QUAERITUR: how to address a deacon?

From a reader:

What is the correct form of address for a religious who is a deacon?  The internal lore of the community is that one retains "Brother" but some of the younger brothers are insisting on "Deacon."  I have a general aversion to calling deacons "Deacon" and bishops "Bishop", mostly because I have an aversion to calling you "Priest Z".  [Thanks!] In any case, the National Director for the Permanent Diaconate is the source which people cite on this score, but that says explicitly in the introduction that it doesn’t bind religious.  So, do you have any ideas?  This is a not-terribly-important question as most religious deacons will only be so for a few months, but it’s a good thing to get straight.


There are different customs for addressing Bishops.

In the USA we say "Your Excellency".  In the UK we say "My Lord".  An Archbishop,  I believe, would in the UK be "Your Grace". 

In the USA we say to Deacons "Reverend Mister".  I think that is the same in the UK.  However, I recall once at a gathering in London I addressed a deacon as "Reverend Mister" and he immediately snapped "Reverend DOCTOR". He had a rather high opinion of his own degree. 

I abhor this bare address "Bishop" or "Deacon".  It lacks decorum.

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  1. Swineherd says:

    Religious Deacon: Reverend Brother.

    In Germany, if one has two doctorates, one’s name and other titles would be prefaced by Herr Doktor Doktor.

  2. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    In the Byzantine Rite we keep it simple. Any priest, deacon, or monk (even one not in orders), who all where the rason (wide sleeved outer garment that goes over the cassock), are addressed as father. Keeps it easy. The bishop also wears the rason by the way.

  3. Bryan says:

    Ahhh…forms of address. There’s a proper way, the way that the person prefers, and what everyone uses, both in spoken and written forms. Occasionally they are all alike. Most often, they aren’t.

    When speaking to an ordained cleric…I personally prefer to err on the side of formality in recognition of the office (you salute, in the military, the rank, not the person…) that person holds. I know some priests cringe at the thought of being addressed as “Father LastName” and prefer the “Hi, just call me Bob” approach, but I just can’t do it, so will shorten it to “Father” or “Deacon”.

    I would NEVER address a Bishop or higher with the title of his office…YIKES! in a big way. Even when I had the opportunity a long time ago to meet Cardinal O’Connor, or converse with my spiritual advisor (Msgr. Michael Wrenn), formality was always the more comfortable route to take.

    I’m thinking that us Americans are so casual in our relationships, from family to employment to ??? that such recognition and verbal ‘leveling’ and shying away from any sort of title is so ingrained…we yanks would probably walk up to HRH Elizabeth II and say “Hi, Betty….”

  4. Marcin says:

    It’d be HM Elizabeth II, while we’re at the titles. HRH denotes other members of the royal family (e.g. Prince Philip, or the Defender of All Faiths).

    But I’m no Brit, either, so caveat lector.

  5. It is as Subdeacon Joseph says, although locally we tend to add to the “Father” if we happen to know that the person whom we are addressing is, for example, an Abbot. So we have “Father Deacon”, “Father Abbot”, and I have heard Bishops addressed in informal conversation as “Holy Father”.

  6. ErnieNYC says:

    I don’t recall where I might have read this, but I distinctly recall coming across a directive from a US Diocese that directed permanent deacons to avoid using “Reverend Mister,” as such address was to be limited to transitional deacons. The same directive banned such deacons from using clerical dress outside of liturgical ceremonies.

  7. Frank H says:

    A bit off topic, but dealing with the informality so pervasive today, this brings to mind my all-time favorite column by William F. Buckley, Jr. (may he rest in peace!) “Just Call Me Bill!”


  8. Iconophilios says:

    he immediately snapped “Reverend DOCTOR”

    Anyone else reminded of the Monty Python episode with the blamanches and the ‘detctive inspector’?

  9. doanli says:

    I call the permanent deacon at my parish “Deacon Bob”. And that is what he prefers. (Very nice man, by the way.)

  10. doanli says:

    Thank you Iconophilios for putting Monty Python in my mind too! (Always cheers me up.)

  11. AnAmericanMother says:

    The difference between British and American usage will jump up and bite you sometimes.

    Not knowing any better, I addressed our Archbishop as “Your Grace” — the English usage which of course was customary when I was an Episcopalian, even though American. He looked a little startled. I found out afterwards that he really doesn’t like “Your Excellency” anyway – prefers “Archbishop”.

  12. chonak says:

    How far back does “Reverend Mister” go? If it’s a newly made-up rule, it deserves some examination for what it communicates. Also, what is the practice in Latin and Roman (Italian) usage?

  13. Andy Milam says:

    Here is an article from my friend Duane L.C.M. Galles. He wrote this article in 1997, but I think that it is still relevant.


    A couple of pertinent quotes, “It follows, then, that a privilege given to deacons by virtue of their diaconal ordination and clerical status is a personal privilege given to a group and it may not be renounced by individual deacons. Thus individual deacons may not renounce the right to clerical dress and address, i.e., the use of the cassock and biretta nor of the clerical suit with Roman collar nor of the style of “The Rev. Mr.”

