QUAERITUR: may a permanent deacon be a deacon for a TLM?

From a reader:

As part of the changes recommended by the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI brought back the permanent diaconate in 1967.  For centuries prior to this change, the role of deacon was a transitional period for those preparing to become priests.  Since TLM Masses and parishes are normally working according to the 1962 Missal, what role does the permanent diaconate have in a TLM?  Is this considered a reform-of-the-reform issue (ie. emphasizing the role of deacon as transitional period for aspiring priests), or is it a non-issue?


This is a non-issue.

A deacon is a deacon is a deacon.

Permanent deacons or transitional deacons, either way, may fulfill the role of deacon or subdeacon during a solemn TLM.

Some will say they can’t or shouldn’t.  They are simply wrong.

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  1. Random Friar says:

    The curious case of Cardinal-deacon Giacomo Antonelli (under Pope Bl. Pius IX), ordained a deacon and never ordained priest, comes to mind here. The old Catholic Encyclopedia ends his entry with “it must be recalled that he was a statesman rather than a prelate, and that he was not a priest, although most assiduous in the discharge of his religious duties.” That last part makes me wonder if he, or the rare Latin permanent deacon after Trent, served at the altar.

  2. Fr Augustine Thompson OP says:

    I don’t know what the practice after Trent was as to men ordained to the deaconate as a final state. From my reseach on the church in medieval Italy, it is clear from the papal Rationes Decimae that virtually every church had at least one “permanent” deacon as well as a subdeacon and several clerics. Only the very smallest of urban chapels made due with only a priest and subdeacon or a couple of clerics. See chapter 2 of my _Cities of God_ (http://www.amazon.com/Cities-God-Religion-Communes-1125-1325/dp/0271029099/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1253056520&sr=8-1), you want more on typical staffing of Italian churches in the thirteen and fourteen centuries.

    I think that what is really bothering many who object to “permanent deacons” at EF Masses is that they tend to be married, not that they are “permanent.”

  3. Timbot2000 says:

    As well as before Trent, Francis of Assisi was a deacon, never ordained priest.

  4. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Here are a few more personal questions:

    Can there be a Subdeacon in the absence of a Deacon?

    Can a married layman who has been intituted in the Minor Ministry of Lector & Acolyte serve as a Subdeacon at an EF Mass?

    If so, can he wear the tunicle? From my research, it seems clear he cannot wear the maniple or biretta.

  5. Roland de Chanson says:

    This post raises in my mind a curious question. May one be ordained a permanent deacon for the TLM only? In other words, with the stipulation that one will not participate in the novus ordo?

    Tantum rogo. (“just askin'”).

    Odi novum ordinem et arceo. (With apologies to the shade of our Horatius for the metrical muff.)

  6. Timbot2000 says:

    Fr. Thompson all I can say is
    Holy Jumping Jansenists!
    I think you are right on the money. There is a strain in traditionalist Latin circles that views marriage not as an active conduit of grace or iconographic manifestation of the life of the trinity, but rather as simply a sort of divine “concession to sin” akin to the Mosaic divorce laws. Augustine is a great saint and theologian, but on some things he was just plain wrong, namely his nuptial theology. Thankfully JPII and BenXVI have done much to teach a more holistic understanding drawing upon other Church Fathers as well as the inherently nuptial mysticism of Christianity.
    Fr. Z, you are the patrologist par excellance, do you think me off base to detect a hint of Jungian projection in Augustine on pretty much all matters pertaining to women other than the Theotokos?

  7. Timbot2000 says:

    I would think not, as one is ordained to a Rite, not to a form. So if one is ordained to the Roman Rite, one has the “right” to both expressions of the Rite (for better or worse)

  8. Do some people really wring their hands about this? Good golly.

    Our parish’s permament deacon served as a Deacon for our Solemn High Mass on August 15. It seemed natural to me, as he is, you know, a DEACON. He sang the Gospel and did a wonderful job, especially considering that he didn’t even begin learning the EF until last winter.

