Non-formal Baptisms – of desire or blood

How could the people of the O.T. have been baptized in order to obtain salvation?

*- Saint Paul teaches that, in the O.T., the people of Israel received a non-formal type of baptism:

[1 Corinthians 10]
{10:1} For I do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and they all went across the sea.
{10:2} And in Moses, they all were baptized, in the cloud and in the sea.

Notice that he says They all were baptized, that included little children, teens, as well as adults.

{10:3} And they all ate of the same spiritual food.
{10:4} And they all drank of the same spiritual drink. And so, they all were drinking of the spiritual rock seeking to obtain them; and that rock was Christ.

Here St. Paul implies that all of those who were under the cloud received a non-formal type of baptism.

*- The Church teaches that, immediately after Jesus’ death on the Cross, His soul descended into the abodes Hell, that included the abode called ‘Abraham’s Bosom’ in order to free the souls of the just who died prior to His coming and were awaiting Him there (Catechism of the Council of Trent – Different Abodes Called Hell). The souls of the just who were freed by Christ from this abode in order to enter Heaven were not formally baptized with water because this Sacrament was not instituted during their time.

*- The Church has been celebrating the feast of the Holy Innocents since about the fifth century. Childermas or Innocents’ Day is in remembrance of the massacre of the young children in Bethlehem by King Herod (known as “the Great”) in his attempt to kill the infant Jesus (Matthew 2:16–18). These events happened after the Messiah was born. The slain children were regarded as the first martyrs by the early Church.  Thus the only way that they were saved is by a non-formal baptism. In this case, by the non-formal baptism of blood. The Church considers those children as Saints even though they were not formally baptized with water. They were martyred prior to the institution of the formal Sacrament of Baptism.

Now, some people who reject the doctrine of baptism of desire or baptism of blood (CCC# 1258) argue that the way of salvation without the formal Sacrament of Baptism only applied to persons who died “prior” to the institution of the Sacrament of Baptism by our Lord Jesus Christ.  They claim that after the institution of the formal Sacrament of Baptism, we must all be formally baptized with water or go to Hell (the best-case scenario they propose for some would be a Limbo of Hell, but still Hell). They openly reject Magisterial teachings since Vatican II. They narrow the doctrine of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (“outside the Church there is no salvation”) which is based on Jesus’ teaching “…No one comes to the Father, except through Me.” (John 14:6) – The Church is His Mystical Body (Acts 9:4) (1 Corinthians 12:27).

In response to that for the sake of this post (there are many theological arguments that can be given), we have, among other things, the Parables that Jesus taught.  Jesus used Parables in order to teach and such Parables apply to all times, not only to past events.

The Good Samaritan

Jesus teaches about a ‘good’ Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Are we going to think that a person who does not share our faith (has a different religion) but is of good will and cooperates with God’s grace is going to end up in Hell? – if you think so, you are claiming that Jesus sends a person such as the good Samaritan to burn in Hell or be eternally separated from Him despite his good deeds if he, through no fault of his own, was not formally baptized with water. If you think so, you are claiming that Jesus used a person (or figure) who is on his way to Hell as a good example for all of us.

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (or Publican)

In the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14), our Lord is clear that this teaching is about “those who consider themselves to be just, while disdaining others” (Luke 18:9).

Before going forward, we must clarify who a “Tax Collector” working for the Romans in Jesus’ time was. We must not think of this person as an honest employer of an “IRS” (or its equivalent). Basically, a tax collector was a person known to be greedy, able to steal much money from the Jews. On the one hand, he was despised by the Romans for being a Jew. On the other hand, he was despised by the Jews, considered a traitor for working for the Romans for the sake of money and other selfish advantages.

Going back to the Parable, notice that the Pharisee accomplishes the external rules of being a good faithful Jew. However, he disdains others [i]. As Christians, we can similarly say that we are formally baptized with water, confirmed, go to Confession, go to Mass, pray, fast, etc. However, if we are arrogant about it and distain others because of their appearances, we can lose our justification.

