Here’s the news story: Detroit man thought he was a priest. He wasn’t even a baptized Catholic. Fr. Hood was invalidly baptized. He was later confirmed, ordained as a deacon, and consecrated as a priest. His Archdiocese of Detroit, and his Bishop, Allen Vigneron, have decided that his later confirmation and ordination was not valid. The story goes on to claim that all of the confessions Fr. Hood heard were not valid, all of the consecrations of the Eucharist were not valid, all of the confirmations were not valid, and some of the marriages.
That seems to make sense, right? He wasn’t validly baptized, so how could the later Sacraments be valid? But we should not assume that the confirmation and ordination of Matthew Hood were not valid. First, the Magisterium has previously decided this question. Second, the surety of the Faith requires that his ordination be valid.
1. See H. Denzinger 74 (43rd edition Latin-English), taken from Apostolicam Sedem, the Letter of Innocent II (1130 – 43) to the Bishop of Cremona. A priest, after his death, was found to have been invalidly baptized. The Bishop wrote to the Holy See seeking guidance. The Roman Pontiff answered that the priest was to be considered to have received a baptism of desire, and that this was sufficient. The Pope did NOT state that the man was invalidly ordained; to the contrary, Innocent II refers to the man as a priest. The Sacraments ministered by this priest, who has validly ordained but never validly baptized, were not required to be performed again. This implies that his ordination was held to be valid by Pope Innocent II.
Now, which decision makes more sense? We have to consider that the baptisms of some other priests, like Fr. Hood, were also invalid, but would never be discovered to be invalid. And what if Hood’s invalid baptism had not been videotaped? Are the Sacraments of the Church designed in such a manner that persons will end up in Hell, having received an invalid Confession, because of a failed attempted baptism hidden in the past? Are marriages and confirmations invalid, without any way of knowing his, as there are other invalid baptisms of priests that remain undiscovered? The path of salvation becomes uncertain, IF that is the case.
And what if a Roman Pontiff was never validly baptized? What if Pope Francis was never validly baptized? What if the Pope who approved of the Council of Trent was never validly baptized? Under the theory that invalid baptism implies invalid ordination, the surety of the faith is lost. We can never be certain that any priest had a valid baptism, or any Pope or Bishop.
On the other hand, if the decision of Pope Innocent II prevails, then as long as the priest was validly ordained — something that is usually in the memory of many persons, in addition to the priest himself — the Sacraments he ministers are valid. And similarly, the decisions of Popes and Councils remains secure, regardless of the lost circumstances of their baptisms.
Therefore, since the decision of Pope Innocent means the faith is secure, and a decision to the contrary means that the faith is always in doubt, the former prevails. The ordination of Father Matthew Hood was a valid ordination, and the Sacraments ministered by him are also valid. Confessions do not need to be re-confessed, confirmations and marriage ceremonies do not need to be repeated. The Faith is secure. For God is faithful, and He has marked out a path of salvation which is sure.
See also my previous post on this topic.
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Below is the e-mail I sent to Fr. Matthew Hood’s Bishop:
Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron,
During the time of Pope Innocent II, the Bishop of Cremona discovered that a recently deceased priest was never validly baptized. He sought guidance from the Roman Pontiff. The decision of Pope Innocent II is in Denzinger (43rd ed.) n. 741. The Pope does not decide that his ordination was invalid, and does not require the Sacraments he ministered, esp. Confession, Confirmation, Marriage, to be ministered again. Rather, the Pontiff considers the ordination to be valid, due to the prior baptism of desire and the man’s otherwise valid reception of Orders.
There are only two possible decisions in such a case, either the ordination was valid or invalid. But if invalid, then what happens in the case of other priests or Bishops or even Popes who were not validly baptized, and yet no one knew? Not only are Sacraments upon which depends eternal salvation, esp. Confession with imperfect contrition, placed in doubt, but in principle the teachings of Popes and Councils fall into doubt as well. For we would not be certain of the valid ordination of any deacon, priest, bishop, or Pope, since baptisms are not usually recorded on video (which of course is only a recent possibility). Since the surety of the Faith depends upon the surety of the ordination of priests, and esp. Bishops and Popes, it cannot be the case that an invalid baptism, esp. one unknown to the priest or the Church, would invalidate the ordination.
Therefore, I suggest this decision in the case of Fr. Matthew Hood and henceforth in general: that any Sacrament of holy Orders, valid in itself due to proper form and matter (and whatever else the Church may require in Canon Law), is certainly valid, even if the candidate was, at the time Orders was received, unaware of a past invalid Sacrament of Baptism and/or Confirmation. However, if a candidate knew that he had never been validly baptized or confirmed, and he attempted to receive the Sacrament of Orders with this knowledge hidden, that is, with deception, then his ordination would not be valid, as he did not intend to do what the Church does in the Sacrament itself of Orders.
in Christ our Lord,
Ronald L Conte Jr
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557
I wonder if Fr. Hood should have kept quiet about his “invalid” baptism.
