July 28, 2008
vol 19, no. 210

What About the What-abouts?

The erosion of truth leads one to assume something that was never the intention of the source quoted. Such is the case when reading between the lines of Peter Dimond's Treatise in his vapid attempt to discredit, admidst all the evidence to the contrary, Baptism of Desire aut Baptism of Blood.

      "The necessity to respond to objections need not necessarily require that all of them be utterly routed, for by the very nature some may only be shown to be minority viewpoints or small details which may point to areas of further growth or development of their thesis. Still other objections may be found to have nothing but a probability influence. When, for example, something is spoken of as being certain "with a 98% probability" that automatically implies a 2% possibility that the finding is wrong, perhaps the samples that were used all happened to have been skewed, or some other reasons to question or doubt, though by no means reject the thesis proposed. For the duration of this series I will refer to such partial objections as being "erosionary." The other two types are the objection which can be totally answered and responded to, such that it basically just goes away, and at the other extreme the "smoking gun" yea verily objection that of itself is enough to blow the thesis utterly out of the water. Obviously objections of this last sort tend to be very rare in any academic endeavor."

    Dimond's Answer when square pegs don't fit his round holes: When all else fails, blame God!

      "In other words, it's all God's fault that there are heresies; God willed there to be heresies! God deliberately kept His Church from being too clear just so people could be confused and fall into heresy by the hundreds of millions! If so blatantly impious a thought could actually be the truth, then all those teeming hundreds of millions so misled through God's deliberate design could not in justice be damned, or if damned, they would therefore be damned unjustly. As with all heresies, one heresy leads to another, and then to another, and so on until the whole of Christian Revelation comes to be denied. The fact of taking such a shocking step can only be recognized as an admission of defeat on the part of the author of the Treatise. 'God strews all these misleading clues about all Creation just so as to test us,' is the last refuge of someone whose claims have just been proven false by the facts."

    Part 1 of this series discussed scholastic dishonesty in a general manner to show how quotes from the authoritative sources can be made to sound as if they have stated unreasonable propositions which they themselves obviously wouldn't. Parts 2 through 4 of this series introduced Peter Dimond's treatise, "Outside the Catholic Church There is Absolutely No Salvation," (hereinafter referred to as "the Treatise"), a leading attempt to gather a great deal of material about the question of Baptism of Blood (hereinafter referred to as "BOB") and Baptism of Desire (hereinafter referred to as "BOD"), and there, the standard dogmatic and doctrinal texts, Sacred Scripture, and the Church Fathers were explored to see if their declarations and statements really showed any reason to doubt the Catholic doctrines of BOB and BOD, and to expose some significant instances of scholastic dishonesty employed to make it seem as if they did.

    With the preparation of any thesis attempting to prove anything at all, there are bound to surface some objections that could be raised against it. Academic institutions (at least, those with any genuine standing) will subject its prospective Ph.D. and Th.D. students who have prepared a thesis, necessary for the degree, to a rigorous oral examination in which various sorts of challenges to their thesis are raised and which they must answer if they are to obtain the degree. To actually "say something" in the academic sense requires something much more than a mere statement of what is proposed. Evidences must be gathered, reasons propounded, and most of all, objections must all be responded to.

    The necessity to respond to objections need not necessarily require that all of them be utterly routed, for by the very nature some may only be shown to be minority viewpoints or small details which may point to areas of further growth or development of their thesis. Still other objections may be found to have nothing but a probability influence. When, for example, something is spoken of as being certain "with a 98% probability" that automatically implies a 2% possibility that the finding is wrong, perhaps the samples that were used all happened to have been skewed, or some other reasons to question or doubt, though by no means reject the thesis proposed. For the duration of this series I will refer to such partial objections as being "erosionary." The other two types are the objection which can be totally answered and responded to, such that it basically just goes away, and at the other extreme the "smoking gun" yea verily objection that of itself is enough to blow the thesis utterly out of the water. Obviously objections of this last sort tend to be very rare in any academic endeavor.

    In dealing with questions of interpreting Sacred Scripture (or Church Fathers for that matter), one can always find reasons for one position, and yet also other reasons for some contradictory position to the first. And with the Fathers this is only all the worse since unlike Scripture they are not infallible, and yet the Church necessarily relies heavily upon them for understanding how the early Church understood the Scriptures as written in those earliest days of the Church's life.

    When the Fathers are unanimous on some teaching then that fact alone is taken to mean that the teaching is yea verily infallible. There also can exist a "moral unanimity" in which a clear and vast majority of the Fathers take one position and only the smallest number of lesser lights only rather indirectly and casually take the alternate, but the definition of exactly how close this "moral unanimity" needs to be to being an "absolute unanimity" to count similarly is beyond the scope of what I can address here.

    I do however take particular exception to the sort of "reasoning" that says "well, here are 8 Fathers who say one thing, 6 others who say another, and 2 more that say yet something else, so now let's just see how many there are," as if deciding doctrinal issues were merely a matter of putting up the Fathers to a vote. The truly credible approach would be to look at what the Fathers actually have to say about the issue. Some may indeed merely state in passing some position or another with no explanation, but others will often do much more than that, for example stating their reasons why they take one position or another. Do different Fathers adduce different reasons to take the same position? And how do the reasons for one position stack up against the reasons for the other? And even such reasons as support some proposition, are those reasons consistent among themselves? As seen in a previous installment, it is one thing to say that St. Augustine weighed in, favoring Baptisms of blood and desire, as though all he said was "I believe in them" and then move on to other topics, but quite another to see some of what he actually has to say as to the scriptural, logical, and historical reasons why.

    Looking at the reasons why (where provided by the Father of the Church in question) might also provide some insight into why different positions might be taken and even perhaps show the Fathers to have not been in conflict at all but addressing different issues. The example of Saint Augustine speaking of the salvation of unbaptized catechumens who die prematurely can be easily reconciled with Saint John Chrysostom's view that catechumens who die as such for being tardy in their baptism would be damned. Once one sees what both Fathers have to say, then there (often) is no conflict. Saint Cyprian is often faulted for stating that heretical baptisms are invalid, but in the case of some heretical baptisms, namely those in which the basic formula is not sufficiently followed, they would indeed be invalid. If this had been the case with the particular heretics he had in mind when he said that, then he really would not have been considered wrong about it at all.

    One should be able to state a case and then have only some very few (if any) erosionary exceptions to the case, especially when it comes to something as arguable as the interpretation of Scripture. A rather choice and comical example comes from my days with the Watchtower Society. A few weeks after I met my first Jehovah's Witness, but four years before I joined it formally, they published a book titled "Is This Life All There Is?" In this book they present, in the fullest amount of detail as one finds in one spot, their views on life and death and the afterlife and the resurrection.

