Fr. Kimel's post appears to be something of a promisory note, as it has "(cont)" at the bottom, which I assume means that he will have more to say on this topic in due course. In this opening salvo he addresses specifically the topic of the preachability of election and predestination. To be preachable, on Fr. Kimel's account, is to carry some message of encouragement, something that will build up the body of Christ, and he suggests that some aspects of election and predestination fail in that necessary condition of preachability. An element of this that has always fascinated me is the logical relation that exists between the predestination of the elect, and, well, what certainly looks like the predestination of the rest:
The Reformed preacher, like the Thomist preacher, stands before a congregation composed of elect and reprobate. At this point it doesn’t matter if the preacher is a supralapsarian or infralapsarian, double predestinarian or single predestinarian. As Catholic theologian J. Pohle states, “The absolute predestination of the blessed is at the same time the absolute will of God ‘not to elect’ a priori the rest of mankind (Suarez), or which comes to the same, ‘to exclude them from heaven’ (Gonet), in other words, not to save them.” God has chosen some members of his congregation for eternal glory and has, directly or indirectly (preterition), chosen the others for perdition; but as neither pastor nor congregants know who the elect and reprobate are, the pastor has no choice but to refrain from proclaiming predestination.It is difficult to disagree with the advice to "refrain from proclaiming predestination", given the epistemological problem involved, but I assume that it is possible to preach against fornication without knowing who, if anyone, in the congregation is a fornicator? What is difficult to avoid, however, is the implication that some folks are predestined to damnation. No matter how you construe it--either as a logical implication, as in the construal of Suarez, or as a necessary feature of God's foreknowledge and the very meaning of election--it looks as though some are predestined for damnation in precisely the same way that others are predestined for salvation. If God already knows who will choose to follow him, presumably he also knows who will choose not to follow him; and if he elects the former for eternal life, simply by choosing some he ipso facto excludes others.
Famously, the Catholic Church prefers not to put things this way. Instead, we find such as the following, taken from the J. Pohle in Fr. Kimel's post--Pohle is the author of the article on Predestination in the old Catholic Encyclopedia:
We may now briefly summarize the whole Catholic doctrine, which is in harmony with our reason as well as our moral sentiments. According to the doctrinal decisions of general and particular synods, God infallibly foresees and immutably preordains from eternity all future events (cf. Denzinger, n. 1784), all fatalistic necessity, however, being barred and human liberty remaining intact (Denz., n. 607). Consequently man is free whether he accepts grace and does good or whether he rejects it and does evil (Denz., n. 797). Just as it is God's true and sincere will that all men, no one excepted, shall obtain eternal happiness, so, too, Christ has died for all (Denz., n. 794), not only for the predestined (Denz., n. 1096), or for the faithful (Denz., n. 1294), though it is true that in reality not all avail themselves of the benefits of redemption (Denz., n. 795). Though God preordained both eternal happiness and the good works of the elect (Denz., n. 322), yet, on the other hand, He predestined no one positively to hell, much less to sin (Denz., nn. 200, 816). Consequently, just as no one is saved against his will (Denz., n. 1363), so the reprobate perish solely on account of their wickedness (Denz., nn. 318, 321). God foresaw the everlasting pains of the impious from all eternity, and preordained this punishment on account of their sins (Denz., n. 322), though He does not fail therefore to hold out the grace of conversion to sinners (Denz., n. 807), or pass over those who are not predestined (Denz., n. 827). As long as the reprobate live on earth, they may be accounted true Christians and members of the Church, just as on the other hand the predestined may be outside the pale of Christianity and of the Church (Denz., nn. 628, 631). Without special revelation no one can know with certainty that he belongs to the number of the elect (Denz., nn. 805 sq., 825 sq.).Clearly much of this makes a good deal of sense, or, as Pohle puts it, "is in harmony with our reason". Things only begin to fall apart, in my view, in the last three or four sentences. But they do begin to fall apart, and that is why the final sentence is a very good addition to the overall sentiments being expressed.
