Doctrine of the faith: ‘I baptise you’ means it is Christ who baptises
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith rectifies some ambiguous formulas, seemingly more democratic and less clerical. Sacramental action takes place in the name of Christ “who acts in his Church”. The ministry is not the “exercise of a power”, nor manipulation of formulas to one’s liking.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith today issued a responsum reiterating the traditional formula for the baptism.
“When the minister says ‘I baptise you,” he does not speak as a functionary who carries out a role entrusted to him, but he enacts ministerially the sign-presence of Christ, who acts in his Body to give his grace and to make the concrete liturgical assembly a manifestation of ‘the real nature of the true Church’, insofar as ‘liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations of the Church, which is the ‘sacrament of unity’, namely the holy people united and ordered under their bishops’.”
The statement, approved by Pope Francis, corrects some incongruities that occur when seemingly more democratic or less clerical formulas are used, such as: “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 baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
“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.”
Contrary to any sociological temptation, the statement reiterates that "sacramental action is not subject to an arbitrary action of individuals or of the community,” but insists “that it pertains to the Universal Church.”
All this is guaranteed by the "minister" who has “the intention to do that which the Church does.” Obedience is necessary because “he acts insofar as he is the sign-presence of the same Christ that is enacted in the ritual gesture of the Church.”
The ruling goes on to note that the ecclesial ministry is not "an exercise of a power", nor manipulation of an act that belongs to the tradition.
Finally, the Vatican Congregation notes that those who have been baptised using non-traditional formulas need to be baptised according to tradition. To this end, it cites Saint Augustine who said: “’Peter may baptise, but this is He that baptises; Paul may baptise, yet this is He that baptises; Judas may baptise, still this is He that baptises.’”