Comments, we get comments…

The following comment arrived this afternoon, related to this post about the ongoing debate about married deacons and sex.  I thought I’d post it here because I think it deserves a wider airing, and might merit some comment from those who have been following this issue.

I have no idea if the gentleman in question is, in fact, a seminarian.  But, I’m assuming he is.

Here:

Canon Law is Canon Law. Obey it! I’m a seminarian studying for the priesthood and there are now more of us than ever. The permanent deaconate was established as a stop-gap measure but spoiler alert!: Deacons can’t run the Church! The Church is utterly and 100% dependent on the Eucharist and the Eucharist is only possible through the consecration done by a priest. Having thousands of permanent deacons is a nice way of saying there are thousands of married men who want to have their cake, eat it to, and play dress up with the priest on Sundays or whenever it is convenient. Thank God vocations to the priesthood are up or we would be screwed.

It’s a little hard to believe that a man preparing for the priesthood thinks this way, and writes this way, but there you have it.  (Aside from the sneering tone, the theological ignorance — “stop-gap measure”? — is dumbfounding.) This is beyond juvenile.

If he is a seminarian, I might counsel a little spiritual direction, and a steady diet of humble pie (heavily seasoned with saltpeter), and a semester or two serving as porter, along with some time spent polishing the silverware in the dining room instead of his clerical cuff links.  A little less starch in his Roman collar might help, too.

Is this really what our future priests are made of?  Really? I hope not.

  • Diakonos09

    My, oh my, oh my…It is possible for him to be a sem but highly improbable it seems to me. IF he IS a sem that I am guessing it is one of those off-shoot Catholic sects that are not in communion with the Holy See. And if he IS a sem in a regular seminary I pray his outlook is revealed to his spiritual director and, of his own free will, to the rector. Not only does he not understand the Catholic Catechism, but he does not even seem to understand the Order to which he will be ordained and minister in before ordination to the presbyterate. Let’s all pray for the well-being of this guy, sem or not.

    As fars as obeying canon law, the current semi-debate is exactly focused on that point. IS it current canon law for married (i.e. non-celibate) clergy to be continent? “Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven, and are therefore bound to celibacy…” Hmmm seems that a hearty part of the debate is over the interpretation of this clause and the word ‘therefore’. The Holy See’s directory for the diaconate uses this exact same wording “perfect and perpetual continence ” when speaking of widowed deacons (see N. 62)

    And this dear “sem” (and others) should know that when it comes to canon law no one can doubt the integrity of the highest cleric in canon law, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, Cardinal Raymond Burke, who himself has ordained many permanent deacons over his years as bishop (and archbishop) yet never once spoke out about the alleged abuse and ignoring of Canon 277. I doubt very much that Cardinal Burke was unaware, or forgetful, or held the law in contempt (I doubt that also about Paul VI, John Paul I, Blessed John Paul II, Benedict XVI….)

    I am too young to recall the debates and arguments and high emotions that followed Vatican II in changing the Mass, etc…but if it was anything of the tenor of this sem’s post then it must have been a horrible time.

  • Eka

    I just met with a group of seminarians who were very impressive. All of them appeared to have the qualities that would make wonderful priests…humility and a great passion for spreading the gospel. While it is true that there is more of a “conservative” attitude among the men, none of them had this extreme attitude. I’m not worried.

  • Mike L

    I am certainly glad that this child is willing to play dress up with the deacons!

    And I sincerely hope that if he does get ordained he goes to some other parish besides mine.

    This does seem to be an example of clericalism at the extreme, although I suspect many priests hold milder versions of his belief.

    Hugs,

    Mike L

  • http://cursormundi.blogspot.com/ brian mcmahon

    Dear Deacon Greg

    No way is this dude a seminarian! If Selection Conferences and the associated checks are letting men through with such ingrained attitudes, there will be mutiny in the pews when they are ordained. It also raises questions about the efficacy of selection procedures.

    Great blog!

    Brian

  • Deacon Norb

    This afternoon (Thursday, Feb 3) from Noon until 1:30, I attended the monthly meeting of all the staff attached to parishes within our local Deanery. We only had about half the normal attendees there (due to the fact we are just recovering from the Great Blizzard of 2011).

