In the e-mail: “His Excellency was smart not to bring permanent deacons into the diocese…”

A reader takes objection to this post about the lack of deacons in Lincoln, Nebraska.  He writes:

I disagree with your post on the diaconate in the Diocese of Lincoln. His Excellency was smart not to bring permanent deacons into the diocese. There is very little theology behind the permanent diaconate which is agreed upon across the Church, for a number of reasons, and this has caused much strife. It is impossible to replicate exactly the ancient diaconate; also, we should not try to, as that would be archaeologism. The diaconate had clearly changed from its institution by the Apostles and 1967, when the permanent diaconate was established in modern times. A deacon’s role in the Church was always very specific, both in the liturgy and outside of it. A priest can assist as deacon or subdeacon in the Extraordinary Form. The diaconate was the second stepping-stone to the fulfillment of Holy Orders in the sacred priesthood, the first being subdeacon. The bishop traditionally wore a dalmatic under the chasuble as a reminder of this (Keep in mind, bishops only became the third step in the sacrament in the 1970s; before this, they were considered priests asked to serve their brother priests, the religious, and the laity of the local Church).

Now, priests aren’t sure what exactly to do with deacons, much of the time. The liturgy doesn’t require them,necessarily. It is obvious from a cursory glance at the rubrics that the Holy See anticipates a deacon serving at Mass, but it is not required as it was for the Solemn High Mass. On the other hand, the diaconate was suddenly made unique, and somewhat separated from the priesthood. The dalmatic under the chasuble was eliminated and priests cannot vest as a deacon at Mass in the Ordinary Form.  Some dioceses see deacons as suitable for parish administration; others see them as suitable for chaplaincy at prisons and hospitals, among other tasks. Yet others simply assign them to parishes with their job left up to the pastor. The law seems to be quite silent on this, even though it’s quite specific on most other clerical assignments.

I think the issue of deacons preaching at Mass shows why the permanent diaconate was not thought out well. Bishops aren’t always clear on the faculties given, and each bishop rules differently (as is their right, but it causes confusion nonetheless). Quite honestly, the deacon should not preach at Mass. This was never a function of deacons, and is the job of priests.

Also, the division between priests and deacons is quite evident; you have blogged about deacons wearing the collar a number of times. I view this as an indicator that a number of deacons see themselves as junior-grade priests, and some see this as steps towards eliminating clerical celibacy in the Roman Church, which priests recognize and rightly oppose. Speaking of clerical celibacy, Dr Peters’ points on celibacy still haven’t been addressed. Obviously, there is no theology of deacons which would allow them to do this- taking us back to square one on the problems of the diaconate. Taking from the Eastern Churches isn’t right, because it’s not our patrimony. On the other hand, the current situation is not working. (That leaves us taking a little from the Code of Canon Law for the Eastern Churches, most likely mandating fasts from marital relations the night before Mass and during certain times of year. Also, it would apply to married priests as well.).

Your links to other dioceses and their ordinations of priests don’t prove much. Lincoln always has a consistently high number of priests being ordained for the diocese, and is ordaining a higher number of priests based on the number of faithful in the diocese, compared to other areas. A shortage is unlikely, even as a higher-than-usual number are released to serve for the Archdiocese for the Military Services.

The priesthood is what young men should aspire to if they wish to be ordained clergy, not the diaconate, for the salvation of souls can only be fully facilitated by a priest. If a man wants to get married, that’s perfectly fine and just as acceptable and necessary as the priesthood. But you can’t have both, and I notice that a number of diaconal ordinations came after the man didn’t finish seminary but always regretted it. That’s not the way vocations work (and it’s a product of the hermeneutic of rupture following the 2nd Vatican Council). If you have a calling, keep at it.

Well.  Obviously, as a deacon, I disagree. And I tend to think that the Holy Spirit knows what He is doing in inspiring the Church to restore the diaconate as a full order. (I imagine there are some parishes, priests and deacons that would concur.)  Among other things, I think that the writer too easily dismisses or diminishes the fundamental role of grace in all this. The diaconate is not a job; it’s a vocation. Holy Orders is not a career choice; it’s a sacrament. And yes: it is a calling. And it is one that continues to enrich countless parishes and families. Periodically, someone will ask me “Why should there be deacons when so much of what deacons do can be done by lay people?” And the answer is simple: grace. The grace of the sacrament can knock you off your feet. There are some days when I can’t even begin to imagine how I will make it through another wake, another homily, another annulment, another meeting or class or liturgy. But God’s grace provides. The sacramental grace of Holy Orders somehow helps me transcend my limitations and makes the impossible possible. I’m here to tell you: it is real. And God’s hand is behind it all.

I could go on. But I’m going to invite others to join the conversation. I’m opening up comments for this post, but they will be moderated. Be respectful, and charitable. I think this is a discussion worth having, and I hope it will shed more light on why the diaconate matters, and what it means to have a religious vocation.

UPDATE: For handy reference (and just because it’s good to read this from time to time), here’s what the catechism has to say about deacons:

1569 “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.”‘53 At an ordination to the diaconate only the bishop lays hands on the candidate, thus signifying the deacon’s special attachment to the bishop in the tasks of his “diakonia.”54

1570 Deacons share in Christ’s mission and grace in a special way.55 The sacrament of Holy Orders marks them with an imprint (“character”) which cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, who made himself the “deacon” or servant of all.56 Among other tasks, it is the task of deacons to assist the bishop and priests in the celebration of the divine mysteries, above all the Eucharist, in the distribution of Holy Communion, in assisting at and blessing marriages, in the proclamation of the Gospel and preaching, in presiding over funerals, and in dedicating themselves to the various ministries of charity.57

1571 Since the Second Vatican Council the Latin Church has restored the diaconate “as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy,”58 while the Churches of the East had always maintained it. This permanent diaconate, which can be conferred on married men, constitutes an important enrichment for the Church’s mission. Indeed it is appropriate and useful that men who carry out a truly diaconal ministry in the Church, whether in its liturgical and pastoral life or whether in its social and charitable works, should “be strengthened by the imposition of hands which has come down from the apostles. They would be more closely bound to the altar and their ministry would be made more fruitful through the sacramental grace of the diaconate.”59

  • http://goodbeautifultrue.com Michael Hallman

    I think what is often overlooked is the manner in which the fullness of the priesthood in the liturgy is expressed liturgically in celebrations including bishop, priest, and deacon. By having a deacon present and serving at the Mass we have a fuller expression of the person of Christ. The deacon does participate in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, sacramentally, but in a different way than the bishop and the priest. It is a priesthood of service, and at the liturgy his presence is a visible reminder of that essential element of the mission of Christ.

    His argument about the priests “not knowing what to do with the deacon” is silly. If he doesn’t know what to do, that’s his fault. There are roles that are specifically diaconate roles. It is the function of the deacon to proclaim the Gospel, for one thing. When the priest does read the Gospel in a Mass without a deacon, that is only because there is no deacon present. In that case, it is the Mass without the deacon that is lacking, not the Mass with the deacon being superfluous.

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

    St Stephen, a deacon, was martyred not because he was distributing food to widows or visiting those in prison. He was preaching.

    It is correct that the email writer does not want to depend on Eastern Catholic canon law as it is not the Roman patrimony, but I don’t understand why the Church cannot go back to the beginning and develop more theology on the role of the deacon (married or otherwise) in the Roman-rite.

    Wasn’t St Francis ‘just’ a deacon? That might be a good place to start researching- being modern compared to St Stephen

  • joannemcportland

    We are currently on pilgrimage with the Archbishop of Cincinnati, the Most Rev Dennis Schnurr. Archbishop Schnurr has a great track record of promoting vocations to the priesthood, but also to other states of life. Every day at Mass we are praying the prayer for vocations that Archbishop Schnurr composed, which includes priesthood and religious life, permanent deacons, chaste single life, and marriage. I think he’d find these arguments ridiculous.

    The whole resistance to the permanent diaconate comes down, in many cases, to the lines buried in this email that indicate squeamishness, rooted in a pathological association of sexuality with uncleanness, with married ministers serving at the altar.

  • Elena

    Tonight a deacon will be teaching the RCIA class at our parish. Another deacon has usually taken the Eucharist to the homebound and those in hospitals and nursing homes. Both give the homily occasionally. When the priests are on retreat or absent from the parish for another reason, they lead the Communion services. They have served in many other ways too depending on the needs of the parish and their individual gifts. They mean a lot to our parish.

  • Deacon Bill Malatin

    Deacon Kandra quite correctly stated that the diaconate is a calling, it has everything to do with grace. Most of all it is important to remember that a deacon is ordained by virtue of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, no longer being a laymen. The focus should not be on the functions of the deacon, but on what he has become through the sacramement confered on him by the bishop, joining himself to Christ. Yes, serving at the altar is important, but we must recall the importance of the deacon’s call to charity.

  • Fiergenholt

    I live in a “deacon-rich” environment. In my town, there are three Roman Catholic Parishes for maybe 20,000 people. Those three parishes are pastored by two Roman Catholic priests: Fr. M. pastors both the largest (3,800 folks) and the smallest (2,100 folks); Fr. K. pastors the middle one (3,100 folks). There are six deacons who currently minister in those three parishes: Fr. M. has two “active” and one “retired” in his largest parish and one “active and one “retired” in his smaller one. Fr. K. has one “active” deacon working with him in the mid-sized one.

    My guess is that 80+% of the infant baptisms are done by the deacons; 60+% of the weddings are done by deacons; 40% of the funerals (almost 100% of those ceremonies which are held in Funeral Homes) are done by deacons.

    We are nine nursing home facilities in our town and deacons do Communion Services in lieu of masses in all of them.

    If the truth were known, we are down in the raw number of deacons in our town. Once upon a time there were four parishes; six priests and eleven deacon working together at the same time. Little friction at all.

    We are now in a recruiting cycle for the next cohort of diaconal candidates which will start — after some serious screening — in Fall 2013. I fully expect this diocesan-wide class to be over 45 — with 6-8 from our town.

    Lord knows, we need them.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Deacon Greg–thanks for opening up comments on this here at Patheos.

    Regarding the “celibacy” [sic] issue and Dr. Peters, we know the Holy See addressed that earlier this year, as you’ve posted previously.

    Regarding whether it was “smart” not to have permanent deacons in Lincoln under Bishop Bruskewitz, that’s almost a self-fulfilling statement, as it is the bishop’s prerogative whether to restore the permanent diaconate in his diocese. If a bishop doesn’t want permanent deacons, it’s “smart” not to have any, I guess, assuming that perhaps Lincoln is blessed with many transitional deacons, but it’s somewhat over-the-top to for the writer to downplay the diaconal identity to the degree he does. It seems to defy the very wisdom of the original Apostles who instituted the diaconate. Particularly in the writer’s last paragraph–”hermeneutic of rupture”? Oh really?? So *that’s* what the Apostles were doing in Acts….no wonder Stephen and Philip and the rest of the Seven said to the Twelve (and the Holy Spirit), “Our call is to be like you *Apostles*–don’t make us deacons!”…Oh…. wait….never mind…. :-)

    God bless, Deacon JR

  • Ryan Ellis

    In order to flesh out the question of “what are permanent deacons supposed to do,” I remind everyone again that Pope Paul VI viewed the role a primarily liturgical/ritual, not administrative or pastoral. One of those two latter charisms is unfortunately what most deacons consider themselves to be. Certainly those are present in the Holy Father’s instructions, but they are clearly secondary.

    Perhaps if more dioceses had implemented this general instruction more faithfully, the whole question of the permanent diaconate would not be as divisive among traditional Catholics as it has sadly become. Given the way that things are going in the Church, the ascendency of ultra-orthodox Catholics (myself among them) will likely end up throwing out the permanent deacon baby with the Baby Boomer hangover’s bathwater.

    From “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” issued “motu proprio” by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on June 18, 1967:

    21. According to the above-mentioned Constitution of the Second Vatican Council it pertains to the deacon, to the extent that he has been authorized by the local Ordinary to attend such functions:

    –To assist the bishop and the priest during liturgical actions in all things which the rituals of the different orders assign to him;
    –To administer baptism solemnly and to supply the ceremonies which may have been omitted when conferring it on children or adults;
    –To reserve the Eucharist and to distribute it to himself and to others, to bring it as a Viaticum to the dying and to impart to the people benediction with the Blessed Sacrament with the sacred ciborium;
    –In the absence of a priest, to assist at and to bless marriages in the name of the Church by delegation from the bishop or pastor observing the rest of the requirements which are in the Code of Canon Law[8] with Canon 1098 remaining firm and where what is said in regard to the priest is also to be understood in regard to the deacon;
    –To administer sacramentals and to officiate at funeral and burial services;
    –To read the sacred books of Scripture to the faithful and to instruct and exhort the people;
    –To preside at the worship and prayers of the people when a priest is not present;
    –To direct the liturgy of the word, particularly in the absence of a priest;
    –To carry out, in the name of the hierarchy, the duties of charity and of administration as well as works of social assistance.
    –To guide legitimately, in the name of the parish priest and of the bishop, remote Christian communities;
    –To promote and sustain the apostolic activities of laymen.

    23. All these functions must be carried out in perfect communion with the bishop and with his presbytery, that is to say, under the authority of the bishop and of the priest who are in charge of the care of souls in that place.

