Married deacons: it’s okay. You can have sex with your wives.

Somehow, this slipped under the radar a few months back.  There’s been much debate, here and elsewhere, about the canon law requiring all clergy, including married deacons in the Latin rite, to observe continence and abstain from sex.

In January, the USCCB issued the following letter to bishops, from Bishop Robert Carlson (Chairman of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations) and Archbishop Timothy Broglio (Chairman of the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance).  Someone just emailed it to me, and I thought it worth posting in its entirety (emphasis my own):

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In recent months, published opinions have appeared in scholarly journals and on Internet blogs that have raised questions about the observance of diaconal continence by married permanent deacons in the Latin Catholic Church. The opinions have suggested that the clerical obligation to observe “perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (c. 277, §1 CIC) remains binding upon married permanent deacons, despite the dispensation provided to them in canon law from the obligation to observe celibacy (c. 1042, 1° CIC).

In response to repeated requests for an authoritative clarification on this matter, the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations and the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance requested the assistance of the USCCB President in seeking a clarification from the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

Earlier this week, we were informed that Cardinal-designate Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, with Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, Secretary, has forwarded to Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan the Pontifical Council’s observations on the matter (Prot. N. 13095/2011). The observations, which were formulated in consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, clarify that married permanent deacons are not bound to observe perfect and perpetual continence, as long as their marriage lasts.

Should you have any questions about this response, please contact Reverend W. Shawn McKnight, Executive Director of the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations. In addition, please feel free to share this response with those within your diocesan curia who will find it helpful.

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I’m reminded of an old joke.

A devout Catholic asks his parish priest, “Father is it permissible for my wife and I to make love before Mass on Sunday?”

And the priest replied:  ”Certainly.  Just don’t block the aisles.”

Comments on this thread are now closed.   I think we’ve exhausted the topic, and people are now resorting to petty personal squabbling.  Enough.

  • Gary Krueger

    I’m happy to say that I have been blissfully unawares of the “debate” and fully affirm that regardless of the answer I would have been blissfully happy to ignore any such idiotic requirements. I was ordained to the Permanent Diaconate in 1974 so I am approaching my 40th anniversary slowly and happily. I am approaching my 50th wedding anniversary as well. Just two more years for both. When working on a paper for my theolgy degree I did some research on this adversion the Church seems to have about sex…it is rooted in a theology and physiology that has long ago faded away.

  • http://teachbelief.blogspot.com/ Deacon Jim

    Well my day just got brighter!!

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    We have a headline clipping from the National Catholic Register that says, “Married Clergy Favor Celibacy from Personal Experience.” Hmmmm.

  • http://justanothermurphy.tumblr.com AMMurphy

    Well, what a relief for the deacon’s wives, to whom you all made your first vows. Since it appears they were never fully consulted on the matter, I guess they just got lucky. I hope they get even luckier very soon!

  • http://justanothermurphy.tumblr.com AMMurphy

    Oh, my: possessive error above. Deacons’ (plural) wives. Since we are all the former (and not the latter) day saints ;-) !

  • Jim

    “Since it appears they were never fully consulted on the matter”

    I believe that before men are ordained to the diaconate, wives must first give their approval. In arguing for diaconal continence, Ed Peters cited this permission as it would only be necessary if continence were to be expected of them.

  • Tom M

    Whew!

  • jplacette

    Maybe this will put that silly debate to bed once and for all.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Brother deacons (and wives)–hope no one was actually waiting to hear this clarification! But nonetheless I’m glad it’s resolved!

    Deacon JR

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Whoops–and just a gentle typo alert–the “Bishop Robert Carlson” would actually be Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis. God bless! JR

  • http://themightyambivalentcatholic.blogspot.com/ Steve

    And if this decision had gone the other way…?

    Does everyone believe that every permanent deacon and his wife would have abided by that decision, notwithstanding the important and healthy (even life-giving) role that sex can play in a marriage?

    I’m glad this decision allows a deacon and his spouse to be a married couple with all the rights (under the sacrament of marriage) that a married couple can normally expect to have. I am a bit perplexed, however, that the decision about what is normal and healthy in the married state fell to celibate archbishops. (No one would dream that married people are experts on how to live out vocations that include celibacy. For some reason, however, the converse situation is just accepted as standard operating procedure.)

  • Drake

    Isn’t there still the problem that if a deacon’s wife dies, the deacon is bound to remain celibate, unless an indult is obtained. And I believe that it was recently clarified on this blog that this request is ordinarily not granted these days. I am not convinced that celibacy is a “gift” to the church, as has often been said.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    I’m not sure that’s a “problem.”

    Talk to some of the married priests. You’ll be surprised at how many think the discipline of celibacy should continue.

    DGK

  • Robert

    Whether or not celebacy is a gift or not perhaps depends on your point of view and current life situation, and it is a thorny issue. You may not agree with a policy that is only a thousand years old (give or take a few years), but the idea that ordination was somehow an impediment prohibiting the remarriage of clergy after the death of a spouse is a much older idea, the origins of which, as far as I can tell, are lost. But it seems that Nicaea already referred to it as an ancient and apostolic tradition.

  • Robert

    Ooops … celibacy.

  • Timmay

    “Let deacons be the husband of one wife, and let them manage their children and their households well; for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 3:12-13. Seems pretty cut and dry as to why Deacons are to be celibate after the passing of a wife.

  • Kathy Schiffer

    Timmay, I’ve always considered the passage from Timothy to be an admonition against bigamy. Lay Catholic men should also be the husband of one wife. If she dies, though, a lay Catholic can remarry.

    The high esteem in which the Church continues to hold celibacy does seem to me to be a carryover from an earlier era, and seems to imply that it’s somehow “holier” to be celibate. That’s not been my experience, and it seems to be in conflict with other statements about the nuptial meaning of the body and the sacredness of the marital union.

  • Midwestlady

    Bad pun.

  • Deacon Steve

    I don’t see not being free to remarry as a problem. It was something that was made very clear to all of us in my ordination class all through the 5 years of formation. If it had been a problem, I would not have followed through with formation and then been ordained. We all freely chose to be ordained knowing this was one of “requirements” of saying yes. It was not an easy choice, especially considering I was 40 when I was ordained, but after much prayer and discernment it was not an impediment for me to continue to say yes to the call I felt to be ordained as a permanent Deacon. I believe that it will be a gift I can offer to the Church if that time comes. But it is a gift that will be freely given, there was no coercion on the issue.

  • Midwestlady

    Don’t know. Don’t care. Pretty sure I don’t want to hear about it.

    As Dcn Greg says, “Don’t block the aisles.”

  • Oregon Catholic

    I always thought that means no divorced men could be deacons.

  • Fiergenholt

    Fr. Dwight

    Consider the source!

  • Fiergenholt

    OC

    Believe it or not, that is totally up to the ordaining bishop. The reason is real simple: divorce — at the face of it — really does not mean anything BUT remarrying without an annulment after a divorce does.

    Are their bishop who will accept for diaconal ordination men whose first marriages crashed and burned? Yup! But it has to be processed as a formal annulment FIRST.

    HOWEVER, I do know of a few independent evangelical-fundamentalist churches who take that mandate very seriously. A good friend of mine was an ex-catholic who joined a local fundamentalist congregation. Part of the reason why he left Catholicism was the utterly despicable way his local priest/pastor handled his first marriage’s self destruction. His life in that evangelical church was a series of successes until there was a call for men to come forward as “deacons.” He applied and — to his utter astonishment — was turned down. He had been divorced and that was against the admonition in 1 Timothy.

  • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com priest’s wife (@byzcathwife)

    all the married priests I know (which are quite a few) are happy to be married and don’t secretly long to be celibate-

    but it is true that my husband’s mentor in Romania was ‘encouraged’ to denounce a married clergy because it is just too difficult (his eparchy sends only future celibate priests to Rome- so my husband has never been there- and he is too busy now!)- the mentor was married for 50 years- 4 kids, 20+ grandkids and a wife who supported him while our church was in the catacombs.

  • Melody

    Just guessing that maybe the priests coming in as married men from the Anglican or other Protestant traditions had to agree “that the discipline of celibacy should continue” as a condition of ordination; and that if they stirred the pot or rocked the boat it would be considered bad form.

  • ron chandonia

    Given all the fuss about this subject not so long ago, I keep waiting for a certain canon lawyer to show up here and admit, “Ooops! I goofed.”

  • Diakonos09

    I don’t think the “certain canon lawyer” goofed. I just think he was being a lawyer, i.e., going by the strick letter of the law with no legal interpretations or clarifications officially given yet. But it would be nice to hear from him and not to hear him now find some loophole (such as it specfies permanent deacons but says nothing about married priests). Oi vey.

  • Mike

    I cannot believe that the church would think that anything, including the deaconate, would supercede marriage vows. Deacon, plumber, busdriver…… when you are married you are a husband first and the catholic church teaches that not only is sex “alright” but that you may not get married if you do not intend to have children. In marriage, purity is not “not having sex”, but helping each other to fulfill our separate calling in that marriage, together. God bless

  • http://www.canonlaw.info Ed Peters

    Has anyone seen Cdl. C’s original letter?

  • John

    I am absolutely amazed that this was even raised as an issue.

  • Dcn2B

    Glad to hear we don’t have to practice perfect continence just yet. But does that mean we have to practice incontinence? I certainly hope not!

    Couldn’t resist!

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    All I’ve seen is a copy of the letter I posted from the USCCB. I don’t know who has the original letter from Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio.

    DGK

  • Deacon Paul

    I applaud you Deacon Greg for this wonderful blog. I look forward to reading it first thing in the morning or even late at night when I am wrestling with a homily. That being said I imagine the dismay Jesus must have had as the leadership of the church of his day took 10 simple commands and ballooned them into over 500. It would do us well to keep the Gospel of Jesus Christ simple as it is intended, understandable by the masses yet firm in its adherance to the fundamental truths. Deacons dishonoring their committment to their wives, refusing to bless children and non receiving adults at communion time, ignoring our prophetic call from the pulpit lest we offend someone with a universal truth are all examples of honoring the letter of the law to the detriment of the Spirit of the law. It does not seem like we have learned much in the last 2,000 years. There are much larger issues to expend our energy on.

    God Bless.

  • Richard M. Sawicki

    An excellent reality check:

    “It was something that was made very clear to all of us in my ordination class all through the 5 years of formation. If it had been a problem, I would not have followed through with formation and then been ordained. We all freely chose to be ordained knowing this was one of “requirements” of saying yes.”

    Well said, Deacon!

    The problem is that we are living in a societal age where no one wants to be made to make a choice where they must sacrifice something for something else. This is the “I want everything and I want it MY WAY generation”. Notions of authority are gone. Notions that every choice involves consequences don’t enter into people’s minds. Sadly, many otherwise good and faithful Permanent Deacons have, by comments they’ve posted, shown themselves tainted with this unfortunate “charism of the zeitgeist”.

    Sts. Stephen and Ephrem, ora pro nobis!

    Gaudete in Domino Semper!

  • http://www.canonlaw.info Ed Peters

    Yes, well, that, of course, is what we need to read. Best, edp.

  • http://www.canonlaw.info Ed Peters

    Hi all. I am travelling just now, but I am quite aware of this development (indeed, I have been), and what it means, and what it doesn’t mean, but the matter is complex and is not finally going to be settled on blogs anyway.

    I stand by my interpretation. Cordially, edp.

  • David N

    Intetesting post. Although as a non-legally trained layperson it does seem to me that this doesn’t address the actual legal points raised by Dr Peters. It in effect just gives permission to ignore the specific words of the law on this issue. And words are important – for example the fuss generated over Obama’s support for freedom of belief rather than freedom of religion. Whilst allowing married priests and deacons to continue to have sex with their wives is (IMHO) eminently sensible, until a case actually ends up being tried under Canon Law we will never actually know whether Dr Peters or the Pontifical Council’s OPINIONS are correct. Legal Counsels’ opinions are only worth the paper they are printed on until they are tested.

  • Fr. James

    Yes, marriage is a gift from God.
    Yes. celibacy is a gift from God.
    The world needs both of these gifts from God.

  • Elizabeth D

    It is good to have this clarification. A central purpose of clerical continence (historically applicable to all clerics including married) is reverence for the Blessed Sacrament and for the character sacramentally present in the man in Holy Orders, conforming Him to Christ. My own preference is overwhelmingly to receive My Lord from a chaste, continent priest or deacon. I think those married permanent deacons and their wives who discern and agree on continence in keeping with historical discipline are to be highly commended and appreciated even though the Church must not treat them differently than the sexually-active ones.

  • Elizabeth D

    Ed Peters, thank you for standing by what you said, which is the clearer interpretation of what the law actually says and in continuity with tremendously long and clear precedent of Sacred Tradtition.

  • Elizabeth D

    I wonder if a promise of continence can also be up to the ordaining bishop. I would want to urge my own bishop to ask married permanent deacon candidates to make such a promise.

  • Elizabeth D

    May God bless and reward all married permanent deacons who indeed have lived in reverent continence with their wives, as brother and sister.

  • Elizabeth D

    Bishops who choose to ordain as permanent deacons only men willing to live in continence, can have a greater assurance of ordaining men who do not believe Catholic sexual morality “is rooted in a theology and physiology that has long ago faded away.”

  • Deacon Norb

    Elizabeth D:

    Wow! You brought up an interesting memory. The last time I heard that exact remark was 40-45 years ago when, in the aftermath of Vatican II, the bishops of the Western/Latin Rite of Roman Catholicism here in the US lifted their century old across the board ban on the Byzantine/Eastern rite parishes from using married priests within the territory of their own respective diocese.

    Most of the Western/ Latin rite baby-boom crowd — then in their late twenties — though that having married priests in those Eastern parishes where their traditions allowed it universally was an excellent idea here in the US as well. The folks in the Western/Latin rite that objected to their bishops decision here were, not untypically, the older women/widows of those Western/Latin parishes.

    In contrast, I remember that — in that same era — my own children were all under 12. My in-laws loved to camp nearby and often hosted the grand-kids overnight. One Sunday morning, Grandma took all of the kids to the local Eastern/Byzantine parish for Sunday Mass. It was a fascinating educational opportunity for them and I ‘m glad they had that opportunity. AND, yes, the priest/pastor of that Eastern/Byzantine parish at that time was married with children still living at home. I have no idea whether my children and his children were able to mix at all.

    Thank you for sharing that insight.

  • http://www.laetificatmadison.com Elizabeth D

    I am 33, so not an older widowed person. I am a celibate.

  • Deacon Norb

    Thank you for sharing that. I am 68, been a deacon for well over 30 years, have seven adult children (all older than you) and I do have a very special place in my heart for the members of that local Byzantine parish who taught my own children so much more than even I could have about the role of marriage and orders.

  • http://www.laetificatmadison.com Elizabeth D

    I wonder how widely true it was that at that time finally allowing the Eastern Rite Catholic churches to have their married clergy according to their particular discipline, influenced Latin Rite Catholics to be accepting of married deacons, and then the widespread agitation for married Roman priests whom they thought would be more permissive on sexual matters. I could imagine that being somewhat the case, suggesting that the US bishops who for a long time had not wanted the married eastern priests present (causing serious problems and division within the Eastern Churches) rightly understood the impact this could have, I wonder how much Latin Rite Catholics’ excessive shift in expectation regarding clerics, could have been eased by better catechesis.

  • florin

    May 12th: I had never heard of this requirement before. I do believe in and support celibacy for Priests but do not believe it should be carried over to married permanent deacons. We must not forget that none of the Apostles were virgins except for St. John – all but John were married (I believe) – so did Jeus not place such a high priority on celebacy? I’m not sure.

  • florin

    Why Elizabeth, would you want to ask Bishops to make continence a requirement for the permanent diaconate? Or perhaps i misunderstood you. and may God bless and reward all married permanent deacons who live their sacred marriage vows to the fullest, including the beautiful self giving in marital intercourse, which is blessed by God Himself.

  • florin

    I myself am celibate but as St. Paul says, not all are called to celibacy so we rely on Holy Mother Church for guidance. The Apostles, except for St. John were all married; married couples are deeply blessed in their marital union, and are mandate to multiply, to bring forth fruit. I think each one should decide for himself/herself according to the mandates of the Church, so Elizabeth D., if you want to be celebate, if that is what God asks of you, so be it. But I would beware of trying to get Bishops to demand celibacy of permanent married deacons where the Church does not require that.

  • florin

    Well put Mike. Married couples in their marital union are called to holiness through that union. There are still those, unfortunately, who see even married sex as something dirty or less holy. Pope John Paul II saw it as a beautiful expression of Trinitarian love, of the total emptying and self giving of one spouse to the other. And you are right: purity is not ‘not having sex’, it is so much deeper than that. One can ‘not have sex’ and still be impure…

  • Charlie

    I believe that this law does not apply IF both the husband and the wife were not aware and were not told that celibacy after ordination is required. However I believe the law applies to those who are TO BE ordained and are made aware of the law.In that case the wife and the husband would have the right to refuse to accept ordination..and that would be so if the wife alone did not favour celibacy in her marriage. I want to await Dr Peters take on the letter and the force of it in law.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Why is that what we need to read? I think I’ve got some catching up to do on this topic! God bless you!

  • Aaron Streeting

    It was never really a “decision.” Peters made an issue out of something that wasn’t an issue. Both the Anglican Pastoral provision and the Permanent Deaconate were instituted with the implicit understanding that continence would not be required of these married clergymen. It was obvious that the Canons he used to support his case did not have these exceptions in mind. Understandable because both the Permanent Diaconate and married Priests are predominantly found in the Anglosphere and probably didn’t even enter into the minds of the Europeans who wrote the canons.

    Unfortunately, his theory gained enough traction that it needed to be addressed at a higher level because it was breeding confusion. Naturally, it was squashed immediately.

  • Fiergenholt

    Charlie:

    You are using the term “celibacy” wrong. The correct term when referring to Canon 277 is “continence.”

  • http://scottdodge.blogspot.com Deacon Scott Dodge

    Elizabeth D. you are making a lot of intelligent arguments for your position, some with which I agree and others with which I disagree. I will first address those points with which I do not agree and then move those points that resonate with me.

    In this dialogue it is necessary to account for the fact that before Vatican II, to paraphrase Fr. Ray Carey, the Catholic Church did not really have a well-articulated theology of marriage. Of course, prior to the Council we did not have married clerics as a matter of course, only by way of exception. Under the Pio-Benedictine code and prior to that married clerics, along with their wives, were required to forsake marital relations and not even allowed to live together post-ordination. Nonetheless, it is important to grasp the importance of the shift and deepening of the Church’s understanding of matrimony and not be suspicious about it (see Gaudium et Spes Chapter I, which goes from par. 47-52). Specifically, it is important to understand that sexual activity between spouses in marriage is not spiritually or physically polluting. Sex between a married couple is sacred and holy. As theologian Dr. Owen Cummings, himself married permanent deacon with 5 children, noted in his lecture “Images of the Diaconate,” there remains “a certain reluctance” on the part of many Catholics to understand and experience their sexuality (within marriage, of course) as a divinely-given good, let alone as “a mediating encounter with God.” On a personalist understanding of marriage, which Vatican II and the entire teaching magisterium of Blessed Pope John Paul II (read his ‘Theology of the Body’ catechesis or even just Familiaris Consortio), it is actually an abuse of the sacrament for a married couple to live in perpetual continence. Of course, as St. Paul wrote in his First Letter to the Corinthians, it sometimes good for couples, by mutual consent, to abstain from sexual relations (1 Cor. 7:5).

