[NEW BOOK] The Church Fathers on Rebaptism

Here we are. 𝑻𝒉𝒆 π‘ͺ𝒉𝒖𝒓𝒄𝒉 𝑭𝒂𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒔 𝒐𝒏 π‘Ήπ’†π’ƒπ’‚π’‘π’•π’Šπ’”π’Ž is now available in both paperback and kindle. This is a short little 100-page tour into the controversy over rebaptism in the early Church with an introduction to the problem in the 3rd-century debacle between St. Cyprian of Carthage versus Pope St. Stephen. This is followed by an extensive florilegium and commentary from plenty of other Church fathers, saints, doctors, and councils up until the 7th century. Throughout this tour, I get into the specifics of the contemporary debate on the issue of baptism outside the boundaries of the Church that currently goes on within Eastern Orthodoxy (Fr. Peter Heers) and how that relates to the Catholic Tradition on Church unity and the nature of baptismal sacramentology. Share with family or friends who might be interested. Enjoy!

2 thoughts on “[NEW BOOK] The Church Fathers on Rebaptism

  1. Hi Erick, I’ve been researching rebaptism while assisting a friend in the Congregation of St. Pius V (CSPV) sedevacantist society, which currently requires a conditional Baptism for all persons coming from the “Novus Ordo” (NO) Church. Apparently the CSPV under Bp. Clarence Kelly consider all Baptisms administered by the NO Church after Vatican II to be positively doubtful. This book is helpful for my friend to show that that policy seems closer to EO praxis (or to the praxis of Donatists / Montanists) than to Catholic praxis going back to the early Church.

    I had several questions however.

    1) It seems that many early 20th-century commentaries on the Stephen-Cyprian controversy refer to the requirement of “laying of hands” on those heretics and schismatics returning to the Church as a repeat of the sacrament of confirmation. One author I read goes as far as mentioning that Cyprian considered the laying of hands to be sacramental in some way, and even accused Stephen of hypocrisy for not repeating Baptism but requiring the repetition of laying of hands (if laying of hands = confirmation). That same author even pointed out that the Latin rite of Confirmation (up until shortly after Vatican II) included the same laying of hands as referenced by Stephen. Other authors of the same era disagree and argue that the laying of hands refers to penance. Your book mentions this possibility (of a re-confirmation) at least once (I believe in the quote from the eminent Fr. Price). What do you think about this matter? If Catholicism is inconsistent in what sacraments it requires to be conditionally performed on returning schismatics and heretics, then it seems that the arguments of Cyprian have more force.

    2) I’m especially keen on understanding how the Church has approached conditional ordinations of heretical or schismatic clerics coming into unity. You have a quote or two in that regards that it was in the same vein as Baptism outside the church (i.e. the Church would investigate and decide whether the proper form / matter was intact). Do you have any recommended sources or readings to evaluate ordinations in particular? Have you ever seen a case where the Catholic Church requires the conditional ordination of oriental or eastern Orthodox coming into the Church?

    Again thank you for this book and for your continued research on these matters – it affects some of us quite deeply.

    • Hi colinshamrock,

      Thanks for your question.

      So it is almost impossible to decipher what St. Stephen meant by the laying on of hands, as to whether it means confirmation/penance or them separately and only one of them. We only have 2 fragments, and so no strong stance can be taken. What we get from Stephen is that the baptismal sacrament, which was exclusively given as a bi-ritual from the bishop until around Pope Stephen’s time, was valid in some effect such that it should not be repeated. Perhaps the laying on of hands is simply the hand of penance. I think that is more likely.

      Cyprian’s view is quite different than any of the debates between EO , RC, and Sedevacantists. Cyprian’s view was that there *can’t ever be* a valid sacrament outside the Church. So while the game is defined in that way, Cyprian clearly was wrong.

      As for ordinations? Yes, I believe there is evidence in St. Leo and St. Gregory the Great on ordinations outside the Church. I will have to look into it and make a new blog article.

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