Commemoration of All Souls
November 3, 2008
vol 19, no. 308
Desire to Know the Full Truth about Baptism of Desire
This series was launched in order to help souls. Thus this second part of the Baptism of Desire is published today, All Souls' Day for there are no doubt countless souls in Purgatory needing our prayers; many of those souls there through the baptism of Desire. While the Dimond Treatise has been well refuted in every aspect throughout this series, another Feeneyite deserves to be grilled on his scholastic dishonesty in deliberately leaving out the context of quotes that sway the reader to think a Father or sage Saint didn't know what he was talking about. Below you can see this in black and white, especially in respect to the respected Doctor of Grace Saint Augustine, and how the desire to defend Feenyeism prompts desperate heretics to not only stretch the truth about Baptism of Desire, but deliberately deceive by omitting the true intention of this holy Doctor of the Church and other Church authorities who have been quoted. In this age of instant gratification, we must remember that holy Mother Church has always deliberated slowly but surely. There are no such things as shortcuts, something evident by providing all the evidence to prove the scholastic dishonesty of Feeneyites.
"One most basic and obvious problem with the 'quotes' as given by those attempting to refute BOB and/or BOD is that all of them have been short passages, given by some saint or pope or doctor in the midst of discussing something else altogether, and even mentioning baptism at all in only the most cursory way. Such short quotes may be great for use as 'sound bites,' but no serious theologian bases his theology on such short quotes, especially as taken out of context, and most especially when the ones so quoted have also spoken at length on the particular topic. Exploring such lengthy expositions by the Fathers and Doctors and Popes and others has been the approach taken in this series, precisely because it is the one thing that those who deny BOB and/or BOD simply cannot do in response."
Continuing with the second part of this installment on the Baptism of Desire, it is widely known of course that St. Augustine, towards the end of his life, wrote his "Retractions" in which he went through all his works and attempted to correct or modify anything he would have said different from how he said it at the time it was originally written. Furthermore, much mileage is made by those denying BOB and/or BOD his use of the phrase "Considering this over and over again..." as though he thought he were going out on a limb by teaching Baptism of Desire. So invariably is St. Augustine portrayed as reversing himself at various times on even this question, as though sometimes he taught one thing and other times the other.
In this area, it is actually Richard Ibranyi who goes into the most detail, having posited a supposed sequence of some several "reversals" in St. Augustine's position. In his piece, The Final Position of St. Augustine on Baptism, Richard Ibranyi first claims: "One: He teaches the absolute necessity of sacramental baptism by water for salvation:," after which he provides the following quotes:
St. Augustine: "How many rascals are saved by being baptized on their deathbeds? And how many sincere catechumens die unbaptized, and are thus lost forever! ...When we shall have come into the sight of God, we shall behold the equity of His justice. At that time, no one will say: Why did He help this one and not that one? Why was this man led by God's direction to be baptized, while that man, though he lived properly as a catechumen, was killed in a sudden disaster and not baptized? Look for rewards, and you will find nothing but punishments! ….For of what use would repentance be, even before Baptism, if Baptism did not follow? ...No matter what progress a catechumen may make, he still carries the burden of iniquity, and it is not taken away until he has been baptized." (The Faith of Our Fathers, Fr. Jurgens, bk. 3, 1496; On the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 13, Tract 7.)
This is actually a run-together of three different quotes, the second from The Faith of Our Fathers, Fr. Jurgens, bk. 3, 1496, and the third from On the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 13, Tract 7. The Jurgens quote begins with the phrase "When we shall have come…" and the Gospel of Saint John quote begins with "For of what use would repentance…" As for the first quote, no source has been given for it, nor have I seen it anywhere, nor is it credible that any Ancient Father would have taught that, so I am quite free to suggest that it is in all likelyhood something Richard Ibranyi invented whole cloth out of his own imagination. If he can identify where such a quote came from then let him name it that we may look it up for ourselves and discover what would have been really meant. As for the Jurgens quote I have already explained that it pertains to those who seek the Kingdom only for rewards and not for being placed at its service, as in they want the salary without the work, so of course those seeking only rewards, though we do not know this of them, God does, and His judgments are righteous though we do not understand them at the time. As for the "burden of his iniquity" that the catechumen carries until his baptism in water, that is the Purgatorial sentence for all the sins of his life he will endure in Purgatory should he die before baptism, but since it be through no fault of his own he will be saved, though "as through fire." The next couple quotes are quite self-evident:
St. Augustine: "Note that I speak now both to the faithful and to catechumens. What did I mention in connection with the spittle and the clay? This: the Word became flesh. The catechumens can hear this; but just listening to it does not accomplish that for which they were anointed. Let them hasten to the font if they seek the Light." (The Divine Office, bk., p. 1620, from Fourth Week in Lent, Treatise 44 on John.)
St. Augustine: "What is the Baptism of Christ? A washing in the word. Take away the water, and there is no Baptism. It is, then, by water, the visible and outward sign of grace, and by the Spirit, Who produces the inward gift of grace, which cancels the bond of sin and restores God's gift to human nature, that the man who was born solely of Adam in the first place is afterwards re-born solely in Christ." ("On John," 15:4, Patrologiae Cursus Completus: Series Latina, Fr. J. P. Migne, Paris, 1855, vol. 35.)
It doesn't take rocket science to see that the first is simply an admonition to proceed swiftly and surely to the point of one's baptism, not dawdling, and the second reiterates the fact that the Sacrament requires water as its matter. This next quote is a little bit more interesting for two reasons, one which I will explain by putting the quote in its full context and also the overall context of the document from which it came, and another reason I will get to later on:
St. Augustine: "Or how can they fail to be saved by water… the same unity of the ark saved them, in which no one has been saved except by water. For Cyprian himself says, 'The Lord is able of His mercy to grant pardon, and not to sever from the gifts of His Church those who, being in all simplicity admitted to the Church, have fallen asleep within her pale.' If not by water, how in the ark? If not in the ark, how in the Church? But if in the Church, certainly in the ark; and if in the ark, certainly by water. …nor can they be said to have been otherwise saved in the ark except by water." (On Baptism (De Baptismo), 5:28.)
Reading that, one would think St. Augustine was equating the waters of baptism with the waters of the ark. And there is a parallel, for the waters of the ark not only saved those within the ark itself but also killed all those outside, and likewise baptism brings life to those who are within the Church and not sinning, but death to those who are outside (and choosing to remain outside), or else even those inside the Church who fall into mortal sin, and die therein. For this comes from St. Augustine's treatise on Baptism, by which he primarily sought to respond to the heresy of the Donatists, who denied that baptisms administered by sinners could be valid. St. Augustine points out that those baptized outside the Church, whether by the Donatists or any other heretics, do indeed validly baptize (place the mark of baptism on the soul of the recipient), but that it avails them no salvation, but does mean that they should not be baptized when they repent and decide to enter the Church. However, one sees more of what is going on at this point when the quote is given in full:
St. Augustine, On Baptism, Book 5 Chapter 28 (39): Wherefore, if those appear to men to be baptized in Catholic unity who renounce the world in words only and not in deeds, how do they belong to the mystery of this ark in whom there is not the answer of a good conscience? Or how are they saved by water, who, making a bad use of holy baptism, though they seem to be within, yet persevere to the end of their days in a wicked and abandoned course of life? Or how can they fail to be saved by water, of whom Cyprian himself records that they were in time past simply admitted to the Church with the baptism which they had received in heresy? For the same unity of the ark saved them, in which no one has been saved except by water. For Cyprian himself says, "The Lord is able of His mercy to grant pardon, and not to sever from the gifts of His Church those who, being in all simplicity admitted to the Church, have fallen asleep within her pale." If not by water, how in the ark? If not in the ark, how in the Church? But if in the Church, certainly in the ark; and if in the ark, certainly by water. It is therefore possible that some who have been baptized without may be considered, through the foreknowledge of God, to have been really baptized within, because within the water begins to be profitable to them unto salvation; nor can they be said to have been otherwise saved in the ark except by water. And again, some who seemed to have been baptized within may be considered, through the same foreknowledge of God, more truly to have been baptized without, since, by making a bad use of baptism, they die by water, which then happened to no one who was not outside the ark. Certainly it is clear that, when we speak of within and without in relation to the Church, it is the position of the heart that we must consider, not that of the body, since all who are within in heart are saved in the unity of the ark through the same water, through which all who are in heart without, whether they are also in body without or not, die as enemies of unity. As therefore it was not another but the same water that saved those who were placed within the ark, and destroyed those who were left without the ark, so it is not by different baptisms, but by the same, that good Catholics are saved, and bad Catholics or heretics perish.
