Thursday, April 17, 2008

Baptism of Desire, An Interview


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I. PREPARATORY READING:

Cekada, Baptism of Desire and Theological Principles. This is an excellent summary of the basic principles that one must have in mind in order to be able to comprehend the issue, especially how this doctrine is founded upon the sources of revelation. I assume these principles in the following interview.

II. BIBLIOGRAPHY:

The Sacrae Theologiae Summa, a sophisticated, four-volume Jesuit Manual of dogmatic theology published by the BAC in 1950 (henceforth, “BAC”); excellent for the finer points of Scholastic theology. (The set is out of print, but you can obtain a PDF version through the Ite ad Thomam Out of Print Library.)
Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, a simpler English manual that is in print; good for easy reference of finer points (henceforth, “Ott”). You can buy a copy through TAN Books.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, essential for the more fundamental points (henceforth, “ST”).
Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum (henceforth, “D”).
Sacred Scripture (will be cited by book).


III. QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

1. What are all the necessary requirements that must be fulfilled in order for a human person to be saved in the New Covenant?
Ultimately, what is required for salvation or ‘glory’ is final perseverance, i.e., that we persevere until the end of our lives in the state of Sanctifying Grace. Now, Sanctifying Grace is not a ‘means’ to salvation or glory; grace is, in a sense, salvation or ‘glory’ itself, or that which becomes glory in eternity: this is why St. Thomas calls grace “the seed of Glory” (semen gloriae); Cf., ST I.95.1 arg. 6. In this sense, one could say that final perseverance (ending our lives with Sanctifying Grace) is necessary for salvation with absolute (or intrinsic) necessity, and not merely with hypothetical necessity. Even God could not save us without Sanctifying Grace, for that is what it means for Him to save us: to give us Sanctifying Grace and bring it to consummation (gloria est gratia consummata). However, all else is a means to Sanctifying Grace, including Baptism and membership in the Church. These means are necessary with a hypothetical necessity of means, that is, their necessity is not intrinsic, but founded solely on God’s decision to establish such an order. This is the doctrine of the Church as expressed by the traditional Manuals of Scholastic Theology (Cf. BAC, v. 4, De sacramentis, §66; Ott, p. 356): Baptism by water (baptismus fluminis) is necessary with a hypothetical (not absolute) necessity of means since the promulgation of the Gospel—when the Sacramental order was established—for acquiring the state of Sanctifying Grace (justification). Hence, justification and salvation are not identical with the Sacrament of Baptism, but are only an effect of the Sacrament, an effect that hypothetically can come about without the ordinary cause. God transcends the sacramental order and He can act, if he so desires, extraordinarily. Just as he saved the Old Testament Patriarchs without Baptism, so even after the promulgation of the Gospel, He can, in extraordinary circumstances, allow that Sanctifying Grace be obtained without the reception of the Sacrament, e.g., if there is the desire of the Sacrament. It is only within the sacramental order that He has decided to save us in this manner, but he is ultimately beyond this order and can act outside of it. God, simply out of his good pleasure, and not due to any intrinsic necessity, decided that Baptism would be the ordinary means to salvation.
2. When during the era of the New Covenant would you say these prerequisites became necessary? Pentecost?
“Since the promulgation of the Gospel,” as the Manuals teach. This is based on Trent’s statement that, “after the promulgation of the Gospel, [justification] cannot occur without the bath of regeneration (i.e., Baptism) or its desire.” (post Evangelium promulgatum sine lavacro regenerationis aut ejus voto fieri non potest. D 796).
3. What is required for membership in the church?
The teaching of the Manuals is this: “The members of the Church are those who have validly received the Sacrament of Baptism and who are not separated from the unity of the confession of the Faith, and from the unity of the lawful communion of the Church.” This is a sententia certa (cf. Ott, p. 309).

Thus, three conditions are necessary, according to the Manuals:

a) Valid reception of the Sacrament of Baptism.
b) The profession of the truth Faith.
c) Participation in the Communion of the Church.

