Actually it is absolute. Dr Ludwig Ott in Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma says it is De Fide that all men without exception are obligated to receive water baptism.
Now, people try to make exceptions to this dogma.
Absolutey right. There are NO EXCEPTIONS. That's why, if I believed in BoD, I would state that those who are saved in this manner are not saved "without" the Sacrament of Baptism (as many BoDers heretically state) but, rather, they receive the Sacrament in voto
. After Trent, theologians who believed in BoD were very careful to put it precisely like this. Anything else would be to undermine the dogma that the Sacrament is necessary for salvation. Most modern BoDers make no attempt to uphold this dogma, reducing the Sacraments to an "ordinary means" for salvation and a "great help". I've heard the clowns on Catholic Answers use those exact phrases. This is heretical, and most modern Trad BoDers make the same error.
So, again, if I believed in BoD, I would be very careful to say that such people receive the Sacrament in voto
and never that they are saved without Baptism or by some "substitute" for Baptism or other such heretically-savoring nonsense. People saved by BoD receive Baptism in voto
, and Baptism remains the instrumental cause of justification even in the case of BoD ... thereby upholding the dogma that Baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation. In addition, we make it clear that it is not the desire that justifies ex opere operantis
but it's the Sacrament, operating THROUGH the desire, that justifies ... thereby excluding any hint of Pelagianism.
I have offered this olive branch to many of the rabid BoDers, telling them that if they formulated their BoD position like this, I would drop any real opposition to them.
In addition, one can find little or no support for BoD applying to anyone other than catechumens. As Karl Rahner points out, catechumens were considered in some way to already be formally within the Church. They could be identified as almost formally belonging to the visible society known as the Church. They were allowed to be called Christian, participated in part of the Divine Liturgy, were made catechumens by a formal ceremony where they were signed with the sign of the cross. Church Fathers were always speaking about catechumens, 1917 Code of Canon Law refers only to formal catechumens, St. Robert Bellarmine allowed for BoD for catechumens only because they were somehow partly in the Church (imperfect membership), etc.
This crap where all manner of non-Catholics are actually within the Church is heretical. Period.
But this is the game that these BoDers play. Quote St. Robert Bellarmine, quote a Church Father, quote Pope Innocent II/III, quote the 1917 Code of Canon Law ... all of them referring to catechumens who professed the Catholic faith (one of the requirements for membership of the visible society that is the Church). Then use these vague extended notions of "implicit" BoD to get all kinds of non-Catholics in the Church under the same umbrella. But then when you call them on it, they scurry back to these other BoD quotes (about catechumens) for cover. When the coast is clear, they come crawling back out promoting the salvation of non-Catholics. So they play this bait-and-switch game ... wherein they pretend that quotes in favor of classical/Thomistic BoD somehow support their various heretical denials of EENS and the salvation of non-Catholics.
Catechumens are non-members or non-Catholics secundum quid
only, but these BoDers want non-Catholics simpliciter
in the Church.