One should see from this that St. Augustine was here writing about what St. Cyprian spoke of regarding those who were baptized by heretics outside the Church, but who converted and were received by the Church without rebaptism, as quoted earlier this installment. St. Cyprian had regarded those heretical baptisms as all categorically invalid, and therefore their receptions into the Church without rebaptism as instances of Baptism of Desire (or of Blood in the case of those heretically baptized, subsequently accepted into the Church without rebaptism, and then martyred). St. Augustine was not denying that there existed Baptism of Blood or Desire, but saying that neither of those had anything to do with the case of these persons who had been baptized only by the heretics since they in fact had been validly baptized already, though outside the Church by heretics.
Richard Ibranyi then claims: "Two: Contradicting his above teaching, St. Augustine, in City of God, teaches that an unbaptized catechumen-meaning he has explicit faith in Jesus Christ and the Most Holy Trinity and an explicit desire to be baptized-can be justified if he dies unbaptized and as a martyr." But of course St. Augustine in no way contradicted himself, he was merely being misquoted before. The single quote given here of a supposed "second" position is merely that from the City of God which has already been given in previous installments, but I give it again here:
St. Augustine: "I have in mind those unbaptized persons who die confessing the name of Christ. They receive the forgiveness of their sins as completely as if they had been cleansed by the waters of baptism. For, He who said: 'Unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,' made exceptions in other decisions which are no less universal: 'Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge him before my Father in heaven'; and again: 'He who loses his life for my sake will find it.' So, too, in the psalm: 'Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.' For, what could be more precious than a death, which remits all sin and amasses merit? Men, unable to defer their death, who are baptized, and thus depart from life with all their sins forgiven, are not equal in merit to those who have not postponed death, although they could have done so, because they preferred to lose life by confessing Christ than, by denying Him, to gain time for Baptism." (City of God, Bk. XIII, Chap. 7.)
Richard Ibranyi then claims: "Three: In another of his works, On Baptism (De baptismo), St. Augustine contradicts himself by teaching baptism is actually administered, invisibly, to worthy catechumens who seemed to die without it," after which he provides the following quote:
St. Augustine: "Baptism is ministered invisibly to one whom has not contempt of religion (the Catholic Religion) but death excludes." (On Baptism, Against the Donatists (De Baptismo), Bk. IV, Chap. 22.)
After which he goes on to comment:
He teaches, "Baptism is ministered invisibly." By using the word "ministered," he clearly teaches someone, a minister, administers the sacrament of baptism. By invisibly, he means it is not known to anyone but the minister and maybe very few, so that there is no public record. This can take place miraculously if God allows a minister to be transported to baptize such a one with water. Or God can even temporarily raise a catechumen from the dead so he can be baptized by a minister in a way not known by anyone else.
In point of fact, St. Augustine teaches no such thing. The "invisible baptism" of which he speaks is none other than Baptism of Desire, or of Blood, in which the graces of the Sacrament are placed upon a soul directly by God upon that soul's entrance into the next life. It is invisible in the same sense as the concept, however unwelcome or easily abused, that some spoke of an "invisible" church consisting only of those who are actually in a state of Grace, or else already saved by being in Purgatory or Heaven. The visible Church here on earth has no registry of any water baptism of the soul in question, and in fact believes the soul to have not been baptized in water at all. If ever some unknown minister of the Sacrament were to secretly or quietly perform the sacrament, whether miraculously transported or not, whether the soul was miraculously resurrected for the purpose or not, that secret minister has a duty before God to report what he did to the Church. However, once that occurs, even if known only to that minister, the baptized soul (now gone to its Maker), and some Church official who thereby proceeded to enter the record of the baptism into his parish baptismal registry, it would cease to be "invisible" in any real sense of the word, and that detail would certainly emerge if the life of the soul in question were being investigated, for example in his cause for sainthood.
I arrive here now however at the second interesting thing about the quote given much above under the heading of a supposed "first" position of St. Augustine, namely the fact that that quote, and this (for his supposed "third" position) both come from the exact same document, namely his piece "On Baptism" regarding the heresy of the Donatists! So much for any claim of any "back-and-forth" sequence!
Richard Ibranyi then claims: "Final Opinion: What, then, was St. Augustine's final conviction regarding the sacrament of baptism? We have definitive proof from his latter works that he did not favor his former opinions of baptism of desire and blood; instead, he defended the absolute necessity of sacramental baptism by water for salvation. His refutation of the Pelagians, who denied original sin and the necessity of baptism for infants, led him to see the flaws in his earlier opinion and change his position."
There is no proof offered from any later (or even the same, or earlier) works that St. Augustine ever reversed his belief in Baptism of both Blood and Desire. The refutation of the Pelagians, mentioned above, is never cited for there is nothing in his anti-Pelagian works that oppose BOB or BOD. The statement is simply made, without support, while other works having nothing to do with the Pelagians are variously quoted. There is however a change (perhaps even two) as to how he understood the case of the Thief on the cross, as to whether he was an example of BOB as Cyprian taught, or of BOD, or if he might have been baptized in water after all. Richard Ibranyi alludes to this change, thus:
We will first present his former and then latter work that deals with the Good Thief. In the former, he teaches the Good Thief had baptism of blood. In the latter, he teaches the Good Thief was, indeed, baptized by water in a way that was not historically recorded.
St. Augustine's former teaching on Baptism, On Baptism Against the Donatists 4, 22: "That the place of baptism is sometimes supplied by martyrdom is supported by an argument by no means trivial, which the blessed Cyprian adduces from the thief, to whom, though he was not baptized, it was yet said, 'To-day shall thou be with me in Paradise.'"
St. Augustine does not take into consideration the fact that the sacrament of baptism was not instituted until Christ commanded His apostles to baptize in His Name and was not mandatory (promulgated) until after Ascension Thursday. Even worse, St. Augustine teaches the Good Thief died as a martyr, when in fact he died for his own crimes and not as a martyr for Christ.
So now, "On Baptism" is quoted yet again under the heading of being his "final" position, with a quote that comes from not at all far from the previous quote given from the same document. He is attempting to portray St. Augustine as accepting St. Cyprian's position, especially by falsely claiming here that "St. Augustine teaches the Good Thief died as a martyr" when in fact St. Augustine had right here rejected that teaching of St. Cyprian's. Even worse, Richard Ibranyi here claims that "the sacrament of baptism was not instituted until Christ commanded His apostles to baptize in His name," which is not true since His baptism seems to have existed since His Own baptism by John, and at any rate was obtainable by the time He preached it to Nicodemus. He may have gone along with St. Cyprian's opinion in the beginning, but by the time he came to write specifically about Baptism, he had rethought it, as brought out by Peter Dimond in his Treatise which I have otherwise been primarily addressing:
St. Augustine is quoted in favor of the concept of baptism of desire, but he admittedly struggled with the issue, sometimes clearly opposing the idea that unbaptized catechumens could achieve salvation, and other times supporting it.
St. Augustine, 400: "That the place of Baptism is sometimes supplied by suffering is supported by a substantial argument which the same Blessed Cyprian draws…Considering this over and over again, I find that not only suffering for the name of Christ can supply for that which is lacking by way of Baptism, but even faith and conversion of heart, if… recourse cannot be had to the celebration of the Mystery of Baptism."
There are two interesting points about this passage. The first relates to baptism of blood: notice that Augustine says that his belief in baptism of blood is supported by an inference or an argument that St. Cyprian made, not anything rooted in the Tradition of the Apostles or the Roman Pontiffs. As we saw already, many of the inferences of St. Cyprian showed themselves to be quite wrong, to put it nicely, such as his "inference" that it was from "apostolic Tradition" that heretics cannot confer baptism. Thus, St. Augustine is revealing by this statement a very important point: that his belief even in baptism of blood is rooted in fallible human speculation, not in divine revelation or infallible Tradition. He is admitting that he could be wrong and, in fact, he is wrong.
Secondly, when Augustine concludes that he also believes that faith (that is, faith in Catholicism) and a desire for baptism could have the same effect as martyrdom, he says: "Considering this over and over again…" By saying that he considered this over and over again, St. Augustine is admitting that his opinion on baptism of desire is also something that he has come to from his own consideration, not through infallible Tradition or teaching. It is something that he admittedly struggled with and contradicted himself on, as will be shown. All of this serves to prove again that baptism of desire, like baptism of blood, is a tradition of man, born in erroneous and fallible human speculation (albeit from some great men), and not rooted in or derived from any Tradition of the Apostles or of the popes.
Peter Dimond does bring out one small point passed over in silence by Richard Ibranyi, namely that St. Augustine, after much consideration, did not accept St. Cyprian's teaching that the good Thief was an instance of BOB, but rather of BOD, in view of the fact that the thief was suffering, not for Christ (though he willingly accepted his sufferings in his coming to Christ), but for his crimes, whatever they were.
