QUAERITUR: Can traditional baptisms be done in English (by priests who don’t know Latin)

A question from a reader:

Fr. Z,

Thanks for your great blog.  Our strongly orthodox priest at first declined to baptize our expected baby using the E.F. because of his lack of ability in Latin.  He said he would check with the liturgy 
director of the diocese to see if he could celebrate it in English.
Somewhat surprisingly, the answer came back in the affirmative.  

Though a second choice, my wife and I intend to pursue this.  However, we have been unable to locate an authorized translation of the E.F. baptism in English

I am told it was permitted before the Novus Ordo was created. 

Have you any advice for me?

Yes, you can have a baptism in the older, traditional form mostly in English.

My understanding is that most everything from the older rite can be done in English, though the blessing of salt, the two exorcisms, the Ephpheta, the In odorem suavitatis, the anointing with the oil of catechumens, the form of baptism, and the anointing with the oil of Sacred Chrism should be in Latin.

The best book for this would be the volume called  COLLECTIO RITUUM which shouldn’t be hard to find at all.  Many older priests will still have a copy, many sacristies will still have it on some shelf.  It wasn’t rare and still is not.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Xpihs says:

    Perhaps even the Small Ritual would help?

  2. sacerdosinaeternum says:

    I baptized a child in the EF last Sunday using the vernacular, save the particular required parts in Latin, as above. I used the first volume of the Weller set. It was great.

  3. ED says:

    The Novus Ordo should be eliminated and replaced with the Tridentine Latin Mass in the Vernacular

  4. Robert Medonis says:

    Here is a business opportunity for Rev. Z: Latin Consultant
    Buy a lear jet and fly around the country putting out Latin usage fires.

  5. Chris says:

    Father, that explanation does not jive with the rules of the FSSP or the Institute.

    While they usually don’t prefer it, they will do one part of the baptism in the veracular: the responses from the Godparents. The rest, according to the ritual, are done in Latin.

    While many things were going on in the 1950s that shouldn’t have been, and vernacular baptisms and graveside rituals were some of them, the traditional orders have restored the original practice of using Latin for most of if not all of the rituals.

    My child, my Godchild and all of our friends children that I’ve seen baptised for years, there wasn’t a lick of English.

    The lack of perfect knowledge of Latin should not stop a priest from using it. I’m sure they can read the Latin from the ritual book and pronounce it just good enough for God to be please, for validity to be there and for the devil to shudder.

  6. Austin says:

    The English Missal and its cousins are, to my mind, the best renderings, though I’m not recommeding them for use in this instance, naturally.

    If an Anglican group ever comes over en masse, this should be their traditional
    liturgical option. My wedding was celebrated, with the Roman Canon in the service leaflet, and my son baptized in Tudorbethan translations of the Latin (and quite a bit of actual
    Latin too, for good measure. Many evangelicals in the congregation were thoroughly
    impressed. The recognized the density of scriptural reference and quotation.

    One misses that idiom when subjected to NO-style English. But that’s what most Anglicans use now anyway.

  7. Paul Quist says:

    Is celebrating the EF in the vernacular permitted? [No. It must be in Latin.]


  8. Maureen says:

    Might I suggest that, just because something is a rule of the Institute, that it doesn’t mean it’s a rule of the Church?

    The very point of having a religious order or community is to live in a way that the rest of the Church doesn’t, according to rules that the rest of the Church doesn’t have. The Institute has its own best practices — which is entirely its right. But there are also many different canonically valid ways to do things. There always were, even in the old days.

    When one is fighting to “reform the reform” and end abuses, it becomes especially critical not to stamp out permissible, non-abusive, alternative ways of doing things. Rooting out every blade of grass except your particularly preferred one — that’s not the hermeneutic of continuity or organic development. It’s perilously close to “the Spirit of Vatican II” and its war on tradition.

  9. Truman says:

    Let’s try not to generalize over-broadly here . . .

    My daughters were baptised in ceremonies roughly 50-50 between Latin and English, something that was broadly speaking the norm in the States by the fifties AND

    after years as a part-time parishioner at an FSSP parish, I am not sure that your sweeping statement is an accurate one.

    In this, as in so many things, he key is not to universalize local practices, however perfectly or otherwise they may be recalled.

