Father Martin Stepanich, O.F.M., S.T.D.
Reprinted with permission from The Four Marks
[Editor's foreword: I have asked Mrs. Kathleen Plumb, the editor of The Four Marks newspaper, for permission to post this article on the matter of the proper interpretation of the Catholic doctrine Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus, outside of the Church, there is no salvation. As a whole variety of individuals who have never been trained formally in theology make their own false interpretation of this doctrine to be the litmus test for determining who is Catholic and who is not, I believed it to be very important to publish Father Martin Stepanich's article, which was, it appears, a letter he wrote to one of his many correspondents, on this site. I thank Mrs. Plumb for giving me permission to post this article.
[Mrs. Plumb provided the following brief background on Father Martin: "Father Martin was born in Kansas in 1915. Baptized 'Francis,' he was to become a 'son' of Saint. Francis on September 2, 1934 and was ordained in 1941. Fr. Martin, has given The Four Marks readers a wide array of fine writing. A Doctor of Sacred Theology from pre–Vatican II days, Father Martin has been a seminary professor and wrote for other newspapers like The Wanderer and The Remnant, (as he says, 'in their better days')."
[I would add that it is our privilege to know Father Martin, whose religious name was taken in honor of the family name of the Little Flower, our dear Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, and to have profited from his wisdom and erudition, which used to be well recognized and respected in Catholic circles prior to his becoming "persona non grata" for recognizing that heretics and apostates cannot hold ecclesiastical office in the Catholic Church legitimately. I will be posting soon another letter of Father Martin's, one dealing with the case of the late Mrs. Theresa Marie Schindler-Schiavo, which he wrote at my behest and after a considered review of the facts and the controlling moral principles.
[Those who are the recipients of Father Martin's correspondence should treasure them as real jewels of Catholic scholarship. Anyone who wants to dismiss the Catholic scholarship of Father Martin Stepanich is a fool of the highest order, and that is written in complete charity for those who are so misguided as believe that they know have studied as much or know as much as this true son of Saint Francis of Assisi.
[Here is Father Martin's letter to a correspondent named "John".]
Dear [Letter Writer]:
Your one-page letter was accompanied by a seven-page greatly misleading article bearing the title, “UnBaptized Saints,” by some unnamed author. That deceptive title tells you immediately that the article was the work of some Feeneyite who was bent on ridiculing the belief that any Saints honored by the Church could have been admitted into Heaven solely by being “Baptized in their own blood.” To the Feeneyites, Baptism of Blood is an impossibility, as is also Baptism of Desire. To them, only Baptism of Water can admit anyone into Heaven.
The fundamental error, and enormous sin, of the Feeneyites is that they do not give God credit for being able to save souls without the use of water in the case of those who, through no fault of their own, are prevented by death from being baptized with water. The Feeneyites make it look as if all things are not really possible with God.
If some Feeneyite should hurriedly concede, “Sure, sure, sure! We know that nothing is impossible with God!” what good does that do when they make a quick getaway from that infallible truth with this plainly untruthful protestation, “But we know that God does not save anyone except through Baptism of Water!”
The honest truth is that they do not “know” anything of the kind. If they really believe that nothing is impossible with God, let them honestly admit that God can, and in His mercy and goodness, does save souls by way of Baptism of Blood, as well as Baptism of Desire, in the cases of those prevented by death from being baptized with water.
We will yet get to the correct understanding of what is meant by Baptism of Blood and Baptism of Desire, but let’s first take up certain other considerations that will prepare us for the correct understanding.
Father Feeney himself tried to pull off on me his Salvation by Baptism of Water Alone argument after he read the first of my seven articles on the church’s salvation doctrine that appeared in The Remnant (of better days!), from November 3, 1973, to June 7, 1974. In great haste, he put out a white covered pamphlet bearing the miss fitting title, Dogma of Faith, that was undated and had no page numbers.
In that erratic smear pamphlet, Father Feeney gave me and Walter Matt, editor of The Remnant, the ugly business. Among his nonsensical declarations was the untruthful assertion that he just “knew” that God somehow or other has seen to it that those said to be “baptized in their own blood” were in reality, baptized with water, even if it was done invisibly by the hand of an Angel. He did not explain, nor could he, just why God should go to the bother of getting someone at death’s door Baptized with water when He can give the grace of Baptism directly, without any use of water. The truth is that Father Feeney did not “know” anything of the kind. He created that one out of nothing.
