Wednesday, January 9, 2008

In the Catholic Church deacons are clergy

Once in awhile I hear theological/ecclesiastical locutions that are in need of correction. One is saying something like clergy and deacons. Deacons are clergy! What prompts this catechesis is an invitation I received from our local Knights of Columbus Council, which, though only one council, is spread across several parishes, to their Annual Clergy-Past Grand Knights Dinner.

The invitation itself is fine giving the time, date, location, and RSVP information. However, there was a note in the invitation, printed on a white strip of paper that reads:

Deacon Scott

Thank you for your service. We hope you will come to our annual dinner, but please remember the evening is reserved for clergy of the diocese."

The note is not signed and is a rather uninviting invitation. It bears noting that I am both a 3rd degree Knight, but have not paid dues for quite a few years, and an insurance member. Here is the reply I am thinking about mailing, either that or showing up in a Roman collar, which I almost never wear:

"Dear Brother,

I would take this opportunity to point out that according to canon 266 §1 of the Code of Canon Law, deacons are clergy, having received the sacrament of holy orders by the laying on of hands. It may also be useful to know that within holy orders exist three separate orders: bishops, priests, and deacons. You can reference the appropriate canon for that by looking at canon 1009 §1 and §2. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in numbers 1569-1571, also gives insight into the sacramental nature of the diaconate.

Deacon Scott S. Dodge"


  1. As Ignatius of Antioch wrote: "See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God."

  2. I admit that what you suggest is one way of reading the note; I still assert that it is awkwardly, even clumsily worded. I could parse it out grammatically, but that would be pedantic. Suffice it to point out that it refers to my service prior to the disjunction.

    I will readily admit to being somewhat easily put on the defensive as regards the status of deacons, which speaks to my insecurity and the employment of an ego defense. However, as a Knight and a member of the clergy, I assumed up-front that the dinner is a men's only affair. Plus, the wording of the note is quite clear. For someone like me, who comes from the decidedly unsocial class, saying/writing what you mean is of the essence.

  3. I would simply respond - "Thank you very much for your kind note.


    Rev. Mr. Scott Dodge"

    I enjoyed browsing your blog.

    "Almost" Deacon Paul Augustin

  4. Scott, I have received letters from the hierarchy within our own diocese, annoucing various events, which suggest the same differentiation. I think a little catechesis is in order, especially when in this diocese we see and hear the alleged separation between deacons and "clergy' from our brothers in holy orders one step above us in the hierarchy. Perhaps some on going formation is necessary on a grander scale.

  5. Catechesis and formation about the role of deacons is absolutely essential, especially given the increasing number of things deacons do. All things considered, we have it pretty well in our diocese. I heard something in one of the graduate classes with which I agree: "Deacons are the new nuns of the Church". It is one of those ambiguous observations insofar as in some ways it is good and some ways not so good. In other words, good for the Church, perhaps not so much for the deacons. Our bishop, however, has taken a very personal interest in the diaconate.

    BTW, are you coming to the Chrism Mass this evening? They have reserved seats for our wives!


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