Baptism of Blood & Desire Are Not
in the Catholic Magisterium
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First message, September 27, 2010
I must admit my surprise when I noticed on your website the story of the 40 Martyrs and Baptism of Blood.
I am not a theologian but I have spent nearly a quarter of a century reading everything that I could get my hands on dealing with the history, tradition and doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. I have read broadly in patristic documents, the 21 councils of the Church, innumerable lives of the Saints and Papal encyclicals.
This has not been casual reading but rather, well organized by subject and commentary. I admit it has not been governed by an authoritative seminary curriculum nor have I been periodically examined on my understanding, but living in religious community I have also participated in many programs intended to broaden the knowledge and deepen the faith of persons living in religion and all under the direction of some of the best instructors not least among them Fr. Leonard Feeney and his original community.
Again, I do not claim to be perfectly well trained but considering the amount of personal study that the above recitation of sources suggests I can reasonably lay claim to a level of knowledge that far exceeds that of the average Catholic. Because I have been a committed religious for that long period of time one might easily believe that several hours of every day of that time has been spent in study of one or another area of scripture and/or the knowledge of God.
In all of this diligent work I cannot recall ever seeing mention of a Magisterial Pronouncement making baptism of blood an article of faith.
As good and holy a man as Fr. Alban Butler most assuredly was he was never empowered to speak for either the Ordinary or the Extraordinary Magisterium. The sensus fidelium cannot create dogma but can only give testimony to what has been universally taught. St. Vincent Lerins declares in the Commonitorium that only that can be believed which has been held quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus.
However edifying they may be and however productive of pious sentiments, hagiographical anecdotes cannot form the basis of official Catholic dogmatic and doctrinal teaching. This particular idea would confute the Apostle’s Creed and other foundational resources which speak of ‘One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.’
There is no one more firmly convinced of the sincerity, good will and competence of the people at TIA than I am. And no one more familiar with the spirit of love and compassion for the salvation of souls evident in all your work.
I am fully aware of my intellectual limitations and of the irregularity of my training, however, as a Catholic priest I feel it is my duty to speak in defense of the Deposit of Faith when my conscience moves me thereto. Therefore, if it can be shown to me that as a consequence of these defects I have failed to discover or understand a truth of our Holy Catholic Faith I will readily and happily concede my fault.
May the Holy Spirit always protect the integrity of your wonderful apostolate.
Yours in the Most Holy Names
Second message, October 15, 2010
I recently e-mailed an opinion on the matter of baptism of blood which conflicts with an article by TIA. Though I expressed an opposing position I believe I did so in a courteous and respectful manner at the same time leaving the door open for a correction of my possibly erroneous belief.
I am surprised that your office did not take advantage of the thinly veiled invitation to show me my error using clear Church teaching of a magisterial nature.
It is not usual practice for TIA to deny anyone the courtesy of a helpful reply. I apologize if I am expecting too much from an already overworked staff.
It is also possible that you did not receive the e-mail or that you were unable to open the attachment. If such is the case I resubmit the attachment.
The Editor responds:
Rev. Fr. J.F.C.,
I thank you for your consideration in sending, for the second time, your question/objection to TIA, requesting texts from the Magisterium that prove baptism of blood is common Catholic doctrine.
1. On baptism of blood it seems to me that the description of Fr. Alban Butler posted by TIA on our website is in perfect agreement with the Catechism of St. Pius X. In Part IV on the Sacraments, Chapter II on Baptism (§ 4), it states:
Q: Can the absence of Baptism be supplied in any other way?
A: The absence of Baptism can be supplied by martyrdom, which is called Baptism of Blood, or by an act of perfect love of God, or of contrition, along with the desire, at least implicit, of Baptism, and this is called Baptism of Desire (Original online here).
2. It appears that the baptism of blood is an extreme case of the baptism of desire. Indeed, that person who is offering his life actually is doing so because he has the desire to enter the Catholic Church. Thus, I believe that you may be interested also in knowing the doctrine of the Magisterium on baptism of desire, which applies as well to the baptism of blood. In this supposition, I transcribe some texts for your perusal.
