Catholicism venerates people's works as that is the only way to become a saint - you actually have to DO something.

I understand that there has been a strong debate regarding faith or works (or faith AND works) requirement for salvation. That isn't what I am asking. I am asking; is Catholicism a works based denomination?

  • Related - not a duplicate, but related enough to be of interest: What is the Catholic concept of grace? Nov 18, 2013 at 4:04
  • 4
    I think your premise is wrong. Catholics do NOT say that people's works is the only way to become a saint. You don't have to do something to get saved. Saying faith alone is needed and faith is needed are two different things. In the same way saying work is a way and work alone is the way are two different thing. Catholics do not say works is the only way to become a saint. Nov 18, 2013 at 6:42
  • @JayarathinaMadharasan do you have an example of a saint who was chosen for reasons other than works? Nov 18, 2013 at 14:42
  • 1
    @SomeFreeMason : Saint Dismas, Penitent thief; Holy Innocents; Micheal/Gabriel/Raphael, Arch Angels; Also I never said good works are not needed to be chosen as a saint. I said good works are not needed to become a saint. I used the word to become a saint in the catholic sence. Which is synonymous with being saved. One does not become a saint by a papal proclamation. Rather one is just recognized as a saint by the Church in this world. Nov 18, 2013 at 17:38
  • 1
    There are spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Catholics believe they must cooperate with God's sanctifying grace to be saved. Sanctifying grace is transformative; it is not, as Luther held, a mere extrinsic imputation.
    – Geremia
    May 13, 2014 at 2:08

2 Answers 2


Absolutely, definitely not. Works are important, but we are not justified by works.

The Catechism states this unequivocally:

161 Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation.42 “Since ‘without faith it is impossible to please [God]’ and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life ‘but he who endures to the end.’”

42 Cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:36, 6:40 et al.

We are not justified by slavishly following the Law (which is what “not justified by works” is saying) — we are justified by faith, and that faith will transform our lives with the fruit of the Spirit which pervades every act so that our works show that we are justified.

Matthew 5:16 — Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Peter wrote of this in 2 Peter 1:

1 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is short-sighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Peter deliberately lists the fruits of the Spirit. In "making every effort" to add those virtues to faith, Peter is saying "allow the Spirit to do his work" because a living faith will engender good works (cf James 2:26). Any effort we bring to bear for ourselves is using our conscience to do good works. Verse 4 says that we participate in the divine nature by virtue of God's great and glorious promises. This means that it is necessary that we believe those promises will be fulfilled: this is faith.

This is not to say that good works are not inherently good! They point towards — and ultimately come from — God, as Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI have pointed out. One's conscience is God-given, formed by the natural Law, and in doing what we inherently perceive to be good we are allowing the Spirit to work in our lives.

But we are saved by faith. That is all that is necessary. Everything else comes from faith.

You may recognise some of this as coming from another answer to a very similar question.

  • 2
    Don't forget about Trent Canon 1 :) "If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or through the teaching of the law, without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema."
    – user5286
    Nov 18, 2013 at 11:59
  • @CharlesAlsobrook Thanks. I don't know where the OP's premise comes from: The Canons were promulgated nearly 450 years ago! Nov 18, 2013 at 12:24
  • 1
    @Andrew a lot of misunderstanding would be eradicated if everyone would just read the Council of Trent! :)))
    – user5286
    Nov 18, 2013 at 14:15
  • Well, well, a downvote ("not useful") presumably because the Catechism does not present the Catholic Church's view of the Church's doctrine. Mar 16, 2016 at 0:37
  • The council of Trent and the book of James state that we are indeed justified by works. And strictly speaking, we aren't saved by faith, we are saved by grace. Faith justifies us, but it doesn't "save" us Feb 2, 2017 at 4:34

Catholics have a concept of mortal sin. If a baptized Catholic who has the Catholic Faith commits a mortal sin and doesn't get absolved by a priest from confession or perfect contrition before he dies he will be sent to Hell. The grace of God along with a person's will can enable someone resist temptation, resist mortal sins, and stay in a State of Grace. As I understand it, most Protestants would say this counts as "works".

"Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, “Letentur coeli,” Sess. 6, July 6, 1439, “We define also that… the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go straightaway to Hell, but to undergo punishments of different kinds.”

"For whoever offends God, even by one mortal sin, instantly forfeits whatever merits he may have previously acquired through the sufferings and death of Christ, and is entirely shut out from the gate of heaven which, when already closed, was thrown open to all by the Redeemer's Passion." Catechism of Council of Trent, The Creed

  • This answer does not quite fit the Catholic understanding. As least your statements do not agree with your sources.
    – Marc
    Jun 4, 2017 at 15:13

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .