The National Catholic Reporter: “After learning his baptism was invalid, priest finds blessing in ‘re-ordination'” – the story of the importance of words at baptism…

Mary Vallely writes:

This article in the NCR (August 25th 2020 ) is something  which must be of concern to all of us as baptised persons and  in particular to the ordained.

Is your first instinct like mine to shake your head at the absurdity of it all? Is this not carrying rigidity and ‘pharisaical priorities’ to the extreme? Putting the law above any other consideration? What about Baptism by intent?

What do others think,  particularly priests? Young Fr Hood’s “devastation” seems genuine and no one wants  to see anyone in such distress but does it say something to us about priestly formation and that overly strict adherence to rules and regulations? Perhaps the theologians here would explain why this simple change of one word, “I” to “We” can cause so much pain or make a sacrament invalid?’

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  1. Jo O'Sullivan says:

    And we, poor, simple souls, are expected to know that, most of the time, the priest uses the pronoun “I” to mean “I, Father X” and during the Sacrament of Baptism, “I” means “I, Christ”? Surely, if that’s the case, it would make far more sense to say, at Baptism “Christ baptises you in the name of….”?
    While I can just about get my head around that as an explanation for not using “We”, it doesn’t explain what’s wrong with “I baptise you in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sanctifier”. Surely “The Redeemer” is just another name for Christ? Am I uttering heresy here? Anybody explain?

  2. Frank Graham says:

    In this way of thinking the words of Baptism and the other Sacraments are like a magical formula intended to have a magical effect on the person receiving them— a bit like the incantation of a witch’s spell?!

  3. Sean O'Conaill says:

    The Detroit priest who did backflips over this had a video of his own baptism to refer to – so what are the rest of us to do?

    Stop making video or audio recordings of sacraments, probably – just in case the CDF has to make another bid to stay relevant decades from now!

    Notice that for this priest also the faith that had led him to the priesthood meant nothing: he believed he wasn’t a Christian because ‘we’ had been used instead of ‘I’ at his baptism!

    If ever there was a proof case against infant baptism this is it. The issue couldn’t have arisen for the earliest Christians who were baptised as adults simply because they wanted that to happen. And now we lack any equivalent adult rite of initiation for the non-cleric, unless you were NOT baptised in infancy. This is the root of so many ills.

    Moreover, the supposed necessity of infant baptism rests still on the Augustinian theology of original sin that gave us Limbo – which has now been ‘retired’. When will the CDF work its way through the full implications of all of that?

  4. Eddie Finnegan says:

    I’m sure the best way to give the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith something to really worry about would be a ‘Reductio ad Rebibam’, or ‘ad absurdum’ if you prefer. Every Pope, Cardinal and at least 95% of Bishops since around 1675 trace the validity of their Apostolic Succession back through +Pietro Orsini / Benedict XIII (1724-1730) to the 16th century Sicilian Cardinal Scipione Rebiba. Rebiba, throughout the Council of Trent and the Counter-reformation it launched, was one of the linchpins of the Holy Inquisition and eventually Prefect of said Inquisition and forerunner of all CDF Prefects of our day. Obviously God’s Original Rottweiler according to his memorial plaque: “Inquisitor into heretical depravity, a most fierce fighter for the orthodox faith.”

    But his role as linchpin of Apostolic Succession for nearly every bishop for the last three centuries only kicked in 150 years after his death and had little or nothing to do with his inquisitorial prowess. Benedict XIII, no great administrator of the papacy of the day, was a very pastoral pope and prolific consecrator of bishops – up to 160 in his less than six-year papacy, including two Irish Dominicans for Kilmore and Meath & Clonmacnois who in turn consecrated six others as the Penal Laws slackened a little. Benedict’s episcopal ancestry was traceable back to our Scipione Rebiba, born before the Reformation and consecrated bishop in 1541 (possibly but not certainly by his mentor Cardinal G.P.Carafa, later Pope Paul IV).

    If we go back to the Sicilian village of San Marco d’Alunzio on the morning of Thursday 4th February 1504, we may just catch the Rebiba family, godparents and retinue (they are strong landowners and the mother has some nobility in her background) arriving at the village church for the baptism of their second son. As the old priest of San Marco is about to start, Uncle Scipione the Godfather steps in: ‘No Padre, the Rebibas will do it our way but to keep them happy in Rome we’ll let you pour the water and we’ll baptise him in proper Latin. So, just pour and we’ll all join in: “Noi ti battezziamo nel nome del Padre e del Figlio e dello Spirito Santo.” Grand job!’