    I happen to agree that there are likely many married deacons who do not agree with or abide by what the Church teaches vis-á-vis Humanae Vitae, which is but the most recent formal reiteration of the Church’s teaching on these matters. In my humble opinion, as in the Eastern Churches, married Latin Rite clerics need to set an example of marital chastity (1990 Code of Canons of Oriental Churches, Canon 374). Another issue, one highlighted by Bishop Sample of Marquette, MI in his recent comprehensive letter on the permanent diaconate to his diocese, is the issue of ordaining men who have been married more than once for any reason, including being widowed. This goes towards understanding the depth of the sacrament of matrimony, which, as we read in Ephesians 5:32, “refers to Christ and the church.”

    While the letter from Abp Carlson communicating the interpretation of Canon 277.1 certainly clarifies the matter definitively (for which I am grateful), there is still the matter of making this positive law, which was suggested in two different schemata of this particular canon when the code was being revised. The best of the 2 schemata in my opinion, what would’ve been §2 of Canon 277: “Men of mature age, promoted to the stable diaconate, who are living in marriage, are not bound to the prescription of §1; these, however, upon the loss of their wife, are to bound to celibacy.”

  • http://www.laetificatmadison.com Elizabeth D

    There is a very respected book called “The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy” http://www.amazon.com/Apostolic-Origins-Priestly-Celibacy-Christian/dp/0898709512 which takes up this issue, through a careful study of Scripture and Patristic sources. I happen to have this book… although it is shown that some Apostles were or may have been married, and traditionally only St John was always a virgin, the book it says “if the scriptural texts do not enable us to know what kind of life the apostles led after their call, the Fathers, on their part, are unanimous in declaring that those who might have been married gave up their marital lives and practiced perfect continence. On this point their common opinion constitutes an authoritative heremeneutics of the scriptural texts in which reference is made to the detachment practiced by Christ’s disciples, especially Mt 19:27 and Lk 18:28-30. This opinion echoes the official preaching of the early centuries of the great Christian centers (as early as the end of the 2nd century and the beginning of the 3rd in Alexandria with Clement, for instance, and in Africa with Tertullian). As such it is the expression of the collective memory of the apostolic Churches with regard to the example left by the apostles for future generations. It is, to be sure, an argument from Tradition that cannot be overlooked.” (Cocchini, pp 82-82) “Deacons” is not in the index of this book, but I recall that the ecumenical councils which prescribed celibacy for clerics explicitly included married deacons (yes I am a 33 year old woman as noted below but I have read some out of interest and love of chastity in continence).

  • http://www.laetificatmadison.com Elizabeth D

    Sorry, to correct myself, I meant to refer to ecumenical councils that specified continence for clerics explicitly including married deacons. Celibacy means the unmarried state, continence entails not making use of the sexual act.

  • http://catholicbiker.blogspot.ca/ Anthony

    Made my day! And my wife’s I hasten to add!

    I’m in the process of becoming a deacon.

  • http://scottdodge.blogspot.com Deacon Scott Dodge

    “On a personalist understanding of marriage, which Vatican II and the entire teaching magisterium of Blessed Pope John Paul II (read his ‘Theology of the Body’ catechesis or even just Familiaris Consortio), it is actually an abuse of the sacrament for a married couple to live in perpetual continence.”

    Should read “… it is arguably an abuse of the sacrament…”

  • http://www.laetificatmadison.com Elizabeth D

    Hi Florin, if the way of life that pertains to Matrimony and the way of life that pertains to the clerical state of those in Holy Orders comes into conflict, I think that the requirements of the clerical state are understood to take precedence. Canon law states that all clerics are to observe continence. Continence was prescribed for Bishops, priests and deacons in more than one ancient Ecumenical Council (remember, not only the most recent one guides the Church), for instance just the first one Google finds for me: http://christianbookshelf.org/schaff/the_seven_ecumenical_councils/canon_iii_of_continence_.htm

  • Jack

    \\ the canon law requiring all clergy, including married deacons in the Latin rite, to observe continence and abstain from sex.\\

    Neither married Orthodox priests and deacons nor married Byzantine (or other Eastern Catholics) priests and deacons are expected to perpetually refrain from the marital act, as can be seen by their usually large families.

  • jplacette

    David N,
    Too often we attempt to apply US court procedures to canon law. Canon law is different in that letters which interpret law from bodies of authority can be binding.

  • http://www.laetificatmadison.com Elizabeth D

    See my reply in the thread below the very first comment for the information that the Fathers of the Church are unanimous that the Apostles, although not all celibate (which means unmarried) were continent after being called by Christ. Although they had wives, they lived as though they did not, is I think how St Paul puts it. It seems like this about the apostles is a less controverted point than the matter of deacons.

  • Craig

    Gary

    Of course you would blissfully ignore such requirements–that’s what’s great about being Protestant. Oh wait, you were ordained.

    Fortunately the day is coming when folks like you won’t be “preaching” but will truly be required to live out your vocation in humility and obedience.

  • http://www.laetificatmadison.com Elizabeth D

    I think surely even if not the case that Canon Law enjoins continence on all clerics, married deacons (and their wives) do not do wrong if they choose perpetual continence in profound reverence for the Blessed Sacrament and in continuity with Sacred Tradition. Since there was more than one Ecumenical Council that said all clerics including married deacons must be continent, not to mention St Paul speaking about men with wives living as though they did not have them (makes sense to me he is thinking of clerics, he clearly does not mean all since in another place he tells spouses not to deny one another), and the testimony of the Fathers of the Church that the Apostles lived in continence after they began to follow Jesus, the idea that there is a truly novel theology of marriage now that actually FORBIDS married clerics from following that discipline, would seem to be a real discontinuity.

    I will offer myself an argument to the contrary though, that in our day a continent married cleric, if he is NOT living separately from his wife of childbearing years, may be thought to be contracepting, which could give scandal even if untrue.

  • http://www.laetificatmadison.com Elizabeth D

    Well, I am not sure it is as precisely an argument to the contrary as something that can’t be ignored in the contemporary situation.

  • http://scottdodge.blogspot.com Deacon Scott Dodge

    The point of Abp Carlson’s letter communicating the Holy See’s interpretation of the relevant canon is that canon law does not currently require married deacons to live in “perfect and perpetual continence” in light of Canon 1042, 1°, which explicitly exempts married permanent deacons from the requirement of celibacy. It is from celibacy that the requirement of continence arises, not from ordination and certainly not from marriage!

  • http://scottdodge.blogspot.com Deacon Scott Dodge

    But I share your concerns about the need to safeguard marriage and marital chastity, which we need to do now more than ever

  • http://abbey-roads.blogspot.com/ terry nelson

    Seems like a perfect Mother’s Day present to deacon wives.

  • http://www.laetificatmadison.com Elizabeth D

    I don’t like being annoying, but it doesn’t spell out in canon law that married clerics are exempt from the law of continence for all clerics. It IS spelled out in multiple Ecumenical Councils that married clerics ARE bound to continence as all other clerics… so does not automatically make sense to me to assume now that when canon law says all clerics, it now only means celibate clerics. In fact, since all unmarried people are obliged to continence anyway as a matter of the natural moral law, one might even reason that having that in the law for all clerics especially clarifies that obligation for married clerics. The idea that not being obliged to celibacy automatically means, for clerics, not being obliged to continence, seems new. If that is the intent they should change canon law to say married deacons (priests too?) are not obliged to continence. To all deacons, thank you and I am not trying to be trying, but am honestly confused.

  • http://www.azoic.com/ Irenaeus

    Under the old mosaic law high priests were continent while serving in the temple. The office was also transmitted by generation. As an antithesis to this, the office of priest in the new covenant is transmitted by sacramental grace. Therefore, virginity is a special prerogative of the priesthood. Hence it is fitting that the church which is referred to as the virgin mother and virgin bride be served by a virgin priesthood. There is no marriage in heaven, so deacons and priests who are celibate or continent seek perfect spiritual union with God. A greater good.

    Sent from my Windows Phone 7

  • http://scottdodge.blogspot.com Deacon Scott Dodge

    “I don’t like being annoying, but it doesn’t spell out in canon law that married clerics are exempt from the law of continence for all clerics.”

    According to the Holy See that is just what canon law currently spells out, namely that married permanent deacons in light of Canon 1042, 1°, which exempts us from celibacy, the obligation from which continence arises. But that is precisely why, in my opinion, it needs to made a matter of positive law. However, if that never happens, the official, that is, magisterial interpretation of Canon 277 §1 is that married deacons are dispensed.

    I have thoroughly read Stickler’s short canonical précis on what he claims are the apostolic origins of priestly celibacy/clerical continence. In my opinion Stickler got the theological relationship between celibacy and continence backwards. In In his book he is unable to trace these origins back any further than the first decade of fourth century, the regional Council of Elvira to be exact. Neither Stefan Heid nor Christian Cochini, who tackle the matter more comprehensively than Cardinal Stickler can trace it back any further. Heid’s New Testament arguments in favor of the apostolic origins of clerical continence are eccentric to put it mildly.