But it is in the Treatise (of Peter Dimond) that this one phrase "considering this over and over again…" is being somehow construed to mean that St. Augustine actually had to question the existence of BOB or BOD itself, which as will be seen from the actual context of the statement itself, actually pertains to his opinion regarding only the Thief on the cross. BOB and BOD themselves were never in doubt by St. Augustine, but the exact category to which this thief belonged was something he never quite found a satisfactory answer to. He may have initially accepted the teaching of St. Cyprian that it was an example of BOB, but clearly by the time of writing his piece "On Baptism" to refute the Donatists, he had, with much deliberation and some hesitation, rejected that claim in favor of it being an example of BOD. In his On the Soul and its Origin he would go on to explore other possibilities for this thief, though again whatever category that thief ends up belonging to really has no bearing on the question of BOB and BOD which he accepted without question throughout his entire Christian life.
Peter Dimond in his Treatise manages to make the same mistake regarding the Good Thief on the Cross as was made by Richard Ibranyi in claiming that he could not have been possibly baptized in water, even before his capture and crucifixion since supposedly Christian baptism had not been instituted. This is rather strange since one could have speculated his being baptized previously, and yet they close off this "out" and supply the most fanciful alternatives. Let us start with Peter Dimond's:
Interestingly, in the same set of works on Baptism quoted already, St. Augustine made a different error, which he later corrected in his Book of Corrections. In this set of works he had originally stated his opinion that the Good Thief who died on the Cross next to Our Lord was an example of Baptism of Blood. He later corrected this, by noting that the Good Thief could not be used as an example of Baptism of Blood because we don't know if the Good Thief was ever baptized. But actually, the Good Thief cannot be used as an example of baptism of blood primarily because the Good Thief died under the Old Law, not the New Law; he died before the Law of Baptism was instituted by Jesus Christ after the Resurrection. For that reason, the Good Thief, like the Holy Innocents, constitutes no argument against the necessity of receiving the Sacrament of Baptism for salvation.
If the Good Thief died under the Old Law, then he will have been judged by the Old Law. Clearly he had not kept it since he was being justly punished for some crime that no doubt included at least wanton theft and murder. By the Old Law he is simply to be condemned and cannot be saved. He is saved therefore only because of the New, namely that he turns to Christ the Great Physician of Souls for healing, and repents, and Christ accepts his repentance and forgives him. That therefore comes under the heading of the New Law (of Christ, which is the Law Baptism, not Circumcision which he had utterly failed to keep). Richard Ibranyi's take on the Good Thief is even more bizarre:
One possibility as to how the Good Thief was baptized, which St. Augustine did not consider, is, in my opinion, the true one. St. Augustine touches upon a profound truth that has not yet been infallibly defined by a pope, that being, all men must be baptized by water before they can enter heaven, even the Old Testament Elect who waited in Limbo of the Fathers. Therefore, the Good Thief, indeed, was baptized by water, along with the Old Testament Elect, sometime within the 40 days after our Lord's Resurrection and before His Ascension.
Nowhere has anyone ever seen any claim that the Old Testament worthies (or any other Pre-Christian era ancients) were ever baptized or to be baptized in water, at least in the specifically Christian sense. One cannot even imagine just where this whole cloth fantasy would have come from. At least, the Old Law which Peter Dimond was trying to invoke was a reality, even if it couldn't have done the Good Thief any good, but this? He is inventing his own eschatology! As incorporeal beings awaiting the resurrection of the dead promised at the end of time, how would they have been baptized? With spirit water?
Saint Augustine wrote that whole piece on the subject of baptism, primarily to address the Donatists, to be sure, but nevertheless taking the time to explore every nook and cranny of the Church's teaching on Baptism as known in his time. It is his position taken in this document which is therefore to be regarded as his definitive position, apart from where he specifically would note what he wrote and specifically claim a change of mind. That is the only time that anything else can be taken as representing his position, in any way contrary to what he wrote here. So let us look at the relevant chapters at length:
St. Augustine, On Baptism, Chapters 21-25:
29. With regard to the objection brought against Cyprian, that the catechumens who were seized in martyrdom, and slain for Christ's name's sake, received a crown even without baptism, I do not quite see what it has to do with the matter, unless, indeed, they urged that heretics could much more be admitted with baptism to Christ's kingdom, to which catechumens were admitted without it, since He Himself has said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Now, in this matter I do not hesitate for a moment to place the Catholic catechumen, who is burning with love for God, before the baptized heretic; nor yet do we thereby do dishonor to the sacrament of baptism which the latter has already received, the former not as yet; nor do we consider that the sacrament of the catechumen is to be preferred to the sacrament of baptism, when we acknowledge that some catechumens are better and more faithful than some baptized persons. For the centurion Cornelius, before baptism, was better than Simon [Magus], who had been baptized. For Cornelius, even before his baptism, was filled with the Holy Spirit; Simon, even after baptism, was puffed up with an unclean spirit. Cornelius, however, would have been convicted of contempt for so holy a sacrament, if, even after he had received the Holy Ghost, he had refused to be baptized. But when he was baptized, he received in no wise a better sacrament than Simon; but the different merits of the men were made manifest under the equal holiness of the same sacrament - so true is it that the good or ill deserving of the recipient does not increase or diminish the holiness of baptism. But as baptism is wanting to a good catechumen to his receiving the kingdom of Heaven, so true conversion is wanting to a bad man though baptized. For He who said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God," said also Himself, "except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of Heaven:" For that the righteousness of the catechumens might not feel secure, it is written, "Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." And again, that the unrighteousness of the baptized might not feel secure because they had received baptism, it is written, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." The one were too little without the other; the two make perfect the heir of that inheritance. As, then, we ought not to depreciate a man's righteousness, which begins to exist before he is joined to the Church, as the righteousness of Cornelius began to exist before he was in the body of Christian men, - which righteousness was not thought worthless, or the angel would not have said to him, "Thy prayers and thine alms are come up as a memorial before God;" nor did it yet suffice for his obtaining the kingdom of Heaven, or he would not have been told to send to Peter, - so neither ought we to depreciate the sacrament of baptism, even though it has been received outside the Church. But since it is of no avail for salvation unless he who has baptism indeed in full perfection be incorporated into the Church, correcting also his own depravity, let us therefore correct the error of the heretics, that we may recognize what in them is not their own but Christ's.
30. That the place of baptism is sometimes supplied by martyrdom is supported by an argument by no means trivial, which the blessed Cyprian adduces from the thief, to whom, though he was not baptized, it was yet said, "To-day shall thou be with me in Paradise." On considering which, again and again, I find that not only martyrdom for the sake of Christ may supply what was wanting of baptism, but also faith and conversion of heart, if recourse may not be had to the celebration of the mystery of baptism for want of time. For neither was that thief crucified for the name of Christ, but as the reward of his own deeds; nor did he suffer because he believed, but he believed while suffering. It was shown, therefore, in the case of that thief, how great is the power, even without the visible sacrament of baptism, of what the apostle says, "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." But the want is supplied invisibly only when the administration of baptism is prevented, not by contempt for religion, but by the necessity of the moment. For much more in the case of Cornelius and his friends, than in the case of that robber, might it seem superfluous that they should also be baptized with water, seeing that in them the gift of the Holy Spirit, which, according to the testimony of holy Scripture, was received by other men only after baptism, had made itself manifest by every unmistakable sign appropriate to those times when they spoke with tongues. Yet they were baptized, and for this action we have the authority of an apostle as the warrant. So far ought all of us to be from being induced by any imperfection in the inner man, if it so happen that before baptism a person has advanced, through the workings of a pious heart, to spiritual understanding, to despise a sacrament which is applied to the body by the hands of the minister, but which is God's own means for working spiritually a man's dedication to Himself. Nor do I conceive that the function of baptizing was assigned to John, so that it should be called John's baptism, for any other reason except that the Lord Himself, who had appointed it, in not disdaining to receive the baptism of His servant, might consecrate the path of humility, and show most plainly by such an action how high a value was to be placed on His own baptism, with which He Himself was afterwards to baptize. For He saw, like an excellent physician of eternal salvation, that overweening pride would be found in some, who, having made such progress in the understanding of the truth and in uprightness of character that they would not hesitate to place themselves, both in life and knowledge, above many that were baptized, would think it was unnecessary for them to be baptized, since they felt that they had attained a frame of mind to which many that were baptized were still only endeavoring to raise themselves.
