This evening, I worked through this 8th century letter from Pope St. Zachary to St. Boniface, who had organized the Church in Germany. It was a fun and interesting exercise. Here is the letter addressed to St. Boniface:
Virgilius et Sedonius, religiosi viri apud Baioariorum provinciam degentes, suis nos litteris usi sunt, per quas intimaverunt, quod tua reverenda fraternitas eis iniungeret, christianos denuo baptizare. Quod audientes, nimis sumus conturbati et in admirationem quandam incidimus; si habetur, ut dictum est. Retulerunt quippe, quod fuerit in eadem provincia sacerdos, qui Latinam linguam penitus ignorabat et, dum baptizaret, nesciens Latini eloquii, infringens linguam diceret: "Baptizo te in nomine patria et filia et spiritus sancti." Ac per hoc tua reverenda fraternitas consideravit rebaptizare. Sed, sanctissime frater, si ille qui baptizavit, non errorem introducens aut heresim, sed, pro sola ignorantia Romane locutionis infringendo linguam, ut supra fati sumus, baptizans dixisset, non possumus consentire, ut denuo baptizentur; quia, quod tua bene conpertum habet sancta fraternitas, quicumque baptizatus fuerit ab hereticis in nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti, nullo modo rebaptizari debeatur, sed per sola manus inpositione purgari debeatur. Nam, sanctissime frater, si ita est ut nobis relatum est, non amplius a te illis predicetur huiusmodi, sed, ut sancti patres docent et predicant, tua sanctitas studeat conservare. Deus te incolomem custodiat, reverentissime frater.Basically, Pope Zachary says that he received word that St. Boniface and priests in his company were presenting Christians to be re-baptized because the priest who had originally baptized them had seriously poor Latin skills and would say the baptismal formula incorrectly as, "baptizo te in nomine patria et filia et spiritus sancti", instead of "in nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti" (in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit). In the letter, Pope Zachary reproves this practice on the grounds that as long as the baptizing priest, while ignorant of proper Latin, did not intend to introduce error or heresy by deliberately messing up the Trinitarian formula, or by deliberately obscuring what the Church intended in the baptismal formula, then the baptism was perfectly valid and, consequently, these Christians should not be baptized again. To make his point more clear, Pope Zachary mentions that, in the Church's practice, even those baptized by heretics, while using the correct Trinitarian baptismal formula and intending to do what the Church does, are not to be rebaptized (they must, however, be cleansed with the imposition of the hand).
Pope Zachary clearly treats Boniface with great respect while correcting this illegitimate practice so as to eliminate confusion concerning baptism. But this destroys the notion some people have that all priests were supremely educated during this period, particularly with regard to use of the church's liturgical language. One wonders what their masses were like :)