Cf. Pius XII, Mystici Corporis (D 2286):
Actually only those are to be numbered among the members of the Church who have received the laver of regeneration and profess the true faith, and have not, to their misfortune, separated themselves from the structure of the Body, or for very serious sins have not been excluded by lawful authority. “For in one spirit,” says the Apostle, “were we all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free" [ 1 Cor. 12:13]. So, just as in the true community of the faithful of Christ there is only one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, and one Baptism, so there can be only one faith [cf. Eph. 4:5]; and so he who refuses to hear the Church, as the Lord bids "let him be as the heathen and publican" [cf. Matt. 18:17]. Therefore, those who are divided from one another in faith or in government cannot live in the unity of such a body, and in its one divine spirit.
4. Does baptism of desire make one a member of the Catholic Church?
No. (Cf. Ott, p. 311).
5. Is it possible to be saved without receiving any of the sacraments?
Extraordinarily, given the Omnipotence of God and his transcendence over the Sacramental order, it is possible. (Some examples are St. Dismas—the Good Thief—, St. Emerentiana, St. Genesius, St. Victor, and St. Rogatian; Cf. their entries in the Roman Martyrology and their acta. The Manuals generally acknowledge that their martyrdoms are examples of “Baptism of Blood.” See also my post on these martyrs.)

6. What is absolutely necessary for a valid baptism?
Proper form and matter, a valid subject (the receiver of the Sacrament) and the intention to “do what the Church does.” (Cf. Ott, pp. 343, 350-360.)
7. Are baptism of desire and baptism of blood sacraments?
No. They can be extraordinary substitutes for the Sacrament of Baptism (Cf. ST III.66.11 ad 3).
8. Is there only one type of baptism?
Yes. The other two are “baptisms” only analogically. In this sense, one can say that there are three “baptisms”—and this is why many of the Doctors and Fathers speak of “three baptisms” (cf. ST III.66.11). However, strictly speaking there is only one Sacrament of Baptism, and this is why the Nicene Creed says confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum, and why St. Paul speaks of “one Faith, one Baptism” (Eph. 4:5).
9. What is baptism of desire? What are the prerequisites for baptism of desire?
“Baptism of desire” is the desire of the Sacrament of Baptism. (The Latin is not baptismum voti, but votum baptismi.) You must have an intellect and a will (i.e., you must be human), and you must have reached the age of reason (i.e., you must be able to choose freely) to be able to desire the Sacrament of Baptism. The Manuals also teach that the desire of baptism must be conjoined with an act of perfect charity to be a means of salvation.
10. Does baptism of desire imprint on one’s soul the baptismal character?
No. (Cf. Ott, p. 357; see ST III.66.11 & 12.)
11. Is salvation attainable by baptism of desire?
Yes, extraordinarily, as I explained above, in my answer to question 1.
12. What is justification?
As is taught in the definition of Trent, justification is “the translation from that condition in which man is born as the son of the first Adam into the state of grace and adoption among the children of God through the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Savior” (Translatio ab eo statu, in quo homo nascitur filius primi Adæ, in statum gratiæ et adoptionis filiorum Dei, per secundum Adam Jesum Christum Salvatorem nostrum. D 796). In other words, it is the passage from a state of sin (original or mortal) to the state of Sanctifying Grace.

13. Is justification attainable by baptism of desire?
See question 1.
14. Is making a distinction between salvation and justification necessary in the discussion of baptism of desire and blood?
I don’t see how that distinction is relevant to the issue of Baptism of Desire. It is true: salvation and justification must not be confused, for they are clearly distinct concepts. In this life, we have not yet been saved, but if we are in the state of Sanctifying Grace, we have been justified. Salvation presupposes justification, but not vice-versa. Salvation includes justification, but is more than justification. The desire of the Sacrament of Baptism can be the means through which God not only justifies, but saves, a soul.
15. Some argue that so-called “Feeneyites” conveniently tried to force a distinction between salvation and justification, why would they not affirm that salvation and justification are indeed the same?
I’m not familiar with their argument. If they make that distinction, then they are right in making it. However, I do not see how they would use it to prove their point.
16. What does the sacrament of baptism cause or effect that allows a soul to be saved?
Only sacraments work ex opere operato (cf. Ott, p. 328-30), and the desire of a Sacrament is not a sacrament. Therefore, the desire itself of a Sacrament causes nothing in the soul ex opere operato. Rather, the desire of a Sacrament, particularly the desire of Baptism, works ex opere operantis (cf. Ott, p. 357). That is, there is nothing intrinsic about someone’s desire for Baptism that confers Grace. It is God alone who, out of his good pleasure and in order to show his goodness, has mercy on a soul and confers upon it Sanctifying Grace, along with a perfect charity, despite the soul not having received the Sacrament.
17. Do baptism of desire and blood cause or effect everything caused by water baptism?

