Phoenix pastor resigns after diocese learns he performed invalid baptisms

PHOENIX — Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix said baptisms performed by a priest during years of ministry in the diocese are invalid, prompting the pastor’s resignation Feb. 1.

In a Jan. 14 letter to the diocese, Olmsted said diocesan officials learned from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that baptisms were invalid due to the form used in the ritual by Father Andres Arango.

“Specifically, I was told that Father Andres used the phrase, ‘We baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The key phrase in question is the use of ‘We baptize’ in place of ‘I baptize’,” Olmsted wrote.

“The problem with using ‘We’ is that it is not the community that baptizes a person, rather it is Christ, and he alone, who presides over all the sacraments, and so it is Christ Jesus who baptizes,” the bishop said. letter said.

The use of the inappropriate form led Arango to resign as pastor of St. Gregory Parish in Phoenix. Olmsted said Arango remains a priest in good standing in the diocese and will help the diocese identify and contact people with invalid baptisms.

Arango became pastor of St. Gregory Church in April 2017 after leaving the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, commonly known as the Eudists. Prior to his appointment as parish priest, he served as parish administrator for the church from July 2015.

Diocesan officials did not disclose how many people are affected by the discovery.

Olmsted wrote that church officials are working to identify as many people as possible to instruct them on how to receive a valid baptism.

Arango has served in the Diocese of Phoenix since September 2005. As a Eudist priest, he served as pastor of St. Jerome Parish in Phoenix from September 2005 to February 2013 and parochial vicar of St. Anne Parish in Gilbert, Arizona, from March 2013 to June 2015 before being assigned to St. Gregory Parish.

As a Eudist priest, Arango also served as director of the Newman Center at San Diego State University from 2001-2005. Previously, he served as a parish priest (1998-2000), taught at a university (1995-2000) and was seminar director. (years unknown) in the Diocese of São Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.

The Diocese of Phoenix has created a page on its website, www.dphx.org/valid-baptism, which explains the church’s teaching on baptism. It includes a long list of questions covering the importance of baptism, obtaining baptismal records from a parish, why the form used for baptism is important, whether the church is legalistic about the situation and receiving of Holy Communion.

Baptism is a sacrament of initiation and in some cases, depending on the diocese, receipt of confirmation, marriage and holy orders may be invalid. If so, people will need to make arrangements for a valid reception of these sacraments after baptism, the diocese said.

Receiving First Holy Communion, or later receiving the Eucharist, is not affected, however, the diocese said, “because you can only have one First Holy Communion.”

“If you have received the Eucharist, even without baptism, you have received Holy Communion,” said the answer to a question on the webpage.

However, the diocese has advised people with invalid baptisms not to receive communion until they can arrange for a valid baptism.

Arango, announcing his resignation in a letter posted on the diocese’s website, said “I deeply regret my mistake and how it affected many people” where he served.

“With the help of the Holy Spirit and in communion with the Diocese of Phoenix, I will devote my energy and full-time ministry to help remedy this and the health of those affected,” Arango wrote.

In June 2020, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a doctrinal note dealing with the valid reception of baptism. He said that substituting “We” for “I” in the sacramental formula invalidates the sacrament.

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