  10. Chris says:

    My statement wasn’t just about the Fraternity or Institute, it’s the way it was until the reforms started in the 50s.

    In all of my studies and talking to old priests, my understanding is that you would never have heard vernacular at a baptism, graveside service, Extreme Unction, etc. Just like the Mass was never in the vernacular once it went to Latin.

    I understand everyone is not traditional, and that’s their right. What I would like to see is tradition kept whole and not being watered down to meet the needs of some who are marginally traditional.

    If some don’t want the traditional Mass or sacraments the way they are, for Pete’s sake have respect for those of us who have been fighting for years to have them. It’s just frustrating to come this close only to have it all change to meet modernist needs.

  11. Father Z.,

    This is a question that I have also been asked, frequently recently. My older response was like yours. But now after considering the Weller version of the Sacramentary, which gives English version for everything, I would like to know what the actual legislation in force in 1962 was. Could you post this?

    This is an issue that is becoming more and more pressing.

  12. P.S. All old rite baptisms I have done have been entirely in Latin. And that was the preference of the parents.

  13. Christopher says:

    A Fraternity Priest performed Extreme Unction on my Aunt, it was 90% Latin.

    The Same Priest Performed “Supplying the Ceremonies” of Baptism on my son, and it was 50% Latin 50% English, he then did the Churching of Women, that was 90% Latin.

    A Institute priest convalidated our Marriage, that was 95% Latin.

    I supply this information anecdotally for you.

    I also dont consider these Sacraments in English done in

  14. JM says:


    Baby steps, baby steps man!

    Your attitude is the type that turns people away from tradition. [In part, this type of attitude is why the Eastern Catholic churches are dying in the U.S.. Their absolute ethnic attitudes have and still do make visitors to their dying parishes feel very unwelcome.] Tradition is not a private or exclusive club for the exclusively “traditional.” Tradition is for every Catholic, even the “marginally traditional.”

    Calling the priest and they guy who sent the question to Fr. Z “modernist” is inaccurate and offensive. You know nothing about them except that the parents the older form of baptism and the priest is trying to help them as best he can. Not everyone has an FSSP/ICK/Indult nearby. You take what you can get.

    A traditional baptism in English is much better than a baptism by the new ritual. The traditional prayers are beautiful and inspiring even in English. If the priest is unable to pronounce the Latin yet (not everyone is good at languages), but is willing to at least baptize in the older form anyway, then good. Do it. Its a stepping stone across a deep river back to tradition. It is going to take time for priests to learn what they were never taught in the first place, so be patient and cut them some slack.

  15. a catechist says:

    My own baptism in 1970 was very much as Fr.Z describes. My father hated the N.O. and my mother was Protestant, so perhaps it was a good instance of “pastoral sensitivity,” but no special permission was needed then. God bless you & your expecting wife!

  16. sacerdosinaeternum says:

    Chris…broad generalization, man. I consulted a priest of the FSSP before doing the baptism on Sunday, and HE’s the one who told me which parts must be in Latin, and which can be in the vernacular. It’s a regular practice for him to use a good bit of the vernacular.

  17. Kathleen says:

    I was baptized in 1940 in English, but with good reason: I was not expected to
    live out the day I was born, so a nurse baptized me.
    (Ceremonies were held later.)

  18. I also resent those who refer to anyone who diasgrees with them as “modernists”.The late great catechist Mrsg.Eugene Kevane took to task those well intentionedorthodox Catholics who called various groups of people “modernists”.Modernists means an adhrent of moderism which has to do with altering the contents of the faith,and not with rirual.I remenber the changes in the 50’s and they made sense and they were usually optional.I also think it ridiculous someone who was not alive in the 50s telling us who were what really happened. The liturgy as the Pope has said is like a venerable old house.You do not tear it apart but it must be kept up.The litutgy preserves tradition but is not a mausoleum.

  19. Mike says:

    In The Confraternity Comes of Age (1956), there is an article by the Rev Michael A. Mathis, CSC, entitled ‘Collectio Rituum’. The article contains the following statement:

    In 1954, it was publicly announced that the Sacred Congregation of Rites had granted approval to the US bishops’ request to permit English in administering Baptism, Matrimony, Confirmation administered by a priest, the Last Rites and many Blessings, except in the essential
    words of the form of the sacraments. The use of English was at the option of the local Ordinary.