    24. Deacons, as much as possible, should have their part in pastoral councils.

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/p6diacon.htm

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

    @joannemcportland- you are exactly right

    @fiergenholt- at the Roman-rite parish that my husband celebrates the 6:30 am Sunday Mass for (he has bi-ritual faculties), there are 10,000 registered families and 2 priests. There are 10 married deacons assigned to this parish- about half of them are getting older so they focus on non-parish ministry like nursing homes, distributing Eucharist at hospitals and visiting shut-ins. The 5 more active deacons are important assistants to their priests and do nothing that is not allowed by canon law- they should be commended for their service to Christ and the Church

  • Deacon Norb

    I suspect that the initial e-mail is from a priest in Lincoln. I am also suspicious he has never traveled “with faculties” to the Diocese of Grand Island.

    For those who are unaware of reality, there are three diocese in Nebraska: Lincoln, Omaha and Grand Island. The latter — Grand Island — probably encompasses 50% of the raw territory of the state.

    Once upon a time, maybe ten years ago or so, I had the privilege of being “on-ceremony” in a parish in the Diocese of Grand Island. I found the pastor very welcoming; he went out of his way to introduce me and my ministry to the rest of his congregation; I proclaimed the gospel and preached the homily that day in his parish.

    NOW, that was before the appointment of Bishop William Dendinger as Bishop of Grand Island. Bishop Dendinger is a retired Air Force Chief of Chaplains (military rank of Major General) and — probably because of his wider knowledge of the universal church; its ministries and its problems — generally welcomes deacons from all over to come and settle in his diocese.

    Personally, I have not taken him up on that offer. The one parish where I was “on-ceremony” that one time was the only one in a county where the cows outnumbered the people by almost 100/1.

  • http://theliturgicalcatechist.weebly.com Joyce Donahue

    The writer seems overly concerned with the function of the deacon at Mass, which, as we know, is only a part of the ministry of a deacon. Other comments have aptly named some of the many other ministries in which deacons serve. As someone who formerly worked in clergy personnel and with a diocesan diaconate office and who currently works with many deacons who are involved in the catechesis of children and adults, I have to say that deacons are indeed a blessing to the Church. If priests had to do all the things in a parish community that deacons currently do, there would be an even greater strain on them.

    Current statistics from CARA show that in the United States there are rapidly increasing number of parishes without a pastor, and even though deacons and lay persons are assigned to leadership in just over 13% of these, it helps. There are now approximately 1700 Catholics per priest – and that includes all priests, not just active ones… 30% of these are retired, sick or absent from their dioceses. Factoring that in, we get about 2400 Catholics per active priest. Since some of these are certainly not active Catholics, the scenario further requires that there be active outreach to them through the New Evangelization. Who is going to do all this? Father? People from the pews who have varying degrees of skill and time? In our diocese, a significant number of deacons step up to fill the needs for leadership and ministry, including both evangelization and education.

    Where would we be without them in a highly-populous area (just outside of Chicago)? Much worse off. Perhaps in Lincoln, which is a much less-populous area, they untypically have enough priests to serve their people ? If they actually do, it’s because they have not thought about serving all of them… or of serving them well.

  • Mary

    I thank the Lord for calling my husband to the Diaconate; and I have no doubt that it was a call! The primary role of Deacon is one of servant and I see my husband and other good Deacons “putting on the robe of servant” in so many ways. Here are some of the things my husband does as Deacon. Coordinates a Sunday schedule of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion to bring the Eucharist and lead a prayer service for the residents in a assisted living/nursing home. If you could see the joy on the residents’ faces when the Eucharist is brought to them you would know just how important a ministry this is. He also facilitates a young-adult faith sharing group, counsels individuals and couples when they come to him with personal problems and makes himself available day or night in times of crisis, coordinates the RCIA, attends pastoral council and liturgy committee meetings, assists at funerals and is not too proud to stuff inserts into the Sunday bulletin when needed because clerical help is short. The very last thing my husband would ever think is that wearing clerics would somehow make him a junior-grade priest. He is in favor of it, however, because it is a wonderful way to give witness (and I agree). Our world is in dire need of being witnessed to. Our good Archbishop Chaput in Philadelphia permitted the Deacons in Denver to wear clerics and I hope it will come to pass in Philadelphia. None of us should be so arrogant as to even think that we know everything about God and what God desires. The reader stated, “The priesthood is what young men should aspire to if they wish to be ordained clergy, not the diaconate, for the salvation of souls can only be fully facilitated by a priest.” Although a priest has a unique role, all of us can and should be conduits of God’s grace, reaching out always in love and compassion to others and inviting people into relationship with Christ. We are called to do this by virtue of our Baptism and when Mass concludes we are sent to just that. May we always know what God wants of us and respond to His call!

  • Matt R

    One need only to read Ignatius of Antioch to see the great role deacons had even in the post apostolic period. In fact, he compares the deacons to Christ and bishops to the Father. And for all of his quick, sometimes incoherent yet wonderful ramblings, one can clearly see that without deacons, Ignatius felt that there would be no church.

  • Bill McG

    “The priesthood is what young men should aspire to if they wish to be ordained clergy, not the diaconate, for the salvation of souls can only be fully facilitated by a priest.” This seems like a non sequitur to me; why not aspire to be an (ordained) deacon who can partly facilitate salvation?,,…At the same time, just because there IS this difference between the role of deacon and priest, there is at least one good reason why some men will continue to aspire to the priesthood, celibacy notwithstanding….The writer insinuates, in the same paragraph, that deacons are often people who faithlessly abandoned their true vocation and came to regret it. Seems like a low blow to me!….. I dont see any reason why the permanent diaconate cannot be a true and valuable vocation..

  • Deacon Bill

    Where to begin? I guess my first response to the reader in question is: “If you’re going to talk about the diaconate, you have to keep up!”

    You have to keep up with WHY the Council did what it did regarding the diaconate. You have to keep up with what the Holy See has had to say — and continues to say — about the diaconate. You have to keep up with theology within the grand sweep of the entire Tradition, and not merely start with the 13th Century (which is the vision of Holy Orders he seems to maintain throughout much of his e-mail). There has been quite a bit of substantive work done on the diaconate over the years since the Council.

    Since I don’t know the writer’s own experience or his location, I found myself thinking, “Well, if I lived in a diocese which had steadfastly refused to acknowledge the diaconate or to gain any actual experience with it, I’d probably reach some of the same fallacious conclusions he does!” Then again, he could be writing from a deacon-rich diocese and he’s simply had limited, or negative, experience, with the diaconate.

    I found it someone humorous that he used the term “archeologism”. This was a term found in the teaching of Pope Pius XII, for example. The reason I chuckled at its use here is this: Yves Congar, arguably the most influential theologian at the Second Vatican Council, kept a journal of his experiences. His entry for 4 October 1963, the day the Council took up the question of a renewed diaconate, reflects that the first speaker on the subject was Cardinal Spellman of New York, who was against the idea of permanent diaconate. As Congar notes, “He is against it; he feels it would be an archeologism condemned by Pius XII. He knows nothing.”

    Why would Congar reach that conclusion? Very simple: the history of the diaconate at Vatican II makes it quite clear that the bishops had no desire or intention of ever trying to “restore the ancient diaconate” as it once had been. Rather, the writings of the bishops, and the debates themselves, highlight that they saw this as an ancient order, readily adaptable to the needs of the contemporary world. They were not about “restoring” anything.

    The bottom line is that it would take far too long to go through each element of this commentator’s mistaken conclusions, ALL of which are amply refuted by more than 45 years of theological and sociological research, teaching — both official and academic — and perhaps most important, the experience of thousands of deacons and the bishops and people they are serving around the world.

    One final point: Naturally, there have been, and continue to be, rough spots in the development of the diaconate. You don’t renew a major order of ministry overnight. The early years of the renewed diaconate had many problems (as well as many blessings); we see the same in diocese in which the diaconate is more recently renewed. It is a process of maturation for all concerned.

    But then again, if you’ve lived in a world without deacons, you wouldn’t know that. Like I said, you have to keep up.

    God bless,

    Deacon Bill Ditewig

  • Stephen

    If this comment is referring to Cardinal William Levada’s speech on Nov. 21, 2011 (http://www.doctrinafidei.va/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20111121_levada-celibacy-priesthood_en.html):

    “Regarding the “celibacy” [sic] issue and Dr. Peters, we know the Holy See addressed that earlier this year”

    then note that Cardinal Levada’s included this qualifier as part of his reflections: “I say this as a personal conviction, and not on behalf of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which I currently serve as Prefect.”

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Hi, Stephen–no, the writer used “celibacy” but the disputed issue is whether married deacons are to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom. Dr. Ed Peters, a great canon law expert, concluded quite some time ago that we are. But the Holy See has indicated in a letter earlier this year that we are not so obligated.

    If you want more info on this (with Deacon Greg’s kind permission, I hope), I’ve written on this at my blog site: http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/the-continent-deacon-revisited/

    God bless you!

    Deacon JR

  • ron chandonia

    Anyone who doubts that the restored diaconate does God’s work in the contemporary Church need only reflect on this particular thread on the Deacon’s Bench. After many arid weeks without commentary from readers of this blog, this particular topic led our host-deacon to rekindle the spirit of dialogue once celebrated by the Council but so often lacking today. Miraculous. Like the diaconate itself.

  • LizEst

    “The harvest is great but the laborers are few…” (Matthew 9:37a). Bring on the laborers, holy laborers!

    Thank you, Deacon Greg, for opening up the comments. God bless you and all deacons, transitional and permanent.

  • Regina Faighes

    Our parish is blessed to be served by two permanent deacons: Deacon Greg and Deacon Bill. They are important fixtures–pillars (a nod to Deacon Greg’s recent homily) in our parish family, and I do not want to imagine what parish life would be like without them. Their vocation can be seen as a bridge between the priesthood and the laity, because both they and our priests are ordained clergymen. And they, like many lay parishioners are married and have secular careers, and like all lay parishioners, they live not in the rectory but in their own house or apartment. But while they have things in common with both priests and lay people, permanent deacons are neither junior priests nor glorified lay people. The permanent diaconate is a very special vocation, and God calls very special men to serve Him in this capacity. And while I do not doubt that the Diocese of Lincoln is blessed, as is ours, to be served by holy priests and dedicated and active lay people and religious, I believe that ordaining men to the permanent diaconate would enrich the spiritual life of the members that Diocese, clergy, religious, and lay, in countless ways.

  • Deacon Tom

    I would encourage the person who crafted the original post to read both the National Directory and the Basic Norms on the Permanent Diaconate. Moreover, these two articles will be extremely helpful to him, as well as good reads for the rest of us too! Peace!

    http://www.allentowndeacons.org/index.cfm?load=page&page=4

    http://www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=26824

  • http://www.deaconpreacher.com Deacon Bill O’Donnell

    Wow – where to start?
    I am one of those Deacon’s that Bishop Dendinger kindly welcomed to his diocese from Omaha some 4 years ago that Dcn. Norb mentioned in his comment. I serve the good people of three small country parishes. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
    We also now have a diaconate program here that I work closely with. It was started only about six years back. The program is on sound footing.

    I have met Bp. B of Lincoln on a number of occasions, and I can tell you he does respect the office of deacon. He has his reasons for not forming them in his diocese, but has given them faculties and even incardinated some, so Lincoln does ‘have’ deacons. Just very, very few.

    As it has been pointed out, it is the Bishop’s prerogative, but it is also his responsibility. There are a lot of armchair-episcopates out there, and this person is certainly one of them. His thinking is not at all the thought of most people of the Lincoln diocese who have had experience of the diaconate.

    His one statement about priest not knowing ‘what to do with a deacon anyway’ might have some ring of truth in it in Lincoln. I am convinced that most priests would figure it out real quick! Perhaps Bp. Conley will allow the formation of deacons, perhaps he won’t. Time will tell.

    BTW Dcn. Norb, I like all the cows and ranchers in the two counties I serve. Hardest working, most genuine and probably the least appreciated people I’ve ever met. (and the cows taste great!) :)

    Dcn. Greg, thanks for the opportunity to spout on a blog I love to read.

  • HMS

    St. Augustine’s community in Hippo was composed of one bishop, two priests, five deacons, and two subdeacons. (Sermon 356)

    In addition, one of his most important works, De Catechizandis Rudibus (On the Teaching of the Faith) was written in reply to Deogratias, a deacon in Carthage. Bishop Aurelius of Carthage sent any people who were seeking baptism to Deogratias for catechesis.

    However, Deogratias wrote to Augustine that he no longer enjoyed this task, in part because he found it a distraction from his other ministries and also because he was not confident that he was effective. As a result, we have a legacy of a practical handbook for any preacher/teacher of Christianity composed by St. Augustine.

    I figure that if deacons were respected by St. Augustine in the 4th century of our Church, their ministry today is worthy of respect.

  • Deacon Steve

    I will say that I agree that it is the Grace of the Sacrament of Orders that is different from the laity perform similar functions or acts of charity. As Deacon Greg said it is that grace that allows us to function at times when we feel that we have nothing left to give. I am going through this right now as our community is reeling from the death of an 18 year old young man who struggled and fought leukemia, complication from the bone marrow transplant, kidney failure and finally his death tonight after 150+ days in City of Hope hospital. One of my wife’s coworkers posted on Facebook that she was going to pray at the hospital in the garden, alone if that is what happened. I responded that I would join her in prayer during my drive home, but I did not think I could make it in time. Traffic cooperated and the 1.5-2 hour drive ended up being only a hour and ten minutes so I turned left instead of right at the final freeway junction and joined her and 8 others in the garden to pray for Chris. 3 of the people present were rom my parish, the others were not. It was God’s grace through the Sacrament of Orders that guided me through picking a scripture passage and leading them in prayer when they asked me to do so.
    Is the Diaconate required for the Church to function, no. Is the Diaconate needed in the Church for the Church to function? I think yes and not just because I was called to ordination. We are needed to help bridge the laity and the clergy. The threefold ministry of the Diaconate, Ministry of the Word, Ministry of the Altar, and Ministry of Service or Charity is needed, and we are called to model these acts of Ministry through the grace of the Sacrament of Orders. The ordination of deacons shows the Church’s concern for those areas of ministry and their access to the faithful by holding those called to ordained ministry in the Order of Deacons up as examples of how Faith and the secular world can intersect and exist together in harmony.

