Today in Catholic History – The Second Council of Orange

On 3 July 529, the Second Council of Orange [France] met under the leadership of Saint Caesarius of Arles.

The Council was primarily concerned with the issue of grace and free will. The heresy of Pelagianism, that we could act morally and attain salvation without the aid of divine grace, had been condemned at the Council of Carthage in 418. The orthodox position upheld at the Council of Carthage was that of Saint Augustine who argued that it was impossible for us to act morally without the aid of divine grace.

The Second Council of Orange met to further look at the Church’s understanding of grace and free will in light of the decisions at the Council of Carthage and whether the position of the Church was something between the view that salvation as being entirely the result of divine grace without any human participation [strict predestinationism] and the view that salvation was entirely the result our own choice [Pelagianism]. Of particular significance was whether the decision to accept Christ and become a Christian could be made without the aid of divine grace [what will later be known as Semi-Pelagianism] or whether even our very decision to accept the faith itself was the result of divine grace.

Again the writings of Saint Augustine would be very influential as were the writings of Saint Prosper of Aquitaine. Pope Felix IV also sent a “Capitula” or list of points on the issue to the Council which would help guide its final decisions.

At its conclusion, the Second Council of Orange reiterated the Catholic Church’s teaching that as a result of Original Sin, it is impossible for us to act morally without the aid of divine grace; that divine grace precedes every act related to our salvation from the very decision to become Christian to the decision to undertake a good work. However, the Council also stated that all Christians are capable of achieving salvation and no one is predestined to hell. Original Sin weakens human free will and our capacity to chose to do the good but does not eliminate it entirely. Divine grace is necessary to overcome the effect of original sin upon human freedom so that we are again able to chose to do the good.

The decisions of the Second Council of Orange were approved by Pope Boniface II on 25 January, 531.

This also do we believe, in accordance with the Catholic faith, that after grace received through baptism, all the baptized are able and ought, with the aid and co-operation of Christ, to fulfill all duties needful for salvation, provided they are willing to labor faithfully. But that some men have been predestined to evil by divine power, we not only do not believe, but if there be those who are willing to believe so evil a thing, we say to them with all abhorrence anathema. This also do we profess and believe to our soul’s health, that in every good work, it is not we who begin, and are afterward assisted by Divine mercy, but that God Himself, with no preceding merits on our part, first inspires within us faith and love.


Decisions of the Second Council of Orange

Dave Armstrong has a good post on the comparison of the theology of the Second Council of Orange and Calvinism

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: