What he is probably thinking of were the confessors (those imprisoned and usually facing martyrdom) . In the 3rd century many went and visited these christians in jail and there was a custom that they were allowed to hear a confession and offer absolution. Tertullian wrote:
'Some not being able to find this peace (ecclesiastical foregiveness) in the church, have been accustomed to seek it from the imprisoned martyrs.' (shaff 3.693)
This confession was utilised by the lapsed as many churches during that time did not allow repentance after apostasy. Cyprian writes that those Christians lapsed due to persecution, if they have certificates from the confessors/ martyrs that they should come to the church and say their confession even to a deacon if the priest is not available:
...that they who have received certificates from the martyrs, and may be assisted by their privilege with God, if they should be seized with any misfortune and peril of sickness, should, without waiting for my presence, before any presbyter who might be present, or if a presbyter should not be found and death begins to be imminent, before even a deacon, be able to make confession of their sin, that, with the imposition of hands upon them for repentance, they should come to the Lord with the peace which the martyrs have desired, by their letters to us, to be granted to them (5.293)
If your familiar with or heard of the controversy over whether to admit back into communion lapsed christians that raged in the Carthage church in the 3rd century you would understand what this was all about. The certificates were letters by the imprisoned 'soon to be martyrs' imploring bishops that they grant the lapsed peace, that their own suffering is good enough and there is no spite towards his fellow christian who wasn't as strong willed as him in facing the tortures. I suggest reading Cyprians short epistle with instruction on this matter:
ANF05. Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Caius, Novatian, Appendix - Christian Classics Ethereal Library
This above is most likely what this protestant is refering to. What Im refering to is the veneration of the saints which predates the 3rd century and is explicitly taught from 2nd century sources especially in the Martyrdom of Polycarp written in 155 AD.
Edited by Kosta, 30 January 2014 - 10:15 AM.