On the one hand, the Pharisee did not go to his home justified (Luke 18:14) though he accomplished the external ceremonial rites and rules. On the other, the Tax Collector who was not faithful to the laws given by Moses, was sincerely repentant by an act of implicit perfect contrition; therefore, justified.  If he were to die at that moment, that Tax Collector (or any person such as him in that situation) was saved.

Jesus said:

{18:14} I say to you, this one descended to his house justified, but not the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled; and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

This justification means that the Tax Collector went to his house in the state of friendship with God (sanctifying grace).

Now, let’s go to the following encounters which took place after Jesus (and His disciples) started performing His Baptism with the Holy Spirit which began at the start of His Ministry when John the Baptist was still alive [ii].

John the Baptist said: “… this is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’” – (John 1:33).

Anyone who receives the Holy Spirit has friendship with God.

{3:22} After these things, Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea. And he was living there with them and baptizing.
{3:23} Now John was also baptizing, at Aenon near Salim, because there was much water in that place [iii]. And they were arriving and being baptized.

{3:26} And they went to John and said to him: “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, about whom you offered testimony: behold, he is baptizing and everyone is going to him.”

So it is clear that Jesus and His disciples were already performing His Baptism with water since the beginning of His Ministry. Jesus’ Baptism is in the Holy Spirit, and with fire (Luke 3:16).  Jesus disciples were already baptizing in Jesus’ name (that is, on His behalf, see John 4:1-2). Therefore, bear in mind that the following events took place after the Baptism of Jesus with water in the Holy Spirit was already being performed.

The Centurion

Jesus was amazed by the faith of the Centurion (a Roman pagan), He stated that He hasn’t found anyone in Israel with such great faith. The Centurion also performed acts of love, among them, building a synagogue for the Jews (Luke 7:5).  Yet if this Centurion were to die at that moment or in such state without formal Baptism, do you think that Jesus would send this Centurion to burn in Hell for all eternity anyway?

Samaritans who encountered Jesus

In John 4:39-41 we read that many Samaritans (people who practiced a different religion) believed in Jesus because of the testimony of a woman who had a personal encounter with Him.  We learn that those Samaritans  were people of good will, for they went to Jesus and invited Him to lodge at their place.  Jesus did not reject this invitation and stayed with them for two days.  Do you think that Jesus would have sent these people to Hell if, through no fault of their own, they have died at that moment? People who reject non-formal baptisms of desire or blood believe such a thing.


When Jesus had His encounter with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), we learn that this man was justified right after his conversion. Now, this man, Zacchaeus, was not only a Tax Collector, but he was the leader of the Tax Collectors! (Luke 19:1). He could have been Matthew’s boss.  As the head of the Tax Collectors, he could have been very despised by the Jews. However, immediately after Zacchaeus showed his repentance and wanted to make reparation for all his misdeeds, Jesus response was:

“Today, salvation has come to this house; because of this, he too is a son of Abraham.” – (Luke 19:9).

Notice that Jesus did not say “Ok, now you have to be formally baptized with water so that salvation shall come to your house”. No. Again, at this point in time Jesus and His disciples were already baptizing in the Holy Spirit, (that is, the Baptism of Jesus) (John 1:33) (John 3:22-23) (John 3:26) (John 4:1-2). After his repentance, Zacchaeus was immediately in the state of sanctifying grace for Jesus said: “Today, salvation has come to this house”.

When Jesus called Zacchaeus: “Zacchaeus, hurry down. For today, I should lodge in your house.” (Luke 19:5), this does not only mean that Jesus wanted to lodge into Zacchaeus living place, but, more so, into his own body as a temple (John 14:23). Immediately after Zacchaeus conversion, he was a temple of God. Zacchaeus himself was the house of God. Now, this does not mean that after his encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus did not need to be formally baptized with water. Of course he needed formal Baptism.  Like all of us, we need to be formally baptized as soon as we are able! and he was most likely formally baptized with water later on. But the fact that Zacchaeus was in the state of friendship with God immediately after his conversion, cannot be denied. If, for some reason, Zacchaeus were to have died right at his encounter with Jesus in his house, he was saved.

The Penitent Criminal

It is very likely that the Penitent Criminal next to Jesus’ Cross was not formally baptized with water because a catechumen needed to show repentance and conversion before getting formal Baptism (Acts 2: 38), not to be in his criminal ways. Yet this man was saved after his repentance on his Cross.