    Anyone familiar with the distinctive doctrines of the Watchtower Society or their history would have to know that one of their favorite doctrinal positions is to deny the fires of Hell. Interestingly, their history with this doctrine began with a certain Henry Grew from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania whose writings about the condition of the dead had impressed, in turn, a certain George Storrs, who went on to publish the Bible Examiner in Brooklyn, New York. Meanwhile, a young man named Charles Taze Russell was growing up with a certain obsession with the morbid thought of the damned burning in Hell. For a while in his teens he would scrawl graffiti on the walls of buildings and other places warning sinners to repent lest they fall into the fires of Hell. But in time he came across the writings of George Storrs (and indirectly also through others who had been influenced by George Storrs), and with a feeling of relief abandoned his belief. After all, it is admittedly a most unpleasant thought, but refusing to think about it, or to believe in it, won't make it go away, but instead only increase the chances of going there. George Storrs passed away in 1879, but by then Charles Russell had already made a name for himself among the various Adventist and Christadelphian circles, and he was just getting started, having already begun publishing his own magazine earlier that year, Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence, which continues to be published to this day, now as The Watchtower.

    From those days until now Charles Russell clear through to his following disciples today (the Jehovah's Witnesses, along with also a smattering of tiny "Russellite" groups), have done everything in their power to turn the hose on Hell. After all, the damned could not go to Heaven (for they would ruin it if they did), so what then would become of them? Their answer was that they simply cease to exist altogether (annihilation). And how does one go about proving annihilation except by attempting to "prove" that all the dead have ceased to exist, and can only return into existence if God calls them back from nonexistence? But how does one square a thing like this with Sacred Scripture? At least in the case of the Holy Trinity the Scriptural clues are so subtle and so indirect that any as simple and naïve reader as myself could (and did) miss them altogether on one's first reading of the Bible. They had no trouble selling their denial of the Holy Trinity, for I had already independently read the Bible for myself and saw no such thing in it (as I said, the clues are subtle - blink and you miss them - I did). But that the damned would be sustained in a place called Hell and kept suffering there without end was so woven throughout the warp and woof of Sacred Scripture (and especially the words of our Lord) as to be impossible to regard their denials of same as being what the Bible itself must be teaching. In this case I yielded to their false comfort that "it really isn't happening" because I found it unpleasant to believe exactly as Charles Russell had, but without such a motivation to believe their position, the Scriptural reasons adduced to "prove" it are really quite inadequate to the task. So, what were those Scriptural reasons?

    There really are only two passages of Sacred Scripture that lend themselves directly to a denial that the damned can suffer any torment: Psalm 145:4 (146:4 in most contemporary Bibles) which reads "His spirit shall go forth, and he shall return into his earth: in that day all their thoughts shall perish," and Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 which reads "For the living know that they shall die, but the dead know nothing more, neither have they a reward any more: for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love also, and their hatred, and their envy are all perished, neither have they any part in this world, and in the work that is done under the sun." In their book, after introducing these two Scriptures and surrounding them with a sea of legerdemain about the soul being nothing more than the body and the spirit being nothing more than something like electricity, they proceed in earnest to explain away Hell as mentioned in Sacred Scripture.

    Of course, there are exceptions to such a teaching as these two Scriptures would seem to be saying, certain other Scriptures that indicate the contrary. What was Charles Russell, or the Watchtower Society today, to do about them? One stratagem would be to treat each such Scripture that disagrees with their interpretation as though it were some single, isolated exception, the only reason that might cast doubt on their interpretation, but which is outvoted by the two Scriptures given above (and the many chapters of legerdemain) and therefore eliminated as any cause to question their doctrine. Then one just ignores the cumulative effect of the Scriptures that so indicate the wrongness of their position, so as to conceal how they would in fact be significantly "outvoted" by what is in fact quite a lengthy list of Scriptures. The reader, in reading along, might then just follow along, whatever doubts they might have from this cumulative effect being altogether unarticulated and unaddressed.

    In one chapter, they ask, Is Hell Hot? After all, Sacred Scripture mentions Hell quite a number of times (using the Hebrew word Sheol (שׁאולָ) and the Greek word Hades (άδης), which do seem to be at least roughly equivalent), and although some saintly Patriarchs mention going there (actually to the Limbo of the Fathers), most descriptions of it don't sound very pleasant. But no, "the dead are unconscious" they chant, again and again trying to convince themselves, and what's more, the patriarch Jacob once mentioned going there (Genesis 37:35). Well OK, that's one, and for the bit about Patriarch Jacob going there, as we Catholics know, there did exist the Limbo of the Fathers.

    Having "answered" that objection, the next chapter addresses another question that comes up. What about the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)? For the Bible mentions the Rich Man (tradition gives him the name of Dives), and that "the rich man also died: and he was buried in hell. And lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom: And he cried, and said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame." All the Watchtower writers can do with this is claim that it is "only" a parable, an illustration used to make some point, but in no way meant to be an actual occurrence.

    Well, not so OK, but admittedly if this had been the only Scriptural reason to believe in a burning Hell, and especially if there were substantive other reasons to believe that Sacred Scripture denies the existence of any Hellfire, well maybe, just barely possibly, perhaps. And once again they chant to themselves "the dead are unconscious." But of course they still have not answered why our Lord would have used such a graphic image unless His audience would have already believed in such a thing, or else that He intended to convey the impression that such a thing exists.

    But their troubles are not as yet done, for yet another chapter is needed to address yet another question: What about the fires of Hell spoken of for those damned, this time based on the Greek word Gehenna (γέεννα)? Well, Gehenna was named after a garbage dump just outside Jerusalem where all their garbage was gathered and burned. But even so those who do wrong and are condemned by God are cast into it alive, never to come out. Yet another chanting of "the dead are unconscious" covers this, though the use of that Scriptural statement as a refutation must already be beginning to wear a bit thin by now. And yet still, there is more.

    What about this next exception to their doctrine? One can almost see the beads of sweat on the brows of the writers of the Watchtower book as they feel forced to allocate still another chapter to address yet one more "fire and brimstone" Scriptural passage. The next chapter is introduced with "How would you react if, now that you know what the Bible says about the unconscious condition of the dead, you were to find a Bible text mentioning a place of torment? Would you reason that this justifies ignoring all the other scriptures and holding on to the idea that there may still be a possibility of conscious existence continuing after death? Or, would you undertake a careful examination of the context to determine just what the text might really mean and how it harmonizes with the rest of the Bible?"

