After recently encountering some Catholic websites, it seems that some simply do not understand the sacrament of Baptism. Unfortunately most Catholics today are poorly Catechized and are thus confused even on some of the basic teachings of the Church. What grade school children understood at a basic level in years past adults today do not understand. As we know Christ calls all men to be Baptized in order to receive salvation. "Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." (Matthew 28:19) Through this Sacrament all guilt and temporal punishment due to sin is removed and a divine imprint is made upon the soul making one able to receive the other Sacraments. Ordinarily this entry of the Christian into the Body of Christ happens through water Baptism. There are however two other means in which adults can possibly receive some of the effects of the Sacrament, minus the imprinting of the character of the Sacrament. These are Baptism by Blood and Desire. I must state that according to reliable Catholic theological manuals such as The' Pohle-Preuss Manual of Dogmatic Theology', they define the level of authoritative teaching of the Church concerning each of these as follows.
Baptism of Desire falls into "doctrina catholica".
Baptism of Blood falls into "doctrina certa".
Baptism of Desire and Baptism by Blood are both "truths to be held with religious assent of intellect and will." Baptism of Desire is held to be of a slightly higher level of teaching than that of Baptism of Blood being under the formal level of teaching known as "doctrina catholica" which is defined as "a truth which is taught in the entire Church, but is not always infallibly proposed: viz., those things which the Roman Pontiffs explicitly desire to teach in encyclicals: e.g., the doctrines on the Sacred Liturgy in Pius XII's Mediator Dei. The error that is opposed to this level of catholic truth is called error in doctrina catholica (error in Catholic doctrine)."
Baptism of Blood falls under the category of "doctrina certa" which is defined as "(a truth that is theologically certain): a truth which was acknowledged “in the theological schools” as certain and having a necessary logical connection with Revelation; such connection may be virtual, or presupositive, or final: e.g., "Christ possessed the beatific vision while on earth, even before his death and resurrection." The error that is opposed to this level of catholic truth is called error in theologia (error in theology).
If a Catholic were to deny either of these they would clearly be going against truths that the Church proposes must be held by the faithful as being taught by the Church. To deny them one would be guilty of either "error in Catholic doctrine" or "error in theology." All levels of the Church's magisterial teaching can be found at this link. If you are unfamiliar with them the article is worth reading.
Baptism of Blood is by martyrdom (baptisimus sanguinis), being one who dies for Christ yet is not able to receive water Baptism. In the case of martyrdom all guilt and punishment due to sin is removed. In the case of Baptism by Desire this is not guaranteed. It does not necessarily remit all venial sins nor the temporal punishment due to sin. (Sacrae Theologiae Summa IVA, 175) The' Pohle-Preuss Manual of Dogmatic Theology' draws a comparison between Baptism of Desire and water Baptism, "The Baptism of Desire (baptismus flaminis) differs from the Baptism of water (baptismus fluminis) in the same way which spiritual differs from actual Communion. If the desire for Baptism is accompanied by perfect contrition, we have the so-called baptisimus flammis,..." The Council of Trent Session Six concerning Justification, in chapter four also conveys this reality by stating that justification, "cannot be effected, without the laver of regeneration, or the desire thereof.." referring to Baptism.
Now that we have briefly defined what each of these are, and where they fall in the level of the teaching magisterium, I will post up a few quotes from reliable sources, listed below. We will look to the Baltimore Catechism to see this teaching clearly and simply outlined. I think it should also be noted that these two possibilities have nothing to do with abandoning the divine commission to evangelize and Baptize by the normal means of water Baptism. In other words, these are not escape clauses as many are claiming them to be for non-Catholics. There are some Catholics who are claiming that this means everyone from all religions can be saved by following their false religion. They are wrong, since one has to profess the Catholic faith at least implicitly in order for these two possibilities to be effected. They also must be accompanied by perfect charity. There are other Catholics who say that we should not accept Baptism of Blood or Desire as valid possible means since they can mislead people into not following the divine commission. These Catholics say that the modern liberal theologians introduced these novelties. They are also wrong since the teaching is found in all traditional theological treatises as well as the Church Fathers, several Church documents and as I stated before, fall into the category of teaching that is to be held with religious assent of intellect and will. It also must be stated that neither of these possibilities do not teach anything contrary to the Church's teaching of Ecclesiam nulla salus which means: "outside the Church there is no salvation". Even if they receive either of these two means they are still receiving them through the Church, not outside of it as many claim. * Added 12-21-17
I wanted first to post the Baltimore Catechism's clear teaching and then a few other sources showing that these means are indeed valid and possible, though not ordinary. Of course as in many cases in theology, there is always a fuller theological understanding that can be reached by assiduous study. The teaching concerning Baptism by Blood and Desire are no exceptions. I would recommend reading Volume Eight of the 'Pohle-Preuss Manual of Dogmatic Theology' for a deeper understanding. Aside from quoting the Baltimore Catechism below, I also quote from a Thomistic work called, 'A Tour of the Summa' by Paul J Glenn. The final quotes are taken from Thomas' Summa Theologica itself. These sources will help to further explain the difference between these two extraordinary means of Blood and Desire with water Baptism. Again, certainly more can be written on the subject, but this should clear the issue up concerning the real possibility of Baptism by Blood and by Desire and their place in the teaching of the Church.
|Baltimore Catechism Illustration|
Q. 631. Is Baptism necessary to salvation?
A. Baptism is necessary to salvation, because without it we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Q. 644. How many kinds of Baptism are there?
A. There are three kinds of Baptism: 1.Baptism of water, of desire, and of blood.
Q. 645. What is Baptism of water?
A. Baptism of water is that which is given by pouring water on the head of the person to be baptized, and saying at the same time, "I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
Q. 648. Should one who, in case of necessity, has been baptized with private baptism, be afterwards brought to the Church to have the ceremonies of solemn baptism completed?
