Wednesday, January 27, 2010

St. Augustine and Mass for the Dead

St. Augustine believed in celebrating the Mass for the sake of those who have died. He writes, concerning the funeral rites for St. Monica his mother:

So, when the body was carried forth, we both went and returned without tears. For neither in those prayers which we poured forth unto You when the sacrifice of our redemption was offered up unto You for her—the dead body being now placed by the side of the grave, as the custom there is, prior to its being laid therein—neither in their prayers did I shed tears; yet was I most grievously sad in secret all the day, and with a troubled mind entreated You, as I was able, to heal my sorrow, but You did not; fixing, I believe, in my memory by this one lesson the power of the bonds of all habit, even upon a mind which now feeds not upon a fallacious word. [Confessions IX.12; emphasis added]

Really, people ought to be embarrassed even to attempt to pretend that St. Augustine was not Catholic in his views.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

This is true

TF, attempting to answer “35” questions (although the linked PDF contains 38 numbered questions and fourteen “bonus” questions; don’t ask me to explain the discrepancy) from Steve Ray, has this (among a few other things) to say about the seventeenth question (“Who may authoritatively arbitrate between Christians who claim to be led by the Holy Spirit into mutually contradictory interpretations of the Bible?”):

[T]he Holy Spirit will not lead two Christians into contradictory views.

This is true.

However, it is also an indictment of the entire history of Protestantism, and it was fundamental to my own departure from Protestantism. The Holy Spirit does not lie, the Holy Spirit is the court of final appeal for Protestant truth claims, and yet Protestants hold contradictory views. It isn’t the case that every disagreement among them matters: there are certainly things that are adiophora. But it is also indisputably the case that they disagree about things that do matter, and which cannot in any way be reasonably reckoned as matters of indifference.

Even the magisterial Reformers said that in cases of such disagreement the Holy Spirit could only be leading one of the two (or more) parties, but the critical point is that it is impossible for Protestants to distinguish the truth from error in such cases on their own terms. Impossible. No matter what they say. And on points where it matters, it is inconceivable that the Holy Spirit would “leave them in the lurch” (so to speak) if what they say about how He works is true.

Now the usual reactions to this are to ignore it (which is irrational, and probably a sin against truth), or to splinter into ever smaller and more insular groups (hence the Protestant “genius” for division, which only highlights this problem I’m discussing), or to claim that the areas on which the parties disagree are really matters of indifference after all. But the problem with the latter approach is that it reduces the content of what Christians must believe to an absurdly few points. Such a response means (for one glaring example) that the meaning, mode, and even the number (if you include certain Anglicans) of the sacraments is a matter of indifference for the Christian. And this, quite simply, beggars belief. It is not possible. And the same could be said about other areas of Protestant disagreement. Consequently it is inescapable that Protestantism is a self-defeating principle.

They do not say that the Holy Spirit speaks audibly (or in any other publicly verifiable fashion) to disputing parties so as to resolve disagreements; they say that He speaks internally to each man. But it is impossible to distinguish the Spirit’s leading in such a fashion from mere subjectivism. And really, all this does is cement in each party’s mind that his or their view is the correct one, because of course they are quite naturally all completely convinced of their own faithfulness before God, and of their own abilities in exegesis, and so of course it is inconceivable to them that the Holy Spirit would lead them astray. And yet the other parties say the same things about themselves too.

Consequently Protestantism is a self-defeating principle. Consequently I am now a Catholic.

Trent on Justification - Canon 28

Canon 28 addresses an error related to faith.

If any one saith, that, grace being lost through sin, faith also is always lost with it; or, that the faith which remains, though it be not a lively faith, is not a true faith; or, that he, who has faith without charity, is not a [Christian]; let him be anathema.

As we saw previously, infidelity is not the only mortal sin a Christian may commit; consequently one may lose his salvation without sinning against faith. I suspect that the faith in view here isn’t just the Protestant’s notion of mere faith-as-trust, although it is probably included. In any case, we see with regard to this canon as well that it is not contrary to justification by grace alone.

