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Arizona priest performed thousands of invalid baptisms for decades

The priest has resigned after the discovery.
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Posted at 10:17 AM, Feb 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-16 12:34:00-05

PHOENIX — A priest in Phoenix baptized people for decades using one wrong word. Now those baptisms are all considered invalid.

Father Andres Arango recently resigned as a priest from St. Gregory’s Catholic Parish, though he is still a priest in good standing. Father Arango is accused of botching thousands of baptisms over the course of more than 20 years while serving in California, Brazil, and Arizona.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix says this isn’t the first time something like this has happened in the history of the church, and it’s doing everything possible to remedy this issue.

The mistake all comes down to two words: using the word “we” instead of “I.”

"They have to get baptized again,” said Donat Murego. Murego said he thought his four daughters were baptized by Father Arango last year, but he says St. Gregory’s Catholic Parish sent an email that said: "Father Andres used the word ‘we’ where he’s supposed to use ‘I’.”

When we asked Murego what the church told him this meant about his children’s baptisms, he said, "Invalid. Totally, 100%."

Father Arango said during the ceremonies: “We baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” instead of starting the phrase with “I.”

Arizona State University professor Catherine O’Donnell says wording matters in the Catholic faith: “‘I’ suggests that the authority descends from the divinity through the priest, whereas ‘we’ suggests it is the community who does it.”

She added that, according to the Catholic faith, Christ is the only one who baptizes a person and incorporates them into the church.

A spokesperson with the Diocese of Phoenix says Father Arango was using the incorrect word from 1995 until last summer, which is when the Diocese was made aware of the issue.

Baptisms he performed after June 17, 2021, are presumed to be valid.

The Diocese says this error may affect marriage, and definitely affects confirmation, but it will not affect the First Holy Communion.

Father Arango also addressed the issue in a statement saying, in part: “It saddens me to learn that I have performed invalid baptisms throughout my ministry as a priest by regularly using an incorrect formula…”

Bishop Thomas Olmsted with the Diocese of Phoenix said in a statement he doesn't believe Father Arango had any intentions to harm the faithful.