“Diaconate Couples”?

A reader noted the following item, posted by the venerable Fr. Z last weekend.

The comments are his. Mine follow at the end.

From a reader:

Over Mother’s Day weekend I attended mass at a church I do not usually attend. I noticed their bulletin listed a “Deaconite Couple.” Is that allowed? Women aren’t allowed to be deacons are they? This church is very progressive; they do not even have kneelers, which is why i question the validity of a couple filling the role of a deacon.

Deaconite?  Deaconite?

I know – and I fear – Kryptonite, but I have no knowledge of this ominous Dea-con-ite.  I don’t like the sound of it at all.

Is this stuff that makes my head nearly explode when I hear some permanent deacons preach?   Hmmmm….  I wonder if it comes in different colors.

No, friend.  On your planet, women cannot now nor ever be in the future ordained deacons.  Not even the strengthening rays of your Earth’s yellow Sun can give Holy Church the power to ordain women.

There are some pretty strange things in some places when it comes to the permanent diaconate, however.  (I suspect the word you were after, friend, was “diaconate”.) I have seen goofiness galore, such as the parading of the permanent deacons’ wives into church during entrance processions and having them sit with the clergy.  Very strange.  A very bad idea.

At different points in history and in various places, the word “deaconess” has been used equivocally to indicate a certain ministry some women served.  They were not ordained as the men who were deacons were and are now ordained.

The diaconate can, under the right circumstances, be conferred also on married men.  On the men.  Couples are not ordained.  The deacons’ wives remain the deacons’ wives, no matter what good support they can give to their reverend husbands as they carry out their ministry.  Any blurring of that boundary is probably done from either a lack of understanding of what Holy Orders are about or perhaps a ideological bent that seeks to shift or avoid the Church’s teachings and disciplines.

All in all, I think a lot of the silliness that surrounded the permanent diaconate is fading out.  Programs of formation (where there are any) are getting better, longer, sounder.  Younger men interested in the permanent diaconate are not carrying aging-hippie baggage.   Fewer and fewer priests they have to work with have screwy notions about liturgy and doctrine.

A final note:

A deacon is a deacon is a deacon.

For those of you out there who send in questions about whether or not a permanent deacon can function as a deacon in a Solemn Mass in the older, Extraordinary Form…. YES.  What part of their being a deacon is not getting through?  They are no less deacons than transitional deacons (though there often can be quite a difference in training, which is understandable).  A permanent deacon is ordained.  A permanent deacon is a cleric.  They are not hobby priests.  A permanent deacon is a deacon and they are to do what deacons do.

Below is a picture of Your Humble Blogger with The Deacon’s Wife, at my Mass of Thanksgiving six years ago today. N.B.: she was the lector for the Mass. She processed in ahead of the deacon, as lectors do, at the start of Mass. She was seated in the first row of the congregation during Mass and, as we recessed out and I passed her pew, I impulsively reached out my hand and gestured for her to walk out with me. She took my hand and we left together.

I wouldn’t be here without her. Hell, I wouldn’t be anywhere without her. I hasten to add: nobody considers her “ordained,” and we certainly don’t consider ourselves a “deacon couple.” I’m clergy and she’s my wife and that’s that.  I’m not aware of any married priests who consider themselves part of a “priest couple”— nor should they—no matter how involved the wife might be in her husband’s ministry. Dioceses and parishes that treat the diaconate that way are doing it a disservice, and creating an impression of something that doesn’t exist. 


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