Monday, May 9, 2016

Non-Orthodox baptisms and the ecclesiology that follows

In some quarters the below paper would be labeled "fundamentalist," but I think it to be part of a healthy discussion on a very real issue. The reality is that every year brings new wrinkles to many denominations' self-identification as traditional or progressive bodies and adjustment to longstanding practices. Stretching out all the undulations of these changes to see what is actually happening inside these communities makes vouching for the "validity" of their baptisms nearly impossible. Is it really incumbent on the parish priest to look through annual committee reports, prayer books, and God-help-us YouTube videos to determine if the baptism was Trinitarian or even involved water at all?

There will be a time not far in the future when we will simply raise our hands in a stopping motion and say, "No. This cannot continue. All must be baptized." Even if you disagree with the premise that recognition of heterodox baptisms is an end-run aimed at Vatican II ecclesiology, there is much to recommend the below paper. It's long (as it should be considering the topic), but worth your time.

( - With the push for a pan-Orthodox acceptance of the Pre-Synodical text, “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World,” a century long process of distortion of Orthodox ecclesiology is coming to fruition. Insomuch as the Pan-Orthodox Council accepts the erroneous teaching that heretical ministrations are mysteries of the One Church, so much so will it acquiesce to the adoption of a new ecclesiology.

In this lecture, in the brief time allotted me, my intention is to succinctly present the origins of this erroneous teaching, two of the pillars of the new Vatican II ecclesiology which largely rest on this teaching, the adoption of this error by Orthodox ecumenists and the attempt to secure pan-Orthodox reception of it via the pre-Synodical text on the heterodox.


A paper delivered at the Theological-Academic Conference
"The Great and Holy Council: Great Preparation without Expectations,"
March 23, 2016 in Piraeus, Greece

1. The Post-Schism, Western Origins of the Acceptance of Heretical Baptism Per Se

The historical origins and development of the idea that the Church shares the “one baptism” with heretics, and that, indeed, this is the basis for recognition of the “ecclesial nature” of heresy, lie exclusively in the West, and indeed in the post-schism West. Although it cannot be denied that the peculiar Latin sacramental theology owes much to Blessed Augustine, the decisive break with the patristic consensus on heretical baptism came with the views of Thomas Aquinas.

Thomas Aquinas, in developing the medieval doctrine of Baptismal character cites Blessed Augustine as his main source. Aquinas’ use of the term "character" is, however, quite different than Augustine’s. For Aquinas, "character" is an indelible mark on the soul, which can never be removed. For Augustine it is an external sign. He is “referring quite literally to a mark on the body, and using it as an analogy to explain the validity of the sacred sign of Baptism.” His theory is based upon the idea that the external sign of Baptism can be possessed by someone who is actually internally alien to the body of the Church and so bereft of the sacrament’s effectiveness. This difference has grave implications for the meaning of sacramental efficacy.

For Aquinas the Baptismal character produces spiritual effects and is sealed on the soul of all who are validly baptized. The sign, therefore, simply on account of being externally valid brings about an enduring effect on the soul. This is exactly what does not happen in Augustine’s theory: valid sacraments can be and many times are totally without spiritual efficacy. In this teaching of Aquinas we may have the first step toward the full, conciliar acceptance at Vatican II of the presence and workings of the Holy Spirit in the mysteries of the schismatics and heretics...
Complete article here.



    The long version of the research behind this paper (which was also the subject of Fr. Peter's Phd dissertation). Thought the book might be of interest for those wanting more detail.

  2. There's a lot to agree with in here, but the hermeneutic employed is positivistic and his readings in particular of Augustine and Aquinas seem tenuous. In any case, the grand irony is just how scholastic and Latinized the author's ecclesiology actually is. Conflating the canonical and charismatic boundaries of the church terminates in papalism. This is one of the healthy observations made by Afanassiev in his essay "The Church which Presides in Love." While I would not go so far as to say this paper is "fundamentalist" (as it aims to be nothing but Orthodox), and while I agree that this conversation is healthy, I would suggest that neurotic posturing like this paper suggests is not. It is rather symptomatic of Orthodoxy's identity crisis is the midst of a highly pluralistic world where the name "Christian" has been emptied of objective content, or so it seems.

    1. The article does not delve into, let alone examine at any length, the views if Augustine, hence it is a wonder how one could state the author's reading of him is tenuous. For the author's reading of Blessed Augustine's understanding of Heretical baptism you will need to read the book linked above.

      The canonical and charismatic boundaries of the Church are not only not conflated but the are identified in the ancient church and Orthodox Church, as is attested to by many contemporary Orthodox Scholars and saints, such as St Justin Popovich, Biahop Athansius Yevtuch, Fr. John Romnides but even Met. John Zizoulas in his doctoral thesis, even if he later diverts from this and claims that Bl. Augustine did not hold this. The canons of the Church would be rendered void and meaningless if this were not the case. The contemporary idea and expression - "canonical and charismatic boundaries" - seems to have its origins, at least in the Orthodox Chutch, with Fr. George Florovsky's "Limits" article. Is there any ancient author of authority that speaks in such a way about the Church?

      There is indeed an identity crisis among some Orthodox Christian theologians, mainly those in the West, but it certainly does not stem from any commitment to Orthodox ecclesiology but rather an uncritical acceptance of contemporary academic theology's speculations and development of a "theology of schism", an endeavor which began at least at the beginning of the last century in the West, mainly among Anglicans and later Latins. In my book, I cite the following comments of Fr. Alexander Schmemman, made years before Vatican II, but quite applicable to Yves Congar's approach, in this regard:

      "The attitude of the majority of contemporary theologians to the fact of division is very different from the attitude of the Eastern Church at the time of the Ecumenical Councils and in Byzantium. It may be said that contemporary theologians seek above all to discover the meaning of division and wish paradoxically to determine what might be called the theological status of division. How is division possible, what happens to the Sacraments in a Church or a community separated from what is supposed to be the true Church, what is the validity of their orders— these are the questions raised today. It seems to me that all these questions, which ‘a theology of schism’ attempts to answer, are fundamentally connected with the Roman conception of the Church as one universal organism and can arise only out of Roman presuppositions. A theology of schism is a product of the desire of theologians to find a place for the Church where, according to their own presuppositions, there should be no place for her. But the whole trouble is that, from the Orthodox point of view, these questions are unanswerable, because the whole problem is falsely posited, and formulated in the wrong terms. This may best be proved by the fact that neither the early Church nor the Church of the period of the Ecumenical Councils ever raised these questions, and in contemporary Orthodox theology they are a product of Roman and, generally, Western influence.” Fr. Alexander Schmemann, “Unity, Division, Reunion in the Light of Orthodox Ecclesiology,” address given at the Annual Conference of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius at Abingdon, England, in August 1950 (Θεολογία, KB), 243– 54.

    2. "The article does not delve into, let alone examine at any length, the views if [sic] Augustine"

      What a puzzling claim. The article describes the views of Augustine regarding sacramental character and contrasts them with the views of Aquinas and goes on about it for several paragraphs.

    3. Compared to my book, which examines it over several chapters.

    4. Your blessing, Fr. Peter.

      "The canonical and charismatic boundaries of the Church are not only not conflated but the are identified in the ancient church and Orthodox Church, as is attested to by many contemporary Orthodox Scholars and saints..." I think one could make a similar claim about papal supremacy. The question here is not so much one of precedent but of what you mean by "an ancient author of authority." This is a question of hermeneutics, not mere historical research. It's one thing to say St. Irenaeus inter alia identifies the canonical and charismatic limits of the church over and against the many and varied gnostic sects of his day ("canonical" and "charismatic" thus identified as apostolic fidelity). It's less clear in our subsequent canonical history how we are to regard the sacraments in particular of the Roman Catholic Church and those churches in communion with Rome, or even the Oriental Orthodox for that matter. It's simply a different question. Facile dismissals such as "an inability to crucify the intellect" (an odd Cartesian, even Apollinarian, turn for Orthodoxy theology) or casting the blame on "academic theologians" is pure gnosomachy.