  • Fiergenholt

    Now, there is an additional skeleton in this closet. Even though it is “off-topic,” I am somewhat surprised no one else has mentioned up to now. Like all skeletons, as it has been decaying over time, it tends to smell. And the closet itself has taken on a mold that — like all molds in living accommodations — is very hard to decontaminate.

    The Diocese of Lincoln, under Bishop Bruskewitz, adamantly and flatly has never cooperated with the USCCB’s extensive efforts to create a safe environment for youth as a result of the agreements created in the spin-off of the 2002 Dallas Declaration. It continues to refuse to provide factual reports on the priests and deacons who have been accused of such travesty; it continues to refuse to provide the corrective and educational measures to clergy and other workers with youth in the parishes that every other Latin Rite Diocese in the United States have adopted.

    I would think that the new bishop knows all of this — both the issue of the Diocese of Lincoln’s response to the permanent diaconate as well as the issue of the Diocese of Lincoln’s response to the Dallas Declaration.

    Traditionally, knowledge and maturity brings about wisdom. We shall see.

  • Charles Collins

    I do think there is much confusion on the role of the deacon in the modern Church, but that does not mean the office of permanent deacon is a bad one. First of all, there is confusion over their role as clergy. This confusion seems sadly intentional. Long discourses on how the deacons should “dress like the laypeople they serve” and rules against clerical dress so “to not confuse the laity” bring up obvious questions: whom do the priests serve then, if not the laity? What confuses the laity more – clerics who are are not allowed to dress like clerics, or a clergy dressed as clergy? If bishops do not want deacons to be confused with “real clergy” then they should stop ordaining them.

    What is even more confusing for laypeople, is that deacons (to whom so much effort is made to make sure they do not look like clergy) are often put in charge of the purely sacramental duties of a parish, so pastors can take care of administrative tasks. I know of many parishes where deacons conduct all baptisms, and every marriage that does not involve a Mass, while the parish priests attend all the planning meetings, business meetings, etc. etc.

    Although the original e-mailer spoke of an “archaeologism” in lookng at the historical role of the deacon, I think it is a necessary starting point. It is also necessary to look at scripture, the lives of deacon saints, the current Church legislation, as well as the “signs of the times”. I think scripture and the history of the Church shows that despite their “serving” nature, Deacons have always preached the Word (as all of us are called to do), as Sts. Stephen and Philip show in Acts. They have also had a special role in serving the poor. Into the second millenium, they were also had an important – sometimes a bit too important – role in the administration of the Church.

    Perhaps we could see in the present Church structures areas which seem to be ideally suited to a renewed diaconate? Parish business managers, lawyers, accountants, social workers, even pyschologists, all seem to be roles to which deacons could bring a clerical weight, to areas which might seem to be “serving table” for priests. Perhaps deacons, in addition to theological training, should have MBA’s, JD’s, MSW, etc…

    As for “answering” Dr. Peter’s views on celibacy, articles expressing extreme minority canonical opinions in Canadian canon law journals do not need to be “answered”, although the President of the Pontifical Council for the Interepretation of Legislative Texts has done so, disagreeing with Dr. Peters. However, conceptually, I think celibacy is an issue that must be addressed. As long as 99% of permanent deacons are married, they will have a confused identity. Everyone, including many of the deacons, will always suspect a permanent deacon is just a married person who wants to be a priest. If there is a unique vocation to the permanent diaconate, why are there no younger celibate men who seem called to it? Perhaps some of those men who leave seminary, but do not get married, were actually called to the diaconate, but vocations directors all dismiss this possibility. I think we all know young men who constantly volunteer at parishes, but in more of a technical support role, who do not feel called to the priesthood. Are they perhaps called to the diaconate? Would a diaconal vocation office even consider such a possibility?

    I think there will be confusion on the role of the permanent deacon in the Church until more men choose the vocation over the priesthood, as opposed choosing the permanent diaconate when priesthood is no longer an option.

  • Deacon Norb

    I’m going to have to disagree with Charles Collins 3:35am posting in several places:

    –I have personally met well over 400 permanently ordained married deacons. I can count on one hand (4 out of 400) those ever seriously considered becoming celibate priests first.

    –The term that Dr. Peters used was “continence” not “celibacy. All permanently ordained married deacons are already vowed to a future state of celibacy. If their wives die first, they are required by a vow and promise to remain unmarried. “Continence” is a totally different issue — according to Dr. Peter’s interpretation of Canon Law, once married men are ordained deacons, they are required to refrain permanently from sexual relations with their wives. That, of course, is utter nonsense and so has been declared such by others more reputable than he.

    –The idea that permanently ordained married deacons should be professionals first and then accept the call to ordination is exactly how it currently works. That’s is one of the reasons why the American minimum age is 35 for ordination and also why a number of dioceses require college degrees for admissions to any candidacy status. I am a “Professor-Deacon” and a published scholar as is Deacon Bill Ditewig who posted an earlier comment on this stream. My diocese already has a “Psychologist-Deacon,” two “Lawyer-Deacons,” and several “School-Counselor-Deacons.” The host of this BLOG is a deacon who has a very strong reputation among nationally recognized news media folk.

    –As far as deacons taking over administrative duties, a lot depends upon their own individual talents and credentials. I know of several dioceses who have permanently ordained deacons serving as Diocesan Chancellors, Diocesan Finance Managers, and Judges in their respective Diocesan Tribunals. Perhaps the real question is why priests are placed in these tasks and not out in the parishes hearing confessions, saying mass and anointing the sick — tasks the deacons cannot do.

  • Dcn Jack Shea

    I think that the most important thing to remember is that we do have a vocation to the diacaonate. Many of us may have though we had a vocation to the priesthood back in grammar school or high school and then discerned that we did not and moved on to the vocation of father and husband. However, as Dcn. Greg said, the Holy Spirit comes and calls when he needs us. We are fortunate to have this calling and hopefully we will be an asset to the Church we serve.

  • vox borealis

    On a side note and to defend Ed Peters (who really needs no help defending himself)—

    according to Dr. Peter’s interpretation of Canon Law, once married men are ordained deacons, they are required to refrain permanently from sexual relations with their wives. That, of course, is utter nonsense and so has been declared such by others more reputable than he.

    His arguments are not utter nonsense, with respect to Canon Law. One may disagree with his interpretation, but one cannot simply dismiss it as unserious. It should be pointed out that Mr. Peters does not in his writing avocate necessarily for diaconal continence. Rather, he argues that Canon Law should be amended to reflect what the Church envisions as allowable for deacons.

  • vox borealis

    With respect to the larger discussion, I for one am ambivalent about the modern diaconate. Despite the claims of several here–mostly deacons–I remain certain that the restored diaconate has pulled at least some men from the priesthood. If that number is only 10%, it would still represent a significant “hit” on priestly vocations in the last 40 years or so. This does not mean that the diaconate is a “bad” thing. Who knows, maybe those men would have made bad priests.

    Many of the responders on this thread claim to be deacons, and naturally their responses are defensive and take issue with the initial email that Deacon Greg posted. I’m more interested in hearing what others think about the restored diaconate. I have to admit that deacons still seem a little “foreign” to me. Despite the fact that I have lived entirely within the era of the restored diaconate, I never saw a even single Roman Catholic deacon for the first 30 years or so of my life.

  • Eugene LeBoeuf

    After all was said, written or done – In the upcoming YEAR OF FAITH there might be some good sound catechesis from the pulpit on the diaconate in our parishes. Some Catholic periodicals have done the catechesis on the diaconate (Knights of Columbus COLUMBIA).
    I truly believe in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Who are we to question the Holy Spirit speaking through the Holy Father?

  • HMS

    “I remain certain that the restored diaconate has pulled at least some men from the priesthood. If that number is only 10%, it would still represent a significant “hit” on priestly vocations in the last 40 years or so.”

    That kind of statement needs more than an opinion to support it. It needs to be proven by facts.

    (Disclaimer: I am not a deacon. You might call me a DS, Deacon Supporter.)

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

    I didn’t realize that comments were permitted here again, but I think far too much water has already passed under this bridge to comment usefully on substance. I will say only this: presuming, as I do, that folks mean what they say (especially what they write), I see no reason to assume that the unknown emailer above said “celibacy” and meant “continence”. Certainly, they are concepts that I do not confuse. Assuming he meant celibacy, then, he might have had in mind my writings on the great challenge that the married diaconate (and numerous new married priests) poses to celibacy in the West. My views on that topic (as opposed to continence, a related but distinct issue) are found chiefly here: Edward Peters, “Diaconal categories and clerical celibacy”, Chicago Studies 49 (2010) 110-116, also online at: http://www.canonlaw.info/a_deacons5.htm.

    Best, edp.

    Ps: thanx, vb, for your kind words.

  • Diakonos09

    The Acts of the Apostles gives a few short sentences in Chapter 6 about charitable work as a reason for instituting the office of deacons, but then devotes two whole chapters (7 & 8) to the preaching, teaching and liturgical ministry of the deacon (Sts. Stephen and Philip). And of course the first martyr of the Christianity was a deacon, St. Stephen, who is shown as giving up his life with the same spirit of love and forgiveness as the Lord. Early Church history shows quite clearly that the popes often sent deacons (not priests) as their legates or representatives to civil and ecclesial persons or meetings. Reliable historians tell us that for various religious-political reasons originating with the priests’ envy over the deacons’ growing authority in church administration and their close relationship to the bishop, that the diaconate as a distinct permanent vocation almost disappeared in the West (though our most popular saint, Francis of Assisi, was a permanent deacon).

    Obviously, the office and ministry of deacon is beyond questioning as an essential part of the Church, rooted in Scripture, Tradition and history. So why bother to “go there”. It seems to me that the diaconate in the western Church fell victim to human sin, just as did the unity of the Church (being broken into many parts) and there are other things that are not today as they might have or should have or could have been. But as it is said “God writes straight through crooked lines” and the restoration of the diaconate as a distinct and permanent clerical vocation is one example of this.

    It seems to me that if we have a confusion of sorts over priestly or diaconal ministries, and their intermingling, it is not because the diaconate has been restored BUT because human jealousy brought it to near extinction. Having been diminished into merely a “stepping stone” to the presbyterate, many of the things that the deacon “did” thus fell to the priests, and so we see that priests of the western Church have become overloaded, doing the works that belong to both levels of Orders. Most of the priests I have encountered over the past 30 years that I have been an active Catholic has spoken gratefully and encouragingly about the permanent diaconate.

    The writer of the “ant-deacon” posts also seems to see the priesthood as the core of Holy Orders and both the episcopate and the diaconate as existing for the sake of the priesthood. Where in the world of Catholic theology did THAT come from? The episcopate has always been and is the FULLNESS of Orders. Priests are ordained to assist the bishop. Deacons are ordained to assist both. EACH of these are expressions of the one Sacrament of Holy Orders. Each are a distinct, authentic, albeit intimately related aspect of clerical life and vocation (which by the way, dear writer, is why a deacon who so chooses may properly and authentically wear the collar; he is not pretending but he IS a cleric).
    It sounds to me that this writer doesn’t just have an issue with the diaconate but with most things that have the stamp of “Vatican II” on them. But then Church history also shows us that every Council has its adherents as well as its opponents. Such is life in Church composed of saints and sinners.

  • justin not martyr

    Having been in several dioceses, and encountered numerous deacons, I’m not at all “sold” on the permanent diaconate. As a concept, I have no issue with it; its the way I’ve seen the ministry approached and exercised that causes me concern. I’ve often wondered if some – perhaps many – approach the diaconate thinking, “Well, I’ve been president of the Holy Name Society, or I’ve headed this ministry or that, so what else is there for me to do?
    I’ll be a deacon.” I’m sure there are exceptions, but generally, I do not find deacons theologically equipped or prepared. I can honestly say that I’ve never been “moved” by the preaching of a permanent deacon. While I can see priests “chipping away” at clericalism, I see deacons seeking it and clinging to it – the whole collar thing being a clear example. Another post on this blog refers to Sargent Shriver’s statement about the Peace Corp and “servants saving us all.” The call to service is not exclusive to the diaconate, though often enough, in both theory and practice, it is treated that way. There is no need -in fact, it is unhealthy, unwise and unfair – to clericalize “doing good.” That belongs to all of the faithful. I think I might like to see the permanent diaconate “work” as it could and as it is envisioned, but sadly, I haven’t… yet.

  • FrMichael

    I don’t know why anybody would be complaining about the Bishop of Lincoln: his is, perhaps, the most successful diocese in the nation. He has the highest number of diocesan priests and seminarians per capita, he has kept the rampant modernism and Americanism of AmChurch away from his part of the Lord’s Vineyard, he has maintained altar boys as a viable ministry, he has opened two seminaries in his small diocese, and AFAIK he hasn’t had to conduct wholesale closing of parishes. He had also been generous in allowing his priests to serve in the military.

    As for the one commentator’s insinuation, he and his predecessors had a “one strike” policy against pederasts and active homosexuals in his diocese long before the Crisis of 2001. If the larger American Church had done that instead of “passing the trash” for decades, tens of thousands of victims and billions of dollars, never mind the morale of Catholics in the US, would have been better for it.

    Cheers to the good bishop from a Californian priest who wished that he had served here!

