Fr. Matthew Hood does not need to be Re-Ordained

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
[email address]

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27 Responses to Fr. Matthew Hood does not need to be Re-Ordained

  1. Michael says:

    Your post makes complete sense. I’d be interested in what the Bishop’s reply is, if anything.

    • Ron Conte says:

      No reply yet. I’ve actually emailed that diocese previously and received a response (on a totally different subject). Good Bishop.

  2. Most of us Catholics are baptized as babies, so we take the word of our parents and our certificate of baptism as trustworthy. But what if the priest who baptized us as babies didn’t say the correct words such as “I baptize you….” but instead he said something like “We baptize you..” and no-one noticed? – In that case we don’t have a valid Sacrament of Baptism but definitely have a baptism of desire. I was baptized as a baby and will never know what the priest who baptized me actually said, BUT I just trust what my certificate of baptism says and my parent’s word as trustworthy.

    I believe this is actually a good example that supports baptism of desire (which the Church already teaches but some fundamentalists still don’t accept this teaching). Otherwise, in this counter-actual hypothetical, all of us would be in jeopardy of going to Hell if we go by an extremist view on the Sacrament of Baptism, including those who don’t believe in baptism of desire.

  3. Robert Fastiggi says:

    Dear Ron,
    Thank you for your insights, which are most interesting. It’s important to note that the decision on the invalidity of baptism using the “we baptize” form came from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith not the Archdiocese of Detroit. Here is the CDF ruling: Within the Archdiocese, Fr. Matthew’s 1990 baptism was presumed to be valid unless the Holy See judged otherwise:

    I can’t confirm this, but I suspect Archbishop Vigneron contacted the CDF to respond to the dubium regarding the validity of Fr. Matthew Hood’s 1990 baptism after the video emerged in April. If the baptizing deacon used “we” instead of “I” by accident, then a case could be made for the baptism’s validity following Aquinas in ST III q. 60 art. 8. It seems, though, that the deacon was using the “we” form to stress his view that the whole community was baptizing. This appears to have been the case, and Cardinal Ladaria cites ST III q. 67 a. 6 to argue against validity because the “we” refers to multiple ministers of the baptism. The CDF had probably received similar questions about the “we” form already. Because the Detroit case concerned a man functioning as a priest (and others were being affected by his invalid priesthood), a response was needed.

    The Letter of Innocent II (1130–1143) to the Bishop of Cremona about the baptism of desire of an unbaptized priest is listed as no. 741 in the 43rd ed. Denzinger-Hünermann (2012). I suppose the CDF would say this text was concerned with the possibility of salvation of the unbaptized presbyter (or priest) and the need for continual prayers and sacrifices for his soul. Calling the man presbyter or priest might have been for the sake of identification rather than a declaration of the validity of his priesthood.

    I think the judgment of the CDF, which was confirmed by Pope Francis, should be followed on the basis of authority.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I absolutely agree that the baptism was invalid. It’s the Sacrament of Ordination that I think was still valid. We don’t know if the Bishop contacted the CDF. The passage in Denz. is open to interpretation. Sow we are left mainly with theological arguments.

      The main basis for holding his ordination to be valid is the matter of salvation. What happens in the case of a priest whose invalid baptism is discovered very late or not at all, for persons who may have gone to confession with imperfect contrition and have since passed away? It seems to me that the invincible ignorance about the baptism at the time of Orders, with the baptism of desire, and the other conditions for valid Orders being met, results in a valid Sacrament. And this secures the faith much better than trying to find these invalid baptisms, and then trying to re-administer Sacraments.

      And what if a person becomes Roman Pontiff, who was unknown to anyone, never validly baptized? We could say that God doesn’t permit such a person to be Pope, but does He also prevent such persons from becoming Bishops, or from hearing confessions of persons who need a valid Sacrament to be saved? It seems that the answer which secures the Faith is that the Sacrament of Orders is valid.

      I intend to write a dubium to the CDF on this matter soon.

    • Ron Conte says:

      It’s interesting that St. Thomas allows some changes to the wording of Sacraments: “if the addition be such as not to destroy the essential sense, the sacrament is not rendered invalid.” Using “We baptize” is invalid because it means that the community baptizes, and this destroys the ordinary role of the ordained person as the minister of baptism — which seems to be just the intention of the “we” as well. Similarly, having a group of laypersons surround the altar and hold up their hands and say the words of consecration with the priest would invalidate the consecration of the Eucharist, despite the priest otherwise performing all the necessary parts of the Sacrament. The idea of individual persons being sent by God to minister the Faith and its parts is essential to Christianity, since God became one particular man.

  4. …and adding to my comment above, what about if the priest who baptized us was himself not validly baptized? – the list goes on an on. Ron’s argument on the decision of Pope Innocent II makes perfect sense.

  5. RR says:

    If this is how it goes with determining the validity of said sacraments, then by extension the marriage tribunals should be abolished. Good riddance!