      Please forgive my forwardness. I realize you chose to write on an exceedingly difficult and touchy topic which will draw commendation and criticism from various corners of the Orthodox world. I ask only that you acknowledge its difficulty and complexity, and not pretend to present a consensus within Orthodox tradition that does not exist, or which burden of proof - if it is to be demonstrated as a truly authoritative consensus - lies with you. I pray your offering generates fruitful and, above all, charitable, discussion.

  3. Yes, I was going to add that the readings of Augustine and Aquinas are rather silly, but the same is also true of reading Congar and Vatican II. Quoting problematic theologians who do not represent official teaching, namely Sullivan, is to read VII in the light of its worst possible reception. That is not how Dominus Jesus, for example, defines the ecclesiology of VII. "Subsisit in" too has been interpreted in what I'd think should be a sense wholly unobjectionable to Orthodox ears: it indicates that the Church subsists in a distinct proper subject, of which there is not more than one, but that the accidents of the Church (e.g., effects of the Church's prayers or the visible elements of the apostolic faith or sacramental economy) might not be limited to its visible boundaries. Thus, I think it is also tendentious to read that claim from VII as if it meant there was one Church in many distinct subjects.

    But, more on point, it seems as if the same distinction between validity and fruitfulness the author attacks is (inconsistently) employed by the author himself. Why could certain baptismal forms, retaining apostolic form, be required for kath'oikonomia acceptance? Why not Mormon baptism? Naturally, because there is something important about the nature of the sacrament left in utilizing the apostolic form. Here the Catholic theology of sacramental efficacy seems to be implicit: the mere use of the correct form by a heretical or schismatic priest does not constitute more than the sacramental sign (and the character), and so does not give grace (unless, for example, the person was invincibly ignorant that it was a heretical/schismatic priest). The acceptance of the baptism by the Church causes the "vivification" of the grace that should have initially accompanied the sign. The only way for the author to deny this requires what seems to me a heretical conception of the Church's juridical authority: if no baptism was even administered, the Church cannot supply it juridically by oikonomia. To think the Church can supply sacraments to people with merely a legal/pastoral declaration is particularly odd.

    1. Some Orthodox theology is never more scholastic, juridical, or legalistic than when it discusses the Church. We can rant all day about how salvation is not "merited", "imputed" or an otherwise legal reality, except in how it is administered sacramentally (apparently) by a canonical (i.e. legal) assembly.

    2. 1.

      I address Dominus Jesus in my book. The article here is necessarily short and thus DJ is beyond its scope. DJ is notable for the outrageous - from the Orthodox perspective - idea that something else beyond Christ in the Eucharist is necessary to make a particular church fully the One Church, namely the Pope and his juridical authority.

      Your distinction (or better separation) between the Church ("the distinct proper subject") and Her mysteries ("accidents, visible elements, sacramental economy") is unknown to Orthodox theology, for which "the Church is known 9n Her mysteries" (St. Nicholas Cabasilas). Elements outside the context of the Eucharistic synaxis of the Church are not the Church and do not communicate the life of the Church, for they do not unite the participants in them to the Person of Christ, Who assumed flesh and continues to exist in history as Incarnate. Orthodox ecumenists have stumbled upon this stone of offense, the scandal of the particular, and instead of crucifying their intellect on the cross of humility and trust they are intent on overturning the boundaries in order to enlarge the χωρα των αχωρητων and to broaden the "narrowness" of incarnation. 

      Indeed, this separation of the Church and Her elements, and in particular the idea that the elements outside Her boundaries (the unity of faith, mysteries, episcopate) are life_giving even when "autonomous" and outside their "organic" wholeness, was particularly important to Congar's theory and indeed to the development of the new ecclesiology at Vatican II. It is not surprising that this entire line of thinking is totally foreign to the Patristic vision but has its roots in John Calvin's "vestigae ecclesiae", which Congar creatively reworked into a positive assessment. (All of this is explored in my book)

    3. 2.

      As for the presuppositions of economy, which you would like to read through the lens of, or even liken to, Latin theology: We cannot ignore the τύπος, for we would be undermining the dogmatic consciousness of the Church and faith of the Church as to what constitutes baptism, but also our own faithfulness to the Master who taught us this. However, it is also apparent that the Fathers in Trullo, who were certainly following St. Basil the Great, did not think in the same way about heretical ministrations as did Blessed Augustine. For, St. Basil had no qualms allowing for oikonomia (practiced in Rome) but also, at the same time, calling for the baptism of these very same schismatics (who maintained the form). Thus, he shows he does not see the preservation of the "sign" or "sacrament" or τύπος as precluding baptism. The Church is free to ignore what the schismatics have done. This is the main difference and it is very significant. And, it seems to me, shows that the Fathers in Trullo did not think think in terms of "validity" in the same way as Bl. Augustine, but simply as a the retention of the form which then ALLOWED the Church - if the Pastors deemed it profitable - to exercise oikonomia and receive by other means than baptism. Yet, even this did not REQUIRE the Church to do so. . . .We cannot say that the presuppositions for oikonomia (i.e. triple immerson) can in any way be seen as limiting to the freedom of the Master. That is, we must see the matter in light of St. Paul's words: "all things are possible but not all things are profitable". It is possible for the Church to ignore the presuppositions it has laid down, but it may not be profitable. The Church lays down these presuppositions freely; they are not imposed. Christ, Who is both given and gives in Baptism, is totally free to receive even those which do not have the presuppositions. If He doesn't it is not because He cannot but it is not profitable. . . Is this not far from a legalistic view of the "validity of the "sacrament", or the form?

    4. 3.

      Bl. Augustine was the first to develop the idea of what constitutes the “valid” administration and the proper minister of Baptism. Namely, any Baptism which includes the proper element (water) and proper words (invocation of the Holy Trinity) is “valid.” The effect of the sacraments was later said to come by the very fact of being administered (ex opere operato). Since it is Christ who operates through them, their effectiveness does not depend on the worthiness of the minister. However, a sacrament may be “valid” without necessarily being efficacious for the recipient due to the obstacle of sin which has been erected. Therefore, for those outside of the unity of the Church, “valid” Baptism does exist but, on account of the sin of schism or heresy, there is no presence of the fruit of Baptism. Contemporary Catholicism teaches that “valid baptism is administered (in principle by anyone) by pouring (or sprinkling, or immersion) in natural water, at the same time designating the act of baptism (“N., I baptize thee…”) and invoking the Blessed Trinity (“in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”) with the intention of doing what the Church does when she baptizes” (Rahner and Vorgrimler, Concise Theological Dictionary (Burns and Oats: London, 1965), p. 47). When used within the Orthodox context, validity denotes a very different concept from how it is used by Roman Catholics and Protestants. The corresponding Greek word used by the Orthodox today in this context, κύρος (force or authority), could be better translated as authenticity (not validity). The basic Orthodox distinction is not between validity and efficacy but between authenticatable potential (or “validity” kat’ oikonomian) and authenticity (“validity” kat’ akriveian), without, however, the former being recognized as already genuine. The main difference lies in that authenticity cannot be acknowledged apart from unity. An authentic mystery takes place within the bounds of the One Church with full, not partial, fidelity to the faith and practice of the Church. The Orthodox resist the compartmentalization and fragmentation that requires only the intention of carrying out a particular sacrament, apart from the intention to maintain the entirety of the Church’s faith and practice. (See: Bailey, Charles-James N., “Validity and Authenticity: The Difference Between Western and Orthodox Views on Orders,” St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, 8 (1964), p. 86-92). Note that neither εγκυρότητα (validity) nor κύρος (force) are terms found in patristic texts with reference to the legitimacy of heretical baptism, which only goes to underscore the uniqueness of Bl. Augustine’s views on the subject and the very different context in which the discussion is carried out today. Likewise, “the scholastic distinction between ex opera operato and ex opera operantis is alien to Greek canon law, which instead presumes ex opera communionis” (Heith-Stade, David, “Receiving the Non-Orthodox: A Historical Study of Greek Orthodox Canon Law,” Studia canonica 44 | 2010, pp. 399-426 (p. 425)).