By the early 1970s, Father Feeney had been at it many years already, preaching his false Salvation doctrine. It had been some time in the late 1940s, after I had been working for my doctoral degree in sacred theology (S. T. D.), and when some of today’s uneducated high-profile Feeneyites were not yet born, that Father Feeney first began to ventilate his false Salvation Doctrine, thus creating a storm of controversy. When two of my well-known Catholic University (Washington, D.C.) professors, Father Francis Connell, CSSR, and Father (later Monsignor) Joseph Fenton, were among those who publicly refuted Father Feeney’s errors.
Father Feeney eventually incurred excommunication for refusing to obey the command of Pope Pius XII to come to Rome and to let himself be questioned about his salvation doctrine. As his bishop told me in a private letter, modernist Paul 6 “absolved” Father Feeney from excommunication sometime in the 1960s.
It was a mystery as to why Father Feeney came up with the mistaken notion that no one at all could enter into heaven except after being baptized with water and why he ignored the possibility of direct cleansing and sanctifying action of God, without any use of water, in the case of those prevented by death from being baptized with water.
One thing we found out was that Father Feeney was rightly disturbed that modernists mixed all religions together and insisted that one could be saved in just any religion, and that they rejected the Church’s “Outside the Church there is no salvation” dogma. But, believe it or not, he himself showed how mixed up he was when he imagined that Baptism of Desire and Baptism of Blood were inventions of the modernists and that such forms of baptism allowed into Heaven those who were still “outside the Church.”
It was said that Father Feeney had nifty talent for writing poetry, and about such topics as “fish on Friday”, but if he had at least some talent as a theologian, he certainly did not show it when handling the Baptism of Desire and Baptism of Blood issues. His basic theological shortcoming was that he failed to give God credit for being able to save souls either with Baptism of Water or without any use of water, by simply having recourse to his almighty power and mercy. Feeneyites perpetuating his errors, not being in the slightest real theologians, are woefully mixed up about the baptism and salvation issues and should have sense enough to leave those issues alone.
We were told long ago, by pleading Feeneyite “Salvation by Water Alone” defenders that Our Lord’s words to Nicodemus, “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:5), or absolute proof that none but those “born again of water” could be saved. And those kind of Feeneyites were persistent in repeating, “those words of Our Lord to Nicodemus mean exactly what they say!”
We could not help but think of other words of our Lord that supposedly “mean exactly what they say.” Thus, for example, Our Lord said in His sermon on the Mount, “If thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee” (Matthew 5: 29). And he said the same about the right-hand. Later on, some time after His Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, Our Lord repeated the same kind of admonition (Matthew 18:8-9), mentioning this time the hand and the foot and the eye.
Our Lord could have just as easily mentioned the tongue also. How surely it would have applied to the Feeneyites if He had said, “If thy tongue scandalize thee by misinterpreting My words and contradicting the teaching of My Church, cut it out and throw it away!”
A fatal mistake made by Father Feeney, and is still being made by Feeneyites to this day, was to resort to the Protestant way of handling the Sacred Scriptures—that is, to resort to a private, do-it-yourself interpretation of Our Lord’s words to Nicodemus, so as to make them fit the false Feeneyite idea about how souls are to be saved by God. St. Peter, in the second of his two epistles (3:16), quoting St. Paul, warned about how “the unlearned and unstable wrest... to their own destruction” certain hard to understand passages of Sacred Scripture. And that, without a doubt, is a fair warning to the “unlearned and unstable” Feeneyites.
As the words of Our Lord to Nicodemus stand, there is not the slightest reason to think that he intended to exclude from all possibility of salvation those properly disposed unbaptized souls, who, through no fault of their own, are prevented by death from being “born again of water.” Nor has the Church ever understood Our Lord’s words in that way. The Church has always recognized the fact that worthy souls prevented from being “born again of water” can nevertheless be “born again of the Holy Ghost,” without any use of water. That is in no way impossible for God to accomplish, nor is it beyond His mercy and goodness. That is how the Church has always understood it.
We can now turn our attention once more to the author of that “Unbaptized Saints” article, which was certainly not the work of some Jolly Joker, who was only trying to have some playful, though irrelevant, fun in teasing, as it were, those Saints, who were admitted into Heaven because of being “baptized”, not with water, but “in their own blood.” No, that writer was diabolically serious about ridiculing Baptism of Blood, which, to Feeneyites is supposedly “another baptism” and which, together with Baptism of Desire supposedly adds up to “three baptisms.” We will in due course get back to that Feeneyite “three baptisms” fabrication.
