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Did Pius V Condemn Cajetan on the Baptism of Desire?

Did Pius V Condemn Cajetan on the Baptism of Desire? April 27, 2016

Pope Pius V, by El Greco

Pope Pius V, by El Greco

In a recent post, I noted that Cardinal Cajetan, in his commentary on the Summa III.68.11, posited that parents can supply baptism of desire to their children who die in the womb. “[C]hildren still within the womb of their mother,” Cajetan says, “are able to be saved … through the sacrament of baptism that is received, not in reality, but in the desire of the parents.”

Just four days later, Kevin Kukla at ProLife365—apparently in response to my post, though he did not cite it—noted that Pope Pius V had this passage removed from Cajetan’s commentary, which is not in doubt; but added that the pope actually condemned the proposition, which I do doubt.

Now, what’s at stake in all this is that Limbo apologists like Mr. Kukla claim that baptism of desire is only for adults on their own behalf; and that parents cannot suppply it vicariously to their children. This is the trick by which they concede baptism of desire while retaining their belief in Limbo. So it would bolster their argument if they could find a pope who condemned a statement about vicarious desire.

But what’s odd is that Mr. Kukla cites no source for his claim. He does not give the name of the document in which Pius V supposedly condemned this error; he quotes no text from Pius V. Very sloppy. The only text he does quote is a passage from Aquinas that seems to him to be at odds with Cajetan’s view. (The emphasis is his own.)

[B]y Baptism a man is ordained to the Eucharist, and therefore from the fact of children being baptized, they are destined by the Church to the Eucharist; and just as they believe through the Church’s faith, so they desire the Eucharist through the Church’s intention, and, as a result, receive its reality. But they are not disposed for Baptism by any previous sacrament, and consequently before receiving Baptism, in no way have they Baptism in desire; but adults alone have: consequently, they cannot have the reality of the sacrament without receiving the sacrament itself. (ST III Q. 73 a. 3)

Back in 2008, the dubious Dr. Taylor Marshall also claimed that Pius V condemned Cajetan on the baptism of desire; but he didn’t name any source either. Also very sloppy. That makes it difficult for responsible people to check out the truth of this.

So I go to the article on baptism in the Catholic Encyclopedia; there I read this:

It is true that some Catholic writers (as Cajetan, Durandus, Biel, Gerson, Toletus, Klee) have held that infants may be saved by an act of desire on the part of their parents, which is applied to them by some external sign, such as prayer or the invocation of the Holy Trinity; but Pius V, by expunging this opinion, as expressed by Cajetan, from that author’s commentary on St. Thomas, manifested his judgment that such a theory was not agreeable to the Church’s belief.

It names no specific document; and it would seem that, in the view of the editor, the redaction was enough, by itself, to constitute a condemnation. But this amounts to no more than an editor’s speculation about the pope’s rationale. How do we know that’s what Pius V was thinking? The answer is, we don’t. At one time the Church suppressed St. Faustina’s Diary; but that hardly constituted a dogmatic condemnation binding upon the faithful for all time. (Many Trads, who prefer God’s wrath to his mercy, wish that it were thus. But I digress.)

Next I turn to the Encyclopedia’s entry on Cajetan. There I find this:

The important relation between Cajetan and the Angelic Doctor was emphasized by Leo XIII, when by his Pontifical Letters of 15 October, 1879, he ordered the former’s commentaries and those of Ferrariensis to be incorporated with the text of the “Summa” in the official Leonine edition of the complete works of St. Thomas, the first volume of which appeared at Rome in 1882. This edition has restored a number of passages which St. Pius V desired to have expunged from the texts, the publication of which he ordered in 1570. The suppressed parts, now for the most part inoffensive, were largely in the nature of personal views and had no direct bearing on Thomistic doctrine as a system.

The article does not say whether Cajetan’s remarks about the baptism of desire was one of the passages restored by Leo XIII. (It’s probably safe to assume it was restored.) But if the Encyclopedia is to be believed, it is clear why the pope removed these passages in the first place. They were Cajetan’s “personal views,” not necessarily those of Aquinas; and Pius V did not wish anyone to confuse the two. Cajetan was writing a commentary on the Summa, after all. If Pius did have in mind the passage from Aquinas cited by Mr. Kukla, it may have been to show that Aquinas’s view was at odds with Cajetan’s, not that Cajetan’s view needed to be condemned.

But I have checked around, in Denzinger and elsewhere, and I can find no authoritative statement from Pius V condemning Cajetan’s views on anything. However, in Ex Omnibus Afflictionibus (cited in Denzinger), Pius V does condemn the view, taught by Baius, that original sin “habitually dominates the child.” That would mean that a child who dies before the age of reason, even though unbaptized, would “resist the law of God.” Pius V condemns this. Such a condemnation favors more those who doubt Limbo than those who teach it. Good man, St. Pius V. I find no bull condeming Cajetan.

This does not mean that Cajetan is right; it only means the Church permits the opinion. If someone knows where such a statement from Pius V is to be found, I would be happy for you to send it my way. But in either case, if Limbo apologists like Mr. Kukla and Dr. Marshall are going to make these claims, they really need to cite an authority that can be checked. That’s what I do.

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