It’s the most basic of sacraments received by an individual in the Church. It’s the doorway that opens membership into the Body of Christ and frees the individual from original sin. It’s the beginning of a person’s life as a Christian. It’s the sacrament that makes an individual a Christian, yet now those baptized by one priest across two countries throughout two decades have been declared invalid. Now, the priest and diocese are working to identify those affected and ensure they receive valid sacraments.
On January 14, 2022, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix issued a statement declaring any baptism performed by Reverend Andres Arango as invalid. As a result, the diocese and Arango are working to identify those who had an invalid baptism and ensure they can receive a valid baptism and other needed sacraments.
The sacrament of baptism is conferred on the individual using the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Those words symbolize the baptism by Jesus upon the individual and is not a congregational sacrament. However, Arango replaced the “I” in the baptism with “We” and declared “we baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. It may sound as if it is being “picky” and does not matter when, in fact, it matters a great deal because the “we” inclusion instead of Christ is used to represent a community form of baptism. The community does not baptize an individual. Jesus Christ the individual. It is Christ who gives us the sacraments and it is Christ who is present in the sacraments. As a result, it is Christ who baptizes, not a group of people or a community.
Although it may sound legalistic, it’s much more severe than just breaking the rules. If the baptism is invalid, then the graces that flow from baptism are not present. In other words, an invalid baptism does not do what the sacrament is supposed to do. It did not wash away original sin nor make the individual a Christian.
A person who has an invalid baptism is essentially never baptized. That means the person never properly received the other sacraments which follow baptism.
“A person who has not received baptism cannot be admitted validly to the other sacraments.” (Code of Canon Law 842.1)
For over two decades, across two countries and continents, countless people were baptized invalidly and therefore never became Christians. One cannot receive the sacrament of Confirmation without a valid baptism. They also cannot receive the Holy Eucharist without being baptized.
The changing of the words in the sacrament of baptism started late in the 20th century when, as is a major problem today with other areas of the Church, the clergy began changing the verbiage for political and cultural purposes. For example, some were baptizing individuals using the phrase in the name of the “Creator, Liberator, Sustainer” or “Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier” as a way to change the masculine terms of the rite to gender-neutral terms. All those baptized under this formula had invalid baptisms as well. Additionally, clergy began using the term “we” instead of “I” in a way to make it a more inclusive, community sacrament. As a result, all those baptisms are invalid.
On August 6, 2020, after having additional issues with priests and deacons tampering with the verbiage of the sacrament, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith issued a note that said any baptism that did not follow the proper formula was invalid. That note issued by the congregation is the reason why the Phoenix Diocese declared Fr. Arango’s baptisms invalid.
Arango has served in Brazil as well as the United States. In the late 1990s he served in the Diocese of Sao Salvador de Bahia (Brazil). In 2001, he became the director of the San Diego State University Newman Center in California. He served there until 2005 when he was moved to St. Jerome Parish in Phoenix, where he served as pastor until 2013. He served the next two years as parochial vicar at St. Anne in Gilbert, Arizona and then pastor at St. Gregory Parish from 2015 until February 1, 2022, when he resigned due to the invalid baptisms.
The invalidity of a baptism not only has a direct impact on that individual’s spiritual and faith life through reception of the sacraments, it could also have a significant impact on others if an individual was invalidly baptized and then became a priest. If a priest has an invalid baptism, then that means the priest himself is not a Christian or even a priest. As a result, any absolutions given in the sacrament of Reconciliation, any consecrations during Mass, or anointing of the sick are all invalid if the priest himself is not validly ordained and a Christian.
Fr. Arango released a statement which said, in part, “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”.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted also released a statement which read, in part, “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 sacraments, and so it is Christ Jesus who baptizes….I do not believe Fr. Andres had any intentions to harm the faithful or deprive them of the grace of baptism and the sacraments.”
The diocese has provided an online form on their website where individuals who believe they may be impacted by an invalid baptism by Fr. Arango can contact the diocese and ensure they receive valid sacraments. If you are unsure of the priest who baptized you then you can check on your baptism certificate or contact your parish or diocese.
You can complete the form and find out more information on the situation by clicking here.
If you believe you are affected by an invalid baptism, you should not receive Holy Communion until you are assured your baptism is valid.