+++ 133. Turning to Sacred Scripture +++
And so we turn to Sacred Scripture.
This is the final thing that we will look at, which both BODers and WOers try to use, acting like it ‘proves’ their side right without any reasonable doubts.
It is also the weakest of all the evidence for either side.
Notwithstanding, we don’t want to let anyone --- from whichever camp --- pretend that any of their arguments have not been adequately addressed and hence that they stand unvanquished, thereby pretending to be wholly ‘vindicated’ in their fallible opinion.
We therefore tackle this part of the controversy as well.
The situation is pretty simple. We can find neither position explicitly spoken of in the Bible (all of which was written prior to AD 110), in terms used only much later in theological history (especially after the year AD 1000). Nor can we find either position explicitly & thoroughly described in the Bible. Neither BOD nor WO is mentioned anywhere straight out and explicitly, or in a thoroughly descriptive fashion, in any verses of Sacred Scripture.
Howsoever, this does not discourage them.
BOD enthusiasts have often invoked scriptural passages that focus on charity or profession, but don’t happen to mention baptism. This, they think, ‘proves’ their waterless stance.
Meanwhile, WO aficionados love to focus on verses that talk about the need for baptism, without mentioning any exceptions. This, they assume, ‘proves’ their waterful stance.
In reality, though, neither side is indisputably ‘proven’ by these tactics. As St. Peter the First Pope observes, Sacred Scripture in “certain things” is “hard to be understood”. (2 Peter 3:16c DRC) And, as any humble & intelligent Catholic acknowledges, only the Church, exercising Her divinely given infallibility while speaking perfectly clearly & explicitly, can make us absolutely sure --- without any doubts possible --- of what these potentially difficult passages might mean.
134. BOD Scriptural Item No. 1:
+++ Confession Before Men (Matthew 10:32) +++
For instance, ‘baptism of desire’ enthusiasts often invoke Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.
“Every one therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32 DRC, emphasis added)
“Aha!” says the BOD camp. “Jesus doesn’t say anything here about baptism of water always being necessary. He only says you need to confess. That is to say, you only need to publicly profess the Catholic Faith and --- provided you really can’t get baptized before you die and that you have perfect contrition for your mortal sins --- God will take you into Heaven nonetheless as a Catholic in good standing. There you are. BOD. The Bible teaches it plainly!”
In reality, though, the Bible does not teach BOD here plainly.
Nowhere in this short verse does Jesus mention ‘baptism of desire’ or ‘baptism of spirit’ specifically by name. Hence, BOD advocates assume that ‘baptism of desire’ is what He is talking about.
What’s more, nowhere in this short verse does Jesus assure us, with explicit and exhaustive terminology, that nothing else other than ‘confession’ or ‘profession’ of the Catholic Faith is needed to save a man’s soul if he can’t get water baptism. Ergo, BOD partisans assume that this is what Jesus meant, no doubts possible in their minds and thus no caution on their part necessary in drawing a conclusion that could be mistaken, making absolutely, infallibly and explicitly certain that their waterless BOD interpretation is correct.
To the contrary, several verses elsewhere in the Bible --- some of them even recording words from Jesus’ lips --- speak of baptism in water as necessary in addition to the need for profession of the Catholic Faith. But more on this critical point later, as we go through other verses that either the ‘baptism of desire’ camp or the ‘water only’ crowd like to tout.
True, some early Church fathers cite Matthew 10:32 as support for ‘baptism of blood’.
Unfortunately for the BOD camp, not all early Church fathers asserted the BOB position, nor has BOB (or BOD, for that matter!) ever been upheld specifically by name or description in the Ten Commandments, Lord’s Prayer or Apostle’s Creed. Consequently, a Catholic is not required to believe in BOB as if it is infallibly true, being a common dogma of the Holy Church from the beginning. It would take universal --- or nearly universal --- assertion of a belief by the early Church fathers, or perfectly clear mention of this belief in the Ten Commandments, Lord’s Prayer or Apostle’s Creed, for such a belief to rest upon rock solid ground as infallibly & explicitly taught by Christ & His Apostles in the first century.
What’s more, adding insult to injury for the fervent BODer, we recall this crucial point:
For even if BOB was infallibly true from
universal testimony of all the Church fathers, this would still not mean that BOD is infallibly
true. The two different things, while closely related, are also very much distinct from each other. (Please
re-read Chapter 29 in this book should you remain hazy about this distinction,
my dear reader.) The scholastic doctors of the 2nd millennium
theologically enfolded BOD within BOB, that is true, but they did so only well after the fathers of the 1st
And, as if that were not enough, consider this…
BOD enthusiasts cite a verse like Matthew 10:32 because it happens to mention the need for profession of the Catholic Faith without also happening to mention the need for water baptism.
All the same, logically speaking, does the failure to mention a particular thing in a particular passage or speech then mean that the thing not mentioned is, therefore, certainly not important or certainly not necessary?
Anyone trained in the exercise of rigorous logic knows the answer to this query:
No. Just because something isn’t mentioned doesn’t conclusively prove, all by itself, that the thing not mentioned is either unimportant or unnecessary, or not absolutely needed.
End of sentence.
+++ 135. Protestants Do the Same Thing With +++
Their ‘Faith Alone’ Heresy
Indeed, this same logical ploy (or, rather, illogical ploy) of the BODers when it comes to Scripture and their theological opinion of ‘baptism of desire’ is exactly what Protestant heretics do with the Bible when trumpeting their false teaching of ‘faith alone’. Because the Protestant takes verses in the Bible that happen to mention the need for faith and then --- not seeing these particular verses mention a need for anything else, such as good works --- assumes, out of thin air, that Scripture ‘proves’ Protestant belief in ‘faith alone’ as an inarguably ‘biblical’ doctrine.
And even though the Bible nowhere in any of its verses says the word ‘alone’ in conjunction with the word ‘faith’.
And even though the Bible elsewhere in some of its verses says that there is a definite need for other things, too, in addition to faith --- such as good works.
Likewise ‘baptism of desire’. The Bible nowhere in any of its verses says the word ‘alone’ in conjunction with the words ‘desire for baptism’ or ‘confession’ or ‘profession’ or ‘perfect contrition’ or etc., etc. Meanwhile, the Bible does elsewhere in some of its verses say that there is a definite need for baptism, too, in addition to desire for baptism or confession or profession or perfect contrition.
Matthew 10:32 is circumstantial evidence for BOD.
Meaning, it is reasonable, at the present time, to interpret it as support for BOD, but that it can
be, equally as well, reasonable, at the present time, to interpret it as
something that does not support
BOD. There is no one --- and only one
--- interpretation that the context, grammar & words of this verse
logically demands us to adopt in opposition to all other interpretations.
Without both explicit and
infallible guidance from
Rather, how you interpret this verse depends on your theological opinion to start with.
Do you already believe in BOD, or are you inclined to believe in BOD?
Then Matthew 10:32 will look like pretty good evidence to you since you can easily interpret its words to mean what you already want them to mean, that BOD is true.
Or do you despise BOD, or are you inclined to be skeptical about BOD?
Then Matthew 10:32 will look flimsy and insignificant in your sight since you can easily interpret its words to mean what you already want them to mean, that WO is true.
It all depends on where you stand on the matter of BOD vs. WO to begin with.
136. BOD Scriptural Item No. 2:
+++ All You Need Is Love (John 14:21) +++
Yet BOD enthusiasts aren’t finished. They also like to invoke Jesus in the Gospel of John.
“And he that loveth [loves] me, shall be loved of my Father: and I will love him, and will manifest [reveal] myself to him.” (John 14:21c-d DRC, emphasis & annotations added)
“Aha!” crows the BOD enthusiast. “Jesus doesn’t say anything about an absolute need for baptism in water here. He only insists that you love Him. Hence, if you have perfect contrition for your mortal sins --- which is what a perfect love for Jesus accomplishes in your soul --- then, even if you can’t get water baptism for some reason, God will love you, will count all of your mortal sins as remitted, and will take you into Heaven when you die. That’s BOD. It’s clearly stated in the Bible!”
And yet it’s not clearly stated here in the Bible.
Again, nowhere in this short verse does Jesus mention ‘baptism of spirit’ or ‘baptism of desire’ specifically by name. Hence, BOD advocates assume that ‘baptism of desire’ is what He is talking about.
What’s more, nowhere in this short verse does Jesus assure us, with explicit and exhaustive terminology, that nothing else other than ‘love’ of Him or ‘perfect contrition’ for your sins is needed to save a man’s soul if he can’t get water baptism. Ergo, BOD partisans assume that this is what Jesus meant, no doubts possible in their minds and thus no caution on their part necessary in drawing a conclusion that could be mistaken, making absolutely, infallibly and explicitly certain that their waterless BOD interpretation is correct.
Ironically, Jesus’ words right before the quote above pose a puzzle for the BOD position.
“He that hath [has] my commandments, and keepeth them [keeps them, i.e., obeys them]; he it is that loveth me.” (John 14:21a-b DRC, emphasis & annotations added)
Ah… so a real love of Jesus involves an actual obedience to Jesus. That is to say, you can’t love Jesus if you don’t have and don’t obey --- keep --- His Commandments.
Indeed, just a little further on Jesus repeats this in a slightly different way:
“He that loveth me not, keepeth not my words.” (John 14:24a DRC, emphasis added)
Again the connection between loving Jesus and obeying His Commandments!
+++ 137. How Is ‘Desire’ Without Water ‘Love’ of Jesus +++
When Not Getting Baptized Fails to Obey His Command?
Jesus’ words here in this passage of Sacred Scripture make the BOD position a bit doubtful to those who take them at face value. I mean, Jesus directly equates love of Him with obedience to Him. Fail to have His Commandments, or fail to obey them even if you do have them, and you can’t really love Him. That’s the plain, obvious and simple gist of His words in John 14:21a-b.
And what is one of the things Jesus commands us in Sacred Scripture?
“And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: ‘All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye [all of you] all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe [obey] all things whatsoever [everything no matter what] I have commanded you: and behold [look] I am with you all days [all of the time], even to the consummation [end] of the world.’” (Matthew 28:18-20 DRC, emphasis & annotations added)
That’s right --- Jesus says everyone should be baptized. This is the first of “all things whatsoever” that He “commanded” us here at the end of St. Matthew’s Gospel, telling the leaders of His Ecclesial Body to do so for “all nations”.
And if water baptism is a commandment, then how can someone truly love Jesus when he doesn’t know this commandment or doesn’t obey it when he does know about it?
Don’t get me wrong, dear reader. I am not pretending that I am infallible and that these verses from Scripture must mean absolutely that BOD is ruled out. No, what I am saying is that there is more than one way to rationally interpret the verses that the BOD camp touts, and that their interpretation of some verses can seem to be, occasionally, at odds with the plain & simple interpretation of other verses in the Bible.
A really clever and learned BOD enthusiast can probably explain these puzzles away.
Fine. There’s just one problem.
Because whose interpretation of all of these verses is to be believed… and with absolute certainty?
Is it the ‘baptism of desire’ interpretation or the ‘water only’ interpretation?
That’s the real question.
And only a ruling from Holy Mother Church that is both explicit and infallible can solve this question with finality, giving Roman Catholics absolute certainty in the matter of ‘baptism of desire’… as opposed to espousing what is simply a strongly-held opinion on the topic.
Ergo, once more, we’re confronted with the realization that this verse in the Gospel of John is merely circumstantial evidence for BOD. At this point in time, you can reasonably interpret it to mean support for ‘baptism of desire’ or, at this point in time, you can just as reasonably interpret it to be a lack of such support for BOD. Neither the context, nor the grammar, nor the words of this brief verse demand all by themselves, logically speaking, that one --- and only one --- interpretation is the absolutely certain & correct interpretation for this verse.
To the contrary, it all depends on what you already think about BOD.
Then you will find a way to rationally interpret John 14:21 as support for it.
Then you will find a way to rationally interpret John 14:21 as evidence against it.
To top it off, the ancient Church fathers are silent about this verse in regards to BOD since BOD wasn’t even on their radar during the first millennium, with the exception of Ss. Cyprian (kind of), Ambrose (maybe) & Augustine (at first). And they do not, every one of them, teach about this verse in regards to BOB. So nothing they say about John 14:21 can truly guide us in the matter of properly understanding BOD with an infallible certainty that rests upon what was explicitly taught by Jesus & His Apostles back in the very first century.
Once again, it all depends on where you stand on BOD vs. WO to begin with.
138. BOD Scriptural Item No. 3:
+++ Circumcision of the Heart (Romans 2:29) +++
But BOD enthusiasts are not
finished. They invoke
“But he is a Jew, that is one inwardly; and the circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” (Romans 2:29 DRC, emphasis added)
the BOD partisan. “Circumcision was the counterpart, in Old Testament
times, of water baptism during New Testament times. And to be a Jew in Old
Testament times --- before Jesus ever came, ushering in the New Testament ---
meant to be a part of the Old Testament religion. Ergo,
And yet it’s not obviously stated here in the Bible.
Again, nowhere in this short verse does Paul mention ‘baptism of spirit’ or ‘baptism of desire’ specifically by name. Hence, BOD advocates assume that ‘baptism of desire’ is what he is talking about.
What’s more, nowhere in this short verse does Paul assure us, with explicit and exhaustive terminology, that nothing else other than ‘circumcision of the heart’ or ‘baptism of the spirit’ is needed to save a man’s soul if he can’t get water baptism. Ergo, BOD partisans assume that this is what Paul meant, no doubts possible in their minds and thus no caution on their part necessary in drawing a conclusion that could be mistaken, making absolutely, infallibly and explicitly certain that their waterless BOD interpretation is correct.
As a matter of fact, a little later in his letter to the Catholics of the Diocese of Rome, Paul seems to teach differently from what BODers conclude from Romans 2:29, the Apostle talking about baptism as if it really is necessary for a “newness of life” --- life forever --- and that it is not simply a matter of an inner ‘circumcision of the heart’:
“Know you not that all we, who are baptized in Christ Jesus, are baptized in his death? For we are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as [that just as] Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4 DRC, all emphasis & annotation added)
After all, does Paul here in these verses plainly mention anything about the condition of the heart, loving Jesus or professing the Catholic Faith?
