Pope Gregory XVI, Quo Graviora: "The Church is the pillar and foundation of truth--all of which truth is taught by the Holy Spirit. Should the church be able to order, yield to, or permit those things which tend toward the destruction of souls and the disgrace and detriment of the sacrament instituted by Christ?"
Pope Gregory said this about the sacrament of Penance. Is it reasonable to say, on the other hand, that the Church can order, yield to, or permit teachings to be published that contain baptism of desire, if such teachings tend toward the destruction of souls, or to the disgrace and detriment of the sacrament of Baptism? God forbid!
In this article, I will explain why I no longer believe, as I once did, that one must (or even may) call the baptism of desire heresy, or those who believe in it heretics.
Disclaimer: Any notion of baptism of desire is heretical, however, if it is taken to understand that an individual may be saved without first having explicit knowledge of, and firm belief in the necessary mysteries contained in the Athanasian Creed. Such an individual, invincibly ignorant or not, will be condemned to hell for eternity. Otherwise, it must be de fide that a properly instructed individual who dies without receiving the visible sacrament, may nevertheless be blessed by God with perfect contrition, and thus reborn into the body of the Church with supernatural Faith, Hope and Charity, in a mysterious manner connected to the sacrament of Baptism, truly reborn of water and the Holy Ghost, though he died without visibly receiving it, given there is, as we will see, ample testimony of this concept, from credible and official teachers in the Church. Who are we to say God cannot baptize someone directly?
Please read also:
No Salvation Outside the Catholic Church
Pope Pius IX and Invincible Ignorance
From the Corpus Juris Canonici, (Collection of Canon Law) 1582, promulgated, in forma specifica, by the decree of Pope Gregory XIII, "Cum pro munere" July 1st, 1580; "Emendationem" June 2nd, 1582
Corpus Juris Canonici, Decretals of Pope Gregory IX, Book III, pp.1388-1389: "Cap. IIII
Debitum: et infra.. Sane intimasti, quod quidam Iudaeus in mortis articulo constitutus, cum inter ludaeos tantum existeret, in aqua seipsum immersit, dicendo: ego baptiszo me in nomine patris, et filii et spiritus sancti, amen: et infra. Respondemus, quod cum inter baptizatem et baptizatum debeat esse discretio, sicut ex verbis Domini colligitur, dicentis Apostolis: Ite, baptizate omnes gentes in nomine patris , et filli, et spiritus sancti: memoratus Iudaeus est denuo abalio baptizadus: ut ostendatur, quod alius est qui baptizatur, et alius qui baptizat. Ad quod etiam designandum ipse Christus, non a seipso, sed a Ioanne voluit baptizari: quamuis si talis continuo decessisset, ad caelestem patriam protinus evolasset, propter sacramenti fide, et si no propter fidei sacramentu. In baptismo quippe illa spiritualis generatio celebrator, de qua veritas ait..."
[Speaking of a man who tried to baptize himself because he was only surrounded by faithless Jews, though he would not receive the sacrament...] Although if such a man continued to depart, he would immediately fly to his father’s heavenly home, because of faith, and floating if only by means of faith in the sacrament.
What weight does this Corpus Juris Canonici hold?
The Correctores Romani: Gratian's Decretum and the Counter-Reformation Humanists, Mary E. Sommar, 2009, p. 26: The Editio Romana of 1582 “The first thing included after the title page of this first, folio edition is a copy of Pope Gregory XIII’s bull of promulgation, Cum pro munere. The bull, dated July 1, 1580, says that the purpose of the work is to provide an edition of canon law that has been freed of all of the errors and textual corruptions that had crept in over the centuries. In these ‘grave and calamitious times,’ he said, it was important that all Christians be able to trust that these fundamental texts of the Catholic faith were ‘in good repair’ and could be used by the Christian faithful everywhere. The majority of this decree, however, is concerned with the legal details of Gregory XIII’s prohibition against anything being ‘added or changed or reorganized, or any interpretation appended’ or of any other editions being produced.”
