Hundreds of Catholic Baptisms Could Be Invalidated Due to Incorrect ‘Formula’

(Photo: Unsplash/Josh Applegate)

Nearly two years before thousands of Catholics learned earlier this month that their baptisms were invalidated because their priest said the wrong word during baptisms, hundreds of Catholics baptized at St. Anastasia in Michigan learned that their baptisms were also deemed invalid.

Reverend Andres Arango, the former priest of St. Gregory Catholic Church in Phoenix, Arizona, resigned after a 20-year career earlier this month after church officials concluded he had used the phrase “We baptize” instead of Vatican approval. “I baptize” for baptisms.

“Specifically, I was told that Father Andres used the formula: ‘WE baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ The key phrase in question is the use of ‘We baptize’ in place of ‘I baptize,'” said Thomas J. Olmsted, the bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix at the time. “The problem with using ‘We’ is that it is not the community that baptizes a person, rather it is Christ, and He alone, who presides over all the sacraments, and therefore it is Christ Jesus who baptizes.”

Seventeen months ago, the Archbishop of Detroit, the Reverend Allen H. Vigneron, revealed in a statement that now-retired Deacon Mark Springer, who performed nearly 800 baptisms at St. Anastasia from 1986 to 1999, had made a similar error which also led to the invalidation of the baptism of Fr. Matthew Hood, a young priest whom Springer had baptized with the “invalid formula”.

“The deacon who first attempted to baptize Father Hood, Deacon Mark Springer, used this invalid formula while assigned to St. Anastasia Parish in Troy, during the period 1986-1999,” Vigneron said at the time. “The Parish and Archdiocese of Detroit will make every effort to contact those whom the Deacon has attempted to baptize, so that they can receive valid sacraments. The Archdiocese has released the identity of the Deacon in an effort to alert people we may not have the means to contact.”

Detroit Archdiocese spokeswoman Holly Fournier told The Associated Press that only 200 of Springer’s baptisms have been identified as valid and 71 people have come forward to redo the sacrament, including the dad. Hood.

The AP reported that days after discovering his baptism was invalid, Hood, 31, was properly baptized and quickly ordained to the priesthood in 2020. Some 30 couples whose marriage Hood performed also had to redo their vows .

“I expected them to be angry, upset, confused,” Hood told the news service. “Their reaction was ‘Father Matt, we feel so bad for you.’

The archdiocese is still awaiting hundreds more whose baptisms and other sacraments are now considered invalid.

“We reached out directly, sending letters to everyone involved using the most recent records we had on each individual,” Fournier told the AP. “We look forward to accompanying whoever comes along.”

In the Catholic Church, people are baptized once, as infants, and not rebaptized as adults. However, children, adolescents and adults who convert to Catholicism also receive baptism, often practiced during Easter vigils (see examples here and here).

While admitting that although in the Catholic tradition “God has bound himself to the sacraments, but he is not bound by the sacraments”, Vigneron insisted that the proper administration of rites is an important part of life. Catholic.

“When properly administered, (the sacraments) are visible rites and effective channels through which the sanctifying grace of God flows to those who receive them with the right disposition,” he said. “Sanctifying grace is necessary for a soul to spend eternity in heaven, and a valid sacramental baptism guarantees that this grace has been placed in the soul.”

“Sin is a loss of sanctifying grace, but all the sacraments function according to their purpose to bestow and strengthen sanctifying grace in the soul. This grace is a treasury of treasures and we must do all we can to protect the soul. integrity of the sacraments through which we receive,” he explained. “It is the duty of the local Church to ensure that everyone entrusted to its care has the full benefit and certainty that comes from the valid reception of the sacraments, given to us to keep us as safe as possible on the way to paradise.”

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