Errata Corrige: Martyrs

Yours truly stands corrected in the matter of who is a martyr.

As you can see from this article posted on the US site of the SSPX, apart from all other requirements it is necessary to be a Catholic to qualify as martyr.  Being orthodox would not suffice even if all other requirements were satisfied.

You see how easy it is: one discovers that one was in error, and one puts oneself in line with the Truth as explained by someone whose authority in the matter we recognise as orthodox and trustworthy, and perfectly aligned with the Magisterium.

Notice also that the article does not necessarily make the thing entirely clear to me. So for example, are the Holy Innocents martyrs or not? I always thought they were and they were certainly not even Christians, but either they aren’t, then, martyrs in the strict sense or I am simply missing something. There will be some explanation. The fact that I do not know it (some reader will perhaps provide it, so I don’t bother looking around for now) does not mean that the Church does not have one.

This is the attitude we must have as Catholics. We accept Truth, and that’s it. We may involuntarily be in error at times, which is easy because the matter is complicated. At other times we may take a theological opinion for unopposed truth. At other times we will simply miss something. But we don’t make our own theology. We learn and then we know something more than we knew before.


I had an occasion to become a “dissenter”, and I have wasted it…






Posted on February 21, 2015, in Catholicism, Conservative Catholicism, FSSPX, Traditional Catholicism and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Your point is very well taken. From my knowledge, one has to be told to deny the True Faith before one dies for it, to be considered a martyr. Like you,Mundabor, I will stand corrected – but only from someone whose opinion I trust – so that leaves most living bishops, the Poor Francis off that table.
    For example, there was a huge love-fest when Saint Maximilian Kolbe was considered a martyr at his canonization. Big mistake. He was a Confessor, and a wonderful one.
    When he gave up his life for his fellow inmate it was the supreme act of charity. But he was not killed rather than deny his Faith. At the time of his death he was not even killed because he was a Catholic, let alone a priest – he was just a nasty Pole that the Nazis killed by the millions.
    So too Romero. Died for political reasons, even though it was at Mass. He is not a martyr either.
    Now we have so-called martyrs all over the place! Can’t we honour these people for what they really did, without gilding the lilly? Shame on us for not honouring Confessors!!!

  2. Perhaps a silly question…but with the Holy Name of Jesus on their lips, as the sword approached their throats, would this perhaps be an example of Baptism of blood, making them instantly Catholic , and with their hearts beating, essentially martyrs??

    • I doubt.
      Whilst Jesus can obviously decide that everyone of those killed (and any other protestant or infidel or schismatic) is part of the church at death and deserves salvation (I think the SSPX called it implicit baptism of desire) this does not make of them Catholics for our purpose. Put in another way, it is not for us to decide who has become Catholic if they have not visibly converted.


  3. There is an explanation Our Lord’s Passion and Death for mankind is not limited by time or space. Hence those from “prior” salvation history can also be saints and martyrs. They too are members of the Church through the saving action of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Non-Catholics who die for their faith in Jesus Christ, if they are in no personal fault for not being members of the visible Church, may be perfected by Christ and brought into the Church before death. It is a mystery as with all those not in the visible Church by any fault, who may be brought into the Church by a means not known before death if they satisfy the criteria as set down by the Church. We cannot know in respect of a specific person, if he or she has so entered the Church, unless the Church officially declares so.

    • I understand it must be so.

      But the linked SSPX article says “one must accept death voluntarily”, too. This does not seem to apply to the Holy Innocent, either.

  4. Yes, the Holy Innocents were martyrs. They died in the place of Christ even though they could not technically be Catholics because the Church of the New Covenant had not yet been established. Their situation is similar to the Old Testament saints who died for the faith as far as it had been revealed to them at that stage. It was their faith in the Messiah to come prophesied in the Word of God which led to their liberation from Hades on Holy Saturday.

    • Thanks, Deacon Augustine. This seems not to be included in the SSPX article linked, but then I begin to think the SSPX meant the conditions were “necessary” only after the New Covenant.


  5. I don’t have a citation, so take this for whatever it is worth. A martyr is someone who dies for Christ (The Holy Innocents), The Faith (countless examples), or a Christian Virtue (St. Kolbe or St. Maria Goretti).

    We’d have to look into baptism of blood to get more details, but the Holy Innocents are martyrs because they died for Christ. They did not have the Faith, as Christians, because baptism was not instituted yet. They may well have been circumcised/presented at the temple (Male/Female respectively), but possibly not. The fact is that they died in the place of Christ. Christ was the one being attacked, and they took His ‘punishment’ upon themselves. (Whoa! that was deep!) Actually, it is pretty much the same with martyrs for the Faith. “I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest…” Acts 9:5

    The problem with the 21 Copts is that they were non-Catholic. The good thing is that they clearly called upon the mercy of Christ before they died. (Romans 10:13, Acts 2:21, Joel 2:32 etc.)

  6. I think Deacon Augustine gave a very good answer. I have checked on the Catholic Encyclopedia, and the Holy Innocents are considered martyrs as “they died not only for Christ, but in his stead” and were therefore “the first buds of the Church killed by the frost of persecution”.

    I think the matter of the accepting death voluntarily would not apply to them.


  7. The Church has always taught that since the Holy Innocents were killed under the Old Covenant and the necessity of Baptism had not yet been established, the Holy Innocents could not yet die FOR Christ. But they died IN PLACE of Jesus Christ.

  8. Let me add; the Holy Innocents were incapable of proclaiming Jesus Christ as God, Savior and Second Person of the Holy Trinity and therefore couldn’t die “for” him in the sense of being able to proclaim they were accepting martyrdom FOR His sake.

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