St. Augustine and Holy Relics

I suppose I ought to point out that I have no illusions about these facts concerning St. Augustine having any probative value concerning the truth, at least for Protestants. Without doubt their likely reaction will be that St. Augustine was mistaken about these things. But it is not my purpose to attempt to prove their truth by appealing to St. Augustine (although I find it amusing that people who discount St. Augustine’s authority on this score will cheerily appeal to him as though he supports their errors on other points). Rather, my purpose is to suggest that it’s pretty clear from his own writings—here, his autobiography—that St. Augustine was most certainly Catholic.

Here is an excellent case in point.

Thou by a vision made known to Your renowned bishop [St. Ambrose – RdP] the spot where lay the bodies of Gervasius and Protasius, the martyrs (whom You had in Your secret storehouse preserved uncorrupted for so many years), whence You might at the fitting time produce them to repress the feminine but royal fury. For when they were revealed and dug up and with due honour transferred to the Ambrosian Basilica, not only they who were troubled with unclean spirits (the devils confessing themselves) were healed, but a certain man also, who had been blind many years, a well-known citizen of that city, having asked and been told the reason of the people's tumultuous joy, rushed forth, asking his guide to lead him there. Arrived there, he begged to be permitted to touch with his handkerchief the bier of Your saints, whose death is precious in Your sight. When he had done this, and put it to his eyes, they were immediately opened. Thence did the fame spread; thence did Your praises burn—shine; thence was the mind of that enemy, though not yet enlarged to the wholeness of believing, restrained from the fury of persecuting. [Confessions IX.7, emphasis added]

St. Augustine’s respect for the relics of the holy martyrs was that of a Catholic.

Monday, January 25, 2010

St. Augustine - Baptism forgives sins

It isn’t by faith that our sins are forgiven, says St. Augustine; it is by Holy Baptism.

And Your purposes were profoundly impressed upon me; and, rejoicing in faith, I praised Your name. And that faith suffered me not to be at rest in regard to my past sins, which were not yet forgiven me by Your baptism. [Confessions, IX.4]

We see here that St. Augustine considered himself already to have faith, but he knew that this would not save. His sins had to be forgiven, and this, he knew, must be done in Baptism.

We see the same thing in chapter 6 of the same book of the Confessions, where he writes concerning his son and others who were baptized at the same time as he:

Quickly did You remove his life [i.e., that of St. Augustine’s son Adeodatus] from the earth; and now I recall him to mind with a sense of security, in that I fear nothing for his childhood or youth, or for his whole self. We took him coeval with us in Your grace, to be educated in Your discipline; and we were baptized, and solicitude about our past life left us. [ibid., IX.6]

Why was he no longer worried about his past life? Because his sins were forgiven in baptism. Faith didn’t do this, as the first quotation above makes clear; it was the sacrament.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

St. Augustine and the Intercession of the Dead

St. Augustine was Catholic—something that some Protestants are fond of ignoring while attempting to claim him as one of their own. But St. Augustine believed that departed Christians pray for those of us who remain in this life.

Now he puts not his ear unto my mouth, but his spiritual mouth unto Your fountain, and drinks as much as he is able, wisdom according to his desire—happy without end. Nor do I believe that he is so inebriated with it as to forget me, seeing Thou, O Lord, whom he drinks, art mindful of us. [Confessions IX.3]

They pray for us, and St. Augustine knew it. And now he prays for us himself!

St. Augustine - Baptism regenerates us

St. Augustine firmly believed that the sacraments perform that which they represent; that is, he was a Catholic.

Although [Nebridius] also, not being yet a Christian, had fallen into the pit of that most pernicious error of believing Your Son to be a phantasm, yet, coming out thence, he held the same belief that we did; not as yet initiated in any of the sacraments of Your Church, but a most earnest inquirer after truth. Whom, not long after our conversion and regeneration by Your baptism, he being also a faithful member of the Catholic Church, and serving You in perfect chastity and continency among his own people in Africa, when his whole household had been brought to Christianity through him, You released from the flesh; and now he lives in Abraham's bosom. [Confessions, IX.3; emphasis added]

A Protestant reading the Confessions might get the idea that [according to his own Protestant lights] St. Augustine was already “saved” well before his baptism; St. Augustine himself makes it clear that he believed nothing of the sort. He was not saved before receiving justification by means of Holy Baptism, and he knew it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Trent on Justification - Canon 27

The 27th canon on justification of the Council of Trent relates to questions of perseverance and mortal sin in the life of Christians.

