Outside the Catholic Church There is Absolutely No Salvation
By Bro. Peter Dimond, O.S.B.
“By far the best and most in-depth book that has ever been written on the Catholic Church’s infallible teaching on the necessity of the Catholic Faith and the Sacrament of Baptism for salvation.” (from many who have read it)
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Listing of Sections (CLICK ON ANY SECTION BELOW TO GO DIRECTLY TO IT)
13. The Athanasian Creed – page 33 – and There is No Salvation for members of Islam, Judaism or other heretical or schismatic non-Catholic sects - page 36
● Specific Catholic Teaching against Judaism – page 37
● Specific Catholic Teaching against Islam – page 38
· Two of the earliest statements on baptism of blood– page 55
· The Forty Martyrs of Sebaste – page 58
· St. Emerentiana – pages 60-61
◦ St. Gregory Nazianz and the Roman Breviary – page 77
· Liturgical Tradition and Apostolic Burial Tradition– page 79
· St. Bernard– page 82
● Pope Leo the Great infallibly declares that the water of baptism is inseparable from the spirit of justification
1. St. Paul (p. 115), Fr. Francisco de Vitoria (p. 115), St. Augustine and St. Prosper (p. 116) against Invincible Ignorance
1. Pope Benedict XIV, Pope St. Pius X, Pope Paul III, Pope Gregory the Great, Fr. De Smet, Pope Pelagius I, etc. against Invincible Ignorance
· Sacred Scripture against Invincible Ignorance, and evidence of the Immediate Dissemination of the Gospel throughout the whole world– page 121
1. St. Justin Martyr, Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul’s epistles, St. Irenaeus, St. Clement, Tertullian, etc. on the immediate dissemination of the Gospel
2. Acts 2:47: the Lord added daily to the Church such as should be saved (p. 125)
Early evidence in
· How can baptism of desire be contrary to dogma when… - page 167
· The Society of St. Pius X– page 287 (Against the Heresies – p. 287; Open Letter to Confused Catholics – p. 289; Time Bombs of the Second Vatican Council – page 290; Bishop Fellay says Hindus can be saved – page 290; Baptism of Desire – p. 291; Is Feeneyism Catholic? – p. 295)
• The Form of Baptism – page 317
• The Profession of Faith for converts to the Catholic Faith – page 318
• The Apostles’ Creed – page 320
Endnotes– page 320
The dogma Outside the Catholic Church There is No Salvation and the necessity of the Sacrament of Baptism can actually be covered in one page (see section 1 and section 8). This is because this truth is exactly the same as defined by our first pope:
“… the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ… Nor is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name, under heaven, given to men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).
There is no salvation outside of Jesus Christ, and the Catholic Church is His Mystical Body. Since there is no entering into the Catholic Church of Christ without the Sacrament of Baptism, this means that only baptized Catholics who die in the state of grace (and those who become baptized Catholics and die in the state of grace) can hope to be saved – period.
“If anyone abideth not in me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth.” (John 15:6)
The only reason that this document that you are looking at is approximately 300 pages long, and delves into a variety of issues in great detail, is simply because of the almost unceasing attacks against – and almost universal denial of – these otherwise simply expressed truths in our day.
The reader will notice that I’ve gone out of my way to answer every single significant objection raised against the true meaning of Outside the Church There is No Salvation and the necessity of the Sacrament of Baptism, while the people who write books and articles against these truths almost never address any of the arguments from the teaching of the Church that we bring forward, simply because they cannot refute the facts.
Some of the liberals who read this document will also make the objection that it is “bitter” or “uncharitable.” But this is not true. The “foundation of charity is faith pure and undefiled” (Pope Pius XI, Mortalium Animos, #9). The statements in this document relating to Outside the Church There is No Salvation are made out of a desire to be faithful to Jesus Christ and His truth. A Catholic tells his neighbor the truth on this issue without compromise simply because he loves his neighbor.
Pope Pius XI, Mortalium Animos #9, Jan. 6, 1928: “Everyone knows that John himself, the Apostle of love, who seems to reveal in his Gospel the secrets of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and who never ceased to impress on the memories of his followers the new commandment ‘Love one another,’ altogether forbade any intercourse with those who professed a mutilated and corrupt form of Christ’s teaching: ‘If any man come to you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house nor say to him: God speed you’ (II John 10).”
A Catholic who refuses to denounce heresy and heretics (when necessary) is not acting charitably, but uncharitably.
Pope Leo XIII, Sapientiae Christianae #14, Jan. 10, 1890: “St. Thomas maintains: ‘Each one is under obligation to show forth his faith, either to instruct and encourage others of the faithful, or to repel the attacks of unbelievers.’ To recoil before an enemy, or to keep silence when from all sides such clamors are raised against truth, is the part of a man either devoid of character or who entertains doubt as to the truth of what he professes to believe.”
The reader will also notice that each numbered section of this document was intended to be, for the most part, complete in itself; that is to say, one can read an individual section of this document and find the relevant citations from the teaching of the Church re-quoted for him without having to find them in a different part of the document.
I strongly encourage the reader to read the entire document, because the subjects dealt with in this document are all important; but, in my opinion, the most important sections of this document that the reader definitely does not want to miss are: 1- 4, 6-8, 13-16, 18, 21, 24-27, 31- 34.
The reader will see that the conclusions that are formed in this document are formed on the basis of the infallible teaching of the Chair of St. Peter. Those who reject these facts, therefore, are not simply rejecting my opinions; they are rejecting the teaching of the Chair of St. Peter (the dogmatic teachings of the Catholic Church).
Pope Gregory XVI, Mirari Vos (# 13), Aug. 15, 1832: “With the admonition of the apostle that ‘there is one God, one faith, one baptism’ (Eph. 4:5) may those fear who contrive the notion that the safe harbor of salvation is open to persons of any religion whatever. They should consider the testimony of Christ Himself that ‘those who are not with Christ are against Him,’ (Lk. 11:23) and that they disperse unhappily who do not gather with Him. Therefore, ‘without a doubt, they will perish forever, unless they hold the Catholic faith whole and inviolate” (Athanasian Creed).
-Bro. Peter Dimond, O.S.B. (May 3, 2004),
2nd edition (Oct. 30, 2006)
1. The Chair of St. Peter on Outside the Catholic Church There is No Salvation
The following statements on Outside the Catholic Church There is No Salvation are from the highest teaching authority of the Catholic Church. They are ex cathedra Papal decrees (decrees from the Chair of St. Peter). Therefore, they constitute the teaching given to the Catholic Church by Jesus Christ and the Apostles. Such teachings are unchangeable and are classified as part of the solemn magisterium (the extraordinary teaching authority of the Catholic Church).
Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, Constitution 1, 1215, ex cathedra: “There is indeed one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which nobody at all is saved, in which Jesus Christ is both priest and sacrifice.”[i]
Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam, Nov. 18, 1302, ex cathedra:
“With Faith urging us we are forced to believe and to hold the one, holy, Catholic Church and that, apostolic, and we firmly believe and simply confess this Church outside of which there is no salvation nor remission of sin… Furthermore, we declare, say, define, and proclaim to every human creature that they by absolute necessity for salvation are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff.”[ii]
Pope Clement V, Council of Vienne, Decree # 30, 1311-1312, ex cathedra:
“Since however there is for both regulars and seculars, for superiors and subjects, for exempt and non-exempt, one universal Church, outside of which there is no salvation, for all of whom there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism…”[iii]
IV, Council of
“Whoever wishes to be saved, needs above all to hold the Catholic faith; unless each one preserves this whole and inviolate, he will without a doubt perish in eternity.”[iv]
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, “Cantate Domino,” 1441, ex cathedra:
“The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless they are joined to the Church before the end of their lives; that the unity of this ecclesiastical body is of such importance that only for those who abide in it do the Church’s sacraments contribute to salvation and do fasts, almsgiving and other works of piety and practices of the Christian militia produce eternal rewards; and that nobody can be saved, no matter how much he has given away in alms and even if he has shed blood in the name of Christ, unless he has persevered in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.”[v]
Pope Leo X, Fifth Lateran Council, Session 11, Dec. 19, 1516, ex cathedra:
“For, regulars and seculars, prelates and subjects, exempt and non-exempt, belong to the one universal Church, outside of which no one at all is saved, and they all have one Lord and one faith.”[vi]
Pope Pius IV, Council of Trent, “Iniunctum nobis,” Nov. 13, 1565, ex cathedra: “This true Catholic faith, outside of which no one can be saved… I now profess and truly hold…”[vii]
Pope Benedict XIV, Nuper ad nos, March 16, 1743, Profession of Faith: “This faith of the Catholic Church, without which no one can be saved, and which of my own accord I now profess and truly hold…”[viii]
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council I, Session 2, Profession of Faith, 1870, ex cathedra: “This true Catholic faith, outside of which none can be saved, which I now freely profess and truly hold…”[ix]
It is a fact of history, scripture and tradition that Our Lord Jesus Christ founded His universal Church (the Catholic Church) upon St. Peter.
Matthew 16:18-19-“And I say to thee: That thou art Peter: and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.”
Our Lord made St. Peter the first pope, entrusted to him His entire flock, and gave him supreme authority in the universal Church of Christ.
John 21:15-17-“Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. He saith to him a third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him: Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. He said to him: Feed my sheep.”
And with the supreme authority that Our Lord Jesus Christ conferred upon St. Peter (and his successors, the popes) comes what is called Papal Infallibility. Papal Infallibility is inseparable from Papal Supremacy – there was no point for Christ to make St. Peter the head of His Church (as Christ clearly did) if St. Peter or his successors, the popes, could err when exercising that supreme authority to teach on a point of Faith. The supreme authority must be unfailing on binding matters of Faith and morals or else it is no true authority from Christ at all.
Papal Infallibility does not mean that a pope cannot err at all and it does not mean that a pope cannot lose his soul and be damned in Hell for grave sin. It means that the successors of St. Peter (the popes of the Catholic Church) cannot err when authoritatively teaching on a point of Faith or morals to be held by the entire Church of Christ. We find the promise of the unfailing faith for St. Peter and his successors referred to by Christ in Luke 22.
Luke 22:31-32- “And the Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have all of you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren.”
Satan desired to sift
all the Apostles (plural) like wheat, but Jesus prayed for Simon Peter
(singular), that his faith fail not.
Jesus is saying that St. Peter and his successors (the popes of the Catholic
Church) have an unfailing faith when authoritatively teaching a point of faith
or morals to be held by the entire
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council I, 1870, ex cathedra:
“SO, THIS GIFT OF TRUTH AND A NEVER FAILING FAITH WAS DIVINELY CONFERRED UPON PETER AND HIS SUCCESSORS IN THIS CHAIR…”[x]
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council I, 1870, ex cathedra:
“… the See of St. Peter always remains unimpaired by any error, according to the divine promise of our Lord the Savior made to the chief of His disciples: ‘I have prayed for thee [Peter], that thy faith fail not ...’”[xi]
And this truth has been held since the earliest times in the Catholic Church.
Pope St. Gelasius I, epistle 42, or Decretal de recipiendis et non recipiendis libris, 495: “Accordingly, the see of Peter the Apostle of the Church of Rome is first, having neither spot, nor wrinkle, nor anything of this kind (Eph. 5:27).”[xii]
The promise of Christ to St. Peter that his faith cannot fail (i.e., is indefectible) presupposes that Peter’s faith – and the office Jesus establishes in Peter – is infallible. For that which is unfailing in matters of faith must be infallible. Papal Infallibility is therefore directly connected to Christ’s promise to St. Peter (and his successors) in Luke 22 concerning Peter’s unfailing Faith. Papal Infallibility is also found in Christ’s promise to Peter in Matthew 16. Jesus declares that whatever Peter binds (i.e., whatever he declares must be held by the universal Church) is also bound in Heaven. Since Heaven cannot bind error, the things St. Peter and his successors bind on the universal Church must always be true. That’s infallibility. Although this truth was believed since the beginning of the Church, it was specifically defined as a dogma at the First Vatican Council in 1870.
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council I, 1870, Session 4, Chap. 4:“…the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra [from the Chair of Peter], that is, when carrying out the duty of the pastor and teacher of all Christians in accord with his supreme apostolic authority he explains a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the universal Church... operates with that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer wished that His Church be instructed in defining doctrine on faith and morals; and so such definitions of the Roman Pontiff from himself, but not from the consensus of the Church, are unalterable.”[xiii]
But how does one know when a pope is exercising his unfailing Faith to infallibly teach from the Chair of St. Peter? The answer is that we know from the language that the pope uses or the manner in which the pope teaches. Vatican I defined two requirements which must be fulfilled: 1) when the pope is carrying out his duty as pastor and teacher of all Christians in accord with his supreme apostolic authority; 2) when he explains a doctrine on faith or morals to be held by the entire Church of Christ. A pope can fulfill both of these requirements in just one line, by anathematizing a false opinion (such as many dogmatic councils) or by saying “By our apostolic authority we declare…” or by saying “We believe, profess, and teach” or by using words of similar importance and meaning, which indicate that the pope is teaching the whole Church on Faith in a definitive and binding fashion.
So, when a pope teaches
from the Chair of Peter in the manner stipulated above he cannot be wrong. If he could be wrong, then the
Luke 10:16- “He that heareth you, heareth me: and he that despiseth you despiseth me…”
Matthew 18:17 -“And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican.”
Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum, 1896:
“… Christ instituted a living, authoritative and permanent Magisterium… If it could in any way be false, an evident contradiction follows; for then God Himself would be the author of error in man.”[xiv]
The truths of faith which have been proclaimed by the popes speaking infallibly from the Chair of Peter are called dogmas. The dogmas make up what is called the deposit of Faith. And the deposit of Faith ended with the death of the last apostle.
Pope St. Pius X, Lamentabile, The Errors of the Modernists #21: “Revelation, constituting the object of Catholic faith, was not completed with the apostles.”[xv] - Condemned
This means that when a pope defines a dogma from the Chair of Peter he does not make the dogma true, but rather he proclaims what is already true, what has already been revealed by Christ and delivered to the Apostles. The dogmas are therefore unchangeable, of course. One of these dogmas in the deposit of Faith is that Outside the Catholic Church There is No Salvation. Since this is the teaching of Jesus Christ, one is not allowed to dispute this dogma or to question it; one must simply accept it. It does not matter if one doesn’t like the dogma, doesn’t understand the dogma, or doesn’t see justice in the dogma. If one doesn’t accept it as infallibly true then one simply does not accept Jesus Christ, because the dogma comes to us from Jesus Christ.
Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum (# 9), June 29, 1896:
“… can it be lawful for anyone to reject any one of those truths without by that very fact falling into heresy? – without separating himself from the Church? – without repudiating in one sweeping act the whole of Christian teaching? For such is the nature of faith that nothing can be more absurd than to accept some things and reject others. Faith, as the Church teaches, is that supernatural virtue by which… we believe what He has revealed to be true, not on account of the intrinsic truth perceived by the natural light of human reason [author: that is, not because it seems correct to us], but because of the authority of God Himself, the Revealer, who can neither deceive nor be deceived… But he who dissents even in one point from divinely revealed truth absolutely rejects all faith, since he thereby refuses to honor God as the supreme truth and the formal motive of faith.”[xvi]
Those who refuse to believe in the dogma Outside the Church There is No Salvation until they understand how there is justice in it are simply withholding their Faith in Christ’s revelation. Those with the true Faith in Christ (and His Church) accept His teaching first and understand the truth in it (i.e., why it is true) second. A Catholic does not withhold his belief in Christ’s revelation until he can understand it. That is the mentality of a faithless heretic who possesses insufferable pride. St. Anselm sums up the true Catholic outlook on this point.
St. Anselm, Doctor of the Church, Prosologion, Chap. 1: “For I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, that unless I believed, I should not understand.”[xvii]
Romans 11:33-34- “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and recompense shall be made him?”
Isaias 55:8-9- “For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts.”
There is only one way to believe dogma: as holy mother Church has once declared.
Pope Pius IX, First Vatican Council, Sess. 3,
Chap. 2 on Revelation, 1870, ex cathedra: “Hence, also, that
understanding of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which
This definition of the First Vatican Council is critically important for dogmatic purity, because the primary way the Devil attempts to corrupt Christ’s doctrines is by getting men to recede (move away) from the Church’s dogmas as they were once declared. There is no meaning of a dogma other than what the words themselves state and declare, so the Devil tries to get men to “understand” and “interpret” these words in a way that is different from how holy mother Church has declared them.
Many of us have dealt with people who have attempted to explain away the clear meaning of the definitions on Outside the Church There is No Salvation by saying, “you must understand them.” What they really mean is that you must understand them in a way different from what the words themselves state and declare. And this is precisely what the First Vatican Council condemns. It condemns their moving away from the understanding of a dogma which holy mother Church has once declared to a different meaning, under the specious (false) name of a “deeper understanding.”
Besides those who argue that we must “understand” dogmas in a different way than what the words themselves state and declare, there are those who, when presented with the dogmatic definitions on Outside the Church There is No Salvation, say, “that is your interpretation.” They belittle the words of a dogmatic formula to nothing other than one’s private interpretation. And this also is heresy.
Pope St. Pius X, Lamentabile, The Errors of the Modernists, July 3, 1907, #22:
“The dogmas which the Church professes as revealed are not truths fallen from heaven, but they are a kind of interpretation of religious facts, which the human mind by a laborious effort prepared for itself.”- Condemned[xix]
Pope St. Pius X, Lamentabile, The Errors of the Modernists, July 3, 1907, #54:
“The dogmas, the sacraments, the hierarchy, as far as pertains both to the notion and to the reality, are nothing but interpretations and the evolution of Christian intelligence, which have increased and perfected the little germ latent in the Gospel.”- Condemned[xx]
Dogmas of the faith, like Outside the Church There is No Salvation, are truths fallen from heaven; they are not interpretations. To accuse one who adheres faithfully to these truths fallen from heaven of engaging in “private interpretation” is to speak heresy.
The very point of a dogmatic DEFINITION is to DEFINE precisely and exactly what the Church means by the very words of the formula. If it does not do this by those very words in the formula or document (as the Modernists say) then it has failed in its primary purpose – to define – and was pointless and worthless.
Anyone who says that we must interpret or understand the meaning of a dogmatic definition, in a way which contradicts its actual wording, is denying the whole point of the Chair of Peter, Papal Infallibility and dogmatic definitions. He is asserting that dogmatic definitions are pointless, worthless and foolish and that the Church is pointless, worthless and foolish for making such a definition.
Also, those who insist that infallible DEFINITIONS must be interpreted by non-infallible statements (e.g., from theologians, catechisms, etc.) are denying the whole purpose of the Chair of Peter. They are subordinating the dogmatic teaching of the Chair of Peter (truths from heaven) to the re-evaluation of fallible human documents, thereby inverting their authority, perverting their integrity and denying their purpose.
Pope Gregory XVI, Mirari Vos (#7), Aug. 15, 1832: “… nothing of the things appointed ought to be diminished; nothing changed; nothing added; but they must be preserved both as regards expression and meaning.”[xxi]
Thus, there is no “strict” or “loose” interpretation of Outside the Church There is No Salvation, as the liberal heretics like to emphasize; there is only what the Church has once declared.
