Deacons and sex: a biblical scholar weighs in

This, from John W. Martens, in AMERICA:

The overarching question for me, especially in light of the actual practice of the Church with respect to permanent deacons and the biblical teaching of Paul, is what is at stake in this argument for Ed Peters? What’s the point? What is so troubling about married permanent deacons having sexual relations with their wives? What Ed Peters argues conjures up the ghosts, past, present and future, of a Church that has trouble with sex, even in its properly ordered place. Something a little bit off with sex, isn’t there? If only God could have done a better job with that. Not, “no sex, please, we’re British,” but, “no sex, please, they’re deacons.” Except it is not the Church that has a problem with married permanent deacons having sex with their wives, it is Ed Peters. How that is Peters has figured this all out, but the Church has not, going its merry way, oblivious to its own teaching, save for the Knight on the white charger coming to save it from itself. I will admit my own problems, as a New Testament scholar, with canon law, but those who hearken to it must also understand the biblical teaching, in this case that of Paul and Jesus, remains relevant to the practice of the Church. Jesus and Paul suggested that not all could forego sexual relations, but only those who were called to such a life. Paul wished all could be like him, but not everyone shared in his gift. To those who were married, therefore, which included deacons, elders and bishops in his own day and beyond, Paul suggests that a period away from sex for a married couple be temporary not permanent. The Church has returned to a married permanent diaconate and it has chosen the wise, inspired counsel and practice of the Apostle Paul instead of that of Ed Peters. If permanent deacons are to be perfectly continent, they ought not be married, but married permanent deacons ought to have sex with their wives. It’s the Christian thing to do and according to the law and practice of the Church.

Check out more.  It’s a long post, with lots to absorb.

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  1. Thanks for posting this link, Deacon Greg. It’s very informative.

  2. Chip Wilson says:

    Excellent post. Thank you for sharing it!

  3. A good article from America magazine. He gets into a ad hominim argument in section 4 (quotes above) by turning the focus to Ed Peters personally. The 2nd comment from Susan is quite helpful.

  4. It is informative in the sense that Mr. Martens’ essay doesn’t convincingly refute any of Dr. Peters’ canonical assertions and ends with pure speculation as to the canonist’s motives. At first I saw Dr. Peters’ paper as a bit of a lark or canonical arcanum, but now seeing the feeble responses it has provoked the debate is getting really interesting. It is the canonical equivalent of Godzilla smashing his way through Tokyo breathing fire wherever he goes.

  5. Strangely, Martens confuses the terms “continence” with “chastity,” and doesn’t seem to understand that “continence” means “abstinence (from sexual relations)” rather than “a state of sexuality proper for one’s place.” That latter definition applies to “chastity” but not to “continence.”

  6. Will Riley says:

    Father Michael,

    As I explained in another post, and Dr. Peters has not answered the argument is what has occurred with the Anglican Ordinarite simply proves him wrong. Three former married Anglican bishops have been ordained both to the diaconate and the priesthood. The Pope is the supreme law giver under canon law and the ordinations were on his authority as expressed through the CDF. Canon 277 was not enjoined on these men,nor is it to be enjoined on those who come after them either by the terms of AC issued by the Holy Father, nor under the terms of the erection of the Ordinarite by the prefect of the CDF. The supreme law giver has definitively changed the law. Now I think it is clear that the law changed earlier, but we now have a definite act of the supreme law giver that states that prof. Peters is flat wrong. Godzilla in the end, if I recall from the original movie in the 50’s, died. The characters then breathed a sigh of relief.


  7. Will Riley says:

    Looking at blog of Peter’s son it is seems reasonably clear that he, and possibly his father, are working against the Holy Father in his attempt to reconcile Anglicans to the Church. Neither AC, nor the document erecting the ordinate require Canon 277. However, the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church requires Catholics to give religious assent of mind and soul to the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking infallibly. The Roman Pontiff has spoken, both through the Apostolic Constitution and the CDF. The raising of this point is an attempt to undermine the authority of the Roman Pontiff, even if it is dressed up with platitudes. The mere fact that this article has received no traction from its publication in 2005 is indicative of a lack of scholarly interest amongst canonist. I have yet to see Peter’s respond to my argument, perhaps he has not seen it. Never-the-less, I am beginning to seriously question the self proclaimed Papist claim of his son. This sounds like what has come in the past from Econe, some alone apparently know the mind of the Church.

