QUAERITUR: Do we have the right to ask for Traditional Form baptism?

From a reader:

We are planning our daughter’s baptism next month and would appreciate your guidance regarding an issue that has arisen.
Our parish does group baptisms twice a month outside of Mass. While our pastor was willing to do an EF form baptism when we were the only baptism scheduled, there are now five baptisms scheduled for that day, and the pastor has stated that the OF will be performed for all of them.

Do we have a canonical right to have the baptism celebrated in the EF?


You don’t have a canonical “right” to have a Traditional Form baptism for your child.

You do, however, have a right to ask for it, and you have a right to have your request heard respectfully.

Were I a parent as you are I would also want my children baptized with the older rite.  However, I would not worry for a second about the validity of the baptism of children who were baptized with the Ordinary Form.

There are a couple pluses here.

First, the priest will willing to do an Extraordinary Form baptism!  Second, he intended to to it when there was only one child.

Solution: Why not make an appointment with Father for a private baptism?

Surely Father would be willing to do this for you, even though baptisms are scheduled for a couple times a month.

Make an appointment and then be generous to the priest.

I’ll tell you what… I would rather have several privately scheduled baptisms of single infants anytime rather than a big group of people with multiple babies in various stages of discontent.  Of course there are the cases of twins, triplets, etc… but you get my drift… and I am digressing.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Supertradmum says:

    Just to encourage parents, we asked for an EF baptism for our son in 1988. We had a private baptism and the priest is a personal friend. The parish priest did not mind at all. Many people who came (friends and family) were touched by the difference in the rite. Just ask, yes, politely.

  2. Flambeaux says:

    We have no pictures from the baptism of our daughter, the only one baptized using the older form of the rite. My in-laws were so “awed”, their word, by what they were witnessing that they didn’t feel comfortable snapping pictures.

    Alas, in our current circumstance, I fear she may be the only one of our children baptized using the older form.

  3. Rellis says:

    A few years ago, the two priests at my parish were (in the case of the vicar) unwilling, and (in the case of the pastor) unable to administer an EF Baptism for my oldest daughter. Graciously, the pastor contacted the diocesan liturgy office, and arranged for another priest from the diocese to administer the sacrament. Good for them–a good pastor, and a very nice priest willing to head over on a Saturday morning.

    Thankfully, we now have a few priests at my parish both willing and able to administer EF Baptisms, and who do it fairly regularly. One of them being my second daughter, who was baptized (EF) by our new, current pastor.

    Brick by brick.

  4. LisaP. says:

    I found that priests discouraged private baptisms. Some were willing, based on availability of godparents who were traveling from out of town, but the standard today seems to be the group baptisms. I believe the reasoning is that baptism is a welcoming of the child into the community so should be done with the whole community, but if you had ten or twenty baptisms in a year and had them all at Mass people would get a little fed up. . . . hope the inquirer has better luck, but I suspect they have already asked to just have their baptism by itself.

  5. APX says:

    @Fr. Z
    Solution: Why not make an appointment with Father for a private baptism?
    Not all parishes will permit private Baptisms.

    The other issue is when people who don’t attend our EF Masses, or even our parish, want our over-worked FSSP priests to do an EF Baptism/wedding for them and complain that the time isn’t convenient for them.

    Personally, I agree with asking for one, but being understanding if the priest says no.

  6. RuralVirologist says:

    A parish that has:
    1) baptisms of more than one person at a time
    2) baptisms more than once a month
    3) baptisms more than once a year


  7. Christ-Bearer says:

    Glad the Ethiopian eunuch was able to get a private baptism.

