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De obitu Valentiniani: Abelard, Bernard Of Clairvaux, And The Canonization Of Ambrose Of Milan On Baptism By Desire

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Chapter Summary

The most recent Roman Catholic catechism treats baptism by desire as a standard and uncontroversial truth. Baptism by desire first gained extended discussion and vigorous support in Ambrose of Milans De obitu Valentiniani (hereafter DoV) of 392, a funeral oration on the western Roman emperor Valentinian II delivered in a decidedly unsettled political situation. In his early De diversis quaestionibus octoginta tribus, reflecting no particular polemical agenda, Augustine foregrounds two biblical figures destined to loom large in this account, Cornelius and the good thief on the cross. Ignoring Augustines hypotheses concerning his pre-mortem state, and claiming no salient virtues for him, Abelard simply reports that Perpetua prayed Dinocrates out of Hell as related in her vita. Scholastics after Hugh repeatedly cited Ambroses DoV as a canonical authority side by side with Augustines De baptismo, salvaged from his anti- Pelagian polemics, as debates on baptism continued in the twelfth century.

Keywords: Abelard; Ambrose of Milan; Baptism; De obitu Valentiniani (DoV); Roman Catholic catechism



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