  8. Wil Riley- interesting….I blogged a bit on this issue- from a practical, Eastern standpoint- but some readers might find it interesting.

    In any case- it is a difficult subject and it is heartening that most readers are polite about disagreeing

  9. Before people put too much credence in Martens’ column at America, may I suggest they read my response?

    Will, please do not question my motives in writiing the article, and I will ask you to stop impugning my regard for the Holy Father.

  10. John Martens- THANK YOU

  11. Priest’s wife, why thank Mr. Martens? He wrote a dishonest column, complete with falsified quotation ostensibly from Dr. Peters’ article. His (Mr. Marten’s) is the most shameful thing written in this entire debate.

  12. Will Riley:

    Under the supplementary norms of Anglicanorum coetibus, the Holy See has reserved to itself the right to abrogate Canon 277 n. 1 upon petition of an Oridinariate. That’s a lot more restrictive than the Holy Father having “changed the law.” Note that in AC norms unmarried Anglicans still fall under 277 n. 1.

    Dr. Peters is addressing the case of married men, not falling under the Ordinariate, seeking the diaconate or in it. An entirely different case than AC.

  13. Ellen Parrish says:

    “I will admit my own problems, as a New Testament scholar, with canon law….”

    And from America Magazine yet – imagine that…

    The argument sounded more against Ed Peters than anything else – just saying.

  14. Brian Gadbois says:

    Deacon Greg:

    As a married diaconate candidate, I have read this discussion with great interest, and a little apprehension. I have read Dr Peter’s original document as well as your linked comments, Deacon Ditewig’s post, and Dr Peter’s various responses. I am rather dismayed at some of the uncharitable and unchristian comments made toward Dr Peter’s work and motivations.

    I am neither a theologian nor a canon lawyer, but I feel there is a rather major point missing from Dr Peter’s argument. And that is the place of Canon Law within the Church. Canon law is human in nature and is provided to assist the Church in communicating God’s saving power to the world (extracted from the “New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law”).

    On the other hand, Marriage is based in Divine Law. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    “1639 The consent by which the spouses mutually give and receive one another is sealed by God himself. From their covenant arises “an institution, confirmed by the divine law, . . . even in the eyes of society.” The covenant between the spouses is integrated into God’s covenant with man: “Authentic married love is caught up into divine love.”

    1640 Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God’s fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom.”

    And a marriage is consumed for “the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring” (CCC 1601) which I think everyone would agree would not include perfect and perpetual continence.

    So, I would say the silence in the Code of Canon Law in respect to the continence of married Permanent Deacons is because there is no need to create a human law that is already instituted by Divine Law.


  15. Ellen Parrish says:

    Oh, and just found and read the admirably restrained response from Dr. Peters.

    Guys, if you can’t understand his argument, he is basically saying that if everyone is going right on red and the city is fine with it, he really is not a traffic planner or consultant. He may or may not have an opinion about going right on red and whether or not this is better for the town. But he is not offering up his opinion on this, or castigating those who are or are not doing so, nor speaking for the mayor or city council, or the city’s founding fathers. He is merely pointing out that, as a LAWYER, he has read through the law on the matter and he feels strongly that it does not as it stands countenance doing so. And suggesting that since we would surely like our laws to reflect correctly what is and is not allowed, that we either look at changing said law, or cease turning right on red and enforce the law as it stands.

    For pity’s sake, this is NOT a theological argument, although for reason’s I cannot fathom, people who surely must understand this are “egging on” people who clearly are passionately misunderstanding what Dr. Peters is saying. I read this column regularly and am dismayed that this is increasingly seeming to be the case here? I truly hope, and will trust, that I am mistaken in this.