      In answer to your last two sentences concerning the limits of the Church, allow to write only this (for I have already written too much): The Church is Christ Himself. He is the Giver and the One Who is given. He is the Lawgiver, the
      '"Oikonomizer" and the Oikonomia, and yet not limited by His law, Oikonomia or commandments. He is the one Who said unless one is baptized in water and the Spirit He cannot inherit the Kingdom and yet the very same Lord said to the unbaptized thief on the Cross: today you will be with me in Paradise. 

    5. Fr. Heers,
      I am happy to be able to talk to you! I cannot respond in depth to every point you presented, but here are four thoughts:
      First, I want to encourage a closer reading of Augustine and Aquinas. I am not an expert on the former, but I know those who are and I am unconvinced that your reading represents his authentic thought. However, on Aquinas, I am more knowledgable, as my doctoral work is in that area, and I think your account (in the albeit condensed form of your essay) was a rather clear misreading of his theology. I would go further and offer that he is an exemplar of theology done in piety, humility, and holiness.
      Second, regarding Dominus Jesus, while on one hand it is obvious that an Orthodox theologian would be inclined reject the papal primacy (I leave aside whether primacy of some sort is required to constitute Eucharistic communion, but note that it seems to me that the papacy is not merely a juridical reality, as in Zizioulas or Ratzinger’s views on the subject), on the other it is NOT obvious that the particular ecclesiological points you mentioned as problematic are present in DJ. I think it is quite clear in particular that the interpretation of subsistit in that you offered is not present in official Catholic theology; I was thinking of the following when I offered my account: “With the expression subsistit in, the Second Vatican Council sought to harmonize two doctrinal statements: on the one hand, that the Church of Christ, despite the divisions which exist among Christians, continues to exist fully only in the Catholic Church, and on the other hand, that “outside of her structure, many elements can be found of sanctification and truth”, that is, in those Churches and ecclesial communities which are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church.56 But with respect to these, it needs to be stated that “they derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church” (16).

    6. But, beyond that mere affirmation, you seem to think that the view that the Mysteries are present outside of the Church is a problematic claim. While it is claimed later in DJ 17, it is neither logically required for the claim that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church, nor have I claimed that the Mysteries are present outside the Church (even though I think it perfectly compatible with Orthodox theology if in the sense of valid but not fruitful) because I realize such a view is contentious here. What I specifically said is that the accidents of Christ’s Church might be present outside of the visible bounds of the Church, in which I included the “visible elements of the apostolic faith or sacramental economy.” That is in fact all that is directly required of the phrase from Lumen Gentium that was quoted, and I phrased that in such a way as to accomodate, explicitly, the view that such are not authentic sacraments – but they are clearly “visible elements” of the sacramental economy or faith (e.g., people continue the apostolic forms of baptism, regardless of the effect).
      What I am, at least in part, gesturing towards is that you seem to me to mislocate what the problem is. I would in fact argue Catholic theology quite clearly holds that Eucharistic communion constitutes the Church, in the same sense that you intend; that was neatly enunciated at Vatican II. Here it is not as if Dominus Jesus makes any claims that, because there exist valid but fruitless baptisms, therefore the universal Church is an agglomeration of local churches. All that is said, essentially, is that there is something remaining of the teaching and signs of the Church outside its visible communion. I see no reason Orthodoxy has to deny that. It seems manifestly absurd to deny that non-Orthodox engage in prayer, or have the Bible, etc. But then the use of subsistit in is not problematic either. All it indicates is that certain proper elements of the Church’s faith remain in some sense outside of its visible bounds. We can argue whether they have any effect absent visible communion with the Church (another thing I find absurd to deny; e.g., those raised entirely outside Orthodoxy, but who seem to pray fruitfully), but this is not required logically in order to affirm the ecclesiological language of “subsistence.”

    7. Third, Trullo’s seems to be making an equivalent distinction to that between valid and unfruitful. I see no distinction in the canons that would permit your view; perhaps you could point out why it would be incompatible. That Trullo intended to “merely allow” the Church to not rebaptise is, I think, not present in the texts; their language is categorical. As I see it, the view that the Arians require chrismation alone is premised on the view that their baptism was administered according to apostolic form. That of the Sabellians was not, which required rebaptism. So far, that follows Augustine and Catholic theology.
      Many other fathers support the view of “valid” sacraments outside the visible bounds of the Church (after Augustine, both East and West), but that is beyond the scope of this reply. The point is that Basil cannot be the only rule of faith in this matter, as his own theological position is expressed as unsure, given that the Church had not universally decided on this at his time. I would, however, indicate that his position is able to be accommodated within Catholic theology – Catholics would hold that intention of the minister to do what the Church does is critical and this can extend to the sense of the faith. This is why Mormon baptism, despite being Trinitarian, is vitiated by the fact that they are tritheists and so invalid. Similarly, the Marcionite baptism could be vitiated if their faith/intent diverged significantly and so Basil could be correct in his reasoning to rebaptize the Marcionites, and simultaneously in agreement with classical Catholic theology.
      Fourth, it is not as if baptism “limits” God, but it DOES limit the Church. The Church cannot confer salvation except through the Mysteries. To countenance the view that the Church could confer baptismal effects by legal decree seems to me ridiculous. This is the only possible reason for thinking that oikonomia could “make up for” a non-existent baptism. If it IS existent in some sense, then we have a parallel distinction to “valid/unfruitful,” even if we diverge in details. This seems to me the only reason possible for why a preexisting authentic baptism is required to exercise oikonomia. If not, that requirement that a false baptism be administered with apostolic form prior to reception becomes a purely legal requirement that seems to undermine the whole reason for a sacramental economy. It would seem, in fact, harmful to souls if the Church had the power to confer baptism on anyone by legal decree and did not administer it to all. All of that, of course, is insane and contrary to the faith. Which leads me to believe there is a parallel distinction in play, that baptisms conferred by heretics or schismatics, while not giving grace to the recipients, do SOMETHING, even if we disagree on whether that is a spiritual character conferred “ex opera operato”.

    8. In (quick) reply to "StMichael":

      I am afraid it is impossible, due to my time constraints to add more than a few words to what I have said thus far. And, of course, these words will not be "enough" nor an answer to your questions and points. (If I find a moment of "down time" I may be able to add a thought or two more).

      Regarding DJ and the phrase "subsistit in" from Lumen Gentium, I give you the following comments from a professor at the University of Thessaloniki, a well known and extreme advocate of ecumenism with Rome, to consider:

      “The interpretation of [subsistit in] amounts to ‘Disiderat’ (Kasper) and includes amphoteric elements which accept twofold interpretations; it is at once inclusive and exclusive” (Τσομπανίδης, Ἡ Διακήρυξη Dominus Iesus, 122– 23).

      [And from my book, a footnote] It is not without reason, then, that many speak of a double standard and a two-faced stance on the part of Roman Catholicism. It may not be an accident that the Second Vatican Council, especially in the texts of Lumen Gentium and Unitatis Redintegratio, is the source for both those who advance an “exclusive” ecclesiology and those who advance an “inclusive” ecclesiology. “They use the same sources, but come to entirely different conclusions.” Τσομπανίδης, Ἡ Διακήρυξη Dominus Iesus, 82."

      - This is why I excuse many well meaning but ignorant Orthodox who counter my presentation of UR and LG and also understand why adherents of Catholicism, such as yourself, can hold to the views you espouse. In any case, such a possibility is precisely what the Oecumenical Councils and Holy Fathers sought to avoid when they issued their "ΟΡΟΣ". Unforunately, the "Great and Holy Synod" in Crete next month is being presented with texts which follow not the Councils but Vatican II in this regard, to the great detriment of many. . .

    9. I appreciate your reply, and I certainly understand your time constraints!

      I would just add that homoousios was equally misunderstood in the aftermath of Nicea, but that does not vitiate its precision in safeguarding the faith. In the case of the Catholic Church, it might be the case that some given a heterodox interpretation to "subsistit in," but it is also true that the Magisterial declarations on the matter make it clear that the technical and precise sense of the term is perfectly orthodox. There will always be the ignorant and unstable who distort even Scripture to their own destruction.