The main concentration of the “Unbaptized Saints” writer is on the Roman Martyrology in which certain Saints are said to have been “baptized in their own blood.” That writer quotes at length from a 1995 book by one Brother Robert Mary, of St. Benedict Center in New Hampshire, but it is all worthless in supposedly “proving” that all those Saints were baptized with water, and not just “in their own blood.” So-called Brother Robert Mary strains and fumbles around, and chases himself around in circles, and runs himself into a dead end corner, while trying to “prove” that the Saints “Baptized in their own blood” were supposedly saved by being baptized with water. But he was never able to provide any definite proof for that mistaken Feeneyite notion.
A shameless attempt was made by that author to discredit the Roman Martyrology as supposedly being full of errors, and therefore untrustworthy and unreliable for providing the real facts. No attention is paid to the fact that the Church long ago accepted the Roman Martyrology as worthy of being one of the official liturgical books, one that was assigned to be read by priests and religious in the Divine Office, during the Hour of Prime.
While Feeneyites have obstinately persisted in telling us that Our Lord’s words to Nicodemus “mean exactly what they say,” the words, “baptized in their own blood,” on the contrary, do not “mean exactly what they say.” The Feeneyites maneuver those words around to suit their dishonest purpose of supposedly “proving” their false notion that souls are saved only through Baptism of Water, but never through Baptism of Blood, nor ever through Baptism of Desire.
Since the Feeneyites did not give God credit for being able to save souls through Baptism of Desire and Baptism of Blood, without any use of water, it followed easily that they would disregard also the constant teaching of the Church in regard to those two forms of baptism.
The evidence is overwhelming that, in accepting the reality of Baptism of Blood already in the early centuries, the Church has always, all through the following centuries and into our own times, recognized the undeniable fact that God can, and in his mercy and goodness does provide the grace of baptism and salvation for worthy souls who are prevented by death from being baptized with water. The same holds also for Baptism of Desire. Such constant teaching of the Church all through the centuries is a clear indication that it is the teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church and is therefore infallible. How can those who deny the fact be anything but heretics?
Many of the acts of the early martyrs were written up by those assigned to the task, either by popes or bishops, gathering together all the information they could about the martyrs and their deaths. It is in no way honest on the part of the Feeneyites to accuse the writers of the acts of the martyrs of “errors”, just because they could not always get complete and accurate details about every martyr. The Church, whose judgment is surely more reliable than that of the confused Feeneyites, eventually saw fit to put shortened accounts of the innumerable martyrs’ deaths into what became the official Roman Martyrology.
If the Church had ever condemned Baptism of Blood, as well as Baptism of Desire, it would have amounted to condemning God himself for giving the grace of baptism and of salvation to well-disposed souls who were overtaken by death before their baptism with water could take place.
As for the Early Fathers of the Church, St. Ambrose is one example of those Fathers who gave testimony to the prevailing belief in Baptism of Desire when he acknowledged the salvation of Emperor Valentinian II who was well prepared for baptism with water, but was overtaken by sudden death before he could be baptized. And later on, in the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas, being one of the great theologians of the Church, gave testimony to the reality of Baptism of Desire, as well as of Baptism of Blood, in the teaching of the Church, when he declared that “a man can obtain salvation without being actually baptized, on account of his desire for baptism.” (Summa Theologica III, 68.2)
Speaking of the teaching of theologians on Baptism of Desire and Baptism of Blood, the exceptionally competent Father Anthony Cekada found time to examine the writings of as many as 25 prominent pre-Vatican II theologians who taught at great theological schools of Europe—a very laborious and tiresome task. [Thomas A Droleskey note: See Father Cekada's
Baptism of Desire and Theological Principles.] Every single one of those 25 clearly taught the reality of both Baptism of Desire and Baptism of Blood, making it plain that it was the common teaching of theologians, and that it was the certain belief and teaching of the Church. Seven of those 25 theologians did not hesitate to declare Baptism of Desire to be a truth of the Faith—that is, de fide, as it is expressed in Latin. Father Cekada published his findings in a 125-page spiral bound volume some time in the year 2000. His correct conclusion was that “belief in Baptism of Desire and Baptism of Blood is required of all Catholics.” But the considerably less than Catholic Feeneyites are much too far gone to pay any attention to that.
