A priest used one wrong word during baptisms, church says thousands were invalid

Posted at 12:13 PM, Feb 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-15 14:13:24-05

A Catholic priest in Phoenix has resigned from his position after a church investigation found he had been incorrectly performing baptisms over his 20-year career — rendering the rite invalid for thousands of people, according to Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix.

As he poured the holy water during the baptisms he performed, the Rev. Andres Arango would say, "We baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

But Father Arango misstated one word: "We baptize" should have been "I baptize." And getting that word wrong nullified all of the rituals he performed using that language.

"If you were baptized using the wrong words, that means your baptism is invalid, and you are not baptized," Olmsted wrote in a message to parishioners. "You will need to be baptized."

"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 of Phoenix added that it did not believe Father Arango "had any intentions to harm the faithful or deprive them of the grace of baptism and the sacraments."

"I too am sincerely sorry that this error has resulted in disruption to the sacramental lives of a number of the faithful. This is why I pledge to take every step necessary to remedy the situation for everyone impacted," Olmsted said.

He said that after a "careful study by diocesan officials," all of the baptisms Arango performed up until June 17, 2021, are presumed invalid. Baptisms performed by Arango after that date are presumed valid and there is no need to repeat them.

Arango previously served in parishes in Phoenix , Brazil and San Diego, according to the Catholic News Service. The diocese has created a website for anyone who believes their baptism was invalid.

In a statement, Father Arango asked his parishioners for forgiveness and announced that he'd resigned as pastor of the St. Gregory parish in Phoenix, effective February 1.

"It saddens me to learn that I have performed invalid baptisms throughout my ministry as a priest by regularly using an incorrect formula," he said. "I deeply regret my error and how this has affected numerous people in your parish and elsewhere ... I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience my actions have caused and genuinely ask for your prayers, forgiveness, and understanding," Arango said.

Dozens of people attended a farewell celebration for Father Arango in January and some St. Gregory parishoners have launched a petition asking that Arango stay on as pastor.

"As part of his pastoral leadership, Father Andres reinvigorated the church community by renovating its facilities, giving parishioners and faith seekers a spiritual home that is open to all," it said. "The St. Gregory's community will never be the same without him."

According to the Diocese of Phoenix, Arango remains in "good standing" as a priest and "has not disqualified himself from his vocation and ministry." As of right now, other sacraments performed by Arango are considered valid, the diocese said.

"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," Arango said.