If memes are to be believed, yes.
Santa (Nicholas, Bishop of Myra) punched Arius himself in the face, at the famous council of Nicea, no less.
But – I hate to tell you – memes are not always to be believed.
This one’s been making the rounds online for a few years. Even Catholic philosophy professors are getting in on the fun.
And it is fun. Postmoderns are so wishy-washy about truth, about commitment, about correct doctrine. No one these days cares so much that they’d punch their theological opponent in the face. Ah, to return to the good old days…
In fact, catholic church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries were sometimes marred by violence, and it was not at all funny. To those who would applaud the alleged punch, or at least find it hilarious, I would paraphrase a great man: those who use the fist, will get the fist.
In any case, when I heard this recently I thought it sounded too fun to be true… (and I only told you the start of it – apparently in some longer versions Nick gets reprimanded by Constantine himself, and then vindicated by Jesus and Mary). I’ve read some books about Nicea, and never bit down on this little chestnut before. (I’d remember.)
So I do a little internet fact checking, and find this, from the old Catholic Encyclopedia:
There is reason to doubt his presence at Nicaea, since his name is not mentioned in any of the old lists of bishops that attended this council.
Sorry, folks. Here, absence of evidence is evidence of absence. If he had been there, likely his name would be on the lists. But, it isn’t. Thus, it is unlikely he was there.
Better quality fun-spoiling would be a citation of the earliest version of this legend. I’m willing to bet that it is nowhere close to the time of alleged event (325 AD).
I leave you with a better Catholic meme. To get the joke, you must be both a sci-fi nerd and a theology (or biblical studies, or religious studies) nerd.