  16. I confess, I was extraordinarily disturbed by that post. All Dr. Peters is doing is making an argument about what canon law says, as it currently stands; this is a factual question about what has been promulgated as law and determined in precedent. Issues of whether it should say that are simply distinct from the issue of whether it does. Trying to spin it as Dr. Peters out to get married deacons in some way when all he is doing is what a good canon lawyer does, borders on sickening.

  17. Chip Wilson says:

    Excellent point, Brian.

    The divine and human nature of marriage is what gives the sacrament “the favor of the law” — to quote an oft-repeated phrase during my own diaconal formation in canon law.

    I also find it curious that many of those arguing for continence for married deacons also oppose the idea of ordaining celibate men who have same-sex attraction. They say it would be wrong to tempt them by having them live in rectories with other men.

    Wouldn’t about the temptation those of us who live with wives would face if we are made to become celibates too?

    Canon Law allows for all manner of human weakness and foible. (Look at all the grounds of nullity). Would it not allow for the good of properly ordered sexuality?

    Good luck in your formation! I get ordained a week from Saturday.

  18. Chip Wilson says:

    Dr. Peters has been writing with restraint in the wake of the controversy.

    But his son certainly seems to have an agenda — look at the way he brought the topic up on his blog, stating his is trying to find a way to call the Church’s attention to his father’s arguments.

    One of the sources I clicked on from his site, an English canonist, contended that the Eastern churches have deviated from apostolic tradition by allowing clerics to marry. Is that not a theological argument?

  19. The second-most shameful thing written in this debate is by Will Riley, accusing Thom Peters, and perhaps Dr. Peters as well, of working to sabotage Pope Benedict’s outreach in AC and the formation of the Anglican Ordinariate. It probably wouldn’t take much of a search to look back at what the American Papist wrote at the time of AC. Don’t recall reading any opposition from our young theologian and blogger at that time to the Holy Father’s initiative.

    Get thee to a confessional post haste!

  20. Brian, your argument in #15 fails because there is ample precedent in the history of Latin and Eastern canon law of continence being mandated, either permanently (in the Latin Church) or temporarily (in the East), for clerics. Clerics, unlike the laity, are subject to Church canonical discipline in this aspect of their lives. Since the permanent diaconate is an innovation for the Latin Church, one would have expected for Canon 277 to address the situation. Indeed, earlier drafts of the revised Code had, but Pope John Paul II removed, wording that would have made it clear that continence was not expected of married clerics.

    CCC n. 1640 is about the Church’s inability to dissolve a valid marriage between baptized persons. It has nothing to do with the subject at hand, since Dr. Peters did not advocate as a potential solution the dissolving of Christian marriage.

    CCC n. 1601 is not violated because nobody is speaking of applying continence to the laity. Furthermore, continent married clerics would still be responsible for the education of their offspring. Marriages with perpetual continence are not inferior to consummated marriages: ask the Holy Father if you have further questions about the matter.

    Thank you for offering a charitable contribution to the discussion and may God bless you and give you clear guidance in your discernment. Remember Dr. Peters’ conclusion to his article: he is calling upon Roman authorities to clarify the situation. He is not calling on men to put their vocations on hold. Hopefully with all the publicity given to this subject, the slow wheels of Roman bureaucracy will turn a little faster and a definitive ruling from the Holy Father will end the ambiguity: are permanent deacons to participate in the ancient practice/tradition/Tradition (not sure what to call it) of permanent clerical continence or not?

  21. Uggh, in my last post, not “ask the Holy Father,” but “ask the Holy Family” about whether unconsummated marriages are inferior to ones marked by perpetual continence.

  22. Chip, I really hate to say this – and I may earn a rebuke from Deacon Greg for doing so – but I believe that a lot of what Thomas Peters does is driven by the agenda of those agitating for a “smaller, purer” church that excludes people for even the smallest “transgression.” I’ve stopped reading his blog because I just can’t stomach reading that approach time after time.

