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Feeneyites have recently argued that St. Peter Canisius, Doctor of the Church, understood the Council of Trent as not teaching Baptism of Desire.

Saint Peter Canisius (May 8, 1521 – December 21, 1597) was a Jesuit who fought against the Protestants in Germany, Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, and Switzerland. He was a major player in Germany’s restoration to Catholicism after Luther. He was at the Council of Trent and was sent by Pope Pius IV to bring the council’s documents to Germany. St. Peter Canisius was beatified by Pope Pius IX in 1864 and canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church on May 21, 1925 by Pope Pius XI. His amazing story can be read at CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: St. Peter Canisius (newadvent.org)

In 1555, St. Peter Canisius wrote his “Summa doctrinæ christianæ . . . in usum Christianæ pueritiæ” for his advance students. The work consisted of two hundred and eleven questions in five chapters. The following is a 1622 English translation of his teaching on Baptism:

“What is Baptism, and is it necessary to all? This is the first and most necessary sacrament of the New Law, consisting in the outward washing of the body and the due pronunciation of the words in according unto the institution of with Christ.

A necessary sacrament, I say, not only for those(a) that are years of discretion, but(b) infants also and withall effectual for them to life everlasting. All are born the sons of(c) wrath; therefore even infants also have need to be purged from sin, neither can they be cleansed and regenerated into the children of God without this(d) sacrament. For generally hath the Lawmaker proclaimed, that(e), “unless a man is born again of water and the Holy Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” And in an other place: It is(f) not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one perish of the little ones.” But infants(g) also not baptized should perish, as of old in the Synagogue of the Jews, children(h) uncircumcised. [1]

Feeneyites take this teaching with his reference to the Council of Trent’s teaching from Session 6, ch. 4 [2] and his references to Augustine and Ambrose on the necessity of baptism. Combining these teachings, Feeneyites argue that Canisius’s interpretation of Session 6, ch. 4 doesn’t mean Baptism of Desire, nor does Augustine and Ambrose’s.

For instance, a reference by Augustine: “No matter how much a catechumen advances, he still carries the load of his iniquity: it is not forgiven him until he has come to baptism.” (St. Augustine, Tractate 13 on the Gospel of John)

Feeneyites think this proves that Augustine and Canisius believed that Catechumens can’t possibly obtain Baptism of Desire if they die without baptism.

St. Augustine’s statement is true or else the catechumen would never need to be baptized. This has nothing to do with Baptism of Desire, which is something that happens if the catechumen dies and couldn’t be baptized because of some unforeseen circumstances. St. Augustine wrote his Tractate around the same time as he wrote his most famous work, the City of God where he taught: 

“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).”

Obviously, St. Augustine didn’t believe that all catechumens go to hell if they don’t get baptized as he tells us about Baptism of Blood. If Canisius knew about Tractate 13, he most certainly would know about the City of God. Feeneyites are grasping for straws, but they grasp more straws with Ambrose when Canisius references him teaching:

“The catechumen believes in the cross of the Lord Jesus, by which also he is signed: but unless he is baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, he cannot receive the remission of sins nor gain the gift of spiritual grace.” (St. Ambrose, De mysteriis)

This teaching from Ambrose is true as long as the catechumen lives. What happens if he should die without getting Baptism because of some accident? Baptism is absolutely necessary ordinarily. The issue is about extraordinary circumstances. It should be noted that St. Ambrose converted St. Augustine and was his teacher.

Ambrose and Augustine don’t support the Feeneyite’s ridiculous interpretation of Trent.

Lastly, Feeneyites make another false and futile argument.

Caninius taught, “For generally hath the Lawmaker proclaimed, that(e), “unless a man is born again of water and the Holy Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.”

The Feeneyites argue that “generally” or ‘generatim’ is a reference to two classes of people: adults and infants. It doesn’t mean a general rule, which is a precept. It means an absolute universal law.

