Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Permanent Deacons

All Catholic catechisms state that a deacon is 1) a man in Holy Orders, 2) consecrated to the ministry of service, 3) may lead and conduct services except the Mass and hearing confessions. He can solemnize weddings and conduct funerals and is the cleric that proclaims the Gospel at Mass 4) may have a wife.

There are two kinds of deacons, the transitional one and the permanent one. The transitional deacon is in a sort of probationary training for the priesthood. Later on he will be ordained as a priest. The permanent ones will remain deacons for the rest of their lives.

All the deacons I know are permanent ones and one is married. Deacon Jody in Baton Rouge is a lawyer with a flourishing practice. He is married and with two grown-up kids. Deacon Paul in Australia is unmarried and is involved with university and crisis ministries.

If a deacon is ordained as an unmarried man, he is vowed to celibacy. If a deacon is ordained as a married man, he is vowed to matrimony. Perhaps nothing shows the equal dignity of celibacy and the married state as well as a deacon accepts it. It is a sort of perversion that many Catholics or people in general think that the celibate state is "holier" than the married state. The two states can be holy and have their inherent difficulties.

(Deacon Jody is THE ONLY cleric I know that convinced me that NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING is doable!)

While the Latin Church's law requiring most priests live a celibate life has its advantages, it has its downside. The most obvious is the disconnect between priests and families (husbands and wives trying to live a Catholic Christian life in a secular society). That's why almost no Catholic takes a bishop's suggestion that they "practice self-control in the bedroom".

The deacon's role in the Eastern Church is more extensive in the liturgy and in ministry than in the Latin Church. In the Latin Church, the permanent diaconate died out until it was restored by Vatican II. That's why there are many permanent deacons in the US.

The Philippine Catholic Church hasn't instituted the permanent diaconate although this was considered in the last plenary council. Perhaps the bishops are worried on how to support the deacons (who need to have secular jobs) as they are having difficulty supporting priests.

But with a lot of qualified men who are now serving as "lay ministers", there can be deacons. I don't think the laity will confuse the deacons for priests. I honestly think the lay ministers sometimes can be confused with people in holy orders. The ministry of deacons is much wider.

The Church once ordained women as permanent deacons. The debate is whether this ordination is sacramental or not. But the fact is women were ordained. Some Orthodox Churches are on the way to restore women deacon ministries.

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