    “See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?”
    Acts 8:36

  8. PeterK says:

    This reminds me of my son’s baptism. the parish I belonged to at the time was not very willing to allow a private baptism, but they finally acquiesce after I explained why. what I really wanted to ask the pastor was “if you only do baptisms once a month, then why don’t you do marriages and funerals once a month?” all three occasions are important to the families. as a friend described it “hatches, matches and dispatches”
    we had a reception at our home following my son’s baptism, and the deacon who assisted was surprised telling me as he was leaving that the reception was fantastic. I told him that this is how the parish priests got to know their parishioners in the old days. a mass baptism doesn’t allow for this

  9. mamajen says:

    It sounds like the priest in this case is trying to do the best he can, and hopefully he will accommodate these parents. The trend in my area seems to be to make baptisms as wrapped in red tape as possible, and to delay them unnecessarily. It really frustrates me. And I’m tired of seeing people who don’t normally attend mass receiving applause as their child is baptized during mass. My preference is private baptism as soon as possible. I never thought to ask for the EF form, but I know the priest who baptized my son would have been thrilled to do it.

  10. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: “See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?”

    The first bishop of Cincinnati, Bishop Fenwick, used to go speak to isolated pioneer communities (often Protestant settlements, with or without clergy) whenever invited. This was very popular, because of course pioneer life was a bit tedious and good speakers were always welcome. So he’d have a big prayer service afterwards, baptize and marry some new Catholics as needed, hear Confession for fallen away or isolated Catholics, and do whatever other Sacraments seemed prudent. Then, even as he was leaving, people were still talking to him, and often this is what they said when they went past a crick right before the bishop got to the main road — “See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?” So yeah, I found that a touching thing to point out.

    Obviously you can’t do everything like on the frontier; but just as obviously, we are living in mission territory in many ways, and it helps for priests to be generous with the Sacraments when they can be. And we need reminders of home, and nice occasions in the midst of trouble, as much as pioneer people did. We live in a wilderness of the spirit instead of a wilderness of trees; but our needs aren’t that different.

  11. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Of course, the laypeople also have to be generous in accepting what priests can give them, and not too picky, because priests are also driven by necessity at times. So yeah, speak up when we have to, but be generous in acceptance of this frontier life when we can.

  12. Jeannie_C says:

    Every third Sunday Baptisms are performed in our church, 5 Masses per weekend, so you never know which one(s) might include this sacrament administered to 3 or 4 babies at a time.

    Yes, it prolongs Mass somewhat, but I can’t say I’ve heard parishoners say they are “fed up”. If we can’t spare a few extra minutes to welcome new Christians into our community then we need to rethink our priorities. As for applauding people who we don’t normally see attending mass, who knows, but this might be the first of many masses to come for them?

    We need to be mindful that when we welcome these newly baptized children, we do so together with Jesus. We who attend regularly do not own the pew we sit on – a word of welcome, a smile goes much farther in encouraging these parents to return with their children than a scowl of disdain. Let’s remember these tiny new Christians are our future.

  13. Jeannie_C says:

    On another but similar note, we were at a Mass where after Communion but before the dismissal a woman received the Anointing of the Sick in preparation for her upcoming surgery. People who did not even know her approached her after the dismissal to promise their prayers for her safe outcome.

    There have been calls to come forward for a blessing on the occasion of a special anniversary or birthday before dismissal.

    Both of these “extras” take us into overtime with Mass, but are well worth it to emphasize and share in the communal aspect of our faith.

  14. moconnor says:

    We had our son baptized in the EF at the Chapel of La Leche in St Augustine, FL. We found a priest willing to do it and our parish didn’t mind the baptism being off site, so to speak. It was beautiful and I was thrilled that my boy was baptized in the same manner that I was. It pays to be a bit flexible.

  15. kallman says:

    Baptism removes original sin, exorcises evil and transmits grace into the soul. It is not some welcoming community social event like a potluck.

