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Omnipotence

(Latin omnipotentia , from omnia and potens , able to do all things).

Omnipotence is the power of God to effect whatever is not intrinsically impossible. These last words of the definition do not imply any imperfection, since a power that extends to every possibility must be perfect. The universality of the object of the Divine power is not merely relative but absolute, so that the true nature of omnipotence is not clearly expressed by saying that God can do all things that are possible to Him; it requires the further statement that all things are possible to God. The intrinsically impossible is the self-contradictory, and its mutually exclusive elements could result only in nothingness. "Hence," says Thomas (Summa I, Q. xxv, a. 3), "it is more exact to say that the intrinsically impossible is incapable of production, than to say that God cannot produce it." To include the contradictory within the range of omnipotence, as does the Calvinist Vorstius, is to acknowledge the absurd as an object of the Divine intellect, and nothingness as an object of the Divine will and power. " God can do all things the accomplishment of which is a manifestation of power," says Hugh of St. Victor, "and He is almighty because He cannot be powerless" (De sacram., I, ii, 22).

As intrinsically impossible must be classed:

  • Any action on the part of God which would be out of harmony with His nature and attributes;
  • Any action that would simultaneously connote mutually repellent elements, e.g. a square circle, an infinite creature, etc.
  • (1) Actions out of harmony with God's nature and attributes

    (a) It is impossible for God to sin

    Man's power of preferring evil to good is a sign not of strength, but of infirmity, since it involves the liability to be overcome by unworthy motives; not the exercise but the restraint of that power adds to the freedom and vigour of the will. "To sin," says St. Thomas, "is to be capable of failure in one's actions, which is incompatible with omnipotence" (Summa, I, Q, xxv, a. 3).

    (b) The decrees of God cannot be reversed

    From eternity the production of creatures, their successive changes, and the manner in which these would occur were determined by God's free will . If these decrees were not irrevocable, it would follow either that God's wisdom was variable or that His decisions sprang from caprice. Hence theologians distinguish between the absolute and the ordinary , or regulated , power of God ( potentia absoluta; potentia ordinaria ). The absolute power of God extends to all that is not intrinsically impossible, while the ordinary power is regulated by the Divine decrees. Thus by His absolute power God could preserve man from death; but in the present order this is impossible, since He has decreed otherwise.

    (c) The creation of an absolutely best creature or of an absolutely greatest number if creatures is impossible, because the Divine power is inexhaustible

    It is sometimes objected that this aspect of omnipotence involves the contradiction that God cannot do all that He can do; but the argument is sophistical; it is no contradiction to assert that God can realize whatever is possible, but that no number of actualized possibilities exhausts His power.

    (2) Mutually exclusive elements

    Another class of intrinsic impossibilities includes all that would simultaneously connote mutually repellent elements, e.g. a square circle, an infinite creature, etc. God cannot effect the non-existence of actual events of the past, for it contradictory that the same thing that has happened should also not have happened.

    Omnipotence is perfect power, free from all mere potentiality. Hence, although God does not bring into external being all that He is able to accomplish, His power must not be understood as passing through successive stages before its effect is accomplished. The activity of God is simple and eternal, without evolution or change. The transition from possibility to actuality or from act to potentiality, occurs only in creatures. When it is said that God can or could do a thing, the terms are not to be understood in the sense in which they are applied to created causes, but as conveying the idea of a Being possessed of infinite unchangeable power, the range of Whose activity is limited only by His sovereign Will. "Power," says St. Thomas, "is not attributed to God as a thing really different from His Knowledge and Will, but as something expressed by a different concept, since power means that which executes the command of the will and the advice of the intellect. These three (viz., intellect, will, power), coincide with one another in God " (Summa, I, Q. xxv, a. 1, ad 4). Omnipotence is all-sufficient power. The adaptation of means to ends in the universe does not argue, as J.S. Mill would have it, that the power of the designer is limited, but only that God has willed to manifest His glory by a world so constituted rather than by another. Indeed the production of secondary causes, capable of accomplishing certain effects, requires greater power than the direct accomplishment of these same effects. On the other hand even though no creature existed, God's power not be barren, for creatures are not an end to God.