    But there is a difference between the right to a privilege and the use of it. Are deacons required to make use of their privilege? Generally one is not required to make use of one’s privilege, unless the common good requires it or failure to use it would cause harm to another. But this applies only to privileges granted directly to oneself. A person may enjoy a privilege without its concession having been made directly to him. Such a privilege, such as the privilege granted to clerics as a group, must be used whenever a legitimate occasion presents itself.”

    “Thus, all deacons, permanent as well as transitional, as clerics remain free to make use of what has long been a clerical privilege and wear the black cassock, the black biretta, the black clerical suit with Roman collar. They also have a right to the clerical style of address “The Rev. Mr.” These they may use or not use on their own initiative. They may not, however, be deprived of these privileges without due canonical process in judicial form.”

    Duane’s view is often legalistic, but it is always spot on. I would venture to say that the legalism comes because he is an attorney and a Canon Laywer…LOL

  14. Pater OSB says:

    I would say go with brother, as I have never heard of a brother-deacon ever being addressed as ‘deacon’. In writing you could sign/type Rev. Brother or some abbreviation thereof. Of course in correspondence you’d probably be best addressed as The Rev. Brother Paphnutius.

    There is always frater, or some religious communities did start calling brethren Father after ordination to diaconate.

    In a case like this, do what your seniors do – sometimes what we young ones believe is better really does just come across as clericalism in the bad sense of the word. Saying ‘Deacon’ Paphnutius sounds much more pretentious and made up than Brother Paphnutius.

    May you continue to be blessed with good zeal, love for what is right, and the pursuit of both!

  15. RichardT says:

    Delightfully the Wikipedia entry on how to address clergy includes the correct form for addressing a Roman Catholic Prelate of Honour who is also a Privy Counsellor of the United Kingdom (The Right Reverend and Right Honourable Monsignor Graham Leonard KCVO, former Anglican bishop of London and now Catholic priest).

  16. Dcn Larry says:

    This from Wikipedia:”A permanent deacon is not styled “Father” as a priest would be, but as “Deacon,” abbreviated variously as “Dn.” or “Dcn.” This preferred method of address is stated in the 2005 document of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States. The proper address in written correspondence for all Deacons of the Latin (Roman Rite) Catholic Church is “Rev. Mr.”. “Rev. Mr.,” however, is more often used to indicate a transitional deacon (i.e., preparing for ordination to the priesthood) or one who belongs to a religious order, while “Deacon” is used as the honorific for permanent deacons (e.g. Deacon John Smith, or Deacon Smith). The decision as to whether deacons wear the Roman collar as street attire is left to the discretion of each bishop for his own diocese. Where clerical garb is approved by the bishop, the deacon can choose to wear or not wear the “collar.”[citation needed] Where it is not permitted, the deacon must wear secular clothing.”

    #88 in the National Directory states … the appropriate title for the permanent deacon is “Deacon.”

    In our diocese as permanent deacons we are adderessed as Deacon. Now if we could only get our parishoners to use that form of address things would be fine. However, since they see us in lay dress, except at Holy Mass and administering the sacreamnts, they get confused and aren’t sure what to call us…even when we tell them. After Mass when vested we often hear, “Good morning Father.” QWere we allowen to wear clerical when on duty i9t would help them realize that we are the recipient of Holy Orders.

  17. RichardT says:

    Deacon Larry, there is a difference between one’s title or style (how you are referred to) and one’s form of address (the way that you are addressed by people speaking to you).

    The fact that the National Directory states that the appropriate title for the permanent deacon is “Deacon” means that letters to you should be addressed to “Deacon X” on the envelope, but does not necessarily mean that people should say “hello Deacon Larry” when they meet you.

  18. lmgilbert says:

    I can’t imagine referring to a deacon as Reverend Mister nor a bishop as Your Excellency anywhere except in correspondence. Formal titles for formal situations, great, but when a person wants to address his bishop in conversation as his pastor, as his father in Christ, “Your Excellency,” gives the entire interchange a very stilted mode.

    For me these modes of address have a distinctly European feel to them, and are related to the forms used to address nobility. Americans, however, went to a great deal of trouble to throw off nobility, its privileges, titles, forms of address, etc. To me “Your Excellency” is un-American, and very much gets in the way of addressing the bishop AT ALL.

    Besides, it is not as if the average Catholic bumps into his bishop two or three times a month. It is probably more like two or three times in a lifetime. At those moments should he be paralyzed for fear of committing a solecism?

    More respect for the bishop, of course. Not just “Father,” and “Bishop” sounds too bare, but for me “Reverend Father” would work. In conversation it would set the right tone, would it not?

    These are only conventions, and they can and should change appropriately with the times. IMHO we are beyond “your Excellency,” “Your Eminence” and “Your Holiness” and need other forms that are respectful, warm, and not stilted.

  19. Geoffrey says:

    The excellent book “The Church Visible: The Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Roman Catholic Church” by Mr. James-Charles Noonan, Jr. says that permanent deacons are to be addressed as “Deacon (surname)”, and transitional deacons are to be addressed as “Reverend Mr. (surname)”.

