Re-Reading Sacrosanctum Concilium: Article 69

Vatican website translation:

69. In place of the rite called the “Order of supplying what was omitted in the baptism of an infant,” a new rite is to be drawn up. This should manifest more fittingly and clearly that the infant, baptized by the short rite, has already been received into the Church.
And a new rite is to be drawn up for converts who have already been validly baptized; it should indicate that they are now admitted to communion with the Church.

Latin text:

69. Loco ritus qui “Ordo supplendi omissa super infantem baptizatum” appellatur, novus conficiatur quo apertius et congruentius indicetur infantem, qui ritu brevi baptizatus fuerit, iam receptum esse in Ecclesiam.
Item novus ritus conficiatur pro valide iam baptizatis, ad sacra catholica conversis, quo significetur eos in Ecclesiae communionem admitti.

Slavishly literal translation:

69. In place of the rite which is called “Order for supplying those things omitted upon a baptized infant/child,” a new order is to be constructed by which it will be indicated more openly and appropriately that the infant/child, who had been baptized by a short rite, is already received into the Church.

Likewise a new rite is to be constructed for those already validly baptized, now converted to catholic sacred realities, by which it would be signified that they are admitted into the communion of the Church.


As some readers of Pray Tell may know, I have been on the road in Orlando, FL, Kona, HI, Wollongong, Australia, Beaumont, TX, and St. Louis, MO for the month of January. Now that I am back at my home base in Minnesota I can resume my article by article reading of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

Given their concern that the liturgical sign systems clearly express the grace that they intend to communicate (the “truth” of the liturgy), it is not surprising that the Council Fathers would turn their attention to two pastoral situations not well served by the rites in force at the time of the Council. First, in the case when an infant who had been in danger of death and was therefore baptized with the simple Trinitarian formula and laving of water by someone intending to do what the Church intends to do in baptizing did not in fact die but returned to health, those responsible for the child frequently presented the child for more extensive prayers in their own local church. The priest was instructed to proceed through the rite of baptism, omitting the Trinitarian formula and water laving, but otherwise following the existing rite. A problem arises from this practice insofar as the rites prior to the water baptism treat the infant/child as though he/she were unbaptized (employing remnants of the catechumenal rites). But in fact the child has been validly baptized and does not “revert” to the status of a catechumen for the sake of the rite. Thus the Council Fathers wanted a more appropriate order of service to be constructed to face this pastoral situation.

Similarly, the Council Fathers recognized that those who had already been validly baptized into another Christian communion through water baptism, a Trinitarian formula, and the intention of the baptizing minister to do what the Church intends in baptizing (i.e., most Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, etc.), were not of the same ecclesial status as those who had never been validly baptized (i.e., Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists). While the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults is intended for this latter group to mark their conversion to Christ, the former group have already been claimed by Christ in baptism and are now moving as members of Christian communions separated from the Catholic Church into union with the Catholic Church. This is best ritualized by a Profession of Faith. Note that both desires of the Council Fathers were fulfilled in the work of the Consilium.

Pray Tell readers may wish to discuss: 1) how effectively these rituals respond to the Council Fathers’ desires and to pastoral need; 2) whether there are other pastoral situations relating to Christian Initiation that need other forms of ritualization; 3) whether there are forms of ritualization or pastoral practice in the present Rite of Baptism for Children and/or Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults that might be questioned in the light of theological concerns or pastoral practice.


  1. Infant Baptismal Rite: I think that this has been addressed very well in the revisions. However, I think that the normal Rite of Baptism would be stronger if the introduction into the Order of Catechumens were allowed to be separated from the Rite of Baptism itself- a rite administered immediately after birth, perhaps. Given that there is often a long delay between birth and the baptism itself – however unfortunate that is- it would be nice if there were a rite of welcoming a child immediately on birth (as a catechumen) and then a separate rite of baptism. This would at least be a nice option. It is strange that most infants are only catechumens for about 30 minutes.

    For adults: The sad pastoral reality is, in my experience, that there is not much of a distinction between the initiation of Separated Brethren and non-Christians. They are too often all received at the Easter vigil in a way that doesn’t clearly mark a distinction. At my parish this is improving, but it is still not a clear division. I think that there should not be an option to receive Christian candidates at the Easter vigil. That should be done beforehand so that these Christians can receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Eucharist as soon as prepared! Then do Confirmation when the Bishop comes. This option, though preferred in the rubrics, seems rarely followed. Instead, we usually find candidates put off until Easter Vigil.

    1. @Steven Surrency – comment #1:
      The Rite leans strongly toward the celebration of a separate reception. My parish does not welcome baptized Christians at the Vigil. And if they are ready at the end of Lent, they are usually confirmed on the second Sunday of Easter.

      I suspect that good ol’ American pragmatism is at work with the combined rites.

  2. Theologically, there is clearly a distinction to be made between catechumens and candidates. In reality, however, there are lots of people who have experienced baptism but who are under-catechized to say the least. And there are unwashed individuals who grew up around Christians and have had experiences of worship and Sunday School but never got baptized because they didn’t grasp its significance. Both groups profit from catechesis conducted over a period of at least several months. I believe this is what underlies the common practice of moving catechumens and candidates along the same schedule of rites. But many years ago, it occurred to me that while I have always been ready to welcome candidates into the church through profession of faith and confirmation at any time they seem sufficiently ready to do so, it is not a bad idea to move both groups in tandem towards the Sacred Triduum. However, we initiate the candidates on Holy Thursday and not at the Easter Vigil. I realize HT is already laden with the commemoration of the Eucharist and the washing of the feet, but I have found the initiation enhances those features rather than competes or distracts. We wash the feet of the candidates following the homily and then move into the profession of faith and Confirmation. At Communion, these new members receive first. At the Easter Vigil they all sit together wearing white garments. The initiation rites at the Vigil flow much more smoothly without the “mix and match” features of the combined rite. Following the Vigil there is a joyous reception for all the newly initiated. It is always packed.

  3. Welcome back Father.
    To your question 2 may I offer the welcome by adoptive parents of a child previously baptised. Whilst the original baptism is not to be undermined there is the welcome of the child, perhaps with a new name by the parents, wider family, including God parents (the previous ones being unable to act in the future) and the new parish. There is also the practical matter of sacramental registers for which the rules of Data Protection and confidentiality add requirements.
    The adoptive parents take on the promises of the original parents. The church accepts that the new parents are responsible for the child.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *