How and Why Catholics can use Language of Imputation

A reader of The Catholic Perspective on Paul, named Dylan asks this question:

I have a question for you from “The Catholic Perspective on Paul.” You make brief conversation about the protestant idea of ‘imputed righteousness’ by way of Luther, but didn’t discuss other verses he may have drawn that idea from. In particular, I know James White (a popular debater on YouTube) likes to quote from Romans 4 and the Psalm therein about the “blessed man to whom the Lord imputes to guilt” and makes a big deal about “God’s imputation of our sins to our account”, saying that even if we can be forgiven by the Sacrament of Penance, we would still be un-blessed because God “blames us” for our sins under the Roman system of Theology. Have you discussed this idea before? I would love to hear your thoughts

I was also curious what translation of the Bible you were quoting from in your books. While similar to the RSV2CE I own, I like many passages you quoted because they seem a bit more poetic than what I’m used to reading. What translation are you using?

Here is my response:

Dylan,

For Luther, Calvin (and White) imputation involves legal fiction. God says we are righteous, but we are not. God says we are not guilty, but we are guilty.
God (in Catholicism) does not impute guilt because Christ has actually taken the guilt away. It’s not legal fiction. The guilt is actually removed by Christ from the sinner’s soul. Hence, it is no longer imputed.
Peter Gertner Crucifixion
  • If Dylan owes me one million dollars, I could just pretend that you don’t owe me (Lutheranism) and say you are forgiven.
  • The Catholic way is that I actually give Dylan a million dollars and the debt is actually paid back to me.
Ultimately, the Lutheran way doesn’t even need Christ to die on the cross since nothing actually needs to be paid or transferred. God the Father just fudges the book-keeping for sinners.
The Catholic actually believes in an ontological (down the being of the soul) change in the soul of the sinner at ontological that is infused with grace, faith, hope, and charity. As long as this bond of charity is preserved, the soul is saved and all the guilt is removed.
I hope that helps.
Godspeed,
Taylor
PS: I use RSV translation but I use my own translation from Greek when I don’t prefer the RSV rendering.
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