No. Its only effect is justification/salvation, i.e., the bestowal of Sanctifying Grace and the forgiveness of sins. The Sacrament has effects that these do not have, for instance, the Baptismal Character and incorporation into the Church.
17. What is your position on vicarious baptism of desire?
On the one hand, the doctrine of the desire of baptism in general has always been taught almost unanimously by the Witnesses of Tradition (the consensus of the Fathers, the consensus of the Doctors and Theologians, and the consensus of the Faithful). I defend, but it is not because I particularly like it or because I’m a universalist who believes everyone will be saved. Frankly, I do not even like talking about this doctrine—it is so easily misinterpreted and perverted—and I think more people are in hell than we can imagine (cf. Mt 7:13-14). I believe and defend this doctrine because it is part of Sacred Tradition—despite the fact that it has been much abused, and that in our age it is the other side of the story, the necessity of baptism for salvation, that must be emphasized.

On the other hand, however, this is not the case with the ‘doctrine’ (or better yet theory) of vicarious baptism of desire. That theory has not been taught so unanimously and, therefore, I have no sufficient reason to believe it. In fact, I am even suspicious of it. It seems that the only reason anyone would want to believe in such a thing is that one thinks it would be unjust for God to send to hell (viz., limbo) the soul of an unborn infant. This reasoning presupposes a misconception of both the nature of limbo and the justice of God.

Not only is this theory not taught by the Church or by the Witnesses of Tradition; it has even received an implicit papal censure. Cajetan defended this theory in his commentary to Aquinas’ Summa; but when Pope S. Pius V published that Commentary, he removed Cajetan’s defense of vicarious baptism of desire, implicitly disapproving of the theory. (Cf. Catholic Encyclopedia, ‘Baptism’: “It is true that some Catholic writers (as Cajetan, Durandus, Biel, Gerson, Toletus, Klee) have held that infants may be saved by an act of desire on the part of their parents, which is applied to them by some external sign, such as prayer or the invocation of the Holy Trinity; but Pius V, by expunging this opinion, as expressed by Cajetan, from that author's commentary on St. Thomas, manifested his judgment that such a theory was not agreeable to the Church’s belief.”)
18. The Saint Benedict Center literature utilizes syllogisms in defending the truth of the faith. For example, sacraments are necessary for salvation. And that water is necessary for baptism to be valid. Therefore water, reason would logically conclude, argue the “Feeneyites”, is necessary for salvation. Some argue that this is a fallacy in logic. Is this syllogism valid or not? Explain? What fallacy has been committed?
I do not detect a fallacy here. It is a dogma of faith that the Sacrament of Baptism is necessary for salvation with a necessity of means. Now, obviously, the matter of the sacrament, water, is an essential part of the sacrament. Therefore, it follows that the matter of the sacrament, water, is necessary for salvation with a necessity of means as well.

However, this does not bind God. The necessity of baptism is a hypothetical necessity of means—it is the means that God has established within the sacramental order. In other words, given the sacramental order that God has instituted, Baptism is the way we are saved. However, he is not bound to act within this order. He can act extraordinarily if He so chooses. Hence, the Fathers, Theologians and Doctors, Catechisms, etc., etc., teach that the Sacrament of Baptism (“baptism of water”) can be replaced by the desire of baptism or by martyrdom.
19. How much weight does this doctrine of baptism of desire carry? Would the position of baptism of desire be correct by categorizing it as a tolerated theologians opinion? Should Catholics not tolerate the baptism of desire doctrine?
No, it is not a mere theological opinion. Some, but not all, theologians, such as St. Alphonsus Liguori, teach that it is de fide, which means it is part of our faith and, hence, denying it would amount to heresy. Others, however, teach that it is a sententia proxima fidei (a doctrine that is proximate to the faith), i.e., a truth that is implicit in the Sources of Revelation (i.e., Scripture or Tradition). Hence, it is at least implicit in the Sources. (See my post on the notae theologicae.) It is especially seen in Trent: “after the promulgation of the Gospel, [justification] cannot occur without the bath of regeneration (i.e., Baptism) or its desire” (post Evangelium promulgatum sine lavacro regenerationis aut ejus voto fieri non potest. D 796).