Then why not conclude that baptism alone is important?
Yet we are not so foolish. One is not wise to take verses out of context from the Bible and then, ignoring all other passages that might say something in addition to what your preferred verses say --- or even appear to say something that is in contradiction to what your preferred verses seem to say --- pretend that these verses can only mean what you already prefer them to mean.
This is neither logical, nor intelligent, nor honest, nor just.
No, all we’re trying to do --- all that I am attempting to make you see, dear reader --- is that quoting a passage of Scripture out of context from the rest of Sacred Scripture cannot, all by itself, ‘prove’ with any kind of ‘absolute certainty’ the point that you’re trying to assert.
Ergo, other passages in the Bible have to be considered, too. And sometimes these other passages can add to what the first passage says, or even appear to conflict with it.
A wise person must be careful and humble in understanding Sacred Scripture. Infallible certainty of a passage cannot be presumed unless Holy Mother Church has spoken with explicit & infallible authority about that passage, whether ordinarily or extraordinarily, explaining it adequately and clearly so that no one, including the learned, can mistake its meaning.
Then, and only then, can a person act as if the meaning is absolutely certain.
Prior to the this kind of explicit & infallible assurance about a passage in the Bible, a wise Roman Catholic can have but a degree of fallible certainty about what particular scriptural words mean. A fallible certainty that can allow --- provided he is not explicitly contradicting what the Church teaches explicitly and infallibly --- yet another Catholic to interpret these scriptural words differently from that first Catholic. For if not infallible, either interpretation could be correct (even both at the same time!) or incorrect (ditto ‘both at the same time’ remark).
+++ 139. BOD Partisans Assume “Not in the +++
Letter” to Mean ‘Not in the Sacrament’
Which leads us to observe what St. Paul also says in another letter of the New Testament.
“Not by the works of justice, which we have done, but according to his mercy, he saved us, by the laver of regeneration, and renovation of the Holy Ghost…” (Titus 3:5 DRC, emphasis added)
Anyone who knows Catholicism --- and who knows an English vocabulary that has become a bit old-fashioned and forgotten by the start of the 21st century --- knows that the ancient phrase of “laver of regeneration” is a synonym for ‘water baptism’. Consequently, Paul is literally telling us in Titus 3:5 that baptism of water is very much a part of what very much saves a man who is truly Catholic, the other part of the equation being the “renovation of the Holy Ghost…”
To wit, when a person rightly receives the Sacrament of Baptism, he is baptized both by water and by the Holy Spirit, the two things together making it possible for the person to be saved!
End of sentence.
Knowing this, what then is potentially wrong with the BOD interpretation of Romans 2:29? And what would the WO interpretation of Romans 2:29 be… and why is this WO interpretation both rational and, very possibly, the correct one in opposition to the BOD interpretation?
Let us remind ourselves of the verse in dispute. We read:
“But he is a Jew, that is one inwardly; and the circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” (Romans 2:29 DRC, emphasis added)
And again, what is the potential problem with the BODers’ interpretation?
That is to say, they assume that a person could be Catholic --- and thus somehow belong to Jesus’ One & Only Body, the Catholic Church --- without the sacramental water of baptism since God via Paul in the Bible seems to say a person could be Jewish without the rite of circumcision.
God during the Old Testament --- before Christ sacrificed Himself upon the Cross --- did not require visible membership in His Church in order to be justified in His Sight and hence saved from the fires of Hell.
God did not during Old Testament times, prior to Jesus’ Sacrifice upon the Cross, require the human race to be a visible part of His Holy People in order to save their immortal souls.
As a consequence, extensive evangelization and massive conversion of non-Jewish persons all across the world was never a part of the Old Testament Church. Which is not to say that evangelization or conversion of non-Jewish persons to the Old Testament Church never occurred, simply that it was never an extensive effort and there were thus never massive conversions prior to the coming of Christ and His Death & Resurrection.
Why is this?
What was the
To perfect and prepare a unique & holy people for the coming of their Messias… i.e., Jesus Christ, Whose Body --- the Roman Catholic Church --- is indeed God’s Sole Means of Salvation for the precious soul of every human being during the New Testament!
+++ 140. Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifices +++
This changes everything.
For realizing what we have just seen in the chapter above, how can we facilely assume that it is irrefutable ‘proof’ of the ‘baptism of desire’ position?
But if not irrefutable ‘proof’ of this theological opinion, then what in the world was St. Paul saying in Romans 2:29, if not upping the idea of BOD?
He was pointing out that an ethnic Jew couldn’t save himself merely by being born Jewish.
And he did so by way of pointing out that even non-Jews, who didn’t have the Old Testament Religion with all of its rites & ceremonies, could, nevertheless, be holy in God’s Sight if they followed the natural law written on their hearts and avoided mortal sin. (Romans 2:15)
That is to say, if they refrained from believing in false religions and worshipping false gods, if they honored their parents and obeyed their rightful authorities, if they did not murder, did not commit adultery, did not steal, did not bear false testimony against another, and did not covet that which should not be coveted.
Such people may not have known that the Old Testament Church was instituted by God upon the earth, nor did God require them to know this… but they could know, and God required them to know, using their adequate minds and being humble of spirit and genuinely eager to do good, that various manmade religions were false and that they must follow the natural law that He through His Holy Spirit impressed upon their hearts as obvious, needful, and morally right.
This much they could know and do, even without the full religion of Old Testament times.
What’s more, St. Paul was saying what is said elsewhere in Sacred Scripture --- that God is not impressed by people who call themselves by His Name and yet do not care to obey His Commandments. In short, “obedience is better than sacrifices…” (1 Kings 15:22c DRC)
Call yourself Catholic? Think just being Catholic will save you?
Well, certainly, during the New Testament era, a man cannot save his soul visibly outside the Sanctuary of the Roman Catholic Church. Yet does this mean that every member of the Catholic Church will get into Heaven?
Not a chance.
A Roman Catholic person must also obey God’s Commandments, refraining from the willful commission of what he should know is a deadly mortal sin.
Again --- obedience is better than sacrifices.
Ergo, can such a bad & mortally sinful Catholic please God by coming forward at Holy Mass to the altar rail to receive the Sacrifice of the Blessed Sacrament while in the state of mortal sin?
Because obedience is better than sacrifices.
+++ 141. The Difference Between the Old Testament +++
and the New Testament When It Comes to Salvation
Now, during New Testament times, God has poured out His Graces & Mercies upon the whole human race in an extraordinary fashion. No one of adequate mind is therefore now with decent excuse if he doesn’t become Roman Catholic before he dies and so save his immortal soul.
That is to say, God will make sure, one way or another, that a truly good-willed person who is determined to do what is right --- to do what his Creator commands --- will find the Roman Catholic Religion before he dies.
But during the Old Testament?
That’s a different story.
Likewise the non-Jew in mirror contrast.
If the non-Jew obeyed the natural law written on his heart (Romans 2:15) --- refraining from believing and worshipping in false religions, honoring his parents and any rightful authority, not adulterous, not stealing, and etc. --- then God would count his obedience as Jewishness. I.e., God would consider this non-Jew to be a spiritual child of Abraham, the ancient friend of God.
Such a man, while not
ethnically Jewish or a visible member of the
This is what the Apostle Paul meant by “…circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” (Romans 2:29b-c DRC, emphasis added)
Because God sees the heart.
He knows the intentions and motives of human beings. And while such non-Jewish people may have superficially looked, from afar, to Jewish members of the Old Testament Church like they were only pagans, sinners and worshippers of false gods, God --- Who knows the secrets of men’s hearts --- could see which of them were actually His, not consenting to the worship of false gods in false religions, striving to do His Holy Will, obeying the natural law that was written upon their hearts.
Now it is different.
Now we have the New Testament, the final fullness of God’s Roman Catholic Testimony on the earth. And to whom much is given, much is required. (Luke 12:48) For while the scripture just cited, Luke 12:48, explicitly refers to the person who has greater knowledge of God’s Commandments, the principle in this verse is nevertheless applicable to people who don’t know the Roman Catholic Faith since the Holy Spirit now convicts the hearts of people everywhere on earth, after the Day of Pentecost, that there is indeed a One True Religion that their Creator requires them to actually find, know and profess in order to actually save their immortal souls.
Or, to put it another way, the good-willed man before Christ could follow the natural law and please God adequately enough to save his soul. Whereas now, during the New Testament after Christ, God has so richly bestowed His Graces upon the earth that no man of adequate mind, who is of truly sincere and unmistakably good will, could possibly fail to find the sole means of his own salvation, since Almighty God --- Who knows everything and plumbs the hidden depths of a man’s motives or thoughts --- will make sure that he gets the explicit testimony of the Roman Catholic Faith, whether by angelic messenger or human effort or both.
(Please review Chapters 55, 56, 128 & 129, my dear reader, to see theological proof of the absolute necessity of visible profession of the Catholic Faith in order for a man of sound mind to save his soul. Contrary to what modernists assume --- even those who look ‘traditional’ and dare to call themselves ‘catholic’ --- the scholastic doctors of old did not uphold a modern & twisted notion of an ‘implicit’ desire for baptism, saying that a man of sound mind can save his soul without an explicit knowledge of, and actual resolution to obey, the Roman Catholic Faith. Not to mention Sacred Scripture in Acts 10 where St. Cornelius, despite having no chance, humanly speaking, to hear of Catholicism, first receives an angelic messenger telling him where to go and who to talk to, and then encounters a human messenger (St. Peter himself!) in order to hear the testimony of the Catholic Religion and thereby obtain the sole means to save his precious and immortal soul. In other words, even Sacred Scripture, during the New Testament, shows that some real form of explicit knowledge of the Catholic Faith is necessary for salvation!)
At any rate, no real Catholic is duty-bound to interpret Romans 2:29 like a ‘baptism of desire’ adherent does. It once again comes down to what you already believe to start with.
Then you will find a way to rationally interpret Romans 2:29 as support for it.
Then you will find a way to rationally interpret Romans 2:29 as evidence against it.
Such is the story of ‘baptism of desire’, especially in the last seventy years since the dispute between BOD and WO, in its present form, first arose in earnest.
142. All Aboard!
+++ Mark 16:16 and the Trans-Gospel Express +++
And so we come to our fourth and last example of scriptural passages used in support of the BOD position. Not that this exhausts the verses that BODers put forth; there are several others the BOD camp likes to cite, too. But it rounds things out, and the BOD arguments from Scripture tend to revolve around certain fixed themes and ideas with these verses used most often. Hence, these four examples are sufficient for the purpose at hand, which is to show how tenuous is the basis for BOD in Sacred Scripture.
Curiously, I have not found this fourth example used in recent times. It is, in fact --- as far as I can tell in my studies thus far --- cited only once on behalf of ‘baptism of desire’ some nine hundred years ago. Probably there’s another citation somewhere, but I haven’t found it.
Why, then, do I bother with it?
First the passage itself:
“And he [Jesus] said to them: ‘Go ye [all of you] into the whole world and preach the gospel [the Catholic Faith] to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall he condemned.’” (Mark 16:15-16 DRC, emphasis & annotations added)
The attentive reader will remember how we cited St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s letter to Hugh of St. Victor back in Chapters 38, 39 & 80. We have not yet, however, quoted all of his letter... only part of it. So what part of Bernard’s letter might we have left out that is relevant here?
The part where he uses Mark 16:16 as support for BOD!
“Notice also that, when the Savior said ‘whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,’ He cautiously and alertly did not repeat the phrase ‘who was not baptized,’ but only ‘whoever does not believe will be condemned.’ [Mark 16:16] This intimated [implied] that sometimes faith alone [a catechumen professing the Catholic Faith alone without receiving the sacramental water of baptism before he dies, not the heresy of ‘faith alone’ where people think they can get into Heaven without any good works… St. Bernard was most definitely not a Protestant heretic way back in the 1100s, some 300 to 400 years prior to the start of Protestantism in the 1500s!] would suffice for salvation, and that without it, nothing would be sufficient.” (St. Bernard’s Letters, Letter 77, Paragraph 9. All emphasis & annotations added.)
We repeat the most pertinent part of the quote above from Bernard’s letter:
“This intimated [implied] that sometimes faith alone would suffice for salvation, and that without it, nothing would be sufficient.” (Ibid.)
There you have it. St. Bernard very plainly teaches that the sacramental water of baptism is not always necessary for the salvation of a soul, that sometimes a person can have Catholic Faith without having received the water of baptism before he dies and yet still go to Heaven.
A ‘baptism of desire’ position that not every Catholic shares, based on Mark 16:16. As a matter of fact, based on Mark 16:16, a learned Catholic can even take the exact opposite stance --- the position of ‘water only’! But more on that in a few chapters when we will see how WOers use Sacred Scripture, trying to outdo BODers in finding biblical evidence for their side.
What, then, is the value of Mark 16:16 to the argument between BOD and WO?
We’ll address that query in a moment. First, though, a more basic question:
Because what is the value of Mark 16:16 to the Roman Catholic Religion?
And the answer:
Mark 16:16 is like an express train, piercing through all of the details and putting the Catholic Gospel of Jesus Christ as simply as possible. Anyone of sound mind can understand it. Even a child can grasp it.
Which is why I bother with this verse. For how can a man save his soul?
By believing in Christ’s Roman Catholic Mind (His One & Only Catholic Faith) and being baptized into His Roman Catholic Body (His One & Only Catholic Church).
That’s how. Belief and baptism… it’s that simple. More complex in all of its details, but, in a nutshell, these two crucial things are how we save our souls. Like two peas in a pod, they inextricably go together… and Jesus’ words in Mark 16:16 show this plainly.
+++ 143. Why Mark 16:16 Might Be Evidence for BOD +++
Yet does Mark 16:16 uphold the case for BOD?