The definite and clear teaching of the Council of Trent, as well as of its authoritative, follow-up Catechism of the Council of Trent, on the reality of Baptism of Desire, is beyond any doubt. At its 6th session (January 13, 1547) the Council of Trent infallibly declared that the justification of the sinner and his translation from the state of original sin to the state of grace “cannot... be effected except through the laver of regeneration (i.e., baptism) or its desire...” And the Catechism of the Council of Trent, clearly referring to Baptism of Desire, declared, “... 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.”
Coming closer to our own times, we can add that the traditional 1917 Code of Canon Law clearly indicates what the constant belief at teaching of the Catholic Church is and always has been, in regard to Baptism of Desire in two of its canons: namely, Canon 7371. “Baptism... if we are to attain salvation, must be either actually received or at least desired...”; and, Canon 1239: “... catechumens who, through no fault of theirs, die without having received baptism... are to be regarded as among those baptized”—the reason being that such catechumens had the desire and intention to be baptized before they died.
Since it is so clear that belief in Baptism of Desire, as well as Baptism of Blood, was firmly established in the Church all through the centuries, it cannot be honestly doubted nor denied that such belief has always been the definite teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church, and is therefore infallible.
Before going further on the issue of infallibility, it is good to mention here that The Reign of Mary magazine (year 2004, Vol. 35, No. 116) published a detailed compilation of quotes (21 of them!) on “Baptism of Desire and of Blood” from the Council of Trent, and the teachings of the Popes, the 1917 Code of Canon Law, the Roman Martyrology, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and various theologians.
Faced with all the evidence of what the true mind and teaching of the Church is on Baptism of Desire and Baptism of Blood, and has been all through the centuries, the bewildered Feeneyites saw that they could not deny the evidence, so they readjusted their strategy to make themselves think that they had no obligation to accept the Church’s position on those two forms of baptism, because it was supposedly “not infallible.” But it was a dishonest strategy. They deceptively asserted all that evidence to be “non-infallible.”
Thus, for example, the Roman Martyrology, in telling us about those martyr Saints, who got to Heaven by being “baptized in their own blood,” is “not infallible,” so the fallible Feeneyites have asserted. And St. Ambrose was “not infallible” in maintaining that the Emperor Valentinian II, despite being prevented by death from being baptized was nevertheless saved because of his desire and intention to be baptized. And St. Thomas Aquinas was “not infallible,” nor is the Catechism of the Council of Trent “infallible,” nor the 1917 Code of Canon Law, and so on. But worst of all, not even the infallible teaching of the Council of Trent was infallible in the eyes of fallible Feeneyites, in regard to its statements on Baptism of Desire.
What the fallible Feeneyites fail to tell you is, that even though the Roman Martyrology, for example, as well as all the other sources of evidence for the Church’s belief in Baptism of Desire and Baptism of Blood, are not in themselves, equivalent to infallible declarations of the Supreme Authority of the Church, they nevertheless give testimony to the constant infallible teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church. Even a fallible Feeneyite gives testimony to infallible truths of the Faith whenever he prays the Apostles Creed, which consists of one infallible truth after another.
Some Feeneyites have shown themselves to be among those liberals and modernists who imagined that they are not obliged to accept the Church’s constant doctrine on and Baptism of Desire and Baptism of Blood. Because there has never been any special infallible declaration by the Solemn Magisterium of the Church stating specifically that those two forms of baptism are dogmas of the Faith.
In his Encyclical Humani Generis (in 1950), Pope Pius XII got after liberals and modernists who insisted that “what is expounded in encyclical letters does not of itself demand consent, because in writing such letters the popes do not exercise the supreme power of their authority.” (No. 29). And then the Holy Father went on to explain that “these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: ‘He who hears you, hears me’ (Luke 10:16).”
The Church’s teaching on Baptism of Desire and Baptism of Blood, as already repeatedly made clear in this letter, is the teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church, of which it is true to say according to Pope Pius XII, “He who hears you, hears me.” If that is not good enough for the difficult Feeneyites, and if some of them insist that there must be a special solemn declaration on Baptism of Desire and Baptism of Blood by the Supreme Authority of the Church, that could very easily come when we once again have a true Catholic pope on the Chair of Peter. And you can be sure that the Feeneyites will not be comfortable in hearing an anathema pronounced against them.
One of the most dishonest and brazen falsifications perpetuated for so many years by the Feeneyites is their insistence that Baptism of Desire and that Baptism of Blood are two extra baptisms added to Baptism of Water, so that there are really “three baptisms” in the prevailing belief within the Church.
