The Rise of Catholic Indifference

Deadly Indifference: How the Church Lost Her Mission and How We Can Reclaim It
By Eric Sammons
Crisis Publications, 2021, 304 pp.

1 Star

The Roman Catholic church has always taught baptismal regeneration and the complementary doctrine of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (Latin: “outside the Church [there is] no salvation.” Two exceptions were added to these doctrines, those being baptismus sanguinis (“baptism by blood”) and baptismus flaminis (“baptism by desire”). The former declared that those who were martyred before they were baptized could be saved, while the latter declared that those who desired to be baptized, but died before the sacrament could be administered, could also be saved. Those two exceptions were historically understood as “rare” occurrences, but today the Catholic church teaches that Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and even atheists can be saved implicitly through baptismus flaminis/baptism by (unconscious) desire. How did this teaching evolve? In “Deadly Indifference,” traditionalist Catholic editor, Eric Sammons (“Crisis” magazine), examines the history of the expansion of baptismus flaminis and the implications for the declining RCC.

Beginning in the Middle Ages, some Catholic theologians and philosophers began to mull over the spiritual status of those pagans in distant lands who had never heard the Catholic gospel. The notion of “invincible ignorance” was born, which stated that “some” pagan souls might desire baptism if they were aware of it, and that they could also be saved via the baptism by desire exception. The teaching was bandied about by Catholic theologians for centuries and even gained papal approval in the Singulari Quadam allocution issued by Pius IX in 1854: “It is necessary to hold for certain that they who labor in ignorance of the true religion, if this ignorance is invincible, are not stained by any guilt in this matter in the eyes of God.” Invincible ignorance was popularly viewed as the theoretical exception rather than the rule as Catholic missionaries determinedly continued their efforts to convert non-Catholics across the globe.

However, as modernism/liberalism took hold in Catholic academia and episcopacies in the twentieth century, “invincible ignorance” and baptismus flaminis gradually became the standard regarding non-Catholics and were codified in the Second Vatican Council declarations, Unitatis redintegratio (1964) and Nostra aetate (1965). It took some time for this new liberal paradigm to filter down to the seminaries, rectories, convents, and pews – as a young Catholic grammar school student in the early and mid-1960s, I distinctly remember being taught by the priests and nuns that Protestants and all non-Catholics were destined for hell – but filter down it did. Sammons uses a “salvation spectrum” to demonstrate the current range of Catholic teaching/belief regarding extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. There is the absolutist on one extreme, who rejects the aforementioned exceptions. This view was infamously espoused by Jesuit Leonard Feeney (see here). Sammons states that, unlike Feeney, he is not an absolutist, but an exclusivist. He concedes the exception of baptismus flaminis as legitimate, but only in “rare” cases. Sammons posits that modern popes, John XXIII, Paul VI, JP II, Benedict XVI were in the middle “inclusivist” range in varying degrees, but that Francis is at the opposite extreme as a pluralist bordering on universalism.

The result of the expansion of baptismus flaminis and “invincible ignorance” is that there is no incentive for Catholic missions, since it is now taught that it’s possible for every non-Catholic religionist and even atheists to merit Heaven. Another result is an ever-increasing number of cradle Catholics are dropping away from the church because of the prevailing indifferentism. Their thinking: “If non-Catholic religionists and atheists have a good shot at Heaven, it makes no sense to have to suffer through an hour of boring mass every Sunday.”

Traditionalist Sammons, would like to return the Catholic church to pre-conciliar militancy, when baptismus flaminis and “invincible ignorance” were understood as the “rare” exceptions rather than the rule. He desires that Protestants be once-again categorized as “heretics” and that they be targets for proselytization by Catholic missionaries along with all other non-Catholics. Sammons also pines for the day when “religious freedom” is a memory and the Catholic church once again rules hand-in-glove with civil governments (pp. 50-51). Nope, I’m not kidding. How does Sammons put the horse back in the barn? He encourages fellow traditionalists to turn the clock back to pre-conciliar militancy, parish by parish.

We’re seeing signs that this rad-trad militant Catholicism that Sammons espouses is gaining traction and getting some internet notoriety, but the reality is that it’s still a small minority among Catholics.