St. Bernard of Clairvaux thought so. This is because, after Jesus mentions the necessity of both belief and baptism for salvation in the first part of Mark 16:16, He then goes on to talk about, in the last part of the verse, belief all by itself as causing a man to escape damnation, without mentioning baptism again. Ergo, thought St. Bernard, belief must be more important than baptism… which is mentioned only once.
Yes --- if you have no other rational explanation for why Jesus mentioned baptism only once while mentioning belief twice, the second time all by itself without reference to baptism.
And yes again --- if you think St. Bernard is infallible in his writings and could never be wrong about his theological opinions, or if you think the fact that St. Bernard is both a canonized saint and an official doctor of the Catholic Church makes it practically impossible, or at least impious, to argue logically, factually & respectfully against one of his opinions.
But unassailable and beyond doubt?
No --- because saints, even doctors, are not infallible (remember St. Bernard’s very mistaken opinion about the Blessed Virgin Mary not having been free of stain from original sin from the very start and thus immaculate at Her Conception!), and there is another rational & orthodox explanation for why Jesus mentioned baptism only once and belief twice in Mark 16:16.
Nevertheless, St. Bernard’s touting of Mark 16:16 as evidence for BOD makes sense. Why?
Because neither Jesus nor anyone else in Sacred Scripture says, with perfectly explicit language, that a back-up option like ‘baptism of desire’ is not possible.
End of sentence.
Meanwhile, let us note a curious thing. As I said before, I have not found anyone other than St. Bernard of Clairvaux who touts Mark 16:16 in support of BOD. Certainly there seems to be little or no use of this verse by BODers in recent times. To the contrary, BOD aficionados of the past century or two love to focus, more than anything else, on the three verses I listed prior to grappling with Mark 16:16 --- to wit, Matthew 10:32, John 14:21 and Romans 2:29.
Which again tells us something critical about this topic.
Namely, that there is no unbroken tradition about ‘baptism of desire’ going all the way back to Jesus & His Apostles. Specifically in the case of Sacred Scripture, that there is no unbroken tradition of certain verses, and only these particular verses, being cited and interpreted as meaning indubitable support for the BOD teaching.
To the contrary, various
believers in BOD at various places and various times have used various
justifications for their belief. For instance,
This, by the way --- and ironically so --- is in contrast to the ‘water only’ camp, which can, at least, cite one verse that appears to support their WO stance and has been cited constantly since earliest times as a scriptural proof for water baptism’s crucial necessity.
But more on that in the very next chapter.
The point is, there is no unanimity or continuity about BOD when it comes to Sacred Scripture over the past two thousand years. Rather, it is the personal & independent thoughts of various men in various places throughout the various centuries which causes them to cite various verses that they, personally, claim upholds the notion of ‘baptism of desire’. And while many of these men might be preeminent --- lots of them even saints and doctors of the Church during the past millennium --- they are not, any of them, popes capable of promulgating or condemning a teaching infallibly.
Hence, whatever their greatness of sanctity or knowledge, their opinion about BOD is still only that… just an opinion that they personally came up with on their own, or that they, personally, decided to adopt as their own opinion, too, under the influence of a BOD-believing teacher.
Consequently, no real Catholic is duty-bound to interpret Mark 16:16 like a ‘baptism of desire’ adherent does. It once again comes down to what you already believe to start with.
Enchanted with BOD?
Then you will fixate on a way to rationally interpret Mark 16:16 as support for it.
Disdainful of BOD?
Then you will fixate on a way to rationally interpret Mark 16:16 as evidence against it.
End of story… or so it would seem.
In reality, though, the Mark 16:16 Trans-Gospel Express will soon return headed in the opposite direction and shed a great deal of light on this surprisingly murky subject!
144. WO Scriptural Item No. 1:
+++ Born of Water and the Spirit (John 3:5) +++
And so we turn to the ‘water only’ camp.
What have they to say for their side when it comes to Sacred Scripture?
Not as much as the ‘baptism of desire’ side, but this is probably because WOers have not been around as long --- in their current form --- as BODers have. That is to say, BOD has dominated the thinking of Catholic theologians, leaders and laypersons for the past 800 years or so. Only since the 1940s has the contrary opinion of WO arose again and began to dominate the thinking of those few who are still truly Catholic after the Vatican II Council of the 1960s heralded the Great Apostasy and a rebellion against everything Catholic that we live through right now.
Yet what have they to say?
Let us dive into the WOers’ first exhibit.
‘Amen, amen, I say to thee [you], unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the
“Aha!” crows the
WO purist. “Jesus says nothing about ‘baptism of desire’ as
an option. He only says you need to be born of water and the Spirit, the latter
--- spiritual baptism --- automatically occurring in conjunction with the
former, which is water baptism. This is the one single way someone enters the
And yet it’s not plainly stated here in the Bible.
Nowhere in this short verse does Jesus mention ‘baptism of spirit’ or ‘baptism of desire’ specifically by name. Hence, WO advocates assume that ‘baptism of desire’ is something that He’s referring to --- if only indirectly --- and thus forbidding the notion of BOD by what He directly says regarding the Sacrament of Baptism and its necessity.
What’s more, nowhere in this short verse does Jesus assure us, with explicit and exhaustive terminology, that the sacramental water of baptism is always crucial for salvation without any exception. Ergo, WO partisans assume that this is what Jesus meant, no doubts possible in their minds and thus no caution on their part necessary in drawing a conclusion that could be mistaken, making absolutely, infallibly and explicitly certain that their waterful WO interpretation is correct.
Indeed, WOers overlook a parallel wording from elsewhere in Sacred Scripture that is most revealing in our situation. To wit, Jesus’ statement concerning the Holy Eucharist.
“Amen, amen, I say unto you: except [unless] you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you shall not have [eternal] life in you.” (John 6:54 DRC, all emphasis & annotations added)
Pretty simple, my dear reader. If you’re truly Catholic --- or at least partly Catholic and calling yourself Catholic --- then you know the Eucharist is literally Jesus’ Flesh & Blood under the appearance of bread & wine. Hence, in this verse, it is clear that Jesus is telling us a person cannot enter into Heaven if he doesn’t first eat the heavenly bread of the Eucharist.
Now, a question for you:
Does God refuse to let a man, professing the Catholic Faith whole & entire, into Heaven who dies before he can eat the Eucharist but just after he has been baptized in water?
The answer is plain:
No. The Catholic Church has never taught this interpretation of John 6:54, and has always assured Her members that a newly baptized human being, who professes the Catholic Faith whole & entire and who dies right away in the state of grace, immediately enters Heaven were that person to die prior to being able to receive the Holy Eucharist, yet only after receiving the sacramental waters of Holy Baptism.
And why would this be?
Because there can be exceptions to the stated rule.
In other words, it is not always possible or convenient to state things fully and exhaustively. As we saw back in Chapters 14 & 15 of this book, something can be stated simply in order not to get too complicated or take too much time, and yet not explain --- or be intended to explain --- this something completely, listing all possible exceptions to what has just been said, or, to the contrary, ruling out all possible loopholes and making it clear that this is absolute.
Consequently, the conclusion is stark. If Jesus in John 6:54 can simply state the necessity of eating the Eucharist without mentioning the relatively rare exception of a baptized man dying before he can partake of the Eucharist while still going to Heaven, then why can’t the same interpretation be applicable to Jesus’ equally simple statement regarding the necessity of receiving the sacramental waters of Baptism in John 3:5 without mentioning an individual who, while trying to become Roman Catholic, dies accidentally before he gets baptized in water yet still goes to Heaven in the end?
Do you see?
+++ 145. St. Thomas Aquinas Made This Very Argument +++
As a matter of fact, St. Thomas Aquinas made this very argument.
That is to say, this scholastic teacher --- who many consider to be the greatest of all doctors & theologians in the Church --- paralleled the Eucharist with Baptism and invoked BOD to explain the degree of necessity that the Blessed Sacrament holds for a man’s salvation. For he posed the question:
“Whether the Eucharist is necessary for salvation?”
And the Angelic Doctor answered:
“In this sacrament, two things have to be considered, namely, the sacrament itself [what the Eucharist appears to be in our visible world] and the reality contained in it [what the Eucharist actually is from a spiritual and invisible point of view]. Now it was stated above that the reality of the [Eucharistic] sacrament is the unity of the Mystical Body [being literally, albeit invisibly, the normal way a person continues to be joined with and alive within Christ’s Roman Catholic Body after his baptism by eating His Body’s Eucharistic Flesh], without which there can be no salvation; for there is no entering into salvation outside the Church, just as in the time of the deluge there was none [no one alive] outside the Ark, which signified [the Ark metaphorically represented] the Church, according to 1 Peter 3:20-21. And it has been said above [see Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, Book 3, Question 68, Article 2, from which a quote can be found back in Chapter 42 of this book, Baptismal Confusion], that before receiving a sacrament, the reality of the sacrament can be had through the very desire [vow or intent] of receiving the sacrament. Accordingly, before the actual reception of this sacrament [the Eucharist], a man can obtain salvation through the desire of receiving it, just as he can obtain it before baptism through the desire of baptism, as stated above. [Ibid.]
“Yet there is a difference in two respects. First of all, because baptism is the beginning of the spiritual life, and [hence] the door of the sacraments [the way a man is allowed to receive the other sacraments by being made a part of the Body of Christ, His Church], whereas the Eucharist is, as it were, the consummation [fulfillment] of the spiritual life, and the end [goal] of all the sacraments, as was observed above: for by the hallowings [making someone holy] of all the sacraments, preparation is made for receiving or consecrating the Eucharist. Consequently, the reception of baptism is necessary for starting the spiritual life [the life of grace and being headed for Heaven], while the receiving of the Eucharist is requisite for its consummation [eating the Eucharist is necessary to make this spiritual life of grace fully realized in a Catholic person first here on earth and then later in Heaven], [but] not for its simple possession; it is sufficient to have it in desire [literally Thomas Aquinas’ words are “in voto” in his original Latin text --- the very Latin word we’ve looked at so closely when considering the rather sloppy term of ‘baptism of desire’ in English, see Chapter 6 to review this fact --- which means he’s saying that a vow or intent to consume the Eucharist is enough, in God’s Sight, to let that person enter into Heaven and so fulfill his spiritual life], [just] as an end [a goal] is possessed in desire and intention [that is to say, this goal can be had, in a very real yet invisible & supernatural way, through a desire and intention to receive the Holy Eucharist].
“Another difference is because, by baptism, a man is ordained to the Eucharist [God through baptism makes a person worthy to eat the Eucharist], and therefore from the fact of children being baptized, they are destined by the Church to the Eucharist; and just as they believe through the Church’s faith, so they desire the Eucharist through the Church’s intention, and as a result, receive its reality [baptized children, via the Church’s faith & intent on their behalf, get the eternal life that the Eucharist imparts even without being able to know to resolve to receive it]. But they are not disposed [made ready] for baptism by any previous sacrament, and consequently, before receiving baptism, in no way have they baptism in desire, which adults alone can have [due to adults having adequate minds to intend to receive baptism, whereas babies don’t have adequate minds and thus cannot ever intend to be baptized], consequently, infants cannot have the reality [invisible graces] of the sacrament without receiving the sacrament [of baptism] itself [thus babies cannot benefit supernaturally from ‘baptism of desire’ since they can’t ever want it and intend to receive it and, as a result, can never get the graces for salvation that God would give them if they could want it and intend to get it, something the Church cannot yet do on their behalf since they aren’t even a part of Christ’s Body, the Catholic Church, prior to their actual reception of water baptism]. Therefore this sacrament [the Most Holy Eucharist] is not necessary for salvation in the same way as baptism is.” (St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, Book 3, Question 73, Article 3. All emphasis & annotations added.)
And so we see that
Why would this be?
According to the aforesaid scholastic theologians, it’s because the so-called ‘reality’ of the sacrament is somehow rooted in the sacrament itself. Hence, get this invisible ‘reality’ of the supernatural graces of the sacrament via a ‘desire’ or ‘resolution’ for it and you have everything essential (albeit not everything in total) that the sacrament itself gives you. And even though you don’t literally have the visible sacrament itself… although the scholastic theologian will insist that, due to a mysterious linkage he posits between the ‘thing itself’ (the visible sacrament) and the ‘reality of the thing’ (the sacrament’s invisible graces), that the sacrament (the ‘thing itself’) can still be, in ‘reality’ --- the ‘reality’ of its graces --- absolutely ‘necessary’ for a man’s salvation.
So say the scholastics.
In reality, though --- and with no pun intended --- I would go so far as to say that the so-called ‘reality’ of a sacrament (that is to say, the ‘invisible graces’ of this visible sacrament) is received in these relatively rare situations simply because God in His Charity deigns to make an occasional exception to the necessity that He’s otherwise given to these literal & visible sacraments under normal circumstances.
That is to say, if, indeed, ‘baptism of desire’ is true and not just a mistaken opinion.
Yet why would the scholastic theologians have gone to all the trouble of devising an explanation for BOD that involves a rather complicated & arcane system of differentiating the ‘thing itself’ from the ‘reality’ of the sacrament and then --- on top of all this --- insisted that this invisible ‘reality’ is, nevertheless, somehow connected to, and rooted in, the visible sacrament itself despite the visible sacrament being not always actually & literally necessary?
That’s a fascinating question.
We’ll deal with it before this book is over.
+++ 146. A Small Excursion into BOB +++
Having said this, and having remarked early on that Sacred Scripture actually provides the weakest of all arguments for either BOD or WO… notwithstanding, it bears noting how John 3:5 is the best of all these scriptural arguments.
Because there is an unbroken and universal tradition since the first century of Catholics referring to John 3:5 as a law for the necessity of the Sacrament of Baptism. Furthermore, it is obvious to the careful & intelligent student that earliest Christians interpreted John 3:5 as an absolute requirement --- to wit, that there is never any exception to the need for water baptism.
