Of course, there are countless arguments and discussions and citations that both sides in the "Three Baptisms" (or, more accurately, the debate about the possibility of salvation for those who desire Baptism, either normally or to the extreme of being martyred for the Catholic Faith and their desire for Baptism) debate present, but I would like to get your specific comments on just this particular passage from the Roman Martyrology. I have read all your citations on the subject, but want to know what your comments are just on this particular passage. The copy I have is the 1749 edition. This particular passage is in every edition of the Martyrology back to the edition of Gregory XIII:
"At Verulam in England, in the time of Diocletian, St. Alban, martyr, who gave himself up in order to save a cleric whom he had harbored. After being scourged and subjected to bitter torments, he was sentenced to capital punishment. With him also suffered one of the soldiers who led him to execution, for he was converted to Christ on the way and merited to be baptized in his own blood. St. Bede the Venerable has left an account of the noble combat of St. Alban and his companion..."
Both St. Bede and Fr. Alban Butler both give the same account and claim the Heavenly Reward for the unbaptized soldier, through his desire to be a Catholic and his martyrdom specifically for the Catholic Faith. I grant that you might say that neither St. Bede or Fr. Alban Butler is authoritative in a doctrinal sense. However, the Roman Martyrology is a compilation of diverse martyrologies that were remembered by virtually every monastic community for hundreds of years and were authoritatively prepared and promulgated as a complete text in 1584, by Pope Gregory XIII…
God Bless you,
First, I want to say that all of these issues are dealt with in-depth in the book Outside the Catholic Church There is Absolutely No Salvation. There are separate sections on these issues. Also, I’m glad you brought up the case of St. Alban, since this is a prime example of how the errors of baptism of desire and blood have been spread. The many historical accounts in the Roman Martyrology are not necessarily infallible and binding upon Catholics. That is why they have been revised several times, and it is why clear errors have been found in them.
Donald Attwater, ACatholic Dictionary, p. 310: “An historical statement in the ‘Martyrology’ as such has no authority… A number of entries in the Roman Martyrology are found to be unsatisfactory when so tested.”
ST. ALBAN AND HIS CONVERTED GUARD
St. Alban was the protomartyr of England (303 A.D.) The account of his martyrdom is particularly interesting and instructive on this topic. On the way to his martyrdom, one of the guards who led him to execution was converted to Christ. The Roman Martyrology (a fallible document), as well as Butler’s Lives of the Saints, says that the guard was “baptized in his own blood.” St. Bede the Venerable, a Church historian, says that the guard’s martyrdom occurred without “the purification of Baptism.” But watch this: in recounting the story of the martyrdoms of St. Alban and his guard, St. Bede and Butler’s lives of the Saints reveal a very important point.
St. Bede: “As he reached the summit, holy Alban asked God to give him (Alban) water, and at once a perennial spring bubbled up at his feet…” Butler: “The sudden conversion of the headsmen occasioned a delay in the execution. In the meantime the holy confessor (Alban), with the crowd, went up the hill… There Alban falling on his knees, at his prayer a fountain sprung up, with water whereof he refreshed his thirst… Together with St. Alban, the soldier, who had refused to imbrue (stain) his hands in his blood, and had declared himself a Christian, was also beheaded, being baptized in his own blood.”
The reader may be confused at this point, and rightly so, so let me explain. We have two (fallible) accounts of the martyrdom of St. Alban and his guard, from St. Bede and Bulter’s Lives of the Saints. They both record that just before the martyrdom of St. Alban and his guard, St. Alban prayed for “water” which he miraculously received! St. Bede then goes on to say that the guard died unbaptized! Butler’s says that the water was merely to “refresh” Alban’s thirst! With all due respect to St. Bede and the good things in Butler’s, how obvious does it have to be? A Saint, who had a few minutes to live and who had a convert wanting to enter the Church of Christ, would not call for miraculous water in order to “refresh his thirst”! He obviously called for the miraculous water to baptize the converted guard, and God provided it for the sincere convert, since “unless a man is born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” This is a prime example of how the errors of baptism of blood and desire have been perpetuated – by passing down the fallible conclusions of fallible men, for instance, by passing down the ridiculous conclusion that the guard died unbaptized when these very accounts admit of the presence of miraculously received water! And this example of St. Alban and his guard, which actually shows the absolute necessity of the Sacrament of Baptism, is frequently and falsely used against the necessity of the Sacrament of Baptism.
It is also interesting to consider how much “faith” obstinate baptism of desire advocates have in the fallible accounts and conclusions of historians – such as the obviously ridiculous conclusion of Fr. Butler that the guard died unbaptized when he admits that St. Alban received miraculous water! – while they dismiss the infallible defined dogmatic statements. The fact of the matter is that they don’t really have faith in these accounts, but emphasize them because they like what they say: that people don’t need baptism.
Pope Eugene IV, The Council of Florence, “Exultate Deo,” Nov. 22, 1439, ex cathedra: “Holy baptism, which is the gateway to the spiritual life, holds the first place among all the sacraments; through it we are made members of Christ and of the body of the Church. And since death entered the universe through the first man, ‘unless we are born again of water and the Spirit, we cannot,’ as the Truth says, ‘enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]. The matter of this sacrament is real and natural water.”
This means that Our Lord Jesus Christ’s declaration that no man can be saved without being born again of water and the Holy Ghost is a literal dogma of the Catholic Faith.
Pope Paul III, The Council of Trent, Can. 2 on the Sacrament of Baptism, Sess. 7, 1547, ex cathedra: “If anyone shall say that real and natural water is not necessary for baptism, and on that account those words of Our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit’ [John 3:5], are distorted into some sort of metaphor: let him be anathema.”
Pope Paul III, The Council of Trent, Can. 5 on the Sacrament of Baptism, Sess. 7, 1547, 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.”
I’m just wondering, do you believe that baptism of desire applies only to people who desire baptism and believe in Christ, or do you believe that people who don’t even desire baptism or believe in Christ (such as certain Jews, Buddhists, Muslims) could be united to the Church and saved?
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