Priest invalidly baptized for 27 years. But those “rigid”, traditional priests who stick to the words are the problem! It’s a Vatican 2 thing.

I’ve probably had half a dozen emails about this disaster today, so I will post on it and comment.

It is reported at lib outlets CNN and NPR, that a priest of the Diocese of Phoenix ordained in 1995, 27 years or so, for his entire priesthood has been using an invalid form for baptism.

This priest, Fr. Andres Arango, “baptized” saying, “WE baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith determined that in the Latin Church this is an INVALID form for the sacrament.  The person who administers baptism must say, “I baptize you…”. That means that all those people were, technically and really not receiving the graces of the other sacraments they received. Baptism is the foundational sacrament which make you able to receive the other sacraments.

The stories say that he originally in Brazil.  I can only guess at the disastrous formation this priest received in Brazil in the 90’s.  He was some 20 years in Brazil before going to Phoenix.

This raises some points.

Firstly, YOU lay people have to know what is what when you go to receive a sacrament.  You have to study in advance and KNOW what the MATTER and FORM of sacraments are.   You should know the form for the two-fold consecration of the Eucharist, the words of absolution (at least the minimum), the words for baptism, etc.  Is confirmation important enough to you to study about it ahead of time?  Matrimony?  When you love you long to know.  However, added motivation is now self-defense.   WHO CAN TELL what sort of B as in B, S as in S, priests got in seminary.  If it was anything like what we got, in the hell that was my modernist, morally compromised seminary… watch out!     Folks, you need to know what’s what.

Secondly, I say this with respect to bishops who accept new priests, pastors of parishes who get a new assistant or even a visiting priest on a “mission” weekend.   Find out it they know what they are doing.  Bishops, check that the priest knows the words of absolution.   That might create an awkward moment or two, depending on the priest.  The well-formed priest will understand exactly why he is being quizzed and will readily accept it.  Anyone who get’s his back up… watch out.  Check the words of consecration and the form of absolution.    I have gotten into the box with a priest visiting to preach for a mission weekend.  I literally had to drag him through the correct form of absolution with a not too subtle suggestion that, if he didn’t use the right form (which I provided) he would be hearing from someone else.  That’s a priest to priest thing.  Be careful if Father get’s it wrong, but don’t take it if he doesn’t say the proper form, either.  Anyway, you pastors, who knows what sort of crazy is happening in the confessional when a visit comes: it’s best to lay down the parameters: “Father, thank you.  You are welcome here.  Thanks for being willing to hear confessions.  People here need be sure that the proper form of absolution is used, and not some personal formula.  Please use only and exactly the approved form for every absolution.  Thanks!”

Thirdly, Bishops, if you are the sort who has his panties in a twist about the TLM, maybe you should rethink your position.  Are the guys using the traditional books likely every to go astray when it comes to matter and form?  On the other hand, are you sure you know what’s going on at St. Idealia where the priest has for years been using Welch’s grape juice for Mass (true story).  Do you know what the “Eucharistic bread” is made of at “Sing A New Faith Community Into Being Faith Community”?  Do you know for sure what form of absolution is being used at “Engendering Togetherness Community of Welcome” when “reconciliation” is celebrated with deep, cleansing breaths and yoga pants on the 5th Saturday of the month when the moon is full?

Fourth, if you have videos of baptisms, review them.  No.  Really.  Review them.

Fifth, if you are a priest who is making things up… KNOCK IT OFF.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    One thing that recently impressed me was that the priest who baptized my niece and nephew last year wrote the actual formula he used on their baptismal certificates. This should be an actual thing on Baptismal Certificates. There should actually be a line that states: “Was Baptized into the Catholic Church using the Formula: “priest writes the Formula he used”.

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  3. Fr. Reader says:

    Some years ago, during a trip I wanted to celebrate the Holy Mass and went to a church. The priest there was a bit reluctant to allow me to celebrate one Mass there (without people) without showing my ordination certificate, that I did not bring with me. The problem was more about fake priests asking from money than about celebrating the sacraments validly. At the end he agreed showing only my passport. He asked a seminarian to accompany me every minute I was there.

    On another occasion, on another trip to a popular pilgrimage place, a person asked confession from me in a certain language in which there were no priests available. The person in charge of the place did not allow me to use the confessional box because I did not bring the certificate with me.

    At that time I thought they were a bit too strict. Not so much now.

