Why does the pope rarely mention deacons? — UPDATED

A deacon reader writes:

How does the pope preach to a morning audience on diakonia and never say the word “deacon” in his speech?

Does this concern you that the pope has failed to mention the word “deacon” in any of his addresses in Mexico and Spain on his past trips?  He even started his homily’s and speeches with “My fellow bishops, brother priests, religious, and laity.”  I felt like he wasn’t even talking to me since I don’t fall into any of those categories.  Why does it seem so blatantly obvious that the diaconate is being repressed by Rome . . . and even in many places in the US?

With one of the pope’s goals being the unification with the SSPX and the SSPX’s thoughts on the restoration of the permanent diaconate being extremely negative, I think the stars are starting to line up.

Well, I tend to be less pessimistic than this deacon; I recall how the pope spoke warmly and approvingly of permanent deacons a few years ago.  But I agree: the absence of even a mention of one distinct level of Holy Orders in many of the Holy Father’s public speeches is conspicuous.  Could it be cultural, since an overwhelming number of permanent deacons (most, in fact) are here in the United States ?

Also, I’m wondering if anyone knows if the pope, as Bishop of Rome, has ever ordained permanent deacons.


UPDATE:  Deacon Bill Ditewig just sent me an email with his reaction:

There’s no plot to kill the diaconate by the Holy See or anyone else (well, except for those in SSPX who think Vatican II was a heretical council).   The diaconate, even here in the US, has yet to break into the popular imagination of most Catholics.  In church time, we’ve only been “back” for a very short time.  I mean, in 1998 the Holy See referred to the guys ordained between 1968 (the first permanent deacons ordained) and 1998 (30 years!) as experiments!  And, this is not due simply to numbers of deacons (the “we have more deacons than Rome” argument).  The simple fact is that for about a millennium “to be ordained” meant “to be a priest”.  You don’t break that paradigm in the popular imagination in just a few decades.  In a hundred years or so, this won’t be a problem (for any of us!).


  1. Hmm. I wonder if it’s cultural too — he’s just not used to thinking about their ministry much, or they are not very present in Rome. The (permanent) diaconate is new, and really visible in N. America the most. It’s a good question, but I suspect it’s a cultural lacuna, and not a theologically motivated one.

  2. Mark Duch says:

    It’s probably a number of things, IMO:

    1) Old habits die hard. Pope Benedict has been around for a while, since long before permanent deacons were restored. He probably still isn’t completely used to the phenomenon of having deacons running around everywhere and not thinking of them as seminarians about to be ordained to the priesthood.

    2) His Holiness thinks globally. Permanent deacons are a lot more prevalent in the United States than they are elsewhere. About half of all the permanent deacons in the world are located in the United States.

    3) There’s no crisis. We aren’t facing a lack of access to the sacraments due to a shortage of deacons. We’ve got lots of deacons. I think the general push for vocations has been directed at vocations to the priesthood and that probably comes out in the way we all speak, including Pope Benedict.

  3. Deacon Jim Casa says:

    I’m sure that if you ask the average pastor if his deacons provide valuable ministry in the parish and are a major help to him, you would get very many positive responses.
    However, in the Vatican, the order of the permanent diaconate is not an issue. I’m curious, how many permanent deacons actually serve the Holy Father on a daily basis?

  4. According to the statistics for 2010 (the last year on record) the Diocese of Rome has 116 permanent deacons. I can’t find any reference to Benedict XVI’s having ordained anyone to the permanent diaconate, so I’m assuming that gets delegated to the many auxiliaries, or (just possibly) that these men were all ordained during John Paul II’s pontificate. I do think it’s cultural (because the pope did speak to and about deacons in NY in 2008) as well as personal–the permanent diaconate is not particularly a development this pope appears to care much about one way or another, so it’s not at the forefront of consciousness. I doubt that he’d go so far as to actively discourage or suppress it, no matter what happens with SSPX, but he’s made it clear that his priority is vocations to priesthood.

