Saturday, February 19, 2011

The remarkable diaconate

Last night I spent some 6 hours revising my literature review for what is called in the master's degree program I am trying desparately to complete, the Integrated Pastoral Research project, which is just a more technical term for thesis. My thesis is about the importance of married permanent deacons in the life of the church, namely their simultaneous and full participation in the sacraments at the service of communion: matrimony and holy orders. I have to say that while I am deeply interested in my subject, my enthusiasm for the project overall is waning given the demands of the rest of my life, including my very active ministry. I am committed to finishing it, however. So, I appreciate all the prayers anyone would care to offer on my behalf as I continue to trudge this road. In order to finish I will spend the balance of this long weekend writing chapter three of this five chapter endeavor.

So, for today I offer a brief passage about the development of permanent diaconate from the late nineteenth century to it's renewal and restoration just a few short years after the Second Vatican Council:
"What is truly remarkable is that it took less than a century between what is viewed as the initial proposal to restore the diaconate, even conferring holy orders on married men, and when the restoration, which was also an expansion, actually occurred. Only seven years elapsed between Pius XII’s declaration that the time was not yet ripe to restore the diaconate and the call of an ecumenical council to restore it. It bears noting that, from the very genesis of the proposal to restore the diaconate as a permanent order of ministry, married men with families, who worked in secular occupations, were primarily the ones envisaged as deacons by those advocating for its restoration, renewal, and expansion."


  1. Love the new layout Scott and good luck with Chapter 3 ! This sort of work is never easy alongside other committments but it will be worthwhile in the end.
    It's interesting that the prime movers for the renewal of the diaconate intended it as mainly for secular and married men. Several parishes here in Cornwall have married deacons and they are excellent at pastoral work and RCIA.

  2. I don't know how worthwhile it will be in the end, Philomena. I am inclined to C. Wright Mills' view that degreeism is part and parcel of all governments ultimately tending towards oligarchy, which certainly includes one only being seen as knowing what s/he is talking about because they have an advanced degree from BFE U, which most often only means that they have spent a considerable amount of time imbibing the approved ideas of others. I think one of the healthiest aspects of the permanent diaconate is that, on the whole, it resists this tendency. Heaven help us! Jack Kerouac, pray for us!

  3. I have noticed that my relationships with the deacons I know seem to be fundamentally different than the priests i know. I relate far differently to deacons than to priests. I ahve found the insights different between the two, the way that experience is drawn to be different between the two, and the solutions to contemporary issues to be different between the two.

    Now, this is not to say that one is good and one is bad. It is just that they are distinctly different, and I can only guess that the reason is that the deacon is "in the world (if you will)in a much different way than a priest.

    Just an observation. Both have gifts to bring. However, it is my opinion that I believe that priests need to relate to the laity more like deacon's do.

  4. Dan:

    One the reasons behind the push to renew and restore the diaconate was exactly for the reason you mention. If nothing else, deacons are a bridge both within the Church and between the Church and the world. Heaven knows we need priests. Deacons are not priestly substitutes. In fact, one of the greatest threats to diaconal identity stems from people seeing deacons as a kind of very limited priest, as well as deacons seeing themselves as such.

    I dislike it when deacons emphasize their clerical diginity, which usually means acting like a kind of priest, rather than seeking to expand the definition of what it means to be a cleric by simply being a deacon.


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