  4. templariidvm says:

    When I first started reading this blog (100 years ago, it seems!), I noticed that the young new priest at our parish didn’t appear to get the heads of the infants he was baptizing. I was relatively new at the parish, so I printed something I had read here on the correct method of baptism and anonymously mailed it to the parish. The problem stopped!
    I was thrilled that I did not have to have a personal conversation with Father!

  5. ex seaxe says:

    I think that this determination by CDF is B as in B, S as in S, but of course my opinion counts for nothing.
    I also think that whoever originally stated that it is necessary to wet the crown of the head meant that it is necessary to immerse the whole body right to the crown of the head. But again my opinion counts for nothing.
    I would rely on the intention to do what the Church does.

  6. Danteewoo says:

    Devil’s advocate: 1) Since the “I” is included in the “We,” why wouldn’t “We baptize” be valid? 2) The Eastern Church baptizes in the passive voice: “the servant of Christ is baptized…” and such a formula is certainly valid, without the agent of Baptism being mentioned.

  7. Thomas S says:

    Father, you mention Matrimony in this post. It got me thinking. We’ve all heard a nervous bride or groom stumble their way badly through the vows, even when being fed the words line by line. Is there a different standard for validity than, say, absolution or the words of institution? How badly would they have to screw it up for it to actually invalidate the Sacrament? Or since the point of the words is a publicly voiced expression of consent, is there a lot of leeway?

    [I can’t possibly address every instance of a stumble. However, if the priest is so stupid that he doesn’t make sure that they get it right… well….]

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  9. cscairns says:

    Hello Fr Z & all, I am confused about something. I fully understand the need for consistency within sacred tradition. I also understand that the Roman Catholic Church recognizes the water baptism of many Protestant converts (when performed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost).

    So why, if my baptism would be accepted were I to convert, does an innocent error in a Catholic baptism invalidate it?

    It would seem that in this case, the priest could be corrected and everyone saved a lot of hand wringing over the words when the intent surely was fully present.

    (Long ago the Church Fathers agreed that the mass is still valid when the priest is presiding with unconfessed sin. So they knew there was a real gap filled by God between our imperfections and his Grace. The Protestant formula is generally “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost (or Spirit)”, but with all the languages around the world, there is certainty an enormous number of variations on this that still retain the basic pieces but differ in many other significant ways.)

    All of this is aside from the point of course that if we all used the same language this would not be a problem.


    [Sacraments have both matter and FORM. Get the form wrong and there is no sacrament.]

  10. Philmont237 says:

    I genuinely worry about this because I was baptized Anglican, and without any sort of profession of faith I made my first Holy Communion as a Catholic when I was seven (my dad came back to the Church when my mom died). I’ve often wondered about asking about conditional Baptism and Confirmation.

  11. Orual says:

    Father, while I’m glad this priest resigned, it seems these rogue priests are getting more and more brazen. I just came across this article from that bastion of Catholic orthodoxy, America Magazine, and can’t believe how openly this ‘priest’ rejects Catholic teaching! He describes himself as a ‘gay priest’ who longs to see the marriage of 2 men or 2 women. The article proudly compares this priest to the heretic Martin Luther. Apparently he has no fear of being disciplined or removed from ministry. How is this allowed?

  12. Sportsfan says:

    About 20 years ago, my wife witnessed this exact thing (We instead of I) at a baptism. We went to the priest later and told him what he had done. He acknowledged that he had done it wrong but that it was still a valid baptism. We didn’t think he knew what he was talking about (which he obviously didn’t) and wrote a letter to the archbishop explaining what happened. We never heard anything back. I hope it was taken care of. I’m not sure what else I could have done.
    This same priest baptized one of my children and one of my Godchildren. He did it right those times.

  13. redneckpride4ever says:

    Thos is why I wish conditional baptism for converts was still a norm.

    I was baptized Methodist. In 1993 I converted at age 14. My folks (at the time irregularly “married” until my Dad’s neclaration of nullity) were both floored that my baptism was considered valid without a hitch. They were “married” in 1959, so they weren’t around for when the divisive libs took over V2. As you can guess, I was a late born child.

    A couple years ago I looked at a video of a Methodist baptism. To my horror they used the “We”.

    I have since asked with urgency on multiple occasions if the minister said “I” and used the triune formula. They both swear that they remember distinctly that it was “I”.

    Nonetheless I do wonder why conditional baptisms are seemingly passe.

    I suppose the whole “Who am I to judge?” logic supersedes washing away original sin and gaining salvation. I guess eternal damnation is a small price to pay to be nice to Protestants. (Sarcasm intended).

