Bro. Peter Dimond
We’ve often pointed out that deception and dishonesty are hallmarks of those who deny Catholic teaching on salvation. The opponents of the necessity of baptism and the Catholic faith frequently misquote things, omit things, and lie in various ways. Another example of this is found in their outrageous misuse of a sermon given by Pope St. Leo the Great. A number of defenders of ‘baptism of desire’ and ‘baptism of blood’ present the following quote from one of Pope Leo’s sermons as if it teaches that in the New Covenant period a person can be saved by martyrdom without water baptism. The following words are often presented under a subject heading titled ‘baptism of blood’ or ‘baptism of desire’, as if the words prove one or both of those ideas.
Pope St. Leo the Great, A.D. 461: “Those whom the wicked king removed from this world were brought to heaven by Christ, and He conferred the dignity of martyrdom on those upon whom He had not yet bestowed the redemption of his blood.” (In Epiph, 1,3)
Concerning these words, the heretic Paul Leonard Kramer (whose embarrassing blunders on salvation are exposed here) even stated: “[In this passage] Pope St. Leo the Great… explicitly taught the doctrine of Baptism of Blood.” His claim is nonsense, as we will see. Various other heretics present the aforementioned words to their undiscerning and unsuspecting readers as if they prove that salvation is possible without water baptism in the New Testament period. However, their claim is a lie and a sham.
When one actually looks up the quotation from Leo the Great’s Sermon 31 on the Epiphany (a source they usually abbreviate, perhaps because they don’t want people to check it), one discovers that the words of the sermon have nothing to do with baptism or even with New Covenant justification. Pope St. Leo’s words are specifically about Herod and the Holy Innocents. Here’s the quote in context.
Pope St. Leo the Great: “And when the wise men had returned to their own land, and Jesus had been carried into Egypt at the Divine suggestion, Herod’s madness blazes out into fruitless schemes. He [Herod] orders all the little ones in Bethlehem to be slain, and since he knows not which infant to fear, extends a general sentence against the age he suspects. But that which the wicked king [Herod] removes from the world [i.e. the Holy Innocents], Christ admits to heaven: and on those [i.e. the Holy Innocents] for whom He had not yet spent His redeeming blood, He already bestows the dignity of martyrdom.” (Sermon 31, On The Feast Of The Epiphany, 1, 3)
Anyone who reads this in context can see that Pope St. Leo the Great is not teaching that there is an exception to water baptism in the New Covenant period. He is not addressing that at all. Rather, he is discussing the Holy Innocents who died before the Crucifixion, before the establishment of the New Covenant, and before the institution and promulgation of the Sacrament of Baptism. He is expressing his view (in a sermon) that the Holy Innocents who died before the Crucifixion (when Jesus was a young child) eventually got to Heaven, and that they received the dignity of martyrdom because they were put to death for Christ. In fact, we know that the Holy Innocents did not go to Heaven immediately upon their deaths because no one went to Heaven until after Christ ascended. Leo’s point is that the Holy Innocents eventually and ultimately had the victory over Herod. The passage has nothing to do with the view that one can be saved without water baptism in the New Covenant period. Besides the fact that Leo’s passage does not address or teach what they claim it does, it’s a sermon, not an official teaching to the universal Church.
In fact, Leo the Great’s official teaching contradicts ‘baptism of desire’ and ‘blood’, as we show here: Pope St. Leo The Great Directly Contradicts ‘Baptism Of Blood’ And ‘Baptism Of Desire’. This important passage is also discussed below. Unlike the misquote of Leo’s sermon that we’ve just refuted, the passage discussed below (and in our article) is relevant to the necessity of baptism. It represents Leo’s official position on the matter.
ANOTHER OUTRAGEOUS MISQUOTE
However, before we consider Leo’s official teaching, we must consider another egregious misquote. Certain defenders of ‘baptism of desire’ actually present the following citation as if it comes from Pope Leo the Great.
THEY WRITE: “Pope St. Leo… Christ’s VICAR of the Catholic Church:
Wherefore Pope Leo says (Epist. xvi): “‘Those who are threatened by death, sickness, siege, persecution, or shipwreck, should be baptized at any time.’ Yet if a man is forestalled by death, so as to have no time to receive the sacrament, while he awaits the season appointed by the Church, he is saved, yet ‘so as by fire,’ as stated above (2, ad).”