  9. Jack Hughes says:


    I don’t think that Paul VI intended for perminant decons to be married when he re-introduced it, its not that we view marriage as a ‘concession’ to sin, but that want things done by the books, also married perminant deacons just give the real hellraisers in schismatic/sedevacantist circles one more thing to rail against and its hard enough to get them back in the fold as it is.

  10. Geoffrey says:

    I don’t know why anyone would oppose this… more deacons and instituted acolytes (subdeacons) means more Solemn Masses in the Extraordinary Form!

    I am curious if a deacon can function as a subdeacon at the EF Mass? I am thinking that since a priest can fulfill any of those roles, what if you had two priests and a deacon? Would it make sense for the deacon to function as the subdeacon and the 2nd priest as the deacon?

  11. Federico says:

    A more interesting question than whether permanent deacons should marry, is whether permanent deacons who are married are to be continent.

    Canon 277 imposes two obligations on clerics: (1) perfect continence; and (2) celibacy.

    There is a lively discussion in canonical circles about what this means to permanent deacons who are married. The law permits married men to enter the diaconate (and, therefore become clerics); in other words, the law waives the necessity of celibacy for these men. On the other hand, the law does not waive the obligation of continence for them. Earlier drafts of the law included such waivers, but John Paul II removed them.

    I knows some canonists (I am one of these) argue that this means, quite clearly, that permanent deacons who are married are to live with their wives as brother and sister (and this, it is argued, is the primary reason why wives must consent to the ordination of their husbands). There is a long historical basis for this position as well. In the early Church, married men were admitted to orders, but only after they had built up their family and, once ordained, they were expected to live in continence (and this is also — it is argued — why the law requires that married candidates for the permanent diaconate be at least 35 years of age). Finally, they argue that there would be no need to specify a requirement for continence separate from celibacy if permanent deacons were not bound to continence. After all, celibate men must be continent; continence as a separate requirement only makes sense in the context of married clerics.

    On the other hand, others argue that a dispensation or waiver of continence for married clerics is unnecessary, and that is why the law does not provide it explicitly (and why JPII removed it). They argue that the sacrament of matrimony imposes a right and duty to sexual intercourse: “marriage is a permanent partnership between a man and a woman ordered to the procreation of offspring by means of some sexual cooperation” (c. 1096). This right and obligation of marriage is of divine origin because it “has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized” (c. 1055). St. Paul warns the married to remain continent for a while, but then to return to each other. Ecclesiastical disciplinary law cannot derogate from divine law and, therefore, married deacons have the right and duty to continue in sexual cooperation with their wives. This is also consistent with the law and practice in the Eastern Churches (both Catholic and Orthodox).

    For now, the Holy See has been silent on this topic which means, at the very least, that since it’s a matter of genuine controversy married deacons should not be held to continence (c. 14). On the other hand, if the Holy See should issue an interpretation that binds deacons to continence, will there be a broad dispensation provided for men who entered the diaconate under a different understanding? Is this even discussed in formation?

    Of course, dispensation from clerical continence is not reserved to the Holy See (unlike celibacy) so a diocesan bishop can dispense his married clergy (permanent deacons and the occasional priest).

    An interesting disciplinary topic.


  12. Greg Smisek says:

    It seems amazing to me that the permanent diaconate was restored in the Latin Rite, not according to the Latin Rite historical celibate model, but rather the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox celibacy-optional model. And yet when I bring up the Eastern requirement that married clerics abstain from sexual relations for a brief period before ministering at the altar, and suggest that this might be appropriate for our Catholic married deacons, all I’ve ever elicited were blank stares or the occasional look of pity directed to one so obviously out of touch with Vatican II and TOB.

  13. Mike says:


    I think the standard practise is to, when possible, allow each cleric to serve at his own highest degree of holy orders, even if another who cannot serve at his highest degree must “go down” two degrees. So in the case of two priests and a deacon, I believe that the proper practise would be to have the first priest serve as a priest, the deacon as a deacon, and the second priest as the subdeacon.