31. But what is the precise value of the sanctification of the sacrament (which that thief did not receive, not from any want of will on his part, but because it was unavoidably omitted) and what is the effect on a man of its material application, it is not easy to say. Still, had it not been of the greatest value, the Lord would not have received the baptism of a servant. But since we must look at it in itself, without entering upon the question of the salvation of the recipient, which it is intended to work, it shows clearly enough that both in the bad, and in those who renounce the world in word and not in deed, it is itself complete, though they cannot receive salvation unless they amend their lives. But as in the thief, to whom the material administration of the sacrament was necessarily wanting, the salvation was complete, because it was spiritually present through his piety, so, when the sacrament itself is present, salvation is complete, if what the thief possessed be unavoidably wanting. And this is the firm tradition of the universal Church, in respect of the baptism of infants, who certainly are as yet unable "with the heart to believe unto righteousness, and with the mouth to make confession unto salvation," as the thief could do; nay, who even, by crying and moaning when the mystery is performed upon them, raise their voices in opposition to the mysterious words, and yet no Christian will say that they are baptized to no purpose.
32. And if any one seek for divine authority in this matter, though what is held by the whole Church, and that not as instituted by Councils, but as a matter of invariable custom, is rightly held to have been handed down by apostolical authority, still we can form a true conjecture of the value of the sacrament of baptism in the case of infants, from the parallel of circumcision, which was received by God's earlier people, and before receiving which Abraham was justified, as Cornelius also was enriched with the gift of the Holy Spirit before he was baptized. Yet the apostle says of Abraham himself, that "he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith," having already believed in his heart, so that "it was counted unto him for righteousness." Why, therefore, was it commanded him that he should circumcise every male child in order on the eighth day, though it could not yet believe with the heart, that it should be counted unto it for righteousness, because the sacrament in itself was of great avail? And this was made manifest by the message of an angel in the case of Moses' son; for when he was carried by his mother, being yet uncircumcised, it was required, by manifest present peril, that he should be circumcised, and when this was done, the danger of death was removed. As therefore in Abraham the justification of faith came first, and circumcision was added afterwards as the seal of faith; so in Cornelius the spiritual sanctification came first in the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the sacrament of regeneration was added afterwards in the laver of baptism. And as in Isaac, who was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, the seal of this righteousness of faith was given first, and afterwards, as he imitated the faith of his father, the righteousness itself followed as he grew up, of which the seal had been given before when he was an infant; so in infants, who are baptized, the sacrament of regeneration is given first, and if they maintain a Christian piety, conversion also in the heart will follow, of which the mysterious sign had gone before in the outward body. And as in the thief the gracious goodness of the Almighty supplied what had been wanting in the sacrament of baptism, because it had been missing not from pride or contempt, but from want of opportunity; so in infants who die baptized, we must believe that the same grace of the Almighty supplies the want, that, not from perversity of will, but from insufficiency of age, they can neither believe with the heart unto righteousness, nor make confession with the mouth unto salvation. Therefore, when others take the vows for them, that the celebration of the sacrament may be complete in their behalf, it is unquestionably of avail for their dedication to God, because they cannot answer for themselves. But if another were to answer for one who could answer for himself, it would not be of the same avail. In accordance with which rule, we find in the gospel what strikes every one as natural when he reads it, "He is of age, he shall speak for himself."
33. By all these considerations it is proved that the sacrament of baptism is one thing, the conversion of the heart another; but that man's salvation is made complete through the two together. Nor are we to suppose that, if one of these be wanting, it necessarily follows that the other is wanting also; because the sacrament may exist in the infant without the conversion of the heart; and this was found to be possible without the sacrament in the case of the thief, God in either case filling up what was involuntarily wanting. But when either of these requisites is wanting intentionally, then the man is responsible for the omission. And baptism may exist when the conversion of the heart is wanting; but, with respect to such conversion, it may indeed be found when baptism has not been received, but never when it has been despised. Nor can there be said in any way to be a turning of the heart to God when the sacrament of God is treated with contempt. Therefore we are right in censuring, anathematizing, abhorring, and abominating the perversity of heart shown by heretics; yet it does not follow that they have not the sacrament of the gospel, because they have not what makes it of avail. Wherefore, when they come to the true faith, and by penitence seek remission of their sins, we are not flattering or deceiving them, when we instruct them by heavenly discipline for the kingdom of heaven, correcting and reforming in them their errors and perverseness, to the intent that we may by no means do violence to what is sound in them, nor, because of man's fault, declare that anything which he may have in him from God is either valueless or faulty.
As one should be able to see, there are a number of points to be drawn from this above lengthy discourse. For one thing, Augustine points out that the salvation of those who were crowned (saved) without the baptism has nothing to do with the question of St. Cyprian regarding those who were baptized by heretics since the heretics did often baptize validly. That is to say that the two were really two different questions, and so whatever criticism he has of Cyprian's position has nothing to do with our issue, and furthermore that BOB and BOD are taken as assumed ("With regard to the objection brought against Cyprian, that the catechumens who were seized in martyrdom, and slain for Christ's name's sake, received a crown even without baptism, I do not quite see what it has to do with the matter, unless, indeed, they urged that heretics could much more be admitted with baptism to Christ's kingdom, to which catechumens were admitted without it").
He next states in no uncertain terms that the unbaptized catechumen is in a much more favorable condition than any baptized heretic ("Now, in this matter I do not hesitate for a moment to place the Catholic catechumen, who is burning with love for God, before the baptized heretic"). He next mentions the insecurity (not yea verily damnation) of the catechumen who, if he dies as such, though he is on shaky ground and in real danger, is not necessarily damned. The baptized have a security that as long as they can make a good examination of conscience and find no unconfessed mortal sin, they know they are justified, but the catechumen has much to fear as to whether his love of God is perfect enough to be saved ("For that the righteousness of the catechumens might not feel secure, it is written, 'Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'"). He then parallels that to a corresponding fear that the baptized ought to have ("And again, that the unrighteousness of the baptized might not feel secure because they had received baptism, it is written, 'Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.'")
He acknowledges the value of a man's righteousness even before his entry into the Church ("As, then, we ought not to depreciate a man's righteousness, which begins to exist before he is joined to the Church, as the righteousness of Cornelius began to exist before he was in the body of Christian men")
We then arrive at the part where he mentions considering it "again and again" in which he explains that the Good Thief is not merely a precedent for Baptism of Blood (since strictly he doesn't belong to that category), but also a precedent for Baptism of Desire, since the perfected charity in the man was enough to qualify him for the graces of either ("That the place of baptism is sometimes supplied by martyrdom is supported by an argument by no means trivial, which the blessed Cyprian adduces from the thief, to whom, though he was not baptized, it was yet said, 'To-day shall thou be with me in Paradise.' On considering which, again and again, I find that not only martyrdom for the sake of Christ may supply what was wanting of baptism, but also faith and conversion of heart, if recourse may not be had to the celebration of the mystery of baptism for want of time. For neither was that thief crucified for the name of Christ, but as the reward of his own deeds; nor did he suffer because he believed, but he believed while suffering. It was shown, therefore, in the case of that thief, how great is the power, even without the visible sacrament of baptism, of what the apostle says, 'With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.'")
Immediately after this comes his statement how the want for baptism can be supplied invisibly, which does not mean any such ridiculous scenario as a spirit being "baptized" with "spirit-water," but rather the more obvious and basic belief that the graces of the sacrament are applied to the soul in such cases, exactly how BOB and BOD work ("But the want is supplied invisibly only when the administration of baptism is prevented, not by contempt for religion, but by the necessity of the moment."). He goes on to reiterate the point again and again, stating in different ways to make sure the reader understands ("But what is the precise value of the sanctification of the sacrament (which that thief did not receive, not from any want of will on his part, but because it was unavoidably omitted) and what is the effect on a man of its material application, it is not easy to say. Still, had it not been of the greatest value, the Lord would not have received the baptism of a servant." and again "But as in the thief, to whom the material administration of the sacrament was necessarily wanting, the salvation was complete, because it was spiritually present through his piety, so, when the sacrament itself is present, salvation is complete, if what the thief possessed be unavoidably wanting.")
He affirms BOB and BOD yet again and again in no uncertain terms ("the sacrament of baptism is one thing, the conversion of the heart another; but that man's salvation is made complete through the two together. Nor are we to suppose that, if one of these be wanting, it necessarily follows that the other is wanting also; because the sacrament may exist in the infant without the conversion of the heart; and this was found to be possible without the sacrament in the case of the thief, God in either case filling up what was involuntarily wanting." and again "with respect to such conversion, it may indeed be found when baptism has not been received, but never when it has been despised.").
In this large extract, St. Augustine contrasts the salvation of baptized infants who have made no act of Faith with the salvation of adults who, though unbaptized have nevertheless exercised faith and also attained salvation. And again (as we also saw many times before), only if the lack of baptism is not from any contempt for the sacrament. A knowing contempt for the sacrament is always damnable, but failure through circumstances has never been regarded as damnable. And one does not see here any consideration for speculating that "maybe if God wanted that soul to be saved He would have provided an opportunity to get baptized" or anything of the kind. There really is in fact no place for that kind of speculation.