    Much to my astonishment, one of our most respected local religious sisters observed that she had been reading a number of blogs where the issue of deacons being continent after ordination was aggressively debated. She thought it all was a bunch of (adjective deleted — a remarkable expletive from a religious sister!). Even more fascinating, several priests and other religious sisters joined in and agreed with her.

    Bottom line, from the celibate community I work with regularly, leave the marriages of the deacons alone!

    I just smiled and didn’t have to say a word.

  • Dcn Scott

    If you study the history of the diaconate, you will see that we have had this conversation before. I am happy to serve in a diocese in which a seminarian with this attitude would never be ordained. It seems he needs to spend less time responding to blog posts and more time studying.

  • HMS

    Somebody out there is pulling your chains and getting a good laugh at the uproar his (?) comments are evoking.

  • HMS

    That was the first thought that came to my mind. I will humbly submit to being corrected.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00442985285647041700 Melody

    Yikes! I would expect a lot more maturity and a lot less attitude out of a seminarian. Maybe it’s a good thing it takes many years to become a priest.

  • dante

    I agree with so much that has already been posted but I would like to remind the “seminarian” that while it is so true that the Eucharist is the life and heart of the Church, it is the bishop whom we could never do without, not the priest. The priests make our reception of the Eucharist more easy and readily available but they are not necessary for its celebration and reception. The bisop IS necessary. I hope if he is a seminarian (which I highly doubt) he realizes that it it will be Jesus celebrating the sacrament through him and this ministry with the Church will be possible only because his bishop, as successor to the Apostles, has granted him permission/authority (i.e., faculties) to do so. Lastly, keep in mind that ALL the authgority and ministries of Holy Orders come through the bishop, who grants to some men a share as priests and to others a share as deacons. None of us can claim this sacred order as our own in that possessive sense.

  • Fiergenholt

    Once upon a time, in a major Midwest Roman Catholic University, a senior seminar in Theological Studies was in progress. The topic of the day was “The Theology of Marriage” and the student discussion leader was not a theology major or even one of the celibate religious community members who were taking the course because it was required for them. He was a layperson who was taking the course because of the challenges it offered to his own personal scholarship.

    After the discussion leader finished his initial introduction to the topic, one of the celibate religious Theology majors in the class made this rather remarkable statement: “I have no idea why we are even here today ! I know, as do most of you, that there is no such a thing as a ‘Theology of Marriage.’”

    The reaction was immediate and violent. One of the lay-men (male), non-theology majors blew up and threatened to punch the seminarian out. The yelling and screaming lasted for the better part of 30-40 minutes until the priest who was the seminar faculty called a halt because the class time was up.

    After the class, the lay-man who threatened physical harm to the seminarian met up with another seminarian and continued his angry discourse. Finally, his colleague said: “Be kind with my colleague. He still is struggling with why he wants to be in the seminary — and celibate — at all.”

    A few years after graduation with his BA in Theology, that young seminarian who started the argument dropped out of his religious order, got married and apparently has had a full and wonderful life.

    I think!

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I assume the commenter is not a seminarian but a glorified twit who has managed to get a laugh at our (deacons) expense.
    As for this so-called controversy. It seems like we deacons are creating our own problem by stirring up an issue that was heretofore NOT an issue, but just the ruminations of a few scholars who should have had better things to do with their time .

  • pagansister

    IF the person who wrote that letter is really a seminarian, then he studying for the wrong profession. Can hope his teachers/instructors learn of his attitude, and can help him overcome it, or ask him to leave.

  • Will Riley

    I would be surprised if he were a seminarian. If he is, there is a reasonable basis for him not being ordained to the diaconate or minor orders if he is in a traditional order. What he says smacks of material and formal heresy. Deacons by motu proprio of the Soverign Pontiff are not stop gap clergy, but real clergy by their ordination. God has given us the permanent diaconate at this period of history for a reason. Thank you Deacon Greg for answering our Lord’s call. Avanti!

