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More Than 20 Years of Baptisms Deemed Invalid Because of One Wrong Word by Phoenix Priest

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The Diocese of Phoenix recently shared “difficult information” with Catholics who were baptized by longtime Phoenix priest Andres Arango: Because he used the words “We baptize” rather than “I baptize” during the rite, thousands of baptisms have been deemed invalid.

The error, which Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted says he believes is unintentional, also may affect subsequent sacraments for those baptized individuals, including confirmation and even marriage. Arango has apologized and resigned from St. Gregory Catholic Church, pledging to “help remedy this and heal those affected.”

Phoenix Priest’s Problematic Wording—‘It Is Christ Who Baptizes’ 

For more than 20 years, Arango served in ministry in Brazil, California, and Arizona. Concerns about his phrasing reportedly surfaced last year. Then last month, Bishop Olmsted posted a statement about the Phoenix priest’s invalid baptisms, saying the conclusion came “after careful study by diocesan officials and through consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.”

According to the Second Vatican Council, no one, “even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.” As a result, notes Olmsted, any baptisms Arango performed before June 17, 2021, “are presumed invalid.”

The bishop explains the significance of Arango’s wording change this way: “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.”

The diocese is offering resources for people about “how to proceed if your sacraments are in question.” Thousands of baptisms may need to be repeated, meaning that additional church sacraments could require do-overs as well.

Phoenix Priest Resigned but Isn’t ‘Disqualified’

Although Arango resigned from St. Gregory on February 1, the diocese says he isn’t “disqualified” from ministry and “remains a priest in good standing.” The priest requests “prayers, forgiveness, and understanding” as he focuses on working to fix the error.

In a recent St. Gregory newsletter, the parish thanks Arango for his “dedication to your vocation, but also for your dedication to the community.”

Bishop Olmsted says, “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.” He adds, “Please be assured that things like this have happened before in the history of the Church.”

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Stephanie Martin, a freelance writer and editor in Denver, has spent her entire 30-year journalism career in Christian publishing. She loves the Word and words, is a binge reader and grammar nut, and is fanatic (as her family can attest) about Jeopardy! and pro football.