ANOTHER priest with an invalid baptism. Fathers! Review the videos of your baptism! ACTION ITEM!

You old-timers here known that for years… going on decades now… I have RAILED against priests who take it on themselves to change the words of the sacred liturgy, especially in significant moments such as during the FORM of sacraments.

There have been priests… and bishops… yes yes deacons, too… who have changed the words of the FORM of the Sacrament of Baptism. Some changes make the baptism INVALID.


Recently, after a declaration from the CDF about the invalidity of the form for baptism, “WE baptize you…”, instead of “I baptize you…”, a young priest in Detroit reviewed a video of his baptism and found that he wasn’t validly baptized. That meant that he had not received any of the other subsequent sacraments validly, including ORDINATION. That meant that his Masses were not Masses, etc. Think about how these things are all connected. The priest had to be ordained… absolutely, not conditionally. I am sure that steps have been taken to take care of all the Mass intentions, marriages, etc. etc. etc.

This, because some jackass priest took it on himself many years ago to change the words of the form of Baptism. Maybe he was well-meaning. Maybe he was so poorly formed that he barely grasped what the Church understands. Seminaries were really really really bad for a long time. However, the BOOK has the words in BLACK and even poorly formed priests know that the BLACK part is what the Church approves… you know, the old “institutional” Church not the “spirit-filled” prophetic Church, for whom BLACK is a suggestion.

Now we learn that the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City say another young priest, theoretically baptized in 1992, was made wet by the pouring of water and the invalid form: “We baptize…”, instead of “I baptize…”.

That means another scramble. More anxiety.

Today a priest wrote to me:

What is going on?! As a fellow newly ordained priest, I am scared
about not only mine, but many others out there.

Fathers… if you can, if you have videos from your baptism, review the videos… if you haven’t already.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Kent Wendler says:

    So, what do the people (like me) do, who were baptized (supposedly) back before A/V technology was commonly available?

    [99% of people have nothing to worry about. If you are worried about this, do some research. Find out who baptized you and then do some research. Was he a “Say The Black – Do The Red” guy?]

  2. Fr. Hamilton says:

    I am sick and tired of the (unnecessary) chaos in the Church from stupid ministers who can’t manage a bare minimum of humility and obedience in sacramental administration.


    Black Words Matter!!!!!

  3. Gab says:

    Reason #3975848 to stick with Latin and the traditional form.

  4. Chris says:

    This has the potential of being a big deal — and these are just two cases that we know of. How many others are out there, with no way to verify what form was used? Should seminaries be doing conditional baptisms “just in case”?

  5. mo7 says:

    Fr. Hamilton, You win the internet today.

  6. tho says:

    Three cheers for Father Hamilton, we need more like him.

  7. Stepheno says:

    Good reason to give thanks for my 59 years on this earth. My twin brother and I were baptized in 1961 and you all know how that was done. Related but far less serious is the sloppy paperwork we’ve seen. One of my sons never had his baptism recorded in the parish. We had to use creation date of the photos. Still causes us hassles

  8. EC says:

    What is so strange to me is the flip-flop on this extremely critical point… A contrary decision was given on the same question some years ago. While of course it is a ridiculously stupid thing to say “we” instead of “I” it gives me pause to think that all of a sudden something plausible enough to have gotten the opposite judgment (albeit from an undersecretary of the CDF) back in 2003 is now supposedly a clearly invalid form. “We” is a strange word – it can mean “I” in fact (as popes and kings etc. have used), and it certainly includes “I.” While I am not saying the decision is incorrect, it is something deserving of more study… perhaps more study than it has been given in the run-up to the most recent decision, though I couldn’t say.

  9. EC says:

    Sorry – it was an undersecretary at the CDW, not the CDF.

  10. RosaryRose says:

    Why was the exorcism removed from the rite of Baptism after VII?

  11. JPD says:

    Are we thinking 1000s not baptized; this is not just a crisis for Priests but also lay people. What happens to marriage if one is found not,baptized? Let alone confession and anointing of the sick.

  12. JPD says:

    And what if the priest died in 70s and 80s, nobidris no online presence. Might as well just conditionally baptize and confirm everyone whose priest or deacon is dead with no videos or online presence. What a complete and utter mess.

  13. JPD says:

    And what if the priest died in 70s and 80s, nobidris no online presence. Might as well just conditionally baptize and confirm everyone whose priest or deacon is dead with no videos or online presence. What a complete and utter mess.