  5. Could it be another step in returning the church to pre-vatican II? Male celibates in total control, all others to obey their directives?

  6. Deacon Jim Casa says:

    From what we see here, the permanent diaconate will finally be respected and appreciated when an American cardinal is elected pope.

  7. And the odds of an American cardinal elected Pope are ….. ?

  8. Fiergenholt says:

    I’m old enough to remember when all of CHRISTENDOM did not believe any non-Italian would ever be elected Pope. Now — a generation later — maybe the real question should be, will ANY Italian ever be elected pope again ?

  9. i have to disagree with you. if there is anything we know about PB16 it would seem to be that for him EVERYTHING is THEOLOGICAL. (just an aside, but in many ways, the whole “theology” of the diaconate and it restoration was done with great input by German theologians).

  10. Beat me to it Jake!

  11. That’s it Jake. Of course. LOL

  12. peaceloveandal says:

    One of my theology professors down in Australia said a couple of years ago that the problem with the permanent diaconate in its present state is that it has no basis in the historical office of deacon. It was his assertion that the biblical roots of the diaconate showed their role as assistants to the Apostles. The present role, however, is everything fom assistants to bishops, chaplains of Catholic services, to serving in Pastoral ministry. The role of the permanent deacon varies from diocese to diocese. Until the role of the deacon is consistently and practically defined in biblical and theological terms, it will be a wobbly ministry and may even die off. I wonder what people think of his assessment. It as been one of those questions that has lingered in the back of my mind.

  13. Humble Servant says:

    I think the Pope is supportive of the permanent diaconante. Things get lost in translation, traditional protocol of speech, and just plan habitual speech.

    In 2008, following a Lenten tradition, Benedict XVI met with parish priests and clergy of the Diocese of Rome. During the meeting, the participants asked the Pope questions. One of them was a permanent deacon of the Diocese of Rome about the diaconate. The Popes response I think speaks very favorable about the diaconate. See the following link: http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=26825

  14. Deacon Don says:

    I’m really not the suspicious type, but if you look at a consistent pattern over PB16′s pontificate: removing the indult for purification of vessels from lay ministers in 2006, proclaiming a “year for priests” in 2009, instituting two “assessments” of religious sisters in recent years, the failure to mention deacons in any talk – even those about service (compare some of the speeches of JPII on “service sacramentalized”), etc. One might conclude that the emphasis for PB16 is the male, celibate ministry, and that everything else is second class or suspect. I would not conclude that although there probably is not “suppression” movement toward the diaconate, the diaconate takes second chair to celibate ministry.
    I also don’t buy the “cultural” argument, given that the restoration of the permanent diaconate was really initiated by two German priests, Fr. Otto Pies, and Wilhelm Schamoni during their time in the “priesterblok” of Dachau – and was put on the map by Ratzinger’s colleague, Karl Rahner. Even if there are not an overwhelming number of deacons in the Roman diocese, the history of the diaconate’s restoration is grounded in Ratzinger’s turf.

  15. deaconnecessary says:

    …..are about the same as hell freezing over….

  16. Deacon John Grant says:

    Is it about 100 years before the teachings of a Council are implemented? We are not yet at the halfway mark.

    From Lumen Gentium

    29. At a lower level of the hierarchy are deacons, upon whom hands are imposed “not unto the priesthood, but unto a ministry of service.” For strengthened by sacramental grace, in communion with the bishop and his group of priests they serve in the diaconate of the liturgy, of the word, and of charity to the people of God. It is the duty of the deacon, according as it shall have been assigned to him by competent authority, to administer baptism solemnly, to be custodian and dispenser of the Eucharist, to assist at and bless marriages in the name of the Church, to bring Viaticum to the dying, to read the Sacred Scripture to the faithful, to instruct and exhort the people, to preside over the worship and prayer of the faithful, to administer sacramentals, to officiate at funeral and burial services. Dedicated to duties of charity and of administration, let deacons be mindful of the admonition of Blessed Polycarp: “Be merciful, diligent, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who became the servant of all.”

