Again, this is one I've never heard of. Inspired by Peter Turner's comment.

If you had a plane full of people's consent to be baptized if they miraculously survived the flight but they died anyway then water baptism wouldn't be necessary, it would be baptism by desire.

I'd never heard of "baptism by desire". What is it, who believes in it, and how does it relate to "traditional" baptism as far as legitimacy/effectiveness goes? (Is it considered inferior or equivalent to traditional baptism?) I assume that "by desire" means that no ordained minister/priest/pastor is involved, hence the question of legitimacy/effectiveness.

  • I added a tag for catholicism, as I think that without that particular tag, this question is pretty confusing. Incidentally, I think he's saying that the fact that God takes into account the Christian's desire to be baptized, but inability to be baptized, into consideration. Myself, not believing baptism by water necessary for salvation, I think it's neither here nor there. Feb 21, 2013 at 16:06

2 Answers 2


It's not just that no priest is involved -- after all, anyone with the correct intention is able to perform a valid baptism, though it is forbidden, except in cases of emergency, to just "do it yourself". It's that no other persons at all are involved. Just the person undergoing a baptism by desire, and God. (Not to imply that God is one person; He is three Persons, one Being).

The Baltimore Catechism addresses this question directly:

Q. 650. What is Baptism of desire?

A. Baptism of desire is an ardent wish to receive Baptism, and to do all that God has ordained for our salvation.


Q. 653. Is Baptism of desire or of blood sufficient to produce the effects of Baptism of water?

A. Baptism of desire or of blood is sufficient to produce the effects of the Baptism of water, if it is impossible to receive the Baptism of water.

Q. 654. How do we know that the baptism of desire or of blood will save us when it is impossible to receive the baptism of water?

A. We know that baptism of desire or of blood will save us when it is impossible to receive the baptism of water, from Holy Scripture, which teaches that love of God and perfect contrition can secure the remission of sins ; and also that Our Lord promises salvation to those who lay down their life for His sake or for His teaching.

So it is as effective as baptism by water. God is always effective.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives further details:

1259 For catechumens [catechumens are those who are in the process of joining the Church] who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.

1260 "Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery." Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.

Note that in the above, "will of God" means will of God, not the will of a god. 1260 is of special relevance to those who are wondering whether, for example, people in uncontacted tribes can be saved. Short answer: yes, they absolutely can.


The Catholic Church professes one Baptism of water. Many people today believe that there are two other types of Baptisms: a Baptism of Desire, and a Baptism of Blood. Its proponents believe that BoD and BoB have the same effect as the normal Baptism, specifically removing original sin and mortal sins.

Baptism of Desire is condemned here:

Pope Paul III, The Council of Trent, Can. 2 on the Sacrament of Baptism, Sess. 7, 1547, “If anyone shall say that real and natural water is not necessary for baptism, and on that account those words of Our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit’ [John 3:5], are distorted into some sort of metaphor: let him be anathema.”

Baptism of Blood is condemned here:

Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, “Cantate Domino,” 1441, “The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless they are joined to the Church before the end of their lives; that the unity of this ecclesiastical body is of such importance that only for those who abide in it do the Church’s sacraments contribute to salvation and do fasts, almsgiving and other works of piety and practices of the Christian militia produce eternal rewards; and that nobody can be saved, no matter how much he has given away in alms and even if he has shed blood in the name of Christ, unless he has persevered in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.”

Traditionally the Catholic Church taught that after the promulgation of the Gospel only Catholics could get into Heaven as Pope Eugene IV indicates above. However these days, if you ask someone:

"Did the Muslim/Jew/Pagan/Atheist get into Heaven?" They will say, "I cannot judge, even though the person rejected the Gospel for their entire life, he could have received a Baptism of Desire." Then if you want to really make them mad ask if the person needs to actually desire Baptism to get a "Baptism of Desire", they will usually say "No."

Baptism of Desire was the key to the promotion of universal salvation:

“Cardinal” Joseph Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance, 2004, p. 207: “The fact that in every age there have been, and still are, ‘pagan saints’ is because everywhere and in every age – albeit often with difficulty and in fragmentary fashion – the speech of the ‘heart’ can be heard, because God’s Torah may be heard within ourselves

I expect to get a bunch of comments that the Council of Florence isn't infallible.

If you would like more references please consult this document.

  • 1
    You believe in a type of Baptism that does not require water: BoD. This has been condemned. This should seriously bother you. You shouldn't dwell on my answer formatting or busy yourself with trying to label me.
    – user
    Mar 20, 2013 at 13:13
  • The name of my group is Catholic. The name of your group unfortunately is anathema. Dogmas are infallible the Catechism is not. My references are superior to yours.
    – user
    Mar 20, 2013 at 16:41
  • I answered the question. Baptism of Desire is a heretical idea. I've warned you that your ideas have been anathematized, there's nothing else I can do for you.
    – user
    Mar 20, 2013 at 18:29
  • I think the issue with the anathematisation is the "distortion into metaphor". Baptism by Desire as described in the question isn't distorting baptism into a metaphor. CCC 1259/1260 indicates as much. Jun 12, 2013 at 10:03

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