God cares about pronouns

Tragic news: a priest was carrying out baptisms wrongly. These were botched baptisms!

The diocese, which is trying to identify people baptized by Arango, set up a FAQ section on its website to confront issues related to the botched baptisms and also created a form for people who were initiated into the church by the priest to complete.

Arango’s error was in saying, “We baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” when he should have begun the sentence by saying, “I baptize you.”

“The issue with using ‘We’ is that it is not the community that baptizes a person, rather, it is Christ, and Christ alone, who presides at all of the sacraments, and so it is Christ Jesus who baptizes,” Bishop Thomas Olmsted wrote in a mid-January message on the diocese’s site.

I think the priest had hiccups that day.

Think of all the Catholics baptized by a priest who erred in the precise formula: all the priests who stuttered, or sneezed, or paused too long at some random point in the incantation, or worst of all, spoke the rite in the wrong language. I don’t know what the right language is, but it’s probably not English or modern Italian. God is very finicky about these things, I guess.

It’s probably not German, either, which explains Hitler. Do they say “du” or “Sie” in the correct version? Maybe they’ve been getting it wrong all this time.

I wonder if the Catholic Church is more angry at the priest who screwed up the baptisms than they are at the priests who diddled choir boys?


  1. robro says

    Just imagine all the people who thought they were Catholic but aren’t. Do they have to be re-baptized? Do they have to go to Catechism class? Do they have to pay to go through it again? Do they get a refund if they don’t want to be Catholic now?

    Stephen Colbert, who was brought up Catholic, used this story in his monologue last night focusing on how it’s confusing because even God is three things in one.

  2. kingoftown says

    Pretty sure the German would be “dich”. It’s in the accusative case, not the nominative (the fun of learning German or Latin).

  3. HidariMak says

    I remember reading a similar news story a few years ago, except in this case, a priest was baptized using that phrasing, resulting in everybody he baptized not really being baptized because he wasn’t really baptized.

  4. davidc1 says

    adolf as a baby,I remember the first time I saw that photo,in the early 70’s my school friend took me to his local
    library,it must have been in Alan Bullocks or John Toland’s biography of hitler,someone had drew a little tash on der fuhrer.
    About the only good thing you can say of adolf is that he cared for his mother when she was dying,and he was devastated when she died.

  5. richardh says

    @3: God is three things in one.
    The Athanasian Creed (which except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly!) disagrees. You’re probably confounding the persons, or maybe dividing the substance:

    5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.
    6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.
    7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.
    8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.
    9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
    10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.

    So far, so good. But just when you thought you were getting the hang of it, here comes the punchline…

    11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.
    12. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.

    and so it goes on, all the way to #44 (which says the same thing as #1, but in reverse order).

  6. anthrosciguy says

    Those are the rules:
    Rule No. 1: God knows all and sees all
    Rule No. 2: God is way too dumb to figure this out
    Seems contradictory but that’s just me.

  7. charley says

    If baptism is as important as Catholics claim, and they admit their employee falsely led people to believe they were being baptized, then couldn’t victims of this error sue for damages? If your child died without the grace and freedom from original sin imparted by baptism, they might spend an eternity in hell. At the very least, one’s place with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the church are severely compromised if you’re not baptized. Seems like you’d be entitled to at least a refund of contributions made under the assumption that your church membership was gaining you or your child favor with God.

  8. jacksprocket says

    When I was a kid we had a demented octogenarian priest, who used to go to sleep standing up in the middle of the mass,, then suddenly wake up muttering nonsense Latin phrases. No wonder the magic didn’t take.

  9. Robert Estrada says

    Perhaps we could encourage Randy Cassingham of “This is True” to issue them all “Get out of hell free’ cards.
    Read your blog almost daily.
    Robert B. Estrada

  10. nomdeplume says

    The frightening thing about this is that the Church clearly believes that using a different word during a piece of meaningless mumbo jumbo matters.

  11. xohjoh2n says

    Suppose they hand you an upside-down, backward, Chinese, Braille Bible with half the pages missing. Would that count?

  12. jenorafeuer says

    The interesting thing about this is it so clearly demonstrates that they’re essentially treating the catechisms as magic spells, whether they’ll admit out loud that’s what they’re doing or not.

  13. tuatara says

    I read a story many years ago about a xian missionary somewhere out in central Australia who was zealously converting the ‘natives’ to save them.
    One Friday, he caught a recently baptised aboriginal man who was cooking a kangaroo that he had hunted.
    The missionary reprimanded him with something like “What are you doing? You know you cannot eat meat on a Friday!”
    The aboriginal man smiled and calmly said, “It’s okay boss, I put some water on it and turned it into a fish”.
    Who the fuck cares about the wording when it is a hollow and meaningless ritual anyway.

