Dear Presbytera Mari,
The issue is far more complicated than you make it out. This issue has been debated multiple times on this forum and I have provided in the past a biliography of sources that both agree and disagree with baptizing converts. Perhaps a search of the archives will yield the previous discussions, which were quite extensive. I don't have the time really though to get back in to this type of debate.
Suffice it to say, I disagree with you on several points:
1) Latin baptism is an empty vessel with no sacramental grace whatsoever; this is the position of numerous Fathers and was elucidated by St Nikodemos the Haghiorite in his commentary on the Pedalion. You may reply that his interpretation is wrong but I would maintain that he is continuing the trend that had developed up until that point. By saying that "the" Orthodox position on this matter is to not "re"baptize, are you unaware of the Oros of 1755 and other conciliar decisions?
2) The Church most certainly can say where sacramental grace is not. Heretics do not have sacramental grace. (Charismatic grace is a different issue, although in our previous discussions, member Pravoslavbob disagreed with me on the distinction).
3) Who does or does not have sacramental grace is not directly correlated to who can be saved. God can save anyone he wants by any means he wishes. But the only sure way to find salvation is in the Orthodox Church.
As to your doubt of Catholic priests being baptized, please see the very famous case of Fr Placide, a Roman Catholic priest from France, and also the theology students that were baptized by Fr George Metallinos with Synodal approval. This is documented in the book "I Confess One Baptism" (which is online somewhere. In my bibliography I once made this book makes it on my list as a source that is pro-baptism of converts. There are of course those who disagree.
Speaking of myself, I am a Greek Old Calendarist. Before you let that cause you to dismiss my position given that I am in a Church that your Archdiocese considers "fanatical", please consider that I was offered baptism by a GOA priest, a priest under Paisios (EP), ROCOR priests, and a priest of the Jerusalem Patriarchate. I decided to join the Old Calendarists, however.
For the record, I believe all converts except Non-Chalcedonians and Nestorians should be baptized. And also, unlike some traditionalists, I do not maintain that the Orthodox Church has always baptized heretics, but I do maintain that the practice is ancient and has co-existed with chrismation in differing times and places, and that I believe that today baptism is the best way to receive all converts, especially those who do not have three full immersions.
Yours in Christ,
Thank you for your enlightening reply. It actually did answer questions for me, and I think actually, we may find that we agree... Let me explain...
First off, I definitely agree that it is a complicated issue. I was simply trying to make my response concise and easy to understand, presenting the PRESENT state of circumstances.
As to the grace of sacraments in the Catholic church, I am well aware of the discussions, history, etc. What I was saying is that within the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (this is why I asked about your jurisdiction), it is rare, unless there are special circumstances. I am not going to voice my opinion as to whether, based on St. Nikodemos' writings, the Oros of 1755, etc., Latin baptism is an empty vessel, because I obey my bishops, whether I agree or not. I'm not implying anything here, so please don't think that I am- I understand that you can't read tone of voice in a forum post. The Oros of 1755, one could argue, was later recinded- not through official document, but through practice. The position of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, as taught at the Archbishop's school, HCHC, is that, regardless of these discussions, regardless of the fact that they do not fully immerse, etc., in the GOA, we do not rebaptize Catholics. Again, though, I qualify this by saying that there are special circumstances, and that the decision (and responsibility for that decision) is ALWAYS with the Bishop to whom the priest and convert in question answer.
As to the Church saying where sacramental grace is, this is why I reiterated what zebu said about economia. I will say, though, that there is no way for us to judge where grace does or doesn't lie (sacramental or charismatic). You say that heretics have no sacramental grace. How can we judge that? Let me give an example of why I say that: Arius (for example) was a heretic. But he was also a priest. Does this mean that all sacraments that he celebrated before being anathematized had no grace after he was anathematized? Did the grace all of a sudden leave those sacraments because they were performed by a heretic? Was it never there to begin with?
There is a difference between redoing (so to speak) certain sacraments within the Orthodox church (such as marriage) once one has converted, and saying that the previous sacrament has no grace. The reason we do this is NOT because the Church teaches that the previous sacrament has no grace, but rather because the Church teaches that we can say where grace IS (within the Orthodox Church), but do not presume to say where it is NOT (that is for God to determine, not us). By the way, I have "I Confess One Baptism." The key words you used were "with Synodal approval." That was exactly my point. The bishops made the decision based on the specific circumstances.
On your point #3, I agree with you, that sacramental grace is not directly correlated to who can be saved. I was not implying otherwise. What I was saying was AS with grace (in other words, in the same way that we speak about grace), we cannot say who will or will not be saved. I also agree with you that the only sure way to salvation is within the Orthodox church. I will temper that, however, by saying that just because we are Orthodox does NOT guarantee that we will be saved, just as NOT being Orthodox does NOT automatically mean one is condemned. I could be Orthodox by birth, baptized and chrismated, but if I do not follow the teachings of the Church and what Christ has taught, I can easily be condemned. Or I could be Baptist and faithfully follow Christ and His teachings, doing my best to "walk by the light I am given" and be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven.
As to my doubt about Catholic priests being baptized into the Orthodox Church, again, I said "I doubt," not "I'm sure." I also said that there are special circumstances.
As to your jurisdiction, please do not think that I would judge you for this. I was simply asking because, again, rebaptism of Catholics is rare within our jurisdiction. I have no opinion about Old Calendarists as a jurisdiction, except to say that I feel that it is sad that our two jurisdictions are not in communion, and fervently pray that this will be corrected one day. (And by the way, lest you think all GOA people think that Old Calendarists are fanatics, I just want you to know that I do not know anyone in the GOA that would characterize Old Calendarists that way)
My real point was that this decision is one for the bishop, not the priests, parishes, or converts themselves. That was the point that I feel strongest about, and that I think is the most dangerous. This is why we have so many questions like this. How many posts on this forum have begun with "I know a priest who...?" I feel very strongly that, whatever the jurisdiction, it needs to be made very clear that we are a hierarchical church and that these decisions are to be made by the bishops. That is what they are there for. Wherever the Bishop is, there is the Church. Not wherever the priest is, or wherever the parish is, or wherever the convert is. This
is what I think is truly dangerous.
Pray for me a sinner...
P.S. I was baptized Catholic as a baby. I was chrismated into the Orthodox Church at a young age. I say this only so that you know that I am not presuming to judge you as a convert.