  • http://www.azoic.com/ Irenaeus

    Mary and Joseph lived in perpetual continence. I have it on good authority they are worthy role models.

  • DcnSteve

    Amen, Father James.

  • Reverend Brian Van Hove, S.J.

    The word is that Archbishop Coccopalmerio did not send an official letter but
    merely used dicasterial stationery for his personal opinion on canon #277. Unless
    we see the full text of the original letter, not just the covering letter addressed to Cardinal
    Dolan, the real content cannot be properly analyzed. Official letters are seen by the
    pope and have a “forma specifica” which Abp. Coccopalmerio is said to have avoided. So we patiently wait until the full text of this letter emerges. One does not have to like what Papa Wojtyla put into canon #277, but one may not say the canon does not say what it says. And
    it says: “Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Bishops, priests and deacons are clerics. One does not have to agree,
    but accurate scholarship may not be honorably replaced by ranting hearsay or an appeal to imaginary exemptions.

  • Deacon Steve

    Canon 1042 says nothing about celibacy or continence. All 1042 does is rmove the impediment of marriage to receiving Holy Orders from a man who is married who is destined for the permanent diaconate. Canon 1042 is being grossly missapplied in this debate in my opinion. I am not a canon lawyer, but I did take a master’s level canon law class as part of my master’s program and we discussed this canon when we were talkng about Holy Orders.
    The big problem with trying to force continence on a married deacon is that he and his wife are being asked to violate the consent that they gave when they exchanged their consent on their wedding day. We consent to accepting children lovingly as a gift from God. To permanently withhold the sexual act in a marriage is a violation of this consent, especially with younger deacon couples. The marriage vow was first and therefore holds primacy.

  • Manfred

    There is a recognition here that these “rules” are being introduced/changed as is done in a theatrical performance, which is largely what all this is. I have always felt that the one figure truly missing in the Novus Ordo sanctuary is a traffic policemen to direct the lectors, eucharistic ministers, the deacons and the presider. I don’t think a person in the pew much cares what the deacon does when he is off duty any more that he cares what the presider does. It is all “man-made”.

  • Deacon G

    To Elizabeth D.
    I applaud your research. As a Permanent Deacon, newly ordained, I made sure to ask about this requirement during formation. I was told that since my first vocation/sacramental calling was marriage, that I was not obliged by the Church to deprive what was normative to that state of life for the latter sacramental vocation…being a deacon. However, if my wife was to precede me in death, then I assume total continence, of course, and not remarry. I also read books and reviewed history, as I did see that Canon Law too. The councils you cite are minor councils, mainly out of Egypt if I remember correctly. Other councils of the time did not take up the issue, or did see it the other way. No major council ever stated what you are stating as Church Dogma related to the Married Permanent Deacon. Also, Canon 1037 makes a distinction in Canon Law for celibate life being assumed by the unmarried Permanent Deacon only. So, your noting of canon law, being isolated to Canon 277 is not considering other laws it could not be conflicting with. Continence is defined as a “restraint.” Does this mean “total” in the case of the married permanent deacon? I would have to assume no, when combining canons 1037 and canon 277.

  • http://www.laetificatmadison.com Elizabeth D

    Canon law itself really does not spell that out; making it a matter of positive law, as you say, is what could spell it out. USCCB describes what came from the Vatican as an “observation”. I don’t know what that means or what authority it has. No explanation of the reasoning is provided in the message from the USCCB. I am interested to hear from the canon law bloggers what they think this means.

    Since from ancient times and in the most authoritative documents (Ecumenical Councils) the tradition has been that clerical continence explicitly was in force for married clerics, I repeat that it does not make sense that now when there is arguably ambiguity we automatically interpret “Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence” as not applying to married clerics.

    I think priestly celibacy is a tremendous treasure, the glory of the Roman Church. I certainly think it is preferred by Christ and is a closer configuration to Him (Bridegroom of the Church) and a sharing in His sacrifice, and that it was seen that way from Apostolic and Patristic times. It is not plausible to me that the discipline of PRIESTLY continence is of 4th c origin. No, that goes all the way back.

  • http://scottdodge.blogspot.com Deacon Scott Dodge

    Canon 1042 “The following are simply impeded from receiving orders: 1/ a man who has a wife, unless he is legitimately destined to the permanent diaconate.” The logic of this argument is that because marriage is not an impediment to receiving orders for a married man who is ordained a permanent deacon he has no obligation to celibacy (he is already married) and therefore is not obligated to live in a sexually continent manner, as continence arises from celibacy. I have also read the letter sent by Abp Carlson communicating definitively how canon 277§1 affects married deacons according to the interpretation of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts with the consent of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. How they arrived at the conclusion “that married permanent deacons are not bound to observe perfect and perpetual continence, as long as their marriage lasts” is not communicated. This is more than an observation. It is an official interpretation of how the relevant canon applies, or does not apply, to married deacons.

    You’d be hard-pressed, Elizabeth, to find canons of the first 8 ecumenical councils that unequivocally call for clerical continence. Stickler works very hard to make Canon 3 of Nicea say this, but it doesn’t, at least not unambiguously. After all, the split in practice between the East and the West on this matter occurred quite early on. If PRIESTLY continence goes all the way back, then why do Eastern Churches in communion with Rome ordain married men as priests as a matter of course, why do their canons promulgated by the Holy See explicitly condone this? It is far from proven that this discipline goes back to the apostles. Mandatory priestly celibacy without a doubt is an ancient and venerable part of our Latin tradition, which I am not in favor of changing. Married deacons are an entirely different matter, not least of which because deacons, while clerics, are not priests, but belong to a different order “At a lower level of the hierarchy are to be found deacons, who receive the imposition of hands ‘not unto the priesthood, but unto the ministry’” (Lumen Gentium par. 29). Celibacy is of great value to the Church in both the East and the West. Who is arguing otherwise?

  • John

    Married Deacons, as a class of clergy, are one of the most useless result of V-2. Most want to preach or say Mass but can’t do either. In the beginning, they were called to do charitable work so that the Apostols would have more time to preach. In the mean time, the state took over charitable works, the ladies hand out communion, lay people do the readings at Mass and run everything else so that Deacons are little more in most places than adult altar servers. I am sure there are exceptions to my experience with Deacons but I do not know of any and I have traveled a bit.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Hi, Elizabeth–this is indeed an intriguing topic, but as to what went on in “ancient” times, we must include the Jewish-Christian root, which I don’t believe would have been in favor of *perpetual* continence for its married “clergy”.

    In any case, as I see it, it all boils down to two things:

    1. Did the “legislator” of the 1983 Code ever intend for clerical “continence” to be considered *apart* from clerical “celibacy” in the code? Based on the uninterrupted liturgical and practical application from the beginning of the restoration of the permanent diaconate, and now with an official canonical clarification, I’d say “no”–wouldn’t you?

    2. Does the Church have the authority to regulate this discipline as she sees fit? I would say “yes”.

    I would also add that it is entirely fitting to have had this “tweak” of the discipline of clerical celibacy take place in the Latin Rite at this time in the Church’s history.

    God bless you!

  • Fiergenholt

    John:

    I have no idea where you live nor any idea where you travel. But if the 16,000 currently living married deacons were evenly spread around the 186+ diocese of the United States, you would see an average of about 85 per diocese. Now a lot of dioceses do not even have that many — for any number of reasons.

    I would suspect, however, your stereotypical negative experiences with deacons might better reflect those who were ordained in the 1970′s. That group of very early deacons — collectively — are actually known by church historians as “glorified Alter Boys.”

    They really did not have established service ministries — partly because the model they were using was the permanent diaconate of the era immediately after Trent.

    AND YES, there were permanently ordained deacons then, but they were not married and basically were held at the diaconate rather than being advanced to the priesthood because they were either inept or un-educated. The last one of those guys died in the late 1800′ — and he served most of his career out of the public eyes as a protocol clerk in the Vatican’s equivalent of the Department of State.

    NOW, back to the current era. My suspicion is that even if you did know a dozen or so married deacons by name, you probably would not know about the service ministries they are working in. The idea here is Matthew 6: 2-4 and service ministries are a lot like alms: “When giving alms,make sure your right hand does not know what your left hand is doing.”

  • Deacon Norb

    Bill:

    I know thousands of deacons by name. Here are the service ministries of maybe 14:
    Deacon A is a professor/deacon at his local college
    Deacon B is a Hospice Chaplain.
    Deacon C is the Spiritual Director of his diocese’s Cursillo movement.
    Deacon D manages a Catholic Radio station.
    Deacon E works the migrant-stream and makes sure that those kids are baptized.
    Deacon F ministers at a major state correctional institution.
    Deacon G is a Port Chaplain.
    Deacon H is deeply involved in Rural Life ministries.
    Deacon I is an internationally recognized consultant to several Vatican offices.
    Deacon J is a UAW Line-Chaplain.
    Deacon K is one of several deacons who are BLOG-MASTERS on the Internet.
    Deacon L works as a contract chaplain at a major military base.
    Deacon M is a Pastoral Leader (pastor in all but name) of his local parish
    Deacon N ministers in an Alzheimer’s facility

  • http://www.devinetoursrome.com Charles Collins

    With respect to Fr. Van Hove, there is no real debate on this, so there is no need for the Pope to be consulted. Please mention one member of a Pontifical Faculty who has held the view that married deacons must refrain from sex. Please mention one papal utterance that even implies this (as opposed to numerous papal speeches to permanent deacons which imply otherwise). Popes do not need to get involved when one canonist writes an article in a Canadian Canon Law journal! The important phrase in the letter sent to the USCCB is “blog posts”. Peters is the only prominent canon lawyer who currently blogs in English, so the “blogosphere” has given a certain weight to his posts (how many times have you seen blog posts say, ‘I will wait for Ed Peters to comment on this’) which is not recognized within the canonical community (even Dr. Peters would probably acknowledge this fact – rightly or wrongly, there is a hierarchy, where canonists at Roman Pontifical faculties at the top, those on other pontifical faculties next, then non-pontifical academic positions (Peters), then non-academic Canon Lawyers).

