The Catholic Faith in the United States of America is always academically ascribed to the Baltimore Catechism.
The Baltimore Catechism was confected at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, by a group of American Bishops under the control and influence of James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore. James Cardinal Gibbons was a Catholic prelate who did not hesitate to get up before a Methodist congregation, in a Methodist Church, and give a supposedly Catholic sermon while reading from a Protestant Bible!
The Purpose of Christ’s Coming
The Secret of the Last Gospel
The Eucharist in Four Simple Mysteries
The Great Gift of God
The Royal Requirements for Heaven
The Waters of Salvation
The Fewness of the Saved
In the Presence of God
Our Lady’s Fullness of Grace
A Plea for Courageous Catholics
The Road to Martyrdom
Cardinal Gibbons was not a great theologian. He was a controller of theological thought. I hesitate to call him an opportunist, because there may be times when a priest might brilliantly take advantage of a situation, for Our Lord’s sake. But when a Catholic prelate becomes all opportunist, and is interested in teaching what doctrines of the Church would be most to the liking of his hearers or what general summary of the Church’s history — as in the Baltimore Cardinal’s book, The Faith of Our Fathers — will be least offensive to his new-found neighbors, then I think opportunism, is serious defect.
Cardinal Gibbons’ main ambition was to show that Catholicism was good Americanism. It is for that reason he went out of his way to take such metaphorical expressions in theology as “Baptism of Desire” and “Baptism of Blood” and put them side by side with Baptism of Water. As a consequence, every little Catholic child in a Catholic school, from the time of Cardinal Gibbons on, has been required to say, in answer to the question, “How many kinds of Baptism are there?”: “There are three kinds of Baptism: Baptism of Water, Baptism of Desire, and Baptism of Blood.”
That is heresy! There is only one Baptism, just as there is only one Lord and one Faith. (Eph. 4:5.) The Council of Vienne explicitly defines that this one Baptism, which is administered by water, is the one which must be faithfully confessed by all.
The Council of Trent, in its second Canon on the subject of Baptism, declares, with the majestic authority of the Church:
If anyone shall say that true and natural water is not of necessity in Baptism, and therefore shall turn those words of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, “unless one be born again of water and the Holy Spirit” (John 3:5), into some metaphor, let him be anathema.
Therefore, I repeat, metaphorical water is forbidden under pain of heresy. And what is “Baptism of Desire,” as the Liberals teach it, but metaphorical water dishonestly substituting itself for the innocent requirement of Christ?
The same heretical theology that turned Baptism of Water into any dry desire one might have in the general direction of Heaven, has also turned one Lord into one’s personal sincerity, and one Faith into the light of invincible ignorance!
And, by the way, speaking of the Baltimore Catechism, even its most ardent supporters are forced to admit that shortly after the publication of the Baltimore Catechism, various editions with word meanings, explanatory notes, and even with different arrangements, came forth — so that, by testimony of all Catholic theologians in America, there is a considerable diversity in the books that go by the name of the Baltimore Catechism. Yet the Baltimore Catechism is always referred to in a singular apostrophe, as though it had the dignity of the Gospel itself.
A catechism is as good as the man who wrote it. If the Baltimore Catechism is so good, why do they revise it and revise it and revise it?
The crucial point, then, at which heresy entered the Catholic Church in the United States and backwashed to the dying Faith of Europe and the rest of the world, was through the teaching of the doctrine known as “Baptism of Desire,” in the Baltimore Catechism.
As I have explained to you many times, neither “Baptism of Desire” nor “Baptism of Blood” should truly be called Baptism. Neither is a sacrament of the Church. Neither was instituted by Jesus Christ. No one can receive any of the other sacraments by reason of having received these so-called “Baptisms.” Baptism of Water is the initial requirement for the reception of all the other sacraments.
Did Jesus really mean water to be essential for the Baptism He instituted? He did. When He started His public life Jesus came down and stood in water, in the River Jordan, where John was baptizing. He wanted, thereby, to let us know what Baptism was to mean in the Catholic Church forevermore. Baptizing forever means pouring water on you, or sprinkling you with water, or dipping you in water.
As John the Baptist was baptizing Jesus, John said to Him, “I ought to be baptized by thee, and comest thou to me?” Then Jesus said, “Suffer it to be so now. For so it becometh us to fulfill all justice.” (Matt. 3:14,15.)
Unfulfilled justice is the state of justification. Fulfilled justice is the state of salvation. What Jesus is saying to us, at His own baptism by John in the River Jordan, is that justification is now being turned into salvation with the aid of water.
Jesus goes so far as to praise and belittle John the Baptist in terms of this very rite of Baptism. He says of John the Baptist, “Amen I say to you, there hath not risen among them that are born of women a greater than John the Baptist: yet he that is the lesser in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.” (Matt. 11:11.) John the Baptist’s greatness came not from being born in the state of justification. It came from being admitted into the Kingdom of Christ in salvation.
