The Diocese of Linz, Austria, has said that a man posing as a priest has been active in the diocese, duping people left and right. Of course with all the liturgical silliness in that diocese (see this Off the Record post followed by this Catholic World Report article for details), it’s understandable that something like this might sneak through.
So what happens when a fake priest celebrates the sacraments? Ed Peters puzzles out the canonical implications for us. The sacraments are invalid, but no sin is imputed who receive them without knowing that. He says that baptisms done according to the rite will not have to be re-done since it doesn’t have to be a priest in order to be valid. Masses would be invalid, of course, as would confirmations. Confessions would also be invalid and those who confessed mortal sins should confess again. As Ed says, the validity of marriages is trickier because of the interplay of form with local canonical and civil legislation.
Such impostors are not unheard of, and in fact you hear about them in the US from time to time. It’s a good idea always to check the background of a priest who seems suspicious, even if your pastor welcomes him. Your pastor could have been duped too. Ed gives several ways to check up on someone who claims to be a priest.
Update: A friend sends the following clarification regarding sacraments by imposters: “But they ARE formally received into the Church, by the profession of faith and aministration of [Confirmation and ]the Eucharist, by an authorized minister of the Church, acting in her name.
And if emergency Baptism is administered (say by a nurse in the hospital), and the person so baptized recovers, he is brought when possible to the church where he is formally received by the authorized minister of the Church (we used to refer to this as “supplying the ceremonies,” whern the anointng with the sacred chrism, the bestowal of the christening robe and the baptismal candle, and the blessing are done).
In the case of the children baptized by this imposter, I’d guess that this rite of reception will be done.”
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