    Furthermore, the idea that a letter from the President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts is somehow just “one opinion among many”, let alone a letter on the official letterhead of the Council to a Bishops’ Conference, is just preposterous.

    What must be acknowledged is that Dr. Peter’s opinion is not just a minority opinion, but an extreme minority opinion, which is set against the practice of the Church and the intention of the legislator.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Hi, Fr. Van Hove–

    You wrote: “One does not have to like what Papa Wojtyla put into canon #277, but one may not say the canon does not say what it says.”

    Is your contention that Pope John Paul II is directly responsible for hiding what would definitely be a canonical “time bomb” in the texts of the Code of 1983 (years after the restoration of the permanent diaconate) so that at some future date permanent deacons would *have* to observe perpetual continence once the matter was settled?

    I’m trying to understand what the objections are in all this. Particularly if it involves JPII.

    God bless you!

  • Catherine

    I find it mind boggling that the long standing tradition in the Church of clerical continence is so little known by those who become deacons today. You would think they would have done their own research into this issue before becoming deacons. Canon 277 is very explicit and I don’t understand how anyone can read this canon and find a loophole. Maybe the Church should stop ordaining married deacons period.

  • Catherine

    Below is a link to excerpts from a book by Fr. Thomas McGovern on the longstanding practice of clerical continence beginning with the Apostles and which encompassed both married priests and married deacons. This is not a conspiracy theory – it is a FACT.

    http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/mcgovern/celhist1.html

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Hi, Catherine–

    With respect, the canon does not require a “loophole”–it merely needs to be read in the proper context. That context is that the legislator does not envision a “separation” of the obligation of continence in the moral order and the assuming of celibacy in the legal order.

    One who assumes the state of celibacy likewise assumes the obligation of continence.

    One who does *not* assume the state of celibacy likewise does not assume the obligation of continence.

    Like love and marriage, you can’t have one without the other….

    God bless you!

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Hi, Catherine–

    Respectfully, the “fact” that is being discussed is a *discipline* of the Church, and the Church has the right and authority to adjust disciplines as may seem appropriate in different times and places.

    Continence is not intrinsic to the Sacrament of Holy Orders. It is rather a matter of Church discipline. Therefore clerics are not intrinsically obligated to continence when ordained.

    God bless you!

  • Important-to-Remember

    1st – Permanent Deacons have not been the most broadly utilized office in the Church…thus, many of the Councils did not have married deacons particularly in mind at the time.
    2nd – This does not necessarily exclude present permanent deacons from those Councils.
    3rd – “Observations” are about as strong as they sound. It’s a matter of definitions, which will probably not come until the next Council, at the earliest. The permanent diaconate isn’t that well defined.
    4th – People are forgetting/don’t know what a deacon is. Principally, it is not a job (ie: plumber). It is a vocation to serve the Church through the special ministry of the Bishop, given to the charge of the priest. In the early Church, another time period of permanent diaconate, the deacons were to run the logistics so that the priest could freely serve the sacraments. Deacons are not principal ministers of sacraments. They are tertiary.
    5th – Deacon, when taking vows, affirm the shift and change in their lives to this service. The issue of continenance, far from being seen as “unfair” or “unjust” to the marriage, should be seen in the light of the community, whom the deacon serves. A man becomes much more at diaconate ordination than just a husband with more responsibilities. He becomes integrated into the life of service. This is why there is the rule states that a man to be considered for the diaconate must not have dependent children, thus dividing his life of service. Conceptually, the deacon has already lived a life to the service of his children and now takes on the life of service to the Church. Continence protects the deacon from future dependents which would divide his service. Thus, no man should ever enter if he unsure of his conviction. Likewise, the voice of his wife is almost heard louder than his in this matter.
    6th – The world forgets what it is like to live without fulfilling every pleasure of the body. Not only can it be done; it is admirable that the passions be forbidden from consuming our free will. Laying down our desires for the service of the kingdom…this is all of our universal call to holiness (note: continence in sex is not a universal calling).
    7th – The Eastern Church is no justification for the West. This is why they are schismed.
    8th – We have learned much in 2000 years. We’ve learned that the Scriptures tell us much more than 10 commandments. It tells us much more than 8 beatitudes. And the greatest thing that we know: Christ’s message has never been easy nor simple, but that we are made for His message, making the yoke good and the burden light (note: yoke=/=easy, weak on the fuller meaning of xpnstos). The added perk is that we aren’t limited by sola scriptura; we have 2000 years of the most amazing development built of the foundation of truth. Go out there and get it…be proud of your heritage, the heritage of the saints, the heritage of heaven. We don’t have to make up stuff to justify our desires to do it one way or the other (in fact, when we’ve tried, there’s been our problems). We are just un-schooled. It is as if we wander poor and destitute in the greatest treasury imaginable. Be enriched.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    And, finally–let me ask what I would consider the practical and fundamental “$64,000 question” for those who believe married deacons should be continent:

    Is anyone really willing to suggest that Holy Mother Church would have preferred that *three* of my children–born after my ordination ten years ago–would never have existed???

    God bless you!

  • Catherine

    DeaconJR,

    The Roman Catholic Church has always imposed clerical continence on all clerics since the Apostles. The facts are the facts. Furthermore, the supporters of married clerics having the right to disregard the longstanding tradition of clerical continence have no documentation from the past 2000 years up to and including today to show that this has changed. Hopefully, the Church will ease the dilemma faced by married clerics by giving them the choice to either submit to the tradition of the Church or they will cease to be a deacon.

  • Catherine

    DeaconJR, clerics in the Roman Catholic Church since Apostolic times are supposed to observe perpetual continence after ordination. That is why the Catholic Church should reconsider the wisdom of ordaining married men to the diaconate unless those ordained are able to make the necessary sacrifices this vocation entails.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Hi, Catherine–

    “Since the Apostles” is the claim? Then I would like to hear your view of 1 Cor 9:5, of course.

    I mean, are you really suggesting that the first Christian men–who were all *Jews*–assumed perpetual continence as apostles and so did their successors?

    If assuming the obligation of continence is *intrinsic* to Holy Orders, then I’m not really a deacon, am I? (not that you’ve claimed this, but it’s a point that helps frame the question)

    If however, assuming that obligation is *not* intrinsic to Holy Orders, then the Church has the authority to change past discipline, correct?

    God bless you!

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Hi, Catherine–

    So, it would have been more wise of me to stop having kids after I was ordained?

    Here’s the thing, Catherine–the reason to observe “perpetual continence after ordination” would be “because the Church *tells* me to.”

    But, the “Church no longer *tells* me to.”

    I think it’s as simple as that.

    God bless you!

  • Reverend Brian Van Hove, S.J.

    We must assume that when the pope exercises his office as pope that he reaffirms tradition. This is sometimes called the “hermeneutic of continuity” but it is more than that.
    Pope John Paul II was aware of widespread dissent and acrimonious dissidence in the industrialized West, yet for the historical record he did not surrender to any of it even when there was nothing that could be done. Marriage and divorce, contraception within sacramental marriage, a frontal attack on celibacy itself (despite the venerable history of priestly celibacy and the unusually strong invervention of Pope Paul VI on that subject at Vatican II and again in 1967). Perpetual continence for married clerics is only one aspect of sacred tradition which the pope preserved whether it fell on deaf ears or not, whether it would be up to future generations to implement it or not. Aggressive secularism has dulled our sensibilities in the industrialized West, but of course the future is bright in Asia and Africa. I once discussed the continence of married clerics with a Nigerian and he understood it perfectly well. In fact, he was quite funny: “Yes, they may live together, but they may not sleep together.”

  • Aaron Streeting

    Dr. Peters, I suggest that if you have questions about whether this is binding, you address them to Fr. McKnight. At this point, it appears that the competent Church authorities have clearly communicated to the faithful the Vatican interpretation of Canon Law. Or are you simply reading your own preferences into the law.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Fr.–thanks for the reply, which I hope to reflect upon more. God bless you!

  • Oregon Catholic

    But due to requirements of a period of abstinance before celebrating the Eucharist, neither can married priests celebrate daily. Of course, that means the congregation usually can’t receive daily as well. Catholics don’t have to suffer that, thank goodness.

  • Catherine

    DeaconJR,

    You might want to read the link I provided above detailing the history of clerical continence. Neither Pope Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II nor Benedict XVI have changed the 2000 year old Church practice/tradition of clerical continence for the sake of the Kingdom. If you’re a cleric in the Roman Catholic Church, you are supposed to observe perpetual continence after your ordination.

  • Reverend Brian Van Hove, S.J.