If Jesus was baptized with water to fulfill all justice, how shall we have justice fulfilled in us without Baptism of Water?
There are only three birthdays commemorated by the Church in the liturgical year. All other saints in Heaven are commemorated on the days of their death. The three birthdays the Catholic Church celebrates are those of Jesus, Mary and John the Baptist. The crown of these three birthdays, of course, is the birth of Christ, the born One, Who was born for the rebirth of the world.
The eighth of September is the most beautiful human birthday in the whole year. It is the birthday of Mary, the Mother of God. June twenty-fourth is the birthday of the most beautiful sheerly human boy that could be. It is the birthday of Saint John the Baptist, who was sanctified in his mother’s womb, when Mary, with Jesus in her womb, visited Elizabeth.
Mary gave birth to Jesus. John the Baptist baptized Him. Baptism is a virginal birth, and Jesus’ birth was for a virginal Baptism. Birth and Baptism go together in Christian regeneration, and in Christian salvation. Natural birth is belittled in terms of baptismal birth. Jesus calls Baptism, “being born again of water and the Holy Ghost.”
If in admiration of the power of water in Baptism, you are going to ask me, “How do you expect water to do so much?, I cannot answer you. I would never ask water to do so much. I would never think of that. But Jesus has asked water to do so much! As a matter of fact, He has asked water to do so much that when He gives the components of our foundational Sacrament — one of earth and one of Heaven — even though you might think it irreverent, Jesus mentions the water first and the Holy Ghost second! “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:5.) That is how important water is!
Without Baptism of Water, you never can receive any of the other sacraments. All the Apostles had to be baptized. They were not in the state of mortal sin. But, they had to be baptized. From this need we can see the difference between justification and salvation.
I have told you this many times: Were I not to have been baptized by water, my ordination to the priesthood would be invalid. Suppose I never knew I had not been baptized? Well, I would never know I was not a priest. That is how important Baptism of Water is.
Can you not have Holy Orders of Desire? No! Are the Sacraments being tampered with in the United States today? Yes! Is the Faith practically gone? Yes!
When the Holy Ghost came down at Pentecost and flooded the first Christians with light, probably many made perfect acts of love. Why did Saint Peter add Baptism of Water? Why did he say, “Do penance, and be baptized every one of you!” (Acts 2:38.) Why did he undertake to baptize three thousand people in one day?
Why, as we learn in the Acts of the Apostles, was Saint Paul struck down by a blinding light and told to go over to Damascus and have water poured on his head? Why was Cornelius at Caesarea told to send for Saint Peter, and why was Saint Philip transported to Gaza to baptize the Ethiopian eunuch? Why were these baptizings necessary? Why all this “waste” of water and energy?
Why did Saint Martin of Tours raise a catechumen from the dead, and baptize him? Why did the North American martyrs come over here, if unbaptized Indians could make perfect acts of love? The Indians poured scalding hot water on one of the North American martyrs, Saint John de Brebeuf, by way of ridiculing the Baptism of Water he was preaching. Why did the Church allow this torture to be provoked, if the waters of Baptism are non-essential to Indian salvation?
Q. What. does “Baptism of Desire” mean?
A. It means the belief in the necessity of Baptism of Water for salvation, and a full intent to receive it.
Q. Can “Baptism of Desire” save you?
Q. Could “Baptism of Desire” save you if you really believed it could?
A. It could not.
Q. Could it possibly suffice for you to pass into a state of justification?
A. It could.
Q. If you got into the state of justification with the aid of “Baptism of Desire,” and then failed to receive Baptism of Water, could you be saved?
Actually, no one who has not been baptized can stay in the state of Christian justification very long, because he does not have the sacramental helps to keep justification alive. So, if he were in the state of justification, it would be only for a day or two, maybe three. If we who are Catholics have a hard enough job to keep in the state of sanctifying grace, with all the prayers and sacramental helps we have, good God! how is anyone without them going to stay in the state of a perfect act of love of God? It is a blasphemy to say one could!
What induces this perfect act of love which is required to make “Baptism of Desire” effective for justification? And is it a perfect act of love of God? A perfect act of love of what God? Jesus Christ? “No man cometh to the Father, but by Me,” Jesus said. (John 14:6.)
These are the questions we must ask ourselves when offered a choice between the Sacrament of salvation and our own sanctimoniousness. No one can make a perfect act of love of God without Jesus and His Blessed Mother and His divine special graces. We, who have been baptized and have received Holy Communion, are very much in doubt as to whether we can make a perfect act of love of God! We hope for it, and pray for it! This man the Catholic Liberals talk about seems to be outfitted to make a perfect act of love of God without any of the sacraments! Not only are the Liberals getting rid of Baptism; they are getting rid of the whole sacramental order.