Read also about The Sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-39 . Luke 7:44-50).

If that is not enough proof, here comes a very revealing fact.

After the institution of the Sacrament of Baptism, some Gentiles (Pagans) received the Holy Spirit despite of not being formally baptized with water:

In Acts 10 we read:

{10:45} And the faithful of the circumcision, who had arrived with Peter, were astonished that the grace of the Holy Spirit was also poured out upon the Gentiles.
{10:47} Then Peter responded, “How could anyone prohibit water, so that those who have received the Holy Spirit would not be baptized, just as we also have been?”

At this point in time, the Catholic Church was already born and She (as a Universal Church) started performing Baptisms since Her birth on the day of Pentecost.

Note that those persons who were not baptized with water at that point, already received the Holy Spirit! That is, prior of being formally baptized. Those Gentiles were in the state of sanctifying grace by implicit baptism of desire, thus, they could also have been saved if they would not have been able to receive the formal Baptism with water. Peter was referring to the Gentiles who had received the Holy Spirit even though they had not received the Mosaic revelations from God, His laws, and have not been baptized with water yet.

{10:48} And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then they begged him to remain with them for some days.

Peter then gives the order to formally baptize them with water. This means that we all must seek the formal Sacrament Baptism but those who, through no fault of their own, do not receive it, can also be saved if they are in the state of sanctifying grace by having the Holy Spirit. Notice too, that those Gentiles then begged Peter to remain with them some days.  We see that those Gentiles were people of good will and had the desire to accomplish God’s will within their capacity.  The non-formal baptisms are NOT the Sacrament, but they confer the state of grace, which is absolutely necessary for salvation [iv].

The Holy Spirit cannot dwell in a person who is in the state of actual mortal sin [v]. All those who are in the state of actual mortal sin have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit and will not be forgiven if they remain in such state or if they do not repent with an act of perfect contrition (at least implicitly) [vi].

God is not bound to the external ceremonial/ritual laws (Matthew 12:1-2) (Mark 2:27). The Eternal Moral Law (who is Love, God Himself) is above any external ceremony or rule for He is the Owner of those rules. The formal administration of the Sacraments are good for they are visual signs of what the Sacraments truly do, and we are all morally obliged to be formally baptized. But the Eternal Moral Law is above all the rites and external administrations for persons who, through no fault of their own, were not formally baptized. They can also obtain the Holy Spirit in a different manner (different type of baptism –as explained with the pre-Vatican II magisterial teachings presented down below) and thus be saved.

It must not be denied that we all have the moral obligation to be formally baptized for it is absolutely necessary to salvation, and those who reject formal Baptism with full knowledge and full freedom of choice are on their way to Hell. However, people of good will who did not obtain formal Baptism, can be saved in a different manner.

Pre-Vatican II magisterial documents also taught about obtaining salvation in a different manner other than entering into the Church with the formal Sacrament of Baptism with water.

Now, it is true that The Catechism of the Council of Trent taught that “infant children have no other means of salvation except Baptism” – (Section – Baptism Of Infants Should Not Be Delayed), and Pope Saint Pius X taught similarly in his catechism:

12 Q. Why such anxiety to have infants receive Baptism?

There should be the greatest anxiety to have infants baptized because, on account of their tender age, they are exposed to many dangers of death, and cannot be saved without Baptism.

Ok, “cannot be saved without Baptism”. But is there only “one way” of Baptism?

On the necessity and on the fruit of Satisfaction Section, the Council of Trent teaches:

“And truly the nature of divine justice seems to demand, that they, who through ignorance have sinned before baptism, be received into grace in one manner; and in another those who, after having been freed from the servitude of sin and of the devil, and after having received the gift of the Holy Ghost, have not feared, knowingly to violate the temple of God, and to grieve the Holy Spirit.” – (Fourteenth Session, Chapter VIII).

Here the Council of Trent makes a difference between those who have not been formally baptized and those who have become formal members of the Church (have been formally baptized and have been able to receive the other Sacraments).

