Invalidly baptized Oklahoma priest baptized and ‘re-ordained’ 

Denver Newsroom, Sep 16, 2020 / 04:08 pm (CNA).-  

In the second known instance in the United States, a man who believed himself to be a validly baptized Catholic and ordained priest had to “re-receive” all of his sacraments, including ordination, after discovering that his baptism was invalid.

Fr. Zachary Boazman, a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, thought he was validly ordained in 2019. But in August, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a doctrinal note, reminding Catholics that baptisms are not valid if the minister of the baptism changed the words, or formula, of the baptism from “I baptize you” to “We baptize you.”

Boazman, who was baptized in another diocese in 1992, reviewed a videotape of his baptism after the announcement from the Vatican and discovered that the deacon ministering his baptism had used the invalid “We baptize you.”

A Sept. 14 letter sent to priests, deacons and staff of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, and shared with CNA, said Boazman was “immediately contacted Archbishop Paul Coakley to explain the situation and seek guidance” after his discovery.

Because Boazman’s baptism had not been valid, the subsequent sacraments he received – reconciliation, Holy Communion, confirmation, ordination – were therefore also not valid. His invalid baptism also invalidated many of the sacraments he offered before his valid ordination, including Masses, confessions, and some marriages. A key exception to that are the baptisms ministered by Boazman, as baptisms can be validly performed by anyone using the correct formula (wording) and the right intention.

Within days of Boazman’s discovery, he was validly baptized Catholic and validly ordained as a priest.

“To rectify the issue, Father Boazman was baptized, confirmed and received the Eucharist on Sept. 8 at Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Oklahoma City,” the archdiocese stated in the letter. “He was ordained by Archbishop Coakley a transitional deacon and a priest on Sept. 12 also at Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic Church,” the letter added.

“This has been a heart-breaking experience for Father Zak, but one that he handled with grace and patience,” Coakley said in the letter.

“I am certain this past week, as unsettling as it was, will further strengthen Father Zak’s resolve to serve God’s people and develop an even deeper appreciation for the gift of the priesthood.”

Boazman could not be reached for comment on September 16, as he was on retreat.

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City noted that Coakley sanated, or validated, the marriages witnessed by Boazman prior to his valid ordination last week. Boazman had not celebrated any confirmations prior to his valid ordination.

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City encouraged anyone with concerns about sacraments they have received from Boazman prior to his valid ordination to call the archdiocese.

Boazman is not the only priest to have recently discovered that he was not even a Catholic, let alone a priest.

In August, soon after the Vatican announcement, Fr. Matthew Hood of the Archdiocese of Detroit remembered from the tape of his baptism that the ministering deacon had said “We baptize you…”

Hood contacted the Archdiocese of Detroit and after he validly baptized and receiving valid sacraments of penance, Holy Communion, confirmation, and diaconal ordination, he was validly ordained a priest on Aug. 17. 

Hood’s story raised concern among some Catholics about whether their own baptisms had been valid, and to what extent they should go to find out. The Catholic Church normally presumes a sacrament is valid, unless there is some proof to the contrary, such as the videos of Boazman’s and Hood’s baptisms.

While the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith concluded baptisms administered according to the “We baptize” formula are invalid, another Vatican congregation had previously given advice to the contrary.

A letter sent to a diocese from an undersecretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and published in the 2003 issue of “Roman Replies and CLSA Advisory Opinions” addressed the “We baptize you” formula.

“Employing the first person plural, rather than the singular…does not cast into doubt the validity of the Baptism conferred. That is, if the three divine Persons are named specifically as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the use of the first person plural does not invalidate the conferral of the Sacrament.”

“The liceity of such a celebration, however, is quite another matter.”

“It is the responsibility of the celebrant of Baptism to confer the Sacrament in a way that is licit as well as valid, and any infraction such as the one you describe should be brought immediately to the attention of the local Bishop.”

