TO THE EDITOR:
Sanctification through sacramental signs is essential to the Gospel message of Christ. Baptism, in the words of Mark 16:16, is, by Our Lord’s words, necessary of a means for salvation. The Church, in her care of souls, has always been most careful to guard this necessity. St. Thomas Aquinas speaks of invalidating alterations to the form of the sacraments in Summa Theologiae, IIIa, q. 60, a. 7. Citing St. Augustine, he argues that “the word operates in the sacraments ‘not because it is spoken … but because it is believed’ in accordance with the sense of the words which is held by faith.”
The use of “We” in place of “I” in the form invalidates the sacrament because these words do not represent the Church’s constant understanding of baptism; namely, that it is the Church’s duly-designated minister who instrumentally effects the sacrament, rather than the erroneous position that it is the community that does so. This de fide teaching was expressed at the Fourth Lateran Council. Since the sacraments express the perennial faith of the Church, the forms duly approved by the Church must express this identical faith.
While baptism by water, blood, and desire do exist, the Church understands baptism of desire as being explicitly or implicitly desirous of doing what God prescribes for salvation. Therefore, those who become aware that their baptism has been invalidated by such a formula would need to receive baptism once again, as well as have all other sacraments reiterated, with the exception of penance and (in general) marriage.
Holy Baptism is more than a mere welcoming into the Christian community; by the valid act itself, baptism effects justification before God and welcomes us into His friendship. The soul gains spiritual regeneration in Christ, the cleansing of original and actual sin, and the infusion of grace, the virtues, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, baptism itself causes an indelible mark on the soul, a sacramental character, by which the Christian is configured to Christ, Priest, Prophet and King. All of these effects take place by the act of baptism itself.
In actuality, the only pastoral solution to these matters is, and always will be, the truth of Jesus Christ as proclaimed in charity by the Church, whose merciful, caring intention to see all brought to salvation must ensure that Our Lord’s command on the necessity of baptism be followed in its integrity.
Rev. Albert P. Marcello, III, J.C.D. (Cand.), Defender of the Bond, Diocesan Tribunal
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