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Whether Grace is Fittingly Divided into Operating and Cooperating Grace?

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

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Collect: O God who moves us by thy grace, and even more, imparts upon us the dignity of secondary causality, pour forth thy grace into our hearts that we may more fervently implore thee for an increase of faith, hope, and charity, through Christ our Lord. Amen.


In the Sed Contra, St. Thomas dogmatically quotes a text by St. Augustine where he mentions the distinction. This article was a major point of controversy in the De Auxiliis controversy sparked by Molina. It was Molina’s contention that St. Thomas misinterprets St. Augustine here. In Concordia, q. 14, a. 13, disp. 4, Molina writes “This is manifest in the clearest light, although Augustine has been understood otherwise by St. Thomas (la lae, q. III, a. 2 and 3).”

The main point of contention is recounted by Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange: “For Molina (Concordia, p. 565)...operative actual grace urges only by moral, and not by physical [by “physical” think “natural”], impulsion, and leads only to indeliberate acts, but never of itself alone to free choice or consent. But cooperative actual grace, according to Molina, produces, by moral impulsion, a free choice, with simultaneous concurrence, in such a way that man is determined by himself alone. Thus man and God seem to be rather two causes acting coordinately, like two men rowing a boat, than two causes of which one is subordinate, acting under the impulsion of the superior cause.”

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