    10. This is a response to "StMichael"

      You are taking Fr. Heers to task for reading Dominus Iesus and Vatican II the way the mainstream of Catholic academic theology reads these. Instead you want him to read these according to a highly idiosyncratic "traditionalist" interpretation that you proffer that is itself at odds with the Vatican’s own take on Catholic doctrine (e.g. the existence of valid AND sanctifying and definitely not “inauthentic” sacraments outside the Church).
      I submit that at the very least this is extremely unfair. Orthodox theologians trying to make sense out of the terribly confusing world of contemporary Catholic theology cannot be faulted for taking the standard interpretation of Catholic doctrine by many of its most renowned theologians to be a reasonably accurate reflection of what it actually teaches.

    11. After Dominus Iesus, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued yet another declaration on ecclesiology in 2007 ( What it says about "substitit in" is perfectly in alignment with how Fr. Heers understands it:


      What is the meaning of the affirmation that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church?


      Christ “established here on earth” only one Church and instituted it as a “visible and spiritual community”[5], that from its beginning and throughout the centuries has always existed and will always exist, and in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted.[6] “This one Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic […]. This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him”.[7]

      In number 8 of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium ‘subsistence’ means this perduring, historical continuity and the permanence of all the elements instituted by Christ in the Catholic Church[8], in which the Church of Christ is concretely found on this earth.

      It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them.[9] Nevertheless, the word “subsists” can only be attributed to the Catholic Church alone precisely because it refers to the mark of unity that we profess in the symbols of the faith (I believe... in the “one” Church); and this “one” Church subsists in the Catholic Church.[10]


      Why was the expression “subsists in” adopted instead of the simple word “is”?


      The use of this expression, which indicates the full identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church, does not change the doctrine on the Church. Rather, it comes from and brings out more clearly the fact that there are “numerous elements of sanctification and of truth” which are found outside her structure, but which “as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity”.[11]

    12. I do not see how what you posted contradicts anything I have said. Perhaps you can clarify what you think that instruction might add to the conversation.

      The contrast, as I understand it, is that one potential view is that there are multiple churches and no Church of Christ on earth, except in an attenuated or metaphorical sense. This is not contained in VII nor is it implied by "subsistit in." That was my point. Instead, all of the official teaching quite clearly states, as what you posted, that there is only one Church on earth which, despite having effectiveness (of some sort; the Catholic position also involves heretics/schismatics of various kinds imparting sacramental character without sanctifying grace) outside of its visible boundaries, remains one concrete subject substantially identical with the Catholic Church.

      I am not reading anything on the sacraments contrary to mainstream Catholic theology (see Leeming, Principles of Sacramental Theology, if you don't believe me). The view that sacraments can be vitiated by the intent of the minister is the official Magisterial decisions in the past in regard to Anglican Orders (Apostolicae Curae) and now in regard to Mormon baptism (in a Dubium addressed to the CDF). While we might diverge in understanding how sacraments could be effective outside the visible boundaries of the Church, I do not think they sanctify apart from the Church. The circumstances in which they are effective in sanctifying someone technically in schism, results because the person intends to be part of the Church and not part of the schism. Consider the case of an Orthodox believer mistakenly receiving the mystery of the Eucharist from an Old Believer or Old Calendarist, without knowing that this priest was in schism. Did they receive the fruit of the sacrament or not? I would say "yes."

    13. This comment has been removed by the author.

    14. StMichael:

      You say this:

      “The contrast, as I understand it, is that one potential view is that there are multiple churches and no Church of Christ on earth, except in an attenuated or metaphorical sense. This is not contained in VII nor is it implied by "subsistit in." That was my point.”

      The problem is that you are trying to focus the discussion too much on “subsistit in” and the various ways it can be possibly understood while ignoring the larger issue, the ultimate target of Fr. Heers’ critique, namely, the Latin Catholic view of sacraments outside the Church. I don’t read him as asserting that the Catholic Church, by using “subsistit in”, now affirms that there is “no Church of Christ on earth, except in an attenuated or metaphorical sense”. Nowhere does he accuse the Latin Church of explicitly teaching this.
      You admit that “the Mysteries are present outside of the Church”, is affirmed by Dominus Iesus. In this case the fact that this is view is not “logically required” to uphold “subsistit in” is utterly irrelevant to the discussion. Crucially, Dominus Iesus, and therefore the Catholic Church, does affirm this view. Dominus Iesus 17 and the 2007 document on ecclesiology that I quoted above posit a view of sacraments outside the Church that is more generous about their ability to sanctify than you are willing to admit. It is disingenuous to assert that one can possibly claim that the sacraments outside the visible bounds of the Church are “not authentic sacraments” and (as you say in your latest comment) that “the Catholic position also involves heretics/schismatics of various kinds imparting sacramental character without sanctifying grace”, while saying along with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that churches and ecclesiastical communities outside the Catholic Church have “numerous elements of sanctification and of truth”. If these non-Catholic communities have “elements of sanctification” then it means they can sanctify. If they can sanctify then they can pass on sanctifying grace. Dominus Iesus 17 says that the baptism of these non-Catholic communities is capable of “incorporating in Christ”. What else is this but the ability to confer sanctifying grace?
      If you are merely saying that non-Catholic sacraments *sometimes* impart sacramental character without sanctifying grace, the same is true of Catholic sacraments – Confirmation or Ordination conferred on someone in mortal sin, for example. As for valid sacraments being vitiated by the intent of the minister, that is neither here nor there, as we are talking about sacraments celebrated with the proper intention.

    15. The claim made in Fr. Heers' paper was that the ecclesiological doctrine implies or is somehow intrinsically connected to the sacramental view of valid but fruitless sacraments. My point is that it is not.

      As to the sacramental, I did not say that the Mysteries are present outside the Church; I explicitly have qualified my statements on that numerous times.

      What has been the object of my critique is that it is to misrepresent Catholics as holding that sacraments outside the Church are "just as effective" as those within. That is ridiculous and disingenuous. Sacraments outside Catholic communion are not "authentic" sacraments in the sense intended by Fr. Heers - they do not give grace. The standard view is that those sacraments that impart a character, if done correctly, will impart that but NOT confer grace.

      The only cases where Catholics hold that they can give grace is in exceptional situations which Orthodoxy should equally admit (as I will explain).

      As for "numerous elements of sanctification," this phrase intentionally does not imply a sacramental system. It is intended to encompass anything an ecclesial body, including without Orders, might have that retains apostolic tradition. Sanctification in this case only refers generally to the possibility that, because any of those elements retain their holiness (for example, the Lord's prayer conduces toward sanctification in those who pray it well), people can attain sanctification through those means.

      In fact, it does not even imply that these give grace outside the Church! This is why it is explicitly buttressed against the qualifying claim that these effects, if sanctifying, only come about because they are effects of unity and communion with the Church (these would "derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church", DI 17). The person who would benefit from any of these elements, even the Lord's Prayer, could do so only because they have some implicit/explicit relationship of communion to the Church. Similarly, those "incorporated into Christ" by baptism would be those who are baptized both validly and fruitfully, but not strictly speaking "outside the Church" for the same reason.

      If someone authentically seeking the Orthodox Church were, by accident, to think that the schismatic group of Old Calendarists was that Church, why should we think that the sacrament will be de facto ineffective because the schismatic minister performed the baptism? If we did think it unfruitful, the effect of the sacrament depends on the holiness of the minister, which would be disastrous.

      Being "outside the Church" is not a matter of physical geography. Where you might differ is exactly how to construe it, but it seems to me perfectly reasonable to think there are people outside the visible Church who go wrong in going to a schismatic minister only by accident and so receive sacraments from them fruitfully. But that is entirely distinct from whether a valid sacramental character is given by a sacrament. One could deny (rashly) that anyone outside of visible communion received grace and yet affirm valid sacramental characters without any incoherence.

      It is non-controversial in Catholic theology that sacraments outside the Church do not give grace and that problems with intention can invalidate the sacraments. Dominus Jesus makes clear that a sacrament is fruitful if and only if there is communion with the Church. This remains and is clearly the official teaching of the Church and in VII's documents explicitly. I don't see any room to call this position a "moving target" when it is flagrant misunderstanding or the citation of heretical private theologians that leads people to suppose otherwise. I would hope we could overcome misunderstandings rather than focus on on caricatures of Catholic positions.

