QUAERITUR: Can a deacon baptize with the older Rituale Romanum?

Baptism of the EunuchWant a traditional baptism with the Roman Rite?

Have a deacon but not a priest?

From a deacon reader:

I […] was recently ordained to the transitional diaconate, asked me whether church law allows him to perform a Baptism using the Extraordinary Form. He will be ordained to the priesthood in June. Can deacons baptize using the Extraordinary Form? And in fact, did deacons baptize at all before VII, or was this never done?

My old pastor, the late Msgr. Richard Schuler, used to tell a story about the furor and cross looks he kicked up when he asked as a transitional deacon to baptize a relative in his home parish.  He did it, but it was a very dicey thing to do.  The old pastor didn’t like the idea at all, but grudgingly conceded.

The point is this:

In the old days, the deacon was the extraordinary minister of solemn baptism.   He had to have permission from the local ordinary or the local pastor to do it.

Therefore, the pastor of the parish can let you, as a deacon, baptize in the newer form or the older form.

That said: I would have the pastor, the priest, ahead of time, exorcise and bless the salt and then exorcise the bless Holy Water to be used in the baptism.

As I think about this question and answer, it occurs to me how much I learned at that table in the parish rectory from those priests there, who were willing to pass on their lore and priestcraft, as it were.   This is something for priests to think about: how are you passing on your lore and old stories to a new generation of young men who will be priests?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. ray from mn says:

    RE: lore and priestcraft

    It’s my understanding these days that some priests are purchasing their own homes (as a retirement investment) rather than living in a rectory. Most smaller parishes these days probably don’t have assistants.

    Unless they can talk somebody to come out and cut the grass or shovel for them, they probably don’t share too much of their experiences with anyone.

    God bless dthe diocesan priests who choose to live in communities.

  2. Titus says:

    Fr. Z’s assessment is backed up the Rituale itself. The rubrics say that if a deacon performs the baptism, he uses salt blessed beforehand by a priest. (In the process of planning an E.F. baptism myself.)

  3. Supertradmum says:

    Thank you for addressing the exorcism part. I still would prefer a priest. We had the solemn EF baptism for my son by a priest.

  4. Random Friar says:

    Interesting bit from the older Catholic Encyclopedia:

    Deacons are only extraordinary ministers of solemn baptism, as by their office they are assistants to the priestly order. St. Isidore of Seville (De Eccl, Off., ii, 25) says: “It is plain that baptism is to be conferred by priests only, and it is not lawful even for deacons to administer it without permission of the bishop or priest.” That deacons were, however, ministers of this sacrament by delegation is evident from the quotations adduced. In the service of ordination of a deacon, the bishop says to the candidate: “It behooves a deacon to minister at the altar, to baptize and to preach.” Philip the deacon is mentioned in the Bible (Acts 8) as conferring baptism, presumably by delegation of the Apostles.

  5. Dean says:

    In the olden Baltimore Catechism days, we were taught that “anyone” can baptize in necessity. As an Army Catholic Chaplain’s Assistant this was reinforced, emphasizing that invocation of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the correct form, regardless of language used.. It would seem that a deacon, transitional or permanent, could fall under the mantle of “anyone”.
    Under current canon, does this still stand?
    In a parish where I once lived, the permanent deacon was scheduled to do all infant baptisms, obviously with approval of the pastor, and probably both assistant pastor-priests.

  6. Dean: This is actually about what deacons do. Anyone can baptize, but not everyone can do so solemnly, liturgically.

  7. Fr. W says:

    Has anyone noticed how badly the new Rite of baptism flows? To do the first part of the Rite with the families/children, then bring the child, one at a time to the font/baptistry – doesn’t work well because you have to go do the blessing of the water or if blessed, a prayer over the water.

    Has there ever been permission to bless the water ahead of time and omit that prayer over the water? That would allow children to be brought one at a time to the font for the baptism itself.

  8. dmwallace says:

    I would direct you to the following photos from the Institute of Christ the King’s international website. We see a transitional deacon baptizing according to the extraordinary form Rituale Romanum: http://icrsp.org/IMAGES-APOSTOLATS/IMAGES-2009/Apostolats/Gabon/Gabon-3-2009.htm.

  9. Ben of the Bayou says:

    Father Z.,

    A question remains. Can a Deacon perform the exorcisms over the child, supposing that he cannot do those for the water and salt (this is what I take you to mean when you say he should have a priest do those)?


Comments are closed.