The problem with this Feeneyite argument is two-fold. First, Canisius could have used the word “absolutissime” or “absolute” instead of generatim and then explain what Session 6, chapter 4 meant, since he references it twice in his catechism. He doesn’t do so. Instead, we are left with a word that proves nothing. Even if Canisius meant universal law, it wouldn’t necessarily mean what the Feeneyites want. However, the word generatim, which is translated in all the English translations as “generally or general” appears to mean that baptism is the general rule and not an absolute rule. It works against Feeneyism.

In 1606, the Jesuits published Canisius’ work with testimonies of Divine Scripture and the solid evidence of the holy Fathers. [3] On page 218 concerning Session 6, chapter 4, the marginal note says “justification does not occur without baptism or its desire” — that is, either the sacrament itself, or the desire for it. The same passage from Trent is quoted again later in St. Peter Canisius’s catechism. [4]

The obvious reading from Trent means Baptism of Desire. Therefore, an explanation should follow why Baptism of Desire is a false belief especially in light of the fact that St. Robert Bellarmine implies that it was universally believed in the Church during his time precisely because of Trent’s teaching and that of Ambrose, Augustine, and even Pope Innocent III. [5]

The second problem with the Feeneyite argument is that Protestants like to use the original language game to see if they can get a translation with an interpretation that fits their theology. If we want to know what Scripture really means, we turn to the Church and read it with an analogy of Faith.

If we want to know what St. Peter Canisius really believed, then we look to all of his contemporaries on this point. They would not be diametrically opposed on such a crucial point of doctrinal teaching from a council. It would be ludicrous to think otherwise.

I demonstrate in footnote 5 how St. Robert Bellarmine understood Ambrose, Augustine, and Session 6, ch. 4 of Trent as teaching Baptism of Desire. St. Peter Canisius would not hold the exact opposite view. That would imply that Bellarmine or Canisius is teaching heresy based on the same sources.

We also have the Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent published 9 years after Canisius’ catechism. St. Charles Borreomeo superintended the redaction of the original Italian text, which, thanks to his exertions, was finished in 1564. It was then published in Latin and Italian as “Catechismus ex decreto Concilii Tridentini ad parochos Pii V jussu editus, Romae, 1566” (in-folio). Translations into the vernacular of every nation were ordered by the Council (Sess. XXIV, “De Ref.“, c. vii).

The Roman Catechism taught that adults “are not baptized at once…The delay is not attended the same danger as in the case of infants, which we have already mentioned; should any foreseen 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.” (p 179) [6]

In 1582, 27 years after Canisius’ catechism was written, the English College of Rheims published the Rheims New Testament. It was the official English translation approved by Rome. In the commentary of John 3:5, the Rheims Bible reads, “…this sacrament [Baptism] consisteth of an external element of water, and internal virtue of the Holy Spirit…Though in this case, God which hath not bound his grace, in respect of his own freedom, to any Sacrament, may and doth accept them as baptized, which either are martyred before they could be baptized, or else depart this life with vow and desire to have the Sacrament, but by some remediless necessity could not obtain it.” [7]

Francisco Suarez, S.J. (1548-1617) cites St. Robert Bellarmine S.J. on Baptism of Desire in his 1602 work Opus de triplici virtute theologic, a Tractus de fide, Disp.XII, sect.4, n.22 : [As to] what is further added, that outside the Church there is no salvation, some say, as Cano, that this proposition is to be understood of the Church in general, as it always was, and not only of the Church, as it was specially instituted by Christ. But this response is unsatisfactory, both because the Church is always one, and also because the Councils really speak of this Church of Christ, and one must hold as true in some sense concerning it, that outside of it nobody is saved. Thus it is better to reply according to the distinction given between necessity in fact, or in desire [in re, vel in voto]; for thus nobody can be saved, unless he should enter this Church of Christ either in fact, or at least in will and desire. Bellarmine responds thus to a similar question. And it is manifest, that nobody is actually inside this Church, unless he is baptized, and yet one can be saved because the will to be baptized is sufficient, and likewise the will to enter the Church; thus we say the same of any faithful person who is truly penitent and is not baptized, whether he shall have come to explicit faith in Christ, or only to implicit faith : for by that faith he can have at least an implicit desire, which is sufficient with regard to baptism, as St. Thomas teaches in the aforesaid places. [8]