  14. says

    Wow, that’s just amazingly…silly. In fact, it makes perfect sense for a priest to say “we,” as in, “Jesus isn’t here to say so himself, but we, the church, acknowledge that he has baptized you, and welcome you into our church.” A priest could also say “I,” of course, as in “I, as agent of the Church and part-time representative of Christ…” Either way is fine, as long as the priest isn’t saying “I” as in “I’m channeling Jesus” or something like that.

    Seriously, if anyone is really noticeably upset over this “mistake,” they need to calm down and get help.

  15. KG says

    HidariMak@9, Larry@10,
    There was a somewhat similar case, on a higher level, in the medieval church. In his 14 August 1279 bull Exiit qui seminat, Pope Nicholas III declared that Jesus “Christ” and his apostles had been absolutely poor, owning nothing whatsoever, even in common. His successor, John XXII, however, on 12 November 1323, issued the bull Quum inter nonnullos, which declared “erroneous and heretical” the doctrine that Christ and his apostles had no possessions whatsoever. It follows that either Nicholas III or John XXII was a heretic. But a heretic, according to the logic of Catholicism, cannot be Pope, because God is supposed to have made them doctrinally infallible. (Actually, Catholic theologians tie themselves in knots most amusingly about this, see here and here for example.) But if either was not in fact Pope, that non-Pope’s nominations of cardinals were invalid, and that would invalidate the subsequent Papal election. Hence, there has been no Pope since the 14th century, and given the centrality of the Pope to the Catholic Church, no Catholic Church either.

  16. wzrd1 says

    I wonder if the Catholic Church is more angry at the priest who screwed up the baptisms than they are at the priests who diddled choir boys?

    That was in last week’s headlines. The poop decided that he and the church were not responsible for their molesters.

    As for this, all this raised as Catholic can say is, obviously God rides the short flaming chariot to work every morning, after Lucifer the angel of the Morning Star awakens him.

  17. ffakr says

    As a boss.. I try to say “we” when I do something particularly well, and “me” or “I” when me or my staff don’t quite excel.

    Now.. I’m quite confused about the implications of this long-held policy on my immortal soul.
    My god,.. have I been hopelessly confusing an omnipotent being with all this mild obfuscation?!?

    Lord help I/we/my staff…

  18. birgerjohansson says

    I am told that in Hinduism a lot of the phrases their clergy chant are simply intended as ‘magic spells’, but the Christians who say that may lack introspection.

    As magical phrases go, I always thought “Ka-me-ha-me-HA!” was good an succinct, leaving little to be pronounced wrong.

  19. birgerjohansson says

    ffakr @ 27
    This sets you apart from people like Bezos and the Tesla guy, in a positive sense.

  20. chrislawson says

    Shouldn’t it be “I baptise thee”? God gets furious when priests muddle subject/object grammar just to truckle to trendy 400-year-old linguistic shifts. The babies aren’t baptising themselves.

  21. tuatara says

    over at the Onion.

    Pope Quietly Moves God To Different Universe After Deity Caught Molesting Altar Boy

    VATICAN CITY—Acting swiftly and quietly in hopes of avoiding a PR nightmare, Pope Francis reportedly transferred God, Our Lord And Heavenly Father, to a different universe Friday after He was caught molesting an altar boy. “You’re obviously a hugely valuable member of our organization, but we think given recent events it would be best for you to spend some time a few billion light years out of the spotlight,” Pope Francis reportedly told The Creator Of All Things in a private meeting, recommending that the deity use His time in the desolate reaches of a farflung dimension to say His devotionals and contemplate the scripture. “I know it’ll be a change of pace from the hubbub of the entirety of creation that you’re used to, but it’ll be a chance for some rest and quiet until all the creatures in known existence calm down a bit. At that stage, we should be able to promote you to a high ranking position in the Vatican without a problem.” At press time, Pope Francis had reportedly been forced to relocate God again after several beings of incomprehensible aspect accused Him of inappropriate touching.

  22. birgerjohansson says

    The southern Baptists and other religious right weirdos keep calling this or that “satanic”.
    Is the Catholic church doing that too, or is this an area where the Catholic hierarchy is the lesser form of crazy?

  23. karellen says

    or worst of all, spoke the rite in the wrong language. I don’t know what the right language is, but it’s probably not English or modern Italian. God is very finicky about these things, I guess.

    I presume that Papal Supremacy takes care of that. If The Pope says that the English phrase “I baptise you” is an acceptable way to perform a baptism in the Catholic Church, but “We baptise you” is not, then him saying so makes both true. Further, Popes can give (or deny) a similar blessing to equivalent phrases in other languages as they see fit. if The Pope says it’s “du”, then it’s “du”.

  24. submoron says

    Tuatara@23: It was apparently done in Europe too. A leg of lamb would be lowered into a well to turn it into a ‘fish’. I think it’s Frazer’s Golden Bough. The barnacle goose was also classified a fish because of a belief that they actually did start life as barnacles.

