A few years back, a young priest was struck by one word when his father shared a video from his 1990 baptism at a Detroit suburb church.
“Wait,” Reverend Matthew Hood thought. “Something doesn’t seem right here.”
A deacon’s error of saying “We baptize”, instead of “I baptismize”, ruined Hood’s baptism in Catholic Church eyes. He also erased all his other sacraments, implying that he wasn’t a priest.
This was the result of a controversy that erupted nearly two years ago at St. Anastasia Church, Troy. It was after the Vatican declared that the use “we” invalidates baptisms within the Catholic faith.
Recently, thousands of Arizona Catholics were headlines after they discovered that they too may have been incorrectly baptized with the wrong words in another, but related matter involving a prominent pastor, Reverend Andres Arango who resigned February 1.
Hood was baptized in Michigan and given the other sacraments. Hood was then quickly ordained to the priesthood, within days, in 2020. Despite all publicity and outreach, the Archdiocese of Detroit has not heard from hundreds of people whose rites at St. Anastasia were deemed invalid.
It caused anger and confusion immediately as St. Anastasia’s members became frustrated and asked why the Catholic Church was so hung up on one word spoken by a deacon at baptisms in 1980s and 1990s.
“Why do so many Catholics leave the Catholic Church?” A woman said the following during an online 2020 question-and answer session with clergy. This is a great example of why. This is absolutely terrible.
Unidentified man approached the meeting and asked a common question in difficult situations: “What would Jesus do?”
The man stated that he believed he would take a different view and say, “By what your doing, you have disrupted so much lives, so many people.”
According to the archdiocese, Deacon Mark Springer (now retired) performed almost 800 baptisms at St. Anastasia between 1986 and 1999. Local church officials stated that all baptisms were invalidated after the Vatican decree unless there is clear evidence that he did not use the phrase “we Baptize.”
The “we” of the congregation is not responsible for baptizing. It is the “I” Jesus Christ working through a priest, deacon or other clergy that makes a baptism valid.
People at St. Anastasia were scrambling for videos of their children’s baptisms. This is the official entry to the church and a gateway to other Catholic rites such as Holy Communion or marriage.
Holly Fournier, an archdiocese spokesperson, said that about 200 baptisms were valid and that 71 people stepped forward for baptism and other initiation sacraments.
She added that 47 more people are currently making new arrangements. However, 455 have still not responded. Ten people declined to take part.
“We directly reached out to all affected individuals, sending letters using the most current records we had about each person. Fournier stated that they are open to any person who wishes to come forward.
She declined to allow clergy to interview her about why they think so many people have not responded in the last 18 months.
Monsignor Ronald Browne (a church lawyer) revealed that officials had in 1999 discovered that Springer was using the phrase “we baptize”. He ordered Springer to stop. Experts who were present at the meeting said that Springer’s earlier baptisms were still acceptable.
After that, nothing happened for over two decades. Hood then asked questions about the video of his boyhood baptism and Browne answered.
He said, “I’m sorry.”
Springer stated to the AP that he could not comment on the archdiocese’s request.
Hood’s consequences went far beyond his baptism and other sacraments including priestly ordination. In his first three years of priesthood, he had officiated at approximately 30 marriages. These couples were required to renew their vows.
Hood stated, “I was expecting them be angry, upset and confused.” “Father Matt, our hearts are broken for you,” Hood said.
Hood, aged 31, serves Catholic college students around Wayne State University, Detroit. They are about the same age as many young people who haven’t reached out to church about being baptized again.
Hood stated that the sacraments were “the mystery of God coming into our lives.” It’s not a checklist you have to follow in a Christian lifestyle. It is something that completely changes us.
He stated that Pope Francis had likened Catholic Church to a field hospital serving all stages of faith.
“We are aware that there are young people who don’t practice the faith. Hood spoke out about the botched baptisms, saying that this problem has made it more visible. Hood said that some people have had the chance to admit they didn’t take their faith seriously, and now it is a time to change that.