    The omnipotence of God is a dogma of Catholic faith, contained in all the creeds and defined by various councils (cf. Denzinger -Bannwart. "Enchiridion", 428, 1790). In the Old Testament there are more than seventy passages I which God is called Shaddai , i.e. omnipotent. The Scriptures represent this attribute as infinite power ( Job 42:2 ; Mark 10:27 ; Luke 1:37 ); Matt., xix, 26, etc.) which God alone possesses (Tob., xiii, 4; Ecclus. I, 8; etc.). The Greek and Latin Fathers unanimously teach the doctrine of Divine omnipotence. Origen testifies to this belief when he infers the amplitude of Divine providence from God's omnipotence: "Just as we hold that God is incorporeal and omnipotent and invisible, so likewise do we confess as a certain and immovable dogma that His providence extends to all things" (Genesis, Hom. 3). St. Augustine defends omnipotence against the Manichæans, who taught that God is unable to overcome evil (Haeres, xlvi and Enchir., c. 100); and he speaks of this dogma as a truth recognized even by pagans, and which no reasonable person can question (Serm. 240, de temp., c. ii). Reason itself proves the omnipotence of God. "Since every agent produces an effect similar to itself," says St. Thomas (Summa, I, Q. xxv, a. 3), "to every active power there must correspond as proper object, a category of possibilities proportioned to the cause possessing that power, e.g. the power of heating has for its proper object that which can be heated. Now Divine Being, which is the basis of Divine power, is infinite, not being limited to any category of being but containing within itself the perfection of all being. Consequently all that can be considered as being is contained among the absolute possibilities with respect to which God is omnipotent." (See CREATION; GOD; INFINITE; MIRACLES.)

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    Titular see in Galatia Secunda. It is only mentioned in Peutinger's "Table". An inscription of ...

    Ordeals

    ( Iudicium Dei ; Anglo-Saxon, ordâl ; German Urteil ). Ordeals were a means of ...

    Ordericus Vitalis

    Historian, b. 1075; d. about 1143. He was the son of an English mother and a French priest who ...

    Orders, Holy

    Order is the appropriate disposition of things equal and unequal, by giving each its proper place ...

    Orders, The Military

    Including under this term every kind of brotherhood of knights, secular as well as religious, ...

    Ordinariate

    (From Ordinary ). This term is used in speaking collectively of all the various organs ...

    Ordinary

    ( Latin ordinarius , i. e., judex ) An Ordinary in ecclesiastical language, denotes any ...

    Ordines Romani

    The word Ordo commonly meant, in the Middle Ages, a ritual book containing directions for ...

    Oregon

    One of the Pacific Coast States, seventh in size among the states of the Union (1910). It received ...

    Oregon City

    (OREGONOPOLITAN). Includes that part of the state of Oregon west of the Cascade Mountains, ...

    Oremus

    Invitation to pray, said before collects and other short prayers and occurring continually in ...

    Orense

    (AURIENSIS) A suffragan of Compostela, includes nearly all of the civil Province of Orense, ...

    Oresme, Nicole

    Philosopher, economist, mathematician, and physicist, one of the principal founders of modern ...

    Organ

    (Greek organon , "an instrument") A musical instrument which consists of one or several sets ...

    Organic Articles, The

    A name given to a law regulating public worship, comprising 77 articles relative to Catholicism, ...

    Oria

    (URITANA) Oria, in the Province of Lecce [now the Province of Brindisi -- Ed. ], Apulia, ...

    Oriani, Barnaba

    Italian Barnabite and astronomer, b. at Carignano, near Milan, 17 July, 1752; d. at Milan, 12 ...

    Oriental Study and Research

    In the broadest sense of the term, Oriental study comprises the scientific investigation and ...

    Orientation of Churches

    According to Tertullian the Christians of his time were, by some who concerned themselves with ...

