Nearly everyone other than the Saint Benedict Centers (Novus Ordo, SSPX/SSPV/CMRI) claims that the Council of Trent taught Saint Thomas' view on baptism of desire, and offer the following canon from Trent as "proof" of this:
Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session. 6, Chapter. 4, ex cathedra: "In these words there is suggested a description of the justification of the impious, how there is a transition from that state in which a person is born as a child of the first Adam to the state of grace and of adoption as sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ our savior; indeed, this transition, once the gospel has been promulgated, cannot take place without the laver of regeneration or a desire for it, as it is written: Unless a man is born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5)."
Now much has been made of the word 'aut' in this canon, which means 'or' in English. (About one-quarter of all English words come from Latin.) As far as I can tell, the following two statements are identical:
1) A wedding cannot happen without a bride or groom.
2) A wedding cannot happen without a bridge and groom.
If anyone can see a difference between the above two statements, please email me! In any case, if Trent defined and/or taught baptism of desire, then we, as Catholics, are obligated to accept that, but in accepting that, we must also accept all of what Trent says, not just some things:
Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session. 6, Chapter 3, ex cathedra: "But although Christ died for all, yet not all receive the benefit of His death, but those only to whom the merit of His Passion is communicated."
Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 8, ex cathedra: "But when the Apostle says that man is justified by faith and freely, those words are to be understood in that sense in which the uninterrupted unanimity of the Catholic Church has held and expressed them, namely, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God and to come to the fellowship of His sons;..."
Pope Pius IV, Council of Trent, Iniunctum nobis, Nov. 13, 1565, ex cathedra: "This true Catholic faith, outside of which no one can be saved… I now profess and truly hold…"
The Council of Trent is, clearly, teaching some infallible theological truths:
1) To have faith, one must have the Gospel communicated to him.
2) After hearing the Gospel, one must receive it.
3) After receiving the Gospel, one must live it, which means being Baptized.
Assuming that Trent even defined baptism of desire, it is clear that the Council was speaking only of catechumens, that is, of people who had heard the Gospel and who had received and come to faith in it. This is why the Council stated (Session 5), "our Catholic Faith, without which it is impossible to please God..." The Roman Catechism states this:
Ordinarily They Are Not Baptised At Once
"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.
Nay, this delay seems to be attended with some advantages. And first, since the Church must take particular care that none approach this Sacrament through hypocrisy and dissimulation..."
In Case Of Necessity Adults May Be: Baptised At Once
Sometimes, however, when there exists a just and necessary cause, as in the case of imminent danger of death, Baptism is not to be deferred, particularly if the person to be baptised is well instructed in the mysteries of faith. This we find to have been done by Philip, and by the Prince of the Apostles, when without any delay, the one baptised the eunuch of Queen Candace; the other, Cornelius, as soon as they expressed a wish to embrace the faith.
Some will say that the Council was simply parroting what Saint Thomas taught, that the Fathers of the Council, in laying Thomas' Summa on the high altar, was giving it the same authority as Sacred Scripture and the texts of the previous Church Councils. Of course, Trent nowhere mentions the name of Saint Thomas nor the Summa anywhere in its texts. While Saint Thomas' writings, thoughts, and opinions were certainly well-respected, it is clear that the Fathers regarded him as one, perhaps the principle, source of Catholic understanding, but certainly not the only source.
Of course, if Trent had meant to define Baptism of Desire, the Council could have said something like this:
If anyone says that a catechumen who has embraced all of the Catholic Faith, who lives in submission to the Roman Pontiff, and who has the vow to receive Sacramental Baptism in Water yet who, through no fault of his own, dies before receiving that Sacrament due to some unforeseen accident making it impossible for him to be Baptized, that such a person cannot attain Heaven, let him be anathema.
Of course, the Council said no such thing, for reasons that I stated in my very first post:
On the Necessity of Sacramental Baptism in Water by the Command of the One and Triune God, according to the Council of Trent
1) Major Premise -- The One and Triune God commands every human being, without exception, to be Baptized in Water:
Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 4, ex cathedra: "In these words there is suggested a description of the justification of the impious, how there is a transition from that state in which a person is born as a child of the first Adam to the state of grace and of adoption as sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ our savior; indeed, this transition, once the gospel has been promulgated, cannot take place without the laver of regeneration or a desire for it, as it is written: Unless a man is born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5)."
2) Minor Premise -- The Commandments of God are not impossible for us to fulfill:
Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 11 on Justification, ex cathedra: "...no one should make use of that rash statement forbidden under anathema by the Fathers, that the commandments of God are impossible to observe for a man who is justified. 'For God does not command impossibilities,' but by commanding admonishes you both to do what you can do, and to pray for what you cannot do."
