Here we go again. After Fr. Matthew Hood, another priest was discovered to have been invalidly baptized using the “We” formula. But deacon Springer baptized invalidly for 13 years. That’s a lot of invalid baptisms.
In a new commentary on this matter, Canon Law Made Easy unthinkingly goes along with the masses, claiming that an invalid baptism — yes, I think it is invalid — results in all other Sacraments subsequently being invalid. I disagree.
First, when I was studying theology at university, Fr. Joep van Beeck taught the opposite. He gave the example of a man who had gone to daily Mass for 40 years, and received Communion daily, then they found out his baptism was invalid. They went to the Bishop and requested, some rather insisted, that the man be baptized right away! The Bishop refused. “How can I presume to baptize a man who for 40 years has daily received the Lord in holy Communion?” The man was never baptized. He continued to receive Communion, Confession, and Extreme Unction, validly and licitly.
Second, Fr. Joep gave the example of a priest who was celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination , when the elderly woman present at his very birth told the story. “When he was born, he looked blue, and I was afraid he would die without baptism. So I took a pitcher of milk….” She baptized him with milk. That’s invalid. He was a priest for umpteen years. The Bishop was consulted. He was not baptized. The Bishop did not believe, as Catholics today assume, that his ordination was invalid.
And why would it be? The power of the Sacrament is not found in Pharisaical adherence to the letter of the law. If he (and/or others) participating in his ordination had known at the time he had not been baptized, that would be invalid due to the absence of the intention to do what the Church does in the Sacrament. But otherwise, the power of the Sacrament is exactly the same as if Christ himself administered the Sacrament. So Christ gave that man who received the Eucharist daily for 40 years his Confirmation (valid), and Christ gave that man Confession (valid under the usual conditions for validity), and Christ was present in holy Communion. Do you think that Jesus Christ ignored this man, daily, for 40 years, when he received Communion because his baptism was unknowingly invalid (or absent)? Is that the Christ you know? It’s not the Christ that I know.
And as for the priest who was invalidly baptized with milk, Christ gave him the Sacrament of Orders. The Lord of the Sacraments was not powerless before an honest servant of God who wished to go out to the harvest (and who unknowingly was invalidly baptized). He was validly baptized by Christ because Christ has the authority and the power to do so.
Similarly, Christ has the authority and power to save those who reject Christianity and the Church, exteriorly, but who interiorly accept Christ by living a life of love of others, of faith in the things of transcendent goodness in this life, and of hope for their neighbor’s well-being. Christ can save atheists and non-Christian believers. And He does so commonly, not rarely, with the power of the Cross.
From the side of Christ on the Cross came blood and water, the font of the Sacraments. So when Christ himself is faced with a man who wishes to serve the Church as an ordained priest, acting in persona Christi, then Christ is the one who ordains him. Similarly, when any priest or bishop consecrates the Eucharist, it is Christ who consecrates, literally. When Jesus consecrated the Eucharist at the Last Supper, He consecrated, from that one time and one place, all the Eucharists that ever would be consecrated by priests and bishops in all times and places. It is Christ who administers every Sacrament. So when the candidate for ordination lacks baptism, unknowingly, Christ does not disdain to ordain him. He is validly ordained.
And which plan for the Church makes more sense? Which plan founds the Church as on a Rock, and which plan as on sand? If Orders is not valid without a valid Baptism, we could not be sure that any Bishop was really a Bishop, that any Pope was really the Pope, and that any Council was valid. But if Orders is still valid, then the surety of the faith is established. The plan that God chose for the Church is the one that secures the Faith.
If you disagree, show me the video of the baptism of the bishop or priest who gave you confirmation, the video of the baptism of your bishop, the video of the baptism of the priest who married you or ordained you, the video of the priest who will give you Last Rites when you are ready to pass on to the next life. Show me the video of Pope Francis’ baptism and the video of the baptisms of those who ordained Pope Francis. Seriously, which makes more sense, that you need a video to be sure that the Sacraments are valid, or that they are valid under the usual conditions because Christ is present in every Sacrament? Is Christ weak or strong? Is He the Lord of the Sabbath, or is He powerless before unfortunate circumstances?
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
theologian, Bible translator
1. I don’t recall the exact number of this anniversary. It could have been 30th or 40th, etc.