The Debates on EENS - Debate #2 - Matt’s Opening Statement for the Debate that never was
Matt's Opening Statement
for the Debate that never was

I entered into an IRC debate last year on the issue of baptism of desire on the condition that there would be a debate on the issue in a written format with equal amounts of words, etc. There was a general agreement beforehand to this debate with details to be worked out later. Unfortunately the wordcount and the exact format was never finally agreed to. After an exchange of emails, I sent a couple of emails that were never responded to. Thus, the debate I had hoped to be in was cancelled. I will now devote myself to other things. However, the following is the statement that I originally had made up (with a few corrections). There will be no counterargument or debate now. However, I figure that I shouldn’t waste my opening statement. So here it is, (slightly amended and enlarged, a little larger than the 4000 word limit originally agreed to in the opening statement). I will in the future get into some of the issues I promised to get into during this opening statement, although I have already touched on some of the things in my other writings. There was an original 4000 word opening statement agreed to.

1]As we look at this important issue we will see that those who desire baptism, can be saved even if they die before receiving it. In this debate, I will expose Feeneyite errors and show how their version of ‘No Salvation Outside the Church’ (That one must be a baptized Catholic to be saved) has absolutely never been the view of the Catholic Church, rejects magisterial authority of not only today, but when the dogma was infallibly defined. The Catholic Church’s view on the necessity of ‘No Salvation Outside the Church’ has always been true, but the understanding of its implications have developed.

2]Throughout this debate, we will uncover contradictions within the Feeneyite view, and unmask these errors over the course of this debate. We will see that this view refuses to incorporate the whole of Catholic theology, and is blind to aspects of Catholic theology that do not conform to theirs. It is not ‘the Catholic view’ because it denies important aspects of Catholic theology.

Council of Trent, Baptism of desire, vs. Feeneyism

3]The first error of my opponents that I will concentrate on in this opening statement is their errant reading of the Council of Trent. Trent lays a death blow to Feeneyism. Feeneyites will admit that baptism of desire produces justification, but not salvation. This first error is vital, and will take most of my opening statement. Most other errors I won’t get to until my next statements.

Trent, Session 6, Justification, CHAPTER IV:

4]“A description is introduced of the Justification of the impious, and of the Manner thereof under the law of grace... By which words, a description of the Justification of the impious is indicated,-as being a translation, from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace, and of the adoption ... of the sons of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour. And this translation, since the promulgation of the Gospel, cannot be effected...without the laver of regeneration, OR THE DESIRE THEREOF, as it is written; unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.”

5]Feeneyism ignores the implications of this decree. The Holy Council mentions what justification does: makes one a child of God and puts one in a state of grace. This is only an introduction to what the ultimate end of justification is: salvation. When it speaks of regeneration or its desire, it is not merely about being in a state of grace, adopted by God. What is the ultimate effect? According to this decree, it is Entrance into the kingdom of God. This is the exact same Scriptural quote and phrase used in canon 2 of the canons on baptism, when it speaks of true baptism, and canon 5 when it speaks of the necessity of baptism for salvation. The Feeneyite attempt to limit the text to only justification fails to take into account the fact that by this desire, one enters the kingdom of God: Trent’s infallible words.

6]I am quite aware that there are differences between justification and salvation, and that one who is justified will not necessarily stay entered in the kingdom of God. However, the same goes for those who are baptized. Those who are baptized must persevere, just as those who truly desire baptism. However, as long as one is a child of God, he is in his kingdom, and salvation bound. Not one-quarter, one-third, but fully heaven bound, even if lacking the baptismal character. Of course the graces of the Church are very important, but we are focusing on the real extent of Trent’s words. Notice in the text that there is absolutely nothing saying, ‘well, the laver provides salvation, but the desire only provides justification.’ The clause puts both in the same exact category. What is the end result of the desire for the regeneration? Entrance into the kingdom of God. The direct reference in chapter four on justification directly implies salvation, especially with the quotation of John 3:5 which relates the desire of the laver of regeneration into producing entrance into the kingdom of God.