If any one saith, that there is no mortal sin but that of infidelity; or, that grace once received is not lost by any other sin, however grievous and enormous, save by that of infidelity; let him be anathema.

The Protestant is keen to say that nothing a man does is sufficient to cause him to lose salvation, with the (usually heavily qualified) exception of disbelief. As the Council teaches us, this is an error. As we have seen, however, “perseverance of the saints” is itself an unbiblical error; true Christians can lose their salvation.

Nothing in the 27th canon is contrary to the doctrine of justification by grace.

Trent on Justification - Canon 26

Trent’s 26th canon on justification concerns the question of God rewarding the deeds of the righteous.

If any one saith, that the just ought not, for their good works done in God, to expect and hope for an eternal recompense from God, through His mercy and the merit of Jesus Christ, if so be that they persevere to the end in well doing and in keeping the divine commandments; let him be anathema.

This seems to me to be a matter of simple symmetry: if the wicked receive punishment for their deeds, it seems ridiculous to pretend that the Christian will receive nothing for his good works. Even so, as the canon makes clear, the true merit inhering in our good works comes from the merit of Jesus Christ: so that we cannot claim to “deserve” anything.

In any case, a reward for those who have already been justified is beside the point of whether they receive justification by grace alone, which we have argued to be the case in this series and which is certainly not contradicted by this canon.

Trent on Justification - Canon 25

Canon 25 on Justification condemns the error of those who insist that every work performed by the just is necessarily sinful in some way.

If any one saith, that, in every good work, the just sins venially at least, or—which is more intolerable still—mortally, and consequently deserves eternal punishments; and that for this cause only he is not damned, that God does not impute those works unto damnation; let him be anathema.

It is just not the case that it’s impossible for a Christian to avoid sin at any time. Men can and do perform good deeds, particularly when they are assisted by the grace of God (as Christians certainly are).

This canon says nothing contrary to justification by grace alone.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Trent on Justification - Canon 24

The 24th canon on justification relates to the increase of justification.

If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.

An excellent and helpful description of the distinction between initial justification and subsequent increase of justification may be found here, in an article by Bryan Cross. For our purposes it is sufficient to point out that Trent is of course by no means describing initial justification as caused by good works, but (as the canon says) only the increase of justification, as described in Chapter X of the Decree on Justification; to say otherwise would be to say that the canon contradicts Chapter VII, which would be absurd. This canon does not contradict the doctrine of justification by grace alone; even the obedience that we offer to God as Christians is a gift of God’s grace.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Church and Scripture

For St. Augustine, it was never a question of Scripture or the Catholic Church; it was always Scripture and the Catholic Church.

But You suffered me not to be carried away from the faith by any fluctuations of thought, whereby I believed You both to exist, and Your substance to be unchangeable, and that You had a care of and would judge men; and that in Christ, Your Son, our Lord, and the Holy Scriptures, which the authority of Your Catholic Church pressed upon me, You had planned the way of man's salvation to that life which is to come after this death. [Confessions VII.7]

Of course, he also accepted the authority of Sacred Tradition…but that’s not in view in this portion of the Confessions.

Divine Simplicity

St. Augustine affirmed divine simplicity.

Nor are You compelled to do anything against Your will in that Your will is not greater than Your power. But greater should it be were You Yourself greater than Yourself; for the will and power of God is God Himself. [Confessions, VII.4; emphasis added]

The will and power of God are not attributes of God, but rather they are God himself.

Augustine and Anselm

This sounds suspiciously like St. Anselm’s ontological argument:

For never yet was, nor will be, a soul able to conceive of anything better than You, who art the highest and best good. But whereas most truly and certainly that which is incorruptible is to be preferred to the corruptible (like as I myself did now prefer it), then, if Thou were not incorruptible, I could in my thoughts have reached unto something better than my God. [Confessions VII.4]

It’s not too hard to see from this that St. Augustine influenced St. Anselm.

