Father Andres Arango of St. Gregory Catholic Church in Phoenix, Arizona has resigned. His resignation comes after an investigation proved that he had used an improper formula while officiating baptismal ceremonies over the last 20 years. According to the Roman Catholic Church, the following words must repeated during the baptismal sacrament:
“I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
While the Trinitarian formula was still employed, Father Andres said, “We baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” After a question was submitted to the Vatican on the validity of such a baptismal formula, the official answer from the Vatican was, “Negative.” In other words, the baptismal formula that uses “we” rather than “I” is invalid and makes the baptism itself invalid. The simple change of the pronoun invalidates the baptism, according to the Vatican. Father Arango issued the following statement:
It saddens me to learn that I have performed invalid baptisms throughout my ministry as a priest by regularly using an incorrect formula,” he said. “I deeply regret my error and how this has affected numerous people in your parish and elsewhere.
Why is this such a big deal for the Roman Catholic Church resulting in the resignation of Father Arango? The answer is quite simple. An invalid baptism within the Roman Catholic Church makes one’s salvation invalid.
Faith in Christ Alone or Faith in Christ Plus Baptism?
The great controversy of the sixteenth century was centered on the doctrine of justification. How is a person justified in the sight of a holy and sovereign God? Is it based on faith alone in Christ’s finished work alone, or is there something that the fallen sinner must do in order to complete the work of Christ? The Roman Catholic Church continues to this very day proclaiming a works based system of religion whereby man must cooperate with God for the salvation of his soul.
Paul is explicitly clear in his letter to the church at Ephesus. He writes the following:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8).
Paul goes on to make his case in the very next verse, as he states, “not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:9; see also Titus 3:5). In other words, there will not be one single person who can share in the glory of God in salvation in this life or throughout all eternity. The work of salvation is God’s work to rescue fallen man and this work is performed by God in order to do what man on his own would never be capable of performing in the state of his fallen flesh.
However, the Roman Catholic Church contradicts the clear teachings of Scripture by adding to Jesus’ sufficient work on the cross and his perfect sinless life their false teaching regarding baptism.
- “Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ. It is granted us through Baptism. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who justifies us. It has for its goal the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life. It is the most excellent work of God’s mercy” (CCC 2020).
- “Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude…” (CCC 1257).
According to the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, baptism is a necessary work for salvation. In a blasphemous way, they claim, “The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude.” Their reference to “The Church” is a reference to the Roman Catholic Church. They don’t recognize any other church as legitimate. The basis of their claim is centered on their belief that “baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin” (CCC 405).
Therefore, if Father Arango performed the sacrament of the Roman Catholic Church improperly, such a thought would rightly trouble the souls of the people who were baptized in an unauthorized manner since they believe their salvation is hinged upon their baptism.
Why All Roman Catholics Have an Invalid Baptism
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, baptism is the sacramental impartation of grace whereby the stain of original sin is removed (CCC 405). This is a blasphemous contradiction of Scripture. In Scripture, we are clearly taught the doctrine of atonement and propitiation whereby the emphasis is placed on Jesus as the One who works on behalf of his people to fully satisfy God.
If you review the Roman Catholic doctrine of salvation, it literally teaches that God is merely partially satisfied by Jesus’ work thereby necessitating additional work by the minister and the candidate who is baptized. The minister must get the baptismal formula correct and the baptismal candidate must exercise his willful choice to be baptized in cooperation with God.
In 1 John 2:1-2, we see that Jesus is the propitiatory offering that satisfies the wrath of God. In Hebrews, we see the clear imagery of Jesus as both the offering and the Great High Priest who performs the work on behalf of his people. Jesus is the once for all satisfactory offering according to Hebrews 9:22-26. It’s through Jesus’ work that we are reconciled to God (Rom. 5:11).
Therefore, baptism is a symbolic work of obedience whereby followers of Christ make a public testimony of their faith in Christ which symbolizes the real and sufficient work of Jesus on their behalf. The ordinance of baptism (or sacrament, to use the term with a non-salvific meaning) has no salvific qualities. The water itself does not wash away the sin, even accompanied by a blessing from the minister. This is why we sing:
Thy works, not mine, O Christ,
Speak gladness to this heart;
They tell me all is done;
They bid my fear depart.
To whom, save Thee, who canst alone
For sin atone, Lord, shall I flee? 1Thy Works Not Mine, O Christ — Horatius Bonar, 1857
According to the 1689 London Baptist Confession, in Chapter 29, Of Baptism we find the following statement in the first paragraph:
Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life. ( Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2;12; Galatians 3:27; Mark 1:4; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:4 ).