  6. Mark Rome (@MarkRome17) says:

    Very good explanation. I believe this is a debacle for the Church. First, when the archdiocese became aware of the deacon’s use of the words “we baptize” they told him to stop yet presumed that the baptisms were still valid. Second, while I am not a “traditionalist” Catholic wanting all things Latin again, I can see that it might be a good idea to have Baptisms administered in Latin. Finally, someone mentioned the idea that all Priests should first be given conditional Baptism prior to ordination. In fact, I’d like to see all those coming into the Catholic Church who were Baptized in other Christian faith traditions to have conditional Baptism. Why? There is no way to know with certainty that a Baptism was valid.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I don’t think priests should be given conditional baptism, but if it were really true that their Orders were not valid without it, then that would have been the practice of the Church. There is a problem with Protestant baptisms in that many Protestant ministers are not closely linked to a denomination. They simply start a church; they have whatever practices the minister decides. And in a few years, the church might close and the minister move on to some other work. You have no way of knowing what their baptisms were like.

  7. Alessandro Arsuffi says:

    Dear Ron,
    I don’t know if my theory is correct, so please openly state your opinion and correct me if needed. When Fr. Hood was baptised, at that time he didn’t express his faith because he was just an infant. Still, since he is a deacon, then we must presume that he was confirmed. At Confirmation, which is believed to be the completion of Baptism, a faithful must reinstate his own faith: at that point, Fr. Hood most certainly received a baptism of desire, since he confirmed the faith he was supposed to be baptised into. Didn’t that confirmation somehow heal the imperfect nature of the baptism he received in his childhood?

    • Ron Conte says:

      This is speculative. His Confirmation may have been preceded by a baptism of desire (likely). If not, the otherwise valid reception of Confirmation would grant to him the state of grace (mere opinion, not magisterial). This is analogous to Anointing of Sick returning someone to the state of grace who was in mortal sin and had only imperfect contrition. But he would still lack the character of baptism. Of course, the other possible opinion is that his Confirmation is invalid; that would be the case if the Orders was invalid. It’s both valid, or both invalid.

  8. Rev. Mark M says:

    With all due respect, this article is utter nonsense. His confirmation and ordinations were certainly NOT valid. Code of Canon Law 889: “Every baptized person who is not confirmed, and only such a a person, is capable of receiving confirmation.” If he wasn’t baptized, he wasn’t confirmed. Code of Canon Law #1024: “Only a baptized man validly receive sacred ordination.” If he wasn’t baptized, he wasn’t ordained.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Lack of confirmation makes reception of Orders illicit, but not invalid. And Canon law is not infallible. So you made a statement that his ordination was “certainly not valid”, but you failed to prove that claim.

  9. Rev. Mark M says:

    Canon Law is what governs the Church, so that’s what we need to abide by. Also, I didn’t fail to prove that claim. Canon law says that only a validly baptized male may be ordained. The formula “We baptize you…” is not a valid form. The entire reason this is being talked about is that Fr. Hood WASN’T baptized. That was determined already. The Church governs matter and form for the sacraments. The form for his baptism wasn’t valid. It was acknowledged that he WASN’T baptized. If he wasn’t baptized, then ipso facto he can’t be ordained. The situation proves itself.

    Regarding Confirmation, whether or not you need to be confirmed prior to ordination is irrelevant. Even if Fr. Hood wasn’t seeking ordination, he still wasn’t confirmed because he wasn’t baptized.

    This isn’t complicated.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Your argument is based on the assumption that Canon Law cannot err, whereas in fact Canon Law is changeable and can possibly err. So you need to prove that Canon Law is correct in stating that an unbaptized persons is not validly ordained. Otherwise, you are just blindly accepting the law, without considering the theological arguments and ramifications.

      Was the Bishop who ordained you validly baptized? How do you know? Can you prove your own valid past baptism? In my theological position, Orders is certainly valid, and we need not consider the possibility of a past unknown invalid baptism. In your position, it is all in doubt. As an ordained person, you are sawing the limb you are sitting upon.

      Then there are the issues of Apostolic succession, and the validity of Popes and Councils. My position secures these, and yours places them in doubt.

  10. Rev. Mark M says:

    A few things:
    “Was the Bishop who ordained you validly baptized?” I have no idea.
    “Can you prove your own valid past baptism?” No, it wasn’t recorded.
    All I have is moral certitude that both are valid. Could I be mistaken? Yes. I can say the same for you. Unless someone has recorded proof then yes, there is doubt. But that’s not what I’m arguing.

    The code, unlike the Bible is not inspired; it did not fall out of the sky. So, can one make arguments over certain parts of the code? Sure. For example #951 says that even if a priest says multiple Masses in a day, with the exception of Christmas, he can only have 1 Mass stipend. That rule can be changed. Priests are also limited by Canon Law to 2 Masses on Sunday, but, with the Ordinary’s permission, he may say 3. Maybe some people don’t like that limitation. Maybe it should be changed to 5 Masses on Sunday. That law can be changed.