The Council of Trent, when treating of the Sacraments, anathematizes in most solemn canons those who say: (1) that the Sacraments of the New Law are not necessary for salvation; (2) that one can even get into a state of justification without at least a resolve to receive them; (3) that they are all of equal dignity and necessity; (4) that their purpose is mere support of Faith.
You do not have Faith by saying you have Faith! You do not have love by saying you have love! You cannot love God if you do not love Jesus. And you cannot love Jesus if you do not know Him through His great gifts, His Sacraments. If you do not know Him, I defy you to make a perfect act of love. You are calling it perfect love, and at the same time you are refusing that which poured out of the heart of Jesus: Blood and water. You are refusing the Blood of the Eucharist and the water of Baptism. To call that love is a blasphemy!
You have to know substantially everything about the Faith, to make a perfect act of love. Imagine being able to make a perfect act of love without knowing the Blessed Eucharist, or the Blessed Mother, or the forgiveness of sins!
This is the way the situation is now discussed in American seminaries:
“A man makes a perfect act of love. He is in the state of justification.”
“How soon does he have to be baptized?”
“Within a reasonable period.”
“What is a reasonable period?”
“Whatever the priest appoints.”
“What would be a reasonable period to appoint?”
“Well, the candidate would have to be well instructed. In some countries, like Africa, for instance, a catechumen is instructed for three or four years. Poor, simple, untutored people have to be taught.”
“Suppose one of these catechumens dies before being baptised?”…
That is where the seminary professor runs out of answers, and has to make up confused ones, with the assistance of the Baltimore Catechism, The Catholic Encyclopedia, and a few articles by some hitherto brilliant unknowns in the American Ecclesiastical Review.
The paragraph in The Catholic Encyclopedia on the allowability of “Baptism of Desire” is one of the most sneaky pieces of surreptitious theology ever placed in print. It was written by Rev. William H. W. Fanning, S.J., professor of Church History at Saint Louis University, who pretends to tell you in the entire article on Baptism, that Baptism of Water is necessary for salvation, but gives you the Liberal escape you were looking for, by reason of his interpretation of a phrase in a sermon delivered by Saint Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, on the death of a catechumen, the Emperor Valentinian II.
Saint Ambrose, in his sermon, declared of Valentinian: “Did he not obtain the grace which he desired? Did he not obtain what he asked for? Certainly, he obtained it, because he asked for it.”
Any simple and loving Catholic would understand Saint Ambrose to have meant by this comfort, that he hoped Valentinian had been baptized by somebody, even though he (Saint Ambrose) did not know who it was, and even though there was no official record of it. Because if the grace Valentinian desired was something other than Baptism of Water, why call him a catechumen?
Is a catechumen one who desires other graces than the grace of Baptism of Water? And did one of his instructors in the Faith declare to Valentinian that in case he died before being baptized with water, he was still sure to be saved? And did he tell Valentinian that in case he did die before being baptized, Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, would get up in the pulpit and assure his bereaved friends that Baptism of Water, in the case of Valentinian II, had suddenly become unnecessary?
Personally, I think the three sentences of Saint Ambrose quoted by Father Fanning are unfortunate, if only for the fact that they can be turned to such a purpose. But if Father Fanning were sincere in wanting to know what chances for salvation, according to Saint Ambrose, a catechumen has who has not yet received Baptism of Water, and dies before he does receive it, Father Fanning would have quoted this clear-cut teaching on the subject from the writings of Saint Ambrose in his treatise, De Mysteriis (Ch. IV, no. 20):
…Nor again is there any mystery of regeneration without water, for except a man be born anew of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. (John 3:5.) But even a catechumen believes in the cross of the Lord Jesus, wherewith he also is signed; but unless he is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, he cannot receive the remission of sins nor imbibe the gift of spiritual grace.
Notice that Saint Ambrose did not add, concerning this catechumen, “unless he dies in the meantime.” This is what he should have added if what Father Fanning says about Saint Ambrose is true.
Father Migne, one of the greatest authorities on patrology in the Catholic Church, positively denies that Saint Ambrose ever held the opinion attributed to him concerning the salvation without Baptism of Water of the Emperor Valentinian. (Patrologia Latina, Vol. XVI, p. 412, n. 19.)
If anyone should wish to add, concerning the catechumen who dies before receiving Baptism, that though he did not receive Baptism of Water, he did receive “Baptism of Desire,” I doubt if such a one would dare to call this “Baptism of Desire” a sacrament. And Saint Ambrose, knowing that “Baptism of Desire” is not a sacrament, was holy and clear enough to say:
…For no one ascends into the Kingdom of Heaven except by the Sacrament of Baptism. (De Abraham, Bk. 11, Ch. XI, no. 79.)
Saint Ambrose also declares:
One is the baptism which the Church administers, the baptism of water and the Holy Ghost, with which catechumens need to be baptized. (Exposition on Psalm 118, s. 3, p. 18.)
