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.
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