    Well excuse me, but what "rest of the Bible"? All those passages that mention Hell (Sheol/Hades) and the rich man therein? Oops, can't use those! All those passages that mention the Hell (Gehenna) of fire for the damned? Oops, can't use those! Then maybe Psalm 145:4 (or 146:4, depending on which Bible you use) and Ecclesiastes 9:5-6? But both of these Scriptures are in the Old Testament Poetical books, which could more reflect the mood of the writer than any attempt to expound a doctrine. And the Psalm states that the man's thoughts (plans, designs, schemes, ambitions) have all come to a final end when he dies. But does that actually mean that he himself also comes to a final end, ceasing to exist? And the Church is not unaware of Ecclesiastes, since a footnote to this passage in the Douay Bible reads: "Chap. 9. Ver. 5. Know nothing more. Viz., as to the transactions of this world, in which they have now no part, unless it be revealed to them; neither have they any knowledge or power of doing any thing to secure their eternal state, (if they have not taken care of it in their lifetime:) nor can they now procure themselves any good, as the living always may do, by the grace of God." So even what passages the Watchtower had found useful for their claims do nevertheless admit of some other explanation and therefore can hardly be regarded as definitive as a defense of their teachings.

    So, what difficult Scriptural passage is introduced with this brow sweating passage? The Apocalypse (Revelation), chapters 19 and 20 mentions a pool (or "lake") of fire and brimstone, into which the Beast and False Prophet were "cast alive into," and where they "shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever," and into which "death and hell" would be cast, and which is "the second death." So by this time, their chant of "the dead are unconscious" becomes more of a scream as they can only try to stick their fingers in their ears and drown out the plain and clearly intended sense of the Scriptures. By this point the Psalm and Ecclesiastes passages must seem terminally thin as refutations of Hellfire and brimstone. Individually, any one of these painful Bible passages might have been "explained away" by resorting to the above-cited passages in Psalms and Ecclesiastes, but cumulatively, it is quite impossible.

    And the above exceptions introduced above don't even address yet further Scriptures that allude to Hell and conscious torment or confinement therein. For example, what about yet another Greek word for "the lower hell," Tartarus (τάρταρος, 2 Peter 2:4), wherein the fallen spirits are imprisoned? And what about numerous passages that mention weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12, 13:42, 13:50, 22:13, 24:51, and 25:30)? And what about the worm that never dies (Mark 9:44, 9:46, 9:48)? And what about those who adored the beast and his image, and the harlot, whose "smoke of their torments shall ascend up for ever and ever" (Apocalypse 14:11, 19:3)? And we haven't even yet mentioned the fact that "Scriptures" supposedly refuted above are not mere individual passages but whole categories of Scriptures, with Sheol occurring 66 times in the Hebrew, Hades occurring 10 times in the Greek, and Gehenna also occurring 12 times in the Greek? However thin the thread of "the dead are unconscious" might well have worn with the inclusion of the pool (or "lake") of fire and brimstone, the bare bringing up of these yet further passages would have snapped it altogether, so they go completely unmentioned in their book, Is This Life All There Is? though some do get covered in other Watchtower literature, presumably to be read only once a person has swallowed and accepted the above denials.

    Those Scriptures that show their teaching to be not in accord with Sacred Scripture might admittedly be of only, individually, of an "erosionary" value, but taken together they constitute a clear consensus, sufficient to show that Sacred Scripture quite pointedly does speak of a most unpleasant and eternal future for the damned, no matter what the Watchtower Society says. How far easier it is to explain the couple Scriptures that seemed to suggest that the dead might cease to exist, than it would be to explain away the many, many Scriptures that strongly indicate the contrary!

The Same Applies to Feeneyism

    In Peter Dimond's Treatise, "Outside the Catholic Church There is Absolutely No Salvation," one similarly finds that there are quite a large number of objections to his denial of Baptisms of Blood and Desire (BOB and BOD) which he is forced to admit, for they are too well-known to ignore. Again, if it had only been one or two such objections they might reasonably have been explained away and rightly ignored, even where one would have to admit a certain erosionary value to them. But the number is really quite large, and not all of them can even be addressed in the Treatise, such as it is. Every one of them is a "what-about" situation that introduces yet another reason to reject the claim being made in the Treatise.

    The Treatise ostensibly allocates two sections to addressing these objections, 16. Major Objections, and 17. Some Other Objections. I begin here principally with the objections addressed in Section 16, but bringing in some from Section 17 as they tie in to these.

    The Council of Trent itself has always been one of the biggest punches in the stomach for those who would deny BOB and BOD, for it states in no uncertain terms:

Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Sess. 6, Chap. 4: "In which words is given a brief description of the justification of the sinner, as being a translation from that state in which man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace and of the adoption of the sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our savior. This translation however cannot, since the promulgation of gospel, be effected except through the laver of regeneration or its desire, as it is written: Unless a man is born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

    That is clearly meant to be an explicit reference to the laver of regeneration (water baptism, which as such must always use actual and literal water) or its desire (that inner love of God, contrition for sins, and seeking to join the Church Militant by water baptism and to be in subjection thereto on the basis of which a soul would obtain a Baptism of Blood if martyred, or a Baptism of Desire if otherwise prematurely dead for other reasons). In short, the Council Fathers were quite aware of these doctrines and concerned that they should be represented in the very text of the Council. One would think that such a statement, alone, would be enough to make anyone who denies BOB or BOD realize that in so doing they place themselves outside the Church. So the question is, what in the world did the author of the Treatise do to try to explain this definitive text away?

    His first move, no doubt to try to cozy up, however briefly, to Catholics, is to use a little guilt by association, namely by pointing out the obvious that this passage of Trent provides no basis for claiming that all sorts of "Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, etc. can be saved who don't desire water baptism." Factually true, but immaterial to the question of BOB and BOD. But there really is no way to link the Catholic doctrines of BOB and BOD with the heresy that everyone who thinks they are doing fine, by whatever religion or none at all, are therefore to be saved, or that Hell is empty, etc.

    Needless to say, I am buying none of this. A valid BOD or BOB would require at least an earnest seeking after God, to do His will whatever that may be (to what extent the person knows and understands), and while there would be room for this love and seeking to be ignorant of the requirement for water baptism, this saving love and seeking absolutely cannot be the leastways opposed to one's getting baptized under any circumstances. One might as well say that because we say that the Church has permitted husbands and wives to come together physically so as to make children we are thereby saying that the Church condones fornication, homosexuality, masturbation, and every other unnatural perversion imaginable, or unimaginable. So don't give me any of this "99% of those who quote this passage reject even what they claim it is teaching." I don't care what "99%" do, only what Catholics do who are following the Magisterium.

    His next move is to replace the phrase "except through" with "without." ("This translation however cannot … be effected except through the laver of regeneration or its desire…"). Like that makes the slightest bit of difference (it makes none). One needs "the laver of regeneration or its desire" in order to be justified. Without that they cannot be justified, so they cannot be justified except through that. I must confess I don't know what the author of the Treatise was intending to do with this supposed difference, since instead of explaining what relevance it could have he instead launches directly into his next move.