7]What does Trent elsewhere say about justification itself? That it only halfway gets you there, and in order for it to be salvific, one needs a baptismal character? On the contrary, in session 6 chapter VII, Trent says:

8]“This disposition or preparation is followed by justification itself, which is not only a remission of sins but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man through the voluntary reception of the grace and gifts whereby an unjust man becomes just and from being an enemy becomes a friend, that he MAY BE AN HEIR ACCORDING TO HOPE OF LIFE EVERLASTING.”

9]Notice that Trent says that in justification one becomes an heir, according to the hope of life everlasting, not a half heir, he is a full one. An heir is one who inherits. What does he inherit? According to Trent, eternal life. All he needs is perseverance. Adam Miller previously critiqued me when I pointed this out by saying, well, the justified one only has a hope of eternal life.(1) The apostle Paul himself, who certainly was baptized (Acts. 22:16), also only had a hope of eternal life, and was not quite sure that he had eternal life (1 Cor. 9:27): nonetheless, by definition when heirs die, inheritance comes. Trent tells us the inheritance is eternal life. This only confirms Scripture: Rom. 8:17: “and if children, then HEIRS, HEIRS of God and fellow HEIRS with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Only perseverance is necessary.

10]The Feeneyite assumption downgrades and distorts the sixth session on justification to mean absolutely nothing. If justification means so little, is not enough, why did the Council Fathers write 7000 words on the issue, if it was not enough for salvation? Why in the first seven chapters on justification, not even a single time is the word salvation used? In the decrees (16 chapters), the word salvation is used only four times, and in the canons (33 canons), not even one time is the word salvation used!!! Does that mean that when those canons talk about staying in the state of grace, it was not enough for salvation? Does that mean the Fathers wasted their time in mentioning pursuing the meaning and extent of justification if it was not sufficient for salvation? 12 of the 16 chapters do not even use the word ‘salvation’ and it is not even used until chapter eight, so it is not strange that the word ‘salvation’ is not used in chapter four. Yet the whole purpose of mentioning justification is because when one is justified, he is in a state of grace, and if one dies in a state of grace, one will go to heaven. Are the 33 canons irrelevant, because the word ‘salvation’ is not used?

11]This assumption is preposterous, because all the Council Fathers assumed that when one is justified, and in a state of grace, that was sufficient for salvation, as long as one persevered in that state of grace (See chapter 16). The Council nowhere pits chapter four on desire as being only half salvation, against the rest of the decrees on justification.

12] For example, we saw earlier that in chapter four, session six on justification, we saw that through baptism or its desire it specifically says: In which words is given a brief description of the justification of the sinner, as being a translation from that state in which man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace and of the adoption of the sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Savior. This translation however cannot, since promulgation of the Gospel, be effected except through the laver of regeneration or its desire, as it is written: Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Notice that through the desire for baptism one becomes an adopted son. Feeneyites will admit that one is an adopted son of God through not only baptism but also through its desire. Thus, when Trent talks about how God treats his adopted sons in other sections, it must apply as well to those who are adopted sons through desire. It says this about adopted sons in Chapter 16.

13]Therefore, to men justified in this manner, whether they have preserved uninterruptedly the grace received or recovered it when lost, are to be pointed out the words of the Apostle: Abound in every good work, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. For God is not unjust, that he should forget your work, and the love which you have shown in his name; and, Do not lose your confidence, which hath a great reward. Hence, to those who work well unto the end and trust in God, eternal life is to be offered, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Christ Jesus, and as a reward promised by God himself, to be faithfully given to their good works and merits.

Notice here that the main issue of Trent is not a baptismal character, but perseverance in a state of grace. One is a son of God through the desire for baptism as even Feeneyites will agree to. Now note that those who work well unto the end (and thus persevere) eternal life is to be offered as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Christ. Eternal life is salvation. One can become a son of God through desire. I.E. Salvation is given through desire. End of discussion.