In the context of all this position, one should be able to see the following quotes now in their proper context:
St. Augustine: "Not one of the elect and predestined perishes, regardless of his age at death. Never be it said that a man predestined to life would be permitted to end his life without the sacrament of the Mediator. Because, of these men, Our Lord says: 'This is the will of the Father, that I should lose nothing of what he has given me.'" (Against Julian 5, 4)
St. Augustine: "As, therefore, that one man [Christ] was predestinated to be our Head, so we being many are predestinated to be His members. Here let human merits which have perished through Adam keep silence, and let that grace of God reign which reigns through Jesus Christ our Lord, the only Son of God, the one Lord. Let whoever can find in our Head the merits which preceded that peculiar generation, seek in us His members for those merits which preceded our manifold regeneration. For that generation was not recompensed to Christ, but given; that He should be born, namely, of the Spirit and the Virgin, separate from all entanglement of sin. Thus also our being born again of water and the Spirit is not recompensed to us for any merit, but freely given; and if faith has brought us to the laver of regeneration, we ought not therefore to suppose that we have first given anything, so that the regeneration of salvation should be recompensed to us again; because He made us to believe in Christ, who made for us a Christ on whom we believe. He makes in men the beginning and the completion of the faith in Jesus who made the man Jesus the beginner and finisher of faith; for thus, as you know, He is called in the epistle which is addressed to the Hebrews." (The Predestination of the Saints, 31)
In these two quotes he is discussing Predestination, which to Catholics only means that the Lord knows those who are His. The Good Shepherd knows His sheep and the sheep know Him, and recognize His voice. So of course all those whom He knows to be ultimately His will be baptized, whether in water (most usual case since the coming of the Christian Covenant), or by blood or desire, or even by circumcision (in the case of those ancient faithful Jews who died under the Law of Circumcision and were found worthy by it). So when he mentions in that first quote "the sacrament of the Mediator" he is plainly not even addressing the question of BOB or BOD but simply speaking of the usual case, and thereby including all exceptions under that most direct and common example. The second quote so obviously has nothing to do with the question of BOB or BOD as to make one wonder why it was even brought in. The Treatise however, though utilizing some of the above quotes, in addition uses the following quotes as supposed evidence that St. Augustine might not have always held to his belief in Baptism of Desire, or perhaps even of Blood:
St. Augustine, 395: "… God does not forgive sins except to the baptized."
St. Augustine, 412: "… the Punic Christians call Baptism itself nothing else but salvation… Whence does this derive, except from an ancient and, as I suppose, apostolic tradition, by which the Churches of Christ hold inherently that without Baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the Kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal? This is the witness of Scripture, too."
Both of these quotes have already been explained in previous installments, namely that the first refers to the Sacrament of Penance which plainly does not apply to the unbaptized, and the second mentions not only Baptism, but also the "table of the Lord" by which the Eucharist is meant. If that quote were to mean that Baptism must be received in order to be saved, then by that same token so would the Eucharist. In that case one would need not only emergency baptisms, but also emergency communions!
Given St. Augustine's lengthy discourse above, and no place where he ever referred back to it with any expressed desire to have taught otherwise, that has to be regarded as his definitive position. Yet there are those who would contend that with a later work, he changed his mind.
In his On the Soul and its Origin, St. Augustine does seem to revisit his position regarding the status or category of the Good Thief.
St. Augustine's latter teaching on Baptism, On the Soul and Its Origin 1, 11: "Besides all this, there is the circumstance, which is not incredibly reported, that the thief who then believed as he hung by the side of the crucified Lord was sprinkled, as in a most sacred baptism, with the water which issued from the wound of the Saviour's side. I say nothing of the fact that nobody can prove, since none of us knows that he had not been baptized previous to his condemnation. However, let every man take this in the sense he may prefer; only let no rule about baptism affecting the Saviour's own precept be taken from this example of the thief."
One would think St. Augustine is here stating that the Good Thief instance can no longer be used as any sort of precedent regarding BOB and/or BOD, or at least that is what Richard Ibranyi would want the reader to think this quote is saying:
St. Augustine, On the Soul and Its Origin, Book 1 Chapter 11: Accordingly, the thief, who was no follower of the Lord previous to the cross, but His confessor upon the cross, from whose case a presumption is sometimes taken, or attempted, against the sacrament of baptism, is reckoned by St. Cyprian among the martyrs who are baptized in their own blood, as happens to many unbaptized persons in times of hot persecution, For to the fact that he confessed the crucified Lord so much weight is attributed and so much availing value assigned by Him who knows how to weigh and value such evidence, as if he had been crucified for the Lord. Then, indeed, his faith on the cross flourished when that of the disciples failed, and that without recovery if it had not bloomed again by the resurrection of Him before the terror of whose death it had drooped. They despaired of Him when dying, - he hoped when joined with Him in dying; they fled from the author of life, - he prayed to his companion in punishment; they grieved as for the death of a man, - he believed that after death He was to be a king; they forsook the sponsor of their salvation, - he honored the companion of His cross. There was discovered in him the full measure of a martyr, who then believed in Christ when they fell away who were destined to be martyrs. All this, indeed, was manifest to the eyes of the Lord, who at once bestowed so great felicity on one who, though not baptized, was yet washed clean in the blood, as it were, of martyrdom. But even of ourselves, who cannot reflect with how much faith, how much hope, how much charity he might have undergone death for Christ when living, who begged life of Him when dying? Besides all this, there is the circumstance, which is not incredibly reported, that the thief who then believed as he hung by the side of the crucified Lord was sprinkled, as in a most sacred baptism, with the water which issued from the wound of the Saviour's side. I say nothing of the fact that nobody can prove, since none of us knows that he had not been baptized previous to his condemnation. However, let every man take this in the sense he may prefer; only let no rule about baptism affecting the Saviour's own precept be taken from this example of the thief; and let no one promise for the case of unbaptized infants, between damnation and the kingdom of heaven, some middle place of rest and happiness, such as he pleases and where he pleases. For this is what the heresy of Pelagius promised them: he neither fears damnation for infants, whom he does not regard as having any original sin, nor does he give them the hope of the kingdom of heaven, since they do not approach to the sacrament of baptism. As for this man, however, although he acknowledges that infants are involved in original sin, he yet boldly promises them, even without baptism, the kingdom of heaven. This even the Pelagians had not the boldness to do, though asserting infants to be absolutely without sin. See, then, what a network of presumptuous opinion he entangles, unless he regret having committed such views to writing.
The overall context of all that is that a certain Renatus, a monk, had received a couple books written by one Vincentius Victor in which several heresies had been advocated, and he in turn related this to Augustine who replies to him with this, the first of four books on the Soul and Its Origin. St. Augustine explains to Renatus in no uncertain terms that Vincentius Victor is wrong to deny that the soul of a person is propagated by the person's parents as their body is. He had also denied that God created the souls, leaving one with little to conclude that human souls must therefore be in some sense a part of God, and of the same nature as God, two quite blasphemous propositions, to be sure. Vincentius Victor furthermore claimed that the good soul emanated (or whatever) by God perfect and sinless would then gained original sin only by being joined to fallen flesh from fallen parents. What he could not explain, and which Augustine hammered him again and again on was why it would be that a sinless soul could in any way deserve to be forced into sin by being united to sinful fallen flesh tainted by Original Sin. Vincentius Victor then went on to claim that infants dying unbaptized would nevertheless attain the Kingdom of Heaven, and had apparently attempted to use the Good Thief as some sort of example to justify that since he was not baptized and yet was saved, then also unbaptized infants are also saved. St. Augustine responds to that claim thus:
St. Augustine, On the Soul and Its Origin, Book 1 Chapter 10: But when he wished to answer with respect, however, to those infants who are prevented by death from being first baptized in Christ, he was so bold as to promise them not only paradise, but also the kingdom of heaven, - finding no way else of avoiding the necessity of saying that God condemns to eternal death innocent souls which, without any previous desert of sin, He introduces into sinful flesh. He saw, however, to some extent what evil he was giving utterance to, in implying that without any grace of Christ the souls of infants are redeemed to everlasting life and the kingdom of heaven, and that in their case original sin may be cancelled without Christ's baptism, in which is effected the forgiveness of sins: observing all this, and into what a depth he had plunged in his sea of shipwreck, he says, "I am of opinion that for them, indeed, constant oblations and sacrifices must be continually offered up by holy priests." You may here behold another danger, out of which he will never escape except by regret and a recall of his words. For who can offer up the body of Christ for any except for those who are members of Christ? Moreover, from the time when He said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven;" and again, "He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it; " no one becomes a member of Christ except it be either by baptism in Christ, or death for Christ.
