Now that we have shown that the teaching of Tradition is definitely not in favor of baptism of desire, where did this baptism of desire furor that we now see come from? Why did it become such a widespread belief later on? It has never been taught by any council, dogmatic definition or Papal Encyclical to the whole Church. But most people today think that it is a teaching of the Catholic Church. As stated already, the theory comes from the erroneous teaching of St. Augustine and an ambiguous passage in St. Ambrose in the 4th century. But due to St. Augustine’s tremendous stature as a theologian, many in the middle ages adopted his fallible opinion on baptism of desire despite the fact that it was contrary to the overwhelming belief in the early Church. And when the illustrious St. Bernard and St. Thomas Aquinas made baptism of desire their own position based on passages in St. Augustine and the ambiguous one in St. Ambrose, this caused hosts of theologians in the middle ages and down to our day to subsequently adopt baptism of desire out of deference to their great learning (particularly St. Thomas’s), a position on the possible salvation of catechumens who died without baptism which was contrary to the overwhelming belief and liturgical tradition of the early Church, not to mention the Church’s later infallible teaching on the Sacrament of Baptism, John 3:5 and One Baptism, as we will see.
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