I myself would say, my dear children, that a catechumen who dies before Baptism, is punished. The notion now is that he is rewarded! He is a great hero. What a holy man! That is a queer morbidity, is it not?
But let us return again to this “perfect act of love” which is supposed to accompany “Baptism of Desire” so as to make it be the substitute for Baptism of Water. How a man knows he has made a perfect act of love of God, I do not know! The Liberals always seem to know that he has. Without the Sacraments, we cannot determine for certain what is the value of our private acts. It is by way of discouraging this sanctificational self-sufficiency, that the inspired writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes was led to say, “Man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred.” (Eccl. 9:1.)
By the way, the theologians who are so sure of how easy it is for those outside the Faith to make a perfect act of love of God when they (the theologians) are talking about salvation, are very difficult persons for you or me to meet in the confessional box when they are talking about absolution from sins. If you said to them, “I made a perfect act of love of God,” they would say to you, “How do you know? That is presumption! No man knows whether he is worthy of love or hate!” They only allow the perfect act of love of God when they want to excuse themselves for not evangelizing Protestants and infidels.
With regard to a perfect act of love of God, the same principle applies in Confession, as in Baptism. If you commit a mortal sin and make a perfect act of love of God, the sin is forgiven. But you must mention this sin in your next Confession. If you do not, you return to the state of mortal sin. Everyone admits that.
Suppose I went to Confession and said, “Bless me, Father, for have sinned. But I am not going to tell you my sins. I committed many mortal sins, but I made perfect acts of love.”
“You had better tell me your sins!” the priest would say.
“Does not a perfect act of love forgive sins?”
“It does for an ignorant native, but not for you!”
That does not sound right, now does it?
In case any theologians, more anxious to be correct than true, — to be cautious rather than courageous, — should, at this point, offer me the difficulty: If a man in the state of mortal sin can get out of it by a perfect act of love of God, provided he intends to receive the Sacrament of Penance, why cannot a man in the state of original sin get out of it if he intends to receive the Sacrament of Baptism? My answer is, that I am not defending, and never intended to defend confession of one’s sins as necessary by a necessity of means, for salvation. It is necessary by the necessity of precept. Baptism is necessary by the necessity of means and precept, together.
All these cautious theologians, all these truth skippers, know this as well as I do. But they pretend not to have learned it, when they are trying to teach me the Liberal value of “Baptism of Desire”; when they are trying to teach me the Sacrament of Baptism not as Christ instituted it, but as they have manufactured innovations to go with what Christ instituted.
Perhaps, before I go on, I should explain what necessity of means and necessity of precept are, in simple terms. That I will do.
If you do not receive Baptism of Water, you cannot be saved, whether you were guilty or not guilty for not having received it. If it was not your fault that you did not receive it, then you just do not go to Heaven. You are lacking something required for Heaven. You did not add your own positive rejection of the requirement so as to give you a positive deficiency. Yours is a permanent lack of something required for eternal salvation.
The little baby who dies without Baptism, cannot go to Heaven. He has never committed a mortal sin. But he lacks the entrance requirement for Heaven. He will not be punished for having rejected Baptism. He will not be accused by God of having committed a mortal sin. He will go to the essential Hell (Limbo) which is the loss of the Beatific Vision. But he will not go to the Hell of fire where one is positively punished for what one has positively done.
With regard to the Sacrament of Penance, a man in the state of mortal sin is required to confess that mortal sin. If he should make a perfect act of love in the meantime, that mortal sin is forgiven, but the confessing of it is still required.
If a man should commit a mortal sin, and then elicit a perfect act of love of God, which included the intention to confess his sin, and then later went to Confession and refused to confess the sin he had been forgiven because of the act of perfect love, he would never get that sin back again. But he would get a new sin for failing to confess the old one, and that would be a new mortal sin. And that mortal sin would send him to Hell, if he died in that state.
If a man in the state of mortal sin made a perfect act of love of God, and intended to confess his mortal sin, but died before the priest reached him, he would have died before he received a sacrament which was necessary by precept, but not a sacrament which was necessary by the necessity of both precept and means. Penance is not of its essence a salvational sacrament. It is a sacrament of justification, or rather, of re-justification for those who are baptized. Baptism is the sacrament of justification and salvation in one sheer act where both these needs exist, and of salvation alone, if justification has preceded it.
And now let me go back to what is called necessity of means in a sacramental requirement. Necessity of means means, if you have not got the requirement, it is just too bad for you, whether you are to blame or whether you are not to blame. If you are not to blame, it is just too bad. And if you are to blame, so much the worse!
Necessity of precept means, that if you have not fulfilled a requirement, and you are not to blame for not fulfilling it, then it is all right, provided you have taken care of it in another way, and provided there is another way to take care of it.