In addition to the ex cathedra (from the Chair of Peter) proclamations of the popes, a Catholic must also believe what is taught by the Catholic Church as divinely revealed in her Ordinary and Universal Magisterium (Magisterium = the teaching authority of the Church).
Pope Pius IX, Vatican I, Sess. III, Chap. 3, ex cathedra: “Further, by divine and Catholic faith, all those things must be believed which are contained in the written word of God and in tradition, and those which are proposed by the Church, either in a solemn pronouncement or in her ordinary and universal teaching power, to be believed as divinely revealed.”[xxii]
The teaching of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium consists of those doctrines which popes, by their common and universal teaching, propose to be believed as divinely revealed. For instance, in their common and universal teaching, approximately 10 popes have denounced the heretical concept of liberty of conscience and worship as contrary to revelation. A Catholic cannot reject that teaching. The teaching of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium can never contradict the teaching of the Chair of Peter (the dogmatic definitions), of course, since both are infallible. Thus, the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium does not actually have to be considered at all in regard to Outside the Church There is No Salvation, because this dogma has been defined from the Chair of Peter and nothing in the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium can possibly contradict the Chair of Peter. So beware of those heretics who try to find ways to deny the Church’s dogmatic teaching on Outside the Church There is No Salvation by calling fallible, non-magisterial statements which contradict this dogma, part of the “Ordinary and Universal Magisterium,” when they aren’t. This is a clever ploy of the heretics.
But the following quotations from many popes are reaffirmations of the dogma Outside the Church There is No Salvation. These teachings of the popes are part of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium – and are therefore infallible – since they reiterate the universal teaching of the Chair of St. Peter on the Catholic dogma Outside the Church There is No Salvation.
Pope St. Gregory the Great, quoted in Summo Iugiter Studio, 590-604:
“The holy universal Church teaches that it is not possible to worship God truly except in her and asserts that all who are outside of her will not be saved.”[xxiii]
Pope Innocent III, Eius exemplo, Dec. 18, 1208:
“By the heart we believe and by the mouth we confess
the one Church, not of heretics, but the Holy Roman, Catholic, and
Pope Clement VI, Super quibusdam, Sept. 20, 1351:
“In the second place, we ask whether you and the Armenians obedient to you believe that no man of the wayfarers outside the faith of this Church, and outside the obedience to the Pope of Rome, can finally be saved.”[xxv]
Pope St. Pius V, Bull excommunicating the heretic Queen Elizabeth of England, Feb. 25, 1570: “The sovereign jurisdiction of the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, outside of which there is no salvation, has been given by Him [Jesus Christ], unto Whom all power in Heaven and on Earth is given, the King who reigns on high, but to one person on the face of the Earth, to Peter, prince of the Apostles... If any shall contravene this Our decree, we bind them with the same bond of anathema.”[xxvi]
Pope Leo XII, Ubi Primum (# 14), May 5, 1824:
“It is impossible for the most true God, who is Truth itself, the best, the wisest Provider, and the Rewarder of good men, to approve all sects who profess false teachings which are often inconsistent with one another and contradictory, and to confer eternal rewards on their members… by divine faith we hold one Lord, one faith, one baptism… This is why we profess that there is no salvation outside the Church.”[xxvii]
Pope Leo XII, Quod hoc ineunte (# 8), May 24, 1824: “We address all of you who are still removed from the true Church and the road to salvation. In this universal rejoicing, one thing is lacking: that having been called by the inspiration of the Heavenly Spirit and having broken every decisive snare, you might sincerely agree with the mother Church, outside of whose teachings there is no salvation.”[xxviii]
Pope Gregory XVI, Mirari Vos (# 13), Aug. 15, 1832: “With the admonition of the apostle, that ‘there is one God, one faith, one baptism’ (Eph. 4:5), may those fear who contrive the notion that the safe harbor of salvation is open to persons of any religion whatever. They should consider the testimony of Christ Himself that ‘those who are not with Christ are against Him,’ (Lk. 11:23) and that they disperse unhappily who do not gather with Him. Therefore, ‘without a doubt, they will perish forever, unless they hold the Catholic faith whole and inviolate (Athanasian Creed).”[xxix]
Pope Gregory XVI, Summo Iugiter Studio (# 2), May 27, 1832:
“Finally some of these misguided people attempt to persuade themselves and others that men are not saved only in the Catholic religion, but that even heretics may attain eternal life.”[xxx]
Pope Pius IX, Ubi primum (# 10), June 17, 1847: “For ‘there is one universal Church outside of which no one at all is saved; it contains regular and secular prelates along with those under their jurisdiction, who all profess one Lord, one faith and one baptism.”[xxxi]
Pope Pius IX, Nostis et Nobiscum (# 10), Dec. 8, 1849: “In particular, ensure that the faithful are deeply and thoroughly convinced of the truth of the doctrine that the Catholic faith is necessary for attaining salvation. (This doctrine, received from Christ and emphasized by the Fathers and Councils, is also contained in the formulae of the profession of faith used by Latin, Greek and Oriental Catholics).”[xxxii]
Pope Pius IX, Syllabus of Modern Errors, Dec. 8, 1864 - Proposition 16: “Man may, in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation, and arrive at eternal salvation.”[xxxiii] – Condemned
Pope Leo XIII, Tametsi futura prospicientibus (# 7), Nov. 1, 1900: “Christ is man’s ‘Way’; the Church also is his ‘Way’… Hence all who would find salvation apart from the Church, are led astray and strive in vain.”[xxxiv]
Pope St. Pius X, Iucunda sane (# 9), March 12, 1904: “Yet at the same time We cannot but remind all, great and small, as Pope St. Gregory did, of the absolute necessity of having recourse to this Church in order to have eternal salvation…”[xxxv]
Pope St. Pius X, Editae saepe (# 29), May 26, 1910: “The Church alone possesses together with her magisterium the power of governing and sanctifying human society. Through her ministers and servants (each in his own station and office), she confers on mankind suitable and necessary means of salvation.”[xxxvi]
Pope Pius XI, Mortalium Animos (# 11), Jan.
6, 1928: “The Catholic Church is alone in keeping the true worship. This is the fount of truth, this is the
house of faith, this is the
The Catholic Church has always taught that receiving the Sacrament of Baptism is the only way into Christ’s Church, outside of which there is no salvation.
Pope Julius III, Council of Trent, On the Sacraments of Baptism and Penance, Sess. 14, Chap. 2, ex cathedra: “But in fact this sacrament [Penance] is seen to differ in many respects from baptism. For, apart from the fact that the matter and form, by which the essence of a sacrament is constituted, are totally distinct, there is certainly no doubt that the minister of baptism need not be a judge, since the Church exercises judgment on no one who has not previously entered it by the gate of baptism. For what have I to do with those who are without (1 Cor. 5:12), says the Apostle. It is otherwise with those of the household of the faith, whom Christ the Lord by the laver of baptism has once made ‘members of his own body’ (1 Cor. 12:13).”[xxxviii]
This definition is particularly significant because it proves that only through water baptism is one incorporated into the Body of the Church. The significance of this will become clearer in the later sections where it is proven that Body membership is necessary for salvation.
Pope Eugene IV, The Council of Florence, “Exultate Deo,” Nov. 22, 1439, ex cathedra: “Holy baptism, which is the gateway to the spiritual life, holds the first place among all the sacraments; through it we are made members of Christ and of the body of the Church. And since death entered the universe through the first man, ‘unless we are born again of water and the Spirit, we cannot,’ as the Truth says, ‘enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]. The matter of this sacrament is real and natural water.”[xxxix]
Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis (# 22), June 29, 1943: “Actually only those are to be numbered among the members of the Church who have received the laver of regeneration [water baptism] and profess the true faith.”[xl]
Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis (# 27), June 29, 1943: “He (Christ) also determined that through Baptism (cf. Jn. 3:5) those who should believe would be incorporated in the Body of the Church.”[xli]
Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei (# 43), Nov. 20, 1947: “In the same way, actually that baptism is the distinctive mark of all Christians, and serves to differentiate them from those who have not been cleansed in this purifying stream and consequently are not members of Christ, the sacrament of holy orders sets the priest apart from the rest of the faithful who have not received this consecration.”[xlii]
Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council,
Constitution 1, 1215, ex cathedra: “THERE IS INDEED
The first dogmatic definition from the Chair of Peter on Outside the Church There is No Salvation (from Pope Innocent III) taught that the Catholic Church is the one Church “of the faithful,” outside of which no one at all is saved. But who are “the faithful”? Can one who has not been baptized be considered part of “the faithful”? If we look to Catholic Tradition, the answer is a resounding “no.”
As many of you know, the Catholic Mass is divided into two parts: the Mass of the Catechumens (those preparing to be baptized) and the Mass of the Faithful (those baptized).
In the early Church, the unbaptized catechumens (i.e., those who had not received the Sacrament of Baptism) had to leave after the Mass of the catechumens, when the faithful professed the Creed. The unbaptized were not allowed to stay for the Mass of the faithful, because it is only by receiving the Sacrament of Baptism that one becomes one of the faithful. This is the teaching of Tradition.
Casimir Kucharek, The Byzantine-Slav Liturgy of
“In Canon 19 of the Synod of Laodicea (A.D. 343-381), for example, we read: ‘After the sermons of the bishops, the prayer for the catechumens is to be said by itself first; when the catechumens have gone out, the prayer for those who are doing penance; and after these… there should then be offered the three prayers of the faithful…’”[xliv]
Here we see the 4th century Synod of Laodicea affirming the tradition that unbaptized catechumens were to depart from the Liturgy before the Mass of the Faithful began. And this distinction between the Mass of the Catechumens and the Mass of the Faithful was a staple in the ancient rites of the Catholic Church. Hence, Fr. Casimir Kucharek, in his large work on the Byzantine-Slav Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, says that the Liturgy of the Catechumens is “present in all Rites…”[xlv] In other words, all of the ancient Catholic rites testified to the fact that no unbaptized person could be considered part of the faithful because they all dismissed unbaptized catechumens before the Mass of the Faithful began!
Hence Fr. Casimir Kucharek further writes:
The Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges the same teaching of Tradition.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, “Faithful,” Vol. 5, p.
In the third century, the early Church father Tertullian criticized the custom of certain heretics who disregarded this crucial distinction between the unbaptized and the faithful.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, “Catechumen,” Vol. 3, p. 430: “Tertullian reproaches the heretics with disregarding it; among them, he says, ‘one does not know which is the catechumen and which the faithful, all alike come [to the mysteries], all hear the same discourses, and say the same prayers.”[xlviii]
Finally, I will quote a prayer from the ancient Byzantine-Slav Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. The prayer was recited at the dismissal of the catechumens before the Mass of the Faithful began.
Byzantine-Slav Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Dismissal of the Catechumens: “Let us, the faithful, pray for the catechumens, that the Lord have mercy on them… Lord and God, Jesus Christ, as the salvation of mankind: look down upon your servants, the catechumens, who bow their heads before you. In due time make them worthy of the waters of regeneration, the forgiveness of their sins, and the robe of immortality. Unite them to your holy, catholic, and apostolic church, and number them among your chosen flock.”[xlix]
Here we see that the ancient eastern rite liturgy of St. John Chrysostom makes a forceful distinction between the unbaptized (the catechumens) and the faithful. It confirms that because the catechumens are not baptized into the faithful, they are not forgiven their sins or united to the Catholic Church. The unbaptized do not belong to the one Church of the faithful. This is part of the ancient Catholic Faith. And obviously this fact is not proven to be part of the ancient Catholic Faith simply because an early Church father stated it – for a statement from a given early Church father doesn’t prove this definitively; but rather it is proven because the testimonies of the aforementioned saints are in perfect harmony with the clear teaching of Catholic liturgical worship, which divides the Mass of Catechumens from the Mass of the Faithful. It is, therefore, the teaching and rule of Catholic worship that no unbaptized person is to be considered part of the faithful. And this is why all who died without the Sacrament of Baptism were refused Christian burial everywhere in the universal Church since the beginning.
And because this was the universal rule of worship in the Catholic Church, it was the expression of the universal Faith and Tradition of the Catholic Church.
Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas (# 12), Dec. 11, 1925: “The perfect harmony of the Eastern liturgies with our own in this continual praise of Christ the King shows once more the truth of the axiom: Legem credendi lex statuit supplicandi. The rule of faith is indicated by the law of our worship.”[l]
Therefore, it would be contrary to Tradition to assert that a person who has not received the Sacrament of Baptism is part of the faithful.
“For the Catechumen is a stranger to the Faithful… One has Christ for his King; the other sin and the devil; the food of one is Christ, of the other, that meat which decays and perishes… Since then we have nothing in common, in what, tell me, shall we hold communion?… Let us then give diligence that we may become citizens of the city above… for if it should come to pass (which God forbid!) that through the sudden arrival of death we depart hence uninitiated [unbaptized], though we have ten thousand virtues, our portion will be none other than hell, and the venomous worm, and fire unquenchable, and bonds indissoluble.”
St. Ambrose, (4th Century) Bishop and Doctor of the Church:
“I shall now begin to instruct you on the sacrament
you have received; of whose nature it was not fitting to speak to you before
this; for in the Christian what comes first is faith. And at
This teaching of Tradition is why in the Traditional Rite of Baptism, the unbaptized catechumen is asked what he desires from holy Church, and he answers “Faith.” The unbaptized catechumen does not have “the Faith,” so he begs the Church for it in the “Sacrament of Faith” (Baptism), which alone makes him one of “the faithful.” This is why the Sacrament of Baptism has been known since apostolic times as “the Sacrament of Faith.”
Catechism of the Council of
“… Baptism …. the Sacrament of faith….”[lii]
Catechism of the Council of
Pope Clement VI, Super quibusdam, Sept. 20, 1351:
“… all those who in baptism have received the same Catholic faith...”[liv]
Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 6, Chap. 7 on Justification, ex cathedra:
“… THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM, WHICH IS ‘THE SACRAMENT OF FAITH…
THIS FAITH, IN ACCORDANCE WITH APOSTOLIC TRADITION, CATECHUMENS BEG OF
THE CHURCH BEFORE THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM, when they ask for ‘faith which
bestows life eternal,’ (Rit.
And with these facts in mind (that a catechumen “begs” for the faith because he isn’t part of the faithful), remember the definition of Pope Innocent III at the Fourth Lateran Council: “There is indeed one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which nobody at all is saved…” The original Latin reads: “Una vero est fidelium universalis ecclesia, extra quam nullus omnino salvatur…” The Latin words nullus omnino mean “absolutely nobody.” Absolutely nobody outside the one Church of the faithful is saved. Since the one Church of “the faithful” only includes those who have received the Sacrament of Baptism – as apostolic tradition, liturgical tradition and Church dogma show – this means that absolutely nobody is saved without the Sacrament of Baptism.
7. Subjection to the Church/Roman Pontiff
Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam, Nov. 18, 1302, ex cathedra: “With Faith urging us we are forced to believe and to hold the one, holy, Catholic Church and that, apostolic, and we firmly believe and simply confess this Church outside of which there is no salvation nor remission of sin… Furthermore, we declare, say, define, and proclaim to every human creature that they by absolute necessity for salvation are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff.”[lvi]
This means infallibly that every human creature must be subject to the Roman Pontiff for salvation. Obviously, this does not mean that one must be subject to an antipope for salvation, which is what we have today. It means that everyone must be subject to the true pope, if and when we have one.
But how are infants subject to the Roman Pontiff? This is a good question. Notice that Pope Boniface VIII did not declare that every human creature must know the Roman Pontiff, but that every human creature must be subject to the Roman Pontiff. Infants become subject to the Roman Pontiff by their baptism into the one Church of Christ, of which the Roman Pontiff is the head.
Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Canons of the Sacrament of Baptism, Canon 13: “If anyone says that children, because they have not the act of believing, are not after having received baptism to be numbered among the faithful, and that for this reason are to be rebaptized when they have reached the years of discretion; or that it is better that the baptism of such be omitted than that, while not believing by their own act, they should be baptized in the faith of the Church alone, let him be anathema.”
It’s a dogma that infants and others become subject to the authority of the Church when they enter the true Church by receiving the Sacrament of Baptism.
Pope Julius III, Council of Trent, On the Sacraments of Baptism and Penance, Sess. 14, Chap. 2, ex cathedra: “… since the Church exercises judgment on no one who has not previously entered it by the gate of baptism. For what have I to do with those who are without (1 Cor. 5:12), says the Apostle. It is otherwise with those of the household of the faith, whom Christ the Lord by the laver of baptism has once made ‘members of his own body’ (1 Cor. 12:13).”[lvii]
Thus, by their baptism they are made subject to the Roman Pontiff, since the Roman Pontiff possesses supreme authority in the Church (First Vatican Council, de fide). This proves that baptism is actually the first component in determining whether or not one is subject to the Roman Pontiff. If one has not been baptized, then one cannot be subject to the Roman Pontiff, because the Church exercises judgment (i.e., jurisdiction) over no one who has not entered the Church through the Sacrament of Baptism (de fide).
It is not possible, therefore, to be subject to the Roman Pontiff without receiving the Sacrament of Baptism, since the Church (and the Roman Pontiff) cannot exercise judgment (jurisdiction) over an unbaptized person (de fide, Trent). And since it is not possible to be subject to the Roman Pontiff without the Sacrament of Baptism, it is not possible to be saved without the Sacrament of Baptism, since every human creature must be subject to the Roman Pontiff for salvation (de fide, Boniface VIII).
8. The Sacrament of Baptism is Necessary for Salvation
To further show that the Sacrament of Baptism is necessary for salvation, I will quote numerous other infallible statements from the Chair of St. Peter.
Pope Paul III, The Council of Trent, Sess. 7, Can. 5 on the Sacrament of Baptism, ex cathedra: “If anyone says that baptism [the Sacrament] is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation (cf. Jn. 3:5): let him be anathema.”[lviii]
This infallible dogmatic definition from the Chair of St. Peter condemns anyone who says that the Sacrament of Baptism is not necessary for salvation. The Sacrament of Baptism is necessary for all for salvation, first of all, because, as the Council of Trent defines, all men (except the Blessed Virgin Mary) were conceived in a state of original sin as a result of the sin of Adam, the first man. The Sacrament of Baptism is also necessary for all for salvation because it is the means by which one is marked as a member of Jesus Christ and incorporated into His Mystical Body. And in defining the truth that all men were conceived in the state of Original Sin, the Council of Trent specifically declared that the Blessed Virgin Mary was an exception to its decree on Original Sin.[lix] But in defining the truth that the Sacrament of Baptism is necessary for salvation, the Council of Trent made no exceptions at all.