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Dear Dr. Peters–

    Glad you were able to comment here. I’m hoping that, at some point when your schedule permits, you could consider a review of and reply to my reply to your reply– :-) — that is, continuing a dialogue on this most fascinating and germane subject of the continent deacon. The link to it remains above.

    God bless you,

    Deacon JR

  • Deacon John Devlin

    Thanks to Deacon Kandra for opening this topic up for wide discussion. In a study I am doing on the Second Vatican Council, I have read much on Lumen Gentium and particularly on the section recommending the restoration of the diaconate to a permanent state (LG29). As Lumen Gentium was debated, this section garnered much attention and the ordination of married men as Deacons was not universally hailed by the Bishops and Cardinals. As the document was voted on in its preliminary stages the section on the permanent diaconate was less enthusiastically received than other sections but it still passed with about 70% of the vote.
    An important aspect to remember is this – the local bishop has the discretion (period). Bishop Bruskewitz of Lincoln did not ordain deacons for his own reasons – reasons that we have to believe were sincere. Maybe Bishop Conley will have a different outlook – maybe not. For me, it’s always important to remember that the hierarchy in the Church works. Things are done that I might not not do or in ways that I might not think are best but the trust and obedience of the people and the clergy to their bishops is a necessary element in the governance or our dioceses. With that in mind, I thank God that my diocesan bishop has thought the ordination of deacons to be a good thing for the Sioux Falls Diocese.

  • Fr. East Coast

    Each bishop must make a prudential decision for his own diocese with its own particular situation. That said, it is clear that the diaconate is a ministry intended by Christ for the Church. Every priest was ordained a deacon and in some sense remains a deacon, but it seems that in more and more places it has been seen as best to distinguish the ministry.
    I have worked with deacons in two archdiocese of the East Coast US. I have discovered good men, but many with less than adequate liturgical and (sometimes theological) formation. Of course, the same can be said of many priests, and in fact, it may be the priest professors and pastors who are poorly forming the future deacons.
    Personally, I think the answer is to emphasize the hierarchical difference. This is not about “power” but about “sacred order” intended by Christ. If each does what is proper to his order, then we will have a better understanding of what St. Paul wrote in the first reading today.
    One glaring lack I have noted in the deacon’s formation is that diaconate is treated as if it started after Vatican II. I think this is where liturgical formation comes in. Lex orandi lex credendi (The law of praying is the law of believing). If priests and deacons learn the traditional liturgical role of priests and deacons in the Roman rite, much would be done to show the value and dignity of the deacon. For example, in the traditional liturgy, only the deacon, besides the priest, touches the sacred vessels with unveiled hands. It strikes me when we remember the story of St. Stephen and how deacons had charge of the sacred vessels in the early Church. At the offering of the chalice at the offertory in the traditional Mass, the deacon touches it and actually recites the prayer with the priest “We offer to You…” again to demonstrate the deacon’s connection with the chalice. At the sign of peace, the priest kisses the altar on which Christ sacramentally lies, and then passes Christ’s peace to the deacon. Through the deacon this peace is then extended to the subdeacon and so on. Instead of a free for all of handshaking based on a command, it seems to me a harmonious and orderly sharing of peace passing from Christ the head to His members.
    There’s so much more that could be said. But, I hope I have gotten my point across.
    The Church is enriched by deacons. But, she needs deacons (and priests) who know their roles and are humble in fulfilling them.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Fr. EC:

    It’s interesting that you mention the priest kissing the altar during the sign of peace. I presume this is from an older (“traditional”) form of the Mass. In all my years serving at the altar, as a deacon or as a lay altar server, I’ve only seen it done by a priest once.

    DGK

  • CK

    Justin not martyr wrote: “I’ve often wondered if some – perhaps many – approach the diaconate thinking, “Well, I’ve been president of the Holy Name Society, or I’ve headed this ministry or that, so what else is there for me to do?”

    My response as a 2nd year diaconate candidate is: Oh, man, no.

    Speaking for myself, formation is a lot of work and not something for a bucket list. The diaconate was never on my agenda, but I’m coming to understand I’m on the Holy Spirit’s agenda. I’m in my 40s, married, have middle-school age kids, a career. My hands are full by any objective measure and I had to leave a ministry I loved to enter formation because homework and travel time is equivalent to a part-time job. Maybe some men view Orders as a hobby, but I can’t imagine it.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    CK…

    Amen. At some point in my own discernment, I had to say to myself, “This is going to wreak havoc on my life, disrupt my evenings and weekends, sap my energy and tax my patience, and I’d really rather spend my Sundays sleeping in…do I really want this?” And I had to make the conscious choice, at that moment, to set aside my own desires and act on the will of God — or, at the very least, explore whether this was really His will or just my own id screwing with me.

    The rest is history.

    DGK

  • TJV3

    Some time back, the Diocese of Trenton garnered some press coverage regarding a study commissioned by Bishop David O’Connell which canvassed Catholics that had fallen away from practicing the Faith.

    That same Diocese is currently performing a study and review of the restored diaconate. Until the study is complete, the Bishop has placed a moratorium on accepting any new candidates to study for diaconate. Additionally, it is my understanding that those already ordained will have to pursue further graduate study, among other on-going formation obligations. Given the large numbers of deacons serving in that Diocese, it will be interesting to see the results when they come in.

  • Diaconal Candidate WW

    Deacon Greg and CK,
    I’m a candidate for the permanent diaconate in my fifth year of formation. Your comments about wreaking havoc on your life strike a chord in me. I love to fish and look forward to the times when I can. But as my discernment of the vocation grows deeper I have come to the realization that we must listen to the call in obedience.
    I also have come to realize that after Peter ( the fisherman) meets the Lord on that shore in Galilee after the Resurrection there is no indication that he ever went fishing again, except for men.
    It’s not about me.

  • Fiergenholt

    Responding to TJV3:

    The issue that you just described is an ongoing and very complex continual discernment process and not likely to be solved overnight.

    –Some Diocese have insisted upon not only completed graduate work for all diaconal candidates but that the graduate work MUST be in Religious Studies/Theology or a similar “clerical” field. The rationale SEEMS to be that since only a person who has those “clerical” degrees can be legally appointed a Pastor/Pastoral Leader, that would then make all diaconal ordinands immediately eligible to assume a Pastoral Leader role — something that is fairly rare at the moment because of that very reason. (FYI: In my diocese, there are 3-4 times as many Religious Sisters who have those degrees than there are permanently ordained deacons — even though Canon Law states that deacons get priority in those slots over religious sisters).

    –Reality itself, however, is slapping these planners who push for the higher “clerical” degrees in the face. Very few diaconal candidates have those very specific graduate degrees and the vast VAST majority of those who do are “anglo.” Finding diaconal candidates who are members of cultural/racial minorities (African American, Native American, Latin American, Asian American) — especially where the demand for bi-cultural/bi-lingual Pastoral leaders is very high — is almost impossible.

    –When you do find spiritually strong diaconal candidates in those minorities (possible exception are the Asian American), they may well not even be high-school graduates much less guys with MA-RS/ MDiv/MA-Theo degrees.

    Maybe Trenton has a better way but I doubt it.

    My suggestion to Trenton is to start talking to all new diaconal candidates who are bright but not credentialed about going back to school AT THE DIOCESE’S EXPENSE.

  • TJV3

    Fiergenholt – it seems you have some axes to grind. My own take on it is that the thought behind graduate (theology) degrees for deacons / diaconal candidates is that if the Church requires solid and thorough theological training for her priests, no less can be required from her deacons. Major orders are major orders. Deacons have to function in the Information Age among a highly educated laity and it seems that to have deacons lacking theological knowledge leaves them, the Church and those they serve at a profound disadvantage. The man in Orders (priest or deacon) engaged in pastoral ministry needs to be more, not less, educated in the world in which we live. How can they be expected to preach effectively, counsel competently or aid and advise in canonical or moral situations without a solid training in theology?

    Second, I do not know if Trenton is footing the bill for further graduate studies or not. They very well may be. As an aside, women religious are incapable of being appointed “pastors” of parishes because they are unable to be ordained. Only priests may be pastors – although until the 1917 revision in canon law a deacon was able to appointed pastor of a parish, but I digress. It is true that in some locales lacking in priests, women religious may fill in to provide counselling, administrative duties, etc., but it still the clergy who have actual canonical authority and provide the sacraments.

    Finally, I think the argument for less educated minority candidates fails. That argument would never be made for priests. Intellectual capacity for graduate study has long been a hallmark for advancement to Orders. To lack it may very well be an indicator of a lack of an authentic vocation. The need for a strong spiritual life cannot be divoreced from the need for a rigorous formation or posed as an either/or choice. It is a both/and situaition. No one has a right to Orders. There is no requirement of minority status to minster to/in minority communities. As to the need to minister in various languages – it is always possible to learn new langauages.

    I do not know what Trenton will conclude from their study. However, I am certain that whatever they conclude will be used by the Bishop to strenghten the diaconate and its role in diocesian life.

  • Deacon Norb

    Hey! “f” Buddy ! Super Post!

    What folks do not realize is that Vatican graduate programs are open to permanently ordained deacons; they are generally much cheaper than comparable programs here in the US and inexpensive yet simple lodging in Rome is also available. AND there is no question about the credibility of that degree for a church-funded position! Yes, one’s Bishop has to approve but I cannot imagine why he would not!

    The obvious problem — nine months of the year living in Rome away from wife and family !

    Don’t know a whole lot of deacons who have done that yet. Maybe the new academic center Deacon Bill Ditewig is setting up in Rome will help here somewhat.

    Someone has to say that to the bishops. If you want deacons credentialed in proper graduate programs, pay for their expenses!

  • LizEst

    TVJ3 – Our archdiocesan formation program is four years which culminates in ordination and no theological graduate degree. I’m told candidates would gladly go another year to come out with the graduate degree along with ordination. Perhaps in the future, they will have the opportunity to so. Our lay minister training programs culminate in theological graduate degrees. It would be good to level the playing field all around…in all dioceses.

  • Deacon Paul

    This has been an interesting string of posts. Most of them are excellent and passionate in their expositions on the Deaconate. It is the tenor of the arguments that are troubling to me. I am reminded of the chat Job had with the Father in the middle of his crises. (Job 38) We seem quick to reduce the Holy Spirit to working with only certain people although the wind blows where it will. We treat chastity as if it were a magical elixir through which God’s special grace flows yet we forget that the Father of our faith was all but celibate and that some of the Apostles were married. We speak of advanced degrees as being vital to the calling of the Church’s hierarchy yet we forget that Jesus did not choose the learned or the well healed, rather he chose Fishermen, Farmers and a couple of zealots.
    I have been a Deacon for almost 21 years. My third child was born shortly after my ordination and my second was a babe in arms during my formation. I never wanted to be a Priest; I have never worn a roman collar. My calling was different than my Father’s, also a Deacon. He tried the seminary after the death of my Mother. He was not ordained a priest. I have a post graduate degree although not in Theology. Does that make me less susceptible to the promptings of the Holy Spirit? I think not. Much of this stream is tinged with Pre-Vatican II rhetoric and a rather pharisaical view of excessive rule making versus letting God do His thing. We would do well to look at who God chose to do His bidding; Moses, David a shepherd boy, Peter the Apostle, Paul the Apostle, St. Francis, St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, Joan of Arc, Blessed Virgin Mary, John the Evangelist; none in this list represented the best or the brightest of their day by man’s definition; all of these in this list possessed something else known to God who sees all in all.
    All I want is an opportunity to serve my Lord and His people. I believe God had bestowed extraordinary grace in me in the pursuit of this vocation. I look forward to His continued graces. By the way, I have sat in the pews serving a priest in a parish where I was not invited to the table often. Through it all I was acutely aware of my promise of obedience to my Bishop and his Priest. Regarding homiletics, scripture tells us that Jesus spoke to the people in stories and parables when He was not being totally blunt. The goal was understanding, yet even with my advanced degree I struggle to understand some of our popular contemporary theologians. Simplicity, my brothers. Elitism in the Church has no place although a good case can be made for a much more conservative approach. While we argue about the finer points of God’s plan, interpreted by us, this Church is under attack, our foundations are weakening and we are losing sheep. Our plan is not working well; perhaps we should give God a free hand in out restoration.

  • ron chandonia

    Thank you, Deacon Paul. Your experience meshes well with what I have seen in the candidates I teach. There are men who have a real passion for dogmatic theology, but they are often not the same men who will preach well later on, and they are very often not the men who will later throw themselves into the ministry of charity. One of our priest-instructors complained that few of our candidates could compently use MLA style in their papers. I could not help wondering how often academic forms might prove helpful to the men in their later ministry. I also wondered if that pastor himself uses MLA style in pieces he writes for his parish bulletin.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Ron:

    Egad. Somehow, I don’t think Jesus was overly concerned about the apostles being able to competently use MLA style.

    An older priest I know was grumbling recently about the seminarians he’s encountering. “People think they’re so bright,” he said with a shake of his head. “Who cares about their brain? I’d rather they have a good heart.”

  • richard kuebbing

    when I lived in Houston (a city w/one of the largest groups of deacons in the country) in teh 1970s/80s, one of our pastors said there was a time when pastors were wary of the diaconate. after they worked with them for a while, they would fight to keep.

    Louis Horr was an oil field salesman. Had lots of jokes. A good father and a great down home preacher.

    Jim Rutledge lost his job in public relations. He needed insurance for his wife. Pastor gave him a low salary and made him parish temporalities administrator. Asked him to lead fund raising for a new multipurpose center. Told him he could work whatever contract side jobs he could find. The center got built. Jim and family survived.

    The parish never had less than 4 deacons when I was there. It was trilingual (EN SP Vietnamese) and not rich. Very few paid staff. The parish thrived. Yes the Spirit of God was with us and among us.

