More on the Priesthood

In which I reply to a well-meaning but badly-catechized Catholic as he attempts to articulate the Tradition.

Why the Church Distinguishes between Mortal and Venial Sin, Part II
The Future Isn't What it Used to Be
Why the Church Distinguishes Between Mortal and Venial Sins
The Benefits of Belief
  • S. Quinn

    Brilliant and crystal clear as usual, Mark. “Badly catechized” is so true, but especially sad in this case. It’s not that he simply doesn’t know much ; it’s that he has a huge jumble of falsehoods, partial truths, and half-baked ideas mixed up with one or two facts, AND that he pontificates with this mess of pottage without any discernible evidence that he thinks he might be wrong, or has something to learn. I hope I am wrong and that he wrote back to thank you.

  • Claude

    Interesting column. Remind me again what happens to children who die without having been baptized?

    • Subsistent

      Since Pope John Paul’s Catechism, being a reference text, purports to break no new doctrinal ground, it does not contradict the theologic view of some in the Western Church who have held that unbaptized infants would never have Heaven’s Beatific Vision, altho it denies certainty to that view, in stating (# 1261) that God’s beneficent love “allows us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without baptism”, and (# 1257) that “God has bound salvation to the sacrament of baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.”
      This agrees with what Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Benedict XVI) told Vittorio Messori in a published interview in 1984: “Limbo was never a defined truth of the faith. Personally — and here I am speaking more as a theologian and not as Prefect of the Congregation — I would abandon it since it was only a theological hypothesis. It formed part of a secondary thesis in support of a truth which is absolutely of first significance for the faith, namely, the importance of baptism. …. One should not hesitate to give up the idea of ‘limbo’ if need be (and it is worth noting that the very theologians who proposed ‘limbo’ also said that parents could spare the child limbo by desiring its baptism and through prayer); but the concern behind it must not be surrendered. Baptism has never been a side issue for the faith; it is not now, nor will it ever be.”
      Bottom line (as I see it): God binds us to baptism; He does not bind Himself to it.

      • Claude

        Thank you.

        As always, I appreciate your informed response.

    • Mark Shea

      Unknown, though the Church urges us to hope for them. Here is the Catechism. Note the last paragraph in particular:

      1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation.60 He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them.61 Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.62 The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

      1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.

      1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.

      1260 “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.”63 Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.

      1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,”64 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.

      Note how the Church treats the matter: It’s obligated to honor the information it has from Jesus, not to make up stuff it likes in order to feel better or accomodate the mood of the times. At the same time, it hopes since Jesus has given it reason to hope. Personally, I suspect the hopes will be met with joy. The unbaptized Holy Innocents are saints of the Church. I have great hope that they are the firstfruits of a whole lot of other innocents. We’ll see.

      • Claude

        Well, thank you for that. After asking it occurred to me that I should read the catechism so as to spare the cognoscenti any further basic questions.

        Meanwhile now I know this, and I appreciate your time.

      • Marthe Lépine

        Do we have the same hope for those millions of aborted babies? I once read of a private revelation (received by someone whom I personally would trust as being sound) that claimed that those babies were in Heaven, busy praying for their mothers…

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    Oh good! Because of the delay, I have spent my morning worrying Claude had fallen ill!

    No one really knows how God handles unbaptised infants. If you don’t like a theological theory, propose another one.

    Just ground it in scripture and tradition. Limbo did at least have that going for it.

    One question though,doesn’t that goalpost get heavy?

  • Claude

    Oh my. Could you explain what you’re talking about? I almost certainly expressed dislike at some point for one theological tenet or another, but I’m quite sure I never weighed in on baptism.

    I could not recall from my poorly catechized childhood what fate awaited unbaptized innocents, though it must have been Purgatory. But then what happens?

    • Claude

      ^Sorry, this was a reply to the wonderfully named Hezekiah Garrett.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    I answered your question, before assuming you were being passive-aggressive as ever. Have you met Dave G?

    • ivan_the_mad


    • Claude

      Indeed. “God only knows.” Which was why I was struck by all the attention to protocol displayed by Mark in his review of Tradition.

      I do remember a nun at CCD describing these poor little souls in Purgatory but forget what she said, if anything, about how they were to graduate to Heaven. You’re no help at all!

      • Marthe Lépine

        If I remember correctly, I was taught that all the prayers and masses that Catholics dedicate to the deceased among their family and friends, and/or to the “Souls in Purgatory” are what eventually bring them out of Purgatory.