Pope Eugene IV, The Council of Florence, “Exultate Deo,” Nov. 22, 1439: “Holy baptism, which is the gateway to the spiritual life, holds the first place among all the sacraments; through it we are made members of Christ and of the body of the Church. And since death entered the universe through the first man, ‘unless we are born again of water and the Spirit, we cannot,’ as the Truth says, ‘enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]. The matter of this sacrament is real and natural water.”[lx]
Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, Constitution 1, 1215, ex cathedra: “But the sacrament of baptism is consecrated in water at the invocation of the undivided Trinity – namely, Father, Son and Holy Ghost – and brings salvation to both children and adults when it is correctly carried out by anyone in the form laid down by the Church.”[lxi]
Pope Benedict XIV, Nuper ad nos, March 16, 1743, Profession of Faith: “Likewise (I profess) that baptism is necessary for salvation, and hence, if there is imminent danger of death, it should be conferred at once and without delay, and that it is valid if conferred with the right matter and form and intention by anyone, and at any time.”[lxii]
Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas (# 15), Dec. 11, 1925 : “Indeed this kingdom is presented in the Gospels as such, into which men prepare to enter by doing penance; moreover, they cannot enter it except through faith and baptism, which, although an external rite, yet signifies and effects an interior regeneration.”[lxiii]
We see here that one cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven without faith and the external rite of baptism (i.e., the Sacrament of Baptism).
“JESUS ANSWERED: AMEN, AMEN, I SAY TO THEE, UNLESS A MAN BE BORN AGAIN OF
WATER AND THE HOLY GHOST, HE CANNOT ENTER INTO THE
The Catholic Church is the guardian and interpreter of the Sacred Scriptures. She alone has been given the power and authority to infallibly determine the true sense of the sacred texts.
Pope Pius IX, First
“… We, renewing the same decree, declare this to be its intention: that, in matters of faith and morals pertaining to the instruction of Christian Doctrine, that must be considered as the true sense of Sacred Scripture which Holy Mother Church has held and holds, whose office it is to judge concerning the true understanding and interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures; and, for that reason, no one is permitted to interpret Sacred Scripture itself contrary to this sense, or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.”[lxiv]
But not every scripture is understood by the Catholic Church in the literal sense. For example, in Matthew 5:29, Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us that if our eye scandalizes us we should pluck it out, for it is better that it should perish than our whole body in Hell.
Matt. 5:29- “And if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than thy whole body be cast into hell.”
But Our Lord’s words here are not to be understood literally. His words are spoken figuratively to describe an occasion of sin or something in life that may scandalize us and be a hindrance to our salvation. We must pluck it out and cut it off, says Our Lord, because it is better to be without it than to perish altogether in the fires of Hell.
On the other hand, other verses of scripture are understood by the Church in the literal sense. For example:
Matt. 26:26-28 “And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke: and gave to his disciples, and said: Take ye, and eat. This is my body. And taking the chalice, he gave thanks, and gave to them, saying: Drink ye all of this. For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins.”
When Our Lord Jesus Christ says in Matthew 26:26: “This is My Body,” and in Matthew 26:28: “This is My Blood,” His words are understood by the Catholic Church exactly as they are written, for we know that Our Lord Jesus Christ was indeed referring to His actual Body and Blood, not a symbol or a figure.
So the question is: How does the Catholic Church understand the words of Jesus Christ in John 3:5- Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God? Does the Catholic Church understand these words as they are written or in some other way? Does the Catholic Church understand these words to mean that every man must be born again of water and the Holy Ghost to be saved, as Our Lord says? The answer is clear: every single dogmatic definition that the Catholic Church has issued dealing with Our Lord’s words in John 3:5 understands them literally, exactly as they are written.
Pope Eugene IV, The Council of Florence, “Exultate Deo,” Nov. 22, 1439, ex cathedra: “Holy baptism, which is the gateway to the spiritual life, holds the first place among all the sacraments; through it we are made members of Christ and of the body of the Church. And since death entered the universe through the first man, ‘unless we are born again of water and the Spirit, we cannot,’ as the Truth says, ‘enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]. The matter of this sacrament is real and natural water.”[lxv]
This means that Our Lord Jesus Christ’s declaration that no man can be saved without being born again of water and the Holy Ghost is a literal dogma of the Catholic Faith.
Pope Paul III, The Council of Trent, Can. 2 on the Sacrament of Baptism, Sess. 7, 1547, ex cathedra: “If anyone shall say that real and natural water is not necessary for baptism, and on that account those words of Our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit’ [John 3:5], are distorted into some sort of metaphor: let him be anathema.”[lxvi]
Pope Paul III, The Council of Trent, Can. 5 on the Sacrament of Baptism, Sess. 7, 1547, ex cathedra: “If anyone says that baptism [the sacrament] is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation (cf. Jn. 3:5): let him be anathema.”[lxvii]
Pope Paul III, The Council of Trent, On Original Sin, Session V, ex cathedra: “By one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death... so that in them there may be washed away by regeneration, what they have contracted by generation, ‘For unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God [John 3:5].”[lxviii]
Pope St. Zosimus, The Council of Carthage XVI, on Original Sin and Grace: “For when the Lord says: ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he shall not enter into the kingdom of God’ [John 3:5], what Catholic will doubt that he will be a partner of the devil who has not deserved to be a coheir of Christ. For he who lacks the right part will without doubt run into the left.”[lxix]
Pope Gregory IX, Cum, sicut ex, July 8, 1241, to Sigurd of Nidaros:
“Since as we have learned from your report, it sometimes happens because of scarcity of water, that infants of your lands are baptized in beer, we reply to you in the tenor of those present that, since according to evangelical doctrine it is necessary ‘to be reborn from water and the Holy Spirit’ (Jn. 3:5) they are not to be considered rightly baptized who are baptized in beer.”[lxx]
The teaching of the Catholic Church already cited shows that no one can be saved without the Sacrament of Baptism. Obviously, therefore, this means that children and infants also cannot get to Heaven without Baptism because they are conceived in a state of original sin, which cannot be removed without the Sacrament of Baptism. But this truth of the Catholic Church is denied by many people today. They look at the horrible tragedy of abortion – the millions of slaughtered children – and they conclude that these children must be headed to Heaven. But such a conclusion is heretical. The worst part of abortion is the fact that these children are barred from entrance into Heaven, not that they don’t get to live in this pagan world. Satan delights in abortion because he knows that these souls can never get to Heaven without the Sacrament of Baptism. If aborted children went straight to Heaven without the Sacrament of Baptism, as many today believe, then Satan wouldn’t be behind abortion.
The Church teaches that aborted children and infants who die without baptism descend immediately into Hell, but that they do not suffer the fires of Hell. They go to a place in Hell called the limbo of the children. The most specific definition of the Church proving that there is no possible way for an infant to be saved without the Sacrament of Baptism is the following one from Pope Eugene IV.
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Session 11, Feb. 4, 1442, ex cathedra: “Regarding children, indeed, because of danger of death, which can often take place, when no help can be brought to them by another remedy than through the sacrament of baptism, through which they are snatched from the domination of the Devil [original sin] and adopted among the sons of God, it advises that holy baptism ought not be deferred for forty or eighty days, or any time according to the observance of certain people…”[lxxi]
Pope Eugene IV here defined from the Chair of Peter that there is no other remedy for infants to be snatched away from the dominion of the devil (i.e., original sin) other than the Sacrament of Baptism. This means that anyone who obstinately teaches that infants can be saved without receiving the Sacrament of Baptism is a heretic, for he is teaching that there is another remedy for original sin in children other than the Sacrament of Baptism.
Pope Martin V, Council of Constance, Session 15, July 6, 1415 - Condemning the articles of John Wyclif - Proposition 6: “Those who claim that the children of the faithful dying without sacramental baptism will not be saved, are stupid and presumptuous in saying this.”[lxxii] - Condemned
This is a fascinating proposition from The Council of Constance. Unfortunately, this proposition is not found in Denzinger, which only contains some of the Council’s decrees, but it is found in a full collection of the Council of Constance. The arch-heretic John Wyclif was proposing that those (such as ourselves) are stupid for teaching that infants who die without water (i.e., sacramental) baptism cannot possibly be saved. He was anathematized for this assertion, among many others. And here is what the Council of Constance had to say about John Wyclif’s anathematized propositions, such as #6 above.
Pope Martin V, Council of Constance, Session
15, July 6, 1415: “The books and pamphlets of John Wyclif, of cursed memory,
were carefully examined by the doctors and masters of
So those who criticize Catholics for affirming the dogma that no infant can be saved without the Sacrament of Baptism are actually proposing the anathematized heresy of John Wyclif. Here are some other dogmatic definitions on the topic.
Pope St. Zosimus, The Council of Carthage, Canon on Sin and Grace, 417 A.D.- “It has been decided likewise that if anyone says that for this reason the Lord said: ‘In my Father’s house there are many mansions’ [John 14:2]: that it might be understood that in the kingdom of heaven there will be some middle place or some place anywhere where the blessed infants live who departed from this life without baptism, without which they cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven, which is life eternal, let him be anathema.”[lxxiv]
Pope Paul III, The Council of Trent, On Original Sin, Session V, ex cathedra: “If anyone says that recently born babies should not be baptized even if they have been born to baptized parents; or says that they are indeed baptized for the remission of sins, but incur no trace of the original sin of Adam needing to be cleansed by the laver of rebirth for them to obtain eternal life, with the necessary consequence that in their case there is being understood a form of baptism for the remission of sins which is not true, but false: let him be anathema.”[lxxv]
This means that anyone who asserts that infants don’t need the “laver of rebirth” (water baptism) to attain eternal life is teaching heresy.
As I have proven above, there is no possible way for children to be freed from original sin other than through the Sacrament of Baptism. This, of course, proves that there is no way for infants to be saved other than through the Sacrament of Baptism. So the following definitions merely affirm what has already been established: no child can possibly enter the kingdom of Heaven without receiving water baptism, but will rather descend into Hell.
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, “Letentur coeli,” Sess. 6, July 6, 1439, ex cathedra: “We define also that… the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go straightaway to hell, but to undergo punishments of different kinds.”[lxxvi]
Pope Pius VI, Auctorem fidei, Aug. 28, 1794:
“26. The doctrine which rejects as a Pelagian fable, that place of the lower regions (which the faithful generally designate by the name of the limbo of the children) in which the souls of those departing with the sole guilt of original sin are punished with the punishment of the condemned, exclusive of the punishment of fire, just as if, by this very fact, that these who remove the punishment of fire introduced that middle place and state free of guilt and of punishment between the kingdom of God and eternal damnation, such as that about which the Pelagians idly talk” – Condemned as false, rash, injurious to Catholic schools.[lxxvii]
Here Pope Pius VI condemns the idea of some theologians that infants who die in original sin suffer the fires of Hell. At the same time, he confirms that these infants do go to a part of the lower regions (i.e., Hell) called the limbo of the children. They do not go to Heaven, but to a place in Hell where there is no fire. This is perfectly in accord with all of the other solemn definitions of the Church, which teach that infants who die without water baptism descend into Hell, but suffer a punishment different from those who die in mortal sin. Their punishment is eternal separation from God.
Pope Pius XI, Mit brennender Sorge (# 25), March 14, 1937:
“‘Original sin’ is the hereditary but impersonal fault of Adam’s
descendants, who have sinned in him (
It is defined Catholic dogma that there is only one baptism. This is why the dogmatic Nicene Creed,
historically professed every Sunday in the Roman Rite, reads: “I confess one
baptism for the remission of sins.”
And this dogma that there is one baptism for the remission of sins comes
from Our Lord and the Apostles. It
is affirmed by
Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas (# 12), Dec. 11, 1925: “The perfect harmony of the Eastern liturgies with our own in this continual praise of Christ the King shows once more the truth of the axiom: Legem credendi lex statuit supplicandi. The rule of faith is indicated by the law of our worship.”[lxxix]
Throughout history many popes have expressly reaffirmed this rule of faith: that there is only one baptism for the remission of sins.
The Nicene-Constantinople Creed, 381, ex cathedra: “We confess one baptism for the remission of sins.”[lxxx]
Pope St. Celestine I, Council of Ephesus, 431: “Having read these holy phrases and finding ourselves in agreement (for ‘there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism’ [Eph. 4:5]), we have given glory to God who is the savior of all…”[lxxxi]
Pope St. Leo IX, Congratulamur Vehementer, April 13, 1053: “I believe that the one true Church is holy, Catholic and apostolic, in which is given one baptism and the true remission of all sins.”[lxxxii]
Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam, Nov. 18, 1302, ex cathedra: “One is my dove, my perfect one… which represents the one mystical body whose head is Christ, of Christ indeed, as God. And in this, ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism’ (Eph. 4:5).”[lxxxiii]
Pope Clement V, Council of Vienne, Decree # 30, 1311-1312, ex cathedra: “Since however there is for both regulars and seculars, for superiors and subjects, for exempt and non-exempt, one universal Church, outside of which there is no salvation, for all of whom there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism…”[lxxxiv]
Pope Pius VI, Inscrutabile (# 8), Dec. 25, 1775: “… We exhort and advise you to be all of one mind and in harmony as you strive for the same object, just as the Church has one faith, one baptism, and one spirit.”[lxxxv]
Pope Leo XII, Ubi Primum (# 14), May 5, 1824: “By it we are taught, and by divine faith we hold one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and that no other name under heaven is given to men except the name of Jesus Christ in which we must be saved. This is why we profess that there is no salvation outside the Church.”[lxxxvi]
Pope Pius VIII, Traditi Humilitati (# 4), May 24, 1829: “Against these experienced sophists the people must be taught that the profession of the Catholic faith is uniquely true, as the apostle proclaims: one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Eph. 4:5).”[lxxxvii]
Pope Gregory XVI, Mirari Vos (# 13), Aug. 15, 1832: “With the admonition of the apostle that ‘there is one God, one faith, one baptism’ (Eph. 4:5) may those fear who contrive the notion that the safe harbor of salvation is open to persons of any religion whatever.”[lxxxviii]
Pope Leo XIII, Graves de communi re (# 8), Jan. 18, 1901: “Hence the doctrine of the Apostle, who warns us that ‘We are one body and spirit called to the one hope in our vocation; one Lord, one faith and one baptism…”[lxxxix]
To say that there are “three baptisms,” as many unfortunately do, is heretical. There is only one baptism, which is celebrated in water (de fide).
Pope Clement V, Council of Vienne, 1311-1312, ex cathedra: “Besides, one baptism which regenerates all who are baptized in Christ must be faithfully confessed by all just as ‘one God and one faith’ [Eph. 4:5], which celebrated in water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit we believe to be commonly the perfect remedy for salvation for adults as for children.”[xc]
Here Pope Clement V defines as a dogma that ONE BAPTISM must be faithfully confessed by all, which is celebrated in water. This means that all Catholics must profess one baptism of water, not three baptisms: of water, blood and desire. To confess “three baptisms,” and not one, is to contradict defined Catholic dogma. Did those who believe that there are three baptisms (water, blood and desire) ever wonder why countless popes have professed that there is only one baptism, and not a single one of them bothered to tell us about the so-called “other two”?
The Athanasian Creed is one of the most important creeds of the Catholic Faith. It contains a beautiful summary of a Catholic’s belief in the Trinity and the Incarnation, which are the two fundamental dogmas of Christianity. Before the 1971 changes in the Liturgy, the Athanasian Creed, consisting of 40 rhythmic statements, had been used in the Sunday Office for over a thousand years. The Athanasian Creed sets forth the necessity of believing the Catholic Faith for salvation. It closes with the words: “This is the Catholic Faith, which, except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.” The Athanasian Creed was composed by the great St. Athanasius himself, as the Council of Florence confirms.
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Sess. 8, Nov. 22, 1439, ex cathedra:
“Sixthly, we offer to the envoys that compendious rule of the faith composed by most blessed Athanasius, which is as follows:
“Whoever wishes to be saved, needs above all to hold the Catholic faith; unless each one preserves this whole and inviolate, he will without a doubt perish in eternity.– But the Catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in the Trinity, and the Trinity in unity; neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance; for there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Spirit, their glory is equal, their majesty coeternal...and in this Trinity there is nothing first or later, nothing greater or less, but all three persons are coeternal and coequal with one another, so that in every respect, as has already been said above, both unity in Trinity, and Trinity in unity must be worshipped. Therefore let him who wishes to be saved, think thus concerning the Trinity.
“But it is necessary for eternal salvation that he faithfully believe also in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ...the Son of God is God and man... This is the Catholic faith; unless each one believes this faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.”[xci]
The above definition of the Athanasian Creed at the ecumenical Council of Florence means that this creed qualifies as a pronouncement from the Chair of St. Peter (an ex cathedra pronouncement). To deny that which is professed in the Athanasian Creed is to cease to be Catholic. The Creed declares that whoever wishes to be saved needs to hold the Catholic Faith and believe in the Trinity and the Incarnation. Notice the phrase, “whoever wishes to be saved” (quicunque vult salvus esse).
This phrase is without question the product and inspiration of the Holy Ghost. It tells us that everyone who can “wish” must believe in the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation in order to be saved. This does not include infants and those below the age of reason, since they cannot wish! Infants are numbered among the Catholic faithful, since they receive the habit of Catholic Faith at the Sacrament of Baptism. But, being below the age of reason, they cannot make any act of faith in the Catholic mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation, an act which is absolutely necessary for the salvation of all above the age of reason (for all who wish to be saved). Is it not remarkable how God worded this infallible creed’s teaching on the necessity of belief in the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation in a way that would not include infants? The creed, therefore, teaches that everyone above the age of reason must have a knowledge and belief in the mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation to be saved – no exceptions. This creed, therefore, eliminates the theory of invincible ignorance (that one above the age of reason can be saved without knowing Christ or the true Faith) and further renders those who preach it unable to profess this creed with honesty.
And the fact that no one who wishes to be saved can be saved without a knowledge and belief in the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation is the reason why the Holy Office under Pope Clement XI responded that a missionary must, before baptism, explain these absolutely necessary mysteries to an adult who is at the point of death.
Response of the Sacred Office to the Bishop of
“Q. Whether a minister is bound, before baptism is conferred on an adult, to explain to him all the mysteries of our faith, especially if he is at the point of death, because this might disturb his mind. Or, whether it is sufficient, if the one at the point of death will promise that when he recovers from the illness, he will take care to be instructed, so that he might put into practice what has been commanded him.
“A. A promise is not sufficient, but a missionary is bound to explain to an adult, even a dying one who is not entirely incapacitated, the mysteries of faith which are necessary by a necessity of means, as are especially the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation.”[xcii]
Another question was posed at the same time and answered the same way.
Response of the Sacred Office to the Bishop of
“Q. Whether it is possible for a crude and uneducated adult, as it might be with a barbarian, to be baptized, if there were given him only an understanding of God and some of His attributes… although he does not believe explicitly in Jesus Christ.
“A. A missionary should not baptize one who does not believe explicitly in the Lord Jesus Christ, but is bound to instruct him about all those matters which are necessary, by a necessity of means, in accordance with the capacity of the one to be baptized.”[xciii]
The dogma that belief in the Trinity and Incarnation is absolutely necessary for salvation for all those above the age of reason is also the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas, Pope Benedict XIV and Pope St. Pius X.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica: “After grace had been revealed, both the learned and simple folk are bound to explicit faith in the mysteries of Christ, chiefly as regards those which are observed throughout the Church, and publicly proclaimed, such as the articles which refer to the Incarnation, of which we have spoken above.”[xciv]
Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica: “And consequently, when once grace had been revealed, all were bound to explicit faith in the mystery of the Trinity.”[xcv]
Pope Benedict XIV, Cum Religiosi (# 1), June 26, 1754:
“We could not rejoice, however, when it was subsequently reported to Us that in the course of religious instruction preparatory to Confession and Holy Communion, it was very often found that these people were ignorant of the mysteries of the faith, even those matters which must be known by necessity of means; consequently they were ineligible to partake of the Sacraments.”[xcvi]
Pope Benedict XIV, Cum Religiosi (# 4):
“See to it that every minister performs carefully the measures laid down
by the holy Council of
Those above the age of reason who are ignorant of these absolutely necessary mysteries of the Catholic Faith – these mysteries which are a “necessity of means” – cannot be numbered among the elect, as Pope St. Pius X confirms.
