QUAERITUR: Deacons and the TLM, what can they do?

From diaconal reader:

I wonder what your opinion is. As a newly ordained permanent Deacon, I have been instructed that I may not assist with the distribution of Holy Communion or be allowed to preach at the Tridentine Mass because there is a question as to whether this is allowed. Ironically, i have been training priests in our Diocese who wish to learn the usus antiquior as well as permanent Deacons for Solemn High Masses for years. Additionally, i was told that the USCCB has referred this matter as a dubium to Rome. Can you confirm this is the case and when do you think we may hear on the subject? I realize that this is your speculative response.


I think a deacon is a deacon is a deacon.  A deacon should do what deacons are permitted to do. (You can read more about that here.)

I think that if they have faculties to preach, they can preach.  Since they are deacons, they can distribute Holy Communion.

A deacon could read the Gospel in English at the usual place during a Solemn Mass or Sung Mass and preach.  Why not?  Father can go sit down and attend piously.  I could foresee this for a Low Mass also, if the priest can’t speak English well enough to be understood.

When the priest distributes Communion at one end of the rail (if there is one) the deacon could distribute at the other.  Why not?  If a priest is there, perhaps he should do it, but that is part of the ministry of the deacon now and I don’t see why he should be prevented.

Remember the document is called Summorum Pontificum and not Jurassicorum Parkorum, if you get my drift.

Furthermore, I call to mind the principle by which Catholics interpret law: odiosa restringenda.  Law should be interpreted in such a way as to favor the person and interpret any restrictions on them in such a way that the restrictions themselves are restricted so as to favor the person’s rights.  I think the benefit of doubt should be extended to deacons in this case.  If there is a clarification in the future that says deacons cannot do x,y,z, fine.  

But I’ll bet you a cheeseburger that isn’t going to happen!  The point of Summorum Pontificum was decidedly not to create a frozen-in-time, fly-in-amber experience of the Church.  The two Uses are to mutually enrich each other.  The "organic" process of liturgical reasonable development was to be jump started.  So, I’ll wager we won’t see the Commission or the Holy Father saying that a validly ordained deacon cannot preach or distribute Communion when that is useful and appropriate.

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  1. st daggett says:

    Well, I do hope that deacons are forbidden to distribute. A priest is a priest is a priest. Only he has the consecrated hands. As far as preaching and stuff, whatever. I don’t know the reasons behind either practice, but I am sure that whatever reasons were held for a billion years before we all became priests who could do whatever we wanted, except confect the Eucharist (which is strange— why not if we are all priests?). Anyway…

  2. At masses celebrated at my parish by priests of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, I have seen transitional deacons distribute communion. I cannot think why a permanent deacon should not do so.

    Deacons are, as I understand it, ordinary ministers of Holy Communion; they can bless, baptize, distribute communion, proclaim the gospel at mass, and preach, and can be delegated to preside at weddings.

    Was not St. Francis a deacon, and not a priest?

  3. RichR says:


    I have a quick question: by what logic does the Church allow Deacons to be ordinary ministers of Holy Communion? I’ve heard this argument about deacons not having consecrated hands, and therefore, should not distribute. However, I also see that if the Church now labels deacons as ordinary ministers of HC (meaning, they are the normal distributors), then there is clearly not an absolute, moral restriction. Maybe this could be the topic of a future post.

    Just a suggestion.

  4. Joshua says:

    Deacons are able to distribute Communion, of course! They were able to do so for centuries. Until recently the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion (for the Host) was the deacon, and it was always proper for him to distribute the blood, when and where that was done. St. Daggett the immemorial tradition of the Church supports this.

    This in fact needs not taking from the New Mass. It is older than the New Mass. Even the SSPX has used deacons at Solemn Mass to distribute when there is a large crowd. It is permitted in the 1917 CIC.

    The Catechism of Trent says that deacons can occasionally preach.

  5. Eric the Read says:

    The permanent deacons at the EF Mass I attend always distribute Communion from the opposite end of the altar rail as the priest. Until this post, I confess I hadn’t thought anything about it, and upon further reflection, I still don’t. :) As Joshua said, this is pretty well ancient practise, and II’m surprised anyone would object.

  6. Samuel J. Howard says:

    At the Missa Cantata the Deacon (since he’s also a lector) can sing the Epistle.) He can also serve as the Master of Ceremonies, a position that rightfully belongs to a cleric. There are also differences in the ceremonial when the MC is a cleric, he takes on some of the clerical tasks that the celebrant does otherwise in the Missa Cantata, but not in the Solemn Mass.

  7. Sylvia says:

    At my old parish in Houston, a permanent deacon usually assists in distributing Holy Communion and . . . yeah, pretty much everything Joshua and Eric said. What’s the point of having deacons if you can’t use them? Of course, the deacon has to be willing to perform the special functions at a Missa Cantata and that will take some training.

  8. Fr. BJ says:

    St Daggett: Well, I do hope that deacons are forbidden to distribute.

    A lot of people have had contact with permanent deacons who were hastily formed and/or not well formed, who don’t have a good sense of personal identity as to their role in the Church, etc., who have not preached well, who do goofy liturgical things, etc. We have all probably had bad experiences of permanent deacons. It is usually not their fault: a lot of dioceses did a really crappy job in getting them ready for ordination. A lot of dioceses rushed into starting diaconate formation programs and then did a poor job at it.

