“This is a great conversation. I have always hoped to be able to have a conversation about justification with interlocutors who were aware of the diversity of views within Catholicism on soteriological matters. At any rate, I would suggest that, depending on what we mean exactly by justification, some Thomists (of the even more radically Augustinian variety like Banez and Zumel) said that justification was the root of our righteousness (even if they didn’t use that terminology). In Banez’s writings, “the justified” is one of his basic categories for different “states” of human beings. We have fallen man, the blessed, man in pure nature, man with original justice, etc., and man as justified. After the Fall, it is only someone in this state who can do anything righteous. Without being justified, one is incapable of doing anything even remotely pleasing to God.
When it comes to imputation v. infusion, he also has a very interesting perspective. He is concerned–as, if I may offer an interpretation of Banez here, many Reformed theologians are–that the infusion of grace is letting semi-Pelagianism in through the back door. We have received this grace in the past which now allows us to earn our salvation. He will not accept this view and disputes with some Thomists who may have. His argument is that the redeemed human being still depends at every moment upon the grace of God and the activity of the Holy Spirit in the soul. If this were not true, he says, why would the redeemed have to pray, “Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil?”
Furthermore, he is much more concerned about the Protestant view (as he interpreted it, probably badly given, well, a whole set of reasons!) of the non-imputation of sins than the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. He thinks the former takes away from the proclamation of John the Baptist that Jesus “takes away the sins of the world,” the words of the Psalmist that God has removed our transgressions as far as the east is from the west, etc. I’ve rarely seen this distinction between non-imputation and imputation discussed between Protestants and Catholics, though I certainly may have missed it.
Thomas Aquinas and all of his followers say that justification happens instantaneously, which at least complicates the standard view that Protestants see justification as an event and Catholics see it as a process.
Finally (just so this doesn’t become *too* unwieldy), Cajetan interprets James 2 in a very interesting fashion (after giving a very straightforward interpretations of Romans 3). James says that, as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead. This has often been interpreted by Catholics in such a way that the works are like the spirit which makes the body alive. Cajetan rejects this view. He argues that the spirit must be like breath, which isn’t (he argues) the source of life but simply the sign or evidence that the body is alive. This was said long after his encounter with Luther, so he is well aware of the implications.
At any rate, I’m sorry if all of this has been covered in the previous threads. But I’m very happy to see what’s going on here. I hope at least some of these thoughts are remotely helpful!