    I have an email from a French professor who stated ‘Between 1948 and 1960, all dioceses in France were granted indults to have bilingual ritual for baptism and other sacraments (outside of Mass). China was granted that in 1946.’

  20. danh says:

    In our diocese we have a bishop that has been strongly trained in the Liturgical “Spirit of V2”, allowing Polka Masses, Interfaith celebrations, and Sharing the Sacraments. However, he has a real strong pastoral sense in caring for the liturgical needs of ALL of his flock.

    We have the only EF Mass in a very large geographical area and have had for a couple of decades. This mass was in danger from the previous bishop, who was moved after only two years. The current one, on his elevation, not only gladly approved the continuance of the indult, but a year before the SP, did our Confirmations in English using the EF, since his Latin was not up to the task. I greatly admired his courage to step up to a situation where some might consider him inadequate and ignorant.

    This past year, he invited the North American Superior of the FSSP for a meeting about a potential apostolate here and was quite OK with the fact that they did not do NO Masses.

    At our Eucharistic Conference (mirroring the one in Quebec, Canada), he personally gave the talk on Adoration in which he debunked and dismissed the Spirit of V2 ideas against it.

    As Fr. Z says “Brick by brick.” Today EF Confirmations in English, tomorrow…

    If somebody had panned him at the time rather than just being grateful that he the best he could with the training that he had, I do not think that he would have been so open to further EF concerns.

  21. “The Novus Ordo should be eliminated and replaced with the Tridentine Latin Mass in the Vernacular.”

    Amen, Ed.

    Father Z,

    Can you cite an authoritative source which indicates that the Tridentine Mass cannot be celebrated in the Vernacular? It is not that I doubt you, I am just curious where that has been decided. As you mentioned last year, Msgr. Richard Schuler, of blessed memory, celebrated the 1962 Missal in English.


    Fr. Deacon Daniel

  22. PS: Just to clarify for your posters here, your mention of Msgr. Schuler’s celebration of the 1962 Missal in the vernacular was, as I understand it, a one time event done at Nativity Catholic Church in St. Paul, MN. I do not want to give the false impression that this was a regular practice of his.

  23. AlexB says:

    The New Sanctuary Manual, a book with the most frequently used portions of the 1961 edition of the Rituale Romanum:


    explains that certain parts of the Sacrament of Baptism, and other ceremonies, may be said in the vernacular. Where the vernacular is allowed, both Latin and English are provided. Where Latin is required, only the Latin is shown.

    Caveats about the Weller three-volume Rituale:

    1. English is always presented; no distinction is made as to when it is permitted. I think this is because the option for English in certain portions was not made until after the publication date of the Weller series.

    2. It omits certain blessings that were instituted after its publication date. For instance, the Silver and Golden Wedding Anniversary blessing in Weller are merely a suggestion. The versions in The New Sanctuary Manual are official.

    If you don’t have access to original, older books, nowadays you should refer to The New Sanctuary Manual first. If it doesn’t have what you are seeking, then turn to the Weller set.

  24. Peter says:

    I too have seen baptisms done in the EF, by FSSP and secular clergy, and quite a range of inclusion of the vernacular.

    Doing it all in Latin is fine with me but I would make these observations though:

    if the priest chooses to do everything in Latin I think he should give consideration to having at least some opening remarks in vernacular to steer everyone along. EF baptisms often have OF and even lapsed/nonCatholics attending (a fact of the times) but I am sad to say I have seen baptisms done all in Latin where there seem to be no concessions on the pastoral front. It isn’t the same as Mass, where there are a range of resources to assist the newcomer (missalettes etc), and the experience of individuals is generally infrequent, so even the commited EF Catholic is likely to have trouble indicating to the newbie what’s going on at any given point.
    And I have seen FSSP priests combine the adminsitration of the ceremonies with judicious and brief assistance in the vernacular while maintaining decorum and reverence.

    I think a little effort along these lines can do much to win over those perplexed by or even hostile to the EF. Hearts and minds.

  25. Fr Seán Finnegan says:

    My copy of The Small Ritual has the EF forms of all the sacraments and ceremonies in both Latin and English with no indication that it is forbidden to use the English version. I think it may have been published in 1964 which, of course, might not be covered by the letter of the 1962 requirement.