  14. Titus says:

    This decision from the CDF raises a whole array of questions. Ones that stick out:

    1. How does the principle of Ecclesia supplet operate in this scenario? It seems to implicate it. [“Seems to implicate”? No. God is free to grant grace as He chooses. However, the Church is not God. The Church cannot supply what is lacking in this instance. The full phrase is “Ecclesia supplet facultatem”. The Church supplies JURISDICTION. The Church supplies a faculty in certain situations when the minister lacks the faculty. The Church cannot supply a valid sacrament when an invalid form or matter is used.]

    2. Does the CDF’s response deal with a defect of form or a defect of intention? Its response to the second question suggests form, but its explanation is all about intention. One wonders, if this is a defect of form, about ministers who intend to say what the Church instructs and do what the Church does, but through mistake or infirmity use the wrong verb form. [Some defects of form are defective enough that they are invalid. This isn’t mispronunciation of a word or leaving something non-essential out or adding something that isn’t essential.]

    Think of a priest who, through a lapse of some kind, says “baptizamus,” [In Latin… why would he do that?] or a priest saying a vernacular rite in something other than his first language who similarly mixes up the verb form. [Idem.]

    (And this would suggest [“would suggest” … is that like “Seems to implicate”?] that there has never been a custom, anywhere in the Church, of using a first-person plural form in the pontifical rite of pontifical baptism. [Over the centuries stupid people have attempted all sorts of stupid thing, even ordaining women.] I understand that the “modern” Pontificales said “Ego,” but history is a big world …) [The Church gets to determine the forms of sacraments.]

  15. NOCatholic says:

    Some of us (me, for example) were baptized by Protestant ministers. From what I remember (and I was baptized as a teen, so I do remember), the minister used ‘I’ instead of ‘we’. But that was 50 years ago, and more recent baptisms by Protestants may be questionable — not to mention, must of us were baptized as infants and not everyone has a video record of their baptism.

    Maybe conditional baptism, prior to ordination, is the way to go, to deal with this mess, going forward.

  16. ReadingLad says:

    When my son was baptized some 22 years ago, I consciously did not want (and said so) the ceremony recorded on video – it seemed inappropriate to me to have a member of the congregation wandering around sticking a video camera into what should be a sacred moment to be treasured, contemplated and given thanks for… Notwithstanding that, a relative duly turned up with a video camera, and I think the tape exists. I hope I accepted this as a penance I should bear…and as far as I could see, correct matter and form was observed
    But maybe I had the wrong idea in the first place…I hadn’t thought about the need for liturgical forensics in later life…

  17. Titus says:

    Father, thank you for the comments. I was imprecise when speaking of Ecclesia supplet. I should have said that “the situation makes some people wonder about” or words to that effect. The distinction to which you point makes all the difference, of course, and clarifies that the scenario does not actually seem to implicate the principle of Ecclesia supplet, even if it makes one who cannot remember precisely how that principle operates think of it.

    On the second, “lapsus linguae,” point, who is to say why someone might misspeak? Why did my dad sometimes call me his kid brother’s name when I was growing up? (Apart from the fact we were both pains-in-neck as children.) The question is only, granting that the question of the words that constitute the form of the sacrament is indisputably essential, and even that the situation is improbable, does the defect of form addressed by the CDF’s decision render the sacrament invalid when the defect results from a mere misspeaking, unaccompanied by an improper intention on the part of the minister? The situation doesn’t seem so wildly implausible as to be unworthy of consideration.

    (Withdrawn and conceded on the parenthetical.)

  18. Notice the operation of Divine Providence here, in which God brought to light these invalid baptisms and exposed the ministers responsible for invalid baptisms. He instituted the Sacraments, and He will vindicate them. Because He is faithful, He will not allow His people to go on being cheated.

    Why did He allow this to happen in the first place? We know that God is not the author of evil, and only permits evils so that He can use them to bring about a greater good. One greater good is the awakening of consciousness of our desperate need for a course correction. Every invalid baptism scandal is one more proof of the utter bankruptcy of the modernist experiment within the Church. 2020 is a year when we are being hit day after day with overwhelming and gut-wrenching evidence of this. Nothing else will serve to convince us.