    I had a penitent come in one time. A very sincere young man. He said that he had been living with his girlfriend for a year and that somebody had commented that it was wrong. He wondered as to my opinion. I said that two things are required for our conscience, knowledge and freedom. When either is defective, our conscience is clear. If we do not know something, or if we are impeded in some way, then our conscience is not fully engaged with the truth. Humorously, I think I said “it is only wrong for you when you leave this conversation.”
    The case of ecclesiastical tradition and ecclesiastical law is more complex. For over forty years we have lived in a veritable “culture of dissent” and a concomitant rejection of classical Christian morality, beginning noticeably with the Roaring Twenties and accelerating in the Sexual Revolution of the Sixties. The current “gay marriage” thing is a logical offshoot of the eroticization of the cultural climate.
    Two of the most secularized countries in the world, Germany and the United States, went in for the permanant diaconate. Australia avoided this by developing the Instituted Acolyte/ sub-deacon strategy, obviously not bound by c. 277 since they are not clerics.
    But beginning in 1964 with Alfons Maria Stickler’s intervention at Vatican II, the notion of clerical continence has been either dodged, ditched, abandoned, misunderstood or misrepresented.
    The permanent deacons who in good faith accepted their role as it was explained to them are like my sincere penitent mentioned above. Except the deacons have their local bishop and the likes of Abp. Coccopalmerio to continue to keep them in good conscience. I know men who did not apply for the diaconate program because they know the tradition of the Latin Church. I also feel sorry for the Anglicans coming in who may never have heard of what Papa Woytyla apparently understood so well. I wish I could invent a more accommodating religion, but alas the objective data are just too objective for me.

  • http://www.devinetoursrome.com Charles Collins

    Catherine, I don’t think you read the article to which you linked, which makes clear reference to the fact Eastern Catholic clergy can marry, and this was allowed by Vatican I (as well as by the agreements of reunion), although the author of the article believes it would be better to have a celibate Eastern clergy. Also, most of his references in other articles (I perused the site) are about Priestly celibacy and Priestly idenity, and make no mention of the diaconate.

  • Oregon Catholic

    Fr. Van Hove,
    Then who is minding the store in Rome? Are you saying that JPII knowingly ignored that the US conference was violating canon law? And B16 is following in his footsteps? If true, that there could even be such a longstanding disconnect between canon law and an entire conference of bishops, on such a serious matter, regardless of clear conscience as you say, does very little to speak for respecting the authority and unity of the Magisterium. Why believe what we’re told if even our bishops can’t get such a serious and apparently straightforward issue right?

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  • Chris Sullivan

    The Council has spoken authoritatively on this and clearly teaches that that continence is not required by the nature of the priesthood. The Council taught that this was also the practice of the early Church, which did not require continence of her priests. The council also taught that the current celibacy requirement in the Roman rite is of disciplinary nature and not something essential to the priesthood.

    Perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, commended by Christ the Lord and through the course of time as well as in our own days freely accepted and observed in a praiseworthy manner by many of the faithful, is held by the Church to be of great value in a special manner for the priestly life. It is at the same time a sign and a stimulus for pastoral charity and a special source of spiritual fecundity in the world.

    Indeed, it is not demanded by the very nature of the priesthood, as is apparent from the practice of the early Church and from the traditions of the Eastern Churches, where, besides those who with all the bishops, by a gift of grace, choose to observe celibacy, there are also married priests of highest merit. This holy synod, while it commends ecclesiastical celibacy, in no way intends to alter that different discipline which legitimately flourishes in the Eastern Churches.

    Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis, 16

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19651207_presbyterorum-ordinis_en.html

    I must say that it is very sad, and a very poor witness to the Catholic faith, to read some of the comments above demanding that married permanent deacons refrain from sex, which seem to reflect a very poor appreciation of the great good and holiness of the marital sexual relationship, tending even to see it as something dirty and tainting.

    God Bless

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

    And the priest replied: ”Certainly. Just don’t block the aisles.

    You’re going to hell! ;-)

  • Bob James

    I am absolutely stunned to read such ignorant comments from some of these people that are arguing that permanent deacons cannot have sex with their wives. It is so obvious that these people have not really seriously studied canon law or theology. Their views on sexuality and the Holy Orders is actually not consistent with what the Church teaches and the current discipline in the Church regarding the permanent diaconate. I sense a tinge of Jansenism and blind traditionalism in these comments. It definitely isn’t dynamic orthodoxy.

    I won’t go into a long defense. I only want to point out the idiocy of these comments.

  • http://stokell.us Paul Stokell

    To which may I reply: AMEN!

    I suspect within this thread there is, at best, a simple denial of the work of Blessed Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, and, at worst, a creeping influence of one Cornelius Jansen.

  • Aaron Streeting

    Fr. VanHove,

    I agree with you that there is a strong tradition of continence for married clergy within the Church. I also agree that it is possible to interpret Canon 277 to include married permanent deacons, if you follow the strict letter of the law and do not allow for the possibility that there might have been an oversight (I believe this is clearly the case). While there is a strong tradition, it is still a discipline, not a matter of doctrine. Therefore the Church CAN allow married deacons (or even priests) to have marital relations, as is the case in the East. It is clear that requiring continence is your preference, because it is more in line with the tradition of the early Church. This position is valid and commendable.

    That said, neither you, nor Dr. Peters can point to any authoritative post-1968 source that explicitly says “Permanent Deacons who are married must practice perpetual continence,” or “Former Anglican priests who are dispensed from the requirement of celibacy are not dispensed from the requirement of perfect continence.” The areas of dissent that you mention above (contraception, divorce and remarriage, even abuse of annulments) have been the subject of numerous papal statements. Yet on this issue, not a peep has come from the Vatican affirming your view. Why not? Show me one papal or curial document or a single post-1968 papal proclamation that says this and I will agree with you.

  • Catherine

    Charles, here’s another link with articles you might find useful.

    http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/mcgovern/reviews.html?vm=r&s=1

  • Patt

    So many extraordinary ministers doing their job already…
    Why do men become deacons? Did they want to be a married priest and settled for 2nd best?

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Why do men become deacons? Did they want to be a married priest and settled for 2nd best?

    I don’t think any man who is a deacon today would say he’d “settled for 2nd best.” The two vocations are very different. Every deacon (and every priest) will give you a different reason for why he took this particular path.

    For myself, all I can say is that I felt a calling — inexplicable, mysterious, urgent, and life-affirming. “You should be doing this,” it said. I had no idea what I was getting into — and just trusted that God had something planned. And here I am.

    We all seek to serve God and our neighbor as best we can, using our talents and abilities and lived experience in the best way possible, to help build God’s kingdom on earth. But the ultimate choice isn’t really ours.

    Jesus put it better, of course, in today’s gospel: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.” :-)

    DGK

  • Sharon

    Re B, C, G, J, L and M:
    Only a priest can be a Catholic “Chaplain” i.e. “Capellanus” i.e. the priest in charge of a chapel (“capella”), which is a church other than a parish church.

    Similarly only a priest can be a Spritual Director or Pastoral Leader.

  • Catherine

    Bob James says:
    May 13, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    “I sense a tinge of Jansenism and blind traditionalism in these comments.”

    Bob, Jesus Christ is the author of celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, not Cornelius Jansen.

  • Craig

    Well said, John. That is the elephant in the living room. Take away their ability to give homilies, as some dioceses are, and their numbers will plummet.

  • Craig

    Good point. I know many deacons and many disregard what the Church asks liturgically and doctrinally. Often out of ignorance but far too often out of sheer pride.

  • David J. White

    Kathy, I’m a classicist, and I can tell you that in the ancient Mediterranean world, being the “husband of one wife” and the “wife of one husband” *specifically* meant never remarrying after the death of a spouse. One of the proudest boasts that a Roman matron could make was that she was “univira”, a woman who had only ever had one husband (and, by implication, had only ever had sex with one man).

    Read the fourth book of the Aeneid for Vergil’s portrayal of Dido’s anguish at what she perceives to be her betrayal of her *dead* husband, Sychaeus, and her breaking of her oath to be forever faithful to him, even after his death.

  • cathyf

    Things Jesus almost said: “Anyone who puts away his wife to be ordained commits adultery, and the Church that ordains him also commits adultery.”

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Hi, Catherine.

    With respect, no, we are not. We are not “supposed” to do this.

    You see what is happening–you’re saying we “are supposed to”–I’m saying we’re not.

    We need a tie-breaker.

    Oh, wait–that’s what this thread is all about–the Church has just *told* us how to understand what a deacon’s obligation is in this matter.

    Something tells me the issue is not the issue here…..

    Catherine–assume, please, for a moment, that my assertion is correct and the Church *has* ceased to oblige all clerics to perpetual continence.

    Is this a “game-changer” for you? If so, how? This is *discipline*, not doctrine, right?

    God bless you!

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Catherine–once more, celibacy is simply not *intrinsic* to Holy Orders. This much should be stunningly obvious to anyone studying this subject….

    God bless you!

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    Why not?

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    “I had never heard of this requirement before. I do believe in and support celibacy for Priests but do not believe it should be carried over to married permanent deacons.”

    Why not?

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    Thanks, Craig.

    Most deacons secretly want a married priesthood – as the many comments on Deacon Greg’s blog over the years makes clear.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    Whoever wrote this article obviously didn’t consult the Deacons who post here.

  • Reverend Brian Van Hove, S.J.