    Since these duties, so very necessary to the life of the Church, can be fulfilled only with difficulty in many regions in accordance with the discipline of the Latin Church as it exists today, the diaconate can in the future be restored as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy. It pertains to the competent territorial bodies of bishops, of one kind or another, with the approval of the Supreme Pontiff, to decide whether and where it is opportune for such deacons to be established for the care of souls. With the consent of the Roman Pontiff, this diaconate can, in the future, be conferred upon men of more mature age, even upon those living in the married state. It may also be conferred upon suitable young men, for whom the law of celibacy must remain intact.

    From limited experience there are variations within the United States. Formation varies among dioceses. Service varies. Deacons are assigned to home parishes. Deacons are not assigned to home parishes. Deacons serve hospitals, prisons, the poor, the rich, immigrants, just to name a few.

    We are new.

    We serve “At a lower level of the hierarchy…”

    Have heard that priests regular dress in the first few centuries was the same as deacons regular dress in the 21st century.

    Maybe it just takes time. Maybe it will take time.

    In the meantime, maybe the admonition of Blessed Polycarp is all we need: “Be merciful, diligent, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who became the servant of all.”

  17. Geesh. Why is it that almost every Deacon I know (one exception I can recall) is so sensitive to the recognition that “they deserve”? This is true of “Internet” Deacons and the ones in my personal life. Server, take the last seat, and quit whining.

  18. But, peaceloveandal:

    “the problem with the permanent diaconate in its present state is that it has no basis in the historical office of deacon.”

    That was 2000 years ago. Things were different then.

  19. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The city of Rome is crawling with seminaries for priests. Most of the deacons you’re going to meet there are going to be non-permanent deacons. When deacons come to the Vatican for events, it’s usually as part of a multi-Orders clerical group from a diocese or such.

    Generally when St. Stephen’s Day comes around, the Pope is kinda busy pointing to the protomartyr. But he has talked about him as deacon in 2009:

    “Stephen is also the Church’s first deacon. In becoming a servant of the poor for love of Christ, he gradually enters into full harmony with him and follows Christ to the point of making the supreme gift of himself… Today, in presenting the Deacon St Stephen to us as our model the Church likewise points out to us that welcoming and loving the poor is one of the privileged ways to live the Gospel and to witness credibly to human beings to the Kingdom of God that comes.”

    So that’s pretty positive. The deacon pursues holiness by being a servant for Christ’s love to those who need Christ’s love, and thus becomes like Christ and full of love.

    The Pope’s audience talk about St. Ephrem (following his predecessor Benedict XV’s encyclical on St. Ephrem) notes his activities as a permanent deacon: “Ephrem, honoured by Christian tradition with the title “Harp of the Holy Spirit”, remained a deacon of the Church throughout his life. It was a crucial and emblematic decision: he was a deacon, a servant, in his liturgical ministry, and more radically, in his love for Christ, whose praises he sang in an unparalleled way, and also in his love for his brethren, whom he introduced with rare skill to the knowledge of divine Revelation.” You should read the whole thing, because Ephrem is an awesome theological poet and our pope appreciates that.

    (And because deacons were supposed to be singers and preachers back in the day, it makes a lot of sense to use Ephrem as a model deacon. Even deacons who can’t sing presumably sing in their hearts, like St. Cecilia.)

    I’ll look around some more, but I’m sure there’s tons in the audience talks, sprinkled here and there, and there may be stuff in his pre-pope work. There’s just not a single big talk on “The Role of the Deacon”, probably because our pope doesn’t talk about stuff that hasn’t shaken out yet, or that he hasn’t studied enough to say something useful (for Ratzinger levels of useful).

  20. I used to think the same thing but now….. there’s Cardinal Dolan and I know some have certain opinions about him but I wouldn’t count him out..