Further, the Magisterium teaches us that we must believe not only those things that are taught by the Pope and the extraordinary Magisterium, but also that which is taught by the ordinary Magisterium and, therefore, unanimously taught by the Theologians as divinely revealed (all ecclesiastically appointed theologians throughout the ages, especially the Doctors of the Church):
“For even if it were a matter concerning that subjection which is to be manifested by an act of divine faith, nevertheless, it would not have to be limited to those matters which have been defined by express decrees of the ecumenical Councils, or of the Roman Pontiffs and of this See, but would have to be extended also to those matters which are handed down as divinely revealed by the ordinary teaching power of the whole Church spread throughout the world, and therefore, by universal and common consent are held by Catholic theologians to belong to faith.” Tuas Libenter (1863), D 1683).
The doctrine of baptism of desire/blood is a primary example of such doctrines handed. It is implicit in Trent and taught by all Theologians.

Hence, it is not the doctrine of baptism of desire that is an “opinion that is to be tolerated” (sententia tolerata) but the denial of this doctrine. In other words, the doctrine of baptism of desire is by far more certain to be part of Divine Revelation and enjoys far more ecclesiastical approval than its opposite. Hence, it is the opposite doctrine (the denial of baptism of desire) that is the sententia tolerata—tolerated, that is, until it is condemned, but for now it has not been explicitly condemned.

20. The Society of Saint Pius X says that as long as one dies in sanctifying grace one can be saved? Is there anything else needed? Please respond.

See my reply to question 1.
21. Is it necessary for salvation to possess the baptismal character? Would you argue that the extraordinary Magisterium of the Church would never define that the character is necessary for salvation in light of the fact that desire of baptism suffices for salvation?

The character is necessary in the same sense that the Sacrament itself is necessary. Baptism, including the Baptismal Character, is the means to salvation within the sacramental order. However, as I explained above, God can act outside of this order. Hence, just as the Magisterium has already defined that the Sacrament itself is necessary for salvation, so it may define that the Character in particular is necessary for salvation—necessary with a necessity of means. Such a definition would be true and would not contradict the doctrine on the desire of baptism.
22. If one establishes a sound conclusion that God cannot contradict Himself then how can He set the law that He Himself told us “unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” and then go back on His word and let other people into Heaven that have not been baptized sacramentally?

This question is an instance of the informal fallacy commonly called the “Complex Question.” The fallacy of the “Complex Question” consists in asking a question that assumes something not granted by the audience. In this case, the question assumes that there is a contradiction between John 3:5 and baptism of desire/blood. However, the whole point here is that there is no such contradiction: whereas what Scripture teaches (John 3:5) is true within the sacramental order, what Tradition teaches (baptism of desire/blood) is true extraordinarily, i.e., outside of this order. Scripture and Tradition cannot contradict each other because they are expressions of the same Divine Revelation.
23. It is argued that God need not bind Himself by His own laws, and thus He can operate beyond the structure of John 3:5. Could not God also operate justly within the structure of John 3:5 interpreting this passage rigidly? In other words, could not God always provide water for His elect ordinarily or extraordinarily?

Yes, He could supply Sacramental Baptism to all the elect; but He could also not supply it and still grant eternal salvation. This is exactly what Sacred Tradition affirms by teaching the doctrine of baptism of desire.
24. Does baptism of desire fulfill canon 861 (if anyone shall say that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation: let him be anathema) and if so how? Does this canon refer to baptism only as a sacrament and not a sacramental substitute?

