Friday, July 29, 2022

On the "corrective baptism" trend

Without name calling, I am going to say several of the young men of my parish have been approached with the offer of an "off the books" corrective baptism. No paperwork, no permission from me or the bishop, and no little headache for all involved. I'm going to go through my back-of-the-napkin analysis:

  • Did a priest put you through a period of inquiry and the catechumenate that involved an honest discussion of the baptism you received?
    • Example: I was baptized in a Catholic parish, but was never confirmed.
  • Did the priest, either under the clear regulations of his jurisdiction, or with the guidance of his bishop determine that your baptism met the requirements?
    • Example: I was baptized by X Protestant group when I was 13. I'm sure they weren't Unitarians, Mormons, or Scientologists.
  • Were you Chrismated?
    • Example: You went to church, got mentioned during the pre-coffee hour announcements, and smelled quite nice for a few days thereafter.
  • Then you are a member of the Church; the very Body of Christ.
To then receive communion, go to confession, and all the rest for years only to be told there is some defect to repair is destabilizing and contrary to reason. Further, to do so puts you in a place of discipline with your bishop - not to mention the peril the corrective baptism proffering priest puts himself in.

If you want to enter the Church and be baptized, the time to do so is before your Chrismation. You can't wave your right to an inspection for a home, purchase it, and then send the previous owner a bill for new carpet and a leak under the sink. You certainly can't invalidate the closing and do it all over for a new price.

I get the underlying anxiety and emotions involved, but the current trend of approaching young men like some kind of Honest John character needs to stop.


  1. I've had this debate far too many times, so i'm not looking for an insult laden slugfest. But for consideration. St. Basil's 2nd Canon makes it very clear that there are no valid sacraments outside the Church (and of course hes hardly the first or the only one to point this out). We confess one baptism. We dont believe in magic formulas that anyone can recite and force God to grant His grace.

    For those who immediately use the "what about emergency baptisms, anyone can do one" No. You would not ask a Wiccan, or a Muslim, or even a Catholic priest, to give you an emergency baptism into a church which they do not belong to. Only Orthodox Christians can administer that, and in the case of survival, a priest must be brought to finish things properly.

    Now to be clear. You don't have to be baptized to go to heaven. Fr. Seraphim Rose is a saint as far as i'm concerned, and he encouraged converts to be baptized, but he himself was only chrismated. But why would you ever deny someone the grace of baptism? I would never force someone to receive it, but meanwhile there is the other side who refuses to baptize anyone lest they offend the ecumenical progressive movement by pointing out there is a difference between our sacraments and theirs.

    Likewise for consideration, St. Nicodemos of Mt. Athos wrote explicitly on this subject, in favor of baptism, which is a large part of why Mt. Athos insists on baptizing anyone who wishes to become a priest and encourages converts to be baptized if they haven't. There have alwasy been concessions for the sake of economia and the salvation of individuals, but many have now turned the exception into the rule. Forbidding baptism to converts, a serious tragedy.

    All that being said. There are always extremists on all sides and people acting in bad faith. The OCA and ROCOR have even traded blows at local levels where priests have said if someone was coming from the other side, their baptism was invalid and needed to be redone. Sadly i've heard of this from both sides. Totally unnacceptable.

    Again, I dont believe in forcing anyone or condemning anyone for not receiving an Orthodox baptism, but neither would i ever discourage someone from receiving the grace of baptism from the Church.

    I will say however. If a Catholic priest can administer a valid baptism that bestows membership to the Body of Christ...why cant he give valid communion? Why are we separate? This is the foot in the door for ecumenism. Baptism is the same, so the priesthood must be the same, so all the sacraments must be equal. If not, explain why, and how and where you draw the line? And what saint or canon clarifies and vouches for your thinking?

