Misrepresentation of the
dogma, "Outside the Church There
Is No Salvation"
The first error of those who take their doctrine from Rev. Fr. Leonard
Feeney, commonly known as "Feeneyites," is that they
misrepresent the dogma, "Outside the [Catholic] Church there
is no salvation." The Feeneyites misrepresent this as, "Without
baptism of water there is no salvation."
(c.210-258) was the first Catholic saint to use in writing the
expression "extra ecclesiam nulla salus," ("Outside the Church there is no salvation").
In the very passage in which he uses this phrase, St. Cyprian also
expresses that baptism of water is inferior to baptism
of blood. Since baptism of blood, he says, is not fruitful outside the
"outside the Church there is no salvation," baptism
of water also cannot be fruitful outside the Church. The reason for
this is that it would imprint the character of baptism but would not
give sanctifying grace, i.e., justification, which opens the
gates of heaven.
In the very next
paragraph, St. Cyprian teaches, with all the
fathers, doctors, popes and unanimously all theologians, that
baptism of blood, that is, dying for the Catholic Faith, is the most
glorious and perfect baptism of all, explicitly stating "even
without the water." In the paragraph following this one, St.
Cyprian teaches that Catholic faithful who, through no fault of their
own, were received into the Catholic Church without a valid
baptism, would still go to heaven. This is to say that they would
die with the requisite Catholic faith and charity, necessary to go to
heaven, though without the waters of baptism. These requisites are
exactly the conditions of "baptism of desire."
Why not then believe
the dogma "outside the Church there is no salvation"
"...with the same sense and the same understanding - in eodem
sensu eademque sententia" - as the whole Catholic
Church has taught it from the beginning, that is, including the
"three baptisms"? Fr. Leonard Feeney and his followers give
a new meaning, a new interpretation, to this dogma.
interpretation of this dogma, including the "three
baptisms," is that of St. Cyprian, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine,
St. Fulgentius, St. Bernard, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Robert Bellarmine,
St. Peter Canisius, St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Pope Innocent II, Pope
Innocent III, the Council of Trent, Pope Pius IX, Pope St. Pius X,
etc., and unanimously all theologians (prior to the modernists).
St. Alphonsus says: "It is de fide [that
is, it belongs to the Catholic Faith - Ed.] that there are
some men saved also by the baptism of the Spirit."
interpretation of "Outside the Church there is
no salvation," was approved by the Council of Florence
(1438-1445). The Council Fathers present made theirs the doctrine of
St. Thomas on baptism of desire, saying that for children one ought
not to wait 40 or 80 days for their instruction, because for them
there was "no other remedy." This expression is
taken directly from St. Thomas (Summa Theologica, IIIa, Q.68,
A. 3) and it refers explicitly to baptism of desire (ST, IIIa,
Q.68, A.2). Despite the fact that the Council of Florence espoused the
doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas, it is astonishing to see Feeneyites
opposing this council to St. Thomas!
None of the arguments of the Feeneyites have value against the rock of
Tradition. But, to be consistent, let us refute two more of their
The doctrine of baptism of
desire is optional
The Feeneyites present the Church’s doctrine of baptism of desire as
a question to be freely discussed within the Church: "...what
amounts to an academic difference to be settled by the Church."
If this were the case, each school of thought would then have to
be accepted until the pope later defined this 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 must believe everything
which belongs to the deposit of Faith, that being what has already
been defined and that which is not yet defined but is unanimously
taught by the Church.
Such is the case for the doctrine on baptism of desire, by the
Feeneyites’ own admission. They write: "This teaching
[on the "three baptisms"] indeed was and is the common
teaching of theologians since the early part of this millennium."
However, this was not only the "common teaching of theologians,"
but also that of popes, Doctors of the Church, and saints! In
addition, it is found even before this millennium 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. That is why St. Alphonsus can say, as we have already
reported: "It is
We can concede that if a point of doctrine is not yet defined, one may
be excused in case of ignorance or may be allowed to discuss some
precision within the doctrine. In the case of baptism of
desire, for instance, we are allowed to discuss how explicit the
Catholic Faith must be in one for baptism of desire. But one is not
allowed to simply deny baptism of desire and reject the doctrine
itself. Rigorism always tends to destroy the truth.
He who denies a point of doctrine of the Church, knowing
that it is unanimously taught in the Tradition of the Church, even
though it is not yet defined, is not without sin against the virtue of
Faith "without which [Faith] no one ever was justified"
(Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, 799; hereafter
The Council of Trent teaches
that baptism of desire is sufficient for justification "but
not for salvation"
Let us preface this section by saying the Council of Trent clearly
teaches that baptism of desire is sufficient for justification. The
Council anathematizes anyone believing the contrary. It is very
explicitly stated in Session VII, Canon 4 on the sacraments in
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 (The
Church Teaches, 668; Dz 847).
We must be wary of ambiguous translations from the original Latin.
