O Child, Where Art Thou?

I had to check. Was I still at an actual news site, or had I inadvertently clicked myself into a satirical outlet? Perhaps the article came from The Onion or some other humorous blog? Well, it hadn’t. I was still viewing news through The NYT, and with a quick search, I could see the same article posted at several valid news sites: “Pastor Resigns After Incorrectly Performing Thousands of Baptisms.”

It seems the Rev. Andres Arango was heard performing a baptism using the words “We baptize you …” rather than the Vatican approved “I baptize you …” What’s more, he had apparently used the incorrect verbiage throughout his more than 20 years of pastoral leadership and had done so at multiple locales: Phoenix, San Diego, and Brazil. His superiors say the revelation of his incorrect pronoun usage has summarily invalidated the christenings of an estimated “thousands” of newborn babies.

Wow, imagine that! Using an inclusive “we” rather than an exclusive “I” has endangered the souls of so many unsuspecting sacramental recipients – souls heretofore oblivious to their spiritual predicament. Thousands could be unaware that their original sin was never removed in the erroneously administered sacraments performed shortly after their birth. Some are likely to be no longer among the living. Some may have died very early, perhaps as young children or even infants. So, how serious is it? What has the “we” wrought?

It’s serious enough that Rev. Arango has resigned his position so he can “dedicate my energy and full-time ministry to help remedy this and heal those affected.” He also offered condolences, “I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience my actions have caused and genuinely ask for your prayers, forgiveness, and understanding.”

Does Hell qualify as inconvenient enough? If so, Rev. Arango surely has his work cut out. To remedy and heal those affected, he may have to visit its four corners to find a few of the inconvenienced souls. It’s a “may” because the Church is a little ambiguous and God is rather silent about the fate of children who die before their original sin has been washed away through baptism. Does Hell really await them? It’s understandably a tough call for any of God’s recognized spokespersons to make. Saying “Yes” paints God as a somewhat cruel and sadistic deity, while a “No” calls into question the relevance of administering baptism (why even bother?). Some stake out a middle ground and declare a special place in Hell – a more hospitable area with perhaps more amenities. It’s called Limbo. Children, innocent except for original sin, might end up there. Yeah, it’s still Hell, but not as bad as regular Hell. For the “we” kids, it might be thought of as similar to a day-care center, but one where the parents never arrive to pick them up. And it is down under, so one shouldn’t imagine it to be as pleasant or accommodating as a five-star establishment — perhaps the staff is a little grumpy and its thermostat set a tad high.

Would the Rev. Arango be allowed to visit Hell and find the children he stuck the “we” to? Assuming they can’t be brought back to Earth, could he re-baptize their souls in Hell and have them released to the good place? What if he’s not allowed a short-term visit? It’s a dreadful thought, but could he make it full-term, like through a fake renunciation and a follow-up suicide? Maybe that’s the “full-time remedy” that could get the job done? It would certainly not be easy, but the souls of children are at stake. It could go down like this: In a Mission Impossible styled plot, the Rev’s soul slips past a preoccupied Devil and after several exciting and close calls with hellish fiends, he locates the slightly over-heated grounds of Limbo. Once inside, after some colorful confrontations with the grumpy staff, he finds the “we” souls. Assuming he also finds a wee bit of water, the Rev. Arango repeats each baptism, replacing the “we” with an “I” and each little soul is immediately zapped into heaven where a fine welcome-home party ensues. Alas, the heroic Rev. Arango is unable to attend, but his martyrdom will be remembered for all eternity.

It would be less heroic and exciting than all that, but could he simply pray really hard? Could the Rev. Arango pray hard and earnestly enough that God might relent and ease off on the Hell and Limbo stuff and mercifully just let the children go? And shouldn’t the learned clerics with the pronoun fixation pray alongside him? Sure, it was the Rev.’s usage, but if they actually believe the souls of children were put at risk, shouldn’t they all be praying like 24-7 along with him? Do they really have something more important going on?


Our world is one of several planets orbiting the sun. The sun is but one of 400 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy. The galaxy is 90,000 light years wide. Beyond the Milky Way there are another hundred billion galaxies, and each galaxy has perhaps a hundred billion stars. Like our sun, each star might have multiple orbiting planets. They all are far away – the nearest galaxy (Andromeda) to our own is two million light years distant. The furthest known galaxy lies ten billion light years beyond the extent of the Milky Way. All this is to say the barely observed universe is incomprehensibly large, and who knows what lies beyond even that. How many suns, how many worlds might there actually be?

Could the God or the Mystery behind the vastness of creation posses the human-like frailties that seem to plague our earthly gods? Could such a God or Mystery be so vain and vengeful, be so full of prideful wrath as to create an eternal Hell (or Limbo) to punish human beings who fail to display proper recognition, supplication, and adoration? Could the creator of this incomprehensibly vast universe be so obsessed with proper pronoun usage by a human priest, that a child’s soul could be put at risk?


Dear Rev. Arango, I hope you have more sense than the clerics who made an issue of sacramental pronoun usage. Please don’t go to Hell trying to remedy a situation that needs no remedy. Pray for world peace (but not 24-7).

Vern Loomis lives in the Detroit area and occasionally likes to comment on news and events that interest him in whatever capacity available. Some of his other musings can be found at Transcend Media Service, ZNetwork, CounterPunch, The Humanist, and The Apathetic Agnostic. Read other articles by Vern.