  19. Suburbanbanshee says:

    There’s a reason that Sacraments have witnesses. If the official witnesses (like the sponsors) don’t do their jobs, and if any bystanders don’t do their jobs, and don’t do their “But Father!” best to get things rectified or done right in the first place, the witnesses are partly to blame for invalid baptisms, weddings, etc.

    But of course, the clergy are supposed to know better, too.

    Education and catechesis. How we have messed that up….

  20. robtbrown says:


    1. What if your father wants to give you a check for $5000 but mistakenly puts your brother’s name on it? Can you cash the check by telling the bank your father always mixed up your names?

    2. There is a relation between Sacramental Intention and Sac Form. The Form designates the Matter. Thus, in a case of Minimal Intention (to intend to do what the Church does), the Form specifies what is happening. It also specifies Who is designating, i.e., the minister (cf In Persona Christi). Thus, not only is “We Baptize” invalid form, so also is “This is His Body”.

    So the point of the document referring to Intention is that the form invaliding the minister also means that the Intention is not even minimal.

  21. Gaetano says:

    If the bishops & religious superiors are truly sincere about this crisis – and invalid baptisms are most certainly an existential crisis – they ought to survey every priest & deacon about the baptismal formula they have used.

    If a problem is detected, they need to “source trace” these clerics back to the seminary & formation programs where they received instruction and determine both who else may have acquired these bad practices and why they were allowed to happen in the first place.

    The same must be done for religious priests & deacon by their superiors.

    That will require actual belief that this is an issue worth attention. Sadly, I don’t see that lack of duty & care many places.

    *Any healthy organization conducts exactly this sort of review. Just think of what a military organization or corporation does when there is a systemic breakdown of safety protocols.

  22. JesusFreak84 says:

    Blech…I’m increasingly considering asking after Mass if Father thinks that a “supplying” ceremony isn’t in order. But I hate to think of all those sacrilegious receptions of other Sacraments I would’ve done and would be continuing to do >.<;;;

    If some Bishops started asking for video of baptisms and confirmations prior to ordination, at this point, could one really blame them?

  23. robtbrown says:

    JesusFreaks84 says,

    Blech…I’m increasingly considering asking after Mass if Father thinks that a “supplying” ceremony isn’t in order. But I hate to think of all those sacrilegious receptions of other Sacraments I would’ve done and would be continuing to do

    As Fr said above, Ecclesia supplet (supplying) refers to Jurisdiction. Jurisdiction has nothing (zero, nada, nihil, rien, zero, zip) to do with the validity of Baptism, Holy Orders, or the Eucharist.

  24. robtbrown says:

    Anita Moore, O.P.(lay) says:

    Notice the operation of Divine Providence here, in which God brought to light these invalid baptisms and exposed the ministers responsible for invalid baptisms. He instituted the Sacraments, and He will vindicate them. Because He is faithful, He will not allow His people to go on being cheated.

    Divine Providence includes times of benign neglect, which gives man an excellent chance to understand that engulfing foolishness is always close at hand.

    Of course, incidents like these invalid Baptisms, once considered valid by the SCDW, are really no surprise. Anyone who has lived with priests and seminarians for any extended time know how poorly formed many of them are.

    My disgust is not with any priest or deacon, most of whom are merely doing what they were (poorly) taught to do. Rather, it is with the likes of Cardinals Re (once Sostituto) and Sodano, who were so out of touch that they didn’t know (and didn’t want to know) what a garbage dump the Church had become.

  25. JPManning says:

    Is it wrong to want footage to turn up that shows the pope’s baptism was invalid?

  26. Catherine in Aurora says:

    Dear Father,
    In the instance of a priest having been invalidly baptized in the Archdiocese of Detroit, it was not a “jackass priest) who baptized invalidly. [Okay, my mistake. It was a jackass deacon.] It was a rogue deacon and he did it continuously for 13 years, from 1986 to 1999. The young priest, Father Hood, who was invalidly baptized in 1986 together with his twin brother, says 10 babies were [invalidly?] baptized on the same day. So, how many hundreds or even thousands of infants were invalidly baptized during those 13 years?!
    In 1999, someone present at one of these ceremonies complained. The Archdiocese did an investigation, contacted the rogue deacon and admonished him. The rogue deacon says he abided by that admonition and did it the right way ever since then.
    However, Archdiocese of Detroit felt no need to inform all those parents and/or adults invalidly baptized about the situation, and did nothing. FOR THIRTEEN FREAKING YEARS!! It took this young priest, whose infant baptism had been filmed with sound, to learn the truth about his own invalid baptism, to sound the alarm and get the ball rolling.
    To his everlasting credit, the current Archbishop in Detroit, Alan Vigneron, is trying to do something about the situation. He sent out a rather lengthy letter published in its entirely on a website called The Deacons Bench explaining the situation.
    Since without a valid baptism in place, no one can validly receive any sacraments post-baptism (confession, confirmation, Holy Eucharist, etc.), how many parents were/are raising little pagans instead of Catholics and Christians?
    Perhaps it is time to call upon all Catholics who have recorded their baptisms to review these home movies etc. to find out whether this happened in their parish. The minute I heard about this situation, I did not thing it was an isolated instance. It may prove to be very widespread indeed. [I have already suggested to priests (at least) to review any video they may have.]

