Baptism by a Deacon When a Priest is Present

Hello all!

So this last Sunday, a few “family complications came up” as we were driving to Church, and, to make a long, unimportant story short, my family and I had to go to a Roman Rite church for Mass.

Now, I grew up in the Byzantine Rite, so the few experiences I’ve had with the Roman Rite were on odd Sundays like this. Well, I was under the impression that a priest was the only one who could generally preform the Rite of Baptism, unless in dire circumstances. At the Mass, there was a deacon and a priest, and there was going to be a Baptism that day. When it came time for the Baptism to take place, the deacon came down and started saying some things. My first thought was “Oh, this is normal. The deacon always says introductory prayers or litanies or something”. But after a few minutes, I realized that he was just going to do the whole thing. And he did. And I was very confused. And kinda worried.

So, my question is, is that a legitimate thing to do in the West?

Also, because this brings up the differences between the East and the West, can anyone tell me why the priest faces the people and barely says anything? And why there are so many extra people “handing out” the Eucharist? And why a layperson can just walk right up to the tabernacle and take out the Eucharist, proceeding to touch It with his bare hands, seeming to prepare the Gifts?

There are so many more questions I have about the differences between the Rites, but if someone can either answer those or send me to another source for the answer, that would be much appreciated.

Deacons in any Catholic Church ( East or West ) may perform baptisms and weddings, a Deacon may not perform any other Sacrament or say Mass. But if a priest is present, it would be more proper for the priest to perform the Baptism or Marriage.

The other items you mentioned are simple matters of " discipline " and depend on the Rite or as approved by the local ordinary.


As Linusthe2nd said, Deacons can, indeed, legitimately baptize.

As regards the fact that the Deacon did the baptism while a priest was present. Could it not be that the Deacon was a relative or close friend of the family of the baby being baptized. In such a circumstance, no doubt, he would have previously received permission to perform the baptism.

Can. 861 §1. The ordinary minister of baptism is a bishop, a presbyter, or a deacon, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 530, n. 1.

Can. 530 The following functions are especially entrusted to a pastor:

1/ the administration of baptism;

As you can see, the deacon is an ordinary minister of baptism and the pastor entrusted with the administration of baptism. I would think that typically the deacon could do this but probably most often would not because typically the priest would do these things in the Mass; outside of Mass is different.

With that said, this is not prohibited nor is it illicit or invalid. The deacon can perform this function in the Mass and as another poster stated it was probably a family member’s or close friend’s child.

Even if a priest is present the deacon may be the one to perform the baptism or the marriage. It’s not unusual to have a couple ask for me to perform their wedding ceremony, and request a Mass. Since I cannot “say Mass” I find a priest and in the Mass he celebrates I handle the wedding with the priest standing right next to me. Now the nuptial blessing is the duty of the priest in the Mass, but the consent and vows are done by the deacon.

Yes. The deacon is an ordinary minister of baptis.

Don’t know what you mean. He “says” all the parts of the Mass as per the Missal. He faces the people because that is the rubric.

There are extraordinary ministers because the rubrics allow for it.

Maybe you should make an appointment with a local Latin Rite priest to go through the Mass with you. You can find the order of the Mass online too.

FYI, the Code of Canon Law for the Eastern Churches does not allow for the celebration of Marriage by a Deacon. It is only a bishop or a priest with faculties.

Canon 828 - §1. Only those marriages are valid which are celebrated with a sacred rite, in the presence of the local hierarch, local pastor, or a priest who has been given the faculty of blessing the marriage by either of them, and at least two witnesses, according, however to the prescriptions of the following canons, with due regard for the exceptions mentioned in can. 832 and 834, 2.
§2. That rite which is considered a sacred rite is the intervention a priest assisting and blessing.

It would be technically possible for an Eastern Deacon to witness the marriage of two Latin Catholics, but he would require faculties, and that has to be given by both the Latin Bishop and the Eastern Bishop.

Brendan has already addressed the issue of Deacons performing weddings in the East, but I also wanted to note that, unlike in the west, Deacons are not ordinary ministers of Baptism. If a priest is available, the priest must perform the baptism in the East. The deacon would only baptize in case of emergency.

So that is why I was confused. Ok.

And thank you all for your responses! They were all very helpful.

In the East, Baptism is part of “Chrismation”, where Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist are given. This is why the ordinary minister is the priest and cannot be a deacon. This is also why infants/children below the age of reason habitually receive Holy Communion- they received their First Communion at Chrismation. In the West, the Sacraments are given in distinct ceremonies unless a person is an adult (14+) being received into the Church, in which case, they normally receive the 3 Sacraments on Easter Vigil. Hence Baptism is not synonymous with Chrismation of the East even if it is called “Christening” at times.

I never knew this! Thank you. :slight_smile:

Not exactly. Chrismation is simply our term for the Mystery (Sacrament) of Confirmation. Baptism is its own sacrament, followed by Chrismation, followed by Holy Communion. Baptism can, as in the west, be administered by anyone in case of an emergency. If the person survived, he or she would be brought to the priest for completion of the sacraments of initiation. That person would then receive Chrismation and Holy Communion.

As to the rest of these, I am unsure about the priest not saying anything? If this wedding was done in the context of the Mass, the priest should have done quite a bit of speaking. The entire Consecration of the Gifts would have been the responsibility of the priest.

As to the rest, such as the laypeople handling the Gifts, that is something that is permitted in the West under Ekonomia. It is not something that many prefer, and it does not happen in my parish, but we humbly submit to the judgment of our bishops and Patriarch in it’s allowance.

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