"Fall apart" may be a little too strong, but certainly there are difficulties. The difficulties appear to arise due to an asymmetry between the finite and temporal order and the infinite and eternal order. Freedom is an essential good in both orders, but because human freedom is constrained, both epistemically and metaphysically, it is difficult to imagine what it would mean to say that there is the same kind of freedom in both orders. To see what I'm getting at, just consider what Pohle has to say about the "theological controversies" that arise from this topic:
Owing to the infallible decisions laid down by the Church, every orthodox theory on predestination and reprobation must keep within the limits marked out by the following theses: (a) At least in the order of execution in time (in ordine executionis) the meritorious works of the predestined are the partial cause of their eternal happiness; (b) hell cannot even in the order of intention (in ordine intentionis) have been positively decreed to the damned, even though it is inflicted on them in time as the just punishment of their misdeeds; (c) there is absolutely no predestination to sin as a means to eternal damnation.Note how he prefaces his remarks by pointing out that we are constrained by "infallible decisions laid down by the Church". The rest is a rather straightforward appeal to the essential temporality of causal relations, even though God's is an essentially atemporal order. Logical chaos is bound to ensue, independently of any laying down of infallible decisions. What kind of chaos? Well, just for starters:
A. The Theory of Predestination ante praevisa meritaFr. Kimel's advice to preachers to keep silent about predestination and election begins to look better and better. Pohle seems to agree:
This theory, championed by all Thomists and a few Molinists (as Bellarmine, Suarez, Francis de Lugo), asserts that God, by an absolute decree and without regard to any future supernatural merits, predestined from all eternity certain men to the glory of heaven, and then, in consequence of this decree, decided to give them all the graces necessary for its accomplishment. In the order of time, however, the Divine decree is carried out in the reverse order, the predestined receiving first the graces preappointed to them, and lastly the glory of heaven as the reward of their good works.
B. The Theory of the Negative Reprobation of the DamnedPohle appears to endorse the attempt of St. Frances de Sales in making sense of all this:
What deters us most strongly from embracing the theory just discussed is not the fact that it cannot be dogmatically proved from Scripture or Tradition, but the logical necessity to which it binds us, of associating an absolute predestination to glory, with a reprobation just as absolute, even though it be but negative. The well-meant efforts of some theologians (e. g. Billot) to make a distinction between the two concepts, and so to escape the evil consequences of negative reprobation, cannot conceal from closer inspection the helplessness of such logical artifices.
C. The Theory of Predestination post prœvisa meritaNothing like throwing in a little Latin or Greek in the hope that it will fool people into thinking that you've shown something to be quite clear that is, in fact, quite obscure. In some ways, of course, it's not very obscure: God chose, from outside the temporal order, the bring into eternal life those whom he has always known, from outside the temporal order, to be all and only those who would freely choose, from within the temporal order, to follow him. That's something that is, indeed, in some harmony with our reason, but if we are also to make sense orf God's justice and human freedom, we are faced again with the problem of the asymmetry between the temporal and the atemporal. It is tempting to say that the freedom to turn away from God is an inviolable part of this picture, but since God desires the salvation of all, putting human freedom in the causal driver seat here appears to give mere humans a leg up on divine omnipotence.
This theory defended by the earlier Scholastics (Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus), as well as by the majority of the Molinists, and warmly recommended by St. Francis de Sales "as the truer and more attractive opinion", has this as its chief distinction, that it is free from the logical necessity of upholding negative reprobation. It differs from predestination ante prœvisa merita in two points: first, it rejects the absolute decree and assumes a hypothetical predestination to glory; secondly, it does not reverse the succession of grace and glory in the two orders of eternal intention and of execution in time, but makes glory depend on merit in eternity as well as in the order of time. This hypothetical decree reads as follows: Just as in time eternal happiness depends on merit as a condition, so I intended heaven from all eternity only for foreseen merit. -- It is only by reason of the infallible foreknowledge of these merits that the hypothetical decree is changed into an absolute: These and no others shall be saved.
This view not only safeguards the universality and sincerity of God's salvific will, but coincides admirably with the teachings of St. Paul (cf. 2 Timothy 4:8), who knows that there "is laid up" (reposita est, apokeitai) in heaven "a crown of justice", which "the just judge will render" (reddet, apodosei) to him on the day of judgment.