  14. maynardus says:

    “I think that what is really bothering many who object to “permanent deacons” at EF Masses is that they tend to be married, not that they are “permanent.”

    Indeed. That has been my experience. Personally I have not been troubled by this heretofore, although I’ll admit I found Federico’s post quite thought-provoking. I find it more worrisome that the overwhelming majority of permanent deacons I’ve encountered seem to lack both sufficient formation and any sense of their identity as clerics. Perhaps the latter is partially a result of the former. However, it’s my perception that the few permanent deacons who participate in the T.L.M. tend to be exceptions.

    I want to emphasize that I am NOT saying that they are more virtuous, or some “higher species” of (permanent) deacon simply because they minister at the T.L.M. – I believe that, like the priests who take it upon themselves to learn the traditional Mass and laics who make great sacrifices to attend it, they are simply a self-selecting group who have gravitated toward the ancient rite for various good reasons.

    Personally I’d think it would have been quite logical and consistent with tradition if the obligations of the revivified permanent diaconate in the West had been more closely modeled upon those of married clerics in the East. It is probably too soon to revisit those norms at this time but perhaps at some time in the future the time will be ripe…

  15. Oleksander says:

    Dear Greg Smisek,

    I personally support married deacons, married priesthood being an Ukrainian I’m neutral on, if it has worked for the Latin rite for oh about over 1,500 years I see no reason for change. I do not support however how their use has been implemented (in USA, they are rather rare elsewhere) their function right now seems to be liturgical decorations in the Ordinary Form (exception of having the honor to read the Holy Gospels). Since deacons are meant to serve I think every parish should have at least one and his primary function be with parish finances, and in places with no permanent priest make it rule that a deacon and no one else be parish administrator (I think that is the term) instead of laity (i.e. old liberals) or nuns, but since that involves “power” (I guess the power to sign the checks to be cashed after collection, what power!) being removed by non-clerics and given to clerics it will never happen in todays Church. And have married deacons run the marriage lessons thing, I support that too.

    As for no sex before Mass I agree with you 100%

    For those who do not know what we are talking about and I am not sure how it is practiced today (I assume I’ll find out if I pursue the (married) priesthood), but in the Eastern Church (the Greek/Byzantine one btw which happens to be the odd ball, unsurprisingly since it was Greeks who founded it [no offense Greek brothers], not sure about the “true” Eastern Churches like the Syriacs and Assyrians whose practices mirror the old covenant much more and are therefore stricter generally speaking) the requirement for no sexual activity is traditionally the evening prior to the liturgy since in the East the beginning of the day starts on the evening prior.

  16. ThomasM says:

    I find it rather interesting that the permanent diaconate was restored at this particular time in history. Recall that in 1967 seminaries were still full and the great exodus from the priesthood had not begun. I recall when Paul VI restored the permanent diaconate but have never read much about the history of this form of clerical life. Could someone recommend a good history which includes why it was discontinued for a time. Tom

  17. Agnes of Prague says:

    Our FSSP church just acquired (for a brief period of time) a transitional deacon in residence. He is helping distribute Holy Communion. Not going by any knowledge of Canon Law but by my memory of the Summa, I thought that deacons used to distribute the Precious Blood, but that their role as ministers of Holy Communion fell into disuse when both forms were no longer given to the laity. No?

    1. Did deacons distribute Holy Communion before 1962?
    2. I know that de facto almost any Joe Schmo can distribute Holy Communion now, but has something changed that in a conservative understanding of Canon Law/rubrics allows deacons to do so now? If so, what?

  18. Deacons were considered extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion in the older discipline. Current universal law applies regardless of which form of the Roman Rite, so they would be ordinary ministers today.

    Abstaining from marital privileges by Eastern clergy the night before offering sacrifice, was a form of fasting, as with refraining from eating at midnight. This is probably why there is no regular tradition of “daily Mass” in the Eastern churches. In any case, the marital act within marriage is a good thing, and refraining from what is good is what makes it sacrificial.

