In this document, I have shown that the Catholic Church infallibly teaches that the Sacrament of Baptism is necessary for salvation. I have also shown that it is only through receiving the Sacrament of Baptism that one is incorporated into the Catholic Church, outside of which there is no salvation. I have also shown that the Catholic Church infallibly teaches that the words of Jesus Christ in John 3:5 – Amen, amen I say unto thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God – are to be understood literally: as they are written. This is the infallible teaching of the Church and it excludes any possibility of salvation without being born again of water and the Holy Ghost. However, throughout the history of the Church, many have believed in the theories called baptism of desire and baptism of blood: that one’s desire for the Sacrament of Baptism or one’s martyrdom for the faith supplies for the lack of being born again of water and the Holy Ghost. Those who believe in baptism of blood and baptism of desire raise certain objections to the absolute necessity of receiving the Sacrament of Baptism for salvation. So, in order to be complete, I will respond to all of the major objections made by baptism of desire and blood advocates; and in the process, I will give an overview of the history of the errors of baptism of desire and baptism of blood. In doing this I will demonstrate that neither baptism of blood nor baptism of desire is a teaching of the Catholic Church.
In the first millennium of the Church there lived hundreds of holy men and saints who are called “Fathers of the Church.” Tixeront, in his Handbook of Patrology, lists over five hundred whose names and writings have come down to us. The Fathers (or prominent early Christian Catholic writers) are unanimous from the beginning that no one enters heaven or is freed from original sin without water baptism.
In the letter of Barnabas, dated as early as 70 A.D., we read:
“… we descend into the water full of sins and foulness, and we come up bearing fruit in our heart…”
In 140 A.D., the early Church Father Hermas quotes Jesus in John 3:5, and writes:
“They had need to come up through the water, so that they might be made alive; for they could not otherwise enter into the kingdom of God.”
This statement is obviously a paraphrase of John 3:5, and thus it demonstrates that from the very beginning of the apostolic age it was held and taught by the fathers that no one enters heaven without being born again of water and the Spirit based specifically on Our Lord Jesus Christ’s declaration in John 3:5.
In 155 A.D., St. Justin the Martyr writes:
“… they are led by us to a place where there is water; and there they are reborn in the same kind of rebirth in which we ourselves were reborn… in the name of God… they receive the washing of water. For Christ said, ‘Unless you be reborn, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ The reason for doing this we have learned from the apostles.”
Notice that St. Justin Martyr, like Hermas, also quotes the words of Jesus in John 3:5, and based on Christ’s words he teaches that it is from apostolic tradition that no one at all can enter Heaven without being born again of water and the Spirit in the Sacrament of Baptism.
In his dialogue with Trypho the Jew, also dated 155 A.D., St. Justin Martyr further writes:
“… hasten to learn in what way forgiveness of sins and a hope of the inheritance… may be yours. There is no other way than this: acknowledge Christ, be washed in the washing announced by Isaias [Baptism]…”
In 180 A.D., St. Irenaeus writes:
“… giving the disciples the power of regenerating in God, He said to them: ‘Go teach all nations, and baptize… Just as dry wheat without moisture cannot become one dough or one loaf, so also, we who are many cannot be made one in Christ Jesus, without the water from heaven…Our bodies achieve unity through the washing… our souls, however, through the Spirit. Both, then, are necessary.”
Here we see again a clear enunciation of the constant and apostolic Tradition that no one is saved without the Sacrament of Baptism, from no less than the great apostolic father St. Irenaeus in the 2nd century. St. Irenaeus knew St. Polycarp and St. Polycarp knew the Apostle John himself.
In 181 A.D., St. Theophilus continues the Tradition:
“… those things which were created from the waters were blessed by God, so that this might also be a sign that men would at a future time receive repentance and remission of sins through water and the bath of regeneration…”
In 203 A.D., Tertullian writes:
“… it is in fact prescribed that no one can attain to salvation without Baptism, especially in view of that declaration of the Lord, who says: ‘Unless a man shall be born of water, he shall not have life [John 3:5]…”
Notice how Tertullian affirms the same apostolic Tradition that no one is saved without water baptism based on the words of Jesus Himself.
Tertullian further writes in 203 A.D.:
“A treatise on our sacrament of water, by which the sins of our earlier blindness are washed away … nor can we otherwise be saved, except by permanently abiding in the water.”
Baptism has also been called since apostolic times the Seal, the Sign and the Illumination; for without this Seal, Sign or Illumination no one is forgiven of original sin or sealed as a member of Jesus Christ.
“… he that confirmeth us with you in Christ, and that hath anointed us, is God: Who also hath sealed us, and given the pledge of the Spirit in our hearts.” (2 Cor. 1:21-22)
As early as 140 A.D., Hermas had already taught this truth – that Baptism is the Seal – which was delivered by the Apostles from Jesus Christ.
Hermas, 140 A.D.: “… before a man bears the name of the Son of God, he is dead. But when he receives the seal, he puts mortality aside and again receives life. The seal, therefore, is the water. They go down into the water dead, and come out of it alive.”
In the famous work entitled The Second Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, 120-170 A.D., we read:
“For of those who have not kept the seal of baptism he says: ‘Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched.’”
St. Ephraim, c. 350 A.D.: “… we are anointed in Baptism, whereby we bear His seal.”
St. Gregory Nyssa, c. 380 A.D.: “Make haste, O sheep, towards the sign of the cross and the Seal [Baptism] which will save you from your misery!”
St. Clement of Alexandria, 202 A.D.:
“When we are baptized, we are enlightened. Being enlightened, we are adopted as sons… This work is variously called grace, illumination, perfection, washing. It is a washing by which we are cleansed of sins…”
Origen, 244 A.D.:
“The Church received from the Apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants… there is in everyone the innate stains of sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit.”
St. Aphraates, the oldest of the Syrian fathers, writes in 336 A.D.:
“This, then, is faith: that a man believe in God … His Spirit …His Christ… Also, that a man believe in the resurrection of the dead; and moreover, that he believe in the Sacrament of Baptism. This is the belief of the Church of God.”
The same Syrian father further writes:
“For from baptism we receive the Spirit of Christ… For the Spirit is absent from all those who are born of the flesh, until they come to the water of re-birth.”
Here we see in the writings of St. Aphraates the same teaching of Tradition on the absolute necessity of water baptism for salvation based on the words of Christ in John 3:5.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, 350 A.D.:
“He says, ‘Unless a man be born again’ – and He adds the words ‘of water and the Spirit’ – he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God…..if a man be virtuous in his deeds, but does not receive the seal by means of the water, shall he enter into the kingdom of heaven. A bold saying, but not mine; for it is Jesus who has declared it.”
We see that St. Cyril continues the apostolic Tradition that no one enters heaven without being born again of water and the Spirit, based again on an absolute understanding Our Lord’s own words in John 3:5.
St. Basil the Great, c. 355 A.D.:
“Whence is it that we are Christians? Through faith, all will answer. How are we saved? By being born again in the grace of baptism… For it is the same loss for anyone to depart this life unbaptized, as to receive that baptism from which one thing of what has been handed down has been omitted.”
St. Gregory of Elvira, 360 A.D.:
“Christ is called Net, because through Him and in Him the diverse multitudes of peoples are gathered from the sea of the world, through the water of Baptism and into the Church, where a distinction is made between the good and the wicked.”
St. Ephraim, 366 A.D.:
“This the Most Holy Catholic Church professes. In this same Holy Trinity She baptizes unto eternal life.”
Pope St. Damasus, 382 A.D.:
“This, then, is the salvation of Christians: that believing in the Trinity, that is, in the Father, and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit, and baptized in it…”
St. Ambrose, 387 A.D.:
“… no one ascends into the kingdom of heaven except through the Sacrament of Baptism.”
St. Ambrose, 387 A.D.:
“‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’ No one is excepted: not the infant, not the one prevented by some necessity.”
St. Ambrose, De mysteriis, 390-391 A.D.:
“You have read, therefore, that the three witnesses in Baptism are one: water, blood, and the spirit; and if you withdraw any one of these, the Sacrament of Baptism is not valid. For what is water without the cross of Christ? A common element without any sacramental effect. Nor on the other hand is there any mystery of regeneration without water: for ‘unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’ [John 3:5] Even a catechumen believes in the cross of the Lord Jesus, by which also he is signed; but, unless he be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he cannot receive the remission of sins nor be recipient of the gift of spiritual grace.”
