QUAERITUR: Ordination of permanent deacon with the Extraordinary Form

From a reader:

Could a married man be ordained to the permanent diaconate using the extraordinary form?

Of course!

A bishop can use either Use to ordain.  And a deacon is a deacon is a deacon.

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  1. xathar says:

    A note, I think, should be made here: Summorum Pontificum did not pertain to ordinations; all other sacraments, however, are mentioned. Nevertheless, I suppose a society like the FSSP would have permission to ordain a permanent deacon in the extraordinary form.

  2. Any bishop can chose to use the older Pontifical.

  3. Mitch says:

    Ooh Father, your gonna make the SSPX real unhappy [So?]http://www.sspx.org/miscellaneous/celibacy_for_deacons.htm

    They even say the Eastern Catholics and Orthodox have this wrong. All clerics, even deacons, have to be celibate… who knew… ;-)

  4. Mitch says:

    BTW I found a link to that article on their Latin Mass explained packet page. I was looking for Altar server training stuff and I came across this in the little note attached to the check box for deacon that said they wont send the material to permenant deacons and they gave a link to this article.

    It really astonishes me that they have such a problem with married clerics…

  5. Br Gregory Pearson OP says:

    While I can see no problem with priestly ordinations being carried out in the Extraordinary Form outside the FSSP/ICRSP etc. (because the ordinand will in any case be a deacon), might there not be a problem with a diaconal ordination, given that the older books presume the ordinand to be a subdeacon?

  6. Father Z,

    Is there a translation of the EF Rite of Ordination to the diaconate on-line?

    I wondered about the position of the SSPX on ordaining married men to the diaconate. Can I say that I am not surprised?

    Fr. Deacon Daniel

  7. Matthew says:

    You do realize that when your wife dies you may NOT re-marry. I believe the reason that, with very few exceptions, all high orders may not be married is you are esentially marrying the church. You can not have two brides. It would be unfair to your wife/children to spend more time with Church duties. On the other side of the coin it would be unfair to the Church for you to choose issues of your family over the needs of the Church.

    These are the reasons that I was taught why all high orders must only be for unmarried/widowed men. Even then, if there are children, it can be very difficult for a widowed man to have to choose between the Church and a problem with a child.

    The few exceptions have traditionally been married Anglican’s and other’s who have vaild orders and wish to enter the Roman Catholic Church and are currently married.

  8. I urge everyone interested in the married cleric discussion to read canonist Dr. Edward Peter’s blogpost: http://www.canonlaw.info/2008/10/responses-to-rex-pilgers-comments-on.html.

    I quote his post below. Go to his site for links and further discussion.

    “Brian Van Hove, SJ, and Dcn. Rex Pilger are debating in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review whether the obligation of clerical continence (1983 CIC 277) applies to married permanent deacons. Van Hove argues affirmatively, Pilger negatively. My 2005 article on this question has been cited approvingly by Van Hove, but I have not intervened in the HPR discussion because, until recently, my work had not been challenged by either side. Recently, however, Pilger attempted to refute several points that I made or accept concerning clerical continence.

    “My responses to Pilger are posted on my canon law website, here. I must caution, however, that the issues raised in this discussion are quite complex. Those not familiar with the broader discussion of clerical continence should avoid forming any conclusions based only on what appears there. +++

    “The HPR exchange unfolded thus: Rex Pilger, “Making sense of the ministry of the deacon”, HPR November 2006 pp. 23-27; Brian Van Hove, Letter, HPR April 2007 p. 6; Richard Kosterman, Letter, and Fr. Vincent, Letter, HPR November 2007 pp. 3-4; Brian Van Hove, Letter, HPR March 2008 pp. 6-7; Mark Gross, Letter, HPR July 2008 pp. 5-6; and Rex Pilger, Letter, HPR October 2008 pp. 4-5. For all the letters posted sequentially, see R. Pilger’s Deacon’s Bench Weblog of October 2, 2008.”

  9. EJ says:

    To the commenter above, do you honestly think that the ordained deacon that you presume to lecture doesn’t already know this? Both the comment and its TONE (note the font) are just a little unnecessary. The disrespect here sometimes is unbelievable.

  10. patrick f says:

    Arent Deacons assumed with the role of subdeacon though? I mean I have never seen a permanent deacon be addressed as during his formation subdeacon, but what I do know is there is a maronite church in St Louis, that has Married Sub Deacons, So I would assume it is there. Granted that is a different rite, but still part of the cahtolic church.

