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orginally published in 1891
* 121. Q. Are all bound to belong to the Church?
A. All are bound to belong to the Church, and he who knows the Church to be the true Church and remains out of it, cannot be saved.
Anyone who knows the Catholic religion to be the true religion and will not embrace it cannot enter into Heaven. If one not a Catholic doubts whether the church to which he belongs is the true Church, he must settle his doubt, seek the true Church, and enter it; for if he continues to live in doubt, he becomes like the one who knows the true Church and is deterred by worldly considerations from entering it.
In like manner one who, doubting, fears to examine the religion he professes lest he should discover its falsity and be convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith, cannot be saved.
Suppose, however, that there is a non-Catholic who firmly believes that the church to which he belongs is the true Church, and who has nevereven in the pasthad the slightest doubt of that factwhat will become of him?
If he was validly baptized and never committed a mortal sin, he will be saved; because, believing himself a member of the true Church, he was doing all he could to serve God according to his knowledge and the dictates of his conscience. But if ever he committed a mortal sin, his salvation would be very much more difficult. A mortal sin once committed remains on the soul till it is forgiven. Now, how could his mortal sin be forgiven? Not in the Sacrament of Penance, for the Protestant does not go to confession; and if he does, his ministernot being a true priesthas no power to forgive sins. Does he know that without confession it requires an act of perfect contrition to blot out mortal sin, and can he easily make such an act? What we call contrition is often only imperfect contritionthat is, sorrow for our sins because we fear their punishment in Hell or dread the loss of Heaven. If a Catholicwith all the instruction he has received about how to make an act of perfect contrition and all the practice he has had in making such actsmight find it difficult to make an act of perfect contrition after having committed a mortal sin, how much difficulty will not a Protestant have in making an act of perfect contrition, who does not know about this requirement and who has not been taught to make continued acts of perfect contrition all his life. It is to be feared either he would not know of this necessary means of regaining God’s friendship, or he would be unable to elicit the necessary act of perfect contrition, and thus the mortal sin would remain upon his soul and he would die an enemy of God.
If, then, we found a Protestant who never committed a mortal sin after Baptism, and who never had the slightest doubt about the truth of his religion, that person would be saved; because, being baptized, he is a member of the Church, and being free from mortal sin he is a friend of God and could not in justice be condemned to Hell. Such a person would attend Mass and receive the Sacraments if he knew the Catholic Church to be the only true Church.
I am giving you an example, however, that is rarely found, except in the case of infants or very small children baptized in Protestant sects. All infants rightly baptized by anyone are really children of the Church, no matter what religion their parents may profess. Indeed, all persons who are baptized are children of the Church; but those among them who deny its teaching, reject its Sacraments, and refuse to submit to its lawful pastors, are rebellious children known as heretics.
I said I gave you an example that can scarcely be found, namely, of a person not a Catholic, who really never doubted the truth of his religion, and who, moreover, never committed during his whole life a mortal sin. There are so few such persons that we can practically say for all those who are not visibly members of the Catholic Church, believing its doctrines, receiving its Sacraments, and being governed by its visible head, our Holy Father, the Pope, salvation is an extremely difficult matter.
I do not speak here of pagans who have never heard of Our Lord or His holy religion, but of those outside the Church who claim to be good Christians without being members of the Catholic Church.
154. Q. Is Baptism necessary to salvation?
A. Baptism is necessary to salvation, because without it we cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven.
Those who through no fault of theirs die without Baptism, though they have never committed sin, cannot enter Heaven neither will they go to Hell. After the Last Judgment there will be no Purgatory. Where, then, will they go? God in His goodness will provide a place of rest for them, where they will not suffer and will be in a state of natural peace; but they will never see God or Heaven. God might have created us for a purely natural and material end, so that we would live forever upon the earth and be naturally happy with the good things God would give us. But then we would never have known of Heaven or God as we do now. Such happiness on earth would be nothing compared to the delights of Heaven and the presence of God; so that, now, since God has given us, through His holy revelations, a knowledge of Himself and Heaven, we would be miserable if left always upon the earth. Those, then, who die without Baptism do not know what they have lost, and are naturally happy; but we who know all they have lost for want of Baptism know how very unfortunate they are.
Think, then, what a terrible crime it is to willfully allow anyone to die without Baptism, or to deprive a little child of life before it can be baptized! Suppose all the members of a family but one little infant have been baptized; when the Day of Judgment comes, while all the other members of a familyfather, mother, and childrenmay go into Heaven, that little one will have to remain out; that little brother or sister will be separated from its family forever, and never, never see God or Heaven. How heartless and cruel, then, must a person be who would deprive that little infant of happiness for all eternityjust that its mother or someone else might have a little less trouble or suffering here upon earth.
157. Q. How many kinds of Baptism are there?
A. There are three kinds of Baptism: Baptism of water, of desire, and of blood.
158. Q. What is Baptism of water?
A. Baptism of water is that which is given by pouring water on the head of the person to be baptized, and saying at the same time, “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
159. Q. What is Baptism of desire?
A. Baptism of desire is an ardent wish to receive Baptism, and to do all that God has ordained for our salvation.
“Ardent wish” by one who has no opportunity of being baptizedfor no one can baptize himself. He must be sorry for his sins and have the desire of receiving the Baptism of water as soon as he can; just as a person in mortal sin and without a priest to absolve him may, when in danger of death, save his soul from Hell by an act of perfect contrition and the firm resolution of going to confession as soon as possible....
160. Q. What is Baptism of blood?
A. Baptism of blood is the shedding of one’s blood for the faith of Christ.
Baptism of blood, called martyrdom, is received by those who were not baptized with water, but were put to death for their Catholic faith. This takes place even nowadays in pagan countries where the missionaries are trying to convert the poor natives. These pagans have to be instructed before they are baptized. They do everything required of them, let us suppose, and are waiting for the day of Baptism. Those who are being thus instructed are called Catechumens. Someday, while they are attending their instructions, the enemies of religion rush down upon them and put them to death. They do not resist, but willingly suffer death for the sake of the true religion. They are martyrs then and are baptized in their own blood; although, as we said above, blood would not do for an ordinary Baptism even when we could not get water; so that if a person drew blood from his own body and asked to be baptized with it, the Baptism would not be valid. Neither would they be martyrs if put to death not for religion or virtue but for some other reasonsay political.
161. Q. Is Baptism of desire or blood sufficient to produce the effects of Baptism of water?
A. Baptism of desire or of blood is sufficient to produce the effects of the Baptism of water, if it is impossible to receive the Baptism of water.
These passages were taken from Lesson 11: On the Church and Lesson 14: On Baptism in The Baltimore Catechism @ James Akin’s Nazareth Resource Library website.
See also Passages from the Catechism of Saint Pope Pius X.
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Created August 2, 2001; not revised.