I don’t understand this question. If you are asking whether someone who teaches baptism of desire is anathema, the answer is no, for to teach this is not to teach that the Sacrament of Baptism is optional. (Otherwise St. Alphonsus Liguori, who taught Baptism of desire as de fide, would not be a saint or a Doctor of the Church, but anathema, and the Church who canonized him and proclaimed him a Doctor would not be infallible.) That this canon does not intend to deny the truth of the teaching on baptism of desire is most evident in the very words of the Council of Trent cited above, aut ejus voto (D 796).
25. Consider the case of two settler children who were set to be baptized the next day by a priest. During the night, the village was raided and the children escaped to a nearby river where the brother and sister hid. The brother then remembered the lesson that the priest had told them one day, that anyone can baptize with ordinary water. So in an attempt to baptize the sister, the boy emerged from cover and raced for the river but was shot and killed by an arrow before he reached the water. The sister was also killed in her attempt in reaching the river. So they both were killed without visibly receiving the sacrament of baptism. Is it possible that through their desire to be baptized, they were justified and thus admitted entrance into heaven? Is it also possible that God could have provided the water baptism for the children in an extraordinary manner?

I suppose both are possible, due to God’s omnipotence. Baptism of desire is possible, provided that they were within the age of reason—although even then, God could miraculously grant a young child the use of reason, as He did to Our Lord and to Our Lady. The extraordinary provision of Sacramental Baptism is also possible, although it must be kept in mind that for the Sacrament to be valid, real, natural water must be used (not some sort of “spiritual water”). If real water is not used, then real (i.e., sacramental) Baptism is not possible, for this is part of the essence of Baptism—again water is necessary with absolute necessity for the Sacrament to be administered.
26. Are there problems that result from hypothetical scenarios generated by participants of the baptism of desire debate? Is the above account another hypothetical construction like the ignorant native in the jungles of Africa? Could one argue that these hypotheticals are similar to moral theologians and ethicists that posit “life-boat” situation ethics, blur the reality of moral absolutes?

I am not sure I understand what you are asking.
27. Did the Blessed Mother need to be baptized? If so was it solely to receive the baptismal character? Would she not have been allowed, as the Mother of God, into heaven without it?
She did not need to be baptized in order to be saved, for she was conceived, not only without any sin, but with the fullness of Sanctifying Grace. However, as some theologians believe, it would have been fitting for her to have been baptized, in order that she may receive the Character.
28. If Jesus was baptized with water to fulfill all justice, how shall we have justice fulfilled in us without baptism of water?

Is this is a question or an argument phrased in the form of a question? If it is a question, then the answer is that “we have justice fulfilled in us without baptism of water” by means of one of the two substitutes of Sacramental Baptism, namely, the so-called baptisms of desire and of blood.

If it is an argument, then I’m afraid it is a bad argument, for it commits the informal fallacy of “Questionable Analogy.” The analogy between Christ “fulfilling justice” through His baptism and our being justified through Sacramental Baptism is questionable. Christ was baptized “to fulfill justice,” but this does not mean that he was baptized so he may receive justification, but rather, so that he may fulfill a prophecy. Baptism is certainly necessary for justification, but this ‘argument’ in the form of a question does not successfully prove it.
29. What is meant by unfulfilled justice and fulfilled justice as in Matthew 3:14,15?
To “fulfill justice” in Matthew means to fulfill prophecy. Matthew, who addresses his Gospel to the Jews, is primarily concerned with showing how Christ is the fulfillment of ‘the Law and the Prophets’, i.e., the entire Jewish religion, particularly as contained in the Old Testament.
30. Fr. Feeney was silenced so it is said, for his belief on baptism of desire. Are there any ecclesial documents that maintain that Fr. Feeney taught heresy? Examples?

