Baptism of Desire, Confession by Intent, and Purgatory
(Taken from "Faith of Our Fathers" by Richard Quist, copyright 2007.)
On the following pages I present my views on three sometimes controversial but what I believe are very important teachings of
the Catholic Church. They are important because when understood properly they reveal the wisdom, fairness, and mercy of God
in His efforts to teach people His ways.
The Church teaches that baptism of desire, that is, being baptized by the Spirit without being physically baptized by another
human being, is the method by which God saves people who have not been physically baptized during their lifetime. St. Gregory
the Theologian refers to this as a baptism of tears. It is my belief that just before a non-baptized person actually dies, even
though they might be physically unconscious, all those who have not slandered against the Holy Spirit, which is the only sin that
cannot be forgiven, are offered baptism in the Spirit, and they inevitably accept. They inevitably accept because as long as they
have not slandered against the Holy Spirit they retain the imprint of Christ which all beings receive when they are created, being
created in the image of Christ. This imprint gives people a natural subconscious and instinctive drive to be baptized, one that
they unknowingly nourished, suppressed, or destroyed during their lifetime through their responses to natural law and religion
and to divinely inspired religions. As long as a soul has not destroyed it's imprint of Christ through slander against the Spirit,
this imprint will lead a person's soul to an awareness of their need to struggle for complete unity with the spiritual body of Christ
before they are completely lost in the wasteland of hell.
To some this might seem to undermine the concept that one must freely choose to become a practicing Orthodox Catholic
Christian in order to be saved. It does not and in fact makes clear how this requirement is absolutely true, while God's absolute
fairness is maintained. This view also does not diminish the importance of the Church witnessing to the true Faith in the best
manner possible so that a person will consciously choose to be baptized at the earliest possible moment in their lives.
Besides reducing the chances that they will be tempted into actions which slander the Spirit, being baptized at the first
opportunity that God offers to us is the best and least difficult path to God, the one that causes the least amount of pain for us,
our loved ones, all of God's people, and for God Himself. This is because, besides that fact that blindness leads to sinning
which leads to increased pain, after baptism one must still learn to not sin and must also eradicate the false beliefs that can
develop during one's life and which can make us susceptible to sin The sooner this process begins, the better for all
One might ask how these goals can be achieved for a person who comes to accept Christ just milliseconds before they die.
Pope John Paul II has pointed out that a human being's perception of time in this life is not necessarily the same as God's, and
that as a person passes from this life their experience of time could radically alter. I believe that this is an excellent description
of what actually happens, and under these circumstances God can expose a person to a type of virtual mental reality in which
they are taught all that they need to know in order to become a functioning child of God in Heaven.
A great example of a baptism by desire is revealed at the Crucifixion of our Lord when the confessing thief is granted a place in
Paradise by Christ. What should not be lost here is that both Christ and the thief are undergoing tremendous suffering during
this confession of faith. This should be a warning to those who put off baptism or believe that baptism by desire is an easy path;
do not tempt the Lord to allow you to fall into such circumstances before you ask Him for forgiveness, for if it takes such
circumstances to open your eyes, the Lord will allow such circumstances to befall you. Also, the thief acknowledges his own
guilt and recognizes the innocence of Christ, realizing that Christ is not dying because of His own sins but because the sins of
others, including the thief's. Thus, both men, the innocent God-man and the guilty sinner, are suffering because of the sins of
men. This should instill in any decent man a desire to try to stop sinning as soon as possible.
A person should never assume that baptism by desire will be easy, though it could be relatively easy if one has developed a
good consciousness of God's laws through respect for proper natural law and/or proper understanding of the laws of divinely
inspired religions, and also has the proper and necessary humility to respond to God's promptings to embrace Christ under
these circumstances. However, one should understand that God can be very heavy handed if necessary, this actually revealing
His mercy, since His purpose is to save a soul from everlasting damnation. Under some circumstances Jonathan Edward's
describing sinners as being in the hands of an angry God who dangles them by a string over the pit of Hell is appropriate. A
more detailed depiction of this experience is actually expressed by the final book of the Bible, the Revelations of John. Many
people completely misunderstand this book, not realizing that it is a description of God's way of converting people just before
they are about to face death. This is true in terms of the end times, when all of mankind is facing death simultaneously, and it is
also true for each individual, whatever time death calls upon them. In Christ one is given the opportunity to survive, not escape,
as some erroneous Christians believe, the experiences described in Revelations, and the manner in which we survive them,
whether it is calmly and peacefully or distressfully and harrowingly, is dependent upon how well prepared we are for them.