    I also think Thomas’ approach detracts from his father’s outstanding work in the field of Canon Law. Often times, my opinion is on the opposite end of Dr. Edward Peters, but he still prompts me to the think and deepens my understanding of how the Church works. Dr. Peters may lead you to think a certain way, but he does so without implying that his is the only way, or that he is “infallably” correct. His son, on the other hand, can come across as if he knows everything and you’re too stupid to know anything.

  23. Fr. Deacon Daniel says:

    I do not ascribe an ill motive to either Dr. Peters or his son, and have stated elsewhere that I admire what they do, although I question the prudential judgment of publishing this far and wide until clarification could be sought from the relevant authority.

    Ellen wrote:

    “Guys, if you can’t understand his argument, he is basically saying that if everyone is going right on red and the city is fine with it, he really is not a traffic planner or consultant. He may or may not have an opinion about going right on red and whether or not this is better for the town. But he is not offering up his opinion on this, or castigating those who are or are not doing so, nor speaking for the mayor or city council, or the city’s founding fathers. He is merely pointing out that, as a LAWYER, he has read through the law on the matter and he feels strongly that it does not as it stands countenance doing so. And suggesting that since we would surely like our laws to reflect correctly what is and is not allowed, that we either look at changing said law, or cease turning right on red and enforce the law as it stands.”

    I would agree with you, Ellen, were it not for the final paragraph of the article.

    What I would like Dr. Peters’ to expound upon is his comparison at the end of his article of bringing diaconal praxis into conformity with the law of continence and the rediscovery of the divinely revealed covenant law by King Josiah in 2 Kings 22-23 which includes the cleansing of the temple from idolatrous sexual practices to assuage the anger of the Lord.

    Why this particular comparison?

    Is it then just simply a matter of the integrity of saying what we do and doing what we say?

    Or is Dr. Peters tipping his hand a bit here?

  24. Will Riley says:

    Fr. Michael,

    We are in agreement. The supreme law giver has changed, abrogated, or modified Canon 277 for the new Ordinate and indicated that can happen for additionally created ordinates. So Canon 277 will not have universal applicability to Latin Rite clerics, if it has been abrogated as to them. The same is true for former Anglican, Episcopalian, and Lutheran clergy ordained to the priesthood under the Pastoral Provision.
    Now with regard to permanent deacons, Pope Paul VI’s motu proprio reestablishing the permanent diaconate did not enjoin permanent clerical continence and was in derogation of the 1917 Code. That motu proprio was not and has not been supressed or modified by Popes John Paul, John Paul II nor Benedict. Canon 277 does not apply to permanent deacons on the force of the motu proprio alone of Pope Paul VI.

    Prof. Peters, you don’t like to have your orthodoxy impugned. I don’t like to see the Holy Fathers’ initiatives undermined. I haven’t seen you address my point and I have visited your son’s blog. Your son makes it clear he sees your article in relation to the erection of the ordinarites, which is the will of the Holy Father as expressed through the CDF. Perhaps you should publicly distances yourself from his article so that no confusion exists as to where you stand.

  25. Deacon Brian says:

    Clearly Ed Peters has too much time on his hands.

    A LAY canonist: what a perfect expression of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Although, misquoting Kipling one might say: the lay of the species is purer than the clerical.

    And if that is not ad hominem enough: Coming from SHMS it surprises me not. I had my diaconal formation there in the 1970’s and was ordained by Cardinal Dearden who’s heavenly hand is doubtless being restrained from smiting the place.

    Où sont les neiges d’antan?

  26. My God, so much time and energy about this topic. I am a bit astounded. Rarely do I say “WWJD,” but admit to wondering about what He would say about all this.

  27. An observation for those who are thinking about this issue.

    Most of the (substantive) comments offered against my thesis concerning clerical continence focus on various aspects of Marriage. That’s understandable, in that we are talking, after all, about MARRIED deacons and priests. Now, after 25 years of marriage, and 10 years in tribunal work, and 10 more years of teaching and writing about, inter alia, Christian marriage and marriage canon law, I see how much more I still have to learn the Great Mystery that is Matrimony! I appreciate the kind efforts of some to make sure that I understand what marriage is all about.