"There is no one about to die in the state of justification whom God cannot secure Baptism for, and indeed, Baptism of Water. The schemes concerning salvation, I leave to the sceptics. The clear truths of salvation, I am preaching to you." (Father Feeney, Bread of Life, pg. 56)
Of course, if Trent had defined baptism of desire, then the Council would have contradicted itself; the Council Fathers, being trained in Aristotelian logic, recognized this fact, and therefore left baptism of desire to the realm where it had always been and belonged to, that of theological opinion. They, of course, knew that with God, "nothing is impossible," so they left things at that.
If the SSPX and others are going to say that Trent defined baptism of desire, then they must also concede that Trent defined the absolute need for explicit faith in the Blessed Trinity and Incarnation. The Council texts are quite explicit about this, and the Fathers were fully aware of the fact that there were large areas of the World which had not been at all touched by Catholic missionaries. The Age of Discovery had begun well over a generation earlier than Trent, and even in the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries, European intellectuals were fully aware of large groups of peoples who had not heard the message of Christ. It was not until the Enlightenment, with Sir Isaac Newton's clockwork universe, that churchmen started pushing God back into Heaven where He "supposedly belonged." Gone were the times where the Holy Spirit could minister directly to a virtuous pagan individual far from the reach of Catholic missionaries. Some other "mechanism" was needed to replace the miraculous, that mechanism, of course, being implicit faith, the mother of all heresies.
If the SSPX & others want us to accept Trent's ambiguous reference to baptism of desire, then they must, regardless, be willing to accept Trent's crystal clear teaching on the absolute need of explicit faith in the Blessed Trinity and Incarnation on the part of whoever has the capability to have the Gospel communicated to him or her. Besides, even if Trent did give a "half-nod" to Baptism of Desire and/or Blood, claiming that something can happen is completely different than saying that it does happen. Followers of Father Feeney's ideas have excellent reasons to believe that Baptism of Desire and/or Blood never happens apart from and in the complete absence of sacramental Baptism in water.
Even Saint Thomas recognized this:
"As God, in accordance with the perfection of the divine power, can do all things, and yet some things are not subject to His power, because they fall short of being possible; so, also, if we regard the immutability of the divine power, whatever God could do, He can do now. Some things, however, at one time were in the nature of possibility, whilst they were yet to be done, which now fall short of the nature of possibility, when they have been done. So is God said not to be able to do them, because they themselves cannot be done." (Summa Theologica, Ia, q.25, a.4, ad 2)
Of course, as we have already seen, Sacramental Baptism in Water is also the "perfect remedy of salvation." (Council of Vienne, Denzinger, #482) And, for Saint Thomas, the actual reception of the Sacrament of Baptism was more than just symbolic:
"As stated above (1, ad 2; 68, 2) man receives the forgiveness of sins before Baptism in so far as he has Baptism of desire, explicitly or implicitly; and yet when he actually receives Baptism, he receives a fuller remission, as to the remission of the entire punishment. So also before Baptism Cornelius and others like him receive grace and virtues through their faith in Christ and their desire for Baptism, implicit or explicit: but afterwards when baptized, they receive a yet greater fulness of grace and virtues. Hence in Psalm 22:2, 'He hath brought me up on the water of refreshment,' a gloss says: 'He has brought us up by an increase of virtue and good deeds in Baptism.'" (Summa Theologica, III, q.69, a.4)
If we assert that Baptism of Desire and/or Blood are doctrines, perhaps even dogmas, of the Catholic Faith but that they constitute null sets, that is, that they never happen, then everyone who attains Heaven, the Beatific Vision, will have died with the perfect remedy of salvation, which is Sacramental Baptism in Water. In other words, everyone whom the One and Triune God predestines to everlasting life is also predestined to receive Sacramental Baptism in Water. Of course, as I have already pointed out, such an assertion is impossible to disprove.
Of course, for the Saint Benedict Center, the question of Baptism of Desire and/Blood was, in the beginning, something that was moot. Yes, the Church has taught both doctrines since Her earliest days, but as Brian Kelly pointed out in his article on Saint Augustine, the question of Baptism of Desire was hardly one that was "settled," for if it was, it is simply question-begging as to why Saint Augustine changed his opinion on the matter several times throughout his life. Even catechumens who (allegedly) died without Baptism were still conditionally Baptized after they have died, if such was possible. If the Church truly believed in Baptism of Desire and/or Blood, what would be the point of baptizing these individuals after their deaths?? So, Baptism of Desire or not, Sacramental Baptism in Water has always been considered extremely important, even for those who are in a state of physical death, and who, of course, at that point cannot express any "desire" one way or the other.
Thus, the teachings of Father Feeney and Saint Thomas are fully harmonized. To claim otherwise is to claim that the Church requires us to believe that there are individuals who die without Baptism and who suffer in Purgatory due to their own venial sins, temporal punishment that would have been fully forgiven if the individual in question had been Baptized.