    16. Your response is so incoherent I do not even know where to start.

      In my response to you I clearly acknowledge that it is possible for sacraments to impart character but not grace. I merely pointed out that under some circumstances the same is true of sacraments inside the Church. As for Mysteries outside the Church, I allude to your position that denies these as giving grace. What I pointed out is that your position is in turn incompatible with what Dominus Iesus actually says – and this is important, as Fr. Heers’ critique is aimed at the official ecclesiological teaching of Catholicism today, and not at the idiosyncratic view that you espouse. And now to your latest response.
      And now to your latest response:
      1) It is clear to me that you are imposing on Dominus Iesus a restrictive, traditionalist, pre-Conciliar Latin view of sacraments that it itself does not espouse anywhere. DI does not say that “a sacrament is fruitful if and only if there is communion with the Church”. Nowhere does it make such a claim. What DI does say is that the “elements…of sanctification and truth”, “derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church”, a phrase you yourself have referred to a number of times.

      2) Your restrictive interpretation of the meaning of “numerous elements of sanctification” as not implying a sacramental system ignores the affirmations of Dominus Iesus about true particular Churches not in communion with Rome, and those that are are merely “ecclesial communities” because these latter “have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery” but nevertheless have baptism that still “incorporates in Christ”. While it is true that the phrase “elements of sanctification” does not of itself imply a sacramental system, it is dishonest to focus on this so much as to ignore the fact that Rome does admit the existence of sacramental systems outside its communion.

      3) On one hand you admit the existence of these “elements of sanctification” outside the Church, in line with Dominus Iesus, while trying to evacuate this affirmation of any real meaning by asserting that these same “elements of sanctification” do not give grace anyway to those outside the Church. If they do not give grace then there is no point calling them elements of sanctification. On the other hand you are not clear as to how your denial of the ability of non-Catholic sacraments to impart grace can coexist with the existence of valid baptism outside the Catholic Church – after all in Catholic sacramental theology a valid baptism is precisely one which imparts sanctifying grace to the one baptized. A valid baptism that imparts only a sacramental character and which incorporates into Christ without imparting sanctifying grace is a monstrosity of legalism and sophistry unknown even to Latin theology.

    17. Continued:

      4) The nice part of course is that despite going to great lengths to assert the absence of grace (in any meaningful understanding of the term) outside the Church and denying the existence of fruitful Sacraments outside the Church, you then turn around and speak of “implicit / explicit relationship of communion to the Church” that allows those who use the elements of sanctification to somehow benefit from them. You say that those incorporated by Christ into baptism are also not “strictly speaking outside the Church”: so, do you admit then that those validly baptized by Protestants are not “strictly speaking” outside the Church? After all it is precisely in reference to the baptism of “ecclesial communities” that are not “particular Churches” that Dominus Iesus speaks of baptism that incorporates into Christ? The “exceptionial situation” you propose wherein sacraments outside the Church can give grace is a meaningless exception, because it is the rule. Do you really think that all but a very few believers would knowingly and not “by accident”approach the Sacraments of something they know is not the true Church? In the end you do admit, despite of all your straining, that fruitful sacraments exist outside the Church.

      5) Lastly, calling Fr. Francis Sullivan SJ a “heretical private theologian” raises the question: by what authority do you say this, and why should someone like Fr. Heers take your word for it? Fr. Sullivan’s authority as an ecclesiologist in Catholic circles is beyond question. He is the same theologian under whom Cardinal Levada of the CDF received his doctorate. Not even Rome has dared to criticize him in any way with one of its toothless “notifications”. He may be somewhat identified with the “liberals” but that does not of itself make him wrong in his understanding of theological subtleties. I will go so far as to turn the tables and make the point that it is “liberals” such as Fr. Sullivan who honestly understand what Vatican II really says. It is writers such as yourself, with your strained attempts to square the circle of trying to interpret post-Vatican II teaching so as to put it entirely within the confines of pre-Vatican II teaching, who only end up exposing the semantic and conceptual morass that only gets deeper and deeper the more that Catholics try to prove that nothing has really changed in their theology.

    18. This is a (quick) reply to StMichael's comment:


      There are many quotes one could give to show that with Vatican II both the validity and efficaciousness of schismatic and heretical sacraments was recognized. You can read my book for dozens of these references. Here I will just paste a section from my book which introduces the main points contained in Unitatis Redintegratio:

      "In Unitatis Redintegratio we read that non–Roman Catholic Christians, 279 those “men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized,” are considered to be “in communion with the Catholic Church,” even if “this communion is imperfect” (3a). For, “all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ.” If they are thus incorporated into Christ, it follows, of course, that they “have a right to be called Christian,” and as Christians they are “accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church” (3a). If, then, these baptized Christians, truly brothers in Christ, are in communion with the Church, even if somehow only “partially,” it follows that not only some, but “even very many” of the “elements and endowments” that “build up and give life to the Church” “exist outside [its] visible boundaries.” These “elements” include “the written word of God,” 280 “the life of grace,” “the interior gifts of the Holy Spirit,” and many others (3b). This “life of grace” springs from the liturgical life and prayer of the “separated brethren” and is a life that opens up access to the assembly of those being saved (3c). It follows, then, that, in spite of their deficiencies, the “separated Churches and Communities” are in and of themselves281 important “means of salvation,” spiritually fruit-bearing because of their participation in the Church’s “fullness of grace and truth” (3d). The “sharing of divine life” (22a) to which the “separated brethren” have been admitted comes to them on the strength of their “duly administered” Baptism; by it they have been “truly incorporated into the crucified and glorified Christ.” It is because of their true Baptism that a “sacramental bond of unity” 282 has been established “linking all who have been reborn by it” (22b).

      These statements encapsulate the Decree’s teaching on the Baptism of the “separated brethren,” as well as the implications of this Baptism for both individuals and their church or community. In Unitatis Redintegratio, the standing of the “separated brethren” has been extraordinarily enhanced. Recognition of participation in the life of the Church was extended to them on essential levels. The Augustinian stance of only recognizing the validity of schismatic and heretical Baptism definitively became a relic of the past. The council abandoned this Augustinian legacy, which earlier had such a deep impact on Latin theology, and recognized the efficaciousness of schismatic and heretical Baptism per se (UR 3a). Insomuch that this new view was recognized in an ecumenical council, it was an unprecedented move which then opened up the possibility of recognizing the schismatic and heretical assemblies as “churches” per se (UR 3d). On the strength of possessing “ecclesial elements,” the first and foremost of which is Baptism, schismatic and heretical communions as such were now accepted as arks of salvation. As Cardinal Kasper has written, “for Vatican II, Baptism is the foundation for recognizing an ecclesial quality in the non-Catholic churches and church fellowships; it is the basis for the Catholic Church seeing itself as being in a real but not a full communion with the non-Catholic churches and communities.” 283 And, as Fr. Francis Sullivan has stressed, Unitatis Redintegratio grants “explicit recognition of the salvific role not only of the ecclesial elements and ‘sacred actions of the Christian religion’ found among our separated brethren (UR 3 b–c), but also for their churches and ecclesial communities as such (Ipsae Ecclesiae et Communitates).”