    I’m grateful that my Mom had her wonderful pre-V2 materials for me to read. I knew right out the gate something about the 1990s material was…off.

  14. APX says:

    On another occasion, on another trip to a popular pilgrimage place, a person asked confession from me in a certain language in which there were no priests available. The person in charge of the place did not allow me to use the confessional box because I did not bring the certificate with me.

    Are the rules for priests needing faculties to hear confessions different in pilgrimage places? In our diocese, even priests visiting for less than 24 hours require faculties from the Diocesan Chancery to hear confessions.

  15. DCG81 says:

    Presumably, there are people out there who will never know that they were “baptized” with an invalid formula. (I don’t know what the priest said when I was baptized as a newborn 40 years ago.) Not all of these wayward priests and deacons are going to fess up or get caught; some are quite likely dead.
    And the Church won’t allow you to be conditionally baptized “just to be sure.”
    So, do we simply write these people off, like how we just accept that some ballots in every election won’t be counted by the machines? “Sorry, folks. Your parents requested baptism for their child. But the priest was a modernist. So, you’re going to die stained with Original Sin. And, you know that feeling of peace and closeness to God that you experience after receiving the consecrated host? Well, that’s only self-delusion or pious imagination on your part, because without baptism, you can’t experience Holy Communion.”
    A priest who performs thousands of invalid baptisms and then makes a good confession (even with imperfect contrition, motivated by fear of damnation) can receive sacramental absolution and go on to experience the beatific vision … but the thousands of innocent babies he “baptized” will be forever denied that?
    As a scrupulous person, my inclination is to fear God’s judgment rather than to presume God’s mercy, so this next question is a little out of character for me: Is it entirely unreasonable/baseless to hope that God, in His mercy and compassion, might confer baptismal graces upon invalidly baptized persons anyway, so that their subsequent sacraments will not be invalid? I’m speaking, of course, of those who would either never know that the wrong formula was used or would have no way of proving that it was. God, in His omnipotence, has known them and their lamentable situation since before the creation of the world.

  16. monstrance says:

    It’s ironic that the poor souls who were never validly baptized, could have received a valid baptism from a lay person using proper form and matter.

  17. Son of Saint Alphonsus says:

    It really isn’t very hard to get it right. The valid formula is printed right there in the ritual in black and white (are we allowed to say “black and white” or will the Woke Police be flying in?) and you don’t have to pick and choose an option. As a bonus you don’t even have to know Latin!

  18. dd113 says:

    Father-Why wouldn’t those baptisms be consider valid but illicit? At the least, it would seem to be a sort of “baptism by desire” by the parents/godparents or the person if they were of the age of consent.

  19. ajf1984 says:

    If I may be so bold as to offer a suggestion/action item?

    For those of us blessed with faithful priests who responsibly use the correct formulae for Baptisms, Absolution, Consecration (esp. in the N.O., of course!), etc.: it would be a good and Christian thing to write them a little note of thanks and encouragement in their ministry. Have they perhaps expanded access to the Sacraments since the COVID lockdowns began? Thank them for that! Increased (or initiated) Eucharistic Adoration in the parish? That, too! Implemented Eucharistic processions throughout the year? All wonderful additions to the life of worship of the parish. And, not that they do these things to win the applause of their congregation (far from it!), but we all know that it’s the negative voices that are heard the most, especially by our Pastors. So let’s try to “ratio” that and show them how much we appreciate their priesthood and their generous “Yes” to God’s call!

  20. 1) Since the “I” is included in the “We,”

    No only that, “We” can be singular, as the “Royal We”.

  21. mysticalrose says:

    I have actually begged a couple priest to conditionally baptize me, since I was baptized in the crazy 70’s. They won’t do it. It’s not fair — I just have no way to know if it was done correctly. The priest is long since dead and again, it was the decade after the Council. They could have done anything.

  22. Lurker 59 says:


    I agree with @redneckpride4ever: Conditional baptisms resolve a lot of the issues at play. Lots of Protestant communities are non-liturgical and don’t have a “say the black do the red” mentality. Just because a formula is in a worship book, doesn’t mean that it was actually used. The issue with the validity of sacraments being independent of the holiness of the minister isn’t the same thing as the validity with the wrong matter and/or form.

    One of the important things to understand is that the sacraments are not a magic spell: say the correct words and you make God do something. Rather, what is going on is related to obedience and humility. God promises to do something if we do that which He said for us to do. Takes humility to get out of the way and let God use you as His instrument and obedience to do God’s thing rather than your thing.

