Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Father Feeney on "Desire"

[editor--Although we at CFT believe that there is no forgiveness of sins outside the Church as declared in Unam Sanctam, we believe Fr. Feeney was right in most things and was trying to workout the Baptism of Desire problem from scratch. It is very useful to read his points, since he says them so clearly, especially for those new to the controversy----editor]

Father Feeney on "Desire"

Father Feeney saw the inevitability of such a catastrophe unless the Church settled, once and for all, this whole question of "desire," and how it relates to the sacraments. Here are his thoughts as presented in Bread of Life:

"Desire is a splendid diabolical word with which to confuse people. Up until recent times, even the most ambitious of the theologians of the Church never dared to use it in connection with Baptism except in a study of the nature of justification, which still left the problem of salvation unsolved — salvation by "Baptism of Desire."*

[* Father Feeney was speaking here of the official and formal teaching of theologians of past centuries, as expressed in Regional Synods and official catechisms emanating therefrom. He was not speaking of the private speculations of theologians who, like Saint Thomas Aquinas, considered possibilities that, though sometimes written in personal treatises, went beyond the scope of strict dogmatics.]

Perhaps I had better pause for a moment to explain the difference between justification and salvation.

We achieve salvation after our death. We can be justified in this life. Salvation is of the whole man, body and soul. Justification is of our spirit, and our spirit alone. Salvation is our entrance into the Beatific Vision. Justification is our entrance into the state of sanctifying grace. Salvation is our reward for persevering in grace. Justification is our reward for accepting grace. We may or may not persevere in justification, but if we do persevere, we will attain salvation — at the hour of our death.

When the Council of Trent was discussing the problem of justification, it had to remember that it was possible for one to have been justified in the Old Testament as well as in the New, and that is why the Council allows the distinction between the actual reception of Baptism and the eager willingness to receive it. A man in the Old Testament, waiting and wanting Baptism to be instituted, and a man in the New Testament, waiting and wanting Baptism to be administered, could both be justified.

It was possible to be justified in the Old Testament, but not to be saved. When those who died in the state of justification, in the Old Testament, went out of this life, they did not go to Heaven. They went to what is technically called the "Limbo of the Just" (appropriately referred to as "Hell" in the Apostles’ Creed), until the visible body of Jesus led them to salvation on the day of Ascension. This is how important visibility is to the notion of salvation, whatever it may mean in the realm of justification.

It is sinful to call men to salvation by offering them "Baptism of Desire." If this so-called substitute for Baptism of Water were in any sense usual, or common, or likely — or even practical — Jesus Christ would never have told His Apostles to go forth and baptize with water for the regeneration of the world.

I have said that a Baptism-of-Desire Catholic is not a member of the Church. He cannot be prayed for after death as one of "the faithful departed." Were he to be revived immediately after death — were he to come to life again — he would not be allowed to receive the Holy Eucharist or any of the other Sacraments until he was baptized by water. Now, if he can get into the Church Triumphant without Baptism of Water, it is strange that he cannot get into the Church Militant without it. . . .

What the Baptism-of-Desire teachers make of Our Lord’s great text, ‘Unless a man eat My Flesh and drink My Blood he shall not have life in him,’ I am very much puzzled to know. Perhaps there is a Eucharist of Desire, as well as a ‘Baptism of Desire’? And why could there not be Holy Orders of Desire, as the Anglicans would like to have it, or Matrimony of Desire, which would so please the Mormons? And what becomes of the Mystical Body of Christ, made up of invisible members and a visible head — invisible branches on a visible vine? I would very much like to know!

Our priests in America now go around preaching this dry substitute of "Baptism of Desire" for the waters of regeneration. Their "Baptism of Desire" is no longer an antecedent to the Baptism of Water to come. They make it a substitute for Baptism of Water, or rather an excuse for not having it. These priests have brought our Church in the United States into a desert, far removed from the life-giving waters of Christ.