Fr. Cornelius à Lapide, S.J. (1567- 1637) a Flemish Jesuit and renowned exegete wrote in his great biblical commentary on John 3:5 around 1615:

Lastly, born of water ought here to be understood either in actual fact, or by desire. For he who repents of his sins, and desires to be baptized, but either from want of water, or lack of a minister, is not able to receive it, is born again through (ex) the desire and wish for baptism. So the Council of Trent fully explains this passage (Sess. 7, Can. 4). [9]


Every Church authority, which includes official biblical interpretations, understood Session 6, chapter 4 and Session 7, Canon 4 as teaching Baptism of Desire. The Feeneyites are absolutely delusional to think that St. Peter Canisius was the only one to think exactly the opposite to every other authority who taught and wrote on the subject.

Their argument would necessarily be a condemnation of heresy for either St. Peter Canisius or every other authority, not to mention, an argument for complete stupidity for one of the two sides, all of which is a total absurdity.



[1] A Sum of Christian Doctrine : St. Peter Canisius : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

[2] 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 [or without] the laver of regeneration or a desire for it, (sine lavacro regenerationis out eius voto) as it is written: “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter in the kingdom of God (John 3:5).”

[3] https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_dGsGlgHmLgUC/page/218/mode/2up?

On page 218, top of 2nd column under TESTIMONIA: 1. B is the passage from Trent session 6, chapter 4. The marginal note says “Iustificatio non fit sine baptismo aut eius voto”

[4] https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_dGsGlgHmLgUC/page/n951/mode/2up

[5] St. Robert Bellarmine on Baptism of Desire and the Council of Trent | Speray’s Catholicism in a Nutshell (wordpress.com)

St. Robert Bellarmine in De Controversiis: De Sacramento Baptismi. Lib. I, cap. 6., 1596 A.D. :

But without doubt it is to be believed, that true conversion supplies for Baptism of water, when not through contempt but through necessity someone dies without Baptism of water. For this is expressly held by Ezech. 18: If the impious shall do penance for his sins, I will no more remember his iniquity. Ambrose openly teaches the same in his oration on the death of Valentinian the younger: “He whom I was to regenerate, I lost; but that grace, for which he hoped, he did not lose.” Likewise Augustine book 4 on Baptism, chap. 22. and Bernard epist. 77. and after them Innocent III. chap. Apostolicam, of an unbaptized priest. Thus also the Council of Trent, sess. 6. chap. 4. says that Baptism is necessary in reality or in desire.

[6] http://www.catholicapologetics.info/thechurch/catechism/Holy7Sacraments-Baptism.shtml

[7] 1582 Douai Rheims Douay Rheims First Edition 3 Of 3 1582 New Testament : Douay (Douai) Rheims College – scanned by www.fatimamovement.com : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

[8] Suarez, Francisco, S.J. Opus De Triplici Virtu, Te Theologica, Fide, Spe, Et Charitate. Cum superiorum permissu & Privilegio Caesareo. Sumptibus Hermanni Mylij Birckmanni, Excudebat Balthasar Lippius, 1922.

 #229 – R. P. Francisci Suarez, Granatensis, e Societate Iesu doctoris … – Full View | HathiTrust Digital Library

[9] CHAPTER III (catholicapologetics.info)

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Just as St. Alphonsus Liguori understood Session 6, Chapter 4 of the Council of Trent as teaching baptism of desire, so did St. Robert Bellarmine  who taught in his De Controversiis: De Sacramento Baptismi. Lib. I, cap. 6., 1596 A.D. See Footnote:

First proposition: Martyrdom is rightly called, and is a kind of Baptism. 