    Things are changing now and I know a lot of very fine permanent deacons as well as a lot of good guys in the pipeline. Let’s not paint the whole based on how some of them were trained or how some of them act. Even if they act strange or preach poorly, they are deacons, they have received an ontological change and a new role in the hierarchy of the Church, and therefore they deserve our respect, and more than that, they deserve our calm reflection on what they can or cannot do based on what they are, not how this or that deacon has acted in the past and painted my outlook about deacons.

    Seriously, folks. The Church has given deacons authority to preach, distribute communion, baptize, witness marriages, whether or not you like it or agree with it. They didn’t ask you. Fr. Z is pointing out the obvious: they are deacons, therefore they can do this or that, whether it be in the Novus Ordo or the Extraordinary Form, because they have been given the duty and responsibility to do so by God through His Church. The fact that you do not like permanent deacons or have had bad experiences with them is really not germane.

  9. Ken says:

    At the same time, the spirit of the 1962 books should be kept. If there are two priests lounging around watching Meet the Press in the rectory, a so-called permanent deacon should not be distributing communion at a traditional Latin Mass. There is a hierarchical element — while technically not the force of law after Vatican II — that should be observed if one is choosing to employ the books of the 1962 liturgy and sacraments.

    Let a deacon serve as a deacon or subdeacon, but I hope folks here aren’t saying the changes made giving them many priestly functions should be PROMOTED.

    If so, then don’t be surprised when men choose to become mere permanent deacons instead of priests…

  10. Johnny Domer says:

    I know that when I have been to Tridentine Masses at St. John Cantius, I have seen deacons (actual deacons, not just priests serving as deacons during Solemn High Mass) distribute Holy Communion. One was a permanent deacon, one was a transitional deacon (he’s currently a priest).

  11. Fr. Z,

    I love this statement:
    “Remember the document is called Summorum Pontificum and not Jurassicorum Parkorum, if you get my drift.”

    As Msgr. Richard Schuler of blessed memory used to say “Just because its old, doesn’t make it good.”

    St. Dagget,

    Clearly you are not familiar with the diaconate and its history. The distribution of Holy Communion was not only proper to the ministry of a deacon, it was the norm! Very often, it was the deacon who brought the bread and the wine that was to be consecrated to the altar and distributed the Eucharist to the faithful after the consecration by the priest.

    The priests’ hands are consecrated to bless, to heal and to consecrate – not just to distribute. The deacon is also a consecrated person in apostolic succession, as explained by Vatican II and the CCC.

    In ICXC,

    Fr. Deacon Daniel

  12. bobd says:

    That’s why I love you Father. You’re always right on the money.

  13. A Random Friar says:

    I’ve noticed something interesting in a few threads: people are marking a difference between a transitional and a permanent deacon. In the liturgy, and ontologically, there is absolutely no difference. I got a bit annoyed with a permanent deacon once, who, after I introduced myself (I was a deacon at the time), said “Well, I’m a REAL deacon.” I know he was half-joking, as did some others, but when I was on the altar, I was a deacon, period. Not a “priest-in-training” — a deacon. That was my liturgical role, my duty, my state in life.

    BTW, if you want to irk a fellow priest, introduce yourself as a “transitional priest.” ;)

  14. John D. Horton, Tacoma WA USA says:

    I don’t believe that married deacons should be allowed to serve in the old rite. This would interfere with the concept that the sanctuary is reserved for those who are “ritually pure,” i.e. celibate males only.

  15. John D. Horton: I disagree.

  16. Samuel J. Howard says:

    “I don’t believe that married deacons should be allowed to serve in the old rite. This would interfere with the concept that the sanctuary is reserved for those who are ‘ritually pure,’ i.e. celibate males only.”

    Better stay away from any Eastern Catholic Churches in your area…

  17. John D. Horton, Tacoma WA USA says:

    Plus, married deacons were not permitted in the old rite. Celibacy was obligatory at first tonsure which would preclude the existence of married deacons in the old rite.

    [That was then, this is now. Clerics are clerics at diaconate, not tonsure. A deacon is a deacon. PERIOD. The Latin Church does not have laws about ritual purity.]

  18. John D. Horton, Tacoma WA USA says:

    Additionally, this concept (i.e. ritual purity and adhesion to the 1962 spirit and practice) would preclude adult Mass servers who are married. Leave all service at the altar to the celibate and unmarried whether unmarried boys, unmarried young men or unmarried adult men.

  19. John: You made your point adequately. That’s enough.

  20. Caeremoniarius says:

    The Rituale Romanum (1952) certainly speaks of the possibility of a Deacon’s distributing Holy Communion, even outside of Mass, and explains how this would be done. I remember very well once how a deacon from the Institute of Christ the King assisted at St. Agnes (NY, NY) with the distribution of Holy Communion at the Sung Mass. This young man was extremely well versed in the traditional rubrics.

  21. Brian2 says:

    When it comes to Deacons (et. al.) it looks like the Spirit of 1962 could be just as troublesome as the Spirit of Vatican 2.