    1. I would also look at the very long back and forth sections in the Rudder on which baptisms from which group they accept and which groups they do not. Take the Second Ecumenical Council for example:

      “As for those heretics who betake themselves to Orthodoxy, and to the lot of those being saved, we accept them in accordance with the subjoined sequence and custom: Arians, and Macedonians, and Sabbatians, and Novatians, those calling themselves Cathari (“Puritans”) and Aristeri (“Best”), and the Quartodecimans, otherwise known as Tetradites, and Apollinarians we accept when they offer libelli (recantations in writing), and anathematize every heresy that does not hold the same beliefs as the Catholic and Apostolic Church of God, and are sealed first with holy chrism on their forehead and their eyes, and nose, and mouth, and ears, and in sealing them we say: ‘The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.'”

      There are several listed of each. At issue here is not one strictly of the necessity of baptism. It is a bishop, priest, and catechumen chrismating someone and bringing him into the church only to change his mind and decide to be baptized. If you want to be baptized before chrismation, fine, talk to your priest and work it out. But do not seek out baptism outside of your bishop, clandestinely receive that baptism, and go about your day thinking you have done the right thing.

    2. "At issue here is not one strictly of the necessity of baptism. It is a bishop, priest, and catechumen chrismating someone and bringing him into the church only to change his mind and decide to be baptized. If you want to be baptized before chrismation, fine, talk to your priest and work it out."

      Sadly, there are many catechumens who beg their priest to receive them by baptism and are denied, despite the absence of canonical prerequisites for allowing their reception by chrismation.

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  3. Sadly, for many faithful Orthodox Christians the criteria you've enumerated was never applied, like all those that were received by Metropolitan Philip during the conversion of the EOC.) Even after almost 40 years former EOCers have told me that they can't shake the feeling that they need an Orthodox baptism. So, why is that?

    As you wrote, the practice is fraught with spiritual danger, not least of all to those who administer it. I would encourage those who want an Orthodox baptism to proceed, but with prayer and caution. Don't force the issue if the doors are shut for the present. God will open a way to baptism for those who are truly seeking.

  4. "...Even after almost 40 years former EOCers have told me that they can't shake the feeling that they need an Orthodox baptism. So, why is that?"

    The short answer is because they are sinners.

    They have certain thoughts (and "feelings" as you note) about what it means to be "in" the Church (the Body of Christ), sacraments, Grace and what it and the spiritual life should "feel" like, etc.

    They desire (and suffer it as a passion) a kind of spiritual safety and security, seeking a certainty of being "in" the Church (and thus "in Grace") and seek to find this certainty in formal*ism* - sacraments performed with a kind of ritual purity - "validity" "canonically" and other over-emphasis of the forensic mind and world view are used to verify or deny this spiritual certainty and safety.

    This passion is as old as mankind itself.

    1. You've just said that the desire for baptism is a passionate desire.

    2. Nope. You would make a poor lawyer (or logician). Read what I said again (and the OG post of our host), and see if you can make the relevant distinctions.

  5. Just watched the video by (Fr?? - is he still an ecclesial orphan?) Peter Heers. He says:

    "...I can't but see as consistent with the bomb of ecumenism..."

    Of course he can't, as he always (as so many like him) has that hammer in his right hand. Even if you agree with his theological/metaphysical take on what "ecumenism" is and what it means, would not his (and so many like him) propensity to put *everything* they see as "problematic" at its feet indicate that perhaps he is in a bit of a rut theologically/spiritually?

    In any case I am going to call my financial advisor on Monday and get his opinion as to how ecumenism is effecting my IRA...

    1. I already checked. The Catholics and Episcopalians are definitely responsible for the stock market's performance during the first half of the year.