    Mr. Noonan makes no mention of addressing a bishop in the UK as “My Lord”. I had always thought that and “Your Grace” was for Anglican bishops.

    Imgilbert said: “To me ‘Your Excellency’ is un-American… ”

    That is very true… it is very Catholic!

  20. Supertradmum says:

    No offense, but I cannot bring myself to say “Deacon Bob” or “Deacon John”, which is the norm in our diocese. Sounds Protestant, as the first time I ever heard someone called “Deacon” was in a group of very low Church Pentecostal Brethren, who called their pastors “Deacon Name Whatever”.

    Reminds me of the hot, sticky evening, in this Pentecostal Church I visited thirty-five years ago, where everyone in the congregation had large, rounded triangular fans with the Our Father printed on them, and a black family praying together on the other side; and the baptismal pool was in the middle of the “sanctuary”–the pool was the size of a very large, rectangular baby pool, but frighteningly deep. Three ladies in blue choir gowns were being half-drowned by the Deacon Elijah, whose voice rang out to the back of the church where Rita and I slipped in. The new Christians were immersed three times, accompanied by loud singing from this fantastically excellent Gospel choir. My young roommate. Rita, and I had wandered in to see what the service was like, and we had to be introduced by Deacon Elijah to the entire congregation. I do remember that it was a Sunday night service and all the ladies worn hats and dresses, some gloves. Names with “Deacon” will always remind me of this “Flannery O’Connor-esque” experience.

  21. Supertradmum says:


    Bishops in England are called My Lord, and I was married by a Bishop and the priest who was his aid that day and at the practice, called him My Lord. Some bishops in England do not like this, but this particular one, My Lord Crispian Hollis, a liberal Catholic, did not argue or contradict the title.

  22. Kavi says:

    I have a pal who is a Mormon deacon – as nearly all Mormons are. When I want to tease him I address him as “Father Deacon” in the eastern tradition :)

  23. Kavi says:

    PS – in reply to Marcin (8.25 am) I am sure it was Prince Charles, not Prince Philip, who said he would ask for the revision to “Defender of the Faiths” (faiths plural). To my knowledge, Prince Philip still goes by the classic title “Defender of the Faith.”

    In reply to Imgilbert (10.52 am), it is ecclesiastically acceptable to address deacons simply as “Reverend” both in the US and UK, in conversation.

    @ Supertradmum, Geoffrey (above), the reason “My Lord” is used is that, historically, Bishops are de facto members of the peerage. “Your Grace” is used for the same reason (“Your Grace” and “His Grace” are the proper style for high ranking peers who are not members of the royal family). This remains the standard styling for Anglican Bishops, and English Catholics with an affinity for the pre-reformation Church often use this styling for Catholic Bishops (also).

    In the Orthodox Church and traditional Byzantine Catholic circles, “Your Grace” is also the standard address for Bishops and Abbots, since it is the nearest appropriate title in the English language. Contemporary Byzantine bishops more frequently request to be addressed simply as “Bishop”, however.

  24. AnAmericanMother says:


    Prince Philip doesn’t use “Defender of the Faith” as it is for the reigning monarch. QEII is “Defender of the Faith” among many other titles.

    Interestingly enough, the title “Fidei Defensor” was first granted by Pope Leo X to . . . Henry VIII! The Holy See later revoked the title and excommunicated Henry, but he kept it anyhow and bequeathed it to his successors.

  25. lucy says:

    I agree with Bryan above. Our pastor of our church prefers Msgr. Bob, but I cannot bring myself to say it. I prefer his last name, to which he responds that no one says it properly, which is utterly ridiculous. A bit of teaching then ? His last name is not difficult to pronounce.

    We’re trying to teach our children respect for titles. So, we teach them Father LastName, rather than Father Bob. Perhaps more formality would lead to more respect….just sayin’……

    I say tomato, you say tamato…….

  26. Marcin says:

    “Deacon John” […] sounds Protestant

    If we bend to what others made out of Catholic words, we should never use:

    chant – that’s what cheerleaders cry at a game
    icon – that’d be Lady Gaga, for example
    spiritual – having propensity to being uplifted by a sight of redwood trees or a mountain

    Blessed Sacrament, Holy Communion – some think it’s bread and wine (that’s esp. a fad in UK now, as Fr. Z and Diogenes reported: http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/otr.cfm?id=5379)

  27. chatto says:

    Spot on with the UK forms of address: ‘Reverend Mr’, ‘My Lord’, and ‘Your Grace’ are right. Speaking to the Deacons at the Cathedral, I call them ‘Reverend’, as opposed to the priests who are addressed as ‘Father’, naturally. ‘My Lord’ in particular seems to have fallen into disuse, though ‘Your Grace’ is still frequently used for Archbishops, though I have no idea why this should be.

