Objections and Objectors : Fr. Wathen

Objections and Objectors : Fr. Wathen 2020-02-22

On Promotion of False Doctrines

Pius IX Encyclical : Quanto Conficiamur Moerore


Page 81

"Brother Francis comments:

We would just like to make some brief points about the by-now-well-known "Funeral Oration' of St. Ambrose for his deceased friend, the Emperor Valentinian-which was hardly the occasion for a doctrinal treatise on baptism. It Is the earliest reference cited as 'proof for the early Church's belief
in "Baptism of Desire." The text quoted usually begins thus:

"But I hear you grieve because he did not receive the Sacrament of Baptism. Let us stop St. Ambrose at this point and reflect on what was just quoted. All of the faithful that have gathered for the memorial services of the Emperor were grieved. And why were they grieved? St. Ambrose says they were grieved because there was no evidence that the Emperor, who was known to be a catechumen, had been baptized. Now If "Baptism of Desire" was something contained in the "deposit of Faith" and part of the Apostolic doctrine, why then would these faithful be grieved that Ventinlan had not been baptized with water?

The reason these faithful were grieved was because they believed that "unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost he cannot enter the Kingdom of God." Perhaps too, they had been Instructed by Ambrose himself, who said: 'One is the Baptism which the Church administers: the Baptism of water and the Holy Ghost, with which catechumens need to be baptized . . . Nor does the mystery of regeneration exist at all without water: 'For unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom.' Now, even the catechumen believes in the cross of the Lord Jesus, with which he also signs himself; but, unless he be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, he cannot receive remission of his sins nor the gift of spiritual grace." (De Mysterlls,-THE DIVINE OFFICE).

However, the fact remains that St. Ambrose seems to contradict these above words when, in the funeral oration, he asks: "Did he not obtain the grace which he desired? Did he not obtain what he asked for?" And then concludes, "Certainly, because he asked for it, he obtained it."

Was St. Ambrose guilty of the "presumption" of which Father Laisney writes? We think not. We think that the Saint was merely trying to console bereaved friends, himself included. We also think that, despite his stated opinion to the contrary, Ambrose had no way of knowing, with certainty, that Valentinian had not been baptized.

In summary, on the one hand, St. Ambrose's words bespeak his hope that Valentinian was provided with the requisites of salvation.

On the other hand, this quotation does not tell us that Valentinian died without Baptism. We may just as easily speculate that before he died,
one of his ministers or servants baptized him, something which St.Ambrose had as yet not gotten news of. Again, our not knowing something is not a proof of anything."

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