Pope St. Pius X, Acerbo Nimis (# 2), April 15, 1905:
“And so Our Predecessor, Benedict XIV, had just cause to write: ‘We declare that a great number of those who are condemned to eternal punishment suffer that everlasting calamity because of ignorance of those mysteries of faith which must be known and believed in order to be numbered among the elect.’”[xcviii]
So let those who believe that salvation is possible for those who don’t believe in Christ and the Trinity (which is “the Catholic Faith” if defined in terms of its simplest mysteries) change their position and align it with Catholic dogma. There is no other name under all of heaven whereby a man is saved other than the Lord Jesus (Acts 4:12). Let them cease contradicting the Athanasian Creed and let them confess that knowledge of these mysteries is absolutely necessary for the salvation of all who wish to be saved. They must firmly hold this so they can themselves possess the Catholic Faith and profess this creed with honesty and as our Catholic forefathers did.
These essential mysteries of the Catholic Faith have been disseminated and taught to most by means of the Apostles’ Creed (which is given in the Appendix). This vital creed includes the central truths about God the Father, God the Son (Our Lord Jesus Christ – His conception, crucifixion, ascension, etc.) and God the Holy Ghost. It also contains a profession of Faith in the crucial truths of the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the body.
So far we’ve seen that it’s an infallibly defined dogma that all who die as non-Catholics, including all Jews, pagans, heretics, schismatics, etc. cannot be saved. They need to be converted to have salvation. Now we must take a brief look at more of what the Church specifically says about some of the prominent non-Catholic religions, such as Judaism, Islam, and the Protestant and Eastern schismatic sects. This will illustrate, once again, that those who hold that members of non-Catholic religions can be saved are not only going against the solemn declarations that have already been quoted, but also the specific teachings quoted below.
Jews practice the Old Law and reject the Divinity of Christ and the Trinity. The Church teaches the following about the cessation of the Old Law and about all who continue to observe it:
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, 1441, ex cathedra:
“The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and teaches that the matter pertaining to the law of the Old Testament, the Mosaic law, which are divided into ceremonies, sacred rites, sacrifices, and sacraments, because they were established to signify something in the future, although they were suited to the divine worship at that time, after our Lord’s coming had been signified by them, ceased, and the sacraments of the New Testament began; and that whoever, even after the passion, placed hope in these matters of the law and submitted himself to them as necessary for salvation, as if faith in Christ could not save without them, sinned mortally. Yet it does not deny that after the passion of Christ up to the promulgation of the Gospel they could have been observed until they were believed to be in no way necessary for salvation; but after the promulgation of the Gospel it asserts that they cannot be observed without the loss of eternal salvation. All, therefore, who after that time [the promulgation of the Gospel] observe circumcision and the Sabbath and the other requirements of the law, the holy Roman Church declares alien to the Christian faith and not in the least fit to participate in eternal salvation.”[xcix]
Pope Benedict XIV, Ex Quo Primum (# 61), March 1, 1756:
“The first consideration is that the ceremonies of the Mosaic Law were abrogated by the coming of Christ and that they can no longer be observed without sin after the promulgation of the Gospel.”[c]
Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi (#’s 29-30), June 29, 1943: “And first of all, by the death of our Redeemer, the New Testament took the place of the Old Law which had been abolished… on the gibbet of His death Jesus made void the Law with its decrees [Eph. 2:15]… establishing the New Testament in His blood shed for the whole human race. ‘To such an extent, then,’ says St. Leo the Great, speaking of the Cross of our Lord, ‘was there effected a transfer from the Law to the Gospel, from the Synagogue to the Church, from many sacrifices to one Victim, that, as our Lord expired, that mystical veil which shut off the innermost part of the temple and its sacred secret was rent violently from top to bottom.’ On the Cross then the Old Law died, soon to be buried and to be a bearer of death…”[ci]
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Basel, Session 19, Sept. 7, 1434:
“… there is hope that very many from the abominable sect of Mahomet will be converted to the Catholic faith.”[cii]
Pope Callixtus III, 1455: “I vow to… exalt the true Faith, and to extirpate the diabolical sect of the reprobate and faithless Mahomet [Islam] in the East.”[ciii]
The Catholic Church considers Islam an “abominable” and “diabolical” sect. [Note: the Council of Basel is only considered ecumenical/approved in the first 25 sessions, as The Catholic Encyclopedia points out in Vol. 4, “Councils,” pp. 425-426.] An “abomination” is something that is abhorrent in God’s sight; it’s something that He has no esteem for and no respect for. Something “diabolical” is something of the Devil. Islam rejects, among many other dogmas, the Divinity of Jesus Christ and the Trinity. Its followers are outside the pale of salvation so long as they remain Muslims.
Pope Clement V, Council of Vienne, 1311-1312:
“It is an insult to the holy name and a disgrace to the Christian faith that in certain parts of the world subject to Christian princes where Saracens [i.e., the followers of Islam, also called Muslims] live, sometimes apart, sometimes intermingled with Christians, the Saracen priests, commonly called Zabazala, in their temples or mosques, in which the Saracens meet to adore the infidel Mahomet, loudly invoke and extol his name each day at certain hours from a high place… There is a place, moreover, where once was buried a certain Saracen whom other Saracens venerate as a saint. This brings disrepute on our faith and gives great scandal to the faithful. These practices cannot be tolerated without displeasing the divine majesty. We therefore, with the sacred council’s approval, strictly forbid such practices henceforth in Christian lands. We enjoin on Catholic princes, one and all… They are to remove this offense together from their territories and take care that their subjects remove it, so that they may thereby attain the reward of eternal happiness. They are to forbid expressly the public invocation of the sacrilegious name of Mahomet… Those who presume to act otherwise are to be so chastised by the princes for their irreverence, that others may be deterred from such boldness.”[civ]
While the Church teaches that all who die as non-Catholics are lost, it also teaches that no one should be forced to embrace baptism, since belief is a free act of the will.
Pope Leo XIII, Immortale Dei (#36), Nov. 1, 1885: “And, in fact, the Church is wont to take earnest heed that no one shall be forced to embrace the Catholic faith against his will, for, as St. Augustine wisely reminds us, ‘Man cannot believe otherwise than of his own will.’”[cv]
The teaching of the Council of Vienne that Christian princes should enforce their civil authority to forbid the public expression of the false religion of Islam shows again that Islam is a false religion which leads souls to Hell (not Heaven) and displeases God.
The Catholic Church also teaches that those baptized persons who embrace heretical or schismatic sects will lose their souls. Jesus founded His Church upon St. Peter, as we saw already, and declared that whoever does not hear the Church be considered as the heathen and publican (Matthew 18:17). He also commanded His followers to observe “all things whatsoever” He has commanded (Matthew 28:20). The Eastern schismatic sects (such as the “Orthodox”) and the Protestant sects are breakoff movements that have separated from the Catholic Church. By separating themselves from the one Church of Christ, they leave the path of salvation and enter the path of perdition.
These sects obstinately and pertinaciously reject one or more of the truths that Christ clearly instituted, such as the Papacy (Matthew 16; John 21; etc.), Confession (John 20:23), the Eucharist (John 6:54), and other dogmas of the Catholic Faith. In order to be saved one must assent to all the things which the Catholic Church, based on Scripture and Tradition, has infallibly defined as dogmas of the Faith.
Below are just a few of the infallible dogmas of the Catholic Faith which are rejected by Protestants and (in the case of the Papacy) by the Eastern “Orthodox.” The Church “anathematizes” (a severe form of excommunication) all who obstinately assert the contrary to its dogmatic definitions.
"To understand the word anathema…we should first go back to the real meaning of herem of which it is the equivalent. Herem comes from the word haram, to cut off, to separate, to curse, and indicates that which is cursed and condemned to be cut off or exterminated, whether a person or a thing, and in consequence, that which man is forbidden to make use of. This is the sense of anathema in the following passage from Deut., vii, 26: ‘Neither shalt thou bring anything of the idol into thy house, lest thou become an anathema like it. Thou shalt detest it as dung, and shalt utterly abhor it as uncleanness and filth, because it is an anathema.’”[cvi]
Thus, a Protestant or an “Eastern Orthodox” who obstinately rejects these dogmatic teachings is anathematized and severed from the Church, outside of which there is no salvation. It’s quite interesting that, in issuing these dogmatic canons, the Church says: “If anyone shall say…. let him be anathema [anathema sit]” as opposed to “If anyone shall say… he is anathema [anathema est].” This qualification of “let him be” allows room for those Catholics who may be unaware of a particular dogma and would conform to the teaching of the canon as soon as it were presented to him. The person who is obstinate, however, and willfully contradicts the dogmatic teaching of the Church receives the full force of the automatic condemnation.
The point here is that if one is able to reject these dogmas and still be saved, then these infallible definitions and their accompanying anathemas have no meaning, value or force. But they do have meaning, value and force – they are infallible teachings protected by Jesus Christ. Thus, all who reject these dogmas are anathematized and on the road to damnation.
Pope Pius XI, Rerum omnium perturbationem (#4), Jan. 26, 1923: “The saint was no less a person that Francis de Sales… he seemed to have been sent especially by God to contend against the heresies begotten by the [Protestant] Reformation. It is in these heresies that we discover the beginnings of that apostasy of mankind from the Church, the sad and disastrous effects of which are deplored, even to the present hour, by every fair mind.”[cvii]
Pope Julius III, Council of Trent, Session 13, Can. 1 on the Eucharist, ex cathedra:
"If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist there are truly, really, and substantially contained the Body and Blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore the whole Christ, but shall say that He is in it as by sign or figure, or force, let him be anathema."[cviii]
Pope Julius III, Council of Trent, Session 14, Canon 3 on the Sacrament of Penance: “If anyone says that the words of the Lord Savior: ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins ye shall retain, they are retained’ [John 20:22 f.], are not to be understood of the power remitting and retaining sins in the sacrament of penance… let him be anathema.”[cix]
Pope Julius III, Council of Trent, Session 14, on Extreme Unction and Penance: “These are the things which this sacred ecumenical synod professes and teaches concerning the sacraments of penance and extreme unction, and it sets them forth to be believed and held by all the faithful of Christ. Moreover, the following canons, it says, must be inviolately observed, and it condemns and anathematizes forever those who assert the contrary.”[cx]
Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session
6, Chap. 16, ex cathedra:
"After this Catholic doctrine of justification - which, unless he faithfully and firmly accepts, no one can be justified - it seemed good to the holy Synod to add these canons, so that all may know, not only what they must hold and follow, but also what they ought to shun and avoid."[cxi]
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council I, 1870, Sess. 4, Chap. 3, ex cathedra: "… all the faithful of Christ must believe that the Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff hold primacy over the whole world, and the Pontiff of Rome himself is the successor of the blessed Peter, the chief of the apostles, and is the true vicar of Christ and head of the whole Church... Furthermore We teach and declare that the Roman Church, by the disposition of the Lord, holds the sovereignty of ordinary power over all others… This is the doctrine of Catholic truth from which no one can deviate and keep his faith and salvation."[cxii]
The Catholic Church has always taught that anyone (including a layman or a non-Catholic) can validly baptize if he adheres to proper matter and form and if he has the intention of doing what the Church does.
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, “Exultate Deo,” 1439: “In case of necessity, however, not only a priest or a deacon, but even a layman or woman, yes even a pagan and a heretic can baptize, so long as he preserves the form of the Church and has the intention of doing what the Church does.”[cxiii]
The Church has always taught that infants baptized in heretical and schismatic churches are made Catholics, members of the Church and subjects of the Roman Pontiff, even if the people who baptized them are heretics who are outside the Catholic Church. This is because the infant, being below the age of reason, cannot be a heretic or schismatic. He cannot have an impediment which would prevent Baptism from making him a member of the Church.
Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Sess. 7, Can. 13 on the Sacrament of Baptism:
“If anyone shall say that infants, because they have not actual faith, after having received baptism are not to be numbered among the faithful… let him be anathema.”[cxiv]
This means that all baptized infants wherever they are, even those baptized in heretical non-Catholic churches by heretical ministers, are made members of the Catholic Church. They are also made subject to the Roman Pontiff (if there is one), as we saw earlier in the teaching of Pope Leo XIII. So, at what one point does this baptized Catholic infant become a non-Catholic – severing his membership in the Church and subjection to the Roman Pontiff? After the baptized infant reaches the age of reason, he or she becomes a heretic or a schismatic and severs his membership in the Church and severs subjection to the Roman Pontiff when he or she obstinately rejects any teaching of the Catholic Church or loses Faith in the essential mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation.
Pope Clement VI, Super quibusdam, Sept. 20, 1351: “…We ask: In the first place whether you and the Church of the Armenians which is obedient to you, believe that all those who in baptism have received the same Catholic faith, and afterwards have withdrawn and will withdraw in the future from the communion of this same Roman Church, which one alone is Catholic, are schismatic and heretical, if they remain obstinately separated from the faith of this Roman Church. In the second place, we ask whether you and the Armenians obedient to you believe that no man of the wayfarers outside the faith of this Church, and outside the obedience of the Pope of Rome, can finally be saved.”[cxv]
So, one must be clear on these points: 1) The unbaptized (Jews, Muslims, pagans, etc.) must all join the Catholic Church by receiving Baptism and the Catholic Faith or they will all be lost. 2) Among those who are baptized as infants, they are made Catholics, members of the Church and subjects of the Roman Pontiff by Baptism. They only sever that membership (which they already possess) when they obstinately reject any Catholic dogma or believe something contrary to the essential mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation. In the teaching of Pope Clement VI above, we see this second point clearly taught: all who receive the Catholic Faith in Baptism lose that Faith and become schismatic and heretical if they become “obstinately separated from the faith of this Roman Church.”
The fact is that all Protestants who reject the Catholic Church or its dogmas on the sacraments, the Papacy, etc. have obstinately separated from the Faith of the Roman Church and have therefore severed their membership in the Church of Christ. The same is true with the “Eastern Orthodox” who obstinately reject dogmas on the Papacy and Papal Infallibility. They need to be converted to the Catholic Faith for salvation.
14. Baptism of Blood and Baptism of Desire – Erroneous Traditions of Man
In this document, I have shown that the Catholic Church infallibly teaches that the Sacrament of Baptism is necessary for salvation. I have also shown that it is only through receiving the Sacrament of Baptism that one is incorporated into the Catholic Church, outside of which there is no salvation. I have also shown that the Catholic Church infallibly teaches that the words of Jesus Christ in John 3:5 – Amen, amen I say unto thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God – are to be understood literally: as they are written. This is the infallible teaching of the Church and it excludes any possibility of salvation without being born again of water and the Holy Ghost. However, throughout the history of the Church, many have believed in the theories called baptism of desire and baptism of blood: that one’s desire for the Sacrament of Baptism or one’s martyrdom for the faith supplies for the lack of being born again of water and the Holy Ghost. Those who believe in baptism of blood and baptism of desire raise certain objections to the absolute necessity of receiving the Sacrament of Baptism for salvation. So, in order to be complete, I will respond to all of the major objections made by baptism of desire and blood advocates; and in the process, I will give an overview of the history of the errors of baptism of desire and baptism of blood. In doing this I will demonstrate that neither baptism of blood nor baptism of desire is a teaching of the Catholic Church.
In the first millennium of the Church there lived hundreds of holy men and saints who are called “Fathers of the Church.” Tixeront, in his Handbook of Patrology, lists over five hundred whose names and writings have come down to us.[cxvi] The Fathers (or prominent early Christian Catholic writers) are unanimous from the beginning that no one enters heaven or is freed from original sin without water baptism.
In the letter of Barnabas, dated as early as 70 A.D., we read:
“… we descend into the water full of sins and foulness, and we come up bearing fruit in our heart…”[cxvii]
In 140 A.D., the early Church Father Hermas quotes Jesus in John 3:5, and writes:
“They had need to come up through the water, so that they might be
made alive; for they could not otherwise
enter into the
This statement is obviously a paraphrase of John 3:5, and thus it demonstrates that from the very beginning of the apostolic age it was held and taught by the fathers that no one enters heaven without being born again of water and the Spirit based specifically on Our Lord Jesus Christ’s declaration in John 3:5.
In 155 A.D., St. Justin the Martyr writes:
“… they are led by us to a place where there is water; and there they are reborn in the same kind of rebirth in which we ourselves were reborn… in the name of God… they receive the washing of water. For Christ said, ‘Unless you be reborn, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ The reason for doing this we have learned from the apostles.”[cxix]
Notice that St. Justin Martyr, like Hermas, also quotes the words of Jesus in John 3:5, and based on Christ’s words he teaches that it is from apostolic tradition that no one at all can enter Heaven without being born again of water and the Spirit in the Sacrament of Baptism.
In his dialogue with Trypho the Jew, also dated 155 A.D., St. Justin Martyr further writes:
“… hasten to learn in what way forgiveness of sins and a hope of the inheritance… may be yours. There is no other way than this: acknowledge Christ, be washed in the washing announced by Isaias [Baptism]…”[cxx]
In 180 A.D., St. Irenaeus writes:
“… giving the disciples the power of regenerating in God, He said to them: ‘Go teach all nations, and baptize… Just as dry wheat without moisture cannot become one dough or one loaf, so also, we who are many cannot be made one in Christ Jesus, without the water from heaven…Our bodies achieve unity through the washing… our souls, however, through the Spirit. Both, then, are necessary.”[cxxi]
see again a clear enunciation of the constant and apostolic Tradition that no
one is saved without the Sacrament of Baptism, from no less than the great
In 181 A.D., St. Theophilus continues the Tradition:
“… those things which were created from the waters were blessed by God, so that this might also be a sign that men would at a future time receive repentance and remission of sins through water and the bath of regeneration…”[cxxii]
In 203 A.D., Tertullian writes:
“… it is in fact prescribed that no one can attain to salvation without Baptism, especially in view of that declaration of the Lord, who says: ‘Unless a man shall be born of water, he shall not have life [John 3:5]…”[cxxiii]
Notice how Tertullian affirms the same apostolic Tradition that no one is saved without water baptism based on the words of Jesus Himself.
Tertullian further writes in 203 A.D.:
“A treatise on our sacrament of water, by which the sins of our earlier blindness are washed away … nor can we otherwise be saved, except by permanently abiding in the water.”[cxxiv]
Baptism has also been called since apostolic times the Seal, the Sign and the Illumination; for without this Seal, Sign or Illumination no one is forgiven of original sin or sealed as a member of Jesus Christ.
