Q: Our parish has once again decided to celebrate baptisms during Sunday mass. We have 10 deacons here and at times, families will request that the deacons baptize. I’ve always wondered…
1. Is this kosher?
2. Are there parts reserved for the priest: i.e. Anointing following baptism, final blessing, etc.
A: This question comes up about weddings too. I’ve consulted Frank Agnoli on this point in the past, and he says that there is no clear legislation on the matter. The closest we get is in the Book of Blessings, which states that a deacon may give blessings, “But whenever a priest is present, it is more fitting that the office of presiding be assigned to him and that the deacon assist by carrying out those functions proper to the diaconate” (18). The words “more fitting” do not exclude the possibility that a deacon could bless when not presiding. You’re asking about a sacrament, which is more than a blessing.
In general, the liturgical books presume that when a priest is presiding at a mass when another sacrament takes place, he will also preside over the sacrament because, well, he is the presider.
But the practice of deacons baptizing at mass is common, and there is no clear legislation against it. In practice, I think you’d have to come up with a good reason why it is “more fitting” for the deacon to baptize instead of the priest. Such reasons probably do exist.
In regard to the second question, some parts of the mass are shared with the rite of baptism; for example, the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer and the final blessing. These would naturally fall to the priest. They illustrate the liturgical difficulty of having two separate presiders.