  21. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Okay, now I’ve read the whole audience thing on the Vatican website. (The English side only has the short English bit right now, so you gotta look to the Italian.)

    It’s pretty clear that what the Pope was doing was “breaking open” the diaconate’s vocation and showing how all Christians enter into the diaconate a little. Just like we’re a priestly people, we’re a deaconish people. So he mentions how the choosing of the first deacons applies to bishops, to laywomen and men, and to priests who are pastors. (Which goes along with the Paul VI bit he quoted in the Q&A section above.) And he does emphasize the choosing of the Holy Spirit and the laying on of hands, so obviously he’s right behind the supernatural bits of the diaconate.

    So obviously, he’s got no problem with deacons. It’s everybody else. He wants them to get off their duffs and start imitating deacons.

  22. Suburbanbanshee says:

    My mother’s side of the family is German. Believe me, if a German papa had a problem with deacons, you’d hear about it. No news is good news. Using you as a good example to the others is really good news. Do you think you’ll ever hear direct praise? Not unless he thinks you’re really sad and depressed and sick and possibly dying. Which makes for an interesting reflection on the people the Pope has encouraged and praised. :)

    Of course, they say Bavarians are nicer, but a lot of his family came from the Swiss border where they’re tougher. So I bet there’s still some of that “if I’m not saying there’s something wrong, that counts as praise” thing going on.

  23. George McHenry says:

    Pope Benedict, most Bishops and most pastors are very supportive of the Permanent Diaconate, recognizing their essential role in ministry. Admittedly, the ministry (aside from the liturgical roles) vary according to need. Deacons are not “priest wanna bes” or mini-priests.

    The priest most opposed to the Diaconate are the “Father Freddie Fructoses” usually newly ordained from places like St. Charles Borromeo where the essence of theological teaching is a sense of entitlement (e.g. no priest should ever have to pick up a check at a local restaurant). These so-called men of God will run around, wearing their freshly pressed cassocks and reveling in the Latin Rite, while ignoring calls from the local hospital or hospice for Anointing of the Sick because “It’s my day off.”

    Priests who are real men appreciate the work of their deacons; those who are insecure little fellows petulently oppose them.

  24. George McHenry says:

    Sounds like Father Rusy has his panties in a bunch.

  25. the fact that we had to restore, that which was established in Apostolic times should tell us how far Rome has moved away from preserving the Tradition.
    We need the Orthodox now more than ever.

  26. deaconnecessary says:

    I don’t think its “whining” for recognition. It’s about teaching the world that there is another level of Holy Orders in the Church,; that there is another ministry besides bishops, priests and Religious. It’s hard to get that point across if the Holy Father himself does not mention it.

  27. MarieLouise says:

    But HMS, you could use that to argue for women priests, married priests, divorce and remarriage, contraception, etc. I’m not saying that the permanent diaconate is like those things in that it is not morally wrong, but saying that things were different 2000 years ago is not a sound reason to change the teachings of our Church.

  28. ron chandonia says:

    I presume you’re talking about the argument advanced by John Collins and his supporters:


    Two responses:

    1) Collins advances an argument that stems more from etymology (or archaeology) than from theology. The magisterial theology of the diaconate is the one advanced by the Council which restored the diaconate a permanent order in the hierarchy of the Church.

    2) That theology is grounded in the ecclesiology of the Servant Church, of which the diaconate is the sacramental embodiment. It is telling that those who prefer the notion of deacon as “bishop’s stand-in” (at banquets?) are generally not moved by the notion of the Church as servant, generally preferring the pre-V2 notion of the societas perfecta.

  29. “Deacons are not “priest wanna bes” or mini-priests.”

    Certainly the latter, not always the former.

    Part of the reason I discerned permanent diaconate application was not my calling at this time was precisely a demand I heard at the information session to my Archbishop from an older man, objecting to and asking for removal of an age for retirement. That man was looking for a possession, saw that it’s duration in his case would be short, and before investing in obtaining it he wanted ownership rights or a grandfathered rights waiver or some such legal instrument for the protection of his possession.

    My understanding is that you must be asked by the Archbishop to become a deacon. My perception at this meeting was that many of these self-selected attendees were there to ask, even sell the Archbishop on their permanent diaconacy.

    My conclusion was that a lot of men seeking the P.D. are doing so partly out of avarice, and that some ordained would be similarly poisoned.

    How can one escape from this after a lifetime soaked in radical materialist philosophy, particularly when so many of these candidates spend their careers gaining reward from radical materialism?

    As a diagnostician, I see the P. D. as a symptom of the root cause which is a lack of vocations.

    Some of these comments give me the impression the people concerned enough to comment here assume a competition between deacons and priests, and that further disturbs me.

    I’m no friend of socialism — ask my wife. But in the wealthiest culture in all human history, what man can be formed in the world of business and escape internalizing some desire for acquisition ?

    I think ordaining a man to the P. D. in a country lacking our degree of prosperity is an essentially different matter.

  30. The ‘inclusion’ of deacons in addresses ad functions is always a matter of concern among some Deacons – though I wouldn’t read too much into the Pope’s exclusion given the other references he’s made to the Diaconate, the exclusion of Deacons in many talks by our Bishop and pastors, at least in my diocese, is very common. “We thank the choir, our masters of ceremony, our priests, servers, readers – and, oh yeah, the Deacons too”…….

    It’s often a source of humor, but, and I don’t think we’re being over-sensitve here, but sometimes there’s a sense that we could get along just as well without you deacon- guys – except when the pastor ants to play golf and there’s a wake or an emergency……in any case, I think there’s an inevitability to the emerging diaconate – progressing from experiment to a “full and equal order”. Retrieving the Diaconate as a permanent order in the church’s tradition has been a great success – I think almost everyone except the SSPX would agree (their argument, by the way, is, well, over the top…) – the ‘general acceptance’ will come when the Diaconate is recognized as n order that does not detract from the orders of presbyter and episcopate, when it gains widespread recognition of catholics and the catholic sacramental imagination, and when expectations on the part of God’s people include “give us deacons”. It has only been fifty years, as Deacon Ditewig points out so well. In ‘church time’, perhaps we are all “the early christians”…..

  31. Deacon Steve says:

    Kevin thank you for dumping on the calling to the Permanent Diaconate. your comments are very judgemental of people that you have never met, yet you seem to be able to discern their hearts and motivations. Your harsh judgement of me and my brother Deacons is very unchristian, and offensive, not because you have labeled me, but becuase of the others that I know that you are labeling that work tirelessly for the poor, the homeless, the imprisoned with no seeking of reward. They are doing their ministry becuae they are called to it, not for materiallistic gains as you imply. I do not get paid by the Church, I do not expect to be paid by the Church for my service, nor would I want to be paid for my service. I knew going in I would not be paid, and that I and my family would have to make sacrafices to fullfill my calling. Please refrain from further unfounded accusations and bear false witness against people that you have never met and have no possible basis for such harsh and uncharitable judgements.

  32. It is not necessarily the permanent diaconate that the SSPX opposes, but the novelty (and incompatibility with the norm of the Roman Church) of *married deacons*; see their article here: http://sspx.org/miscellaneous/celibacy_for_deacons.htm.

    Also, the SSPX opposes the errors of the Second Vatican Council, but accepts what the council states that is congruous with what the Church has always taught practiced (Catholic Tradition). For example, Archbishop Lefebvre cites Vatican II’s document on the formation of seminarians in the SSPX’s Statutes – in face, as Michael Davies once stated, the SSPX’s seminaries are probably the only ones that actually fulfill this document 100%!

  33. deacon john m. bresnahan says:

    In the Bible the diaconate included a lot of things–some associated mostly with priests. St. Stephen was stoned to death for his preaching. And the book of Acts describes the deacon Philip converting ANDF baptizing an Ethiopian eunuch within a few hours (Gee! no interminable RCIA then).

  34. deacon john m. bresnahan says:

    I fully agree with Deacon Ditewig. Years ago I heard a Church historian talking about Vatican II. He said that the effects of Church councils take over 100 years to work their way into the Church’s bloodstream and consciousness. Look at celebrating the Mass in English. Getting it right is still a work in progress.
    It is up to us deacons to make ourselves a “known” and valuable presence in the Church. For there are things we can do that priests can’t or can’t do as well
    For example, do quiet missionary work in our break room at work. Or counsel parents and married people.
    In my opinion a lot of deacon gripes come from expecting deacons to be mini-priests. We need to carve out our own identity as ordained servants of the Lord and the people. We can do this by stepping forward to do tasks that need to be done as they develop. We need to stop comparing ourselves to priests.
    I’ve very happily been a deacon for 32 years and never been at a loss for tasks serving our Lord. One fairly new deacon I talked to a few years ago was discouraged that he had little to do because his pastor didn’t give him much to do. But he was in a big parish with a lot of things going on–and the various parish groups were always looking for and advertising for new blood. So I asked him–What are you waiting for?? For someone to give you a personal invitation to be a parish volunteer for some or all the groups. I discovered that when you join a group your presence on the altar and pulpit creates opportunities to be of service to the group. For example, I joined the Sons of Italy in my parish and soon found myself their chaplain. Parishoners sometimes asked why we didn’t have Bible studies classes-so I got together with a Bible school graduate convert to the Catholic Church and we have started some Bible study-discussion classes. (The recent convert is a former Protestant minister who gave up HER pastorate to become a Catholic).
    In otherwords now is the time in the history of the restored diaconate that calls for deacons to be “self-starters” in order to build the diaconal ministry of the future.

  35. Disagree? No problem. “LOL”? Added nothing to the discussion and indeed was unnecessary, impolite, and, at the very least, bordered on being unchristian.

    I don’t think snarkiness has any place on a religious blog.

  36. Deacon John,

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom which not only applies to deacons but to anyone who wants to help. The key is to be a “self-starter” and to “show up unannounced” and identify a need (e.g., maybe they need someone to help take down folding chairs for a meeting) and fill that need. Pretty soon that kind of attitude establishes your credibility and you become a “go-to” person in the parish or anyplace else where you choose to serve.

    Dittos, also, to the addendum from Deacon Bill Ditewig that Deacon Greg added. And, yes, I’ve heard from many places that it takes a generation or two or longer for the teachings of a particular Council to get into the mainstream of the Church. God’s time is not our time.

  37. Fiergenholt says:


    Is your personal expert in things “Vatican II” Michael Davies ?

    I have found so much of his “facts” about Vatican II to be so much in error that I cannot list them all.

  38. Mark Greta says:

    I have never fully understood the role of the Deacon and suspect it is probably not the same from dioceses to dioceses. In what Humble Servent posted on what Pope Benedict had to say on the issue, this stood out to me; “deacons continue carrying out their professions and maintain their positions — important or those of a simple life — while on Saturday and Sunday they work in the Church.”

    Is the role of Deacons here a Saturday and Sunday role in the church with a full time job the rest of the week? Just curious.