Second proposition: Perfect Conversion, and Penance is rightly called Baptism of wind, and it supplies for Baptism of water at least in cases of necessity. Note that not just any conversion is called Baptism of wind, but perfect conversion, which includes true contrition, and charity, and also desire, or will to receive Baptism.

Secondly, note that this proposition was not as certain with the ancients, as was the above. For as regards Martyrdom none of the ancients, as far as I know, denied that it could supply for Baptism of water: but as regards conversion and penance there were some who denied it. Indeed the book written on the dogmas of the Church, which is falsely attributed to Augustine, chap. 74. openly teaches that a Catechumen is not saved, although he should have lived in good works, unless he be purified by the baptism of water or of blood. Also it is clear from epistle 77 of St. Bernard, that some in his time believed the same.

But without doubt it is to be believed, that true conversion supplies for Baptism of water, when not through contempt but through necessity someone dies without Baptism of water. For this is expressly held by Ezech. 18: If the impious shall do penance for his sins, I will no more remember his iniquity. Ambrose openly teaches the same in his oration on the death of Valentinian the younger: “He whom I was to regenerate, I lost; but that grace, for which he hoped, he did not lose.” Likewise Augustine book 4 on Baptism, chap. 22. and Bernard epist. 77. and after them Innocent III. chap. Apostolicam, of an unbaptized priest. Thus also the Council of Trent, sess. 6. chap. 4. says that Baptism is necessary in reality or in desire. Finally, true conversion is associated with Martyrdom, and with Baptism of water, in the name of Baptism and in two effects; therefore it is credible that it also be associated in another effect, which is to forgive guilt, and to justify man, and in this way to supply for Baptism of water.

Feeneyites think St. Robert Bellarmine and St. Alphonsus Liguori were both dummies that didn’t understand Latin or the Catholic Faith on salvation. They think these two saints and theologians didn’t understand the Council of Trent and actually taught the very opposite to its true meaning.







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After my podcast on Feeneyism, the Feeneyites have come out of the cracks to attack Baptism of Desire.

One of their fundamental errors is failing to make the distinction between making an error over an opinion and actually teaching heresy.

Popes, saints, and theologians most certainly can err over theological opinions, but they can’t err against a dogma and remain Catholic. Feeneyites will say St. Alphonsus was a material heretic and/or erred innocently. They won’t apply that same courtesy to the Vatican 2 popes (if sedes.) When the Vatican 2 popes error against the faith, it’s malicious, but when great popes and saints do the exact same thing, it’s not malicious. 

St. Alphonsus Liguori taught two things that Feeneyites call heresy. I dealt with one of those issues over 4 years ago here.

The second issue concerns the faith and what is needed to be saved. Feeneyites profess that it’s dogmatic that those who are of the age of reason absolutely must have explicit faith in the essential mysteries of faith to be saved. 

However, Catholicism is clear that it’s not dogmatic. It’s a theological opinion. This opinion is broken down into different classes of necessity.  

The Catholic Encyclopedia explains: In relation to the means necessary to salvation theologians divide necessity into necessity of means and necessity of precept. In the first case the means is so necessary to salvation that without it (absolute necessity) or its substitute (relative necessity), even if the omission is guiltless, the end cannot be reached. Thus faith and baptism of water are necessary by a necessity of means, the former absolutely, the latter relatively, for salvation. In the second case, necessity is based on a positive precept, commanding something the omission of which, unless culpable, does not absolutely prevent the reaching of the end.

According to Feeneyites, the above teaching from the Catholic Encyclopedia is heretical for denying that the Sacrament of Baptism is a necessity of means for salvation.

The faith that’s a necessity of means can be broken down even further. St. Alphonsus taught that it’s “sufficiently probable – that by necessity of precept all are bound to believe these Mysteries explicitly; but by necessity of means, it suffices if they be believed implicitly.” 

Those same Feeneyites must call St. Alphonsus a formal heretic, since he’s contradicting their believed “dogma” that explicit faith is a necessity of means. 