Postscript: This book was valuable to me only in that it details some of the historical expansion of baptismus flaminis that I wasn’t aware of. In contradiction to all of this Catholic internecine squabbling over legalistic details (i.e., if baptismus flaminis is only rarely legitimate, how rare is rare? 0.1% of non-Catholics? 1%? 5%? 10%?) is the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Neither Francis’ progressive pluralism or Sammons’ militant traditionalism have any connection to the genuine Gospel of grace. Some might be surprised that evangelical darling, Billy Graham, also embraced the teaching of “invincible ignorance.” Watch Graham unabashedly propagate the heresy of invincible ignorance in a 1:30 minute video here.

17 thoughts on “The Rise of Catholic Indifference

  1. I’ve been asking Romanists for years to show me an official interpretation of “invincible ignorance”, but none have been able to pull out this non-existent definition LOL! If the magisterium can’t even provide and enforce a consistent teaching on an important doctrine pertaining to salvation, what good is the magisterium? We the have Romanists acting as their own Popes!

    On a side note, Dave Armstrong totally avoided my question on the salvation of a “good” Muslim.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, SB. Yes, it’s beyond bizarre that RC-ism incongruently teaches the possible salvation of all unbaptized non-Catholic religionists and even atheists while still insisting upon baptismal regeneration.


  2. “Sammons pines for the day when ‘religious freedom’ is a memory and the Catholic church once again rules hand-in-glove with civil governments.” I’m glad those who support this kind of thinking are in the minority… for now anyway.

    Baptism by desire. Why do those who profess to be born again have their heads in the sand regarding Billy Graham. He never hid his heretical beliefs and practices but proclaimed them clearly. I can partially answer my own question. Financial gain, and acceptance in the organized institutional church are two reasons I can think of.

    Baptism by blood. I never heard of that before. They make it up as they go along. The RCC has another gospel and another Jesus!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cathy. Most evangelicals would guffaw at the notion that some Catholics still harbor hopes of their church once again dominating the world, but Sammons was quite unapologetic in his comments as was another Catholic traditionalist, Taylor Marshall, in his book “Infiltration.”
      As I was reading Sammons’ criticisms of RC-ism’s endorsement of “invincible ignorance,” I also thought of Billy Graham’s heretical endorsement of the same. Graham, so esteemed by evangelicals, but the man did so much damage.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Day is going well! Yesterday was a long day of ministry, also going to be preaching at another small church near us which nearly died; I have a heart for struggling church. I took a nap from 6 PM to 10 PM, and went to sleep earlier at 2 AM and slept in to nearly 10 AM. Been a hard week last week. Will read this post after lunch

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  4. The latin names can masks these doctrines as profound but they are unbiblical. It not only stops evangelism but it also damns. Sad that Evangelicals would adopt them as you mentioned…sigh

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Yup, this is a case of lost theologians going deeper down the false gospel rabbit hole. I did “appreciate” this book to a small degree because it did clarify the RCC’s expanding view of “baptism by desire.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So true: “ this is a case of lost theologians going deeper down the false gospel rabbit hole.”. I’m glad you reviewed this though it’s not biblical; it allow the opportunity for readers to see how it’s not biblical

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks. Giant red flags “should” go up when ecumenically-minded evangelicals see this kind of information, but they don’t want to upset their inclusive paradigm.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. To a large extent the R.C. church does rule “hand in glove” with some governments in the world. Here in Ireland the government pretends to be secular but many in it pay homage to the R.C. church in all they do as public representatives. Tax payers are outraged that their money is being used to compensate the victims of clerical abuse. (Not that anyone could ever be compensated for having their lives destroyed in this way.) They still control many schools, hospitals, nursing homes etc. With their ethos. You’ve only to walk through the door of some of these to see a large “holy” statue before you even reach the reception desk. There’s presently a big controversy over “sisters” who own land on which the new national maternity hospital is to be built. If I owned that land, as an individual, the government would just slap a compulsory purchase order on it. Sadly, it doesn’t surprise me about Billy Graham either…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. I can remember back fifty-five years ago when the grammar school nuns regularly cited Ireland as the exemplary Catholic nation. I realize secularism has gained much ground since then.
      Graham, so disappointing. He sacrificed the Gospel on the altar of popularity and numbers.

      Liked by 1 person

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