  39. Mark Greta says:

    I think some of the negativity about the Deacon role is that some bishops were pushing an agenda and had the local seminaries in a real mess. Often they had those involved in the selection process and teaching who were in open dissent on teaching such as the male only priesthood, married priests, plus the openly gay seminarians in ever larger numbers. At the same time, there was the constant whine about not finding enought priests and the need to close parishes if the problem was not resolved. The answer always was for the Church to change their teaching on all these issues. In many of these dioceses, they were the most supportive of married Deacons which some saw as a bridge to other changes. This became the view of many in the pew and so when these Deacons started to show up and to take on rolls that had always been the domain of the priest alone, they were viewed as priest wannabees. Few parishoners wanted them to be involved in the sacraments prefering their “real” priest and if pushed, would leave the parish and find where they could always have a real priest. After all, the most authentic Bishops did not have these type of things going on in their dioceses, only those with liturgical dance and clown masses and mime performances of the stations of the cross. Deacons came in with everything else that many saw going wrong. We go to a parish where there will never be a Deacon as it has 8 dominican friars as it is also a first year novice parish.

    I am not saying this as anything against the program, but only saying that if one senses an issue around the Deacon program, it has more to do with the times and impact of other changes as well as poor education about it than it does about any single deacon. One of things that drove me to this site was to try to learn more about the program clearly in the Vatican II documents.

  40. odds of an American pope….very slim…. couldn’t possibly ever happen….just wondering anyone else remember the old tag line for something impossible ” is the Pope polish?” pre JPII

  41. Kevin said, “My conclusion was that a lot of men seeking the P.D. are doing so partly out of avarice…” Now that’s a new one. I read that to my husband (who is a deacon) and he had a good laugh. I’m thinking that the information session you went to wasn’t very informative. Usually they make it clear that most deacons aren’t paid by the Church (there are a few who are actually employees, but not many). In fact usually one of the requirements to be accepted to a formation program is that you have stable employment. And yes you do need formal approval from the bishop or archbishop to proceed from formation to ordination. But it certainly doesn’t happen at the initial information meeting. Call to Candidacy happens a lot later in the process. Being accepted to formation requires interviews, approval of your pastor, references, paperwork, the whole nine yards. However, kissing up to the archbishop isn’t going to help you. Formation in most locations is at least a 4 year process; there is ample opportunity for the candidate and formation directors to discern if the candidate is in fact called to the diaconate. And I’d have to say that a spirit of radical materialism and acquisition would pretty certainly get one weeded out.

  42. I wonder if he ever talks about catechists either, or mothers, the greatest example of “service” of all?

  43. deacon john m. bresnahan says:

    Mark–you made some good observations. You are very right about the timing of the arrival of ordained (permanent) deacons most of whom are (Gasp!) married. One deacon I know was a teacher in a large Catholic school run by sisters. Everything was great there until he was ordained. Then he started suffering massive cold shoulders from the sisters. He says he was glad he was close to retirement. Why did the sisters act so uncharitably and unChristian like??? He found out the big reason was that most of these sisters were fairly radical and strong advocates of womenpriests. They were convinced that the rise of the modern diaconate would alleviate the priest shortage just enough so that the Church wouldn’t turn to them to be ordained. So a lot of the Church radicals on the left don’t want us.
    On the other hand we deacons arrived on the scene about the same time as everything from clown Masses to dancing on the pews. No wonder Catholics of conservative persuasion thought we were part of the “smoke of Satan” and just as unorthodox as so many who see Mass as Broadway time.

  44. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    I know of at least one bishop — I’m sure there were others — who back in the 1970s would not permit the diaconate in his diocese because it was yet one more level of Holy Orders that was closed to women.

  45. George McHenry says:

    In some places, the role of the Permanent Deacon has been denigrated, even after years of success. For example, Bishop McConnell of Trenton is stridently anti-deacon and has said in numerous meetings that: 1) I don’t know why have so many deacons here; 2) I don’t know that they do; 3) If married men didn’t have the diaconate as an option, they might consider being priests before they get married.

    Of course, none of the above is true — and sadly, Deacons have to obey their Bishop, their so-called Father, even when the Father treats him as an inner city unwed Father who fails to live up to his paternal obligations. I admire Deacons greatly — just as I admire the many good priests and others in Trenton. Sadly, Trenton has a Bishop who has never ever been a pastoral leader — merely an academic who is concerned about looking holy rather than being holy.

