Monday, October 5, 2015

Supplement: Saints and Church Fathers on the absolute necessity of water baptism

Some baptism of desire heretics have argued that "Feeneyism is an American phenomenon" and "Why aren't there others who believe like you from other countries, like in Europe" and other such arguments.

Well, I received an email from a European man who not only believes that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, and that the Church can only be entered into by the sacrament of Baptism in water, but he also wrote a treatise on the matter that contains very excellent arguments to that effect, which I have not yet seen.

Here are some extracts from his writings and quotations of which he made me aware:

St. Augustine, Sermons to Catechumens on the Creed, 16: "In three ways then are sins remitted in the Church; by Baptism, by prayer, by the greater humility of penance; yet God doth not remit sins but to the baptized. The very sins which He remits first, He remits not but to the baptized. When? when they are baptized. The sins which are after remitted upon prayer, upon penance, to whom He remits, it is to the baptized that He remitteth. For how can they say, "Our Father," who are not yet born sons? The Catechumens, so long as they be such, have upon them all their sins. If Catechumens, how much more Pagans? how much more heretics?"

St. Augustine, Sermon 40, 5: "Let us then, my brethren, seek for those among the faithful who have something which bad men have not, and this will be the wedding garment. If we speak of sacraments, you see how that these are common to the bad and good. Is it Baptism? Without Baptism it is true no one attains to God; but not every one that has Baptism attains to Him. I cannot therefore understand Baptism, the Sacrament itself that is, to be the wedding garment; for this garment I see in the good, I see in the bad."

“(412) ‘… the Punic Christians call Baptism itself nothing else but salvation… Whence does this derive, except from an ancient and, as I suppose, apostolic tradition, by which the Churches of Christ hold inherently that without Baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the Kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal? This is the witness of Scripture, too’ (refiriéndose a Jn 3:5 con toda evidencia). 

“(391) ‘When we shall have come into His [God’s] sight, we shall behold the equity of God’s justice. Then no one will say:… ‘Why was this man led by God’s direction to be baptized, while that man, though he lived properly as a catechumen, was killed in a sudden disaster, and was not baptized?’ Look for rewards, and you will find nothing except punishments.’ 

“Here we see St. Augustine completely rejecting the concept of baptism of desire. Nothing could be more clear! He says that God keeps sincere catechumens alive until their baptism, and that those who look for rewards in such unbaptized catechumens will find nothing but punishments! St. Augustine even makes it a special point to affirm that the Almighty doesn’t allow unbaptized catechumens to be killed except for a reason! 

“Those who say that St. Augustine held to baptism of desire are, therefore, simply not being complete with the facts. They must add the qualification that he many times rejected the idea and was somehow on both sides of the issue. Thus, the only father, besides a single spot in St. Cyprian’s letters, that the baptism of desire advocates can clearly quote in favor of the concept, actually denied the concept of baptism of desire many times. 

“(403) ‘However much progress the catechumen should make, he still carries the load of his iniquity: nor is it removed from him unless he comes to Baptism.’ 

“Here we see St. Augustine again affirming the apostolic truth that no one enters Heaven without water baptism and again explicitly denying the concept of baptism of desire, by denying that any catechumen can be freed from sin without baptism. All of this shows that baptism of desire is not the universal Tradition of the Apostles; rather, the exact opposite is the universal Tradition of the Apostles and Fathers – that no catechumen can be saved without water baptism.” 

St. Augustine is revealing by such a statement a very important point: that his belief even in such a baptism is rooted in fallible human speculation, not in divine revelation or infallible Tradition. He is admitting that he could be wrong and, in fact, he is wrong.” 

“This proves again that only the dogmatic teaching of the popes are infallible, as well as the universal and constant Tradition. But St. Augustine himself in many, many places affirms the universal Tradition of the Apostles that no one is saved without the Sacrament of Baptism; and, in fact, he denied the concept that a catechumen could be saved without the Sacrament of Baptism by his desire for it numerous times. 

The Funeral Oration of St. Ambrose 

“Out of the hundreds of fathers of the Church, the only other one that the baptism of desire advocates even try to quote is St. Ambrose. They think that in his funeral speech for his friend (the Emperor Valentinian) he taught that the emperor (who was only a catechumen) was saved by his desire for baptism. But St. Ambrose’s funeral speech for Valentinian is extremely ambiguous and should be interpreted in a variety of other ways: 

“"But I hear that you grieve because he did not receive the sacraments (!) of baptism. Tell me: What else is in your power other than the desire, the request? But he even had this desire for a long time, that, when he should come to Italy, he would be initiated… Has he not, then, the grace which he desired; has he not the grace which he requested? And because he asked, he received, and therefore it is said: ‘By whatsoever death the just man shall be overtaken, his soul shall be at rest’ (Wis. 4:7)… Or if the fact disturbs you that the mysteries have not been solemnly celebrated, then you should realize that not even martyrs are crowned if they are catechumens, for they are not crowned if they are not initiated. But if they are washed in their own blood, his piety and desire have washed him, also."” 

“These faithful were grief stricken because they had all been taught, and therefore believed, that unless a man is born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God” (John 3:5). They had all been taught that no one is saved without the Sacrament of Baptism. Their teacher was their bishop, St. Ambrose. In deed, he seems to directly contradict what he just said and seems to teach baptism of desire and blood, although it is not clear, since he did not say that Valentinian was saved without baptism. But if that is what St. Ambrose means, then his funeral speech is nonsensical, since he just clearly denied two times that martyrs can be crowned (saved) if they are catechumens. And this is the oldest “text” quoted in favor of the idea of baptism of desire! It is, first of all, contradictory; secondly, it is ambiguous; and thirdly, if interpreted to mean that a catechumen is saved without water baptism, is opposed to every other statement St. Ambrose formally made on the issue. 

“But perhaps there is another explanation. St. Ambrose states that the faithful were grieving because Valentinian did not receive the sacraments of baptism. Why did he use the term “sacraments” instead of “sacrament”? Was he lamenting the fact that Valentinian was not able to receive Confirmation and the Eucharist, which were commonly administered together with Baptism in the early Church? This would correspond to his statement about the crowd being disturbed because the mysteries were not “solemnly” celebrated, in other words, with all of the formal ceremonies which precede the solemn celebration of Baptism. Exactly what St. Ambrose meant in this speech, we may never know in this world, but we are permitted to assume that it was not his intention to contradict, in an emotionally charged eulogy, what he had written with much thought and precision in De Mysteriis and elsewhere.”