Indeed, the only exception ever noted during the first millennium --- apart from Ss. Cyprian (kind of), Ambrose (maybe) and Augustine’s (for a while) upping of BOD in their writings --- is BOB. For instance, the attentive reader will remember our encounter with St. Cyril’s catechism in Chapters 89 to 90, and with St. Fulgentius’ teachings in Chapters 72 to 74 of this book, Baptismal Confusion. Both of these saintly men referred to the necessity of water baptism in bluntly absolute terms, their sole exception being ‘baptism of blood’, or BOB for short.
This exception of BOB we can only trace back to the early third century with a mention of it in the writings of Tertullian. It arose because a few Christians witnessed what they thought were the martyrdoms of people who professed the Roman Catholic Faith but who, they supposed, hadn’t been able to get the sacramental waters of baptism. Consequently, assumed they, God must make an exception for these good-willed souls who gave up their very lives for Jesus Christ but simply hadn’t, through no fault of their own, been able to receive water baptism. God’s Mercy more than made up for this supposed lack, said such BOB-believing Catholics in ancient times.
Yet whatever the merits of this theological opinion of BOB --- and the supposed problem that it apparently solved of good-willed people dying for the Catholic Faith without having been baptized --- it had no provable, explicit and universal origin in the first century.
True, when a Church Father upholds BOB he will often quote Jesus’ words in the Gospels where He speaks of His Passion & Crucifixion as a “baptism”. (Mark 10:38-39 & Luke 12:50 DRC) However, since we have no universal agreement of the ancient Church Fathers in teaching the BOB position, then we can have no real certainty that Jesus intended, by these words of His, to uphold the ‘baptism of blood’ teaching. It is after-the-fact interpretation of His words here to mean ‘baptism of blood’ and not infallible or even moral certainty of His words’ actually meaning BOB that is at play in this situation. There is no real proof that anybody from the first century thought Jesus’ words about His Suffering as a “baptism” to mean support for ‘baptism of blood’. Rather, earliest Christians very sensibly interpreted His “baptism” to be an analogy for the suffering He went through, a metaphor that can be applied to His followers, Catholics, in their reception of the Sacrament of Penance and the profit to their souls of suffering for one’s sins and thereby receiving remission for their spiritual debt.
The point is, roughly half of the early Church Fathers speaks of water baptism as an absolute necessity, with no exceptions ever, period. And the other approximate half of the Church Fathers mentions, for the most part, a mere single exception --- BOB --- whilst still often speaking like water baptism is a very strict & absolute necessity apart from this sole exception.
What is one to conclude?
It is a logical deduction that pretty much all earliest Christians --- those from the first 100 years after Christ, at the very least --- believed in the absolute necessity of baptism in water, with no exceptions ever.
Again, recall the reaction of St. Ambrose’s diocesan flock at the end of the 4th century to the untimely death of a catechumen, Valentinian, before he could be baptized. They were ‘grieved’ and ‘disturbed’ that this had happened, thinking him to have lost the hope of Heaven because he died without the sacramental water of baptism. (See Chapter 37 for further details.)
Or recollect the miraculous resurrection that St. Martin of Tours worked on behalf of one of his catechumens during the same time period of the latter half of the fourth century… and all because this catechumen failed to receive water baptism before he died. (See Chapter 31.)
Or remember the miraculous provision of unexpected water at St. Peter’s prayers in the middle of the first century… and all so that two of his jailors could be baptized in water while in an otherwise waterless dungeon. (See Chapter 30.)
Earliest Christians obviously presumed Jesus’ words in John 3:5 to mean that the baptismal water is an absolute necessity for salvation. Which means, when you get right down to it, that they thought the sacramental waters of baptism to never have an exception, that it was always necessary to get literal baptism in water in order to enter the Everlasting Abode of Heaven.
147. WO Scriptural Item No. 2:
+++ One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism (Ephesians 4:5) +++
Yet WO purists are not done. They quote
“I therefore, a prisoner in the Lord, beseech you [beg you] that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called [that you live as good Catholics and not bad Catholics], with all humility and mildness, with patience, supporting one another in charity [with mutual love]. Careful to keep the unity of the [Holy] Spirit in the bond of peace. One body and one Spirit; as you are called in one hope of your calling [as Catholics who have the hope of Heaven forever]. One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Ephesians 4:1-5 DRC, emphasis & annotations added)
“Aha!” exults the WO partisan. “
And yet it’s not plainly stated here in the Bible.
Nowhere in this short verse does Paul mention ‘baptism of spirit’ or ‘baptism of desire’ specifically by name. Hence, WO advocates assume that ‘baptism of desire’ is something that he’s referring to --- if only indirectly --- and thus forbidding the notion of BOD by what He directly says regarding the Sacrament of Baptism being one and singular.
What’s more, nowhere in this short verse does Paul assure us, with explicit and exhaustive terminology, that the sacramental water of baptism is always crucial for salvation without any exception. Ergo, WO partisans assume that this is what Paul meant, no doubts possible in their minds and thus no caution on their part necessary in drawing a conclusion that could be mistaken, making absolutely, infallibly and explicitly certain that their waterful WO interpretation is correct.
Indeed, the WO purist assumes something here that is in direct contradiction to the truth of the matter.
Namely, the WOer assumes that the intelligent & learned BOD believer really does think that there are three different ‘baptisms’.
This is not the case.
The learned BODer follows the lead of the scholastic doctors and considers the Sacrament of Baptism to be one and singular, not three and plural. So, while the majority of BODers may speak casually & routinely of ‘three’ baptisms, the proper & fully correct understanding of the ‘baptism of desire’ position is this:
That there is only one Sacrament of Baptism with three different ways of partaking in this one single Sacrament.
Still, this misconception of there being ‘three’ different baptisms is a heavy criticism against the BOD position. For while the learned BODer may comprehend ‘baptism of desire’ correctly, just about everyone else who believes in BOD thinks of it incorrectly. And, as we saw from a survey of various catechisms --- specifically, Baltimore Catechism No. 3 and Christian Doctrine Drills from the early 20th century (please see Chapters 115 to 120 in Baptismal Confusion to review these items) --- people raised as ostensible Catholics during the past century, in the U.S.A. at least, were not taught thoroughly or precisely about the subject of BOD… leaving them to conclude, quite naturally, that there really are ‘three’ baptisms instead of just the one.
That is a big problem and has led to heresy (but more on that later, toward the end).
+++ 148. Another Problem With ‘One’ Baptism +++
Yet we are not finished with
“One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Ephesians 4:5)
And if one Lord, how is that the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord and the Spirit is Lord? Would this not make three different Lords altogether?
The intelligent reader knows where I am headed with this. Every Catholic believes in the dogma of the Trinity. It is one of the common dogmas that any person of adequate mind must know & profess in order to be Catholic in the first place, that there are Three Persons in One God.
But let’s say someone doesn’t know, or doesn’t believe despite knowing. And let us say this hypothetical someone reads this verse, claiming to respect the words of the Bible. And let us say he runs with this quote, reasoning wrongly that the “One” in “One Lord” disproves Trinitarian dogma. After all, says he, would not the Father, Son & Spirit each being Lord then mean that there are three Lords in total?
And would this then not contradict the words of the Bible that there is “One Lord”?
Consequently, thinks he, the Trinity is false and God is only One Person. Any passages in Sacred Scripture that seem to demonstrate otherwise must be interpreted as symbolic or modal, which is essentially what Sabellius taught in ancient times and why his heretical idea became known as either Sabellianism or Modalism. That is to say, ancient Modalists thought God the Father merely ‘appeared’ on earth as God the Son, like some sort of supernatural theatre made visible, and not that there were two distinct Divine Persons co-existing at the same time from all of eternity, the Father remaining in Heaven while His Eternally Begotten Son incarnated as a Man here below in this material life.
Just as no real Catholic can interpret St. Paul’s words here in this passage to mean that the Trinity is not true, so, too, no intelligent & honest Catholic can interpret St. Paul’s words here to mean --- with absolute certainty --- that ‘baptism of desire’ is not true.
For just as the “One” in “One Lord” does not have to mean that God is only One Person, so, too, the “one” in “one baptism” does not have to mean that the Sacrament of Baptism has only one way to receive its essential graces.
Just as the “One” in “One Lord” does not require us to interpret it to mean that there’s only One Person in the Deity, so, too, the “one” in “one baptism” does not require us to interpret it to mean that there is only one way, via the sacramental water, to receive the essential graces of the Sacrament of Baptism.
Be careful, though. Because the stubborn and ignorant ‘water only’ purist --- who is a Catholic fundamentalist in his ignorance & stubbornness, about which you may read more here --- will try to argue that we have explicit & infallible assurance of the Holy Trinity. Whereas, he might say, there is no explicit & infallible assurance of ‘baptism of desire’. Ergo, concludes he, Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:5 are somehow ironclad ‘proof’ that BOD does not exist.
This is nonsense.
It assumes something cannot be true just because it isn’t mentioned explicitly & infallibly. Then, turning to words in the Bible that, while holy and inerrant, are certainly not explicit and thorough enough about this subject of ‘baptism of desire’, he then assumes, out of thin air, that this non-explicit & non-thorough statement ‘proves’, with ironclad sureness, that the thing is true (the graces of baptism come though sacramental water alone) that he already wants to believe in even before there is adequately explicit & infallible teaching from the Roman Catholic Church to actually prove his WO contention with rock hard certainty!
Do you see the glaring problem with this, my dear reader?
You cannot logically or rightly assume to be true, with absolute certainty, what is not yet infallibly & explicitly declared to be true!
Ergo, Ephesians 4:5 cannot --- repeat, cannot --- be ironclad proof for ‘water only’.
At the very most, it can be significant circumstantial evidence for WO. However, a learned BODer can just as easily explain the verse as being in harmony with the position of BOD. Once again, and as we saw with the verses cited by the BOD camp, it always depends on what you already believe to begin with.
Then Ephesians 4:5 looks like pretty impressive evidence for ‘water only’.
Then Ephesians 4:5 seems perfectly compatible with ‘baptism of desire’.
This is the typical story of BOD vs. WO, especially in the past seventy years.
149. WO Scriptural Item No. 3:
+++ The Water of Baptism Saves You (1 Peter 3:19-21a) +++
Nevertheless, WOers can cite an additional scripture on behalf of their stance.
“In which also coming he [Jesus] preached to those spirits that were in prison [when crucified, Jesus preached Catholicism to souls who had died during Noe’s Flood, but who, via perfect contrition, merited Purgatory instead of Hell forever]: which had been some time incredulous [they at first were unbelieving and accepted neither the True Religion nor Noe’s warnings about the Flood, but believed and did penance as the Flood began], when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noe, when the ark was a building [when God waited patiently for Noe to finish the Ark]: wherein a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water [only Noe’s family survived]. Whereunto baptism being of the like form [water is essential to both Baptism and the Flood] now saveth [saves] you also…” (1 Peter 3:19-21a DRC, emphasis & annotations added)
This is one of the most fascinating passages of Sacred Scripture.
Fascinating, because it gives a unique glimpse into what happened to the millions or even billions of people who lived at the time of the Great Flood, beyond the fact that all but eight of them died; and because it tells us, too, what Jesus did while His Soul descended into the heart of the earth in Hell after His Crucifixion but before His Resurrection.
For not everyone killed during the Flood went to Hell forever. Some of them, at least, made acts of perfect contrition for their mortal sins just after the horrors of the Great Flood began, yet just prior to them actually dying in that terrible Flood. This then justified their souls in God’s Sight. Notwithstanding, the huge temporal debt they accrued for practicing false religions or other mortal sins still had to be paid in that part of Hell which is temporary… to wit, Purgatory.
This time of purging for their souls was thousands of years long and very painful. It only ended when Jesus appeared to them after His Crucifixion, He mercifully gathering them together, along with the other souls of the just who had been waiting patiently for His arrival at the edge of Hell in the Limbo of the Fathers, also known as Abraham’s Bosom. (Luke 16:22) There He preached, to everyone not condemned to Hell perpetually, the fullness of the Catholic Faith --- viz., He catechized them in the Roman Catholic Religion.
Now, having explained all of that, I don’t know any ‘water only’ individuals who use this passage to support their WO position.
Why then cite this scripture on behalf of WO?
One, I want symmetry between the two sides, scripturally speaking. And since BODers invariably during our era cite three passages on behalf of ‘baptism of desire’, then, the WOers citing but two passages regularly, we need an extra citation to make up for the inequality.
And, two, 1 Peter 3:19-21a is a very sensible scripture for WOers to cite. Or, rather, it would be if only they knew about, or thought about, using it.
That they do not use it --- and probably don’t even know about its existence since most people who call themselves Catholic are extremely ignorant when it comes to Sacred Scripture over the past few centuries --- is their loss.
We, however, will not allow them to endure that loss in this book.
+++ 150. Baptism Is Visible, and Thus Material +++
Because the battle between ‘water only’ and ‘baptism of desire’ is ultimately about whether the sacramental water is absolutely necessary. And ‘baptism of desire’ people come off sounding --- although they may not intend to be this way --- like they don’t think the water of baptism is really all that important.
After all, it’s the invisible graces that are essential, right?
From their point of view, yes. The water is practically incidental; the graces absolutely crucial!
Hence, why emphasize the importance of a merely visible water?
And yet… God Himself chose to make the means of our salvation visible. This is an inescapable fact.
For what does the first pope of the Roman Catholic Church tell us?
“…when they [the people alive during the Great Flood]
waited for the patience of God in the days of Noe,
when the ark was a building [when God waited patiently for Noe
to finish the
Noe and his family “were saved by water.”
A water that floated the wood of the
Which is why Peter says, “Whereunto baptism… now saveth you also.” (1 Peter 3:21a DRC)
Because it is a baptism that, being “of the like form” to the water of the Flood, can float a man safely upon the water of God’s Wrath in the Sacrament of Baptism, he clinging to the wood of the Cross and professing the Catholic Religion which alone Jesus taught the human race to believe. Which is how, then, a person is “saved by water.” (Ibid., 3:21a, 20d DRC)
And water is a visible & material thing, is it not?
Indeed, it is the very matter of the Sacrament of Baptism.