Neither "Baptism of Desire" nor "Baptism of Blood" should truly be called Baptism. Neither is a Sacrament of the Church, and neither was instituted by Jesus Christ.

Suppose a non-baptized person had his choice between Baptism of Water on the one hand, and what is called "Baptism of Blood" on the other. Were he not to choose Baptism of Water, the shedding of his blood would be useless and he would lose his soul. It is Christ’s Blood that counts in Redemption, and the fruits of it in application to Baptism. It is not our blood that counts at this foundational point. And it is only when we have received both the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Eucharist that Christ can be said to be shedding His Blood in one of us. This last is the real martyr, and the one who has preserved the Faith.

Baptism is a Sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ. It is the redemptive power of God’s words in an instituted rite that gives power to the trickle of water and the invocation in the name of the Blessed Trinity. This little trickle of water, so administered, is worth more than all the blood shed in the history of the world, for any cause whatsoever. . . .

When the Vatican Council reconvenes, I humbly plead with our Holy Father the Pope, that he will immediately gather his plenipotentiary powers of infallible pronouncement to clear up the wild confusion of visible orating (on the part of his priests and bishops) about an invisible Church — or else the gates of Hell will have all but prevailed against us. The most visible ruler in the world, our Holy Father, in his white robe and white zuchetto, may well take off his triple tiara and get down from his golden throne, and leave Christianity to the kind of committee arrangements to which it is committed in the present-day America, if we keep on preaching "Baptism of Desire."

I beseech our Holy Father to clear up this unholy confusion for the love of the Blessed Virgin Mary, . . ."

Not only has there been no clearing up of "this unholy confusion" over the past forty years; it has been aggravated and compounded immeasurably since Pope Pius XII died. With no clearly stated pronouncements from the reigning Vicar of Christ to guide and restrain their opinions touching this vital issue of Baptism, liberal theologians have had a field day, and modernists, like Karl Rahner, have run amuck.

Consequently, the theological chaos we now witness is simply a result of liberal theologians pitting their opinions against each other. Most, if not all, of our critics claim their opinions are grounded on dogma. Father Feeney, on the other hand, always distinguished between defined dogma and his personal speculation. If speculation were permissible he would humorously preface his remarks by warning his students that what he was about to say was "de Feeney" and not "de Fide." Therefore, in explaining and defending our position throughout this study, what we say, in some cases, will be our opinion. That opinion will always support defined dogma, but never by way of weakening the literal meaning.

Every statement we make here, every position we take, is ultimately subject to final confirmation or rejection by the Holy See, whenever it pleases God that the Holy Father speak out and thereby end all debate.

A General Description of Baptism

Let us address ourselves, now, to a brief study of the sacrament of Baptism in order to determine what differences, if any, exist between Baptism of water and the so-called "baptisms" by desire or blood.

In The New Catholic Dictionary published in 1929, we read the following description of Baptism, which, in turn, was taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Baptism (Greek, baptizo, wash or immerse), the act of immersing or washing. In Holy Scripture it also signifies, figuratively, great suffering, e.g., Christ’s Passion.

It is the "first" sacrament, or sacrament of initiation and regeneration, the "door of the Church."

Defined theologically, it is a sacrament, instituted by Christ, in which, by the invocation of the Holy Trinity and external ablution with water, one becomes spiritually regenerated and a disciple of Christ. Saint Thomas says it is the "external ablution of the body performed with the prescribed form of words."

The Sacrament of Baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation, because all are subject to original sin: wherefore Christ’s words to Nicodemus, "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3).

The chief effects of this sacrament are:

a) the impression of a character or seal by which we are incorporated with Christ;

b) regeneration and remission of original sin (and actual if necessary), as well as punishment due to sin, and infusion of sanctifying grace (with its gifts).

Baptism is administered by pouring water on the head of the candidate, saying at the same time, "I baptize thee, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," with the intention of Christ or His Church. The water must flow over the skin.

