Owen Cummings is correct to assert that in order to recognize the image of the deacon that arises from what Ditewig has termed the "double vocational sacramentality" of married permanent deacons, marriage must be reaffirmed as a sacrament on par with the other six sacraments and, due to it being a sacrament at the service of communion, having a special affinity with the sacrament of holy orders (Cummings, “Images of the Diaconate” 2). This requires overcoming the view that sees the sacrament of matrimony in primarily or even exclusively juridical terms, a view of marriage that held sway for more than a millennium of the church’s history and which only started to be challenged at Vatican II. In seeking to theologically justify my assertion that by their full and simultaneous participation in the sacraments of matrimony and orders married permanent deacons bring a much needed dimension to the church’s pastoral ministry, there is no need to resort to technical or abstruse theological language.
Cummings points out that the popular mindset almost always reduces sacraments to a singular celebration of the rite for a particular sacrament (2). He is quite right to suggest that this mindset needs to be pastorally and persistently challenged. This all-too pervasive way of seeing things is expressed even in casual conversation when people say things like, "I was married so many years ago," or, "I was ordained so many years ago" (2). Indeed, such an understanding falls far short of the sacramental reality that those who receive these sacraments are called to live them out, flowing as they do from the fundamental sacrament of baptism, from the time of the celebration of the rite in the midst of the church until death (2). This is why, Cummings succinctly notes, "getting married in the church" does not mean much if the couple who so marries are not committed to being church precisely in and through their marriage (2).
The same holds true with regard to ordination. For example, if ordination is received by the ordinand as the conferral of personal honor instead of as a response to a divine call flowing from his baptism by which he is commissioned and strengthened for service appropriate to order into which he is ordained, then being ordained does not mean much. Lest we forget, episcopacy and priesthood, like marriage, are fundamentally diaconal insofar as these orders, too, are conferred so that one who enters them can minister, that is, serve others by performing specific kinds of service.
Due in large part to lingering suspicions about the inherent goodness of human sexuality and perhaps also to the pervasive view, which is held by many in the church, of not understanding marriage as an irrevocable bond, there is a discernible sense that marriage as a sacrament does not quite measure up (Cummings, “Images” 4). Cummings notes "a certain reluctance" on the part of many Christians to understand and experience their sexuality as a divinely-given good, let alone as "a mediating encounter with God" (4). Indeed, to investigate all the factors that contribute to this discernible state-of-affairs would itself require a separate and in-depth probe (4).
To top-off the theological portion of this section, I turn to Karl Rahner, who simply re-proposed an authentically Christian understanding of matrimony as the way to overcome the unhealthy and largely un-Christian duality inherent in the view of human sexuality that is either assumed or explicitly endorsed by those who insist that married permanent deacons in the Roman Catholic Church actually are, or should be, obligated to live continently upon their ordination. In his pre-conciliar essay "The Theology of the Restoration of the Diaconate," which he foresaw, as did most who promoted the restoration of the diaconate as a permanent order prior to Vatican II, as being made up in large part of married men, most of whom would work secular occupations:
in a true theology of marriage, marriage must really and truly not be regarded as a mere concession to human weakness (a conception attempted over and over again by an almost manichaean intellectual undercurrent in the Church), but must be seen to have an absolutely positive and essential function, not only in the private Christian life of certain individuals, but also in the Church. Marriage, understood as a sacramentally consecrated union, is both in and for the Church the concrete and real representation and living example of the mystery of Christ's union with the Church (163)