+++ 61. Shifting Gears +++

 

Now, in spite of all of the very powerful & lucid arguments we’ve made against BOD being absolutely certain --- that it is a theological opinion and not yet an infallible & explicit teaching of the Church, if ever it will be --- many BOD partisans may be nevertheless tempted to exult.

 

“The greatest of Church doctors agrees with us!” they exclaim. “Other doctors, too. Our position is overwhelmingly vindicated.”

 

And, to be fair to them, they have a lot of weight on their side with Thomas Aquinas, Alphonsus Liguori and the many other scholastic or post-scholastic doctors & theologians upholding their ‘baptism of desire’ for catechumens (and we stress that it must be for catechumens) stance.

 

This, along with the fact that pretty much all ostensible Catholics, be they learned or not, had come to believe in some form of BOD (whether this form was orthodox or not) by the middle of the 20th century, is the strongest evidence by far that ‘baptism of desire’ aficionados have for their side --- bar none.

 

There is, though, some unfinished business. You’ll remember we began this latest section with the goal of investigating what certain pertinent saints & doctors had to say about BOD. Yet we have only seen the teaching of four doctors who are also saints but no saints who are not also doctors. In addition to this, we still have not examined closely the teaching of one more very pertinent doctor in this matter, as well as the telling testimony of a medieval theologian.

 

Shall we complete the present task?

 

+++ 62. WO (Doctoral) Exhibit No. 1: +++

St. Gregory Nazianzen

 

And so we turn to St. Gregory Nazianzen, which surname he bears because he was bishop of a city in present-day Turkey (ancient Asia Minor) called Nazianzus. Born around AD 325 and deceased by 389 --- or 390 at the latest --- he was a reluctant yet staunch fighter against the heresy of the Arians, who denied that Jesus was wholly God from all eternity.

 

As part of this fight he contended with the chaotic results of various forms of Arianism, as well as other heresies, that ravished the minds of former Catholics for decades. He briefly became bishop of Constantinople in AD 380 in order to do so. (The capitol city of the eastern half of the Roman Empire was plagued by Arian clerics under the protection of an Arian Emperor and only recently freed as Gregory became patriarch of Constantinople.) Gregory then wielded his eloquence, giving a series of ‘orations’ or ‘sermons’ to re-establish Catholic orthodoxy in the hearts of his flock, who had wandered far from truth with no shepherd to guard their souls.

 

These orations were, in essence, an intimate explanation of the teachings of the Nicene Council, which had occurred in 325 not far from Constantinople for the express purpose of condemning the religiously false innovations of the Alexandrian priest, Arius (whence Arianism got its name). Eventually these sermons got around to the Sacrament of Baptism.

 

And what did Gregory have to say that relates to ‘baptism of desire’?

 

 A real doozy!

 

+++ 63. St. Gregory’s Doozy of a Quote +++

 

“But then, you say, is not God merciful [God is merciful, isn’t He?], and since He knows our thoughts and searches out [examines] our desires, will He not [won’t God] take the desire of Baptism instead of Baptism [in place of water baptism]? You are speaking in riddles [you’re talking nonsense], if what you mean is that because of God’s mercy the unenlightened [the unbaptized person] is [treated just like he’s] enlightened [baptized] in His [God’s] sight; and he [and that anyone] is within [belongs to] the kingdom of heaven who merely desires to attain to it [get into heaven], but refrains from doing that which pertains to the kingdom [but won’t do what he knows he’s supposed to do out of obedience in order to enter heaven, and hence get baptized in water]… [Gregory then mentions all kinds of people who fail to receive water baptism for various bad reasons.] …Others are not in a position to receive it [others can’t get baptized in water], perhaps on account of infancy [maybe because they’re still helpless babies and can’t do it on their own], or some perfectly involuntary circumstance through which they are prevented from receiving it, even if they wish [circumstances beyond their control keep them from getting water baptism, despite them truly wanting it]… They who altogether despise it [water baptism] are worse than they who neglect it through greed or carelessness. These are worse [those who neglect water baptism through greed or carelessness are worse] than they who have lost the Gift [water baptism] through ignorance or tyranny [those who fail to get baptized in water either because they don’t know about it or are prevented, by circumstances beyond their control, from receiving water baptism], for [because] tyranny is nothing but an involuntary error [if kept by circumstances beyond your control from getting water baptism, then the fault can’t possibly be yours]. And I think that the first [group, who despise water baptism altogether] will have to suffer punishment, [just] as [they will have to suffer punishment] for all their sins, so [also they will have to suffer punishment] for their contempt of baptism [those who altogether despise water baptism by purposefully neglecting it or refusing it are the worst of all and will suffer terrible torments in hell from God]; and that the second [group, who neglect water baptism because of greed or carelessness] will also have to suffer [punishment], but less, because it was not so much through wickedness as through folly that they wrought their failure [those who fail to get baptized in water out of greed or carelessness are also guilty, but will suffer less torment in hell than the first group who did so out of blatant rebellion against God]; and that the third [group, those who don’t get water baptism because they’re powerless to get it, and not because they consciously reject it or carelessly neglect it] will be neither glorified [in heaven] nor punished [by torments in hell for their lack of water baptism] by the righteous Judge [God Himself], as unsealed [not baptized in water] and yet not wicked, but [like] persons who have suffered [an evil] rather than [who have] done [something] wrong [those who fail to be baptized in water due to circumstances beyond their control will neither enter into the glory of heaven nor suffer torments in hell for their lack of water baptism since they, while not baptized in water and thus sentenced to an eternity in hell apart from the Beatific Vision of God, are not wholly wicked and rebellious, having failed to get water baptism through no fault of their own]… And I look upon it as well from another point of view. If you judge the murderously disposed man [a man filled with murderous feelings] by his will alone, apart from the act of murder [if you think the murderous man is as fully guilty for murder as is the man who simply feels murderous but doesn’t actually commit murder], then you may reckon as baptized him who desired baptism apart from the reception of baptism [even so, you could then call a man baptized in water just because he wants baptism and not because he actually gets baptized in water]. But if you cannot do the one [then] how can you do the other? I cannot see it [I don’t believe it’s possible]. Or, if you like, we will put it thus [we’ll put it this way]: [i]f desire in your opinion has equal power with actual baptism, then judge in the same way in regard to glory [then judge someone’s desire for heavenly glory in the same way], and [therefore] you may be content with longing for it [heavenly glory], as if that were itself glory [and hence you can be just as satisfied with longing for heaven as you would be with having heaven itself]. And what harm is done you by your not attaining [to] the actual glory, as long as you have the desire for it? [if desire for heavenly glory is equal to actually having heavenly glory, then what harm is there in not actually getting heavenly glory just so long as you have the desire for heavenly glory?]” (St. Gregory Nazianzen’s Orations, Book 40, Chapters 22 & 23. All emphasis & annotations added.)

 

+++ 64. The Huge Beam in the BOD Camp’s +++

Eye When It Comes to the Church Fathers & Doctors

 

These words from St. Gregory Nazianzen are a stumbling block for the BOD camp. Most of them have no idea that Gregory said what he said about water baptism. This is because most BODers are not learned about early Church history and get their belief about ‘baptism of desire’ from the catechism books that every Catholic in the United States was raised with before Vatican II since the early 20th century, a set of ideas every so-called ‘catholic’ in the world gets taught after Vatican II as if it were the absolute certain truth.