    One might benefit from what Christian Cochini, SJ has written:

    “Father Stickler was an expert at the Second Vatican Council, which decided, as we recall, the restoration of the permanent diaconate in the Church. His study, “The Continence of the Deacon, Especially during the First Millennium of the Church,” published in 1964, was written as part of studies aiming to bring to the Council Fathers elements of reflection borrowed from history. The author points out that one must understand celibacy in the early Church not only as meaning a prohibition of marriage, but also in the sense of perfect continence for those who were already married. The Western Church Tradition is studied in the light of the teachings of the councils, of the Fathers, and of the Roman pontiffs who always preserved (or restored) its essential features. The author opines it is on the basis of motivations inherent in the very nature of the Order and of the sacred ministry that this uninterrupted tradition demands a perfect continence on the part of those who have been married before receiving sacred Orders.”
    THE APOSTOLIC ORIGINS OF PRIESTLY CELIBACY, 43 [Ignatius Press, English tr., 1990].
    Father Van Hove adds:
    If celibacy/ continence for those in Orders is merely disciplinary, and not ultimately dogmatic, if it is merely some irrational or archaic holdover, then obviously it should be abolished immediately in the manner of Luther and Calvin.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    Amen, Elizabeth. Continence is still the preferred state for clerics, including deacons – something Vatican II envisioned as being the norm rather than the exception.
    .
    Elizabeth, here is the problem – most blog posters here dissent from the dogma of the superiority of celibacy to marriage. “If anyone saith that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, Session XIV, Canon 10). This has implications for their views on all these issues – as is clear when you take the logical implications of their arguments and apply it to the practice of a married priesthood.
    .
    See my blog for a more thorough treatment of this issue.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    Most of the deacons who made that decision as young as you did when you made that decision, but whose wives died young, have either (a) sought a dispensation to re-marry, or (b) forgot about the “permanent” part of the diaconate and sought ordination to the priesthood.
    .
    It is easy to say you will accept this “gift” generously in the abstract. It is a whole other ball game when it happens in the concrete.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    See what I mean about dissent from the dogma?

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    Further proof.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    Exactly. There is a lot more to Dr. Peters’ argument than “married deacons aren’t supposed to be having sex” – for those who cared to read it and really try to understand the broader issue Dr. Peters was getting at.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    He also taught, in that same catechesis on human love, that celibacy has a superiority to marriage. See Audience from April 7, 1981.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge
  • Catherine

    DeaconJR, there are non-celibate clerics in the Roman Catholic Church. Nevertheless, continence for all clerics is the norm in the Roman Catholic Church. See below.

    http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/abbott/061118

    “It would seem to follow, given the adequacy of the analysis which links priestly celibacy and continence to the priestly offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice, that such celibacy and continence would not be obligatory for the deacon, who does not possess the priestly character whereby he can offer the One Sacrifice in persona Christi. Yet the apostolic tradition, to whose existence Cochini’s and Cholij’s research gives an ample testimony, does in fact require continence of deacons, whether married or unmarried, quite as insistently as it does of bishops and priests, whether married or unmarried;….”

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    And if the Church required of you perpetual continence, which the Church teaches is the higher path, you would not have been thrilled? To me, that says a lot about the men who are pursuing the permanent diaconate.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    Then why did John Paul II beatify the Quattrochinis?

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    And Aaron, you can’t cite anywhere that says the centuries-old law (actually dating back to apostolic times) requiring a married cleric to practice perpetual continence was overturned. The burden of proof is on the one who says the tradition has changed.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    Yes you can. One who does not assume the state of celibacy can assume the obligation of continence. That’s the definition of a Josephite marriage.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    The Sign of the Cross is a discipline too – could we dispense with that tomorrow?
    I would argue the Sign of the Cross is as indispensible as clerical celibacy.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    No, Deacon Jim – it would have been better had you embraced clerical celibacy from the get-go before getting married and having children.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    Let me guess – you’d like to see priesthood opened up to married men.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    It is clear Bob James hasn’t really studied theology.
    But Dr. Ed Peters (JCD) has. So have I (MA, Theology, summa cum laude).
    Then again, me stating that doesn’t advance this discussion.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    There’s a reason Jesus “almost” said that and didn’t – because He wouldn’t say something that did not line up with truth.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    What I hear from Dr. Ed Peters and Fr. Brian van Hove are good, solid, theological arguments that demand a response.
    .
    What I hear from those opposing them are not responses demanded by the arguments, but anecdotes, reductio ad absurdiams that do not prove the case, and name-calling and insults – mostly from people who really have not studied the issue and on top of that are guilty of heresy, dissenting as they do from the dogma of the superiority of celibacy to marriage.
    .
    Well, if there are no substantial answers to the arguments put forth by Dr. Peters and Fr. van Hove, then they are right.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    “Most of the Western/ Latin rite baby-boom crowd — then in their late twenties — though that having married priests in those Eastern parishes where their traditions allowed it universally was an excellent idea here in the US as well”.

    They also thought having married priests throughout all the Western parishes was an excellent idea too – and most of them still do (as evidenced by their posts here).

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    “the notion of clerical continence has been either dodged, ditched, abandoned, misunderstood or misrepresented” – i.e. the comments on this blog article.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    “Dr. Peter’s [sic] opinion is not just a minority opinion, but an extreme minority opinion, which is set against the practice of the Church and the intention of the legislator.”

    Just because it is a minority opinion, that does not make it wrong – especially in the Church today, considering we are the most poorly catechized and formed generation in Church history (which reaches right up to the red hats).

    Actually, a married, sexually-active clergy is against the centuries-old practice of the Latin Church.

    As for the intention of the legislator – well, that is your assumption. Dr. Peters argues otherwise – and makes an actual case for it, rather than just says it’s so.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    I suspect on the other end of the spectrum there is, at best, a simple denial of our Catholic Tradition in its entirety, and at worst, a creeping influence of one Martin Luther.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    Maybe so, but Deacon Greg, if the Church allowed married men to become priests, many, many of today’s deacons would have chosen the priesthood. Fr. Longenecker said in one of his articles that when he asked a group of men in formation for the permanent diaconate if they would be priests if the Church allowed them, many said they would. To me, that is very telling.

  • Deacon Norb

    Sharon:

    All of those men I mentioned live in different areas of the country so this use of the term “chaplain” — while possibly incorrect — is fairly widespread among different bishops.

    Deacon J’s title is not a Catholic one but a secular one. That is precisely what the United Auto Workers union calls that slot.

    I have to totally disagree with you about the terms “Spiritual Director” or “Pastoral Leader.”

    My point was in response to “Bill” who challenged the whole idea of “service ministries.” I think I proved my point.

  • Fiergenholt

    Sharon

    Check out the definition of the word “pedant.”

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    “Burden of proof”?? Seriously?

    When the one authoritatively responsible for the “tradition” *says* it’s changed, it should be good enough for those who are obedient to that authority.

    The “burden of proof” falls to those who say that this “authority” is now *wrong*.

    Good luck….

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Please pay closer attention, Wade–my comment is in reference to what the “legislator” of the Code has in mind. It’s obvious, or should be, that not all continence is a result of a promise of perpetual celibacy….

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    I don’t recall seeing an announcement that clerical celibacy is to be dispensed with.

    I do recall the Church teaching that the call to *marriage* is as indispensible as a call to celibacy.

    I also recall seeing an announcement from legitimate authority that states that a married cleric (in this case a deacon) does not have to dispense with one of the goods of marriage.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    So, Wade, let me get this straight: God really thinks it’s better for *all* men in this life to be celibate clerics.

    Is that what you mean?

    I presume it must be–God *always* wants the “greater good” for us, right? He doesn’t want us to “settle” for a lesser good–and that’s what us married folk are doing, right?

    So I made a “mistake” by getting married and not following God’s willing a “greater good” for me via clerical celibacy in this life???

    So there is no “call” from God to marriage in this life–it’s just His backup plan for those who fail to heed His real plan for us all to be celibate?

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Hi, Catherine–

    Let’s please determine a point of agreement, okay?

    Do you agree that the practice of clerical celibacy is a *discipline* of the Church, and that the Church has the authority to change this discipline?

    Can we agree on that much?

    God bless you!

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Ad hominem and self-aggrandizing….

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Well, Wade, then by all means go ahead and communicate your conclusion to Fr. McKnight, Archbishops Carlson and Broglio, and Cardinal Dolan.

    They seem to think *they* are right by being obedient to the conclusion offered by the appropriate Vatican authority….

  • Fiergenholt

    Wade:

    “Most of the deacons who made that decision as young as you did when you made that decision, but whose wives died young, have either (a) sought a dispensation to re-marry, or (b) forgot about the “permanent” part of the diaconate and sought ordination to the priesthood”

    Absolute rubbish. Wade, I hate to tell you, but you have absolutely no supporting evidence to back either assertion up.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    Deacon Jim, obviously you have not actually read all of the posts by Fr. van Hove.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    “God really thinks it’s better for *all* men in this life to be celibate clerics”.

    Read “Religious Vocation: An Unnecessary Mystery”, wherein the Thomistic idea of “general and particular vocation” are discussed – something I am sure you would not have much of a grasp of considering the deficient theological training deacons have been given.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    I would argue that if God was truly calling you to the clerical state, he was also calling you (or trying to call you) to celibacy.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    And true – you forgot “true”.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    Once again, you don’t read very clearly (i.e. Fr. van Hove’s comments and Dr. Peters’) – or, perhaps you just choose to ignore it for the sake of claiming victory in the debate.

    Maybe a little trip down memory lane is in order
    http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.ca/2012/02/tob-west-fanaticism-and-catholic.html

  • Reverend Brian Van Hove, S.J.

