Has anyone come across permanent deacons? I have in the States but not here. I was looking at the Irish site and it stated that it is open to married men yet the Vatican states that it is open to mature single men, married men and widowers. I remember hearing that single men had to be above 35 to apply. What are your thoughts on this? Is it something any of you have considered? Is it ever discussed in your parish? I have never heard it encouraged.
Post by Alaisdir Ua Séaghdha on Apr 26, 2012 10:58:59 GMT
For married men, the lower age limit is 35; they must have permission from their wives; if their wives pre-decease them after ordination, they are obliged to remain celibate; and a candidate on a second or subsequent marriage (I'm talking about a re-married widower) is not acceptable - aside from the age limit, they are the same requirements as for an Orthodox subdeacon, deacon or priest.
For single men, finally professed religious brothers in orders/congregations that allow for permanent deacons and widowers (who only had been married once), the lower age limit is 24 - the same as for transitory deacons.
I've seen permanent deacons in the US and in Germany; and I am aware of their work in Britain. In the Eastern rite (and Orthodox churches), they are very important - the late Mgr Serge Keleher was initially more concerned about getting a deacon to assist him rather than another priest. In the eastern rite, when a deacon is ordained to the priesthood, he is forbidden to exercise the functions of a deacon thereafter. What this means is that unlike in the Latin rite, the minister acting as a deacon in the Orthodox liturgy is alway a deacon. Should this be reintroduced in the west, there has always been a tradition of the priest reading the Gospel, so deacons would not be required in the OF; but deacons would be required for High Mass in the EF, where their function is more elaborate. Yet I think there would also be more resistance to married deacons among traditionalists.
The question is whether the deacon is voluntary or professional, and my guess is that celibate deacons would be the preference for the full-time diaconate, outside wealthy churches like the US and Germany (I'll come to that in a minute). The tradition is that the deacon does administrative work and charitable work which frees the priest for the sacramental work - this is the case in the East (though this is not problem free; deacons tend to be local to their parishes - priests come and go, so the relationship can be like politicians and civil servants; priests tend to be better educated, deacons tend to have accumulated local knowledge; there can also be problems between priests' and deacons' wives).
I don't believe that any Church other than well endowed churches such as the US or Germany can afford to pay for full time deacons, which means that in the West, the deacon amounts to little more than an altarserver who reads the Gospel (and who sometimes preaches the sermon - this is ok) at Mass. They don't have full time deacons in Germany, but they do have full time pastoral officers/assistants who are lay people. These are generally theology graduates who assist in the parishes. It is inappropriate for them to give a sermon (Cardinal Eyck in Utrecht has disciplined one who did so in his archdiocese), but effectively they do - at least in Germany they do, and they are commonplace in European countries. To be honest I think the German practice of part-time deacon, who is a clergyman, and full time paid lay pastoral worker is a bad model - it sends out the wrong message. A lot of lay pastoral workers are female, which can create a lot of confusion (I came across two adjacent parishes in which the respective pastoral workers were married to each other).
Back to the diaconate, I think a part-time diaconate within the Ordinary Form where a deacon has limited duties is such that it doesn't really justify the work behind it.
Thanks for the responses. I've come across people chugging forward the old chestnut of the dearth of priests being solved by allowing married men in and when I put forward the lack of men coming forward as deacons it usually quietens them down. I can certainly see where there would be a bitter overlap for women parish workers and a bit of a mess, although I'm not sure that would be a bad thing surely, in order to sort it out and clarify everyone's place.
Do you think that there would be a place for deacons in term of catechesis and assisting overworked priests to get back to the basics, not just serve at Mass but also to help evangalise within the community and answer questions in the media, Bible/Church Fathers study, visit the sick and elderly as opposed to EMCs, as well as help with admin. Is this not a missed vocation for married men who can serve the Church in their spare time? Surely we need more good men involved, certainly within OF parishes. I see lots of young/middle aged men who attend daily Mass, Adoration and confession in my parish. I wonder why the option is not being offered to them on a parish level? Those in the programmes, does anyone know how they came to be involved?
Post by Alaisdir Ua Séaghdha on Apr 30, 2012 8:34:49 GMT
When I wrote my first post, I just thought that single or widowed candidates for the diaconate with no debts or commitments (eg a widower with dependent children) are more likely to be encouraged to study for the priesthood. Also, if anyone is curious about difficulties between priests' and deacons' wives in the eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches, it can be summarised in one word. Snobbery. It is also the case that as priests marry the daughters, sisters and nieces of other priests, so too do deacons marry into other deacons' families - it would be unusual for a priest's daughter to marry a candidate for the diaconate rather than the priesthood).
However, there is another hitch. If a prospective deacon has young or teenage children, his place during his freetime (within reason) is with them, not to mention his wife. Anyone with a heavy workload, even if they do have energy in the evening or weekends, will want to spend it with their families - if fact this is their duty. I have heard of deacons' children who have been put off the Church because their fathers' gave so much of their free time to the Church.
To give the position of the married priest in the eastern rite Churches (which is not quite the same, as this is a full time position, though there are eastern rite priests who work as teachers and in other professional capacities). Both in North America and in Eastern Europe, it is usually the priest's wife who earns most of the family income through her Monday-Friday 9 to 5 job. Her husband is on duty in the evening and the weekends. She and their children are expected to be paragons of behaviour in the local parish (life in the gold fish bowl). Sometimes, the only way these women can discuss important matters with their husbands is by writing an appointment in their husbands' diaries. You can probably now see why the first question to a seminarian's girlfriend by the rector of an eastern Catholic or Orthodox seminary is whether she has a priest in the family.
I know this is not the same issue as the western Catholic permanent diaconate, but I am comparing like with like, while at the same time stating the case of what a married priesthood might mean.
This is without challenging church goers to up their donations to take into account wives and families of married priests.
Post by maolsheachlann on Sept 3, 2012 18:17:18 GMT
One of the eight permanent deacons ordained in Dublin this year is serving in my own parish of Ballymun. I wasn't sure what to make of the diaconate-- I guess I had a reflex fear it was a kind of watering-down of the priesthood, despite the venerable nature of the institution-- but so far it has been a very positive addition. This might seem a ridiculous point but just having another robed figure on the altar seems to add to the gravity and solemnity of the Mass. Also, our deacon is a fine homilist who preaches stirring Christocentric homilies. Our parish priest has asked us to pray our deacon remains in Ballymun as it takes some of the work off himself-- the poor fellow sometimes has to celebrate three straight Masses in a row.
One problem is that we have so little contact with the Orthodox in this part of the world (and in Anglophone culture generally) that the Protestants seem the much more obvious comparison. You can see this in the discussion of clerical celibacy as well - references to the Orthodox and the Eastern Rites often talk as if they were the same as the Protestants (whose practice - with a few exceptions - is based on the view that celibacy has no particular value at all) whereas in fact they do value it but have a somewhat different observance.
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