  19. catholicmidwest says:

    Out here in the stix, one seldom saw a deacon circa 1962, and certainly never a married one.

    However now, deacons are, indeed, a fact and as common as hen’s teeth. No point in arguing with it. Nevertheless, I avoid them like the plague unless I know the character of the particular deacon. They are often very progressive, poorly educated and somewhat triumphant about being simultaneously clergy & married. They often seem far more interested in the liturgical doings of parishes (ie aka “junior priest”) than in the works that one might, scriptually anyway, attribute to a deacon. That’s a problem, in my view.

  20. I am sure the readers recall that the first action JPII took as Pope in 1978 was to stop the laicization of priests. This practice began under Paul VI and resulted in 70,000 to 110,000 (depending on the source) leaving the priesthood! What normal man would give up wife and family to be a “presider” at a Novus Ordo Mass, giving Communion between a Permanent Deacon whose day job is a real estate broker, and Sr. Mary Pantsuit, when he could be a married Deacon himself? Why don’t you discuss the cases of at least two P.D.s in the N.Y. area who were assigned to assist young widows of Twin Towers victims and who ended up having “affairs” with the widows? I think Federico is quite close to the true nature of the subject. Two priests, whose opinions I respect, have shared with me that “the Church really doesn’t know what to do with them.” Continent? Not continent? How long will we read “the Vatican is silent”?

  21. Ceile De says:

    If I recall correctly soccer players are also supposed to abstain the night before a soccer match so this is not as strange as it may sound.

  22. Folks: Go back and look at the top entry. Figure out what the topic is. Then really think hard about posting anything that doesn’t stick to the topic.

  23. Davidtrad says:

    At the risk of being put into the camp that is “a strain in traditionalist Latin circles that views marriage not as an active conduit of grace or iconographic manifestation of the life of the trinity, but rather as simply a sort of divine ‘concession to sin’ akin to the Mosaic divorce laws” (funny how being a traditional Catholic all these years I’ve never actually come across that sort thing), it is obvious from this thread that the present condition of the permanent deaconate is a poorly handled mess.

    While I would probably welcome a married permanent deacon acting as deacon or subdeacon so a parish can have a solemn Mass, at the same time it should be understood that a married deacon not practicing perfect continence presents a unique problem, not a liturgical problem, but a cultural one, for the traditional Catholic community.

    Reducing traditional Catholicism to simply a matter of liturgical rubrics is disingenuous. I’ll admit that saying the black and doing the red is important, but it certainly isn’t everything. A deacon is a deacon is a deacon when considered from the stand point of validity and law, but the same is true for the new order of the Mass as compared to the Extraordinary Form. Both are valid and licit, but they are not equal in all things. The same applies to the deaconate.

    The post-VCII conception of the permanent deaconate, as it stands now, at least, is an innovation, and traditional Catholic communities shouldn’t have to be saddled with it, just as they shouldn’t have to be saddled with requirements to assist at the Ordinary Form of the Mass. This doesn’t mean that the permanent deaconate should be scuttled, but like everything else VCII, it needs to be re-evaluated in light of Tradition. A more traditional conception of the permanent deaconate that includes perfect continence or celibacy would probably be readily accepted by traditional communities.

  24. Peter says:

    Firstly, thanks Fr Augustine for your link and observation. (Accords with my observations in an EF community too).

    Personally, I would welcome the assistance of permanent deacons at the EF in order to have Solemn Mass more frequently.

    I’m also reminded of reading that St Thomas More (married twice no less) apparently assisted at Vespers in surplice. I have wondered if this indicated that he had been tonsured and possibly admitted to minor orders before being married and taking on his career at C/court ?

    Maybe I will get edited by Fr Z for the next bit …

    Secondly, the thread seems to have diverged from the simple question of whether the (permanent) deacon may assist at the EF, beyond whether there might be pastoral/catechetical issues to be traversed, to whether the permanent diaconate should have ever occured and back to assertions that such things should never be visited on EF communities.