St. Alphonsus Liguori taught in Theologia Moralis, Lib. II, tract. 1, cap. 1 

1.  Which mysteries must be believed by a necessity of means?

Of those things which the faithful are bound to believe explicitly, some must be believed by a necessity of means, or end; without which, even if inculpably unknown, no one can obtain the ultimate end; others, by a necessity of precept, without which, if they be inculpably omitted, the ultimate end may be obtained. — Sanchez, Azor, Valentia. By a necessity of means these two things are necessary: (1) To believe explicitly that God is, and is a rewarder of the good; according to that of the Apostle to the Hebrews, xi. 6: One must believe. Council of Trent. (2) After the sufficient promulgation of the Gospel, to believe explicitly, as says Molina; or at least implicitly, as some teach as probable with Coninck and Laymann, in Christ and the Most Holy Trinity.  See Escobar, where from Vasquez he teaches that culpable ignorance of these mysteries, or negligence in learning them, is a grave sin, distinct from that which is its cause.  See Diana. It is a theological virtue, infused by God, inclining us to firmly assent, on account of the divine veracity, to all that God has revealed, and by the Church has proposed to our belief.  It is said (1) A theological virtue, that is, which has God for its object; for faith, as also hope and charity, is aimed directly at God, and thus differs from the moral virtues, which refer to Him indirectly.  (2) Infused by God; because faith is a supernatural gift of God.  (3) Inclining us to firmly believe; for the assent of faith cannot be joined with fear, as was wrongly said in proposition 21 proscribed by Innocent XI, but must be absolutely firm.  (4) On account of the divine veracity.  For the infallible truth (which is God Himself) is the formal object of faith. (5) To all that God has revealed; for everything revealed by God is the material object of faith.  (6) And by the Church has proposed to our belief; for the divine revelation would not be made known to us, except by the Church, which proposes the things revealed; as it is otherwise evident, on account of the signs of credibility (among which are prophecies, miracles, the constancy of the Martyrs, and such like), that the Church can neither deceive nor be deceived.  Apart from which St. Augustine famously uttered the saying: I would not believe the Gospel, unless the authority of the Catholic Church so moved me.

2.  Whether the mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation must be believed explicitly?

It is asked: whether the Mysteries of the Most Holy Trinity and the Incarnation, after the promulgation of the Gospel, must be believed with an explicit faith by necessity of means or of precept?

The first opinion, which is more common and seems more probable, teaches that they are to be believed by a necessity of means. Thus hold Sanchez, Valentia, Molina, Continuator Tournely, Juenin, Antoine, Wigandt, Concina with Ledesma, Serra, Prado, etc.; also Salmant., Cuniliati and Roncaglia. But these last three say, that accidentally and in a rare case one may be justified with a faith that is only implicit. — This they prove from the Scriptures, from which they say is clearly proved the necessity of means.  They prove it also from reason: for, granting that before the promulgation of the Gospel an implicit faith in Christ was sufficient, yet after the promulgation, because the state of grace is more perfect, a more perfect knowledge is required, indeed an explicit faith in Christ and the Trinity.