    I cried when I was laid off and had to leave for another place.

  • Patt

    The poor priest of today. Everyone wants to do his job for him–deacons and women Extraordinary “ministers”. Priest shortage? Wonder why??????

  • Sean

    I am a 19yr old Catholic guy. I have been actively discerning my vocation for roughly 5 years now. I’m somewhat insulted by this gentleman’s thought that “you cannot have both” (meaning marriage and church service). This bothers me because after discerning with 2 diocese, the Salesians, the Maryknoll Fathers, and the Jesuits of the New Orleans province I have come to realize that my call is to the permanent diaconate. I’m not running away from a priestly vocation through this. I believe that the diaconate IS MY VOCATION. I was at first troubled by this when 2 separate diocesan priests told me that I am “avoiding my true call” and “trying to compromise with God” with this decision. What changed this feeling was a discussion with a good and holy priest who comforted me by saying “it is a special call, if you are called to serve the people in the roll of the diaconate go for it and don’t let those other (expletive) priests tell u other wise.”

    I think anyone who looks at the diaconate as running away from the “true” religious vocation has to consider that it is the individual man’s vocation. And, in my opinion, and I’m sure in Deacon Greg’s as well, God calls men to the deacon’s ministry.

  • Mark Patrick

    I agree with your reader, Deacon. My apologies, but I must correct what you said. The permanent diaconate is not a primary vocation. The permanent deacon’s vocation is to marriage and fatherhood, and NOT to the diaconate. The theology regarding the permanent diaconate is very obscure and not well understood or developed. The permanent diaconate, in the U.S. especially, has become a place where grown men can dress up and do things that they wish they could do if they were priests, while invoking and swimming in the praise and adoration of the people. We have over-glorified the permanent diaconate in this country and it is way over-used/promoted. The permanent diaconate is a secondary vocation. The permanent deacons that I know give great service to the Church, but it is evident that they see themselves as “mini-priests” who want to and believe that they can do what Father does. My own diocese has way too many permanent deacons, even to excess, thus taking the allowance of Vatican II and blowing it out of proportion as though the permanent diaconate and having as many permanent deacons as possible is something laudable. We have taken our focus off of the priestly and religious vocation in our U.S. dioceses. I personally applaud His Excellency Bishop Bruskewitz’s decision to not introduce the unnecessary permanent diaconate into his diocese and I support even more the decision of His Excellency Bishop Conley for sticking with the policies of his predecessor.

  • Ken Stephens

    Wow! It is interesting to read the negative comments. I can see that many people here do not really understand the diaconate as the Church understands it.

    I am writing mainly to respond to posters who talk down people deacons who used to be in the seminary. That one touches me in a sensitive spot. I was in priestly formation and religious life for nearly five years. After much discernment before God, I realized that my vocation was not to be a priest and religious. I am now happily married.

    I personally don’t have a problem with a married priesthood, but I do not want to be a married priest. I sincerely believe that my vocation is to be married and a deacon. I want to serve the Church as a deacon (defined by the Church), and I most definitely do not view a deacon as a mini-priest. Absolutely nothing can replace a priest in the Catholic Church.

    Many of the comment here seem very strange and, dare I say, even uncharitable towards men who serve as deacons in the Church.

  • Pingback: Dissent of the day: “The permanent diaconate is not a primary vocation…”

  • Suzanne Greydanus

    In my own experience with Steve in the diaconate program, I see no men using it as an alternative to the priesthood. They are mostly all older, married, and some even retired. And while it is of course true that there are proud/arrogant men in this fallen world, I’m pretty sure you find then anywhere, in any vocation/job/calling/whatever.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Hi, Mark Patrick–

    I think you are missing the forest for the trees here. Let me ask you this: what is the “primary vocation” of the single permanent deacon?

    God bless, Deacon JR

  • Laura

    My two cents: In the ADW we have many, many deacons and in my opinion they are not always well formed. An enthusiastic deacon in my former parish was frequently drafted by the pastor when he would be unavailable to do a ‘communion service’ in lieu of the daily Mass and he spent (by his own admission) and inordinate amount of time in the days prior to the ‘service’ to plan the prayers and the structure of the ‘communion service’. Something just didn’t seem right to me. Among many aberrations, he literally was saying the entire Eucharistic Prayer and just leaving out the words of consecration. When confronted (by me) he said as a deacon he had every right to do what he was doing — but he knew enough to leave out the consecration! Turns out he had no idea that there is a RITE for Holy Communion outside of Mass and that he just couldn’t make up these things on his own! When the pastor learned of it he immediately instructed him not to wear his dalmatic during the service (for fear unsuspecting parishioners would mistake him for a priest) and immediately purchased the book of Rites for his use. I was amazed that 1. his formation as a deacon was so poor as to not even include how to do a communion service outside of Mass and 2. he is now an MC for one of our bishops (I wonder if they gave him any training – oh well). As to the ability to preach, without proper training why should deacons be allowed to preach at Mass? I have to say that even at my new parish in ADW, I just grin and bear it when the deacon preaches because it is usually a waste of our time. Deacon Greg — I fear you an exception to the rule!
    –L

  • Fiergenholt

    In a Midwest diocese, they recently completed the “information” stage of the process that will lead men to join a cohort of Deacon Candidates which — the Lord be willing and the creek don’t rise — will be ready for ordination as permanent deacons in Fall 2017.

    There were 53 men that attended the first information series. They were told if they want to continue in the application process, and if they were married, they would have to attend a second “information” session with their wives.

    I attended one of the first sessions as a host for a potential applicant. After talking everything over with his wife, he decided not to follow-up with the second step at this time. He is young enough to enter the next cohort if he so chooses.

    From what I have been told, however, those men who did complete that step of bringing their wives to a follow-up meeting numbered over 40. There were also some couples who petitioned the diocese for a “make-up” session because meeting times were impossible in their personal/family schedules.

    This year — 2012-13 — is a “prep” year where pre-requisites are to be completed. The formal “Aspirancy” year begins starting in Fall 2013 and the center where the formation program is held has a “single-room” capacity of 38. It may well be filled.

    I have also been told that over 40 of the already ordained deacons in this diocese (I think there are a total of 120 in this diocese) will reach their 75th birthday by Fall 2017 – that being the normal year a deacon moves from “active” to “senior” status. In essence, both the next class (being ordained in Fall 2013) and the following one (scheduled for Fall 2017 will only provide enough deacons to replace those who will likely die or retire for ill-health or age.

    Bottom line, all this diocese is doing is “marking-time.” There are many parishes that want deacons but there are not all that many deacons available to be assigned.

  • Deacon Tom Lang

    I would recommend to Mark Patrick that he takes a look at the Early Church Fathers regarding the Order of Deacon within the Church. He might also want to speak with some deacons and priests regarding their calls to their respective Orders. I think he will learn that the calls are very different. I was not called to be a priest. I and all other deacons were called to serve God’s faithful in the Church and to assist our bishops and priests in a multitude of ways. It is a vocation, period! If he wants to use such terms as primary and secondary, that’s fine, but it’s without a purpose. My vocation as a married man was a calling that I received first, so in that sense, the use of the word “primary” would be correct. However, my second call to the diaconate is no less important. After all, with the Sacrament of Holy Orders the ordained man undergoes an ontological change that is permanent. To make light of that is to question the very Sacrament of Holy Orders and to disagree with the effect of that Sacrament. To rail against the diaconate is to raise oneself above the Magisterium of the Church and claim that one knows better than Christ’s vicar on earth and those bishops who are in communion with him. It also requires one to contest the authority of a sacred Ecumenical Council of the Church. Such a person might have some serious “splainin’” to do someday!

  • Art Weiner

    I am in my 3rd year of formation for the Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of New York. The question of the unique identity of the deacon has certainly been one that is “developing”, and has been a question that most of us in formation have had to grapple with. Just who are we supposed to be? One of the ideas that has helped me form a clearer idea is the notion that the Deacon “sacramentalizes” the service dimension of the Gospel. Christ said that he had “…come to serve, not to be served”. The Deacon does so in a way that is complimentary to the role of the priest, but different by virtue of the unique grace God gives to the Deacon in his ordination. Where the average parish priest is unable to invest blocks of time in hospitals, jails, nursing homes, food pantries, soup kitchens, etc. the deacon is able to bring the love of Christ by someone ordained by God, and God’s Church, for just such a purpose. It is in the order of grace, as Deacon Kandra said, that the unique role of Deacon is to be found, in the ordinary places of life, by ordinary men called by God for extraordinary service.

  • LizEst

    I really like this quote from Thomas Dubay’s book “Authenticity – A Biblical Theology of Discernment” (Section III – Signs of the Holy Spirit, Chapter 8 – Doctrinal Criteria, Sign No. 6 – Sound Doctrine) applied to this issue: “Doctrinal fidelity as a mark of authenticity is sometimes an obvious sign, sometimes, not so obvious. Flat contradiction of magisterial teaching is a clear indicator of inauthenticity, for the Holy Spirit does not lead the individual to reject the teaching of the very leaders he himself has established to protect the truth (Acts 20:28). While the genuine theologian attempts to develop and complement and unfold biblical and ecclesial teaching, he does not reject it. Scripture could not be more clear.”

    The bishop regulates the sacraments. He can make a decision for or against the permanent diaconate in his own diocese. Both decisions are permitted and both are correct. That’s part of our catholicity. It’s just as simple as that.

  • François-Robert Laliberté-Fournier

    I have heard something like that here in Quebec by a person who was refused to engage in the program of formation. Or he is a Lefebvrist 9Socitié St-Pie X, those excessiveintegrists said to me, that my ordination was null and invalid, for I was married. The Orientals Catholic Church have married priets and deacons for more than1,500 years. This is a closed mind person, and i wish that every deacons in Norh America make a small prayer for this man. He did’nt mentioned the Holy Spirit was at the Concil Vatican 2, Not Mgr. Brinswick.

  • Diakonos09

    I have long held that much of the confusion over the nature, identity and mission of the deacon stems from our own making. This doesn’t excuse ignorance about the vocation for those who read the Catechism or the talks of all the post Vatican II popes, however… For far too long it has been the general custom and practice of diaconate programs and of deacons themselves to “play down” our canonical, vocational status as clergy. Hesitation or outright refusal to use accepted Catholic clerical markings that drive this truth home (Rev. Mr., collar, etc.) along with the practice of overemphasizing (not ignoring of course) the lay environment of family and workplace cannot help but promote the confusion of vocations and roles: glorified layman? mini priest? Hybrid in between? WHAT and WHO are you????.

    It is my firm conviction that this confusion can begin to end if WE (our programs, ourselves, etc.) embrace the full reality of our vocation, identity and mission as set forth and given to us by the Church. Look at Eastern Catholic/Orthodox/Anglican clergy. They are married by and large, some (particularly Eastern Catholic) work at outside jobs to some degree. Yet no one among their faithful confuses their dual vocation. If permanent deacons would begin to wear their collars around the parish, and while in formal ministry elsewhere (there are always valid exceptions), and use the long-accepted diaconal title of Reverend Mister, and be seen in such visible format with wife and kids…very soon the next generation of Catholics would see and understand well enough who the deacon is and how he is both married and clerical without loss or embellishment to either state. We see Catholic/Orthodox/Anglican clergy in such situations and no one questions the authenticity of either their marriage or their ministry.

    We read things such as “there is only one diaconate” but I think that just about any deacon woiuld honestly admit that in practice this “just ain’t so.” Transitional deacons are treated like clergy and no one balks at any clerical aspects among them. For that matter, seminarians (many of whom will never persevere to the diaconate) are treated more like clergy then permanent deacons. In lived-out practice there seem to be in fact two diaconates, and one of them is suspected as “lesser-than” and populated by “wanna-be’s”. If we expect this to change then the finger points first of all to us for the only thing we have power to change is ourselves.

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

    Deacon Tom- hear, hear!

    If they are well-formed (and willing to continue their education and formation even after ordination), orthodox and humble- submitting to their parish priest and bishop- married deacons are wonderful additions to the Church.

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

    Sean- possible future deacon- HUZZAH! I’ll be praying for you!

  • http://www.thedeaconspeakin.com Deacon Sean Smith

    Justin not martyr commented “There is no need -in fact, it is unhealthy, unwise and unfair – to clericalize “doing good.”” I would not totally disagree, if he using the typical pejorative use of the term. If, however, he means the term more broadly, as in there is not a role for clergy in service, then I disagree, and so does Pope John Paul II.

    In his address to deacons in 1987, he said
    <blockquote'The service of the deacon is the Church’s service sacramentalized. Yours is not just one ministry among others, but it is truly meant to be, as Paul VI described it, a “driving force” for the Church’s diakonia. By your ordination you are configured to Christ in his servant role. You are also meant to be living signs of the servanthood of his Church.

    He said this specifically in the context of describing the diaconate in relationship to the role of all the baptized in the Church.

    The entire speech can be found here.

    +Peace

  • Deacon Norb

    Re; Mark Patrick 3 Dec 2012: 3:23pm

    Can I suggest that part of the theology issue here is that this is still a DEVELOPING ministry in our modern church?

    I have given programs on the “History of the Diaconate” and in my classes I clearly identify five eras or phases that the theology of this vocation in our modern times has processed through: (1) The “Deacon as a Glorified Altar-Boy” era; (2) The “Deacon as a Specialist in Ministry” era; (3) The “Deacon as a ‘Train-the-Trainer’” era; (4) the “Deacon as sign and symbol of Caritas” era; and our current one (5) The “Deacon as Servant-Leader” era.