  16. laurazim says:

    In our parish, with the obvious exception of the Easter Vigil and the rare occurrence during Ordinary Time, the most common practice is for Baptisms to happen, mostly privately, after Sunday Mass. After the people have gone from the nave, the doors are closed to the narthex, and the attending family and friends remain and draw near to the front and the Baptism commences. On the occasion of our fifth child’s birth, we had the Baptism on a Monday–her Godfather is a priest, and he would not have been able to attend the Baptism if we’d had it on Sunday. So before the sacrament, he offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass *for his Goddaughter* and then our pastor administered the sacrament of Baptism. It was beautiful–and attended by nearly 70 of our friends and family. We far prefer having Baptism after Mass, and we usually follow up with a meal reception for those in attendance. We’re planning our seventh child’s Baptism this way, and we’re hoping for it to be done during the Octave of Christmas…depending on when the little sweetheart makes an appearance.

  17. Jeannie_C says:

    Kallman, who is suggesting Baptism is “some welcoming community social event like a potluck”?

    We welcome the newly baptized into the Christian community, the body of Christ.

  18. mamajen says:


    It really stinks when people mischaracterize what you write, doesn’t it?

  19. RichR says:

    If my priest agreed to learn and do an EF Baptism, I’d be sure and give him a generous stipend for his time in preparing for the Baptism.

  20. Jeannie_C says:

    Mamajen, I think you expressed your frustration quite clearly in “and d I’m tired of seeing people who don’t normally attend mass receiving applause as their child is baptized during mass” – your words, not mine. All I’m saying is that if we don’t welcome newcomers and their children we don’t have a hope of growing our church.

    Our parish requires that parents attend both Mass and baptism preparation in order that they understand the commitment being made on behalf of their child. This does delay baptism and is a departure from the time when babies were baptized within days of birth for fear they would die without the sacrament. The hope is that the prep ensures the child will be raised in the faith, that the christening is not a one day event.

  21. James Joseph says:

    …And while your at it, see if you can set up an appointment to have your child be Confirmed before he’s old enough to be a little hellion.

  22. APX says:

    So far every baptism I’ve attended, the parents nor the child attend Mass on Sundays. I have relatives whose children should be receiving first reconciliation, confirmation and first communion, who haven’t been to Mass since their baptism. Maybe it’s time to start having a pre-baptismal polygraph test for parents to verify their truthfulness in promising to raise the child in the faith. It’s getting ridiculous.

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  24. Lizzy says:

    APX, I completely agree. I don’t know where you are, but here in the UK, a significant number of parents deliberately lie about their intention to raise their children Catholic (or Church of England, for that matter) in order to get them baptized because only baptized children can attend Catholic or good Church of England schools. I work in a Catholic school, where 99.9% of the children are baptized, and being generous, I would estimate about 3-5% attend Mass more than once a month. Instead of a polygraph though, why not just say that the parents (or for mixed marriages, the Catholic parent) must regularly attend Mass and get the parish priest to sign off? Because, like you, I regularly see people arriving for baptisms after Mass as we’re all leaving the church, so clearly not one of the parents or godparents has actually attended Mass. That said, and perhaps this is incorrect, but I do feel for the children who are denied baptism because of the lack of attendance of their parents. Maybe it is better that they be baptized even with lapsed parents?

  25. Imrahil says:

    Must be a cultural thing. Around here, every Baptism is private.

    Yes, Baptism is (also) the reception into the community of the Body of Christ.

    The community of the Body of Christ, in a private baptism, is represented by the Celebrant (as regards authority), the family members (as regards those in an, naturally speaking, even nearer relationship) and altar boys (as regards those who have no other connection).

    That said, Baptism-within-Mass is also fine if it is not done too often.

  26. Supertradmum says:

    Lizzy, a priest cannot and should not baptize a child whose parents have lapsed. Firstly, it is the primary duty of the parents to pass on the faith, not grandparents or the parish. Secondly, the child is in grave danger of serious sin as soon as he reaches the age of reason and does not attend Mass or go to Confession because his parents do not. Thirdly, the Catholic Church is not a club, but the Mystical Body of Christ, made up of children of God who are in communion with the teachings of the Church. Fourthly, why are they lapsed? Are they heretics, or not married, or in an irregular marriage, etc.? In which case, the child is again in danger of being in a sinful environment. Grace is not magic. Grace is lost and regained only in the sacramental life of the Church. Lapsed Catholics are deceived in desiring baptism or confirmation for a child, unless the child is old enough to take responsibility for his own faith. I do not know one priest who baptises babies of lapsed Catholics. The Anglicans do this all the time, as they have to and marry people in mortal sin, etc. The Catholic Church being the one, true, holy and apostolic Church of Christ cannot do this.