    19. Again, in reply to StMichael:

      This quote from the then Fr. J. Ratzinger may be of interest to us here, insomuch as it shows a conscious decision to avoid "tried and true" expressions dear to Christian ecclesiology from the time of St. Paul:

      "The first schema [on the Church] of 1962 still clung to the traditional scholastic formula which saw membership in the Church as dependent on the joint presence of three prerequisites: Baptism, profession of the same faith and acceptance of the hierarchy headed by the bishop of Rome. Only those who met these three requirements could be called members of the Church. Obviously this was a very narrow formulation. Other formulations were not necessarily excluded, yet the result was that the notion of “member of the Church” could be applied only to Catholics. With such an answer to the question of Church membership, it became very difficult to describe the Christian dignity of the non-Catholic Christian. His association with the Church was expressed only in the questionable concept of the votum Ecclesiae, meaning that non-Catholic Christians belonged to the Church by virtue of their “desire” to be a part of it. Since “Church” here obviously meant the Roman Catholic Church, it can easily be seen that such a description was insufficient. . . . Accordingly modifications were made in the text submitted in 1963 to the Council Fathers. The new text avoided the expression “member of the Church,” hallowed by long usage in Catholic theology. Use of this expression would have immediately aroused the scholastic theologians who saw this notion as necessarily including the three above-mentioned prerequisites. In view of these difficulties, the decision was taken to avoid this controversial term. The new text describes the relationship between the Church and non-Catholic Christians without speaking of “membership.” By shedding this terminological armor, the text acquired much wider scope. This made possible a much more positive presentation of the way Christians are related to the Church as well as a positive Christian status for Christians separated from Rome. The text submitted to the fathers in the fall of 1963 states therefore that multiple internal ties existed among Christians. Baptism was one such tie, as was . . . faith in Christ . . . common possession of other sacraments . . . an inner hidden unity in the Holy Spirit . . . [and] as another bond of unity the common possession of sacred scripture."

      -- Ratzinger, Theological Highlights of Vatican II (New York: Paulist Press, 2009), 102– 104 (emphasis added).

      Gregory Baum echoes Ratzinger’s comments in his article “The Ecclesial Reality of the Other Churches,” written shortly after the council. While noting that the Theological Commission to the Council held that “all the baptized are in some way incorporated in the Church,” he also notes that “the word ‘member’ and the notion of ‘membership’ have been avoided in the Constitution . . . for it was believed that this theological concept, variously understood in different theological systems, does not really help us in giving an account of the ways in which Christians participate in the mystery of the Church.” Baum, “Ecclesial Reality,” 71.

    20. Since this is getting unmanagable and I think comboxes are not terribly appropriate for this sort of discussion, I will make this my last reply. Again, Fr. Heers, good to hear your reply.

      I think what is being missed is that the question of the validity of sacraments outside the visible Church does not seem to be playing any significant role in making the ecclesiological point. Consider: if you denied the valid/fruitless possibility and affirmed, instead, that there were implicit votae Ecclesiae outside the visible Church. Then it seems quite possible to affirm an authentic sacrament outside the visible bounds of communion even without the validity distinction. So it's not playing any critical role in what you see as the problematic ecclesiological doctrine. Rather, the question is what constitutes membership in the Church.

      Ratzinger is making the question of the relationships of communion to the Church explicit (although you might recall his positions changed after that book cited). I could point to texts where it continues to be affirmed that sacraments are valid but inefficacious in general when administered in true schism/heresy (it is quite false VII denied that); instead, the main question is what constitutes formally the sin of heresy or schism which would lead to their lack of fruit. The ecumenical documents are pointing to questions that a group can be technically schismatic or heretical but have some relationship to the true Church (e.g., a state of affairs can exist which is technically schismatic, but a person in that group can be inculpable or have true faith in the Church).

      This is why it not a valid move to say that, because churches of other groups are recognized as churches if they have preserved apostolic succession (or ecclesial communities if all they preserve are baptism or less), then they are salvific PER SE as schismatic or heretical. In fact, the doctrinal emphasis is that they are not said to be salvific "because" heretical or schismatic, but "in spite of" - any efficacy they have only results because of the Church, so that individuals in the ecclesial group participates in the salvation offered by the one Church (this is phrased positively, to encourage unity, but the distinctions are clear). Sacraments would be in these cases salvific, if they are, only insofar as they participate in the saving communion of the Church; "[they] derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church" (UR 3). Or, generally, "For it is only through Christ's Catholic Church, which is "the all-embracing means of salvation," that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation."

      This extension of communion is most what is at issue, and the talk of sacraments is a red herring. While it would take too long for me to defend the position, it seems to me that a desire for the Church, either explicit or implicit, that could constitute a relation of communion with the Church is directly biblical - the centurion Cornelius being a prime example. But at least, before debating that point until we get blue in the face, it should be clear that the sacramental theology has little to do with where you think VII went wrong. It is instead that we differ on how one should understand a desire for communion with the Church, expressed outside of visible communion with Her. The Catholic Church understands that desire as constituting an imperfect but real communion, which can lead to salvation if the person is in an otherwise inculpable position (e.g., invincible ignorance of the schism).

  4. The Lord bless you!
    It is almost always a question of hermeneutics, is it not, especially when we are dealing with our experience of Christ in the mysteries in the Church. For the reason the issue at hand is both so vital to both the life and mission of the Church and so confused today, I this age of extreme secularization and loss of the Orthodox ethos.

    As Fr. John Romanides points out repeatedly, already in the 1950s, our ecclesiology is that which was already expressed by St Ignatius of Antioch. It is unchanged and unchangeable, regardless of the sect or heresy or schism which stands opposed. St Irenaeus' views on the Church are not so conditioned by the particular Gnostics of his day to render them inapplicable to the Latins, for they stand on their own and are a part of the timeless witness of the experience of the Church of the Resurrected Body of Christ.

    There was nothing facile or superficial about my description of contemporary academic theologians spiritual shortcomings. I speak from the experience of 15 years among the theological department of the Univ of Thessaloniki. Our problem is precisely the rise of Barlaamian methods of theologizong within our academic and the predominance of such theologians in the episcopal decision making bodies. In this we have followed Vatican II and their reliance on the "experts" from the schools.

    I write and stay up late here in Greece precisely because I realize not only that there is no consensus today among Theologians and clergy, but indeed that the dominant view today is that which originates from the heterodox world. Yes, there is difficulty for many to understand and it is complex, in many ways, but this is due mainly to our own alienation from the experience of the Saints, where one must begin if he is to interpret matters in an Orthodix manner.

    I do not agree that there is no consensus within the Orthodox tradition, however, for the voice of Tradition is that of the Paraclete, a voice which always sings in tune and perfect harmony in every age. It is there to be discovered by us, but not for us to discover it. Like all dogma, the teaching of the Church about Herself has been made known to the Saints experientially, lived and taught implicitly. If it is misunderstood or doubted today this is because we ourselves have become distanced or alienated from this narrow way.

    I, too, pray for a fruitful and charitable engagement of what the Lord has offered us. May it be blessed.

  5. Why is this topic always to divisive? A number of truly bizarre ideas floating around both in the facile view of ecumenism and the convoluted stance of "traditionalism".

    The Church has the power to bind and loose. Full stop.

    Yes, people can be received by Baptism, that is the way one joins the Church.
    Yes, people can be recieved by full Chrismation which imbues Grace upon and into.
    Yes, people can be received by Confession of Faith.

    What a truly inane idea that the Church should always hold itself to akrebia on some canons and oikonomia on others. The Church was not made for the canons, the canons were made for the Church.

    Fr. Alexis Baldwin, Priest in Charge, Holy Resurrection Mission North Augusta

    1. Is your comment directed toward some point or points made in the article? If so, would you be able to be more specific, please?

      Thank you.

      Fr. Peter Heers

    2. Christ is Risen!

      Dear Fr. Peter,

      I often speak as if thinking aloud while working through a question. This can cause confusion because the thoughts are usually interpreted as final assertions.

      Personally, I don't find a lot to dialogue about on this topic and little to discuss. I am very interested in the historicity of hierarchal and pastoral practice on this topic. What I find quite boring is the back and forth between heterodox leanings and obtuse traditionalism that often forms around the topic.

      If you and I sat down, I think you'd find there is little/no disagreement between ourselves.

      I am extremely happy that you have deeply studied the theological perspective of those under the Pope of Rome. Nearly none that I know have done this (In my experience those who often write against them so thoroughly are usually former Roman Catholics).

      Aside from that, I have little to add to these discussions.

    3. Fr. Alexis, that isn't exactly correct. The Horos of 1755 states: "They are useless waters, as St. Ambrose αnd St. Athanasius the Great said. They give nο sanctifιcation to such as receive them, nor avail at all to the washing away of sins. We receive those who come over tο the Orthodox faith, who were baptized without being baptized, as being unbaptized, and without danger we baptize them in accordance with the Apostolic and synodical Canons, upon which Christ's holy and apostolic and catholic Church, the common Mother of us all, fιrmly relies."

