Was Luis Molina Condemned by a Pope? A Refutation of Jacob Imam

Recently, Matt Fradd had Jacob Imam and Trent Horn on his program to debate the moral acceptability of 401(k) retirement plans. You can see the whole debate here.

I am not going to comment on the whole debate and merely want to respond to one false claim that Jacob Imam made during his rebuttal regarding Luis Molina.


In his opening statement, Trent Horn, who was defending the morality of owning 401(k) plans, made mention of Luis Molina as one representative of the Catholic tradition who supported more modern, free market approaches similar to what Trent was advocating for in the debate. The reference was not important to Horn’s case. Nevertheless, Imam felt it necessary to respond and pulled out two references from Catholic history which he felt eliminated Molina’s relevance as a Catholic witness. I will focus only on his first.

Around minute 50 in the video, Imam quotes from Pope Innocent X (1644-1655). Here is how Imam quoted Innocent X

His Holiness by the present decree declares and decrees that no trust at all is to be placed in the opinions of the brothers O.S.D as well as Luis Molina. (emphasis mine)


Is this quote accurate? Not at all. Notice how, according to Imam, Innocent X is declaring that no trust can be placed “in the opinion(s)” of (among others) Luis Molina. As it turns out, this is actually quite contrary to what Innocent X said and it is in fact a misquotation. Here is the actual quote from Innocent X.

…His Holiness by the present decree declares and decrees that no trust at all is to be place in the above-mentioned assertions, acts, on behalf of the opinion of the Brothers, O.S.D., as well as of Louis Molina and of the other religious, S.J., and in the autograph or exemplar of the above mentioned Constitution of Paul V; and that nothing can or ought to be alleged by either side or by anyone whatsoever; but that on this aforesaid question the decrees of Paul V and Urban VIII, their predecessors, are to be observed…

Denzinger 1097

Notice how poorly Imam misquoted the actual decree. Innocent X is not condemning the opinions of Molina, rather he is condemning the “above mentioned assertions” and “acts” “on behalf of” Molina and others. What were those assertions? Both Innocent X’s statements just a few sentences earlier as well as the footnotes provided in a standard edition of Denzinger (I am using the 1955 edition) would have clarified the issue for Mr. Imam.

Historical Context

By reading the footnote provided by Denzinger, or even just the quote from Innocent X, one can easily see what Innocent X is condemning. As it turns out, he is condemning heretics who themselves are falsely condemning Molina. Here is what Innocent says:

[S]ince at Rome as well as elsewhere there are being circulated certain assertions, acts, manuscripts, and perchance, printed documents of the Congregations held in the presence of most happily reigning Clement VIII and Paul V on the question of ‘Aids of Divine Grace’…besides a certain autograph or exemplar of the Constitution of the same Paul V…of the condemnation of the opinion or opinions of Louis Molina…

Denzinger 1097

As you can see, what happened leading up to this decree was that certain people had leaked various documents from the famous Congregation on the Aids of Divine Grace. This congregation had been setup under two of his predecessors to discuss Molina’s theory regarding grace, predestination, and divine sovereignty and was concluded by Paul V who decreed in 1607:

In the matter of aids the right is granted by the Supreme Pontiff not only to the disputants but also to the consultors of returning to their countries and their homes; and it is added that this will be so that His Holiness may promulgate at an opportune time the declaration and conclusion which were awaited. But it was seriously forbidden by the same Most Holy Lordship that in treating this question anyone either qualify the position opposite his own or note it with any censure. Even more he desires that they in turn abstain from harsh words indicating bitterness of mind.

Denzinger 1090

As seen, Paul V chose to allow both sides of the dispute to return home. Neither side was censured, nor could be by their opponents. Paul V’s statement here is essentially a statement of neutrality on the issue on the part of the Roman See. His statement that he “may promulgate at an opportune time…the conclusion” has yet to happen even more than 400 years later.

With Paul V’s statement in mind, recall Innocent X’s words that “on this aforesaid question the decrees of Paul V…are to be observed” (D 1097). Thus, if Innocent X were condeming Molina, he would be contradicting himself since Paul V explicitly stated that Molina’s position was not being condemned.

Who is really being condemned?

Rather than Molina being the object of Innocent’s condemnation, the footnote provided in Denzinger identifies who were the people circulating the acts and decrees which Innocent X says not to trust.

When the Jansenists appealed against the Molinists to certain acts of the Congregation on aids, and brought forward in place of the true Bull of Paul V the judgements of one or another of the Consultors, to which the solemnity of promulgation alone was lacking, Innocent X in a solemn decree, in which he condemned various books, written in defense of Jansenism, passed this judgement on the pretended Bull of Paul V and the other acts.

Denzinger 1097 footnote 2

So who is being condemned by Innocent X? Not Molina, but Jansenists who put forth a fake condemnation of Molina. Consider how different that is from Imam’s claim. People condemning Molina, not Molina himself were being condemned by Innocent X.

Proving too much

Let us for a minute ignore the words which precede Imam’s quote and the historical context. If we pretend for a minute that the quote is condemning Molina, who else would be condemned? Let’s return to Innocent’s quote to see

…no trust at all is to be placed in the…opinion of the Brothers, O.S.D., as well as of Louis Molina and of the other religious, S.J., and in the autograph or exemplar of the above mentioned Constitution of Paul V…

Denzinger 1097

If Molina is being condemned so are the “Brothers, O.S.D”, the “other religious S.J.” and a decree from Paul V. the brothers O.S.D refers to the brothers of the Order of Saint Dominic (i.e. the Dominicans). Thus, if we take Imam’s reading of this quote seriously, Innocent X is condemning not only Molina, but the Jesuit order, his opponents the Dominican order, and the decree of a previous pope! Obviously, this is an absurd reading of the text given the very next lines where Innocent X says:

[N]othing can or ought to be alleged by either side or by anyone whatsoever…the decrees of Paul V…are to be observed

Denzinger 1097

If Innocent X was actually condeming Molina, the Jesuits, the Dominicans and Paul V, how could he then say that no one can condemn them and that Paul V’s decree was to be observed which banned censuring or even using “harsh words” against Molina?


Did Jacob Imam intentionally miss-quote the decree of Innocent X? Hopefully not. In good faith, I will chalk Imam’s mistake up to an accidental misreading of the quote. However, his mistake is still serious. This was a quote which he had prepared as can be seen in the video when he reaches for a sheet of paper with the quote on it during his rebuttal. Obviously, Imam knew that Molina might come up in the debate and he had a quote ready to give a quick reply. Clearly then, he had seen the quote before in which case he should be responsible for knowing 1) what the quote actually said and 2) realizing that the quote contradicted what he claimed it meant.

Imam needs to do his homework better next time and hopefully he will retract his extremely misleading misquotation from a pope.


Henry Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma. trans Roy J Deferrari. (St. Louis: B Herder Book Co, 1957)

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