  27. mamajen says:

    I didn’t want to go into too much detail about the situations of other people, but I’m glad to see that many are on the same page. Baptisms are wonderful, but the public (apparent) endorsement of sinful situations in which there is little or no hope that the child will be raised properly is what really gets my dander up. It is a disservice to welcome people to the “community” of the church under false premises. If people have an interest in the Church, let them know the rules so they can follow them rather than pretending they don’t apply in hopes that being “nice” will encourage them to turn up at mass again. I swear I’m not a sour old lady who scowls at well-meaning parents because I want to get out of church quicker.

  28. Jeannie_C says:

    I do not endorse, nor do I believe anyone on this site endorses welcoming people under false pretenses and encouraging sinful situations.

    Through the baptismal interview process people are informed of the rules and it is the responsibility of the priest or deacon to determine whether the parents are sincere in their motives, whether the baptism is a private or communal celebration.

    I am saddened to read of so many children baptized in other churches and not returning with their parents. It is a real loss. That said, we have witnessed hundreds of baptisms in our church, and watched the babies grow into squirmy toddlers, then into gangly youth. We have 5 youth groups, several hundred youth of various ages, participating in ongoing spiritual formation and works of charity. I am under no illusion that there are others who we don’t see after their baptism, but on the whole our church is growing and there are plenty of children in the pews.

  29. Supertradmum is right about baptizing the children of lapsed Catholics. Since these children cannot be baptized, and since we cannot contravene the rights even of parents who act to their children’s spiritual detriment, I think we should (a) pray for the parents’ conversion, and (b) ask the Blessed Virgin to care in a special way for children of lapsed Catholics, and any other child who stands a good chance of not being baptized.

  30. P.S. Exception to the rule that the child of lapsed Catholics cannot be baptized: when the child is on the point of death.

  31. I should say, in danger of death.

  32. Imrahil says:

    And yet the reason that I am a practicing Catholic today is, after God’s will and grace,
    1. that there is a tradition to have one’s children baptized,
    2. that my local pastor positively convinced my parents to baptize me because you can only get to know Catholicism from within (or a similar argument),
    3. that there is a tradition to lead baptized children to First Communion in the third class of school,
    4. that my father, lapsed by formal declaration, had and has a healthy aversion against those who only take part in the tradition while not believing (hence I reasoned as a child that if I did take part, I had better believe).

    And I will not stop being thankful for this, sorry…

    Sometimes things are not easy.

  33. VexillaRegis says:

    Imrahil: What a beautiful testimony! Gott segne dich.

  34. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Lizzy, a priest cannot and should not baptize a child whose parents have lapsed. ”

    Except in danger of death, because then, the parents have little influence over the situation and baptism is critical.

    The Chicken

  35. The Masked Chicken says:

    Opps…Miss Anita Moore, O. P. beat me to it. Must read all comments before posting.

    The Chicken

  36. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Vexilla Regis,

    Thank you, and vergelt’s Gott!

  37. VexillaRegis says:

    @Imrahil: :-) I personally know other people with backgrounds similar to your’s. One of them is a priest! His parents can’t understand how that happened :-)…

    Aber, was Gott tut, das is wahrlich wohlgetan!

