Follow the tags for many posts on grace. I am reminded by a friend today that only those in sanctifying grace can obtain merit. She was referring to some people she knows who do not always go to church on Sunday and to some Protestant members of her family.
One cannot be in mortal sin, which does not only mean living in sin, but having committed one mortal sin unconfessed, and gain merit.
My friend, who had old-fashioned Catholic teaching remembered her heritage and corrected herself.
Practicing Catholic can merit blessings for the next life. Non-practicing Catholics cannot merit grace, which will be clearer in the next post. And, here is a reminder of the definition of grace from CE.
Grace (gratia, Charis), in general, is a supernatural gift of God to intellectual creatures (men, angels) for their eternal salvation, whether the latter be furthered and attained through salutary acts or a state of holiness. Eternal salvation itself consists in heavenly bliss resulting from the intuitive knowledge of the Triune God, who to the one not endowed with grace "inhabiteth light inaccessible" (1 Timothy 6:16). Christian grace is a fundamental idea of the Christian religion, the pillar on which, by a special ordination of God, the majestic edifice of Christianity rests in its entirety. Among the three fundamental ideas — sin, redemption, and grace — grace plays the part of the means, indispensable and Divinely ordained, to effect the redemption from sin through Christ and to lead men to their eternal destiny in heaven.
Now, sanctifying grace is only one type of grace. But, it is necessary for salvation. Here is CE again...
The Protestant conception of justification boasts of three characteristics: absolute certainty (certitudo), complete uniformity in all the justified (aequalitas), unforfeitableness (inamissibilitas). According to the teaching of the Church, sanctifying grace has the opposite characteristics: uncertainty (incertitudo), inequality (inaequalitas), and amissibility (amissibilitas).
UncertaintyThe heretical doctrine of the Reformers, that man by a fiduciary faith knows with absolute certainty that he is justified, received the attention of the Council of Trent (Sess. VI, cap. ix), in one entire chapter (De inani fiducia haereticorum), three canons (loc. cit., can. xiii-xv) condemning the necessity, the alleged power, and the function of fiduciary faith. The object of the Church in defining the dogma was not to shatter the trust in God (certitudo spei) in the matter of personal salvation, but to repel the misleading assumptions of an unwarranted certainty of salvation (certitudo fidei). In doing this the Church is altogether obedient to the instruction of Holy Writ, for, since Scripture declares that we must work out our salvation "with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12), it is impossible to regard our individual salvation as something fixed and certain. Why did St. Paul (1 Corinthians 9:27) chastise his body if not afraid lest, having preached to others, he might himself "become a castaway"? He says expressly (1 Corinthians 4:4): "For I am not conscious to myself of any thing, yet am I not hereby justified; but he that judgeth me, is the Lord." Tradition also rejects the Lutheran idea of certainty of justification. Pope Gregory the Great (lib. VII, ep. xxv) was asked by a pious lady of the court, named Gregoria, to say what was the state of her soul. He replied that she was putting to him a difficult and useless question, which he could not answer, because God had not vouchsafed to him any revelation concerning the state of her soul, and only after her death could she have any certain knowledge as to the forgiveness of her sins. No one can be absolutely certain of his or her salvation unless--as to Magdalen, to the man with the palsy, or to the penitent thief--a special revelation be given (Trent, Sess. VI, can. xvi). Nor can a theological certainty, any more than an absolute certainty of belief, be claimed regarding the matter of salvation, for the spirit of the Gospel is strongly opposed to anything like an unwarranted certainty of salvation. Therefore the rather hostile attitude to the Gospel spirit advanced by Ambrosius Catherinus* (d. 1553), in his little work: "De certitudine gratiae", received such general opposition from other theologians. Since no metaphysical certainty can be cherished in the matter of justification in any particular case, we must content ourselves with a moral certainty, which, of course, is but warranted in the case of baptized children, and which, in the case of adults diminishes more or less, just as all the conditions of, salvation are complied with--not an easy matter to determine. Nevertheless any excessive anxiety and disturbance may be allayed (Romans 8:16, 38 sq.) by the subjective conviction that we are probably in the state of grace.
