PHOENIX (LifeSiteNews) – A Catholic priest in the Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona, has resigned his parish ministry after it was discovered that he had been performing invalid baptisms for decades.
Fr. Andres Arango, a former member of the Eudist congregation, stepped down as parish priest of St. Gregory’s in central Phoenix on February 1 after it had been determined that he had been using an invalid form of the Rite of Baptism, possibly from as early as 1995.
In a January 14 letter to parishioners, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix announced “with sincere pastoral concern” that Arango had been using the formula “We baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” instead of the approved “I baptize you …”
Olmsted wrote that “[t]he key phrase in question is the use of ‘We baptize’ in place of ‘I baptize.’ 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 cited the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s (CDF) 2020 “Responsum” on the question of baptizing using an alternative formula, which states: “no one, ‘even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.’”
Olmsted added that he does not believe Arango acted in bad faith or “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,” the bishop wrote, adding his pledge “to take every step necessary to remedy the situation for everyone impacted.”
To this end, Olmsted established a page on the diocesan website to handle queries and receive requests for baptisms for those who had originally attempted to receive the sacrament from Arango.
“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, dphx.org/valid-baptism for more information,” Olmsted said.
The help-page “Notice about the Validity of Baptisms” explains that “[if] you were baptized using the wrong words, that means your baptism is invalid, and you are not baptized. You will need to be baptized.” The diocese added that anyone who was invalidly baptized by Arango must not present themselves for Holy Communion and that the sacrament of Confirmation was not validly conferred.
The diocese noted that marriages may also be invalidated by a false baptism, but that “there is no single clear answer” since “[t]here are a number of variables when it comes to valid marriages.” Concerned parishioners are urged to contact the diocesan Tribunal.
Stressing the importance of a valid baptism, the diocese noted that the sacrament “is a requirement for salvation,” citing those Gospel passages in which Christ institutes baptism and commissions the apostles to “[g]o, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Although Arango has resigned his ministry, Olmsted said he “remains a priest in good standing” and that he “will dedicate his energy and full-time ministry to helping and healing those who were invalidly baptized.”
Prior to serving St. Gregory’s church, Arango had parish appointments in two other Phoenix parishes, was the director of the San Diego State University Newman Center, as well as teaching and pastoring in Brazil while with the Eudists.
Arango released a statement, also published on the diocesan website, notifying his parish of his resignation.
“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,” he continued, “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,” the priest wrote.
“I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience my actions have caused and genuinely ask for your prayers, forgiveness, and understanding,” he added.
Arango’s is not the first case of its kind. In 2020, two priests discovered that their baptisms were invalid because the priest or deacon who performed the rite used the form “we baptize” instead of the correct “I baptize,” rendering all of their subsequent sacraments, including Holy Orders, invalid.
Fr. Matthew Hood of the Archdiocese of Detroit, Michigan, and Fr. Zachary Boazman of the Diocese of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, both discovered within weeks of one another that their baptisms had been invalidly administered, rendering their priesthood and related ministry invalid.
Both men had to receive baptism and confirmation before they could be ordained and begin active parish ministry in their respective dioceses.