      The phrase "without danger we baptize them" is of particular importance. This decree is stating that the combination of the filioque plus the ritual defect of a single immersion make baptism invalid (cf Eunomian baptism in Constantinople 7 and Trullo 95). On this basis, there is no spiritual harm to the priest who "rebaptises" since there was no baptism to begin with.

      This is being written in a context where the clear consensus was that *some* baptisms outside the Church are valid and that to repeat them is a danger to the minister of baptism.

      While I think the Oros is problematic (namely, it is grossly recontextualizing the canons), one cannot escape the reality that the canon is precisely expressing traditional validity/invalidity reasoning. Further, the church's authority of binding and loosing does not apply to rebaptism; and never has. The church cannot, say, receive by chrismation or profession of faith a Muslim, Hindu or Atheist without baptism. These must be baptized and no bishop has authority to do otherwise. It is no different with accepting a valid baptism: a bishop has no authority to do otherwise.

    4. Nathaniel, Thank you for comment. Did you perhaps have time to read the original post? There you'll find this (especially paragraph 3), which is pertinent to your comments (forgive me for re-posting here, but perhaps others have missed this, as well):

      ~ " The canon (95 of Trullo) speaks of accepting, not recognizing, the baptism of the schismatic. There is a significant difference. The first, acceptance, is used in the context of the return of particular persons in repentance, that is, with respect to pastoral management of their salvation. The second, recognition, as employed by Metropolitan Chrysostom and Professor Tsompanides, is used in relation to schismatic and heretical groups as such, that is, with respect to ecclesiology.[42] In the first instance, the context is the acceptance of a returning heretic, whereas in the second instance the context is the recognition of the baptism of the heterodox group per se. Hence, the phrase “‘kat’oikonomian’ recognition of the ‘reality’ and ‘validity’ of baptism” is an unacceptable and misleading mixture of pastoral theology with ecclesiology. There is no such thing as “‘kat’oikonomian’ recognition” of Baptism, only “kat’oikonomian" acceptance.

      The phrase is also shown to be foreign to the patristic mind insomuch as it refers to recognition of the “reality” and “validity” of heretical baptism, that is, recognition per se. In the canons of the Church you will not find heretical Baptism referred to in this manner. For example, in his 47th canon,[43] Saint Basil attributes the practice of Rome in accepting certain heretics without Baptism to some need for oikonomia (οἰκονομίας τινὸς ἕνεκα), but nonetheless insists on Baptism, despite the fact that they baptised in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. By at once allowing for oikonomia and yet calling for Baptism the Saint excludes the possibility of recognizing the Baptism of schismatics and heretics per se.

      When, in later synodical decisions or patristic texts, during the second millennium, Latin Baptisms are referred to as valid, this, properly speaking, is referring to whether or not the form or τύπος of Baptism, namely three-fold immersion, had been retained.[44] The purpose of recognizing a Baptism as “valid,” that is, in the case of the Latins, as done by immersion, was to determine if the presuppositions for oikonomia existed, not to recognize it per se.[45] In exercising economy the Church does not recognize the “reality” of heretical ministrations,[46] but only examines its validity in the sense of retaining the apostolic form.[47] Therefore, there is no basis, and it is once again misleading and a departure from the Orthodox phronema, to speak of recognition of the “reality” and “validity” of heretical baptism. If there is talk of “recognition” of the ministrations of heretics it is only in the sense of it being validly, i.e. properly, carried out in the apostolic manner. ***This is for the purpose of determining the possibility—not the necessity—of reception by oikonomia, as is clear in St. Basil’s 1st and 47th canons.***

    5. continued (response to Nathaniel)...

      "The misunderstanding or rejection of the kat’oikonomian practice of accepting heretical or schismatic Baptism is at the root of the adoption of the new ecumenical ecclesiology among ecumenist-minded scholars. They fail to grasp that the oikonomia of the Church is essentially the freedom of the Church's Head to work salvation in the midst of the Church as He sees fit (if, indeed, it is oikonomia and not simply paranomia (illegality)). The Lord, Who said all must be baptized of water and of the Spirit (Jn. 3:5) to enter the Kingdom of God also said to the unbaptized thief on the cross, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise (Lk. 23:43). Moreover, many martyrs were baptized in their blood and not water, and others who were hung or died some other bloodless death. Thus, it is clear that the Lord is not bound by His own commandments and is free to work his divine oikonomia in the midst of His Church.

      Yet, this is the key: in the Church. Oikonomia, which is not without presuppositions, can never be a basis for ecclesiology, just as the Lord's freedom can never be pitted against His own commandments. Oikonomia does not equal recognition of mysteries per se. This is, however, exactly what some of the authors of the text in question would like the pan-Orthodox Council to endorse. They are pushing for pan-Orthodox recognition of another vision of the Church, a heretical vision, that which has already been accepted by Vatican II and many in the WCC. Now it should be plain to all that rejection of the akriveia-oikonomia interpretative key of our pastoral practice leads inevitably to a heretical vision of the Church." ~

    6. "Yet, this is the key: in the Church. Oikonomia, which is not without presuppositions, can never be a basis for ecclesiology, just as the Lord's freedom can never be pitted against His own commandments. Oikonomia does not equal recognition of mysteries per se. This is, however, exactly what some of the authors of the text in question would like the pan-Orthodox Council to endorse. They are pushing for pan-Orthodox recognition of another vision of the Church, a heretical vision, that which has already been accepted by Vatican II and many in the WCC. Now it should be plain to all that rejection of the akriveia-oikonomia interpretative key of our pastoral practice leads inevitably to a heretical vision of the Church."

      Just an excellent summation Fr. Peter, excellent! What could I add? Nothing!

    7. Fr. Peter, your argument politely sidesteps mine. I am not the only person to notice that you perpetually refuse to engage any challenge to your position but merely restate it.

      My argument was that the bishops who promulgated the Oros of 1755 held that there is a danger in re-baptizing people that already possess a valid baptism. This document does not in any way evince the theology of economy/strictness. You have not refuted this point in any regard, so I assume that you stipulate it.

      In order to accomplish your thesis, you need to demonstrate that St. Basil actually teaches the economy/strictness distinction (he doesn't; he just uses the word economy in a different way than you suggest) and then you have to demonstrate that this distinction was used as the basis for all future decisions of baptismal policy (it wasn't).

      St. Basil's clear intent is to provide a judgment on three groups for whom there is no canon. Regarding the Novatianists, he admits there is a canon already (Nicea 8). However, this does not apply to the three groups in question. What is notable is that he evinces the *reasoning* behind the Novatian canon: the Trinitarian name. He then defines that this reasoning doesn't apply in this case because these groups make a distinction between God and the Father like the Marcionites. That is, the Trinitarian formula cannot apply when they aren't Trinitarians. St. Athanasius already makes this argument regarding the Paulianists. Further, St. Basil already demonstrates that he is aware of the baptism name debates in On the Holy Spirit 12.28.

      St. Basil is just a normal 4th century thinker for which the names used in baptism is the primary criteria and for which corner cases are now arising. The Church, including Rome, settles on a second criteria - that of both Basil and Athanasius - that the mention of the Trinitarian name must also include the Trinitarian meaning. In fact, it was on this ground that Rome recently ruled Mormon baptisms invalid.

      St. Basil's use of (οἰκονομίας τινὸς ἕνεκα) is just a reference to the local traditions of Rome regarding their own custom. It doesn't have any more meaning than that; and certainly not the entire economy/strictness distinction you anachronistically claim. It is not even clear that Rome actually had a rule regarding these three groups (which had no prominent membership in Rome). St. Basil is just preemptively countering the argument in case they did so as not to open himself to accusation. Thus, St. Basil cannot be understood here to be refuting an established rule at Rome; he is just trying to avoid a repeat of the situation under Firmillian.