    But this exclusive discussion of marriage in regard to married deacons and priests misses the fact that we are, obviously, talking about married DEACONS AND PRIESTS, in other words, that one must consider the doctrine, theology, and canon law of HOLY ORDERS in order to understand this issue, and not just continue to ruminate on Marriage. Virtually no one (besides me, and in places, Dcn. Ditewig) seems to be talking at any length about the demands that HOLY ORDERS makes upon men (and, if they are married, upon their wives). But folks, I gotta say, that’s rather like trying to win the Tour de France on a unicycle. One might be moving, but one is not going to get very far.

    In the article, I discuss canonical issues related to holy Orders at length.

  28. Mr Flapatap says:

    If married permanent deacons have to observe continence, why does the Church grant dispensations for permanent deacons to re-marry if their wives die and they have small children who would benefit from the mother figure. That marriage would be null.

  29. Wow, I feel I must again thank Dr. Peters for bring up the issue and I agree with a number of other comments suggesting that many people have reacted to the emotionally charged aspect of the post (sexuality) and have failed to see the main point (the inconsistency between the code as written and actual practice). What Dr. Peters believes the law really should be is completely irrelevant. Even arguments in support of the view that the canon as written is not a mistake and is what was intended by the authors, does not mean Dr. Peters believes that is what should be the case now.

    Lest I too be dismissed as someone who sees sexuality as “bad” and who wants to see all ordained ministers restrain from sexual relations, let me make it clear that I am not. I personally think it was a mistake/oversight. I could easily imagine that when something new (like married deacons) are (re)introduced, that it would be very easy to miss a required change in something as bulky as the code of canon law. But, I will admit up front that I have not read the entirety of Dr. Peters scholarly article so I have not given myself a chance to be convinced otherwise yet. But I recognize up front, that ultimately it is not up to me (or to Dr. Peters for that matter as I am sure he would readily admit if he has not done so already). Hence the importance of bringing light to the problem so that it can be addressed by those with the authority to clarify the situation. It is unfair to married men considering/discerning the diaconate to be placed in this situation where they don’t know what is being asked of them.

    Finally, the comment that Dr. Peters is trying to undermine the Anglican ordinariate is can be described only as ridiculous. The importance of bringing the issue up is only made greater by what is going on now in this regard. Like married Catholic men considering the diaconate, married Anglican clergy considering ordination in the Catholic church, have a right to know clearly what is expected of them.

  30. ” Like married Catholic men considering the diaconate, married Anglican clergy considering ordination in the Catholic church, have a right to know clearly what is expected of them.”


    Nothing as far as Canon 277, nothing at all. As Cardinal Levada said in the errection of the Ordinarite, “The supreme law of the Church is the salvation of souls.” The five year old legally wrong article of Prof. Peters not to the contrary. It is a bad sign for an academic piece where its only traction is on the internet.

  31. I would be VERY careful about believing the opinions at that publication “America”.
    Dr.Edward Peters is correct.

  32. Fr. Deacon Daniel says:

    “But this exclusive discussion of marriage in regard to married deacons and priests misses the fact that we are, obviously, talking about married DEACONS AND PRIESTS, in other words, that one must consider the doctrine, theology, and canon law of HOLY ORDERS in order to understand this issue, and not just continue to ruminate on Marriage. Virtually no one (besides me, and in places, Dcn. Ditewig) seems to be talking at any length about the demands that HOLY ORDERS makes upon men (and, if they are married, upon their wives). But folks, I gotta say, that’s rather like trying to win the Tour de France on a unicycle. One might be moving, but one is not going to get very far.”

    Perhaps we could also discuss the benefits that marriage offers to clergy as well?

    We also forget that there are ascetical dimensions of married and family life which – quite frankly – a celibate man simply does not experience.

    Marriage refines, perfects and matures a man, so long as he cooperates with his vocation.