(The accuracy of Latin is supreme and must be respected.) In a recent
flyer published by the Feeneyites entitled, "Desire, Justification
and Salvation at the Council of Trent," an ambiguous
translation of Session VI, Chapter 7 (Dz 799) is used: "...the
instrumental cause [of justification - Ed.] is the
sacrament of baptism, which is the ‘sacrament of faith,’ without
which no one is ever justified....". Now the Latin
qua nulli unquam contigit iustificatio." In the
Latin original, therefore, the phrase "without which"
(or, in the Latin original, "sine qua", is a
feminine pronoun meant to agree with a feminine noun) refers to the
"faith" (a feminine noun in Latin) and not to
"sacrament" (a neuter noun in Latin meant to agree with a
neuter pronoun). If it was "sacrament" the Council
Fathers wanted to highlight "without which no one is ever
justified," they would have written "sine quo."
The English translation of Chapter 7 as found in The Church
Teaches (TCT 563) accurately reflects the Latin (The
TAN Books & Publishers).
In this edition, this important sentence is correctly translated:
…The instrumental cause [of justification - Ed.] is the
sacrament of baptism, which is the ‘sacrament of faith’; without faith
no one has ever been justified." The correct
translation of the original Latin expresses the Church’s traditional
teaching and refutes the Feeneyite error.
When the Council of
Trent is read carefully, we see that the Council teaches that:
...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) (see Apoc. 14:13; 606, can. 32),
because Christ our Savior says: "He who
drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst, but it
will become in him a fountain of water, springing up into life
everlasting" (see Jn. 4:13 ff.) [Session
VI, Chap. 16; Dz 809].
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, this is no
longer absolutely necessary (by necessity of means), since he has
already received by grace the ultimate fruit of that means. It still
remains necessary in virtue of our Lord’s precept to be baptized by
water. When and if circumstances independent of our will prevent us
from fulfilling such a precept, the principle taught by St. Cyprian,
St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, and others is to be applied: "God
takes the will as the fact." This means that God accepts
the intention to receive the sacrament of baptism as equivalent to the
actual reception of the sacrament.
It is false to
pretend that Canon 4 of Session VII (TCT 668) of the Council
of Trent (quoted above) on the "Sacraments in General" deals
with justification as opposed to salvation. Desire is
explicitly mentioned in this canon, for when it uses the expression
"aut eorum voto," it admits that the grace of
justification can be obtained by desire of the sacraments. It is also
false to say that Canon 5 on the Sacrament of Baptism from Session VII
of the Council of Trent deals with salvation as opposed to
justification. Indeed Canon 4 (of Session VII) deals explicitly with
the necessity of sacraments
"for salvation." In that context, the expression "grace of
justification" appears manifestly as being precisely the only
essential requisite for salvation, as is taught explicitly in
Session VI, Chapter 16. That which is said of the sacraments in
general applies to each sacrament in particular, without having to be
repeated each time. Simplistic reasoning which disregards the explicit
teaching of the Church on baptism of desire only arrives at false
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 need not mention exceptions each
time one speaks of a law. For instance, there are many definitions of
the Church on original sin that do not mention the Immaculate
Conception. This does not invalidate the Immaculate Conception! For
instance Pope St. Zosimus wrote: "nullus omnino —absolutely
nobody" (Dz 109a) was exempt of the guilt of
original sin. Such a "definition" must be understood as the
Church understands it, that is, in this particular case, 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, but it is not necessary to expect it on every
page of her teaching. Silence on an exception is not a negation of it.
This principle is important to remember so as not to be deceived by a
frequent technique of the Feeneyites. They accumulate quotes on the
general necessity of baptism as if these quotes were against baptism
of desire. The very persons they quote hold explicitly the common
teaching on baptism of desire! These quotes affirming the general
necessity of baptism do not refer exclusively to baptism by water, nor
do they exclude baptism of blood and/or of desire. They are to be
understood "in the same sense and in the same words"
as the Catholic Church has always understood them, which means to
include baptism of blood and/or of desire along with that of water.
Lack of proper Thomistic
theology is the root of the error of the Feeneyites
To remedy the errors of Modernism, St. Pius X ordered the study
of St. Thomas Aquinas’s philosophy and theology. A book like
Desire and Deception, authored and published by Feeneyites, is
very dangerous for its opposition to St. Thomas. Let us hear St. Pius
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
In obedience, we must consider the sacramental theology of St. Thomas
Aquinas. He distinguishes three elements in each sacrament:
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.
An intermediate reality,
called sacramentum et re - sacrament and reality,
which, in the 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.
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 a 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 the proper minister. If
these are present, then it always signifies and produces the second
element. To be fruitful, there must be no obstacle. Therefore, baptism
in an heretical church, if done with proper matter, form, and
intention, gives the character of baptism but does not give
sanctifying grace. The person thus remains with 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 attached to his sin, for
example, a person who has stolen and refuses to render that which he
stole, places an obstacle which deprives his baptism of its ultimate
effect, that is, sanctifying grace.
It is a fact that one can go to hell despite having the character of
baptism. Yet, we know there are saints in heaven, such as the saints
of the Old Testament (Abraham, David, etc.) who do not have the
character of baptism. But nobody, however, dying with sanctifying
grace goes to hell, says the Council of Trent. Contrariwise, nobody
dying without sanctifying grace goes to heaven.
