Thursday, April 28, 2011

Baptism of Desire?

No, it was not hearing another in the Christian community claiming that Hell does not exist that came as a great shock to me.  For like weeds in an untilled garden, they are popping-up all over the place these days.

It was, however, what Bill O’Reilly said about the Catholic church not teaching that non-Christians are surely headed straight to Hell after their time as a part of this world comes to an end.  For I was under the impression that they taught that all who were not baptized into the Catholic church were doomed to eternal damnation.
If you didn’t catch it on the video, you can read a transcript of the entire interview [here].  To save you some trouble, the following is what I am referring to.

BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Impact" segment tonight: The cover of TIME magazine last week, Holy Week, featured a Michigan preacher who says there might not be a Hell, that nobody will be punished for eternity. As you may know, the basis of Judeo-Christian tradition is that good will be rewarded and evil punished in the afterlife. If that equation breaks down, so does the tradition.
Joining us now from Raleigh, North Carolina, Pastor Jack McKinney, a Ph.D. who consults with religious clergy and congregations. So, good news for Adolf, Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao Zedong and  other villains who slaughtered millions of people, right? They're not going to pay. That sounds like good news, huh?

DR. JACK MCKINNEY, PASTOR: Yes, Bill. I think that would not be the issue except the church doesn't just teach that mass murderers go to Hell. They teach that people like Gandhi go to Hell, and that puts God in a very difficult place. We're turning God into a monster by teaching of a literal Hell.

O'REILLY: Which church teaches that? Which church teaches that? My church doesn't teach that. The Catholic Church doesn't teach that.

MCKINNEY: The conservative church does teach that.

O'REILLY: The evangelicals you mean.

MCKINNEY: Yes, evangelicals but other segments of the church teach a literal Hell for anyone who doesn't accept Jesus. I think it's a theological, historical mistake.

O'REILLY: OK. In the Christian community, with all due respect to evangelicals, who we do respect, I think that's an extreme position. Let me -- let me define what the Catholic Church's position on this is, all right?

"Non-Christians who seek God with a sincere heart," which would be Gandhi, "and move by his grace, try to do his will as they know it through the dictates of conscience, can also be saved without water baptism. They are said to desire implicitly. That is called baptism of desire."

I was taught that in third grade, that the Holocaust victims, who were primarily Jewish, they're damned because they're not Catholic? That's insane. All right. Little babies who die upon birth, they can't get baptized. They're not going to heaven? That's insane. I think the problem is, with this no Hell business, is that you have to deal with the Hitlers and the Pol Pots and these tyrants. And if you say there is no Hell, then there really isn't any regulation of behavior at all. And scripture goes right against that, does it not?

So, I did a little digging, and what Mr. O’Reilly quoted can also be found in the [Baptism of Desire] Wikipedia article.  Non-Christians who seek God with a sincere heart and, moved by grace, try to do His will as they know it through the dictates of conscience can also be saved without water baptism; they are said to desire it implicitly. (cf. Catechism, 1260)

I also did a little digging in the [Catholic Encyclopedia], which proved rather interesting.  The baptism of desire (baptismus flaminis) is a perfect contrition of heart, and every act of perfect charity or pure love of God which contains, at least implicitly, a desire (votum) of baptism. The Latin word flamen is used because Flamen is a name for the Holy Ghost, Whose special office it is to move the heart to love God and to conceive penitence for sin. The "baptism of the Holy Ghost" is a term employed in the third century by the anonymous author of the book "De Rebaptismate". The efficacy of this baptism of desire to supply the place of the baptism of water, as to its principal effect, is proved from the words of Christ. After He had declared the necessity of baptism (John 3), He promised justifying grace for acts of charity or perfect contrition (John 14): "He that loveth Me, shall be loved of my Father: and I will love him and will manifest myself to him." And again: "If any one love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him." Since these texts declare that justifying grace is bestowed on account of acts of perfect charity or contrition, it is evident that these acts supply the place of baptism as to its principal effect, the remission of sins. This doctrine is set forth clearly by the Council of Trent. In the fourteenth session (cap. iv) the council teaches that contrition is sometimes perfected by charity, and reconciles man to God, before the Sacrament of Penance is received. In the fourth chapter of the sixth session, in speaking of the necessity of baptism, it says that men can not obtain original justice "except by the washing of regeneration or its desire" (voto). The same doctrine is taught by Pope Innocent III (cap. Debitum, iv, De Bapt.), and the contrary propositions are condemned by Popes Pius V and Gregory XII, in proscribing the 31st and 33rd propositions of Baius.

We have already alluded to the funeral oration pronounced by St. Ambrose over the Emperor Valentinian II, a catechumen. The doctrine of the baptism of desire is here clearly set forth. St. Ambrose asks: "Did he not obtain the grace which he desired? Did he not obtain what he asked for? Certainly he obtained it because he asked for it." St. Augustine (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, IV.22) and St. Bernard (Ep. lxxvii, ad H. de S. Victore) likewise discourse in the same sense concerning the baptism of desire. If it be said that this doctrine contradicts the universal law of baptism made by Christ (John 3), the answer is that the lawgiver has made an exception (John 14) in favor of those who have the baptism of desire. Neither would it be a consequence of this doctrine that a person justified by the baptism of desire would thereby be dispensed from seeking after the baptism of water when the latter became a possibility. For, as has already been explained the baptismus flaminis contains the votum of receiving the baptismus aquæ. It is true that some of the Fathers of the Church arraign severely those who content themselves with the desire of receiving the sacrament of regeneration, but they are speaking of catechumens who of their own accord delay the reception of baptism from unpraiseworthy motives. Finally, it is to be noted that only adults are capable of receiving the baptism of desire.

To be quite honest, I need some help here.  For the predominant thought in my mind about this is that what is not being said is that what Catholics really believe is that all who may enter into our Heavenly Father’s Kingdom of Heaven through the Baptism of Desire still cannot actually enter into His very presence because of not being officially baptized into the church through the observance of the sacrament of water baptism.  In other words, all who can enter into our Heavenly Father’s very presence must at least come (or be brought) before a priest to be sprinkled during a baptismal ceremony, but I am not sure if this is really of our Heavenly Father or not.

In regards to what He has personally revealed to me about baptism, it is something that is quite pleasing to Him, but not necessary for salvation.  For it is just a symbolic gesture of having one’s sins washed away by the blood of His only begotten Son, who truly is the Lord Jesus Christ, and it serves as an open display of faith in His immeasurable grace for all to see.

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