  6. There are a lot of misconceptions about this topic. I have known many people who were baptized after having been chrismated who received a great deal of spiritual strength after baptism and continue to look upon that day with tremendous gratitude. Great contemporary saints and elders of our times who were full of the Holy Spirit have also required converts to be baptized if they had previously only been received by Chrismation. This has been standard among holy saints and elders on Mt. Athos, in Greece and in the Holy Land and elsewhere for quite some time. I know a convert priest from America who, after ordination to the priesthood, was required by a clairvoyant elder to be baptized when he wished to stay on the Holy Mountain. This is not a "modern trend". What does seem to be a modern trend is a kind of Neo-Papism within Orthodoxy. Whereas Papism ascribes infallibility to the Pope of Rome, and Protestantism results in the infallibility of the individual, this Neo-Papism ascribes infallibility to the individual bishop or priest even when they contradict the canons and when they are in disagreement with other priests and bishops. "Just follow your priest and bishop", some say, even if your priest or bishop preaches heresy and condones immorality.

    Priests and bishops vow to uphold the canons yet the canons do not allow for the reception into the Church of heretics who did not even receive the proper form of baptism while in heresy. This is why the 7th canon of the 2nd Ecumenical Council and the 95th canon of Trullo required the Eunomians to be received into the Church by baptism, specifically because they practiced a baptism with a single immersion. St. Nikodemos in the Rudder clearly explained that the Latins should be received by baptism because they are heretics and because they no longer practiced the proper form of baptism with three immersions in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The 1756 Council in Constantinople also decreed that all Protestants and Catholics should be received by baptism because they are heretics but also because they no longer practiced the correct form of baptism in three immersions as required by Apostolic Canon 50.

    When bishops and priests make mistakes, they bear the greatest responsibility, but it is not without harm to those affected. "Just follow your bishop" or "just follow your priest" no longer applies when the priest and bishop fail to follow the canons that they vow to uphold. In such cases they become false shepherds and blind leaders of the blind, leading their flock into a pit. We are called to be rational sheep, not blind followers without discernment. This is why all the saints and Fathers said to be extremely careful in selecting a spiritual guide lest we end up spiritually shipwrecked by following an incompetent captain.

    In ancient times, bishops were selected from among the holiest of monastics, whereas the bishops of today are often allergic to monasticism, having barely spent any time in a monastery, and are filled with all kinds of false teachings and immoral practices. St. Symeon the New Theologian said that even in his time bishops had become "good for nothing". If so then, how much more so today?

    We are called to follow the saints and Fathers, to seek out spiritual fathers who follow in their footsteps, and to only obey those above us to the extent that they uphold their vows to follow the saints and Fathers and the God-inspired canons.

    God has glorified among the saints many contemporary saints and elders that instructed chrismated converts to be baptized after chrismation. To imply that this instruction is to the spiritual peril of those giving this instruction is ignorant and without foundation. Clearly, God does not agree.

    1. Jason notes that:

      "...St. Nikodemos in the Rudder clearly explained that the Latins should be received by baptism because they are heretics and because they no longer practiced the proper form of baptism with three immersions in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit..."

      Yet the Russian Church, as well as all the other Slavic origin Church's, *rejected* this recommendation/understanding/"theology" by this particular saint for the last 5 centuries or so on up to the present day, in praxis and in theory. Saint's are not councils, bishops, nor the Holy Spirit.

      Jason (and those like him) starts out with a confession of a passion - a strong individual sense (i.e. a "feeling") of something wrong. Notice how rather than look into themselves, such who suffer this passion look to others and, making judgements about their particular reception into the Church and rather it was "valid" in a ritual or "canonical" sense. "It's not me, it's all of you" they say to their parish, priest, bishop, and (local manifestation) of the Body. They then undergo a "correct" re-baptism and (individually once again) confess a miraculous outcome - more strong "feelings". One suspects for many (most?) they are repeating similar past behavior/understanding/"feelings" when they were Protestant, though then of course it was affirmed in that tradition(s) of solo fill_in_the_blank.

      Jason then gives us a 3rd rate interpretation of the cannons, Church history and her normative *economic* ontology she employ's. It's hardly worth commenting on.