Augustine and Free Will, part 2

And I directed my attention to discern what I now heard, that free will was the cause of our doing evil, and Your righteous judgment of our suffering it. But I was unable clearly to discern it. So, then, trying to draw the eye of my mind from that pit, I was plunged again therein, and trying often, was as often plunged back again. But this raised me towards Your light, that I knew as well that I had a will as that I had life: when, therefore, I was willing or unwilling to do anything, I was most certain that it was none but myself that was willing and unwilling; and immediately I perceived that there was the cause of my sin. [Confessions, VII.3]

If we do not have free will, it is not possible for us to sin—because it is the cause of sin (as St. Augustine says here). That is not to say that we are compelled to sin by virtue of the fact that we have free will (which would contradict the very idea of free will), but rather that if we did not have free will, we could not sin.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Limits of Reason and the Authority of the Church

St. Augustine insists that not everything we believe may be provable by reason.

From this, however, being led to prefer the Catholic doctrine, I felt that it was with more moderation and honesty that it commanded things to be believed that were not demonstrated (whether it was that they could be demonstrated, but not to any one, or could not be demonstrated at all) [Confessions VI.5]

The sense of this passage is more easily grasped, I think, in R.S. Pine-Coffin’s rendering:

The Church demanded that certain things should be believed even though they could not be proved, for if they could be proved, not all men could understand the proof, and some could not be proved at all [p. 116]

In any case, two things are certain. St. Augustine did not believe that a dogma of faith must be demonstrable by reason: some dogmas are not demonstrable by reason at all, and in other cases they exceed the measure of some men (though not necessarily all men) to grasp by reason. In either case, the important thing is that we are obliged to receive the dogmas by virtue of the authority of the Church, just as St. Augustine says.

Secondly, it is obvious that St. Augustine’s words here rule out any sense of the Protestant novelty of “sola scriptura;” he unambiguously assents to the authority of the Church to define dogmas that must be believed.

It occurs to me that perhaps these considerations might be of use to David Waltz, who continues to wrestle with certain dogmas. I think it bears mentioning that history as an enterprise is unquestionably an enterprise of reason, and that the “conclusions” of history are unquestionably conclusions of reason, and that consequently St. Augustine’s observations about Church authority and the limits of reason surely apply not merely to syllogisms we work out in our heads but also to our conclusions from history. This is not to say that the Church’s dogmas are ahistorical or contrary to history at all—indeed, quite the reverse is true. But it is to say that individual men may err concerning the “facts” of history, and also that history does not contradict the dogmas of the Church.

Baptismal Regeneration

St. Augustine believed in baptismal regeneration.

And behold, there was I received by the scourge of bodily sickness, and I was descending into hell burdened with all the sins that I had committed, both against You, myself, and others, many and grievous, over and above that bond of original sin whereby we all die in Adam. For none of these things had Thou forgiven me in Christ, neither had He abolished by His cross the enmity which, by my sins, I had incurred with You. For how could He, by the crucifixion of a phantasm, which I supposed Him to be? As true, then, was the death of my soul, as that of His flesh appeared to me to be untrue; and as true the death of His flesh as the life of my soul, which believed it not, was false. The fever increasing, I was now passing away and perishing. For had I then gone hence, whither should I have gone but into the fiery torments meet for my misdeeds, in the truth of Your ordinance? She was ignorant of this, yet, while absent, prayed for me. But You, everywhere present, hearkened to her where she was, and had pity upon me where I was, that I should regain my bodily health, although still frenzied in my sacrilegious heart. For all that peril did not make me wish to be baptized, and I was better when, as a lad, I entreated it of my mother's piety, as I have already related and confessed. [Confessions, V.9; emphasis added]

Trent on Justification - Canon 23

Canon 23 on Justification concerns the question of perseverance.

If any one saith, that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; or, on the other hand, that he is able, during his whole life, to avoid all sins, even those that are venial,-except by a special privilege from God, as the Church holds in regard of the Blessed Virgin; let him be anathema.

The Christian can certainly lose his justification; else a passage like (for example) Hebrews 6:4f. makes no sense at all: who else but real Christians ever partakes of the Holy Spirit? Or who else has been illuminated, or tasted the heavenly gift?

But the fact that we may reject God’s gift doesn’t mean that it is any less a gift. We cannot save ourselves. It is not credible in the least to say that choosing to believe in a freely offered salvation is somehow “works-based,” but that the act of faith intended by the Protestant’s “sola fide” is not. We are saved by grace; the fact that we may reject that grace doesn’t make our acceptance of it a saving act.

