In a recent post, "e" raised objections to Scotus's orthodoxy based on the following passages in Cross's book on Duns Scotus. The view that Cross attributes to Scotus, that the sacrament of penance causes no real change in the sinner, "e" maintains to have been censured by the council of Trent. So in this entry I shall try to examine Cross's interpretation, Scotus's own position, and the possibility that it has been censured. I confess my prior claims as to no thesis of Scotus's thought ever being censured to be based on the authority of 19th and early 20th century scholarship. But if it does turn out that Trent went after a Scotistic position, then what? So he got something wrong. It may be due to an erroneous principle or erroneous conclusion, but either way, no one (hopefully) would claim that he got everything right or should be followed in all things. As Scotus himself once wrote, glossing Gregory the Great, "In the process of human generation, knowledge of the truth grows." Thomas Aquinas erred most embarassingly on the Immaculate conception, and he is today a saint and doctor of the Church.
"The gain and loss of this spiritual quality [grace] are real changes in a person."
"Scotus argues, first, that a change from injustice to justification can only occur if God brings about a real change in the sinner."
"...Scotus's understanding of sinfulness is wholly forensic; we are sinners just if God decides to hold us liable to punishment. Scotus's understanding of the remission of sins is likewise forensic. The remission of sins does not involve the removal of any quality or real relation in the sinner. It consists merely of a divine decision not to punish the sinner" [footnot referencing Ord. 4.16.2, nn. 6,9-12]. Thus, God's one will-act involves willing punishment for a person at t1 and non-punishment at t2, without any corresponding real change in the person at all. [footnote to ibid. 10-12]. This does not mean that God does not usually require that we perform acts of penance in the process of the remission of post-baptismal sin...This penance does not, however, cause a real change in the sinner; it is merely a requirement contingently made by God for the remission of post-baptismal sin."
To summarize Cross,
1. The gain and loss of grace are real changes.
2. Justification requires a real change in the sinner.
3. The remission of sins does not involve the loss of any real quality (and therefore does not entail a real change?)
4. Acts of penance undertaken in reparation for sin do not involve real changes.
As for Trent, the fear is that Scotus falls afoul of the following, Canon 9 of Trent’s 14th Session: “If anyone says that sacramental absolution by a priest is not a judicial act, but a mere ministry of pronouncing and declaring to the penitent that his sins are forgiven. . . let him be anathema.”
From #1 above we can see that this does not apply to Scotus. Grace, by means of a real change (though Trent does not use this scholastic terminology), are infused into the penitent who partakes of this sacrament.
From what I've been able to find on Scotus and Trent, it seems that there were some disagreements between various council fathers who espoused Scotistic doctrine; but these disputes were on the proper interpretation of Scotus. In particular was mentioned a dispute on what he had to say about the assurance of salvation, about which he made only a few remarks in passing. This did involve the sacrament of Penance, but only contrition vs. attrition.
What, then, does Scotus have to say?
Cross refers us to book IV of the Ordinatio, to d.16 q.2, "Whether the remission or expulsion of fault, and the infusion of grace, are simpliciter one change."
I haven't had much time lately to work on this, and will have less in the future so i'll post it anyway. I skimmed through the Scotus and it seems that Cross is accurate here. At least, Scotus does posit that the infusion of grace is a real change, while the accompanying remission of sins is distinguishable only by reason, ie., a distinction of reason. From the four arguments Scotus makes at the beginning of the question it seems as if this is due to his use of Aristotle. Grace is a form in the will. sin corrupts this form in a real change. In the sacrament of penance, grace is infused again, in a real change. As sin seems to be a privation of grace (this would bear further investigation; I didn't see this spelled out explictly by Scotus), it cannot be corrupted by a real change like grace can. Privations aren't forms in the category of quality.
That's it for now. As for Cross, he seems to have all the right pieces, but hides the bit about grace at the end of one paragraph, and then spends the next two pages emphasizing the remission of sin without a real change. The net result is to make Scotus sound like a proto-protestant if one has missed the bit about grace. It is somewhat distorted and I do not know why Cross put it that way. But he had a lot on his plate in that book and so perhaps can be forgiven. The question would bear more looking into, however, as this is a long question in Scotus, with even lengthier commentary by the 16th century scotist. Trent is mentioned left, right, and center. But, it does not seem to be relevant to the issue at hand, ie, did Trent censure this alleged protestant teaching of the subtle doctor. The answer is no. The Council wasn't looking to settle longstanding scholastic disputes.