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A longtime Catholic priest, Father Andres Arango, has resigned after discovering that he baptized countless children and adults in multiple countries using an incorrect phrase. As her performed the sacred rite, he said, “we baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” rather than the correct “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
The change is ever so slight and found in the first word of the phrase, “we” versus “I.” According to a statement released by the church, It is not the community that baptizes a person and incorporates them into the Church of Christ; rather, it is Christ, and Christ alone, who presides at all sacraments; therefore, it is Christ who baptizes. The Baptismal Formula (the words used in the Rite) has always been guarded for this reason: so it is clear that we receive our baptism through Jesus and not the community.”
The church is instructing all believers who were baptized with the wrong word to seek further help within the church, as their baptism is not valid. They (or their children) are, in fact, not actually baptized and need to be baptized again with the correct verbiage.
But doesn’t this all seem a tad legalistic? Invalidating babies’ baptisms because of one word – a single pronoun, nonetheless – seems a bit extreme.
“It may seem legalistic, but the words that are spoken (the sacramental form), along with the actions that are performed and the materials used (the sacramental matter) are a crucial aspect of every sacrament. If you change the words, actions, or materials required in any of the sacraments, they are not valid,” reads a statement on the Diocese of Phoenix website.
The official church guidance seems to contradict itself later on the website.
“It is important to note that, while God instituted the sacraments for us, He is not bound by them. Though they are our surest access to grace, God can grant His grace in ways known only to Him…We can be assured that all who approached God, our Father, in good faith to receive the sacraments did not walk away empty-handed,” reads the website.
People wondering if their or their child’s baptism is invalid can fill out on online form to receive proper guidance from the church. According to church officials, an invalid baptism will automatically render their other sacraments, such as the eucharist and marriage, invalid. People in limbo at the moment should also refrain from taking communion until the matter is resolved, as Catholics are not allowed to partake of the body and blood of Christ unless they are officially baptized into the church.
Side note: I have accidentally taken communion at a Catholic mass as a non-Catholic person. Nothing bad happened.
Father Andres resigned from his position as pastor of St. Gregory Parish in Phoenix on February 1. He will dedicate his energy and full-time ministry to helping and healing those who were invalidly baptized and remains a priest in good standing.