    Much is made of the point that John 3:5 is to be read "as it is written." He has turned what is obviously nothing more than a Scriptural reference into some way he is claiming the Scripture is supposed to be read. But this passage of the Council of Trent is making no such demand. However other Papal declarations do make it clear that the passage is to be taken "as written," which is to say that the Sacrament of Baptism can only be performed using actual water. But in point of fact, all Scripture is to be taken "as written," for Scripture is inerrant (infallible). The Church therefore is mandating no special "way" of reading John 3:5 that does not equally apply to all other Scriptures, only pointing out that this reading applies to this Scripture as well (this being placed in the Council of Trent to address certain heresies present then that denied it).

    So go ahead and read John 3:5 exactly "as written," and then having done that, read John 6:53 the same way (actually receiving the Eucharist is fully and exactly as required as actually being baptized in water), Matthew 10:32 (whoever professes Christ before Man, Christ shall profess before the Father, with no requirement that he be baptized in water), and Matthew 16:25 (whoever loses his life for Christ's sake shall find it, with no requirement that he be baptized in water). All of these Scriptures are equally meant to be read exactly "as written," and they are neither in conflict with each other nor with any particle of Catholic doctrine. Every heresy is born of someone taking some isolated Scripture out of context, lifting it up to the status of some "absolute" against which nothing, even other Scriptures with other things to say about the topic, can even be taken into account. Recall how the Watchtower Society similarly attempts to give Ecclesiastes 9:5 a similar status as against numerous Scriptures that indicate an afterlife for all (including an unpleasant one for the wicked).

    The next move is to attempt to redefine the "or" to an "and." ("This translation however cannot … be except through the laver of regeneration or its desire…"). His first illustration is not at all helpful to his cause: "This shower cannot take place without water or the desire for one." A shower can perfectly well take place without a person's desire for one, as anyone who has ever been caught out in the rain can readily attest. And for that matter, in a complete absence of water, the desire for a shower can easily be met by using other cleansing agents (such as those "handy-wipes"). Therefore, one does not need both water and the desire for a shower to get clean. His second illustration seems closer to his purposes since indeed, "There cannot be a wedding without a bride or a groom." But in this case the proper wording would be "There cannot be a wedding without a bride and a groom," or "There cannot be a wedding without a bride or without a groom." The illustrations featured in the Treatise from Papal declarations similarly do nothing to advance his cause:

Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, "Cantate Domino," 1441, ex cathedra: "The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans but also Jews [aut] or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life…

Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Sess. 6, Introduction: "… strictly forbidding that anyone henceforth may presume to believe, preach or teach, otherwise than is defined and declared by this present decree."

Pope Pius IV, Council of Trent, Sess. 21, Chap. 2: "Therefore holy mother Church… has decreed that it be considered as a law, which may not be repudiated or be changed at will without the authority of the Church."

    The author of the Treatise would actually seem to be recommending replacing the "or" within each of the above three quotes (as well as in the one he objects to) with an "and." Let's see what would happen if this substitution were to be made. In the first quote it would now be saying that a person would have to be (simultaneously) a pagan, a Jew, a heretic, and a schismatic in order to be someone who "cannot share in eternal life." I'd like to see how anyone but a theological contortionist would be able to manage that! With the second quote, it would evidently be OK to do any one or two of "believe, preach or teach" otherwise, so long as you didn't do all three ("believe, preach and teach" otherwise). With the case of the third quote it would have to be OK to either change or repudiate the law as long as you didn't do both. Can there be any real question as to why the standard translations of these papal declarations have always used the word "or"? Any single one of the alternatives listed with the "or" alone is enough to be what is being spoken of, and similarly the laver of regeneration or its desire is enough to achieve justification.

    In pages 281-282, the Treatise mentions that Fr. Feeney (in obvious agreement with the Council of Trent) had to accept that those with a desire to be baptized (and presumably all that that would imply) could also be justified. (Fr.'s only "out" had been the patently absurd claim that just because a person is justified, and even dies such, persevering faithfully to the end, he still would not be necessarily saved, since he wouldn't be saved if he hadn't been baptized in water.) Why would Fr. Feeney have held to such an interpretation of the Council of Trent, unless, being trained in Latin as a priest he knew how to read (and had read) in the original Latin, and with the understanding of one acquainted with the language, what it really says and means. Can the writer of the Treatise claim to be a superior Latinist to Fr. Feeney (or any other priest for that matter)? We need not wait long for the answer. The Treatise continues with "an interesting email regarding this passage of Trent."

    Uncertain of what the true meaning of the Latin word "aut" means, he emailed a Latin Scholar to ask how this word should be translated, and whether it could be translated as "and" or must be translated as "or" (the nature of his question as framed made it clear to the Latin Scholar that he favored "and" over "or"). The bare fact of his having to do such a thing shows him to be no expert Latinist himself, and his attempts to pontificate upon the details of a language with which he is this unfamiliar (since he clearly does not trust any of the existing translations) can only be described as being embarrassing at best. The Latin Scholar responds:

This is not easy! It is possible to make sense of it in both ways, with aut as 'or' and as 'and'. "Aut as 'or' is more common, but here the interpretation depends on whether you think that the desire for baptism is enough on its own or whether the phrase signifies that you need the desire as well as the sacrament itself. I'll leave it to you to decide!

    I wonder how many Latin Scholars he had to write to in order to get a response even this accommodating! The Scholar says that it "depends on whether you think…" and "I'll leave it to you to decide!" That hardly qualifies as a ringing endorsement of his unique translation of the passage in Trent. The very tone of this response seems to say "since you really don't care what it says I am not about to be the one to attempt to undeceive you; go ahead and believe whatever you want since nothing I say can change your mind." Even so, the "hint" is still given, "Aut as 'or' is more common." In other words, "aut" is "or," unless you really want it to be something else, and then it can be whatever you want.

    In point of fact however, Trent has much more to say about BOB and BOD than merely this one single phrase. If it were only this one phrase, and if one could seriously claim that the translators of Trent (even pre-Vatican II!) are all wrong or sloppy in their Latin, only then could this point be reduced from the category of being a "smoking gun" yea verily affirmation of the Church doctrines of BOB and BOD to being merely significantly erosionary. But it is not the only mention in Trent. Let's see what else Trent has to say:

Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Sess. 6, Chap. 6: "Now, they [the adults] are disposed to that justice when, aroused and aided by divine grace, receiving faith by hearing, they are moved freely toward God, believing to be true what has been divinely revealed and promised, especially that the sinner is justified by God by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; and when, understanding themselves to be sinners, they, by turning themselves from the fear of divine justice, by which they are salutarily aroused, to consider the mercy of God, are raised to hope, trusting that God will be propitious to them for Christ's sake; and they begin to love Him as the fountain of all justice, and on that account are moved against sin by a certain hatred and detestation, that is, by that repentance that must be performed before baptism; finally, when they resolve to receive baptism, to begin a new life and to keep the commandments of God. Of this disposition it is written: He that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and is a rewarder to them that seek him; and, Be of good faith, son, thy sins are forgiven thee; and, The fear of the Lord driveth out sin; and, Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; and, Going, therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; finally, Prepare your hearts unto the Lord."

