Saturday, January 23, 2010

S. Emerentiana: Patroness of Feeneyites?

It is time again to wish a happy feast day to the Feeneyites! Today is the feast of St. Emerentiana. I think she should be made the Patroness of Feeneyism. The reason is evident from her official acta which form part of the Roman Liturgy (Divine Office at matins, second nocturn):

Emerentiána virgo Romána, collactánea beátæ Agnétis, adhuc catechúmena, fide et caritáte flagrans, furéntes in Christiános idolórum cultóres cum veheméntius accusáret, a concitáta multitúdine lapídibus óbruta est. Quæ in cruciátibus orans ad sepúlcrum sanctæ Agnétis, próprio sánguine, quem pro Christo constánter effúdit, baptizáta, ánimam Deo réddidit.

Emerentiana, a Roman virgin and the foster-sister of the blessed Agnes, while she was still a Catechumen, burning with faith and charity, rebuked the idol-worshippers who were full of fury against the Christians, whereupon a mob assembled and stoned her. Praying in her torment at the grave of Saint Agnes, and having been baptized in her own blood, so generously shed for Christ, she gave up her soul unto God.

Thus, the Universal Liturgy, that most certain and infallible witness of Sacred Tradition, proposes to us for our veneration a Saint who never received sacramental baptism!

Nor is she the only such saint whom the Church venerates. There is also St. Genesius of Arles, whose feast day is on August 25. His official acta read thus:

Genesius, native of Arles, at first a soldier became known for his proficiency in writing, and was made secretary to the magistrate of Arles. While performing the duties of his office the decree of persecution against the Christians was read in his presence. Outraged in his ideas of justice, the young catechumen cast his tablets at the feet of the magistrate and fled. He was captured and executed, and thus received baptism in his own blood.

The corresponding text from the Roman Martyrology (Aug. 25) suggests the same:

Areláte, in Gállia, beáti item Genésii, qui, cum ímpia edícta, quibus Christiáni puníri jubebántur, exceptóris offício fungens, nollet excípere, et, projéctis in públicum tábulis, se Christiánum esse testarétur, comprehénsus et decollátus est, atque ita martyrii glóriam, próprio cruóre baptizátus, accépit.

At Arles in France, another blessed Genesius, who, filling the office of notary, and refusing to record the impious edicts by which Christians were commanded to be punished, threw away his books publicly, and declared himself a Christian, was seized and beheaded, and thus attained the glory of martyrdom, having been baptized through his own blood.

Another martyr that we venerate in the Sacred Liturgy even though he did not receive sacramental baptism is St. Victor of Braga . Here is his entry in the Roman Martyrology (April 12):

Brácari, in Lusitánia, sancti Victóris Mártyris, qui, adhuc catechúmenus, cum noluísset idólum adoráre, et Christum Jesum magna constántia conféssus fuísset, ídeo, post multa torménta, cápite abscísso, méruit próprio sánguine baptizári.

At Braga in Portugal, the martyr St. Victor, who, still a catechumen, when he refused to adore an idol, and confessed Jesus Christ with great constancy, after suffering many tortures, having been beheaded, merited to be baptized through his own blood.

Another is St. Rogatian, who was martyred together with his brother St. Donatian. Their commemoration is on May 24. Donatian had been baptized when they were martyred, but Rogatian was still a catechumen.

Some of these examples are a bit more subtle than others, but everyone in Christendom has always known (until the Feenyites denied it) that they are examples of saints who were saved, not through sacramental baptism, but through martyrdom.

On a more serious note... If we were Protestant we could simply deny, as do the Feeneyites, the value of the texts of the Sacred Liturgy as a witness of Divine Revelation. But we are not. We must not limit our fidelity (as do the Feeneyites) only to Scripture and to the infallible pronouncements of the Magisterium. We must extend this fidelity to all of the witnesses of Sacred Tradition, including the texts of the Sacred Liturgy, the consensus of the Fathers, the consensus of the Theologians, the consensus of the faithful, etc. If the Fathers agree that there is such a thing as baptism of blood--and they undoubtedly do--then we must believe so. If the liturgy tells us that these saints received baptism of blood and that we must venerate them--and it is now evident that it does--then we must do so. Futher, if the Theologians tell us that these saints are indeed proof of the reality of baptism of blood (cf. Tanquerey, Sola, and many others), then by all means we must accept this.

I will be the first one to defend the necessity of baptism (with a necessity of means) for salvation. (I have already done so here and here.) The Church proposes this truth for our belief as an article of faith. However, She also proposes, through the testimony of the Fathers, Theologians, and the Sacred Liturgy, the reality of baptism of blood as a truth that, though not necessarily an article of faith, is nonetheless so certain (sententia theologice certa) and so connected with the articles of the faith, that its obstinate denial would amount to a great theological error worthy of censure (Cf. Bl. Pius IX, Tuas libenter (1863), in Denzinger no. 1684).

