Three errors of the Feeneyite movement
1/ Misrepresentation of the Dogma "Outside the Church there is no salvation."
They present it as "without baptism of water there is no salvation."
St. Cyprian, the first Saint to use by writing the expression "extra ecclesiam nulla salus", in the very passage in which he uses it, shows that Baptism of water being inferior to Baptism of Blood, and this last one not being fruitful outside the Church, "because outside the Church there is no salvation," therefore baptism of water outside the Church cannot be fruitful. (It imprints the character, but does not give sanctifying grace, i.e. justification, and thus does not open Heaven’s door).
In the very next paragraph, St. Cyprian teaches, with all the Fathers, Doctors, Popes and unanimously all theologians, that Baptism of Blood (dying for the Catholic Faith) is the most glorious and perfect of all baptism, explicitly stating "even without the water".
And in the next paragraph, St. Cyprian teaches that Catholic Faithful who, with no fault of their self, were received in the Catholic Church without a valid baptism, could still go to Heaven (thus with the Catholic Faith and Charity, but without the waters of baptism: this is exactly the conditions of baptism of desire).
Why not then believe the Dogma of the Church "outside the Church there is no salvation" "in the same meaning and in the same words – in eodem sensu eademque sententia" as the whole Catholic Church has taught it from the beginning, that is, including the "three Baptism"? Why then give a new meaning, a new interpretation to the Dogma?
It is worth reminding that this traditional interpretation of the Dogma, including the Three Baptism, is that of St. Cyprian, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Fulgence, St. Bernard, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Peter Canisius, St. Alphonsus of Liguori, Pope Innocent II, Pope Innocent III, the Council of Trent, Pope Pius IX, Pope St. Pius X, etc. and unanimously all theologians (before the modernists) !
It is worth reminding that St. Alphonsus says: "it is de fide – that is, it belongs to the Catholic Faith – that there are some men saved also by the baptism of the Spirit."
That traditional interpretation is approved by the council of Florence: the Council Fathers make theirs the doctrine of St. Thomas on baptism of desire, saying that for children one ought not to wait at least 40 or 80 days for their instruction, because for them there is "no other remedy" : that expression is taken from St. Thomas, IIIa qu. 68 a 3 and it refers explicitly to baptism of desire (see IIIa qu. 68 a 2), thus being approved by the Council of Florence! When one knows how much this Council espoused St. Thomas’s doctrine, it is astonishing to see Feeneyites opposing that Council to St. Thomas!
Against that rock of Tradition, all the arguments of the Feeneyites are of no value. But let us refute them too.
2/ The doctrine on Baptism of Desire is optional
They present it as a freely discussed question in the Church : "an academic difference to be settled by the Church." : each school of thought would then have to be accepted until the Pope later defines that doctrine. This is false.
The error here is to claim that only that which has already been defined belongs to the Deposit of Faith, and everything else is opened to free discussion.
The truth is that one ought to believe everything that belongs to the Deposit of Faith, both that which has already been defined and that which is not yet defined but is unanimously taught by the Church.
Such is the doctrine on Baptism of desire, by their own admission. They write indeed: "this teaching [on three baptisms] indeed was and is the common teaching of theologians since the early part of this millenium." They should add: common teaching of Popes, of Doctors of the Church and of Saints! They should add that it is found even before this millenium in the very early years of the Church, without a single dissenting voice.
Therefore one ought to believe in the doctrine of three baptisms, as it belongs to the Catholic Faith, though not yet defined. Thus St. Alphonsus can explicitly say: "it is de fide…"
If a point of doctrine is not yet defined, one may be excused in case of ignorance, or one may discuss some precision within the doctrine (as to how explicit the Catholic Faith must be in order to have baptism of desire), but one is not allowed to reject the doctrine itself, simply denying baptism of desire.
The example of St. Thomas and the Immaculate Conception is a false one. Indeed one must note that St. Thomas accepted the highest purity he saw possible for Our Lady, accepting even the feast of the Immaculate Conception as being the day of her "sanctification." He says explicitly: "Under Christ, Who [alone] did not need to be saved, being the universal Savior, the Blessed Virgin had the highest purity." The hard question in this point of doctrine was how to reconcile the fact that she is redeemed, and that she is immaculate. The truth is that Our Lady was sanctified in the very first moment of her conception by being preserved from original sin, and not in the second moment of her life by being purified : as this distinction was simply not taught before St. Thomas Aquinas, he cannot be criticized for not holding it. There was no unanimity before him as to how to reconcile these two points of doctrine. And therefore the parallel with baptism of desire does not stand at all! Never could a Pope define a doctrine contrary to what the Church has always taught.