Now I ask you:
Did St. Peter say, about the eight souls in Noe’s family, that they “were saved by invisible graces”? (1 Peter 3:20d Imaginary BOD Version, emphasis added)
Or that, “baptism being of the like form,” this baptism “now saveth you also through the work of invisible graces”? (Ibid., 1 Peter 3:21a Imaginary BOD Version, emphasis added)
Of course not. Peter said no such thing about invisible graces all by themselves sufficing.
To the contrary, water is the matter of Baptism just as
water was the matter of the Flood. In either case, water is visible
& material. God could
have chosen to save Noe through some kind of ‘invisible
means’ all by itself without the visible water of the Great Flood or the
material wood of Noe’s
But He didn’t.
And the Holy Ghost speaking via St. Peter nowhere says in this passage that the water which saved Noe’s family, or the water that baptizes a catechumen, is metaphorical or incidental. Or, for that matter (pun almost intended), that water is only one of three different ways to participate in the Sacrament of Baptism… whatever this Sacrament is without any actual water involved.
While not ironclad when it comes to upholding the WO side, this scriptural passage does not lend itself easily to the notion of ‘baptism of desire’ and is much more conducive to the position of ‘water only’.
+++ 151. On the Other Hand +++
On the other hand, while we’ve hit hard in the previous chapter at the BOD side, this is not, then, good reason for the WO side to wax triumphant --- as if they couldn’t possibly be wrong.
Far from it.
Because Sacred Scripture is not perfectly clear or exhaustive about BOD or BOS. It simply does not ever address the issue explicitly by name, and it never explains the topic with an exhaustive approach in terms that make it irrefutably clear that it’s talking about ‘baptism of desire’ or ‘baptism of spirit’… and not something else entirely.
Consequently, if the Catholic Church has not taught universally, infallibly & explicitly about the topic since the beginning (which is the Ordinary Magisterium), and if the Church has not taught solemnly, infallibly & explicitly about the topic at some point in time after the beginning (which is the Extraordinary Magisterium), then any member of the Catholic Church with adequate mind and sufficient learning is free to come up with a theological opinion in the matter as long as that theological opinion does not explicitly deny what our Church has explicitly taught either universally (since the beginning) or solemnly (at some point in time after the beginning).
End of sentence.
So has the Church taught universally or solemnly in an explicit manner when it comes to the proper interpretation of 1 Peter 3:19-21a regarding ‘baptism of desire’ vs. ‘water only’?
Of course not.
If She had, then one side or the other would be trumpeting it to the highest heaven. Ergo, the WO camp is free to adopt the interpretation of 1 Peter 3:19-21a that I offer in the chapter just above. I would advise them to do so. It can only strengthen their position.
However, BOD purists are just as free to adopt an interpretation
that contradicts the one I offer above. As long as this hypothetical
interpretation does not explicitly deny anything that
Is there such a possibility?
+++ 152. The Print of the Other Hand Made Clear +++
Well, let’s put on our thinking caps.
The “water” in 1 Peter 3:19-21a certainly lends itself more easily to a literal and hence ‘water only’ interpretation. Nevertheless, were we to be more metaphorical --- which is permissible since this does not, automatically, explicitly deny what the Church has explicitly taught --- then we could emphasize the apparent fact that Noe and his family were not, strictly speaking, the sole people saved during the Great Flood.
That is to say, yes, only Noe and his family survived the Flood physically.
Howsoever, and as we demonstrated above in Chapter 144 of this book, Baptismal Confusion, it is logically clear from St. Peter’s words that at least some of the others had enough time before they died, and enough good will, that they made acts of perfect contrition for their terrible, terrible sins. As a result, they ended up in the part of Hell which is temporary --- Purgatory. And there they stayed, paying a long and horrific price for the immense temporal debt of their sins until Jesus arrived, ushering them into the presence of the just souls in the Limbo of the Fathers (also known as Abraham’s Bosom, Luke 16:22), where He preached to all of them about the Catholic Faith, enabling them to enter Heaven.
An act of perfect contrition is precisely what the scholastic doctors have said is the saving efficacy of BOD. To wit, if unable to get water baptism before you die, then an act of perfect contrition for your mortal sins allows God to wipe out their eternal debt and consider you just in His Holy Sight. This passage from 1 Peter could seem to illustrate that very thing.
Indeed, since the number of souls saved invisibly via perfect contrition during the Flood would almost surely be far more than the mere eight souls saved visibly within the Ark, a determined BODer could even argue how this implies that far more people are saved in the state of ‘desire’ for water baptism than are saved by the actual application of the sacramental water itself!
Not likely. Jesus did say that most souls go to Hell forever and that only a “few” are saved. (Matthew 7:14c DRC. See Matthew 7:13-14 for the full context.) Therefore, how could tons more souls end up saved by a ‘desire’ for the water of baptism than are saved via the application of the sacramental water, and the overall number saved still be considered “few” in relation to the number of souls damned if everyone, left and right, is getting into Heaven through BOD?
All the same, within the bounds of reason, the argument is somewhat plausible. If BOD is true --- and being careful not to deny the need for visible profession of the Catholic Religion whole & entire, which the Church has solemnly & infallibly assured us is absolutely needed, and which St. Thomas Aquinas himself upholds (see Chapters 56 & 129 again if you doubt this, my dear reader) --- then, yes, it is possible to argue that more souls are being saved by ‘desire’ for the water of baptism than are being saved through the application of the sacramental water itself.
But remember what the real aim of this present chapter is. It is not to vindicate the BOD side. It is simply to remind the WO side that their position is not ‘infallible’ or ‘ironclad’ based solely on some passages from Sacred Scripture.
Neither side can be vindicated solely from the Bible. This is because the Bible is often difficult to understand and it takes someone interpreting it correctly in order to know what it actually means.
As a result, only an adequately explicit & solemnly infallible decree from the Supreme Authority of the Holy Roman Catholic Church can resolve BOD vs. WO with an absolute finality.
Until then, both sides are crossing swords in a duel that cannot ultimately be won by either side on its own. True, one side might die off and go away. One side might faint with weakness. Or one side might, unexpectedly, announce it now agrees with the other side and cease to fight.
It doesn’t matter; none of these events can end the argument all by itself with ultimate finality.
Because none of these acts --- whether dying off, fainting, giving up, or etc. --- are protected by the infallible charism of the Holy Ghost. Ergo, the opposition wilting away or giving up is not infallible proof that the other side is right. A person may choose to see giving up as ‘proof’ of that side being wrong… yet a personal opinion about why this defeat happens is not guaranteed infallibility either!
Thus, until a Supreme Pontiff of the Holy Roman Church decides to speak up clearly & explicitly about this topic, resolving disagreement for good, then the topic is always open to theological dispute from anyone with sufficient intelligence and learning to do so.
153. All Aboard!
+++ Mark 16:16 and the Trans-Gospel Express, Part 2 +++
Which is where we wind our way back to Mark 16:16.
Remember this passage, from the series of verses used by BODers, back in Chapter 137?
“And he [Jesus] said to them: ‘Go ye [all of you] into the whole world and preach the gospel [the Catholic Faith] to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall he condemned.’” (Mark 16:15-16 DRC, emphasis & annotations added)
BOD partisans don’t refer to this verse nowadays on behalf of their side. Notwithstanding, in the AD 1100s, St. Bernard of Clairvaux --- who was a believer in BOD, or, rather, ‘baptism of spirit’ (BOS) as it was called back then --- did cite Mark 16:16 on behalf of his BOS stance.
And what, again, did he say?
“Notice also that, when the Savior said ‘whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,’ He cautiously and alertly did not repeat the phrase ‘who was not baptized,’ but only ‘whoever does not believe will be condemned.’ [Mark 16:16] This intimated [implied] that sometimes faith alone [a catechumen professing the Catholic Faith alone without receiving the sacramental water of baptism before he dies, not the heresy of ‘faith alone’ where people think they can get into Heaven without any good works… St. Bernard was most definitely not a Protestant heretic way back in the 1100s, some 300 to 400 years prior to the start of Protestantism in the 1500s!] would suffice for salvation, and that without it, nothing would be sufficient.” (St. Bernard’s Letters, Letter 77, Paragraph 9. All emphasis & annotations added in this and the next two quotes.)
This quote shows us two things. First, Bernard did indeed believe in BOD. And, second --- contrary to the Modernism dominant during our times when people claim to be Catholic but say a person of sound mind can be saved in the state of ‘ignorance’ about Roman Catholicism --- he truly did believe that profession of the Catholic Faith is absolutely necessary for salvation.
For what does he point out?
“This intimated [implied] that sometimes faith alone [the Catholic Faith alone without water baptism, and not the heresy of Protestant faith alone without good works!] would suffice for salvation, and that without it, nothing would be sufficient.” (Ibid.)
“…and that without it, nothing would be sufficient.” (Ibid.)
Bernard’s words reveal that the notion of ‘salvation in the state of ignorance’ about Catholicism is a novelty of modern times, an idea never taught by the doctors and fathers of old.
(Refer again to Chapters 56 & 129 to see that both Thomas Aquinas and Alphonsus Liguori denied that a man of adequate intelligence in the state of a supposed ‘invincible ignorance’ could save himself without knowing & professing the Catholic Faith. A Catholicism that, they assured us, God would make certain a good-willed man finds, whether through the testimony of another human being or through the communication of a celestial angel.)
+++ 154. A Stumbling Block for Protestants +++
Yet enough about the salvation heresy of modern times. Because we’re concerned primarily about the implications of Mark 16:16 for the Sacrament of Baptism. And when I converted to the Catholic Faith, one former colleague of mine wanted to argue the necessity of baptism.
You see, I cited Mark 16:16 along with three other biblical passages to make it plain how baptism washes away sins and gains salvation. Mark 16:16 is especially easy and plain. After all, Jesus does say, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved…” (Mark 16:16a DRC, emphasis added)
How much clearer can it be?
This Protestant, though, in order to get around Jesus’ stark words, turned to His very next words and argued that, since Jesus only mentions ‘not believing’ as condemning someone in the end, then baptism doesn’t really count for anything and ‘belief’ is all that matters. Or, to put it differently, baptism is a ‘works’ and can’t save you --- ‘faith alone’ is what gets you into Heaven.
As I pointed out to my former colleague, it is Protestants who have a problem with this verse… not Catholics. I mean, think about it. Jesus said, plainly and straight out, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved…” (Ibid.) Not, “He that believeth shall be saved,” with not a word about baptism. (Mark 16:16a, Imaginary Protestant Version)
So why did Jesus mention baptism as saving a person, in conjunction with belief?
If Protestants and their ‘faith alone’ notion are correct, then Jesus should never have talked about “baptism” in connection with being “saved…”
Ever --- period!
And yet it’s in their bibles.
Meanwhile, Catholics don’t have a problem with Mark 16:16. We don’t have to ignore Jesus’ stark words in Mark 16:16a just to protect the fantasy of ‘faith alone’. We take Sacred Scripture at face value. And when you do that, it becomes clear that Sacred Scripture reveals both faith and works to be crucial to a man’s salvation.
In other words, it’s not just ‘faith’ or ‘belief’ all by itself that saves you. Good works are important, too, together with faith.
To a conservative Protestant, yes. To a person not wedded to the manmade teachings of Protestantism, no. And the Bible is clear… it never puts the word ‘alone’, ‘only’, ‘solely’, or something similar, with the word ‘faith’ in its text. As a matter of fact, James 2:24 says the exact opposite, bluntly contradicting the idea that faith without works can save a person!
But what we want to focus on here right now is the reason for Jesus mentioning belief with baptism in the first part of Mark 16:16, while mentioning only belief without baptism in the second part of the verse. Protestants want to think it’s because baptism doesn’t matter. And yet, again, if this is the case, then why does Jesus mention baptism at all to begin with in the first part, saying, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved…”? (Ibid.)
Their explanation makes no sense. They simply ignore His first words into oblivion.
But do Catholics have a better explanation?
As a matter of fact, we do.
+++ 155. And Why Mark 16:16 Might Not Actually Be +++
Evidence for BOD
As I explained to my former colleague, the Catholic Church teaches that water baptism is how we begin our journey on the Path to Heaven. Through the mighty graces God bestows upon this sacrament, we are made new creatures and all our sins are wiped away. For the first time in our existence, we can hope concretely for the salvation of our souls. Truly, as Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“Amen, amen, I say to thee [you], unless a man be born again, he cannot see the
Yet how is this second birth accomplished?
The water of baptism. As Jesus also said to Nicodemus a couple of verses later:
“Amen, amen, I say to thee [you], unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he
cannot enter into the
And just as a man cannot crawl back into the physical womb to be born all over again the first time, so a human being cannot return into the spiritual womb to born all over again the second time --- that is to say, there is no repeating the Sacrament of Baptism. Once you receive it rightly, you are forbidden to do it again. To repeat your baptism is a sacrilege and would be as ludicrous as a person trying to crawl back into his mother’s womb to be born once more physically like he was the first time!
Such a thing is impossible and even disgusting.
Hence, a human being must be baptized rightly only once.
Ah, but Jesus’ words in Mark 16:16 make it plain that baptism is just one part of the whole equation for salvation. The other part is belief. To wit, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved…” (Mark 16:16a DRC)
Belief and baptism --- like two peas in a pod, they go together. It is what God has designed us to do in order to save our souls.
Nevertheless, while baptism has to be done rightly only once in your life, for a person with an adequately intelligent mind, belief must be professed correctly every single day onward from that moment of baptism, especially at death.
While you only have to be baptized rightly once in your life to start your journey toward Heaven, to complete your journey unto salvation the person with an adequately intelligent mind must believe rightly from that moment of baptism onward every single day for the rest of your life… and especially at the very end when you die!
Without this belief, you are condemned as an unbeliever --- and regardless of your baptism.
Is it beginning to sink in, my dear reader?
This is why Jesus mentions both belief and baptism in the first half of Mark 16:16, and why He mentions only belief in the second half of Mark 16:16.