    I am reminded of the schism created in the late 1800s in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where the Ordinary of Irish extraction demanded that some Eastern rite clergy send home their wives, apparently ignorant of their traditions.

  25. John Enright says:

    The fact that this is a recurring issue surprises me because once ordained to a clerical office, you hold all of the rights – and obligations – of that office throughout the entire Church including all rites and different types of liturgy.

  26. ssoldie says:

    Alter servers can be boys or men to asst at the Gregorian Rite Mass, my Uncle who was an alter boy when he was young ,also served Fr. when he was older and there was no alter boy at Mass in the morn as most of the boys were at school when Mass was prayed. No they did not touch or handle the sacred host, that was for the hands of the priest.

  27. ssoldie says:

    Are we talking about the married deaconate?

  28. Timbot2000 says:

    I am also struck by how similar the arguments for “perfect continence” are in structure not differentiable from the arguments for communion in the hand.
    1) Assertion of ancient practice without evidence of universality or continuity (The expectation of lifetime continence for married clergy disappearing along with public confession, communion in the hand, and distribution under both species other than through intinction
    2) Pitting of theological concepts against each other, marriage versus orders, rather than placing them in proper organic context. Certainly celibates whether clergy or religious do have real practical advantages, as well as certain potential spiritual gifts that are advantageous in iconifying Christ in their person, however despite his chastity, Christ is also the Bridegroom par excellance and every Mass is a Nuptial Mass, and celibacy an expression of love in an of itself.
    3) The primary reason though why married permanent deacons and married priests (converted Anglicans, Lutherans, or Bi-ritual easterners), should not be barred from the TLM altar on principle is that, contrary to Davidtrad’s assertion above, rather than being a juridical or rubrical issue, is rather a theological one, namely when the law as interpreted gives rise to conflicts in the theology of the Church, the law is the one that must give way. Basically, to require married clergy to practice perfect continence is to create a disciple that implies and embodies a theological assertion that Holy Orders sunders the marriage sacrament, just as communion in the hand kinesthetically implies a disordered relationship between the creator and created, and is an act of iconoclasm against the liturgical and mystical person of the priest. From the early middle ages until Paul IV, the west solved this problem by simply not ordaining married men, period. And that is the only solution other than the one in practice now. Otherwise we will simply re-live the sad experience of the early Church, and would eventually have to adopt either the western solution in full or the eastern solution in full, just as they did, after having experienced public confessions by priests and their wives of breaking the continence vow, the public penance, lather-rinse-repeat, as well as more astute individuals noticing the huge theological deformations this legislation would imply, deformations that would eventually result in schisms and heresies.

  29. ssoldie says:

    Peter, Personally I would welcome the asststance of permanent (married) deacons at the EF ‘Gregorian Rite Mass’in order to have Solemn Mass more frequently. Just what would the permanent(married) deacon do to asst at the EF, T.L.M. that any alter boy or grown man form the congragation who knows how to serve do? Please explain, I guess I don’t understand.

  30. ssoldie says:

    Timbot2000, I so agree with you, I have never supported the (married) deaconate. Big time mistake, Big, from some one who knows.

  31. j says:

    Liturgically, Permanent Deacons are a godsend to the EF (in many ways). Canonically, they are a non-issue.

    The Pastoral issues that come up concern balancing the rejection of the attitude that their Ordinations are not Valid with the desire to fully reunite many EF Catholics with the Church, and sensitivity to their concerns.

    The real problem in the EF is what happens to the instructions for Sub-Deacon, since that is no longer “official”, and is tonsure now relegated to just a haircut? Both were “orphaned” in the OF, are they still of any import to the EF?

  32. Patrick J. says:

    In my Byzantine Russian church we have a celibate priest and a married deacon, and I have never felt any sentiments of this bringing forth an “uncomfortableness” from the parishiners. It seems as natural as breathing, and indeed, given the Eastern rites’ normal practice of having married priests, save for the modern injunctions in Latin rite “territories,” it would probably seem strange to have it the other way around.