But the August letter of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which said such baptisms are always invalid, has set some U.S. bishops assessing what to do about baptisms previously thought illicit but actually invalid.

The Archdiocese of Detroit issued some pastoral guidance for anyone with concerns, that addressed many questions surrounding the issue.

“…theology is a science that studies what God has told us and, when it comes to sacraments, there must not only be the right intention by the minister but also the right ‘matter’ (material) and the right ‘form’ (words/gestures – such as pouring or immersion in water by the one saying the words),” the Archdiocese of Detroit stated on its website.

“As far as God ‘taking care of it,’ we can trust that God will assist those whose hearts are open to Him. However, we can have a much greater degree of confidence by strengthening ourselves with the sacraments He has entrusted to us,” the archdiocese added.

“Indeed, all the other sacraments increase and fortify sanctifying grace in the soul. One can see then, that sanctifying grace is a treasure of treasures and we should do everything we can to protect the integrity of the sacraments and stay very close to them – receiving them as often as possible.”


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  1. Father Zak is one of the most devout, holy young men I have ever met . I know he is devastated by this. Our parish stands by our young priest & feel honored to be ministered by him.

  2. With all the problems the Church is facing, with our “ shepherds” afraid to speak truth and shepherd their flock in these trying times and with so many of our bishops and priests backing lifestyles against Gods teaching, we are worried about a couple of words? Is this meant to be a diversion for the faithful to question their own sacrament instead of paying attention to what’s happening in the world around us?

    You’ve got to be kidding!

  3. This is contemptible legalism run amok in the Church. The idea that our Creator and Christ himself rejects a soul’s baptism because the exact words were not precisely spoken is beyond absurd, it’s a slander against God. What utter arrogance.

  4. This issue reveals a fundamental theological conundrum —

    It confuses faith & hope, & even theology itself, with magic. Perhaps rightly so?

    Magic dictates that “properly” doing X,Y,Z compels a God to act accordingly. You do a Rain Dance, & so the God sends rain. I curse you, & so you are doomed. You recite the exact words of a spell for healing, & thereby force the God to comply with your desires. Consider: Is this the gospel?

    Is the Christian God omnipotent … or not? How can an omnipotent & omniscient Deity require formulaic rites (“material” or not) to act effectively in the world, without compromising his/her/its own power & knowledge?

    • Underlying this “theological condumdrum” is obedience.Its not shaping the sacraments to our will and vanity but simply saying the red, doing the black.
      Of course God does not need any rules, but we do.

  5. What about Baptism of Desire? The Church teaches (I thought) that non-Christians can be saved if they are genuinely committed to seeking and living by the truth of Christ. Certainly Fr. Zak fits that description.

    • I was thinking about it, and came up with an analogy. Suppose a father leaves a child in the care of someone. That someone is given specific instructions about what the child is supposed to do – for example, to weed the tomato patch. For some reason, the caretaker does not pass on the correct instructions, and instead tells the child that he is supposed to straighten up his toy box but then is free to play all afternoon. When the father comes home and discovers that the tomato patch has not been weeded, and why, but that the child has done what he was told that his father wanted him to do, though it was not what the father actually wanted him to do, the child will not be punished for not weeding the tomato patch. Instead he will be praised for doing what someone who was in a position of trust told him that his father had instructed him to do.

      The caretaker, on the other hand, will be blamed for the weedy state of the tomato patch, as well as for his willful or negligent disobedience.

  6. The initial published comments are far More shocking than the article itself. They confirm my suspicion that many Catholics No longer believe in the Sacraments, the Sacramental System or the definitive role of Christ in the drama of salvation. Is Jesus “the Way” or “a way”? I wonder how many Catholics would choose the former these days.

    • I hope I’m not one of the ones to whom you’re referring. I do believe in the Sacraments, I do believe that it is important to administer them properly for them to be valid. I was just trying to explain why I think the innocent victim of a disobedient priest or deacon would still receive graces even though he did not receive a sacrament properly.

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