  • Pedro

    All of a sudden you give someone, unknown, an opportunity to write some crazy stuff which makes priests look bad. Deacon Greg, i also sense a dislike on your part to priest! Yea, I know, you work for the diocese, you minister in a parish, blog, blog, blog, blog, … …but you seem to always bash priest, sad, very sad! Extremely sad if this gentleman is ordained and just as sad is your hidden subconscious bashing of priest!

  • Eugene Pagano

    Deacon Greg,

    Have you checked “Seminarian’s” e-mail address, hidden to us but (I assume) not to you, to see if he has posted other comments that might give clues whether he (or maybe even she, if not a seminarian) is indeed a seminarian — just as I assume you can check my other comments to lean that I have described myself as an Episcopalian?

  • WB

    Sounds like another narcissistic person seeking the priesthood for his glory. I have encounted a few priest with this mentality. I just hope he gets help.

  • Greta

    We are blessed in our dominican parish to not only have a number of priests, but also in that we have the first year novices which come through here each year on their first year of seven to ordination. This year we have 21 and each is very impressive. Having a chance to talk with each recently over the holidays, it is clear that they are conservative and I found none that saw the direct need for deacons if we continue to gain increased numbers of seminarians that continue on to become priests. The bishops listed five reasons in their petition, but most remember it as a cry for help because of the shortage of seminarians. We are blessed to see a number of seminaries begining to come to life and blessed to see so many drawn by Popes JPII and Benedict XVI and thus more conservative. It will be interesting to see how the deacon program serves as these numbers swell into service and the more conservative bishops come to the forefront.

    • To enrich and strengthen the many and various diaconal ministries at work with the sacramental
    grace of the diaconate.
    • To enlist a new group of devout and competent persons in the active ministry of the Church.
    • To aid in extending needed liturgical and charitable services to the faithful.
    • To provide an official and sacramental presence of the Church in many areas of secular life, as
    well as communities where few or no priests are available.
    • To provide an impetus and source for creative adaptations of diaconal ministries to the rapidly
    changing needs of our society.

    It is my hope that they take on less of the liturgical role and more serving in various ministries.

  • http://www.gerardnadal.com Gerard Nadal

    I can believe that this little queen is a seminarian, part of the uber-reactionary little snots who think Trent was liberal.

    Polishing the silverware, Deacon Greg?

    He needs years and years of therapy to cure that battered ego that seeks overcompensation by building the priests into ecclesiastical supermen. Without a collar and the deference of old ladies, he would be a candidate for the suicide hotline. This is a poor, deluded child “playing dress-up on Sundays,” as he has accused the deacons.

    Little neurotics who live in glass houses…

    At any rate, my dear deacons, you are all in Holy Orders, and the witness that you bring to the reality of conjugal love in your lives has been a great thread of continuity connecting the truth taught by the celibate priests and bishops with the laity. By your faithful witness, you have taught married men such as myself about sexual continence in a voice that moves beyond mere words.

    Frightened little boys in cassocks and surplices cowering in prayer halls and cloisters cannot fathom the reality of your lives, and for the sake of an unsuspecting laity should be sent back into the world until such time as they can.

    And should that time ever come to pass, it will be their great honor and privilege to partake in your share of Holy Orders.

    God Bless you all.

  • HMS

    Gerard Nadal:

    The deacons that I know would not be at all grateful for your defense of their ministry and orders.

    Why do you have to say things like this? ….

    “I can believe that this little queen is a seminarian, part of the uber-reactionary little snots…”

    “He needs years and years of therapy to cure that battered ego that seeks overcompensation by building the priests into ecclesiastical supermen.”

    “Without a collar and the deference of old ladies, he would be a candidate for the suicide hotline.”

  • http://www.gerardnadal.com Gerard Nadal

    HMS,

    Those comments that you cite are not a defense of deacons. They are an accurate assessment of the pathology that gave rise to his statement. They also accurately depict a reality that I saw and lived with firsthand when I was a seminarian, before leaving to pursue science. I know much of what I speak.