And he who denies a point of doctrine of the Church, knowing that it is unanimously taught in the Tradition of the Church is not without sin against the virtue of Faith ("without which [Faith] no one ever was justified" ! Dz 799)
3/ Third error : The Council of Trent teaches that Baptism of Desire is sufficient for justification "but not for salvation".
The Council of Trent teaches that Baptism of Desire is sufficient for justification. It is very explicitly stated in Session 7 Canon 4 on the sacraments in general: "If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary for salvation, but that they are superfluous; and that men can, without the sacraments or the desire of them, obtain the grace of justification by faith alone, although it is true that not all the sacraments are necessary for each individual, let him be anathema." (Dz 847).
Beware of ambiguous translations! In their recent flyer on "Desire, Justification and Salvation at the Council of Trent", they use an ambiguous translation of Session 6 Chapter 7 (Dz 799): "the instrumental cause [of justification] is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which no man was ever justified…" Now the Latin has "sine QUA nulli unquam contigit iustificatio": thus the terms "without which" refer to the faith (feminine in Latin) and not to the sacrament (neutral in Latin: it would then have: sine quo). Thus in the translation found in "The Church Teaches" (TCT 563), one finds: "… without [which] Faith no one has ever been justified." Why not use the established unambiguous English translation? Why replace it with an ambiguous one?
Now if they had read carefully the Council of Trent, they would have seen that this Council teaches: "it is necessary to believe that the justified have everything necessary for them to be regarded as having completely satisfied the divine law for this life by their works, at least those which they have performed in God. And they may be regarded as having likewise truly merited the eternal life they will certainly attain in due time, if they but die in the state of grace…" In other words, salvation (which is at the end of the Christian life on earth) only requires perseverance in the state of grace received at justification (which is at the beginning of the Christian life on earth). Baptism is the sacrament of justification, the sacrament of the beginning of the Christian life. If one has received sanctifying grace (which is the reality of the sacrament, res sacramenti, of Baptism), he only needs to persevere in that grace to be saved. Perseverance in grace requires obedience to the Commandments of God, including the commandment to receive the sacrament of Baptism: thus there remains for him the obligation to receive baptism of water, but it is necessary for him no longer as mean (since he already received by grace the ultimate fruit of that mean), but only as precept. In case of circumstances not depending on our will and preventing us from fulfilling such a precept, "God takes the will as the fact." This is the principle applied by St. Cyprian, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, etc.
It is false to pretend that canon 4 on the Sacraments in general (where desire is explicitly mentioned in the expression "re aut voto") deals with justification as opposed to salvation and canon 5 on Baptism deals with salvation as opposed to justification. Indeed canon 4 (quoted above) deals explicitly with the necessity of sacraments "for salvation", the expression "grace of justification" in that context appears manifestly as being precisely the only essential requisite for salvation, as is taught explicitly in session 6 chapter 16 (see above). That which is said of the sacraments in general applies to each sacrament in particular, without having to be repeated each time. Simplistic reasoning, disregarding the explicit teaching of the Church on baptism of desire, only reach false conclusions.
That it is not necessary to repeat the clause "re aut voto" is so much the more true since baptism of desire is an exception, a special case, not the normal one. One needs not mention exceptions each time one speaks of a law. Thus, there are many definitions of the church on original sin that do not mention the Immaculate Conception, for instance Pope St. Zozimus wrote: "nullus omnino – absolutely nobody" (Dz 109a) was exempt of the guilt of original sin: such "definition" must be understood as the Church understands it, i.e., not including the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the same way, it is sufficient that Baptism of desire be explicitly taught by the Church, by the Council of Trent, in some place, it is not necessary to expect it at every page of her teaching; silence on an exception is not a negation of it. This principle is important to remember, in order not to be deceived by a frequent technique of the Feeneyites: they accumulate quotes on the general necessity of Baptism, as if it were against the doctrine on Baptism of Desire. Often the very persons they quote hold explicitly the common teaching on Baptism of Desire. The fact is that the general necessity of Baptism, as understood "in the same sense and in the same words" as the Church always understood it, far from excluding Baptism of Blood and of Desire includes this doctrine.
The root of the error of the Feeneyites: lack of proper Thomistic Theology
To remedy the errors of modernism St. Pius X has ordered the study of St. Thomas Aquinas’ philosophy and theology. A book like "desire and deception" put out by a Feeneyite is very dangerous for his opposition to that philosophy of St. Thomas, which is made mandatory by St. Pius X. Let us hear St. Pius X: "We will and strictly ordain that scholastic philosophy be made the basis of the sacred sciences… And let it be clearly understood above all things that when We prescribe scholastic philosophy We understand chiefly that which the Angelic Doctor has bequeathed to us… They cannot set aside St. Thomas, especially in metaphysical questions, without grave disadvantage."