    I can’t say I am surprised in one sense the quite strong feelings expressed here about the “inappropriateness” of the married deaconate, especially given the terrible blow to the Eastern Rite churches in the west at the turn of the twentieth century vis-a-vis the complaints from the Latin Rite bishops, especially from the Irish in this country(sorry to bring this in, but it seems to be a factor) about the Eastern practice of a married clergy. (Remember, this sent many, Slavs especially, fleeing into Orthodoxy). Let us learn from this “mistake” of the past and not, based on some false or incomplete understanding of theology, allow for a further divide within the ranks of the faithful.

  33. Peter says:

    ssoldie said:
    “Just what would the permanent(married) deacon do to asst at the EF, T.L.M. that any alter boy or grown man form the congragation who knows how to serve do? Please explain, I guess I don’t understand.”

    We are talking about Mass with Priest, Deacon & subdeacon. Not just low Mass or Missa cantata.

    Among (many) other things, the deacon would sing the Gospel and Ite missa est and assist the celebrant at the offertory and during the Canon. Of course each of these 3 roles may be fulfilled by 3 priests.

    The liturgical functions of the deacon cannot be arrogated by a layman.

  34. Davidtrad says:

    Timbot2000, you just argued yourself into a corner. The logic you use, namely organic development, to argue against perfect continence is also an equally valid argument against the permanent deaconate in toto. If over the years the Latin Church organically developed in such a way wherein the permanent deaconate completely disappeared, which it did, then by your own argument you should be on the side of the SSPX and other traditionalists.

    What you said after “contrary Davidtrad’s assertion” was not contrary to what I wrote at all. My assertion was, in fact, that the use of married permanent deacons in traditional Catholic communities isn’t in whole juridical or rubrical. I will add, it’s not just theological either.

    I’m sorry, but you can’t argue that those who do not want to be saddled by a married permanent deaconate are pitting marriage against orders. That argument doesn’t wash for the simple reason that Holy Mother Church, by organic development, eliminated the permanent deaconate in the Latin Church in the first place. You argue for accepting either the Western solution or the Eastern solution in whole. On that we agree.

  35. Davidtrad says:

    To clarify. I’m not opposed to the permanent deaconate or the married permanent deaconate. However, like most traditional Catholics, I’m definitely opposed to the post-VCII innovation regarding it.

  36. Davidtrad,

    Can you explain what you mean by this:

    “To clarify. I’m not opposed to the permanent deaconate or the married permanent deaconate. However, like most traditional Catholics, I’m definitely opposed to the post-VCII innovation regarding it.”

    Does this mean you are just opposed to the way in which it was re-instituted?


  37. Dr. Eric says:

    I for one would like to be a Deacon and I would love to be one who serves in the EF. I wouldn’t be one of the heterodox as I love HMC and the EF.

  38. While there is 1) no theological bar to restoration of the permanent diaconate, and 2) no grounds to treat permanent deacons assisting at the old rite differently than “transitional” deacons– it remains: the current state of the permanent diaconate is a shambles. Most of the these men are poorly trained, inadequately educated, and often used as a convenient excuse for the priest to avoid administering baptisms and matrimony in many places.

    My problem with this innovation is purely pragmatic: Fred the auto mechanic who screws up your car repair is now administering sacraments to you on the weekend? Bill the banker who just foreclosed on your house is preaching the homily at Mass?

    While legally permissible, allowing laymen to take on this part-time deacon job is a recipe for scandal, and can erode in the minds of the faithful the idea that the sanctuary is for those specially consecrated, dedicated, and set aside for Divine service.

    If there are men who would commit to the diaconate as a full-time vocation, not a part-time hobby, it would be far more appropriate. It would also be easier to require of such men that they be celibate, as “clergy” in the West have been required to be for 1,500 years.