And again, one sees here that St. Augustine, when it comes right down to it, again accepts that a death in Christ (which could refer both to martyrs and also to those who otherwise die before baptism through no fault of their own, as he had previously enunciated in his On Baptism quoted above, the key point to that exception being that a person must specifically choose Christ to be saved in this case, something an infant is incapable of doing), as an exception to the requirement of water baptism.
Now one does see Augustine mention the possible scenarios of the Good Thief perhaps having been baptized before and then subsequently fallen into whatever crimes put him on the cross, or else of being splashed with the water (and blood) squirting from the Savior's side at the cross, but there is nothing in the way that Augustine brings up these alternatives as any seriously likely possibilities, only as ideas he cannot absolutely rule out. In the second book of On the Soul and Its Origin, yet another possible scenario is mentioned for the case of the Good Thief, this time however as one Augustine rejects as it is only the position of this same Vincentius Victor:
St. Augustine, On the Soul and Its Origin, Book 2 Chapter 14: Just as in the case of the thief on the cross, who confessed but was not baptized, the Lord did not give him the kingdom of heaven, but paradise; the words remaining accordingly in full force, 'Except a man be born again of water and of the Holy Ghost, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.' This is especially true, inasmuch as the Lord acknowledges that in His Father's house are many mansions, by which are indicated the many different merits of those who dwell in them; so that in these abodes the unbaptized is brought to forgiveness, and the baptized to the reward which by grace has been prepared for him." You observe how the man keeps paradise and the mansions of the Father's house distinct from the kingdom of heaven, so that even unbaptized persons may have an abundant provision in places of eternal happiness.
So, while Vincentius Victor's speculation about the infants going to some painless abode outside the Kingdom of Heaven (which ultimately has been widely accepted as the teaching of the Limbo of the Infants) may well have been of some merit (albeit only accidently), he (Vincentius Victor) had based it on the idea that the Good Thief had gone to the same place, namely the idea that the "paradise" our Lord referred to was not the Kingdom of Heaven (nor even the Limbo of the Fathers, within which all were already saved, though not as yet able to enjoy the full fruit of their salvation), but something comparable to the Limbo of the Infants. One gets the distinct impression that so much ink had been spilled over speculating over the condition of the Good Thief that Augustine had gotten tired of even talking about him.
The third and fourth books of On the Soul and Its Origin were written directly to Vincentius Victor, and from the third book Richard Ibranyi takes yet two more quotes:
St. Augustine, On the Soul and its Origin 3, 12: "As for the thief, although in God's judgment he might be reckoned among those who are purified [i.e., as in, a second time, that is, after baptism and his fall] by the confession of martyrdom, yet you cannot tell whether he was not baptized. For, to say nothing of the opinion that he might have been sprinkled with the water which gushed at the same time with the blood out of the Lord's side, as he hung on the cross next to Him, and thus have been washed with a baptism of the most sacred kind, what if he had been baptized in prison, as in after times some under persecution were enabled privately to obtain? or what if he had been baptized previous to his imprisonment? If, indeed, he had been, the remission of his sins which he would have received in that case from God would not have protected him from the sentence of public law, so far as appertained to the death of the body. What if, being already baptized, he had committed the crime and incurred the punishment of robbery and lawlessness, but yet received, by virtue of repentance added to his baptism, forgiveness of the sins which, though baptized, he had committed? For beyond doubt his faith and piety appeared to the Lord clearly in his heart, as they do to us in his words. If, indeed, we were to conclude that all those who have quitted life without a record of their baptism died unbaptized, we should calumniate the very apostles themselves; for we are ignorant when they were, any of them, baptized, except the Apostle Paul. If, however, we could regard as an evidence that they were really baptized the circumstance of the Lord's saying to St. Peter, "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet," what are we to think of the others, of whom we do not read even so much as this,--Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, Silas, Philemon, the very evangelists Mark and Luke, and innumerable others, about whose baptism we should never entertain any doubt, although we read no record of it?"
St. Augustine: "If you wish to be a Catholic, do not venture to believe, to say, or to teach that 'they whom the Lord has predestinated for baptism can be snatched away from his predestination, or die before that has been accomplished in them which the Almighty has predestined.' There is in such a dogma more power than I can tell assigned to chances in opposition to the power of God, by the occurrence of which casualties that which He has predestinated is not permitted to come to pass. It is hardly necessary to spend time or earnest words in cautioning the man who takes up with this error against the absolute vortex of confusion into which it will absorb him, when I shall sufficiently meet the case if I briefly warn the prudent man who is ready to receive correction against the threatening mischief." (On the Soul and Its Origin 3, 13)
And again, the usual deception is being used of finding a passage that pertains to the question of unbaptized infants, but then all reference to infants is carefully removed. The actual context of these quotes is revealed in the following:
St. Augustine, On the Soul and Its Origin, Book 3 Chapters 12-13: If you wish to be a catholic, refrain from believing, or saying, or teaching that "infants which are forestalled by death before they are baptized may yet attain to forgiveness of their original sins." For the examples by which you are misled - that of the thief who confessed the Lord upon the cross, or that of Dinocrates the brother of St. Perpetua - contribute no help to you in defense of this erroneous opinion. As for the thief, although in God's judgment he might be reckoned among those who are purified by the confession of martyrdom, yet you cannot tell whether he was not baptized. For, to say nothing of the opinion that he might have been sprinkled with the water which gushed at the same time with the blood out of the Lord's side, as he hung on the cross next to Him, and thus have been washed with a baptism of the most sacred kind, what if he had been baptized in prison, as in after times some under persecution were enabled privately to obtain? or what if he had been baptized previous to his imprisonment? If, indeed, he had been, the remission of his sins which he would have received in that case from God would not have protected him from the sentence of public law, so far as appertained to the death of the body. What if, being already baptized, he had committed the crime and incurred the punishment of robbery and lawlessness, but yet received, by virtue of repentance added to his baptism, forgiveness of the sins which, though baptized, he had committed? For beyond doubt his faith and piety appeared to the Lord clearly in his heart, as they do to us in his words. If, indeed, we were to conclude that all those who have quitted life without a record of their baptism died unbaptized, we should calumniate the very apostles themselves; for we are ignorant when they were, any of them, baptized, except the Apostle Paul. If, however, we could regard as an evidence that they were really baptized the circumstance of the Lord's saying to St. Peter, "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet," what are we to think of the others, of whom we do not read even so much as this, - Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, Silas, Philemon, the very evangelists Mark and Luke, and innumerable others, about whose baptism God forbid that we should entertain any doubt, although we read no record of it? As for Dinocrates, he was a child of seven years of age; and as children who are baptized so old as that can now recite the creed and answer for themselves in the usual examination, I know not why he may not be supposed after his baptism to have been recalled by his unbelieving father to the sacrilege and profanity of heathen worship, and for this reason to have been condemned to the pains from which he was liberated at his sister's intercession. For in the account of him you have never read, either that he was never a Christian, or died a catechumen. But for the matter of that, the account itself that we have of him does not occur in that canon of Holy Scripture whence in all questions of this kind our proofs ought always to be drawn.
If you wish to be a catholic, do not venture to believe, to say, or to teach that "they whom the Lord has predestinated for baptism can be snatched away from his predestination, or die before that has been accomplished in them which the Almighty has predestined." There is in such a dogma more power than I can tell assigned to chances in opposition to the power of God, by the occurrence of which casualties that which He has predestinated is not permitted to come to pass. It is hardly necessary to spend time or earnest words in cautioning the man who takes up with this error against the absolute vortex of confusion into which it will absorb him, when I shall sufficiently meet the case if I briefly warn the prudent man who is ready to receive correction against the threatening mischief. Now these are your words: "We say that some such method as this must be had recourse to in the case of infants who, being predestinated for baptism, are yet, by the failing of this life, hurried away before they are born again in Christ." Is it then really true that any who have been predestinated to baptism are forestalled before they come to it by the failing of this life? And could God predestinate anything which He either in His foreknowledge saw would not come to pass, or in ignorance knew not that it could not come to pass, either to the frustration of His purpose or the discredit of His foreknowledge? You see how many weighty remarks might be made on this subject; but I am restrained by the fact of having treated on it a little while ago, so that I content myself with this brief and passing admonition.
