PIUS XII’S SPEECH TO MIDWIVES
OBJECTION- Pope Pius XII taught that an adult can be saved without Baptism in his speech to Midwives, Oct. 29, 1951. This proves baptism of desire.
“In the present economy there is no other way of communicating [sanctifying grace] to the child who has not yet the use of reason [other than Baptism]. But, nevertheless, the state of grace at the moment of death is absolutely necessary for salvation. Without it, it is not possible to attain supernatural happiness, the beatific vision of God. An act of love can suffice [i.e., Baptism of Desire] for an adult to obtain sanctifying grace and supply for the absence of Baptism; for the unborn child or for the newly born, this way is not open...." --Pope Pius XII, Address to Midwives, Oct. 29, 1951
ANSWER- No, this a speech to Italian midwives; a speech to Italian midwives is not infallible.
In fact, in a Nov. 22, 1951, speech to the members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope Pius XII repeatedly taught that the Earth is “billions” of years old.
Pius XII, Speech To Pontifical Academy Of Sciences, Nov. 2, 1951: "... the work of the omnipotent Creator, Whose power, aroused by the mighty ‘fiat’ pronounced billions of years ago by the Creative Spirit, unfolded itself in the universe and, with a gesture of generous love, called into existence matter, fraught with energy."
Pius XII, Speech To Pontifical Academy Of Sciences, Nov. 2, 1951: "Thus this energy, in the course of billions of years, is slowly but irreparably transformed into radiation."
Pius XII, Speech To Pontifical Academy Of Sciences, Nov. 2, 1951: "In the course of billions of years, even the quantity of atomic nuclei, which is apparently inexhaustible, loses its utilisable energy and matter approaches, to speak figuratively, the state of a spent and wasted volcano." (https://inters.org/pius-xii-speech-1952-proofs-god)
That’s completely wrong. It’s another example of why it’s crucial to distinguish between what popes teach with the full weight of the office and what they might say in other capacities.
Pius XII's speech to midwives is less authoritative, in fact, than Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Ad Salutem. In his encyclical of 1930, in discussing those who “beg for baptism” and die before being regenerated [i.e. baptized], Pope Pius XI makes his own the words of St. Augustine which declare that “utter ruin” is their lot. In other words, no man who begs for baptism can be saved by his desire without the waters of regeneration.
Pope Pius XI, Ad Salutem (#44), April 20, 1930: “Some bishops and priests were at a loss as to what course to pursue in the midst of so many crushing disasters. One of them asked Augustine his opinion: ‘Surely we know [Augustine said] that when such perils reach their crest and no escape is possible, people of both sexes of all ages are wont to flock to the Church. Some beg for baptism, some for reconciliation, some for the performance of penance, all for consolation and the sacraments to be made available and administered. In such a crisis, if ministers be lacking, utter ruin is the lot of those who leave this world unregenerated or unshriven.’”
A pope is infallible only when speaking from the Chair of Peter or reiterating what the Church has always taught in her ordinary and universal Magisterium.
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council I, 1870, Session 4, Chap. 4:
“…the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra [from the Chair of Peter], that is, when carrying out the duty of the pastor and teacher of all Christians in accord with his supreme apostolic authority he explains a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the universal Church... operates with that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer wished that His Church be instructed in defining doctrine on faith and morals; and so such definitions of the Roman Pontiff from himself, but not from the consensus of the Church, are unalterable.”
Pius XII’s speech to midwives doesn’t bind Catholics. Further, his speech to the Italian midwives is not more authoritative than Pope St. Siricius’s letter to Himerius in 385, in which that pope strongly declares that the man who begs for regeneration and dies without it will not be saved.