Preparation of man for this experience is one of the purposes of the Church of Christ on this Earth.
For those already physically baptized but in a state of sin near death, God offers confession by intent, which means that once
you repent in your heart of your sin and desire to confess, God will offer you the opportunity, even while your unconscious of the
physical world around you. Again, it is best not to wait until this point, because this is the more difficult and painful path to
reconciliation. One thing that must always be kept in mind is that the degree to which God holds us responsible for our actions
is related to the amount of truth that He has made available to us. The more we learn from God, the more we are responsible to
respond to, and keep faith with, Him. If we don't, our sins are more serious than if we were never availed the opportunity to know
His ways. This also applies to non-Christians in the sense that they are responsible to respond to expressions of truth and
love, these being manifestations of God's presence. When non-Christians are blessed with these opportunities it is necessary
for them to respond to and grow in appreciation for God's love and truth or face the displeasure of God.
There are some Christians that teach that confession of sin is not necessary or important. I disagree. Sin makes one
vulnerable to spiritual distress and delusion, and this becomes an amplified problem as one enters into the spiritual realm,
especially at death. God has designed His plan of salvation in this way so that He can forgive sins without giving up His
purpose of teaching people to freely choose to follow His ways and laws. It is thus required that people examine their own
thoughts and actions and the consequences of those thoughts and actions in order to become aware enough to make
conscious choices which please God, and priests and the Church are meant to be an assisting guide in this process. In
regards to the spiritual realm, which can be very difficult to comprehend, God, with Confession, has given us the method to
acquire spiritual strength in the struggle to over come spiritual delusion, even when we are not in a great position to understand
what is going on, which is likely to be true in the spiritual realm.
There are those who claim that one must be physically baptized with water and must be absolved by a priest of God of sins
committed after baptism in order to be saved from damnation, and I agree with this. However, God can in a hidden way baptize
with one molecule of water if He so chooses, and also provide a priest from His choir of Saints, maybe even St. Peter himself,
for confession, as a person enters into death. Considering all that God is capable of, this shouldn't be a problem.
The existence of Purgatory is another belief of the Roman Catholic Church that non-Roman Catholics generally don't accept.
However, the Orthodox do believe in the concept of continuous ascension to God after death. In my view, the two views are in
essence the same, just approached from a different perspective, the Roman, as is typical, more from the negative angle, while
the Orthodox, more from the positive.
In order to stand in the presence of God the Father we must be cleansed of all sin and of our nurtured (as opposed to inherited,
which is corrected by baptism) disposition to sin. In order to be cleansed of our learned disposition to sin, we must learn about
and accept the concept of justice. When God offers us forgiveness, His intent is not to eliminate justice and our sense of
justice, for this would then also eliminate our appreciation for the all the effort that He and those who have followed Him have
made in order to elevate our awareness of Him and His Truth and to teach us the importance and worth of freely choosing to do
what is right. God's forgiveness reveals His mercy without destroying His concept of justice. It is for the sake of instilling and
maintaining a sense of justice that He requires penance after contrition, and a possible cleansing in Purgatory. Instead of
seeing these as punishments, we should see them as learning experiences on our ascent to God.
In these views it can be seen how God efficiently uses all the life experiences of a person to enlightened them, whether they've
lived life as a Christian or not. Each life experience can be utilized retrospectively to teach a person why we must not sin, and
why we need to follow Jesus in order to learn how not to sin. Here again is another example of why one should not decouple
the logic behind natural law from that of the logic behind supernatural law. To do so would take away all meaning from the life of
a non-Christian and render God unfair and inefficient.
As explained earlier God can put people into a type of time slowed state just before death where they experience a type of
mental virtual reality, a reality where a person can still freely choose to sin (since, after all, Christ points out that one can sin in
one's thoughts) and to repent. Thus in this state a person can experience in their mind a lifetime of lessons in what would be a
split second to a person in a normal state of consciousness, and so God can baptize, tempt to sin, absolve, and purge a soul all
during this period.