So again, it is infants, for whom the Good Thief can serve as no precedent (assuming he is a precedent for any of this, which Augustine admittedly doubts, though in no way impugns the fundamental teachings of BOB and BOD for those capable of uniting their death to Christ by free and considered choice) for infants to be automatically saved, and furthermore that if an infant is unbaptized that God could have predestined that infant to be saved regardless of whether he gets baptized or not. It isn't clear which one Vincentius Victor was arguing for, whether God predestines infants for glory (or at least a good Limbo) whether they be baptized or not, or that God's Own predestination can be overtaken by circumstance of an infant, predestined for glory, but dying without baptism. In the first case why baptize infants? And in the second case what use God's Own predestination if it can be overridden by circumstance?
But there is no way to get from such statements about predestination to any claim that even adult souls predestined for salvation would all get a chance to be water baptized, for there is no evidence that Augustine or anyone else ever taught that. If God knows a soul to be His, then He also knows in advance of us knowing, or even that soul, whether he is to be saved through water baptism or baptism of blood or of desire. And whichever death God has chosen for a man, surely it is for the man's own best good.
And as for Vincentius Victor's idea that the "paradise" the Good Thief went to might have been the same as the Limbo of the Infants and not Heaven, one should recall that Saint Dismas (the traditional name given to the Good Thief, where Gestus is the name similarly given to the Bad Thief on the other cross) is so regarded as a saint whose intercession can be prayed for legitimately, and as one canonized not by the Church but by our Lord Himself personally. There is one other point to mention about the Good Thief, and that is what our Lord said to him, "Truly I tell you today you shall be with Me in paradise." The original text contains no commas, so one cannot be sure whether He meant "Truly I tell you, today you shall be with Me in paradise," or "Truly I tell you today, you shall be with Me in paradise." Obviously if it was the first, then indeed "paradise" would have to be the Limbo of the Fathers, as commonly taught by the Church. If the second it could equally be that or Heaven itself, since it would be only the "telling" and not the "being in paradise" that happens "today."
I have already discussed the teaching of St. John Chrysostom, of how certain of his quotes, referring to the case of those catechumens who linger or delay their baptism for fear of persecution, or of unwillingness to live the baptized life, and how they would be damned if they die as such, were taken in the Treatise as being teachings that all who die as mere unbaptized catechumens must necessarily be damned, something he clearly never taught. In reviewing his works in more detail, one finds more about these foolish catechumens and much to understand why they should be damned if they die such, even while other catechumens who die as such can be saved:
St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, Homily I: Perhaps we have now deterred many from receiving baptism. Not however with this intention have we so spoken, but on purpose that having received it, they may continue in temperance and much moderation. "But I am afraid," says one. If thou wert afraid, thou wouldest have received and guarded it. "Nay," saith he, "but this is the very reason why I do not receive it, - that I am frightened." And art thou not afraid to depart thus? "God is merciful," saith he. Receive baptism then, because He is merciful and ready to help. But thou, where to be in earnest is the thing required, dost not allege this mercifulness; thou thinkest of this only where thou hast a mind to do so. And yet that was the time to resort to God's mercy, and we shall then be surest of obtaining it, when we do our part. For he that has cast the whole matter upon God, and, after his baptism, sins, as being man it is likely, he may, and repents, shall obtain mercy; whereas he that prevaricates with God's mercy, and departs this life with no portion in that grace, shall have his punishment without a word to be said for him. "But how if he depart," say you, "after having had the grace vouchsafed to him?" He will depart empty again of all good works. For it is impossible, yes, it is in my opinion impossible, that the man who upon such hopes dallied with baptism should have effected ought generous and good. And why dost thou harbor such fear, and presume upon the uncertain chance of the future? Why not convert this fear into labor and earnestness, and thou shalt be great and admirable? Which is best, to fear or to labor? Suppose some one to have placed thee, having nothing to do, in a tottering house, saying, Look for the decaying roof to fall upon thy head: for perhaps it will fall perhaps not; but if thou hadst rather it should not, then work and inhabit the more secure apartment: which wouldest thou have rather chosen, that idle condition accompanied with fear, or this labor with confidence? Why then, act now in the same way. For the uncertain future is like a decayed house, ever threatening to fall; but this work, laborious though it be, ensures safety."
St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, Homily XXIII: Thus those who are yet Catechumens, because they make this their object, (how they may defer baptism to the last) give themselves no concern about leading an upright life.
St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Second Corinthians, Homily II: "Sound judgment." And what can it be to have "a sound judgment?" To enjoy the health that pertaineth to the soul: for he that is held down by wicked lusts and dazzled with present things, never can be sound, that is, healthy. But as one who is diseased lusteth even after things which are unfit for him, so also doth he. "And a virtuous mode of life," for the doctrines need a mode of life [answerable]. Attend to this, ye who come to baptism at the close of life, for we indeed pray that after baptism ye may have also this deportment, but thou art seeking and doing thy utmost to depart without it. For, what though thou be justified: yet is it of faith only. But we pray that thou shouldest have as well the confidence that cometh of good works.
A somewhat bigger question looming would be why it was that these foolish catechumens were not more diligent in seeking baptism, why they felt they could put it off. In every moment there is a perpetual risk that one's life may end, and how could they have had no fear of meeting God while despising the Sacrament? They could likely have believed that Baptism of Desire would cover them as it indeed covers those who fail to be baptized through no fault of their own. But as St. John Chrysostom brought out, that wouldn't even apply to those deliberately waiting, putting it off. And if that is indeed the case, then two things: 1) the belief in BOB and BOD obviously existed and was established in the Church, such that these catechumens felt they could dare to presume upon them, and 2) the Saint, having not repudiated those teachings themselves but only showing how they do not apply for those who were despising the Sacrament, was therefore tacitly accepting the doctrines themselves as true. He does not say to these procrastinating catechumens "I know many have taught that certain souls could be saved despite not being baptized in water, but I am here to tell you that teaching is false," but "You who dilly dally, you who procrastinate, avoiding baptism for fear of persecution, or because you know you will have to leave your sins behind and don't want to have to do that until the last moment, I tell you now that if death should overtake you in this state you shall not be saved." In another place, one also sees St. John Chrysostom discussing how the grace of the sacrament can either precede the actual reception of it or follow after it. It is by this grace that some who die without baptism of water would still be saved, and he shows here his sharing in the same beliefs upon which BOB and BOD are based:
St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, Homily I: But why does Christ say, "Ye shall be baptized," when in fact there was no water in the upper room? Because the more essential part of Baptism is the Spirit, through Whom indeed the water has its operation; in the same manner our Lord also is said to be anointed, not that He had ever been anointed with oil, but because He had received the Spirit. Besides, we do in fact find them receiving a baptism with water [and a baptism with the Spirit], and these at different moments. In our case both take place under one act, but then they were divided.
Saint Gregory Nazianzen similarly castigates those who linger and procrastinate as catechumens, and even mentions the "desire" for baptism as something they were abusing. Let us look at the real context of the quotes given in the Treatise from St. Gregory Nazianzen:
St. Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 40, On Holy Baptism: 20. But some will say, What shall I gain, if, when I am preoccupied by baptism, and have cut off myself by my haste from the pleasures of life, when it was in my power to give the reins to pleasure, and then to obtain grace? For the laborers in the vineyard who had worked the longest time gained nothing thereby, for equal wages were given to the very last. You have delivered me from some trouble, whoever you are who say this, because you have at last with much difficulty told the secret of your delay; and though I cannot applaud your shiftiness, I do applaud your confession. But come hither and listen to the interpretation of the parable, that you may not be injured by Scripture for want of information. First of all, there is no question here of baptism, but of those who believe at different times and enter the good vineyard of the Church. For from the day and hour at which each believed, from that day and hour he is required to work. And then, although they who entered first contributed more to the measure of the labour yet they did not contribute more to the measure of the purpose; nay perhaps even more was due to the last in respect of this, though the statement may seem paradoxical. For the cause of their later entrance was their later call to the work of the vineyard. In all other respects let us see how different they are. The first did not believe or enter till they had agreed on their hire; but the others came forward to do the work without an agreement, which is a proof of greater faith. And the first were found to be of an envious and murmuring nature, but no such charge is brought against the others. And to the first, that which was given was wages, though they were worthless fellows; to the last it was the free gift. So that the first were convicted of folly, and with reason deprived of the greater reward. Let us see what would have happened to them if they had been late. Why, the equal pay, evidently. How then can they blame the employer as unjust because of their equality? For all these things take away the merit of their labor from the first, although they were at work first; and therefore it turns out that the distribution of equal pay was just, if you measure the good will against the labor.