Pope St. Siricius, Letter to Himerius, 385:
“As we maintain that the observance of the holy Paschal time should in no way be relaxed, in the same way we desire that infants who, on account of their age, cannot yet speak, or those who, in any necessity, are in want of the water of holy baptism, be succored with all possible speed, for fear that, if those who leave this world should be deprived of the life of the Kingdom for having been refused the source of salvation which they desired, this may lead to the ruin of our souls. If those threatened with shipwreck, or the attack of enemies, or the uncertainties of a siege, or those put in a hopeless condition due to some bodily sickness, ask for what in their faith is their only help, let them receive at the very moment of their request the reward of regeneration they beg for. Enough of past mistakes! From now on, let all the priests observe the aforesaid rule if they do not want to be separated from the solid apostolic rock on which Christ has built his universal Church.”
The fact that popes can make mistakes in their fallible capacity is proven throughout Church history. Pope John IV wrongly attempted to defend the heretical words of Pope Honorius, which were condemned by the III Council of Constantinople.
Pope John IV, “Dominus qui dixit” to Constantius the Emperor, Regarding Pope Honorius, 641: “…So, my aforementioned predecessor [Honorius] said concerning the mystery of the incarnation of Christ, that there were not in Him, as in us sinners, contrary wills of mind and flesh; and certain ones converting this to their own meaning, suspected that He taught one will of His divinity and humanity which is altogether contrary to the truth.”
In studying papal errors throughout history in preparation for its declaration of papal infallibility, the theologians at Vatican I found that over 40 popes held wrong theological views. In a notorious case of papal error, Pope John XXII held the false view that the just of the Old Testament don’t receive the Beatific Vision until after the General Judgment. But none of these errors were taught by popes from the Chair of St. Peter, just like Pius XII’s speech to Italian midwives is not a declaration from the Chair of St. Peter.
Perhaps the most notorious case of papal error in Church history is the “Synod of the Corpse” of 897. This was where the dead body of Pope Formosus – who by all accounts was a holy and devoted pope – was condemned after his death by Pope Stephen VII for a number of supposed violations of canon law.
“In late January 897 the terrible Duchess Ageltrude and her son Lambert II who called himself emperor, entered Rome. There very soon followed the nightmare scene graven forever upon the historical memory of Christendom. The decayed body of Pope Formosus was taken out of its tomb in St. Peter’s. It was dressed in pontifical robes, and under them even the hair shirt the ascetic pope had worn in life, was put on the corpse. It was propped upon a seat. It was charged with violations of canon law… A deacon was assigned as canon lawyer for the defense. The ‘case’ was heard. Pope Stephen VII pronounced the corpse guilty as charged… Its robes and the hair shirt were stripped off again. The three fingers of its right hand, which had been raised for pontifical blessings, were cut off.”
This quote doesn’t mention that after the condemnation of Formosus by Pope Stephen VII, Pope Formosus’s body was thrown into the Tiber.
But some years later in 898, “In mid-summer Pope Stephen VII was arrested… by whom or for what reasons we do not know… His successor, Romanus, ruled just four months. Romanus’ successor, [Pope] Theodore II, ruled for only twenty days. But during those twenty days he ordered that the body of [Pope] Formosus, which had been rescued from the Tiber, be returned with all honor to its original tomb in St. Peter’s; and he restored the Roman clergy ordained by Pope Formosus whom Stephen VII had degraded.”
So, Pope Theodore II overturned the condemnation of Pope Formosus which was issued by Pope Stephen VII.
In 898, Pope John IX was elected to succeed Pope Theodore II. He agreed with Pope Theodore II on the Formosus issue, and “condemned the entire proceedings of Stephen VII against Formosus’s body, and burned its records.”
We can see that Pope John IX also agreed with Pope Theodore II, and condemned Pope Stephen VII’s condemnation of Pope Formosus.
However, a few years later Pope Sergius III (904-911) was elected pope. He held a different view on the Pope Formosus issue. Pope Sergius III “went so far as to praise the memory of Stephen VII while still condemning that of Formosus, whom he called a ‘haughty intruder,’ and John IX, whom he called ‘a wolf.’ He once again declared Formosus’s ordinations invalid, and many priests who had been ordained by Formosus were required to undergo a rite of reordination.”