InequalityIf man, as the Protestant theory of justification teaches, is justified by faith alone, by the external justice of Christ, or God, the conclusion which Martin Luther (Sermo de nat. Maria) drew must follow, namely that "we are all equal to Mary the Mother of God and just as holy as she". But if on the other hand, according to the teaching of the Church, we are justified by the justice and merits of Christ in such fashion that this becomes formally our own justice and holiness, then there must result an inequality of grace in individuals, and for two reasons: first, because according to the generosity of God or the receptive condition of the soul an unequal amount of grace is infused; then, also, because the grace originally received can be increased by the performance of good works (Trent, Sess. VI, cap. vii, can. xxiv). This possibility of increase in grace by good works, whence would follow its inequality in individuals, find its warrant in those Scriptural texts in which an increase of grace is either expressed or implied (Proverbs 4:18; Sirach 18:22; 2 Corinthians 9:10; Ephesians 4:7; 2 Peter 3:18; Revelation 22:11). Tradition had occasion, as early as the close of the fourth century, to defend the old Faith of the Church against the heretic Jovinian, who strove to introduce into the Church the Stoic doctrine of the equality of all virtue and all vice. St. Jerome (Con. Jovin., II, xxiii) was the chief defender of orthodoxy in this instance. The Church never recognized any other teaching than that laid down by St. Augustine (Tract. in Jo., vi, 8): "Ipsi sancti in ecclesia sunt alii aliis sanctiores, alii aliis meliores." Indeed, this view should commend itself to every thinking man.
The increase of grace is by theologians justly called a second justification (justificatio secunda), as distinct from the first justification (justificatio prima), which is coupled with a remission of sin; for, though there be in the second justification no transit from sin to grace, there is an advance from grace to a more perfect sharing therein.
Sometimes called second conversion, as in the mystics and the perfection series.
If inquiry be made as to the mode of this increase, it can only be explained by the philosophical maxim: "Qualities are susceptible of increase and decrease"; for instance, light and heat by the varying degree of intensity increase or diminish. The question is not a theological but a philosophical one to decide whether the increase be effected by an addition of grade to grade (additio gradus ad gradum), as most theologians believe; or whether it be by a deeper and firmer taking of root in the soul (major radicatio in subjecto), as many Thomists claim. This question has a special connection with that concerning the multiplication of the habitual act.
As in habitual virtue.....or the habitual response to grace.
But the last question that arises has decidedly a theological phase, namely, can the infusion of sanctifying grace be increased infinitely? Or is there a limit, a point at which it must be arrested? To maintain that the increase can go on to infinity, i.e. that man by successive advances in holiness can finally enter into the possession of an infinite endowment involves a manifest contradiction, for such a grade is as impossible as an infinite temperature in physics. Theoretically, therefore, we can consider only an increase without any real limit (in indefinitum). Practically however, two ideals of unattained and unattainable holiness have been determined, which nevertheless, are finite. The one is the inconceivably great holiness of the human soul of Christ, the other the fullness of grace which dwelt in the soul of the Virgin Mary.