“… he that confirmeth us with you in Christ, and that hath anointed us, is God: Who also hath sealed us, and given the pledge of the Spirit in our hearts.” (2 Cor. 1:21-22)
As early as 140 A.D., Hermas had already taught this truth – that Baptism is the Seal – which was delivered by the Apostles from Jesus Christ.
Hermas, 140 A.D.: “… before a man bears the name of the Son of God, he is dead. But when he receives the seal, he puts mortality aside and again receives life. The seal, therefore, is the water. They go down into the water dead, and come out of it alive.”[cxxv]
In the famous work entitled The Second Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, 120-170 A.D., we read:
“For of those who have not kept the seal of baptism he says: ‘Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched.’”[cxxvi]
St. Ephraim, c. 350 A.D.: “… we are anointed in Baptism, whereby we bear His seal.”[cxxvii]
St. Gregory Nyssa, c. 380 A.D.: “Make haste, O sheep, towards the sign of the cross and the Seal [Baptism] which will save you from your misery!”[cxxviii]
St. Clement of
“When we are baptized, we are enlightened. Being enlightened, we are adopted as sons… This work is variously called grace, illumination, perfection, washing. It is a washing by which we are cleansed of sins…”[cxxix]
Origen, 244 A.D.:
“The Church received from the Apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants… there is in everyone the innate stains of sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit.”[cxxx]
St. Aphraates, the oldest of the Syrian fathers, writes in 336 A.D.:
“This, then, is faith: that a man believe in God … His Spirit …His Christ… Also, that a man believe in the resurrection of the dead; and moreover, that he believe in the Sacrament of Baptism. This is the belief of the Church of God.”[cxxxi]
The same Syrian father further writes:
“For from baptism we receive the Spirit of Christ… For the Spirit is absent from all those who are born of the flesh, until they come to the water of re-birth.”[cxxxii]
Here we see in the writings of St. Aphraates the same teaching of Tradition on the absolute necessity of water baptism for salvation based on the words of Christ in John 3:5.
St. Cyril of
“He says, ‘Unless a man be born again’ – and He adds the words ‘of water and the Spirit’ – he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God…..if a man be virtuous in his deeds, but does not receive the seal by means of the water, shall he enter into the kingdom of heaven. A bold saying, but not mine; for it is Jesus who has declared it.”[cxxxiii]
We see that St. Cyril continues the apostolic Tradition that no one enters heaven without being born again of water and the Spirit, based again on an absolute understanding Our Lord’s own words in John 3:5.
St. Basil the Great, c. 355 A.D.:
“Whence is it that we are Christians? Through faith, all will answer. How are we saved? By being born again in the grace of baptism… For it is the same loss for anyone to depart this life unbaptized, as to receive that baptism from which one thing of what has been handed down has been omitted.”[cxxxiv]
St. Gregory of Elvira, 360 A.D.:
“Christ is called Net, because through Him and in Him the diverse multitudes of peoples are gathered from the sea of the world, through the water of Baptism and into the Church, where a distinction is made between the good and the wicked.”[cxxxv]
St. Ephraim, 366 A.D.:
“This the Most Holy Catholic Church professes. In this same Holy Trinity She baptizes unto eternal life.”[cxxxvi]
Pope St. Damasus, 382 A.D.:
“This, then, is the salvation of Christians: that believing in the Trinity, that is, in the Father, and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit, and baptized in it…”[cxxxvii]
St. Ambrose, 387 A.D.:
“… no one ascends into the kingdom of heaven except through the Sacrament of Baptism.”[cxxxviii]
St. Ambrose, 387 A.D.:
“‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter
St. Ambrose, De mysteriis, 390-391 A.D.:
“You have read, therefore, that the three witnesses
in Baptism are one: water, blood, and the spirit; and if you withdraw any one of
these, the Sacrament of Baptism is not valid. For what is water without the cross of
Christ? A common element without any
sacramental effect. Nor on the other
hand is there any mystery of regeneration without water: for ‘unless a man be
born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the
“Weep for the unbelievers; weep for those who differ not a whit from them, those who go hence without illumination, without the seal! … They are outside the royal city…. with the condemned. ‘Amen, I tell you, if anyone is not born of water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”[cxli]
“… God does not forgive sins except to the baptized.”[cxlii]
Pope St. Innocent, 414 A.D.:
“But that which Your Fraternity asserts the Pelagians preach, that even without the grace of Baptism infants are able to be endowed with the rewards of eternal life, is quite idiotic.”[cxliii]
Pope St. Gregory the Great, c. 590 A.D.:
“Forgiveness of sin is bestowed on us only by the baptism of Christ.”[cxliv]
Theophylactus, Patriarch of
“He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved. It does not suffice to believe; he who believes, and is not yet baptized, but is only a catechumen, has not yet fully acquired salvation.”[cxlv]
Many other passages could be quoted from the fathers, but it is a fact that the fathers of the Church are unanimous from the beginning of the apostolic age that no one at all can be saved without receiving the Sacrament of Baptism, based on the words of Jesus Christ in John 3:5. The eminent Patristic Scholar Fr. William Jurgens, who has literally read thousands of texts from the fathers, was forced to admit the following (even though he believes in baptism of desire) in his three volume set on the fathers of the Church.
Fr. William Jurgens: “If there were not a constant tradition in the Fathers that the Gospel message of ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’ is to be taken absolutely, it would be easy to say that Our Savior simply did not see fit to mention the obvious exceptions of invincible ignorance and physical impossibility. But the tradition in fact is there; and it is likely enough to be found so constant as to constitute revelation.”[cxlvi]
The eminent scholar Fr. Jurgens is admitting here three important things:
The fathers are constant in their teaching that John 3:5 is absolute with no exceptions; that is, no one at all enters heaven without being born again of water and the Spirit;
The fathers are so constant on this point that it likely constitutes divine revelation, without even considering the infallible teaching of the popes;
The constant teaching of the fathers that all must receive water baptism for salvation in light of John 3:5 excludes exceptions for the “invincibly ignorant” or “physically impossible” cases.
And based on this truth, declared by Jesus in the Gospel (John 3:5), handed down by the Apostles and taught by the fathers, the Catholic Church has infallibly defined as a dogma (as we have seen already) that no one at all enters heaven without the Sacrament of Baptism.
Pope Paul III, The Council of Trent, Canon 5 on the Sacrament of Baptism, ex cathedra: “If anyone says that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation (John. 3:5): let him be anathema.”[cxlvii]
But, as is the case with many other matters, not all of the fathers remained consistent with their own affirmation of the absolute necessity of water baptism for salvation.
Despite the fact that there is a constant tradition from the beginning that no one at all is saved without water baptism, not all of the fathers always remained consistent with their own affirmation on this point. And that is where we come across the theories of “baptism of blood” and “baptism of desire,” each of which will be discussed in turn. But it must be understood that the fathers of the Church were mistaken and inconsistent with their own teaching and the apostolic Tradition on many points – since they were fallible men who made many errors.
Fr. William Jurgens: “… we must stress that a particular patristic text [a particular statement from a father] is in no instance to be regarded as a ‘proof’ of a particular doctrine. Dogmas are not ‘proved’ by patristic statements, but by the infallible teaching instruments of the Church. The value of the Fathers and writers is this: that in the aggregate [that is, in totality], they demonstrate what the Church believes and teaches; and again, in the aggregate [that is, in totality], they provide a witness to the content of Tradition, that Tradition which is itself a vehicle of revelation.”[cxlviii]
The fathers of the Church are only a definite witness to Tradition when expressing a point held universally and constantly or when expressing something that is in line with defined dogma. Taken individually or even in multiplicity, they can be dead wrong and even dangerous. St. Basil the Great said that the Holy Ghost is second to the Son of God in order and dignity, in a horrible and even heretical attempt to explain the Holy Trinity.
St. Basil (363): “The Son is not, however, second to the Father in nature, because the Godhead is one in each of them, and plainly, too, in the Holy Spirit, even if in order and dignity He is second to the Son (yes, this we do concede!), though not in such a way, it is clear, that He were of another nature.” [cxlix]
When St. Basil says above that the Godhead is one in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, he is correctly affirming the universal, apostolic Tradition. But when he says that the Holy Spirit is second in dignity to the Son he ceases to remain consistent with this Tradition and falls into error (material heresy, in fact). And the fathers made countless errors in attempting to defend or articulate the Faith.
St. Augustine wrote an entire book of corrections. St. Fulgentius and a host of others, including St. Augustine, held that it was certain that infants who die without baptism descend into the fires of Hell, a position that was later condemned by Pope Pius VI. As Pope Pius VI confirmed, unbaptized infants go to Hell, but to a place in Hell where there is no fire.[cl]
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 9, “Limbo,” p. 257:
“On the special question, however, of the
punishment of original sin after death, St. Anselm was at one with
This is why Catholics don’t form definite doctrinal conclusions from the teaching of a father of the Church or a handful of fathers; a Catholic goes by the infallible teaching of the Church proclaimed by the popes; and a Catholic assents to the teaching of the fathers of the Church when they are in universal and constant agreement from the beginning and in line with Catholic dogmatic teaching.
Pope Benedict XIV, Apostolica (# 6), June 26, 1749: “The Church’s judgment is preferable to that of a Doctor renowned for his holiness and teaching.”[clii]
Errors of the Jansenists, #30: “When anyone finds a doctrine clearly established in Augustine, he can absolutely hold it and teach it, disregarding any bull of the pope.”- Condemned by Pope Alexander VIII[cliii]
Pope Pius XII, Humani generis (# 21), Aug. 12, 1950: “This deposit of faith our Divine Redeemer has given for authentic interpretation not to each of the faithful, not even to theologians, but only to the Teaching Authority of the Church.’”[cliv]
The Catholic Church recognizes infallibility in no saint, theologian or early Church father. It is only a pope operating with the authority of the Magisterium who is protected by the Holy Ghost from teaching error on faith or morals. So, when we examine and show how Churchmen have erred on the topics of baptism of desire and blood this is 100% consistent with the teaching of the Church, which has always acknowledged that any Churchman, no matter how great, can make errors, even significant ones. Finally, after dealing with baptism of desire and blood, I will quote a Pope, who is also an early Church father, whose teaching ends all debate on the subject. I will now proceed to discuss baptism of blood and baptism of desire.
A small number
of the fathers – approximately 8 out of a
total of hundreds – are quoted in favor of what is called “baptism of
blood,” the idea that a catechumen (that is, one preparing to receive Catholic
Baptism) who shed his blood for Christ could be saved without having received
Baptism. It is crucial to note at
the beginning that none of the fathers
considered anyone but a catechumen as a possible exception to receiving the
Sacrament of Baptism; they would all condemn and reject as heretical and foreign
to the teaching of Christ the modern heresy of “invincible ignorance” saving
those who die as non-Catholics.
So, out of the fathers, approximately 8 are quoted in favor of baptism of
blood for catechumens. And, only 1 father out of hundreds,
St. Cyril of
see that St. Cyril of
St. Fulgence, 523: “From that time at which Our Savior said: “If anyone is not reborn of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven,’ no one can, without the sacrament of baptism, except those who, in the Catholic Church, without Baptism pour out their blood for Christ…”[clvi]
Here we see that St. Fulgence believed in baptism of blood but rejected the idea of baptism of desire. And what’s ironic and particularly dishonest is that the baptism of desire apologists (such as the priests of the Society of St. Pius X) will quote these patristic texts (such as the two above) in books written to prove baptism of desire, without pointing out to their readers that these passages actually deny baptism of desire; for we can see that St. Fulgence, while expressing belief in baptism of blood, rejects baptism of desire, only allowing martyrs as a possible exception to receiving baptism. (What would St. Fulgence say about the modern version of the heresy of baptism of desire, also taught by such priests of the SSPX, SSPV, CMRI, etc. whereby Jews, Muslims, Hindus and pagans can be saved without Baptism?)
St. Fulgence, On the Forgiveness of Sins, 512 A.D.: “Anyone who is outside this Church, which received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, is walking a path not to heaven but to hell. He is not approaching the home of eternal life; rather, he is hastening to the torment of eternal death.”[clvii]
St. Fulgence, The Rule of Faith, 526 A.D.: “Hold most firmly and never doubt in the least that not only all the pagans but also all the Jews and all the heretics and schismatics who end this present life outside the Catholic Church are about to go into the eternal fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels.”[clviii]
We can see that St. Fulgence would have – like all of the other fathers – sternly condemned the modern heretics who hold that those who die as non-Catholics can be saved.
But what is most interesting about this is that in the same document in which St. Fulgence expresses his error on baptism of blood (quoted already), he makes a different and significant error.
St. Fulgence, 523: “Hold most firmly and never doubt in the least that not only men having the use of reason but even infants who… pass from this world without the Sacrament of holy Baptism… are to be punished in the everlasting torment of eternal fire.”[clix]
St. Fulgence says “Hold most firmly and never doubt” that infants who die without baptism are “to be punished in the everlasting torment of eternal fire.” This is wrong. Infants who die without baptism descend into Hell, but to a place in Hell where there is no fire (Pope Pius VI, Auctorem Fidei).[clx] St. Fulgence shows, therefore, that his opinion in favor of baptism of blood is quite fallible by making a different error in the same document. It is quite remarkable, in fact, that in almost every instance when a father of the Church or someone else expresses his error on baptism of blood or baptism of desire that same person makes another significant error in the same work, as we will see.
It is also important to point out that some of the fathers use the term “baptism of blood” to describe the Catholic martyrdom of one already baptized, not as a possible replacement for water baptism. This is the only legitimate use of the term.
“Do not be surprised that I call martyrdom a Baptism; for here too the Spirit comes in great haste and there is a taking away of sins and a wonderful and marvelous cleansing of the soul; and just as those being baptized are washed in water, so too those being martyred are washed in their own blood.”[clxi]
“These things were well understood by our holy and inspired fathers --- thus they strove, after Holy Baptism, to keep... spotless and undefiled. Whence some of them also thought fit to receive another Baptism: I mean that which is by blood and martyrdom.”[clxii]
This is important because many dishonest scholars today (such as the priests of the Society of St. Pius X) will distort the teaching on this point; they will quote a passage on baptism of blood where St. John is simply speaking of baptism of blood as a Catholic martyrdom for one already baptized, and they will present it as if the person were teaching that martyrdom can replace baptism – when such is not stated anywhere.
Some may wonder why the term baptism of blood was used at all. I believe that the reason the term “baptism of blood” was used by some of the fathers was because Our Lord described His coming passion as a baptism in Mark 10:38-39.
[Mark 10:38-39]: “And Jesus said to them: You know not what you ask. Can you drink the chalice that I drink of: or be baptized with the baptism wherewith I am baptized? But they said to him: We can. And Jesus saith to them: You shall indeed drink of the chalice that I drink of: and with the baptism wherewith I am baptized, you shall be baptized.”
We see in the aforementioned passage that Our Lord, although already
The term baptism is used in a variety of ways in the scriptures and by the Church fathers. The baptisms: of water, of blood, of the spirit, of Moses, and of fire are all terms that have been implemented by Church Fathers to characterize certain things, but not necessarily to describe that an unbaptized martyr can attain salvation. Read the verse of scripture in which the term baptism is used for the Old Testament forefathers:
[1Cor. 10:2-4]: “And all in Moses were BAPTIZED, in the cloud, and in the sea: And did all eat the same spiritual food, And all drank the same spiritual drink: (and they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.)”
I believe this explains why a number of fathers erred in believing that baptism of blood supplies the place of baptism of water. They recognized that Our Lord referred to His own martyrdom as a baptism, and they erroneously concluded that martyrdom for the true faith can serve as a substitute for being born again of water and the Holy Ghost. But the reality is that there are no exceptions to Our Lord’s words in John 3:5, as the infallible teaching of the Catholic Church confirms. Anyone of good will who is willing to shed his blood for the true faith will not be left without these saving waters. It is not our blood, but Christ’s blood on the Cross, communicated to us in the Sacrament of Baptism, which frees us from the state of sin and allows us entrance into the kingdom of Heaven (more on this later).
Pope Eugene IV, “Cantate Domino,” Council of Florence, ex cathedra: “No one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has persevered within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.”[clxiii]
TWO OF THE EARLIEST STATEMENTS ON BAPTISM OF BLOOD
Out of the few fathers that can be quoted in favor of baptism of blood being a possible replacement to actual Baptism, two of the very earliest statements supporting the idea come from St. Cyprian and Tertullian.
St. Cyprian, To Jubaianus (254): “Catechumens who suffer martyrdom before they have received Baptism with water are not deprived of the Sacrament of Baptism. Rather, they are baptized with the most glorious and greatest Baptism of Blood…”[clxiv]
Let’s examine this passage. While teaching baptism of blood, notice that St. Cyprian makes a significant error in the same sentence. He says:
“catechumens who suffer martyrdom before they have received Baptism are not deprived of the Sacrament of Baptism.”
This is completely wrong, even from the point of view of the baptism of blood/desire advocates. All baptism of desire and blood advocates readily admit that neither is a sacrament, because neither confers the indelible character of the Sacrament of Baptism. Hence, even the staunchest advocates of baptism of blood would admit that St. Cyprian’s statement here is wrong. Therefore, in the very SENTENCE in which St. Cyprian teaches the error of baptism of blood, he makes a significant error in explaining it – he calls it “the Sacrament of Baptism.” What more proof is necessary to demonstrate to the liberals that the teaching of individual fathers is not infallible and does not represent the universal Tradition and can even be dangerous, if held obstinately? Why do they quote such erroneous passages to attempt to “teach” the faithful when they do not even agree with them?
Furthermore, St. Cyprian’s errors in this very document (To Jubaianus) don’t end here! In the same document, St. Cyprian teaches that heretics cannot administer valid baptism.
St. Cyprian, To Jubaianus (254): “… in regard to what I might think in the matter of the baptism of heretics… This baptism we cannot reckon as valid…”[clxv]
This is also completely wrong, as the Council of Trent defined that heretics, provided they observe the correct matter and form, confer valid baptism. But St. Cyprian actually held that it was from apostolic Tradition that heretics could not confer a valid baptism! And this false idea was opposed by the then Pope St. Stephen and later condemned by the Catholic Church. So much for the claim that St. Cyprian’s Letter To Jubaianus is a sure representation of apostolic Tradition! In fact, St. Cyprian and 30 other bishops declared in a regional council in 254 A.D.:
“We… judging and holding it as certain that no one beyond the pale [that is, outside the Church] is able to be baptized…”[clxvi]
This again proves the point: Jesus Christ only gave infallibility to St. Peter and his successors (the popes).
“And the Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have all of you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32)
Jesus Christ did not give unfailing faith to bishops, theologians or fathers of the Church; He only gave it to Peter and his successors when speaking from the Chair of Peter or when proposing a doctrine for the faithful to be believed as divinely revealed.
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council I, ex cathedra:
“So, this gift of truth AND A NEVER FAILING FAITH WAS DIVINELY CONFERRED UPON PETER AND HIS SUCCESSORS IN THIS CHAIR…”[clxvii]
Another early father who is frequently quoted in favor of baptism of blood is Tertullian. His statement is the earliest recorded statement teaching baptism of blood.