    Orientius

    Christian Latin poet of the fifth century. He wrote an elegiac poem ( Commonitorium ) of 1036 ...

    Oriflamme

    In verses 3093-5 of the "Chanson de Roland" (eleventh century) the oriflamme is mentioned as a ...

    Origen and Origenism

    I. LIFE AND WORK OF ORIGEN A. BIOGRAPHY Origen, most modest of writers, hardly ever alludes to ...

    Original Sin

    I. Meaning II. Principal Adversaries III. Original Sin in ScriptureIV. Original Sin in ...

    Orihuela

    DIOCESE OF ORIHUELA (ORIOLENSIS, ORIOLANA). The Diocese of Orihuela comprises all the civil ...

    Oriol, Saint Joseph

    Priest, "Thaumaturgus of Barcelona", b. at Barcelona, 23 November, 1650; d. there, 23 March, ...

    Oristano

    Diocese of Oristano (Arborensis) in Sardinia. Oristano was the capital of the giudicatura ...

    Orkneys

    A group of islands situated between 58° 41' and 59° 24' N. lat. and 2° 22' and 3° ...

    Orléans

    (AURELIANUM) This Diocese comprises the Department of Loiret, suffragan of Paris since 1622, ...

    Orléans, Councils of

    Six national councils were held at Orléans in the Merovingian period. I. — At the ...

    Orlandini, Niccolò

    Born at Florence, 1554; died 1606 at Rome, 17 May. He entered the Jesuit novitiate 7 Nov., ...

    Orley, Barent Van

    (Bernard) Painter, b. at Brussels, about 1491; d. there 6 January, 1542. He studied under ...

    Orme, Philibert de l'

    An architect, born about 1512; died 1570. His style, classical and of the more severe Italian ...

    Oropus

    Titular see, suffragan of Anazarbus in Cilicia Secunda. It never really depended on Anazarbus ...

    Orosius, Paulus

    Historian and Christian apologist ; b. probably at Bracara, now Braga, in Portugal, between 380 ...

    Orphans and Orphanages

    The death of one or both parents makes the child of the very poor a ward of the community. The ...

    Orsi, Giuseppe Agostino

    A cardinal, theologian, and ecclesiastical historian, born at Florence, 9 May, 1692, of an ...

    Orsini

    One of the most ancient and distinguished families of the Roman nobility, whose members often ...

    Orsisius

    ( Arsisios , Oresiesis-Heru-sa Ast) Egyptian monk of the fourth century; was a disciple ...

    Ortelius, Abraham

    (OERTEL) A cartographer, geographer, and archeologist, born in Antwerp, 4 April, 1527; died ...

    Orthodox Church

    The technical name for the body of Christians who use the Byzantine Rite in various languages ...

    Orthodoxy

    Orthodoxy ( orthodoxeia ) signifies right belief or purity of faith. Right belief is not ...

    Orthodoxy, Feast of

    (or SUNDAY) The first Sunday of the Great Forty days ( Lent ) in the Byzantine Calendar ...

    Orthosias

    A titular see of Phœnicia Prima, suffragan of Tyre. The city is mentioned for the first ...

    Ortolano Ferrarese

    Painter of the Ferrara School, b. in Ferrara, about 1490; d. about 1525. His real name was ...

    Orval

    (Aurea Vallis, Gueldenthal). Formerly a Cistercian abbey in Belgian Luxemburg, Diocese of ...

    Orvieto

    DIOCESE OF ORVIETO (URBEVETANA) Diocese in Central Italy. The city stands on a rugged mass of ...

    Ory, Matthieu

    Inquisitor and theologian, b. at La Caune, 1492; d. at Paris, 1557. Entering the Dominican ...

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    Os 22

    Osaka

    (Osachensis). Osaka ( Oye , great river; saka , cliff), one of the three municipal ...

    Osbald

    King of Northumbria, d. 799. Symeon of Durham (Historia Regum) tells us that when Ecfwald, a ...

