Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix said baptisms performed by a priest during years of ministry in the diocese are invalid, leading to the resignation of the clergyman Feb. 1.
In a Jan. 14 letter to the diocese, Bishop Olmsted said diocesan officials learned from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that the baptisms were invalid because of the form used during the ritual by Father Andres Arango.
“Specifically, it was reported to me 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,’” Bishop Olmsted wrote.
“The issue with using ‘We’ is that it is not the community that baptizes a person, rather, it is Christ, and him alone, who presides at all of the sacrament, and so it is Christ Jesus who baptizes,” the bishop’s letter said.
The use of the improper form led Father Arango to resign as pastor of St. Gregory Parish in Phoenix. Bishop Olmsted said Father Arango remains a priest in good standing in the diocese and that he would be helping the diocese identify and contact people whose baptisms are invalid.
Father Arango became pastor of St. Gregory Church in April 2017 after leaving the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, commonly referred to as the Eudists. Prior to his appointment as pastor, he was parish administrator at the church beginning in July 2015.
Diocesan officials did not disclose how many people are affected by the discovery.
Bishop Olmsted wrote that church officials are working to identify as many as people as possible to inform them how to receive a valid baptism.
The Diocese of Phoenix website has a page with questions and answers, and among other things it notes:
Baptism is the first of the three Sacraments of Initiation (followed by confirmation and Eucharist). It is the welcoming rite to Christ’s Church, the sacrament that grants access to all the others.
“Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments” (CCC 1213). As the entry point to other sacraments, an invalid baptism therefore invalidates any subsequent sacraments, especially confirmation, marriage, and holy orders (ordination to the priesthood or diaconate).
What this means for you is, if your baptism was invalid and you’ve received other sacraments, you may need to repeat some or all of those sacraments after you are validly baptized as well.
Obviously, this could have far-reaching consequences. According to the website, the priest in question was ordained in Brazil and began serving in the United States in 2001.
The priest has posted his own statement on the diocesan web site:
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is with a heavy heart that I find myself writing this letter of notification to a wonderful parish family that I once served.
It saddens me to learn that I have performed invalid baptisms throughout my ministry as a priest by regularly using an incorrect formula. I deeply regret my error and how this has affected numerous people in your parish and elsewhere. With the help of the Holy Spirit and in communion with the Diocese of Phoenix I will dedicate my energy and full time ministry to help remedy this and heal those affected. In order to do this, I have resigned from my position as pastor of St. Gregory parish in Phoenix effective February 1, 2022.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank God for having given me the opportunity to serve your community so many years ago. You have all enriched my life beyond measure. It has been a blessing and an honor to have served and worked alongside people that I consider my dear friends and family.
On the Diocese of Phoenix website, there is a letter from Bishop Olmsted about this and a link to a form where you can provide your name and contact information if you believe you were baptized by me, so that the Diocese can begin the process of baptizing all who are affected.
I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience my actions have caused and genuinely ask for your prayers, forgiveness, and understanding.
Respectfully in Christ,
Fr. Andres Arango
In your charity, please remember him and all those he served in your prayers.