Friday, January 21, 2005

On the Necessity of Baptism in the Roman Catholic Church

In the section The Necessity of Baptism of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Church explicitly states that "Baptism is necessary for salvation" (1257, 1277). The teachings of Roman Catholicism also calls water baptism an "essential rite" (1278, Catechism of the Catholic Church) and "The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments." (1257, Catechism of the Catholic Church)

In spite of its teaching on the "Necessity of Baptism", I think the Roman Catholic Church is trying to "have its cake and eat it". The Roman Catholic Church is making minor exceptions in its doctrines with regard to unreached people who are "ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church" and "supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity." (1260, Catechism of the Catholic Church) Point 1281 also addresses the same group of people and those "who die for the faith" who "seek God sincerely and strive to fulfill his will", but "have not been baptized". This, I believe, is a pretty recent doctrinal development in the Roman Catholic Church which the Council of Trent did not support: "Canon 5. If anyone says that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation, let him be anathema." (Canons On Baptism, Session VII, Council of Trent) However, these recent minor exceptions does not negate Roman Catholicism's major doctrine that teaches the necessity of water baptism in salvation.

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