    If the minister of the sacrament unintentionally messes up and “sort of” doesn’t do what God wants done, what happens? It is a pious notion that God might do what He promised. He might do it, but there is no certitude that He will do it. It is really really important that we not let our sentimentality cloud our understanding of what God is going to do or not. Rely upon Him, not our personal sense of justice/niceness/”the mercy”^tm.

  23. Lurker 59 says:


    This type of stuff does set scrupulous persons’ minds wheeling.

    Presumption and despair are the opposite sides of the same coin. Both are signs of a certain lack of theological hope — so growing in that virtue is how to combat that. Theological hope isn’t a wish for something that could be but it is something held as a promise of a future realization — a thing that shall be. We hold the promise through the virtue of faith, and it is obtained through charity.

    In this case, we know that God has permitted it that the baptisms in question are invalid. We can speculate as to the reason. For those that now know that their baptism is invalid, do they presume that God’s mercy suffices and do nothing, do they despair that it does not, so do nothing? Or do they just act out of faith and go and get baptized? Obvious. What about those that do not know that they have an invalid baptism? We can speak here about God’s mercy as well as the mystery of iniquity. But as an outsider, it is perhaps best to pray for those involved, that they might come to knowledge, and, baring that, a baptism of desire might be had for them (which is a different thing than having a sentimentality about God having to do something, because “the mercy”^tm).

  24. Fr. Reader:

    I have no idea what an “ordination certificate” is. I received no such thing upon either of my ordinations. Hereabouts, the norm is for a priest to bring a “letter of suitability” with him — or better, have it sent ahead of him — from the chancellor of his diocese.

    Thomas S:

    I have received wedding vows for 19 years, and I have never witnessed a couple “stumble,” other than to pause briefly. Maybe once I had to give a little prompting. I am fascinated to hear from you that this is something frequent in your experience.


    I’ve only done a few conditional baptisms, two of which were for doubtfully living infants. Only once for a clearly living person, in the situation you describe, and that experience confirms for me the reason to avoid conditional baptisms as much as possible.

    The thing is, ought not a person to know, not only that s/he has received a sacrament, but to know it when it’s happening? A conditional sacrament is a very odd duck: you don’t know if it’s even a real sacrament. If the person was actually baptized, a conditional baptism is not, then, a sacrament at all. Or else it is.

    There’s no disputing the need for it, but it is a very weird situation to be avoided, I think.

  25. TonyO says:

    The issue of getting the words right can be amplified by recalling that while it is possible to have multiple layers of intention when you do something, unless you are lying you cannot have an explicit intention to do something that is actually incompatible with the words you use in doing it. If you SAY that “I am doing surgery” but what you really are doing physically is electrocuting someone, then you aren’t really doing surgery, and your intention cannot be “really, I meant to do surgery”. So, you cannot (always) explain away a problem with words that say one thing and an intention that runs to a different position, by saying “but the intention is there”. If the intention and the words aren’t compatible, then arguably the intention isn’t there to begin with.

    This gets the Anglicans into trouble, with their rite of “ordination”. They changed the rite of ordination, and the change means that the new language does not convey what the Church means by ordination. So, they don’t have ordination. (This has manifested itself in a (small) stream of Anglican priests who went to (valid) bishops of various rites and groups (Orthodox, Old Catholic, etc.) to get re-ordained in a proper rite and thus ACTUALLY become priests. If they take it seriously enough to do that, Catholics should pay attention.)

    I don’t know that I could prove beyond doubt how it is that saying “we” instead of “I” means that the words are incompatible with what the Church means by the form of baptism. But one can see possible reasons for such a conclusion. For example, if the “we” is used in a situation where, literally, MANY people are “performing” the rite, does EACH AND EVERY PERSON need to pour the water? Simultaneously, or consecutively? These and other issues might well make the Church unwilling to grant that “we” is sufficiently close to “I” for the purpose. I am glad it’s above my pay grade.

  26. PostCatholic says:

    So you can get sent to purgatory over a clerical error?

    [C’est drôle.]

