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Epistle XXXIII.

To Romanus, Patrician, and Exarch of Italy.

Gregory to Romanus, &c.

Even though there were no immediate cause for writing to your Excellency, yet we ought to shew solicitude for your health and safety so as to learn through frequent intercommunication what we desire to hear about you.  Besides, it has come to our knowledge that Blandus, bishop of the city of Hortanum13291329    Al. Orta, in Tuscia., has been detained now for a long time by your Excellency in the city of Ravenna.  And the result is that the Church decays, being without a ruler, and the people as being without a shepherd; and infants there, for their sins, die without baptism13301330    This alleged consequence of the bishop’s absence from his See does not imply that he alone could administer baptism, but only that his authorization was required for its administration.  See Bingham, Bk. II. ch. iii. Sect. 3, 4, and references there given:  e.g. Ignat. Ep. ad Smyrn. n. viii., “It is not lawful either to baptize or celebrate the Eucharist without the bishop; but that which he allows is well-pleasing to God:”  Hieron. Dialog. c. Lucifer, p. 139, “Thence it comes that, without the order of the bishop neither presbyter nor deacon has the right of baptizing;” Can. Apost. c. xxxviii., “Let the presbyters and deacons execute no office without the knowledge of the bishop; for it is to him that the Lord’s people are committed, and he must give an account of their souls.”  It was usual in episcopal cities to have only one baptistery, connected with the bishop’s church; and these all would be baptized, if not by the bishop himself (who was accounted the chief minister of baptism), yet under his direction and superintendence.  Cf. Bingham, Bk. VIII., ch. vii., Sect. 6; Bk. XI., ch. vii., Sect. 12, 13..  And again, since we do not believe that your Excellency has detained him except on the ground of some probable transgression, it is proper that a synod should be held to bring to light any crime that is charged against him.  And, if such fault is found in him as to lead to his degradation from the priesthood, it is necessary that we should look out for another to be ordained, lest the Church of God should remain untended, and destitute in what the Christian religion does not allow it to be without.  But, if your Excellency should perceive that the case is otherwise with him than it is said to be, allow him, I pray you, to return to his church, that he may fulfil his duty to the souls committed to his charge.

The month of March; the ninth Indiction.

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