Example of an Invalid Baptism!

From Fr.z’s blog:

So Father, this weekend I attended the baptism of my cousins daughter.

The PRIEST said the words properly, BUT this perfectly healthy priest was NOT baptizing the child, the “DEACON of the word” was doing the pouring of the water.

Father held the microphone and naught else.

The DEACON did the anointing with oils, as FATHER said the prayer.

Legit? Simply odd?

Fr.Z’s response:


The “baptism” needs to be repeated.

Before writing this I consulted an appropriate ecclesial authority for an opinion.

I would immediately relate this to the local bishop.

Write up everything with photos and videos if there are any of the baptism. Documentation, proofs, are very useful. In addition, you might get written descriptions of what happened from others who were there.

Send them to the local bishop and also to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Send a cover letter, with a description, but without your own editorial comment.

Indicate to the bishop that you have sent a copy to the Congregation.

His Eminence
William Card. Levada
Prefect for the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith
Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio

Have you ever encounterred this?

no, but i guess it makes sense that the minister of Baptism should be the one performing all of it, the prayers, pouring of water, anointing of oils (although the oils does not validate or invalidate a Baptism. a bare-essentials Baptism only has water, the Trinitarian Formula, and proper intention)

i think what invalidates this is the fact that there is no clear minister of Baptism. one is saying the Rites and the other is performing it

Hi choy,

Yes. You could also remove “clear” and say, more directly, that there was no minister of baptism. Hence, invalid.


Boy, Fr Z came down hard on this priest didn’t he? I guess he figures this priest must know better than to do this and he needs his hands slapped hard. Added: And all of his baptisms investigated for proper form!

This raises an interesting question. What if no one knew enough to question what happened and this child and his parents and godparents went throughout their lives believing it to be a valid baptism? Would it be valid in God’s eyes? Would it be a baptism of desire?

wow, that is a tough, tough question

you should submit it to Ask an Apologist

First, what the heck is a Deacon of the Word? Are we talking about a real deacon or some title that applied only to that parish??

As for the situation, this happened in a Quebec parish back in 2003. The lay person responsible for celebrating baptisms, in an effort to make it more meaningful to parents (???), would have them pour the water while she spoke the words. INVALID. The person pouring must also speak the words. Over 300 children had to be ‘re-baptized’ much to the community’s anger at the Church’s ‘unreasonableness’.

Where the anointing is concerned, correct me if I’m wrong but mustn’t one be a priest to anoint?

i could be wrong but maybe a Deacon can within the Rites of Baptism

i remember my parish priest telling me that a Deacon can only make Holy Water within the Liturgy of the Baptismal Rite, while a priest can say a prayer to make Holy Water even outside of Liturgy. so i’m thinking the Deacon may be granted to anoint during Baptismal Rites as well

Don’t worry. “Deacon of the Word” (Dw) is a perfectly legit title, along with “Deacon of the Eucharist” (De). I’ll explain…

Idealy, you would have two deacons at mass (*Dw *and De), and according to The Girm (Chapter IV, Paragraph 171) they would be on either side of the priest most of the time, all other things being equal. The two deacons have their specific titles FOR THAT MASS ONLY, and is probably better described as having the “job” or role of Dw or De (ie, a deacon can be the Dw one mass, and the De the next).

Basically, the Dw takes all of the “deacon’s parts” (Penitential rite, reading the gospel, etc…) up until the offertory (after the creed and intercessions), then the De takes the rest of the “deacon’s parts” (preparing the altar, removing the pall during the Eucharistic Prayer, the dismissal at the end of mass) until the end of mass.

If there is only one deacon, he does everything, and has both titles/roles/jobs/whatever (Dw and De).
Does that make sense?

A deacon is, to my understanding, an ordinary celebrant of solemn Baptism - blessing of the water, anointing with the 2 oils, pouring of the water (while saying the Trinitarian formula), the whole shebang. But I would agree that the words of Baptism must be pronounced by he who pours.

yes, that was my understanding too, but i wasn’t sure 100%

yes, the minister of Baptism should do both the actions and the words. can’t split it with other people

also, what happens to all the other Sacraments they receive in the future if their baptism was found to be invalid?

No one can validly receive any sacraments unless baptism has been received first. God, of course, could still provide grace outside of the sacraments, for such a person.


thats a long list of invalid Sacraments then that a person is not aware of

This really is a question you should submit to the apologists. I suspect that God would somehow work it out without depriving the innocent unsuspecting person of sacramental grace, however, if I were that person and discovered my baptism was invalid I’d get me to a priest so fast my shoes would smoke.

What ever happened to throwing water on someone and saying “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”? Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s what Jesus said to do at the end of Matthew.

Huh? :confused: Someone did say that. It just wasn’t the person pouring the water.

Does the baptism really need to be re-done? The intention of baptism was there. It’s not like God is going to punish the child because the administrators of his/her baptism did it wrong.

God won’t punish the child, but He WILL punish the ministers, who knew (or ought to have known) better and didn’t do things correctly even though they were perfectly capable of doing so.

And they need to show that they now DO know better by repeating the thing correctly, as it ought to be done.

Remember the Gospel parable where the wedding guest was thrown out of the wedding feast just for not wearing the correct garment? When God tells us to do something a certain way, it’s for His good reasons, and we can be darn sure that we do things His way unless it is impossible for some reason.

If the INTENT to do the right thing is there, then the thing will be done in the right way as well, when it’s humanly possible to do so - that’s also part of having the right intent, no?

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