St. John Chrysostom, 392 A.D.:
“Weep for the unbelievers; weep for those who differ not a whit from them, those who go hence without illumination, without the seal! … They are outside the royal city…. with the condemned. ‘Amen, I tell you, if anyone is not born of water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
St Augustine, 395 A.D.:
“… God does not forgive sins except to the baptized.”
Pope St. Innocent, 414 A.D.:
“But that which Your Fraternity asserts the Pelagians preach, that even without the grace of Baptism infants are able to be endowed with the rewards of eternal life, is quite idiotic.”
Pope St. Gregory the Great, c. 590 A.D.:
“Forgiveness of sin is bestowed on us only by the baptism of Christ.”
Theophylactus, Patriarch of Bulgaria, c. 800 A.D.:
“He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved. It does not suffice to believe; he who believes, and is not yet baptized, but is only a catechumen, has not yet fully acquired salvation.”
Many other passages could be quoted from the fathers, but it is a fact that the fathers of the Church are unanimous from the beginning of the apostolic age that no one at all can be saved without receiving the Sacrament of Baptism, based on the words of Jesus Christ in John 3:5. The eminent Patristic Scholar Fr. William Jurgens, who has literally read thousands of texts from the fathers, was forced to admit the following (even though he believes in baptism of desire) in his three volume set on the fathers of the Church.
Fr. William Jurgens: “If there were not a constant tradition in the Fathers that the Gospel message of ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’ is to be taken absolutely, it would be easy to say that Our Savior simply did not see fit to mention the obvious exceptions of invincible ignorance and physical impossibility. But the tradition in fact is there; and it is likely enough to be found so constant as to constitute revelation.”
The eminent scholar Fr. Jurgens is admitting here three important things:
The fathers are constant in their teaching that John 3:5 is absolute with no exceptions; that is, no one at all enters heaven without being born again of water and the Spirit;
The fathers are so constant on this point that it likely constitutes divine revelation, without even considering the infallible teaching of the popes;
The constant teaching of the fathers that all must receive water baptism for salvation in light of John 3:5 excludes exceptions for the “invincibly ignorant” or “physically impossible” cases.
And based on this truth, declared by Jesus in the Gospel (John 3:5), handed down by the Apostles and taught by the fathers, the Catholic Church has infallibly defined as a dogma (as we have seen already) that no one at all enters heaven without the Sacrament of Baptism.
Pope Paul III, The Council of Trent, Canon 5 on the Sacrament of Baptism, ex cathedra: “If anyone says that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation (John. 3:5): let him be anathema.”
But, as is the case with many other matters, not all of the fathers remained consistent with their own affirmation of the absolute necessity of water baptism for salvation.
Despite the fact that there is a constant tradition from the beginning that no one at all is saved without water baptism, not all of the fathers always remained consistent with their own affirmation on this point. And that is where we come across the theories of “baptism of blood” and “baptism of desire,” each of which will be discussed in turn. But it must be understood that the fathers of the Church were mistaken and inconsistent with their own teaching and the apostolic Tradition on many points – since they were fallible men who made many errors.
Fr. William Jurgens: “… we must stress that a particular patristic text [a particular statement from a father] is in no instance to be regarded as a ‘proof’ of a particular doctrine. Dogmas are not ‘proved’ by patristic statements, but by the infallible teaching instruments of the Church. The value of the Fathers and writers is this: that in the aggregate [that is, in totality], they demonstrate what the Church believes and teaches; and again, in the aggregate [that is, in totality], they provide a witness to the content of Tradition, that Tradition which is itself a vehicle of revelation.”
The fathers of the Church are only a definite witness to Tradition when expressing a point held universally and constantly or when expressing something that is in line with defined dogma. Taken individually or even in multiplicity, they can be dead wrong and even dangerous. St. Basil the Great said that the Holy Ghost is second to the Son of God in order and dignity, in a horrible and even heretical attempt to explain the Holy Trinity.