158—The whole work is divided into five books…This collection is authentic, and has the force of law in every particular…"
pp. 72-73: 162. "Q. What are the chief matters to which the Corpus juris canonicic applies at the present day? A—The Corpus still has the force of law in matters relating to the ecclesiastical judicature, to divine worship, ecclesiastical doctrine, and discipline. 2. It is, moreover the code used at present in the schools of learning and in the ecclesiastical forum. 3. Besides, canonists have for many centuries taken their arguments, to a great extent, from the Corpus Juris;"
You cannot get a more official or authoritative Church document than a Canon Law, promulgated by the Roman Pontiff, to be used as a basis for all ecclesiastical judgments and to which any change is prohibited. And it teaches baptism of desire.
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council: "[...]we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable."
Pope Pius VI, Auctorem Fidei, #26: "The doctrine which rejects as a Pelagian fable, that place of the lower regions (which the faithful generally designate by the name of the limbo of children) in which the souls of those departing with the sole guilt of original sin are punished with the punishment of the condemned, exclusive of the punishment of fire, just as if, by this very fact, that these who remove the punishment of fire introduced that middle place and state free of guilt and of punishment between the kingdom of God and eternal damnation, such as that about which the Pelagians idly talk,—false, rash, injurious to Catholic schools."
Pope Pius VI would be condemning himself if excessive literalism were the right way to read every dogmatic definition, as he is the very pope who declares that ambiguous speech that could be taken heretically is to be condemned, and he also reigned subsequently to Paul IV, whose Bull Cum Ex would have rendered Pius VI incapable of holding office for encouraging belief in heresy.
Council of Trent, Session 14, Chapter 4: "The Synod teaches moreover, that, although it sometimes happen that this contrition is perfect through charity, and reconciles man with God before this sacrament be actually received, the said reconciliation, nevertheless, is not to be ascribed to that contrition, independently of the desire of the sacrament which is included therein."
Additionally, we have the following canon from Trent:
Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 4, ex cathedra: "By which words, a description of the Justification of the impious is indicated,-as being a translation, from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace, and of the adoption of the sons of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour. And this translation, since the promulgation of the Gospel, cannot be effected, without the laver of regeneration, or the desire thereof, as it is written; unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God."
That is a highly Protestant way of thinking. As a matter of fact, even as the Protestants reject the Church's interpretation of Scripture, so do the "Bod is heresy" people. This can be shown by the "BoD is heresy" crowd in their rejection of the following salutary teachings of the Popes, with regard to Biblical annotations.
Pope Pius VII, Traditi Humilitati, May 24th, 1829: "We must also be wary of those who publish the Bible with new interpretations contrary to the Church's laws. They skillfully distort the meaning by their own interpretation...Long ago the Apostolic See warned about this serious hazard to the faith and drew up a list of the authors of these pernicious notions. The rules of this Index were published by the Council of Trent; the ordinance required that translations of the Bible into the vernacular not be permitted without the approval of the Apostolic See and further required that they be published with commentaries from the Fathers. The sacred Synod of Trent had decreed in order to restrain impudent characters, that no one, relying on his own prudence in matters of faith and of conduct which concerns Christian doctrine, might twist the sacred Scriptures to his own opinion, or to an opinion contrary to that of the Church or the popes. Though such machinations against the Catholic faith had been assailed long ago by these canonical proscriptions, Our recent predecessors made a special effort to check these spreading evils."
Yet according to "BoD is heresy" people, they failed miserably, since it was included in the most august Catechism ever produced in the Church:
Catechism of the Council of Trent (aka Roman Catechism): "should any unforeseen accident make it impossible for adults to be washed in the salutary waters, their intention and determination to receive Baptism and their repentance for past sins, will avail them to grace and righteousness"
I once argued around this decree every which way from Sunday, but the fact is it clearly teaches that an adult who is prevented from receiving baptism may nevertheless be saved. If it were really teaching that God would preserve that person until he actually could receive baptism, then the whole paragraph is redundant and pointless - and there is no evidence at all that is what was meant. But back to Biblical annotations:
Pope Gregory XVI, Inter praecipuas, May 8th, 1844: "permission is granted for reading vernacular versions which have been approved by the Apostolic See, or have been edited with annotations drawn from the Holy Fathers of the Church or from learned Catholic men."
