain from granting efficacious grace to them out of any hatred of them, or indifference towards them, or any other ill motive, but out of a desire to procure the greatest good conceived of in his plan for creation, a plan to maximize the expression of his glorious perfections in history and in eternity and the eternal happiness of his people in the enjoyment of himself.  God hates sin and suffering, but he is not defeated by them; he sovereignly and voluntarily allows them to occur in order to bring out of them a greater good.  Those who end up in hell have no cause to charge God with injustice, and those who end up in heaven have infinite cause to rejoice and be grateful for God's unmerited favor towards them, and they will rejoice with God for all eternity in the accomplishment of his infinitely wise purposes.

So, in conclusion, I think that many of us Catholics need to be much more careful in how we understand and articulate the Calvinist position.  Although we must condemn what is condemnable in Calvinism and in every other false view, we must also not fail to acknowledge the truth and goodness that are truly present in any view.  Instead, we should seek more opportunities for connection and dialogue with those with whom we disagree in the hope that God will bring us greater unity through the exercise of charity.

For a great article by Jimmy Akin, a Catholic apologist, discussing the relationship between some of the key Calvinist doctrines regarding salvation and their Catholic counterparts, see here.  For an earlier article written by me in which I discuss some of these things further (including providing some additional references and some documentation regarding the Catholic Church's attitude towards Augustinian and Molinist positions), see here.  See here for a more comprehensive (but still pretty brief) article by a Calvinist describing the Calvinist point of view on these matters.

Published on the feast of St. Teresa of Avila.

ADDENDUM 2/15/16:  I have recently been coming to the conclusion that I may have been too hard on the Molinist position.  It may turn out that it is not truly opposed to the fundamental Augustinian position (though it disagrees with some other peculiar articulations of the Dominican school).  See here for more.

ADDENDUM 3/15/16:  See here for a nice, succinct statement of the classic Augustinian Catholic view of predestination, efficacious grace, etc.

ADDENDUM 6/6/2016:  See here for a more up-to-date account of my views of predestination and efficacious grace in the Catholic Church.