Sanctifying Grace – the Perfection of Free Will and Principle of Merit

Catholic Candle note:  Occasionally, we analyze the liberal statements of Bishop Richard N. Williamson.  Yet, someone could wonder:

Why mention Bishop Williamson any longer, since he is unimportant as merely one of very many compromising bishops and priests?  

It is true that a priest (or group) is of small importance when he (or the group) is merely one of the countless compromisers.  By contrast, an uncompromising and faithful priest or bishop is of great importance, even though he is only one.

However, we sometimes mention Bishop Williamson in particular for at least these five reasons, motivated by charity:

  1. New Catholic Candle readers might not be sufficiently informed of Bishop Williamson’s liberalism in order to avoid him.  Out of charity for them we occasionally provide these warnings to help those new readers appreciate the danger of the errors he spreads.
  2. Some longtime Catholic Candle readers might forget Bishop Williamson’s poison or vacillate in their resolution to stay away from him, if they never received a reminder warning about the danger inherent in his teachings.  This is like the fact that all it takes for many people to become conciliar is to never be reminded about the errors of Vatican II and the conciliar church.  Out of charity for these readers we occasionally provide these reminders lest readers “forget” to continue to avoid Bishop Williamson and his group.
  3. Bishop Williamson serves as an important study case to examine how leaving the truth often happens.  It is a warning to us all about a very common way to depart from the truth and become unfaithful.  Out of charity for ourselves, we occasionally provide these insights about becoming unfaithful by taking this common road of compromise that Bishop Williamson is taking.
  4. Over time, Bishop Williamson has provided us with a large catalogue of liberal errors.  Studying his compromises and errors along with the contrasting Traditional Catholic truth is a helpful means of studying our Faith and guarding ourselves against the principal errors of our time.  This helps us to fulfill our duty of continually studying the doctrines of our Faith.  Out of charity for ourselves, we use the occasion of Bishop Williamson’s liberalism to study our Traditional Catholic Faith better, in contrast to Bishop Williamson’s corresponding liberalism.

  1. Most so-called “bishops”, whether liberal/conciliar or sedevacantist, have doubtful consecrations and must be treated as invalid.[1]  By contrast, Bishop Williamson’s consecration is not doubtful.  Thus, if he ever were to return from his heresies, he could once again do important work for the Catholic Church, as he did years ago.

Finally, for those readers who are already resolute in their determination to completely avoid Bishop Williamson and his compromise group, they can receive just as much of the substance of this Catholic Candle article, if they substitute the phrase “a liberal could say” anytime they read “that Bishop Williamson teaches”.

Defending the Catholic Faith and Our Lady’s Perfection

Against Bishop Williamson’s Confusion and Heresies[2]


In a recent letter to his followers, Bishop Richard Williamson showed his confusion about the spiritual life when he taught that if God were to bestow grace in great enough abundance, it would:

  1. Take away a person’s free will; and
  2. Destroy the merit of prayers, virtuous acts, and good works.

These two conclusions are heresies. But this confused bishop also adds a third error:

  1. Because God wanted His elect to be able to merit, He could not avoid the world being a place where most people go to hell.

Below, we will examine each of these three errors.

  1. Bishop Williamson falsely claims that grace can take away a person’s free will.

Bishop Williamson (falsely) teaches that God would take away a person’s free will by giving that person grace in sufficiently great abundance.  Bishop Williamson says that, if God gave grace in such abundance, then “He [viz., God] would in effect be stopping human beings from exercising their free-will”.[3]

In other words, Bishop Williamson is falsely asserting that if grace is abundant enough, it takes away free will.  That is false and is heresy!

The truth is that grace always makes our will freer and less under the dominion of the wounds of original sin.  Man is not free to choose his goal (i.e., his end).  It is fixed by the nature God gave to him.  Man always seeks happiness as his end.  Man’s will is only free to choose the means to this end.  All of this is explained beautifully in Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Libertas.

God can save the most hardened sinner by enlightening his mind and strengthening his will, so that the man sees more plainly the true means to obtain his happiness. When God gives this extra light and strength, any man freely chooses these means which God clearly shows him, and thus he attains happiness (especially heaven), which is the end which God fixed for him to seek.

Thus, the souls of the saints are most-free, because they follow God and reason in all of the various aspects of their lives. They are freest from the slavery to vices, such as pride and gluttony.[4]

The consequences of Bishop Williamson’s error are especially striking because of how his error insults the Blessed Virgin Mary.  If he were correct, then Mary would be the least free of all humans, since she has the greatest grace of any human person, as shown below.[5]


Mary has the greatest grace of any human person.