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Concerning the Catholic Faith, Ch. 2 Revelation: "in matters of faith and morals pertaining to the instruction of Christian Doctrine, that must be considered as the true sense of Sacred Scripture which Holy Mother Church has held and holds, whose office it is to judge concerning the true understanding and interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures; and, for that reason, no one is permitted to interpret Sacred Scripture itself contrary to this sense..."
Church discipline established the Douay Rheims as the Bible to be read by English speaking Catholics, and this bible contains an annotation teaching baptism of desire.
The Church promulgated the Douay Rheims Bible to oppose heresy, among English speaking Catholics. Is this a harmful Church discipline, though approved and promulgated by the popes? See the condemned error from the synod of Pistoia, on harmful Church disciplines, further below in this article. I'll make it green if you want to skip to it.
And for anyone who still questions whether the Council of Trent intended to teach baptism of desire or not, consider this statement from the same Council:
Council of Trent, Session 14, Chapter 2: "And this sacrament of Penance is, for those who have fallen after baptism, necessary unto salvation; as baptism itself is for those who have not as yet been regenerated."
If Penance is necessary "as Baptism itself is", then the type of necessity for Penance must be the same as that for Baptism". It is very explicitly stated in the Council that perfect contrition, along with the desire of the sacrament are sufficient to cleanse one from ones sins before the reception of Penance. To argue that this is not so for Baptism requires one to negate the above quote from Session 14, Chapter 2 of Trent. You have to deny that Penance is necessary "as Baptism itself is"; in the "BoD is heresy" worldview, you would have to say that Penance is LESS necessary than Baptism, or differently necessary, which changes the words of the Council.
In fact, St. Thomas himself wrote, in his Summa (Third Part, 66, 11): "The other two Baptisms are included in the Baptism of Water, which derives its efficacy, both from Christ's Passion and from the Holy Ghost. Consequently for this reason the unity of Baptism is not destroyed."
And when pope Eugene IV, at the Council of Florence (Session 11), defined and declared "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", he was assuredly aware of the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, who had two centuries before treated of this very topic.
Summa, Third Part, 63, 3 (on whether baptism ought to be deferred): "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.
"On the other hand, adults have a remedy in the mere desire for Baptism ...
"Nevertheless he sins if he defer being baptized beyond the time appointed by the Church, except this be for an unavoidable cause and with the permission of the authorities of the Church. But even this sin, with his other sins, can be washed away by his subsequent contrition, which takes the place of Baptism, as stated above."
It is evident that Pope Eugene was aware of the teachings of St. Thomas on the matter, and yet no explicit condemnation of his doctrine on baptism of desire was ever forthcoming.
This ought to give anyone pause who considers well the words of Jesus Christ, when he said to Peter: "And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it"
Why? Because the gates of hell have been understood officially by the Church to mean the death dealing tongues of heretics (Pope Vigilius, Second Council of Constantinople). Are we really to believe that St. Thomas and St. Alphonsus are permitted by the Church to be not only canonized, but elevated to the rank of Doctors of the Church, while they taught doctrine that is opposed to her sacred dogmas? And that we now argue "they erred in good faith" by teaching HERESY, and the Church discipline of the canonizations did not explicitly warn against that fact? If heresy can be spread in a document as important as the Roman Catechism, then one is hard pressed to argue the gates of hell have not prevailed.
