Baptism: Seems unfair


#1

The Catholic Church teaches regarding baptism:

The effect of this sacrament is the remission of all sin, original and actual; likewise of all punishment which is due for sin. As a consequence, no satisfaction for past sins is enjoined upon those who are baptized; and if they die before they commit any sin , they attain immediately to the kingdom of heaven and the vision of God.

In a Lenten talk a priest spoke about a mobster who had committed many murders. He asked to be baptized since he was not sure he had been. As a result of baptism, if he were to die before commiting any sins he would he would go straight to heaven, said the priest

Assuming such a person were contrite, I can understand that he would be forgiven. However, let us suppose he had a partner in crime who WAS already baptized as an infant, was also contrite and made a sacramental confession. He is forgiven his sins, but if this man were to die, he would still incur temporal punishment. Why should one person suffer in purgatory and not the other? This does not seem just to me! Can you explain?


#2

Yes: the explanation is that God isn’t fair.

Praise His holy name for that; if He were fair, we wouldn’t be worrying about who gets to Heaven the fastest - we’d all be going to the Hell that we richly deserve. :wink:

The appropriate reaction is to rejoice in the good fortune of the brother who gets to go to Heaven immediately, and ask for his prayers to get the rest of us poor sinners out of Purgatory. :slight_smile:


#3

My answer is: who the heck are we to judge God’s motives and actions…is He not allowed to make up his own mind and decide to do whatever it is he wants to do…we have finite minds…we can’t even begin to think the way He does…therefore, I just accept His will.


#4

Remember the parable about the laborers (I don’t remember it’s official name). Some worked all day, some half a day, and some only an hour, and yet they were all paid a full day’s wages. The point isn’t that the people who worked longer should have gotten more; they got what they agreed on. The point is that justice isn’t that everyone goes to heaven or hell strapped together tightly, but that we all get at least what we deserve. Mercy, then, is giving more than you deserve.


#5

I have no trouble understanding the parable of the laborors and can see in it the Lord’s generosity. Neither of the laborors are punished, but both are rewarded equally. In this case, however, one person is punished and the other is not. I have difficulty understanding it. While I assent to the teachings of the Church, our fatih is a reasonable faith, and, therefore, every attempt should be made to understand that which seems unreasonable.


#6

A person who is baptized has the grace to resist sin. Someone who is not baptized does not have this grace. So, it is perfectly reasonable to expect greater things from the baptized person than from the unbaptized person. It’s not fair, since they both committed the same sins, but it is reasonable.


#7

Purgatory isn’t really a punishment, though, not as such. It’s more of a cleansing, a scrubbing. Not unlike Baptism.


#8

Yeah, I doubt those in purgatory mind it much…


#9

I have a two-year old. She rather likes writing on herself with the markers her sisters leave about the house.

I assure you she finds the resultant scrubbing unpleasant. It is not punishment.

The sisters get their markers put away for a while. That is a consequence of their actions.

No Punishment.


#10

Actually, I respectfully disagree with your priest. Presuming the first gangster were sincerely contrite, he would indeed be guaranteed heaven. However, I don’t think he would not be off the hook as far as Purgatory goes. The sins he commited are still his, and all sins have temporal consequences (entirely different, of course, from the punishments of hell). These temporal consequences still have to be atoned for and he would be the one to do it.

That’s why we have the example of great Saints from the past, after converting from an especially sinful life, subjecting themselves to years of penance afterwards to atone for their previous lives.

Just as an aside – I wish that people would stop making a de facto equivalence between the “pains of Purgatory” and the punishment of Hell. They are entirely different, one being God’s mercy to allow us that purging which we avoided during life, and the other being the abyss of torment where we are seperated from God forever and surrounded by Satan and the other lost souls.


#11

“In a Lenten talk a priest spoke about a mobster who had committed many murders. He asked to be baptized since he was not sure he had been. As a result of baptism, if he were to die before committing any sins he would he would go straight to heaven, said the priest.”

Are you sure that the priest said exactly what you posted? If so he would have been incorrect.

Since “He asked to be baptized since he was not sure he had been.” he would have been Conditionally Baptized. Only if he had not been Baptized would the Baptism have had any effect and remitted all his sins and Temporal Punishment. If he had actually been Baptized previously, the Baptism would have had NO effect and he would have had a pretty good chance of going straight to hell.