  39. St. Thomas More was some kind of lay Cistercian, unofficial or official, like a third order thing. (Or some kind of monk order.) I remember he seriously discerned joining up, until he realized God wanted him out in the world.

    I’m sad that so many people are uncomfortable with married deacons. I’ve never met one who _wasn’t_ solidly orthodox, and who didn’t minister as deacon as a second full-time job (if not a first).

    Our parishes really do need someone to take care of the poor, etc. It really should be a deacon, and it shouldn’t be one who’ll only be a deacon for a year or two. Having a wife to help out was the traditional thing, and it works today. If we had all the other stuff we used to have for parish work (like tons of religious, and real neighborhoods), then the need wouldn’t be so great. But as it is, I thank God for the revival of the permanent diaconate.

  40. Timbot2000 says:

    I am in complete agreement with you up to a point Tom. The Deaconate in the Latin church is in shambles (as is most everything else in the Latin Church), while it is healthy and strong in both Eastern Catholicism and Orthodoxy. I would remind simply that 1) a deacon is not a layman, married or not. 2) If you told even a tambourine-shaking Baptist that he was “part-time” he would laugh in your face. Clergy of all stripes, if they are any good at their jobs, work like Roman galley slaves. Which is also most fitting for “diakonai” (servants).

  41. MichaelJ says:

    This reminds me of that old Grouch Marx quip: “I would not want to join any club that would have me as a member”. I view the “married deaconate” much the same way. Years and years ago, when I was discerning if I had a vocation to the Priesthood, I recognized that the sacrifice was to great (or, depending on your perspective, that I was too weak to make it). Getting back to Groucho, then, I am very reluctant to support a man who is unwilling or unable to make the very great sacrifice required by ordination. For one thing, this diminishes the very real sacrifice made by Priests and other Religious.

  42. Timbot2000 says:

    I, a huge Groucho fan, would turn that around, in the context of a properly-ordered liturgy, the presence of the deacons, sub-deacons, readers, and acolytes serves to prioritize and further clarify the unique position of the ministerial priest, and in turn, or Christ himself. Unfortunately the majority of Latin-rite Catholics, laity and clergy alike, and I have to admit sadly even many traditionalists, lack a comprehensively liturgical understanding of the faith, instead having mainly a preceptural paradigm governing their understanding.

  43. Bring back the permanent sub-diaconate!!!

  44. Er… that would be, first – bring back the sub-diaconate altogether!!

  45. Joshua08 says:

    First off, there is no room for dispute that a permanent deacon can function as a deacon at an old rite Solemn Mass. Fr. Z was right on…a deacon is a deacon. The concern about married clergy is a pragmatic one and should be dealt with as such. In communities, say that have recently reconciled, it would be a bad idea because it might undue the reconciliation. That is similar to the issue of reading the Epistle in the vernacular…lawful, but not always prudent. In a normal parish I don´t see the concern…it becomes a concern only I think with reconciled communities. All things are lawful, but not all expedient says the Apostle

    Second, while I side with Ed Peters and other canonists that Canon law does oblige perpetual continence (which btw was a change by John Paul II…the original draft had an exception for married deacons), that is irrelevant to the question of the Old Rite. A deacon who can serve Mass can serve it in either form. Beside, until clarified I would think they could act on good faith. Further that many deacons are poorly formed is not a valid objection…perhaps serving in a solemn Mass would help form them!

    Third, there have been several tangential questions

    Can there be a Subdeacon in the absence of a Deacon?

    Can a married layman who has been intituted in the Minor Ministry of Lector & Acolyte serve as a Subdeacon at an EF Mass?

    If so, can he wear the tunicle? From my research, it seems clear he cannot wear the maniple or biretta.
    Comment by Rob Cartusciello

    1. No. There can be a deacon without a subdeacon in Holy Week…the 1955 reforms made provision for that. But no deacon without subdeacon, no subdeacon without deacon is the general rule

    2. He can serve as a “straw subdeacon”,in accordance with the rubrics that allowed any cleric to do so. Now that the clerical state begins with deacon, there might have been a question, but the PCED clarified that. No maniple, no biretta, and there are certain minor differences such as with regard the pouring of water in the chalice.

