Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Saint Benedict Center in Richmond, NH and Baptism of Blood and Desire

Dialog based on truth?

In the December, 2005 edition of the Mancipia, a newsletter produced by the Saint Benedict Center in Richmond, New Hampshire, Brother Andre Marie, M.I.C.M. writes: "..what is it that the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary have to offer the Holy Father as our sovereign head on earth. Rather than merely bemoaning the sad state of affairs in the afflicted Mystical Body, we present to him the alternative: dialog based on truth, dialog (with 'the world,' with 'science,' and with other religions) carried out by those who have 'grasped' and adored the Catholic Thing - who wholeheartedly believe and profess all the dogmas of the Faith, including the absolute necessity of the Church for salvation - and whose 'words follow' from that. Knowing that grace is necessary to profess the Faith, we will never rely on our own arguments. Like St. Paul, we are palpably aware that 'neither he that planteth is any thing, nor he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase' (1 Cor. 3:7)." (p.5).

And yet Brother Andre Marie and his comrades at the Saint Benedict Center do rely on their "own arguments." For they reject the Church's teaching on Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. In a letter of the Holy Office to Archbishop Cushing of Boston dated August 8, 1949, the Holy Office explained the Church is necessary for salvation because such is the command of Christ and because the Church is a necessary means for salvation. However, the Holy Office also explained that the Church is such a means only by divine institution and not by intrinsic necessity and that, as a consequence, membership itself in the Church is not required of all men under all circumstances.

This letter explained that:

"The infallible dictum which teaches us that outside the Church there is no salvation, is among the truths that the Church has always taught and will always teach. But this dogma is to be understood as the Church itself understands it. For our Savior did not leave it to PRIVATE JUDGMENT to explain what is contained in the deposit of faith, but to the doctrinal authority of the Church."

Brother Andre Marie and his mentor (Brother Francis) may consider themselves to be some sort of ersatz Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but here on planet earth the Church founded by Christ teaches that, "Of those helps to salvation that are ordered to the last end only by divine decree, not by intrinsic necessity, God, in his infinite mercy, willed that such effects of those helps as are necessary to salvation can, in certain circumstances, be obtained when the helps are used only in desire or longing. We see this clearly stated in the Council of Trent about the sacrament of regeneration and about the sacrament of penance." (Letter of the Holy Office to Archbishop Cushing).

This is the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:


1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation.59 He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them.60 Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.61 The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.

1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.

1260 "Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery."62 Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.

"Outside the Church there is no salvation"846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.336

847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.337

848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."338

At the Saint Benedict Center, the "Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary" reject this understanding of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus and prefer instead to embrace their "own arguments" while insisting that Holy Mother Church is wrong and must accept their narrow interpretation of the dogma. An interpretation which would relegate all non-Catholics to an eternity in Hell.

The Church has always taught Baptism of Blood and of Desire. The Council of Trent, in its Canons on the Sacraments in General (Canon 4) taught that:

"If anyone shall say that the sacraments are of the New Law are not necessary for salvation, but are superfluous, and that although all are not necessary for every individual, without them or without the desire of them (sine eis aut eorum voto), through faith alone men obtain from God the grace of justification; let him be anathema."

And this same Council, in its Decree on Justification (Session 6, Chapter 4), taught that:

"In these words a description of the justification of a sinner is given 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' (Rom. 8:15) of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Savior and this translation after the promulgation of the Gospel cannot be effected except through the layer of regeneration or a desire for it, (sine lavacro regenerationis aut eius voto) as it is written: 'Unless a man be born again of the water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter in the kingdom of God' (John 3:5).

St. Alphonsus de Liguori (Doctor of the Church), in Book 6 of his Moral Theology, wrote:

"But baptism of desire is perfect conversion to God by contrition or love of God above all things accompanied by an explicit or implicit desire for true Baptism of water, the place of which it takes as to the remission of guilt...Now it is de fide that men are also saved by Baptism of desire, by virtue of the Canon 'Apostolicam De Presbytero Non Baptizato' and the Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 4, where it is said that no one can be saved 'without the laver of regeneration or the desire for it.'"

The 1917 Code of Canon Law On Ecclesiastical Burial (Canon 1239.2) stated: "Catechumens who, through no fault of their own, die without Baptism, are to be treated as baptized."

Commentary on the Code: "The reason for this rule is that they are justly supposed to have met death united to Christ through Baptism of Desire."

And what does the great St. Augustine have to say? This Father and Doctor of the Church, whom Brother Andre admits "discussed religion with the pagans of his day" and "aggressively dismantled their arguments," addresses this issue in his City of God:

"Those also who die for the confession of Christ without having received the laver of regeneration are released thereby from their sins just as much as if they had been cleansed by the sacred spring of baptism. For He who said, 'Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,' (John 3:5) by another statement made exceptions to this when He said no less comprehensively: 'Everyone...that shall confess me before men, I will confess before my Father who is in Heaven.' (Matthew 10:32)."

