A priest in the US city of Detroit has been left mortified after being told that his ordination has been rendered invalid due to a mix-up of the wording recited during his baptism.
The error means that, according to Catholic doctrine, Father Matthew Hood has technically been functioning as a minister without even being a baptised Catholic. Unfortunately, the mistake also means that the sacraments he administered during his ministry — including weddings, eucharist, confirmations and baptisms — must be rendered null and void.
The critical mistake was unearthed when Hood watched back a family video of his baptism ceremony and noticed that the presiding deacon said "we baptise you" instead of the permitted "I baptise you."
"I watched it and noticed that the deacon where he baptised us said 'we baptise you in the name of the father, son and holy spirit'. I know the matter and form of the words are central to the sacrament and whether it was valid or not,” Fr Hood told ClickOnDetroit.
He sought clarification from one of his seminary instructors, who confirmed that his baptism was invalid - the Vatican also agreed with the assessment.
"It was a full range of emotion, shocking at first. What you assumed to be true was not true for so long, assuming myself receiving the grace of the sacraments for 30 years,” Hood said.
Despite rectifying the situation by receiving the sacraments and becoming officially ordained earlier this month, Hood then had the burdensome task of reaching out to couples who he had previously married to ensure that they had their nuptials made official by the church immediately.
In a statement on the matter, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit said:
“On behalf of our local Church, I am deeply sorry that this human error has resulted in disruption to the sacramental lives of some members of the faithful. I will take every step necessary to remedy the situation for everyone impacted.”
The issue stemmed from the incorrect words as used by a deacon who served from 1986 to 1999 at St. Anastasia Church in Troy, Michigan.
"These baptisms were performed invalidly at St. Anastasia Parish in Troy for more than a decade," the director of evangelisation and missionary discipleship for the archdiocese of Detroit, Fr Stephen Pullis, told Fox 2 Detroit. "This is something you read about in seminary as a hypothetical, but this is reality."
He added that Hood was required "to go back and be baptised anew, confirmation anew, made a deacon, then priest".
The news comes after the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a doctrinal noted on the issue, stipulating that baptisms must adhere to the strictly unapproved wording of "We baptise you."
The Archdiocese of Detroit has asked people who think they may have been impacted to get in touch via a designated contact form.