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7571Baptism of heretics

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  • Fr. Gregory Williams
    Feb 3, 2003
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      JRS wrote:

      At the 1971 Sobor in Montreal (I was there, incidentally, as the
      secretary of Archbishop Nikon of blessed memory, and heard exactly what
      the discussion had been on the day that decision was passed, from him
      that evening) -- an *attempt* was made, to pass such a rule, changing
      the way in which converts were to be received into the Church.

      However, Archbishop Afanassy firmly rejected the change (and it may be
      of interest that he was the one who in 1983 suggested the "anathema
      against ecumenism").

      Therefore, the bishops never forbade the reception of converts by
      chrismation. The matter was still left open, up to the local bishop.
      And it is thus even now, today.

      Well, it's obviously always possible to read things more than one way, but,
      assuming the following decree is not a forgery, it would seem that the
      intent of its last paragraph is quite different from a matter "left open, up
      to the local bishop."

      --- from Living Orthodoxy, #113:

      FROM THE DECREES OF THE SOBOR OF BISHOPS OF THE ROCA, SEPTEMBER 1971
      CONCERNING THE BAPTISM OF HERETICS (SEPT. 15/28)

      On the question of the baptism of heretics who accept Orthodoxy, the
      following decree was adopted:

      The Holy church has believed from of old that there can be only one true
      baptism, namely that which is performed in her bosom: One, Lord, one faith,
      one baptism (Eph. 4:5). In the Symbol of Faith there is also confessed ³one
      baptism,² and the 46th Canon of the Holy Apostles directs: ³A bishop or a
      presbyter who has accepted (i.e., acknowledges) the baptism or the sacrifice
      of heretics, we command to be deposed.²

      However, when the zeal of any heretics in their battle against the Church
      has weakened and when there was a question of a mass conversion of them to
      Orthodoxy, the Church, to facilitate their union, has received them into her
      bosom in a different way....

      St. Basil the Great, and through his words an Ecumenical Council [the
      Sixth], while establishing the principle that outside the Holy Orthodox
      Church there is no true baptism, allows, out of pastoral condescension,
      which is called ³economy,² the reception of certain heretics and schismatics
      without a new baptism. And in accordance with such a principle, the
      Ecumenical Councils permitted the reception of heretics in various ways, in
      accordance with the degree of the weakening of the heretics¹ enmity against
      the Orthodox Church.

      In the Rudder [Book of Canons] the following explanation of Timothy of
      Alexandria is given. To the question: ³Why do we not baptize heretics who
      convert to the Catholic Church?² he replies: ³If we did this, a man would
      not soon convert from heresy, being ashamed of a second baptism; thus by the
      laying on of the priests¹ hands and prayer, the Holy Spirit descends, as the
      Acts of the Holy Apostles testifies.²

      With regard to Roman Catholics and those Protestants who claim to preserve
      baptism as a sacrament (for example, the Lutherans), in Russia since the
      time of Peter I the practice was introduced of receiving them without
      baptism, through a renunciation of heresy and the chrismation of Protestants
      and unconfirmed Catholics. Before Peter, Catholics were baptized in Russia.
      In Greece, the practice has also varied, but almost 300 years ago, after a
      certain interruption the practice of baptizing converts from Catholicism and
      Protestantism was reintroduced. Those received in any other way have
      (sometimes) not been recognized in Greece as Orthodox. In many cases such
      children of our Russian Church were not even admitted to Holy Communion.

      Having in view this circumstance and also the current growth of the
      ecumenist heresy, which attempts completely to erase the difference between
      Orthodoxy and any heresy ‹ so that the Moscow Patriarchate, notwithstanding
      the holy canons, has even issued a decree permitting Roman Catholics to
      receive communion (in certain cases) ‹ the Sobor of Bishops acknowledges the
      necessity of introducing a stricter practice, i.e., to baptize all heretics
      who come to the Church ‹ only in case of necessity and with the permission
      of the bishop allowing, for reasons of economy or pastoral condescension,
      any other practice with regard to certain persons ‹ i.e., the reception into
      the Church of Roman Catholics and those Protestants baptized in the name of
      the Holy Trinity, through a repudiation of heresy and chrismation.
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