  27. Ultrarunner says:

    “Then Probus . . . leapt into the water, saying, ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, and everlasting God, let all my sins be taken away by this water.’ And Paul said, ‘We baptize thee in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Ghost.’ After this he made him to receive the Eucharist of Christ” (Acts of Xantippe and Polyxena XXI [A.D. 250])

  28. DCG81 says:

    @Lurker 59
    Thanks for your response.
    I hope my comment didn’t give the impression that I was saying that God is somehow obligated “to do something” to rectify this situation brought about by human disobedience. I agree with you that He isn’t.
    It was more a case of me clutching at straws to find a reassuring answer to plaguing thoughts like: “How can I be sure that I’m baptized? How can I be sure that I’m validly receiving Holy Communion right now and that my feelings at this moment aren’t just my pious imagination at work? What if my entire spiritual/sacramental life has been a lie? Why shouldn’t I allow concerns about my baptism’s validity to haunt me for the rest of my life? Etc.”
    You’re right when you say stuff like this sets scrupulous persons’ minds wheeling …

  29. cscairns says:

    @Lurker 59

    Thank you for your response. I was baptized as a Baptist and therefore as a young person and so fortunately remember being there and giving my testimony. (Unfortunately, I have no record of it, even asked the church secretary to look for me. Records for those years are missing, and far as I know, we didn’t get a certificate or anything like that.)

    Something very interesting for those following this conversation: fundmentalist Baptists and traditional Catholics are alike in many ways. The form and matter of communion and baptism in a Baptist church are taken very seriously. If you’ve ever attended a fundmentalist Baptist communion service, you’ve heard and seen the similarities to the Catholic format. They don’t believe in the Real Presence, but you wouldn’t know it by just observing. In other words, it’s the most reverent moment in a Baptist’s public walk with the Lord. (Unlike many Protestant churches where the service is noisy, couples share a “holy kiss,” loud music, etc.)

    I’m on the outside looking in – grateful for my Baptist heritage, and convinced that Roman Catholicism is the true church and where I belong – but unable to cross the Tiber at this time.

    For what it’s worth, traditionis custodes and the widespread uncharitable response to tradtionalist’s sincere bewilderment really saddens me, because the RC Church promises channels of Grace that I know are available no other way, but it’s disheartening to want to join a club while watching some of the club members relentlessly marginalize others. The Church is in God’s hands, I know, and has survived far worse, but it’s painful to watch.

  30. ChiaraDiAssisi says:

    In reply to DCG81,
    I sympathize with all of the questions about your baptism that plague you especially after hearing thr news of all of these invalid baptisms and, the fact that it seems very rarely will a priest conditionally baptize.
    Your entire spiritual life is not a lie. Some responses lack some key points. God is not bound by the sacraments. Hence baptism of desire. Also, any other sacrament like holy orders, things are usually checked out pretty well so as to avoid messes like this one.

    ** If one knows that they or someone they are responsible for has been invalidly baptized, then they must seek baptism from the church immediately as this is the way God has ordained. But, if one is not sure and there is a question about the validity of one’s baptism, and one has explained clearly and no priest will conditionally baptize, then you truly can rest assured.
    Why? Because God is love and He desires your eternal salvation.

    What can you do with the questions that plague you? Are all of your pious feelings and spiritual life a delusion and a lie? No. You can choose to make every moment, with no promise of the reward of an eternity in Heaven and the present hell of scruples, an act to love no matter what. You can choose to love anyway. No, as people said, God doesn’t have to do anything and Im sorry but sorry that is a strange thing to say. A strange way to reassure someone who truly has anxiety about the validity of a sacrament. Especially baptism.

    What can someone do? Know assuredly as they are living and breathing, that God is everywhere present and fullest all things. That He is here, right now, and sees the desires of your heart. So, you can choose to love Him anyway. No, God doesn’t have to do anything. But God has revealed that He is love, beyond our comprehension and desires our good, our ultimate good, which is Himself, beyond our comprehension. He will and must necessarily see your good desires and honor them in His way, in His time. So lease remember that, and love anyway. Despite all fear, and anxiety. Love Him, with no promise of reward.

  31. ChiaraDiAssisi says:

    I should have added, I am not implying you are plagued by thoughts and want reassurance of the validity of your baptism only because you seek reward. What better reward is there than God Himself? Only that after you have done what you reasonable can to be sure your sacrament in question was valid, then that in itself shows the work of grace in your life and you can really rest in the fact that God desires your salvation more than your self and to love Him no matter what. I might get heck to pay for this on this blog but and orthodox Saint said, “Keep thy mind in hell but despair not!”
    You may live in the he’ll of scruples and endless questions for a while but love with all of your being. I really hope that helps as the tone your question really got to me since yesterday. You’re not alone you have many brothers and sisters in the faith and all of the Saints rooting for you in Heaven.

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