    Now, I do have a question. If a deacon is a deacon is a deacon, can the deacon perform his office in the Extraordinary form? I only ask because when the extraordinary form was ordinary, The permanent diaconate was somewhat in reclusion, and I have not seen/ known a permanent married deacon that participated in the extraordinary form. Maybe its just the seed isnt there yet, but I am curious. I am 29, and in a few years God willing I can enter formation myself. I am married. I would love to know if I could expect to participate at the altar in both forms though.

  11. Father Bartoloma says:

    I wonder who the pioneer will be in this regard?!

  12. patrick f says:

    :) Well, Chances are someone might beat me to it, I have 6 years before i can enter formation, and its atleast a 4 year process right now. (so ordination possibly at 39?)

    I would think the problem with a permanent deacon doing it, would be he is assigned to a parish, so it would all be dependent on father, if in fact the faculties allow it

  13. Matthew,

    Yes, I am quite aware, thank you very much, of my own obligations towards celibacy should my wife pass away.

    Dispensations to be remarried have been granted in the Latin Church for widower deacons with young children. This has also happened in certain Eastern Catholic Churches, although never with our married priests. There was a case with the Antiochian Orthodox where a widower priest was granted a “dispensation” (they do not use such terminology) to remarry after his wife died. His name is Father John Allen and he wrote about his experience in the book, “Widower Priest”.

    The imagery of espousal, while very beautiful, does not present the total picture of the apostolic life. St. Paul’s exhortation to St. Timothy assumes that some of those called to sacerdotal or diaconal ministry have an intimate familiarity with the married state and family life as fathers and husbands and that how they have raised their children is a witness in discerning their worthiness for ordained ministry in the household of faith. The Scriptures and Tradition praise both the married and the celibate states, and the recent magisterium (both conciliar and pontifical) have upheld the legitimate and praiseworthy ministry of married priests and deacons in the East.

    Quite frankly, I tire of uber-Latinists who seem to treat this question as if it was somehow material to the faith. Celibacy for the Kingdom of God is a discipline and a beautiful and praiseworthy calling “for those who can bear it.” The married state is as well, and both states have an eschatalogical dimension to them and priesthood and diaconate can be exercised well in both. The Church does not have a two-tiered system of clergy – the “high and mighty” celibates and the barely tolerable “married’s.” Both are fruitful in their own way and both states have been approved by the Church.

    In ICXC,

    Fr. Deacon Daniel

  14. From the Latin Canon 277:

    “The diocesan bishop is competent to establish more specific norms concerning this matter and to pass judgment in particular cases concerning the observance of this obligation.”

    A question for Canon Lawyers: Can the bishop thus dispense a cleric who entered the clerical state as a married man from perpetual continence?

    This is an interesting debate on this canon. I have always had the understanding that the obligation is to be observed 24 hours before rendering liturgical service, as well as during certain periods of fasting.

    There is also a tradition of continence for the laity prior to receiving Holy Communion and during periods of fasting. I wonder if such a thing is being advocated anywhere!

    Fr. Deacon Daniel

  15. xathar says:

    If any bishop can use the older Pontifical, then why is ordination not included in Summorum Pontificum when Confirmation is?

  16. wsxyz says:

    Now, I do have a question. If a deacon is a deacon is a deacon, can the deacon perform his office in the Extraordinary form?

    It has been done – is being done, if that answers your question. The St. Frances de Sales Parish in the archdiocese of Atlanta, served by the FSSP, has an assigned permanent deacon.

  17. xathar: Because it didn’t have to be.

  18. a catechist says:

    I think what we should hope/work/pray for is that knowledge of the EF becomes part of the normal liturgical formation of candidates for the permanent diaconate. The more who know, the more who will be able to help their bishop & pastors respond to the requests of the faithful. And I think many will be attracted to it with exposure. Members of EF communities who could assist with training should prayerfully consider contacting their diocesan Director of Deacon Formation.

  19. patrick finley says:

    Thanks for the answer to my question. I hope by the time I enter formation and God willing recieve my orders to the permanent diaconate, the question will no longer have to be asked. Now wouldnt that be something, keeping up with the brick by brick thought. At that point we would have a mansion!

  20. JM says:

    The following comes from the SSPX’s article in opposition to married deacons.

    “This tradition was solemnly proclaimed by the Council of Nicea, the first ecumenical council, in 325 AD. Canon no. 3, unanimously approved by the Fathers, made no concession whatsoever. The prohibition imposed thereby on all bishops, priests and deacons against having a wife is considered absolute; and all subsequent councils that have addressed the subject have renewed this interdiction.”