If you have fulfilled a Divine precept in another way, you are still required to fulfill it literally in the way Christ prescribed, when you can. In case you cannot, there is no need to worry.
Baptism is necessary for salvation by a necessity of means. This necessity is imposed on all men, including infants.
Baptism is necessary for salvation by a necessity of both means and precept for adults, who are not yet baptized.
Unbaptized infants who die go to Limbo. Notice, they do not go to Hell. Also notice, they do not go to Heaven.
Unbaptized adults who die go to Hell. Notice they do not go either to Limbo or to Heaven.
And, just as the necessity of Baptism for salvation is insisted on by the Church, so is the necessity of explicit Faith on the part of any adult who is going to be baptized. Under Pope Clement XI in 1703, when the missionary movement to “ignorant natives” was at its height, all missionaries were explicitly forbidden by the Holy Office to baptize even a barbarian, even if he was dying, unless they elicited from him an explicit act of belief in Jesus Christ. Nor was it enough, declared the Holy Office, for this barbarian to know that God exists and is a remunerator. He must be told all the central mysteries of the Faith that derive from the Blessed Trinity and the Incarnation. The Holy Office also declared that a knowledge of these mysteries was necessary for salvation by a necessity of means.
What I am giving you here, my dear children, is the common man’s peek at discursive theology. Can you not now see why discursive theology, all by itself, will not make a saint? Can you not see why there are so many mediocre Doctors of Divinity who know only the technical values of the Faith?
We were not told by Our Lord to speak this kind of theology! We were told by Him to speak authoritatively, to say out what He had commanded us to say — be the conclusions what they may!
I have often told you what a scandal it is for the simple of heart to have to listen to nothing but professional theology preached to them, instead of authoritative theology. God’s holy Word is seen not by reason of the clever reasons added to support it, but by reason of the authoritative voice, and gesture, and strength, and simplicity, and indignation, and tenderness, and certitude, of the one who preaches it. We might call this style of theology I plead for, “Pauline,” in the noble sense. Saint Paul would hardly be called a Doctor of Sacred Theology by any savant today, but the Ephesians, and Colossians, and Philippians, and Romans, and Hebrews (to speak only of a few groups) knew he meant what he said because no man could possibly speak with such clarity and courage and authority unless God was speaking through him.
As I give you this grammar-school course in pretentious theological thinking, naturally I expect you, at times, to rebel and to say, “Where is the mercy of God in all this? Are we saved or damned according to theological technicalities?”
If you were to say to me, “Does it not seem odd that unbaptized children should never see the face of God?” I would have to say that it did seem odd, according to my standards. I do not know what scheme I would have made for unbaptized children, if I were God.
I only know what covenants God has made. I must seek first the Kingdom of God and His justice as He revealed it, and let Him add His mercies, by Himself. I am the servant of God, not His counsellor! “Who hath been His counsellor?” Isaias inquires in Holy Scripture, in scorn and indignation! (Isa. 40:13.)
It might even be that it were better for a particular child to die before Baptism, and go to Limbo. Perhaps that child, if baptized, might have grown up and committed heinous mortal sins, and be hurled into positive Hell. I do not know!
God knows, and God is more merciful than I am, and His mercies are not in the least clouded, simply because I seem not to be thinking of them when I am trying to fulfill His justices as He has revealed it.
As between an unbaptized baby in Limbo, and a blasphemy against the Sacrament of Baptism, give me the Limbo baby and let me keep the Sacrament of salvation!
Another point which I must make in distinction between the necessity of Baptism and the necessity of the Sacrament of Penance, for our salvation, is this: Baptism is wholly necessary, and the Sacrament of Penance is only provisionally necessary.
You never have to go to Confession unless you have committed a mortal sin. Were it to be that you never had committed a mortal sin in your whole life, you would never have needed to go to Confession in your whole life by virtue of any precept. It might be well for you to go to Confession, under this circumstance, by way of counsel, to confess your venial sins, and to help keep you from committing mortal sin, but there is no positive precept requiring anyone who has never committed a mortal sin to go to Confession at any time. With regard to the commandment of the Church by which we are required, under pain of mortal sin, to confess our sins at least once a year; we do not violate this commandment by failing to confess our sins if we have no mortal sins on our soul.
Theoretically, therefore, we could get into Heaven without ever going to Confession — if we never committed a mortal sin. There have been some saints who never committed a mortal sin in their whole lives. If they went to Confession, it was because they wanted to go, not because they were required to go by virtue of precept.
And so, with regard to the commandment to confess our sins once a year, and with regard to the general precept to confess our mortal sins, the proviso must always be added: in case you have committed a mortal sin.
With regard to Baptism, the outlook is completely different, We are not told we must be baptized in case we are in original sin. It is of the Faith that everyone of us was born in the state of original sin. We come into this world guilty enough, because of our birth, to need the waters of Baptism.