  27. Catherine in Aurora says:

    As I recall, there was an article in The Wanderer about another instance of invalid baptism in a diocese in Massachusetts (not Boston) in the mid-1990’s. A priest who wanted to be really in synch with the times was baptizing infants “in the name of the Mother, the Daughter, and the Sanctifier.” Fortunately, he was caught early on, and the diocese did call upon those parents to bring their babies back in to get properly baptized.
    Again, it may be in order for everyone with home movies, videos, etc. of infant baptisms to carefully review same, “for sense,” to see whether the baptism was done correctly. Just saying…

  28. DCG81 says:

    I’ve been deeply troubled by these stories and am having at least a mini-spiritual crisis in response to them. I feel like the Church is essentially saying, “Assume that you were validly baptized, unless proven otherwise.” But I don’t find that very comforting. After all, assumptions can be wrong; in fact, the assumptions these two priests had about their own baptisms were wrong.

    How am I supposed to respond to this? I don’t know what the priest said 39 years ago when I was baptized as a baby. Am I supposed to just go through the rest of my life assuming that everything’s fine, only to be informed by St. Peter at the Pearly Gates that my soul is still stained by Original Sin, that I have never been a member of the Body of Christ, and that any feelings of intimacy with the Lord after Communion had no basis in objective reality but were merely subjective experiences (because only a baptized person is really capable of sacramental Communion)? Wouldn’t a person want to know such things with certainty rather than just make an assumption and hope for the best?

    Additionally, how can I trust in the validity of any sacraments that I receive from any priest, since I don’t know what words were used at that priest’s baptism? How do I know that he’s really an ordained priest, that his Masses are valid, that he can absolve my sins, that the host he set in the monstrance for Eucharistic adoration is really consecrated, etc.? You can say, “Well, the odds are really good that he’s baptized,” but again, good odds isn’t as reassuring as the certainty I might have felt before all of these stories. Why should I feel comfortable remaining in the Latin Rite instead of trying to get a conditional baptism and then fleeing as soon as possible for the Byzantine Rite, where presumably this sort of liturgical experimentation didn’t happen?

    Also, no Church authority or Catholic commentator has addressed the issue of why this situation isn’t a “doomsday scenario” for the Church. (Yes, the gates of Hell will not ultimately prevail against the Church, but there is a lot of wiggle room between “This is really bad and can cause untold amounts of confusion and damage” and “The gates of Hell have prevailed.”) We already know of two priests who weren’t validly baptized. There are probably others. What if one of them were made a bishop; he would then invalidly ordain new priests, some of whom might go on to be bishops themselves and do the same. That would be like cancer growing in one diocese, killing off the sacramental life in that diocese and then potentially spreading to other dioceses. How do we know that such a thing hasn’t already happened, that an invalidly baptized man isn’t already a bishop? The idea of this freaks me out, and I’d really like to be “talked off the ledge” with a good explanation why I don’t have be concerned about this (and why the absurdly long time that I spent writing/editing this post was unnecessary).

  29. John Malloy says:

    @DCG81: If you have doubts about your own baptism after doing serious research, you can get conditionally baptized. The rest is out of your control and you have to have a certain amount of trust in God that he will sort it out for the Church and for you. Many traditionalists, such as myself, have gone through exactly what you are describing when they realized all the sacraments were changed as well as the mass. The important thing is to realize that you are not expected to know if any given priest is a real priest other than what is obvious and reasonable. You can only discern so much in these matters and God will be merciful for the rest. Personally, I go to the Tridentine mass, and make sure to say a daily rosary.

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