St. Thomas on justification by faith prior to Baptism


The idea that a person is justified at the moment of faith, prior to the reception of Baptism, is not only not Protestant, but it is fully scholastic, and in keeping with the Council of Trent. It is known as Baptism of Desire. Here is St. Thomas to explain:

“man receives the forgiveness of sins before Baptism in so far as he has Baptism of desire, explicitly or implicitly; and yet when he actually receives Baptism, he receives a fuller remission, as to the remission of the entire punishment. So also before Baptism, Cornelius [of Acts 10:1-2] and others like him receive grace and virtues through their faith in Christ and their desire for Baptism, implicit or explicit: but afterwards when baptized, they receive a yet greater fullness of grace and virtues.”

[Summa Theologica III, 69, 4.]


Was it (one of) the intentions of the Council to articulate “justification by faith”?


Yes, or to put it more clearly, the Council explained the role that faith played in justification, among many other things that were covered.


Thanks, I’m not as familiar with Aquinas or Trent as I should like to be.


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