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Baptism of Desire, Blood, and Water (The Threefold Baptism)
Last updated: July 2015
The Sacrament of Baptism, which was instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ, imprints a "character" on the soul,
admitting the recipient to membership in the Catholic Church. The matter of Baptism is natural water poured
over the head of the person to be baptized. Throughout the history of the Catholic Church it has been
unanimously taught that both Baptism of Desire and Baptism of Blood, while not Sacraments in themselves, can supply the grace of the Sacrament, when Baptism of Water becomes a physical or moral impossibility.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, a Jesuit priest named Father Leonard Feeney was known to publicly oppose the doctrine on the threefold Baptism, where he accepted only water Baptism. His doctrinal position came to be known as Feeneyism, and those supporting his position came to be known as Feeneyites. Since Father Feeney passed away in 1978, Feeneyism has become an epidemic among Catholics today. The main reason this epidemic exists is because Catholics do not understand the concept of the Magisterium of the Church.
This website was created to set the record straight, showing that Baptism of Desire, Baptism of Blood, and Baptism of Water (the three-fold Baptism) is a Catholic doctrine taught since the earliest days of the Catholic Church. Read below for an explanation of why Catholics MUST believe this doctrine. Note this PDF document consists of the core of the website www.baptismofdesire.com with the exception of its photos, diagrams, and additional articles. Please go to the website itself for the full content.
The Magisterium of the Church In order to understand Baptism of Desire and Blood, Catholics must first understand what the Magisterium of the Church is, which is defined as "the Church's divinely appointed authority to teach the truths of religion". In other words, Our Lord gave His Church the authority to teach the faithful about what is expected of them. The Magisterium of Catholic Church teaches the faithful in two ways;
1. Solemn Magisterium: Defined as Church teaching “which is exercised only rarely by formal and authentic definitions of councils or Popes. Its matter comprises dogmatic definitions of ecumenical councils or Popes teaching "ex cathedra." (Definition from “A Catholic Dictionary”, 1951) Examples of the Solemn Magisterium would be decisions of any General Councils of the Church, or certain papal encyclicals, such as that defining the Dogma of the Assumption in 1950. Note that it is only in extraordinary circumstances that the Catholic Church teaches in this manner, which historically has been to combat heresy. For this reason it is sometimes referred to as the “extraordinary magisterium”. For examples of the Solemn Magisterium, here is a list of all solemn teaching during the first 7 centuries of the Catholic
· Council of Nicaea I (325): condemned the heresy of Arius, and defined the Divinity of the Son of God and the Nicene Creed.
· Council of Constantinople I (381): condemned the heresy of Macedonius, and defined the Divinity of the Holy Ghost, confirmed and extended the Nicene Creed.
Comments or questions? email@example.com · Council of Ephesus (431): condemned the heresy of Nestorius, and defined that there was one person in Christ, and defended the Divine Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
· Council of Chalcedon (451): condemned the heresy of Eutyches (Monophysitism); declared Christ had two natures, human and divine.
· Council of Constantinople II (553): condemned, as savoring of Nestorianism, the so-called Three Chapters, the erroneous books of Theodore of Mopsuestia and the teaching of Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Ibas of Edessa.
· Council of Constantinople III (680-681): declared against the Monothelites, who taught one will in Christ, by defining that Christ had two wills, human and divine.
Here we can clearly see that in the first 7 centuries of the Church, the Solemn Magisterium was not used often, and very little was solemnly defined. So at least 7 generations of Catholics lived and died during this time with very little solemn teaching by the Church. This is because the majority of what Catholics believe comes from the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church (see next).
2. Ordinary Magisterium: this second form of Church teaching is “continually exercised by the Church especially in her universal practices connected with faith and morals, in the unanimous consent of the Fathers and theologians, in the decisions of the Roman Congregations concerning faith and morals, in the common sense of the Faithful, and various historical documents, in which the faith is declared.” (Definition from “A Catholic Dictionary”, 1951) So, according to this definition, the Ordinary Magisterium (also referred to as the Universal Ordinary Magisterium) is Church teaching that is continuous and unanimously consented to throughout the Church.