AmissibilityIn consonance with his doctrine of justification by faith alone, Luther made the loss or forfeiture of justification depend solely upon infidelity, while Calvin maintained that the predestined could not possibly lose their justification; as to those not predestined, he said, God merely aroused in them a deceitful show of faith and justification. On account of the grave moral dangers which lurked in the assertion that outside of unbelief there can be no serious sin destructive of Divine grace in the soul, the Council of Trent was obliged to condemn (Sess. VI, can. xxiii, xxvii) both these views. The lax principles of "evangelical liberty", the favourite catchword of the budding Reformation, were simply repudiated (Trent Sess. VI, can. xix-xxi). But the synod (Sess. VI cap. xi) added that not venial but only mortal sin involved the loss of grace. In this declaration there was a perfect accord with Scripture and Tradition. Even in the Old Testament the prophet Ezechiel (Ezekiel 18:24) says of the godless: "All his justices which he hath done, shall not be remembered: in the prevarication, by which he hath prevaricated, and in his sin, which he hath committed, in them he shall die." Not in vain does St. Paul (1 Corinthians 10:12) warn the just: "Wherefore he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall"; and state uncompromisingly: "The unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God...neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers.... nor covetous, nor drunkards...shall possess the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9 sq.). Hence it is not by infidelity alone that the Kingdom of Heaven will be lost. Tradition shows that the discipline of confessors in the early Church proclaims the belief that grace and justification are lost by mortal sin. The principle of justification by faith alone is unknown to the Fathers. The fact that mortal sin takes the soul out of the state of grace is due to the very nature of mortal sin. Mortal sin is an absolute turning away from God, the supernatural end of the soul, and is an absolute turning to creatures; therefore, habitual mortal sin cannot exist with habitual grace any more than fire and water can co-exist in the same subject. But as venial sin does not constitute such an open rupture with God, and does not destroy the friendship of God, therefore venial sin does not expel sanctifying grace from the soul. Hence, St. Augustine says (De spir. et lit., xxviii, 48): "Non impediunt a vita Aeterna justum quaedam peccata venialia, sine quibus haec vita non ducitur."
Mortal, as in mortis, mort, dead...the soul is dead in mortal sin, not alive in Christ and not in sanctifying grace....
But does venial sin, without extinguishing grace, nevertheless diminish it, just as good works give an increase of grace? Denys the Carthusian (d. 1471) was of the opinion that it does, though St. Thomas rejects it (II-II:24:10). A gradual decrease of grace would only be possible on the supposition that either a definite number of venial sins amounted to a mortal sin, or that the supply of grace might be diminished, grade by grade, down to ultimate extinction. The first hypothesis is contrary to the nature of venial sin; the second leads to the heretical view that grace may be lost without the commission of mortal sin. Nevertheless, venial sins have an indirect influence on the state of grace, for they make a relapse into mortal sin easy (cf. Sirach 19:1). Does the loss of sanctifying grace bring with it the forfeiture of the supernatural retinue of infused virtues? Since the theological virtue of charity, though not identical, nevertheless is inseparably connected with grace, it is clear that both must stand or fall together, hence the expressions "to fall from grace" and "to lose charity" are equivalent. It is an article of faith (Trent, Sess. VI, can. xxviii, cap. xv) that theological faith may survive the Commission of mortal sin, and can be extinguished only by its diametrical opposite, namely, infidelity. It may be regarded as a matter of Church teaching that theological hope also survives mortal sin, unless this hope should be utterly killed by its extreme opposite, namely despair, though probably it is not destroyed by it second opposite, presumption. With regard to the moral virtues, the seven gifts and the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, which invariably accompany grace and charity, it is clear that when mortal sin enters into the soul they cease to exist (cf. Francisco Suárez, "De gratia", IX, 3 sqq.). As to the fruits of sanctifying grace, see MERIT. my next post is on merit
Back to the Protestants.
Is it possible without the life of the sacraments in the Church to avoid mortal sin? Unlikely....Do Protestants contracept, divorce and remarry, skip Sunday observance, not receive the Eucharist? Yes for most....sanctifying grace given at baptism has been lost.
But, here is the clincher passage from Christ Himself: John 6.
 I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world.  The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat?  Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.
Without receiving the Eucharist, there is no life within a person, including lasped Catholics and Protestants, Hindus, Jews, Muslims. We have stopped preaching this truth which comes from the mouth of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Why have we stopped teaching this long-held Catholic truth?
Salvation is given to all men and women. Some reject it. Some reject grace to become Catholics. Some do not think to become Catholics. God is merciful, and some will be saved by the merits of the Catholic Church. What that means will be examined in the next post.
to be continued...