BAPTISM - i OR WE - YOU ARE BAPTIZED
“What, I’m not baptized?!” You mean a pronoun error made by a well-intentioned priest could undo the beautiful baptism witnessed by the whole parish! Furthermore, you are telling me I’m not married in the Catholic Church even though I have pictures and certificates that say I was!
What does this say about God?
What does this say about the Roman Catholic Church?
What does it say about this bishop?
Can God’s grace be blocked, impeded by one word of man? Can God’s precious gift of salvation given at baptism be undone by a legal technicality but good intention? Who would dare to obstruct God’s grace by a ridged magical formula? Magic is an attempt to control and contain spiritual powers to the individual actor. Sacraments and liturgy however are pleas for God’s activity using us as tools.
If God's grace can be undone in a liturgy conducted with good intention and with the witness of the church in prayer and communion by one mistaken word of a priest, then who has the power? God or the law?
The law is made by man. In particular, Canon Law is made over centuries of Roman jurisdiction for the sake of order and protection of the innocent. The Roman church has recognized for centuries that the mistake of a priest in performing liturgical functions is compensated by the good intention and faith of the believing community - “ecclesia suplet” or “the church supplies”. This is common sense and good theology. The intention of the parents, priest and church gathered are greater than unintentioned, mistaken errors in a priest’s performance of sacraments.
Furtermore, the church recognizes when something that is done with good intention but with some error is “illicit” but nonetheless “legitimate”. This has broad implications. In this particular case the rite performed by this priest using “We” instead of the correct pronoun “I” would be considered illicit but definitely legitimate. Life goes on without any disruption or cause for scandal, especially those less qualified to understand the intricacies of Canon Law, rubics, or sacramental theology.
As for the bishop, what in God’s name is he about? Is this an exhibit of scrupulosity? Is this a display of authority? We can’t get into his head, but we can certainly judge this to a cause of scandal. As Miriam Webster defines it: “conduct that causes or encourages a lapse of faith or of religious obedience in another”.
For the bishop to tell hundreds of people that they cannot go to communion, they they are not baptized and if confirmed and married in the church, no longer married or confirmed, is to shake the faith of ordinary people and lead the weak in faith to dismiss the church as a legalistic joke. Worse yet, to place the burden to correct this mistake on the “victims” of a loving yet inaccurate priest.
This bishop had full authority to use the merciful guidance of pastoral theology and overrule the law, and apply ecclesia suplet. He would correct the priest and ignore the error in favor of God’s unlimited mercy and declare all his baptisms and sacraments as legitimate. No need to make any announcement less it bring confusion or mockery.
But then, that is why there are those of us who deeply rooted in Catholic theology and tradition offer a more inclusive, non-judgmental, non-legalistic church experience. We who believe more in the power of God who is mercy and grace invite the confused, the wounded, the outcast to discover us, the inclusive independent catholic tradition. Those of us who cling to the treasures of catholic church but eschew the legalisms of canon law are open and welcoming.