Friday, January 08, 2010

Baptism of Desire

Since the subject of EENS has come to the forefront here, I thought I'd throw in the related topic of Baptism of Desire, aka: BOD.  BOD comes into play when someone seeks to be in communion with God yet for whatever reason is prevented from actually receiving the Sacrament of Baptism.  BOD is also related to Baptism by Blood.  I share this compilation from Dr. Ludwig Ott:
4. The Necessity of Baptism 

1. Necessity of Baptism for Salvation

Baptism by water (Baptismus fluminis) is, Since the promulgation of the Gospel, necessary for all men without exception, for salvation. (De fide.) The Council of Trent declared against the Reformers, whose idea of justification led them to deny it, the necessity of Baptism for salvation: Si quis dixerit, baptismum liberum esse, hoc est non necessarium ad salutem, A.S. D 861 Cf. D 791. As to the moment of the beginning of the baptismal obligation, the Council of Trent declared that after the promulgation of the Gospel B (post Evangelium promulgatum) there could be no justification without Baptism or the desire for the same. D 796. The necessity of Baptism for salvation is, according to John 3, 5 and Mk. 16, 16, a necessity of means (necessitas medii), and, according to Mt. 28, 19, also a necessity or precept (necessitas praecepti). The necessity of means does not derive from the | intrinsic nature of the Sacrament itself, but from the designation of Baptism as an indispensable means of salvation by a positive ordinance of God. In J special circumstances the actual use of the prescribed means can be dispensed with (hypothetical necessity).

Tradition, in view of John 3, 5, strongly stresses the necessity of Baptism for salvation. Tertullian, invoking these words, observes: " It is determined by law that nobody can be saved without baptism " (De bapt. 12, I). Cf. Pastor Hermae, Sim. IX 16. 2.

Substitutes for Sacramental Baptism

In case of emergency Baptism by water can be replaced by Baptism of desire or Baptism by blood. (Sent. fidei prox.)

a) Baptism of desire (Baptismus flaminis sive Spiritus Sancti) Baptism of desire is the explicit or implicit desire for sacramental baptism (votum baptismi) associated with perfect contrition (contrition based on charity).

The Council of Trent teaches that justification from original sin is not possible " without the washing unto regeneration or the desire for the same."

According to the teaching of Holy Writ, perfect love possesses justifying power. Luke 7, 47: "Many sins are forgiven her because she hath loved much." John 14, 21: " He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father: l and I will love him and will manifest myself to him." Luke 23, 43 • " This , day thou shalt be with me in Paradise."

The chief witnesses from Tradition are St. Ambrose and St. Augustine. In the funeral oration on the Emperor Valentine II, who died without Baptism, St. Ambrose says: " Should he not acquire the grace for which he longed? Certainly: As he desired it, he has attained it . . . His pious desire has absolved him " (De obitu Valent. 51, 53). St. Augustine declared: " I find that not only suffering for the sake of Christ can replace that which is lacking in Baptism, but also faith and conversion of the heart (fidem conversionemque cordis), if perhaps the shortness of the time does not permit the celebration of the mystery , of Baptism " (De bapt. IV 22, 29). In the period of early Scholasticism St. ! Bernard of Clairvaux (Ep. 77 c. 2 n. 6-9), Hugo of St. Victor (De sacr. 116, 7) and the Summa Sententiarum (V 5) defended the possibility of Baptism of desire against Peter Abelard. Cf. S. th. III 68, 2.

Baptism of desire works ex opere operantis. It bestows Sanctifying Grace, which remits original sin, all actual sins, and the eternal punishments for sin. Venial sins and temporal punishments for sin are remitted according to the intensity of the subjective disposition. The baptismal character is not imprinted nor is it the gateway to the other sacraments.

b) Baptism of blood (baptismus sanguinis)

Baptism of blood signifies martyrdom of an umbaptised person, that is, the patient bearing of a violent death or of an assault which of its nature leads to death, by reason of one's confession of the Christian faith, or one's practice of Christian virtue.

Jesus Himself attests the justifying power of martyrdom. Mt. to, 32: " Every one therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in Heaven." Mt. 10 39 (16, 25): " He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for me shall find it." John 11 12, 25: " He that hateth his life in this world keepeth it unto life eternal."

From the beginning the Fathers regarded martyrdom as a substitute for Baptism. Tertullian calls it "blood Baptism" (lavacrum sanguinis) and ascribes to it the effect of "taking the place of the baptismal bath if it was not received, and restoring that which was lost" (De bapt. I6). According to St. Cyprian, the catechumens who suffer martyrdom receive " the glorious and most sublime blood-Baptism" (Ep. 73, 22). Cf. Augustine, De civ. Dei XIII 7.

As, according to the testimony of Tradition and of the Church Liturgy (cf. Feast of the Innocents), young children can also receive blood-Baptism, blood-Baptism operates not merely ex opere operantis as does Baptism of desire, but since it is an objective confession of Faith it operates also quasi ex opere operato. It confers the grace of justification, and when proper dispositions are present, also the remission of all venial sins and temporal punishments. St. Augustine says: " It is an affront to a martyr to pray for him; we should rather recommend ourselves to his prayers " (Sermo 159 I.) Baptism by blood does not confer the baptismal character. Cf. S. th. III 66, 11 and 12.  (Qtd. at:
My point in bringing this up is to demonstrate that the "rigorist" view of EENS is not absolute throughout Church teaching.  



