Thousands of Catholic baptisms invalidated due to priest using wrong word
Thousands of Catholic baptisms have been deemed invalid because an Arizona priest used the wrong word during the ceremony.
The situation threatens not just baptisms, but the other Catholic sacraments that follow. But the message to New Jersey’s 3.5 million Catholics is “Don’t panic.”
“I’m absolutely sure that the vast majority of priests have performed baptisms according to the rite,” says Father Thomas Dente, director of the Worship Office of the Archdiocese of Newark.
He says that there is a script that the priests have to follow and the words are clear.
The concern stems from Father Andres Arango in the Phoenix Dioceses. Arango apparently didn't follow them precisely enough and thousands of baptisms over 20 years are now invalid.
Arango repeatedly said “We baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” But he was supposed to be saying “I baptize you” instead of “We baptize you.”
The “I” refers to Jesus Christ.
“When a person baptizes someone, it is Jesus Christ himself who baptizes, so the priest is in the person of Christ in the context of the celebration,” Dente says.
He says that it is not a community effort. And these bad baptisms may also invalidate other sacraments like confirmation and even marriage.
“Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life,” says Mark Clatterbuck, chairman of the religion department at Montclair State University
Clatterbuck’s two children were baptized Catholic. He says that he is not in a rush to go back and check the transcripts of their baptisms for any discrepancies.
"I think I'm not going to look too closely. I might be afraid of what I might find, so I'm just gonna go ahead and assume that they are valid baptisms and we're going to leave it at that,” he says.
But he says that if nothing else, this is a teaching moment.
"I would imagine it would make people a little more aware of what the words are and also, hopefully, the clergy if they're not using the right words, more aware of what they ought to be using,” Dente says.
It is unclear if those who had the invalid baptisms will need to get their other sacraments redone. Each case will have to be looked at.