The Roman Catholic view of the sacrament of Baptism is set forth in the canons and decrees of the Council of Trent, adopted in the seventh session of this council, as follows:
Canon I.—”If any one saith, that the baptism of John had the same force as the baptism of Christ: let him be anathema.”
Canon II.—”If any one saith, that true and natural water is not of necessity for baptism, and, on that account, wrests, to some sort of metaphor, those words of our Lord Jesus Christ: Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost: let him be anathema.”
Canon IV.—”If any one saith, that the baptism which is even given by heretics in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, with the intention of doing what the Church doth, is not true baptism: let him be anathema.”
Canon V.—”If any one saith, that baptism is free, that is, not necessary unto salvation: let him be anathema.”
Canon VII.—”If any one saith, that the baptized are freed from all the precepts, whether written or transmitted, of holy Church, in such wise that they are not bound to observe them, unless they have chosen of their own accord to submit themselves thereunto: let him be anathema.”
Canon XII.—”If any one saith, that no one is to be baptized save at that age at which Christ was baptized, or in the very article of death: let him be anathema.” Canon XIII.—”If any one saith, that little children, for that they have not actual faith, are not, after having received baptism, to be reckoned amongst the faithful; and, that, for this cause, they are to be rebaptized when they have attained to years of discretion; or, that it is better that the baptism of such be omitted, than that, while not believing by their own act, they should be baptized in the faith alone of the Church: let him be anathema.”
Of interest is also what we read in the Radio Replies of the Fathers Rumble and Carty, as they answer questions put to them in connection with the sacrament of baptism. In Volume I of these Replies Questions 800-512 treat this subject as follows:
800. You connect Baptism with original sin?
Yes. Baptism was instituted by Christ for the destruction of original sin, and to restore that grace forfeited by our first parents which is absolutely necessary for the attaining of our eternal destiny. Christ Himself insisted that one must be born again of water and the Holy Ghost.
801. How can a man be born again?
Just as the soul is the life of the body, so grace is the life of the soul in the supernatural order. Now life is attained by birth. We are born into this earthly existence from our earthly parents. But we are born without the principle of God’s grace which carries with it a right to a life of eternal happiness with God. Thus a man must be born into the life of grace by water and the Holy Ghost, if he wishes to possess the birth-right to eternal supernatural happiness.
802. Do you insist that Baptism is necessary to salvation?
Yes. Christ came to save men, and He has the right to dictate the conditions of salvation. If you offered me a fortune provided I would go to London via Suez, particularly insisting that I should go via Suez, it would be little use my saying, “Oh, I’ll go via Panama: it’s a much more sensible route.” You would reply, “But I want you to go via Suez, or there will be no fortune.” Now Christ distinctly commanded Baptism as a condition of salvation, and no arguments of men, who cannot save us, are of any avail against the authority of Christ. It is necessary to be baptized, or we shall never see God and rejoice in the happiness of Heaven.
803. Then are all the unbaptized lost, whether it be their own fault or not?
No one will ever be lost save through his own fault. Christ is God, and, as God, can work with secondary causes or without them. The ordinary means of salvation is by Baptism, and one who is convinced of the necessity of Baptism yet deliberately refuses to receive it cannot be saved. But God can supply the grace usually given by Baptism, and does so without the actual sacramental rite in two cases. If an unbaptized person dies a martyr for Christ he is credited with Baptism of blood. Baptism of desire counts for the man who repents of his sins and dies with the sincere will to do God’s will, yet who, through no fault of his own, does not realize the necessity of actual Baptism by water, or is unable to receive it. (In this connection, one might ask an interesting question? If Baptism, the baptism by water, is necessary for the destruction of original sin and to restore that grace forfeited by our first parents, which is absolutely necessary for the attaining of our eternal destiny, how is it possible for an unbaptized person to repent of his sins and die with the sincere will to do God’s will?—H.V.)