    This comment is the defense of the deacons:

    “At any rate, my dear deacons, you are all in Holy Orders, and the witness that you bring to the reality of conjugal love in your lives has been a great thread of continuity connecting the truth taught by the celibate priests and bishops with the laity. By your faithful witness, you have taught married men such as myself about sexual continence in a voice that moves beyond mere words.”

    as well as this:

    “And should that time ever come to pass, it will be their great honor and privilege to partake in your share of Holy Orders.

    “God Bless you all.”

  • http://tallseminarian.blogspot.com/ Mike

    As a seminarian, I guarantee you that this is not reflective of 99% of men undergoing formation for the priesthood–at least here at my seminary! I am thankful for the permanent diaconate and them men who offer themselves to this ministry. In particular, I thank God for the deacons from whom I have learned a great deal and with whom I enjoy friendship.

    Rest assured, this is not “what our future priests are made of.”

    Pax!

  • anthony

    I hope there is a way to remove both the posts and the comments, i know to many this entry shows what a Catholic blog should not be.

  • romancrusader

    The same deacon gregg who said that women can be deacons.

  • romancrusader

    Isn’t it amazing that people here have such disregard for canon law? NO WONDER WE HAVE A SHORTAGE OF PRIESTS?! Silly people. Ask Cardinal Burke, he’d give you a similar answer.

  • Mike K

    Guys who think like this convince me that all newly-ordained priests should spend AT LEAST 3-5 years immediately after ordination as a parochial vicar or a school minister (at the high school or college level) before they go on to any other assignment (chancery, diocesan office, continuing education in Rome, etc.).

    IMHO, nothing will cure this mentality faster than getting out into the real world of parish work. For one, you don’t have as much time to spend on reactionary thinking (especially in a larger parish), because you’re dealing with real people and real issues.

  • http://www.gerardnadal.com Gerard Nadal

    Anthony,

    I realize that many would have a Catholic blog resemble Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, but this has never been the reality of the Church.

    There are puff blogs on the Church, but Deacon Kandra does not shy from red meat issues, which I know cause certain tummies to become dyspeptic.

    This comment actually reflects young men that I’ve seen in seminaries. Blessedly most get weeded out.

    Blessedly, Deacon Kandra deals with more than just cotton candy.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00442985285647041700 Melody

    This is a comment on Greta’s comment, who expressed the hope that in the future deacons “… take on less of the liturgical role and more serving in various ministries.”
    Actually, they *have* been serving in these other ministries since the permanent diaconate was re-instituted. When I went to formation classes with my husband, it was emphasized that diaconal service was as important as their liturgical function; and that actually more of their time would be committed to the service of Christ and the Church in the world. I have certainly observed this to be true in the years since then. Since much of this work is behind the scenes, it follows that Greta’s young seminarian acquaintances may not yet be aware of this aspect. We don’t really know what the Church of the future will be like; but I really hope that we can avoid the role of the diaconate becoming part of the liberal v.s. conservative wars.

  • http://psalm46-11.blogspot.com Michael Hallman

    Deacon Greg,

    A seminarian myself (and a fact which I can actually verify), while I would never be so audacious as to say that I may be the general voice of seminarians, I would at least like to let you know that there are those of us studying for the priesthood who are truly and deeply appreciative of the great vocation of the diaconate, who are thankful for your wonderful service and distinctive clerical identity, and who certainly in no way share any of the sentiments expressed by this troubled person. I will certainly add my own prayers to the many hopefully being offered for the conversion of his heart. God bless you!

  • dymphna

    Maybe this seminarian hasn’t seen any worhtwhile deacons?

  • http://www.adeaconswife.wordpress.com Susan Kehoe

    I really can’t believe that the commenter is a seminarian. There is no way he would have made it through the first round of the discernment process. He is probably a drive by flamer. At any rate he needs our prayers.

  • dante

    Just one important side comment to a couple posts that seem to “play” liturgical ministry against ministry of charity in works to the needy – the official teaching of the Catholic Church at this time, both universal (Rome) and local (USCCB) is as follows:

    The ministry of the deacons is EQUALLY threefold: Word (preaching, teaching, spiritual direction, etc.) , Liturgy (proclaiming Gospel, sacramental assistance, etc.) and Charity (works of mercy or justice). Every deacon is to have SOME aspect of EACH ministry in his life. However, both Rome and USCCB state the reality that according to time and talent, one of the three ministries will most likely be more prominent in a deacon’s work without prejudice to the other two.