  22. John D. Horton, Tacoma WA USA says:

    I believe that both “Summorum Pontificum” and “Ecclesia Dei” both positively forbade the “mixing” of the old and new rites. According to the 1962 liturgical books there were no married deacons in existence. This concept of celibacy at the altar would seem to also preclude married altar servers.

  23. Rafael says:

    This debate on deacons in the TLM gets to the heart of the matter of whether it was a complete mistake to have allowed married men to become deacons and whether the Church should even have permanent deacons in the first place.

    With the complete collapse of the priesthood, it should be noted that these novelties of mixing marriage and the laity with the distinct celibate Alter Christus should have been avoided.

  24. John Horton: A friendly note: when people “spam” my entries with one comment after another about the same thing… again and again.. I usually lock them out of the blog. FWIW. I don’t think anyone has missed your point.

  25. Deacons have distributed communion since the early chuch eg.Sts.Stephen and Lawrence.Let us not forget St.Francis.I doubt if any of them refused to distribute communion.It is HIERACHICAL.Alcui Reid in his rendition of Fortescue says that if available an ordained deacon SHOULD be deacon or subdeancon beacuse that is their role.The deaconate may be the lowest level but they are an hirearchical order in the church.Rememnber the bishops after the council did not actually “restore”the peramanent diaconate-they revived it with the possibility of married men.There were permannet deacons sreving in the church even in the 19th century.The last perammnt deacon before post VII died in Rome in 1876.And he was a cardinal!

  26. A Random Friar says:

    Another thing about deacons: many parishes do not use them for reading the prayers of the faithful, relying on readers. IMHO, that is a most excellent use of their ministerial role, presenting the needs of the people to the Church and God.

  27. Fr. Angel says:

    Rev. Fathers:

    Very good points–it is good to see brother priests coming to the defense of the permanent deacons. We who were blessed to study liturgical history, e.g. the works of Jungmann, know that the deacon in sacred Tradition gave Holy Communion at Mass and directed the liturgy. My memory recalls an ancient Father or council giving people a rebuke for ignoring the mandates given by the deacons during Mass.

  28. Fr. Angel says:

    John Horton: You wrote:
    “I believe that both “Summorum Pontificum” and “Ecclesia Dei” both positively forbade the “mixing” of the old and new rites.”

    You are comparing apples and oranges. The documents you site refer to the rubrics which must be followed in each form of the liturgy. Whether a deacon is married or celibate is irrelevant because that pertains to the discipline of celibacy and not to the fidelity to the rubrics. The EF speaks of the role of “deacon” without once ever restricting that a deacon must be celibate.

    I remind you also that marriage was elevated to a Sacrament by Our Lord Jesus Christ. A married man who is faithful to the vows of that sacrament and exercizes the rights of marriage should never be described as ritually impure. That thinking has a hint of the gnostic or jansenistic dislike of the body and the marital act, or of Mosaic prescriptions. If such thinking affected minds in the ancient times, I think the mind of the Church now is not to exclude from the sanctuary men who are living out the rights which flow from the nature of marriage.

  29. Dan says:

    As a seminarian, I find the comments about the permanent diaconate (which of necessity has nothing to do with being married) threatening the priesthood to be absurd. Never has it crossed my or any of my brothers’ minds to pursue the diaconate instead of the priesthood so that we can get married. The diacnote is not the priesthood, and men being ordained as permanent deacons does not support the ridiculous notion of a “complete collapse of the priesthood”. They are, nevertheless clerics (a good thing to keep in mind when we, as laymen, forget to catch ourselves in insulting those who share in jurisdiction over us), and have the rights that come with being a cleric and an ordained deacon – that is, serving their appropriate role in the Mass. Celibacy is the Church’s law, and as such She has the right to modify it as She sees fit, without compromising the validity of ordination.

  30. Matthias says:

    Great post Fr. Z.

  31. William says:

    The pope reminds the bishop that he’s not the pope; the bishop reminds the priest that he’s not the bishop, the priest reminds the deacon that he’s not the priest; and the deacon reminds the parish administrator that she’s not the Archangel Gabriel!

  32. Tom says:

    yes, a deacon is a deacon is a deacon… it’s unfortunate that the powers that be declared that there are “permanent” deacons and “transitional” deacons, as if the “transitional” deacons were just passing through. It’s also sad that married men are admitted to this Office, since it clearly is an attempt to break down the resistance to a married priesthood in the West.

    Nevertheless, while admitting the lawful authority of these permanent deacons, who are validly ordained, is it too much to ask that the Church respect the laity by not forcing us to have these guys conduct baptisms when we’d prefer a priest do it, or to force us to accept them performing marriages, when we’d rather have a priest do these things? Certainly in the EF, deacons were never “ordinary” ministers of either sacrament.

    I also suspect many like myself would have less objection to these men if they were: 1) strictly and thoroughly formed, and I don’t mean a six month session; and 2) limited to those who have no secular employment.

    From a pastoral vantage point, there is a problem with having Fred the plumber or Joe the divorce lawyer go through the six month program, being ordained, then conducting baptisms, weddings, distributing Holy Communion, and preaching. The Church had good reason for making the priesthood a full time job: ordained service in the sanctuary should not be a mere avocation.