  28. Frank H says:

    lmgilbert – I always address my Bishop, who I probably see at various functions three or four times a year, as “Your Excellency”. I don’t think it has anything to do with “sounding American” or not. Seems to trip pretty naturally off my tongue. And, were I to meet the Pope and not faint, I would happily address him as “Your Holiness.”

  29. AnAmericanMother says:


    I always taught my kids to say “Father Last Name” . . . but that if Father insisted on Father First Name the kids should relent. No sense in getting at loggerheads with a grownup.

    Our permanent deacons are “Deacon First Name Last Name”. Our Monsignor is often just “Monsignor” in conversation, but on first address “Monsignor Last Name”. The other priests are all “Father Last Name”. I like it. It’s no use pretending they’re just Bob down the block, because they aren’t.

  30. AnAmericanMother says:


    I find “Your Grace” a whole lot easier (and faster) to say than “Your Excellency”, but that’s probably just habit.

    I guess I read too much Anthony Trollope.

  31. The late bishop of Salt Lake City, Joseph L. Federal, when called ‘Bishop’ by a priest would return the favor and call the offender ‘Priest’.

  32. benyanke says:

    Formally, I know deacons are technically “Rev. Mr. Name”, but in casual talking (or casual email for that matter) I usually call them “Deacon FirstName”, (or sometimes out of habit, being newly ordained, just “FirstName”).

    Bishops, in conversation, for me, it’s almost always “(Arch)Bishop LastName”. I some of you probably won’t like this, but I do address my bishop (and only him) by “Bishop”.

    That’s my 2 cents in the matter.

  33. When speaking directly to him I address my bishop as Bishop. He likes being called Bishop FirstName by his priests so saying, “Good Morning Your Excellency FirstName” would be ridiculous. On informal occasions I address him as “Boss”. His predecessor I used to call “Chief”. There was/is never any disrespect implied (or taken). IN WRITING these men are always addressed by me as Your Excellency. That is NEVER to be used when speaking to them…EVER.

    Religious in solemn vows, on the most formal occasions and, again, in writing are actually addressed as “Venerable” (as in, The Venerable Brother John Smith or The Venerable Sister Jane Doe) so should, then, a Religious Brother who is a Deacon be addressed as The Venerable Reverend Brother…?

  34. Fr. Basil says:

    \\In the Byzantine Rite we keep it simple. Any priest, deacon, or monk (even one not in orders), who all where the rason (wide sleeved outer garment that goes over the cassock), are addressed as father. Keeps it easy. The bishop also wears the rason by the way.\\

    By the same token, a professed nun is properly addressed as “Mother.”

    Fr. Deacon is used for Deacons in our tradition.

    BTW–Monks were called “Father” before priests were. At the time of the American Revolution, as seen in letters written by Bp. John Carroll, only regular priests were called “Father.” He referred to secular priests as “Mister”.

  35. Jordanes says:

    Imgilbert said: “To me ‘Your Excellency’ is un-American… ”

    Interestingly enough, I saw a PBS program about the Marquis de Lafayette last night. He always addressed General, and later President, George Washington as “Your Excellency.”

  36. Dcn Larry says:

    When I visit patients taking them Communion in the Catholic hospitals, I can understand how our people are confused as the title deacon sounding non-Catholic to them. I will introduce myself as Deacon Larry from Pastoral Care and they often reply, “Are you Catholic?” Or, asking them if they would like to receive Communion they respond, “No thank you, I’m Catholic.”

    As for addressing a deacon, I do prefer Deacon Larry rather than just Larry.

  37. Jason says:

    Without our priests we’d be up a creek without a paddle. Their’s is the most important job on earth, bar none. If I had it to do all over again…

    They are under relentless attack by a secular culture who literally hates them and what they represent. In my mind, one way we can help protect them is to venerate them in simple ways like manner of address. For those priests who feel personally uncomfortable with formal address, perhaps remember it is the special, holy, timeless office you hold that is being venerated (in addition to your personal vocation of course).

    I don’t think it’s ever any good at all to artificially water down the perception of the priesthood or episcopacy by referring to them as if they were just one of the boys. They aren’t.

    At my parish, when the priest processes and recesses down the aisle, many bow our heads as he passes our pew. It is in thanks to Christ for His priesthood and the sacraments, in thanks for this particular man who has given his life to this priesthood, and public witness to all so that they know we love our priests and are deeply thankful for them.

    My humble $.02

  38. brassplayer says:

    In the USA we say to Deacons “Reverend Mister”. I think that is the same in the UK. However, I recall once at a gathering in London I addressed a deacon as “Reverend Mister” and he immediately snapped “Reverend DOCTOR”. He had a rather high opinion of his own degree.

    I’ve worked most my adult life in a University setting surrounded by tons of Ph.Ds. And over the years I’ve learned that there is no correlation between possession of an advanced degree and good common sense. I’m no longer surprised by how many “Doctors” can not even follow the simplest of directions. I seriously wonder how some of then make it through the day.

  39. pedantic_prof says:

    Following on from brassplayer, I absolutely loved that gem of an anecdote about the doctored deacon. It has never occurred to me to “correct” anyone for not using the title of Doctor to me other than some Jehovah’s Witnesses who were my landlords once and who pointedly eschewed any form of title, to which I pointedly always announced myself as “DOCTOR Scott” on the telephone. Great stuff!