  38. Random Friar says:

    Also, keep in mind: people are a lot less “tied down” to a particular parish these days. Folks go parish shopping, not just for regular Mass attendance, but for weddings and baptisms as well. Word gets around that the suggested donation is less in one place, or that classes are fewer in another, or that Father is more open to private ceremonies, then that parish will get most of the sacraments. Churches that are “cute” or more photogenic tend to get more weddings. They’ll register for said sacrament, and never darken that parish again. It’s not cynical, just a fact of life. I know of one parish in our deanery where the pastor got annoyed that no one wanted to get married in his parish, after he kept doing all the prep work. His church was not pleasing to the eye, especially the eye with an eye to wedding pictures. The priest himself was solid, though.

    If you believe that people will flock to private EF baptisms, and only one offers it within the diocese… then it’ll become that much harder for Father to schedule them, or Father will have to cut out something somewhere else. We have parishes that do so many weddings that private baptisms are an impossibility unless done mid-week.

  39. Random Friar said: If you believe that people will flock to private EF baptisms, and only one offers it within the diocese… then it’ll become that much harder for Father to schedule them, or Father will have to cut out something somewhere else. We have parishes that do so many weddings that private baptisms are an impossibility unless done mid-week.

    I guess the real, long-term solution is that bishops finally start doing their duty and see to it that all of their priests get trained in the Extraordinary Form liturgy, and then order them not to refuse reasonable requests for it (and define “reasonable” very strictly so as to prevent weaselage).

  40. robtbrown says:

    RandomFriar said,

    Also, keep in mind: people are a lot less “tied down” to a particular parish these days. Folks go parish shopping, not just for regular Mass attendance, but for weddings and baptisms as well. Word gets around that the suggested donation is less in one place, or that classes are fewer in another, or that Father is more open to private ceremonies, then that parish will get most of the sacraments. Churches that are “cute” or more photogenic tend to get more weddings.

    1. From what people have told me, parish hopping usually is a function of the priest–his personality and how he says mass. In fact, I am indebted to a local pastor because when I attend his Sunday mass, it’s easy to find a parking place. (Where I go depends on what time I go, what time I go depends on whether I want to watch the Sunday news shows.)

    2. The donation problem can be solved by the diocese standardizing them. I knew an Aussie whose summer pre-ordination assignment was in a church that had posted the price of all the “donations”. He said a sign should have also been displayed: “We will match any price!”

    3. Re photogenic churches: Laici tend not to voice opinions but rather vote with their feet. If you build ugly churches, they won’t come.

  41. robtbrown says:

    In looking at the canon law on this, I discovered something else very interesting.


    Those baptized in a non-Catholic ecclesial community must not be baptized conditionally . . .

    The Latin, however, is much different.

    Baptizati in communitate ecclesiali non catholica non sunt sub condicione baptizandi . . .

    The English translation is infected with the Germanic inclination to turn everything into an obligation.

    The Latin use of the gerundive is much less definitive. In fact, one translation is: Those Baptized in non Catholic communities do not need to be baptized conditionally (literally, are not needing to be baptized).

  42. Supertradmum says:

    robrtbrown, agree and usually in RCIA, when it is orthodox, only those baptized in a non-Trinitarian form are thenbaptized, or if the document for the baptism is missing, which means a conditional baptism. Otherwise, the Trinitarian baptisms of at least the mainline Protestant denominations are excepted. Obviously, not the Mormons, which you know, do not believe in the Trinity, a point clarified by our previous Pope.


  43. robtbrown says:


    In so far as Mormon’s use invalid Baptismal form (by design), they are not considered an Ecclesial community.

    When I, an Episcopalian, converted in 1970, I opted to be conditionally baptized. According to the English translation cited above, that would now be prohibited. On the other hand, acc to the Editio Typica (Latin), that is still possible.

  44. robtbrown says:

    Should be: Mormons

  45. Supertradmum says:

    robrtbrown, Also, and more importantly in my mind, is that Jesus is not equal to the Father in Mormon belief. Therefore, not a true Trinitarian Baptism.

  46. RuralVirologist says:

    How does that impact on baptisms of denominations which are properly Trinitarian but the local congregation is not. I’ve seen this with Baptists and similar groups – some believe that Jesus is not equal to the Father. It can be hard to figure out what went on 20-40 years ago or longer when someone was baptised.