Mary is full of grace, as the Archangel Gabriel proclaimed: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”  St. Luke, 1:28.  

St. Thomas Aquinas, greatest Doctor of the Church, teaches the same truth:

So full of grace was the Blessed Virgin, that it overflows onto all mankind.  It is, indeed, a great thing that any one saint has so much grace that it is conducive to the salvation of many; but it is most wondrous to have so much grace as to suffice for the salvation of all mankind. Thus, it is in Christ and in the Blessed Virgin.[6]

Indeed, St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Doctor of the Church, teaches that Mary has more grace than all of the other saints together.  Here are his words:

Let us conclude that our heavenly child [Mary], because she was appointed mediatrix of the world, as also because she was destined to be the Mother of the Redeemer, received, at the very beginning of her existence, grace exceeding in greatness that of all the saints together.[7] 

So, we see that Our Lady has the greatest grace of any human person – i.e., more than any person except Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Does this grace impede the Blessed Virgin Mary from exercising her free-will, as Bishop Williamson teaches?  Absolutely not!

Anyone who receives grace becomes freer because of the grace.  With the greatest abundance of grace, Our Lady is the freest of all.  This truth is the opposite of Bishop Williamson’s distortion of the spiritual life and his erroneous and confused teaching about grace and free will.

  1. Bishop Williamson falsely claims that abundant grace can take away a person’s opportunity to merit.

Bishop Williamson (falsely) teaches that a person’s ability to merit would be taken away if God gave him grace in sufficiently great abundance.  Bishop Williamson says that, if God gave very abundant grace, then “He [viz., God] would in effect be stopping human beings … from meriting for Heaven”.[8]

In other words, Bishop Williamson is falsely asserting that if grace is abundant enough, then a person cannot merit.  That is false and is heresy!  If he were correct, then Mary would be most greatly prevented from meriting since she has the greatest grace of any human person.  However, she has the greatest merit, as shown below.

Our Lady’s merit is greatest among all of the saints

The Blessed Virgin Mary is not only full of grace but this is the reason for the great merit she earned by every thought, word and deed.

St. Alphonsus beautifully explains this truth in these words:

If Mary, as the already destined Mother of our common Redeemer, received from the very beginning the office of mediatrix of all men, and consequently even of the saints, it was also requisite from the very beginning [that] she should have a grace exceeding that of all the saints for whom she was to intercede.  I will explain myself more clearly. If, by the means of Mary, all men were to render themselves dear to God, necessarily Mary was more holy and dearer to Him than all men together.  Otherwise, how could she have interceded for all others?  That an intercessor may obtain the favor of a prince for all his vassals, it is absolutely necessary that he should be dearer to his prince than all the other vassals.  And therefore St. Anselm concludes that Mary deserved to be made the worthy repairer of the lost world, because she was the purest of all creatures. ‘The pure sanctity of her heart, surpassing the purity and sanctity of all other creatures, merited for her that she should be made the repairer of the lost world.’[9]

St. Alphonsus further teaches:

Let us conclude that our heavenly child [Mary], because she was appointed mediatrix of the world, as also because she was destined to be the Mother of the Redeemer, received, at the very beginning of her existence, grace exceeding in greatness that of all the saints together.  Hence, how delightful a sight must the beautiful soul of this happy child have been to heaven and earth, although still enclosed in her mother’s womb!  She was the most amiable creature in the eyes of God, because she was already loaded with grace and merit. …  And she was at the same time the creature above all others that had ever appeared in the world up to that moment, who loved God the most; so much so, that had Mary been born immediately after her most pure conception, she would have come into the world richer in merits, and more holy, than all the saints united.[10] 

With the most abundant grace, Our Lady also had the most abundant merits.  Contrary to Bishop Williamson’s heresy, a greater abundance of grace does not impede merit, but rather causes it.

  1. Bishop Williamson falsely claims the world is not the most perfect world but is the best world God was able to create and still have heaven be a great place.

Bishop Williamson not only shows his confusion about grace, free will, and merit (as shown above), but also, he asserts that God did not make earth a better place than He did, because that would have made heaven a worse place.  Bishop Williamson (falsely) teaches that if God had not made a world where most people go to hell, then heaven would be worse.  This is false and is heresy.  Here are Bishop Williamson’s words:

[A]n unmerited Heaven could not have the quality of a merited Heaven, which is why we live in this “vale of tears” – God created us only for the best, even if it necessitated the “collateral damage” of a “vale of tears” in which a majority of all souls created would choose Hell.[11]

In other words, Bishop Williamson falsely asserts God made a world where most men go to hell because otherwise, He could not have made heaven as great.