 

Yet even the few BOD enthusiasts who are familiar with St. Gregory Nazianzen --- if only barely --- are strangely blind to the enormous implications of his words. This blindness is not because they lack intellect; indeed, the most well-known traditionalist proponent of BOD in the last twenty-five years, Fr. François Laisney of the SSPX, is quite intelligent and highly trained. Rather, it’s because they are so wedded to the idea of ‘baptism of desire’ that they cannot see, or cannot stand to see, anything in logical opposition to their pet baptismal notion.

 

And so, ironically, these BOD partisans who are simply appalled at the general lack of knowledge amongst most WOers when it comes to Church fathers or doctors who upheld ‘baptism of desire’ (the speck in the eye of these ‘water only’ folks) are themselves completely ignorant about or utterly blinded toward a Church father who very soundly trounced the BOD teaching in the 4th century. And yet apart from BOB, which had gained traction by the 200s, the WO position --- the rather rare ‘baptism of blood’ thought to apply to martyrs being the only exception, of course --- was the firm stance of almost all Catholics during the AD 300s!

 

Is this not a huge beam in the eye of BODers, whose trust in so-called ‘desire’ for baptism, as it is known nowadays, did not even exist amongst Catholics in the earliest centuries of the Church?

 

+++ 65. Gregory Soundly Refutes BOD… and Despite +++

Only Aiming at Those Who Wrongfully Neglect Water Baptism

 

Yet clever and somewhat well-informed BOD supporters, however few they may be, have a standard rebuttal against St. Gregory’s words:

 

“Gregory was only aiming at catechumens who purposefully or carelessly neglect to get baptized in water,” they say. “He was never addressing BOD per se. He was admonishing these insincere catechumens for not getting baptized so that they could continue to sin and yet later have these sins wiped away via water baptism in order to go to Heaven. These bad catechumens claimed to ‘desire’ the Sacrament of Baptism and insisted --- in spite of the concerns of good Catholics all around them --- that they would get into Heaven regardless if they accidentally died without water baptism since they ‘desired’ it. This is not the correct and proper teaching of BOD. A travesty against the true religion is what it was. So how can Gregory’s words be used as ammunition against the ‘baptism of desire’ teaching?”

 

This is what they say. And some of what they claim is correct, which is why the argument can be convincing to someone who takes time to read through Gregory’s relevant orations carefully but is already doggedly determined to believe in BOD.

 

This, by the way, is partly why I gave such a long quote, including the words at the very beginning which reveal Gregory’s primary intent... an intent that had nothing to do, directly, with what we today call ‘baptism of desire’. I don’t want anyone able to wiggle out of the situation by accusing intelligent & learned WOers of ignoring what Gregory was trying to address. Most WO adherents are oblivious to this point, and hence guilty as charged --- albeit unintentionally. They honestly think Gregory was addressing our more recent version of ‘baptism of desire’ head on.

 

Not so the intelligent & learned WO adherent. Such a man realizes St. Gregory wasn’t trying to talk about BOD as we know it today. How could he, when no Catholic back then in the fourth century even knew that the idea of BOD --- as it is now understood since the time of Thomas Aquinas --- existed?

 

But that’s not the point. The real point is this:

 

Since at least the time of Thomas Aquinas, BOD enthusiasts have taught that a catechumen can have perfect contrition for his sins and, consequently, have total remission of all mortal iniquity (including the mortal iniquity of original sin that afflicts every human except for Jesus & Mary) which then merits him entrance into Heaven even before he receives the water of baptism.

 

Why?

 

Because this catechumen, through his perfect contrition and willingness to obey (i.e., to finish his training in the Catholic Faith and receive water baptism), has a good, acceptable and adequate ‘desire’ for the Sacrament of Baptism.

 

Nevertheless, is this ‘desire’ truly adequate for salvation like BOD enthusiasts insist?

 

According to St. Gregory Nazianzen, no!

 

For while Gregory didn’t address BOD head on, he did very soundly nix one of the key linchpins of the BOD notion --- namely, that a mere ‘desire’ for water baptism can be absolutely equivalent to (the same thing as) actual baptism in water when it comes to the opportunity to enter the Glory of Heaven. In other words, both ‘desire’ for the Sacrament of Baptism and the sacrament itself will let you be glorified in Heaven, per the BOD camp. The two different things are absolutely equivalent in their final eternal results, according to BODers.

 

Did Gregory Nazianzen see it that way, though?

 

“And I look upon it as well from another point of view. If you judge the murderously disposed man [a man filled with murderous feelings] by his will alone, apart from the act of murder [if you think the murderous man is as fully guilty for murder as is the man who simply feels murderous but doesn’t actually commit murder], then you may reckon as baptized him who desired baptism apart from the reception of baptism [even so, you could then call a man baptized just because he wants baptism and not because he actually gets baptized in water]. But if you cannot do the one [then] how can you do the other? I cannot see it [I don’t believe it’s possible]. Or, if you like, we will put it thus [we’ll put it this way]: [i]f desire in your opinion has equal power with actual baptism, then judge in the same way in regard to glory [then judge someone’s desire for heavenly glory in the same way], and [therefore] you may be content with longing for it [heavenly glory], as if that were itself glory [and hence you can be just as satisfied with longing for Heaven as you would be with having Heaven itself]. And what harm is done you by your not attaining [to] the actual glory, as long as you have the desire for it? [if desire for heavenly glory is equal to actually having heavenly glory, then what harm is there in not actually getting into Heaven and enjoying its glory, just so long as you have the desire for this heavenly glory?]” (St. Gregory Nazianzen’s Orations, Book 40, Chapter 23. All emphasis & annotations added.)

 

+++ 66. Gregory’s Coup de Grace Against BOD +++

 

It should be plain to the patient and intelligent reader that St. Gregory did not teach or uphold today’s notion of BOD. Which is, then, yet more hard evidence that BOD is not --- we repeat, not --- a teaching that goes back unbroken all the way to the first century with Jesus & His Twelve Apostles. Not to mention that Gregory’s opposition to BOD, coupled with the fact that a mere three Church fathers (at most, supposedly!) believed in the idea of ‘baptism of desire’, proves there is no unanimity amongst the Church fathers for BOD and hence no proof that the BOD teaching belongs to the ordinary infallible magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church.