So, to summarize: We have Pope Stephen VII and Pope Sergius III who were in favor of the condemnation of Pope Formosus, while Pope Theodore II and Pope John IX condemned the condemnation of Pope Formosus. None of these decisions were promulgated as a binding teaching on faith or morals to be believed by the universal Church (i.e. infallibly). This should show us all very clearly that not every decision, speech, opinion or judgment of a pope is infallible.
Furthermore, Pope Pius XII was a very weak pope who was the bridge to the Vatican II apostasy. It’s not a surprise that he believed in explicit baptism of desire for adults. That view was very widespread at the time. The thing which is of utmost importance in this regard is not what saints, theologians or even popes taught in their fallible capacity; it’s what God has allowed the infallible Magisterium of the Church to define. That’s the key (literally and figuratively – Mt. 16:18-20).
Pope Pius XII allowed the denial of the salvation dogma to run rampant throughout his reign. He reformed the Holy Week rites (a decision of his which many of those who love baptism of desire reject), and in the same fallible speech to Italian midwives cited above he endorsed the birth control method of Natural Family Planning. In his encyclical Humani Generis, Pius XII also said that the Magisterium doesn’t forbid investigation into a certain type of theistic evolution, which is absurd.
Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis (#36), Aug. 12, 1950: “For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter -- for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. However this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faithful.”
Theistic evolution holds that creatures were living, evolving and dying for perhaps millions of years before Adam lived and died. But Scripture and Catholic dogma teach that through Adam’s sin death first entered the world! Thus, theistic evolution and Catholic teaching are incompatible. Moreover, notice how John Paul II used Pope Pius XII’s fallible teaching to promote evolution as true.
John Paul II, Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Evolution, Oct. 22, 1996: "In his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), my predecessor Pius XII has already affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points....Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies -- which was neither planned nor sought -- constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory."
Thus, people shouldn’t get carried away with something that Pius XII said in his fallible capacity. Baptism of desire advocates cannot, for a moment, argue that Pius XII’s speech to midwives proves baptism of desire. (It should be emphasized that Pius XII is only enunciating the position of explicit baptism of desire for adults). Pope Pius XII was simply wrong in his fallible capacity, just like he was wrong on theistic evolution and NFP. Baptism of desire is proven false by numerous irrefutable arguments from the infallible teaching of the Chair of St. Peter, which baptism of desire advocates cannot even begin to respond to. And Pius XII’s own official teaching on baptism in Mystici Corporis declares that no unbaptized person is to be considered a member of the Church.
Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis (# 22), June 29, 1943: “Actually only those are to be numbered among the members of the Church who have received the laver of regeneration [water baptism] and profess the true faith.”
Pope Paul III, The Council of Trent, Sess. 7, Can. 5 on the Sacrament of Baptism, ex cathedra: “If anyone says that baptism [the Sacrament] is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation (cf. Jn. 3:5): let him be anathema.”
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 3 (1903-1939), p. 387.
 Denzinger 1839.
 Fr. Jacques Dupuis, S.J. and Fr. Josef Neuner, S.J., The Christian Faith, Sixth Revised and Enlarged Edition, Staten Island, NY: Alba House, 1996, p. 540.
 Denzinger 253.
 Warren H. Carroll, A History of Christendom, Vol. 2 (The Building of Christendom), 1987, pp. 388-399.
 Warren H. Carroll, A History of Christendom, Vol. 2 (The Building of Christendom), 1987, p. 389.
 Warren H. Carroll, A History of Christendom, Vol. 2 (The Building of Christendom), 1987, p. 390.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 4 (1939-1958), p. 181; Denzinger 2327.
 John Paul II, Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Evolution, Oct. 22, 1996, available on the internet.
 Denzinger 2286.
 Denzinger 861; Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, Vol. 2, p. 685.
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