    Additionally, ordained men have the benefit of:

    a. Covenanted companionship – NOT returning to an empty rectory.

    b. Feedback (like it or not, it comes with the territory…)

    c. Growth in natural fatherhood which (if we believe the Bible to be inspired) can help prepare and purify one’s exercise of spiritual fatherhood.

    d. Someone who shares in your ministry in the parish. In the East we refer to the wives of clergy as “Pani” or “little mother.” This title of affection by parishioners expresses well the role that they have in the parish family.

    This may speak to the point about the permission of the wife required before ordination. I know you seem to want to reduce this to the concern about the “requirement” of continence and forgoing what is a legitimate marital right, but speaking as a married man in ordained ministry, I can tell you that the wisdom of the Church here in asking permission stands on its own without any reference to continence.

    We could also speak of the loneliness some – but certainly not all – celibate priests experience as well and the detrimental effect this can have on ministry and vocations. Might marriage be of assistance in this regard? Perhaps…

    So once again, I think you tip your hand here, Dr. Peters, about your bias on this issue and perhaps what may be the root of your concerns. It would seem, given your comments above, that the canonical question you broach is more of a pretext for being an apologist for the “Stickler-Cholij”school of thought (although I understand Cholij has renounced his previous position on this issue).

    I will also point out that you still have not explained your citation of 2 Kings, which I find puzzling. You do not strike me as a man who looks for random prooftexts when laying out his argument, but as a thoughtful man who chooses every reference with care and deliberation.

  33. Well written and well thought out Father Deacon.

  34. Fr Deacon Daniel- I assume by calling yourself FR Deacon, you are Eastern Catholic? In any case, thank you for your words. I just hope for the sake of the Anglican Ordinate, this Roman canon is clarified

  35. First, the use of the word “clerics” could be a mistake; remember that horrid usage “lay deacon”? and second

    This is from the USCCB website:

    May married men be ordained deacons?

    Yes. The Second Vatican Council decreed that the diaconate, when it was restored as a permanent order in the hierarchy, could be opened to “mature married men,” later clarified to mean men over the age of 35. This is in keeping with the ancient tradition of the Church, in which married men were ordained into ministry. Also in keeping with ancient practice is the expectation that while a married man may be ordained, an ordained man, if his wife should die, may not marry again without special permission.

    “Celibacy Affects Every Deacon: In one way or another, celibacy affects every deacon, married or unmarried. Understanding the nature of celibacy—its value and its practice—are essential to the married deacon. Not only does this understanding strengthen and nurture his own commitment to marital chastity, but it also helps to prepare him for the possibility of living celibate chastity should his wife predecease him. This concern is particularly unique within the diaconate. Tragically, some deacons who were married at the time of ordination only begin to face the issues involved with celibacy upon the death of their wives. As difficult as this process is, all deacons need to appreciate the impact celibacy can have on their lives and ministry.” — National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, par. 72.

  36. I went back and reread the entry on the American Papist Blog and I stand by my accusation that wittingly or unwittingly Prof. Peter’s and his son are doing a grave public disservice to the Church and the Roman Pontiff. This disservice is causing, or may cause, unnecessary concern to some current deacons, men in formation for the diaconate and those seeking to enter the Church from other ecclesial communities. I was horrified by the tone taken by the younger Peter’s on his blog, arrogating to himself and his father a teaching authority they do not, and will never, have. Equally distressing was Prof. Peter’s posting on his son’s blog giving it a type of imprimatur as to the content. This public behavior becomes worrisome in that Prof. Peter’s teaches at a seminary. The Church has suffered a great deal of damage from a string of professors stretching back to the Summer of 1968.

    The good news, Priest’s wife, is that this is truly a tempest in a teapot. The posting is a touch grandiose as far as a five year old article, and in two weeks it should be forgotten. My concerns with the actions of the Peters, however, will remain with me for quite sometime.

  37. Fr. Deacon Daniel says:

    Great quotations and points, Msgr!

    Yes, I recall at my ordination dinner with my bishop one of the faithful asking him in reference to me: “So if his wife dies will he be able to remarry?” “No!” said the bishop’s emphatic one word answer!