About the baptism of desire accepted as an exception to the rule that everyone should be baptized with water, please read the Encyclical Quanto conficiamur. In it Pius IX states that those outside of the Church may be exceptionally saved through baptism of desire. In case you do not have an easy access to this encyclical, I am transcribing the excerpt that pertains to the topic:
Here too, our beloved sons and Venerable Brethren, it is again necessary to mention and censure a very grave error that is unfortunately entrapping some Catholics who profess that it is possible for men to arrive at eternal salvation although they live in error and are alienated from the true Faith and Catholic unity. Such opinion is absolutely opposed to Catholic teaching.
We know and you know that there are those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy Religion. Uprightly observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace. Because God knows, searches, and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, His supreme goodness and clemency do not permit those who are not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishment.
Also well known is the Catholic dogma that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church. Eternal salvation cannot be obtained by those who with contumacy oppose the authority and definitions of the same Church, as well as with contumacy oppose her unity and the successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff, to whom ‘the custody of the vineyard has been committed by the Savior’ (Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon)’ (Recueil des allocutions, nn. 7-8, pp. 480-481).
3. As for more ancient teachings on the same topic, a letter of Pope Innocent II to the Bishop of Cremona (1140) reads:
We answer to your question: The presbyter who died without the water of baptism, since he persevered in the faith of Holy Mother Church and in the confession of the name of Christ, we affirm without any doubt that he became free of the original sin and reached the joy of eternal life” (Denzinger n. 388).
That Pope also quotes St. Augustine and St. Ambrose teaching the same.
4. Pope Innocent III in his letter Debitum pastoralis of 1206 states:
You have communicated to us that a certain Jew, at the edge of dying as he was only among Jews, immersed himself in water saying: ‘I baptize myself in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.’
We answer saying that the baptizer and the one who receives baptism must be different persons, as we infer from the words of the Lord when, speaking to His Apostles, He said: ‘Go, baptize all nations in the name etc (Matt 28:19). Therefore, the mentioned Jew must be baptized again by another person to show that one is the baptizer and another is the one who receives the baptism. … Nonetheless, if he would have died immediately, he would have flown instantly to the celestial homeland for his faith in the Sacrament rather than for the Sacrament of the Faith (Denzinger n. 413).
5. A brief but important mention to the baptism of desire is also made by Pope Paul III along with the Council of Trent. As a matter of fact, in the official Decree on Justification of that Council, chapter IV, it is affirmed:
By which words, a description of the Justification of the impious is given, as being a translation from that state in which man is born a child of the first Adam to the state of grace and of the adoption of the sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Savior. This translation, however, since the promulgation of the Gospel, cannot be effected except through the laver of regeneration, or the desire thereof, as it is written: Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God (Denzinger, n. 796).
6. You may find further documentation of the official Magisterium of the Church in Denzinger-Schonmetzer (nn. 3866-3973), in which is transcribed a Decree of the Holy Office (August 8, 1949) specifically analyzing the errors of those who make a strict interpretation of the dogma Extra Ecclesia nulla salus without admitting any exception.
7. Not of the official Magisterium of the Church but with the greatest authority below it, St. Thomas Aquinas also teaches the same regarding the possibility of salvation outside of the Church in exceptional cases:
It falls to Divine Providence to provide all men with the means necessary for salvation, so long as they do not place obstacles in the way. In effect, if someone raised in the wilds or among savage animals is led by natural reason to follow the appetite for good and to flee evil, it should be considered most certain that God will reveal to him by internal inspiration the things necessary to believe, or that He would command some preacher of the Faith to go to him, as he sent St. Peter to Cornelius (Act 10) (De veritate, q. 14, a. 11, ad 1).
These are some documents I have at hand without having the leisure of time for a more precise research. I hope they will help you to clarify your doubts.
Since TIA has about 3,000 e-mails of our readers asking us serious questions and they are previous to yours, I had to open an exception to answer you now. In eventual e-mails, I hope you will not take it as a lack of courtesy or good will that neither I nor TIA can respond to you with the speed that you and we would like to have.
Asking your prayers,
In Jesu et Maria,
Atila S. Guimarães
Posted October 26, 2010
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