The second opinion, which is also sufficiently probable, says, that by necessity of precept all are bound to believe these Mysteries explicitly; but by necessity of means, it suffices if they be believed implicitly. — Thus Dominicus Soto, where he says: Although the precept of explicit faith (that is, in the Trinity and the Incarnation) is absolutely obligatory upon the whole world, nevertheless many may be excused from this obligation on account of invincible ignorance.  Franciscus Sylvius writes: After the sufficient promulgation of the Gospel, explicit faith in the Incarnation is necessary for all for salvation by a necessity of precept, and indeed also (as is probable) by a necessity of means.  And in the conclusion that follows, he says the same about the mystery of the Trinity.  Cardinal Gotti says: I say (1The opinion which denies that explicit faith in Christ and the Trinity is so necessary, that without it no one can be justified, or be able to be saved, is very probable.  And he asserts that Scotus holds this opinion.  Eusebius Amort, the recent and most learned writer, defends absolutely the same opinion.  Elbel writes, that today this opinion is held by the illustrious Doctors Castropalao, Viva, Sporer, Laymann, who says this (second opinion) is not less probable than the first, with Richardo, Medina, Vega, Sa, and Turriano. — Cardinal de Lugo calls the first opinion speculatively probable [footnote: Or more correctly: Lugo n. 90, calls the first opinion fairly common], but defends absolutely and in great detail this second one as more probable, with Javello, Zumel, and Suarez; and de Lugo writes, that this same opinion appears to be that of St. Thomas, where the Holy Doctor says: Before Baptism, Cornelius and others like him receive grace and virtues, through their faith in Christ and their desire for Baptism, implicit or explicit.  From which Lugo argues: as Cornelius obtained grace through implicit faith, because the Gospel was not yet perfectly promulgated in that region, likewise he can obtain it who is invincibly ignorant of these mysteries; for likewise to these the Gospel is not sufficiently promulgated.

But they say it is repugnant to the divine goodness and providence, to damn adults who are invincibly ignorant, who live honestly according to the light of nature, against which there is: In every nation, he who fears Him, and works justice, is acceptable to Him? (Acts x. 35) — Indeed they respond that all Scriptures, and testimonies of the Holy Fathers that are opposed to this view, can easily be explained as of necessity of precept: either because ordinarily almost no one can be saved without explicit faith in these Mysteries, because after the promulgation of the Gospel almost no one labors under invincible ignorance of them; or because, says Lugo, they may be explained as referring to implicit faith, or explicit in desire. — Furthermore, says Laymann, an adult, if mute and deaf from birth, though he be baptized, could not receive the other Sacraments, although he so desired; indeed he could not be saved, because it is unbelievable that such a man could rightly apprehend and explicitly believe the mystery of the Incarnation, and especially of the Trinity.

It is noted by Tannerus, Silvius, Azor and Valentia, with Gulielmo Parisiensi according to Sanchez, that if one were so very untaught, that he could not grasp these mysteries, then he would be excused on account of inability, and compared to infants, and dunces. — But Sanchez says, that it is one thing to believe, another to know the mysteries, and to give an explanation of them.  Thus he thinks that all adults are bound by a necessity of means, to eventually believe such mysteries, but by a necessity of precept to know them; from which precept to know the slow of mind are excused; and he says that the authors cited are to be understood in this way.  And he concludes with Gabriele, who says: It is sufficient … for them (that is, the untaught), that … they explicitly believe individual [articles] when proposed to them.

However, propositions 64 and 65 condemned by Innocent XI, say: A man is capable of being absolved, however ignorant he may be of the mysteries of faith, and even if through negligence, even culpable, he does not know the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity and the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ — It suffices that he should have believed them once; but Viva says with Marchant, that it is probably not necessary to repeat Confessions made in ignorance of the aforesaid Mysteries; since by the aforementioned opinion it is quite probable that they were valid, if the ignorance was inculpable.  For it is certain, that such ignorance, if it be vincible, is a mortal sin.  But the aforesaid proposition was justly condemned, because it said that even he is capable of being absolved, who at the time of confession suffers from ignorance of the aforesaid mysteries. — But the opinion of Father Viva is not sufficiently probable in my view.  For although the penitent probably made a valid confession, so that afterwards he appears exempt from repeating his confession, because he confessed in good faith before; yet out of respect for him who certainly sinned gravely, it should always be urged that above all one is obliged to make a confession, not only probably, but certainly valid.  On which account, when one becomes aware that his confession was possibly valid, but also possibly null, because of ignorance of the mysteries of the Most Holy Trinity or the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, he is obliged, after he has been instructed in these Mysteries, to repeat his confession.

Moreover, he is said to believe implicitly, who believes something explicitly, in which another thing is implicit; for example, if you believe what the Church believes.  See the Scholastics and Laymann. [1]



[1] https://archive.org/details/theologiamoralis01ligu_0/page/212/mode/2up





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