Better late than never: Ireland to get first permanent deacons

Details, from the Independent:

The first married men to be permitted to baptise children and officiate at weddings will be ordained in the Irish Catholic Church next month.

The church is looking to deacons to do some of the jobs of the clergy because vocations to the priesthood are at an all-time low.

And eight married men are to be ordained deacons in Dublin next month.

Deacons are sometimes described as ‘priests-lite’. They can do almost everything a priest can do except say Mass or hear confession. The men who will be ordained in Dublin next month have been in training for a number of years.

They will assist hard-pressed priests who are struggling to keep up with parishioners’ needs, and will also preach at Masses and officiate at funerals.

While married deacons are common in the church in other parts of the world, Ireland was reluctant to restore the ancient ministry and Irish bishops only agreed to do so in 2001.

The eight will be ordained to the permanent diaconate by Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin on Monday, June 4.

Under church law, deacons must be at least 25 years old, if unmarried, and at least 35 years old, if married.

A married man also needs the consent of his wife before he can be ordained.

However, if an unmarried man is ordained a deacon, he commits to a life of celibacy.

Married men also vow to become celibate if their wife should die before them.

Dublin will be the country’s first diocese to introduce permanent deacons, who are expected to work in their home parishes.

Read the rest.

As usual, the report gets some things wrong — the writer evidently doesn’t understand that deacons are clergy, for one thing — but here’s hoping they learn in the years to come!


  1. LoneThinker says:

    They may not minister the Sacrament of the Sick either, which is a ministerial priestly function. One presumes that the delay in introducing the permanent diaconate in Ireland is that the wrinkles are now worked out in the USA and perhaps elsewhere when “they made monsignors out of laymen” as many in the first batches were whom I saw in action in some sad cases. Ireland is ( as some/most/all of the rest of the Church is) recovering from an overdose of clericalism. Even this Pope has made several references to it. Lording” is still so easy for their lordships as in MonsignorI, to do instead of down and dirty foot washing.

  2. I was surprised that Deacons can baptise, but I guess that makes sense if baptisms outside the church are recognized.

    I was really surprised at this requirement:
    “Under church law, deacons must be at least 25 years old, if unmarried, and at least 35 years old, if married.”

    Why the age requirement based on marital status?

  3. Fiergenholt says:


    You need to get out of your self-imposed shell and get out into our church “where the rubber meets the road.”

    None of those issues you raised are new or strange or unknown at all. They have been part of the restored diaconate since the original Moto Propio of Pope Paul VI way back in 1968.

    I’ll let some deacons who regularly blog on THE BENCH to answer the “WHY”. I’ll just say — it is what it is — and has been that for almost 45 years.

  4. Deacon Norb says:

    “Lone. . .” said:

    “They may not minister the Sacrament of the Sick either, which is a ministerial priestly function.”

    True enough but there is a very quiet/ very slow but steady movement out there to allow qualified deacons to preside at that sacrament as an “extraordinary minister.” Not sure if it will go anywhere but the shape of this thinking revolves around very controlled congregations/pastoral settings such as prisons, hospitals and hospice units where it is unrealistic to expect a priest to be on-call 24/7. There are already credentialing programs in place for both prison chaplains and clinical-care chaplains that could act as a valid screening tool. Like, I said above; I’m not sure if that idea will go anywhere but I know it is needed.

  5. I wasn’t questioning the reasoning or trying to undermine it or even disagreeing with it. I wasn’t raising any issues. I just never knew and want to understand. What self imposed shell? LOL.

  6. Midwestlady says:

    I hope not. Deacons can’t hear confessions which are sometimes an integral part of the ministry to the dying.

  7. Deacon Greg Kandra says:


    I suspect the age requirement for being married is tied to another restriction regarding marriage.

    To wit: a man must have been married at least five years before being accepted into the program.

    Anyone who is married can understand why.

    As for baptism: the fact is, anyone can baptize. Even, under certain circumstances, an atheist.


  8. Fiergenholt says:

    I suspect — if the truth were known — that Deacons “hear” confessions all the time, especially in cases and settings like Deacon Norb described above. They just cannot “ABSOLVE” the sinner in the name of the Church.

    But, really, I’d rather let some deacons who are involved in those ministries speak to that issue from their “lived” experiences.

  9. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Interestingly, the Church’s teaching about what used to known as “Extreme Unction” has evolved. The Church now makes clear that the sacrament is not exclusively for those who are near death’s door. (We have an anointing service at my parish every year on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, and it gets a huge turnout.) Particularly now, with people living longer —and very often with chronic, ongoing illnesses like diabetes, HIV, heart disease, cancer and some mental illnesses—the sacrament can be an ongoing source of spiritual healing and consolation rather than a final bestowal of grace. As a result, the need for the sacrament to be linked to the Sacrament of Reconciliation is not as great as it once was.

