Sunday, August 9, 2009

Trent's Decree on Justification and Baptism of Desire

Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 6, 1547, Decree on Justification, Chapter IV, ex cathedra: “…and this translation (to the state of justification), since the promulgation of the Gospel, cannot be effected, without the laver of regeneration, or the desire thereof…”

This infallible decree (and ONLY this infallible decree) has been presented by baptism of desire heretics around the world in an attempt to assert that baptism of desire was taught by the Solemn Magisterium, despite the contradiction their understanding posits against many other decrees. The Latin text is as follows:

“…quae quidem translatio post Evangelium promulgatum sine lavacro regenerationis aut eius voto fieri non potest…”

The problems with using this decree to try to prove baptism of desire are tremendous, and are explained in detail below:

The first and most blatantly dishonest error of certain heretics, is they use a faulty translation of the decree. Any Latin translator will tell you that the Latin word sine means ‘without’, yet some people persist in translating it as ‘except through’. They do so, because they realize that this changes the entire meaning of the text. How does it do this? Consider the following examples of the usage of the two different wordings in the same sentence:


I cannot ride my bike without having the wheels attached.

I am stating the circumstances under which it is impossible for me to ride my bike: the absence of the wheels. Pretty simple. Pretty obvious. Okay, now let’s change the word ‘without’ to the two words ‘except through’.


I cannot ride my bike except through having the wheels attached.

Interesting, no? I have completely changed the context of the sentence. I am no longer stating how it is impossible to ride my bike, but I am stating the ONLY way that it IS possible to ride it: by having the wheels attached.

Baptism of desire heretics desperately want to cling to this translation, even though the word sine definitely means ‘without’, because they realize the distinction that is made when they use ‘except through’. If their translation were correct (it certainly is not), then the translation to the state of justification can ONLY be effected by baptism OR THE DESIRE FOR IT, which would mean that the desire would suffice.

Also consider the ramifications of using ‘without’ in the example of the bike. It means that it is impossible to ride the bike without the wheels on, but does it necessarily mean that if the wheels are on you can ride it? No. It doesn’t necessarily mean that, even if that may be the case. But it might not be: What if the wheels are broken, or the chain, etc. It would still be impossible to ride the bike. Just like the presence of the desire for the sacrament of baptism doesn't necessarily mean that justification can take place.

Now what about ‘except through’? We are stating that the ONLY way the bike can be ridden is if the wheels are attached, AND that it CAN NECESSARILY BE RIDDEN IN THAT STATE. But this doesn’t make any sense at all. For example, just because the wheels are attached, doesn’t mean that the chain is not broken, making the bike un-rideable, but if the statement were true, then we would have to say that even if everything else was wrong with the bike, as long as the wheels are attached, we can ride it.

Is it starting to become more clear why baptism of desire heretics like this faulty translation? According to the faulty translation, not only is justification ONLY able to be produced by one OR the other, it necessarily CAN be produced by only one or the other, but this does not make sense, however, since a person cannot be justified if he is baptized against his own will,  as is taught by St. Thomas Aquinas, whom the Council Fathers drew heavily upon for doctrinal instruction:

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Tertia Pars, Q. 68, Art. 7: "I answer that, By Baptism a man dies to the old life of sin, and begins a certain newness of life, according to Romans 6:4: "We are buried together with" Christ "by Baptism into death; that, as Christ is risen from the dead . . . so we also may walk in newness of life." Consequently, just as, according to Augustine (Sermon 351), he who has the use of free-will, must, in order to die to the old life, "will to repent of his former life"; so must he, of his own will, intend to lead a new life, the beginning of which is precisely the receiving of the sacrament. Therefore on the part of the one baptized, it is necessary for him to have the will or intention of receiving the sacrament.

"Reply to Objection 1. When a man is justified by Baptism, his passiveness is not violent but voluntary: wherefore it is necessary for him to intend to receive that which is given him."


Now let’s deal with the correct translation of sine, which is 'without'.

The decree is a negated disjunctive compound statement. As such, we must resolve it according to De Morgan's Law. In formal logic, De Morgan's laws are rules relating the logical operators "and" and "or" in terms of each other via negation. In this case, the Council negated a disjunction (or) so the formula, which applies is as follows:

NOT (A OR B) is logically equivalent to (NOT A) AND (NOT B)

This means that this statement:

"...this translation, canNOT (be effected, without the laver of regeneration, or the desire thereof)"

Is logically equivalent to this:

"...this translation, canNOT be effected, without the laver of regeneration," AND "...this translation, canNOT be effected, without the desire thereof"

Simply put, only one of these needs to be missing for justification to be impossible, hence if water baptism is not present, justification cannot take place, just as a person cannot be justified against his own will, without the vow to receive the sacrament. This is exactly what the Council teaches in the Decree on Justification, and in the Canons on baptism. Baptism of desire heretics, whether they realize it or not, demand that there be a contradiction between Chapter IV of the decree on Justification and Chapter VII of the same decree, as well as the canons on baptism. There is no contradiction at all.

Decree on Justification from the Council of Trent

Chapter VII, What the justification of the impious is, and what are the causes thereof: “…the instrumental cause [of justification] is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which (faith) no one is ever justified; ...This faith, catechumens beg of the Church - agreeably to a tradition of the apostles - previously to the sacrament of Baptism;”

Previously to baptism, catechumens DO NOT have this faith, hence they beg it of the Church, and She gives them baptism, the instrumental cause of justification.

It says quite clearly in Chapter VII of the Decree on Justification that THE INSTRUMENTAL CAUSE is the SACRAMENT, yet the heretics argue that because the decree says that without faith no one is ever justified, it is possible that one may be justified without the sacrament of Baptism. It is true that none of the impious, or those with the use of reason, capable of conceiving faith, are ever justified without faith, and so nobody is ever justified without baptism, since the decree clearly says THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM is the instrumental cause, and IT is what bestows the FAITH that gives eternal life.

As to the question that baptism requires faith, and are infants not incapable of faith? Adults must have faith, but infants receive habitual faith, which is infused into them in the sacrament of regeneration. As to actual faith, they believe on the faith of another; as St. Augustine (De Verb. Apost., xiv, xviii) beautifully says: "He believes by another, who has sinned by another."

Canons on Baptism from the Council of Trent:

Canon II: "If any one saith, that true and natural water is not of necessity for baptism, and, on that account, wrests, to some sort of metaphor, those words of our Lord Jesus Christ; Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost; let him be anathema."

Canon V: "If any one saith, that baptism is free, that is, not necessary unto salvation; let him be anathema."


As we have seen the heretics argue that, according to the following decree, we can be justified by faith (the desire of the sacrament, the faith of the sacrament, etc.) without actually receiving the sacrament:

Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Decree on Justification, Chapter IV: "This translation to the state of justification however cannot be effected without the laver of regeneration or its desire"

If they are to hold this position, that the decree is teaching that you can be justified WITH ONLY ONE BUT NOT THE OTHER, then they also have to say that justification can occur by receiving the sacrament, yet not having the desire for it. And before people start making the silly argument that "Babies can't desire the sacrament, etc." They need to realize the context of the decree:

Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Decree on Justification, Chapter IV, A description is introduced of the Justification of the impious, and of the Manner thereof under the law of grace."

Impiety as described in the Decree on Justification is a willful state of being, and as can be seen by reading the decree in its entirety, it is speaking of those with the use of reason and free will, who are able to desire the sacrament, able to make a vow to receive it.



What Must You Do To Get to Heaven?

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