For those who are curious about this topic — and any married deacon should be — check out this article on the subject by canon lawyer Edward Peters.
The issue in question is here:
1983 CIC 277. § 1. Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy which is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity. § 2. Clerics are to behave with due prudence towards persons whose company can endanger their obligation to observe continence or give rise to scandal among the faithful. § 3. The diocesan bishop is competent to establish more specific norms concerning this matter and to pass judgment in particular cases concerning the observance of this obligation.
UPDATE: Edward Peters’ son Thomas has blogged about the issue over at CatholicVote:
To the best of my knowledge, none of these candidates were made aware that ordination to orders in the Catholic Church carries with it the obligation to be continent. This presents an urgent pastoral situation that I trust the American bishops to address.
I know that returning to this teaching will be met with resistance by some (“Wait, this isn’t what I signed up for!”) but my hope is that permanent deacons (and the rest of us) can acknowledge the wisdom of the Church’s teaching and discipline. How we deal with the situation of permanent deacons who were ordained without full knowledge of the requirements bound up with their office remains to be seen, but my father includes some suggestions.
After all, the obligation to abstain from sexual activity elevates the dignity of orders, and increases the sign value represented by observing continence for the sake of God’s Kingdom. This is something that all unmarried priests (and transitional deacons) are already bound to observe. Including permanent deacons and married priests among those who are bound to observe continence matches the reality that all these men described above share fundamentally in the same sacred reality: holy orders. There are not “two ways” of being a cleric in the Roman Catholic Church, instead, one sacrament unites them all, and carries the same obligations for all who are ordained as clerics.
And another blogger, Fr. John Boyle, takes a close look at the arguments put forth by Peters pere, and agrees: married deacons are not supposed to be having sex.
Well, now. Does anyone seriously think that tens of thousands of married deacons — not to mention the hundreds of married priests — are now suddenly going to commit to stop having sex with their wives? Does anyone think the vocation could even survive such a 180 degree turnaround? The restoration of the diaconate is one of the great success stories of the Church in the last half century. Do they really want to screw that up?