  47. Supertradmum says:

    It is the duty of the RCIA director, as I was, to actually find out. We had a Church of Jesus Christ in our area and the Church did not have a Trinitarian Baptism, but believed in the Trinity. Two people coming into the Catholic Church had to be baptized. One must be vigilant. Simple. If the baptism is in the correct form, and uses water, as instructed by Christ, it is valid. That is why the Church recognizes Protestant baptisms. Now, if the Church of George wants to separate from Christianity with non-Trinitarian teaching, a conditional baptism would most likely be performed on the person coming into the Catholic Church, as the intention of George was not to be Christian. The same problem can happen even in Orthodox churches, which have been “protestantized” beyond the original unity. You and I can baptize in emergency, as I saw my Dad do when I was four and Mom has a miscarriage at home. Very impressive for me and I remember it exactly even after almost 60 years. This was a valid baptism. I have two siblings in heaven. The decadence of many mainline Protestant denominations is a real problem and must be followed up carefully.

  48. Random Friar says:

    1)Yes, for regular Mass attendance, as I noted. But for other specific sacraments they shop around, just for that. I know this from the secretaries who often field these phone calls, and I know from comparing notes at our deanery meetings. I had a phone call not too long ago from a woman who was looking to have a certain sacrament. The questions were oddly specific, such as “How long do I have to be a registered member in order to receive X sacrament? From when do I need to start making contributions? How much do you guys ask for X? How many classes do you require for X?” Most aren’t quite this obvious, but you can get a good gist.

    Baptisms and weddings, especially, are often done as “one-timer” events, whether by personal or familial belief that the child should at least be baptized, or the couple married in the Church, even if the family will not enter a church again, save for a funeral or marriage.

    2)In part, but cost is often only part of the equation.

    3)Not disagreeing here. But, as you mentioned how people flock to solid pastors, for family sacraments, you’d be surprised how rarely people consider the particular priest, unless he is a family friend. Even then, they will get delegation for said priest friend, and go through the rest of the criteria. At our parish, where we have several religious priests, almost all weddings and baptisms are done by assignment by the pastor, not by personal preference of the couple.

  49. Random Friar says:

    To avoid confusion on 3 on my post above, they are parceled by the pastor (based on the number each friar has), precisely because they did not ask for a particular priest. We let the petitioners choose the priest first.

  50. LisaP. says:


    Striking. Thank you for writing that.

  51. PA mom says:

    At our church, baptisms are often done by the deacons. Although I would not like to see every baptism done during mass, I wish that once or twice a year, they would offer this, just so people who have not experienced one in a while would have the chance.

  52. Volanges says:

    All of our baptisms are celebrated during Mass: 99.9% of them during the Sunday Mass (either Saturday evening or Sunday morning) but on rare occasions, usually due to a dad’s schedule, they have been celebrated during a weekday Mass.

    Fr. would like to celebrate them only on the ‘last Sunday of the month’ but it rarely works out that way because we’re isolated and visiting relatives and dads working in remote locations for weeks at a time dictate that Baptism be celebrated any time they are in town.

    While I hate knowing that a majority of the children who are baptized will not darken our doors until they are old enough to prepare for First Communion, I have an even bigger problem with the unmarried parents who don’t seem to know what they are saying when they renew their baptismal promises.

    I don’t think there is anyone having babies in our parish who would even know that there is a difference between an EF and OF Baptism. A few of the older people might be aware but would be hard-pressed to tell you what the differences are. I can only name one and that is the imposition of the salt, which I remember from my baby brother’s Baptism back in 1958 when I was 5.

  53. robtbrown says:

    Supertradmum says:

    robrtbrown, Also, and more importantly in my mind, is that Jesus is not equal to the Father in Mormon belief. Therefore, not a true Trinitarian Baptism.

    NB: I wrote that the form is invalid BY DESIGN, i.e., the defective form is a manifestation of defective belief.

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