 

Yet if the BOD aficionado is still not satisfied with our proof of Gregory’s unintentional but very real opposition to what we now call ‘baptism of desire’ --- and despite Gregory not trying to talk about BOD way back then in the AD 300s as we understand it today --- we here administer the coup de grace and logically force the intelligent & honest man to admit the truth:

 

“They who altogether despise it [water baptism] are worse than they who neglect it through greed or carelessness. These are worse [those who neglect water baptism through greed or carelessness are worse] than they who have lost the Gift [water baptism] through ignorance or tyranny [those who fail to get baptized in water either because they don’t know about it or are prevented, by circumstances beyond their control, from receiving water baptism], for [because] tyranny is nothing but an involuntary error [if kept by circumstances beyond your control from getting water baptism, then the fault can’t possibly be yours]. And I think that the first [group, who despise water baptism altogether] will have to suffer punishment, [just] as [they will have to suffer punishment] for all their sins, so [also they will have to suffer punishment] for their contempt of baptism [those who altogether despise water baptism by purposefully neglecting it or refusing it are the worst of all and will suffer terrible torments in hell from God]; and that the second [group, who neglect water baptism because of greed or carelessness] will also have to suffer [punishment], but less, because it was not so much through wickedness as through folly that they wrought their failure [those who fail to get baptized in water out of greed or carelessness are also guilty, but will suffer less torment in hell than the first group who did so out of blatant rebellion against God]; and that the third [group, those who don’t get water baptism because they’re powerless to get it, and not because they consciously reject it or carelessly neglect it] will be neither glorified [in heaven] nor punished [by torments in hell for their lack of water baptism] by the righteous Judge [God Himself], as unsealed [not baptized in water] and yet not wicked, but [like] persons who have suffered [an evil] rather than [who have] done [something] wrong [those who fail to be baptized in water due to circumstances beyond their control will neither enter into the glory of heaven nor suffer torments in hell for their lack of water baptism since they, while not baptized in water and thus sentenced to an eternity in hell apart from the Beatific Vision of God, are not wholly wicked and rebellious, having failed to get water baptism through no fault of their own]…” (St. Gregory Nazianzen’s Orations, Book 40, Chapter 23. Emphases & annotations added.)

 

Here Gregory exposits three different groups of people who fail to receive water baptism --- and even though they may be argued to have a ‘desire’ for it. First of all, those who know about the Sacrament of Baptism but purposefully refuse or neglect to receive it. Second, those who know about the Sacrament of Baptism but, because of the pleasures of this world, carelessly lose the chance to receive it. And, third, those who may, or may not, know about the Sacrament of Baptism, but, through no fault of their own, literally cannot receive it.

 

And what does Gregory teach about this third group, the ones who through no fault of their own literally cannot get the Sacrament of Baptism?

 

“…and that the third [group, those who don’t get water baptism because they’re powerless to get it, and not because they consciously reject it or carelessly neglect it] will be neither glorified [in heaven] nor punished [by torments in hell for their lack of water baptism] by the righteous Judge [God Himself], as unsealed [not baptized in water] and yet not wicked, but [like] persons who have suffered [an evil] rather than [who have] done [something] wrong [those who fail to be baptized in water due to circumstances beyond their control will neither enter into the glory of heaven nor suffer torments in hell for their lack of water baptism since they, while not baptized in water and thus sentenced to an eternity in hell apart from the Beatific Vision of God, are not wholly wicked and rebellious, having failed to get water baptism through no fault of their own]…” (Ibid.)

 

This is the beginning of the coup de grace thrust of St. Gregory’s words into the BOD belly.

 

For what does Gregory say? Does he tell us that these poor souls --- the ones who don’t get water baptism through no fault of their own --- are allowed to enter into the Glory of Heaven regardless of their lack of water baptism, if only they ‘desire’ it?

 

To the contrary!

 

“…the third [group, those who don’t get water baptism because they’re powerless to get it, and not because they consciously reject it or carelessly neglect it] will be neither glorified [in heaven] nor punished [by torments in hell for their lack of water baptism]…” (Ibid.)

 

They will not be “glorified”, teaches St. Gregory in his capacity as one of the greatest of Church fathers & doctors from the East. That is to say, they will not enter the Glory of Heaven without baptism in water… and even though it’s not their fault that they didn’t get water baptism to begin with.

 

Do you see why, my dear soul, Gregory is the most powerful evidence against BOD amongst the early Church fathers, clearly appearing to uphold the absolute necessity for baptism in water?

 

+++ 67. The Sword Thrust in Deep to the Hilts, Part 1 +++

 

Notwithstanding, the most stubborn or blind of BOD partisans are not finished. They have one last card to play in order to protect themselves against the obvious lack of support from Gregory Nazianzen for the idea of ‘baptism of desire’.

 

To wit, the ‘helpless infant’ card.

 

“Oh,” say they, “Gregory in that third group of people who fail to receive water baptism was only talking about babies. They can’t know about the Catholic Faith or the requirement for water baptism, hence they can’t even have BOD since they aren’t capable of knowing that they should desire or wish for the Sacrament of Baptism. This is exactly what Aquinas and the scholastic doctors teach, and thus agrees perfectly with the properly understood BOD position!”

 

This, indeed, is what Fr. François Laisney of the SSPX claims in his handling of the quote from St. Gregory, and how he very neatly dispenses with Gregory’s quite blatant opposition to the baptismal ‘desire’ stance.

 

Unanswerable?

 

Not at all.

 

Look at Gregory’s quote very, very carefully. As a matter of fact, first look at the words of Gregory right before the smaller quote we have just been focusing on, regarding the third group who, through no fault of their own, fail to receive the Sacrament of Baptism.

 

“Others are not in a position to receive it [others can’t get baptized in water], perhaps on account of infancy [maybe because they’re still helpless babies and can’t do it on their own], or some perfectly involuntary circumstance through which they are prevented from receiving it, even if they wish [circumstances beyond their control keep them from getting water baptism, despite them truly wanting it]…” (Ibid.)

 

Do you see?

 

Gregory makes a clear distinction --- in this third group who, through no fault of their own, fail to get water baptism --- between those who fail to get the Sacrament of Baptism because they are merely babies and those who fail to get the Sacrament of Baptism because of “…some perfectly involuntary circumstance through which they are prevented from receiving it, even if they wish…” (Ibid.)

 

We say again:

 

“…even if they wish…” (Ibid.)

 

In other words, that second distinct segment of poor souls within the third group are certainly not babies since they are, per Gregory’s teaching, fully capable of knowing to wish for the Sacrament of Baptism!

 

Consequently, they are grown up enough to have adequate minds.

 

+++ 68. The Sword Thrust in Deep to the Hilts, Part 2 +++

 

Yet need we more proof? Then look a little bit further on into Gregory’s larger quote.

 

“They who altogether despise it [water baptism] are worse than they who neglect it through greed or carelessness. These are worse [those who neglect water baptism through greed or carelessness are worse] than they who have lost the Gift [water baptism] through ignorance or tyranny [those who fail to get baptized in water either because they don’t know about it or are prevented, by circumstances beyond their control, from receiving water baptism], for [because] tyranny is nothing but an involuntary error [if kept by circumstances beyond your control from getting water baptism, then the fault can’t possibly be yours].” (Ibid.)

 

We repeat:

 

“…than they who have lost the Gift [water baptism] through ignorance or tyranny [those who fail to get baptized in water either because they don’t know about it or are prevented, by circumstances beyond their control, from receiving water baptism], for [because] tyranny is nothing but an involuntary error [if kept by circumstances beyond your control from getting water baptism, then the fault can’t possibly be yours].” (Ibid.)

 

Now babies are those who are ignorant; they can’t possibly know about the requirement for water baptism. Nonetheless, Gregory again makes a stark distinction between those in the third group who fail to receive the Sacrament of Baptism because they are helplessly ignorant about it, not knowing to receive it (meaning babies), and those who fail to receive the Sacrament of Baptism because they are helplessly tyrannized against it, knowing indeed to receive it but prevented against their will from being able to do so (meaning anyone who is not a baby).

 

Or, to put it yet another way, because, despite knowing about it and wishing for it, someone or something despotically stops them from getting the Sacrament of Baptism!