    Seeing the deacon primarily as a “minister of charity” distorts the reality of his vocation and also tends to overshadow the reality of so many religious and lay apostolates that are, indeed, awesome works of mercy and justice in the world.

  • Matt

    I am kind of surprised by both the seminarian quoted and the Deacon’s response. Both seem to be aggressively ad hominem and ignoring the actual issue. The important question, which the seminarian did raise and was left unaddressed by the Deacon, is how can one choose to disobey or ignore that which is clearly in Canon Law? The law of the Church is not arbitrary and it must be followed because obedience to the Church is obedience to Christ.

  • Tom

    Im not so sure Canon Law has anything to do with it; (the issue), but I know it is clearly there, and I respect it. I think the issue is in gratitude. Coming from a psychology backround it has been clearly established that by that in practically every human person there is an active will toward betterment, an impulse towards growth, or as Maslow put it, the actualization of potential. Merton would say, clearing of the false-self. This person seems to prove again the sorry state of affairs that we seem to find ourselves in that run opposite of this notion of growth and love. It is as if a constant state of pathological sickness or illness exists that keeps us from moving forward. A kind of clumsy groping forward toward health, betterment. A kind of fear rather than courage. Insults rather than encouragement. I think we need to ask ourselves why have not more of us made it to what Merton would call a true “sense of identity?” Only a small percentage of the population has gotten to this point of identity, or Merton’s “full humanness,” Maslow’s “self-actualization. So, if we have this natural drive toward full development and in our case development in Christ Jesus, then why is it that it dosen’t happen more often? What’s blocking it?! I have my suspisions, but I know one thing, if the Deacon’s want to take offense to these sorts of comments, only spend about thirty seconds on (your being offended), then move on and forget it. Your wonderful men, superb examples. By knowing what the truth is, no response to this sort of nonsense is even required. This in itself would be a great example to us all. If there is a response, I would say something like this. “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I respectfully disagree. God bless you.” By the way, God bless our Deacon’s.

  • Fiergenholt

    Matt:

    You are stretching the cosmic importance of Roman Catholic Canon Law. It cannot have any real eternal value since it genuinely and authentically changes on a regular basis.

    According to our understanding of the Aquinas improvement over Aristotle’s Natural Law, in order for something to be genuinely evil, it must be eternally and universally evil.

    In other words, something cannot be evil in our generation but not evil a century before.

    Clerical celibacy is Church Law. Even the Council of Trent insisted upon that. Those Trent Council Fathers had no choice — Peter was a married man and so were probably the first 34 men we have identified as Pope of Rome.

  • Matt

    Fiergenholt:

    Are you trying to insist that one can arbitrarily choose to disobey Canon Law?

    It seems that quite the contrary is spelled out clearly in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    2032 The Church, the “pillar and bulwark of the truth,” “has received this solemn command of Christ from the apostles to announce the saving truth.” “To the Church belongs the right always and everywhere to announce moral principles, including those pertaining to the social order, and to make judgments on any human affairs to the extent that they are required by the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls.”

    2037 The law of God entrusted to the Church is taught to the faithful as the way of life and truth. the faithful therefore have the right to be instructed in the divine saving precepts that purify judgment and, with grace, heal wounded human reason. They have the duty of observing the constitutions and decrees conveyed by the legitimate authority of the Church. Even if they concern disciplinary matters, these determinations call for docility in charity.

    2039 Ministries should be exercised in a spirit of fraternal service and dedication to the Church, in the name of the Lord. At the same time the conscience of each person should avoid confining itself to individualistic considerations in its moral judgments of the person’s own acts. As far as possible conscience should take account of the good of all, as expressed in the moral law, natural and revealed, and consequently in the law of the Church and in the authoritative teaching of the Magisterium on moral questions. Personal conscience and reason should not be set in opposition to the moral law or the Magisterium of the Church.

