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Concerning the Latins (Roman Catholics) and Their Baptisms

An Excerpt from The Rudder

All this theory which we have been setting forth here is not anything superfluous; on the contrary, it is something which is most needful, both on every occasion in general, but especially today on account of the great controversy and the widespread dispute which is going on in regard to the baptism of the Latins, not merely between us and the Latins, but also between us and the Latin-minded (otherwise known as Latinizers). So, following what has been said, since the form of the Apostolical Canon demands it, we declare that the baptism of the Latins is one which falsely is called baptism, and for this reason it is not acceptable or recognizable either on grounds of rigorism or on grounds of economy. It is not acceptable on grounds of rigorism: (1st) because they are heretics. That the Latins are heretics there is no need of our producing any proof for the present. The very fact that we have entertained so much hatred and aversion against them for so many centuries is a plain proof that we loathe them as heretics, in the same way, that is to say, as we do Arians, or Sabellians, or Spirit denying and Spirit-defying Macedoniacs. If, however, anyone should like to apprehend their heresies from books, he will find all of them in the books of the most holy Patriarch of Jerusalem Sir Dositheus the Papomastix (i.e., Scourge of Popes) together with their most learned refutations. Nevertheless, he can obtain sufficient knowledge even from the booklet of learned Meniatos entitled “A Rock of Scandal,” to translate into English the Greek title of it, Petra Scandalou. Enough was said concerning them by St. Mark of Ephesus in Florence (at the twenty-fifth general assembly), who spoke frankly as follows: “We have split ourselves off from the Latins for no other reason than the fact that they are not only schismatics but also heretics.” Wherefore we must not even think of uniting with them. Even the great ecclesiarch Silvester (Section 9, ch. 5) said: “The difference of the Latins is a heresy, and our predecessors also held it to be such.” So, it being admitted that the Latins are heretics of long standing, it is evident in the very first place from this fact that they are unbaptized, in accordance with the assertions of St. Basil the Great above cited, and of the saints preceding him named Cyprian and Firmilian. Because, having become laymen as a result of their having been cut off from the Orthodox Church, they no longer have with them the grace of the Holy Spirit with which Orthodox priests perform the mysteries. This is one argument which is as strong and indisputable as the Canons of St. Basil the Great are strong and indisputable, and the words of St. Cyprian the ecclesiastic martyr, seeing that they have received and retain the sanction of the holy Sixth Ecumenical Council. (2nd) The Latins are unbaptized because they do not observe the three immersions which have to be administered to the one being baptized, as the Orthodox Church has received instructions from the Holy Apostles from the beginning. The earlier Latins, being the first to innovate with regard to the Apostolical Baptism, began using affusion, which means the process of pouring a little water on the head of the child, a practice which is still in vogue in some regions; but the most of them take a bundle of hog hairs and sprinkle a few drops of water three times on the infant’s forehead. In other parts of the earth, however, as we have been informed by one who has returned thence, they merely take a little cotton (everyone knows how much water cotton absorbs), and, dipping it into water, they wipe the child with it and call it baptized. So the Latins are unbaptized because they do not perform the three immersions and emersions, in accordance with the Apostolic tradition. As touching these three immersions, we do not say how necessary and indispensable they are to the celebration of Baptism. Whoever wishes may read about it, but as for any need there may be, let him read the manual of the highly educated and most learned Eustratius of Argent. But we too shall say in connection with Apostolical Canon L whatever is now needed on this head. If, however, anyone among the Latins or the Latin minded should put forward a claim to the three invocations of the Holy Trinity, he must not pretend to have forgotten those things which he was told further above by sacred Firmilian and by Athanasius the Great: to wit, that those supergodly names are idle and ineffective when pronounced by the mouth of heretics. For, unless this be the case, we must most certainly believe that those wicked old women actually do miracles by simply repeating the divine names in incantations. So the Latins cannot even perform a baptism because they are heretics and have lost the grace required to celebrate Christmas rites, and they have added to their iniquities that of overthrowing the Apostolical Baptism of three immersions. So, I say, let those who accept the