These waters of Baptism are so all-embracing in their necessity that we cannot even presume to go to Confession until this Baptism has been administered. And we are not allowed to tell in Confession any sin committed before we were baptized, because Baptism administered in the case of an adult washes away not only original sin — of which everyone is guilty — but also actual sins, in case there are any on the catechumen’s soul.
It is a strange thing that I should have to be at such pains in a country where there are so many Catholic colleges, and so much theological instruction in our seminaries, to have to elaborate and painfully explain this distinction between the necessity of the waters of Baptism, and the necessity of the absolution of a priest in the Sacrament of Penance.
Let us suppose that a man has elicited an act of perfect love of God before he has received Baptism. I am very much surprised if such acts of love are either practically possible, or in any sense too likely, at least since the days of Pentecost. I very much suspect acts of love of even being possible, unless the man is fontbound for Baptism as he is making them.
But, let us suppose an act of perfect love has occurred in a man’s soul. Can this man be said to be freed from original sin by this perfect act of love of God? He cannot, in the true and full sense. There has not been imprinted on his soul, by reason of this perfect act of love of God, the character which Baptism imprints, to seal him as redeemed, and outfit him for the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
Therefore, I should be inclined to say that this man, by his perfect act of love of God, was freed from one of the effects of original sin, namely, the absence of sanctifying grace, but was not freed from the obligation to go on and secure a title to the Beatific Vision.
Even Adam, in the state of original justice, was not entitled to the Beatific Vision. Adam, in the state of sanctifying grace, without original sin, fully sanctified as far as guiltlessness could go, was still required to observe God’s command not to eat of the fruit from a forbidden tree — before he could be saved!
It is not justice alone that saves us. It is justice, allied to the positive commands of God!
I will give you one more challenging answer to the muggy theological thinking of our day by our Liberal clergy, and then I promise you, my dear children, I shall go back to thinking about salvation in the ways of love, not just in the ways of logic.
Let us suppose a man receives Baptism for an evil purpose. Let us suppose he receives that Baptism sinfully. Let us suppose he receives that Baptism just to marry a dowager, just to make money, just to have his name written in the Baptismal book under the aegis of Christian protection, as thousands of Jews did in Spain.
As long as that man intends to receive Baptism, he is freed from original sin!
Does he go into a state of justification? He does not. The intention for which he received Baptism puts him immediately in the state of positive mortal sin. But the fact that he intended to receive Baptism, rids him of original sin. Were he then to go to Confession, the only sin he would be required to confess would be the sin of sacrilegious reception of Baptism, not the sin of having simply received it.
With regard to his other sins, they would have been blotted out forever, without confessing them. He might need now to add the attrition required for the forgiveness of sins, but he would not need to add the confession. And even this malefactor — even this Jew — were he later by Confession, to get into the state of sanctifying grace, would now without further Baptism, be entitled to receive the Blessed Eucharist. No unbaptized person has that right — no matter how justified he is by acts of perfect love — apart from the waters of redemption.
It is an old saying of the Church, and a true one, given to us by our Holy Mother in guileless childlike fashion, that the law of praying is the law of believing. Or, as it is put in Latin, Lex orandi est lex credendi.
Where better could I learn how the law of praying is the law of believing than in the central structural prayers of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? To show you how salvation-minded our Holy Mother the Church is, for those who have passed the catechumen stage and have been admitted through the doors of Baptism into the sanctuary of her love in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, here is the way our Holy Mother tells her priest to pray at the Offertory of every Mass, when he is offering the host to the Eternal Father as the bread which is soon to be transubstantiated into the Body of Jesus:
Receive, O holy Father, almighty and eternal God, this spotless host, which I, Thy unworthy servant, offer unto Thee, my living and true God, for mine own countless sins, offenses, and negligences, and for all here present; as also for all faithful Christians living and dead, that it may avail both for my own and their salvation unto life everlasting.
Did you notice here, my dear children, the intense salvational purpose of the Mass? Did you notice here how we pray to be included in its election? And did you not also clearly notice those who are excluded?
Here is how the priest, just before the Canon of the Mass, makes his prayer of oblation of the bread and wine, and of himself and of his washed hands:
Receive, O Holy Trinity, this oblation which we make to Thee in remembrance of the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in honor of Blessed Mary ever Virgin, of Blessed John the Baptist, the holy apostles Peter and Paul, and of all the saints that it may avail to their honor and our salvation: and, that they may vouchsafe to intercede for us in heaven, whose memory we celebrate on earth. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Do you see here who are those who still need to be saved? And do you also see those who are being congratulated for having been saved? And do you notice the Mother, the Precursor, and the key Apostles of Jesus, put in one little group as the pure fruits of the Saviour’s life and death? Are we not asking those who have been saved to save us who are still waiting for it?
There is only one Name by which we are saved, and it is the Name of Jesus. It was the Name which the angel told Our Lady and her most chaste spouse, Saint Joseph, that they should give to Jesus, not when He was born, but when He was circumcised — in the “baptism” of the Old Testament.