    Now back to my words….

    I understand what you are saying in regards to Aquinas… how something cannot suddenly become evil. I believe I agree with you on that. That which is evil (in terms of a moral act) will always remain evil. Therefore, I think the principle that is objectively evil in this situation is disobedience.

    I also am profoundly aware of the understandable shock this gives to many happy and holy deacons in the world. We still must remain obedient to the Church because obedience to the Church is obedience to Christ.

  • Fiergenholt

    Matt:

    Thank you. Your circular argument proved my point.

  • Mike L

    I believe that one of the canon laws that actually comes from a council says that a priest can say only one mass a day without permission from his bishop, and only three at most. When I asked a canon lawyer about this I was told, with a wave of the hand, that priests did what they had to do. I suspect many priests are saying more than three masses a day.

    I also believe that Church teachings say we should obey civil law. I wonder how many of those wanting absolute obedience to every canon law pay attention to things like speed limits which are there for the common good?

    Hugs,

    Mike L

  • Mark Stanzel

    Clericalism on the rise? I think not. I am in touch with enough seminarians to know that this young man is an anomaly at best. If he is actually a seminarian, he is obvious early on. However, the Church probably can find a place for him somewhere in the Eastern Church where his humility will increase by leaps and bounds.

    This young man insults my entire Protestant family of clerics that give of themselves and have been an inspiration for my deeper conversion to Catholicism by encouraging me to study scripture more (30 times through – minimum) and ultimately dig deeper in history, which led me to the ECF. etc. As a result, my domestic church is now all Catholic. Not bad for a group of Protestant preachers, deacons and elders from the Church of Christ. Too bad they “get to have their cake and eat it too”. [rolling my eyes].

    Hoping this man does get ordained, he’ll probably spend years in a subordinate position that will force him into taking a deeper look into his misguided views, possibly rooted in false pride. No worry (at least I’m not), a man with this attitude will never make it to pastoral roles. Many prayers for him and all seminarians. I too was a seminarian and ran into such young men. Some have learned, others left and others seem to have disappeared.

    PAX

  • Tom

    Mark
    I would not assume such a hopfull outcome for our “seminarian” to be burried in a subordinate role. Some diocese are so short handed that he literally could walk into a pastrol role within two years after ordination. I know what I’m talking about.
    Ill ask the question again. Are we grateful for the position we are in as deacons and preists? How much do we love our people? Will we waste time feeling offended, or will we recoginize it for what it is for a few seconds, then move on? If we look to fixing (and believe me, it needs fixing) this obsession on being offended, dissed and insulted and slighted and whatever else “hurts me,” we would have a lot more time to give to helping others to learn to do the same. This IS a spiritual brokenness, a spirual reality.
    We are to lead our people to Jesus. The same Jesus that Andrew lead Peter to. The same One that gave the Holy Spirit to (all) of us on that first Penticost many many centuries ago.

    To my fellow deacons who live by this sort of throwing insults and one upsmenship and having to feel like they have to defend what does not need to be defended. STOP.
    You need to get you, out of the way. Get out-of-the-way. Your people need you. They need you to be emptied of yourself to be capable of freely giving the Spirit. If they were to know that you bicker over nonsense, from least of all a seminarian, (your) credability is now in question whether you like to believe that or not.

    Look… inward. I won’t comment on this any further. God Bless you all.

  • Michele

    Deacon Greg,

    You are a hypocrit! I felt the same way about you when I read your post dated November 19, 2010 on Beliefnet.

    This post, along with the many comments is so unbecoming of a Christian. Period.

  • Matt

    Fiergenholt:

    I apologize but I fail to see how my argument was circular. Please show me. My argument was summed up with excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church… those were not my arguments.

    You might be thinking that I was attempting to contradict my point (that one must be obedient to Canon Law) by saying that there are “many happy and holy deacons in the world”. This in no way contradicts what I was saying. There are many good and holy men serving the Church in the diaconate but unfortunately this Canon was ignored by those who formed them and now we have situations like this.

    Please explain how my argument was circular. To make that claim and leave no justification is a blatant copout.

    God bless.

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