These views maintain the need for Christians and the Church to witness their faith to the world, but in a manner such that we
reveal ourselves and Christ to be a light to which others can come, and not in a manner that drives them away. This is because
any positive awareness of the truth of Christ that a person has while going through a baptism by desire assists that person
through the process. One should never attempt to force one's beliefs upon others; God will open the door to true belief when He
knows the time is right. For a Christian to act in this way only undermines God's desire for people to freely choose Him on His
merits. We should have faith in His merits.
All these beliefs I've expressed thus far reflect a fundamental belief of Orthodox Catholic Christianity; that it is imperative to deal
with not only the obvious moral and ethical issues relevant to one's salvation, but also with the less obvious and more
mysterious issues of the spiritual realm. Whether we are conscious of it or not we are always dealing with the spiritual realm,
and inevitably we will become conscious of it. God has provided us the means to do this with the teachings of the Church. The
primary witnesses and guides to this tangible spiritual struggle over the centuries have been the monastics and mystics of the
Church. They know full well that it is possible to maintain one foot in the physical world and one in the spiritual world, and by
doing so become better prepared for death and resurrection.
Finally, I'd like to comment on the sin of slander against the Holy Spirit and what I believe this means. Jesus says that a
slander against Himself can be forgiven. Here He is acknowledging the difficulty that one can have in understanding and
accepting the concept of Him being the Messiah and the Son of God. He then states that the one sin that cannot be forgiven is
a slander against the Holy Spirit. What does this mean? The Holy Spirit is described as the Giver of life and the Spirit of Truth.
All beings are given life by the Spirit, and any comprehension of truth that a being attains is either dierctly or indirectly acquired
through the grace of the Spirit. With these gifts of life and truth come responsibility, and this is perceived by a person as
conscience. When a person is allowed a high degree of access to truth and then decides to use truth for the purposes of
enhancing their own perceived interests while causing the destruction of life, either directly or indirectly, and obscuring truth for
others, that person slanders against the Holy Spirit. They use the gifts and opportunities that the Spirit has given to them to
make war on the Spirit. That person comes to believe that it is in their interest to deceive people, while simultaneously learning
not to care when they destroy life. In this way they profane the Holy Spirit, in the process destroying their own conscience as
they commit spiritual suicide. This concept is expressed in the psalms by the words, "even the friend whom I trusted and has
eaten at my table has turned against me". In other words, it is the Holy Spirit who gives life, and those who choose in their life to
destroy their own conscience, which is paramount to destroying the law of God which is written in their hearts from the
beginning, betray God. This is exactly what Satan has done. He was entrusted with great power by God, and by his own free
will decided that it was in his interest to deceive Adam and Eve and lead them and their descendants into death. In doing so,
he erased the imprint of Christ which he had received upon his creation, and thus has no chance to be saved by Christ, for it is
necessary to have this imprint in order to respond to Christ's call for repentance. Thus, he has been erased from the Book of
Life. The new world that is realized in Christ will not be made available to Satan, and when Christ withdraws His ordering
presence from this old world, this bringing about it's destruction as it is only by the Grace of God's presence that the order of
this world is maintained, Satan will be left behind in it's chaos. This is the fate of the damned.
One may ask, "why does God allow beings to follow this path to their own destruction?" I believe it is because God only has a
desire for those with a true heart, a heart that has a capacity to love and care for Him and the beings that He has created.
Consequently, He allows every being to pursue and reveal their heart's desires, and then sifts out the chaff. One must not forget
that Jesus once said that if any part of your body is your downfall, discard it. It should be understood that this is exactly what He
will do with His own body. Though all have been part of Him at one time, since we all have been made through Him and in His
image, some will be discarded. Even those who think that they are in God's grace and have been, in their minds anyway,
following His teachings as taught by the True Church should be aware that unless they have and retain a sincere heart, the Body
and Blood of Christ that they receive in the Eucharist will pass right through them, and at Judgment the part of the Body of Christ
with which they may have already achieved union will be torn out and discarded, for God would rather discard pieces of His own
body rather than be united with insincere hypocrites. The insincere deceive and destroy only themselves, not God.