It is an explanation that is perfectly logical, perfectly plausible and perfectly orthodox. It also solves the mystery of Jesus’ words about belief & baptism in an utterly simple and natural way. There is no straining or twisting of the verse’s words to try to make it all add up correctly.
And, lo and behold, it solves the mystery without any reference to ‘baptism of desire’.
+++ 156. Some Factually Awry +++
Yet Well-Deserved Criticism
Some, though, will impugn me for suggesting that St. Bernard of Clairvaux might have been wrong in his interpretation of Mark 16:16.
“Who do you think you are?” they will exclaim. “Bernard was a saint and a doctor. You are neither! You’re not even an official theologian, let alone a clergyman with any kind of jurisdiction. How dare you disagree with the teaching of such a great man?”
To which I say:
“You’re right. I am no one important. I deserve to be castigated. I am wicked, and I am ignorant. I have no holy orders and I can’t tout an academic title of great significance when it comes to theology. I am not equal to Bernard or to any other saint and doctor. I am the least of human beings in this world. I can’t expect anyone to pay attention to me, apart from their mockery.”
The thing about truth, however, is that it does not favor position or status.
That is to say, a powerful man can know what is true, and a powerless man can know what is true. Highly educated people can know something is true, and uneducated people can, regardless of their lack of education, know that this very same something is true. A rich woman is able to see the truth, and a poor woman, despite her poverty, is also able to see the very same truth. Highly respected people can know a thing is true, and much despised people can, in spite of their greatly maligned reputation, know that this same thing is true. Whatever someone might be in this world, anyone with a sound mind can apply their mental powers and be able to recognize that a particular thing is true.
Of course, it works the other way as well. Powerful, rich, educated
& respected persons can believe in a falsehood…
so can powerless, poor, uneducated & maligned persons, too. And, naturally,
a truly good and wise education will help everybody see the truth more easily or more often.
Nonetheless, anyone can see the truth,
and anyone can be fooled into
propagating a falsehood. The only man protected from the latter
possibility when teaching what was a previously undefined theological position
is a legitimate bishop of
Only a legitimate Roman bishop (a real pope of the Roman Catholic Church!) is guaranteed infallibility when he teaches a previously undefined theological position --- and then only when he is clarifying something regarding faith or morals for the benefit of the entire Church and speaking as this One True Church’s supreme authority.
Again, please see Chapters 22, 52 & 84 in this book, Baptismal Confusion, if you are still doubtful or confused about the exercise of the charism of infallibility, my dear reader.
Hence, however much I deserve the mockery of others since I am a wicked man and a poor messenger, the message that I carry --- the theological opinion I present --- could nevertheless turn out to be true. And that possibility, yea or nay, can only be determined, short of a papal definition, by examining it carefully and thinking things through logically, staying within the simple boundaries of a clear & explicit Catholic orthodoxy.
We say again:
However much I am a bad messenger --- someone that everyone mocks and no one wants to listen to --- the message that I carry could, nevertheless, turn out to be true. This possibility can only be figured out, short of a papal definition, by examining the message carefully (no matter what your prejudices to begin with) and thinking it through logically (including the side of things you may already want to believe is false before you investigate carefully!) while careful to stay loyal to the simple, clear, common, explicit & unchanging infallible teachings of God’s One & Only Roman Catholic Church.
That said, one more point needs to be made.
Namely, that I am not necessarily suggesting that Bernard of Clairvaux was wrong in his interpretation of Mark 16:16.
The wise scholar of Sacred Scripture knows there are often two or more correct interpretations of a single passage in the Bible. Such could be the case here. It could be that my Protestant-defying interpretation is perfectly correct and that St. Bernard’s BOD-upholding interpretation is perfectly correct, too, at the same time. The two different positions may not be mutually exclusive of one another.
In which case, my message is merely that there may be at least one other way to interpret Jesus’ words in the passage of Mark 16:16 rightly, in addition to St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s way.
+++ 157. The Trans-Gospel Express Summed Up +++
Wherever someone falls in the debate --- whether upon the BOD side or the WO side --- of this any real Catholic can be sure:
Baptism is necessary for salvation.
Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved…” (Mark 16:16a DRC, emphasis added)
Indeed, this is why scholastic theologians, when teaching the BOD opinion, nevertheless insisted that it does not operate apart from the Sacrament of Baptism. That is to say, inasmuch as so-called ‘baptism of desire’ works, it can work solely because it is connected to, and thus contained within, the Sacrament of Baptism.
Which is why, too, Catholic theologians will sometimes claim --- or at least often imply --- that the Sacrament of Baptism is a necessity of means, and not just a necessity of precept.
Remember the distinction in theology between ‘means’ and ‘precept’?
A ‘necessity of precept’ is something you’re commanded to do, but which, if truly impossible to obey, will not always make you lose the benefit of getting that thing done. Whereas a ‘necessity of means’ is something you’re both commanded to do and for which there is never another option to getting it done… if you want the benefit, you must fulfill the command.
Earliest Catholics thought water baptism was a necessity of means. This is because Jesus never mentions any exceptions in the Gospels, and, for at least the first one or two hundred years after the time of Christ, nobody in His Roman Catholic Body ever dared to teach that there was an alternative option to the waters of baptism.
Evidence of this is easy to see.
Recollect how members of St. Ambrose’s diocese responded to the loss of Valentinian in AD 392, barely three-and-a-half centuries after the time of Christ?
Per Ambrose, they were ‘disturbed’ and
‘grieved’ at the news of his death without water baptism. (St.
Ambrose’s Funeral Oratory for Valentinian II, Paragraphs 51 & 53.) A grief and disturbance that they could not have felt unless
Ambrose himself, during the previous twenty years that he had been their
bishop, had upheld water baptism as absolutely necessary. After all, Ambrose
did clearly assert in one of his books prior to the anguish over Valentinian “…for no one ascends
You’ll also recall how Ambrose said prior to Valentinian’s death:
“Therefore the three witnesses in Baptism are one: the water, the blood, and the Spirit; for if you take away one of these, the Sacrament of Baptism does not exist. For what is water without the cross of Christ? A common element without any sacramental effect. Nor does the mystery of regeneration [water baptism] exist at all without water…” (St. Ambrose’s On the Sacraments, Ch. 4, No. 4. All emphases & annotation added.)
This is proof positive the opinion of BOD was not taught or held in common by Catholics of that ancient era, and it even appears --- given the absolute strictness of his words --- as if our saint and doctor rules out the possibility of that other waterless option, ‘baptism of blood’, too!
This is why the scholastic theologians adopted the explanation of BOD that they did. They were serious, smart and well-read. They knew that the most ancient of Catholics considered water baptism a necessity of means. Yet they also knew that a few catechumens appeared to die without the baptismal water, many of whom seemed to be sincere and of good will.
How to explain this dilemma?
Enter ‘baptism of desire’. Posit that BOD is not separate from the Sacrament of Baptism, or an exception to the rule, but that it is merely an extension of the sacrament and the rule… merely another way that the Sacrament of Baptism works.
Hey, presto! You seem to have solved the problem.
But really you have not. Because now the question simply becomes:
Is the sacramental water a ‘necessity of means’ or a ‘necessity of precept’?
And as we’ve noted before… what exactly is the Sacrament of Baptism when neither its form (the words said during a baptism) nor its matter (the water used to baptize) are actually present?
We say again:
What is the Sacrament of Baptism without its water or its words?
As St. Ambrose said about the sacramental water prior to Valentinian’s vexing death:
“Nor does the mystery of regeneration [water baptism] exist at all without water…” (Ibid.)
This is the mystery to be solved. And the solution of the scholastic theologians --- that somehow a good resolution, intent or desire to receive water baptism, allied with perfect contrition of the heart for your sins, gets you the Sacrament of Baptism without the water and the words --- is how Catholic theologians of the past 700 years can sometimes insist that the Sacrament of Baptism is a ‘necessity of means’ while at the same time observing how the water of the Sacrament of Baptism is not always necessary for a person to enter into Heaven.
As a result, the truly relevant question is as we have said above:
Is the sacramental water a necessity of means or only a necessity of precept?
That’s the crucial query that has never yet been answered with an absolutely clear, inarguable and explicit use of the Church’s Infallible Authority.
And yet that’s the one thing we need in order to end this vicious debate.
+++ 158. The Tuas Libenter Fallback Position +++
The BOD camp is not quite finished, however.
A few BOD aficionados admit that
the Catholic Church has never solemnly, infallibly & explicitly
upheld the ‘baptism of desire’ stance. Indeed, that, despite the
tantalizing potential hints, there is no blatantly explicit support for
BOD in the Councils of Trent or
Unfortunately, these few BODers then pretend none of this matters --- they claim that you still must agree with BOD since everyone that matters has already stated that BOD is certainly true.
Ergo, they insist, ‘baptism of desire’ is an infallible teaching… and even though no pope has ever clearly, explicitly & infallibly defined BOD or clearly, explicitly & infallibly condemned the opposite. This is just the distinction between the Ordinary Magisterium and the Extraordinary Magisterium brought into play as a strategy to win a heated theological debate.
Remember the difference between these two things?
We explained it in Chapter 121.
The gist of the explanation is simply this:
Jesus & His Apostles gave us the Deposit of Faith, explicitly teaching all of the common dogmas we need to know and must profess in order to be Catholic in the first place. This Deposit --- these common dogmas --- have been universally taught both everywhere and everywhen throughout the world since the first century. No pope or council needs to define it for us to be able to recognize it as infallibly true… it has always been explicitly taught as necessary for our salvation. Therefore, a solemn definition on behalf of any one of these dogmas merely safeguards less wary souls against contrary teachings that are damnable religious lies.
This is the Ordinary Magisterium.
Meanwhile, there are many things in the Deposit of Faith that are not explicit. Not everyone during the first century was required to know or profess that these implicit things are true. Nor is everyone since then necessarily required to know that these things are true. Nevertheless, a pope or a council (with the pope’s blessing of supreme authority, of course) will sometimes bring out these implicit teachings and make them explicit at some point in time after the first century. Such things are then necessary to know and profess if a Catholic is given a chance to learn it, and if this Catholic is in a situation where it is urgent for him to figure it out. The Church by Her Supreme Authority makes these things infallibly certain… but not every Roman Catholic throughout the world since century one has to know them in order to save their precious souls.
This is the Extraordinary Magisterium.
Why is this distinction important to understand?
Because a few tenacious BODers invoke Pope Pius IX’s Tuas libenter. This is a letter the pope officially sent to Archbishop Scherr of the Diocese of Munich, Germany, on December 21, 1863. The pope through this letter warned Catholic theologians in Germany not to place modern scholarship above the teachings or magisterial authority of the Church --- reminding them how infallibility is not restricted to solemn definitions alone --- and BODers use it as a last ditch effort to cow WOers into their waterless fold.
“For even if it is a matter of that subjection which must be given in the act of divine faith [even if we’re simply talking about the obedience and belief which must be given to the dogmas of the Catholic Faith in order to truly profess Catholicism], it must not be limited to those things which have been defined by the express decrees of councils or of the Roman pontiffs and of this apostolic see [the Extraordinary Magisterium], but must also be extended to those things which are handed on by the ordinary magisterium of the whole church dispersed throughout the world as divinely revealed [the Ordinary Magisterium, natch], and therefore are held by the universal and constant consensus [general agreement] of Catholic theologians to pertain to the faith.” (Pope Pius IX’s Tuas libenter, Paragraph 5, as found quoted in the article, The Infallibility of the Ordinary Universal Magisterium: A Critique of Some Recent Observations, by the theologian, Dr. Lawrence J. Welch, in the Heythrop Journal of January 1998, Volume 39, Issue 1, Pp. 23-24, and printed by Blackwell Publishers Ltd. in Oxford, UK, and in Boston, MA. This in turn was a quote from a translation made by the theologian, Fr. John P. Boyle, O.J., in an earlier Heythrop Journal of October 1979, Volume 20, Issue 4, Pg. 397, as published by the same. PDF file downloaded at www.docwelch.net/research/heythrop.pdf on 25 July 2014. Emphases & annotations added.)
+++ 159. The Subtle But Serious Fallacy in Trying to +++
Make Tuas Libenter Look Like It Supports BOD, Act 1
The clever and attentive reader knows where the BOD camp is headed with this.
“Aha!” exclaims a BOD enthusiast who is absolutely determined to believe that BOD is an ‘infallible’ doctrine. “Pius plainly says we are to profess not only those teachings the Church has ‘defined by… express decrees…’. We’re also required to profess those things taught to us by the ‘universal… consensus of Catholic theologians...’ (Ibid.) How can the issue be any clearer? ‘Baptism of desire’ is obviously taught by every theologian. No one of any training or importance in the Church disagrees. This is a universal consensus! Case closed.”
And yet the case is not closed.
As we’ve noted before, most BODers are not very learned or well-versed in the rudiments of logic and good reasoning. Most of them probably don’t fully understand the difference between the Ordinary Magisterium and the Extraordinary Magisterium, which we have explained in Chapter 153 just above, or in Chapter 121 further back in this book, Baptismal Confusion.
But even if they do fully understand this distinction, they are so passionately devoted to BOD that they will reach for any reasoning --- however flimsy or fallacious --- to make it look like they have ‘proven’ their position as the infallible & explicit stance of the Catholic Church.
How have they done this here?
Notice the quote from Pius IX in the response above:
“…universal… consensus of Catholic theologians…” (Ibid.)
This is their standard strategy when wielding Tuas libenter, meant to make it look like the fact that pretty much all Catholic theologians have believed in so-called ‘baptism of desire’ since the time of the scholastic doctors then means, as a result, that BOD cannot possibly be false. That, indeed, because of this general acceptance since the 1300s, BOD must be a divine revelation from Christ Himself to the Catholic Church and thus an infallible dogma of the Ordinary Magisterium.
Impossible to rebut? Not at all.