Tertullian, On Baptism, 203 A.D.: “If they might be washed in water, they must necessarily be so by blood. This is the Baptism which replaces that of the fountain, when it has not been received, and restores it when it has been lost.”[clxviii]
But guess what? In the same work in which Tertullian expresses his opinion in favor of baptism of blood, he also makes a different and significant error. He says that infants should not be baptized until they are grown up!
Tertullian, On Baptism, 203 A.D.: “According to circumstance and disposition and even age of the individual person, it may be better to delay baptism; and especially so in the case of little children…Let them come, then, while they grow up…”[clxix]
This contradicts the universal Catholic Tradition, received from the Apostles, and the later infallible teaching of the popes, that infants should be baptized as soon as possible.
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, ex cathedra: “Regarding children… holy baptism ought not be deferred…”[clxx]
But in addition to this, in the same work On Baptism, Tertullian actually affirms the universal teaching of Tradition on the absolute necessity of water baptism, contrary to the idea of baptism of blood.
Tertullian, On Baptism, 203: “… it is in fact prescribed that no one can attain to salvation without Baptism, especially in view of that declaration of the Lord, who says: ‘Unless a man shall be born of water, he shall not have life [John 3:5]…”[clxxi]
Thus, those who think that baptism of blood is a teaching of the Catholic Church simply because this error was expressed by a number of fathers are simply mistaken. As many or more fathers held that unbaptized infants suffer the fires of Hell and that heretics cannot validly baptize. The theory of baptism of blood was not held universally or constantly in Catholic Tradition and it has never been taught or mentioned by any pope, any council or in any Papal Encyclical.
One of the biggest objections from baptism of desire/blood advocates is the claim that the Catholic Church recognizes saints who never received the Sacrament of Baptism. The answer to this is that the Catholic Church has never recognized that there are saints in heaven who were not baptized. Some historians have written accounts of the lives of certain saints in which these saints died without baptism of water – by “baptism of blood”; but the assertions of these historians prove nothing.
Not all of the information surrounding the deaths of martyrs is accurate. For instance, “According to St. Ambrose, Prudentius and Father Butler, Saint Agnes was beheaded. Others had said she [St. Agnes] was burned to death. Our point is that not all of the information given in the martyrdom narrative is necessarily accurate, consistent, or complete.”[clxxii]
Pope St. Gelasius, Decretal, 495: “Likewise the deeds of the holy martyrs… [which] with remarkable caution are not read in the holy Roman Church… because the names of those who wrote them are entirely unknown… lest an occasion of mockery might arise.”[clxxiii]
Pope St. Gelasius is saying here that the acts and deeds recorded of the martyrs are uncertain. Their authors are unknown, the accounts may contain error and they were not even read out in the holy Roman Church to avoid possible scandal or mockery which might arise from any false statements contained therein. In fact, in his work The Age of Martyrs, the renowned Church historian Abbot Giuseppe Ricciotti says: “For guides we have appropriate documents. These, however, as we have already seen, are often uncertain and would lead us completely astray. Especially unreliable are the Acts or Passions of martyrs.”[clxxiv] The infallible teaching of the Catholic Church, on the other hand, is absolutely reliable, and it has never taught that souls can be saved without the Sacrament of Baptism by “baptism of blood.” Thus, in short, there is no proof that any saint martyred for the Catholic Faith never received the Sacrament of Baptism.
THE FORTY MARTYRS OF SEBASTE
An example of how the baptism of blood advocates err in this matter is their assertion that the fortieth martyr of Sebaste was unbaptized. They say that he was unbaptized, but that he joined himself with the other thirty-nine martyrs and froze to death for Christ on the lake. The fact is that there is no proof that the fortieth martyr of Sebaste was unbaptized, whose identity is unknown. The accounts of the story reveal that he “cried out with a loud voice that he was a Christian,” probably because he was already a baptized Catholic who was spurred on to martyrdom by the example of the other thirty-nine. Further, in the Roman Martyrology under the date of September 9, we read:
“At Sebaste in Armenia, St. Severian, a soldier of Emperor Licinius. For frequently visiting the Forty Martyrs in prison, he was suspended in the air with a stone tied to his feet by order of the governor Lysias…”[clxxv]
It is certain that Severian was not the fortieth martyr (from the date and circumstances of his death), but we see from this account that other people and soldiers were able to visit the forty in prison. Thus, the forty martyrs easily could have baptized any soldiers who showed interest and sympathy with their cause, including the one who joined himself to them eventually (if he wasn’t already baptized). Thus, there is nothing that proves that the fortieth martyr was unbaptized, and we know that he was from the truth of our Faith. The same can be said about all of the approximately 20 cases which are brought forward by the baptism of blood advocates.
Pope Eugene IV, The Council of Florence, “Exultate Deo,” Nov. 22, 1439, ex cathedra: “And since death entered the universe through the first man, ‘unless we are born again of water and the Spirit, we cannot,’ as the Truth says, ‘enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]. The matter of this sacrament is real and natural water.”[clxxvi]
I will quote verbatim from Brother Robert Mary, in Father Feeney and The Truth About Salvation (pp. 173-175), who clears up some of the confusion which swirls around this topic:
“We will now examine the historical evidence put forth by those who claim that ‘baptism of blood’ is a substitute for, even superior to, the sacrament of baptism. This evidence is found in the many writings that have been handed down to us over the centuries as recorded in various martyrologies, acts of the martyrs, lives of the saints and similar sources. The most concise information on martyrs is found in martyrologies.
“The present Roman Martyrology is a catalogue of saints honored by the Church, not only those martyred for the Faith. It first appeared in 1584, and was derived from ancient martyrologies that existed in the fourth century, plus official and non-official records taken from acts of the martyrs that date back to the second century. It has been revised several times since its first compilation. When he was assigned to revise the ancient accounts, Saint Robert Bellarmine himself had to be restrained from overly skeptical editorial deletions.
“First, it was not the intent of those who first reported the circumstances of the deaths of the martyrs to provide information from which ‘baptismal registers’ could later be compiled. If the chronicler makes no mention of the martyr’s Baptism, it does not necessarily mean that he was never baptized. A case in point is Saint Patrick. He was not a martyr, but his Baptism was never recorded. Yet, we know positively that he received the sacrament since he was a bishop.
“Next, even if a chronicler states positively that a martyr had not been baptized, it should be understood to mean that he was ‘not recorded’ as having been baptized. In those times especially, no person could hope to know with certainty that another had not been baptized.
“Third, if a chronicler says that a martyr was ‘baptized in his own blood’, this
does not automatically preclude (rule out) prior reception of the sacrament by
water. When Christ referred to His
coming Passion as a ‘Baptism’, He had already been baptized by
“Fourth, ‘baptism of blood’ should be understood as the greatest act of love of God that a man can make. God rewards it with direct entrance into heaven for those who are already baptized and in the Church: no purgatory --- it is a perfect confession. If it were capable of substituting for any sacrament, it would be the sacrament of Penance, because Penance does not oblige with a necessity of means, but precept only.
“In his book Church History, Father John Laux, M. A., writes:
‘If he [the Christian] was destined to lose his life, he had been taught that martyrdom was a second Baptism, which washed away every stain, and that the soul of the martyr was secure in immediate admission to the perfect happiness of heaven.’
“Fifth, when a martyr is referred to as a ‘catechumen,’ it does not always mean he was not yet baptized. A catechumen was a person learning the Faith, as a student in a class called a catechumenate, under a teacher called a catechist. That students continued in their class even after they were baptized is confirmed conclusively by these words of Saint Ambrose to his catechumens: “I know very well that many things still have to be explained. It may strike you as strange that you were not given a complete teaching on the sacraments before you were baptized. However, the ancient discipline of the Church forbids us to reveal the Christian mysteries to the uninitiated. For the full meaning of the sacraments cannot be grasped without the light which they themselves shed in your hearts.” (On the Mysteries and On the Sacraments, Saint Ambrose)
Whereas the unbaptized were never considered part of the faithful until they were baptized (they were always required to leave before the Mass of the Faithful), Bro. Robert Mary is pointing out that some recently baptized persons, who were still undergoing instruction, were occasionally referred to as “catechumens.”
Pope St. Sylvester I, First Council of Nicaea, 325 A.D., Can. 2: “For a catechumen needs time and further probation after baptism...”[clxxvii]
In Tradition, the Church did not reveal certain things except to the initiated (the baptized). So, after a person was baptized he or she frequently continued catechetical instruction, and was therefore sometimes referred to as a “catechumen.” The fact that there is a distinction between unbaptized catechumens and baptized catechumens is implicit in the following quotation from the Council of Braga in 572.
If those described as “catechumens” were always unbaptized, then there would be no need for the council to say that no chanting or sacrifice is to be employed for catechumens “who have died without baptism.” Therefore, the fact that the Roman Martyrology describes a few saints as “catechumens,” such as St. Emerentiana, does not prove that they were unbaptized, even though the term “catechumen” usually means unbaptized. Besides, the Roman Martyrology is not infallible and contains historical errors.
Donald Attwater, A Catholic Dictionary, p. 310: “An historical statement in the ‘Martyrology’ as such has no authority… A number of entries in the Roman Martyrology are found to be unsatisfactory when so tested.”[clxxix]
Concerning the Roman Breviary, Dom Prosper Guéranger, one of the most celebrated liturgists in Church history, seems to correct certain errors in the Roman Breviary:
Dom Prosper Guéranger, The Liturgical Year,
Vol. 8 (Sts. Tiburtius, etc.), p. 315: “The solemnity of November 22, formerly
preceded by a vigil, is marked in the
Roman breviary as the day of her [St. Cecilia’s] martyrdom; it is, in reality, the anniversary of her
magnificent basilica in
Further, we will see in the section on St. Gregory Nazianz (pp. 76-77) that if one applies the teaching of the Breviary on theological matters as infallible, then he must reject baptism of desire. I continue with the quotation from Bro. Robert Mary:
“Sixth, in those days, a formal Baptism was a very impressive ceremony conducted by the bishop. However, the Church has always taught that, in case of necessity, any person of either sex who has reached the use of reason, Catholic or non-Catholic, may baptize by using the correct words and intending to do what the Church intends to be done by the sacrament. Therefore, in the early Church, baptized Christians and unbaptized catechumens were instructed to administer the sacrament to each other, if and as needed, whenever persecutions broke out.
“Seventh, salvation was made possible for us when, on the Cross on
“Let us put it another way: In our opinion, the absolutely certain remission of original sin and incorporation into Christ and His Church are accomplished only by the water to which, alone, Christ has given that power. A man’s blood has no such power. Martyrdom is the greatest act of love of God a man can make, but it cannot substitute for the sacrament of baptism.” - end of quotation
There is no need to examine in detail all of the fewer than 20 individual cases of saints’ martyrdoms (out of thousands) which some have said occurred without baptism. For instance, in the case of St. Emerentiana – who was martyred while praying publicly at the tomb of St. Agnes during the persecution of Diocletian – one could point out that the account of her martyrdom provides a situation that, in itself, suggests she was already baptized; for she wouldn’t have endangered herself in that fashion during the persecution had she not been baptized. Or even if she wasn’t baptized before she was attacked (which is highly unlikely), she certainly could have been baptized after the attack by her mother who accompanied her (according to accounts) to the tomb to pray.
There are so many stories which give a drastically different impression and hold a different meaning if just one small detail is omitted. Take, for instance, the case of St. Venantius. At 15 years of age, St. Venantius was taken before the governor during the persecution of the Emperor Decius:
“One of the officials, Anastasius by name, having noticed the courage wherewith he [St. Venantius] suffered his torments, and having also seen an angel in a white robe walking above the smoke, and again liberating Venantius, believed in Christ, and together with his family was baptized by the priest Porphyrius, with whom he afterwards merited to receive the palm of martyrdom.”[clxxxi]
This interesting story shows us, once again, how God gets baptism to all His elect, but notice how easily it could have been misunderstood if one simple detail had been omitted. If the single point about how Anastasius and his family were baptized by Porphyrius had been omitted, the reader would almost certainly get the impression that Anastasius was a martyr for Christ who never received baptism – receiving instead “baptism of blood.”
The fact is that there is no need to go through all of these few cases and show that: 1) there is no proof that the saint (whom they claim was unbaptized) wasn’t baptized; and 2) there are many explanations for how the saint could have been and was baptized. All that is necessary to disprove the claim that there are unbaptized saints is to show that the Church has infallibly taught that no one can get to heaven without being born again of water and the Holy Ghost in the Sacrament of Baptism.
Pope Paul III, The Council of Trent, Canon 5 on the Sacrament of Baptism, ex cathedra: “If anyone says that baptism [the sacrament] is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation (John. 3:5): let him be anathema.”[clxxxii]
However, one alleged case of “baptism of blood” is particularly interesting.
St. Alban was
the protomartyr of
St. Bede: “As he reached the
summit, holy Alban asked God to give him (Alban) water, and at once a
perennial spring bubbled up at his feet…”
may be confused at this point, and rightly so, so let me explain.
We have two (fallible) accounts of the martyrdom of St. Alban and his
guard, from St. Bede and Butler’s Lives of
the Saints. They both record that just
before the martyrdom of St. Alban and his guard, St. Alban prayed for “water”
which he miraculously received!
St. Bede then goes on to say that the guard died unbaptized!
As stated already, the theory of baptism of blood has never been taught by one pope, one council or in any Papal Encyclical. At least 5 dogmatic councils of the Catholic Church issued detailed definitions on Baptism, and not one ever mentioned the concept or the term baptism of blood. The Council of Trent had 14 canons on Baptism, and baptism of blood is mentioned nowhere. And, in fact, various infallible statements from the popes and councils exclude the idea.
Pope Eugene IV, “Cantate Domino,” Council of Florence, ex cathedra: “No one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has persevered within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.”[clxxxiv]
Pope Eugene IV explicitly excludes from salvation even those who “shed blood for the name of Christ” unless they are living within the bosom and unity of the Church! And, as proven already, the unbaptized are not living within the bosom and unity of the Church (de fide)! The unbaptized are not subjects of the Catholic Church (de fide, Council of Trent, Sess. 14, Chap. 2);[clxxxv] the unbaptized are not members of the Catholic Church (de fide, Pius XII, Mystici Corporis # 22);[clxxxvi] and the unbaptized do not have the mark of Christians (de fide, Pius XII, Mediator Dei # 43).[clxxxvii]
If “baptism of blood” truly served as a substitute for the Sacrament of Baptism, God would never have allowed the Catholic Church to understand John 3:5 as it is written in its infallible decrees, as He has (Pope Eugene IV, The Council of Florence, “Exultate Deo,” Nov. 22, 1439, etc.). This is certain, because the Church’s official understanding of the scriptures cannot err.
Furthermore, God would never have allowed the infallible Council of Trent to completely pass over any mention of this “exception” in its canons on baptism and its chapters on justification as an alternative way of achieving the state of grace. He would never have allowed all of the infallible definitions from popes on only one baptism to avoid any mention of “the baptism of blood.”
And God would not have allowed Pope Eugene IV to define that nobody, even if he has shed blood in the name of Christ, can be saved unless he is in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church, without mentioning the exception of “baptism of blood.” God has never allowed the theory of baptism of blood to be taught in one council, by one pope, or in one infallible decree, but only by fallible theologians and fallible early Church fathers. All of this is because baptism of blood is not a teaching of the Catholic Church, but the erroneous speculation of certain fathers who also erred frequently in the same documents.
There would be no need for God to save anyone by baptism of blood (or
“baptism of desire”), since He can keep any sincere souls alive until they are
baptized, as we saw with the case of St. Alban and the converted guard.
St. Martin of
History also records that St. Patrick – who himself raised over 40 people from the dead – raised a number of people from the dead specifically in order to baptize them, something which was totally unnecessary if one can be saved without baptism. As one scholar notes,
“In all, St. Patrick brought to life some forty infidels in
The same scholar further notes:
“Many such saints have been recorded as resurrecting grown-ups
specifically and exclusively for the Sacrament of Baptism, including St. Peter
Claver, St. Winifred of
One of the more interesting cases is the story of Augustina, the slave girl,
which is related in the life of St. Peter Claver, a Jesuit missionary in 17th
“When Father Claver arrived at her deathbed, Augustina lay cold to the touch, her body already being prepared for burial. He prayed at her bedside for one hour, when suddenly the woman sat up, vomited a pool of blood, and declared upon being questioned by those in attendance: ‘I have come from journeying along a long road. After I had gone a long way down it, I met a white man of great beauty who stood before me and said: Stop! You can go no further.’… On hearing this, Father Claver cleared the room and prepared to hear her Confession, thinking she was in need of absolution for some sin she may have forgotten. But in the course of the ritual, St. Peter Claver was inspired to realize that she had never been baptized. He cut short her confession and declined to give her absolution, calling instead for water with which to baptize her. Augustina’s master insisted that she could not possibly need baptism since she had been in his employ for twenty years and had never failed to go to Mass, Confession, and Communion all that time. Nevertheless, Father Claver insisted on baptizing her, after which Augustina died again joyfully and peacefully in the presence of the whole family.”[cxcii]
The great “Apostle of the
Fr. De Smet, Dec. 18, 1839: “I have often remarked that many of the children seem to await baptism before winging their flight to heaven, for they die almost immediately after receiving the sacrament.” [cxciii]
Fr. De Smet, Dec. 9, 1845: “… over a hundred children and eleven old people were baptized. Many of the latter [the old people], who were carried on buffalo hides, seemed only to await this grace before going to rest in the bosom of God.”[cxciv]
On this point the reader will also want to look at the section on St. Isaac Jogues and St. Francis Xavier later in this document.
In the life of the extraordinary Irish missionary St. Columbanus (+ 543-615 A.D.), we read of a similar story of God’s providence getting all good willed souls to baptism.
“[Columbanus said]: ‘My sons, today you will see an ancient Pictish chief, who has faithfully kept the precepts of the Natural Law all his life, arrive on this island; he comes to be baptized and to die.’ Immediately, a boat was seen to approach with a feeble old man seated in the prow who was recognized as chief of one of the neighboring tribes. Two of his companions brought him before the missionary, to whose words he listened attentively. The old man asked to be baptized, and immediately thereafter breathed out his last breath and was buried on the very spot.”[cxcv]
Father Point, S.J. was a fellow Jesuit Missionary to the Indians with Fr. De Smet in the 19th century. He tells a very interesting story about the miraculous resuscitation for Baptism of a person who had been instructed in the Faith but apparently died without receiving the sacrament.
Father Point, S.J., quoted in The Life of Fr. De Smet, pp. 165-166: “One morning, upon leaving the church I met an Indian woman, who said: ‘So-and-so is not well.’ She [the person who was not well] was not yet a catechumen and I said I would go to see her. An hour later the same person [who came and told him the person is not well], who was her sister, came to me saying she was dead. I ran to the tent, hoping she might be mistaken, and found a crowd of relatives around the bed, repeating, ‘She is dead – she has not breathed for some time.’ To assure myself, I leaned over the body; there was no sign of life. I reproved these excellent people for not telling me at once of the gravity of the situation, adding, ‘May God forgive me!’ Then, rather impatiently, I said, ‘Pray!’ and all fell on their knees and prayed devoutly.