It is noteworthy that while Brother Andre Marie exhorts readers of his column in the Mancipia to initiate a dialog in which the faith is presented "zealously, with conviction, and with excitement," there is no mention of love - of charity. This will come as no surprise to those who are even remotely familiar with Fr. Leonard Feeney and the origin of the Saint Benedict Center. The noted Catholic author Evelyn Waugh wrote in a letter that the most disturbing event he saw in Boston involved his visit to Fr. Leonard Feeney, S.J., at Harvard:

"I went one morning by appointment and found him surrounded by a court of bemused youths of both sexes and he stark, raving mad. All his converts have chucked their Harvard careers and go to him only for all instruction. He fell into a rambling denunciation of all secular learning, which gradually became more and more violent." (The Letters of Evelyn Waugh, ed. Mark Amory, (New Haven: Ticknor and Fields, 1980), 291-292.

Here are some examples of Fr. Feeney's idea of "dialog":

"The Jews have taken over this city..." (Report by Grace Uberti from 14 September 1952, Feeney Collection, Archives, Archdiocese of Boston, Brighton, Mass).

"I would rather be a bad Catholic than any Jew in existence." (op. cit, 19 October 1952).

"Every Protestant hates the Jews. Harvard loathes Jews. That is why they got a new President - to keep the Jews away. I don't hate Jews for the reason he hates them. I hate them because they hate Jesus. They hate Jesus because they are Jews!" (op. cit 9 August 1953).

"Those kikes are from Hillel House. I warn you of what the Jews are going to do to the Catholic City of Boston. In every city you see a new synagogue being built in a Christian country...If I sent Catholics over to heckle Rabbi Shubow, Fingold [Attorney General] would send the police in and have them in jail. But over here in front of the picture of the sacred heart of Mary these Jews are yelling every single filthy thing - every blasphemous word, on Sunday in a Catholic city." (op. cit 31 July 1955).

And Fr. Feeney's idea of "dialog" also included attacks on Protestants and Catholics:

"Archbishop Cushing is a heretic. I didn't say it behind his back; I said it to his face." (op. cit 28 September 1952).

"Here you have me in a Catholic city being spit at and sneered at. I would like to profess my Catholic faith in a city gone to the dogs, thanks to the Jews, Protestants and Masons, and under a cowardly leader." (op. cit 16 November 1952).

"Harvard boys are filthy. Too many Irish, too many Negroes, and too many Jews." (op. cit 8 March 1953).

Until Brother Andre Marie and the rest of the Saint Benedict Center renounces anti-Semitism and a "dialog" based on private judgment rather than Church teaching and on anger and violence rather than charity, no one is going to take them seriously.

Paul Anthony Melanson


Anonymous said...

I think the Saint Benedict Center should be formally excommunicated. They have already excommunicated themselves by rejecting the De Fide teaching of the Church on Baptism of Desire.

St. Alphonsus de Liguori is a Doctor of the Church and one of the finest theologians who ever lived. And, as you note in your powerful article, he says that the Church's teaching on Baptism of Desire is De Fide.

Therefore, members of the Saint Benedict Center who reject this De Fide teaching have excommunicated themselves from the Church Latae sententiae.

Anonymous said...

From Canon Law: "Canon 1364 §1: “an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.”

Anonymous said...

While not connected with St. Benedict Center I would have to say that some of your "proofs" for Baptism of Desire don't hold water. St. Alphonsus is a saint, not the teaching authority of the Church. There has never been any de fide pronouncements on Baptism of Desire, rather it is a way of explaining how God in his mercy brings non baptized to salvation. The examples you illustrate are of those about to come into the Church.
From what I read on this Fr. Feeney I don't recall him every condemning someone to hell once they died.
Also, I'm confused as to why the anti-semitism is being intertwined into the baptism controversy.
Did the groups in Still River have to recant their filiation with fr. Feeney and his beliefs?

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

St. Alphonsus de Liguori is more than just a saint. He is a Doctor of the Church. As for the Magisterial teaching of the Church on this subject, I would recommend a thorough read of the Catechism of the Catolic Church, Nos. 1257-1261. I would also recommend reading Nos. 846-848.

Or do you prefer the private opinion of the man known popularly as the hate priest to that of the Magisterial teaching of Christ's Church?

As for the anti-Semitism of the Saint Benedict Center in Richmond, that speaks for itself. Read my posts on the subject very carefully. Visit

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Typo: read Catholic above.

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