14]The following canon talks of a justified person, and the need only for him is to persevere to attain salvation.

Canon 32. "If anyone shall say that the good works of the man JUSTIFIED are in such a way the gifts of God that they are not also good merits of him who is JUSTIFIED, or that the one JUSTIFIED by the good works, which are done by him though the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ (whose living member he is), DOES NOT TRULY MERIT INCREASE OF GRACE, ETERNAL LIFE, AND THE ATTAINMENT OF THAT ETERNAL LIFE (if he should die in grace), and also an increase of glory LET HIM BE ANATHEMA."

Chapter 11 For God does not forsake those who have once been JUSTIFIED by His grace, unless He be first forsaken by them.

15]Notice if one stays justified, he enters ETERNAL LIFE. Absolutely no mention of a baptismal character as EVER being a grounds for eternal life. In fact nowhere is the baptismal character mentioned anywhere in any of the canons or decrees of Trent. Yet this is foundational to the Feeneyite view rejecting baptism of desire.

16]Trent is clear on the matter. My opponents downgrade these clear implications by creating an artificial distinction. They will say “Since canons 2 and 5 say that baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation, that must mean that here it is only talking about getting into a state of grace. Thus, one actually needs the baptismal character to get into heaven. Trent says only that desire produces justification, but in order to get to heaven one must be literally water baptized, due to John 3:5 and canons 2 and 5.” This theory nicely buttresses Father Feeney’s errant theology, but totally ignores the already mentioned points.

17]In the past Adam has ignored the implications of Chapter four on Trent, and pits canons 2 and 5 on baptism against it, and constructs supposedly irrefutable logic. The following is what Adam has written:

“If anyone says that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation, let him be anathema. " (Canon 5) "If anyone says that true and natural water is not necessary for baptism and thus twists into some metaphor the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit" (Jn.3:5): let him be anathema." (Canon 2). Let me put it into a simple and irrefutable syllogism.

Infallible Major Premise (declared by Church at Florence and Trent):
No Baptism in water = no Church membership
Infallible Minor Premise (declared by Popes Innocent III, Boniface VIII, Eugene IV)
No Church membership = no salvation.”(2)

18]Adam’s presumptions are wrong. This is Protestant type proof-texting. Florence does not hold his assumptions. But even if I granted the premise, it would be only a half look at the relevant infallible decrees (and other aspects of Catholic theology which I will show later). For example, a Protestant using Adam’s logic can similarly state:

Infallible Major Premise (Romans 3:23)
All have Sinned and Fall Short of the Glory of God.
Infallible Minor Premise
Mary has sinned

19]This logic is anathema to Catholics, but is the exact type of logic that Adam uses to show his premise ‘irrefutable.’ Just as Protestants ignore the rest of divine revelation to prove Mary sinned, Adam ignores the rest of Trent’s infallible decrees to prove Father Feeney true. However we interpret Canons 2 and 5, they must take into account Session 6 of the Council of Trent. In any case, canon 2 is quoted against heretics who did not believe that water baptism was a necessary sacrament. It says:

If anyone says that true and natural water is not necessary for baptism and thus twists into some metaphor the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, let him be anathema.

20]There were some Protestant novelties that said that for the sacrament of baptism one does not need water. This is what this canon is addressing. This canon addressed a dispute with non-Catholics. Those who desire water baptism obviously think that it is a necessary sacrament. A true water baptism needs water. The issue of those who truly desire water baptism is not even referenced or alluded to. What is the end result of the baptism, if one perseveres? According to canon 2 he enters the Kingdom of God (quoting John 3:5). This is the exact same result as we have seen through chapter four of Trent, as the end result of justification, which is brought about by the laver, OR ITS DESIRE, as one enters the kingdom of God. Thus, ironically, canon 2, when seen in association with chapter four (the end goal of entering the kingdom of heaven), reaffirms the salvific efficacy of the desire for baptism. This is especially true when we see the whole section on justification stressing the necessity of perseverance, with absolutely no mention of a baptismal character.