“I again leaned over the supposed corpse and said, ‘The Black Robe is here: do you wish him to baptize you?’ At the word baptism I saw a slight tremor of the lower lip; then both lips moved, making me certain that she understood. She had already been instructed, so I at once baptized her, and she rose from her bier, making the sign of the cross. Today she is out hunting and is fully persuaded that she died at the time I have recounted.”[cxcvi]
This is another example of a person who had already been instructed in the Faith but had to be miraculously resuscitated specifically for the Sacrament of Baptism, and the miraculous resuscitation occurred at the moment that the priest pronounced the word “Baptism.”
In the life of St. Francis De Sales we also find a child miraculously raised from the dead specifically for the Sacrament of Baptism.
“A baby, the child of a Protestant mother, had died without Baptism. St. Francis had gone to speak to the mother about Catholic doctrine, and prayed that the child would be restored to life long enough to receive Baptism. His prayer was granted, and the whole family became Catholic.”[cxcvii]
St. Francis De Sales himself summed up the beautifully simple truth on this issue in the following manner, when he was discoursing against the Protestant heretics.
St. Francis De Sales (Doctor of the Church), The Catholic Controversy, c. 1602, pp. 156-157: “The way in which one deduces an article of faith is this: the Word of God is infallible; the Word of God declares that Baptism is necessary for salvation; therefore Baptism is necessary for salvation.”[cxcviii]
Here is another description of an infant child who died without the Sacrament of Baptism and was raised from the dead through the intercession of St. Stephen.
“At Uzale, a
woman had an infant son…
Unfortunately, he died before they had time to baptize him. His mother was overwhelmed with grief, more for his being deprived of Life Eternal
than because he was dead to her.
Full of confidence, she took the dead child and publicly carried him to
In the Acts of the Apostles alone we find three miraculous interventions
involving Baptism – Cornelius the Centurion, the Eunuch of Candace, and Saul of
Tarsus. And in each case not only is
The fact is that God will keep any sincere soul alive until Baptism; He is Almighty and He has decreed that no one enters heaven without Baptism.
Pope Pius IX, Vatican I, ex cathedra: “God protects and governs by His providence all things which He has created, ‘reaching from end to end mightily and ordering all things sweetly’...”[cc]
In fact, the first infallible definition stating that the elect see the Beatific Vision immediately after death was from Pope Benedict XII in Benedictus Deus. It is interesting to examine what he infallibly declares about the saints and martyrs who went to Heaven.
Pope Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus, 1336, ex cathedra, on the souls of the just receiving the Beatific Vision: “By this edict which will prevail forever, with apostolic authority we declare… the holy apostles, the martyrs, the confessors, virgins, and the other faithful who died after the holy baptism of Christ had been received by them, in whom there was nothing to be purged… and the souls of children departing before the use of free will, reborn and baptized in the same baptism of Christ, when all have been baptized… have been, are, and will be in heaven…”[cci]
In defining that the elect (including the martyrs) in whom nothing is to be purged are in heaven, Pope Benedict XII mentions three times that they have been baptized. Obviously, no apostle, martyr, confessor or virgin could receive the Beatific Vision without having received Baptism according to this infallible dogmatic definition.
Those who have
been brainwashed by apologists for the theory of baptism of desire may be
surprised to learn that of all the fathers of the Church, only 1 can even be
brought forward by baptism of desire advocates as having taught the concept.
That’s correct, only one,
Fr. Jean-Marc Rulleau (SSPX), Baptism of Desire, p. 63: “This baptism of desire makes up for the want of sacramental baptism… The existence of this mode of salvation is a truth taught by the Magisterium of the Church and held from the first centuries by all the Fathers. No Catholic theologian has contested it.”[ccii]
Fr. Francois Laisney (SSPX), Is Feeneyism Catholic?, p. 79, on Baptism of desire: “It is not only the common teaching, but unanimous teaching; it is not only since the early part of this millennium, but rather from the beginning of the Church…”[cciii]
statements are totally false and grievous lies which completely
misrepresent the teaching of Tradition and corrupt people’s faith, as we will
The fathers are unanimously against
the concept that anyone (including a catechumen) could be saved without water
baptism, as I have shown. But let us
examine the teaching of the one
St. Augustine, 400: “That the place of Baptism is sometimes supplied by suffering is supported by a substantial argument which the same Blessed Cyprian draws…Considering this over and over again, I find that not only suffering for the name of Christ can supply for that which is lacking by way of Baptism, but even faith and conversion of heart, if… recourse cannot be had to the celebration of the Mystery of Baptism.”[cciv]
two interesting points about this passage.
The first relates to baptism of blood: notice that Augustine says that his
belief in baptism of blood is supported by an inference or an argument that St.
Cyprian made, not anything rooted in the Tradition of the Apostles or the Roman
Pontiffs. As we saw already, many of the inferences
of St. Cyprian showed themselves to be quite wrong, to put it nicely, such as
his “inference” that it was from “apostolic Tradition” that heretics cannot
confer baptism. Thus,
Secondly, when Augustine concludes that he also believes that faith (that is, faith in Catholicism) and a desire for baptism could have the same effect as martyrdom, he says: “Considering this over and over again…” By saying that he considered this over and over again, St. Augustine is admitting that his opinion on baptism of desire is also something that he has come to from his own consideration, not through infallible Tradition or teaching. It is something that he admittedly struggled with and contradicted himself on, as will be shown. All of this serves to prove again that baptism of desire, like baptism of blood, is a tradition of man, born in erroneous and fallible human speculation (albeit from some great men), and not rooted in or derived from any Tradition of the Apostles or of the popes.
Interestingly, in the same set of works on Baptism quoted already,
Catechism of the Council of Trent, Baptism made obligatory after Christ’s Resurrection, p. 171: “Holy writers are unanimous in saying that after the Resurrection of our Lord, when He gave His Apostles the command to go and teach all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, the law of Baptism became obligatory on all who were to be saved.”[ccvi]
In fact, when Our Lord said to the Good Thief, “This day you will be with Me in paradise,” Jesus was not referring to heaven, but actually to Hell. As Catholics know, no one entered Heaven until after Our Lord did, after His Resurrection. On the day of the Crucifixion, Christ descended into Hell, as the Apostles’ Creed says. He did not descend to the Hell of the damned, but to the place in Hell called the Limbo of the Fathers, the waiting place of the just of the Old Testament, who could not enter Heaven until after the Savior came.
1 Peter 3:18-19- “Christ also died once for our sins… In which also coming he preached to those spirits that were in prison…”
To further prove the point that the Good Thief did not go to Heaven on the Day of the Crucifixion, there is the fact that on Easter Sunday, when Mary Magdalene met the Risen Lord, He told her, “Do not touch Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father.”
John 20:17- “[On the Day of the Resurrection] Jesus saith to her; Mary. She turning, saith to him; Rabboni, (that is to say, Master). Jesus saith to her; Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father…”
hadn’t even yet ascended to Heaven on the Sunday of the Resurrection. It is therefore a fact that Our Lord and
the Good Thief were not in Heaven together on Good Friday; they were in the
Limbo of the Fathers, the prison described in 1 Peter 3:18-19. Jesus called this place “paradise”
because He would be there with the just of the Old Testament. So, as
Here we see St. Augustine again affirming the apostolic truth that no one enters Heaven without water baptism and again explicitly denying the concept of baptism of desire, by denying that any catechumen can be freed from sin without baptism. All of this shows that baptism of desire is not the universal Tradition of the Apostles; rather, the exact opposite is the universal Tradition of the Apostles and Fathers – that no catechumen can be saved without water baptism.
Out of the hundreds of fathers of the Church, the only other one that the baptism of desire advocates even try to quote is St. Ambrose. They think that in his funeral speech for his friend (the Emperor Valentinian) he taught that the emperor (who was only a catechumen) was saved by his desire for baptism. But St. Ambrose’s funeral speech for Valentinian is extremely ambiguous and could be interpreted in a variety of ways. It is thus gratuitous for them to assert that it clearly teaches the idea of “baptism of desire.”
Funeral Oration of Valentinian, 4th century: “But I hear that you grieve because he did not
receive the sacraments of baptism.
Tell me: What else is in your power other than the desire, the request?
But he even had this desire for a long time, that, when he should come to
Let us reflect for a moment on what he just said. All of the faithful assembled for the memorial service are grieving and mourning. Why are they grieving? They are grieving because there is no evidence that Valentinian, a known catechumen, had been baptized. But if “baptism of desire” were something contained in the Deposit of Faith and part of apostolic Tradition, why should they grieve? Did not Valentinian earnestly desire baptism? Yet, these faithful were grief stricken because they had all been taught, and therefore believed, that “unless a man is born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God” (John 3:5). They had all been taught that no one is saved without the Sacrament of Baptism. Their teacher was their bishop, St. Ambrose.[ccxii]
Furthermore, St. Ambrose’s funeral speech for Valentinian is extremely ambiguous, as is obvious to anyone who reads the above. In the speech, St. Ambrose clearly says that “martyrs are not crowned [that is, not saved] if they are catechumens,” a statement which directly denies the idea of baptism of blood and is perfectly consistent with his other statements on the issue, which will be quoted. Ambrose then emphasizes the same point, by stating again that catechumens “are not crowned if they are not initiated.” “Initiation” is a term for baptism. Thus, St. Ambrose is repeating the apostolic truth that catechumens who shed their blood for Christ cannot be saved if they are not baptized. He then proceeds to say that if they are washed in their own blood, his (Valentinian’s) piety and desire have washed him also, which seems to directly contradict what he just said and seems to teach baptism of desire and blood, although it is not clear, since he did not say that Valentinian was saved without baptism. But if that is what St. Ambrose means, then his funeral speech is nonsensical, since he just clearly denied two times that martyrs can be crowned if they are catechumens. And this is the oldest “text” quoted in favor of the idea of baptism of desire! It is, first of all, contradictory; secondly, it is ambiguous; and thirdly, if interpreted to mean that a catechumen is saved without water baptism, is opposed to every other statement St. Ambrose formally made on the issue.
But perhaps there is another explanation. St. Ambrose states that the faithful were grieving because Valentinian did not receive the sacraments of baptism. Why did he use the term “sacraments” instead of “sacrament”? Was he lamenting the fact that Valentinian was not able to receive Confirmation and the Eucharist, which were commonly administered together with Baptism in the early Church? This would correspond to his statement about the crowd being disturbed because the mysteries were not “solemnly” celebrated, in other words, with all of the formal ceremonies which precede the solemn celebration of Baptism. Exactly what St. Ambrose meant in this speech, we may never know in this world, but we are permitted to assume that it was not his intention to contradict in an emotionally charged eulogy what he had written with much thought and precision in De Mysteriis and elsewhere.[ccxiii]
Interestingly, the famous 12th century theologian Peter Abelard, whose orthodoxy was nevertheless suspect on other points, points out that if St. Ambrose taught baptism of desire at any time he “contradicts tradition in this matter,”[ccxiv] not to mention Ambrose’s own repeated teaching on the necessity of the Sacrament of Baptism, as we will see below.
And here is what St. Ambrose wrote with much thought and precision, which eliminates the very concept of baptism of desire and affirms the universal Tradition of all the fathers that no one (including catechumens) is saved without water baptism.
St. Ambrose, De mysteriis, 390-391 A.D.:
“You have read, therefore, that the three witnesses
in Baptism are one: water, blood, and the spirit; and if you withdraw any one of
these, the Sacrament of Baptism is not valid. For what is water without the cross of
Christ? A common element without any
sacramental effect. Nor on the
other hand is there any mystery of regeneration without water: for ‘unless a
man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the
Here we see St. Ambrose clearly denying the concept of baptism of desire. Nothing could be more clear!
St. Ambrose, The Duties of Clergy, 391 A.D.:
“The Church was redeemed at the price of Christ’s blood. Jew or Greek, it makes no difference; but if he has believed he must circumcise himself from his sins so that he can be saved;...for no one ascends into the kingdom of heaven except through the Sacrament of Baptism.”[ccxvi]
St. Ambrose, The Duties of Clergy, 391 A.D.:
“Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’ No one is excepted: not the infant, not the one prevented by some necessity.”[ccxvii]
As opposed to St. Cyril of
And with that we come to the extent of the
fathers’ teaching on the so-called “baptism of desire”! That’s right, one or at the most two
fathers out of hundreds,
And when these facts are known, one can see how deceived and misled are many so-called Catholics and Traditional Catholics today who are listening to those lying teachers, many of whom claim to be “traditional” priests, who search land and sea to attempt to pervert the teaching of Tradition and get people into Heaven without baptism. These lying teachers are convincing many of the ridiculous lie that “the fathers were unanimous in favor of baptism of desire.” Such a claim is pure nonsense and a mortally sinful perversion of Catholic Tradition. As one author correctly put it:
“The Fathers of the Church, therefore, taken as a whole, can only be said to have verified definitively the official and authentic teaching of the one true Church that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be baptized in the water of the actual sacrament instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ. On the other hand, it is intellectually dishonest to suggest otherwise. And to exalt the personal theological opinions of a handful – even an impressive and well-known handful – to the rank of ecclesiastical Tradition or even magisterial infallibility is not only an exercise in sophomoric legerdemain [verbal sleight of hand], but also a brand of facile short-sightedness unconscionable in any serious study of Patristic Theology.”[ccxviii]
The universal Tradition of the apostles on the absolute necessity of water baptism for regeneration and salvation, affirmed by Hermas as early as the 1st century, and repeated by all the rest, including St. Justin Martyr, St. Theophilus, Origen, Tertullian, St. Basil, St. Cyril, St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, etc., etc., etc. is summed up by the statement quoted already from Ambrose.
St. Ambrose: “Nor on the other hand is there any
mystery of regeneration without water: for ‘unless a man be born again of water
and the Spirit, he cannot enter the
This is the unanimous teaching of the fathers of the Church on this issue.
Fr. William Jurgens: “If there were not a constant tradition in the Fathers that the Gospel message of ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’ is to be taken absolutely, it would be easy to say that Our Savior simply did not see fit to mention the obvious exceptions of invincible ignorance and physical impossibility. But the tradition in fact is there; and it is likely enough to be found so constant as to constitute revelation.”[ccxx]
ST. GREGORY NAZIANZ (329-389)
It is fitting also to look at the teaching of some of the other fathers. St. Gregory Nazianz is one of the four great Eastern Doctors of the Catholic Church. He explicitly rejected the concept of baptism of desire.
St. Gregory Nazianz, 381 AD: “Of those who fail to be baptized some are utterly animal and bestial, according to whether they are foolish or wicked. This, I think, they must add to their other sins, that they have no reverence for this gift, but regard it as any other gift, to be accepted if given them, or neglected if not given them. Others know and honor the gift; but they delay, some out of carelessness, some because of insatiable desire. Still others are not able to receive it, perhaps because of infancy, or some perfectly involuntary circumstance which prevents them from receiving the gift, even if they desire it…
“If you were able to judge a man who intends to commit murder, solely by his intention and without any act of murder, then you could likewise reckon as baptized one who desired Baptism, without having received Baptism. But, since you cannot do the former, how can you do the latter? I cannot see it. If you prefer, we will put it like this: if in your opinion desire has equal power with actual Baptism, then make the same judgment in regard to glory. You will then be satisfied to long for glory, as if that longing itself were glory. Do you suffer any damage by not attaining the actual glory, as long as you have a desire for it?”[ccxxi]
So much for the claim that “the fathers are unanimous” in favor of baptism of desire! When the priests of the SSPX publicly assert such they are stating exactly the opposite of the truth and are lying through their teeth. And what makes this lie all the more incredible is the fact that the SSPX quotes the above statement from St. Gregory on pages 64-65 of their book, Is Feeneyism Catholic?!
Here is what the liturgy has to say about the teaching of the great St. Gregory
Nazianz, who clearly rejected baptism of desire. A reading for the feast of
The Roman Breviary, May 9: “He [St. Gregory] wrote much, both in prose and verse, of an admirable piety and eloquence. In the opinion of learned and holy men, there is nothing to be found in his writings which is not conformable to true piety and Catholic faith, or which anyone could reasonably call in question.”[ccxxii]
This rather significant fact totally refutes baptism of desire/blood advocates who argue that the teaching of the Breviary proves that men can be saved without Baptism (which we already saw is not true). St. Gregory Nazianz clearly rejected baptism of desire (see above), and the Breviary says here that there is nothing in his writings which is not conformable to the Catholic religion or which one could call into question! Therefore, if we hold the teaching of the Breviary to be infallible on theological matters, then we would have to reject baptism of desire. As baptism of desire advocate John Daly put it: “And of course theologians consider that it is impossible that there should be theological error in the Breviary…” (Sept 2, 2006) It looks like this baptism of desire advocate will have to reject baptism of desire or revise his arguments (hopefully the former). St. Gregory was actually the only doctor in the entire history of the Church who was surnamed “the theologian.”
The famous Benedictine Dom Prosper Guéranger: “It is Gregory of [Nazianz]… the one of all the Gregories who has merited and received the glorious name of Theologian, on account of the soundness of his teachings, the sublimity of his ideas, and the magnificence of his diction.”[ccxxiii]
So much for the lie that “the theologians” are unanimous in favor of baptism of desire. The only doctor in Church history who is surnamed “the theologian” explicitly rejected it!
Besides St. Gregory and the others, St. John Chrysostom provides us with a plethora of quotations explicitly against the idea of salvation for unbaptized catechumens (those preparing to be baptized) by baptism of desire. That anyone else besides unbaptized catechumens could qualify for salvation without first receiving the Sacrament of Baptism was not even considered a possibility worth refuting in this context. (How horrified would these fathers be by the modern version of the theory of baptism of desire, which saves pagans, Jews, heretics and schismatics?)
St. John Chrysostom, The Consolation of Death: “And well should the pagan lament, who not knowing God, dying goes straight to punishment. Well should the Jew mourn, who not believing in Christ, has assigned his soul to perdition.”[ccxxiv]
It should be noted that since the term “baptism of desire” was not in use at the time, one won’t find St. John Chrysostom or any other father explicitly rejecting that term. They reject baptism of desire when they reject the concept that unbaptized catechumens can be saved without Baptism, as St. John Chrysostom repeatedly does.
St. John Chrysostom, The Consolation of Death: “And plainly must we grieve for our own catechumens, should they, either through their own unbelief or through their own neglect, depart this life without the saving grace of baptism.”[ccxxv]
This statement clearly rejects the concept of baptism of desire.
This statement totally rejects the concept of baptism of desire.
The “seal” is the
fathers’ term for the mark of the Sacrament of Baptism, as we saw
already. And here we see
LITURGICAL TRADITION AND APOSTOLIC BURIAL TRADITION
Besides these clear testimonies of the fathers against the theory of baptism of desire, perhaps most striking is the fact that in the history of the Catholic Church there is not a single tradition that can be cited for praying for – or giving ecclesiastical burial to – catechumens who died without baptism. The Catholic Encyclopedia (1907) had the following to say about the actual Tradition of the Church in this regard:
“A certain statement in the funeral oration of St.