    Someone else asked if a deacon could serve as a subdeacon…yes. Just as a priest can serve as a subdeacon, so can a deacon.

  46. MichaelJ says:

    Don’t necessarily disagree, but there are cultural issues involved. You, as an Eastern Rite Catholic can surely understand that while it is incorrect for Latin Rite Catholics to impose their understanding on Eastern Catholics, it is equally inappropriate the opposite way.

    As I understand it, and I am open to correction, the concept of the deaconate is different between the East and West. In the East, I take your word that it “serves to prioritize and further clarify the unique position of the ministerial priest”. In the West, it has a slightly diffeent, but equally valid meaning

  47. Fr Augustine Thompson OP says:

    By the way, I have always thought that, even if it is not imposed by law (a position I find unconvincing), it would be proper and spiritually good, that Latin married deacons practice the sexual fast observed by Eastern married clerics. This is off topic, but I did want to make my position clear, given some of the comments.

  48. Greg Smisek says:

    Rob Cartusciello and Joshua08 both state that an instituted acolyte acting as subdeacon in an usus antiquior Mass may not wear the biretta. Yet neither the 1906 authentic decree (S.R.C. 4181) nor PCED’s 1993 letter dealing with the question of installed acolytes as acting-subdeacons (Prot. 24/92) says anything about birettas.

    One source of confusion is Alcuin Reid’s footnote 73 on p. 134 of his latest edition of The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, which cites S.R.C. 4181, then refers to the PCED response, advises that the substitute be adequately prepared, and, finally, states: “The biretta is not worn by one not otherwise entitled to it.” Who’s going to argue that someone should wear something he is not entitled to wear? But this just begs the question of exactly who is entitled to wear the biretta in the post-Ministeria quaedam era. Unfortunately, Fr. Reid gives no further citation or argument for his implication that an installed acolyte may not wear the biretta.

  49. Henry Edwards says:

    Greg Smisek: “The biretta is not worn by one not otherwise entitled to it.” Who’s going to argue that someone should wear something he is not entitled to wear?

    I know nothing about this matter, and have no personal interest in it. But from a purely grammatical viewpoint, it might appear that the key word is “otherwise”.

    Which might mean that a person is not entitled to wear the biretta merely by virtue of serving as subdeacon. That he may wear the biretta only if otherwise entitled to do so, e.g., by virtue of clerical ordination.

    Otherwise, the word “otherwise” would appear to contribute nothing to the sentence, which would then reduce to the redundancy “The biretta is not worn by one not entitled to it” that you point out.

  50. Greg Smisek says:

    Henry Edwards: he may wear the biretta only if otherwise entitled to do so, e.g., by virtue of clerical ordination.

    Right. Clearly Dr. Reid is here asserting that an instituted acolyte as such is not entitled to wear the biretta.

  51. Joshua08 says:

    Quoting the previous instructions would not help here, as you became a cleric at tonsure

    The biretta is not a vestment of the Mass proper, and is not even required anymore (cf 1962 Ritus servandus). It is part of clerical dress of secular clergy. A Dominican priest cannot wear the biretta (well unless he has the STM, but that is a different biretta). Why? Because it is the particular dress of a certain grade in the Church, just as a zucchetto cannot be worn by any priest, but only some wear the black zucchetto.

    Since the instituted acolyte is not a cleric he cannot wear clerical dress, except where this is granted to him by privilege…such as when servers wear cassock and surplice as an example of legitimate custom, or in example of law as when the minor order was given the privilege of wearing the tunicle and functioning as a straw subdeacon.

    I think it is legitimate to say though that with orders that are attached to the old rite, e.g. FSSP, that they have an indult concerning ordinations and certain practices relating to the old rite…so that even if a subdeacon is no longer a cleric in Canon Law, he can still wear the maniple and biretta in a liturgical setting.

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