  25. Allison says

    brucej @11:

    or the ones who through they were married, but aren’t.

    It appears that the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy is less reasonable than the State of New York.

    A long time ago, my future spouse and I were researching exactly what does and does not make you married in the eyes of NY. NY does not recognize common law marriage, as there has to have been an event (a “solemnization”) where the people getting married express their intent to be married, like when they say “I do.” The law lists an incredible number of ways it can be solemnized, but at the end, there’s a catch-all which says, basically, if a reasonable person would have thought at the time that the two people are being married, then the marriage has been solemnized. That is, it can’t be invalidated on a technicality. As I understand it, the logic behind this is that it is not in the interest of the State to have lingering uncertainty as to whether a married couple is, in fact, married.

    In our case, the legal solemnization was performed by the mayor of our village. If it had later turned out that she was an imposter, we would still have been married.

    On the whole, it looks like the Roman Catholic Church is operating in cross-purposes to itself. It is in the interest of the Church to have people in their religion, if only for their tithes and (hopefully) obedience to RC clerics, and since baptism, among other things, is kind of an initiation rite into the Catholic Church, declaring that a whole bunch of people aren’t really members of their Church seems like shooting themselves in the foot.

    But then, they have been doing a bunch of things that reduce the respect people have for them. (Since they have no legal power, their power comes from the reverence people have for the Church.) Their handling of sex abuse by priests has AFAIK alienated a lot of people, Catholics included.

    BTW, I can’t help wondering if this business (the invalidating of baptisms) is really about some factional dispute within the Church hierarchy.

  26. Allison says

    tuatara @23

    Who the fuck cares about the wording when it is a hollow and meaningless ritual anyway.

    It’s not hollow and meaningless to the people who participated in it. But evidently it’s more meaningful to the participants than to the Church hierarchy, if they’re declaring (years later) that it was a sham. It must feel like a real slap in the face to the participants (and their families and friends.)

  27. muttpupdad says

    xohjoh2n at 21 most people would never notice as they never open it to find what is really inside, just having it around to show that they are holier than most.

  28. wzrd1 says

    birgerjohansson @ 36, to the average parishioner, there are Christians and everyone else is worshiping nothing, which obviously is of the devil.
    Note that Christian was exclusively equal to Roman Catholic, no others allowed to apply.

  29. Matthew Currie says

    I would have thought it very simple for the infallible pope simply to say that in certain cases, since Jesus is the king of whatever one is king of, the priest was simply using a “royal we.”

    The funny thing about all this is that, as far as I know, baptism is the one sacrament that anyone may do, and many other churches’ baptisms are considered valid as long as they follow the proper trinitarian formula whatever that may be (you’d have thought the trinity would require a “we” rather than excluding it, but we must not bring the devil’s logic into this). If you’ve just fallen off a cliff and are gasping your last breath, an atheist can baptize you with water from the nearest mud puddle, but he’d better watch his pronouns, or it’s off to hell you go!

  30. says

    I think I read the story where the same error was made on a baby, baby become a priest, than a bishop and because technically was never baptized, every priest that was created by him was not truly priest so every baptism of overy of those priests were invalid.
    But maybe I mixed up something there

  31. Tethys says

    The Baptists don’t consider it a valid baptism unless you are an adult capable of reason and undergo a full immersion. ( offered merely for comparison of various xtian sects rules about the silly rituals that are required of new members )

  32. xohjoh2n says

    Arguably since Jesus was not baptised by an actual Roman Catholic using the correct liturgy, the entire basis of the Roman Catholic church is bunk.

  33. John Morales says

    Very arguable, xohjoh2n.

    First, the purpose of baptism is inapplicable to Jesus:

    Can. 849 Baptism, the gateway to the sacraments and necessary for salvation by actual reception or at least by desire, is validly conferred only by a washing of true water with the proper form of words. Through baptism men and women are freed from sin, are reborn as children of God, and, configured to Christ by an indelible character, are incorporated into the Church.


    Second (and nonetheless) Jesus was supposedly baptised by John the Baptist, according to the Gospels.

  34. ajwade says

    Allison @40

    BTW, I can’t help wondering if this business (the invalidating of baptisms) is really about some factional dispute within the Church hierarchy.

    Would make sense. It seems that the “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” is responsible for this. They have a long history of being wrong about things: this is the same department that put Galileo under house arrest for heliocentrism. (They also have a history of banning books and executing people, but they don’t do that sort of thing any more.)

  35. John Morales says

    ajwade, nope, it does not.
    See my citation of the Canon and the salient bit of the pullquote: “with the proper form of words”.

    Adhering to the Code of Canon Law is not a factional dispute, it’s a core tenet.