      Based on this, Jason recommends an ecclesiology (I know I'm stretching the term here) where the individual believer takes his religious anxiety and makes a virtue - a barometer in which to judge the "validity" of this or that sacrament, of bishops (they are all good for nothing these days), spiritual elder, and saint. This "discernment" (so called) sees what just about everyone else misses, probably because they are neo-papists and ecumenicists and don't know a thing...

      Honestly Jason, to folks who were not born yesterday and have been struggling (acesis) in the Body for more than a week, your philosophy comes across as lacking any humility at all, and you don't seem to even be aware of your own anxiety nor have a basic sense of your own (spiritual) limitations. You proof text the Fathers, pick and choose the canons and most other aspects of Orthodox spirituality/formation like your at a cafeteria, and recommend vice as a virtue. To quote Jodan Peterson, who is in full agreement with the Tradition here, "who cares what you think?"

      Here is a hint: if it feels good, gives you a religious/emotional "high", and is otherwise the opposite of a cross (and thus difficult and burdensome and a suffering), it's from the devil.

    2. I've heard that for an elite group of Christians, there's also the Baptism of Blood. Anyone know anyone who does this, how much it costs, etc.?

    3. "Yet the Russian Church, as well as all the other Slavic origin Church's, *rejected* this recommendation/understanding/"theology" by this particular saint for the last 5 centuries or so on up to the present day, in praxis and in theory. Saint's are not councils, bishops, nor the Holy Spirit."

      Bishops and priests of the Orthodox Church vow to uphold and follow the ancient canons of the Church which are more than 5 centuries old. However, the practice changed not 5 centuries ago but in the 17th century in Russia. About this, Archimandrite Ambrosius (Pagodin) states, quoting Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow’s “History of the Russian Church,” that at the Moscow Council of 1667.

      "The rite for the reception of Latins into the Orthodox Church was now completely changed. It is known that in accordance with Patriarch Philaret Nikitich's Conciliar Statute, Latins were re-baptized in Russia. Even though at the time of Patriarch Nikon, upon the insistence of Patriarch Macarius of Antioch, who was then in Moscow, it was twice decreed at the Council that Latins would not be re-baptized in the future, the deeply rooted custom of re-baptizing remained in practice."

      Even prior to the Great Schism, Papal Legate Humbert complained that Latins who were not baptized by three immersions were considered by the Greeks to be unbaptized and were subsequently baptized by the Greeks. After the Latinization of the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century, when even some babies were "baptized" by pouring or another uncanonical method, if such went to Greece or Mt. Athos, they would be baptized.

      The issue isn't about people's "feelings" but is about what is in accordance with the canons of the Church and in agreement with the holy saints and elders of our times who were gifted with spiritual discernment. The Greek and Athonite position on corrective baptism is well known. Admittedly, I am not familiar with the teachings of recent holy elders in the Slavic world on this topic so feel free to provide relevant quotes. St. Paisius Velichkovsky, who brought the Philokalia to the Slavic world and helped revive the tradition of hesychasm and spiritual eldership for the Slavs, also insisted that all converts be baptized. The disciples of St. Paisius revived spiritual eldership and hesychasm at Optina, where I understand this practice of baptizing all converts continued.

  7. Yes, instead of "spiritual danger" I should have said that, commonly, the evil one will fight hard against the newly baptized. The newly baptized, even if he has lived in the Church a long time, may be subject to the antagonism from other Orthodox Christians, the devastating effects of an incomplete confession, or, generally-speaking, a lack of spiritual discernment in governing one's thoughts. So, in my opinion, such a baptism is best handled by a discerning and experienced priest.


  9. My wife was baptized mainline protestant and I was re-baptized when I converted to the Church. We had an Orthodox wedding, should I assume that it she converts she will just be chrismated? I'd assume if her baptism was seen to be good enough for marriage in the Church that would be the case.

  10. This topic would be loved by the Pharisees