For the third element
of baptism, i.e., the infusion of sacramental grace, the
necessity of baptism for salvation is
absolute. This third element is found in each of the "three
baptisms," and 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 (#1 above) of baptism,
i.e., the sacrament itself, is relative to the third
element as the only means at our disposal to receive the third
element, that is, living Faith. The sacrament itself is "...’the
sacrament of faith’; without faith no one has ever been
says the Council of Trent (TCT 563). See how the Council of
Trent clearly sets the absolute necessity on the third element,
i.e., living faith, faith working through charity? One finds the
same distinction in the Holy Scripture, in St. John’s Gospel (chap.
3). That which is absolutely necessary is the new birth, that is, the
infusion of 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 means for
that rebirth, the only means at our disposal. This is not meant to
limit God’s power. He can infuse this new life (justification) even
without water, as he did to Cornelius (Acts 10).
There is an appalling confusion in the writings of the Feeneyites when
they deal with the sacramental character and with what they refer to
as "fulfilled/unfulfilled justice." Their confusion
regards the second and third elements (see above) of the sacramental
theology of the Catholic Church. Dare one add with St. Pius X, as the
cause of their error, a certain 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 concerning
baptism of desire and blood, they might embrace the whole of the
Catholic Faith. Their error caricatures the Catholic Faith and gives
easy weapons to the enemies of 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 (cf. Rom. 10:3).
We must defend the Catholic Faith, the absolute necessity of interior
sanctifying grace as inseparable from true faith, hope and charity,
and the necessity of the exterior sacraments "re aut voto - in
reality or at least in desire" as taught by the Council of
In this 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 faith no one
has ever been justified" (Council of Trent, TCT
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.
1 Letter no. 73 (§21) to Jubaianus
2 Having received an invalid baptism outside the Church, and
being received into the Church without being at least
rebaptized under condition. It was a hypothetical case at the
time of St. Cyprian (in this was he in error) but it
probably happens in some cases today, due to the laxity
when receiving converts.
3 Denzinger, The Sources of
Catholic Dogma, 1800, Vatican I, de fide.
4 "Baptism of the Spirit" is another name for
baptism of desire, by the grace of the Holy Ghost; De Baptismo, cap.
5 In the very decree Cantate
Domino to the Armenians so often quoted by the
Feeneyites (Dz 712).
6 Mancipia, July 1998, p.3.
7 Mancipia, July 1998, p.2.
8 Session VI, Chapter 16, Dz
For instance, in regards of a
sick person in the hospital who cannot accomplish the
precept of assisting at Mass on Sundays and feast days, his
will to fulfil the third commandment is
sufficient (ST, IIIa, Q.68, A.2, ad 3).
9 Is it through ignorance, or by projecting his preconceived
ideas, that the author claims that the Council of Florence "passed non-Thomist decrees"
(p.47)? Now to claim, as in
Desire and Deception, that the Cantate Domino
rejects baptism of blood is simply to ignore that the passage
in question is a quote of St. Fulgentius, who, in the very
same book from which that quote is taken, explicitly teaches
baptism of blood. Council Fathers never quote a Father of the
Church against the mind of such holy authors.
10 Pascendi, Sept. 8, 1907.
12 As in the Council of Trent, Canons on the Sacrament of
Baptism, Canon 5: "If anyone
says that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for
salvation: let him be anathema" (Dz 861, TCT
Canon 2 (Dz 858, TCT 688) does not deal with the necessity of
baptism, but with the nature of the sacrament. It defines that
real water, not symbolic, is of the nature of the sacrament: "If
anyone says that true and natural water is not necessary in
baptism, and therefore interprets metaphorically the words of
Our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘unless a man be born again of water
and the Holy Spirit’ (Jn. 3:5): let him be anathema."
Water, real water, belongs to the first element of sacrament,
the exterior sign.
Thus one sees clearly the sophism of the Feeneyite pamphlet
where it is written: "In terms of a syllogism we have
the infallible major premise: ‘baptism is necessary for
salvation’ and the infallible minor premise: ‘true and
natural water is necessary for baptism,’ and the infallible
conclusion. ‘true and natural water is necessary for
salvation.’" Here one finds a classical error of
logic: the middle term "baptism" is not taken in the
same acceptation in the major and the minor. The major applies
absolutely to the third element of baptism, res
sacramenti, the ultimate reality of the sacrament,
i.e., the new birth, the new life of sanctifying grace,
which is found in the "three baptisms." It applies
only relatively to the first element of baptism as explained
above. The minor deals only with the first element of baptism, sacramentum tantum,
of which the matter is real water and not symbolic water, as
some Protestants were saying.
13 The very saints the Feeneyites offer for admiration and
imitation in their publications themselves taught baptism of
desire! St. Alphonsus, and certainly all the holy
Redemptorists after him is the most forceful in favor of
baptism of desire, saying that it is de fide that
there are some men saved
also by the baptism of the Spirit.