 

This is, for example, precisely what occurs if, say, a wicked parent prevents an older child from getting baptized in water or if, say, a wicked ruler prevents a sudden convert from having time to get baptized in water before he is slaughtered for the Catholic Religion. In either hypothetical case --- or in a similar situation --- the poor soul is tyrannized and doesn’t have a chance to follow through obediently on his very pious & holy wish to receive water baptism.

 

Case closed.

 

The sword is now thrust in deep to the hilts, and rather clever & learned… but not quite fully clear-minded or honest… BOD enthusiasts are shown to illogically duck the hard and irrefutable evidence that St. Gregory Nazianzen, while not meaning to oppose the notion of a ‘baptism of desire’ that did not even back then yet exist in people’s minds, nevertheless disposes of the notion in a rationally decisive fashion.

 

Because, again, what else did our renowned doctor and father of the Catholic Church in the East say in reference to this third group of poor souls, who through no fault of their own fail to receive the Sacrament of Baptism and some of whom are forced not to get it?

 

Does he tell us that they can enter into the Glory of Heaven through a mere ‘desire’ alone?

 

Does he try to teach us that they can attain to heavenly glory without the water of baptism?

 

Au contraire!

 

“…the third [group, those who don’t get water baptism because they’re powerless to get it, and not because they consciously reject it or carelessly neglect it] will be neither glorified [in heaven] nor punished [by torments in hell for their lack of water baptism]…” (Ibid.)

 

+++ 69. The Clear Implications of Gregory’s Teaching +++

for Souls Who, by No Fault of Their Own, Die Unbaptized

 

The testimony from St. Gregory Nazianzen is plain. He neither faults such poor souls --- who couldn’t help failing to receive water baptism --- as deserving of the torments of Hell for their lack of water baptism, nor exalts them as entirely guiltless of other sins and thus worthy of the reward of Heaven. Rather, he hints at what later became known as ‘limbo’. To wit, the outer part of Hell, where no torment for actual sin that you’ve committed occurs, but where poor souls are separated from the Beatific Vision of God forever due to the original sin into which they were conceived… and from which they never got cleansed by the sacramental water of baptism.

 

For mere babies without water baptism and with no actual sins on their souls (apart from the unavoidable original sin in which they were conceived, which is a state of mortal iniquity and hence damnable), limbo is the edge of Hell --- the Latin ‘limbus’ literally means ‘edge’ --- and they will reside there eternally with no torment yet no supernatural joy of seeing God, either.

 

For those who are not babies yet fail to get water baptism through no fault of their own, per St. Gregory, they will not enter Heaven because they don’t have the Sacrament of Baptism and still have original sin upon their souls. Yet it isn’t their fault, so they won’t be tormented for this lack of water baptism in Hell. And, while Gregory doesn’t go so far as to tell us this, the correct Catholic understanding of these poor souls’ fate is that  --- provided BOD is not real --- then they’ll suffer torments only for those sins that they actually commit during earthly life and for which they have no excuse not to have known better. Like, for instance, murder… which any person of sound mind knows inside himself is absolutely wrong, even if he isn’t Catholic.

 

+++ 70. A Warning to BOD Partisans Lest +++

They Try to Fall Back Upon the Council of Trent

 

At this point the BOD camp may be tempted to retreat to the Council of Trent.

 

“The Council of Trent clearly teaches that either the Sacrament of Baptism or a desire for water baptism is sufficient for justification and salvation!” they might say. “The fathers of the Tridentine Council were infallible; St. Gregory Nazianzen was not.”

 

Which is a curious thing to assert when clever & learned BODers are usually so eager, in support of ‘baptism of desire’, to tout the teachings of men like St. Augustine of Hippo (father and doctor of the Catholic Church) or Thomas Aquinas (greatest of all doctors of the Church) as practically definitive and absolutely authoritative. For, though we must be fair to them and admit that WO supporters will do almost the same thing by discounting the BOD teachings of Augustine or Aquinas as not infallible, how can BODers selectively tout Augustine & Aquinas as so very authoritative, whilst arbitrarily discounting Nazianzen as irrelevant or just plain wrong?

 

Are not all of them doctors of the Roman Catholic Church? Are not both Augustine and Nazianzen fathers of the Church as well?

 

But, of course, the real flaw in such a response from the BOD camp is their claim that Trent was ‘clear’ in its teaching that ‘baptism of desire’ is infallibly true. Because while Trent was without doubt infallible, it was most certainly not clear or explicit in its infallible teachings when it comes to the notion of BOD!

 

(Please review Chapters 3 to 22 in this book, Baptismal Confusion, my dear reader, if you are still confused or skeptical about this.)

 

Nor are we alone in this assertion. For the prominent 20th century German theologian, Dr. Ludwig Ott, concurs, calling BOD not ‘de fide’ but only ‘sententia fidei proxima’, while at the same time citing Trent as part of the proof of his imprimatured position. That is to say, he does not teach that BOD has been explicitly & solemnly defined by the Church as infallibly true, but only that it is a teaching that is proximate and near to the defined teachings of the Church, and that most theologians of his time (the 1950s) believed it to be a true teaching of the Church.

 

(Please review Chapter 59 in this book, Baptismal Confusion, if you are still mixed up or skeptical about this, my dear soul.)

 

The upshot?

 

A BOD partisan, to be wholly logical & honest about this matter, must admit that an intelligent & rational WOer is neither heretical nor foolish to take the position of ‘water only’ --- provided that the WO advocate does not dare to accuse the ‘BOD for catechumens’ stance of being heterodox and against the Catholic Faith.

 

It is not.

 

Just as the WO position is not heterodox and against Catholicism, either.

 

Both are acceptable teachings within the pale of orthodoxy at this point in time. And Gregory Nazianzen’s teaching in the matter is rock solid evidence of this. For how could he be both a father and doctor of the Church if he was teaching heresy by opposing the BOD stance, and how could it continue to be in his writings --- without being edited out or having the reader of his works warned that this doctrine is now condemned by the Church as heretical --- if Trent had only clearly & infallibly condemned the teaching of WO much, much later, in the AD 1500s?

 

It does not add up.

 

And so we see that ‘water only’ was actually the dominant understanding of most, if not all, Catholics during earliest centuries. Gregory Nazianzen is the plainest proof of this, as well as evidence that there was no unanimity of the early Church fathers upon this topic --- truly, that most fathers never even mentioned the subject, either not knowing about it or not thinking it worthwhile to address, as if it were one of the common and universal teachings of the Church from the very beginning with Christ and the Apostles.

 

Period.

 

+++ 71. A Quick Aside re Gregory & BOB +++

 

A last thought before we move on to the next exhibit.

 

Because there is at least one BOD enthusiast who claims that St. Gregory supported BOB. This may or may not be true. I have not yet found it in my own reading of his words. Nonetheless, there is nothing in my knowledge about the early history of the Church to think that it could certainly not be true. Rather, at least half of the early Church fathers believed in BOB.

 

Gregory very well could have been one of those Church fathers at some point during his life.

 

Notwithstanding, does this possible fact then destroy Gregory’s unintentional but powerful argument against the BOD position, as this BOD enthusiast seems to think?

 

The furthest thing from it.

 

BOB and BOD are two separate doctrines. They are only really similar in that both of them allow for a waterless remission of sins and consequent entrance into the Glory of Heaven. Beyond that, they are very dissimilar. BOB operates primarily in the external forum, while BOD operates primarily in the internal forum. Although, if the scholastic doctors are correct, BOD can be considered as ‘enfolded’ in BOB and a kind of lesser ‘subset’ of it, as it were, through the amount of charity operating in the heart of a catechumen who has died without water baptism.