The fact that this doctrine of baptism through blood seems to be at odds with the dogma of the necessity of baptism should not make us hesitate in accepting its truth. The fact that our intellects cannot grasp the coherence of these two teachings should not make us rashly conclude that they are incompatible in themselves. Our faith is filled with mysteries that transcend human reason. We must learn this lesson from the early Church: at that time, the great theological syntheses of the Fathers and Scholastics had not yet explained the profound harmony between the mysteries of faith, and most doctrines were believed despite the fact that they seemed paradoxical to the first Christians. The Unity of God seemed to be at odds with his being Triune; the humanity of Christ seemed to be at odds with his Divinity; the duality of wills in Christ seemed to be at odds with His conformity to the will of the Father. However, none of this prevented the early Fathers from assenting to all of these truths. Their minds did not grasp the harmony of the mysteries, but their faith forced them to trust that, since it all was part of the same Divine Revelation, and truth cannot contradict truth, it must all harmonize in the mind of God.

Let us prove ourselves faithful Catholics in doing the same: baptism is necessary for salvation, and yet there are some saints in heaven who never received sacramental baptism, but rather "were baptized in their own blood."

Sancta Emerentiana, ora pro nobis et pro feeneyitis.
Sancte Genesie, ora pro nobis et pro feeneyitis.
Sancte Victor, ora pro nobis et pro feeneyitis.
Sancte Rogatiane, ora pro nobis et pro feeneyitis.


Sanctus Belle said...

Beautiful post - Your Catholic faith shines through it.

Anonymous said...

If you choose to comment on the followers of Fr. Feeney, you really should get the spelling right: FeenEy, not Feeny. Thank you and God bless.

Don Paco said...

I stand corrected.


Catholic Mission said...


Why do you assume that Feenyism rejects the Baptism of Blood in principle (dejure)?

Vatican Council II says everyone with no exception needs to be a formal, visible member of the Catholic Church to avoid Hell and to go to Heaven. The Council is in accord with the ex cathedra dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus, outside the church there is no salvation. Vatican Council II (Ad Gentes 7, Lumen Gentium 16) is also in accord with the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 845, 1257) and Dominus Iesus 20.

Here is the text of the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Pope Pius XII called it 'the dogma', 'the infallible teaching' in the Letter of the Holy Office 1949 to the Archbishop of Boston relative to Fr. Leonard Feeney.

1.“There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.” (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215). Ex cathedra.

2.“We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.).Ex cathedra.

3.“The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.” (Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.) Ex cathedra – from the website and “No Salvation outside the Church”: Link List, the Three Dogmatic Statements Regarding EENS
Here is Ad Gentes 7 with the same message.

Therefore, all must be converted to Him, made known by the Church's preaching, and all must be incorporated into Him by baptism and into the Church which is His body. For Christ Himself "by stressing in express language the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:5), at the same time confirmed the necessity of the Church, into which men enter by baptism, as by a door.-Ad Gentes 7,Vatican Council II.

Don Paco said...

Dear "Catholic Mission." You've said so much in such a disorderly way that I'm not exactly sure what your thesis is.

Would you please have the charity of boiling down your argument to a couple of premises and a conclusion?

Don Paco said...

most Feeneyites do not make the distinction between de facto and de jure necessity of being a member of the Church. You are to be commended for it insofar as it is an intelligent attempt to reconcile EENS with the teaching of the theologians on baptism of desire. I believe another smart distinction is that between being a member of the Church and 'belonging' to the Church. See:

But in fact most Feeneyites simply deny without qualification that anyone can be saved via baptism of desire. Yet this is incompatible with the teaching of the theologians. This is not a point open to debate. It is quite simple. See:

The traditional theologians also typically cite St Emerentiana and several other entries in the Martyrology as examples of holy martyrs who died without sacramental Baptism. Due to this practice among the traditional theologians, whose theological caliber far exceeded that of anyone in our age, it seems at least rash and imprudent (perhaps even theologically erroneous) to deny that there are examples of such saints.

Don Paco said...

Dear Lionel,

1) Your distinction of "implicit" and "explicit" baptism of desire is absent from all the classic theological manuals. It seems more like a novelty, a contraption, theological gymnastics that somehow allow you to deny baptism of desire and affirm it at the same time. None of the approved theologians make qualifications as to baptism of desire. The consensus of theologians is clear in that (a) there can be such a thing as baptism of desire and (b) there HAS ACTUALLY BEEN such a thing, as in the case of many catechumens listed in the martyrology. I appreciate your interest in the discussion, but this is not debatable. It is not a debate. It is in the witnesses of tradition. It has been settled long before the Feeneyites existed.