  33. Joshua says:

    For anyone that has read the Rhine Flows into the Tiber, it should not be hard to remember why 35 is the minimum age of a man to be ordained a deacon who is married, but a permanent deacon who is celibate can be much younger. It was precisely to “weed” those who would be priests, but want to be married, from opting for the diaconate for such bad reasons.

    Likewise, one of the major reasons given for restoring the diaconate was that Communion was taking too long. The most conservative members never balked at the idea that a deacon could distribute, because even that they could under law. What they balked about most was priestly vocations, which was somewhat addressed by the age difference required.

  34. Joshua says:

    For that manner, the use of permanent deacons has three benefits for the EF

    1. It makes it easier to introduce it. You do not have to tell Deacon Frank that he has to sit this one out.

    2. Makes it easier to hold Solemn Mass

    3. Mitigates or removes the objection that without aid communion will take too long. I know at least one parish that wants the Mass, the priests wants to do it, but they literally have too many people for communion and are unable to schedule another Mass. The person I talked to said the priest had not though of the deacons helping.

  35. Howard says:

    Don’t the oldest references to, for instance, St. Stephen and St. Lawrence distributing Communion refer to distributing to the sick, rather than at Mass?

    Fr. BJ said: A lot of people have had contact with permanent deacons who were hastily formed and/or not well formed, who don’t have a good sense of personal identity as to their role in the Church, etc., who have not preached well, who do goofy liturgical things, etc. We have all probably had bad experiences of permanent deacons. It is usually not their fault: a lot of dioceses did a really crappy job in getting them ready for ordination.

    I wish it were only the deacons! I’ve come across several priests (all from about the same generation, and who seem to be decent men generally speaking) whose homilies or behavior during the liturgy can best be explained by “a really crappy job in getting them ready for ordination”.

  36. B. says:

    John D. Horton:
    Your premise is incorrect. The first dispensations from clerical celibacy for converted protestant ministers were given by Pius XII in 1951. So when the 1962 missal came out, there were not only married deacons, but even married priests in existence in the Latin Rite.

  37. Sioux City believer says:

    A monk who is also ordained as a priest is called, in the East, a “hieromonk.” Perhaps we could start calling deacons who are also ordained “for the sacrifice” “hierodeacons…”

  38. William says:

    The worst thing about the modern Permanent Diaconate is that they are validly ordained Deacons!!!!!! [Wow… I sure hope you don’t press that point.]

  39. Maureen says:

    Permanent deacons are an awesome gift of the Church, and good for vocations to the priesthood, too. I\’m sorry that some people don\’t see this.

  40. Chris says:

    From a pastoral vantage point, there is a problem with having Fred the plumber or Joe the divorce lawyer go through the six month program, being ordained, then conducting baptisms, weddings, distributing Holy Communion, and preaching. The Church had good reason for making the priesthood a full time job: ordained service in the sanctuary should not be a mere avocation.

    Tom, I don’t know where you live but here in the UK our deacons have the same assesment as candidates for priesthood, a four year training programme and, as many people have commented to me, their experience of the world of work and family enriches their ministry. Of course not all of them are equally gifted -just like priests!

  41. “…is it too much to ask that the Church respect the laity by not forcing us to have these guys conduct baptisms when we’d prefer a priest do it, or to force us to accept them performing marriages, when we’d rather have a priest do these things? Certainly in the EF, deacons were never “ordinary” ministers of either sacrament.”

    I don’t see any reason to object to them baptizing. Priests and deacons don’t administer marriage, they witness it. The husband and wife are the ministers of the sacrament.

  42. Marcin says:

    sanctuary is reserved for those who are “ritually pure,”

    Byzantine rules in this respect can be summarized in such a way that no one, who has no business there, should enter the Holy Place. And obviously only few categories of people have business there. It’s simple and ritual purity has nothing to do with it, whatsoever. I think it can be easily applied to the Roman circumstances.

  43. dcs says:

    Priests and deacons don’t administer marriage, they witness it. The husband and wife are the ministers of the sacrament.

    Yes, but a deacon cannot celebrate a Nuptial Mass.

  44. Sacristy_rat says:

    The Albany USA Diocese has all our deacons scared to do anything with the latin mass.

  45. Louis E. says:

    To correct Father McAfee,the last Cardinal to be only a deacon died in 1899 (Cardinal Mertel only became a deacon when named a cardinal in 1858,and eventually headed the Apostolic Chancery).

  46. Mark S. says:

    A quick, possibly controversial, question: If people object to permanent deacons, would they rather go without a TLM than have a Solemn TLM at which a married permanent deacon assists in the sanctuary? Would they opt not to attend a TLM if a permanent deacon was assisting? (I know that is two questions!)

  47. Serafino says:

    I have found some very good and holy permanent deacons. However, entering the clerical state, as traditionally understood ,was a separation from the world ,and a complete dedication to the work of the Church. Therefore, the Church mandated for clerics a certain way of life and discipline including celibacy.

    While permanents deacons are certainly clerics, they are not living the clerical lifestyle as traditionally practiced in the Catholic Church. For example, they are not under the clerical obligation of celibacy, unless, of course, they were ordained without being married. They are not bound to clerical dress, nor are they under the same obligation to pray the full Divine Office. They are not bound to a yearly retreat. They are not bound to live in the rectory, and unlike clerics in the past, are allowed to have secular jobs and secular pursuits including a wife and children.

