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I am back to you father: how is it that a deacon, who has not received the sacrament of Holy Orders, cannot forgive sins in confession but, absurdly, he actually can in the sacrament of Baptism… administered to adults?

Priest’s answer

Dear Maria,
1. Two clarifications are needed: first, the deacon has received the Holy Orders, according to his proper rank.
Second, not only deacons but everybody, even the non baptized, can administer the baptism in case of necessity.
And with this all sins are forgiven.

2. Your question however is pertinent, since you ask why some people, actually everybody,  can forgive sins by administering the baptism, but cannot do so in the sacrament of confession.

3. It is true that both sacraments remit sins. But they do so in a different way. And proof of it is the fact that only those who have been baptized can receive the sacrament of penance.
Christ instituted this sacrament in the mode of judgment by saying: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jn 20,23).
Now the Church may pronounce a judgment only upon those who belong to her, that is only upon the baptized.
Those who are not yet baptized do not belong to the Church. That is why sacramental confession is not required before receiving the baptism.

4. Since baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation, Christ established as matter for this sacrament the most common one: water.
He equally determined as minister in case of necessity the most widely available: anyone, even if unbaptized, as long as he or she did so according to the intention of the form established by the Church.

5. There is however another reason put forward by Saint Thomas.
Our angelic doctor reminds us that sacraments are ordered to sanctification.  In order to effect this sanctification sometimes both a sanctified matter and a sacred minister are necessary, as in the case of confirmation (ref. Summa Theologiae, Supplement 18,1).
In this sacrament the sanctified matter is the sacred chrism blessed by the bishop. The sanctified minister is the bishop or any priest who has been sanctified by the Holy Orders.

6. Other sacraments, like baptism, require the sanctification of the matter, because it does not have a predetermined appointed minister in cases of necessity: in this case all the virtue or efficacy of the sacrament is in the matter (ib.)
The matter consists of the water poured on the baptized when pronouncing the words determined by Christ.

7. That is why a baptism administered in case of necessity by a Muslim who has the intention to perform what the Church does, has the same efficacy as the baptism administered by the Pope.
Indeed the efficacy does not depend on the minister, but on the water accompanied by the words.

8. This further explains why both adults and children can receive the baptism, as well as those who have lost the use of reason.
Besides that, baptism, as you correctly pointed out, erases all guilt (sin) and penalty.

9. “Sometimes the essence of the sacrament requires the consecration or sanctification of the minister without any sanctification of the matter, and then the entire sacramental virtue is in the minister, as in Penance. Hence the power of the keys which is in the priest, stands in the same relation to the effect of Penance, as the virtue in the baptismal water does to the effect of Baptism. (Ib.)
In this sacrament the priest acts in persona Christi because he is sanctified by Christ by virtue of the Holy Orders and by the power that Christ gave him to remit sins.
Here the minister has the power to remit all guilt but not all the penalty because this is measured also by the subject’s dispositions.

10. Therefore a priest, acting in persona Christi, forgives sins.
A layman or deacon who administers the sacrament of baptism, does not exactly forgive, but rather allows the sacrament to forgive the sins of the baptized.I bless you, wish you all the best and remember you in my prayer.
Father Angelo