    Now, different dioceses moved through these phases differently. My diocese’s first deacons were ordained in 1973 and that was deep within an almost “pre-Vatican” era of deacons functioning in liturgical ministry only. I was a part of the “Specialiist in Ministry” era (I was known in my time as a “college professor” deacon). The newest men coming down the pike are all products of the latest thinking from both the Vatican and the USCCB and thus fit into the “Deacon as Servant-Leader” era.

    But, honestly, “out-in-the-trenches” currently, and in any given pastoral setting, you will find men from older eras that are still locked into the theology that formed them. Sometimes their continuing education requirements can change that, sometimes not.

    You will even find bishops who are stuck at the diaconal theology of a specific era and do have trouble breaking out of it.

    Thus, you WILL find a lot of disagreement about the theology of our vocation and it all is honest disagreement. BUT it is also dishonest for commentators and critics to evaluate the life and ministry of a deacon they know using a paradigm that is obsolete or one that they superficially recognize but simply do not understand at all.

    Only the very best of blessings!

  • DcnFab

    I am coming up on my second anniversary as a deacon. Some issues with the post.
    As it not being a primary vocation. This suggest that a deacon cannot fully function as an ordained minister because he has a wife and children. Anyone thinking this would be sadly mistaken. I fully fullfill the call of both. I find the Lord always gives me the time and resourses I need for church, family and also work.
    When it comes to education, I have over six years of formation. Six is now the standard and I now hold a degree in theology. I also preach and am told my members of my parish that I am fairly good at it. Thanks to the Holy Spirit.
    Much of the negative comments I think come from the contact that many have had with deacons who went through formation in earlier times. The formation was not as complete, as least speaking for my diocese as it is now having recieved and combination of thological and spiritual development.
    The only thing I might agree on is that many do not know how to place and use a deacon, including priest. Are we part of the parish staff even though not paid or are we a volunteer? Often I find that I am not used as a resource in the parish for Faith Formation and other parish ministries. I see it as a continuing lack of understanding by many as what is a deacon and his role.
    Since this vocation as part of the Church is still very young, not even 50 years, I expect continuing misunderstanding as to our roles in the Church and continuing shaping of our roles. I am thankful that I have an ordinary that fully appriciates the Deaconate and is willing to use us to our fullest extent.

  • Dcn Marv

    As I was attending my very first class in Deacon formation on September 19, 1997 in Lansing, Michigan, Pope John Paul II was addressing several thousand deacons and their wives, just outside of Detroit. I quote briefly from the Holy Father’s introduction.
    “It is a special joy for me to meet with you because you represent a great and visible sign of the working of the Holy Spirit in the wake of the Second Vatican Council which provided the restoration of the permanent diaconate in the Church. The wisdom of the provision is evident in your presence in such numbers today and in the fruitfulness of your ministries. With the whole Church I give thanks to God for the call you have received and your generous response.”

    This inspired and inspiring address clearly sets forth the basics for the call, the identity, and the mission of the deacon.

    A Blessed Advent to you all!

    Dcn Marv

  • Deacon Jim – San Diego

    After reading a few posts, I just skipped down to the bottom of the comments. What deacon has time to read all this? There is so much misinformation and venom above. Let’s just get busy in our service. If they stone us, all glory be to God. After we’re gone, lay people can do our funerals, right?

  • Matthew

    My bishop here in Canada and the council which decides who can and can’t apply say the same. The the permanent diaconate is not a primary vocation. I tried to apply but they said that my family was too young and that I needed more life experience. So they said that since the permanent diaconate was not a primary vocation and that my wife and children took precedence that I should reapply when the children are way older ( they youngest should be entering their teens) I said that is all well and good but I’ll be in my mid to late 40′s when that happens. It doesn’t seem right since Iam young and able right now. Anyway I agree with you guys and not that one posted commenter and my diocese.

  • Stephen

    Totally agree with the posting.
    The second career, quasi-priest phenomenon is an offense to the Priesthood.
    Adult male alter servers appropriately dressed to assist the Priest is an inspiration.
    A reflection of manhood and humility in their commitment to serve Christ’s people.
    The diaconate as a step toward ordination is a great thing.
    This other modernist inspired thing causes confusion, descent and is a
    solution looking for a problem.

  • Deacon Norb

    For Matthew: You gotta do what you gotta do. BUT try to understand the trade-offs. A lot of this decision is based upon the guidance of the bishop.

    Let me tell the story of two “Yank” deacons. I was ordained at 34:11 (one month shy of my 35th birthday). A friend of mine was ordained at 33:2 (our bishop went to Rome for permission and it was granted). Both of us were friends, both our young families were very close, but both of us also had large extended families as support systems.

    Both of our families also had to deal with what our Protestant colleagues call “The PK/PW problem.” PK = Preacher’s Kids; PW=Preacher’s Wife. A deacon and his family live in a “glass-house” just like a “Preacher’s family” does. Some wives and some children cannot deal with that exposure because they are held to a higher and highly artificial social standard.

    The family stress coming from the wider parish was one of the reasons why my colleague and his wife pulled all of his children out of the parish school and sent them to the local public one. I had to do that also but not with all of our children. The fascinating thing is that our older daughter — one who was transferred to a public school — thrived in that non-Catholic environment because she immediately bonded with two other girls her age who were also “PK’s.” And — NO — she did not convert out !

    My friend and I are living proof that ordaining married men to the RC diaconate with young children still at home and in school CAN WORK. . .but it takes a special marriage/family to survive the strange stresses placed upon them — often quite innocently by parishioners who should know better.

  • Another queasy one

    Just jumping in to agree with much of what Justin not Martyr said above. I too am in favor of the permanent diaconate in principle…and know many individual deacons who are fine, devout men, providing good service to the Church…but. There are many more “buts” out there many are willing to admit. Here’s mine: can a person really live out the call to the diaconate and work in a job outside the church full time? That is, by all appearances a PT deacon? I know many deacons are not part time, but most in my area are, and to the faithful, it does look like a nice guy with a manufacturing job and wife and kids in white at the altar. This isn’t fair to many deacons I know. But this perception is widespread. My feeling is deacons will be taken seriously when many are called to more visible sacrifice–for example of preferred work, of a consistent home (you can be transferred), of financial security. I know many do sacrifice. But it isn’t obvious, and it isn’t mandated. BTW please don’t tell me weekends are not your own anymore. They aren’t but that’s the case for what, 75% of the American workforce?

    Also, one thing I hear many deacons say: “we serve as a bridge between the priests and the laity.” Please stop, gentlemen. Way to strengthen that false dichotomy. I frankly resent being told I need to give you a message to give to Father. I’ll pick up the damn phone and call him myself, thanks.

    There is a bright future for the permanent diaconate but a number of issues need to be resolved, and honestly, I honor the men who are plowing the path.

  • Marie

    The reason transitional deacons are regarded more as clergy than permanent deacons is because transitional deacons are unmarried. If there are any unmarried permanent deacons out there, not very many people have met them. (Don’t get me wrong – I personally don’t care if a deacon is married or not; we have in our parish an elderly deacon and I’m very fond of him and his wife.)

    Again, people see Franciscan and Dominican friars and Christian Brothers (not priests) more like clergy than permanent deacons because they are not married.

    So to some people, married permanent deacons seem no different than married protestant pastors, except that the deacons are in the correct Church. Both can preach, baptize people, marry couples and bury the dead but the reason they can’t hear confession, anoint the sick, or consecrate at Mass is because they’re not priests – because they are married. People don’t understand that the diaconate is a different calling. I think the way to go is to recruit more single men to the permanent diaconate vocation. Just my two cents.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Queasy:

    There’s no such thing as a part-time deacon. Just as there’s no such thing as a part-time priest or husband.

    We are deacons at work. At church. At home. In the supermarket. At the bank. In the hospital. At the cemetery. We are always “on the job.” As I like to tell deacons on retreat: we are deacons when nobody is looking.

    Dcn. G.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Marie…

    Spoiler alert: the Catholic Church has many married priests. A few hundred in the Latin rite (especially with the recent influx from the Anglican Ordinariate) and thousands in the Eastern rites. All in communion with Rome, every one as much a priest as the pope.

    Dcn. G.

  • Marie

    Dcn. G – I know. We have one (a married priest in our parish – a convert from the Lutherans). But his case is not the norm for priests. (BTW, not very many women want to go to confession to him. I heard one saying, “What? There are things I can’t even tell my husband – why should I tell them to another woman’s husband?” But that’s another story.)

    With permanent deacons, though – are they all married? Are there any unmarried permanent deacons out there?

  • Fr. Deacon Daniel

    The content and the tone of the writer is far removed from the mind of the apostles and the Early Church Fathers, whatever may be the mistaken practice inside the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska.

    Saint Ignatius of Antioch

    “Now, therefore, it has been my privilege to see you in the person of your God-inspired bishop, Damas; and in the persons of your worthy presbyters, Bassus and Apollonius; and my fellow-servant, the deacon, Zotion. What a delight is his company! For he is subject to the bishop as to the grace of God, and to the presbytery as to the law of Jesus Christ” (Letter to the Magnesians 2 [A.D. 110]).

    “Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest” (ibid., 6:1).

    “Take care, therefore, to be confirmed in the decrees of the Lord and of the apostles, in order that in everything you do, you may prosper in body and in soul, in faith and in love, in Son and in Father and in Spirit, in beginning and in end, together with your most reverend bishop; and with that fittingly woven spiritual crown, the presbytery; and with the deacons, men of God. Be subject to the bishop and to one another as Jesus Christ was subject to the Father, and the apostles were subject to Christ and to the Father; so that there may be unity in both body and spirit” (ibid., 13:1–2).

    “Indeed, when you submit to the bishop as you would to Jesus Christ, it is clear to me that you are living not in the manner of men but as Jesus Christ, who died for us, that through faith in his death you might escape dying. It is necessary, therefore—and such is your practice that you do nothing without the bishop, and that you be subject also to the presbytery, as to the apostles of Jesus Christ our hope, in whom we shall be found, if we live in him. It is necessary also that the deacons, the dispensers of the mysteries [sacraments] of Jesus Christ, be in every way pleasing to all men. For they are not the deacons of food and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They must therefore guard against blame as against fire” (Letter to the Trallians 2:1–3 [A.D. 110]).

    “In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of the apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a church. I am confident that you accept this, for I have received the exemplar of your love and have it with me in the person of your bishop. His very demeanor is a great lesson and his meekness is his strength. I believe that even the godless do respect him” (ibid., 3:1–2).

    “He that is within the sanctuary is pure; but he that is outside the sanctuary is not pure. In other words, anyone who acts without the bishop and the presbytery and the deacons does not have a clear conscience” (ibid., 7:2).

    “I cried out while I was in your midst, I spoke with a loud voice, the voice of God: ‘Give heed to the bishop and the presbytery and the deacons.’ Some suspect me of saying this because I had previous knowledge of the division certain persons had caused; but he for whom I am in chains is my witness that I had no knowledge of this from any man. It was the Spirit who kept preaching these words, ‘Do nothing without the bishop, keep your body as the temple of God, love unity, flee from divisions, be imitators of Jesus Christ, as he was imitator of the Father’” (Letter to the Philadelphians 7:1–2 [A.D. 110]).

    Saint Clement of Alexandria

    “A multitude of other pieces of advice to particular persons is written in the holy books: some for presbyters, some for bishops and deacons; and others for widows, of whom we shall have opportunity to speak elsewhere” (The Instructor of Children 3:12:97:2 [A.D. 191]).

    “Even here in the Church the gradations of bishops, presbyters, and deacons happen to be imitations, in my opinion, of the angelic glory and of that arrangement which, the scriptures say, awaits those who have followed in the footsteps of the apostles and who have lived in complete righteousness according to the gospel” (Miscellanies 6:13:107:2 [A.D. 208]).

    Saint Hippolytus of Rome

    “When a deacon is to be ordained, he is chosen after the fashion of those things said above, the bishop alone in like manner imposing his hands upon him as we have prescribed. In the ordaining of a deacon, this is the reason why the bishop alone is to impose his hands upon him: he is not ordained to the priesthood, but to serve the bishop and to fulfill the bishop’s command. He has no part in the council of the clergy, but is to attend to his own duties and is to acquaint the bishop with such matters as are needful. . . .

    “On a presbyter, however, let the presbyters impose their hands because of the common and like Spirit of the clergy. Even so, the presbyter has only the power to receive [the Spirit], and not the power to give [the Spirit]. That is why a presbyter does not ordain the clergy; for at the ordaining of a presbyter, he but seals while the bishop ordains.

    “Over a deacon, then, let the bishop speak thus: ‘O God, who have created all things and have set them in order through your Word; Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom you sent to minister to your will and to make clear to us your desires, grant the Holy Spirit of grace and care and diligence to this your servant, whom you have chosen to serve the Church and to offer in your holy places the gifts which are offered to you by your chosen high priests, so that he may serve with a pure heart and without blame, and that, ever giving praise to you, he may be accounted by your good will as worthy of this high office: through your Son Jesus Christ, through whom be glory and honor to you, to the Father and the Son with the Holy Spirit, in your holy Church, both now and through the ages of ages. Amen’” (The Apostolic Tradition 9 [A.D. 215]).

    Origen of Alexandria

    “Not fornication only, but even marriages make us unfit for ecclesiastical honors; for neither a bishop, nor a presbyter, nor a deacon, nor a widow is able to be twice married” (Homilies on Luke17 [A.D. 234]).

