Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pope Eugene IV and Baptism; he knew what he was doing

Addendum: please see I have to stop fighting baptism of desire and admit that I am more confused about the Crisis now than I was when I thought I had a tidy answer

In the Council of Florence, there are two very interesting decrees that one ought to be aware of.  They are dogmatic definitions and decrees, which definitively prove that the absolute necessity of receiving the sacrament in water is in fact a dogma that must be believed by divine and Catholic Faith.

But those who like to quote St. Thomas as a support for the heresy of baptism of desire (which was not a heresy in his day - please read the article "Heresy was always false, but not necessarily always heresy"), should take note that Pope Eugene IV and the Council Fathers at Florence were well aware of his teachings on the matter, and still worded their decrees the way they did.  Here are the decrees compared with the teachings of St. Thomas, which both come from the same part of his Summa Theologica, namely Tertia Pars, Question 68.

The decree, which prohibits any lawful belief in baptism of desire:

Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Session 8, (Exultate Deo), 1439, ex cathedra: "Holy baptism holds the first place among all the sacraments, for it is the gate of the spiritual life; through it we become members of Christ and of the body of the church. Since death came into the world through one person, unless we are born again of water and the spirit, we cannot, as Truth says, enter the kingdom of heaven. The matter of this sacrament is true and natural water, either hot or cold. The form is: I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy Spirit."

The wording is very clear and precise, indeed Pope Eugene knew that as pope he needed to use perfect precision in his words, as they are "for an everlasting record".  He puts forth a literal and no exceptions allowed understanding of Christ's words in St. John's Gospel, chapter 3, verse 5.

Contrast this with St. Thomas' teachings from nearly two centuries earlier:

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Tertia Pars, Q. 68, Art. 2 (Whether a man can be saved without Baptism): "On the contrary, Augustine says (Super Levit. 84) that "some have received the invisible sanctification without visible sacraments, and to their profit; but though it is possible to have the visible sanctification, consisting in a visible sacrament, without the invisible sanctification, it will be to no profit." Since, therefore, the sacrament of Baptism pertains to the visible sanctification, it seems that a man can obtain salvation without the sacrament of Baptism, by means of the invisible sanctification."

But his very words make clear that St. Thomas was not expounding on what he believed to be an article of Faith, but was rather SPECULATING.  This is undeniable from the words "it SEEMS that", hence, it was merely his opinion.

Still, some may be inclined to argue that Pope Eugene's decree takes St. Thomas' opinion into account, and even though it appears contradictory, that there actually is no contradiction.  But this argument fails for the simple fact that while St. Thomas was fallible, Pope Eugene IV spoke in virtue of his supreme authority, and therefore was infallible in his words.  That is to say that his words were absolutely true, and there is not even a shadow of untruth to them.  Read them again and see that there is no way around them.

Pope Eugene IV and the Council Fathers were not unaware of St. Thomas' teachings, and in fact quoted him almost word for word in he following decree:

Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Session 11 (Cantate Domino), ex cathedra: "With regard to children, since the danger of death is often present and the only remedy available to them is the sacrament of baptism by which they are snatched away from the dominion of the devil and adopted as children of God, it admonishes that sacred baptism is not to be deferred for forty or eighty days or any other period of time in accordance with the usage of some people, but it should be conferred as soon as it conveniently can; and if there is imminent danger of death, the child should be baptized straightaway without any delay, even by a lay man or a woman in the form of the church, if there is no priest, as is contained more fully in the decree on the Armenians."

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa,  Tertia Pars, Q. 68, Art.  3 (Whether Baptism should be deferred): "I answer that, In this matter we must make a distinction and see whether those who are to be baptized are children or adults. For if they be children, Baptism should not be deferred. First, because in them we do not look for better instruction or fuller conversion. Secondly, because of the danger of death, for no other remedy is available for them besides the sacrament of Baptism."


Now, if Pope Eugene IV meant to make a declaration that agreed with any other part of St. Thomas' theology, he would have done so, just as he did by quoting the Holy Doctor almost word for word above.  But instead, he worded his decree from Session 8 in such a way as to leave no possible room for any entrance into the kingdom of God, save for receiving the sacrament of Baptism, administered in true and natural water, using the form of the Church.

In short, he knew of St. Thomas' opinion, but dogmatically shut the door on it forever (in fact, the door was already shut on it at the Council of Vienne in 1311-1312, just a few decades after St. Thomas passed away)

This is a lesson to us all once again that "The Church’s judgment is preferable to that of a Doctor renowned for his holiness and teaching." - Pope Benedict XIV, Apostolica Constitutio, #6, June 26, 1749



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