Trent (also quoted on the Catechism of Rome [vii] –Section: It Is Required By God’s Justice And Mercy) teaches that those who, through ignorance, have sinned before the formal Baptism with water, can recover friendship with God in a different manner than those who have sinned after receiving the formal Sacraments (Baptism, Penance).

Notice: Ignorance is a factor. Though prenatals, babies and little children carry Original Sin, they are certainly ignorant and not guilty of any personal sin; therefore, they recover friendship with God in a different manner (or in another way).

The Council clearly makes a distinction between the ignorant the knowledgeable.  The Council separates the ignorant from those who are guilty of sin after being formally received into the Catholic Church (and puts them in a different ‘bag’, if you will, by reason of Divine Justice).

This distinction is also mentioned in the Letter of the Holy Office to Archbishop Cushing of Boston, approved by Pope Pius XII, August 8, 1949: “The Supreme Pontiff, His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, has given full approval to this decision”.

“These things are clearly taught in that dogmatic letter which was issued by the Sovereign Pontiff, Pope Pius XII, on June 29, 1943, “On the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ” (AAS, Vol. 35, an. 1943, p. 193 ff.). For in this letter the Sovereign Pontiff clearly distinguishes between those who are actually incorporated into the Church as members, and those who are united to the Church only by desire..

Pope Saint Pius X also taught that there is not only one way of Baptism:

17 Q. Can the absence of Baptism be supplied in any other way?

The absence of Baptism can be supplied by martyrdom, which is called Baptism of Blood, or by an act of perfect love of God, or of contrition, along with the desire, at least implicit, of Baptism, and this is called Baptism of Desire.

29 Q. But if a man through no fault of his own is outside the Church, can he be saved?

If he is outside the Church through no fault of his, that is, if he is in good faith, and if he has received Baptism, or at least has the implicit desire of Baptism; and if, moreover, he sincerely seeks the truth and does God’s will as best he can such a man is indeed separated from the body of the Church, but is united to the soul of the Church and consequently is on the way of salvation.

A person who, through no fault of his own, is not a formal member of the Catholic Church; and if he is of good will, can be saved by becoming a non-formal member of the Church due to his desire (at least implicit desire).

Notice: No fault of one’s own and desire (at least implicit) are other factors.

Therefore, since a person cannot be saved without having Baptism first, then such different manner (or other way) of salvation, as taught by the Council of Trent as noted above, can only be with a different type of baptism, a non-formal baptism (and having not committed any actual mortal sin thereafter, of course).

Prenatals and babies have no fault of their own. If they are not formally baptized with water, it is their parents or guardians’ responsibility, not theirs. The punishment falls on the guilty, not the innocent.  Consequently, their different manner of salvation has to be by a non-formal baptism [viii].

Pope Blessed Pius IX taught:

“There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace. Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, his supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments – (Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, # 7).

Even those who have some knowledge about our religion, but do not sincerely know all the truth of the Catholic Faith or are not fully aware of all the facts because of misconceptions, sinful society, and other factors, can attain salvation as long as they are sincere and remain in the state of sanctifying grace. On the other hand, those of who avoid the truth intentionally are guilty of omission.

The Council of Trent also teaches:

“A description is introduced of the Justification of the impious, and of the Manner thereof under the law of grace.

By which words, a description of the Justification of the impious is indicated,-as being a translation, from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace, and of the adoption of the sons of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour. And this translation, since the promulgation of the Gospel, cannot be effected, without the laver of regeneration, or the desire thereof, as it is written; unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” – (Trent, Sixth Session, Chapter IV).

The “laver of regeneration” is no other than the Sacrament of Baptism. However, the Council clearly teaches that desire is also a factor in order to be saved.

Furthermore, the Council of Trent has the following canon with an anathema attached thus making it an infallible teaching:

“CANON IV.-If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification;-though all (the sacraments) are not ineed necessary for every individual; let him be anathema.” – (Council of Trent, Seventh Session, On the Sacraments in General).

Notice: Desire is certainly another factor.

Conclusion, those who, (a) through ignorance, or (b) through no fault of their own, or (c) with the desire thereof (at least implicit), were not formally baptized with water before death, they can attain salvation in a different manner (or another way). Such different manner can only be with a non-formal baptism such as desire or blood.

