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Ron Benny wrote:

Hi, guys —

Pope Pius XII asserted that:

"An act of love can suffice for an adult to acquire sanctifying grace and supply for the lack of Baptism"

(Acta Apostolicae Sedis, XLIII, 84)

I believe the Church teaches that man cannot earn or merit salvation.

The Council of Trent stated:

"If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or by the teaching of the Law, without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema."

(Session 6; Canon 1)

The above statement by the Holy Father is troubling to me.

  • If an act/work of love gets a person sanctifying grace, isn't that the same as saying that the person has earned sanctifying grace?

I have some knowledge on actual grace and sanctifying grace. Sanctifying grace stays in the soul. It's what makes the soul holy; it gives the soul supernatural life. Actual grace, by contrast, is a supernatural push or encouragement.

  • So, is this act of love, which can substitute for Baptism, an act done by actual grace so that the person who performs such an act acquires sanctifying grace thereafter?
  • What is the Theology and Philosophy behind this?

Ron Benny

  { If an act or work of love gets a person sanctifying grace, isn't the person earning sanctifying grace? }

Mike replied:

Dear Ron,

First, I'd like to wish you a Merry Christmas.

I'm not as much of an expert as some of my colleagues are, but I think this article by Jeff Mirus answers your question:

It should be noted that you did not provide the complete quote made by Pope Pius XII in
Acta Apostolicae Sedis, XLIII, 84.

Pope Pius XII said:

"An act of love can suffice for an adult to acquire sanctifying grace and supply for the lack of Baptism; to the unborn or newly born infant this way is not open."

((Acta Apostolicae Sedis, XLIII, 84) ).

The theory of limbo was solidified within these (strictures or restrictions)

So his statement was in the context of the concept of Limbo for exceptional cases like:

  • unbaptized catechumens
  • unbaptized martyrs for the faith, and
  • unbaptized babies.

Also, the Church has not made any statement on Limbo; It is not a teaching of the Church.

The Catechism has only said that we leave the salvation of unbaptized babies and others, unto the mercy of God (CCC 1261), who wants all to be saved: (1 Timothy 2:3-4).

VI. The Necessity of Baptism

1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say:

"Let the children come to me, do not hinder them"

(Mark 10:14; cf. 1 Timothy 2:4)

allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.

My answer may not fulfill what you were querying about so I suggest you read the whole article by Jeff.

My colleagues may have more to add.

I hope this helps,


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