    Fortunately, nobody had thought of bringing the video-camera or even a smart phone. Young Scipione Rebiba wasn’t validly baptised; he hasn’t a chance of any other sacraments of initiation. He’s still a little pagan and so he’ll remain. But sure nobody will know and the Parish Priest understands omertà implicitly. But if the Inquisition or the Holy Office or the CDF were ever to find out about the Rebibas of San Marco and their Parish Priest back in 1504, what would become of the whole house of cards once the carpet has been hauled from under three centuries of ‘Rebiba Succession’? All those priests, bishops, cardinals, popes and an entire sacramental system gone like a puff of smoke.

    Maybe the guys at the CDF should call a meeting. And maybe young Paul Dempsey should think about some other line of apostolic succession before they ordain him for Achonry on Sunday!

  5. Paddy Ferry says:

    Eddie@6, once again I stand/sit in awe of your knowledge and erudition.

    There are two things that I have learned from reading the late, great Raymond Brown about Apostolic Succession that made me sit up and take notice –now, I haven’t got the exact quotes in front of me but they made such an impression on me that that what I am about to write is fairly accurate.

    Firstly he said
    “There is no compelling evidence to support this classic Catholic thesis” and, secondly, “The whole idea of a linear apostolic succession has been the result of a series of historic fabrications”

    Reading Raymond you get the impression there was only one apostle worth his salt and that was Paul and he wasn’t even one of the Twelve.

  6. Liamy MacNally says:

    Brendan Hoban writes:
    Pól @ 2 is spot on. This IS insane. The silly season equivalent of ‘How many angels on the head of a pin?’ Whatever happened to Ecclesia supplet – the Church supplies?

  7. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Pól@2 & Liamy(for Brendan)@8:

    Alright to dismiss this as insane and silly season angel counting if we’re all agreed that this church is an insane institution which now and again gives us all a bit of a belly laugh. But presumably its ministers follow its rules most of the time and its Canon Law and CDF interpretations thereof carry some weight. Young Fr Matt Hood and his diocese have at least taken it seriously while old Deacon (rtd.) Springer apparently didn’t – probably not just once in 1990 but as his usual baptising practice.

    As for “Ecclesia supplet”, the answer seems to be “Ecclesia non supplet quod Ecclesia non habet.” “Ecclesia supplet” applies to occasional lack of jurisdiction or diocesan authority, or maybe if a visiting priest has mislaid his “celebret”. But it doesn’t cover deficient Matter (e.g. using wine instead of water for Baptism, or water instead of wine for the Eucharist) or deficient Form (using the wrong words or no words at all in baptising). Of course we could always fall back on God (as in “Deus providet”) but I don’t think God likes being taken for granted too often or relied upon to clean up deacons’ or priests’ or bishops’ mess. It does seem as if Deacon Springer may have had form in this matter – i.e. improvising his own Form, if not indeed substituting his own Matter.

  8. Pól Ó Duibhir says:

    Thanks Brendan.

    I really don’t think the CDF have thought this through.

  9. Brendan Hoban says:

    Really Eddie? People make mistakes. Deacons do. Even Priests to. And Bishops do. And it’s not the end of the world. No sense in getting ourselves into a twist about it.
    Parish life doesn’t always rise to covering the minutiae of canon law or the requirements of the CDF. We had a surfeit of casuistry in the past and concepts like deficient matter or deficient form tend to take second place when the exigencies of a situation don’t allow for it. As when Pope Francis said (exasperatingly) to the priest who worried about number and kind in hearing Confessions – ‘’Just give them absolution!’
    Not too sure I agree with your comment that God doesn’t like being taken for granted too often. I think the evidence would be that God is less particular than canon lawyers and the CDF!
    I think He or She wouldn’t mind at all!

  10. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Well Brendan, I think we could all agree with your take on this. From my previous comments@1,6,9 I’m sure it’s clear that ‘in hac pugna canem non habeo’, but it’s nice to see one or two newish commenters rising to the bait. Thanks again for making all your Western People columns available to us here.

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