The Archdiocese of Detroit is seeking to contact anyone who may have received invalid sacraments after a priest of the archdiocese recently learned his own baptism as an infant 30 years ago was invalid.
The note from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith alerted the Church throughout the world that baptisms were not valid in which a particular word or words were changed. Specifically, to say “We baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” does not convey the sacrament of baptism. Rather, ministers must allow Jesus to speak through them and say, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Among those impacted is Father Matthew Hood, a graduate of Sacred Heart Major Seminary who sought ordination to the priesthood in June of 2017. Father Hood was invalidly baptized as an infant by Deacon Mark Springer, who improperly used “We baptize” in his attempts to confer the sacrament from 1986 to 1999. Due to his invalid baptism, Father Hood was invalidly ordained to the priesthood and therefore limited in his ability to celebrate valid sacraments during the past three years.
This news is being shared in order to alert people whom the Archdiocese may not have a way to contact. The Archdiocese is also sharing a number of resources (below) for clergy, the faithful, and general public.
“It is the duty of the local Church to ensure that everyone entrusted into her care has the full benefit and certainty that come from the valid reception of the sacraments, which have been given to us to keep us as secure as possible on the path to heaven. 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,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “At the same time, the Church, following the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, recognizes that God has bound Himself to the sacraments, but He is not bound by the sacraments. This means that while we can have certainty that God always works through the sacraments when they are properly conferred by the minister, God is not bound by the sacraments in that He can and does extend His grace in a sovereign way.
“We can be assured that all those who approached in good faith to receive the sacraments did not walk away empty-handed. We know that Our Lord, in his unending love for us, supplied some measure of grace.”
Upon reading the doctrinal note, Father Hood immediately contacted the Archdiocese and the proper steps were taken to remedy his situation. He subsequently received valid Sacraments of Christian Initiation (i.e. baptism, Holy Eucharist, and confirmation). After spending time on retreat, he received the Sacraments of Holy Orders, being ordained a transitional deacon and then receiving priestly ordination on the evening of August 17.
“One of my first concerns, when I found out, was about everyone this affects. As a priest, I want to be able to reach out to them and tell them this is something that’s very strange and probably painful, but I’ve gone through this as well, and I want to help you to remediate this problem so we can be certain you’ve received the grace of the sacraments,” Father Hood said. “It’s a grace to realize that God is not a liar. Any experience of the sacraments, even if they were celebrated invalidly, God was still present, and God still honors that. God doesn’t repent of our desire for Him and this call that He’s given to us to follow Him and be faithful to Him.
“That grace in their lives has been at work. This is part of continuing that and strengthening that grace.”
Note to editors:
The Archdiocese of Detroit is sharing a number of resources to assist members of the faithful, the clergy, and the media:
- Dedicated website featuring a letter to the faithful from the Archbishop, a set of frequently asked questions, and contact information for members of the faithful to get in touch with the Archdiocese of Detroit
- Detroit Catholic interview with Father Matthew Hood
- Assignment histories of Father Matthew Hood and Deacon Mark Springer
In addition, the Archdiocese has sacramental experts available for media interviews, upon request. Please contact the Communications Department at firstname.lastname@example.org to request an interview.