    Dr. Streeting would do well to delve into church history for the answer to his own question about timing. Hubert Jedin points out that the Church might have pounced in 1519-1520, but nothing happened. A weak papacy and a weaker German episcopate did next to nothing about the pesky Lutheran affair until it was too late. The Council of Trent ended in 1563. It closed the doors to a barn from which the horses had run out from before. The wheels of the Church grind slowly, much too slowly for our spiritual welfare.
    A newer example was brought to my attention by a friend. Why has the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith only responded to the LCWR now, when in the Sixties we knew what liberal nuns were up to and what they believed? Obviously, it is too little, and much too late. There are no answers. Trent did what it did when it did it, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is doing what it is doing when it is doing it.
    After Vatican II the forest burnt down. Now a few green shoots are reappearing. Celibacy and continence are like mature blossoms, and it is way too soon to see them given the devastation.
    What animates the Church is holiness. There just may be a generation on its way which, by an instinct of grace, will need nothing more to fuel their zeal. They will offer themselves as a living sacrifice, continent married priests and continent married deacons, pointing to the transcendent and to the world to come which is even now present in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. We do not need documents when we have the Holy Spirit.

  • Mark

    Wade, you claim this is a debate but you do not listen to others. I find your communication brusque and even hostile at times and I wonder how this serves the Church? Note I am not arguing with your content but your approach.

  • Dcn.GPaul

    Mr. St. Onge is good at posting rubbish. He has no data to back up his points, but he will be quick to point out the “red herrings” in his opposition’s responses.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    God bless you, Wade St. Onge–you are my brother in Christ and are deserving of my fraternal love and prayers, which I continue to offer you.

    As to the matter at hand, it is entirely up to you, to Fr. Van Hove, Ed Peters, etc., to offer an explanation as to why deacons should disobey a clear directive from both the US Bishops and the Vatican regarding how we should or should not behave.

    Regardless of whether the current directive is in keeping with your assessment of history and tradition, nonetheless the directive stands and affirms the practice that has been consistent since the restoration of the permanent diaconate.

    There is no “winning” of a debate here, my brother. Rather, you seem to be suggesting that we deacons would be better off being disobedient toward a clear instruction from the Holy See.

    Stay tuned–I’ll have more to say on this matter on my own blog….

    God bless you, and be assured of my continued prayers for you!

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    No statistics available. The evidence is anecdotal.
    I know many examples of men whose wives died when they were between 40 and 55 who either did or attempted (a) or (b). I know of no examples where they embraced celibacy joyfully. Care to share any?

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    I can’t help but notice that, in all this discussion, one critically important and necessary figure has gone both unmentioned and unrecognized.

    The wife.

    There seems to be a consensus — implied or not — that a married man’s continence matters only to himself.

    Really?

    Any deacon wives care to comment?

    (Well, maybe some wives out there are quietly praying novenas and fingering their rosary beads, hoping that this rule of Canon Law will be strictly enforced…)

    DGK

  • Dcn.GPaul

    Mr. Wade has a propensity for placing the superiority of his own intellect above that of his debate opponents. He even places his intellect and ability above that of the Magisterium, as is evident in this case; even goes as far as to say they are heretics because they may dare to disagree with his far superior education.

    As others have stated, an argument has been made by Dr. Peters and others, however the leadership of the Church does not agree with their well made points; and in reality the Church’s statement through the Magisterium is all that matters.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    Mark, I appreciate you bringing this to my attention. I’ll say four things in response.
    .
    1. I have no problem with you taking issues with my tone – as long as you are consistent and take issue with the tone of those who disagree with myself, Dr. Peters, and Fr. Van Hove, some of whom, after all, are more brusque and hostile as I am.
    .
    2. If you are talking about some of my responses to Deacon Jim Russell – well, you would have to know the history. I’ll just say for now that due to his antics (i.e. manipulation and dishonesty), he has been banned from five blogs that I know of (including one very popular Catholic blog that you would immediately recognize if I mentioned it to you).
    .
    3. It is incredibly frustrating when I have to respond to people who have not studied this issue at all and who are speaking from ignorance but with absolute assurance that they are right and we are wrong. Dr. Peters writes a well-researched, well-reasoned article, and then he has to come onto these blogs and defend himself against a plethora of uninformed, fallacious responses that do not even touch the substance of his arguments. The man’s patience and humility is heroic to the extreme – I just haven’t prayed and done enough penance to reach that mark yet (God help me).
    .
    4. Thank you again for bringing this to my attention – I will try to be more cognizant of my tone and speak with charity.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    Another deacon commenter who did not read Fr. van Hove’s comments, nor those of Dr. Peters.
    .
    The Magisterium can make disciplinary decisions that are ill-informed and erroneous – which is why many such disciplinary decisions over the centuries have been reversed. The Magisterium legislated the Latin language be used in the Mass for centuries and that the priest have his back turned to the people during worship. Were they wrong to do so?
    .
    I didn’t call people heretics for disagreeing with me. I said those who do not believe that celibacy is superior to marriage have embraced a heresy. But that’s not my judgment – that is the judgment of the “Magisterium”, which you say I disagree with.
    .
    And my intellect probably is superior to most people here, which is to be expected considering I am a Mensa member. If it’s a fact, why belittle me for it? Note, however, that doesn’t mean I’m right about this issue, in and of itself. The argument has to be judged based on its merits.

  • Dcn.GPaul

    I am at a loss to understand what is the negative in a widowed man, in his 40′s or 50′s, after some time of discernment asking his bishop for acceptance into priestly formation? There are no “shortcuts” or “fast tracks” to ordination to the priesthood. We have three priests in our diocese who were previously married; one who was widowed then entered seminary and was ordained in his mid 50′s, one who was divorced and received an annulment then ordained, and another who was divorced and annulment granted but now his ex-wife is deceased. Is the difference in these type cases and that of widowed permanent deacons only the fact that they were PDs and not laity? That sounds a little hypocritical, doesn’t it?

    I would agree that there should not be an automatic acceptance for priestly ordination or acceptance for priestly formation. A person requesting acceptance into formation should and always has been looked at on an individual basis by situation; what’s different here?

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    Considering the deacon is the ordained cleric, and continence is required of clerics, of course continence pertains to him.
    .
    Insofar as the married man was ordained to the diaconate with his wife’s approval on the premise that they had every right to continue with conjugal rights, then sure, continence matters to both.
    .
    Either way, I think it is sad that so many deacons out there would be upset rather than accept joyfully a life of perpetual continence if the Church so declared considering perpetual continence is the higher call.

  • Catherine

    DeaconJR, this discussion is not primarily about celibacy – it is about continence. There have been married clerics before in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Both celibate as well as married clerics in the Roman Catholic Church are supposed to practice CONTINENCE. Your comments suggest you believe that non-celibate clerics were/are exempt from observing continence. The history of the Church’s declarations on this issue clearly illustrate such a belief is erroneous.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    Deacon GPaul, I have no problem with married men whose wives die becoming priests.

    What I do have a problem with are permanent deacons who, when their wives die, apply to become priests, against the clear directive that this should be a very rare exception because “permanent diaconate” should be that – permanent.

  • lizi

    I think that a response from the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts IS the authoritative interpretation of what is required for married deacons. At this point, there is no more authoritative decision than this one, which says married deacons do not have to abstain from sexual relations with their wives. Going back to an earlier period in Church history may give insight into the practice of continence or celibacy, but the way the law works in the church is that the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts makes authoritative decisions on questions related to the law. AN individual canon lawyer can have an interpretation but this does not have the same standing as the authoritative position issued from Rome. As far as I know, individual bishops cannot legislate contrary to universal law.

  • Dcn.GPaul

    What an incredible ability you claim to have, to be able to see more effectively than others what their “true” calling is! Can you help me now? Am I called to the clerical state, or was this whole journey towards ordination and now living as a married deacon a farce? Should I seek help from my bishop to request laicization or annulment? You know maybe it was the wife that was the mistake, however we do seem to belong together…man I wish I had met you sooner. I am really confused…

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    The mistake was that of the Magisterium in the confusion of the post-conciliar years. You are not culpable – nor is there much we can do about it now.
    .
    Let me ask you this, Dcn GPaul – is the Magisterium wrong to tell cradle Catholics who are married that they do not have a call to the priesthood?

  • Dcn.GPaul

    Mr. Wade- “And my intellect probably is superior to most people here, which is to be expected considering I am a Mensa member. If it’s a fact, why belittle me for it? Note, however, that doesn’t mean I’m right about this issue, in and of itself. The argument has to be judged based on its merits.”

    Because you use your self appointed superiority to belittle others, as you have me in the past. A high IQ doesn’t make you superior to anyone. I’m so glad you reminded me that you were a member of Mensa that brings some perspective. I see you haven’t changed in the last few years, that is sad.

  • Oregon Catholic

    Wade you really have some growing up to do. If your IQ isn’t pertinent to the discussion then why bring it up, except to show your conceit.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    Please refresh my memory …

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    I didn’t bring it up – Deacon GPaul did.

  • http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com Wade St. Onge

    God forbid I use my gifts that way.
    If anything, I am responding to comments that deserve such a response. Please see Point #3 in the post immediately below (my response to Mark).

  • Dcn.GPaul

    The Magisterium is not telling these cradle Catholics that they do not have a call to the priesthood; the Magisterium is telling men who are married that there is an impediment to ordination the Priesthood of Christ. Big difference. If you care to debate whether there is a form of hypocrisy in ordaining former Anglicans who are married, then you may have a point. But a cradle Catholic who is married cannot enter the Priesthood.

    As to the first part of your response to my post, in case you didn’t notice, it was completely sarcastic. There may be some confusion, and/or some lack of complete training for deacons, but these things are changing. But these changes are not moving towards requiring P & P C for PDs; will this change in the future of the Church? Maybe, but you and I will not see it.

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