804. Would you explain more fully this Baptism of desire?
Every human being has a conscience which dictates a natural law of moral obligation at least when he comes to the age of reason. If. a pagan knows nothing of Christianity, and is ignorant of it through no fault of his own, he can at least repent of his personal sins against his conscience, and desire to do the right thing. God gives every man the grace to do this much. Now we know that a man should receive Baptism. If the pagan knew this he would receive Baptism. This sincere desire to do all that God would require implicitly includes the desire of Baptism, and God takes the will for the deed, granting sanctifying grace. Thus such a pagan would be saved. As is clear, anyone who has attained to the use of reason would be capable of this Baptism of desire. (In this connection, the undersigned would make the following comments. When, in the preceding answer the Fathers Rumble and Carty declare that none is lost save through his own sin, although it remains true that all fault lies with the sinner, they nevertheless give expression to the Roman Catholic doctrine which denied Divine reprobation. And in this answer Roman Catholicism gives expression to its teaching of Pelagianism. God, we read, gives every sinner the grace to be able to repent of his sin. This simply means that the sinner is not dead in sins and in trespasses as apart from regenerating grace. The grace which the Lord gives him is not sanctifying grace, but merely the grace to be able to feel sorry for his sins. This reminds us of the Heynsian conception of the sacrament of. baptism, which also taught that at baptism each child receives from God the ability to accept the gospel and the offer of salvation which would be extended to him in the preaching of the gospel. And we would also like to point out that this answer declares that a heathen knows nothing of Christianity and is ignorant of it through no fault of his own. This is surely contrary to the teachings of the Word of God in Romans 1 where the present condition of the heathen world is directly attributed to the fact that the heathens rejected God and refused to acknowledge Him Who was clearly revealed to them.)
805. Then an unbaptized infant cannot attain Heaven?
An unbaptized infant cannot attain Heaven. Christ has said very definitely, “Unless one be born again . . . he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” John III, 3. I am not more severe than Christ in my denial. He declares that the ordinary principle of life received by human generation is insufficient. We must receive an additional life of grace by baptismal rebirth. An unbaptized infant has received natural life only and had one birth only. If it dies without Baptism it has no claim to the supernatural happiness of Heaven. (Here the Roman Catholic view is set forth that no unbaptized infant can enter into Heaven. Of course, the truth of John 3:2 stands, but Roman Catholicism connects this spiritual rebirth with the sacrament of baptism.)
806. Is it not unjust that such a child should be lost through no fault of its own?
Injustice is not involved in this question. When treating of original sin I explained how such a child lacks that supernatural grace which is not due to human nature, and without which no one can enter Heaven. Christ offers that supernatural grace to such of Adam’s children as receive Baptism. It is His sheer goodness that He does so, and those who have been baptized have but to congratulate themselves. Unbaptized infants, who have never committed any personal sins, will never endure any actual and positive suffering. But they will be content with natural happiness only, and will not be able to complain that they do not possess the supernatural happiness of seeing God face to face, and being happy with His own supreme happiness. If I bestow a gift upon a beggar in the presence of another, that other cannot tell me that I am obliged in justice to give him a gift also. Since the fall of the human race? we are all beggars before God as regards supernatural happiness. I admit that it would be unjust if a child innocent of any personal sin had to suffer the miseries of Hell. But such is not Catholic doctrine, as I have explained. (Here we surely have a strange concoction of Roman Catholic sophistry. How Roman Catholicism maintains its conception of the sacrament of Baptism, connecting regeneration with that sacrament, and thereby connecting regeneration with the Roman Catholic hierarchy! In Answer 805 the Fathers Rumble and Carty had stated that no unbaptized infant can enter Heaven. And in Answer 803 they had declared that all unbaptized are lost. Now we know that the Scriptures speak only of Heaven and Hell. There is no other destiny for the children of men. So, an unbaptized person does not enter Heaven and must be lost. It is true that the Romish view speaks of the baptism of desire, but this, we understand, does not apply to infants. They cannot have this baptism of desire. And now we are told in Answer 806 that the question of injustice is not involved in the presentation that an unbaptized infant should be lost through no fault of its own. In Answer 803 these Romish leaders tell us that no man is lost except through his own fault. And now in this answer they grant that an infant does not enter into Heaven through no fault of his own. Only, they concoct the fantastic theory that such a child does not enter heaven or hell, and that he enters a place of eternal natural happiness. And the Scriptures teach that all men are born dead in sins and trespasses, and that all are worthy of eternal damnation.
807. Do you suggest a special state for unbaptized infants?
Yes. We call it the Limbo of unbaptized children. The word Limbo is derived from the Latin word Limbus, which means a bordering place. Limbo is an intermediate state of purely natural happiness. In that state unbaptized children will receive all the happiness proportionate to their natural capacity. (Imagine such a conception! This natural happiness certainly excludes God and fellowship with God. Imagine children who will be happy forever, merely naturally, without God and His Christ and His fellowship!—H.V.)