Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Valid administration of the sacraments of baptism and penance, 2004, Private.


A diocesan bishop sought clarification from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments regarding the valid administration of the sacraments of baptism and penance. What follows is the response of the Congregation, in English.




CONGREGATION FOR DIVINE WORSHIP AND THE DISCIPLINE OF THE SACRAMENTS

Your Excellency,

This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has received your letter of ______, in which you raise a number of questions about the valid administration of the sacraments.

If a minister administering the Sacrament of Baptism by infusion pronounces the words of the sacramental form but leaves the action of pouring the water to other persons, whoever they may be, the baptism is invalid.

Your Excellency is right in supposing that if a confessor does not pronounce the sacramental form but gives some vague assurance of forgiveness, even with a Trinitarian blessing, this does not constitute a valid administration of the Sacrament of Penance.

If the confessor at least pronounces entirely the essential formula "Ego te absolvo.." the administration of the sacrament is valid, though in cases other than emergencies the manner of celebration is illicit.

Your Excellency will already be aware that such serious abuses are a matter of great gravity. The possibility that invalid baptisms have been administered affects all the sacramental life of the faithful involved and should be remedied as soon as possible. It would seem from your report that baptism must be administrated absolutely, that is to say, not conditionally.

Some months ago wide publicity was given to one or more similar cases in Canada. Unfortunately, in a first reaction the Secretary General of the Bishops' Conference of Canada made a very serious error in announcing that such baptisms were valid in virtue of the principle "Ecclesia supplet." Your Excellency should bear in mind that this is in no way correct. Those who have undergone an invalid baptism must be baptized again.

As to the priest who has engaged in these practices, it is clear that at least some serious re-education in the discipline of the sacraments is necessary.

The Congregation is grateful for Your Excellency's zeal in this matter and would appreciate a brief report on your findings when the matter has been concluded.

I express my religious respect and esteem.

Yours sincerely in Christ,

Francis Card. Arinze

Prefect




Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Valid administration of the sacraments of baptism and penance, 2004, Private, CLSA, Roman Replies and Advisory Opinions, 2004, 20-21.