#12

jmcrae, I find your comments interesting to consider:

“A person who is baptized has the grace to resist sin. Someone who is not baptized does not have this grace. So, it is perfectly reasonable to expect greater things from the baptized person than from the unbaptized person. It’s not fair, since they both committed the same sins, but it is reasonable.”

Fidelis, thank you for your comments:

*"Actually, I respectfully disagree with your priest. Presuming the first gangster were sincerely contrite, he would indeed be guaranteed heaven. However, I don’t think he would not be off the hook as far as Purgatory goes. The sins he commited are still his, and all sins have temporal consequences (entirely different, of course, from the punishments of hell). These temporal consequences still have to be atoned for and he would be the one to do it.

That’s why we have the example of great Saints from the past, after converting from an especially sinful life, subjecting themselves to years of penance afterwards to atone for their previous lives."*

You apparently understand my difficulty in understanding what has been stated as Catholic Church teaching. The speaker is an orthodox priest, Fr. Corapi, whose talk was on EWTN. I have it recorded, so if necessary, I can go back and quote him word for word. However, many Catholic online resources make the same claim, as the one I quoted in my original question.


#13

Whether the priest were Fr. Corapi or any other priest, the statement as related lacks precision. If pressed, I’m sure Father would concur with the above qualification.

I’d be willing to bet that, given the extreme hypothetical-ness of the example given, and also given the fact that it was delivered in the context of a Lenten talk and not formal catechesis or answering a direct question, for the sake of clarification the good Father would probably concede as much.


#14

Total cleansing is what I was always taught and the Catholic Encylopedia confirms that all sin and all punishment is washed away. That appears to be the reason that many were baptised on their deathbed such as Constantine. The priest is correct.

Baptism not only washes away sin, it also remits the punishment of sin. This was the plain teaching of the primitive Church. We read in Clement of Alexandria (Pædagog., i) of baptism: “It is called a washing because we are washed from our sins: it is called grace, because by it the punishments which are due to sin are remitted.” St. Jerome (Ep. lxix) writes: “After the pardon (indulgentiam) of baptism, the severity of the Judge is not to be feared.” And St. Augustine (De Pecc. et Mer., II, xxviii) says plainly: “If immediately [after baptism] there follows the departure from this life, there will be absolutely nothing that a man must answer for [quod obnoxium hominem teneat], for he will have been freed from everything that bound him.” In perfect accord with the early doctrine, the Florentine decree states: “No satisfaction is to be enjoined upon the baptized for past sins; and if they die before any sin, they will immediately attain to the kingdom of heaven and to the vision of God.” In like manner the Council of Trent (Sess. V) teaches: “There is no cause of damnation in those who have been truly buried with Christ by baptism . . . Nothing whatever will delay their entrance into heaven.”


#15

Futhermore, for those still not convinced, here is what the Catechism says:

By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam’s sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God.


#16

Ricko - You are correct, as I have found from this and other sources.

I erred in my previous post, which I retract. Which means we are back at square one. :blush:


#17

If you might consider a comment from a “hostile witness” :slight_smile:

The difficulty you are experiencing seems to be coming from an error in how the OP framed the original question:

The previous posters who discussed the parable of the labourers had it right-that God is free to dispense His grace as he sees fit. Where there has been confusion has been the OP’s association of salvation with justice. If God were “just” with us all, we would go to Hell.

The fact that we can be saved and enter heaven is fully predicated on the mercy of God. Both individuals would be recipients of that mercy, it would simply be conveyed using different means: baptism in one (assuming he wasn’t baptized previously as Bro. Rich pointed out) and confession and purgatory in the other (assuming that some sort of plenary indulgence wasn’t gained by the second criminal in which case purgatory would be avoided by him).

If one changes focus from the “means” to the “end” (heaven) the question of justice disappears in light of God’s mercy to both individuals.

I hope this helps :slight_smile:


#18

Surely you mean Purgatory? If he was baptized without being repentant of his sins the baptism wouldn’t convey any grace, right? Unrepentant attachment to mortal sin is an obstacle to the grace of the sacraments, isn’t it?

Edwin


#19

I think in this case we are meant to assume that both criminals repented of their sins; otherwise I think they would both go to Hell, would they not? Since as you say, the grace of the Sacraments cannot be conveyed if the person is unrepentant.


#20

The original post does not say that he was unrepentent.


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