While baptism is a sign of the reality of God’s saving grace, the act of baptism itself is not salvific. Any teaching that adds to Jesus’ sufficient sacrifice or mandates something other than faith in Christ alone is blasphemous and serves as the very definition of legalism. Roman Catholics operate in many ways like the ancient Judaizers did in Galatia. The Judaizers added circumcision as a necessary requirement for salvation and Paul condemned their false teaching in the opening words to the church at Galatia (Gal. 1:6-9). Anything that’s added to the sufficient sacrifice of Jesus for salvation must be condemned.
Not only should those who were baptized by Father Arango in Phoenix be concerned, all Roman Catholics should be concerned. According to Scripture, every single baptism of the Roman Catholic Church is invalid because it’s viewed as a necessary work that cooperates with God for saving grace. Anyone who believes this to be true is condemned by Scripture and should immediately repent and cast themselves upon the mercy of God in Christ. One should not fear a faulty Roman Catholic baptism, instead, the entire Roman Catholic Church should fear a faulty faith built upon the sinking sand of a works-based system.
If thousands of Roman Catholics who were baptized by Father Arango are concerned about their salvation based on the incorrect pronoun used when being baptized, what must they think about the criminal who died on the cross next to Jesus? If baptism saves, did Jesus provide him with false assurance when he promised, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43)? Consider how Calvin viewed the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church.
We complain that the whole doctrine of godliness is adulterated by impious dogma; that the whole worship of God is vitiated by foul and disgraceful superstitions; that the pure institution of the sacraments has been supplanted by horrible sacrilege; that their use has been converted into a profane trafficking; that poor souls, which ought to have been ruled by the doctrine of Christ, are oppressed by cruel bondage; that nothing is seen in the Christian Church that is not deformed and debased; that the grace of Christ not only lies half-buried, but is partly torn to pieces, partly altogether extinguished. 2Antidote, CTS 3:39; CO 7:387.
Why “Rebaptism” Is Necessary
All true converts to Christianity who were once baptized within the system of Rome should be truly baptized. This has been the source of controversy through the years as many theologians have sought to separate the individual being baptized from the minister and his doctrines within the Roman Catholic Church. For instance, Gerhedaus Vos writes the following:
Regarding heretical baptism, the Reformed church also takes the standpoint mentioned above by distinguishing between fundamental heresy and non-fundamental deviation in doctrine. We do not recognize a baptism by Arians and Socinians. We do recognize baptism by Roman Catholics and Remonstrants. When someone comes over to us from the first two groups, we do not rebaptize. We baptize for the first time, for he has not been truly baptized. The point is not whether or not the person who administers baptism has been corrupted by fundamental heresy; at issue is only the standpoint of the church in which and for which he has administered baptism. But it is obvious that this is an area where one could raise many hard questions. 3Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics. Ed. Richard B. Gaffin. Trans. Annemie Godbehere et al. Vol. 5. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012–2016). Print.
This is problematic on many levels. Set aside our obvious differences in pedobaptism. Vos is arguing for a position that promotes unequal treatment of different heretical groups. He rejects one heretical group while accepting the baptism of another heretical group. Are Arians heretics? It’s obvious that they are, and their baptism should be rejected. However, if we treat Roman Catholics differently at this level, we have made a grievous mistake.
Those who are saved out of the doctrines of Rome should give a full testimony of saving grace by the means of grace God has established for such a testimony of conversion—in the waters of baptism. Furthermore, baptism is viewed in many ways biblically as the front door to the fellowship of the church, and by recognizing the baptism of Roman Catholics creates more confusion than clarity. As Vos rightly points out, we do not truly “rebaptize” heretics because they were never truly baptized in the first place. Therefore, all Roman Catholics should be truly baptized as believers when they come out of Rome and enter the church of Jesus Christ.
My final exhortation to Roman Catholics would be to examine the Scriptures and be moved to submit to God’s voice from the pages of Scripture as the final authority rather than the words of the Pope or an ecclesiastical power such as the Vatican. Christ alone is our hope and without him we are doomed. If you make the mistake of adding the slightest work to Jesus’ work for salvation, you have missed Christ and your soul is in danger. You have already missed Christ by your additions which are far more severe than the alteration of pronouns in the baptismal formula.
Put your faith in Jesus Christ alone and be publicly baptized as a testimony of your faith in Jesus Christ alone.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3–4).