21]Canon 5 says: If anyone says that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation, let him be anathema.

Canon 5 is against those who are aware of the teaching on baptism (otherwise they wouldn’t be saying anything about baptism only being optional), and declare baptism to be optional. Well, for those who truly desire baptism, and see the salvific benefits of baptism, they truly would not see baptism as optional. They truly desire the sacrament (chapter four) exactly because this is Christ’s ordinary means of salvation. Thus, when looking at these canons without even touching chapter four of session 6 of Trent, it says absolutely nothing against the efficacy of baptism of desire, as the issue is not even mentioned. These canons must be read in context of all of Trent, including the sixteen chapters on justification, which affirms that those who are justified (and all will admit that those who truly desire water baptism are justified) will inherit eternal life.

22]What did the Council Fathers think of the issue? Instead of debating about it, we should look at how this has been interpreted for 400 years by the Catechism. My opponent’s web page, advertises the Trent Catechism by saying:

“It was ordered by the Council of Trent, edited under St. Charles Borromeo, and published by decree of Pope St. Pius V (1566). Pope Leo XIII recommended two books for all seminarians: St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica and The Catechism of the Council of Trent. ... Originally designed to supply parish priests with an official book of instruction for the faithful... this book is simply but authoritatively written and easily understood by all. A remarkable and brilliant work, this guiding light for 400 years….”(3)

23]What does this authoritative Catechism say on the issue?

“On adults, however, the Church has not been accustomed to confer the Sacrament of baptism at once, but has ordained that it be deferred for a certain time. The delay is not attended with the same danger as in the case of infants, which we have already mentioned; should any unforeseen accident make it impossible for adults to be washed in the salutary waters, their intention and determination to receive Baptism and their repentance for past sins, will avail them to grace and righteousness.”

24] Notice that the Church does not rush to baptize people. It clearly says that one who is prevented by accident from receiving baptism will, by their desire result in grace and righteousness, whose end result is obviously heaven. Honest Feeneyites are reduced to saying that this Catechism teaches heresy. As the Ecclesian Militans site notes, this Catechism was the guiding light for centuries after the Council, was promulgated and signed for by an infallibly Sainted Pope (Pope Pius V) and taught to all seminarians (alongside Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica) on this issue. We have no record of any Pope or one Council Father anywhere ever saying that this Catechism taught heresy on the matter and contradicted Trent’s decrees. This ‘guiding light’ taught for centuries the Church’s analysis, not Father Feeney’s analysis. Are we supposed to take Father Feeney’s word over 4 centuries of Popes and Saints who never quite ‘caught’ this heresy in Trent’s Catechism?

25]St. Robert Bellarmine, a defender of the Catholic Faith against the so-called Reformation wrote: “Outside the Church no one is saved, should be understood of those who belong to the Church neither in reality nor in desire, just as theologians commonly speak about baptism. Because catechumens, even though not in church re (in reality), are in the church voto (by desire) , and in that way they can be saved.”(4)

26]It is infallibly determined that he is in heaven. Why was Saint Robert Bellarmine never condemned as a heretic, and why was he never condemned to hell for believing such a thing? Because he, as well as ALL THE COUNCIL FATHERS (as absolutely no one protested the Catechism on this count) believed this, AFTER THE INFALLIBLE DECREES. St. Alphonsus Liguori says: "It is de fide [that is, it belongs to the Catholic Faith Ed.] that there are some men saved also by the baptism of the Spirit." (5). Notice that for the doctor of the Church, it is a dogma of the faith that one is saved in this way.