  26. Patronus says:

    “It’s just frustrating to come this close only to have it all change to meet modernist needs.”

    I’d also like to express my disdain for pulling out the “modernist” straw man for every little thing, no matter how legitimate.

  27. TJM says:

    Is there an older priest out there that can help us with this question? Also, when did the Rite of Baptism change? That might help
    answer this. Tom

  28. Father Klingele says:

    Please refer to the comments found in an earlier post:


    Some instruction about the use of the vernacular permitted for these rituals was given.

  29. Fr. Z,

    I ran across this article on the web. Any thoughts? It seems like an open and shut case: the EF can indeed be celebrated in the vernacular. Am I (or is he) missing something here?

    In ICXC,

    Fr. Deacon Daniel


    11/16/2007 5:34:00 AM -Rene Henry Gracida, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi


    The fundamental basis for the legitimacy of the use of English in the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is to be found in Article 6 of Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio:

    Art. 6. In Masses celebrated in the presence of the people in accordance with the Missal of Blessed John XXIII, the readings may be given in the vernacular, using editions recognized by the Apostolic See.

    To understand why Pope Benedict authorized the use of the vernacular language even though the Missal as originally promulgated by Blessed Pope John XIII in 1962 is entirely in Latin, one must return to the Decree Sacrosanctum Concilium issued on December 4, 1963 by the Second Vatican Council. In Article 36 (2) the Council stated:

    But since the use of the vernacular, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or in other parts of the liturgy, may be of great advantage to the people, a wider use may be made of it, especially in the readings, directives and in some prayers and chants.

    In Article 54 the Council further stated:

    A suitable place may be allotted to the vernacular in Masses which are celebrated with the people, especially in the readings and “the common prayer,” and also, as local conditions may warrant, in those parts which pertain to the people, according to the rules laid down in Article 36 of this Constitution.

    Further, to understand the relationship of the Missal of Blessed Pope John XXIII to the Council’s Decree it is important to note that he died on June 3, 1963. Also, lest one exalt the Missal promulgated by Blessed Pope John XXIII to the equivalent of having been cast in stone as were the Ten Commandments, it is important to remember that is was but one of many revisions of the Missal. Saint Pope Pius X revised the Missal in 1910 and it was published in an Editio Typica by his successor, Pope Benedict XV. Pope Pius XII revised the Missal before he died in 1958 and it was published in an Editio Typica on June 23, 1962 by Blessed Pope John XXIII.

    Following the promulgation of the Council’s Decree Sacrosanctum Concilium on December 4, 1963, the bishops of the United States petitioned the Holy See on April 2, 1964 for the use of the vernacular in those parts of the Mass celebrated with the Missal of 1962 permitted by Articles 36 and 54 of the Decree. On May 1, 1964 the Holy See granted permission for the bishops of the United States to print the Missal of 1962 with the following parts of the Mass in English:

    a) the Epistle and the Gospel
    b) the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus-Benedictus and Agnus Dei
    c) the Lord’s Prayer with its introductory admonition
    d) the formula Ecce Agnus Dei and Domine, non sum dignus before the communion of the faithful.
    e) the Introit and the Gradual
    f) the antiphons at the Offertory and Communion
    g) the acclamations, salutations and formulas of dialogue in which the people participate.

    Accordingly, the bishops of the United States published, on September 21, 1964 a new EDITION OF THE MISSAL OF BLESSED POPE JOHN XXIII ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON JUNE 25, 1960 NOW KNOWN AS THE MISSAL OF 1962.


    The use of the vernacular (English) in the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is therefore legitimate and is clearly in keeping with the mind of the Second Vatican Council and Pope Benedict XVI.

    +Rene Henry Gracida, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi
    November 11, 2007

  30. Father Deacon: Yes… I think you might be missing that the opinion of a Bishop Emeritus has about as much authority as mine. Also, the documents he cites are all post 1962. The Motu Proprio gives the priests the possibility of using the 1962 Missal, not a later Missal, not the 1964, etc. And it also remains to point out that if in one book the texts are in Latin and in the other they are in English, then the texts are not identical.

    I hope we have a clear expression of the mind of the present Roman Pontiff on these matters soon.

  31. Thank you, Father Z. I agree that this should be clarified, since I am sure that many are asking the same question.

    In ICXC,

    Fr. Deacon Daniel

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