  46. midwestlady says:

    Zero. For good reason.

  47. midwestlady says:

    Yes. Probably next time.

  48. midwestlady says:

    There is some whining, and it’s kind of incongruous-sounding. I have to be honest. It might be better to let laypeople get their appreciation of the permanent diaconate in the time-honored way: by observing deacons humbly living out the Gospel in total union with the Church.

  49. midwestlady says:

    This is really an excellent comment. Deacons aren’t “little priests,” but they are ordained and need appropriate apostolates. Soo……

    The Church is very much in need of dedicated people to help organize and keep programs rolling for people in the parishes, and deacons are the perfect choice. There are really all kinds of talents people have, like the bible teacher mentioned above, but these talents and willingness to help go unused and undiscovered in most parishes, and many parishes are closed most all the time, every weeknight every week, because there is no one to organize and encourage people to contribute.

    So what do most people do when there’s nothing going on down to the Church? Watch TV, go shopping, and worse. And now people are out of the habit of contributing at Church. This needs to change… That’s a pretty good motivation, I think.

  50. midwestlady says:

    And this is also about the best way I can think of to get the permanent diaconate recognized for what it is, a vocation of service to the Church. People really need this leadership in a bad way, particularly in the USA where we are encouraged to sideline our church membership and treat it as if it were a “lifestyle choice” or a “hobby.”

  51. midwestlady says:

    This actually is true. But it doesn’t say anything negative about the generous men who became deacons for the right reasons. And although sometimes formation was a little spotty as a result, it doesn’t predict that the diaconate can’t be useful or holy for the Church, particularly in the USA, where we need so much practical help in getting people engaged in the local parish. The culture is very, very strong and very, very negative here.

  52. midwestlady says:

    I think he means avarice for a position or title, not money.

  53. George McHenry:
    Sorry to hear that your bishop does not appreciate the restored diaconate. But, your comment was diminished when you wrote:
    “Sadly, Trenton has a Bishop who has never ever been a pastoral leader — merely an academic who is concerned about looking holy rather than being holy.”

  54. Dear Deacon Greg, I think the omission may be just a cultural thing. I don’t live in the US and have never had any experience of permanent deacons. If it weren’t for you and your blog, I would probably not know permanent deacons existed. In fact, one of the things about your blog I find interesting are the differences between the global Church out here and American experience and viewpoints. (In fact I’m still reeling from the gun carrying comments attached to another post!!)

  55. richard kuebbing says:

    In the middle 1970s, I lived in Houston. The pastor at the first parish I attended was John McCarthy, later Aux. bp of Houston and then ordinary of Austin. He had no deacon but he had a curate who handled baptisms etc. He also had a nun on staff (Sr Catherine?) who functioned as a “social worker”. Pure diakonia.

    Later I moved to another parish that had a school and was tri-lingual. It had four deacons for the decade I was there, though the personnel shuffled periodically.

    One of the pastors in that period made the comment from the pulpit that most priests didn’t want a deacon — until they worked with one. Then they would fight to keep them.

    Of the pastors at that parish, some understood deacons and some did not.

    One deacon, Jim R., was laid off by Shell about the time he was ordained. He had been in public relations. He had a wife w/medical problems. He needed insurance. The pastor put him on staff for a small salary plus benefits to manage “temporalities”, told him he could do whatever consulting work on the side he could get. He challenged Jim to raise the money needed for a new multi-purpose building. The pastor got the funding, the building, a well-run plant and more peace of mind. Jim got respect — and a raise.

    The parable of the talents is usually seen to be about how an individual uses the gifts/graces God has given them. For bishops and priests, deacons can be gifts/graces. They have to accepted. Once planted, they need nuturing. They can bear great fruit.

    p.s.ditto laity

  56. The questions about importance status for Deacons may be that thy seek recognition. Is there an ego at work behind all this? When we truly recognize the low place that belongs to us, we find no need for recognition. gustaveverdult.com

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