What Does Justification Mean?
In Catholic theology justification is a term that means the cleansing of sin in a person, and the communication by grace of "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:22) " through Baptism. Catholics believe that mankind has inherited original sin through Adam. Original sin destroyed the righteousness originally attributed to our first parents and created the chasm of sin between God and man. Sin separates us from God and thus, by justice, causes death of the soul in hell. The Council of Trent affirms that original sin creates a weakness in human nature termed concupiscence. Concupiscence weakens the will of man toward evil. Human nature and the Jewish law are incapable of allowing man in his natural faculties to rise above the fall of mankind and the temptations of evil.
Because of the infinite love and mercy of God, Jesus Christ willingly paid for our sins by his suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection and thus merited the redemption of humanity. This means that provided humans cooperate by act of free will with Godís grace, a person could be justified by the grace of God and become a new creature in Christ. Justification of the soul is a work of grace by the Holy Spirit. With this in mind, we can define justification as the transformation of the soul from the state of original sin to that of grace and divine sonship through Jesus Christ.
For a more thorough explanation of Justification by Grace, refer to the article The Catholic Doctrine of Justification by Grace in the Salvation section of this website. Also, a more detailed explanation of grace and its effects can be found in the article, Grace: A Precious Gift of God located in the Theology section.
United States Catholic Conference (English translation). Catechism of the Catholic Church. 1994.
J. Waterworth. The Council of Trent Cannons and Decrees. Hanover College, 1995.
Knight, Kevin. The Catholic Encyclopedia. 1999.