    Saint John Chrysostom

    “[In Philippians 1:1 Paul says,] ‘To the co-bishops and deacons.’ What does this mean? Were there plural bishops of some city? Certainly not! It is the presbyters that [Paul] calls by this title; for these titles were then interchangeable, and the bishop is even called a deacon. That is why, when writing to Timothy, he says, ‘Fulfill your diaconate’ [2 Tim. 4:5], although Timothy was then a bishop. That he was in fact a bishop is clear when Paul says to him, ‘Lay hands on no man lightly’ [1 Tim. 5:22], and again, ‘Which was given you with the laying on of hands of the presbytery’ [1 Tim. 4:14], and presbyters would not have ordained a bishop” (Homilies on Philippians 1:1 [A.D. 402]).

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    While the overwhelming majority of permanent deacons are married, there are many who are unmarried. We had two of them in my ordination class.

  • Art Weiner

    Marie:
    Two unmarried men were ordained permanent deacons last June in the NY Archdiocese, out of 11 total. Many of the issues raised in these posts are just moot. The Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth, to quote St. Paul. The Church has revived the permanent diaconate, made up of married and some unmarried men. The Church sends them out to continue her sanctifying work in the world, to bring Christ to the world, in her name. It’s good to be king, to quote Mel Brooks, and everyone has an opinion how they would run things if they were. But, the church has spoken on this issue. It is the culture, with all it’s historical and social baggage, that needs to adjust to the new paradigm of clerical ministry…and the Church culture that needs time to adjust as well. But, this is the work of the Holy Spirit…let us render to God what is Gods’.

  • Therese

    I believe we need more priests, not more permanent deacons. Just as allowing girls to serve at the Altar means that the number of boys serving is less, leading to a reduced pool of boys that will consider the priesthood, will the promotion of more and more permanent deacons mean fewer vocations to the priesthood? I think it will.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Therese,

    The presence of girl altar servers has not discouraged boys at my parish. We have 100 altar servers, evenly divided between boys and girls.

    And there is no evidence that permanent deacons discourage vocations to the priesthood. Several dioceses with thriving diaconate programs also have strong vocations to the priesthood.

    What is lost on many people is that the two vocations are inherently different, and not in competition with one another.

    Dcn. G.

  • Jeff

    The numbers of (near-)vocations in the Lincoln Diocese have a curious feature. Since a man is a priest for far more years than he is a seminarian, one would expect many more priests than seminarians. The nation-wide average is 8 priests for every seminarian. If Lincoln held to that ratio, there’d be 200 more priests in that diocese. Anyone know why this isn’t the case? Is it that Lincoln exports many vocations?

  • Deacon Norb

    Re; Therese (Dec 5. 10:44)

    First off, there is no shortage of seminarians in the US at all. I have three priest-friends who are major administrators in their seminaries and all three of these places are now at capacity. They could not accept any more applicants even if they wanted. Usually the issue is housing. One of those three seminaries is in a dormitory building plan because there have far applicants than they have space for.

    Secondly, there is little or no proven statistical basis for your connection between boys as altar servers and future seminarians/priests. Maybe it is true that a high percentage of seminarians were alter servers but my guess is that less than five percent of all teen-aged boy alter servers even apply for seminary.

    Thirdly — and here is something you might want to consider. I have been convinced that the only way a young man will even think about becoming a priest is if he has a mother who is very supportive of that idea. To phrase it another way; unless the young lad interested in the priesthood has a very supportive mother, it will not happen. Mothers have already told me why and — since you have an inside track — you might just ask some moms you know if they would ever support their sons becoming priests. A surprising number will say “No” and then you have to ask “Why?” I have.

    Lastly; check the ages of your last few priestly ordination classes in your diocese. Most of the current crops of ordinandi are “non-traditional.” My current pastor is 46 but he has only been a priest for ten years. He worked for several years after college as the regional manager of a major motel chain before he entered the seminary. His assistant pastor is a Marine Corps Veteran who went straight from high school into the military. I do know three priests who started their clerical careers as permanently ordained deacons and when they retired from their secular jobs, went to one of those “non-traditional-aged” RC seminaries that have become fairly common.

    In other words, servers are not the source of priestly vocations at all.

  • Fiergenholt

    Reply to Jeff (Dec 5. 1:15)

    I’m not sure many of us have the time or the fascination to answer the question you raise about Lincoln.

    I can tell you this. While any applicant for the seminary must have the sponsorship of a bishop, that DOES NOT have to be the bishop of the applicant’s home diocese. IF my friend, Deacon Norb’s, assertion is correct, a lot of men are joining the seminary AFTER they leave home.

  • Jeff

    @Fiergenholt. Thanks for the observation, but that fact that men can attend seminary for a diocese not their “home” is quite commonly known. I’d appreciate an observation germane to the question, which has nothing to do with how men enter into seminary, but with what happens after they enter.

    I must say I find it strange that there’s no ‘fascination’ with what statistically seems to be about 200 missing priests.

  • TLM

    I see that I’m late to the discussion, but better late than never. And I’ll try to be respectful, but it will be very hard, saddened as I am by the sad state the Church finds itself in after 40+ years of liturgical novelty and Protestantized catechesis.

    There weren’t any deacons around the table when Christ instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, and there weren’t any deacons around when He imparted the power to His priests to forgive sin in the name of the Triune God. Just so, the deaconate (as with the minor orders) was created by the Church, not as a destination, but as a waypoint on the difficult journey to the sacrificial priesthood. And it is because of this sacrificial priesthood, and not the deaconate, that one can distinguish the One True Church of Christ from all rest–the pretenders, the man-made churches that have no power, and no legitimate priesthood.

    Now, let’s be honest here: The permanent deaconate was created and nurtured by the post-conciliar Church, not out of some newly realized “pastoral” concern, but simply because of the disastrous decline in priestly vocations that was precipitated, in large measure, by the neo-modernism that so thoroughly dominated Vatican Council II and its documents. Instead of the overflowing seminaries and vibrant priestly religious orders that existed prior to the council, we harvested the fruit of near-empty seminaries and a permanent order of minimally-trained laymen, dressed up in clerical garb, that, more often than not, fails to preach about sin and the solemnly-proclaimed dogma of the Catholic Church, but instead, relies on proclaiming what seems to be the two main doctrinal teachings of the now-Protestantized Catholic Church: 1) God loves you; 2) Jesus was a nice guy.

    Excerpt from an e-mail of a Catholic layman:

    Dear Bishop _______,
    Here at my parish, we like the Deacon Mass better than the Priest Mass.
    Sincerely,
    Joe Catholic

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    TLM…

    Where to begin?

    “The permanent deaconate was created and nurtured by the post-conciliar Church, not out of some newly realized “pastoral” concern, but simply because of the disastrous decline in priestly vocations that was precipitated, in large measure, by the neo-modernism that so thoroughly dominated Vatican Council II and its documents.”

    Check your history. The permanent diaconate has its roots deep in Church history, not in the post-conciliar Church. (If memory serves, Gregory the Great was a deacon when he was elected pope.) Modern discussion about reviving the diaconate as a full order was actually begun in the concentration camps of World War II, in conversations among priests. Further study was proposed in the 1940s and 1950s. It was finally restored in 1967 — the apex of the “golden area” of priestly vocations, when seminaries were nearly overflowing. The restored order of deacon was (and is) a response to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, not a reaction to the “disastrous decline in priestly vocations.”

    The history of the order also runs deep and wide in the Eastern tradition, where deacons have been valued members of the Catholic clergy for centuries.

    As for your description of the liturgy:

    “We harvested the fruit of near-empty seminaries and a permanent order of minimally-trained laymen, dressed up in clerical garb, that, more often than not, fails to preach about sin and the solemnly-proclaimed dogma of the Catholic Church, but instead, relies on proclaiming what seems to be the two main doctrinal teachings of the now-Protestantized Catholic Church: 1) God loves you; 2) Jesus was a nice guy.”

    Sounds like a few priests I know.

    Seems to me your issues are not with deacons, per se, but with the Catholic Church of the 1970s and 1980s.

    Blessings,
    Dcn. G.

  • Queasy

    Quoting Dcn Greg–
    Queasy:

    There’s no such thing as a part-time deacon. Just as there’s no such thing as a part-time priest or husband.

    We are deacons at work. At church. At home. In the supermarket. At the bank. In the hospital. At the cemetery. We are always “on the job.” As I like to tell deacons on retreat: we are deacons when nobody is looking.

    –Well, amen. But what does that look like? How is it distinctive from being a good Christian man who loves God and neighbor in your workplace, your home? How is it different from a robustly formed lay ecclesial minister? I frankly can’t see how, which is not to say there isn’t a difference. It’s to say there is a lack of perception out there that desperately needs to be addressed, and deacons now are in the uncomfortable spot of plowing new ground and teaching it to others. Please don’t take offense when some of us have honest questions about this. To be queasy is not to support the hard line of Bp. B in Lincoln…..

  • Fr. Deacon Daniel

    TLM wrote: “There weren’t any deacons around the table when Christ instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist…”

    There were not any bishops, presbyters or laity there either, at least not in any strict sense.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Queasy …

    That’s hard to answer. How does a married man appear in public different from a bachelor? How is his existence and way of life distinct? The change is more internal. And so it is with the ordained.

    For a man ordained, it begins, I think, with grace—the grace of the sacrament, of Holy Orders. He also serves as a unique presence in the world, a sign of contradiction: a figure who is actively engaged in the sacramental ministry of the Church but also involved in the temporal affairs of the world, and who regularly crosses between the two. He raises the chalice, and raises children; he proclaims the Word, and pays the mortgage; he witnesses marriages, and bears witness to his own; he serves Mass and serves the poor. Whether lay people are aware of it or not, his presence is unlike any other.

    And, of course: it’s all still new. We’ve had barely a generation to adjust to this vocation. It will take centuries before we finally get it right.

    DGK

  • TLM

    I don’t blame you, Deacon Kandra, for arguing the case of your own position; however, if you wish for me to “check (my) history,” then I’ll be checking that part of it that also includes many centuries of a Catholic Church without a permanent deaconate. As for the Easterners, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that we are members of the ROMAN Catholic Church–the Easterners have their own laws, their own liturgical books and, in fact, what they have done, and now do, regarding their clerical orders is of no importance here.

    And by the way–and no insult intended–I always shake my head when folks invoke the Holy Ghost defense to validate an argument. The problem with that defense is that it promotes the false hope that one is able to tell which prudential decisions of the Church are inspired and which are just misguided actions. To wit: Would you care to speculate on the Holy Ghost’s motivations in prompting the Church to suppress minor orders?

  • Fiergenholt

    TLM:

    Let me see if I have this straight:
    –Saint Lawrence was a permanently ordained deacon;
    –as was Saint Francis of Assisi;
    –and St. Vincent Ferrer;
    –and Saint Philip Neri.

    Smile when you say that there were no permanently ordianed deacons before Vatican II !

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    TLM–wow, where to begin, indeed!

    Wasn’t the first martyr a “permanent” deacon?

    Wasn’t it St. Paul who gave us some basic criteria for the qualities of a “permanent” deacon?

    Doesn’t St. Ignatius of Antioch extol the service of the “permanent” deacon?

    Part of your difficulty, TLM, is that your sacramental theology runs counter to the teaching of Holy Mother Church, insofar as the three degrees of Holy Orders–diaconate included–all are considered to be part of the unicity of the same Sacrament of Holy Orders, instituted by Jesus Christ Himself.

    You must have in mind the *subdiaconate*, which is definitely considered instituted by the Church rather than by Christ.

    You may wish to brush up on this by reading Sacramentum Ordinis (Apostolic Constitution Of Pope Pius XII on the Sacrament of Order, November 30, 1947), wherein it’s abundantly clear that the Holy Father teaches the unicity of the *three* degrees of diaconate, presbyterate, and episcopate, all instituted by Jesus Christ.

    God bless,

    Deacon JR

  • Fr. Deacon Daniel

    TLM wrote:

    “As for the Easterners, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that we are members of the ROMAN Catholic Church–the Easterners have their own laws, their own liturgical books and, in fact, what they have done, and now do, regarding their clerical orders is of no importance here.”

    As one of those Easterners, I might be inclined to agree here with your point about respecting the differences. However, the Latin Church is one of 22 Churches that together make up the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The Catholic Church is a communion of Churches, which may differ as to canonical discipline, theological expression, spirituality and liturgy, but are nevertheless united in apostolic faith, apostolic leadership and apostolic worship. So while there are certain aspects of our Churches which are historically contingent and even changeable, there are certain aspects of Catholic communion which are not subject to the whims or wishes of either traditionalist or modernist sectarians, and the diaconate is one of them. There has never been a time when the diaconate has not existed in the Catholic Church, Eastern or Western. Its role or numbers may have varied, but it has always been a part of the apostolic hierarchy, and in fact without the diaconate, a local Church is greatly diminished in its expression of catholicity. What you seem to advocate for is a sectarian type of Latin Catholicism that has little to do with either history or the communion of the Catholic Church.

    And if you think this was just a Vatican II innovation, I would point out that the Council Fathers of Trent called for the restoration of the diaconate as a permanent – rather than merely transitional – vocation. It was only until Vatican II that such a call was brought to fruition in the Latin Church.

  • Deacon Norb

    I am haunted by a specific conversation on this stream: it started with “Jeff” (Dec 5. 1:15pm); then went to “Fiergenholt’s” reply (Dec 5. 2:32pm); and Jeff’s follow-up right after that (Dec 5. 3:09pm). In his last posting, Jeff says “I must say I find it strange that there’s no ‘fascination’ with what statistically seems to be about 200 missing priests.”

    “Missing priests”? In fact, 200 of them ? Could be ! Jeff may have some facts and insights here that mere mortals are not permitted to know — but I can think of a LOT of reasons why “missing” is not a valid way to describe this what may be going on here:

    –Seminarians do drop out from time to time on their own for all sorts of perfectly acceptable and innocent reasons.