    This above-quoted section is subtitled "On the Manner of Preparation," for it speaks to that period before a person, in the process of converting to the Faith and Church, actually receives the Sacrament of Baptism. It describes him as having all three Theological Virtues of faith, hope, and love, and also repentance from sin. It also affirms the Scriptural point (from Hebrews 11:6) that God rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Can we take that Scripture "as written" (as the author of the Treatise loves to harp) or is this Scriptural passage mere flower-talk? Is God supposed to "reward" the catechumen who dies as such (whether as martyrdom or other death), who has manifested faith in what he has heard from the Church, hope in his salvation, and love for the God of all true justice, and who has contrition for his sins, by throwing him into fires of Hell for the "heinous crime" of not having as yet been baptized in water? The Council continues, thus:

Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Sess. 6, Chap. 7: "This disposition or preparation is followed by justification itself, which is not only a remission of sins but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man through voluntary reception of the grace and gifts whereby an unjust man becomes just and from being an enemy becomes a friend, that he may be an heir according to hope of life everlasting. The causes of this justification are: the final cause is the glory of God and of Christ and life everlasting; the efficient cause is the merciful God who washes and sanctifies gratuitously, signing and anointing with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance; the meritorious cause is His most beloved only begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when we were enemies, for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, merited for us justification by His most holy passion on the wood of the cross and made satisfaction for us to God the Father; the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which no man was ever justified; finally, the single formal cause is the justice of God, not that by which He Himself is just, but that by which He makes us just, that, namely, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and not only are we reputed but we are truly called and are just, receiving justice within us, each one according his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to everyone as He wills, and according to each one's disposition and cooperation. For though no one can be just except he to whom the merits of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet this takes place in that justification of the sinner, when by the merit of the most holy passion, the charity of God is poured forth by the Holy Ghost in the hearts of those who are justified and inheres in them; whence man through Jesus Christ, in whom he is ingrafted, receives in that justification, together with the remission of sins, all these infused at the same time, namely, faith, hope and charity."

    In this section, the Council of Trent associates the reception of justification not with water baptism itself necessarily, but with that "voluntary reception of the grace and gifts" which normally would indeed be water baptism. The use of this more general phrase is an allowance for the possibility that it might alternatively occur through the instrumentality of a Baptism of Blood or of Desire, so long as the person is voluntarily willing to receive the grace and gifts himself, or his life is sacrificed for them.

    This is shown again later in this quote in that it is "faith" and not the "sacrament of baptism," without which no man was ever justified. For if no man could be justified without receiving the sacrament of baptism himself personally, then this passage should have mentioned it so, saying something like "the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without either of which no man was ever justified. It is faith that most counts here, and the previous section regarding preparation for baptism shows that even the new catechumen is believed by the Church to have faith. He also has hope and love, which shows in those cases of the infusion of the gift of the Holy Ghost operative in a soul even before water baptism. And yet even here the Council of Trent is not through speaking of this subject:

Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Sess. 6, Canon 9: "If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema."

Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Sess. 7, Canon 4 (Canons on the Sacraments in General): If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary for salvation but are superfluous, and that without them or without the desire of them men obtain from God through faith alone the grace of justification, though all are not necessary for each one, let him be anathema."

    In the first of these two quotes, though the Protestant notion of salvation by "faith alone" is explicitly condemned, but notice that it does not recommend faith plus water baptism to be saved, but rather faith plus a disposition to cooperate with grace (which disposition would bring one to water baptism in the ordinary course of things).

    The second quote mentions again the "desire for" the sacraments (including baptism) as did the other quote, and once again all translators have used the word "or" where (no doubt) the Treatise would have us read "and." It is quite obviously building on the theme of the earlier statement that "This translation however cannot … be effected except through the laver of regeneration or its desire…," and again reiterating the Trent Father's teaching that the Sacraments, or desire for same (where legitimately not possible or available) are each necessary and sufficient.

    This link is conspicuously ignored in some five pages full of various sorts of legerdemain to try to explain it away and reduce its meaning to a nullity. Indeed, the Treatise separates the discussion of this passage by removing it to the next section, as though it were to be treated as something different and separate, thus showing an attempt to diminish the cumulative effect of the two passages from Trent. Interestingly the Treatise in this case does not even attempt to push the unique translation of the Latin on the reader, but instead takes the tack of pretending that the Council of Trent sought only to condemn error instead of also teaching truth.

    The question is put forth as to why the Council would stress repeatedly that such desire for Penance would substitute for the Sacrament where it isn't available, the same isn't done for Baptism? But the answer is perfectly trivial and unremarkable for all that. The Council was specifically addressed to the various Protestant heresies being circulated at that time. The Council Fathers could only address the things actually heard, or reasonably predicted by them, which latter category leaves much room for Protestants to cook up many absurd and heretical claims in the long years after Trent closed, and which Trent itself would therefore have failed to address to such a degree.

    Even so, justification by the desire for baptism is mentioned in the above quoted passages. These mentionings may have been rather glancing, but there is no room to doubt that the Trent Fathers believed and taught Baptism of Blood and Desire. All the "spin" in the world is not going to completely eliminate the plain sense of the text, which is precisely why these objections from the Council of Trent are raised again and again against the denials of BOB and BOD. The attempts to explain away these passages from the Council of Trent, as contained in the Treatise, are frankly creative, but have no sound basis in any valid textual hermeneutic. They are exactly on the level of the Watchtower's attempt to explain away the Rich Man suffering in Hades as a mere parable. If such a reading were actually meant to be what was being said at Trent, where are the theological commentators regarding the Council of Trent who favor such interpretations? Surely, there would have to have been at least a few, or at least one, prior to the rise of this anti-BOB and anti-BOD error/heresy of the mid-twentieth Century! But no such commentators can be found, clear up until the Treatise itself, since even Fr. Feeney himself never subscribed to them.

    Let's look at how known and established theologians read this passage from the Council of Trent (these are three of Fr. Anthony Cekada's famous "25 theologians"):

Dr. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pages 356 and 357, under the subheading "2. Substitutes for Sacramental Baptism": "The council of Trent teaches that justification from original sin is not possible 'without the washing unto regeneration or the desire for the same' (sine lavacro regenerationis aut cius voto). D 796. Cf. D 847, 388, 413."