    On a more serious note, no cleric should ever be addressed in English as “Reverend” as this is (or certainly was pre-VII) reserved for address in writing or for Latin liturgical forms (“Benedic me, pater reverende”). It’s only heretical clergymen of the varying sects and either gender who are thus addressed.

  40. Diakonia says:

    In our Diocese, us “permanent” Deacons are NOT PERMITTED to use “Reverend Mister” anywhere as that is reserved for “transitional” Deacons. We are NOT PERMITTED to wear clerics at all as they are reserved to seminarians, “transitional” Deacons and priests. (My former Director of Formation who is a “permanent” Deacon would comment upon how sadly ironic it is that as a non-ordained seminarian college student many moons ago he wore the Roman collar, yet now as an ordained member of the clergy, he is banned from wearing the Roman collar!) Are there FOUR levels of clergy . . . bishop, priest, transitional deacon, permanent deacon? Doesn’t the word “clerics” come fom the word “clergy” (or vice versa)? If not, then why are “permanent” deacons made to dress like insurance salesmen or undertakers? What’s the “fear” of priests if, God forbid, “permanent” Deacons wore the Roman collar too like them and bishops?

    Finally, isn’t it ironic that most of the priests who are so vocal and opinionated about the need for religious sisters to “live out their vocations” by wearing their full habit, are the same ones who fear the “permanent” deacon who would love to fully live out his vocation by wearing the traditional dress of clergy?

  41. Flambeaux says:


    It is my understanding that it is not within the local ordinary’s competence to restrict you from wearing clerical dress or being addressed correctly any more than they can prohibit the normative posture for reception of the Holy Communion.

    You are a cleric. You are thus permitted to dress as one and entitled to be addressed as one.

    On another matter, I do refer to bishops here in the States as “Excellency”, “Lord”, or “Grace”.

  42. Can. 266 By the reception of the diaconate a person becomes a cleric

    Can. 284 Clerics are to wear suitable ecclesiastical dress

    As deacons (whether permanent or transitional) are ordained they are also de facto CLERICS by law, then there should be no distinction in their attire or their formal address. I can see the wisdom of a bishop asking his permanent deacons not to wear the Roman collar while they are at their secular job or while on holiday, vacation, day off, etc. Yet, when they are on church business, as visiting hospitals, prisons, teaching, counseling, et al., then they should be recognizable as Catholic clergy. Where I am, Catholics are the minority (11%) of the population. Most Protestant clergy wear suit and tie (or dress and jacket) so having the permanent deacon dress likewise is not only confusing to our people to say the least. I would prefer a title like “Father Deacon” or “Reverend” for all deacons. Seeing them in some form of a collar (regular or modified) while on duty is an affirmation of their ordination. When we (CCC) were in Rome, we were told to tell the Deacons to wear their collar and to wear an alb and stole or cassock, surplice and stole if present at a Papal Mass or Vatican event.

  43. Jayna says:

    I refer to bishops as “Your Excellency” (there isn’t a difference between bishops and archbishops in the US, right?), but I have always used “Deacon” for a deacon. “Reverend Mister” always seemed to be the formal title, but not how I would speak to them, just as I don’t call my priest “Reverend,” even if that is his official title.

    On a related note, I noticed something rather interesting the last time the Auxiliary Bishop was at my parish for Confirmation. Everyone in the Hispanic community called him “Your Excellency” (in Spanish, of course, as the Aux. Bishop is from Colombia) and kissed his ring, but none of the, well, white community did the same. Except for me. For them it was a handshake and a “how ya doin’, bishop” sort of greeting. It is, frankly, embarrassing. I did, however, verify with my priest beforehand that he wouldn’t mind my kissing his ring and such. I know the Archbishop isn’t particularly fond of it, but grudgingly allows it all the same.

  44. Thomas S says:

    I see many people responding that “Your Excellency” is too formal conversationally. I can’t help but feel that this is rooted in the same unease with formality that has given us liturgy as it has been so disasterously celebrated for 40 years.

    Maybe a little more formality will remind our bishops and priests of the dignity of their office.

  45. doanli says:

    Thank you for weighing in, Deacon Larry.

    My deacon prefers that name, so I oblige. One has to learn how to pick her battles. Besides, 60% of the priests I grew up with (Post Vatican 2, if that’s pertinent) wanted you to call them Father (First Name).

  46. Fr Matthew says:

    The religious community in which I was formed uses “Father” to address transitional deacons.

    As for permanent deacons in the archdiocese where I am currently serving: “the proper manner of address for a deacon is to preface his name with the title ‘Deacon'” (quote from norms issued in May of last year).

    The same document specifies that normally they are “not to wear the Roman collar, but their own distinctive insignia [… which is] the brown cross with the red stole, which is to be provided to each deacon. This should prove suitable identification of the deacon in the Archdiocese. Since transitional deacons are in an internship for priesthood, they should wear the Roman collar.” The document does, however, allow them to wear the Roman collar “at times, to facilitate the diaconal ministry.”