These essentials are apart from the beautiful requirements of the Church for solemn Baptism.

Infusion (pouring), immersion, and aspersion (sprinkling) are equally valid. The present ritual of the Latin Church allows for the first two, favoring infusion by the law of custom.

Baptism of desire (flaminis) and of blood (sanguinis) are called such analogically, in that they supply the remission of sin and the regenerative grace, but not the character; the former presupposes perfect charity or love of God (therefore implicitly the desire for the sacrament), while the latter is simply martyrdom for the sake of Christ or His Church.

Without the Sacrament of Baptism or martyrdom, it is commonly taught that infants cannot attain to the enjoyment of the Beatific Vision.

We will come back to what, in our opinion, are weaknesses in this description, but first, let us learn more about those "beautiful requirements" for solemn Baptism.

The Ritual for Solemn Baptism

The following is taken from an excellent book entitled Church History, written by Father John Laux, M.A. Here, Father Laux describes early Christian life and worship during the first three centuries:

Membership in the Christian Church was acquired by Baptism. In the earliest days of the Church, Baptism was conferred without delay on those who professed their faith in Christ. Later on, however, perhaps even before the death of the last Apostle, a period of preparation, called the Catechumenate and extending over a period of two or three years, regularly preceded the administration of Baptism. The catechumens (Greek katechoumenoi, ‘hearers,’ those receiving oral instruction) assisted only at the first part of the Divine Service up to the Offertory, which was afterwards called on this account the Mass of the Catechumens.

During the weeks immediately preceding Baptism, the catechumens were required to present themselves repeatedly in the church. Each time, the bishop or one of his priests laid his hands upon their heads, and an Exorcist prayed over them that they might be delivered from the power of the devil in the name of the Blessed Trinity. Special instructions were also given them at this time on the Apostles’ Creed; but the wording of the Creed itself . . . and the Lord’s Prayer were made known to them only during the baptismal ceremony just as they were about to descend into the piscina, or baptismal font. The great mysteries of our Religion, especially the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, were explained to them only after Baptism.

. . . Tertullian tells us that the catechumens were required to make a solemn renunciation of Satan and all his works, and pomps, and wicked angels. They then recited the Creed and the Our Father and descended into the piscina. Baptism was administered by triple immersion, but in case of necessity aspersion or infusion were also allowed.

We interrupt Father Laux with this comment: It is after this profession of Faith that the believing, and perhaps already justified catechumen fulfills his justice unto salvation by descending into the regenerating water. This public Baptism, this public confession of Faith, is the corporealization of being clothed with the New Adam, Jesus Christ. By receiving the sign or seal of His Image in the Character of this essential sacrament, the newly baptized has truly confessed with the mouth — corporealized, that is, — his Faith unto salvation. It seems to us that this is the teaching of Saint Paul in his Epistle to the Romans wherein he distinguishes between what is necessary for justification and what is further necessary for salvation: For with the heart, we believe unto justice, but with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:10)

The compilers of the Catechism of the Council of Trent gave the same interpretation to this passage from Romans when, citing the same text, they wrote as follows concerning the necessity of the sacraments in general: "By approaching them we make a public profession of our faith in the sight of men. Thus, when we approach Baptism, we openly profess our belief that, by virtue of its salutary waters in which we are washed, the soul is spiritually cleansed." (Catechism of the Council of Trent, Tan Books and Publishers, Pg. 150)

Now, back to Father Laux:

The minister of Baptism was the Bishop, who was assisted by priests and deacons . . . The Sacrament of Confirmation was conferred immediately after Baptism, as is still done in the Eastern Churches.

In the Apostolic Age there was no special time set apart for Baptism; later on, however, it was solemnly administered only on Holy Saturday. On the Sunday after Easter — Dominica in Albis, ‘White Sunday’ — the neophytes (newly baptized) removed the white robes of their Baptism.