    –Lincoln’s St. Gregory the Great Seminary is likely also acting as a seminary for other dioceses. Thus those seminarians would not be ordained by them but by their home diocese.

    –They may have been ordained by Lincoln, or elsewhere, but be on detached service in the military. (Lord knows, the Military Archdiocese needs all the help they can get !)

    –Those 200 “missing priests” could just be a statistical anomaly and Jeff is somehow misreading the data.

    –Lincoln may have been deliberately over-reporting their seminarians.

    But also consider — Seminarians often are forced out prior to ordination due to serious moral/legal reasons. I cannot tell from Internet sources whether this is the explanation of Jeff’s “200 missing priests” because there is no public data available on the Web about Lincoln on this topic.

  • Therese

    I agree with TLM per the unfortunate protestantism that has crept into the Roman Catholic Church since Vatican II. Would we have so many permanent deacons if they were required to be single? I highly doubt it. The current practice of encouraging men to be married deacons sure sounds like a vocation-killer to the priesthood to me. This is just common sense based on human nature. I know the objection – we’re talking about supernatural – but the practical in me asks “How do we encourage vocations to the priesthood?”.

    As to the comment about priests and deacons not being in competition with each other, I would certainly hope they are not and perish the thought of it. However, the issue in my mind is what effect will allowing and encouraging the practice of married deacons have on vocations to the priesthood? It really is too early to tell yet as the practice is too new, but if it continues in full force we’ll see in the next decade or two whether we have an ever dwindling priesthood, which is my legitimate fear. People point to the Byzantine practice of married deacons as having no effect on vocations to the Byzantine Rite priesthood, but Byzantine priests can be married whereas the Roman Rite’s priests cannot – they are the bridegroom of the Church (and that’s what I love about them – their sacrifice).

    Sorry to all the deacons out there but I just think this is the wrong wholesale strategy to employ to stem the tide of the falling numbers of Roman Catholic priests. The intention may eventually lead to married deacons ending the celibate priesthood and what a sad ending that would be.

  • Jeff

    Thank you Deacon Norb. That’s the kind of hypothesis-building exercise I was hoping someone would engage in. Just a note on my methodology – which was a back-of-the-envelope sort of thing and used only readily and universally available data. I calculated the ratio of seminarians to priests for the Diocese of Lincoln, then calculated the same ratio for the US as a whole. Applying the US S-to-P ratio to the seminarian number for Lincoln gives a result of 200 more priests for Lincoln then what Lincoln already has.

  • Diakonos09

    Fr. Deacon Daniel – thanks for bringing up the original post-reformation plea for Trent’s restoration of the permanent diaconate. This is such a little known fact among the anti-Vatican II folks. Most I encounter are utterly flabbergasted when I mention it and want proof. Once given they seem to want to justify such a request by adding “but I am sure it would have been a CELIBATE ONLY permanent diaconate” and there, I believe, is the core issue among many who agitate against the permanent diaconate (even as noted in a few posts in this blog topic). I think this is also an issue among some few liberal clergy (at least in my neck of the woods) where married deacons seem to remind them of something they wish they had but were not able to acquire. I admire the wisdom of the Eastern Church in allowing celibate or married clergy as an option. Pope Paul VI in his papal encyclical, “Sacerdotalis Caelibatus” (“Of the celibate priesthood”), praises the dual-custom of the East, reminds us that the Spirit is behind the tradition of married clergy and that this custom is AS venerable as celibacy in the West, and is not a lesser form (as some Latin clergy still hold). I have long thought that if we Romans truly hold celibacy as a charism of the Spirit, then why do many of us speak as if the Spirit will be handcuffed, stifled, in calling men to celibacy for the Kingdom. if marriage is permitted to our seminarians?

  • http://www.greyabbey.net DcnDon

    I can’t take seriously criticism that tries to point at “grown men [who] dress up and do things that they wish they could do if they were priests, while invoking and swimming in the praise and adoration of the people” or claim “it is evident that they see themselves as “mini-priests” who want to and believe that they can do what Father does.”

    Doesn’t sound to me like someone who knows much about the permanent diaconate. Is dressing in jeans and a sweatshirt and spending Friday night sitting with someone covered in vomit what we wish we could do if we were priests? Is going to a home to do a house blessing because the family’s parish priest has replied to their request with the direction to “do it yourself?”

    How about conducting prayer services for a school because the parish priest in that situation refuses to set foot inside the school, even though it is less than 200 feet away. How about going into prison as a friend to serial sex offenders, the lowest of the low.

    The ministry of the deacon is not the same as the ministry of the priest. The priest is the image of Christ the High Priest – the deacon is the image of Christ the servant. Some find it useful to remember that – and to remember that when we point a finger at others, our remaining three fingers are pointing at ourselves.

    Thanks for this opportunity Greg, and may God bless you in your ministry.

  • John Kowalski

    In my humble opinion, I think we’re missing the point here. With respect; I think that the author of the original post is a bit myopic. Without question the Church is important, but in reality (and sadly) it plays little role in the life of the average Catholic and even the most devout Catholic naturally spends more time outside of Church rather than inside and if there is one thing that our Church needs it is evangelists outside of the Church – and Deacons fills that role. Deacons are teachers, pilots, firemen, computer programmers, doctors, lawyers and daycare workers. They are in every walk of life and the opportunity to evangelize is both natural and greatly needed. Recall that St Stephen was not martyred in a Church serving at the altar; he was martyred outside – - serving the community. As a candidate Deacon here in the Detroit area the opportunities I have to evangelize outside of my Church by far outweigh the opportunities I would have in the Church. Barely a day goes by that I’m not talking about Jesus Christ to someone in my workplace. If ordained a Deacon I would of course be honored to serve at mass, but that is not the source and summit of the calling of the office. The calling is to serve humanity and since we spend only one hour per week in Church why should the focus be on what the Deacon does on Sunday mornings?

  • http://proletariangeneralist.blogspot.com Proletarian Generalist

    I didn’t realize that the diaconate was such a polarizing topic. I’ve felt called to the diaconate for years, but alas, it seems that it’s only for the wealthy or those willing to assume the burden of substantial debt for the advanced education. It’s very frustrating, for sure.

  • Fiergenholt

    Proletariat. . .

    A great deal depends upon the focus of the bishop of your diocese. That should be your first place to check out. TALK TO THOSE DIACONAL FORMATION FOLKS IN YOUR DIOCESE !!!

    Our late bishop — of sacred memory — allowed several men to proceed through the process who had not even graduated from high school.

    The newest applicants, however, have a different set of educational pre-requisites — all of this decided by the newest norms that have been released by both the USCCB and the Vatican. Each diocese is interpreting those requirements in their own way. LET ME REPEAT — CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL DIOCESE ABOUT EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS BEFORE DOING ANYTHING!

  • http://proletariangeneralist.blogspot.com Proletarian Generalist

    Thanks, Fiergenholt, and sorry to hijack the thread, Deacon Greg. I’ve already checked with my archdiocese. The educational requirements are in the neighborhood of $20k.

  • Fr. Deacon Daniel

    Diakonos09,

    I think you are correct that there are concerns of a rigorist nature behind much of the criticism of the permanent diaconate.

    And a married diaconate is no threat to the priesthood. If one wants to go down that path, I think it is fairer to argue that the celibacy mandate of Rome is a far greater threat to the priesthood (and to the faithful, some of whom are without priests to serve them) by comparison.

    Mandatory celibacy has also brought about a topsy-turvy situation where the presbyterate is regarded principally as the vocation of the younger man, whereas the diaconate is regarded as the domain of the retiree. With all due respect to my older brother deacons (including my father, who was ordained later in life) and younger brother priests, the diaconate should principally be the calling of younger men – and an abundant number of them – perhaps two to four for every priest in a parish. And the presbyters (literally elders or “bearded ones”) should be older, experienced men, either married or celibate, and likely chosen from among the more senior deacons who have served for five to ten years or more. If one regards the New Testament to be inspired, which I do, St. Paul provides one of the few very explicit sections on vocational discernment for sacerdotal and diaconal ministry in the local church, both of which involve family as part of the discernment process for the ordaining bishop and the church (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-16). Some may choose to ignore St. Paul’s counsel, but since it is the inspired, written Word of God as part of the canonical New Testament, I tend to think it should be taken a bit more seriously.

  • Hidden One

    Fiergenholt

    St. Vincent Ferrer and St. PhilipNer were most assuredly not permant deacons. They were both ordained priests.

  • http://www.greyabbey.net DcnDon

    Sometimes I wonder if, when we get to the end of it all, we may discover we were the pharisees. Our fringes and philacteries are perfect… our vessels are so clean… but what about that smelly beggar in the snow outside the door? This bothers me a lot sometimes.

  • James

    I was surprised to find this conversation still open for comments. After looking through many of the comments, I can understand why Deacon Greg closes comments on this blog. Why permanent deacons? And why is there still those who oppose them? Maybe we threaten the status quo. Ask too many questions. Challenge the People of God to live the Gospel.

  • Deacon Norb

    Greg

    Give a Superior Five Star rating to both DcnDon and James!

  • http://doatney.blogspot.com David

    A note to Proletarian-I am an Aspirant in my diocese. Sometimes, money can be a real issue for me. I have been told all along that if I truly have a vocation, the diocese won’t let dollars get in the way. They’ve worked with me every step of the way so far.

    Apply. If you are truly being called by God, there is probably a place for you.

  • Rob Federle

    As a Deacon Candidate who is eleven months short of Ordination (God willing) I would take issue with the author of the letter when they say that the Priest is the only one who can fully facilitate the salvation of souls. As I recall from classes both in the Theologate and Deacon Formation, the primary teachers of the Faith, ad therefore the primary facilitators of salvation, would be the Parents of children born the fruit of Holy Matrimony between one man and one woman!

  • Deacon’s daughter

    FYI : Remember, Deacons DO have the Sacrament of Holy Orders. No they are not mini-priests but they participate in a different way in the same Sacrament.

    St. Peter and the Apostles instituted the diaconate. It’s in the Acts of the Apostles. The hierarchy (post-Ascecnsion of Jesus) instituted it. If they don’t like it, I would assume the hierarchy has the authority to abolish it.

    It’s a shame that some priests really do feel threatened by Deacons. Just this past Sunday a local priest said at Sunday Mass from the altar that he had to be careful not to let his deacon(s) outshine him. One of the parish’s deacons was right there. I have known the priest for quite some time — in fact my father served under him at another parish at another time. I think the priest meant it in good humor. Yet, the insecurity seems to be there among some. Multiple times I have heard priests say publicly — “Deacons are the hardest workers in the Church.” Maybe that is part of the problem. Maybe they DO work just a little harder than everyone else, and it shows. (No of course I am not biased.)

    My father also over the years has done a lot of work that the priests didn’t want to do—

    1. The difficult annulments, i.e. those that took longer than just a few minutes (NOT the Pauline privilege cases). I’ve know a priest that would handle the quick and easy ones and pass the others to my father. Some priests won’t even do annulments, in my experience. They basically have the attitude: “You took solemn vows in marriage, live with your imperfect life and marriage.” My father has come along, YEARS later in come cases, and finished or accomplished annulments priests refused to work on. NO, I don’t like annulments. In fact being single myself, I am tempted not to have sympathy for them either. I’ve never had a family — why should others get multiple chances ? But I pray for the people in “marriages that never existed” and accept the authority of the Church in such matters.

    2. My father preaches about abortion and family planning when priests won’t touch those topics.

    3. My father preaches about politics, ex. recent presidential election, when priests won’t touch it. He reminds people of the primacy of “Life” issues as factors to consider when voting. He stays within legal and Church guidelines but he does it and he doesn’t mince words. I hear from parishioners — “He tells people what Catholics need to hear.”

    4. He does many funerals, graveside services, and rosaries.

    5. He does many infant Baptisms and Baptism prep.

    6. He teaches often in RCIA.

    7. He probably does a lot more that I don’t know about.

  • Dixibehr

    \\It is impossible to replicate exactly the ancient diaconate; also, we should not try to, as that would be arch\\

    Nor should we try to replicate exactly the ancient presbyterate or episcopate. These would be archaeologisms as well.

    But the permanent diaconate and the married presbyterate are NOT archaeologisms, but continuing living traditions in the Eastern Catholic Churches today. The Latin Church is NOT the only Catholic Church. Nor is she the standard of what it means to be a true Catholic.

  • http://www.shaw.ca John. Flipsen

    How come in the entire discussion there is no reference to the Biblical account regarding diaconate. We can find references in the Acts of the Apostles. And St Paul himself is giving a number of times reference to the ministry of the diaconate. So for today’s Church there is definitely a need for this kind of ministry. The deacon according to the Biblical account is in the first place an assistant to the Bishop. That is the description of the diaconate is in Acts. and the Pauline writings, check out the Biblical theology and the early Church. Priesthood as we know it today came into discussion as a ministry not before the tenth century.

  • Fiergenholt

    Re: John. (3/31/13)

    In discussing the three ministerial levels of ordination, when I teach either Church History or Pauline New Testament, I tend to compare the two ministries listed in Timothy to the two listed in Titus. When one re-examines those models, you find the three ordination phases at work:
    –”Episcopos”; “episcobus” “biscop” “bishop” “Church Leader” cited in Timothy
    –”Presbyteros” “priests” “Church Elders” cited in Titus
    –”Diakanos” “Diaconus” “Deacon” “Church Servant” cited in both.

    I usually use a chart where I place the tasks assigned by each epistle in columns of comparison and contrast and one clearly see that the “Diakanos” tasks/ministry is identical in both sources but the tasks/ministries of the other two are not.


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