    A priest of 30 years once told me he could count on one hand the number of times he’s gone on a sick call and heard a confession. Usually, by that time, if the patient is very sick, they’ve often slipped into unconsciousness.


  10. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    You are correct, F.

    People ask me all the time if I can hear their confession and I explain, “Sure, but I can’t give you absolution.” :-) They usually laugh and then I tell them where they can find a priest, either at my parish or elsewhere. But a few times, they’ve said, “That’s okay. I need to get something off my chest.” And we’ll find a place to talk and pray together, and I’ll encourage them to get to confession at their earliest opportunity. Often, it’s someone’s first tentative step back into the church — testing the waters, as it were.


  11. I’m not sure if this is part of the rationale, but permanent deacons are not paid for their ministry (unless they hold a full-time position that is “beyond” their strict ministerial duties). A married man must be able to (along side his wife’s employment) provide financially for his family while taking on a sizable volunteer role. I think the extra time is good to allow folks to build up their careers some before making a lifetime volunteer commitment.

    (While I suppose an unmarried man may choose the permanent diaconate, I’ve yet to hear of one. But too, they would have fewer financial responsibilities, in theory.)

    As a 28-year old who has been discerning the diaconate since long before getting married, I admit I’m a bit frustrated at times that I can’t begin any part of the process until 30 (in this diocese, at least), but I admit, I’m rather happy that I’ve let this time be focused on marriage/building career (in addition to personal spirituality) than a formation program.

  12. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    I know of several unmarried permanent deacons — including a couple in my own diocese.

    One of my classmates, in fact, was previously married but had his marriage annulled a few years before beginning formation.


  13. RP Burke says:

    Yes indeed, I have a sister born prematurely who was baptized by a Jewish doctor!

    Interesting (and disappointing) that the actual ministry of the diaconate — service — is nowhere mentioned in this article: just the liturgical and sacramental functions of the deacon that only priests can do where there are no deacons.

  14. pagansister says:

    Wonder if it took Ireland so long because of the lack of trust that many may still hold regarding priests due to the priests misconduct towards children for many, many, many years. Does the Irish Catholic still revere priests? I wonder. Establishing trust again may be helped by getting the permanent deacons.

  15. Fiergenholt says:

    This should answer both “pagansister” and “R P Burke.”

    As astonishing as it seems to a lot of folks, there are actually two distinct “models” of the permanent diaconate already in place: The American Model and the European Model.

    –The American Model — if you will — is the pathway that Brandon has explained somewhat. Very few married deacons here in the US are employed full-time by the church.

    –IF already ordained deacons are hired for paid positions in the American Church, it is NOT because they are simply deacons but because they have unique professional skills rarely found in the open-marketplace. BUT you do have to consider a point raised by many that whatever the full-time wages any one given diocese/parish can offer that deacon is rarely enough to support a growing family — even if their children receive “free-tuition” at the parish school (which, by the way, almost never happens).

    –SO, the typical American deacon is not employed by the church; thus his retirement and medical expenses are not the church’s responsibility (although that is a touchy point). He and his family live on his (and his wife’s) secular professional income like just about everyone else. His ministry is voluntary.


    –European deacons presume a professional career within the church from DAY ONE. Their academic degrees are canonical ones. Their seminary formation is full-time — just like the priests are. Their hospitalization and retirement is all in the hands of the local bishop with little or no secular back-up.

    –The result is that European diocese are very slow in ordaining married men as deacons. Every one represents a major financial and social and moral commitment that the American Church has been able to avoid.

    –That may help explain why something close to 50% of the raw number of ordained deacons world-wide are incardinated here in the United States. Our “model” — if you will — is far less restricting — and far less expensive!

    –BUT that also explains why Ireland is just now getting on the band-wagon. They need full-time ordained men in professional positions in that church — and the pool of celibate men willing to take that plunge has been sharply curtailed.

  16. Deacon Bill says:

    Sorry to disagree, Fiergenholt, but your description of “European Diaconate” is not accurate. It may be true of some places, but it would be very, very rare, and certainly not a common practice. I have been serving on the Board and Assembly of Delegates of the International Diaconate Center (headquartered in Germany) since 2000, and I’ve come to know many, many European deacons, and their formation and experience is a very close parallel to what we do right here in the States.

    About 30% of our US deacons, by the way, DO work for the Church, although as you say quite correctly, they serve in some sort of “professional” capacity (school principals,diocesan officials, and so on) which is not always based on their ordination.

