Can a Fallen Human Person be Saved except by Baptism?

There are three types of baptism:
1. The formal Sacrament of Baptism with water.
2. A baptism of desire.
3. A baptism of blood.

Is it possible for a fallen human person, that is, someone who is conceived with original sin, to enter the state of grace and be saved by any other means than one or more of the three forms of baptism?

A section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is titled “The Necessity of Baptism”.

“1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. 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.”

“Baptism is necessary for salvation.” For The Council of Trent teaches the following:

“Then the instrumental cause [of justification] is the Sacrament of Baptism, which is the Sacrament of faith, without which no one at all is granted justification.” [Justification, Chapter 7]

“If anyone says that Baptism is gratuitous, that is, not necessary for salvation: let him be anathema.” [Sacraments, Canon V]

The CCC and the Council of Trent both admit that baptisms of desire and of blood are types of Baptism, offering the state of grace and a path to salvation. So when it is said that Baptism is necessary to salvation, included are all three types, with the non-formal types obtaining their effectiveness by means of their relationship to the Sacrament itself.

But the question as to whether a fallen human person can be saved without anyone of these three forms of baptism is already answered infallibly by the Council of Trent: “no one at all is granted justification” without baptism in some form.

And so this sentence in the CCC must be understood in its context: “God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.” It would be wrong to suggest that some persons might be saved without any of the three forms of baptism. Such a claim is heresy. For anyone not reborn in Christ — at least by an implicit baptism of desire — would never be justified.

“Truly, even though He died for all, yet not all receive the benefit of His death, but only those to whom the merit of His passion is communicated. For in truth, just as men, if they were not born propagated of the seed of Adam, would not be born unjust — since, by that propagation, they contract through him, when they are conceived, injustice as their own — so also, if they were not reborn in Christ, they never would be justified. For in that rebirth, there is bestowed on them, through the merit of His passion, the grace by which they are made just.” [Trent, Justification, Chapter 3]

Truly, not all human persons receive the benefit of Christ’s death, that is, the justification which gives us the state of grace and the virtues of love, faith, and hope. Therefore, not all human persons end up in Heaven; some will have eternal punishment in Hell.

But there is no other way to be saved and have eternal life in Heaven, except one of the three forms of baptism. Yes, God has bound salvation to the Sacrament of Baptism, a baptism with water, as the ordinary means of salvation. And the other two types of baptism are effective only because they are related to it. The baptism of desire, even when implicit, is ordered toward the Sacrament by the work of the Holy Spirit who inspires that holy desire. Then the baptism of blood is related to the baptism of water in that the bloody sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is the source of grace for the Sacrament of Baptism. Therefore, by suffering and death, it is possible to receive the grace of baptism without water.

In my view, the three types of baptism are a reflection of the Three Persons of the Trinity. And this suggests that all three types are a substantial path of salvation. No type of baptism is rare or exceptional. There must be very many souls saved by each type, since the Three Persons are the happy end of the path of salvation.

Then why does the CCC say that God is not bound by His Sacraments? It is only because there are two other types of baptism — desire and blood. The CCC is not making the heretical suggestion that some persons might be saved by some means other than one of the three types of baptism.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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