    It is also interesting to note that the change in what was a relatively frequent practice of the Latin Church to liberally grant so many dispensations to widowed deacons to remarry and still function as deacons came at the request of the Russian (Eastern) Orthodox Church! It was out of a desire to see Rome treat respectfully the idea of a deacon being a man of one wife, as the Scriptures teach. It is somewhat ironic that this change was at the request of an Eastern jurisdiction, since the East is often accused of being liberal on the issue of clerical marriage.

    Rather than spinning wheels and unnecessarily plaguing consciences with whether married deacons should be perpetually continent, I think your point Msgr. should be a central part of the discernment for those men considering a vocation to the diaconate.

  38. It’s inconceivable to me that the diaconal formation programs would not have included this point if it were really an issue. It was clear in my formation as a priest that we were expected to be celibate and that chastity was something for all.

  39. Brian Gadbois says:

    After re-reading Dr Peters original document, I noted that he referenced the second paragraph of number 61 of the Directory for the Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in which he argues that the term “a certain continence” as it is applied to married permanent deacons “cannot result in, however, given the force of c. 133, §1, is an abrogation of the express canonical obligation of continence presented in c. 277 for all clerics.” Putting aside the incorrect canon reference in the quote – I find it peculiar that he omitted the first paragraph of number 61:

    61. The Sacrament of Matrimony sanctifies conjugal love and constitutes it a sign of the love with which Christ gives himself to the Church (cf. Eph. 5:25). It is a gift from God and should be a source of nourishment for the spiritual life of those deacons who are married. Since family life and professional responsibilities must necessarily reduce the amount of time which married deacons can dedicate to the ministry, it will be necessary to integrate these various elements in a unitary fashion, especially by means of shared prayer. In marriage, love becomes an interpersonal giving of self, a mutual fidelity, a source of new life, a support in times of joy and sorrow: in short, love becomes service. When lived in faith, this family service is for the rest of the faithful an example of the love of Christ. The married deacon must use it as a stimulus of his diaconia in the Church.

  40. Thank you Brian, that is indeed a typo. It should read “c. 33 § 1” as it does earlier in the same paragraph. Grrr.

    Re what you find peculiar, I am afraid you don’t see the point I am making about the force of ANY language in this sort of document under c. 33 § 1. It’s really quite uncontroversial apud nos canonistas.

  41. Brian Gadbois says:

    I do in fact see your point. c. 33§1 states that this document cannot be interpreted as law and where it counters law lacks all force. With regard to my reference, it will only lack force IF your premise holds, i.e., ALL clerics are required to practice continence. I contend married permanent deacons (all married clergy for that matter) are excluded from c 277 by way of the marriage covenant being instituted in divine law. The reference I cited supports my contention.

    What I find peculiar is that you chose to point out the more obscure reference to “a certain continence” rather than the more clearly stated position of the authors of the directory who are clearly supporting the entire marriage covenant of married permanent deacons. Presumably, the authors of Directory (Pio Card. Laghi – Prefect and José Saraiva Martins Titular Archbishop of Tuburnica – Secretary) would be clear of the intention of Holy Orders as it relates to married men give their position in the Congregation for the Clergy. If your position does hold and this language is uncontroversial, why did you choose not to address this reference with the one you cited especially since it is the introduction to the section other than it points to a possible flaw in the position itself?


  42. Fr. Deacon Daniel says:

    Excellent points, Brian! Well said.

  43. I think Peters might make an interesting argument to why the 1983 Code could be better worded, but to argue that married deacons are supposed to refrain from sexual relations with their wives is silly, and frankly irresponsible. People might have their conscience’s troubled by his argument, and it could cause confusion in the spiritual life of deacons, as well as trouble in their marriages.

    First of all, Peters knows the CIC is not all the law of the Church. He also knows that in Church law, the mind of the supreme legislator is of the highest importance. Please, I invite anyone to read Pope John Paul II’s address to Permanent Deacons during his 1987 visit to the United States. Read his remarks about the Deacons married life.

    Then tell me that the man who promulgated the 1983 code thinks married Permanent Deacons should refrain from sexual relations with their wives.

    Peters needs to chill out.

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