"A Commentary on Canon Law" (Augustine, 1918, Canon 1323, pg 327) states: "The universal and ordinary magisterium consists of the entire episcopate, according to the constitution and order defined by Christ, i.e., all the bishops of the universal Church, dependently on the Roman Pontiff". It also states, "What the universal and approved practice and discipline proposes as connected with faith and morals must be believed. And what the Holy Fathers and the theologians hold unanimously as a matter of faith and morals, is also de fide."
The Ordinary Magisterium is where the majority of Catholic beliefs are taught and learned; through unanimous teaching by preaching, by any written means, the approval of catechisms, the approval of textbooks for use in seminaries, etc.
Some examples of the Ordinary Magisterium would be that of Guardian Angels, or the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (before 1950). While neither were solemnly defined by the Church (before 1950), they were always universally taught and believed, and it would be considered heresy to deny them.
For example, Arius was considered a heretic before his condemnation at the Council of Nicaea in 325, because the Divinity of Christ (which he denied) was part of the teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium before that Council. The same applies to Nestorius regarding his denial of the Divine Maternity of the Blessed Virgin, where he was later declared a heretic by the Solemn Magisterium at the Council of Ephesus.
So in a nutshell, the Solemn Magisterium (used rarely) plus the Ordinary Magisterium (used continuously) equals the complete infallible teaching of the Catholic Church. The article "Science and the Church" from the Catholic Encyclopedia (1917) states it well: "The official activity of teaching may be exercised either in the Comments or questions? firstname.lastname@example.org ordinary, or daily, magisterium, or by occasional solemn decisions. The former goes on uninterruptedly; the latter are called forth in times of great danger, especially of growing heresies."
Finally, the most frequent reason why the Solemn Magisterium is used is in order to confirm a doctrine which already belongs to the Ordinary Magisterium, but which has come under attack, usually by heretics.
The Dogma of Infallibility It is a dogma of the Catholic Church that the Church is divinely kept from the possibility of error in her definitive teaching on faith and morals.
Definition of “Infallibility” from “A Catholic Dictionary”, 1951: "This infallibility resides (A) in the pope personally and alone; (B) in an ecumenical Council subject to papal confirmation (these infallibilities are distinct but correlative); (C) in the bishops of the Church, dispersed throughout the world, teaching definitively in union with the pope. This is not a different infallibility from (B) but is the ordinary exercise of a prerogative (hence called the "ordinary magisterium") which is manifested in a striking manner in an ecumenical Council. This ordinary magisterium is exercised by pastoral letters, preaching, catechisms, the censorship of publications dealing with faith and morals, the reprobation of doctrines and books: it is thus in continuous function and embraces the whole deposit of faith."
The Catholic Encyclopedia (1917) in the article on Infallibility, states the same: "Three Organs of Infallibility: 1.
the bishops dispersed throughout the world in union with the Holy See (exercised by what theologians describe as the ordinarium magisterium, i. e. the common or everyday teaching authority of the Church), 2. ecumenical councils under the headship of the pope; and 3. the pope himself separately.
So these definitions coincide with the magisterium definitions above.
In other words, teaching from the Ordinary Magisterium continually occurs throughout the Church century after century, and the decisions of Popes and Councils (Solemn Magisterium) confine what is taught through the ordinary teaching. Both solemn and ordinary teaching of the Church are considered infallible by this definition. The infallibility of both Solemn and Ordinary Magisterium was solemnly defined by the First Vatican
Council (1870) when it stated the following:
"All those things are to be believed by divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the written Word of God or in Tradition, and which are proposed by the Church, either in solemn judgment or in its ordinary and universal teaching office, as divinely revealed truths which must be believed."