    For all practical purposes although in the clerical state, they are living a lay lifestyle. Perhaps this is the reason their participation in the TLM is not accepted by some.

  48. Peter says:

    Fr Z already said it all – a deacon is a deacon is a deacon. But there is a thread in the objections, and indeed in the extra-juridical ‘instruction’ given to our correspondent deacon that is worrisome. I want to call it virulet clericalism, but that is probably technically incorrect. And I wonder if something of that hard spirit sowed the seeds for the disaster that has beset the church since the 1960s – an unthinking rigidity.

  49. Tom says:

    I don’t see “clericalism” in the desire to see that sacred functions are entrusted only to men who have laid aside all worldly occupations.

    As I said, deacons are indeed deacons, but that doesn’t mean we must be blind to the reasons a married diacoonate was introduced into the West– to undermine clerical celibacy and sow the seeds for a relaxation of that discipline. And even if we pretend that was not the intent, it is certainly one of the primary effects. After all, if Deacon Dan can have a wife and kids and yet also baptize, preach, witness marriages, and distribute Communion, why in the world do we not allow Father the same opportunity?

    The larger issue I have is that these men are not “set aside” from the world. Even Anglican clerics don’t have “outside” jobs; but having the car mechanic who you may feel just overcharged you, or the lawyer who is suing your best friend, or the teacher who just gave your kid an “F” up in the sanctuary– it’s a recipe for cheapening the sacred.

    If distributing Communion takes another 15 minutes, so be it… if the Church says these guys can be married, I don’t like it, but so be it… but at least let’s make them be men “set apart” so we don’t end up desacrilizing the sanctuary even more than it already has been.

  50. Lots of Anglican clerics have outside jobs – they have a long track record of ordaining late vocation professionals. My opthomalogist, for instance, was ordained while still practicing medicine; when he retired from doing surgery (though not other stuff) he even took a parish or too as a supply priest.

    People need to know more HISTORY and not dwell in the first half of the 20th Century as some model of what was and ever should be. Plenty of clerics did purely secular jobs before 1788.

  51. Tom says:

    Yeah, and it’s a good thing the Church abolished the practice, to the extent it existed, and required clerics to not engage in secular occupations. To the extent Anglican “priests” have secular jobs, it’s certainly no advertisement for why such an allowance would be good in the case of Catholic deacons. In point of fact, it is a lamentable blurring of the “apartness” of the sanctuary, a blurring already well advanced by the swarm of laity doing ham-handed renditions of the readings, and “extraordinary” ministers of the Eucharist. To add to this problem by having Fred the plumber and Al the auto mechanic don clericals and preach, baptize, marry, and distribute Communion, is ill advised.

    Bottom line: if you’re fine with the increasing laicization and increasing desacralization of the sanctuary, shrugging off the married diaconate part-timers is the way to go. If you think that the Catholic sanctuary ought to be a place strictly set apart for ministration of the Holy Rites by consecrated men, you might have reservations about the wisdom of the current manifestation of the permanent diaconate.

  52. Ana says:


    I’m sorry, but your bottom line is wrong. One does not have to be “fine with the increasing laicization and increasing desacralization of the sanctuary” to accept “married diaconate part-timers”. At least in my diocese, most of our Deacons work for the Church in some form or they are retired. For those that don’t, maybe if the Church actually paid a living wage, they would be able and willing to work for the Church. Those who work outside of the Church earn an honorable living.

    What about Eastern Rite Catholics? Many of their priests are married and have a day job outside of the Church. Do they constitute a desacralization of the sanctuary?

    Also, I have a few questions about your statement:

    The larger issue I have is that these men are not “set aside” from the world. Even Anglican clerics don’t have “outside” jobs; but having the car mechanic who you may feel just overcharged you, or the lawyer who is suing your best friend, or the teacher who just gave your kid an “F” up in the sanctuary—it’s a recipe for cheapening the sacred.

    Would this go to say that nuns who give your kid an “F” shouldn’t be consecrated to Christ and represent the Bride of Christ in their special way. What about Consecrated Virgins in the World? Should they work or is that cheapening the sacredness they represent?

    Personally, I think you are painting this picture with a narrow brush that only fits between the lines you want it to instead of accepting that we belong to a living Church.

  53. joy says:

    Perhaps having the deacons at the TLM would awaken in those who were poorly formed some of the awe and wonder that the priests brave enough to come forward have experienced. That would be good for everyone.

  54. Patrick T says:

    We’d be in pretty rough shape today without the diaconate. The priest shortage would be felt even more acutely. And, make no mistake, allowing married men to be ordained deacons hasn’t stopped any priestly vocations.

    The hang-ups that some people here have about outside jobs or celibacy are just stupid. If a man is a deacon he has the right and duty to be one. Period.

  55. Tom says:

    right, got it, so if you think the innovation of a married, part-time, permanent diaconate is not a healthy development, you’re not just wrong, you’re “stupid” and have a “hang up.”

    Ad hominem is the weakest form of argument and demonstrates that the person making the ad hominem has little faith in the strength of his position.

    Again, (3d time!), no one is suggesting these fellows are not valid deacons or that they couldn’t help out with distributing Communion. In fact, far better them than these awful “extraordinary ministers.”