    In Europe, formation is done much like it is here, with most dioceses using a weekend formation model, although some smaller dioceses use a weeknight model. A few candidates, usually unmarried, will go off to a seminary-like full time formation process, but that is rare. One reason for that rarity is that the Holy See wants to maintain seminaries for priestly formation only, and frowns on using seminaries for other formational purposes, even for deacons. We found this out here while preparing the “National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States” for the US bishops. Bishops in dioceses which have seminaries were interested in using those seminaries to offer the formation for deacon candidates, and this was put into an early draft of the Directory. The Holy See made it very clear, when this was reviewed, that this was not to be done. I won’t get into the other issues related to this, but the message was clear enough.

    Anyway, just a clarification to your fine post. One of the dangers we find in the diaconate is that of extrapolation. We deacons do it a lot ourselves: we often take the experience we’re having and extrapolate that this must be the case throughout the diocese, the nation or the world. It generally isn’t. LOL! The European diaconate is just as diverse in its formation and ministry as is the diaconate here. The vast majority of European deacons continue their secular jobs, occupations and professions just as American deacons do.

    God bless,
    Deacon Bill

    Former Executive Director, Secretariat for the Diaconate
    United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

  17. jackson cochran says:

    Well just what they need in Ireland some psydeo-priests. Just a bunch of guys who want the best of both worlds.

  18. Deacon Norb says:

    Excellent post, Bill !

    My only question is that 30% figure you use in your second paragraph. That is significantly higher than any similar statistic I have seen anywhere. I cannot recall that in my neck of the woods, that figure (percentage of total deacons actually on the church’s payroll) ever exceeded 10%. But if that is the average nationwide, it must mean that in some dioceses the figure goes over 50% ?

  19. pagansister says:

    Thank you Fiergenholt and Deacon Bill, for all the information regarding the difference’s in “deacons”!

  20. Could you not add another “many”?

  21. Keith Strohm says:


    I’m surprised no one has responded to you Jackson. Is that what you really think the diaconate is all about?

  22. pagansister says:

    Sure, RomCath. “many, many,many, many” years. How’s that? Unfortunately that is fact.

  23. midwest,
    you hope not? why? a woman lay dying in front of you. say’s “i’ve screwed up my life”, in not so many words. you would not let them die in peace, comfort, love? hmm. where is your mercy? —i am not being sarcastic or trying to be rude. you can’t here the inflection in my words through typing. —Jesus said, “forgive each other”. Not, wait for the priest or bishop or the perfect christian. Before you answer, it doesen’t matter if your conservitive or liberal. Now, what would you do?
    By the way, I’m very catholic, pro-life, pro social justice, make use of all the sacraments, pray… a lot. but this rule i find somewhat offensive and out of line not with the teaching of the church, but with the teaching of my Lord, in fact my Master, Jesus. It seems to me there needs to be a re-reading of Acts of the Apostles by many.

  24. Jackson,
    Your comment should not have made it this far. Deacon Greg?

  25. Deacon Greg Kandra says:


    I let it go because its ignorance speaks for itself. Unless the rhetoric is inflammatory and hateful, I let stupidity go. It’s a judgment call.


  26. ok, your the ref…

  27. Deacon in Formation from Ireland says:

    Reading down through the many wonderful post it felt like I was watching a tennis match. I am currently in formation for the Permeant Diaconate here in Ireland and 1 year from ordination. I was horrified to read Jackson’s post above, I like many who have contemplated or entered into religious life, all have felt a calling from God through the Holy Spirit. Each and every day of my formation I ask myself, “Am I doing and carrying out God’s Holy will?” The thought that someone would see any married or unmarried man as a psydeo-priest (Jackson’s quote) is hurtful. Obviously I can only speak form self, but I pose this question to Jackson…. Was Saint Stephen and the other six appointed deacons (Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch) who were all filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5-10), were they “Want a be apostles”, or were they carrying out a ministry of service in God’s name? I ask all who read this post to pray for all men world wide who are considering, or who are in formation for the Permeant Diaconate and especially the eight men who will be the first ordained men here in Ireland (June 4th 2012) and that God will strength them and carry them through the trying times ahead as they SERVE ALL WHO ARE IN THE CHURCH and those who are not.

  28. Deacon Cecil Kenefick says:

    I was born in Ireland and wondered why the Irish Bishops, in general kept stalling in bringing the Diaconate to Ireland. Some bishops felt that they they didn’t need them because they had Eucharistic Ministers and that was enough. Thank God they saw the light. I’m very happy. Deacon Cecil Kenefick from St. Theresa’s Church Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. Formerly from St. Mary’s Parish, Youghal, County Cork.

  29. Deacon Patrick Joseph Burke says:

    Congratulations and welcome to our Order. May the Lord bless you as you begin your three-fold ministry to Christ and His people. I was ordained at 33 years of age in New Orleans in 1980…in 1984 I was invited to become the pastoral adm. of two rural parishes in North Texas. My family and I moved here and I have spent 30 years as the pastoral leader of these parishes. A priest would come for Mass and confession…on most weekends. Now I will be retiring in another year. May God bless the Irish Church and these new deacons.


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