    8. TO Nathaniel,
      First of all, I did not realize that this is Nathaniel M. writing. Secondly, I just saw this post. Thirdly, I wasn't side-stepping anything but adding to the discussion. Fourth, it is incumbent upon you, who are introducing your own, unique and new interpretation of St. Basil to show that this view has been the consistent view of the Church since the first millennium. For, as you probably know, I am following the overwhelmingly dominant view of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and not only (indeed the entire Greek Orthodox world), on the akriveia-oikonomia distinction. All writers on this subject that I have read in Greek agree (or, rather, don't even question for a minute) that St. Basil is making this distinction, nor do they even come close to making the claims that some Western Orthodox scholars of the Russian tradition make, namely, that this is an innovation which began with the Kollyvades. And, to bring this up to date and show that it is the dominant view across the board in Greek speaking Orthodoxy, it is shared by both those who are proponents of ecumenism (such as +Met. Chrysostomos of Ephesus in his well known book, but all those I have read writing for the Pat. of Constantinople) and those who are opposed to the new ecclesiology of ecumenism (Zisis, Metallinos, etc.). There is NO DEBATE on the akriveia-oikonomia distinction. Again, for example, the idea (presented by Prof. Erickson and others) that Canon 47 of St. Basil has been tweaked or distorted and what we have today is not the original is not even entertained here. When I asked professors at the theological school about this, they didn't even know there was such an idea. So, at least in my experience, here in Greece, for the last 18 years, I have never heard anyone ever question the oikonomia-akriviea distinction, let alone call it anachronistic. In light of this, it seems to me it falls upon those who are saying this (which appears to be coming from Western sources) to show why we should doubt the consensus of the Church and doubt the interpretation of the Holy Fathers and the Church here for the past 400-1000 years (if you include the canonists of the 12th and 13th centuries). You have given us your view, no substantiate it by posting quotations from Fathers of the second millennium which concur.

    9. #2 to Nathaniel,

      You wrote:

      -- the bishops who promulgated the Oros of 1755 held that there is a danger in re-baptizing people that already possess a valid baptism. This document does not in any way evince the theology of economy/strictness. You have not refuted this point in any regard, so I assume that you stipulate it. --

      Lest you continue to assume such an untruth, allow me to be clear. I do not stipulate it in the least, nor does anyone I know here, including Met. Hierotheos (Vlachos) who, in fact, issued last month a 5 page examination of the 1755 Oros basing himself upon ecumenist-minded scholars of the Patriarchate who had written extensively on the subject supporting the universally held view vis-a-vis akriveia-oikonomia. It is apparent that the Metropolitan used these sources to drive home the point I made to you above: that even those pushing the ecumenist agenda don't question the traditional view of 1755 and the akriveia-oikonomia distinction, even while they - paradoxically! - also push the ecumenist ecclesiology which would see Rome as a church with mysteries.

      I believe the reason why some are misinterpreting the 1775 decision of the Patriarchs is because they are misreading what the term "valid" means for them. It simply refers to, as I wrote above, the τυπος of baptism, a prerequisite for oikonomia. So, they are saying, following St. Nikodemos and the Kollyvades Fathers, that the perogative of oikonomia has presuppositions and since the Latins have abandoned even the apostolic τυπος there is no basis for oikonomia. To do so would undermine the Church's dogmatic teaching on what a baptism is and thus ultimately threaten both Her mission and Her unity (as is happening today!).

    10. You have not engaged with my argument at all, but merely restated your opinion (again).

      Is there danger in repeating baptism for those who have the τυπος of baptism or not? The Oros of 1755 says there is. The economy/strictness distinction says there is not. Which is it?

      I am neither driving "ecumenist ecclesiology" (I have actively written against it; seriously, google it) nor am I a student of Erickson. I am only interested in one thing: truth. And the truth is that the economy/strictness distinction is a modern invention that is simply popular today. It has no basis in antiquity. Rather, the truth is that to repeat a baptism where the τυπος of baptism is present is spiritually dangerous; a point even St. Basil recognizes. Its canonical penalty is deposition because it is to deny the "on baptism" of the apostolic deposit. And not even so great a bishop as St. Dionysius of Alexandria dared to do it. And this principle is attested by the Greeks at late as 1755.

      That traditionalist Greeks then use this novel theology against their duly appointed authority (the Patriarch of Constantinople) speaks volumes to me; and should to others.

  6. Also, let us never forget, the Theology of those under the Pope of Rome is a moving target Theology (this is, FWIW, a quote from a former Jesuit now Orthodox Archpriest).

    Try hitting a moving target sometime...pretty frustrating.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Catholic theology today is all about making the following claims and insisting that all of these are equally true.

      To Catholic Traditionalists: "Nothing has changed after Vatican II. We teach exactly what the Church taught before Vatican II. We only use nicer words!"

      To Eastern Orthodox: "We believe in exactly the same things. Pity you are too stupid and uncharitable to realize it. Nice icons though!

      To Protestants: "We love Martin Luther! We love the Reformers! Their insights are very Catholic! Too bad politics and semantics made them think they are different from us!"

  7. I'm not certin where on this thread (or even whether) to place this question, but doesn't "the Latin view" on the validity of Baptism "outside the Church" go back before St. Augustine, at least as far back as the 250s, when there was a controversy between Pope (St.) Stephen I of Rome and st. Cyprian of Carthage over that question?

    1. Yes. There were even North African voices against rebaptism.

      Hence, St. Dionysius of Alexandria says (to Pope Sixtus):

      Inasmuch as you have written thus, setting forth the pious legislation, which we continually read and now have in remembrance—namely that it shall suffice only to lay hands on those who shall have made profession in baptism, whether in pretence or in truth, of God Almighty and of Christ and of the Holy Spirit; but those over whom there has not been invoked the name either of Father or of Son or of the Holy Spirit, these we must baptise, but not rebaptise. This is the sure and immovable teaching and tradition, begun by our Lord after his resurrection from the dead, when he gave his apostles the command : Go ye, make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This then was preserved and fulfilled by his successors, the blessed apostles, and by all the bishops prior to ourselves who have died in the holy church and shared in its life; and it has lasted down to us, because it is firmer than the whole world. For, he said, heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

    2. Of course the Church knows where it is and its history.

      Fr. Peter has (as have many others over time) already answered the idea that one or two church fathers, or one or two canons definitively dictate in perpetutiy the exactitude of action concerning economic and akrebia.

      This is a very similar to the faulty argument that some how St. Gregory Palamas came up with a new theology, as if St. Athanasius, the Capppadocians, St. Cyril, St. Maximus, St. John of Damascus and numerous other fathers didn't speak clearly about Theosis. In a bizarre twist, some have even implied that the essence-engeries distinction is a heresy!?! What nonsense and drivel!

      It is the continuity of the continually lived Holy Tradition of the Church in the Holy Scriptures, the hymnography, the Divine Liturgies, the Holy Mysteries, the Church Fathers along with the canons and synods and Ecumenical Councils which are the witness of the Teachings of the Church.

    3. The Latin view does begin in the 3d century, but does not remain the same. The Latins, after the schism, depart from the the Augustinian view in subtle ways (which I discuss above and in my book) and then in very clear ways in 17th century and finally decisively in the 20th century, first in reaction to the Jasenists (17th c.) and then at Vatican II.

      Here is what Karl Adam wrote on this rejection of Augustine:

      We are not to regard these sacraments [of non-Catholics] thus administered outside the Church as being objectively valid only, and not also subjectively efficacious. Blessed Augustine seems to have held such a view regarding the efficacy of these sacraments. . . . The Jansenists in the seventeenth century followed Blessed Augustine and advocated the same erroneous opinion, setting it up as their principle that “outside the Church there is no grace” (extra ecclesiam nulla conceditur gratia). But again it was Rome and a pope that expressly rejected this proposition. The assertion that the Catholic Church of later centuries has developed the ideas of St. Cyprian and Blessed Augustine . . . is in contradiction with the plain facts of history. For the truth is that the later Church corrected the original rigorism of the ancient African theologian and maintained that God’s grace worked even outside the Catholic body. Non-Catholic sacraments have the power to sanctify and save, not only objectively, but also subjectively. It is therefore conceivable also, from the Church’s standpoint, that there is true, devout and Christian life in those non-Catholic communions which believe in Jesus and baptize in His Name. (Adam, The Spirit of Catholicism, 191).

  8. I think that St Augustine was the first to make an attempt to explain the theology behind an existing practice.