There has been a tendency in post-Reformation Catholic spirituality and practice (in order to counter Lutheran “errors”) to overemphasize the need for human effort in salvation (“Pelagianism”) at the expense of grace.
To regain balance, Lutherans need to find a place for human effort and Catholics need to embrace grace.
The context in which this Catholic tendency could thrive was the old distinction between “nature” and grace or the “supernatural.” First God created the universe and then because of human (original) sin God needed to redeem it. More and more this position is being abandoned by contempor- ary Catholic theologians in favor of the conviction that in creation God always planned that the Incarnation would take place regardless of any fall.
Karl Rahner (1904-1984) developed the notion of the “supernatural existential.” The world before the fall is a hypothetical condition that never existed. God is everywhere in the universe God made (“panentheism”)
and doesn’t have to enter it later to fix it.
For a Catholic, then, Christian life is less a question of avoiding sin by avoiding the “near occasions of sin” (especially sexual sin) and more a question of being aware of and living from the myriad opportunities that might be called “near occasions of grace.”
In the final scene of Georges Bernanos’ Diary of a Country Priest, the country priest’s friend (a “former” priest) tells us that when he expressed sorrow at not being able to offer the formal sacrament of last anointing, the country priest replies: “Does it matter? Grace is everywhere.”