27]St. Thomas Aquinas, in Summa Theologica III 68 gives many different reasons why one achieves salvation through the desire for water baptism.(6) He responds to someone misusing his earlier claim in question 65 on baptism (In Q. 65 the issue of desire for baptism was not brought up). In Q 68 he writes: ‘Such a man can obtain salvation without being actually baptized, on account of his desire for Baptism, which desire is the outcome of "faith that worketh by charity," whereby GOD, WHOSE POWER IS NOT TIED TO VISIBLE SACRAMENTS, sanctifies man inwardly.’ St. Thomas Aquinas was not condemned as a heretic, even though he wrote AFTER THE FIRST EENS DECREE. In fact, the use of the word desire that he used in Summa Theologica is reflected in the Council of Trent, Chapter four which we have examined, and by the later magisterium, and infallibly declared Saints. The Council of Florence also reflects St. Thomas’ language, which I will show in my second statement.

28]The Feeneyite view is that we are supposed to believe that for 400 years, Popes and martyrs for the faith just ignored this heresy taught in the Council of Trent Catechism (and Aquinas’ Summa Theologica) (even though my opponent admits it was taught to all seminarians), that a Catechumen could be saved. Of course it was not heresy, but Catholic faith. Otherwise the Church has been careless for the souls of not thousands, but millions, as the Church has demanded long periods of instruction before baptism for 2000 years.. I will ask my opponents: If there is the ever-present danger of damnation to catechumens, if either dies without baptism (though this proposition is contrary to the Catechism of Trent), has the Church been universally NEGLIGENT in her divine ministry of the past two thousand years by customarily requiring an extended period of instruction for adults, rather than immediately baptizing any individual who expresses a desire to join the Church, requiring only that he make a simple profession of faith, so the individual would not die unexpectedly without the 'character or mark' as well as the grace of Baptism, without which one cannot be saved? The charge of my opponents is that the Church has been universally negligent and heretical, as there never has been a statement of the Church that it is impossible for a Catechumen to die while a catechumen in a state of grace (taking Trent’s Catechism over Father Feeney’s guarantee). Finally, if it is the perennial teaching of the Church that a man who desires baptism will never die without it, why does the Catechism mention a hypothetical case which the Church knows will never happen?


29]Father Feeney says his interpretation of Trent must be true as he is only going by Jesus’ requirements of water baptism due to John 3:5. He writes: ‘’I did not invent this entrance requirement for redemption and salvation. Jesus gave it to me... Baptism of Water or damnation!!”(7) Notice he says Jesus gives it ‘to me’. Father Feeney thus exemplifies private interpretation, apart from the Church. He thus ignores the testimony of not only Saints, but the Council of Trent’s own explication in session 6, chapter four, and Trent’s own Catechism. If Father Feeney was to be consistent, he should have made this the same requirement for eating Christ's flesh and blood. Jesus said one must be born of water and spirit once. In fact Jesus said one must eat the flesh and drink the blood as a requirement for eternal life in John 6 many times. The Church mandates the recognition of exceptions in relation to John 6:51-58, when it specifically anathematizes those who hold that children must eat the Eucharist in order to have eternal life. It says in session twenty one, canon 4 ‘If anyone says that communion of the Eucharist is necessary for little children before they have attained the years of discretion, let him be anathema.’ Hence, it is a heresy to maintain that children must eat and drink Jesus’ flesh in order to enter God’s kingdom. Why do Father Feeney’s followers criticize those who follow Trent and say that the desire for baptism is salvific as watering down Jesus’ words, and ignore the fact that the Church mandates recognition of this exception on the Eucharist? If one charges those who say that water baptism is not absolutely necessary, only the desire thereof as ‘watering down Christ’s words’, then do they likewise say that the Council of Trent waters down Christ’s words in John 6? As the Church absolutely recognizes exceptions in reference to the Eucharist and session 21, canon 4, the Church likewise recognizes exceptions in reference to baptism.