    Osbaldeston, Edward, Venerable

    English martyr, b. about 1560; hanged, drawn, and quartered at York, 16 November, 1594. Son of ...

    Osbern

    Hagiographer, sometimes confused with Osbert de Clare alias Osbern de Westminster, b. at ...

    Oscott (St. Mary's College)

    In 1793, a number of the Catholic nobility and gentry of England formed a committee for the ...

    Osee

    NAME AND COUNTRY Osee (Hôsheá‘– Salvation ), son of Beeri, was one of ...

    Osimo

    DIOCESE OF OSIMO (AUXIMANA). Diocese in the Province of Ascoli Piceno, Italy. Osimo was ...

    Oslo, Ancient See of

    (ASLOIA, ASLOENSIS.) Oslo occupied part of the site of Christiania (founded 1624). After the ...

    Osma

    (OXOMENSIS) The Diocese borders Burgos and Logroño on the north, Soria and Saragossa ...

    Osmund, Saint

    Bishop of Salisbury, died 1099; his feast is kept on 4 December. Osmund held an exalted ...

    Osnabrück

    (OSNABRUGENSIS) This diocese, directly subject to the Holy See, comprises, in the Prussian ...

    Ossat, Arnaud d'

    French cardinal, diplomat, and writer, b. at Larroque-Magnoac (Gascony), 20 July, 1537; d. at ...

    Ossory, Diocese of

    (Ossoriensis.) In the Province of Leinster, Ireland, is bounded on the south by the Suir, on ...

    Ostensorium

    (From ostendere , "to show"). Ostensorium means, in accordance with its etymology, a ...

    Ostia and Velletri

    SUBURBICARIAN DIOCESE OF OSTIA AND VELLETRI (OSTIENSIS ET VELITERNENSIS). Near Rome, central ...

    Ostiensis

    Surname of LEO MARSICANUS, Benedictine chronicler, b. about 1045; d. 22 May, 1115, 1116, or ...

    Ostracine

    Titular see and suffragan of Pelusium in Augustamnica prima. Pliny (Hist. naturalis, V, xiv) ...

    Ostraka, Christian

    Inscriptions on clay, wood, metal, and other hard materials. Like papyri, they are valuable ...

    Ostrogoths

    One of the two chief tribes of the Goths, a Germanic people. Their traditions relate that the ...

    Oswald, Saint

    Archbishop of York, d. on 29 February, 992. Of Danish parentage, Oswald was brought up by his ...

    Oswald, Saint

    King and martyr ; b., probably, 605; d. 5 Aug., 642; the second of seven brothers, sons of ...

    Oswin, Saint

    King and martyr, murdered at Gilling, near Richmond, Yorkshire, England, on 20 August, 651, ...

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    Ot 16

    Otfried of Weissenburg

    He is the oldest German poet known by name, author of the "Evangelienbuch", a rhymed version of ...

    Othlo

    (OTLOH) A Benedictine monk of St. Emmeran's, Ratisbon, born 1013 in the Diocese of ...

    Othmar, Saint

    (Audomar.) Died 16 Nov., 759, on the island of Werd in the Rhine, near Echnez, Switzerland. ...

    Otho, Marcus Salvius

    Roman emperor, successor, after Galba, of Nero, b. in Rome, of an ancient Etruscan family ...

    Otranto

    ARCHDIOCESE OF OTRANTO (HYDRUNTINA). Otranto is a city of the Province of Lecce, Apulia, ...

    Ottawa, Archdiocese of

    Archdiocese of Ottawa (Ottawiensis). The Archdiocese of Ottawa, in Canada, originally ...

    Ottawa, University of

    Conducted by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate ; founded in 1848. It was incorporated in 1849 under ...

    Otto I, the Great

    Roman emperor and German king, b. in 912; d. at Memleben, 7 May, 973; son of Henry I and his ...

    Otto II

    King of the Germans and Emperor of Rome, son of Otto I and Adelaide, b. 955; d. in Rome, 7 ...