Infant Baptism was rare until the beginning of the fifth century. Perhaps it was the dread of incurring the responsibilities of the Christian life, that led many to defer their own Baptism, or that of their children, except in danger of death. But it was always regarded as valid and as an apostolic institution . . .

Over the centuries, the ceremony has remained essentially the same, but there have been minor changes: the minister of solemn Baptism is now usually a priest; infants are baptized within a few weeks of birth; in the Latin Church, the water is normally applied by infusion (pouring), and Confirmation is administered to children later, when they have reached the use of reason — normally between the ages of seven and twelve.

Here, now, is a description of the beautiful, incarnational requirements of solemn Baptism, as administered prior to Vatican II. In The New Catholic Dictionary of 1929, we read the following:

They are ancient and symbolic. At the Baptism of an infant, it is presented at the font by the sponsors. First come interrogations and answers, requesting "faith and life everlasting." The priest breathes on the face of the child, a symbol of the imparting of the Spirit of God. He makes the sign of the cross on forehead and breast, that God may be ever in the child’s mind and heart. Salt, emblematic of wisdom, is put into the child’s mouth. A solemn exorcism is pronounced, to free the soul from the dominion of Satan. The priest’s stole is laid upon the child, signifying that he is being led into the Church of Christ.

As a profession of faith, the Apostles’ Creed is recited by the priest and the sponsors, and this is followed by the Our Father. The ceremony of the Ephpheta takes place, i.e., the applying of saliva to the ears and nostrils of the child, reminding us of the curing of the deaf-mute in the Gospel (Mark 7) and symbolizing the opening of the senses to the truths of God. Then comes a renunciation of Satan with all his works and pomps, and an anointing is made with the Oil of Catechumens in the form of a cross on the child’s breast and back, signifying the open profession of the Faith of Christ and the patient bearing of life’s burdens.

After another profession of faith in questions and answers, the Sacrament itself is administered, the sponsors holding the child at the font. An unction is then made on the top of the head with Holy Chrism, as a sign of consecration to God. A white cloth, placed on the head, symbolizes sanctifying grace; this is a survival of the white baptismal robe of ancient times. A lighted candle is presented, emblematic of faith and charity.

The ceremonies of Baptism of adults differ somewhat from the above.

The key points we have learned from all of the above may be summarized as follows:

1. The sacrament of Baptism (by water) is absolutely necessary for salvation. This unqualified necessity was clearly expressed in Christ’s words to Nicodemus: Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3).

2. The chief effects of the sacrament are:

a) The impression on the soul of a certain character (or seal, or mark), by which we are incorporated with Christ and made members of the Catholic Church.

b) A rebirth, and remission of original sin, and the infusion of sanctifying grace with its gifts.

3. Solemn Baptism is a very beautiful ceremony of the Church. Like all of the sacraments, it is administered only by outward, visible, incarnational signs.

4. Baptism is the "first" sacrament. It is the most important because, without it, we cannot receive any of the other six sacraments.

5. Baptism of desire and of blood are called such by analogy because they resemble Baptism of water in some ways but not in others. They may infuse sanctifying grace, but they do not impress the baptismal character upon the soul. Thus, they do not incorporate the recipient with Christ or make him a member of the Catholic Church, outside of which there is no salvation.

6. The essentials of the sacrament of Baptism are the pouring of water on the head of the candidate, saying at the same time, "I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," with the intention of doing what the Church does. (In an emergency, what is known as "Lay Baptism" may be administered in this manner by any lay person, Catholic or not, who has reached the age of reason.)

The Watered-Down "Baptismus in Voto"

Now, let us return briefly to the description of the sacrament of Baptism as found in The New Catholic Dictionary of 1929. There are severe weaknesses in the last two paragraphs. They read:

Baptism of desire (flaminis) and of blood (sanguinis) are called such analogically, in that they supply the remission of sin and the regenerative grace, but not the character; the former presupposes perfect charity or love of God (therefore implicitly the desire for the sacrament), while the latter is simply martyrdom for the sake of Christ or His Church.