21. But supposing that the Parable does sketch the power of the font according to your interpretation, what would prevent you, if you entered first, and bore the heat, from avoiding envy of the last, that by this very loving kindness you might obtain more, and receive the reward, not as of grace but as of debt? And next, the workmen who receive the wages are those who have entered, not those who have missed, the vineyard; which last is like to be your case. So that if it were certain that you would obtain the Gift, though you are of such a mind, and maliciously keep back some of the labor, you might be forgiven for taking refuge in such arguments, and desiring to make unlawful gain out of the kindness of the master; though I might assure you that the very fact of being able to labor is a greater reward to any who is not altogether of a huckstering mind. But since there is a risk of your being altogether shut out of the vineyard through your bargaining, and losing the capital through stopping to pick up little gains, do let yourselves be persuaded by my words to forsake the false interpretations and contradictions, and to come forward without arguing to receive the Gift, lest you should be snatched away before you realize your hopes, and should find out that it was to your own loss that you devised these sophistries.
22. But then, you say, is not God merciful, and since He knows our thoughts and searches out our desires, will He not take the desire of Baptism instead of Baptism? You are speaking in riddles, if what you mean is that because of God's mercy the unenlightened is enlightened in His sight; and he is within the kingdom of heaven who merely desires to attain to it, but refrains from doing that which pertains to the kingdom. I will, however, speak out boldly my opinion on these matters; and I think that all other sensible men will range themselves on my side. Of those who have received the gift, some were altogether alien from God and from salvation, both addicted to all manner of sin, and desirous to be bad; others were semi-vicious, and in a kind of mean state between good and bad; others again, while they did that which was evil, yet did not approve their own action, just as men in a fever are not pleased with their own sickness. And others even before they were illuminated were worthy of praise; partly by nature, and partly by the care with which they prepared themselves for Baptism. These after their initiation became evidently better, and less liable to fall; in the one case with a view to procuring good, and in the other in order to preserve it. And amongst these, those who gave in to some evil are better than those who were altogether bad; and better still than those who yielded a little, are those who were more zealous, and broke up their fallow ground before Baptism; they have the advantage over the others of having already labored; for the font does not do away with good deeds as it does with sins. But better even than these are they who are also cultivating the Gift, and are polishing themselves to the utmost possible beauty.
23. And so also in those who fail to receive the Gift, some are altogether animal or bestial, according as they are either foolish or wicked; and this, I think, has to be added to their other sins, that they have no reverence at all for this Gift, but look upon it as a mere gift - to be acquiesced in if given them, and if not given them, then to be neglected. Others know and honor the Gift, but put it off; some through laziness, some through greediness. Others are not in a position to receive it, perhaps on account of infancy, or some perfectly involuntary circumstance through which they are prevented from receiving it, even if they wish. As then in the former case we found much difference, so too in this. They who altogether despise it are worse than they who neglect it through greed or carelessness. These are worse than they who have lost the Gift through ignorance or tyranny, for tyranny is nothing but an involuntary error. And I think that the first will have to suffer punishment, as for all their sins, so for their contempt of baptism; and that the second will also have to suffer, but less, because it was not so much through wickedness as through folly that they wrought their failure; and that the third will be neither glorified nor punished by the righteous Judge, as unsealed and yet not wicked, but persons who have suffered rather than done wrong. For not every one who is not bad enough to be punished is good enough to be honored; just as not every one who is not good enough to be honored is bad enough to be punished. And I look upon it as well from another point of view. If you judge the murderously disposed man by his will alone, apart from the act of murder, then you may reckon as baptized him who desired baptism apart from the reception of baptism. But if you cannot do the one how can you do the other? I cannot see it. Or, if you like, we will put it thus If desire in your opinion has equal power with actual baptism, then judge in the same way in regard to glory, and you may be content with longing for it, as if that were itself glory. And what harm is done you by your not attaining the actual glory, as long as you have the desire for it?
24. Therefore since you have heard these words, come forward to it, and be enlightened, and your faces shall not be ashamed through missing the Grace. Receive then the Enlightenment in due season, that darkness pursue you not, and catch you, and sever you from the Illumining. The night cometh when no man can work after our departure hence. The one is the voice of David, the other of the True Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. And consider how Solomon reproves you who are too idle or lethargic, saying, How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard, and when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? You rely upon this or that, and "pretend pretences in sins;" I am waiting for Epiphany; I prefer Easter; I will wait for Pentecost. It is better to be baptized with Christ, to rise with Christ on the Day of His Resurrection, to honor the Manifestation of the Spirit. And what then? The end will come suddenly in a day for which thou lookest not, and in an hour that thou art not aware of; and then you will have for a companion lack of grace; and you will be famished in the midst of all those riches of goodness, though you ought to reap the opposite fruit from the opposite course, a harvest by diligence, and refreshment from the font, like the thirsty hart that runs in haste to the spring, and quenches the labor of his race by water; and not to be in Ishmael's case, dried up for want of water, or as the fable has it, punished by thirst in the midst of a spring. It is a sad thing to let the market day go by and then to seek for work. It is a sad thing to let the Manna pass and then to long for food. It is a sad thing to take a counsel too late, and to become sensible of the loss only when it is impossible to repair it; that is, after our departure hence, and the bitter closing of the acts of each man's life, and the punishment of sinners, and the glory of the purified. Therefore do not delay in coming to grace, but hasten, lest the robber outstrip you, lest the adulterer pass you by, lest the insatiate be satisfied before you, lest the murderer seize the blessing first, or the publican or the fornicator, or any of these violent ones who take the Kingdom of heaven by force. For it suffers violence willingly, and is tyrannized over through goodness.
Looking at the whole quote, it is now obvious what is going on. There was a group of catechumens who, in reading of the parable of the laborers for the Harvest (Matthew 20:1-16), some of whom were hired in the morning, and others at various times of the day, and finally some at the last hour, and all of whom were paid the same, saw in that their opportunity to wait until the last hour and then be able to jump in and, with a minimum of labor, gain entrance to the Kingdom, and even be more blessed than those who labored long through the hot hours of the day. They knew of the teaching of Baptism of Desire, and were presuming upon it to save them. But what sort of desire it is that, when opportunity permits to be fulfilled, does not fulfill it? They have been through their training; they know what is to be expected of them; they have qualified themselves for Baptism. Why not step into baptism right now as opportunity permits? God, Who reads hearts, can see when a man has murdered another in his heart, and indeed judges him on account of that; likewise will God judge the true desire for the act regarding baptism. But such a "desire" that seeks the gains without the labor, that avoids the obligations until the last moment, that speaks of wanting to be baptized but finds excuses not to do so when opportunity presents itself, God sees what that is, too. It is exactly the enlargement of what St. Augustine was talking about when he stated that those who look for only rewards will find only punishments. That will not be honored. Let those who deliberately take refuge in it be similarly content with such a "longing" for glory, for real glory will not be theirs.
And see again that Baptism of Desire was plainly known to these foolish catechumens, so as to be taken for granted by them, but plainly that was the teaching of the Church, now being wrongly abused. And see how the Saint denounces the abuse without attacking the teaching of the Church itself. He doesn't say "You are nuts to believe in Baptism of Desire," but "You are nuts to believe that you could stand to be saved through Baptism of Desire, you whose desire has already proven itself fictitious and without merit."
One most basic and obvious problem with the "quotes" as given by those attempting to refute BOB and/or BOD is that all of them have been short passages, given by some saint or pope or doctor in the midst of discussing something else altogether, and even mentioning baptism at all in only the most cursory way. Such short quotes may be great for use as "sound bites," but no serious theologian bases his theology on such short quotes, especially as taken out of context, and most especially when the ones so quoted have also spoken at length on the particular topic. Exploring such lengthy expositions by the Fathers and Doctors and Popes and others has been the approach taken in this series, precisely because it is the one thing that those who deny BOB and/or BOD simply cannot do in response.
There are no Fathers or Doctors or Theologians or Popes or Councils expounding at length why the Church teachings of BOB and BOD are to be rejected, clear until Peter Abélard taught his unprecedented claim that not even a chaste and holy fear and love of God could save a person if they were not baptized (denying only BOD), and clear until Fr. Feeney and some of his compatriots began claiming the same for the holy (but unbaptized in water) martyrs. But one finds many places, at least much as I have identified in this and previous installments, where the reasons to believe in both BOB and BOD have been expounded upon at length, and directly on topic by the saint, pope, or doctor who is doing the speaking. It is where the person is expounding at length that their true position is to be most taken, for there they directly address, in full, the topic to which they have otherwise made only the most brief, incomplete, and glancing reference.
Griff L. Ruby
Coming in December: Part 11
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
For the fifth installment of this series, see Part 5
For the sixth installment of this series, see Part 6
For the seventh installment of this series, see Part 7
For the eighth installment of this series, see Part 8
For the ninth installment of this series, see Part 9
For the first part of the tenth installment of this series, see Part 10a
Griff's book is available from iUniverse.com Books for $26.95 or can be read on-line at www.the-pope.com 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.