Their citation purports to show that Pope St. Leo the Great said that a man “forestalled by death” before he is baptized can be saved “so as by fire.” But it’s a total lie. What they have actually done is combine words of Leo the Great on the necessity to baptize people with words from St. Thomas Aquinas, and then present it all as if it comes from Pope Leo the Great! It’s truly outrageous and appalling. It reality, the words of Leo the Great that are cited in the misquote (which are from Letter 16, Oct. 21, 447) end with the words “baptized at any time.” The words of the misquote that begin “Yet if a man is forestalled by death” he “is saved” are actually from St. Thomas Aquinas, not Pope St. Leo the Great. They are found in St. Thomas’ Summa Theologiae, Pt. III, Q. 68. A. 3. Yes, St. Thomas did say that one could be saved without water baptism in certain cases, but that is not the teaching of Pope St. Leo the Great. St. Thomas was not infallible, and he was wrong. Leo the Great’s teaching on baptism represents the official teaching of the Magisterium. His teaching contradicts ‘baptism of desire’ and ‘baptism of blood’ (as we will see). But the dishonest proponents of ‘baptism of desire’ have presented St. Thomas’ words as if they are from Leo the Great in an attempt to pass them off as magisterial teaching. It’s diabolical.
It’s also ironic and somewhat amazing that the words from Leo that they do quote deal with the necessity to immediately baptize unbaptized catechumens who are in any danger (including during a persecution). According to the Pope, those unbaptized catechumens must be baptized immediately if they are in any danger because water baptism is “the only safeguard of true salvation” for them. That directly contradicts ‘baptism of blood’ and ‘baptism of desire’ (as we will see below). The reason that supporters of ‘baptism of desire’ misquote things and rely on fallible sources is that the Magisterium does not support their false position.
THE TRUE RULE OF FAITH ON BAPTISM
Pope St. Leo the Great, Letter 16, Oct. 21, 447, #6: “In a case of necessity any time is allowable for baptism. Wherefore, as it is quite clear that these two seasons [Easter and Pentecost] of which we have been speaking are the rightful ones for baptizing the elect in Church, we admonish you, beloved, not to associate other days with this observance. Because, although there are other feasts also to which much reverence is due in God’s honor, nevertheless a rational and mystical exception must be observed by us for this principal and greatest sacrament: not, however, prohibiting the license to succor those who are in danger by administering Baptism to them at any time. For while we put off the vows of those who are not pressed by ill health and live in peaceful security to those two closely connected and cognate feasts, let us not at any time refuse this which is the only safeguard of true salvation to anyone in peril of death, in the crisis of a siege, in the distress of persecution, in the terror of shipwreck.”
LATIN: “In necessitatis casu omni tempore baptizandum. Unde quia manifestissime patet baptizandis in ecclesia electis haec duo tempora, de quibus locuti sumus, esse legitima, dilectionem vestram monemus ut nullos alios dies huic observantiae misceatis. Quia [Ed. Cap. VI] etsi sunt alia quoque festa, quibus multa in honorem Dei reverentia debeatur, principalis tamen et maximi sacramenti custodienda nobis est, mystica et rationalis exceptio; non interdicta licentia, qua in baptismo tribuendo quolibet tempore periclitantibus subvenitur. Ita enim ad has duas festivitates connexas sibimet atque cognatas, incolumium et in pacis securitate degentium libera vota differimus, ut in mortis periculo, in obsidionis discrimine, in persecutionis angustiis, in timore naufragii, nullo tempore, hoc verae salutis singulare praesidium cuiquam denegemus.”
In his official teaching, Pope St. Leo the Great declares that for unbaptized catechumens in the distress of persecution or any other danger, water baptism is the only safeguard of true salvation (verae salutis singulare praesidium). An unbaptized catechumen in the distress of persecution is the very one to whom the supposed ‘baptism of blood’ would apply, if it existed. Yet the Pope contradicts the idea by teaching that for such people (catechumens in persecution or another danger) the only (singulare) safeguard of salvation is water baptism. That would not be the case if there were other forms of baptism or other ways to be saved, such as through martyrdom.
Hence, Leo the Great’s official teaching directly contradicts ‘baptism of blood’ and ‘baptism of desire’. It gives us the rule of faith on this issue that we must believe and profess. Allow me to repeat that rule of faith: water baptism is the only safeguard of true salvation for unbaptized catechumens in persecution or any other danger. True Catholics adhere to and defend that rule. Many others reject it.
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.”
The Best Argument Against “Baptism of Desire” (video and article)
The Latin Text of the Oldest Surviving Papal Decree Rejects “Baptism of Desire” (video and article)
Cornelius, The Gift Of Languages & The Necessity Of Baptism (video and article)