Ambrose over the Emperor Valentinian II has been brought forward as a proof that
the Church offered sacrifices and prayers for catechumens who died before
baptism. There is not a vestige
of such a custom to be found anywhere… The practice of the Church is more
correctly shown in the canon (xvii) of the Second Council of
There you have the teaching of Catholic Tradition! No catechumen who died without the
Sacrament of Baptism received prayer, sacrifice or Christian burial! The Council of Braga, in 572 A.D.,
forbade prayer for catechumens who died without Baptism. Pope St. Leo the Great and Pope
The true teaching of apostolic and Catholic tradition on this topic is also seen from the teaching of the Catholic Liturgy, which all worshipping Catholics in the early Church acknowledged and believed: namely, that no unbaptized catechumen or unbaptized person was considered part of the faithful (see Section on “The One Church of the Faithful.”). That unbaptized catechumens are not part of the faithful was held by all of the fathers because it was taught to all Catholics in the liturgy.
Dr. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Membership in the Church, p. 309: “3. The Fathers draw a sharp line of separation between Catechumens and ‘the faithful.’”[ccxxx]
This means that no unbaptized person can be saved, because Catholic dogma has defined that no one is saved outside the one Church of the faithful.
Pope Gregory XVI, Summo Iugiter Studio, May 27, 1832, on no salvation outside the Church: “Official acts of the Church proclaim the same dogma. Thus, in the decree on faith which Innocent III published with the synod of Lateran IV, these things are written: ‘There is one universal Church of all the faithful outside of which no one is saved.’”[ccxxxi]
In A.D. 385 Pope St. Siricius issued a Decree to Himerius. It is the oldest surviving papal decree in history. The Decree to Himerius is promulgated with Siricius’ full papal authority. In it he repeatedly invokes the highest authority of the office of St. Peter. He states that his Decree is binding upon all the churches, all the bishops and all the priests. A Decree on Church law cannot be any more authoritative than Pope St. Siricius’ Decree to Himerius. Here’s what he says.
Pope St. Siricius, Decree to Himerius, A.D. 385:
LATIN: “Sicut sacram ergo paschalem reverentiam in nullo dicimus esse minuendam, ita infantibus qui necdum loqui poterunt per aetatem vel his, quibus in qualibet necessitate opus fuerit sacra unda baptismatis, omni volumus celeritate succurri, ne ad nostrarum perniciem tendat animarum, si negato desiderantibus fonte salutari exiens unusquisque de saeculo et regnum perdat et vitam.”
“Therefore just as we say that the holy paschal observance is in no way to be diminished, we also say that to infants who will not yet be able to speak on account of their age or to those who in any necessity will need the holy stream of baptism, we wish succor to be brought with all celerity, lest it should tend to the perdition of our souls if the saving font be denied to those desiring it and every single one of them exiting this world lose both the Kingdom and life.”
“Quicumque etiam discrimen naufragii, hostilitatis incursum, obsidionis ambiguum vel cuiuslibet corporalis aegritudinis desperationem inciderint, et sibi unico credulitatis auxilio poposcerint subveniri, eodem quo poscunt momento temporis expetitae regenerationis praemia consequantur. Hactenus erratum in hac parte sufficiat; nunc praefatam regulam omnes teneant sacerdotes, qui nolunt ab apostolicae petrae, super quam Christus universalem construxit Ecclesiam, soliditate divelli.”
“Whoever should fall into the peril of shipwreck, the incursion of an enemy, the uncertainty of a siege or the desperation of any bodily sickness, and should beg to be relieved by the unique help of faith, let them obtain the rewards of the much sought-after regeneration in the same moment of time in which they beg for it. Let the previous error in this matter be enough; [but] now let all priests maintain the aforesaid rule, who do not want to be torn from the solidity of the apostolic rock upon which Christ constructed His universal Church.”
As we can see, he authoritatively teaches that even if those adult catechumens who desired Baptism died before receiving it, they will not be saved. That completely and totally rejects the idea of “baptism of desire.” He also teaches that the Sacrament of Baptism is the only way for them to be saved, and that if there is any danger they should be baptized at once. Therefore, those who teach that people desiring water baptism can be saved without receiving it contradict the rule of Catholic faith. Those who teach that there is any other way for people to be saved other than receiving the saving font of water baptism contradict the rule of Catholic faith. As the Pope’s Decree proclaims, receiving water baptism is the unico auxilio (the unique help). Unico, which is a form of unicus, means “unique; one-and-only; peerless; unparalleled.” There can be no alternatives, no other kinds of baptism. Receiving water baptism is the unique, the only way to be saved – for infants, for those who desire it or happen to be in any kind of predicament, necessity, illness, etc. That’s the teaching of Pope St. Siricius.
In this very context he speaks about the custom of delaying adult baptisms until Paschal time. Paschal time is when the Resurrection is celebrated. Since Baptism is the rising from the state of condemnation to new life in Christ (see Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:3-4; etc.), it became customary to celebrate the baptism of adult converts at Paschal time, after the unbaptized catechumens had undergone a period of testing and instruction in preparation for the Christian life. As this decree and others clearly prove, the custom of delaying adult baptisms until Paschal time was not incompatible with the position – and the Church’s infallible teaching – that all those preparing for baptism would indeed be lost if they died before receiving it. No one can be saved without Baptism, as Jesus declared in John 3:5 and the Church infallibly teaches. God can and will keep good-willed and sincere souls alive until Baptism. He is in control.
The practice of baptizing adult converts at Paschal time – and the custom of an extended catechumenate –was a disciplinary one. It was not a requirement of Apostolic Tradition, as we see in Acts chapter 8. There we read that Philip baptized the Eunuch of Candace after a very brief discussion of the basics of the Christian faith. So, while declaring that the holy Paschal observance is to be continued, Siricius adds that if these unbaptized catechumens find themselves in any necessity at all, they are to be baptized with all celerity, that is, with all swiftness or right away. He then explains why he’s insistent on this point. He declares that they must be baptized right away in any kind of necessity, “lest it should tend to the perdition of our souls if the saving font be denied to those desiring it and every single one of them exiting this world lose both the Kingdom and life.” The Pope teaches that all those who desire water baptism, but die without receiving, will not be saved. That refutes the idea of “baptism of desire.” For a full discussion of Siricius’ decree, and how it completely refutes “baptism of desire,” see our video on that matter.
THE MIDDLE AGES
Now that we have shown that the teaching of Tradition is definitely not
in favor of baptism of desire, where did this baptism of desire furor that we
now see come from? Why did it become
such a widespread belief later on?
It has never been taught by any council, dogmatic definition or Papal Encyclical
to the whole Church. But most people
today think that it is a teaching of the Catholic Church. As stated already, the theory comes from
the erroneous teaching of
St. Bernard, Tractatus de baptismo, II, 8, c. 1130: “So, believe me, it would be difficult to turn me aside from these two pillars – I mean Augustine and Ambrose. I confess that, whether in error or knowledge, I am with them; for I believe that a man can be saved by faith alone, provided he desires to receive the sacrament, in a case where death overtakes the fulfillment of his religious desire, or some other invincible power stands in his way.”[ccxxxii]
There are a number of very important points in this passage: First, we
see St. Bernard explicitly admitting that his belief in baptism of desire is
based solely on what he thinks
Second, and perhaps most importantly, in expressing his belief in baptism of desire, St. Bernard explicitly admits that he may be wrong!
St. Bernard: “I mean Augustine and Ambrose. I confess that, whether in error or knowledge, I am with them; for I believe that a man can be saved by faith alone, provided he desires to receive the sacrament…”
But when Fr. Francois Laisney of the Society of St. Pius X quotes this passage of St. Bernard in his book Is Feeneyism Catholic (p. 67) he deliberately omits St. Bernard’s statement, “whether in error or in knowledge…” Here is how the passage reads in Is Feeneyism Catholic (the book of the Society of St. Pius X):
“Believe me, it will be difficult to separate me from these two columns, by which I refer to Augustine and Ambrose… believing with them that people can be saved by faith alone and the desire to receive the sacrament…”
The words “whether in error or in knowledge” are removed by Fr. Laisney and replaced with ellipses (…). Now, of course, it is perfectly justifiable to use ellipses (…) when quoting texts, in order to pass over parts of the quotation that are not crucial or necessary in the discussion. But, in this case, the readers of Fr. Laisney’s book would have been well served to see this short, crucial admission by St. Bernard that he could have been right or wrong about baptism of desire. Fr. Laisney deliberately removed it because he knows that it is devastating to his contention that baptism of desire is a teaching of the Church based on the opinions of saints. This admission of St. Bernard, in fact, blows away the thesis of Fr. Laisney’s book; so it had to go. But despite the attempt of Fr. Laisney of the SSPX to hide this from his readers, the fact is out: St. Bernard admits that he wasn’t even sure about baptism of desire since the idea is not rooted in any teaching of the Church or infallible tradition, but only in the opinion of man.
Third, as I have pointed out, it is an incredible fact that in almost every instance in which a saint or theologian expresses his opinion on baptism of desire or blood, he almost always makes a different error in the same document (thus proving his fallibility). In the document quoted above, St. Bernard uses the phrase “faith alone” three times (which was condemned approximately 13 times by the Council of Trent in the 16th century).
St. Bernard, Tractatus de baptismo, II, 8, c. 1130: “So, believe me, it would be difficult to turn me aside from these two pillars – I mean Augustine and Ambrose. I confess that, whether in error or knowledge, I am with them; for I believe that a man can be saved by faith alone, provided he desires to receive the sacrament, in a case where death overtakes the fulfillment of his religious desire, or some other invincible power stands in his way… This intimated that sometimes faith alone would suffice for salvation… In the same way, faith alone and turning the mind to God, without the spilling of blood or the pouring of water, doubtlessly brings salvation to one who has the will but not the way… to be baptized.”[ccxxxiv]
Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 6, Can. 9: "If anyone shall say that by faith alone the sinner is justified, so as to understand that nothing else is required to cooperate in the attainment of the grace of justification, and that it is in no way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his will: let him be anathema."
Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 7, Can. 8: "If anyone shall say that by the said sacraments of the New Law, grace is not conferred from the work which has been worked [ex opere operato], but that faith alone in the divine promise suffices to obtain grace: let him be anathema."
Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 6, Can. 19: "If anyone shall say that nothing except faith is commanded in the Gospel... let him be anathema."
Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 6, Chap. 11: "And so no one should flatter himself because of faith alone, thinking that by faith alone he is made an heir and will obtain the inheritance, even though he suffer not with Christ 'that he may be also glorified' (Rom. 8:17)."
Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 6, Chap. 10: "'You see, that by works a man is justified and not by faith alone' (Jas. 2:24)."
I’m sure that St. Bernard did not really believe that faith alone justifies and saves (Luther’s heretical doctrine); but this is the phrase he uses above three times! This brings home the point with crystal clarity: that if one is going to dogmatize the teachings of saints (as many baptism of desire advocates like to do) and quote them as proof texts, then one is going to wind up with a lot of error and even heresy. And it proves again that St. Bernard’s utterances are not teachings of the Catholic Church, but fallible opinions about which he could be wrong (as he himself admits) and, in this case, about which he is definitely wrong.
Fourth, in expressing his opinion on baptism of desire, St. Bernard says that one can be prevented from receiving baptism through some “invincible power.” This is also theologically incorrect. God is Almighty; He alone is the “invincible power”! Nothing can prevent Him from getting a good willed soul to Baptism.
Pope Pius IX, Vatican I, ex cathedra: “God protects and governs by His providence all things which He has created, ‘reaching from end to end mightily and ordering all things sweetly’...”[ccxxxv]
ironically, by making the aforementioned statement on a catechumen being
prevented from receiving baptism by some “invincible power,” St. Bernard is also
All of this proves that St. Bernard’s endorsement of baptism of desire was very flawed, contradictory, admittedly fallible, and based solely on what he deemed to be the opinions of men. It holds no weight even for a moment against the flawless, perfectly consistent, infallible dogma, which proclaims that no man can be saved without the Sacrament of Baptism.
Pope Eugene IV, The Council of Florence, “Exultate Deo,” Nov. 22, 1439, ex cathedra: “Holy baptism, which is the gateway to the spiritual life, holds the first place among all the sacraments; through it we are made members of Christ and of the body of the Church. And since death entered the universe through the first man, ‘unless we are born again of water and the Spirit, we cannot,’ as the Truth says, ‘enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]. The matter of this sacrament is real and natural water.”[ccxxxvii]
And this tradition of man (baptism of desire) gained more momentum after St. Bernard, when St. Thomas Aquinas unfortunately made it his own, based again on the few passages in St. Augustine, the one in St. Ambrose, and his own speculative theological reasoning.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
St. Thomas Aquinas, despite all of his fabulous writing and learning about the
Catholic Faith, being a fallible human being, was wrong on many points,
including his explicit statement in the
Summa Theologica that “The flesh of
the Virgin was conceived in Original Sin.”[ccxxxviii] One scholar noted that the book
Pope Pius IX,
Vatican Council I, ex cathedra:
“So, this gift of truth AND A NEVER FAILING FAITH WAS DIVINELY CONFERRED UPON PETER AND HIS SUCCESSORS IN THIS CHAIR…”[ccxli]
In Summa Theologica III, Q. 66, Art. 11,
“The other two Baptisms are included in the Baptism of Water, which derives its efficacy, both from Christ’s Passion and of the Holy Ghost.”[ccxlii]
With all due respect to St. Thomas, this is a feeble attempt to answer the
objection as to how there can be “three baptisms” when God reveals that there is
only one. It is feeble because St.
Thomas says that the other two baptisms, desire and blood, are included in the baptism of water; but this is false. One who receives baptism of water doesn’t
receive baptism of desire and baptism of blood, even according to the baptism of
desire advocates. Therefore, it is
false to say, as
Furthermore, in teaching the theory of baptism of desire, St. Thomas repeatedly admitted that neither is a sacrament.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica III, Q. 66, A. 11, Answer 2: “As stated above, a sacrament is a kind of sign. The other two [baptism of desire and blood], however, are like the Baptism of Water, not, indeed, in the nature of sign, but in the baptismal effect. Consequently they are not sacraments.”[ccxliii]
The fierce baptism of desire advocate, Fr. Laisney, admits the same in his book, Is Feeneyism Catholic?, p. 9:
Fr. Laisney, Is Feeneyism Catholic?, p. 9: “Baptism of Desire is not a sacrament; it does not have the exterior sign required in the sacraments. The theologians, following St. Thomas… call it ‘baptism’ only because it produces the grace of baptism… yet it does not produce the sacramental character.”[ccxliv]
But the Council of Trent (a few centuries after
Pope Paul III, The Council of Trent, Can. 5 on the Sacrament of Baptism, ex cathedra: “If anyone says that baptism [the sacrament] is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation (cf. Jn. 3:5): let him be anathema.”[ccxlv]
So, whom does one follow,
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica III, Q. 68, Art. 2: “… it seems that a man can obtain salvation without the sacrament of Baptism, by means of the invisible sanctification…”
Pope Paul III, The Council of Trent, Can. 5 on the Sacrament of Baptism, Sess. 7, 1547, ex cathedra: “If anyone says that baptism [the sacrament] is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation (cf. Jn. 3:5): let him be anathema.”[ccxlvi]
There is an obvious contradiction here.
The fallible St. Thomas Aquinas says that it is possible to obtain salvation
without the Sacrament of Baptism, while the infallible Council of Trent
defines that the sacrament is necessary for salvation.
And what does “necessary” mean?
According to Part III, Q. 68, A. 2, Obj. 3 in
Pope Benedict XIV, Apostolica (# 6), June 26, 1749: “The Church’s judgment is preferable to that of a Doctor renowned for his holiness and teaching.”[ccxlviii]
Pope Pius XII, Humani generis (# 21), Aug. 12, 1950: “This deposit of faith our Divine Redeemer has given for authentic interpretation not to each of the faithful, not even to theologians, but only to the Teaching Authority of the Church.’”[ccxlix]
Pope St. Pius X, Pascendi dominic gregis (#45), Sept. 8, 1907: “It goes without saying that if anything is met with among the scholastic doctors which may be regarded as an excess of subtlety, or which is altogether destitute of probability, We have no desire whatever to propose it for the imitation of present generations.”[ccl]
And just in case anyone argues that one can receive the Sacrament of Baptism without water, I will quote the Council of Trent’s definition in Can. 2.
Pope Paul III, The Council of Trent, Can. 2 on the Sacrament of Baptism, Session 7, 1547, ex cathedra: “If anyone shall say that real and natural water is not necessary for baptism, and on that account those words of Our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit’ [John 3:5], are distorted into some sort of metaphor: let him be anathema.”[ccli]
It would have been interesting to see, however, what
Pope Clement V, Council of Vienne, 1311-1312, ex cathedra: “Besides, one baptism which regenerates all who are baptized in Christ must be faithfully confessed by all just as ‘one God and one faith’ [Eph. 4:5], which celebrated in water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit we believe to be commonly the perfect remedy for salvation for adults as for children.”[cclii]
This definition is crucial to this discussion, because one cannot affirm one baptism of water and at the same time obstinately cling to the belief that there are “three baptisms,” two of which are not of water. That is a clear contradiction. Those who understand and comprehend this dogma must repudiate the so-called “three baptisms.”
ST. THOMAS REJECTED “INVINCIBLE IGNORANCE”
It is also very important to point out that while St. Thomas Aquinas was wrong on baptism of desire, he held the dogma Outside the Church There is No Salvation and rejected the modern day heresy that people can be saved who are “invincibly ignorant” of Jesus Christ. In numerous places St. Thomas directly addressed the question of persons in so-called invincible ignorance.
St. Thomas Aquinas, De
Veritate, 14, A. 11, ad 1: Objection- “It is possible
that someone may be brought up in the forest, or among wolves; such a man cannot
explicitly know anything about the faith.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Sent. II, 28, Q. 1, A. 4, ad 4: “If a man born among barbarian nations, does what he can, God Himself will show him what is necessary for salvation, either by inspiration or sending a teacher to him.”[ccliv]
St. Thomas Aquinas, Sent. III, 25, Q. 2, A. 2, solute. 2: “If a man should have no one to instruct him, God will show him, unless he culpably wishes to remain where he is.”[cclv]
In the Summa Theologica,
We have seen how Tradition doesn’t teach baptism of desire and how the infallible teaching of the Church on the Sacrament of Baptism and John 3:5 excludes it. And we have seen how this error was perpetuated in the middle ages through flawed passages in the fallible texts of Churchmen. I will now discuss perhaps the most interesting pronouncement on this issue, the dogmatic letter of Pope St. Leo the Great to Flavian, which excludes the exact concept of baptism of desire and baptism of blood.
Pope St. Leo the Great, dogmatic letter to Flavian, Council of Chalcedon, 451:
“Let him heed what the blessed apostle Peter preaches, that sanctification by the Spirit is effected by the sprinkling of Christ’s blood (1 Pet. 1:2); and let him not skip over the same apostle’s words, knowing that you have been redeemed from the empty way of life you inherited from your fathers, not with corruptible gold and silver but by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, as of a lamb without stain or spot (1 Pet. 1:18). Nor should he withstand the testimony of blessed John the apostle: and the blood of Jesus, the Son of God, purifies us from every sin (1 Jn. 1:7); and again, This is the victory which conquers the