No, he is never declared a heretic; and there is no mention of heresy in any of the ecclesial documents that censure him. He is excommunicated for “a grave disobedience,” which is not the same thing as heresy:
DECREE: THE PRIEST LEONARD FEENEY IS DECLARED EXCOMMUNICATED

Since the priest Leonard Feeney, a resident of Boston (Saint Benedict Center), who for a long time has been suspended a divinis for grave disobedience toward church authority, has not, despite repeated warnings and threats of incurring excommunication ipso facto, come to his senses, the Most Eminent and Reverend Fathers, charged with safeguarding matters of faith and morals, have, in a Plenary Session held on Wednesday 4 February 1953, declared him excommunicated with all the effects of the law.

On Thursday, 12 February 1953, our Most Holy Lord Pius XII, by Divine Providence Pope, approved and confirmed the decree of the Most Eminent Fathers, and ordered that it be made a matter of public law.

Given at Rome, at the headquarters of the Holy Office, 13 February 1953.

Marius Crovini, Notary
(AAS, February 16, 1953; Vol. XXXV, p. 100)
31. What is invincible ignorance and what role does it have in this discussion?
Invincible ignorance is the unavoidable ignorance of the moral law or of facts that are relevant to acting according to the moral law. One is not morally responsible for acts that are done out of invincible ignorance.

I do not think this is relevant to our issue, however, for Baptism is necessary with a necessity of means, not merely with a necessity of precept. If it were merely a necessity of precept, we could be excused if we are invincibly ignorant of the precept to be baptized. However, since it is a necessity of means, we need this means to be saved. Just as a shipwrecked person floating in the ocean needs a raft, whether he is invincibly ignorant of it or not, so we are all born into this world with original sin and in need of Baptism, whether or not we are ignorant of it. Therefore, we need Baptism to be saved, whether or not we are ignorant of it. However—to extend the analogy—just as God can save the life of the shipwrecked person miraculously, without the raft (because He is outside of the laws of nature), so he can save the soul of a person extraordinarily, without Baptism (because He is outside the sacramental order).
32. There are some holy martyrs in the Roman Martyrology who are described as being catechumens. Since they are saints (a fact no one can dispute) some argue that they are in heaven without having been baptized with water. Their desire and martyrdom suffice. How does one respond to opponents who claim that there were some who were called catechumens that were already baptized (but still undergoing instruction)? Is there any evidence to support the view that there are saints in the Roman Martyrology who are not in fact baptized (ordinarily or extraordinarily)?
The Manuals teach that these martyrs were, in fact, not yet baptized. Thus, they constitute a proof that one can be saved through baptism of blood. See my answer to question 4.
33. It has been said that baptism of blood in the early church was used to signify simply martyrdom and not necessity of one who was unbaptized? Is this true?

Correct. “Baptism of blood” means just martyrdom, but we also know that the martyrs referred to above (question 4) were not yet baptized. When they teach that one can be saved ‘through baptism of blood’, they mean that it is possible for one to be saved through martyrdom, even if one is not yet baptized. Such is the teaching of the Manuals.
34. Why do most arguments about baptism of desire appear to be so volatile?
Again, this is the fallacy of the Complex Question. I do not agree that they appear to be volatile, at least the ones found in the Doctors of the Church and the traditional Scholastic manuals. In fact, to think that the Doctors of the Church and the Manuals give volatile arguments is quite a reckless judgment. Someone who thinks this way cannot possibly be serious about traditional Catholic theology, for the Doctors and the Manuals represent the pinnacle of traditional Catholic theology.
35. What is the official status of the position of the necessity of water baptism? Is it at least a theological position one is “permitted” to embrace?

No, it is not an opinion. It is a dogma of faith that baptism is necessary with a necessity of means. We must believe it. To deny this is a heresy. Thus, its opposite may not be tolerated.
36. What is your reaction to priests who deny Holy Communion to Catholics who reject baptism of desire because they embrace the rigid interpretation of John 3:5?
Until the Church declares that it is a heresy to deny baptism of desire/blood, a priest does not have the authority to do that. At this point, all we know it is proximate to heresy.
37. Would it be beneficial (in the future and with faithful traditional bishops) for a council and/or a pope to respond specifically and summarily to the claims and arguments of anti-baptism of desire proponents?
I think so. However, what we REALLY need the Church to do right now is to teach again and again that Baptism is necessary for salvation and that all non-Catholics must return to the Church, outside of which there is no salvation.

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