    But the fact remains, we are not the Eastern church, we are the West… there is a reason why we moved away from a married clergy and from a part time clergy. Those important reasons have, I submit, not ceased to exist just because we happen to really like Deacon Fred or Deacon Jim. It remains: the more we allow for part-time ministers and non-celibate ministers, to inhabit the sanctuary, the more we send the strong message that the celibate, dedicated priesthood is not really that vital. I just happen to think that’s not the message we ought to be sending, and that the Church in fact was right for the many hundreds of years they maintained the prior discipline, and is wrong for jettisoning that strong message that was sent by the prior discipline of having only celibate men in sole service to the Church administer Her rites.

  56. TMG says:

    In my Diocese this past year nine married permanent deacons were ordained with their spouses present as witnesses…but only two priests were ordained. If this kind of ratio is being repeated throughout the Church on a widespread scale, is it not detrimental to the priesthood to push full speed ahead with a married permanent diaconate when the pressing goal should be to attract vocations to the priesthood which must remain celibate? Will we end up with a lopsided majority of married deacons and a minority of priests, as the figures in my Diocese reflect? That scenario worries me.

  57. Ana says:


    You seem to be implying sexuality is “dirty” and that chastity isn’t enough — only celibacy is — thus all adult men should be removed from the sanctuary and only virgins are allowed in otherwise the sanctuary, priesthood, and laity are scandalized. Your thought process is not computing and you are making bottom line comments that suggests that anyone who supports the married deaconate is supportive of the liberal destruction that is taking place post VII thus locking us into a particular time period without regards for the living Church.

    We cannot ignore the Eastern Rite Catholics or the fact that celibacy is not an absolute (the Church could lift this requirement at anytime — I am not saying it should, but it can) and even aside from Eastern Rite Catholics, married Anglican priests have been allowed to convert and be ordained Catholic priests even before VII. When these issues are brought up you dismiss them without sound explanation other than we changed once so we cannot change again. This is the exact same argument that is being made by the liberals regarding VII and the changes that are now being made. We are a living Church, we learn, we change our traditions through this learning process — unless it is an issue of doctrine. Properly formed married deacons do not harm the Church or decrease an interest in the priesthood. I’m not saying this, because I like Deacon Joe, but from what I have personally witnessed.

  58. Tom says:

    Exactly, your anecdotal experience is universalized into “there’s no harm here; everything is fine,” coupled with (yet another) ad hominem… what is it with folks who support novelties like married part-time deacons in the Western chuurch?– you are not the first to impute, let’s see, “stupidity,” “hang ups” and now that I have a warped view of sexuality. You know, that is the EXACT argumentation one hears from opponents of clerical celibacy– that only a warped view of sex would suppose that a celibate clergy is superior to a married clergy.

    Speaking of those who seek to supplant clerical celibacy, they also, like you, argue that gee, it’s ONLY a discipline which could be lifted at any time (and therefore what– not valuable?)

    I’m unimpressed that the East has married clerics or that the Anglicans have them. Instead of concluding that we can therefore have them, why not conclude that the East and the Anglicans would be better off imitating us? After all, our celibate priesthood much more closely models the Divine celibacy of Our Lord, does it not?

    Appeal to the “living church” is like appeals to the “living Constitution” that some judges make… it’s a mere catch phrase, devoid of content, but designed to cloak any novelty that comes down the pike that can’t be justified by the Church’s immemorial practice.

    And yet, there is a thousand year tradition of clerical celibacy in the West, that is now to be thrown overboard because only stupid people with sexual hang ups believe that the sanctuary is better off with men who follow Christ even in his sacred celibacy.

    So, without “ignoring” the East (I don’t ignore them, I just know our practice is the better one); and without “suggesting” that someone who supports the married diaconate supports “liberal destruction,” (I just think they set themselves upp as superior in judgment to the Church’s long tradition of preference for clerical celibacy) I still maintain that the message sent by a part time married diaconate is just as harmful as the one sent by routine use of “extraordinary” Eucharistic ministers, or lay men or women doing the readings in the OF… these practices all tend to the de-emphasis on the person of the priest as an alter Christus– a man devoted solely to service of God, not to the pursuit of a job down at the Jiffy Lube,or to the ontologically lesser goods of marriage. Cf., Mt. 19:11-12, Mt. 19:29, 1 Cor 7:1,7, etc. (by the way, I say this as a man in a 21-year marriage with 5 children– but one who appreciates the Church’s long-proven wisdom in maintaining the discipline of clerical celibacy).

  59. Peter says:


    I wonder if you have ever had a conversation with any of these men who have been ordained permanent deacons? I know such a man who is about to be ordained and he has worked for many years to discern whether he has this vocation. And remember it is the Church who decides if they do.

    As to your conspiracy theory that the permanent diaconate is a political device created precisely to swamp the priesthood and clerical celibacy in the West, I think you better take another look. It is not a very easy road to tread – in fact the evidence I see, even in the OF context, is that the permanent deacon has a hard time getting work assignments that are actually ‘clerical’ in nature.

    And as Ana said, if the Church (on the ground) decided to pay deacons they wouldn’t need to pursue secular vocations. In some cases I know they teach, and that indeed was a role where priests also have expended their energies.