Think about it: A simple Catholic who reads his Bible, and trusts the annotations, given by the Church for his protection, or goes to Church and sees St. Thomas or St. Alphonsus honored in the Liturgy has solid reason according to Church discipline to trust what these authors have written, for if a canonization is not a vote of confidence in someone's trustworthiness, nothing is. It would most certainly be at least scandalous for the Church to canonize someone who had publicly and openly professed heresy, without explicitly disclaiming the heretical writings of the saint and explaining how that person is not in fact a heretic. Such a canonization would be dangerous in that it threatens to lead souls into the same heresy. If such were the case, one would be hard pressed to argue the gates of hell have not prevailed.
Matthew 16:18: "And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
Pope Pius VI, Auctorem Fidei, condemning the errors of the synod of Pistoia: "The prescription of the synod ... in so far as by the generality of the words it includes and submits to a prescribed examination even the discipline established and approved by the Church, as if the Church which is ruled by the Spirit of God could have established discipline which is not only useless and burdensome for Christian liberty to endure, but which is even dangerous and harmful and leading to superstition and materialism,--false, rash, scandalous, dangerous, offensive to pious ears, injurious to the Church and to the Spirit of God by whom it is guided, at least erroneous."
So how about we say, then, that a discipline (such as a canonization, whereby we now honor a saint in the Liturgy) can lead souls into heresy? How about not!
The only conclusion that is not impious against the Church of God is that baptism of desire is not heresy when understood according to the mind of the holy doctors who taught it; a person already instructed in the necessary mysteries, and who desires baptism (whether he has stated so to others or not - i.e. implicit desire), and who is prevented from receiving the sacrament by an unfortunate accident, may be saved by God in view of his desire, God Himself bestowing the baptismal effect, causing the person to be born again, and to gain at once perfect contrition, supernatural Faith, Hope and Charity, gratuitously in view of the desire of the sacrament.
Acts of the Apostles 10:47: "Then Peter answered: Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost, as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ"
The words of admonishment I received, which helped the most to put things into perspective for me were as follows:
"One last word and I'm done. Look at the individual arguments, and look at the big picture too. Your view doesn't make sense in the big picture. It's as I said before, you have constructed a novelty that justifies your being in radical contradiction to the whole Catholic world for centuries. It's just not credible that you are right and the whole Church is wrong, if she be the Church of God."
It is with good reason that I say all should read this blog with critical thinking, and it is precisely because I am merely a fallible and sinful man, living in a world where the curse of Amos 8:11 has come to pass. I acknowledge my past folly, with sincere thanks to those truly kind souls, who, certainly moved by the grace of God, have been willing to take the time to patiently admonish my errors and help me understand. Thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ, for giving me His continuing grace to accept the truth when it is presented, despite my immense unworth, and His precious Mother Mary, who certainly has been instrumental in meriting this grace for me.
Objections to Baptism of desire and their answers (if you have an objection, please share it with me)
Objection: "But saints have fallen into heresy before! Like St. Cyprian!"
Answer: No they have not. Just because a dogma was always true, does not mean it was always a dogma. St. Cyprian, who taught that heretics could not validly baptize, and who some propose as an example of how Saints could have erred, was not a heretic, and not only that, his belief, although false, was not at the time heresy. Thus the comparison fails, and the "BoD is heresy" crowd are wrong to use him as an example to bolster their case.
Objection: "But St. Alphonsus contradicted the Council of Florence on what constitutes valid form of consecrating the Eucharist!"
Answer: No, he most certainly did not. Here is what he said:
St. Alphonsus, History of Heresies, Volume 2, Page 241: "It is debated among authors, whether any other words unless these, " This is the Chalice of my blood," though the remainder is laid down in the Missal, are essentially necessary for the consecration of the blood. In our Moral Theology (28) the reader will find the point discussed. Several hold the affirmative opinion, and quote St. Thomas in their favour, who says (29) : "Et ideo ilia quaa sequuntur sunt essentialia sanguini, prout in hoc Sacramento consecratur, et ideo oportet, quod sint de substantia Forma3 ;" the opposite opinion, however, is more generally followed, and those who hold it deny that it is opposed to the doctrine of St. Thomas, for he says that the subsequent words appertain to the substance but not to the essence of the form, and hence they conclude that these words do not belong to the essence, but only to the integrity of the form, so that the priest who would omit them would commit a grievous sin undoubtedly, but still would validly consecrate."