Briefly, my dear children, let me tell you how to handle this whole difficulty of justification and salvation, as it is presented to us by the confused minds who are pretending in our day that their own doubts make for good scholarship, and by this route, for good theology.
Our Lord said, “Unless a man be born of water and the Holy Ghost he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” This water means literally water, poured on you, sprinkled on you, or into which you are immersed. Our Lord can speak metaphorically, as must everyone who speaks at all, at times. But with regard to this water, He is not so speaking. Nothing in His utterance indicates this; nothing in the practice of the Church vouchsafes it; and nothing in the teachings of the Doctors or the definitions of the Popes, the behavior of the Apostles, or the manner of dying of the martyrs, will allow the water Christ refers to, to be other than the water of the kind He was immersed in the River Jordan, when His Father’s voice was saying, “This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17.)
When you hear a theologian saying, “I know that was what Christ said, but first we must understand what He means,” you know you have a sceptic on your hands, who is blasphemously trying to improve on the utterances of Jesus. He is implicitly telling you that Jesus gave us vague notions as to what Baptism meant, and that he (the theologian) is now going to clarify this matter.
He will then say to you, “Well, how were the souls in the Old Testament saved, before Baptism was instituted?”
You must reply to him, “There were no souls saved in the Old Testament. They had to wait in Limbo for the coming of Christ.”
He will then say, indignantly, “Well, how were they justified? Was it not without Baptism?”
And you will say, “Obviously, if Baptism had not yet been instituted!”
He will then say, “Well, cannot you be justified in the New Testament without Baptism?”
The answer to this is, “Suppose you can?”
He will then say, “If you die in the state of justification, without yet being baptized, are you not saved?”
You must answer him, “No, you are not. That is your reasoning in the matter. That is not Christ’s statement.”
And if he persists in saying, “Well, where does one go who dies in the state of justification which has been achieved without Baptism?” — insist that he does not go to Heaven.
And if he goes on to yell at you angrily, “Where are you going to send him — to Hell?”, say: “No, I am not going to send him to Hell because I am not the judge of the living and the dead. I am going to say what Christ said, ‘He cannot go into Heaven unless he is baptized by water.’”
It is important also to add, “I am making an act of Faith. You are not. I believe in Baptism because Christ revealed it, not because I have also figured it out by my own notion concerning the intrinsic requirements for justification.” The reasons for a thing being so, are not the true motives of Faith. Also I believe that the reasons against a thing being so, are not the true defenses of Faith. There is only one true defense for the Catholic Faith, namely: That is not what Christ said.
There is no one about to die in the state of justification whom God cannot secure Baptism for, and indeed, Baptism of Water. The schemes concerning salvation, I leave to the sceptics. The clear truths of salvation, I am preaching to you.
If the Liberal theologians are going to end up by handing me a group of justified people who have not yet been baptized, who have to go to Heaven because they cannot go to Hell, I am going to hand them right back to the Liberal theologians to take care of!
If I seem to be cruel in this matter, I ask them what greater form of seeming cruelty could one offer than that of a Catholic mother’s unbaptized child who died before the waters of Baptism reached his little head, and whose one reason for not now having the Beatific Vision is because he did not receive the waters of Baptism.
My own little brother was such a child, who died before he could be baptized. I have never believed that he has been saved; because I am trying to seek first the Kingdom of God and His justice, so as to save my own as yet unsaved soul.
Here is a brief catechism line-up, in case you would like to brush up on what I have been saying:
Q. Can anyone now be saved without Baptism of Water?
A. No one can be saved without Baptism of Water.
Q. Are the souls of those who die in the state of justification saved, if they have not received Baptism of Water?
A. No. They are not saved.
Q. Where do these souls go if they die in the state of justification but have not received Baptism of Water?
A. I do not know.
Q. Do they go to Hell?
Q. Do they go to Heaven?
Q. Are there any such souls?
A. I do not know! Neither do you!
Q. What are we to say to those who believe there are such souls?
A. We must say to them that they are making reason prevail over Faith, and the laws of probability over the Providence of God.
May I pause here to declare that I think, both with regard to the Sacrament of Baptism and the Sacrament of Penance, that the Liberal theologians, when it suits them, are making perfect acts of love of God altogether too easy for a fallen nature like ours.
I am not going to think it as difficult for a Catholic who has fallen into mortal sin but who, through his Faith, remembers his Holy Communions, his Blessed Mother, his past confessions, God’s rich forgivenesses in the sacraments, to make an act of perfect love, as for a catechumen, who has not had yet the benefit of one of God’s sanctifying sacraments. But the very fact that the Church requires every mortal sin committed to be confessed, whether one is perfectly sorry for it or not, shows the Church has a maternal suspicion of this perfect act of love of God obtaining forgiveness apart from the Sacrament of forgiveness instituted by Christ.