Note carefully what Pius says altogether and not just the partial (or sometimes a rather poorly translated) quote that clever BOD enthusiasts love to cite:
“…universal and constant consensus of Catholic theologians…” (Ibid., all emphasis added here and in the next two quotes below)
Now, the word “universal” means ‘general’ or ‘everyone’.
Nevertheless, in the context of the Ordinary Magisterium, does the word “universal” mean only ‘everyone everywhere’ or does it not also mean --- in reference to all the teachings that are ordinarily infallible but not extraordinarily defined --- ‘everyone everywhen’?
It’s amazing how people overlook this simple, logical point. Because the answer is staring them right in the face:
Namely, no, the word “universal” --- as applied to infallible teachings that have never been solemnly and extraordinarily defined --- cannot merely mean ‘everyone everywhere’.
It must mean ‘everyone everywhen’ in addition to ‘everyone everywhere!
After all, can we just make up anything and say it’s ‘dogma’?
Of course not.
Christ & His Apostles gave us the Deposit of Faith during the first century. The explicit teachings of this Deposit are the source of the Ordinary Magisterium, teaching us everything any person of sound mind needs to know in order to be Catholic to begin with and thus have a chance to save his immortal soul. No one of an adequate mind can fail to fully know it (under normal circumstances) or dare to deny a single bit of it (in any circumstances) and enter Heaven.
+++ 160. The Subtle But Serious Fallacy in Trying to +++
Make Tuas Libenter Look Like It Supports BOD, Act 2
The fuller quote from Tuas libenter drives this truth home:
“…universal and constant consensus of Catholic theologians…”
The word “constant” means ‘ongoing’, a thing unbroken and continuous since the beginning of the Catholic Church. Such is the case with the Deposit of Faith; such is the case with the Ordinary Magisterium.
These explicit teachings in the Deposit of Faith are those dogmas taught infallibly both everywhere and everywhen. It’s why the Four Marks of the Church (One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic) include not just Catholicity but also Apostolicity. To wit, these common and ordinary dogmas are not simply taught to us everywhere the Catholic Religion has spread (it’s Catholic because it’s everywhere the same throughout the whole world), but are taught to us everywhen the Catholic Religion has spread (it’s Apostolic because it’s everywhen the same since the beginning in the first century with Jesus & His Apostles).
Do you comprehend?
The ordinary, common dogmas of the Catholic Faith do not change, my dear reader. They are the same not only in every place throughout the world, but also the same in every time since the beginning. And if they’re infallibly true all the way back in the first century with Jesus and His disciples, then they’re infallibly true right now during the 21st century with us. Were any religious teaching not true, either then or now, then that teaching is not infallible.
And yet everything taught to us explicitly back in the first century as part of the Deposit of Faith is without doubt infallible. This is the Ordinary Magisterium, the ordinary way we as Catholics can know our infallible religion. Anything made explicit since then --- but which was only a teaching that was implicit in the Deposit of Faith during the first century --- is the Extraordinary Magisterium, the extraordinary way we as Catholics can know our infallible religion.
This is brass tacks basics, my dear reader. The point?
The ‘baptism of desire’ camp fails to admit this lack of apostolic constancy when claiming --- wrongly --- that BOD is a part of the Ordinary Magisterium because of a (seemingly) unanimous agreement of priests and theologians about BOD in the past 700 years.
They are either ignorant of the fact that BOD is not a constant and explicit teaching of the Church from the beginning with Christ & His Apostles, or else, aware of the fact, play dirty and pretend that universal acceptance of BOD since the 1300s means BOD somehow magically became part of the Ordinary Magisterium during the second millennium even without this teaching constantly & explicitly taught since apostolic times or solemnly defined later on.
+++ 161. The Subtle But Serious Fallacy in Trying to +++
Make Tuas Libenter Look Like It Supports BOD, Act 3
Is it fair to conduct an intelligent debate in this way?
Unfortunately, their attempt does not end there. The Tuas libenter crowd has another card to play up its collective sleeve. For they quote as well where Pius the Ninth says:
“But, since it is a matter of that subjection [obedience] by which in conscience all those Catholics are bound [constrained] who work in the speculative sciences [theoretical scientists whose ideas are based, at least in part, on tacit assumptions, and thus can never reproduce all their claims in a controlled setting and so completely ‘prove’ them --- for instance, geologists who deal with ancient rocks that they want to believe are millions or billions of years old based on assumptions about radioactive decay or sequences of strata], in order that they may bring new advantages to the Church by their writings, on that account [for that reason], then, the men of that same convention [these same types of theoretical scientists who are Catholic] should recognize that it is not sufficient [that it’s not enough] for learned Catholics to accept and revere the aforesaid dogmas of the Church [those teachings of the Church that are infallible because they come from either the Ordinary or Extraordinary Magisterium], but that it is also necessary to subject themselves to [necessary for them to obey] the decisions pertaining to doctrine which are issued by the Pontifical Congregations [various offices in the Vatican who are composed of men under the authority of the Pope, but who do not themselves exercise the Pope’s infallible authority], and also to those forms [types] of doctrine which are held by the common and constant consent of Catholics as theological truths and conclusions, so certain that opinions opposed to these same forms of doctrines, although they cannot be heretical [so sure of these theological conclusions that any opinion opposed to them, while not heretical], nevertheless deserve some theological censure [condemnation].” (Pope Pius IX’s Tuas libenter, Paragraph 6, as found in the 30th Edition of the Enchiridion Symbolorum by Denziger & Bannwart, S.J., which was translated by Roy J. Deferrari and published originally by Herder & Co. in 1954 at Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, but, in later publications, is based on a further revision by Karl Rahner, S.J. and published more recently by Loreto Publications in Fitzwilliam, NH. Quote as derived from the section regarding the documents of Pope Pius IX, Paragraph 1684. All emphasis & annotations added.)
Are you paying close attention to what you have just read, my dear reader?
And do you understand the implications?
BODers who wield Tuas libenter want you to think that… while it isn’t ‘heretical’ to disbelieve in BOD or to uphold WO… you are nevertheless quite wickedly rebellious to disagree with the ‘baptism of desire’ opinion that has been dominant for the past 700 years, and to be censured and reprimanded for daring to assert the less common ‘water only’ stance!
+++ 162. The Subtle But Serious Fallacy in Trying to +++
Make Tuas Libenter Look Like It Supports BOD, Act 4
Not by a long shot.
Look at what the BOD camp is conceding by resorting to this last argument:
Namely, that, since it is most assuredly not heretical to believe in ‘water only’, then, as an utterly ironclad and inescapable logical conclusion, BOD can’t possibly as of yet be an explicitly and infallibly defined dogma!
Because you can’t have it both ways, my dear soul. The BOD camp can’t have its cake and eat it, too. Either BOD is an infallible & explicit teaching and hence WO is a heresy, or else BOD is not an infallible & explicit teaching and hence WO is not a heresy.
After all, what does Pius IX actually say?
“…[I]t is also necessary to subject themselves to [necessary for them to obey]… those forms [types] of doctrine which are held by the common and constant consent of Catholics as theological truths and conclusions, so certain that opinions opposed to these same forms of doctrines, although they cannot be heretical [so sure of these theological conclusions that any opinion opposed to them, while not heretical], nevertheless deserve some theological censure [condemnation].” (Ibid., emphases & annotations added)
“…although they cannot be heretical…” (Ibid.)
Here Pius IX makes a somewhat mysterious and vague reference to teachings that are “common and constant” amongst Catholics, but which, apparently, are not quite part of the Ordinary Magisterium and thus infallible.
I would guess that this distinction of his is probably accurately applied to something like the notion of the Limbo of the Babes --- a belief that is, seemingly, not quite explicitly upheld since the first century amongst all Catholics, but which is, just as seemingly, pretty much believed and taught in its essence amongst most, if not all, Catholics, since earliest times, being a natural logical consequence of those teachings that are both explicit and infallible from the very start. Hence, denial of the Limbo of the Babes would be, if not quite heretical all by itself, certainly worthy of strong theological censure.
Or, for instance, the teaching of Darwinistic evolution.
For while this modern notion of how everything came to exist doesn’t directly deny creation by the Triune Catholic God, necessarily --- and whereas later Catholic leaders of the 20th century seemed to get quite cozy with Darwinism, intellectually speaking --- it certainly does logically call into question the Dogma of Original Sin. After all, if Darwin teaches that our universe is both steeped in and founded upon bloodshed, violence, pain and mortality as a part of everyday existence since life began on this world due to a competition for resources and the so-called ‘survival of the fittest’, then exactly how is the commission of original sin by Adam & Eve supposed to have ushered in the punishment of death & suffering for the very first time?
Meanwhile, we have shown
repeatedly that the theological opinion of BOD was not taught
universally all the way back to the time of Christ & His Apostles during
the very first century. Hence, BOD is most definitely not a “constant” teaching in the Church, either
in the ordinary magisterial sense or in the broader, somewhat less crucial,
sense that Pius IX apparently applies in the example just above. To the
contrary, BOD was never taught at the beginning, this opinion only
inarguably asserted in a truncated version of its present form with
Consequently, BOD cannot be directly relevant to what Pope Pius IX was saying in the latter part of the quote that we have just focused on four to six paragraphs above.
+++ 163. The Subtle But Serious Fallacy in Trying to +++
Make Tuas Libenter Look Like It Supports BOD, Act 5
Indeed, at this juncture, one thing alone remains for the BOD partisan to argue.
“…[I]t is also necessary to subject themselves to [necessary for them to obey] the decisions pertaining to doctrine which are issued by the Pontifical Congregations [various offices in the Vatican composed of men under the authority of the Pope, but who do not themselves exercise the Pope’s infallible authority]…” (Ibid., emphases & annotations added)
Namely, Pius IX also mentioned how we should submit ourselves to the doctrinal decisions put forth by the Pontifical Congregations --- those men who, although they are not the pope and thus not wielding his supreme or infallible authority, notwithstanding, do indeed operate with a pope’s delegated authority (albeit not supreme or infallible!) from the Vatican in Rome.
BODers want you to
think that a Pontifical Congregation in the
Mind you, I have never yet found such a ruling from a Pontifical Congregation that is explicitly against the ‘water only’ position.
For a good reason, too.
Because if the BOD stance has dominated for the last 700 years --- especially since the 1400s --- then how likely is it that a Pontifical Congregation felt compelled to defend a fallible doctrine that nobody has dared to doubt until very recently in a significant way? And if such a ruling against WO exists regardless, then why hasn’t an educated and persistent BODer found this decision and trumpeted it loudly for everyone else to see?
As far as I’m able to tell
thus far, there is only one time that BOD came close to being officially,
publicly & explicitly addressed by someone in the
We dealt with this in Chapter 20 of Baptismal Confusion, you’ll remember.
Is this papal document relevant?
Yes and no.
Yes, because it does seem to address the core teaching of BOD, which is that perfect contrition for your mortal sins does remit those mortal sins, including original sin, even before water baptism is administered.
And yet, no, because BOD is not mentioned explicitly by name in this papal document, and the document itself, although chiding Michel du Bay in general, does not condemn any particular proposition in Ex omnibus afflictionibus specifically with an indisputable intent, least of all BOD by name, and even allows for the chance that some of these propositions, at a bare minimum, could be true if understood rightly.
But, of course, isn’t the apparent support --- even if only implied and not by name or with specific intent --- of the core teaching of BOD about perfect contrition, then, at least, the equivalent to a decision from a Pontifical Congregation against WO?
And here we must entertain the possibility that a Pontifical Congregation has rendered an explicit decision against the WO position. For I do not have nearly enough time to pore through untold thousands upon thousands of documents issued from the Vatican during the last eight centuries, nor is everything yet easily available for everyone to peruse, especially when it comes to decisions issued more than a hundred years ago.
Ergo, it is possible such a fallible yet still very authoritative document exists. And, in any case, the words from Pius V against Michel du Bay are close to being the equivalent to such a thing.
End of sentence?
+++ 164. The Subtle But Serious Fallacy in Trying to +++
Make Tuas Libenter Look Like It Supports BOD, Act 6
To be intelligent and just, we have to ask ourselves just what it was that Pius IX was warning against in Tuas libenter.
Did it have anything to do with ‘baptism of desire’ or ‘water only’?
And no one who is educated or honest can pretend otherwise.
Neither BOD nor WO were contested publicly at this time, and certainly not by men of “speculative science” as Pius the Ninth put it --- i.e., scientists and their theories, as we would call it nowadays.
Pius wrote to Archbishop Scherr regarding German theologians, around half of whom employed the new ‘historical’ approach to theology then coming into vogue. This was in contrast to the more ‘scholastic’ method used for the previous half millennium. These theologians had just gotten together for a conference that had been neither called for, nor approved by, ecclesial authority. Nonetheless, they seemed to be sincere. They seemed to be trying to present a united front toward non-Catholic scholarship, which was attacking the teachings of the Church left and right. Everyone back then was caught in a tidal wave of Modernism sweeping through academia. No intellectual during this era of the mid-1800s could escape the shocks, challenges, pressures and temptations coming like a neverending flood of the ‘latest ideas’ from modern thinkers.
At first Pius IX heard good things about this conference, belying his misgivings. But then his nuncio gave a detailed report and his worst fears were confirmed. The leading theologian involved --- a certain Ignaz Döllinger, who later split from the Church over the solemn definition of papal infallibility at the Vatican Council in 1869 to 1870 --- had denounced censures from the Roman Curia (i.e., from Pontifical Congregations), and appeared to assert a kind of supreme academic leadership for German theology. The conference also issued a resolution saying infallibility was limited to those teachings the Church has defined explicitly (to wit, the Extraordinary Magisterium and nothing else).
Dear reader, is it beginning to dawn on you?
Are you starting to see what the pope was aiming for in Tuas libenter?
This is why Pius drove home the infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium in addition to the infallibility of the Extraordinary Magisterium.
And it is why, in light of Herr Döllinger’s
defiance of the Roman Curia --- the men under a pope with delegated authority
to oversee the Church as part of various Pontifical Congregations --- Pius
upheld the need to obey doctrinal decrees coming from a Congregation at the
For what were Ignaz Döllinger and many of his fellow German theologians doing?
