VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Baptisms administered using the first-person plural pronoun and other arbitrarily modified formulae are invalid, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) stated in a Doctrinal Note published Thursday.
Responding to what is being regarded as widespread liturgical abuse during baptism, the CDF noted the baptismal formula was often deliberately distorted to emphasize the participation of the entire community of the family and the congregation present.
With "debatable pastoral motives," priests were using the invalid formula: "In the name of the father and of the mother, of the godfather and of the godmother, of the grandparents, of the family members, of the friends, in the name of the community we baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
Such improvised formulae were also being introduced "to avoid the idea of the concentration of a sacred power in the priest," the CDF's statement "On the Modification of the Sacramental Formula of Baptism" noted.
Speaking to Church Militant, a Rome-based canon lawyer stated: "The Press Office of the Holy See presented the Response and Doctrinal Note as rejecting 'deviant interpretations and praxes' regarding the Sacrament of Baptism."
"Implicitly reprobated now are any formulae that are Marxist and Communist in inspiration and execution, which in truth are all those that assert that it is the 'people' or the 'community' who admit the baptized into the Catholic Church," the canonist remarked.
"The Doctrinal Note trounces any other reference than Christ Himself as effectuating sacramental Baptism," the expert in canon law emphasized.
The sacrament is conferred on the recipient not by the community or by the priest but by Christ himself, the CDF clarified, citing the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: "when a man baptizes it is really Christ Himself who baptizes."
Rebuking "the ancient temptation to substitute for the formula handed down by Tradition" for "other texts judged more suitable," the CDF prefect Cdl. Luis Ladaria and secretary Abp. Giacomo Morandi who signed the document, emphasized the centrality of Christ in the administration of a sacrament.
"When celebrating a Sacrament, the Church in fact functions as the Body that acts inseparably from its Head, since it is Christ the Head who acts in the ecclesial Body generated by him in the Paschal mystery," Ladaria and Morandi explained.
When the minister says "I baptize you ... ," he does not speak as a functionary who carries out a role entrusted to him, but he enacts ministerially the sign-presence of Christ, who acts in his Body to give his grace and to make the concrete liturgical assembly a manifestation of "the real nature of the true Church," insofar as liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations of the Church, which is the 'sacrament of unity,' namely the holy people united and ordered under their bishops."
"It is he [Jesus] who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33)," the document underlined, quoting St. Augustine: "Peter may baptize, but this is He that baptizes; Paul may baptize, yet this is He that baptizes; Judas may baptize, still this is He that baptizes."
The CDF was responding to two questions: first, "Whether the Baptism conferred with the formula 'We baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit' is valid?" and second, "Whether those persons for whom baptism was celebrated with this formula must be baptized in absoluta form?"
Ladaria replied that the "we" formula rendered a baptism invalid and hence those who were baptized using the first-person plural pronoun had to be baptized in forma absoluta, meaning the person should be considered as not yet having received the sacrament.
The CDF has previously answered questions about the validity of baptisms conferred using the formulae: "I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier" and "I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer."
The above formulae are used by feminist clergy who seek to avoid the patriarchal formula with the words: "Father" and "Son."
The CDF earlier responded by categorically stating that such "baptisms" are invalid, and those who undergo a ceremony using those formulae must be unconditionally baptized.
The CDF doctrinal notification on baptism was approved and ordered by Pope Francis.