  47. Supertradmum says:


    I am sorry to contradict the statement you made about Bishops not having the right to determine clerical dress. In many dioceses, including St. Louis, the young men who are seminarians are not allowed to where soutanes, or even clericals of black when going out. This has been recently changed, as I mentioned, in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, and in some seminaries with which I am familiar. blacks are forbidden. In some seminaries, these are required, as at Mundelein, in class and at the Liturgy. At Sacred Heart, in Hales Corner, the men sometimes wear clericals, or do not, according to their diocese or what they are doing, but the dress is not consistent.

    Also, the bishops can and do dictate what the permanent deacons wear or do not wear. In our diocese, they cannot wear clericals. It is very important to my mind that seminarians wear clericals for esprit de corps and for identification, for young ladies, at least. And, the same should go for permanent deacons. I remember years ago, when permanent deacons were rare, many young single and pious women had their eye on a particularly handsome and more importantly, pious single man in the diocese, only to discover he was a permanent deacon “on loan”, choosing, thereby, never to marry. Symbolic dress is important and in some cases, a sacramental.

  48. Supertradmum says:

    And dare I point out that one bishop is England refuses to be addressed as Bishop, or My Lord, or Your Grace, or Your Excellency and wants only to be called “Father Kieran”. Bless him.

  49. Pater OSB says:

    Supertradmum – we are in the same diocese! Are you at the coast or inland?

  50. Supertradmum says:

    I do not think so….I am not in A and B, although I am familiar with the diocese as I used to live there in Haywards Heath and I have friends there. I wish I was back, there, however. I am now, recently moved, in the Davenport Diocese on the Mississippi in Iowa.

  51. catholicmidwest says:

    For deacons, I think it depends on the situation. In a formal situation, I call them Deacon so-and-so. In an informal situation, particularly if I knew them before they were a deacon, I call them by their name.

    I don’t call the bishop anything. I don’t see him often enough or at close enough range to call him anything. We have a new one, and I’ve never met him.

  52. PaterAugustinus says:

    To Imgilbert…

    In these multi-culty times, I think we often forget that sometimes a culture can be (::gasp!::) inferior to another culture, and not merely “different” in an amoral sense. While I appreciate the good things about America, I think it’s also important to realize that the liberal (and secular) humanist roots of our culture run deep. Our nation is primarily a Protestant and “Enlightenment” (and Deist) creation, and as many good things as there are to say about morally conservative Protestants in terms of the culture wars, it should be remembered that Protestants are simply the most conservative of leftist humanists. Protestantism irrevocably shattered the vast unity of Christian culture, which was based upon reverence for Christian Tradition and the divine establishment of the Church; this took place through calling all authority in ultimate matters into question and depositing it in the hands of merely human individuals. Thereupon, the clamour of “down with throne and altar!” could really start bearing fruit.

    An authentically Christian culture venerates the sacramental presence of God, however, in throne and altar, and the whole hierarchy of the ministers thereof. Just because America has a “different” culture, doesn’t mean it has an equally valid or good culture. In this matter, the authentically Christian culture requires a religious reverence before a prelate or a prince, or even a priest or a baron, in deference not primarily to the man, but to the divine dignity of his office, in which the presence and power of God is truly made manifest to a greater or lesser degree. It’s not a matter of validly different cultural forms of address – i.e., saying “Your Grace” in England, “Your Excellency” in Italy and “Your Eminence” in Greece – but of one culture having a morally and spiritually inadequate view of the sacramental nature of the offices of princes and prelates, and therefore needing to be corrected by (rather than acccommodated by) Church Tradition. I know you would still address your bishop respectfully. But, that’s the point… the American culture would at most strive for being “respectful;” Christianity says that’s not enough: some address of true reverence for the divine realities inherent in the office, is required. Something not merely respectful, a we should be with everybody, but full of religious awe.

    Incidentally, am I the only one who sees a direct correlation between the decline in the nobility of our art and civil ideals in the West, and the decline in the power (or even existence) of the nobility? I know the idea is VERY unamerican, but it seems to me that the nobles were often, well, noble… and, that much that was noble in the arts and society flowed from their patronage. Sure, they abused their power sometimes (but, no matter how “egalitarian” our system claims to be, when is this not the case with people in charge of things?); but even when they abused it, their *office* still stood for something. And, they didn’t always abuse their office (despite what the history books written by the revolutionary victors may say). In the absence of the nobility, the people still crave for public figures to celebrate… and so, our culture now enthrones “artists” like Brittany Spears or Kanye West as people worthy of celebrity, despite the utter barbarism and subhumanity of their ideas and behaviour. I could go on for hours about my thoughts on this topic, but I’ll just say that I would welcome a return of the nobility under certain circumstances. My only worry is that the culture is so devoid of the necessary virtues now, that such a system could never really work, as we currently are. Really, that’s why the system ended in the first place.

