Priest Resigns After 20-Year-Long Semantics Error

Rev. Andres Arango of Phoenix used the word 'we' instead of 'I' in baptisms, rendering all invalid
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 15, 2022 12:27 PM CST
One Word Renders Thousands of Pastor's Baptisms Invalid
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Denis Burkin)

If you or any of your children have been baptized in San Diego, Arizona, or Brazil over the past two decades, you might want to check who the presiding pastor was at that purification ceremony. That's because the Rev. Andres Arango, a priest in the Diocese of Phoenix, has now had thousands of baptisms he performed over the past 20 years rendered invalid, leading to his resignation from the church he presides over. The hubbub is all thanks to one word he kept saying wrong over the years during the baptism ritual. The correct way to say the phrase that accompanies the pouring of the holy water during the sacrament, per the Washington Post: "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Unfortunately, Arango's version has consistently been "We baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," a one-word variation that isn't up to snuff with the Catholic Church, and which has now led to some bad news for Arango: He's resigned from his post as pastor of St. Gregory Catholic Church. The bad news for everyone else, per the diocese website: "All of the baptisms he has performed until June 17, 2021, are presumed invalid." The site adds to those affected, "You will need to be baptized" and notes that, "as far as we know," the other sacraments carried out by Arango have been OK.

Diocese officials don't believe Arango acted in bad faith, either in Phoenix or in his previous parishes in California and Brazil. The Post notes that because baptism is the sacrament that "opens the door to others," those who were improperly baptized by Arango may need to first get properly baptized, then do over other sacraments such as confirmation and marriage. The Catholic News Agency notes those thought to have received a botched baptism also shouldn't receive Holy Communion until their status is remedied.

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The New York Times cites other cases of people, including priests, finding out their baptisms were invalid, with University of Dayton faith professor Sandra Yocum noting, "It's very hard to gauge how often this happens." She adds that the reason the Vatican has been so firm on adhering to that very specific wording is because "we" implies the baptismal blessing comes from the community, whereas "I" signifies it's coming right from God, through the priest. As for Arango, he writes in an open letter, "I deeply regret my error" and vows to "dedicate my energy and full time ministry to help remedy this and heal those affected." (More baptism stories.)

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