Trent on Justification - Canon 22

Perhaps some enemies of the Gospel suppose that the Church’s insistence that Christians must live lives of obedience in order to be saved implies a “works-based” salvation. This supposition is false, and Canon 22 of the Council of Trent on Justification makes this clear.

If any one saith, that the justified, either is able to persevere, without the special help of God, in the justice received; or that, with that help, he is not able; let him be anathema.

We cannot persevere in justification without God’s grace. Consequently to pretend that there is something meritorious about our obedience on its own, apart from God’s grace, is just that: a pretense.

The canon also condemns an error of some Protestants—particularly some in the Reformed camp—that even with God’s help the Christian is unable to live a life of holiness.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Trent on Justification - Canon 21

Canon 21 on Justification addresses an error that persists among some Protestants (and ill-informed Catholics, it must be said) even today.

If any one saith, that Christ Jesus was given of God to men, as a redeemer in whom to trust, and not also as a legislator whom to obey; let him be anathema.

The Lord Jesus Christ is our King. Who ever heard of a king for whom obedience is optional?!? The very idea is ridiculous. But the fact that we must obey God is in no way contrary the truth that we are justified by grace alone.

Counting Commandments

St. Augustine follows the Catholic enumeration of the Commandments:

And so do men live in opposition to the three and seven, that psaltery of ten strings, Your ten commandments, O God most high and most sweet. [Confessions III.8; emphasis added]

What three and what seven? The three commandments related to our duties to God, and the seven related to our duties to men.

Free Will

God does no violence to free will.

A man can come to Church unwillingly, can approach the altar unwillingly, partake of the sacrament unwillingly: but he cannot believe unless he is willing. [St. Augustine, Tractates on the Gospel of John, 26.2]

Thursday, January 14, 2010


“And greater works than these shall he do.” Than what, pray? Shall we say that one is doing greater works than all that Christ did who is working out his own salvation with fear and trembling? A work which Christ is certainly working in him, but not without him; and one which I might, without hesitation, call greater than the heavens and the earth, and all in both within the compass of our vision.

And it is assuredly something less to preach the words of righteousness, which He did apart from us, than to justify the ungodly, which He does in such a way in us that we also are doing it ourselves.

[St. Augustine, Tractate on John 72.3]

Infused virtue is caused in us by God without any action on our part, but not without our consent. This is the sense of the words, "which God works in us without us." As to those things which are done by us, God causes them in us, yet not without action on our part, for He works in every will and in every nature. [St. Thomas Aquinas, ST I-II Q55 A4 ad 6]

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Trent on Justification - Canon 20

Canon 20 of the Council of Trent is connected to the previous canon, and adds an additional consideration to the question of the Christian’s duties.

If any one saith, that the man who is justified and how perfect soever, is not bound to observe the commandments of God and of the Church, but only to believe; as if indeed the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life, without the condition of observing the commandments; let him be anathema.

Again (as was also said in Canon 19), contrary to the error of some Protestants the Catholic is obliged to obey God, because (as is said in the present canon) the promises of the gospel are conditioned upon observance of the commandments: we can’t live just however we want as believers in Christ. We are not free to do whatever we wish. We must live lives of obedience to our Lord: “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

As usual, there is nothing here contrary to the Catholic gospel of justification by grace alone.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Reading Suggestion for David Waltz

Rather than add to an already lengthy combox, I thought it might be better to do this here.

David, I came across this today during my regular reading, and immediately thought of you. Perhaps it would be helpful to you: Summa Theologiae I-II, Q19, articles 3-6 (but maybe especially article 6, from my vantage point, in consideration of your circumstances). The question: The Goodness and Malice of the Interior Act of the Will. Articles 3–6:

  • Whether the goodness of the will depends on reason?

  • Whether the goodness of the will depends on the eternal law?

  • Whether the will is evil when it is at variance with erring reason?

  • Whether the will is good when it abides by erring reason?

I hope that this will help you. I don't offer this with any intent of browbeating, but rather to hopefully shed further light upon what I said previously in the combox.

May God bless you,


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Trent on Justification - Canon 19

The Council of Trent's eighteenth canon on justification (which we looked at here) deals with errors concerning God’s Law on one extreme—that is, to say that we cannot obey it completely (even with God’s help). Canon 19 addresses another error related to the law.