Mortal Sin vs. Feeneyism

30]With this foundational point established that baptism of desire saves, we must now proceed to look at other aspects that prove that true desire, and perfect contrition of those not literally inside the Catholic faith (though linked by desire) can suffice for salvation.

However we interpret the infallible decrees on the issue of No Salvation Outside the Church, we must conform those doctrines to infallible Catholic theology. In Catholicism, this is called the ‘analogy of faith.’ One dogma can not be pitted against infallible Catholic theology. One vital aspect of Catholic theology is mortal sin. Now, my opponents will admit that one is in a state of grace through baptism of desire. They also must admit that the only thing that knocks a person out of the state of grace is mortal sin. According to Catholic theology three conditions must be met: 1) the Sin must be of grave matter 2) Must be done with deliberate consent; 3) One must know that it is a Serious sin. A justified person, is a just man, infused with grace, and an adopted child. The fact is, if any one of these conditions are not met for the committing of a mortal sin, that person remains in the state of grace, and is not condemned to hell. Trent shows that one who perseveres in a state of grace is heaven bound. However, we saw Father Feeney proclaim “Baptism or damnation.” Thus, despite being made a Child of God, Father Feeney by implication argues that unless that person is baptized and made a member of the Catholic Church, that person must commit mortal sin, in which all three conditions must be met. The third condition of knowing that it is a mortal sin, absolutely destroys Father Feeney position. The Church has never even hinted that, and I ask my opponents to produce one magisterial text that directly says that unless the person is baptized, the person will commit mortal sin and remain in that state before he dies. Inferences won’t suffice.

31]In fact, nowhere has the Church ever stated that when one is in a state of grace, that unless one is actually water baptized, one must commit mortal sin. That is the only way Father Feeney’s “Baptism or damnation” statement can be accurate. It is not. If a person who is to be baptized doesn’t know that the Catholic Church is the true Church, then by direct implication he is still in a state of grace unless he comes to know of the serious nature of the sin of remaining physically outside the Church, and if he dies without knowing of this necessity, and does not commit mortal sin, he is ultimately heaven bound.

32]This follows true also in those that are actually baptized, who are not actually members of the Catholic faith. Trent anathematizes those who deny the efficacy of baptisms done by others (canon 4 on baptisms). The only way that the baptized person, who now has the baptismal character that the Feeneyites so clamor for, can go to hell, is if he commits mortal sin and dies unrepentant, or without perfect contrition. The Church has never said that a person must commit mortal sin in this way, (which of course means committing a sin that he knows is serious) so there will be salvation for the person unless he does commit mortal sin.

33]We have seen that the salvific efficacy of baptism of desire has been taught infallibly by the Council of Trent, affirmed by its Catechism, and taught for 400 years until Father Feeney rejected it. Father Feeeney is inconsistent and his denial of the implications of Trent and the conditions necessary for mortal sin affirm even more that baptism of desire is salvific. In my next statement, before I begin my rebuttal, I will go more into how this plays into the meaning of EENS. I will also look at the specific proclamations, and how the link by desire in some way has always been taught by the Catholic Faith. Father Feeney’s proclamations deny what the Catholic Church has always taught on the matter. I will show that he would need to label even more Saints as heretics who have infallibly been determined to be Doctors and Saints in the Catholic faith. His theology would label the magisterium as not only tolerating but promoting heresy, from the time of the very first EENS decree in 1215 AD until now. That is unthinkable for any reasonable Catholic.


(2) Adam Miller, ibid.
(3) Ecclesia Militant Web Site, Bookstore – Promo for ‘Catechism of the Council of Trent.
(3) St. Thomas Aquinas, (1225-1274) Summa Theologica Third Part, Question 68, Article 2.
(4) St. Robert Bellarmine, (De Ecclesia militante) , chap 3., ed. Giuliano, vol. 2, p. 76.
(5) St. Alphonsus Liguori, On Baptism, chapter 1.
(6) Father Leonard Feeney, Bread of Life, p. 25
(7) Adam Miller, op.cit.

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