The truth is that the world that God made is the best of all possible worlds.[12]  God allows evil for His greater glory and in order to bring about greater good.[13]  God allows some people to (voluntarily) sin and to damn themselves because their damnation manifests God’s Justice more clearly than if damnation had been something which never occurred but which we understood only as something that could have – but didn’t – ever happen.

Similarly, God’s Mercy and Goodness in saving the elect is more manifest in contrast to the actual damnation of other souls, since the damned very evidently manifest what could have happened to the elect, had God not chosen to save them because of His Mercy and Goodness.

Although sin itself is evil, this world which God made, in which He allows sin and damnation, is better as a whole because it manifests God’s Mercy, Goodness, and Justice better than if there had been no sin.  By better manifesting God’s perfections, the universe gives greater Glory to God.[14]  For God’s only end is His Own Glory, that is, Himself.  Any other end (less than God) is unworthy of God.[15]

Thus, we see that, for His own Glory and to manifest His perfections, God saves some persons and gives them happiness.  Likewise, for His own Glory and to manifest His perfections, God allows some persons to damn themselves and be unhappy.[16]

Thus, Bishop Williamson errs that God made the earth imperfect because, if He had made the earth better, it would have made heaven worse.  The truth is that God could have made a world where everyone received superabundant grace and where everyone went to the perfect heaven which He made.  But this would have been a less-perfect world.

Similarly, God could have made a world where everyone received superabundant grace and there were no tears and no suffering, and everyone loved Him greatly.  However, such a world would have been less perfect because it would have failed to manifest His Honor and Glory as perfectly as the world He actually made.  

Conclusion

We must be vigilant to guard against Bishop Williamson’s fundamental errors concerning the spiritual life.  In contrast to his errors, the truth is that:

  • Grace always makes a man’s will freer.  

  • Grace always increases the merits of his actions.  

  • The heaven and earth that God made are the most perfect ones possible, although most men choose sin and choose to damn themselves.

[1]          For further information about the doubtfulness of the conciliar “consecration” rite, read this analysis: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B49oPuI54eEGZVF5cmFvMGdZM0U/view?resourcekey=0-d98Ksw0xkbtafE2fYSTq8A

[2]          Heresy is an error about the Catholic Faith.  Here is how St. Thomas Aquinas explains this truth:

We are speaking of heresy now as denoting a corruption of the Christian Faith.  Now it does not imply a corruption of the Christian faith, if a man has a false opinion in matters that are not of faith, for instance, in questions of geometry and so forth, which cannot belong to the faith by any means; but only when a person has a false opinion about things belonging to the faith.

Now a thing may be of the faith in two ways, as stated above, in one way, directly and principally, e.g., the articles of faith; in another way, indirectly and secondarily, e.g., those matters, the denial of which leads to the corruption of some article of faith; and there may be heresy in either way, even as there can be faith.

Summa, IIa IIae, Q.11, a.2, respondeo.

[3]          Here is the longer quote:

God is absolute Goodness because He is absolute Being, only a lack of being can be evil. It is absolutely impossible for God to cause directly moral evil. What He can do is cause it indirectly by not giving the grace or graces which would have prevented that moral evil from happening. In that case He is not acting positively, He is refraining from acting, or acting negatively, to allow the evil to happen. Those graces that would have prevented the evil, He is entirely free to give or not give, and if He always gave them, He would in effect be stopping human beings from exercising their free-will and from meriting for Heaven. But an unmerited Heaven could not have the quality of a merited Heaven, which is why we live in this “vale of tears” – God created us only for the best, even if it necessitated the “collateral damage” of a “vale of tears” in which a majority of all souls created would choose Hell (Mt. VII, 13–14).

Eleison Comments by Mgr. Williamson – Issue DCCXXXII (732) (underline emphasis in original; bold and italic emphasis added).

[5]          We must defend Our Lady against such insults to her prerogatives.  As St. Louis de Montfort teaches in his book, True Devotion to Mary, ¶265:

Finally, we must do everything for Mary.  Since we have given ourselves completely to her service, it is only right that we should do everything for her as if we were her personal servant and slave.  This does not mean that we take her for the ultimate end of our service, for Jesus alone is our ultimate end.  But we take Mary for our proximate end, our mysterious intermediary and the easiest way of reaching Him.

Like every good servant and slave, we must not remain idle, but, relying on her protection, we should undertake and carry out great things for our noble Queen.  We must defend her privileges when they are questioned and uphold her good name when it is under attack.

[6]          St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Angelic Salutation.

[7]         St. Alphonsus de Liguori, The Glories of Mary — discourse #2 the birth of Mary (emphasis added).