Without the Sacrament of Baptism or martyrdom, it is commonly taught that infants cannot attain to the enjoyment of the Beatific Vision.

We emphasize in italics the phrases which merit explanation. But before getting into that, we must point out a prime cause of this whole controversy over "baptism of desire." And, since martyrdom is simply a most intense form of "baptism of desire," our arguments against "desire" will apply equally as well to "blood."

A prime cause of the controversy is the mistranslation of the Latin used by the Church, and her theologians, into the English phrase "baptism of desire." In the official documents of the Councils, and in the writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas and other theologians, the Latin phrase used was "baptismus in voto." The primary meaning of the Latin noun "votum" is "vow." Therefore, a proper translation of the phrase should be "baptism in vow," or "in solemn promise." In more facile English idiom, it means "a deliberate solemn intention to receive the sacrament of Baptism."

If Saint Thomas and the Council of Trent had intended to convey the meaning of "desire," as we understand it in English, they would have used the Latin noun "desiderium." We see, then, that "desire" is a very weak translation which betrays the true meaning of the Latin texts. This should be kept in mind for more thorough discussion ahead.

We return now to the highlighted phrases in the New Catholic Dictionary:

". . . but not the character . . . " — In Chapter Eight ahead, we discuss the importance of the baptismal character. It is this character that incorporates one into Christ and makes him a member of the Church. Even the presumed "perfect charity," or love of God, will not imprint the character on the soul. Only the sacrament of Baptism will imprint it. Without it, as we intend to prove, salvation is not possible.

". . . (therefore implicitly the desire for the sacrament). . . " — The Council of Trent defined infallibly, in fourteen different places, that conscious Acts of Catholic Faith, Hope, Charity, Perfect Contrition and true repentance for sins are required for justification by Baptismus in voto, and that this votum must be a deliberately intended vow to receive actual water Baptism. Therefore, no vague "desire" or "unconscious longing" or "implicit" intention can possibly satisfy the requirements for the vow. Thus, for example, no one who has not reached the use of reason can make it.

"...or martyrdom..." — This phrase equates the death of a hypothetical unbaptized martyr with reception of the sacrament of Baptism, a proposition which contradicts the infallible definition of Trent that the sacrament is necessary for salvation.

"...it is commonly taught..." — What is "commonly taught" is not necessarily infallible. Witness the commonly taught error of Arius that Christ is not Divine, or the commonly taught heresy of today that there is salvation outside the Church.

If we seem to be ahead of ourselves with some of the above comments, we ask the reader to be patient. More complete discussions lie ahead.

Baptism by Desire versus The Providence of God

What prompted theologians to speculate on alternatives to the sacrament of Baptism?

Both "baptism of desire" and "baptism of blood" are theological opinions which date back to the early centuries of the Church. The millions of martyrs who shed their blood for Christ during the brutal persecutions of the pagan Romans gave rise to the "baptism of blood" theory. With so many martyrs, and with only fragmentary information on most of them, Christian commentators of the time were led, simply by the laws of probability, to conclude that many must have died before being baptized. But only if Almighty God, Who has a vested interest in the salvation of every human soul, is left out of the equation, is such a conclusion plausible.

"Baptism of desire" also appeared early in the Church, but with less unanimity and more opposition. In the thirteenth century, Saint Thomas Aquinas gave it his support in the Summa Theologica. In the sixteenth century, shortly after the discovery of America and its untold millions of inhabitants who, apparently, had never even heard of Christ, speculation among Catholic theologians began to increase. But it was also during the sixteenth century that the great Council of Trent, passing in silence over the theories of Saint Thomas and others, defined infallibly that the sacrament of Baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation. Regarding justification, the Council defined that an ardent votum for the sacrament could suffice.

