The Inquisition is back in the news.
They don’t call themselves that anymore, of course — centuries of error and terror made a name change necessary for the most infamous organization in Catholicism. So the Inquisition rebranded as the “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.” It’s still the same organization, same office, same address. And it still plays the same role it always has, defending “correct” doctrine from error by punishing error.
So it’s never good news when the Inquisition — sorry, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — is in the news. Despite the name-change, it’s still the same cruel clown-show it has always been, trampling on orthopraxy in the name of defending orthodoxy, punishing theoretical error by trumpeting errors of its own. Same as it ever was.
The C of the D of the F is once again spreading cruel chaos in the name of defending doctrine. And it is, as ever, wrong about doctrine. Here’s the latest story: “An Arizona priest used one wrong word in baptisms for decades. They’re all invalid.”
A Catholic priest in Arizona has resigned after he was found to have performed baptisms incorrectly throughout his career, rendering the rite invalid for thousands of people.
The Catholic Diocese of Phoenix announced on its website that it determined after careful study that the Rev. Andres Arango had used the wrong wording in baptisms performed up until June 17, 2021. He had been off by a single word.
During baptisms in both English and Spanish, Arango used the phrase “we baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” He should have said “I baptize,” the diocese explained.
“It is not the community that baptizes a person and incorporates them into the Church of Christ; rather, it is Christ, and Christ alone, who presides at all sacraments; therefore, it is Christ who baptizes,” it said. “If you were baptized using the wrong words, that means your baptism is invalid, and you are not baptized.”
If this sounds familiar, that’s because the Inquisition has been scurrying around invalidating baptisms (and, therefore, ordinations and marriages too) for this reason for a couple of years now. We discussed this here back in 2020, “Religion is not spell-casting.”
Much of that discussion involves my very Baptist objections to the Inquisition’s arrogant foolishness about control of the sacraments. But the problem here is not that Catholics aren’t Baptist. The problem here is that the Inquisition isn’t very good at being Catholic either. Its stance here unsettles some much older teaching about the sacraments that predates the unfortunate creation of the Inquisition itself.
This is, again, quid-mus-sumit? stuff. That’s Latin for “What does the mouse eat?” — a reference to earlier teaching about the sacraments that says intent is more important than formality. This is why, as we noted, Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder could not have been accidentally married while filming Bram Stoker’s Dracula, even though — unlike Fr. Arango in Phoenix — both actors and the actual priest filmed in that scene all stuck to the exact and correct words of the sacramental liturgy. They were actors reciting their lines and the non-actor priest Coppola brought in to film that scene was aware that he was performing a fictional wedding and not the actual sacrament of marriage. The formula was perfect, but it was neither performed nor received with sacramental intent, and Catholic doctrine holds that intent trumps formula.
The Inquisition agrees with that. They agree that Keanu and Winona could not get accidentally married. But they still hold that hundreds of Catholics in the diocese of Phoenix could, in fact, have been accidentally not married, despite the sacramental intent they and their priests all brought to their wedding ceremonies and despite all of their weddings having been performed with perfectly correct verbatim recitations of all the proper words.
Because baptism is the “sacrament that grants access to all the others,” a botched baptism could invalidate any subsequent sacraments, including confirmation, marriage and holy orders.
“What this means for you is, if your baptism was invalid and you’ve received other sacraments, you may need to repeat some or all of those sacraments after you are validly baptized as well,” the diocese said.
Arango — who first joined St. Gregory Parish in 2015 after decades of religious service in Brazil, California and Arizona — apologized for the inconvenience his actions had caused and told the community that he resigned as pastor effective Feb. 1.
“Inconvenience” is an inadequate word for what the Inquisition asserts are the consequences of Arango’s botched spell-casting. The accidentally un-baptized and therefore accidentally un-married faithful Catholics of Phoenix have, the Inquisition says, been living in sin all these years. In unconfessed mortal sin. So, like the thousands of their fellow faithful who’ve been walking around obliviously un-baptized all these years, they’ve wrongly believed themselves to be in a state of grace while they’re actually in a state of damnation.
If any of these Arizona Catholics have died since the beginning of Arango’s reign of error in 1995, they died unbaptized and in sin. So they’re in Hell now and there’s nothing that God the Father, God the Son, or God the Holy Spirit can do about that because, after all, Fr. Andres said “we” instead of “I.”
Again, my Baptist impulse is to howl Baptist objections to this absurd spell-casting nonsense. My evangelical instinct is to scream chapter-and-verse objections to the Inquisition’s mangling of the Great Commission and to the unanimous biblical witness that says we are charged with baptism — with an emphatic plural. I feel an urge — despite everything I’ve written here about clobber verses — to clobber these arrogant fools with John 4:2. (“it was not Jesus himself, but his disciples who baptized”).
But set aside all of those Baptist and Protestant objections. The problem here is what the problem has always been with the Inquisition, that it punitively enforces a strained formulation of the very worst of Catholicism while trampling on and disregarding other, greater, more essential aspects of Catholic doctrine. And that it does so, as it always has, in the interest of wielding spiritual power in order to exercise temporal power and control over others.
That’s no way to defend or ensure correct doctrine. It won’t even allow for it.
The biggest step the Catholic church could take to defend the doctrine of the faith would be to abolish the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Shut it down and salt the earth.