    Incidentally, I can tell you that despite addressing my bishop as “Master” and “Your Eminence” WHENEVER I address him, this has never impeded us from having the warmest, most jovial, most frank and profound discussions. To me (a young monk in his twenties), nothing seems more appropriate and natural than to call my wise, 80+ year old bishop “Your Eminence.” I’ve had the opportunity to converse privately with him for hours on numerous occasions (when driving him back and forth from the diocesan headquarters in Pittsburgh, to our monastery in Ohio), and the formality is not at all a curb to very quality time.

  53. catholicmidwest says:

    History says that your assumptions about the nobility of the “noble” have often been violated.

  54. Supertradmom: My old pastor, Msgr. Schuler, was (like his immediate succesor at least) never interested in titles such as “Monsignor”. He always answered the phone “Father Schuler….”.

    It is a great honor to have such a title.

    At a one on one meal with an Archbishop, I once called him “Father”. It was in advertant, but he actually bridled. Since I normally use “Your Excellency”, and had done so for the whole evening … this man forget what it was to be simple.

    But there is no greater title than “Father”.

    There is no greater title.

  55. PostCatholic says:

    Thank you for clearing that up, Your Reverence. My understanding had been that one used the Rev. Mr. only in written communication, and addressed someone personally as “Deacon ___”. I shall know better in the future.

    I was a seminarian in Ireland and can help with the origin of “Your Grace” as a form It is also the form of address for a duke. Since archbishops were Lords Spiritual in the House of Lords at parity with Lords Temporal the dukes, the same form of address came into use.

    The late James Cardinal Hickey, my archbishop back in the day, used to have us address him as “Father” or even “Father Hickey” in informal situations instead of as “Your Eminence.” (Although it’s another story, to some he was known as “Mother Hickey”…)I think he’d agree with your preference. And I think during the Catholic rite of ordination the ordaining bishop is addressed as “Most reverend father”–am I correct? Perhaps this has changed.

  56. PadreOP says:

    A deacon (transitional or otherwise) who is a member of a religious order should never be addressed as “Rev. Mr.”, unless you know that non-ordained members of that religious order refer to their men as “Mr.” (which seems odd to me, but is probably the custom in some congregations). However, what should be used likely varies from one religious community to another. In my own order, deacons are addressed under formal circumstances (addressing an envelope, etc.) as “Reverend Brother” (Rev. Bro. or Rev. Br.) but in everyday conversation, they are addressed as “Brother so-and-so” (so no different from any of the non-ordained members of the order). That being said, if a parishioner or some other member of the laity addressed one of them as “Deacon so-and-so” I don’t think they would flip out about it since it seems to be that, overall, it is the custom of the Church at least in this country to address deacons most commonly as “Deacon X.”

  57. Referring to the issue of clerical ad(dress), The National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States was promulgated in 2004, and says Deacons are to be addressed as “Deacon”.

    As for attire, the Directory states the following:

    “The Code of Canon Law does not oblige permanent deacons
    to wear an ecclesiastical garb.96 Further, because they are prominent
    and active in secular professions and society, the United States
    Conference of Catholic Bishops specifies that permanent deacons
    should resemble the lay faithful in dress and matters of lifestyle.
    Each diocesan bishop should, however, determine and promulgate
    any exceptions to this law, as well as specify the appropriate clerical
    attire if it is to be worn.97”

    Now, this is written in a very, um, “loose” way. This is because althought the Code exempts permanent deacons from the OBLIGATION of clerical dress, it does not take from them the RIGHT to wear it.

    Dioceses which restrict the right are technically in violation of Canon Law.

    Personally, I think if bishops are so concerned about permanent deacons from resembling the clergy, they should probably stop ordaining them.

    I think a simple solution would be to create a particular clerical dress for permament deacons, perhaps a suit with a blue or grey clergy shirt with collar. This would fulfill the need for a clear distinction between priests and deacons that the bishops fell is necessary (and I guess is easier than a simple 5 minute catechetical homily when a deacon is appointed to a parish), and allow the deacon the option of clerical dress which is required by Canon Law. I admit some might point out that they know priests who like blue and grey clergy shirts, but, rest assured, once such a clerical dress was mandated for permanent deacons, those priests will burn their personal supply!

    Just to continue down the rabbit hole – frankly, there seems to be an effort by some to completely “de-clericalize” the diaconate. I have seen news articles and even television shows refer to “lay deacons”, which is an impossiblity – but it is what many have succeeded in turning the permanent diaconate.

  58. Supertradmum says:

    Father Z,

    Only your comment can urge me to rethink my amazement at dear Father Kieran’s insistence. Partly, one is surprised as British society is still more reserved and traditional in address than we experience here. However, I take your point.

    But, is not the role of the Bishop one of shepherding his priests as well as his laity, which means he does have superiority of role, as Premier Shepherd, and therefore, a hierarchical title is appropriate?

  59. Flambeaux says:


    Two points: the regulations on the dress of seminarians are neither here nor there since the abolition by Paul VI of the Minor Orders in Ministeria quaedam in 1972. Seminarians are no longer clergy. The Clerical Estate is entered at ordination to the Diaconate. So the dress of seminarians is properly regulated by the Diocesan bishop: they are not clerics and are not entitled under the law to dress as clerics (whether soutane or clerical suit).