And here is the section Florence:
"However, since no explanation was given in the aforesaid decree of the Armenians in respect of the form of words which the holy Roman church, relying on the teaching and authority of the apostles Peter and Paul, has always been wont to use in the consecration of the Lord's body and blood, we concluded that it should be inserted in this present text. It uses this form of words in the consecration of the Lord's body: For this is my body. And of his blood: For this is the chalice of my blood, of the new and everlasting covenant, which will be shed for you and for many unto the remission of sins.
"Whether the wheat bread, in which the sacrament is confected, has been baked on the same day or earlier is of no importance whatever. For, provided the substance of bread remains, there should be no doubt at all that after the aforesaid words of consecration of the body have been pronounced by a priest with the intention of consecrating, immediately it is changed in substance into the true body of Christ."
Note that Florence declares what form is used, but does not explicitly address whether the form in its entirety is essential to effecting the sacrament. St. Alphonsus did not at all contradict Florence.
Objection: "But St. Alphonsus referenced the wrong section of Trent!"
Answer: St. Alphonsus, in pointing to the section on Penance surely recognized that the principles which apply to the necessity Penance also apply to Baptism, regarding perfection and the desire to receive the sacrament, on account of the link the Council gives us between the two sacraments and their necessity:
Council of Trent, Session 14, Chapter 2: "And this sacrament of Penance is, for those who have fallen after baptism, necessary unto salvation; as baptism itself is for those who have not as yet been regenerated."
Objection: "But Benedict XV contradicted the decrees of the Holy Office regarding geocentrism!"
Answer: Yes, yes he did. But he was not a pope, and for more reasons than this.
Objection: "But Pope Honorius, or Liberius, Or Vigilius or John XXII were heretics, or at least taught heresy!"
Answer: That is an argument Protestants falsely make to attack Papal Infallibility. It doesn't work for the Protestants, and it won't work for the "Bod is heresy" people, either. Why? Because not a single one of these popes either believed heresy or openly professed it.
Objection: "But God does not command impossibilities!"
Answer: Definitely, He does not. To say that someone has died on the way to baptism does not render the command to be baptized impossible. It certainly is possible, but sometimes what is possible generally becomes impossible practically because of circumstances, and the Council of Trent acknowledges this:
Council of Trent Session 6, Chapter 11: "that the observance of the commandments of God is impossible for one that is justified. For God commands not impossibilities, but, by commanding, both admonishes thee to do what thou are able, and to pray for what thou art not able (to do), and aids thee that thou mayest be able;"
Objection: "But Vienne says 'In addition, just as one only God and also one only faith are faithfully confessed by all, there exists one only baptism which regenerates all men baptized into Christ, which celebrated in water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, we believe to be the perfect remedy for salvation, to the same extent in both infants and adults.'
St. Thomas, Summa (Third Part, 66, 11): "The other two Baptisms are included in the Baptism of Water, which derives its efficacy, both from Christ's Passion and from the Holy Ghost. Consequently for this reason the unity of Baptism is not destroyed."
St. Alphonsus Ligouri, Moral Theology Manual, Bk. 6, no. 95., Concerning Baptism: "Now it is "de fide" that men are also saved by Baptism of desire, by virtue of the Canon Apostolicam, "de presbytero non baptizato" and of the Council of Trent".
Because, as the Council of Florence declares, "the holy Trinity is the principle cause from which Baptism has its power", and Holy Scripture, "with God nothing is impossible", it is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that God himself, for Whom nothing is impossible, and Who can do all things, can bring about the sacramental effects of baptism in a soul He has disposed to receive it, either visibly through his ministers on earth, or invisibly, in a manner known only to Him, in which manner it must still truly be said that the person has entered the ecclesiastical body before the end of his life, made, at least secretly, a subject of the Roman Pontiff, and that the person has been "born again of water and the Holy Ghost".
What Must You Do To Get to Heaven?