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Hello Father Angelo,

If it is possible I would like some clarification on the question of grace, as I understand it is a gift from God that already makes man a participant in the life of the child of God, so my doubt is the following: whoever is in a state of grace: does he  remain a sinner or not?

Thanks for your answer.

I am Calogero, a first-year student of history and philosophy who’s converted.


Dear Calogero,

1. On the question you asked me and which sounds like this, “does whoever is in a state of grace remain a sinner or not,” it is necessary to make a distinction.

First, it should be borne in mind what is meant by “state of grace.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “the grace of Christ is the free gift that God gives us of his life, infused into our soul by the Holy Spirit to heal it from sin and sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification: “So if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away, new ones have come into being. All this, however, comes from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ “(2 Cor 5: 17-18)” (CCC 1999).

2. Grace is therefore that seed of divine life of which St. John speaks: “because a divine seed remains in him!” (1 Jn 3: 9).

It is a divine “germ” [seed meglio] that transforms us and makes us become a new creature, as Saint Paul says (2 Cor 5:17).

With sanctifying grace, the previous sin is not only covered up, but eliminated.

The Letter to the Hebrews speaks clearly of this purification when it says: “how much more will the blood of Christ – who, by the eternal Spirit, offered himself without blemish to God – purify our conscience from the works of death, in order to  serve the Living God? ” (Heb 9:14).

3. Therefore it is impossible to simultaneously have the grace of God and be in moral sin, because the state of grace brings about an interior purification.

4. However, having received the seed of holiness or divine life does not eliminate the bad inclinations that we have inherited with original sin.

Saint Paul attests this when he says: “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, good does not dwell: in me there is the desire for good, but not the ability to carry it out; in fact I don’t do the good that I want, but the evil that I don’t want.

Now, if I do what I don’t want, it is no longer I who do it, but the sin that dwells in me.

So I find this law in me: when I want to do good, evil is at hand.

In fact in my heart I consent to the law of God, but in my members I see another law, which fights against the law of my reason and makes me a slave to the law of sin, which is in my members “(Rom 7: 18-23 ).

The sin of which St. Paul speaks here is not mortal sin but the concupiscence that drives evil and rebellion. Just as the law he speaks of is not a moral precept, but a disorder that is a consequence of sin.

5. This inclination to evil is active because we fall into many trivial offences every day and some fall into even more serious sins, for which the Lord in the Our Father rightly asks us to ask for forgiveness of sins: “Forgive us our debts” (Mt 6, 12).

Likewise, St. John writes to Christians: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just so as to  forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all iniquity” (1 Jn 1,9).

Even those who live in grace can call themselves  sinners: either because they have committed serious sins or because they daily commit various venial sins, or even because it is not excluded that they may lose grace by sinning again gravely.

6. These concepts are also present in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification jointly drafted by Catholic and Lutheran theologians, published in Augsburg (Germany) on 31 October 1999.

In particular at n. 28 of this Declaration it reads: “Together we confess that in Baptism the Holy Spirit unites man with Christ, justifies him and effectively renews him. And yet the justified, throughout his life, can never do without the unconditionally justifying grace of God. Furthermore, man is not released from the dominion that sin exercises over him and that holds him in its grasp (cf. Rom 6, 12-14), nor can he exempt himself from the battle of a lifetime against the opposition to God that comes from the egoistic cravings of the old Adam (cf. Gal 5, 16; Rom 7, 7.10). Even the justified must ask God for forgiveness every day, as is done in the Our Father (Mt 6, 12; 1 Jn 1: 9); he is continually called to conversion and penance and he is continually granted forgiveness ”.

7. And at n. 30: “Catholics consider that the grace of Jesus Christ conferred in baptism takes away all that is in the proper sense sin, all that deserves condemnation”(Rom 8: 1), [16] but there remains in the human person an inclination (concupiscence) that comes from sin and leads to sin.

Since Catholics are convinced that human sin always involves a personal element, they consider that the absence of this element no longer allows the inclination to oppose God to be called sin in the proper sense of the term.

With this they do not deny that this inclination does not correspond to God’s original plan for man, nor that it, objectively placing itself in opposition to God and in contrast to him, constitutes the object of a struggle that lasts a lifetime; grateful for the salvation received through Christ, they rather want to affirm that the inclination to oppose God does not deserve the eternal death penalty and does not separate the justified from God.

However, when the justified voluntarily separates from God, it is not enough for him to return to the observance of the commandments, but it is necessary for him to receive forgiveness and peace in the sacrament of reconciliation through the word of forgiveness given to him by virtue of the work of reconciliation with God in Christ ”.

I wish you a happy journey in the ways of God; I assure you of my prayers and I bless you.

Father Angelo