    And while many bishops, especially in the US and Canada do issue directives regulating what so-called Permanent Deacons may or may not wear, this is not an authority they actually possess.

  60. Flambeaux says:

    PaterAugustinus wrote: Incidentally, am I the only one who sees a direct correlation between the decline in the nobility of our art and civil ideals in the West, and the decline in the power (or even existence) of the nobility?

    I reply: no, you are not alone in recognizing this.

  61. Supertradmum says:


    I think Charlie COllins answered some of this re: bishop’s perogarives. Seminarians are requesting signs of their commitment in some way, and I am hoping the clerical dress, which is mandated by some colleges and dioceses as noted above, will become more universal.

    As to titles, the minor orders would also supply the necessary milestones needed if one is pursuing a vocation, just as brothers and sisters are “postulants”, “novices”, etc. and receive physical signs of their stages of commitment. These titles are important, not only for the person, but for those who are observing the accompanying stages of growth and attainment. Names and titles, such as “Deacon” or whatever, mean something in the larger Church, as well as in the seminary structure.

  62. Flambeaux says:

    Supertradmum, please don’t misunderstand me.

    I’m all for the restoration of the Minor Orders. In fact, I’m of the opinion that Paul VI had no more authority to abolish them in MQ than he did to suppress the Roman Missal in favor of the Novus Ordo. I seem to recall that one of the Decrees of the Council of Trent made clear that the Minor Orders were part of the Deposit of the Faith, but I may be mistaken.

    My point about seminarians is that if they are allowed (or required) by the seminary to wear clerical dress it’s still a matter of an indulgence, not a question of their rights as clergy under Canon Law (since they won’t be clergy until they are ordained deacons).

    Before MQ, the Clerical Estate was imposed at tonsure, so everyone in seminary was a cleric and from the clergy were called the deacons and the priests. Now it is not so.

  63. Emilio III says:

    Although I much prefer the formal modes of address, I treasure the memory of a recent convert from a “Cowboy Church” who had joined his lovely wife and eight children in our Church. The late Bishop was at the parish for the consecration of the new pipe organ and was getting rather tired at the reception, when Bob came by and said “Bishop, I think we got us a kick-ass organ!”. His wife and children turned various shades of pink, but our usually formal Bishop smiled and said “I think so, too. Have you been a Catholic long? Why don’t we sit here and you tell me about it.” They sat for a couple of minutes, then the Bishop blessed the family and went back to the reception.

  64. Fr Jackson says:

    The French appear to have solved the problem of address by using the title of “Monsieur l’abbé” for priests, deacons, and seminarians. Very sarcastically we used to translate that literally into “My Lord the Abbot”. ;)

  65. vernonq says:

    Reading through the comments above I find that there is much confusion between the formal mode of address as for example on an envelope, the way one speaks directly to a person and the way a person is referred to in speech or writing when they are not part of the 'conversation'.  There are very distinct conventional differences between the three which should not be blurred.
    I must here declare that being British I will use the forms customarily in use in Britain whilst acknowledging that the USA and some other places may use slightly different honorifics, but the principles are the same.
    On an envelope an archbishop would be addressed as:  The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Achbishop of Birmingham, whlst a bishop would be: The Rt Reverend Keiran Conry, Bishop of Arundel and Brighton.  (An abbot is also Rt Reverend).
    In the letter one would start as:  Your Grace (for an archbishop)  where in say a formal business letter one would put Dear Sir.  For a Bishop or Abbot it would be My Lord.   The same is true when speaking directly to them.  Their actual names are not used.  (In general though an abbot is addressed the first time as My Lord but in continued conversation very often as Father Abbot).
    When speaking or writing about a prelate the form would depend on context to some extent.  So one might refer to His Grace the Archbishop of Westminster, or simply His Grace the Archbishop – or even just His Grace – (where it was obvious that it was the local Archbishop of whom one was speaking), or His Grace Archbishop Nichols.   Note that it is technically incorrect to use the (Arch)bishop's Christian name in this context and he should definitely never be referred to as Archbishop Vincent except in the most informal of small gatherings.
    Current British practice is for all Priests (religious or secular) to be addressed face to face as 'Father'.  In correspondence as Rev Father Smith (or if belonging to some religious orders as Rev Dom Brown).
    ALL deacons (permanent or transitional) are clerics and should therefore be addressed in correspondence as Rev.  There seems to be no consensus regarding whether or not to add Mr, but it is probably better to always do so unless they have a different title (eg Brother) by virtue of being a religious.  The method of address face to face is the hard part.  Deacon Smith is very protestant to British ears and it is probably therefore better to simply call them Reverend without adding a name.
    I am fairly certain that I can narrow Fr Z's deacon with the Doctorate down to just two (whom I know quite well).  I'm not so sure which of them would have been so insistent on being addressed as Doctor, but I think I can guess!

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