Parish Priest, Fr. Caesar D’Mello answers an interesting question sent by a member of the O Community (St. Marie Goretti).

Q: If God knows we cannot resist mortal sin, why are we created and why can’t He pull us out of harm’s way. God has given us a free will, but God knows man is going to be damned.

A:  The problem of predestination has continued to baffle the minds of great thinkers, philosophers and theologians right from the time of St Augustine who lived in the fourth century. The reason why it is so intriguing is that it involves at least four great truths of our faith:

  1. God’s foreknowledge
  2. The human being’s freedom
  3. The mystery of evil
  4. God’s ineffable grace

Let us briefly review the history of predestination. In the fourth and fifth centuries, Augustine of Hippo (354–430) taught that God orders all things while preserving human freedom. Prior to 396, Augustine believed that predestination was based on God’s foreknowledge of whether individuals would believe that God’s grace was “a reward for a human being’s willingness to cooperate with God”.

In the middle of the sixteenth century, John Calvin, Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli maintained God’s predestination applies to damnation as well as salvation, they taught that the damnation of the damned is caused by their sin, but that the salvation of the saved is solely caused by God.  This is known as double predestination.

Catholicism teaches the doctrine of predestination, while rejecting the classical Calvinist view known as “double predestination.” This means that while Catholicism holds that those whom God has elected to eternal life will infallibly attain it, and are therefore said to be predestined to salvation by God, those who perish are not predestined to damnation. However, generally Catholicism has been discouraging to human attempts to guess or predict the Divine Will.

The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church, but to all human beings.  Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all. Grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his Sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. It enables each person to attain salvation through his or her free cooperation.

The Catholic Catechism says, “To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of “predestination”, he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace. According to the Catholic Church, God predestines no one to go to hell, for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in the state of mortal sin until the end.”

Catholics do not believe that any hints or evidence of the predestined status of individuals is available to humans, and predestination generally plays little or no part in Catholic teaching to the faithful. On account, of the complexity of issues involved in predestination, which were very relevant at the time of the Reformers, it is a topic rarely addressed and in a professional theological context only.

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