Subsequent to Trent, Protestantism, having by example denied the dogma Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus, set the stage for wide acceptance of the theories. Then came, in succession, the Masonic French Revolution in the eighteenth century, the rapid spread of liberalism and religious indifferentism during the nineteenth century, and communism and modernism in the twentieth. For almost five hundred years, these avowed enemies of the Church have been trying to tear her down by reducing her to the level of "just another church." And the destructive tool they have used is one called "desire."

We suggest that the success which these two theories have enjoyed is attributable to the failure of Catholic theologians to give proper consideration to the Omnipotence of God. God is All-Powerful, and since it is He Who determined that Baptism of water is necessary for entrance into Heaven, we firmly believe that, through His Divine Providence, He will make both the water and a minister available to each and every worthy person who seeks them.

In the book, Disputed Questions on Truth, Saint Thomas Aquinas confirms our opinion. Concerning the necessity of explicit faith for salvation, he writes (pages 158 and 262):

Granted that everyone is bound to believe something explicitly, no untenable conclusion follows if someone is brought up in the forest or among wild beasts. For it pertains to Divine Providence to furnish everyone with what is necessary for salvation, provided that on his part there is no hindrance.

Thus, if someone so brought up followed the direction of natural reason in seeking good and avoiding evil, we must most certainly hold that God would either reveal to him through internal inspiration what had to be believed, or would send some preacher of the Faith to him as He sent Peter to Cornelius.

However, in his book, A Tour of the Summa, Monsignor Paul J. Glenn gives us Saint Thomas’ teaching on the necessity of Baptism for salvation (pages 370 and 372):

The sacrament of baptism is baptism conferred with water. The effects of the sacrament, except for the imprinting of the character, may be produced in a soul in two other ways. A person unbaptized who sheds his blood for Christ is said to have the baptism of blood. A person unable to receive baptism (because he knows nothing of it, or because his efforts to obtain it are unavailing) may be conformed to Christ by love and contrition, and thus is said to have baptism of desire. Baptism of blood and baptism of desire take away sin and give grace. But they do not print the sacramental character on the soul. Hence they are not truly the sacrament of baptism. Therefore, a survivor of bloody torture endured for Christ, and one whose desire for baptism is no longer thwarted, are to be baptized with water.

To be saved, a man must have at least the baptism of desire."

When the question concerns what one must believe in order to be saved, the Angelic Doctor teaches that it pertains to Divine Providence to furnish what is necessary. But, when the question concerns what one must do to be saved, he argues that the desire is as good as the deed.

With all due respect to the great Saint and Doctor, we say he is not consistent here. He argues for the Providence of God in the first situation (intrinsic justification through a divine faith which comes by hearing), but, in the second (the Sacrament of Faith, which in its matter and form is extrinsic), he circumvents a special providence because he believes, erroneously, that God could not bind Himself absolutely to a material element in order to procure a soul’s final supernatural end.

Why, in this second situation also, should we not "most certainly hold that God would ... send some preacher of the faith ... as He sent Peter to Cornelius" to baptize him?

We say that God will provide the water and a minister for any needy soul, just as He provided them for Cornelius. And we say this because we know that God will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4).

We also know that He gave us His solemn promise: And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened (Luke 11:9 and 10).

Do we need any greater assurance that Our Divine Savior will provide a worthy man with whatever he needs to be saved?

But the proponents of the "desire" theories pay no heed to this counter argument. They call it "new theology." They say we make God work too many miracles, as though that would tire Him; or that there are too many good people yet unbaptized for God to keep track of them, as though He were just a super "Wizard of Oz" with too much work to do. So they conduct endless searches for examples of supposed holy persons who supposedly died unbaptized, but who, they assure us, are certainly in heaven.

Ours is not new theology. It is proper development of present theology proposed by a holy Catholic theologian intent on protecting the unchangeable decree of Christ: Unless a man is born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.