    Canon 3 of the Council of Nicea is (from newadvent.org):
    The great Synod has stringently forbidden any bishop, presbyter, deacon, or any one of the clergy whatever, to have a subintroducta dwelling with him, except only a mother, or sister, or aunt, or such persons only as are beyond all suspicion.

    Ok, from what I can tell, a “subintroducta” is a celibate woman, or perhaps an unrelated woman, not a wife. So the council excluded clergy from living with celibate/unrelated women who were not their mothers, etc. It doesn’t say anything about an absolute prohibition against clergy being married as the SSPX seems to indicate.

    Is my understanding of the term subintroducta correct? Is the SSPX’s initial bit of evidence completely off the mark, or am I misunderstanding the meaning of the words?

  21. Michael J says:

    Wow. Has the SSPX, then, become a kind of reverse barometer? Anything “they” are for, “we” are against?

  22. JM says:

    No, the SSPX is not some sort of reverse barometer? Some things they get right, but it would be insane to trust the statements of a group of people whose fullness of communion with the the Church is questionable when those statements are obviously in opposition to what the Church allows.

    They’ve claimed something. Is it true or not?

    They also state in the same article:

    “These deacons, of course, are in good faith.2 They do not know that by an imprescriptible law, they have incurred the penalty of major excommunication, from which they cannot be delivered until they either abandon their wives, or agree to be reduced to the lay state.”

    They, the SSPX by posting this on their website, have declared that married deacons are excommunicated. This has nothing to do with reality. It is nonsense.

  23. Michael J says:


    The Church in Her wisdom and compassion “allows” much which is less than the ideal. Am I to take it then, that any exhortation to do more than the Church allows is somehow in opposition to the Church? Does the adequate always have to be the enemy of the best?

  24. patrick finley says:


    All one has to do is read scripture, Paul tells us presbetyrs, bishops, deacons should have only been married once. No where does it say they have to be removed from the wife, the wife is dead, or anything else one could think of. So one can assume the wife very well can “come along” so to speak

    Granted, that in any rite bishops are celibate, priests in the east can be ordained if they are married , but must be celibate if they are ordained and not married, but if one really wanted a strong ground to stand on, its directly in scripture. Though in that thought its important to recognize why we have a celibate priesthood in the Latin Tradition.

    I think a permanent deacon, by its very nature of service (If I recall the word means that), would almost be better suited to be married. It gives him a unique perspective on the average faithful, who are married, and that (all due respect to the priests here), that a priest isnt always going to have. Many permanent deacons work with marriage prep and counseling, and so forth. I would think that its pretty obvious why that’s a good thing. Also , I mean no disrespect to the priests who visit here, just pointing it out as an obvious advantage for helping the faithful. I love whatever pastor has been placed in care over me, but I wont hide that I often have stronger personal relationships with the deacons who are installed at the church. Part of that is having someone to talk to, being a married man. I think the church in her wisdom, and care for the faithful sees this, and thus why we have married permanent deacons

  25. JM says:


    “The Church in Her wisdom and compassion “allows” much which is less than the ideal. Am I to take it then, that any exhortation to do more than the Church allows is somehow in opposition to the Church? Does the adequate always have to be the enemy of the best?”

    This has nothing to do with the question I asked? Is the SSPX’s understanding the of the 3rd Canon of the Council of Nicea correct or not? From what I can tell, it isn’t. They are wrong. But my understanding might be correct or incorrect and I’m hoping that someone who reads this blog might more about the issue.

    In response to your comment above: In the case of married deacons, the SSPX isn’t exhorting anyone to do more than the Church allows. What they are doing is claiming, by the posting of the article on their website, is that what the Church allows, married deacons, is causing these men who are licitly and validly ordained to the diaconate to be excommunicated. Obviously, they are opposing the Church in the matter and making claims that are false on top of it. There is nothing wrong with doing more than the Church recommends or even advising people to do so. Going to Mass more than once a week is generally going to be a good thing. Fasting more if you are capable can be a good thing. These are both things that SSPX priests would likely recommend, and I support both of those, but their opposition to married deacons is not the same thing.

  26. xathar says:

    How do we know that any bishop can use the old Pontifical? Has this been decreed anywhere?

  27. patrick finley says:

    “How do we know that any bishop can use the old Pontifical? Has this been decreed anywhere?”

    yes, the through the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. As such, it is on the pope’s authority, and no other decree needs to be in place for a Bishop to perform it.

