May 2001 District Superior's Letter
During this holy season of the Church’s year we thank God for the grace of our sacramental baptism, through which we were buried together with Christ so that just as Christ has risen from the dead we might live in newness of life, becoming adopted children of God and heirs to heaven through the sanctifying grace that the Good Lord has deigned to bestow upon us.
However, what must we say of the lot of those who did not have the opportunity of receiving this same grace of sacramental baptism? It might seem on the surface of it to be a theological technicality. However, you need to be aware of a certain group of people, followers of Fr. Feeney, who have attempted to infiltrate the Church these past 50 years, and who continue to do so, thanks to the present-day paralysis of the Church’s authority structure. Pretending to be ultra-rigid and super-strict they deny baptism of blood and baptism of desire, despite the universal teaching of the Fathers and the Magisterium, repeated in every catechism.
In fact, they are nothing other than hidden liberals, basing themselves upon the assertion that the Church’s teaching concerning baptism of blood and desire is not formally defined, and that consequently it is optional, and that one is free to believe what one wants. The total fascination that some of these Feeneyites have with "the dogma", the constant effort to proselytize for their opinion, and their refusal to accept the objective and repeated statements of the Fathers, theologians and popes and their constant effort to infect traditional Catholics all show how dangerous and unCatholic their error really is.
It is certainly true that we Catholics must desire to defend the dogma "Outside the Church no salvation" as well as the Church’s teaching on the necessity of the sacrament of baptism. Given that the liberals so easily deny these doctrines, it is certainly very easy to understand how some Catholics might overreact in their interpretation of these teachings. However, it is entirely unacceptable for a Catholic to willingly and knowingly deny the Church’s explicit teaching on the question of baptism of blood and desire. For it is not because these questions are not formally defined that they are optional extras that a person can take or leave.
There are in fact different ways in which the Church’s teaching is presented to us, of which the most solemn is the definition de fide catholica. The contrary of such a definition is a heresy. However, the Church proposes many teachings to us in a less formal manner, not as the object of a direct definition, such as is found in the constant teaching of the Fathers, Councils or the popes. Such teachings are still a part of the deposit of the Faith, although they are not yet defined, and include such things as the existence of Limbo, or that Mary is Mediatrix of all graces, or such teachings as the Assumption, the Immaculate Conception and Transubstantiation before they were formally defined.
These teachings always were a part of the Deposit of the Faith, and before they are defined are proxima fidei, that is close to the Faith, so that those who knowingly deny them are suspect of heresy. It is in this category that can be found the Church’s teachings concerning baptism of blood and baptism of desire. Many erudite works (I recommend Fr. Rulleau’s book, Baptism of Desire and Fr. Laisney’s new book, Is Feeneyism Catholic? published by Angelus Press) list texts from the Fathers and theologians, who are unanimous in their teaching about the possibility of baptism of blood and desire. This one text alone of the Council of Trent should, however, suffice:
this translation (to the state of grace) after the promulgation of the Gospel cannot be effected except through the laver of regeneration or a desire for it…". (Denzinger [Dz], The Sources of Catholic Dogma, 796)
The Feeneyite error is consequently a very grave one, for in denying the very possibility of baptism of blood and baptism of desire, it denies the very possibility of God Himself exceptionally giving the grace of justification, and hence eternal salvation for those who die in the state of sanctifying grace. However, this is explicitly taught by the Council of Trent’s Decree on Justification (Session vi, ch. 6, Dz 798). God is not bound to the sacraments, but God who uses them as the ordinary means to infuse sanctifying grace into the soul, can Himself directly provide the grace that is normally received through the sacrament, by infusing a supernatural Faith in the Church’s teachings, a supernatural hope for God’s mercy, a supernatural charity and the perfect contrition for all sin. It is a rare grace and one that cannot be presumed upon, but he who denies the possibility, denies the power of grace, and makes God out to be an unjust monster who condemns to hell the catechumens and martyrs who deny without baptism through no fault of their own.
It cannot be denied that this apparently black and white simplification of the Church’s teaching on the necessity of the sacrament of baptism and of belonging to the one true Church has an attraction for some traditionally-minded Catholics. The reason is to be found not only in the substitution of private opinion for the Church’s teaching that is typical of liberalism, but also in a narrow-minded legalism that overlooks the primacy of grace, and hence that of the interior life, making the sacramental character more important than the grace of the sacrament for which we receive the character. Sacraments are for men, and not vice versa. Their sole purpose is to make us members of the mystical body of Christ, in order to give us the sanctifying grace and actual graces needed for our salvation. The sad consequence of these attitudes is that many Feeneyites are impervious to the explanation of the Church’s teaching, that they also lack docility in many other aspects of the Catholic life, that they deliberately take isolated texts out of context to justify their false opinion, and look for legalistic arguments to discredit Fr. Feeney’s condemnation by the Holy Office in 1949, and excommunication in 1952.
The purpose of these few lines is to inform you of the gravity of this issue, which is not at all one open to free choice. Objectively speaking, Feeneyites commit a grave sin against the Faith, even if they are not aware of it. This is the reason why the Society of St. Pius X does not allow any proselytism of this error in or around its chapels and faithful, either by word of mouth or by written handouts. In a time of normality in the Church, Rome would continue to act authoritatively, condemning this error and possibly making a de fide definition concerning baptism of blood and desire. If it is time that Feeneyites take advantage of the confusion caused by the breakdown in the Church’s authority, we have no excuse for contributing to this confusion by weakness or lack of clarity in our exposition of the Church’s teaching, as found in the Catechism of the Council of Trent.
May St. Joseph the Worker help us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, and may the Blessed Mother place us under her mantle in a very special way during this month of grace.
Yours faithfully in Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Fr. Peter R. Scott
See also on this topic: Errors of the Feeneyites