The plain truth is that there is no such thing as “three baptisms” in the faith and teachings of the Catholic Church, and Feeneyites know it.
The three varying terms, Baptism of Water, Baptism of Desire, and Baptism of Blood, do not represent three different baptisms. What those terms do represent are three different circumstances or situations in which God brings about consoles one and the same effect of the one and only Sacrament of Baptism.
That one and the same effect in all three cases is the cleansing of the soul from the stain of original sin, and the infusion of sanctifying grace into the soul. And that is the essence of the Sacrament of Baptism.
The results of that action of God in the soul, is that the newly baptized soul is raised from its previously natural state or condition to a supernatural state, while the further result is that such a soul is brought by God into His Church, so that it is no longer “outside the church, where there is no salvation.” Finally, a newly baptized soul finds the way open for entry into Heaven.
Except in cases of emergency baptisms where there is danger of death, Baptism of Water is administered with the full visible baptismal ceremonies prescribed by the rubrics of the Church for the Sacrament of Baptism. But final salvation of the soul baptized thus with water comes about only if such a soul perseveres in God’s grace unto the end.
For Baptism of Desire and Baptism of Blood there are no visible sacramental ceremonies because death makes such ceremonies impossible. But death cannot prevent God from cleansing in sanctifying worthy souls and bringing about in them the full essential effect of the Sacrament of Baptism. God, to whom all things are possible, can and does give the grace of the Sacrament of Baptism either with or without the use of water.
The salvation of those baptized by way of Baptism of Desire and Baptism of Blood comes about immediately, at death. Such souls or brought by God into His Church at death, and they enter into Heaven, not “outside the church,” but “inside the Church.” There are no “unbaptized” or “outside Church” souls in Heaven, nor were “unbaptized” or “outside the Church” Saints among the Saints of God.
That word “desire,” in the term “Baptism of Desire,” means a definite desire and intention and determination to do what God wills for salvation. And interestingly enough, that very same kind of desire is present also for Baptism of Water and Baptism of Blood. It is this desire that God finds in all three cases of the Sacrament of Baptism and He sees that the souls in question are worthy of the grace of the Sacrament.
Whatever else might be said about the errors of Feeneyism, let us conclude by asking some disturbing questions.
Is it possible that the venerable patriarch, Brother Francis Maluf, M.I.C.M, and his team of hard-core no-theologians at St. Benedict Center in New Hampshire, could be excused of the guilt of error, and even of outright heresy, because of “invincible ignorance” about the true salvation and baptism doctrine of the Catholic Church? How could it be that they never had the chance to learn and understand that true teaching of the Church?
Those innocent-looking young faces at St. Benedict Center could understandably be excused because of “innocent ignorance,” because they have never been taught the true salvation and baptism doctrine of the Church, and because they have a deceptive trust in their Feeneyite teachers. But how could their Feeneyite teachers be “innocently unaware” of the harm they are doing to all those young simple-minded souls?
Since the rejection of any truth of the Faith, which involves rejection of the very teaching authority of the Church, and even the supreme authority of God renders one an outsider, one who is “outside the Church, where there is no salvation;” how can Brother Francis, Maluf, and his associate so-called “Brothers of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” pretend to believe that their “crusade is the propagation and defense of Catholic Doctrine, especially “Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus” (outside that Church there is no salvation)? Are not the false Feeneyite “propagators and defenders” themselves “outside the Church” for refusing to accept and teach the full salvation and baptism doctrine of the Church?
The most accurate description of the blind Feeneyite false salvation doctrine propagators is found in Our Lord’s description of the Pharisees: “They are blind, and leaders of the blind.” (Matthew 15:14). But it need not be that way...
Just in case the message did not get through, and confidently assuming that there is a hidden goodwill at St. Benedict Center, let us repeat: Brother Francis Maluf, rejoice and be glad with Brother Robert Mary and your other associates at St. Benedict Center, for God can give the grace of baptism and salvation without the use of water, and that is exactly what He does for worthy souls who are through no fault of their own, prevented by death from being baptized with water.
April 11, 2008
Feast of St. Leo the Great,
Doctor of the Church
Father Martin Stépanich, O.F.M., S.T.D.
Viva Cristo Rey!
Our Lady of the Rosary, us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saints Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, pray for us.
Saint Irenaeus, pray for us.
See also: A Litany of Saints