    Its a mass, the faithful can request their sacraments be administered in the extraordinary form. Deacons, and for that much any person recieving the sacrament(so even a priest who say wanted last rites on his death bed), constitutes a “member of the faithful”.

  28. xathar says:


    What you’ve written is not correct. Summorum Pontificum speaks of allowing all sacraments in the older form except for ordination. Additionally, the ability to use the older books (MIssal, Breviary, Ritual) is not extended to the Pontifical in that document. I repeat: Where, if anywhere, has permission been granted to use the older form of the Pontifical for ordination, carte blanche? [Summorum Pontificum speaks primarily about the faculties which priests have, not about what bishops can do. The issue of the Pontifical was settled a long time ago.]

  29. patrick finley says:

    Perhaps one of our more scholarly folks could answer it then. I would have assumed it was all encompasing. Especially if there are groups like the FSSP who are using it.

  30. YoungCatholicSTL says:

    To the commenters above:

    Summorum Pontificum (“SP”) does not need to mention ordination, and in fact, it makes more sense that SP does not include it. The purpose of SP was to allow priests to perform the EF without permission of a bishop when requested by faithful. To include Holy Orders here was unnecessary as Holy Orders always requires a bishop and is not at the bequest of the faithful (unless the faithful are considered the priests/deacons being ordained). Thus, the bishop can choose which form he uses for the mass. If SP had included a mention of this sacrament it wouldn’t have been congruent with the purpose of the rest of the document.

  31. Charivari Rob says:

    JM –

    I think you’ve got the gist of ‘subintroducta’, at least as I understand it.

    I did some google searches, and the assorted references I got back seem to support that understanding.

    N.B. – I didn’t post the links here myself, as some of the most informative were part of “relationship” glossary sites. Some of the content might well be described as base or even vulgar.

  32. patrick f says:

    Thanks YoungCatholicStl . See someone from the midwest helped us out :P

  33. xathar says:


    Then how do you account for its mention of confirmation which is the bishop’s domain, so to speak?

  34. YoungCatholicSTL says:


    Yes, here’s how I see it. (Warning: About to split hairs) While I agree that it is “the bishop’s domain,” the sacrament of confirmation is still at the people’s request. And if those people requesting would like the EF, then they are entitled to it under SP. Holy Orders isn’t at the request of the person to be ordained, it is at the request of the bishop. Although, xathar, I do find your point intriguing.

    Fr. Z – Any thoughts?

  35. jpb, md, op says:

    SP does say that the the usus antiquor was never juridicially abrograted. This is the most important thing to consider when examining if ordinations are allowed with the traditional rubrics. Therefore, since it was never juridicially aborgrated, and a bishop is the custodian of liturgy in his diocese, the bishop may choose to use it for ordinations. SP was particularly meant to free priests to say the TLM should they choose without having to obtain permission from his bishop.

  36. Penitent says:

    The SSPX seems to have a point here, the points they make are almost the same as the late Cardinal Stickler made in his study “The Case for Clerical Celibacy” He said that from apostolic times all clerics were required to keep perpetual abstinence, even though they might be married. The Eastern Church relaxed the discipline (but they still require sexual abstinence before liturgy). So permanent married deacons without anykind of sexual abstience imposed on them is a novelty.

  37. xathar says:

    SP does NOT say that the entire usus antiquor was never abrogated. Rather, it’s focus is primarily on the Missal. It also gives permission for the old Breviary and Ritual. And then, with respect to the Pontifical, it states, “Ordinaries are given the right to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation using the earlier Roman Pontifical, if the good of souls would seem to require it.” This is the only line that concerns the Pontifical. Again, no mention is made of ordination. This is a glaring omission and I’m sure it is not a mistake or oversight. Furthermore, note that the use of the old rite of Confirmation is made at the bishop’s discretion, not at the request of the faithful, as an earlier commenter had stated. In conclusion, I see no provision within SP or any other document for a bishop to use the entirety of the older Pontifical at his own discretion, particularly so with respect to ordinations.

  38. xathar says:

    Fr. Z,

    As I noted above, SP does speak of the Pontifical, but only with regard to Confirmation. You state above that “the issue of the Pontifical was solved long ago.” I’m not familiar with this solution. What document/event are you referring to?

  39. ssoldie says:

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find out the truth of all this, about the deaconate,married or otherwise, N.O. or Gregorian Rite E.R. “TLM” all the speculation and all the opinions. Confusion rein on.

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