St. Thomas distinguishes three elements in each sacrament: 1/ the exterior sign, called sacramentum tantum, sacrament itself, signifying and producing the other two elements. This exterior sign is composed of matter such as water, and form such as the words of the sacrament. 2/ An intermediate reality, called sacramentum et res, sacrament and reality, which, in case of baptism, is the character. This intermediate reality is both signified and produced by the exterior sign and further signifies and produces the third element. 3/ The ultimate reality, res sacramenti, the (ultimate) reality of the sacrament, which is the sacramental grace, i.e. sanctifying grace, as source of further actual graces to live as child of God, as soldier of Christ, etc.
A sacrament may be valid but not fruitful. To be valid the exterior sign needs valid matter, form, intention and proper minister, it then signifies and produces always the second element. To be fruitful, there must be no obstacle. Thus baptism in a heretical church, if done with proper matter, form and intention, does give the character of baptism but does not give sanctifying grace; the person thus remains with the original sin and actual sins; he has not become a child of God: Baptism is thus deprived of its ultimate effect, the most important one, because of the obstacle of a false faith, i.e. of heresy. In the same way, baptism in a Catholic Church of a person who had stolen and refuses to render that which he stole: such attachment to sin is an obstacle that deprives baptism of its ultimate effect, sanctifying grace.
One can go to Hell with the character of Baptism. And there are saints in Heaven, such as the Saints of the Old Testament (Abraham, David, etc.) without the character of Baptism. But nobody dying with sanctifying grace goes to Hell (as the Council of Trent says above), and nobody dying without sanctifying grace goes to Heaven.
Thus the necessity of Baptism for salvation is absolute for the third element of Baptism, the new birth by sanctifying grace, element which is found in each of the Three Baptism (even more perfectly in baptism of blood than in baptism of water, as is the constant teaching of the Church). Hence the common teaching on the necessity of Baptism includes the three Baptisms.
The necessity of the exterior element of Baptism, i.e. the sacrament itself, is relative to the third element, as the only mean at our disposal to receive the third element, living Faith; the sacrament itself is "the sacrament of Faith, without which [Faith] no one ever was justified" as says the Council of Trent (Dz 799). See how this holy Council clearly sets the absolute necessity on the third element (living faith, i.e. faith working through charity). One finds the same distinction in the Holy Scripture, chapter 3 of St. John’s Gospel: that which is absolutely necessary is the new birth, i.e. the infusion of the new life, sanctifying grace, the life of God in us. Five times Our Lord insists on the necessity to be "reborn, born of the Spirit". The water is mentioned only once as the mean for that rebirth, the only mean at our disposal, but not limiting God’s power Who can infuse this new life, (justification) even without water, as He did to Cornelius (Act. 10).
The confusion of the writings of the Feeneyites when they deal with sacramental character or with "fulfilled/unfulfilled justice" (confusion on the third element of the sacrament) is appalling. (Reply to Verbum, Res Fidei Feb.87, p.22, with refutation in Baptism of Desire published at the Angelus).
Dare one add with St. Pius X as cause of their error: pride that makes them more attached to their novelty than to the age-old teaching of the Popes, Fathers, Doctors and Saints?
"Brethren, the will of my heart, indeed, and my prayer to God, is for them unto salvation. For I bear witness, that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge." (Rom. 10:1-2) How much I wish and pray that, relinquishing their error, their refusal of the traditional teaching on the Three Baptism, they embrace the whole of Catholic Faith (not just defined Dogmas). They pretend to defend Dogma, but not with the truth! One cannot defend truth with error. Their error only gives easy weapons to the enemies of the Dogma! "Not knowing the Justice of God (interior sanctifying grace of justification by living Faith) and seeking to establish their own (exterior belonging to the Church by exterior sacraments), [they] have not submitted themselves to the justice of God" (Rom. 10:3).
We must defend the Catholic Faith, the absolute necessity of interior sanctifying grace (inseparable from the true Faith, Hope and Charity) and the necessity of the exterior sacraments "re aut voto – in reality or at least in desire" as teaches the Council of Trent.
In his time of confusion in the teaching of the Church we must hold fast to the unchangeable teaching of the Tradition of the Church, believing what the Church has always believed and taught "in the same meaning and the same words," not changing one iota to the right or to the left, for falling from the faith on one side or the other is still falling from the true Faith, "without which [Faith] no one ever was justified!" (Council of Trent, Dz 799).
Let us pray that Our Lord Jesus Christ may give them the light to see and the grace to accept the age-old teaching of our holy Mother the Church by her Popes, Fathers, Doctors and Saints, and that, correcting themselves, they may serve the Church rather than change her doctrine.