Baptism of Desire? (Question 14, August 2004)
Dear Mr. Sungenis:
In question 34 of the July Q&As, your correspondent Michael espouses
the heretical theory that men cannot be saved by the desire for
baptism. This teaching is contrary to Vatican II, Trent, St. Thomas
Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and the 1949 Letter of the Holy
Office to Archbishop Cushing concerning the doctrine of Fr. Feeney.
Indeed, St. Alphonsus Liguori states:
Now it is de fide that men are also saved by Baptism of desire, by
virtue of the Canon Apostolicam, "de presbytero non baptizato" and of
the Council of Trent, session 6, Chapter 4 where it is said that no one
can be saved "without the laver of regeneration or the desire for it".
(Theologia Moralis, Bk. 6, nn. 95-7.)
The teaching concerning invincible ignorance (which, while not de fide,
is the common and safe teaching of theologians) was espoused by
approved pre-conciliar theologians such as Charles Cardinal Journet,
who writes in his 1951 "Church of the Word Incarnate":
"No salvation outside the Church" is true of those who do not belong to
the Church, which in herself is visible, either visibly (corporaliter)
or even invisibly, either by the sacraments (sacramentaliter) or even
in spirit (mentaliter); either fully (re) or even by desire (voto);
either in accomplished act or even in virtual act. The axiom does
not concern the just who, without yet belonging to the Church visibly,
in accomplished act (re), do so invisibly, in virtual act, in spirit,
by desire (mentaliter, voto), that is to say in virtue of the
supernatural righteousness of their lives, even while, through
insurmountable ignorance, they know nothing of the sanctity, or even of
the existence, of the Church.
The footnotes cite such luminaries as St. Thomas, St. Robert
Bellarmine, and Suarez, as well as other theologians.
R. Sungenis: Thank you, Patrick, for sharing these things. I agree, and it is clear, that the Council of Trent teaches that justification can come from the desire of baptism. Those who teach otherwise end up with having to make a distinction between justification and salvation, which is nowhere taught in Scripture or the Church.