In other words, both forms of the Magisterium of the Church (Solemn or Ordinary) are infallible and must be believed, according to this General Council. So if a teaching in the Church is universal, and allowed to propagate without condemnation from the Solemn Magisterium, it is considered infallible by the First Vatican Council. Next we provide examples of such teaching from both solemn and ordinary teaching of the Church on the subject of the threefold Baptism.
Comments or questions? email@example.com Examples of Church Teaching on Baptism of Desire, Blood and Water St. Cyprian, Church Father (3rd Century): The Epistles of Cyprian, Epistle LXXII: "Let men of this kind, who · are aiders and favourers of heretics, know therefore, first, that those catechumens hold the sound faith and truth of the Church, and advance from the divine camp to do battle with the devil, with a full and sincere acknowledgment of God the Father, and of Christ, and of the Holy Ghost; then, that they certainly are not deprived of the sacrament of baptism who are baptized with the most glorious and greatest baptism of blood".
Epistle LXXII, To Jubaianus, Concerning the Baptism of Heretics: "Let men of this kind, who are aiders and favourers of heretics, know therefore, first, that those catechumens hold the sound faith and truth of the Church, and advance from the divine camp to do battle with the devil, with a full and sincere acknowledgment of God the Father, and of Christ, and of the Holy Ghost; then, that they certainly are not deprived of the sacrament of baptism who are baptized with the most glorious and greatest baptism of blood, concerning which the Lord also said, that He had "another baptism to be baptized with."
The Treatises Of Cyprian, Treatise XI, Exhortation to Martyrdom, Addressed to Fortunatus: "In the baptism of water is received the remission of sins, in the baptism of blood the crown of virtues. This thing is to be embraced and desired, and to be asked for in all the entreaties of our petitions, that we who are God's servants should be also His friends."
Tertullian, Church Father (3rd Century): On Baptism, Chapter XVI, Of the Second Baptism - With Blood:
· "We have indeed, likewise, a second font, (itself withal one with the former,) of blood, to wit;
concerning which the Lord said, "I have to be baptized with a baptism,"when He had been baptized already. For He had come "by means of water and blood,"just as John has written; that He might be baptized by the water, glorified by the blood; to make us, in like manner, called by water, chosen by blood. These two baptisms He sent out from the wound in His pierced side, in order that they who believed in His blood might be bathed with the water; they who had been bathed in the water might likewise drink the blood. This is the baptism which both stands in lieu of the fontal bathing when that has not been received, and restores it when lost."
Scorpiace: Antidote for the Scorpion's Sting, Ch VI: "He therefore appointed as second supplies of comfort, and the last means of succour, the fight of martyrdom and the baptism--thereafter free from
danger--of blood. And concerning the happiness of the man who has partaken of these, David says:
"Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." For, strictly speaking, there cannot any longer be reckoned ought against the martyrs, by whom in the baptism (of blood) life itself is laid down. Thus, "love covers the multitude of sins;" and loving God, to wit, with all its strength (by which in the endurance of martyrdom it maintains the fight), with all its life (which it lays down for God), it makes of man a martyr."
· St. Hippolytus of Rome (3rd century): Canons of Hypolytus, Can. XIX: Concerning Catechumens:
"Catechumens, who by the unbelievers are arrested and killed by martyrdom, before they received baptism, are to be buried with the other martyrs, for they are baptized in their own blood."
· Constitutions of the Holy Apostles. Book V, Sec I, Concerning the Martyrs, para 6: (3rd-4th Century): (A compilation of writings from the Apostles and their immediate successors) "But let him who is Comments or questions? firstname.lastname@example.org vouchsafed the honour of martyrdom rejoice with joy in the Lord, as obtaining thereby so great a crown, and departing out of this life by his confession. Nay, though he be trot a catechumen, let him depart without trouble; for his suffering for Christ will be to him a more genuine baptism, because he does really die with Christ, but the rest only in a figure."
· St. John Chrystostome, Church Father and Doctor of the Church (4th Century): Panegyric on St.