2) Even though you cite the St Benedict Center as accepting (in some strange way) Baptism of Desire, you do implicitly agree with me that most Feeneyites deny it when you say, "so they are right when they deny it." After years of study and conversation with some of the best Feeneyites, this is the first time I hear of such a distinction. It is clear to me that most Feeneyites do not know of or use that distinction: they just deny baptism of desire (the best accept it hesitatingly, after discovering that it is affirmed unanimously and unqualifiedly by the theologians, catechisms, etc.).

3) I am in agreement with the general thrust of your view and that of Feeneyism: there is no salvation outside the Church and it is primarily due to a modernist rejection of this dogma that the Church is its worst crisis in its 2000 year history. We must not fall into the error that Pope Pius XII condemns in his encyclical Humani generis, which consists in interpreting the EENS dogma in a way that is meaningless. Rather, if we are to restore Catholic tradition, we must start with re-affirming that dogma. But although we non-Feeneyite traditional Catholics consider ourselves to be in the same team as the Feeneyites, we do not want to fall into the (much less grave, yet still real) error of denying baptism of desire. We do not go around preaching baptism of desire as some sort of ecumenical device to gladden the heart of non-Catholics. Rather, we go around preaching the EENS dogma, and if needed, we make appropriate explanations, including baptism of desire, making sure this is not exaggerated or used to render the fundamental dogma meaningless.

Don Paco said...

4) I do not say that "everyone needs to enter the Catholic Church except for those with the baptism of desire, invincible ignorance" (your words, my emphasis). Rather, what I say is what all the manuals say: to be saved, one must belong to the Church. One must be in the Church. Yet this is not equivalent to saying that one must be a member of the Church. In other words, the dogma does not state that one must be a member to be saved, but that one must be in the Church, which is a broader requirement.

Cf. Fr. Romanus' three-part essay: "Who are the Members of the Church?"

Now, the dogma applies to absolutely everyone: everyone must belong or be in the Church somehow through Sacramental Baptism, or at least through baptism of desire, to be saved. Even in the case of invincible ignorance, they still need sanctifying grace to be saved, which alone would suffice to incorporate them somehow to the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. So everyone without exception must belong to the Church to be saved.

Of course, those who are saved via baptism of desire (and a fortiori in the case of those who die in invincible ignorance) do not become members of the Church, but they still somehow belong to the Church.

(I like the image of the St Joseph's edition of the Baltimore Catechism: the Church is a boat, and everyone in it are its members; but there are ropes from which people in the water are holding on to the boat. Those people can make it--and some have made it--to shore, through their somehow belonging to the boat.)

Anonymous said...

Is an “implicit desire” for water baptism supposed to be a desire that a man would have had, if he only knew of his obligation to be baptized?

Consider a man who will, throughout his entire life, be invincibly ignorant of his obligation to be baptized. There are two cases at the moment of his death: (1) He would have had a desire for baptism if he had only known of his obligation. (2) He would not have had a desire for baptism if he had only known.

What is the difference in the man, between these two cases during his life, since he has a free will? It is supposed that something present in the man's soul at some unspecified time(s) before his death would determine (as if he were some kind of robot) his free choice in desiring versus not desiring, if only he knew of his obligation? But that would imply he didn't have a free will. What kind of being would this thing be that is a sufficient condition for him to be, at the moment of his death, one who, always having been invincibly ignorant of his obligation to be baptized, "would" have at least desired baptism "explicitly", if he had known of his obligation?

Similar questions could be asked about the necessary perfect act of Charity that "would" have been performed.

God bless,

Daniel Offutt

P.S.: Please pray for my Dad, Charles, 80, and not baptized. I've explained the necessity of baptism to him, which doesn't necessarily mean he understands.

Boniface said...

Don Paco-

This is a great post. If you want to add another one to the line up from a few centuries later, check out the account of the martyrdom of St. Alban in Bede's History of the English Church, Chapter 7.

Anonymous said...

Is it true that Pope Bl. Pius IX taught in Tuas Libenter that if "the theologians" were unanimous on any teaching about Faith or morals, then that teaching is infallible?

Is it true that the definition of "the theologians" above is those theologians in Catholic schools of theology world-wide between 1100 AD and 1750 (and no others)?

Don Paco said...

Anonymous, to the first question, the answer is affirmative. To the second question, the answer is negative: the theologians are not limited to those dates. They include all the doctors of the Church as well as other approved theologians.

Anonymous said...

Can you prove that those who received baptism of blood did not previously receive water baptism? Isn't that the way the Feeneyites argue?

Daniel Offutt