    Your’re stating that my position is Canon Law cannot err. Your position, which would be the antithesis of mine, is that Canon Law CAN err. But what parts? ALL of it? Some of it? Only certain books of the code? Only those things that you don’t agree with?

    So, let’s say Canon Law CAN err. Well, let’s looks at #1024: “Only a baptized man validly receive sacred ordination.” Well, if Canon Law is subject to error, then which requirements in this canon are subject to error? The baptized requirement or the being male requirement? Because if the code is subject to error, then women can be ordained and the church is just being mean. Look at the canon for marriage (1055): The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.” Is this subject to error too? If so, then what’s to stop 2 men from marrying, or 2 women from marrying, or a man and his toaster from marrying?

    The code regarding the requirement for the candidate for orders to be baptized didn’t just come out of nowhere. It’s there for a reason (or 2): Either at some point in time there WAS doubt as to whether someone needed to be baptized and so the Church in the code said, “YES” or people knew that you had to be baptized and they were just being defiant and ordaining non-baptized people anyway. The canons just did’t appear in 1917 or 1983 in a vacuum. There is a theology behind it.

    You say that my position there is doubt. Yes there is! However I see two problems with yours:
    1. It sure makes things convenient to not have to “worry” about it. This guy wasn’t baptized, that’s ok, he’s still ordained.

    2. If you’re not baptized, you’re not Christian. Part of the effects of baptism is that we are now part of the Church of God and are thus A CHRISTIAN. If someone isn’t baptized, they ARE NOT a Christian! Explain how a non-Christian is then conformed to Christ the Priest through ordination if objectively speaking he isn’t a Christian in any sense? That’s simply illogical.

    The bottom line is this: I do what the Church says. When I celebrate Mass and administer the sacraments, I say what I’m supposed to say, because that’s what the Church tells me to say. The fact that the deacon in question decided to just do things his way and not the Church’s way and was rebellious is not on me, but his actions had consequences.

    • Ron Conte says:

      The parts of Canon law which express teachings are not in error; they are as inerrant as the teaching, such as on marriage or that only men can be priests. But the parts of the law that are changeable and dispensable can err. It’s not per se an error to have a rule that to be ordained, you should be baptized. That is the general rule for good reason. But the law doesn’t really address the specific case that we are discussing. I think it extends the law beyond its original intent to say that all Bishops, priests and deacons who weren’t validly baptized aren’t validly ordained.

      If you are not baptized, formally, you can be baptized by desire. And since baptism of desire is sufficient to obtain the state of grace and salvation, and one can only be saved by Christ and by at least implicit membership in the Church, the invalidly ordained person with a baptism of desire, is a Christian, esp. due to the invincible ignorance (which in some cases is never discovered) about the baptism. Yes, you can be a Christian, if you were not baptized. This was actually decided in Denz. 741, where the priest who was never baptized passed away before this became known. He was considered a priest and a Christian in the decision of Innocent II. So your “not a Christian” argument fails.

      The Church and the path of salvation are more sure if my position is correct; therefore, it certainly seems to be the position that God would choose and did choose. And there is no dogma on this subject either. So while you can hold your position faithfully, it is not indisputable.

    • Pope Saint Pius X also taught in his Catechism that there is not only one way of Baptism:

      “17 Q. Can the absence of Baptism be supplied in any other way?

      The absence of Baptism can be supplied by martyrdom, which is called Baptism of Blood, or by an act of perfect love of God, or of contrition, along with the desire, at least implicit, of Baptism, and this is called Baptism of Desire.”

      The absence of the formal Sacrament of Baptism can be supplied by baptism of blood or baptism of desire.

      “29 Q. But if a man through no fault of his own is outside the Church, can he be saved?

      If he is outside the Church through no fault of his, that is, if he is in good faith, and if he has received Baptism, or at least has the implicit desire of Baptism; and if, moreover, he sincerely seeks the truth and does God’s will as best he can such a man is indeed separated from the body of the Church, but is united to the soul of the Church and consequently is on the way of salvation.”

      A person who, through no fault of his own, is not a formal member of the Catholic Church; and if he is of good will, can be saved by becoming a non-formal member of the Church due to his desire (at least implicit desire).

      It is clear that Fr. Matthew Hood was invalidly formally baptized through no fault of his own but he has been a man of good will, therefore he is non-formally a member of the Body of Christ.

      All Ordinations would be in doubt unless we don’t see a video of their formal baptism to be sure.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I believe that his reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation was valid, gave him the permanent character of Confirmation, and therefore made him a formal member; and the same with the character of Orders.

    • I meant above: he “was” non-formally a member of the Body of Christ. According to news he has now been formally Baptized, Confirmed, Ordained.

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