The Right Reverend Monsignor Joseph Pohle, Phd., D. D., The Sacraments - A Dogmatic Treatise, pages243-244, Thesis II: In adults the place of Baptism by water can be supplied in case of urgent necessity by the so-called Baptism of desire.: "This proposition may be qualified as 'doctrina catholica.' Proof. The Baptism of desire (baptismus flaminis) differs from the Baptism of water (baptismus fluminis) in the same way in which spiritual differs from actual Communion. If the desire for Baptism is accompanied by perfect contrition, we have the so-called baptismus flaminis, which forthwith justifies the sinner, provided, of course, that the desire is a true votum sacramenti, i. e. that it implies a firm resolve to receive the Sacrament as soon as opportunity offers. The Tridentine Council pronounces anathema against those who assert 'that the Sacraments of the New Law are not necessary for salvation, but superfluous, and that without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain God through faith alone the grace of justification.'"

Ad. Tanquerey, A Manual of Dogmatic Theology, pages 228-229, under the subheading "2° baptism of desire or of perfect charity": 1021 Thesis: Contrition or perfect charity, along with at least an implicit desire for Baptism, supplies for the forces of Baptism of water as to remission of sins. This is certain… Proof of Thesis from Tradition. The Council of Trent has summarized this in these words: 'Since the promulgation of the Gospel (the translation to the state of grace) cannot be effected without the laver of regeneration or a desire for this'."

    It should be obvious that each of these theologians thought that these passages in Trent declare in no uncertain terms that the laver of regeneration (water Baptism) or a desire for same was enough to effect justification. The author of the Treatise seems to think that he has some "inside track" on the true (but long hidden) meaning of the Council of Trent. Now, let's look at one such creative attempt at how the Treatise would have us misread the text:

Consider the following canon that I have made up: "If anyone says that the Virgin Mary possesses the Queenship of Heaven without God's permission or her being worthy of it, but assumes this Queenship by usurpation alone, let him be anathema."

    This kind of "illustration" is useless, no better than (and in fact not as good as) this one I just made up in response:

If you think I am going to permit you to cross this bridge without riding in a car, or at least a bicycle, you got another thing coming.

    Even less is to be gained from the attempt to parallel the following three quotes:

Pope Pius IV, "Iniunctum nobis," Nov. 13, 1565, ex cathedra: "I also profess that there are truly and properly seven sacraments of the New Law instituted by Jesus Christ our Lord, and necessary for the salvation of mankind, although all are not necessary for each individual…"

Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council I, Sess. 2, Profession of Faith, ex cathedra: "I profess also that there are seven sacraments of the new law, truly and properly so called, instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ and necessary for salvation, though each person need not receive them all."

Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 7, Can. 4, On the Sacraments in General, ex cathedra: "If anyone says that the sacraments of the new law are not necessary for salvation but are superfluous, and that people obtain the grace of justification from God without them or a desire for them, by faith alone, though all are not necessary for each individual: let him be anathema."

    The failure of the first two of these quotes to mention "a desire for them" is a damning indictment of the claims made in the Treatise that both the laver of regeneration AND the desire thereof are necessary for justification (or eventual salvation), for something of that scale of importance would apply to all persons, and to leave out a thing like that would be like forgetting to tell people that they should get baptized. On the other hand, if either the laver of regeneration OR the desire thereof alone is what is necessary for justification (or eventual salvation), then the omission of that rather rare and minor exception ("the desire thereof") fits right in with the general policy that applies to virtually all of us virtually all the time. In short, such a reading of Trent is unprecedented, unwarranted, and unreasonable.

    One more theological "opinion" is of relevance here, and I have saved this best for last, and that is what the Council Fathers from Trent believed, in more detail than that presented at the Council itself. I refer here to their beliefs as taught within the Catechism of the Council of Trent:

Catechism of the Council of Trent, Ordinarily They Are Not Baptized At Once, p. 179: "On adults, however, the Church has not been accustomed to confer the Sacrament of Baptism at once, but has ordained that it be deferred for a certain time. The delay is not attended with the same danger as in the case of infants, which we have already mentioned; should any unforeseen accident make it impossible for adults to be washed in the salutary waters, their intention and determination to receive Baptism and their repentance for past sins, will avail them to grace and righteousness."

    With this, the men delegated by the Council of Trent to prepare this Catechism expressed a clear and explicit belief that "their intention and determination to receive Baptism and their repentance for past sins, will avail them to grace and righteousness." As a result of this belief (obviously much more widely held than within the Council Fathers, or even the preparers of the Catechism), the Church has typically allowed baptism (for adults) to be deferred for a time, while instruction and preparation take place and the candidates are given a chance to prove themselves. The Church has always historically done this because this "delay is not attended with the same danger as in the case of infants," who, unlike adults, would indeed require water baptism to be saved.

    The paragraph therefore shows more than merely that the Council Fathers of Trent believed in BOB and BOD, it also points to a long-held practice throughout the Church that again reflects that exact same belief. This aspect of this quote, though the words of the quote themselves are given, is altogether ignored as the Treatise rapidly launches into an attempt to discredit the Catechism of the Council of Trent as an authoritative source of doctrine. Now let's look at that attempt. The Treatise gives the following quote (extracted from the preface of the Catechism) as shown here:

Catechism of the Council of Trent- Fifteenth printing, TAN Books, Introduction XXXVI: "Official documents have occasionally been issued by Popes to explain certain points of Catholic teaching to individuals, or to local Christian communities; whereas the Roman Catechism comprises practically the whole body of Christian doctrine, and is addressed to the whole Church. Its teaching is not infallible; but it holds a place between approved catechisms and what is de fide."

    So, as the Treatise would have us believe, the Roman Catechism (Catechism of the Council of Trent) is merely some "fallible" document, certainly not "de fide," and as such can be dismissed without further comment (though comment is provided which we will get to presently). But as has taken place before, this quote carefully subtracts out some other material from the immediate context that shows that such a reduction of its reliability is not at all called for. If anything, it almost says the opposite:

Catechism of the Council of Trent- Fifteenth printing, TAN Books, Introduction XXXVI: "Doctor John Hagan, the present Rector of the Irish College in Rome, writes thus: 'The Roman Catechism is a work of exceptional authority. At the very least it has the same authority as a dogmatic encyclical, - it is an authoritative exposition of Catholic doctrine given forth, and guaranteed to be orthodox by the Catholic Church and her supreme head on earth. The compilation of it was the work of various individuals; but the result of their combined labors was accepted by the Church as a precious abridgment of dogmatic and moral theology. Official documents have occasionally been issued by Popes to explain certain points of Catholic teaching to individuals, or to local Christian communities; whereas the Roman Catechism comprises practically the whole body of Christian doctrine, and is addressed to the whole Church. Its teaching is not infallible; but it holds a place between approved catechisms and what is de fide'."

    Given that it is now clear that the authority of the Catechism is at least on par with any dogmatic Papal encyclical, what does this quote show it to mean by saying that it is "not infallible," but only someplace between that of approved catechisms and that which is de fide? The quote also explains that.