It seems to me that the Church supplies what is necessary when the intention of the person receiving a sacrament is proper. Perhaps the Church supplies the validity of the sacrament even when the sacrament is celebrated invalidly.
If a person is sincere about sorrow for his sins, I would think that the Church supplies the “absolution” even in the absence of the validity of the invalidly ordained priest. If not the Church, then God forgives.
I’ve seen some sloppy Masses celebrated by priests who were in a hurry or who didn’t care about what they were doing, both in the Tridentine Order of Mass and the revised Order of Mass (Novus Ordo). One might judge those Masses to be invalid!
Making a distinction between the number of a pronoun (“I” vs “We) appears to me as nitpicking. What would Jesus say about this? In fact, Jesus tells the Apostles to “Make (plural: “You-all make!) disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19) Jesus generally sent the disciples in twos to preach the good news and heal. The disciples most likely followed this pattern in their missionary activities, baptizing people as a team. We don’t know exactly what words they used at the beginning of the baptisms they administered. I question the pronouncement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I would say that the real valid baptism is one where the baptizing officiant says “WE baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” based on Matthew 28:19. The Congregation’s pronouncement is one of those things that Jesus would condemn modern day Pharisees for. I presume that the ruling of the Congregation would not pass the test of being believed by the faithful.
I think the judgment of the CDF is correct on baptism. But we haven’t heard from them on Orders. I would not be surprised if the Bishop did not contact the CDF on this one. In any case, I’ve written to them. It is possible that, in the very early Church, the formula for baptism was to baptize in the name of Jesus. This is mentioned in Acts.
The early Church could have baptized in the Name of Jesus only, but we are no sure. The Catechism of the Council of Trent teaches:
“If at any time the Apostles baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ only, we can be sure they did so by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, in order, in the infancy of the Church, to render their preaching more illustrious by the name of Jesus Christ, and to proclaim more effectually His divine and infinite power. If, however, we examine the matter more closely, we shall find that such a form omits nothing which the Saviour Himself commands to be observed; for he who mentions Jesus Christ implies the Person of the Father, by whom, and that of the Holy Ghost, in whom, He was anointed.
And yet, the use of this form by the Apostles seems rather doubtful if we accept the opinions of Ambrose and Basil, holy Fathers eminent for sanctity and authority, who interpret baptism in the name of Jesus Christ to mean the Baptism instituted by Christ our Lord, as distinguished from that of John, and who say that the Apostles did not depart from the ordinary and usual form which comprises the distinct names of the Three Persons.
Paul also, in his Epistle to the Galatians, seems to have expressed himself in a similar manner, when he says: As many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ, meaning that they were baptized in the faith of Christ, but with no other form than that which the same Saviour our Lord had commanded to be observed.” – (Roman Catechism – Baptism In The Name Of Christ).
What is not clear is that “in the name of Jesus” meant “on Jesus’ behalf” or if that was the actual formula in the early Church.
I’m of the opinion that “in the name of Jesus” meant “on Jesus’ behalf” or “Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ” because the Didache, an early catechism which dates back to the 1st century, also teaches the trinitarian formula as Jesus Himself taught to the Apostles in Matthew 28:19 (the Trinitarian formula that came from Jesus’ sacred lips).
I’ve seen numerous posts of “baptism of desire.” This does not apply in Fr. Hood’s case. It makes no sense that it would apply I agree that there is such a thing as “baptism of desire”; I’m not disputing that. However, such a condition isn’t valid here. This is why. Baptism of desire means that a person recognizes the necessity for sacramental, water baptism, and has the desire and intention to receive it. There is an intellectual component here, thus, someone who is under the age of reason, such as a month old baby, is incapable of baptism of desire. Now, why doesn’t this apply to Fr. Hood? Because there was NO REASON for him to have it! He was under the impression his entire life that he received ACTUAL SACRAMENTAL Water baptism! His parents told him he was baptized. He had a baptismal certificate, there was the baptism recorded in the sacramental records book of the parish in which he was “baptized.” He had the video. When he was to receive Holy Communion for the 1st time, he had to supply proof of his baptism. When he was confirmed, he had to supply proof of his baptism. When he applied to seminary he had to supply proof of his baptism. Why would he have a “baptism of desire” when he was under the presumption based upon the documentation and testimony of witnesses that he already received the sacrament?
That is too narrow a definition of baptism of desire. One can obtain a baptism of desire by sincere sorrow for sin out of love for God, for example. Did Matthew Hood ever have such a sorrow? It’s common among the faithful. Baptism of desire can be implicit. In his case, it would be implicit because he though he had received water baptism.