Thousands of baptisms conducted by Phoenix priest deemed invalid by Catholic Church

Infant baptism | Unsplash/horizonstudios

Thousands of Catholics baptized into the faith by the Rev. Andres Arango, the former priest of St. Gregory Catholic Church in Phoenix, Arizona, will now have to redo their baptisms after Arango was found to have used an incorrect formula to carry out the sacrament.

Arango, who voluntarily resigned from the church earlier this month, also served at parishes in Brazil and San Diego, California, in a career spanning more than 20 years, The New York Times reported. Officials investigating the invalid baptism formula believe thousands of people were improperly baptized by Arango over the years.

In the Catholic Church, people are baptized once, as infants, and not rebaptized as adults. However, children, teenagers and adults who convert to Catholicism also receive baptism, often performed during Easter vigils (see examples here and here).  

Fr. Arango's formula for baptism first became a cause for concern last year when he was heard saying during one ceremony: “We baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

According to the Vatican, during baptisms, priests are expected to say the words “I baptize,” instead of “We baptize” in order for the baptism to be valid.

Thomas J. Olmsted, the bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix, explained in a recent statement published on the church’s website why it was unacceptable for Arango to say “We baptize.”

“It is with sincere pastoral concern that I inform the faithful that baptisms performed by Reverend Andres Arango, a priest of the Diocese of Phoenix, are invalid. This determination was made after careful study by diocesan officials and through consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome,” Olmsted said.

“Specifically, it was reported to me that Fr. 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,’” he explained. “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.”

Olmsted said he did not believe that Arango’s error was intentional and asked congregants who were baptized by him with the incorrect formula to reach out to the church so they can help.

“I do not believe Fr. Andres had any intentions to harm the faithful or deprive them of the grace of baptism and the sacraments. On behalf of our local Church, I too am sincerely sorry that this error has resulted in disruption to the sacramental lives of a number of the faithful," Olmsted added. "This is why I pledge to take every step necessary to remedy the situation for everyone impacted. If you believe your own reception of baptism may be connected to Fr. Andres Arango’s ministry, please call your parish for more information about how to proceed. I also encourage you to visit, for more information.”

In a statement also shared by the church, Arango said he was saddened to learn that he performed invalid baptisms throughout his ministry 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,” he said. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank God for having given me the opportunity to serve your community. 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.”

In a message published in their newsletter on Jan. 30, the community at St. Gregory Catholic Church in Phoenix also thanked Arango for his service.

“We’d like to thank you for your dedication to your vocation, but also for your dedication to the community. You have helped give Saint Gregory a new face. During your time here you have shared meals, given spiritual guidance, lifted our parish, taken our youth twice to World Youth Day, opened opportunities to several trips to Holy Land; all while being very attentive to our community and our formation,” the church said. “The impact that you have made on our students, parishioners, and staff will stay forever in our hearts.”

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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