Latins’ sprinkling (often dignified by the name aspersion) reflect what they can say by way of reply to the authority of the present Apostolical Canon, and further in reply to the following one (XLVII). I know what the immediate defensors of the Latin pseudo-baptism argue. They argue that our Church became accustomed to accepting converts from the Latins with chrism (alone), and there is, in fact, some formulation to be found in which the terms are specified under which we will take them in. With regard to all this we reply in simple and just words: that it is enough that you admit that she used to receive them in chrism (alone). So they are heretics. For why the chrism if they were not heretics? So, they being admittedly heretics, it is not probable that the Orthodox and Apostolic Church would deliberately disregard these Apostolical Canons and the Synodical Canons which we have noted in the preceding pages. But, as it seems and as it is proper for us to believe, the Church wished to employ some great economy with respect to the Latins, having as an example conducive to her purpose that great and holy Second Ecumenical Council. For the fact is that the Second Council, as we have said, employed economy and accepted the baptism of Arians and of Macedoniacs with the aim and hope of their returning to the faith and receiving full understanding of it, and in order to prevent their becoming yet more savage wild beasts against the Church, since they were also over many in multitude and strong in respect of outward things. And, as a matter of fact, they accomplished this purpose and realized this hope. For, thanks to this economy those men became more gentle towards the Orthodox Christians and returned so far to piety that within the space of a few years they either disappeared completely or very few of them remained. So those preceding us also employed economy and accepted the baptism of the Latins, especially when performed in the second manner, because Papism, or Popery, was then in its prime and had all the forces and powers of the kings of Europe in its hands, while, on the other hand, our own kingdom was breathing its last gasps. Hence it would have become necessary, if that economy had not been employed, for the Pope to rouse the Latin races against the Eastern, take them prisoners, kill them, and inflict countless other barbarities upon them. But now that they are no longer able to inflict such woes upon us, as a result of the fact that divine Providence has lent us such a guardian that he has at last beaten down the brow of those arrogant and haughty monsters, now, I say, that the fury of Papism (otherwise known as Roman Catholicism, or Popery) is of no avail against us, what need is there any longer of economy? For there is a limit to economy, and it is not perpetual and indefinite. That is why Theophylactus of Bulgaria says: “He who does anything as a matter of economy, does it, not as simply something good, but as something needed for the time being” (commentary on Gal. 5:11). “We have employed economy enough,” says St. Gregory the Theologian in his eulogy of Athanasius, “without either adopting what is alien or corrupting what is our own, to do which would make us really bad economists (or poor managers of economy).” That is what I say too, It is certainly poor economy when it does not serve to convert the Latins and forces us to transgress the rigorism of the sacred Canons and to accept the pseudo-baptism of heretics. “For economy is to be employed where there is no necessity of transgressing the laws,” says divine Chrysostom. The fact that that formulation was made economically is plainly evident from this, that until then the Easterners had been baptizing the returning Westerners, as is attested by the local synod in the Lateran of Rome, held in the year 1211 after Christ. For it says in its fourth Canon that the Easterners would not hold services wherever Westerners had been holding services unless they first purified the place by the ceremony of sanctification. And afterwards it says that the Easterners themselves rebaptized those joining the Eastern Church on the ground that they had not had a holy Apostolical baptism. (See Dositheus, p. 8-24 of the Dodecabiblus.) So when it is taken into account that up to that time, according to the testimonies of the same enemies, the Easterners had been baptizing them, it is plain that it was for the sake of a great economy that they later employed the expedient of chrism simply because our race could not afford, in the plight in which it then was in, to excite any further the mania of Popery; and in addition there is such evidence in the fact that they then abrogated and invalidated all that had been wrongly done in Florence, and there was great excitement among the Latins on this account. So, the need of economy having passed away, Rigorism and the Apostolical Canons must have their place.

From The Rudder (Book of the Sacred Canons of the Church), pp. 72-74. This is a footnote from Saint Nikodemos' interpretation of Canon XLVI of the 85 Canons of the Holy Apostles.