Adhering to the baptismal formula is “extremely important to continue the tradition of the Church,” said Neomi De Anda, a professor of religious studies at the University of Dayton in Ohio.
“It is not meant to be legalistic but about communion,” she added.
Indeed, the Diocese of Phoenix addressed the specific rules by creating an F.A.Q. section on its website about the case of Father Arango.
Just as a priest should not use “milk instead of wine during the Consecration of the Eucharist” — when the Catholic faith says that the wine becomes the blood of Christ — a priest should also not alter the wording of the sacrament of baptism, the diocese said.
The milk would not become the blood of Christ, the diocese said, and, similarly, a wrongly worded baptism would not purify a person.
Sandra Yocum, a professor of faith and culture at the University of Dayton, said that if a priest said “we,” it would imply that the source of the grace of the baptism came from the community, whereas saying “I” would correctly assert that “it’s God doing this work of grace” through the priest.
“In baptism, part of what makes it valid is the words that are used, and so that becomes significant,” Ms. Yocum said. Church officials might have been worried about setting a precedent if they suggested “these words are not that important,” she added.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a Vatican office that interprets doctrine and handles cases of misconduct, replied firmly when asked in 2020 if it was acceptable to use “we.”