The Council of Quiersy on Predestination

The Council of Quiersy, in 853 A.D., was a local Council, whose teachings fall under the ordinary non-infallible Magisterium. These are not infallible Canons. Nevertheless, the Council’s teachings on redemption and grace have stood the test of time and are consonant with the present-day teachings of the Magisterium in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The following text is from Denzinger, 316 to 319, quoting the Council of Quiersy:

Chap. 1. Omnipotent God created man noble, without sin with a free will, and he whom He wished to remain in the sanctity of justice, He placed in Paradise. Man, using his free will, badly sinned and fell, and became the “mass of perdition” of the entire human race. The just and good God, however, chose from this same mass of perdition, according to His foreknowledge, those whom through grace He predestined to life [Rom. 8:29 ff.; Eph. 1:11], and He predestined for these eternal life; the others, whom by the judgment of justice he left in the mass of perdition, however, He knew would perish, but He did not predestine that they would perish, because He is just; however, He predestined eternal punishment for them. And on account of this we speak of only one predestination of God, which pertains either to the gift of grace or to the retribution of justice.

God created Adam and Eve without sin, but with free will. And they used their free will to commit actual mortal sin, thereby losing the state of grace. All their descendants — except Jesus and Mary — therefore inherited original sin, which includes the absence of the state of grace at conception. The whole human race is therefore called a “mass of perdition”, because the whole human race lost salvation in Adam. We would all end up in Hell, if not for Christ Jesus. However, we are redeemed unto eternal salvation in Christ, the new Adam.

Concerning predestination, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “1037 God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end.” In the Catholic view, expressed in the CCC and at the Council of Quiersy, predestination never means that some persons cannot be saved. God never decides to predestine anyone to Hell.

As the Council phrased it, “He knew [they] would perish, but He did not predestine that they would perish, because He is just; however, He predestined eternal punishment for them.” Predestination includes the knowledge of God about all our future free will decisions, and the resultant state of our soul. God knows which persons will refuse to repent from actual mortal sin through the last moment of their lives, thereby condemning themselves to eternal punishment in Hell. God knows which souls will end up in Hell. But he does not predestine them to go to Hell “because He is just”. It would be unjust, and therefore contrary to the very nature of God, to predestine anyone to Hell.

They end up in Hell because of their own free will decisions, despite the universal salvific will of God. He provides them with an abundance of grace, with much more than is sufficient to be saved. They lack no type of grace whatsoever that is needed for salvation, except grace that were offered by God and refused by their free will. The only thing they lack is their own willingness to either avoid actual mortal sin, or to repent and be forgiven after actual mortal sin. It is false to say that those condemned to Hell were not offered a particular type of grace needed for salvation.

Now their punishment in Hell is predestined by God. Knowing that they will freely choose unrepentant actual mortal sin, God acts with justice toward them, preparing a place for their eternal punishment. And that is also part of the predestination of God. But this predestination includes grace, free will, and the knowledge of God.

The common misconception about predestination is that it is a choice of God that absolutely determines who will be saved, regardless of free will — as if the saved could not possibly end up in Hell, and as if the damned could not possibly repent and go to Heaven. This false idea is found in Calvinism and some other Protestant theological writings, as well as in the writings of some heretical Catholics. But it is foreign to the true Gospel and the teachings of the Magisterium.

How can predestination be one, as the Council says, when some go to Heaven and others go to Hell? First, the universal salvific will of God wants all human persons to be saved. One end is willed for all, but subject to free will. Second, all the graces needed for salvation, without any exception whatsoever, are given or offered by God to each and all. The difference in eternal salvation is due to free will. The will and plan of God, and the offer of salvation, is one.

Chap. 2. The freedom of will which we lost in the first man, we have received back through Christ our Lord; and we have free will for good, preceded and aided by grace, and we have free will for evil, abandoned by grace. Moreover, because freed by grace and by grace healed from corruption, we have free will.

Chap. 3. Omnipotent God wishes all men without exception to be saved [1 Tim. 2:4] although not all will be saved. However, that certain ones are saved, is the gift of the one who saves; that certain ones perish, however, is the deserved punishment of those who perish.

If God wills all persons to be saved, why are so many souls lost to the fires of Hell? The answer is free will. We have the gift of free will, which includes the ability to freely choose good, preceded and aided by grace, and the ability to freely choose evil, by rejecting grace.

When grace precedes free will, it is termed “prevenient”. By His prevenient grace, God operates without our cooperation. And this type of grace is received by all human persons, even the most wicked. When grace aids free will, God cooperates only to the extent that free will chooses what is good. The wicked refuse to cooperate with the grace of God.

All human persons who reach Heaven have salvation as a free gift. All human persons who are sent to Hell were offered the gift of eternal salvation, but refused it, or later lost it, by unrepentant actual mortal sin using their free will. The gift of salvation is offered to all, but those who lose that gift do so by their own grave unrepentant sins, and so they are deservedly given eternal punishment.

Chap. 4. Christ Jesus our Lord, [just] as [there is] no man (who is or has been or ever will be) whose nature will not have been assumed in Him, so [also] there is, has been, or will be no man, for whom He has not suffered — although not all will be saved by the mystery of His passion. But because all are not redeemed by the mystery of His passion, He does not regard the greatness and the fullness of the price, but He regards the part of the unfaithful ones and those not believing in faith those things which He has worked through love [Gal. 5:6], because the drink of human safety, which has been prepared by our infirmity and by divine strength, has indeed in itself that it may be beneficial to all; but if it is not drunk, it does not heal.

In other words, the sacrifice of Christ which obtains our eternal salvation is offered for all, and is great enough and full enough to redeem all. But those who refuse to accept that salvation, do not benefit from it. They are like a dying patient who refuses to take the medication that can save his life. The physician is not to blame, if the patient refuses to accept life-saving care.

As the Council clearly teaches above, “not all will be saved by the mystery of His passion”. Some human souls are sent into eternal punishment, due to their own free will decisions, despite the universal salvific will of God.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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