  60. Ana says:

    WOW! Excuse me Tom, but stop putting words in my mouth and you, yourself, need to stop with the ad hominem attacks towards those who do not agree with you and bottom line assumptions that claim anyone who disagrees with you is “fine with the increasing laicization and increasing desacralization of the sanctuary”.

    I have not said anything about stupidity or hangups. I did say that you seemed to be implying that sexuality is dirty due to your vehemence towards any married men, even as altar servers, on the altar. That was the impression I walked away with. I apologize if you found this to be an attack on you, because I did not mean it that way.

    I’m stunned at your desire to claim to be better than Eastern Rite Catholics (not Eastern Orthodox) and claim our practice is better than theirs. WOW! Can you provide me with a statement from our Church, not yourself, that supports this claim? Our practices are different, but that does not make them superior.

    As for your comment “Exactly, your anecdotal experience is universalized into “there’s no harm here; everything is fine,” I never implied this. I simply stated that I was not making my argument out of loyalty to a Deacon, but due to being able to see a diaconate program that works, for the most part. Are there problems with many formation programs? Yes, and I did not even begin to address this issue in my previous posts, but that doesn’t mean the problems cannot be fixed without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    We may disagree and that is fine, but stop trying to paint me in the corner as a flaming liberal, because I disagree with you. I am a traditional Catholic living a celibate life while discerning a calling to religious life or Consecrated Virginity. So, I do respect and value celibacy, but I cannot and will not put the married diaconate on the same level as the abuse of the “extraordinary minister of Holy Communion” or Lectors.

    We cannot simply toss out the Second Vatican Counsel, because there have been problems with implementation. Every Counsel has had a problem period of at least forty years where serious problems evolved due to improper implementation of the Counsel. However, time will heal the wounds and fix the problems as we are seeing with our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI.

    Love and prayers,

  61. I am increasingly irritated by the tone of the discussion and my fingers are itching to lock a few people out.


  62. The diaconate as a rank in the hierarchy is not directly tied to either the EF or the OF of the Roman rite. Summorum Pontificium stresses there is but one Roman rite. In the general law of the Roman rite governing the diaconate[although this is not the case for deacons in the Eastern Catholic Churches who are governed by laws of said Churches] deacons are granted the following faculties at ordination:
    To catechize and preach to the faithful apart form the liturgy,
    To preside at the liturgy of the hours in the absence of a priest,
    To preside at celebrations of the Word of God in the absence of a priest,
    To preside at Sunday celebrations in the absence of a priest where this is permitted,
    To preach at liturgies where the deacon presides,
    To proclaim the gospel at Mass and other services in accordance with the prescriptions of the liturgical books,
    To give the homily at Mass or other services, at the discretion of the celebrant
    To administer baptism solemnly to infants
    To assist the celebrant at Mass and other liturgical services in accordance with the prescriptions of the liturgical books
    To administer the blood of Christ at Mass
    To administer the body of Christ at Mass when communion is given only under the species of bread [The priest celebrant would be the first to distribute the Holy Mysteries, then the deacon
    To preside at the Rite of Distributing Holy Communion Outside of Mass
    To bring holy communion to the sick and the infirm
    To preside at benediction and give the blessing with the reserved Eucharist
    To celebrate the minor exorcisms and blessings of catechumens
    To give the blessings of the rites at which the deacon presides
    To give other blessings according to the prescriptions of the Book of Blesssings
    To preside at penitential celebrations when the sacrament of penance is not celebrated
    To celebrate the rites for visits to the sick and the prayers on the occasion of death
    To preside at funeral rites [vigil, funeral outside of Mass, committal] in the absence of a priest
    To baptize anyone [not only infants] in danger of death in the absence of a priest
    To celebrate the Rite of Viaticum Outside of Mass, except the apostolic pardon in the absence of a priest

    The following faculties are not granted at ordination but subsequently at the will of the bishop:
    To assist at marriages in the absence of a priest when granted the faculty [along with this faculty, the faculty to dispense from certain impediments]
    When a deacon is assigned to a parish, the bishop may grant various faculties besides those mentioned above, that may be necessary given the deacon’s assignment, e.g. baptism in a private home.
    When a deacon is assigned to administer a pastoral charge which is always under the supervision of a pastor who is always a priest, the bishop will grant various faculties to allow this to happen.

    It is very important to note that when a deacon presides in the Roman rite, it is in the absence of a priest.

    In the Eastern Catholic Churches, according to the general law, deacons are never to preside, even in the absence of a priest. If the particular law of a Church sui iuris permits, deacons may give the homily and may distribute Holy Communion. Only in a case of emergency may a deacon baptize, and even then not solemnly. Deacons never assist at marriages, as the priestly blessing must be given for validity. However, in the Eastern Catholic Churches the deacon has a very extensive liturgical role as the chief assistant to the celebrant and the leader of much of the assembly’s prayer. Although, it should be noted these are not presidential prayers which are solely in the purview of the priest celebrant.

  63. About traditionalists and permanent deacons – the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest has a group of men called oblates. They seem, according to their own information page about the oblates, to be contemplating advancing some of them to a permanent diaconate!

    info page: http://www.institute-christ-king.org/vocations/oblates/

    “After the first year of his practical and academic training, the oblate will receive the cassock and surplice. The oblate will then already wear the biretta with the Institute’s signature blue pom-pom, while the cross will be given to him in a later ceremony. During the following years, they may, at the discretion of their superiors, receive minor orders, and perhaps even the sub-diaconate or diaconate.”

