The Holy See, through the intermediary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, recalls that the Sacrament of Baptism administered with an arbitrarily modified formula is not valid, and that no one “even if he be a priest may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.”
A sad consequence of the liturgical revolution at work in the Church for more than half a century: the form of the sacrament of baptism is sometimes modified in the name of a pastoral zeal of doubtful worth. It is only the consequence of an out-of-control creativity that would seek to alter the integrity of the sacraments of the Church.
On August 6, 2020 the Press Room of the Holy See published a Doctrinal Note (Responsum) from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith attempting to take the situation in hand: “During recent celebrations, the sacrament of Baptism was administered with the following words: ‘In the name of the father and of the mother, of the godfather and of the godmother, of the grandparents, of the family members, of the friends, in the name of the community we baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’”
This personalized formula, explains the Congregation, renders baptism invalid and entails the obligation to “those for whom ‘baptism’ was celebrated in this way to be baptized ‘in forma absoluta’ — that is unconditionally — by repeating the rite according to the liturgical norms stipulated by the Church.”
The decision, approved by Pope Francis in a hearing on June 8, would be a welcome development if it did not contain a paradox and were not based on flawed theological reasons.
The Note indicates that “apparently, the deliberate modification of the sacramental formula was introduced to emphasize the communitarian significance of Baptism, in order to express the participation of the family and of those present, and to avoid the idea of the concentration of a sacred power in the priest to the detriment of the parents and the community that the formula in the Rituale Romano might seem to imply.”
Are the authors of this modification not in tune with the spirit of the Council and its liturgical reforms? Have they not all insisted on the place of community, to the point that now many baptisms are celebrated during Sunday Mass? Has not the sacred power of the priest been systematically relativized or even denied for 50 years? Either he is denounced in the name of a clericalism brandished like a bogeyman, or he is beat down by all kinds of demands, as is the case in Germany with the Synodal Path?
In fact, the authors of these modifications which undermine the validity of the sacrament have gone too far. But they did not invent the principles that guide them. It’s all very well for the Note to denounce the “debatable pastoral motives” which “here resurfaces the ancient temptation to substitute for the formula handed down by Tradition other texts judged more suitable.”
A strictness that would be useful if applied to the innovations contained in the Novus Ordo Missae, and echoed by the conclusion of the Brief Critical Study of the Novus Ordo Missae
presented on June 5, 1969 by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci: “To abandon a liturgical tradition which for four centuries was both the sign and the pledge of unity of worship (and to replace it with another which cannot but be a sign of division by virtue of the countless liberties implicitly authorized, and which teems with insinuations or manifest errors against the integrity of the Catholic religion) is, we feel in conscience bound to proclaim, an incalculable error.”
Strange Theological Explanations
If the Note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith rightly evokes the authority of St. Thomas Aquinas and the decisions of the Council of Trent, it goes astray by using a nonsensical language far removed from the simplicity of the catechisms of days gone by or the clarity of the traditional magisterium.
Thus the priest sees his role of minister of Christ altered to become “a sign-presence” of Christ who celebrates as head of the body which is the assembly which also acts in a ministerial way (?): “the subject is the Church, the Body of Christ together with its Head, that manifests itself in the concrete gathered assembly. Such an assembly therefore acts ministerially – not collegially – because no group can make itself Church, but becomes Church in virtue of a call that cannot arise from within the assembly itself.”
“The minister is therefore the sign-presence of Him who gathers, and is at the same time the locus of the communion of every liturgical assembly with the whole Church.” Is a priest who baptizes outside an assembly still sufficiently a “sign-presence”? Is the priest acting as the minister of Christ or is the minister the assembly in which Christ celebrates through His sign-presence minister?
What if we went back to the pure Tradition of the Church, to its simple and luminous teachings that have proved their worth for 2,000 years?