As the saying goes, you cannot make this stuff up. The Guardian reports that thousands of baptisms performed in the diocese of Phoenix, AZ have been invalidated because the priest used the wrong words during the ceremony.
Father Andres Arango resigned from the St Gregory parish church in Phoenix earlier this month after diocese leaders discovered he had mistakenly used the phrase “we baptize you” instead of “I baptize you” for years.
His error means that countless baptisms – an irrevocable requirement for salvation in Catholic theology – will have to be performed again. And some churchgoers could find their marriages are not recognized.
This is a big deal, as stated by the Vatican’s congregation for the doctrine of the faith in 2020:
The Sacrament of Baptism administered with an arbitrarily modified formula is not valid, and those for whom “baptism” was celebrated in this way must be baptized “in forma absoluta” — that is unconditionally — by repeating the rite according to the liturgical norms stipulated by the Church.
The diocese has conveniently assembled a list of FAQs to guide those affected by the mishap:
“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.
I imagine the scene, with St. Peter at the Pearly Gates:
So, what do we have here? Hmm, this looks good. All the sacraments, holy communion every Sunday, good father and husband, charity work, pillar of the community, straight as an arrow.
Outstanding! This is what we want to see.
Oh wait, what’s this? Looks like your baptism was invalid, the “We” instead of “I” thing. Uh oh. This invalidates all your sacraments, marriage included, which means you have been living in sin all these years.
Never mind. It’s eternal damnation for you. Circle of the luxurious. Off you go!
O my! you have been a naughty boy, haven’t you? Theft, perjury, fornication, looks like you broke all the commandments. Even murder! Man, that’s really bad. Well, at least your baptism was valid, so there is that.
But wait, looks like you repented on your death bed, called a priest, confessed and got the last rites. How about that?
Well, come right in to the garden of milk and honey!
God really works in mysterious ways