  64. TMG says:

    For those with far more knowledge on the subject than I, what functions were deacons allowed to perform prior to the Second Vatican Council, excluding the “early church” period? I’d read that the role of deacon was the last of several temporary “steps” toward ordination as a priest – is that correct?

  65. TMG: For those with far more knowledge on the subject than I, what functions were deacons allowed to perform prior to the Second Vatican Council

    Of course, St. Francis (whose feast we are celebrating today) was “only” a deacon, reportedly (by one account) because he wanted to be able to chant the Gospel at Mass. But in the 20th century prior to Vatican II there apparently were no deacons other transitional deacons in their final year before ordination as priests. The step prior to deacon in progress toward ordination was subdeacon. However, I don’t recall personally ever seeing other than an ordained priest serving as a deacon or subdeacon at a solemn high Mass.

    Despite the venerable history of deacons in the Church from the very beginning (St. Stephen), even married deacons in the East, I suspect that the ordinary Catholic prior to Vatican had never heard of a deacon and could scarcely have imagined such a thing as today’s permanent deacons (no more than they could have imagined so many of the things that have happened in and to the Church since Vatican II).

    Not that everyone would have shown the attitude of a traditional parish pastor who recently was asked what he would do if assigned a permanent deacon. After a moment’s though he said, “Well, I suppose I could have him cut the grass every Saturday.” Hmm … I wonder whether he should be reported to Father Z for enlightenment.

  66. Prior to Vatican II what can the Latin deacon do?

    Based on the liturgical texts and the Code of Canons 1917 the deacon could do the following:
    In accordance with the prescriptions of the liturgical texts assist the celebrant [this is the most important and very necessary liturgical role of the deacon]
    In baptism act as an extraordinary minister in the absence of a priest
    In the distribution of the Eucharistic Body of Christ act as an extraordinary minister in time of need
    Prior to the general discontinuance of the distribution of the Precious Blood of Christ, the deacon was the ordinary minister
    To bring Viaticum when no priest was available
    To preach the Word of God
    To give the liturgical homily.

    It should be noted that the liturgical functions of the Latin deacon prior to Vatican II are nearly identical in form [obviously not in content and action] to the liturgical functions of the deacon in the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches, even to the present day.

    Of course the deacon has many other functions and roles other than the liturgical. Until the office of the Vicar General was instituted, his functions were generally the functions of the Archdeacon, who in most cases until the 9th century was in the diaconal rank and not the presbyteral.

    For those who are interest in the history of the diaconate and its various functions, I would suggest the following theses:
    1. Zenk, Richard, The Office of the Deacon in Ecclesiastical Law, Pontificia Universitas Gregoriana, Facultas Iuris Canonici, Roma, 1969.
    2. Pokusa, Joseph W., A Canonical-Historical Study of the Diaconate in the Western Church, The Catholic University of America, Canon Law Studies No . 495, Washington, 1979.
    These texts are solely concerned with the Latin diaconate and its functions prior to Vatican II.

  67. John D. Horton, Tacoma WA USA says:

    To maintain a celebate male priesthood, we must only have celebate males in the sanctuary and this includes celebate male deacons and celebate male altar boys. This will maintain the image of Christ in the sanctuary who was also a celebate male.

    Is there a reason there are no (or very few) celebate male permanent deacons? Yes there is a reason. You will be laughed out of the chancery by the vocation director if you propose studying for the permanent diaconate as a celebate male. In all diocesan vocations offices the permanent diaconate is strictly a “married-only” gig and celebate males are considered weirdos. I am writing from personal experience here. Most priests that I have talked to hate celebacy and hate men who wish to openly and freely embrace celebacy as a vocation to the Church in holy orders or the religious life.

  68. TMG says:

    From the responses so far it appears that prior to the Second Vatican Council a deacon was a seminarian one step away from being ordained into the priesthood, and since the Council, unbelievably, the idea of a married permanent deacon appears to be accepted as replacing the former. If this is seen as a solution to the priest crisis…it’s no solution. Ordaining celibate priests is the solution. What will happen if a married permanent deacon divorces? Will he get an annulment?

  69. Charivari Rob says:

    TMG – “From the responses so far it appears that prior to the Second Vatican Council a deacon was a seminarian one step away from being ordained into the priesthood, and since the Council, unbelievably, the idea of a married permanent deacon appears to be accepted as replacing the former.”

    Ummm, not quite, I think. Seminarians still become deacons, usually about a year or so (from what I’ve seen) before ordination to the priesthood. I’ve seen this for both diocesan and order priests. I think I’ve always heard it referred to as the transitional diaconate. What I’ve heard is similar to what many have said here – the permanent deacon was virtually unknown to Catholics (at least, in the USA) 40 years ago. I don’t know if ‘transitional’ and ‘permanent’ are more like colloquialisms in this context and if there are some more technically-correct terms which explain the differences you see.

    As to your question about a married permanent deacon getting a divorce… Ahh, anything I would say would be 99&44/100% guesswork. I’ll leave it to someone who’s qualified.

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