Those who reject Vatican II and the subsequent magisterial teachings are desperately going back trying to look for some authentic magisterial documents that seem to agree with their own thinking. However, as shown above, they absolutely cannot find it. But in the process, they would have to keep denying more Popes, magisterial documents prior to Vatican II, and Councils.

They also ignore the fact that the Church has been developing Her doctrine since Her beginning – as acknowledged by Saint John Henry Newman.

The Church is a Body, and as such, She grows. She is not a steady artifact that does not develop or does not grow. The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that grows. She will not be permanently looking like a mustard seed, but She grows and becomes a tree, branches come up, leaves come up, flowers come up, fruits appear and grow from there. But always remaining the same Body.  The Church has recent teachings with more detailed explanations concerning this matter of salvation and we must not reject Her for She is the Body of Christ.  Christ is a man, He became flesh, a body that also grew in His human nature.

A thought which I read from a religious sister: “It is no one’s fault to be born in the household of another faith. The fact that we are baptized in the right religion is a gift. We did not merit it.”.

Finally, St. Paul teaches:

{2:14} For when the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature those things which are of the law, such persons, not having the law, are a law unto themselves.
{2:15} For they reveal the work of the law written in their hearts, while their conscience renders testimony about them, and their thoughts within themselves also accuse or even defend them,
{2:16} unto the day when God shall judge the hidden things of men, through Jesus Christ, according to my Gospel.

Any person who has not received the Gospel or has not received the formal Sacrament of Baptism, but does by nature things which are of the Gospel to the best of his capacity and knowledge, such person is revealing the law of the Gospel written in his heart. Such person is cooperating with God’s grace.  His conscience and thoughts within himself will accuse or defend him unto the day of judgement before God. Therefore, if such a person (a Gentile or Pagan) has been of good will according to the Gospel, then he can attain salvation.

-Francisco Figueroa.


[i] Notice too that this Pharisee was being egocentric while “praying” in the Temple.  His type of “prayer” was of no benefit to him.  The claim or conclusion that a person is holy just because he “prays” or outwardly looks devote is false.  There is more to it, our Lord said: “By the fruits you shall know them” (Matthew 7:16).

[ii] At this point in time, the Catholic Church was not yet born, so those Baptisms of Jesus were done before the Church was born.  We could say that at this point time the Church was “conceived” but not yet born.  The Universal Church was born on the day of Pentecost and She, as a Universal Church (Acts 2:4-5), started performing this Sacrament right at Her birth on the day of Pentecost (CCC# 1226) (Compendium of the Catechism# 255).

[iii] The baptism of John was of a different type as compared with the Baptism of Jesus. John’s baptism was of repentance (Luke 3:3) and needed much water; not so necessary (much water) with the Baptism of Jesus which is in the Holy Spirit and fire (Matthew 3:11) (Luke 3:16).  For more information see this post.

[iv] “… This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.” – (CCC # 1258).

[v] In a positive way as being His temple, that is, for God is Omnipresent.

[vi] Catholics have the Sacrament of Confession.

[vii] Also known as the Catechism of the Council of Trent.

[viii] Thus far, the Church has not decided the question whether prenatals or infants who die without the formal Sacrament of Baptism receive baptism of blood or desire.  On the one hand, it is argued that, though ignorants, they have the implicit desire to live and do good (everyone is innocent until proven guilty, in this case, they are not guilty of rejecting formal Baptism).  The other argument is that, despite of not being explicit witnesses of the Faith, the death of an innocent is Christ-like, the death of the Holy Innocents in Bethlehem is one example.  In any case, as expressed with the arguments and conclusion above, they have to receive a type of non-formal baptism.  In 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 we learn that everyone there (all the Israelites following Moses), as explained by St. Paul, received a non-formal baptism and that included every person, that covers prenatals (for there must have been pregnant women) and infants. Furthermore, we also learn from Sacred Scripture that Samson was a Nazarite of God from his mother’s womb (Judges 13:5), that St. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15); that God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34) and wants everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4).  Therefore, God, in His Divine Justice, could not have given non-formal baptism to some prenatals and let other prenatals be condemned to Hell.

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