Properly speaking, man possesses nothing of his own; all that he has and all that he does is a gift of God , and, since God is infinitely self-sufficient, there is no advantage or benefit which man can by his services confer upon Him. In the language of theology, satisfaction means: Sin, as an offence against God, demands satisfaction in the first sense; the temporal punishment due to sin calls for satisfaction in the second sense (see PENANCE). In practice and generally speaking, however, merit and satisfaction are found in every salutary act, so that every meritorious work is also satisfactory and vice versa.Hence on the part of God there can only be question of a gratuitous promise of reward for certain good works. Christian faith teaches us that the Incarnate Son of God by His death on the cross has in our stead fully satisfied God's anger at our sins, and thereby effected a reconciliation between the world and its Creator. It is indeed also essential to the concept of a satisfactory work of penance that it be penal and difficult, which qualities are not connoted by the concept of merit; but since, in the present state of fallen nature, there neither is nor can be a meritorious work which in one way or another has not connected with it difficulties and hardships, theologians unanimously teach that all our meritorious works without exception bear a penal character and thereby may become automatically works of satisfaction. 3.) (c) Owing to the peculiar relation between and material identity of merit and satisfaction in the present economy of salvation, a twofold value must in general be distinguished in every good work: the meritorious and the satisfactory value. When one wishes to aid the suffering souls, one cannot apply to them the purely meritorious quality of his work, because the increase of grace and glory accrues only to the agent who merits.For such works He owes the promised reward, not in justice or equity, but solely because He has freely bound himself, i.e., because of His own attributes of veracity and fidelity. Not, however, as though nothing were now left to be done by man, or as though he were now restored to the state of original innocence, whether he wills it or not; on the contrary, God and Christ demand of him that he make the fruits of the Sacrifice of the Cross his own by personal exertion and co-operation with grace, by justifying faith and the reception of baptism. Against how many difficulties and distractions have we not to contend even during our prayers, which by right should be the easiest of all good works! But each preserves its distinctive character, theoretically by the difference in concepts, and practically in this, that the value of merit as such, consisting in the increase of grace and of heavenly glory, is purely personal and is not applicable to others, while the satisfactory value may be detached from the meriting agent and applied to others. But it has pleased the Divine wisdom and mercy to accept the satisfactory quality of one's work under certain circumstances as an equivalent of the temporal punishment still to be endured by the faithful departed, just as if the latter had themselves performed the work.It is on this ground alone that we can speak of Divine justice at all, and apply the principle: Do ut des (cf. It is a defined article of the Catholic Faith that man before, in, and after justification derives his whole capability of meriting and satisfying, as well as his actual merits and satisfactions, solely from the infinite treasure of merits which Christ gained for us on the Cross (cf. Thus, prayer also becomes a penance, and hence confessors may in most cases content themselves with imposing prayer as a penance. The possibility of this transfer rests on the fact that the residual punishments for sin are in the nature of a debt, which may be legitimately paid to the creditor and thereby cancelled not only by the debtor himself but also by a friend of the debtor. This is one of the most beautiful and consoling aspects of that grand social organization which we call the "Communion of Saints" , and moreover affords us an insight into the nature of the "heroic act of charity" approved by Pius IX, whereby the faithful on earth, out of heroic charity for the souls in Purgatory, voluntarily renounce in their favour the satisfactory fruits of all their good works, even all the suffrages which shall be offered for them after their death, in order that they may thus benefit and assist the souls in purgatory more quickly and more efficaciously.Because of its satisfactory character, prayer will also obtain for the souls in purgatory by way of suffrage ( per modum suffragii ) either a diminution or a total cancelling of the penalty that remains to be paid. Hence, it is plain that this whole article is really only a continuation and a completion of the doctrine of sanctifying grace (see GRACE).Prayer has, moreover, the characteristic effect of impetration ( effectus impetratorius ), for he who prays appeals solely to the goodness, love, and liberality of God for the fulfilment of his desires, without throwing the weight of his own merits into the scale. Thus the special efficacy of prayer for the dead is easily explained, since it combines efficacy of satisfaction and impetration, and this twofold efficacy is enhanced by the personal worthiness of the one who, as a friend of God, offers the prayer. (a) According to Luther justification consists essentially in the mere covering of man's sins, which remain in the soul, and in the external imputation of Christ's justice ; hence his assertion that even "the just sin in every good work" (see Denzinger, n. eccl., I, xxv), the other Fathers of the Church took the Catholic doctrine on merit as a guide in their teaching, especially in their homilies to the faithful, so that uninterrupted agreement is secured between Bible and Tradition, between patristic and scholastic teaching, between the past and the present.Although the doctrine of modern Protestantism continues obscure and indefinite, it teaches generally speaking that good works are a spontaneous consequence of justifying faith, without being of any avail for life eternal. "But the just shall live for evermore: and their reward is with the Lord" ( Wisdom ). It is worthy of note that, in these and many others good works are not represented as mere adjuncts of justifying faith, but as real fruits of justification and part causes of our eternal happiness. Even Protestants concede that, in the oldest literature of the Apostolic Fathers and Christian Apologists, "the idea of merit was read into the Gospel," and that Tertullian by defending "merit in the strict sense gave the key-note to Western Catholicism " (Realencykl., pp. He who denies the meritoriousness of good works performed by the just must necessarily also deny the culpability and demerit of the sinner's misdeeds; must hold that sins remain without punishment, and that the fear of hell is both groundless and useless.
The peace of a good conscience that follows the faithful performance of duty is an unsought-for reward of our action and an interior happiness of which no calamity can deprive us, so that, as a matter of fact, duty and happiness are always linked together.Such a disposition is certainly far from being the ideal of Catholic morality. For he who truly loves God would keep His commandments, even though there were no eternal reward in the next life.On the Contrary, the Church proclaims to all her children that pure love of God is the first and supreme commandment (cf. Nevertheless, the desire for heaven is a necessary and natural consequence of the perfect love of God ; for heaven is only the perfect possession of God by love.Such a disposition, be it habitual or only transitory, is morally less perfect, but it is not immoral. Paul (see above), it is legitimate to hope for a heavenly reward, so, according to the same doctrine of Christ (cf. But the dogmatic as well as the moral teaching of the Church avoids both of these extremes (see ATTRITION). On the other hand, our good Intention, provided it be genuine and deep-rooted, naturally spurs us on to external works, and without these works it would be reduced to a mere semblance of life. For all true merit ( vere mereri ; Council of Trent, Sess. xxxii), by which is to be understood only meritum de condigno (see Pallavicini, "Hist. Trident.", VIII, iv), theologians have set down seven conditions, of which four regard the meritorious work, two the agent who merits, and one God who rewards.Matthew ), the fear of hell is a motive of moral action, a "grace of God and an impulse of the Holy Ghost " (Council of Trent, Sess. Besides blaming the Church for fostering a "craving for reward," Protestants also accuse her of teaching "justification by works". As the body receives its life from the soul, so must external actions be penetrated and vivified by holiness of intention. A third charge against the Catholic doctrine on merit is summed up in the word "self-righteousness", as if the just man utterly disregarded the merits of Christ and arrogated to himself the whole credit of his good works. (a) In order to be meritorious a work must be morally good, morally free, done with the assistance of actual grace, and inspired by a supernatural motive.