 

(Dear soul, please review Chapter 28 of this book, Baptismal Confusion, if you are uncertain or skeptical about this distinction between BOB and BOD.)

 

Ergo, whether or not St. Gregory believed in BOB, it has very little relevance for his words about the Sacrament of Baptism in Book 40 of his Orations. A learned Catholic back then could believe in the one (BOB) without believing or even knowing about the other (BOD).

 

Therefore, Gregory’s unintentional yet powerful argument against BOD stands unscathed.

 

+++ 72. WO (Saintly) Exhibit No. 2: +++

St. Fulgentius of Ruspe

 

And so we arrive at St. Fulgentius of Ruspe.

 

Born in AD 468 and having reached the end of his life by 533, he was the bishop of the city of Ruspe in the province of Byzacene in north Africa. This, however, had not been the aim of his life at the beginning of his adulthood--- he had originally started out by being a very austere and  strict monk. Elected against his will to lead the diocese of Ruspe, he let up not one iota of his former austerity, eschewing all outward show of pomp or wealth or comfort.

 

He also, like Gregory Nazianzen prior to him, did theological battle with the Arian heretics, who tyrannized the Romanized part of Africa at the time. Too, he composed many works in writing, some of which we have today and some of which are no longer available to us. One that we still possess, though, is a marvelous discourse on the True Religion, given to a man named Peter who was going on pilgrimage to places in the East that had come under the control of schismatics.

 

And what did Fulgentius have to say about the Sacrament of Baptism in this book?

 

“Hold most firmly, and have absolutely no doubt, that, apart from those who are baptized in their blood for the name of Christ, no man shall receive eternal life, who has not been converted here below from his evils by penance and has not been freed by the sacrament of faith and penance, i.e., by Baptism.” (St. Fulgentius of Ruspe’s On the Faith, Chapter 38, Section 30. All emphasis & annotations added.)

 

Yet Fulgentius has more to say.

 

“From the moment when our Savior said: ‘Unless one is born again from water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter in the kingdom of God,’ no one can enter the kingdom of heaven nor receive eternal life without the sacrament of baptism, except those who, without baptism, shed their blood for Christ in the Catholic Church.” (St. Fulgentius of Ruspe’s On the Faith, Chapter 3, Section 41. Emphases & annotations added.)

 

+++ 73. BOB & BOD Blatantly Distinguished, and +++

Proof Again BOD Was Not Prevalent in the 1st Millennium

 

The vast majority of BOD partisans are not aware of St. Fulgentius’ words here, if, indeed, they’re even aware that he existed. This is because most people claiming to be Catholic --- whether BODers or WOers --- are not learned. They’ve never bothered to study the writings of long departed scholars, theologians, clergy, saints or doctors. And why should they? In normal circumstances, there would be little need and most people are not capable of such scholarly pursuit. As a result, their knowledge of the Catholic Faith is limited to the relatively simple teaching of priests, nuns, a catechism, some other book, webpages on the Internet, or etc.

 

However, the few persons in the BOD camp who are aware of Fulgentius, concerning the necessity of baptism, are nevertheless totally clueless about the blatant import of his words!

 

Why?

 

Again, it’s because the modern BOD aficionado is so convinced of his ‘baptism of desire’ stance that, confronted with hard & literal evidence only of an ancient Catholic’s support of ‘baptism of blood’, he then assumes --- out of thin air --- that the two waterless positions are so very similar as to be identical. Hence, in his mind, belief in BOB is belief in BOD, and thus a supposed ‘proof’ of this BOD. Not to mention that the scholastic doctors of the first half of the 2nd millennium (well over five hundred years after the life of St. Fulgentius around the turn of the 6th century) had a habit of ‘enfolding’ BOD into the notion of BOB, which is probably what makes the most intelligent & educated of these BODers think (if, indeed, they even ever do think about it consciously) that their conflation and equating of BOB with BOD is wholly justified by theology.

 

Period.

 

Nevertheless, prior to the scholastic doctors at the beginning of the second millennium, Catholic thinkers did not try to ‘enfold’ BOD into BOB. BOB was generally accepted by the latter half of the first millennium, while the idea of BOD was still a novelty and not yet known or accepted by everyone. Therefore, when Fulgentius speaks in the quotes above near the turn of the AD 500s, there is absolutely no literal mention at all of a so-called ‘baptism of desire’ and thus absolutely no possible hint of the merest thought, either, of ‘enfolding’ BOD into BOB without actually talking about BOD by name or via a precise description of ‘baptism of desire’.

 

We repeat:

 

There is absolutely no literal mention at all or even tiniest hint possible of a so-called ‘baptism of desire’ or ‘baptism of spirit’ in Fulgentius’ words as given in the quotes above. To the contrary, ‘baptism of blood is singled out and plainly touted by Fulgentius as the sole exception to water baptism!

 

For what does St. Fulgentius really & literally say?

 

He is very clear and teaches quite bluntly:

 

“…no one can enter the kingdom of heaven nor receive eternal life without the sacrament of baptism…” (Ibid.)

 

This statement appears non-negotiable. That is, it smacks of the language of absolutes. Left here, one could easily presume that Fulgentius was a ‘water only’ advocate.

 

But then he adds a proviso, doesn’t he? To wit:

 

“…except those who, without baptism, shed their blood for Christ in the Catholic Church.” (Ibid.)

 

St. Fulgentius is also very clear and teaches quite bluntly:

 

“Hold most firmly, and have absolutely no doubt, that… no man shall receive eternal life, who has… not been freed by the sacrament of faith and penance, i.e., by Baptism.” (Ibid.)

 

This statement is vividly non-negotiable and couched firmly in the language of absolutes. One would think, left here without any further clarification, that surely Fulgentius was a ‘water only’ purist.

 

But he adds a conditional clause, doesn’t he? Accordingly:

 

apart from those who are baptized in their blood for the name of Christ…” (Ibid.)

 

Point made and conclusion stark. There is a blatant distinction between BOB and BOD (or else why didn’t Fulgentius mention BOD literally by name or description?), and, here in these quotes just barely a century after BOD enthusiasts think that Ambrose and Augustine upheld the notion, it is evident that BOD was not a universal teaching (or else why didn’t Fulgentius, like Augustine a hundred or so years earlier, clearly describe ‘baptism of desire’ as an alternative to the sacramental water, in addition to BOB, when this would be the very place that a bishop & teacher of souls like him should do so, considering the absolutist language he uses?).

 

The import of Fulgentius’ words is inescapable.

 

Per him, the only exception to water baptism permitted is the shedding of blood for Christ in the Catholic Church.”

 

End of story.

 

+++ 74. Being in Christ’s Catholic Body +++

 

We take a moment to highlight something important, dear soul. For, in allowing for a single exception to the otherwise unbreakable necessity of water baptism, Fulgentius says, “…apart from those who are baptized in their blood for the name of Christ…” What’s more, this blood must be shed “for Christ in the Catholic Church.”

 

Which may be theologically imprecise by today’s technical standards amongst Catholic scholars --- because water baptism is the only thing that can place you visibly inside the Catholic Body of Jesus Christ, per these scholars (despite their belief in BOD, which cannot join you visibly to the Church) --- yet which very capably conveys the most orthodox teaching that he was trying to express. Namely, that martyrdom without the profession of Jesus’ Singular Catholic Religion whole & entire is useless, since it will never get you into Heaven.

