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About Those Invalid Baptisms, Part 2

  /   Sunday, February 27, 2022   /   Comments(2)

Imagine going to Confession, and after making the Act of Contrition, the priest looks at you and says “Ah la peanut butter sandwiches!” Then, you are dismissed. An hour later, you go to Mass. Instead of the usual Eucharistic Prayer, the priest just says “Milk and cookies for everyone!” Then, he proceeds to distribute the hosts. What if the priest does pray the Eucharistic prayer, but uses milk and cookies instead of bread and wine? In these cases, wouldn’t you at least question whether the Sacraments had been administered.

Well, I’d say you don’t even need to question. In these cases, you can be assured that they haven’t. A priest who would do those things shouldn’t even be allowed to minister. He would have been seriously disrespectful of the sacred. Worse yet, he would have failed to give the people the Sacraments that Christ gave to the Church as the ordinary means of grace.

Ok, these are rather extreme examples. What about the case when a priest alters one word, beginning a Baptism with “we” instead of “I”? Maybe this seems picky.

In Part 1, I mentioned how easy it would be just to get it right, for starters. Here, I want to explain further. I make my living as a pharmacist. In a couple of jobs I’ve held, I’ve been involved in compounding IV formulations in a hospital. I get orders for how much of what drug compound is supposed to go into the solution. If I deviate from that, I haven’t made what was ordered. I’ve made something else. The extent of the deviation may range from something of little or no consequence to something that is ineffective or even dangerous (or deadly) for the patient.

Sacraments also have a way in which they are to be done. All of them have a matter (in Baptism it is water) and a form (“I baptize you . . .”). Sacraments were given to us by Christ, and the Church, with her authority to bind and loose, must adhere to what Christ has given us. If the priest says something other than the form of the Sacrament, he hasn’t administered the Sacrament. He has done something else. The same would happen, for example, if the priest tried to baptize with soda instead of water or tried to consecrate hamburger patties and lemonade instead of bread and wine.

If my work as a pharmacist, which involves the temporal welfare of a patient, needs to be done with great care, how much more should the work of a priest, whose work has eternal ramifications, need to be done with great care. We are talking about the sacred here. We are talking about the very things given us by our perfect and holy God!

Some may say that God is so loving and merciful that these things are small and shouldn’t matter. However, God’s love should be the reason why we want to exercise great care with the sacred, not an excuse to be slipshod with holy things. Mistakes do happen, and God is merciful. While we wouldn’t want to condemn those who make mistakes, correction needs to be made. One priest I know actually got a few people together and asked us to stop him if he made a mistake in certain parts of the Mass so that he wouldn’t invalidate the consecration.

This may seem foreign to us who have often been told that externals are not important. However, if someone is deliberately changing the words that comprise the form of the Sacrament, they are changing the meaning of what is said. After all, what is in the heart of a minister who wishes to say his own words rather than the correct ones? It is likely that there is something different about the intent of that minister. As I mentioned last time, it may be something that he doesn’t realize is an error, but there is still something not right.

In part 3, I’ll talk about how saying “We baptize . . .” instead of “I baptize . . .” has a different meaning. I’ll also talk about what’s wrong with it. In the meantime, here’s a great article about how catechesis in the regard is sorely needed.

Category: Cathechesis, Response

About Those Invalid Baptisms, Part 1

  /   Wednesday, February 23, 2022   /   Comments(0)

Yes, it’s true.  If a priest administering the Sacraments uses the wrong words, the Sacrament can be (and often is) invalid.  It’s now been in the news for a little while, and I saw another article just published this month on the effects of this in regards to Baptism.  I think there is a lot of misunderstanding around this that needs to be cleared up.

When a story like this break, the reaction of many people, including many Catholics, may be something along the lines of “how could God not give someone the Sacrament just because the wrong words are used.  How legalistic!” Somehow it has been drilled into us that the externals are just trivial things that we needn’t worry about.  One secular article that I wrote (but won’t link) even said that this is indicative of a problem that Pope Francis spoke about.  However, Pope Francis approved the statement saying that a certain formula was invalid (see the italics directly under the questions in English).

I want to ask that we take a look at this.  If we are inclined to react by asking why this is a big deal, let’s ask another question.  Why aren’t we asking something along the lines of “Why does a priest or deacon need to use words other than the ones prescribed by the Church?  Just use the form prescribed!  How hard is it?”

I can’t think of any reason why it is actually more difficult for a priest or deacon who baptized someone to say “I baptize you . . .” rather than “We baptize you . . .”  The correct way to say this even has the same number of syllables and fewer letters than the incorrect form.  I’m sure it’s written right in the Church’s rite where it can be easily read.

There definitely are concerns here.  They often have to do with poor formation rather than a real disregard for the Sacraments.  That’s not to say that there aren’t at least some people who don’t like what the Church really is and stands for, but there is probably even more lack of formation in our mindset towards the things of God.

I’ll explain more in part 2, but here’s a good article from Catholic News Agency that is helpful.

Category: Cathechesis, Catholic, Response


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