[8]          Here is the longer quote:

God is absolute Goodness because He is absolute Being, only a lack of being can be evil. It is absolutely impossible for God to cause directly moral evil. What He can do is cause it indirectly by not giving the grace or graces which would have prevented that moral evil from happening. In that case He is not acting positively, He is refraining from acting, or acting negatively, to allow the evil to happen. Those graces that would have prevented the evil, He is entirely free to give or not give, and if He always gave them, He would in effect be stopping human beings from exercising their free-will and from meriting for Heaven. But an unmerited Heaven could not have the quality of a merited Heaven, which is why we live in this “vale of tears” – God created us only for the best, even if it necessitated the “collateral damage” of a “vale of tears” in which a majority of all souls created would choose Hell (Mt. VII, 13–14).

Eleison Comments by Mgr. Williamson – Issue DCCXXXII (732) (underline emphasis in original; bold and italic emphasis added).

[9]         St. Alphonsus de Liguori, The Glories of Mary – discourse #2 the birth of Mary

 

[10]         St. Alphonsus de Liguori, The Glories of Mary — discourse #2 the birth of Mary (emphasis added).

[11]          Here is the longer quote:

God is absolute Goodness because He is absolute Being, only a lack of being can be evil. It is absolutely impossible for God to cause directly moral evil. What He can do is cause it indirectly by not giving the grace or graces which would have prevented that moral evil from happening. In that case He is not acting positively, He is refraining from acting, or acting negatively, to allow the evil to happen. Those graces that would have prevented the evil, He is entirely free to give or not give, and if He always gave them, He would in effect be stopping human beings from exercising their free-will and from meriting for Heaven.  But an unmerited Heaven could not have the quality of a merited Heaven, which is why we live in this “vale of tears” – God created us only for the best, even if it necessitated the “collateral damage” of a “vale of tears” in which a majority of all souls created would choose Hell (Mt. VII, 13–14).

Eleison Comments by Mgr. Williamson – Issue DCCXXXII (732) (underline emphasis in original; bold and italic emphasis added).

[13]          Here is how St. Thomas Aquinas (the Greatest Doctor of the Catholic Church) explains this truth, quoting St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church:

As Augustine says (Enchiridion xi): “Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.”  This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.

Summa, Ia, Q.2 a.3, ad 1 (emphasis added).

[14]
         Here is St. Thomas’ fuller explanation of this truth:

It is the part of the best agent to produce an effect which is best in its entirety; but this does not mean that He makes every part of the whole the best absolutely, but in proportion to the whole; in the case of an animal, for instance, its goodness would be taken away if every part of it had the dignity of an eye. Thus, therefore, God also made the universe to be best as a whole, according to the mode of a creature; whereas He did not make each single creature best, but one better than another.  And therefore, we find it said of each creature, “God saw the light, that it was good” (Genesis 1:4); and in like manner of each one of the rest.  But of all together it is said, “God saw all the things that He had made, and they were very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Summa, Ia, Q.47, a.2, ad 1 (emphasis added).

[15]
         Here is how St. Thomas explains this truth:  

[E]ach and every creature exists for the perfection of the entire universe.  Furthermore, the entire universe, with all its parts, is ordained towards God as its end, inasmuch as it imitates, as it were, and shows forth the Divine goodness, to the glory of God.

Summa, Ia, Q.65., a2, respondeo (emphasis added).

God loves mankind and the rest of creation because they are His work and He gave them whatever goodness they have.  But they are finite goods which God loves finitely as part of His infinite love for Himself.  For a fuller explanation of this truth, read this article: https://catholiccandle.neocities.org/faith/god-does-not-infinitely-love-any-creature.html

[16]
         Here is how St. Thomas Aquinas (quoting St. Paul) explains this Truth of the Catholic Faith:

Let us then consider the whole of the human race, as we consider the whole universe.  God Wills to manifest His goodness in men; in respect to those whom He predestines, by means of His mercy, as sparing them; and in respect of others, whom he reprobates, by means of His justice, in punishing them.

This is the reason why God elects some and rejects others.  To this, the Apostle refers, saying (Romans 9:22-23):

What if God, willing to show His wrath [that is, the vengeance of His justice], and to make His power known, endured [that is, permitted] with much patience vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction; that He might show the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He hath prepared unto glory;

and (2 Timothy 2:20):

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver; but also, of wood and of earth; and some, indeed, unto honor, but some unto dishonor.

Summa, Ia Q. 23 a.5, ad 3 (emphasis added).  The bracketed words (in the quotes from St. Paul) are contained in the Summa.