 

As the Council of Florence pronounced infallibly:

 

“The most Holy Roman Catholic Church firmly believes, professes, and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews, heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal [heaven forever]; but that they will go into the eternal fire [hell neverending] which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her [the Catholic Church]; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.” (Pope Eugene IV’s Cantate domino in AD 1442. All emphasis and annotations added)

 

Consequently, the shedding of blood for Christ --- if not yet baptized into His Catholic Body --- must be done with the explicit aim of obeying the Catholic Church, if water baptism turns out to be impossible before you’re murdered for the Testimony of Jesus. Only this kind of martyrdom can be an exception to the otherwise absolute necessity of baptism in water, explains St. Fulgentius quite simply, allowing you to enter Heaven and live forever.

 

This infallible teaching is in opposition to the sentiment of purported ‘catholics’ during the last century or two, who cling to the idea of a practically universal application of ‘salvation-through-ignorance-and-sincerity’ for most of mankind.

 

Whereas in reality, after the Holy Ghost descended on Pentecost Sunday, no adult of sound mind enters Heaven without knowing that God exists, that He is Three Persons in One God, that one of these Divine Persons became a true man to redeem us from our mortal sin, and that this Incarnate God, Jesus Christ, taught and established the authority of His Roman Catholic Church, outside of which no one can hope to be saved.

 

Therefore, both BOB and an ‘implicit’ BOD are only real --- if indeed they are true at all --- inasmuch as they presuppose a man’s knowledgeable and thus explicit intent to obey what this Catholic Church teaches. Which means that a man must at least, if only implicitly, intend to be baptized in water just as Jesus through His Catholic Body commands.

 

(Please review Chapters 55 to 58 if you are still hazy on this, dear reader.)

 

+++ 75. Do Not Confuse an Explicit Intent to Obey +++

 With an Implicit ‘Desire’ for Baptism

 

Meanwhile, do not confuse an explicit intent to obey with the orthodox comprehension of an implicit ‘desire’ for baptism. The two things are not the same, nor have those who are doctrinally correct BODers ever believed that adults of sound mind can be saved through mere ignorance & sincerity apart from an actual knowledge of the True Faith.

 

If in danger of immediate death, a man must know about Christ & His Catholic Church. Not everything about them, or else no one far from the reach of Catholicism and without time to be catechized could hope to be saved aside from sudden & miraculous infusion of knowledge. But a man must know at least something solid about the Trinity and the Incarnation, and that Catholicism is the source of all teachings necessary for the salvation of our souls.

 

This same man, of sound adult mind, must also truly intend to believe and obey all that this divinely established Catholic Church commands. One of those commandments is to be baptized in water. Hence, a man of sound mind in danger of immediate death could know about the Trinity, Incarnation & Catholicism (however rudimentarily) and save his soul through BOB or BOD. Notwithstanding, it’s possible he might not know that water baptism is one of those commandments and so end up saving his soul with only an ‘implicit’ intent for baptism.

 

That is to say, if the teachings of BOB and BOD are true, and if the theological musings of the later scholastic doctors on this subject are correct.

 

These situations of adults with only rudimentary knowledge of the Catholic Faith but in danger of immediate death may be exceedingly rare. Yet a human soul is exceedingly valuable.

 

Which leads us to ask…

 

Can you see, dear reader, why this subject --- without perfectly explicit & clear infallible certainty in the matter --- is fraught with eternal peril?

 

+++ 76. WO (Theological) Exhibit No. 3: +++

Hugh of St. Victor

 

Now we consider the last of our exhibits in this series of Church fathers, doctors, saints and theologians. To wit, Hugh of St. Victor. Who was he?

 

Arguably, one of the most influential religious teachers of the 12th century in Catholic Europe, just prior to the peak of Scholasticism in the very next century with theologians like Ss. Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, and etc.

 

Living from AD 1096 to 1141, he was born in Germany (in a part of the country known as the Duchy of Saxony at the time) and spent the latter half of his life in France as an Augustinian monk at the monastery of St. Victor in Paris. By 1133 he became head of the school there.

 

Hugh’s great strength and fame, though, was his knowledge of the writings of St. Augustine --- so much so that he was sometimes called ‘another Augustine’. He was also a mystic. Indeed, his words on the subject while at the School of St. Victor became like a sort of ‘instruction manual’ for souls who climb the ladder of most holy mysticism, influencing Catholics for centuries.

 

What did he have to say about the notion of BOD?

 

“Some say that it is impossible that anyone should [could] have [Catholic] faith and charity and yet die without baptism [in water], for, as they say, God would not permit them to die without baptism. But, it seems to me, that since they are not counselors of God [since God doesn’t seek the opinions of others, not needing the advice of anyone before making a decision], it is [then] foolish and presumptuous for them to affirm this [it is not wise for people to teach this about the Sacrament of Baptism as if WO were certainly true].” (Hugh of St. Victor’s Summa Sententiarum, Book 5, Chapter 5. All emphasis & annotations added.)

 

+++ 77. The (Almost) Absolute Necessity of Water +++

Was Still Taught by at Least a Few During the AD 1100s

 

Clearly, Hugh of St. Victor was not sold on the idea of ‘water only’. The catch, however, is this:

 

For while the more learned & intelligent of BOD partisans may use Hugh as further ‘proof’ that their theological opinion was continuously believed in as a ‘complete certainty’ by every Catholic since most ancient times, Hugh’s words are actually evidence to the contrary!

 

Consider.

 

Hugh admits that “[s]ome say that it is impossible” for a good-willed catechumen to die without water baptism, God not permitting this atrocity to occur. Yet this is then rock hard proof at that point in time, during the first half of the twelfth century, that there were still Catholics who either did not know about or did not believe in the ‘baptism of desire’ opinion.

 

Period.

 

We cannot get around this, dear reader, and remain intellectually honest. Part of the problem with the BOD crowd is that they usually think the notion of ‘baptism of desire’ goes back to the very beginning with Christ & His Apostles. Everyone believed in BOD, they assume, from the earliest of centuries. Or, at least --- presume somewhat more knowledgeable BODers --- every leader & theologian since most ancient times has believed in the essential pith of BOD.

 

Yet we have seen that this is not true.

 

+++ 78. How BOD Spread in the Course of 1600 Years +++

 

Most ancient Church fathers and doctors never mention by name ‘baptism of desire’.

 

St. Cyprian of Carthage taught something like it in the third century, but only an attenuated version that uniquely applied to a few persons who had lived in the two hundred years before him and who he mistakenly thought were baptized ‘invalidly’ --- not something potentially ongoing for centuries on end and applicable to anyone prior to water baptism, like is taught now. Meanwhile, BODers claim St. Ambrose of Milan taught the idea, but this is uncertain. Those who say otherwise are already committed to BOD and probably haven’t studied Ambrose’s writings in some detail, as well as the historical circumstances in which he spoke. And whilst St. Augustine of Hippo clearly taught BOD (although bereft of all of the details added later on by the scholastic doctors) he apparently gave up on the notion before he died, his original justification for it having fallen through after closer inspection.

 

(Please go over Chapters 34 to 41 if you’ve lost sight of these details, dear soul.)