A. One who, in case of necessity, has been baptized with private baptism should afterwards be brought to the Church to have the ceremonies of solemn baptism completed, because these ceremonies are commanded by the Church and bring down blessings upon us.
Q. 650. What is Baptism of desire?
A. Baptism of desire is an ardent wish to receive Baptism, and to do all that God has ordained for our salvation.
Q. 651. What is Baptism of blood?
A. Baptism of blood is the shedding of one's blood for the faith of Christ.
Q. 652. What is the baptism of blood most commonly called?
A. The baptism of blood is most commonly called martyrdom, and those who receive it are called martyrs. It is the death one patiently suffers from the enemies of our religion, rather than give up Catholic faith or virtue. We must not seek martyrdom, though we must endure it when it comes.
Q. 653. Is Baptism of desire or of blood sufficient to produce the effects of Baptism of water?
A. Baptism of desire or of blood is sufficient to produce the effects of the Baptism of water, if it is impossible to receive the Baptism of water.
Q. 654. How do we know that the baptism of desire or of blood will save us when it is impossible to receive the baptism of water?
A. We know that baptism of desire or of blood will save us when it is impossible to receive the baptism of water, from Holy Scripture, which teaches that love of God and perfect contrition can secure the remission of sins ; and also that Our Lord promises salvation to those who lay down their life for His sake or for His teaching.
From 'A Tour of the Summa'
1. In the sacrament of baptism, we consider three things:(a) that which is sacrament only, that is, the sacrament assign; the water used in baptizing; the washing; (b) that which is reality only, that is, inward grace;justification; (c) that which is reality and sacrament, that is, the sacramental character impressed by baptism on the soul of the person baptized.
11. 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 imprint 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.
12. Baptism of blood is most excellent in its sacramental effects, for bloody suffering brings a man who has charity in to union with Christ's Passion from which baptism has its efficacy. Still, it does not impress the sacramental character.
From the Summa Theologica III, Article II
I answer that, The sacrament or Baptism may be wanting to someone in two ways. First, both in reality and in desire; as is the case with those who neither are baptized, nor wished to be baptized: which clearly indicates contempt of the sacrament, in regard to those who have the use of the free-will. Consequently those to whom Baptism is wanting thus, cannot obtain salvation: since neither sacramentally nor mentally are they incorporated in Christ, through Whom alone can salvation be obtained.
Secondly, the sacrament of Baptism may be wanting to anyone in reality but not in desire: for instance, when a man wishes to be baptized, but by some ill-chance he is forestalled by death before receiving Baptism. And such a man can obtain salvation without being actually baptized, on account of his desire for Baptism, which desire is the outcome of "faith that worketh by charity," whereby God, Whose power is not tied to visible sacraments, sanctifies man inwardly. Hence Ambrose says of Valentinian, who died while yet a catechumen: "I lost him whom I was to regenerate: but he did not lose the grace he prayed for."
Reply to Objection 1. As it is written (1 Samuel 16:7), "man seeth those things that appear, but the Lord beholdeth the heart." Now a man who desires to be "born again of water and the Holy Ghost" by Baptism, is regenerated in heart though not in body. thus the Apostle says (Romans 2:29) that "the circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not of men but of God."
Reply to Objection 2. No man obtains eternal life unless he be free from all guilt and debt of punishment. Now this plenary absolution is given when a man receives Baptism, or suffers martyrdom: for which reason is it stated that martyrdom "contains all the sacramental virtue of Baptism," i.e. as to the full deliverance from guilt and punishment. Suppose, therefore, a catechumen to have the desire for Baptism (else he could not be said to die in his good works, which cannot be without "faith that worketh by charity"), such a one, were he to die, would not forthwith come to eternal life, but would suffer punishment for his past sins, "but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire" as is stated 1 Corinthians 3:15.
Reply to Objection 3. The sacrament of Baptism is said to be necessary for salvation in so far as man cannot be saved without, at least, Baptism of desire; "which, with God, counts for the deed" (Augustine, Enarr. in Ps. 57).
From the Summa Theologica III, Article XI
I answer that, As stated above (III:62:5), Baptism of Water has its efficacy from Christ's Passion, to which a man is conformed by Baptism, and also from the Holy Ghost, as first cause. Now although the effect depends on the first cause, the cause far surpasses the effect, nor does it depend on it. Consequently, a man may, without Baptism of Water, receive the sacramental effect from Christ's Passion, in so far as he is conformed to Christ by suffering for Him. Hence it is written (Apocalypse 7:14): "These are they who are come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb." In like manner a man receives the effect of Baptism by the power of the Holy Ghost, not only without Baptism of Water, but also without Baptism of Blood: forasmuch as his heart is moved by the Holy Ghost to believe in and love God and to repent of his sins: wherefore this is also called Baptism of Repentance. Of this it is written (Isaiah 4:4): "If the Lord shall wash away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall wash away the blood of Jerusalem out of the midst thereof, by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning." Thus, therefore, each of these other Baptisms is called Baptism, forasmuch as it takes the place of Baptism. Wherefore Augustine says (De Unico Baptismo Parvulorum iv): "The Blessed Cyprian argues with considerable reason from the thief to whom, though not baptized, it was said: 'Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise' that suffering can take the place of Baptism. Having weighed this in my mind again and again, I perceive that not only can suffering for the name of Christ supply for what was lacking in Baptism, but even faith and conversion of heart, if perchance on account of the stress of the times the celebration of the mystery of Baptism is not practicable."
Recommended sources for deeper theological explanations.
Pohle-Preuss Manual of Dogmatic Theology
Sacrae Theologiae Summa