Not only discounting infallible teachings that were part of the Ordinary Magisterium while not yet part of the Extraordinary Magisterium, but, in addition to this, embracing modernist ideas that were destructive of (or at least dangerous to) Catholic theology and which, perhaps, the Successor to Peter had never yet gotten around to chastising, but which a Pontifical Congregation either had addressed or probably would address, and which the most prominent German theologian of the time (Döllinger) had said they didn’t need to pay attention to!
+++ 165. The Tuas libenter BOD Strategy: +++
the Dénouement, With a Sober Warning to the BOD Camp
This is the milieu in which Tuas libenter was written. This is what Pius’ letter to Archbishop Scherr in 1863 was all about. It has nothing directly to do with ‘baptism of desire’.
Moreover --- and ironically so, given the role that the issue of infallibility played at this conference of German theologians, and given that Döllinger split from the Church after the Vatican Council because of its definition of papal infallibility --- Tuas libenter is not an exercise of the Roman Bishop’s infallibility. Hence, even if it did say something directly and explicitly about BOD, it would not be the absolute final word and thus irreformable.
All the same, we cannot be wise Catholics and lightly discard what Pius the Ninth says.
Because, yes, normally, a good
Catholic should obey what the
Roman Curia decrees. Just because it isn’t coming from the pope
personally or carrying the aura of solemn infallibility, doesn’t then mean that a Pontifical Congregation at
Far from it!
And, yes, if a decision from the Roman Curia were to turn up that seems to explicitly uphold BOD or explicitly denounce WO, then this decision would be still more strong evidence for the BOD position… and a heavy tick against the side for ‘water only’. This, indeed, is what Pius the Fifth’s (Fifth’s, not Ninth’s!) stance against the French theologian in Ex omnibus afflictionibus appears to amount to with Propositions 31 & 33 near the end of the 16th century. For even if it doesn’t explicitly mention BOD (‘baptism of desire’) or BOS (‘baptism of spirit’), not to mention WO (‘water only’), and even if it doesn’t make clear which propositions can be understood in a ‘proper’ sense and how much any particular proposition is opposed by the Successor to Peter in its ‘improper’ sense, it’s plain Michel de Buy wasn’t in favor with Pope Pius V, and that this theologian seemed to challenge the pith of BOD with his apparent denial of the teaching, commonly believed during the 2nd millennium, that perfect contrition can remit a person’s mortal sins --- including the mortal sin of original sin that we’re all conceived into, apart from Jesus & Mary --- prior to the reception of the sacramental waters of baptism.
So, yes, a decision from a Vatican Office for BOD or against WO that later turns up --- or, for that matter, Pius V’s dissing of Michel de Buy in the late 1500s --- would appear to be rather significant support for the BOD aficionado’s position.
Nevertheless, an impossible-to-dispute support?
Or ‘proof’ that no doctrinal evidence or valid logic exists for WO, too?
Or reason to call WOers ‘rebellious’ merely because they dare to argue for the ‘water only’ opinion… a stance that does not deny any explicit and infallible doctrine whether ordinary or extraordinary, and which, apparently, no decree of the Vatican has ever yet explicitly censured?
Such an assertion goes too far.
Remember, we’re talking about the BOD enthusiast’s last ditch effort when it comes to papal documentation. He uses Pius IX’s words in Tuas libenter as if they mean BOD has become ‘infallible’ just because it became the majority opinion of Catholic theologians by the AD 1300s… which is a blatant falsehood and misrepresents the Ordinary Magisterium.
Consequently, the BODer then tweaks his ploy and implies that a Pontifical Congregation has censured the WO theological opinion. And even though this is as much as admitting that WO has never yet been explicitly condemned with infallible authority, and even though no one has ever yet --- to my knowledge --- produced a Vatican decree clearly opposing ‘water only’.
Which is why, then, I warn the BOD crowd:
Don’t do this.
Pretending WO is ‘heretical’ or ‘rebellious’ is schismatic. And schism is an objectively mortal sin that rips apart and destroys the life of Christ’s One & Only Catholic Body, a sin just as objectively mortal as a heresy that tears to shreds and destroys the life of Christ’s One & Only Catholic Mind.
+++ 166. St. Catherine of
One last thing.
We’ve gone through just about every argument the BODers can throw at ‘water only’ concerning infallible teachings, papal documentation, ecclesial history, the martyrology, biblical verses, etc., etc. However, there is one small item a ‘baptism of desire’ aficionado occasionally brings up.
To wit, St. Catherine of Siena’s words regarding BOD in her book, The Dialogue.
“I also showed the baptism of
love in two ways, first in those who are baptized in their blood
[BOB], shed for Me, which has virtue through My Blood, even if they have not been able to have Holy Baptism [water
baptism], and also in those who are
baptized in fire [BOD], not
being able to have Holy Baptism [water baptism], but desiring it
with the affection of love.” (St. Catherine of
St. Catherine was born in the
It was then that she gained devoted admirers and followers. It was then, too, that some of them became her secretaries. Aside from correspondence with rulers, popes, or the like, she dictated to them The Dialogue, which reads like an extended conversation between her and God the Father.
Part of this conversation regards BOD in the quote above, described as a ‘baptism of fire’ (a description rooted in Acts 2:1-4 where we read about the Holy Ghost coming down from Heaven upon the heads of the disciples in Jerusalem the morning of Pentecost like flames of fire).
What are we to make of this testimony?
+++ 167. Catherine’s Testimony Is Good Evidence +++
for BOD --- But Not Authoritative & Final
Right off the bat we have to admit the obvious:
It’s actually pretty good evidence for BOD.
I mean, think about it. Catherine of Siena is a canonized saint. We certainly can’t suspect her of deliberately lying. Too, a perusal of her words reveals her to be very intelligent and infused supernaturally with the grace of wisdom. Hence, how likely is it that she got mixed up or confused about what God told her?
It would seem to be improbable.
And why is that?
Because a saint is not guaranteed infallibility.
Nor is the scribe who took down her words guaranteed to be infallible, so that we also have to consider the possibility --- however unlikely we may want to think it --- that the secretary recording her words at this point got them accidentally mistaken in this passage.
Or that this secretary purposely (and, perhaps, with a perfectly good intention) changed her words to reflect his own theological training about BOD.
Of course, from a merely human perspective, do I think these last two scenarios probable?
All the same, without the heavenly guarantee of infallibility, it’s possible.
Again, St. Catherine of
But the final incontestable word on BOD?
Because the theological opinion of BOD held in its acceptable and orthodox sense --- as applied to good-willed catechumens who, supposedly, happen to die before they can receive water baptism --- is not beyond rational contesting.
And it is not beyond rational contesting because it was never an explicit part of the Deposit of Faith given to us by Christ & His Apostles back in the first century. Ergo, granted that a sincere and intelligent Catholic has serious rational doubts about BOD, not to mention serious and rational points in favor of WO, then the subject most definitely is theologically contestable.
The only way it could ever get put beyond rational debate is if a future pope, while exercising his supreme power as the Visible Head of Christ’s One & Only Roman Catholic Body, very clearly rules for BOD and against WO under the protection of his charism of infallibility.
+++ 168. One Last Thought +++
One last thought.
For just as Ss. Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas Aquinas mistakenly opined against the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (instead believing Her to have been, at some instant after Her Conception but before Her Birth, miraculously and wholly sanctified by the Holy Ghost), so, too, it would seem that St. Catherine of Siena made the same mistake.
This is not, indeed, stated anywhere in her book, The Dialogue. To my knowledge, it is not stated anywhere in any writings existing today that purport to come from her.
However, there was an account of her having, apparently, given an opinion against belief in the Immaculate Conception.
“There is also a revelation attributed to S. Catherine of Sienna, that the Blessed Virgin was conceived in original sin, and which is mentioned by S. Antoninus.” (Pope Benedict XIV’s Heroic Virtue, Vol. 3: a Portion of the Treatise of Benedict XIV on the Beatification and Canonization of the Servants of God, Pg. 400. Published in 1852 by Thomas Richardson & Son from London in the United Kingdom, as translated into English from the original Latin that Benedict XIV composed during the 18th century at some point prior to 1758. Found online at https://archive.org/stream/heroicvirtue03beneuoft/heroicvirtue03beneuoft_djvu.txt as of 15 December 2014. Emphases added.)
As far as I can tell, this is the only source easily available to most people in our part of the world to examine nowadays --- and I stress how “easily” is a relative term, it still being difficult to find and even though we have the Internet --- which refers to this “revelation” that St. Catherine apparently had concerning Queen Mary’s Conception. What’s more, Benedict the Fourteenth cites a canonized saint, Antoninus (who lived from 1389 to 1459, right after Catherine died), as an earlier source for this account.
Now a saint is not to be blithely discounted.
All the same, St. Antoninus could not have gotten his account directly from Catherine in the flesh during her lifetime, who died in 1380 a mere nine years prior to Antoninus’ birth. And the author of Heroic Virtue, Pope Benedict XIV, mentioned, as well, certain eminent persons who doubted the accuracy of this account.
“But as there is no trace of that revelation among the visions and revelations of S. Catherine, collected by the Blessed Raymund of Capua, there arises no slight suspicion, that this has been added to them, and is therefore to be accounted apocryphal [doubtful], as is shown at length by Cardinal Gotti, and Martin del Rio.” (Ibid. Annotation added.)
Still, this account of Catherine’s “revelation” had to have come from somewhere.
Who first originated it --- and why?
At any rate, St. Antoninus having lived right on the heels of St. Catherine’s life, this account therefore must have existed very soon after her death in 1380.
Which then makes the account seem a little more plausible.
Indeed, not just plausible but --- and whether or not the account of her having this revelation is actually true --- pointing to the fact that we can be virtually certain Catherine did not believe the Blessed Virgin was without sin from Her Conception.
Remember… St. Catherine was a Dominican.
And the Dominicans, for two or three centuries, followed the lead of their premiere theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas, who eventually had opined quite decisively that, while Mary was sanctified from every sin, this sanctification only occurred at some point in time after Her Conception yet before Her Birth. (My dear reader, please refer again to Chapter 46 in this book, Baptismal Confusion, if you have forgotten, or are antagonistic toward, the historical fact of Thomas Aquinas’ mistaken opposition to the teaching of Mary’s Immaculate Conception.)
Leading to the very odd situation where the Dominicans, who had an unparalleled reputation for honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary and promoting Her Most Holy Rosary, notwithstanding, were the most staunch opponents of the teaching of the Immaculate Conception prior to its clear, solemn and infallible definition in 1854.
In fact, what is doubly odd is that the Dominicans were, at least a few of them, the most staunch opponents of the Aristotelian-based theology of their fellow Dominican, Thomas Aquinas, that existed after his death --- until his canonization in 1323 seemed to put his teaching beyond pious dispute. (Please refer to Chapter 44 in this book, Baptismal Confusion, if you doubt or have forgotten the historical fact of heated dispute over Aquinas’ teachings, my dear reader.) And yet this Thomas, who some of them had not liked, is the very same Thomas whose opinion about the Blessed Virgin’s Conception they then as a whole doggedly upheld for centuries till the tide of contrary theological opinion grew so strong that three successive popes during the 1600s essentially cut off any further public debate in the matter for all Catholics, period.
+++ 169. One Last Thought, Part 2 +++
Nevertheless, we find that this is what God will sometimes allow members of His Catholic Body to undergo on earth in order to test and refine them. That is to say, disagreements and battles of the intellect --- even regarding matters of theology --- are often how he afflicts His servants in order to purify them or humble them.
In any case, what this foray into sanctoral history leaves us realizing is that Catherine --- who was an earnest and obedient Dominican --- would certainly never go against the authoritative stance and dominant teaching of her religious order, during the 1300s, without the weight of an even higher authority or more widely dominant teaching standing squarely behind her. At her death in 1380, the correct theological opinion about Queen Mary’s Conception had not yet come to hold sway. At a bare minimum, within her religious order, St. Thomas Aquinas’ incorrect position regarding the circumstances of Her Sanctity was still unquestioned.
Ergo, how in the world could we expect St. Catherine to have held the correct theological opinion at this moment in time?
It isn’t likely… although Benedict XIV, in putting together his book, Heroic Virtue, nearly four centuries later during the 1700s, probably wanted to spare Catherine’s reputation from any stain of reproach, or, perhaps, simply did not realize how implausible it was for her to have contradicted what was then the universally accepted teaching amongst Dominicans.
Once again we see a simple truth demonstrated.
Namely, that a canonized saint --- no matter how holy or revered --- cannot substitute for an explicit & infallible teaching of the Church.
The theological stance of a canonized saint, when it comes to a teaching not yet infallibly taught in a clear way to the Catholic Church as a whole, can never, never, never fully substitute for such an explicit and infallible doctrine.
And why, again, would that be?
Because a saint who is not a pope does not exercise the charism of infallibility.
Ergo, while this saint’s theological opinion can be counted as strong evidence for a particular position, it cannot solve the debate with finality, and a Catholic who takes the contrary position with intelligence and respectfulness --- being cautious to stay within the bounds of orthodoxy, especially doctrines taught both simply and clearly from the very first century --- cannot be faulted merely because he dares to disagree with that saint’s vaunted opinion.
End of sentence.
Which doesn’t mean the saint is wrong. Indeed, if I were a betting man, I would usually gamble on the canonized saint’s theological opinion when a fallible teaching is disputed.
But every single time?
Because, once in a while, saints can hold the incorrect position regarding fallible matters.
And the debate over the Immaculate Conception is an amazing example of this.
+ + +
Part One of Baptismal Confusion (Chapters 1-32)
Part Two of Baptismal Confusion (Chapters 33-60)
Part Three of Baptismal Confusion (Chapters 61-82)
Part Four of Baptismal Confusion (Chapters 83-105)
Part Five of Baptismal Confusion (Chapters 106-132)
Part Seven of Baptismal Confusion (Chapters 170-197)
+ + +
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