    Otto III

    German king and Roman emperor, b. 980; d. at Paterno, 24 Jan., 1002. At the age of three he was ...

    Otto IV

    German king and Roman emperor, b. at Argentau (Dept. of Orne), c. 1182; d. 19 May, 1218; son of ...

    Otto of Freising

    Bishop and historian, b. between 1111 and 1114, d. at Morimond, Champagne, France, 22 ...

    Otto of Passau

    All we know of him is in the preface of his work, in which he calls himself a member of the ...

    Otto of St. Blasien

    Chronicler, b. about the middle of the twelfth century; d. 23 July, 1223, at St. Blasien in the ...

    Otto, Saint

    Bishop of Bamberg, b. about 1060; d. 30 June, 1139. He belonged to the noble, though not ...

    Ottobeuren

    (OTTOBURA, MONASTERIUM OTTOBURANUM) Formerly a Benedictine abbey, now a priory, near ...

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    Ou 9

    Ouen, Saint

    (OWEN; DADON, Latin Audaenus ). Archbishop of Rouen, b. at Sancy, near Soissons about ...

    Our Father, The

    Although the Latin term oratio dominica is of early date, the phrase "Lord's Prayer" does not ...

    Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd

    The aim of this institute is to provide a shelter for girls and women of dissolute habits, who ...

    Our Lady of Good Counsel, Feast of

    Records dating from the reign of Paul II (1464-71) relate that the picture of Our Lady, at ...

    Our Lady of Perpetual Help

    ( Or OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP.) The picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour is painted ...

    Our Lady of Perpetual Succour

    ( Or OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP.) The picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour is painted ...

    Our Lady of the Fields, Brothers of

    A Canadian congregation founded in 1902 at St-Damien de Buckland in the Diocese of Quebec by ...

    Our Lady of the Snow

    ("Dedicatio Sanctæ Mariæ ad Nives"). A feast celebrated on 5 August to ...

    Our Lady, Help of Christians, Feast of

    The invocation Auxilium Christianorum (Help of Christians ) originated in the sixteenth ...

    × Close

    Ov 4

    Overbeck, Friedrich

    Convert and painter of religious subjects, b. at Lübeck, 3 July, 1789; d. at Rome, 12 ...

    Overberg, Bernhard Heinrich

    A German ecclesiastic and educator, born 1 May, 1754; died 9 November, 1826. Of poor parents in ...

    Overpopulation, Theories of

    Down to the end of the eighteenth century, very little attention was given to the relation between ...

    Oviedo

    (OVETENSIS) This diocese comprises the civil province of the same name (the ancient Kingdom ...

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    Ow 2

    Owen, Saint

    (OWEN; DADON, Latin Audaenus ). Archbishop of Rouen, b. at Sancy, near Soissons about ...

    Owen, Saint Nicholas

    A Jesuit lay-brother, martyred in 1606. There is no record of his parentage, birthplace, date ...

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    Ox 6

    Oxenford, John

    Dramatist, critic, translator, and song-writer, b. in London, 12 Aug., 1812; d. there 21 Feb., ...

    Oxenham, Henry Nutcombe

    An English controversialist and poet, born at Harrow, 15 Nov., 1829; died at Kensington, 23 ...

    Oxford

    Oxford, one of the most ancient cities in England, grew up under the shadow of a convent, said to ...

    Oxford Movement, The

    The Oxford Movement may be looked upon in two distinct lights. "The conception which lay at its ...

    Oxford, University of

    I. ORIGIN AND HISTORY The most extraordinary myths have at various times prevailed as to the ...

    Oxyrynchus

    Titular archdiocese of Heptanomos in Egypt. It was the capital of the district of its name, the ...

    × Close

    Oz 3

    Ozanam, Antoine-Frédéric

    Great grand-nephew of Jacques Ozanam . Born at Milan, 23 April, 1813; died at Marseilles, 8 ...

    Ozanam, Jacques

    A French mathematician, born at Bouligneux (Ain), 1640; died in Paris, 3 April, 1717. He came of a ...

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