St. Basil (363): “The Son is not, however, second to the Father in nature, because the Godhead is one in each of them, and plainly, too, in the Holy Spirit, even if in order and dignity He is second to the Son (yes, this we do concede!), though not in such a way, it is clear, that He were of another nature.” 
When St. Basil says above that the Godhead is one in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, he is correctly affirming the universal, apostolic Tradition. But when he says that the Holy Spirit is second in dignity to the Son he ceases to remain consistent with this Tradition and falls into error (material heresy, in fact). And the fathers made countless errors in attempting to defend or articulate the Faith.
St. Augustine wrote an entire book of corrections. St. Fulgentius and a host of others, including St. Augustine, held that it was certain that infants who die without baptism descend into the fires of Hell, a position that was later condemned by Pope Pius VI. As Pope Pius VI confirmed, unbaptized infants go to Hell, but to a place in Hell where there is no fire.
But St. Augustine was so outspoken in favor of this error that it became the common and basically unchallenged teaching for more than 500 years, according to The Catholic Encyclopedia.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 9, “Limbo,” p. 257: “On the special question, however, of the punishment of original sin after death, St. Anselm was at one with St. Augustine in holding that unbaptized infants share in the positive sufferings of the damned; and Abelard was the first to rebel against the severity of the Augustinian tradition on this point.”
This is why Catholics don’t form definite doctrinal conclusions from the teaching of a father of the Church or a handful of fathers; a Catholic goes by the infallible teaching of the Church proclaimed by the popes; and a Catholic assents to the teaching of the fathers of the Church when they are in universal and constant agreement from the beginning and in line with Catholic dogmatic teaching.
Pope Benedict XIV, Apostolica (# 6), June 26, 1749: “The Church’s judgment is preferable to that of a Doctor renowned for his holiness and teaching.”
Errors of the Jansenists, #30: “When anyone finds a doctrine clearly established in Augustine, he can absolutely hold it and teach it, disregarding any bull of the pope.”- Condemned by Pope Alexander VIII
Pope Pius XII, Humani generis (# 21), Aug. 12, 1950: “This deposit of faith our Divine Redeemer has given for authentic interpretation not to each of the faithful, not even to theologians, but only to the Teaching Authority of the Church.’”
The Catholic Church recognizes infallibility in no saint, theologian or early Church father. It is only a pope operating with the authority of the Magisterium who is protected by the Holy Ghost from teaching error on faith or morals. So, when we examine and show how Churchmen have erred on the topics of baptism of desire and blood this is 100% consistent with the teaching of the Church, which has always acknowledged that any Churchman, no matter how great, can make errors, even significant ones. Finally, after dealing with baptism of desire and blood, I will quote a Pope, who is also an early Church father, whose teaching ends all debate on the subject. I will now proceed to discuss baptism of blood and baptism of desire.
 Tixeront, Handbook of Patrology, St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1951.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Collegeville, MN, The Liturgical Press, 1970, Vol. 1: 34.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1: 92.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1: 126.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1: 135a.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1: 219; 220.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1: 181.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1: 306.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1: 302
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1: 92.
 Apostolic Fathers, translation by Kirsopp Lake, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, Vol. 1, p. 139.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1: 712.
 Patrologiae Cursus Completus: Series Graecae, 46:417b, Fr. J.P. Migne, Paris: 1866; quoted in Michael Malone, The Only-Begotten, Monrovia, CA: Catholic Treasures, 1999, p. 175.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1: 407.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1: 501.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1: 681.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1: 683.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1: 810a.
 The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, Vol. 3, p. 10.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1: 899.
 The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, Vol. 2, p. 51.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1: 910r.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 2: 1323.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 2: 1324.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 2: 1330.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 2: 1206; The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1905, Vol. XIII, p. 197.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 3: 1536.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 3: 2016.
 The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, Vol. 1, p. 89.
 The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, Vol. 2, p. 412.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 3, pp. 14-15 footnote 31.
 Denzinger 861; Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, Vol. 2, p. 685.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1, p. 413.
 Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 2: 940 .
 Denzinger 1526.
 The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 9, “Limbo,” 1910, p. 257.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 1 (1740-1878), p. 29.
 Denzinger 1320.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 4 (1939-1958), pp. 178-179.
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