If any one saith, that nothing besides faith is commanded in the Gospel; that other things are indifferent, neither commanded nor prohibited, but free; or, that the ten commandments nowise appertain to Christians; let him be anathema.

There are some who say that the Christian has no duty to obey God. It’s not too hard to see that this falsehood is somewhat related to that condemned by the previous canon: some say we can’t obey God properly; others deny that we have a duty to do so. To affirm that we do have a duty to obey God is the Catholic view, and it is not contrary to justification by grace alone.

Trent on Justification - Canon 18

Canon 18 on Justification concerns a question of God's Law.

If any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep; let him be anathema.

There are Protestants who claim that it is impossible for anyone to obey God's Law perfectly. These people are mistaken, and this canon of Trent is intended to warn Catholics against such a lie.

This canon is not contrary to justification by grace alone. As we've seen repeatedly, we cannot justify ourselves, because we cannot redeem ourselves from our sins by anything that we might do. So those who suppose that this canon opens some sort of possibility for justifying oneself by his action are wrong.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Trent on Justification - Canon 17

Canon 17 addresses questions related to perseverance.

If any one saith, that the grace of Justification is only attained to by those who are predestined unto life; but that all others who are called, are called indeed, but receive not grace, as being, by the divine power, predestined unto evil; let him be anathema.

The Council here condemns three errors: first, that only those who are predestined to life receive justification; second, that the rest of humanity receives no such grace; and third, that these latter are predestined for damnation.

The first of these errors contradicts the fact that we do not know (because God has not revealed) who are among the predestined; we do know (generally) who has been justified, inasmuch as justification is received through the Sacrament of Baptism, but the warnings against apostasy in Scripture make it clear that not all who are baptized will be saved. Consequently it is impossible for the two groups (the predestined and the justified) to be the same.

The second error goes hand in hand with the first; the presumption behind it is that those who receive the grace of justification must inevitably be saved, but this is false.

The third error hardly needs comment. The Catholic Church teaches no double predestination.

As we see, justification by grace alone is not condemned here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

One of the readings for the day is worth a brief remark.

Little children, let no man deceive you. He that does justice is just, even as he is just. [1 John 3:7]

No mere legal fiction makes a man holy; it's the one who actually does what is right that may be called righteous.

And it is only the righteous who will see God.

Lord, who shall dwell in your tabernacle? Or who shall rest in your holy hill? He that walks without blemish, and works justice. [Ps. 15:2]

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Trent on Justification - Canon 16

Canon 16 condemns an error of presumption.

If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end,-unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema.

This canon contradicts an error of the Calvinists, possibly some Lutherans, and (anachronistically but no less certainly) those who since then have believed “once saved, always saved.” No one knows whether he is numbered among the predestinate (apart from a special revelation, as the canon says) because God doesn’t tell us (ordinarily) who belongs to that number in this life. That’s the major reason why many Reformed Protestants neurotically worry whether they are among “the elect.” Typically these folks are counseled by their friends and ministers to not worry about such things. Their arguments for this are typically along the lines of insisting upon errors condemned by the Council in canons 12-14. But it is poor counsel to comfort a man by encouraging him to believe error.

Returning to our primary emphasis in this series, we see that there is nothing in this canon that is contrary to justification by grace alone, nor in any way supporting the false claims of those who say that the Church teaches a justification by some other means than grace alone.

Trent on Justification - Canon 15

Canon 15 on Justification of the Council has to do with an error (or maybe two) associated with Protestant ideas about predestination.

If any one saith, that a man, who is born again and justified, is bound of faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate; let him be anathema.

The Council condemns the false notion that to be justified or born again “assuredly” identifies a man as having been predestined to heaven. It's untrue because men most certainly may lose their salvation—not as a consequence of any weakness or failure on God's part, but by their own choice to reject God. We’ll see this idea condemned again in another post coming soon (hopefully) so I won’t belabor it here. But because it’s simply not true that only the predestined receive justification, it is likewise false to assert (as the canon says) that—having been justified—a man may or must believe himself to be among the predestined.

By way of reminder of our task here: we’re primarily interested for now in whether there is anything in the Decree on Justification or the associated canons to suggest that the Council of Trent taught anything other than justification by grace alone. Hopefully it’s clear that this canon does not do so. The fact that we must consent to our justification doesn’t mean that we save ourselves.