    The Catechism is an abridgement of all of dogmatic and moral theology. By the very nature of the thing, an abridgement means that much information has to be left out for sheer lack of space, and so therefore the treatment of some topics may be somewhat simplified. Such a simplification even shows itself regarding the topic of this series, in that the ability of the right dispositions for preparation for water baptism to save in the event of unforeseen death, have not been broken out into the long-established distinction between BOB and BOD. Not that the Catechism would actually contain anything that is incorrect, but given its limited size it obviously must pass over much knowledge in silence.

    After this quote, the Treatise makes one other attempt to sell the idea that the Catechism is fallible and unreliable before taking the rather odd step (given these attempts to impeach the Catechism as a doctrinal source) of citing it as an authority. The quote given merely shows yet another example of the sort of thing that can occur from this abridgement that is taking place, and the "error" is explained away rather readily (though slightly incorrectly) within the Treatise itself:

Catechism of the Council of Trent, Tan Books, p. 243: "For the Eucharist is the end of all the Sacraments, and the symbol of unity and brotherhood in the Church, outside of which none can attain grace."

    Since it is a matter of doctrine that actual graces can and do occur outside the Church, presumably this passage of the Catechism is meant to refer to sanctifying Grace which only comes from inside the Church (even where it may extend to some catechumen who is as yet outside the Church). But then comes the claim that it is all God's fault:

Nevertheless, God allowed the Catechism to err in this manner because it is not infallible in everything it teaches.

Dove-tailing into Predestination Heresy

    This opens up an issue about a far more serious error, but more will be said about this error later. Another error invariably introduced by those who deny BOB and BOD is the absurd claim that Providence somehow always manages to arrange for any true and sincere soul to be baptized in water, and that even the saints recognized by the Church has having not been baptized had in fact been baptized secretly. The argument is made that God, in His Providence, could easily arrange for matters to work out this way so that, in case someone really doesn't get baptized in water, well that's because God already knew that their conversion and repentance and so forth was only a sham.

    The point is made (with Papal quotes, but I won't bother repeating them here) that God knows the end from the beginning, nothing escapes His notice, that all proceeds in accord with His greatest Will, and so forth, and then also the fact that God does not command the impossible. These points themselves are quite true of course. One does not obtain from them however the least reason to believe that God will always ensure an opportunity for water baptism to each and every soul. In not commanding the impossible, God may either provide for a miraculous baptism (as has occurred on rare occasions in the lives of certain saints), or else He may provide a BOB or BOD. Certainly His choice whether to do one or the other in this or that particular case is up to Him, not to Brothers Dimond or like-minded individuals.

    One searches in vain however for even the faintest hint that the Church has ever believed that such Providential Baptisms have been always occurring. No one, until the rise of Fr. Feeney, has ever claimed such a thing before, absolutely no one! Surely if such a thing were believed by the Church, at least some text would give it, don't you think? The question about those who lack significant opportunities for joining the Church actually comes up rather often, and in all those times this sort of answer is never given? An unbaptized person dies and never does the Church attempt to console their bereaved with such words as "Well, maybe he was secretly baptized," or "Well, obviously God knew that he was of bad will, no matter how well he fooled us." Quite remarkable, or else the more obvious is true that some few not baptized with water may nevertheless attain salvation through BOB or BOD.

    Having thus attempted to impeach the Catechism as a doctrinal source, the Treatise nevertheless goes on to quote it as an authority with the following quotes:

Catechism of the Council of Trent, On Baptism - Dispositions for Baptism, p. 180: "INTENTION - ... In the first place they must desire and intend to receive it…"

Catechism of the Council of Trent, Comparisons among the Sacraments, p. 154: "Though all the Sacraments possess a divine and admirable efficacy, it is well worthy of special remark that all are not of equal necessity or of equal dignity, nor is the signification of all the same. "Among them three are said to be necessary beyond the rest, although in all three this necessity is not of the same kind. The universal and absolute necessity of Baptism our Savior has declared in these words: Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:5)."

Catechism of the Council of Trent, Definition of Baptism, p. 163: "Unless, says our Lord, a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:5); and, speaking of the Church, the Apostle says, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life (Eph. 5:26). Thus it follows that Baptism may be rightly and accurately defined: The Sacrament of regeneration by water in the word."

Catechism of the Council of Trent, On Baptism - Necessity of Baptism, pp. 176-177: "If the knowledge of what has been hitherto explained be, as it is, of highest importance to the faithful, it is no less important to them to learn that the Law of Baptism, as established by our Lord, extends to all, so that unless they are regenerated to God through the grace of Baptism, be their parents Christians or infidels, they are born to eternal misery and destruction. Pastors, therefore, should often explain these words of the Gospel: Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:5)."

Catechism of the Council of Trent, Baptism made obligatory after Christ's Resurrection, p. 171: "Holy writers are unanimous in saying that after the Resurrection of our Lord, when He gave His Apostles the command to go and teach all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, the law of Baptism became obligatory on all who were to be saved."

Catechism of the Council of Trent, In Case of Necessity Adults May Be Baptized At Once, p. 180: "Sometimes, however, when there exists a just and necessary cause, as in the case of imminent danger of death, Baptism is not to be deferred, particularly if the person to be baptized is well instructed in the mysteries of faith."

Catechism of the Council of Trent, Matter of Baptism - Fitness, p. 165: "Upon this subject pastors can teach in the first place that water, which is always at hand and within the reach of all, was the fittest matter of a Sacrament which is necessary to all for salvation."

    The first quote is the procedure the Church uses in preparing a baptismal candidate, for even baptism by the Church of someone not wanting it would be no better for that person than a valid baptism provided by some heretical sect. The next two of these above quotes only mention baptism, and do not specify the Sacrament of Baptism in water. The next two quotes mention the "Law of Baptism," which is the New Covenant (replacing the Law of Circumcision), but as applies here to this question is simply the law that we must seek water baptism earnestly. It is purely up to God whether He chooses to allow us the opportunity to consummate that desire with an actual water baptism, or if He chooses to apply its graces though other means (BOB and BOD) where such opportunity is not to be provided. The last two quotes show why actual instances of a BOD (or even a BOB) would be quite rare in the ordinary manner of things since indeed water is so often readily available (could still be different in a desert or a prison cell!), and that specific provision is made for cases where there is reason to believe that a person might not survive to the usual, scheduled time for their Baptism to take place (commonly in Easter).

    One other (much more minor) objection noted from the Catechism is the remarkable parallel between just exactly the sorts of quotes used in the Treatise to claim that water baptism is absolutely necessary under all conditions, to the similarity of such quotes that speak of the necessity of the Sacrament of Penance. The difference here is that the Sacrament of Penance, being described in far more detail (to an increasingly Protestant world that altogether denies the whole Sacrament of Penance where they did at least more or less retain the Sacrament of Baptism), has the exception explained in more detail regarding those unable to obtain the sacrament, and how they might still have access to the graces. Again, let's look at the quotes:

Pope Paul III, The Council of Trent, canons on the Sacrament of Baptism, canon 5, ex cathedra: "If anyone says that baptism [the Sacrament] is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation (cf. Jn. 3:5): let him be anathema."

Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Sess. 14, Can. 6 on the Sacrament of Penance: "If anyone denies that sacramental confession was instituted by divine law or is necessary to salvation… let him be anathema."
Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Sess. 14, Can. 6 on the Sacrament of Penance: "6. Si quis negaverit, confessionem sacramentalem vel institutam vel ad salutem necessariam esse iure divino… a.s." This is more properly translated as it is found in Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils by Fr. Norman Tanner: "If anyone denies that the institution of sacramental confession or its necessity for salvation are from divine law… let him be anathema."

Pope Julius III, Council of Trent, Sess. 14, Chap. 2, On Penance: "This sacrament of Penance, moreover, is necessary for the salvation of those who have fallen after baptism, as baptism itself is necessary for those not yet regenerated."

Pope Julius III, Council of Trent, Sess. 14, Chap. 4, On Penance: "The Council teaches, furthermore, that though it sometimes happens that this contrition is perfect because of charity and reconciles man to God, before this sacrament is actually received, this reconciliation must not be ascribed to the contrition itself without the desire of the sacrament which is included in it."

Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Sess. 6, Chap. 14 on Justification: "Hence it must be taught that the repentance of a Christian after his fall is very different from that at his baptism, and that it includes not only a cessation from sins… but also the sacramental confession of the same, at least in desire and to be made in its season, and sacerdotal absolution, as well as satisfaction by fasting, almsgiving, prayers, and other devout exercises of the spiritual life, not indeed for the eternal punishment, which is remitted together with the guilt either by the sacrament or the desire of the sacrament, but for the temporal punishment…"

Council of Trent, Sess. 6, Canon 29 on Justification: "If anyone says that he who has fallen after baptism cannot by the grace of God rise again; or that he can indeed recover lost justice, but by faith alone without the sacrament of Penance, contrary to what the holy Roman and universal Church, taught by Christ the Lord and His apostles, has hitherto professed, observed, and taught: let him be anathema."

    Since the whole Sacrament of Penance was being denied by the Protestants, it had to be defined in far more detail here, and most of these quotes are enshrining that doctrine in all of its detail, even anticipating a prospective Protestant attack (of "you absolutely need a priest to forgive you your sins") by propounding what Fr. Feeney would have to have made fun of as a "Penance of Desire" if he wanted to be consistent. The first of these above quotes however is deceptively given, though at least in this case the inserted words are duly bracketed to show that they are not in the text. Baptism (overall, by whatever means or mode) is certainly not optional, but in the case of the Sacrament of Baptism, God most certainly does have the option of providing, where necessary, a baptism by alternative means (BOB or BOD). No father or theologian or pope, nor the Church in general, has ever interpreted Canon 5 of the Canons on the Sacrament of Baptism to be a reference to the Sacrament as being what the Protestants could be condemned for claiming to be optional, but for Baptism itself, of any mode. By bringing in John 3:5 it again reiterates the standard Church teaching that Baptism itself is necessary of absolute means, but the Sacrament of Baptism is necessary only of relative means, in that BOB or BOD may substitute for it on occasion.

    Keenly aware that the Council of Trent and its Catechism are plainly not at all supportive of his denials of BOB and BOD, the next recourse is to assail the infallible status of the Council itself. Two separate recourses have been taken to try to weaken the true sense of what the Council of Trent says. One of them is to point out what the Council Fathers meant could be one thing, but what they actually wrote and promulgated is another, and that only the latter is protected by the Holy Ghost. While this point is (more or less) basically true, the fact remains that what the Fathers DID say is nevertheless damaging enough to the claims made in the Treatise. Of course what they didn't say or promulgate from the Council itself is even more damaging, but admittedly of a lesser tier of authority (though in many ways still often containing much that is also infallible). For the contents of the Council are the Supreme and Extraordinary Magisterium (ex Cathedra), but the further and more detailed beliefs of all the Council Fathers, though not of this category, are nevertheless expressions of the Ordinary Magisterium and can often therefore also entail a certain infallibility.

    The other attempt made in the Treatise to impeach the evidence of the Council of Trent is something far more serious. At this point the Treatise expounds a heresy even more serious than the mere denials of BOB and BOD. When attempting to address the rhetorical question as to why Trent isn't more clearly supportive of his doctrine (the real answer to which is because it is all too supportive to the contrary), the Treatise recounts the events at and following the Council of Constantinople in 381, in which the Council Fathers, in crafting their creed, neglected to mention that the Holy Ghost also proceeds from the Son as well as from the Father, and how that eventually led to the falling away of practically the whole Eastern Church. So why did this happen? Here is the explanation as given by the Treatise:

So, did the Council of Constantinople err? Of course not. But could Constantinople have been more clear by adding that little phrase which would have eliminated a controversy? Absolutely. So why did God allow this controversy to occur, when He could have prevented it by simply inspiring the council fathers at Constantinople in 381 to include that tiny phrase? The answer is that there must be heresies. 1 Cor. 11:19: "For there must be also heresies: that they also, who are approved, may be manifest among you." God allows heresies to arise in order to see who will believe the truth and who will not, to see who will look at the truth sincerely and who will pervert things to suit his own heretical desires. God never allows His councils, such as Constantinople and Trent, to teach any error, but He can allow the truth to be stated in ways that give people the opportunity to twist and pervert the meaning of the words used if they so desire (no pun intended), as the Eastern Schismatics did in regard to Constantinople's omission of the phrase: and the Son.

    In other words, it's all God's fault that there are heresies; God willed there to be heresies! God deliberately kept His Church from being too clear just so people could be confused and fall into heresy by the hundreds of millions! If so blatantly impious a thought could actually be the truth, then all those teeming hundreds of millions so misled through God's deliberate design could not in justice be damned, or if damned, they would therefore be damned unjustly. As with all heresies, one heresy leads to another, and then to another, and so on until the whole of Christian Revelation comes to be denied. The fact of taking such a shocking step can only be recognized as an admission of defeat on the part of the author of the Treatise. "God strews all these misleading clues about all Creation just so as to test us," is the last refuge of someone whose claims have just been proven false by the facts.

Griff L. Ruby

      Next in the Annual Summer Hiatus Issue: Part 6

        For the first installment of this series, see Part 1

        For the second installment of this series, see Part 2

        For the third installment of this series, see Part 3

        For the fourth installment of this series, see Part 4

      Griff's book is available from Books for $26.95 or can be read on-line at We at The Daily Catholic strongly urge you to share it with all you can for that could be the gentle shove that moves your friends back to where the True Faith resides forever, rooted in the Truths and Traditions of Holy Mother Church as Christ intended and promised.

    Griff Ruby's STRAIGHT STUFF
    July 28, 2008
    Volume 19, no. 210