“Successionists admit, of course, that the name “Baptist” cannot be found in every period of the Christian era, but if a group dissented from the Roman Catholic Church and suffered for its nonconformity, successionists have been quick to cite such groups as baptistic proponents of biblical Christianity. In this way, ancient and medieval religious movements such as the Montanists, Novations, Patarenes, Bogomils, Paulicians, Arnoldists, Henricians, Albigenses, and Waldenses have been inducted into the line of “Baptist” succession. A few successionists have claimed that even St. Patrick was a Baptist” [McGoldrick, Baptist Successionism: A Crucial Question in Baptist History, (1994, Scarecrow Press), page 2].
Attempting to prove that Saint Patrick was a Baptist involves majoring on the lack of Roman Catholic ecclesiastical terms or references in the two surviving documents that were written by Patrick himself. A critical look at all of the relevant evidence and historical context of Patrick, however, indicates the very thing Baptist Successionists would have their followers deny. In McGoldrick’s words, “Patrick accepted the vocation of a missionary by submitting to the standard ecclesiastical authorities, who invested him with a commission and ordained him a clergyman” (McGoldrick, page 25).
The rest of this post will be McGoldrick’s survey of Patrick’s ecclesiastical associations, his training, ordination and ministerial service that clearly associates him with the Roman Catholic Church, and disassociates him from any notion that he was some sort of dissenter from Roman Catholicism.
“Ordination came in Gaul, where Patrick had gone to receive further instruction to prepare him for his life’s work. Patrick was in Gaul at a time when Bishop Germanus of Auxerre received a plea from Britain to come there to combat the spread of heresy. Germanus’ mission had the approval of Celestine, Bishop of Rome, and it appears that Germanus, with Celestine’s concurrence, dispatched Patrick to Ireland (See St. Patrick : His Writings and Muirchu’s Life, ed. And tr. A. B. E. Hood, [Totowa, NJ: Rowmand & Littlefield, 1978], page 13; John B. Bury, The Life of St. Patrick and His Place in History [Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries, 1971 reprint of 1905 edition], 51-54; cf. John Healy, The Life and Writings of St. Patrick (Dublin: Gill & Son, 1905], 109-16. Bury, a Protestant, and Healy, a Roman Catholic Archbishop, agree that patrick’s commission came through authorized Episcopal channels. Cf. the Venerable Bede, History of the English Church and People, ed. Leo Sherley. Price, rev. R. E. Latham [Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1968], 1. 17).
“Contrary to popular belief, Patrick did not introduce the Christian faith into Ireland. Several Christian communities existed there prior to his arrival, and when Celestine first sent an emissary to the Irish it was not Patrick but the newly consecrated Bishop Palladius. Beyond all doubt, Palladius went forth as a representative of the Roman bishop. However, his ministry in Ireland, was, for reasons not entirely clear, very brief. Patrick followed as the next bishop sent to Ireland, and he too went in the service of Rome ( Bury, Life of St. Patrick, 54-59).
“The occasion for sending a bishop to Ireland appears to have been identical to the reason for sending Germanus to Britain: to combat the heresy of Pelagianism. . . .
“Although the evidence is far from abundant, the documents that remain appear to confirm the view that Patrick ministered in Ireland somewhat in the same way that Germanus served in Britain. That is, he strove to defeat Pelagianism while seeking the conversion of pagans at the same time. Patrick was consecrated a bishop in 432 at the hands of Germanus, and Patrick’s writings contain a few passages that seem to be of an Augustinian character proclaiming salvation by grace.” (pages 25-26).