 

And that’s it.

 

I’ve never been able to find the merest hint of anyone else prominent in the first millennium Church explicitly breathing a word about it. Nor have I found a BOD enthusiast able to come up with further testimony in ancient days mentioning ‘baptism of desire’ explicitly and acting favorable to it. Rather, St. Gregory Nazianzen from the fourth century --- and while not explicitly addressing the subject as we know it today --- attacks the foundation upon which it stands, thoroughly discrediting the efficacy of ‘desire’ in our notion of ‘baptism of desire’.

 

Granted, the BOD camp then tries to turn to BOB, acting like this is similar enough to BOD to be the same thing… and thus ‘proof’ that ancient Catholics believed in it anyhow, although most of them never literally said so. Yet neither is this true. BOB and BOD are distinct. No one clearly & inarguably taught the latter notion, as we understand it now, until Augustine speculated in AD 400 about the matter. Then, and only then, did BOD begin to propagate, due to Augustine’s growing reputation as well as the time it took for his writings to spread during the first millennium.

 

St. Fulgentius of Ruspe, who wrote around AD 500, is evidence of this. One hundred years after Augustine’s support of BOD, would we not expect Fulgentius to say something explicit about the topic, if, indeed, he knew of ‘baptism of desire’ and thought it was true?

 

Of course he would have. The quotes we examined from him make it clear how strict he was about the necessity for water baptism. (Not to mention that only about half of the early Church fathers speak of BOB explicitly, in my studies thus far. Hence, BOB cannot be in the Ordinary Magisterium without unanimity of the Church fathers since this unanimity is the only way we have of knowing plainly --- ordinarily --- what was universally taught by the Church in earliest times.) And the only exception Fulgentius allowed for this urgent need for water baptism is ‘baptism of blood’. Ergo, if indeed Fulgentius knew about and believed in BOD, then why wouldn’t he explicitly mention it in these quotes, too, in addition to BOB?

 

Why only BOB and not BOD?

 

The answer is simple and logical:

 

Because he either didn’t know about BOD or didn’t believe in BOD.

 

BOD as we have known it didn’t start --- in a simple version of the more intricate form we have presently --- until Augustine first considered it a possibility at the start of the fifth century. From there it spread slowly till, by the beginning of the second millennium, many if not most Church leaders & theologians thought it true. And by the AD 1500s it had started to make its way into catechisms, being gradually taught to the laity as part of their normal formation in the Roman Catholic Faith. Whereupon, having reached more recent times, BOD consequently took on the aura of an unquestionable and universally taught ‘dogma’.

 

This is why, then, Hugh of St. Victor could encounter the ‘water only’ stance during the early twelfth century --- because it still existed in the minds of some Catholics at this point in Church history. Either a few theologians, clergy and religious were still clinging to the idea of a kind of WO, trumpeting it staunchly to others, or else some prominent laity were champions of the notion in opposition to BOD and did likewise. Or perhaps both.

 

Notwithstanding, by the early AD 1100s, the WO stance may not have been exactly identical to the WO stance taken today. Remember --- BOB was entrenched in people’s minds by the fifth century. At least half of the Church fathers spoke of it and believed in it during the first millennium. Consequently, by the end of this first millennium BOB was a foregone conclusion and seemingly nobody thought to gainsay it. Not so BOD. Hence, it’s very likely that the WO supporters which Hugh grappled with in the twelfth century were believers in ‘baptism of blood’… whereas WO folks during our contemporary era eschew both BOD and BOB.

 

Which may make it look a bit odd to call them WO believers. I mean, it’s not ‘water only’ if BOB is an exception to the sacramental water, is it?

 

Clearly.

 

Nevertheless, the quotes from Fulgentius we just read in Chapter 72 serve our purpose here. For how did he speak about the Sacrament of Baptism? As if it is almost an absolute necessity.

 

The only exception he literally and explicitly acknowledged was ‘baptism of blood’.

 

End of story.

 

This was the common understanding of Roman Catholic leaders & thinkers during that period of the Church’s history from the middle of the 1st millennium to the turn of the 2nd millennium. The need for water baptism was upheld quite staunchly and in no uncertain terms --- very different from us today. Recollect the example of the unbaptized catechumen in the AD 300s who died as recorded in the ancient biography of St. Martin of Tours, as we discovered in Chapter 31 of this book, Baptismal Confusion, and who Martin miraculously raised from the dead by his faith & prayers simply to save him from damnation via the regenerating waters of the Most Holy Sacrament of Baptism.

 

+++ 79. Further Evidence That BOD Was Still Not +++

Firmly Entrenched in the Minds of All Catholics

 

But need we further proof that BOD was not yet as firmly entrenched in the minds of Catholics during the AD 1100s as it became in later centuries?

 

Then examine the short quote from Hugh of St. Victor more closely. For he says, after informing us how some Catholics during the 12th century thought it impossible that God would let a catechumen die without water baptism:

 

“But, it seems to me, that since they are not counselors of God [since God doesn’t seek the opinions of others, not needing the advice of anyone before making a decision], it is [then] foolish and presumptuous for them to affirm this [it is not wise for people to teach ‘water only’ about the Sacrament of Baptism as if it were certainly true].” (Ibid.)

 

We reiterate:

 

“…it seems to me…”

 

In other words, Hugh does not say, “Christ commands us,” or, “The blessed apostles inform us,” or, “Our Holy Mother the Church instructs us,” or, “The fathers of the Church tell us,” or so forth and so on.

 

No. He merely asserts, “…it seems to me…”

 

To wit, Hugh does not pretend to put forth an authoritative & infallible teaching of Christ, His Apostles, the Catholic Church, the early Church fathers, or etc., when he opposes the ‘water only’ folks of his day.

 

He simply tells them, “…it seems to me…”

 

I.e., it was his theological opinion, based on his own personal reasoning as a theologian, which led him to this conclusion, not the solemn, apostolic or (as of yet) universal teaching --- if merely as a result of the opinion becoming very popular amongst Catholics, albeit only fallibly so and not yet explicitly defined by a pope --- of the One & Only Catholic Church.

 

We cannot get around this either, dear reader. If Hugh of St. Victor had better proof than his own personal reasoning for upholding BOD, then we could expect him to have used it, referring to his basis of authority for daring to say so, and we could expect BOD proponents to have broadcast it along with the quote above in Chapter 76 that the most learned of them already trumpet on their behalf, thinking it yet more powerful ammunition for their stance of baptismal aridity.

 

But they don’t. And this is because, as far as I can tell in my studies thus far, Hugh had no better evidence for the ‘baptism of desire’ position than what we’ve found in his quote --- namely, his own personal reasoning as summed up in the clause, “…it seems to me…”

 

+++ 80. Fascinating Speculation +++

(A Short Augustinian Detour)

 

Which leads us to some fascinating speculation. Because both he (Hugh) and St. Bernard of Clairvaux lived at the same time in the same country, the land of France. And, apparently, before Hugh ventured this theological opinion in favor of BOD and in opposition to the WO supporters of his day, he consulted with Bernard by letter to get his judgment in the matter.