When I am dying, my dear children, if I tell you I am in the state of mortal sin (and I promise to do so if so it seems to me) do run for a priest, no matter how far you have to run! Do not just kneel down and teach me how to perfectly love without any sanctifying grace in my soul!
If the priest reaches me before I die, know that I have truly received the mercy of God. If the priest does not reach me, then wonder very much whether I have received it or not!
That is all that can be said for our unaided love. It is only when God’s own Love in Person comes down and inhabits us that our love can truly be called eternal. And the Holy Spirit is not interested in our love until the waters of regeneration have flowed on us. At the same Baptism where our Saviour was being washed with the waters of the Jordan by Saint John the Baptist, and where the Father’s voice was audible, and was heard saying, “This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Love of God, became visible as a dove.
Do not think, my dear children, that the waters of the world, which God took such great care in making and arranging in the initial days of creation, were not made for some supreme purpose. They were not made for mere reservoir reasons. They were made for redemptional reasons. They were meant to be the waters of salvation. And that is why, for all the monotonous simplicity that that water has in itself, God the Father has given it such variety and importance.
There is not one place in the world where you could go and say, even to the most ignorant native, “You must be baptized by water and the Holy Ghost,” and hear him reply, “What is water?”
Water is the greatest physical need our nature has by way of refreshment. When men lie on the hot sands of the desert, parched and feverish, they do not cry out for money or gold or diamonds or any fantastic forms of food. They cry for water.
Water is somehow the history of the world: in the Flood; in the passage of the Chosen People through the Red Sea; and in all journeys, discoveries and explorations. It is impossible to spoil water, for no matter how much filth you pour into it, you need only drop it on the earth and let it sink into the ground, and it will purify itself and return to you in the spring and fountain, as pure and virginal as it was originally created.
Indescribable as this essentially colorless, odorless, tasteless, and unshaped substance is, God lets it roam through our world in all manners and varieties so as to give interest and color and light to our thoughts and prepare them for the initial overture of salvation. A dehydrated mind cannot function physically, cannot think imaginatively, and cannot be saved in apostolic challenge.
“As the hart panteth after the fountains of water, so my soul panteth after Thee, O God!” (Ps. 41:2.)
Water supplies us with a whole reservoir of thoughts and words so that Christianity shall have a vocabulary which the world could never improve on. Water is the brook and the well and the spring and the fountain and the pond and the lake and the river and the gulf and the strait and the bay and the sea and the ocean. Yes, and water is the whirlpool and the eddy and the falls and the torrent and the geyser. It is surf, foam, breaker, wave, roller, brine, mist, dew. It is hail, snow, frost, slush, and sleet. It is ice, icicle, and iceberg; rainbow, cloud, and steam. The swimmer dives and splashes in it. The sailor travels on it. Water is what makes things damp, wet, and soggy; and it sprinkles the world, laves it, and rinses it, for there is never an end to what it can do.
Water is one of the world’s greatest natural mysteries. And when God’s only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, entered our world to talk our language and take us on our own terms, He used as the first instrument of our sanctification that which was most natural for us to know and understand. He saw water all around us and did not despise it. He turned it into the child’s Sacrament, the same Jesus who said, “Unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt. 18:3.) He took water and sanctified it with spiritual power. He transformed it into the Sacrament of Baptism, by the union of water and the Holy Ghost.
When Christ died on the Cross, and the centurion pierced His side with a spear, there flowed out blood and water. (John 19:34.) All Christ’s blood flowed out for our salvation. A little water followed, to indicate the simple requirement of Baptism. Imagine blood and water ever having any higher meaning in the whole of Holy Scripture than they have as they flow from the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Saint John, the beloved disciple, was the one who saw this blood and water flow from the heart of Our Saviour after He had died:
John 19:35. And he that saw it, hath given testimony; and his testimony is true. And he knoweth that he saith true; that you also may believe.
It is the same Beloved Disciple who concludes his beautiful revelation from God known as the Apocalypse, with these words and so ends the whole of Holy Scripture:
Apoc 22:1. And he showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb…
11. He that hurteth, let him hurt still: and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is just, let him be justified still: and he that is holy, let him be sanctified still…
14. Blessed are they that wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb: that they may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city.
15. Without are dogs, and sorcerers, and unchaste, and murderers, and servers of idols, and every one that loveth and maketh a lie.
16. I Jesus have sent my angel, to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the root and stock of David, the bright and morning star.
17. And the spirit and the bride say: Come. And he that heareth, let him say: Come. And he that thirsteth, let him come: and he that will, let him take the water of life, freely.
18. For I testify to every one that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book: If any man shall add to these things, God shall add unto him the plagues written in this book.
19. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from these things that are written in this book.
20. He that giveth testimony of these things, saith, Surely I come quickly: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
21. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.