Am I Culpable for Receiving an Invalid Sacrament?

You may remember from earlier in 2022 when news came out that thousands of baptisms were declared invalid when it was discovered that a priest in Arizona had erroneously been using the words “We baptize you…” instead of “I baptize you…” for 20 years. Because of their invalidity, those thousands of Arizona residents who received invalid baptisms were required to go back and receive the sacrament again.

While there is no evidence that these mistakes were made intentionally, and many parishioners actually cited that he had used the correct formula for their specific child’s baptism, the incident nevertheless raised some questions about the sacraments and how responsible their recipients are for verifying their validity.

Greg called into The Patrick Madrid Show to ask how culpable he would be if he unknowingly received invalid absolution for mortal sins that were on his soul, and then died without having gone to a valid confession. Would he go to hell? Or would he be innocent of this mistake?

Patrick began by establishing the fact that God is all-knowing and all-merciful. He knows the true state of our souls and is capable of recognizing our true intentions, regardless of the mistakes or deception of His creatures. So, when someone goes to confession, assuming that they are sorry for their sins, we know that they have the intention of receiving absolution. And afterward, they have the belief that they have received absolution. At no point in the process was the one confessing aware of the absolution’s invalidity, so they bear no responsibility.

Additionally, Patrick offered further reassurance to Greg, telling him that there are actually two methods by which one’s soul can be saved according to the Church. The first method is the primary and preferred method. It’s confession. In all standard scenarios, when you have grave sin(s) on your soul, that is the way by which you remove that stain and return to the state of grace.

However, if you find yourself in an extreme situation where you are unable to get to confession, the Church says that a good, sincere act of contrition that is born of one’s sorrow for offending God is enough. And fortunately, the act of contrition is built into the sacrament of confession. So, if one were to go and receive invalid absolution, they would still be saved as long as they made a heartfelt act of contrition in the confessional.

“So, either way, you’re covered,” said Patrick. “You had that sincere desire to go to confession. You thought you went to confession, and you were duped … Either way, God knows that you were sorry and that you were seeking His grace and forgiveness, and that’s sufficient.”

While our will and cooperation in seeking forgiveness are important to be absolved (as God will never force our own salvation upon us), the far more essential parts of this process are God’s grace and mercy. Those components are what give us the ability to cooperate with Him in the first place.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.

For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Tune in to The Patrick Madrid Show weekdays 8am – 11am CT

John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at and on the Relevant Radio® app.