  1. Hi Scott

    Me again :)

    Glad you posted this. I had Ott's book but I lost it in a move a few yeas ago --need to buy a new one, this reminds me.

    Do you see something very strange in the post?
    "Baptism by water (Baptismus fluminis) is, Since the promulgation of the Gospel, necessary for all men without exception, for salvation. (De fide.)"

    Doesn't that mean that this statement is a dogma? This dogmatic statement allows no exceptions it says ALL MEN(women and children too in the idiomatic expression :-))

    If the statement was :
    The EVERY Catholic mass is the true sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.

    Now could that mean that sometimes there maybe a time when a mass is not a true sacrifice?

    Do you see my point?

    Once the first sentence is declared a dogma with no exceptions, how can he say right after that, that there are exceptions?

    Lets be honest Ott was a great theologian but he isn't making much sense here, unless one denies the law of identity--aka law of non-contradiction.
    Bill Strom

  2. Hi Bill,
    Quite simply, we have the example of St. Didymus - the "Good Thief," who was promised to be with Jesus that day in paradise. Now perhaps you will respond that this was before the New Covenant was put in place. That's a pretty good argument, but the Church has ALWAYS held that there are exceptions - especially BOD and BBB. I'm sure you've seen all the quotes before - or would you like me to post them again for you?

    In JMJ,

  3. Hello Scott,
    I would like to see you answer how can Ott say:
    "Baptism by water (Baptismus fluminis) is, Since the promulgation of the Gospel, necessary for all men without exception, for salvation. (De fide.)"

    and you just ignore it like it doesn't exist?
    "for all men without exception,"
    (Would that be the "rigorist position or the "liberal" position Hmmmm ;-))

    This is de fide and remember what Vatican I said:
    “The faith which God has revealed has not been proposed like a theory of philosophy, to be elaborated upon by human understanding, but as a divine deposit to be faithfully guarded and infallibly declared. Therefore, that sense of sacred dogmas is to be kept forever which Holy Mother Church has once declared, and it must never be deviated from on the specious pretext of a more profound understanding. Let intelligence, and science, and wisdom increase, but only according to the same dogma, the same sense, the same meaning. If anyone shall have said that there may ever be attributed to the doctrines proposed by the Church a sense which is different from the sense which the Church has once understood and now understands: let him be anathema.” I Vatican Council, Dei Filius

    And yes your right paradise was Abraham's bosom, because tradition has the gates of heaven were not open until the Ascension.

  4. One last point about your point that the Church has always allowed exceptions.
    This in not accurate. There is a tradition with a small "t" that catechumens could be saved this as major movement in the Church started with St. Thomas Aqu. but all the saints that preached "Baptism" of Desire would be shocked to hear the Church thinks those who are heretics and schismatics can be saved as well as atheists.

    There can never be exceptions to a dogmatic teaching.

    The Fathers of the Church are almost unanimous in the need for Sacramental Baptism and to take the patristic scholar Fr. William Jurgens, who has literally read thousands of texts from the fathers, was forced to admit the following (even though a supporter of "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.” [Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 3, pp. 14-15 footnote 31.]

    The Church has declared very few lines in scripture to be taken literally as it is written and Jn. 3:5 is one of them. It has always taught it is to be taken literally

    These two points of the unanimity of Church Fathers and Jn 3:5 should be enough to convince people, that exceptions have not always been accepted

  5. Bill,
    I have a question for you... when the Church is enabled to bind or loose "whatsoever" she chooses, does she have the right to define teachings like Invincible Ignorance and/or Baptism of Desire and/or Baptism by Blood?

    In JMJ,

  6. Bill,
    The quote you provided from Fr. Jurgens is actually in support of exceptions. I said the Church has "always" allowed for exceptions because Scripture indicates exceptions, as I pointed out in the EENS thread, 2 Peter 2:21 and Romans 5:8 show how He didn't wait for us to do something to redeem us - we don't deserve Sanctifying Grace at all, so if we rely solely upon God's Justice, we lose. We're also reliant upon God's Mercy.

    Now, does this mean we should teach that one doesn't HAVE to be baptized? By no means! Scripture and Church teaching both explicitly state the importance of obeying the command to believe AND be baptized. If we willfully do anything else, we put our souls in jeopardy. The "exception" is NEVER something we should rely upon or even hope for! The "exception" can only apply to one, who through no fault of their own, has not received the Sacrament. I would add, the teachings on II, BOD and BBB do not state anyone WILL be saved through these means, only that they MAY be saved, IF GOD JUDGES IN THEIR FAVOR. We must always remain humble and submissive to God and HIS WILL and not go around judging others (that's HIS JOB!) based upon what WE will to see in out of context statements and even decrees.

    I again state, while I do not agree with the "rigorist" position, I do not condemn one for holding on to it. I would caution those who do hold to it to not be causing scandal through publicly contradicting definitive Church teachings which do allow for exceptions. I'm not saying you must accept the exceptions, and will affirm that your approach is a "safer" approach - but at the same time this "safer" approach does not allow for God's Will and Mercy to prevail in the cases of those who "through no fault of their own" remain outside the visible Catholic Church.

    In JMJ,


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