 

We’ve even seen a snatch of Bernard’s reply to Hugh of St. Victor already, back in Chapter 38 where we considered the great Church doctor of the western Roman Empire, St. Augustine of Hippo, and what he had to say about BOD. We quote Bernard’s letter to Hugh again:

 

“We adduce only the opinions and words of the Fathers and not our own; for we are not wiser than our fathers… Believe me, it will be difficult to separate me from these two pillars, by which I refer to Augustine and Ambrose. I confess that with them I am either right or wrong in believing that people can be saved by faith alone [Bernard here means the common dogmas of the Roman Catholic Faith alone and not what many Protestant heretics mean by the phrase] and the desire to receive the sacrament, even if untimely death or some insuperable force keep them from fulfilling their pious desire.” (St. Bernard’s Letters, Letter 77, Paragraphs 1 & 8. All emphasis & annotation added.)

 

This letter from Bernard --- and perhaps others that I do not yet know about --- is, at a bare minimum, one thing that apparently helped convince Hugh that WO was a foolish opinion. Bernard even refers to Augustine in the quote just above. Which was right up Hugh’s alley, he being an expert on St. Augustine and an Augustinian monk. And this is where it gets fascinating…

 

For in studying Augustine minutely, Hugh would presumably have been able to find only one thing said in explicit favor of BOD (not BOB, which Augustine mentioned favorably several times). Leastwise, there is only one place so far in St. Augustine’s writings that I have found where he explicitly favors the idea of ‘baptism of desire’… and BODers seemingly can’t come up with anything more, or else I would have encountered it while examining their writings.

 

Yet in studying Augustine minutely, Hugh would also have been able to find where Augustine later on rescinds --- that is, rejects --- his argument from Sacred Scripture when he used the Good Thief to uphold his one single instance of explicit support for BOD. This happened toward the end of Augustine’s life (as recorded in public writing, at least), he wishing to correct any errors and mistakes he had made so as not to be guilty of misleading those who depended on him by their implicit trust in his teachings. This, then, would have suggested to Hugh that Augustine rejected, too, his former support for the theological opinion of ‘baptism of desire’.

 

And, lastly, in studying Augustine minutely, Hugh would probably have noted that Augustine never explicitly upheld BOD elsewhere in his writings, as well as seeing that Augustine seemed to get stricter and stricter about the necessity of water baptism as time went on. That is to say, Augustine explicitly upholds BOD in AD 400. Through the mid-420s, though, he mentions only BOB without mentioning BOD explicitly again. And, finally, as he nears the end of his life in the late 420s, he foregoes mention of both BOD and BOB altogether, stressing only the need for baptismal water all by itself.

 

(My dear soul, please review Chapters 38 to 41 in this book, Baptismal Confusion, if your memory is too foggy about these details regarding St. Augustine of Hippo.)

 

The upshot?

 

I would bet my bottom dollar that this is why Hugh doesn’t come straight out and say that the ‘water only’ stance is just plain wrong. To my knowledge, Hugh never said anything more about BOD than what we’ve read in the quote in Chapter 76. And he does not say that ‘water only’ is wrong --- merely that it is “foolish and presumptuous” to talk like WO is for sure.

 

This is in stark contrast to St. Bernard’s tone. If one reads the words of St. Bernard in favor of BOD whilst in opposition to the WO devotees, his position is much stronger. Bernard does not dare to assert his theological opinion as an infallible certainty, nevertheless, he does treat it as if it’s a moral certainty. Ergo, the idea of ‘water only’ must be wrong… very wrong.

 

Whereas Hugh says nothing of the sort. WO is not wrong for sure. It’s just that it’s foolish to pretend that it couldn’t be wrong, and to act like BOD is certainly mistaken, opines he. If I had to guess, I would assume that Hugh leaned quite heavily toward the BOD side, being surrounded with theological peers --- such as Bernard --- who already by the twelfth century were most of them in favor of the notion of ‘baptism of desire’… or ‘baptism of spirit’ as they called it back then. Notwithstanding, Hugh probably couldn’t help noticing, being an expert on Augustine’s writings, that Augustine upped BOD only once, upped BOB but not BOD later, rejected the scriptural argument in BOD’s favor afterward, and finished talking at the end of his life as though water baptism was the sole option, with neither BOB nor BOD mentioned again.

 

+++ 81. The Fulcrum Tips +++

 

What are we to conclude?

 

That the AD 1100s were part of a tipping point, a fulcrum for waterless regeneration.

 

Here we see in transition, as one generation of theologians bled into another, the opinion of ‘baptism of desire’ going from obscurity & uncertainty to popularity & sureness --- but not quite entire certainty, the knowledge of most Catholic’s understanding of the Sacrament of Baptism during ancient times still persisting in some quarters, and expert familiarity with Augustine’s writings still enough to make someone like Hugh pause before committing to BOD wholly.

 

The next century --- the period of the AD 1200s --- was a different story. Here the scholastic wave crested in its crowning achievement, the theological writings and thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. Here a few more generations of Church thinkers & leaders had elapsed, imbibing at the fount of a waterless baptism and growing used to the idea of justifying it through the Mercy of God allied with a perfect contrition in the catechumen. And once Aquinas ascended the throne of sainthood during the AD 1300s at his official canonization, the zenith of his reputation was reached by the AD 1400s. Henceforward, Catholic scholars & priests were taught Thomistic theology as an excellent certainty in almost every way.

 

This is what generations of Catholic priests & scholars were taught, in deed if not in word, along with a massive respect for the teachings of the scholastic doctors in general. And as this teaching disseminated into the instruction of lay Catholics in the last five centuries via the imprimatured texts of various catechisms, belief in ‘baptism of desire’ became so influential & pervasive that recent generations assume BOD is at least ‘proximate’ to dogma, many Catholics even thinking it ‘infallibly defined’ at the Council of Trent!

 

For who was to tell them otherwise when nearly everyone --- including many, if not most, leaders & theologians of the Church during the last few hundred years --- presume it to be true?

 

+++ 82. Another Brief Warning for the WO Crowd +++

 

WO adherents may be tempted to crow a little. For although the evidence from the saints & doctors is heavily on the ‘baptism of desire’ side, the BOD camp tends to make more of it than is warranted. Which is why I have gone out my way to point out the flaws in their BOD reasoning.

 

All the same, this is not, then, justification for WO adherents to act like their side has won!

 

Far from it.

 

Because the evidence is heavily on the side of ‘baptism of desire’ when it comes to the saints & doctors, especially in the last one thousand years. There is no way to duck this. And this is why an intelligent, reasonable, learned & honest WO proponent cannot act like his stance is either infallible or even morally certain:

 

For doing this would be to act unintelligent, unreasonable, unlearned, or dishonest.

 

(Again, this is an example of Catholic fundamentalism, about which you may read here.)

 

End of sentence.

 

Which is not to say that ‘water only’ doesn’t have some very powerful evidence on its side.

 

It does.

 

But it is to say that, when both sides have strong evidence for their opposing stances, only a perfectly explicit infallible ruling in the matter can resolve the conflict with finality.

 

+ + +

 

Part One of Baptismal Confusion (Chapters 1-32)

 

Part Two of Baptismal Confusion (Chapters 33-60)

 

Part Four of Baptismal Confusion (Chapters 83-105)

 

Part Five of Baptismal Confusion (Chapters 106-132)

 

Part Six of Baptismal Confusion (Chapters 133-169)

 

Part Seven of Baptismal Confusion (Chapters 170-186)

 

+ + +

 

Pilate’s query met:

www.TheEpistemologicWorks.com

 

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