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Baptism of Desire = Perfect Charity or Contrition

QUESTION: On the subject of baptism of desire and blood, when I question the subject on one traditional website to a priest and say I believe in it, I am told I am in heresy. If I tell a priest on another traditional website that I am against it, he tells me I am in heresy.

I am very serious. I don’t know what to believe any more on the subject. If only I knew the complete truth, I would not doubt it at all. Never in my whole life, have I ever doubted the smallest thing I was taught concerning my faith.

What about the doctrine, “Outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation”? I was taught that if fallen-away Catholics did not return to the Church before they died they went to hell; that Protestants, Moslems, Jews, etc. went to hell if they did not come into the Church before they died; that if God wanted a soul to be saved, He sent a “preacher” to him to lead him into the Catholic Church. I was taught of the importance of going out and seeking souls to lead to the truth of the Catholic Church. I am not sure of even this part of my faith I was taught as a child.

The last five popes say that you don’t have to be in the Catholic Church to be saved, that protestants, Jews and others don’t need to be converted before they die, etc.

If what I was taught in regards to this doctrine was false, then I wonder what else I could have been taught as a child was wrong. Maybe I don’t know my Catholic faith at all. Can you understand the dilemma I feel?

I have always accepted everything I was taught as a child about my faith without the least question or doubt, and I could not tolerate those who did not believe without question. I could accept baptism of blood and desire as the truth, if I knew it was really the truth.

RESPONSE: Don’t feel bad if you don’t remember everything you were taught. No one can do that!

Baptism of desire and baptism of blood were indeed taught in the old catechisms. This is one of the indications that a teaching belongs to the universal ordinary magisterium, and hence, Catholics are obliged to adhere to it.

No Catholic theologian teaches that these doctrines contradict the teaching “Outside the Church, no salvation.”

Q: So you are telling me it is correct to believe in baptism of desire and blood and it does not go against the doctrine “outside the Catholic church there is no salvation?

R: That is correct. It does not. The same theologians who teach one doctrine also teach the other.

Q: So those souls such as protestants, Jews, etc. that God does not put in contact with the true Faith go to heaven if they live good lives according to their religion?

Isn’t this one of the heresies Benedict XVI is teaching, saying that the protestants, Jews, etc. do not need to convert to the Catholic faith?

R: You misunderstand. This is not baptism of desire, and that is not what the doctrine means.

Here is an explanation of baptism of desire from the pre-Vatican II theologian, Father Felix Cappello:

The term baptism of the spirit or of desire [flaminis seu desiderii] means an act of perfect charity or contrition, with at least an implicit wish for the sacrament. ‘For the heart of a man,’ says St. Thomas, ‘is moved by the Holy Ghost to believe and love God, and repent of its sins.’

“Thus, baptism of desire serves to justify a man in place of baptism properly speaking, for (as our treatise On Penance says) outside of the sacrament actually received, perfect contrition is in itself [per se] an immediate disposition for justification…

“… baptism of desire [in voto] takes place when at least the implicit intention to receive it [the sacrament of baptism] is present; this intention is contained in the act of charity or contrition, insofar as it is a general will to fulfill all divine commandments and to employ all means divinely instituted as necessary for salvation.” (Tractatus Canonico-Moralis de Sacramentis, 4th ed. [Rome: 1945] 1:110, 112.)

Baptism of desire, in other words, is equated with perfect charity or perfect contrition.

Q: What happened to the concept that we must go out and convert protestants, Jews, etc. to the Catholic Church, outside of which there is no salvation. In my early years, God sent me to many souls to “preach” to to lead them to the Cathoic Church.

R: Obviously, we’re still obliged to do this.

After all, how many Catholics, still less non-Catholics, have perfect contrition?

So, the missionary apostolate of preaching and converting souls to the one, true faith must ever continue.