Deacons in the Tridentine Mass

What role would a permanent deacon play in the Tridentine Mass? Vatican II was a good bit before my time, but from what I understand there were no permanent deacons before then (probably somewhat wrong on that), and presumably there are no rubrics for their role, or at least a role very different from that of the OF Mass. Just curious.


A deacon is a deacon, whether “transitional” or “permanent.”

The PCED clarified to Fr. Zuhlsdorf that no deacon, permanent or transitional, in good standing can be barred from serving at the Extraordinary Form.

The difference between Transition and permanent is vast.
A transitional deacon is one who will be ordained as a priest. Deacon is a step along the way.

A Permanent Deacon is as the position says. Also he can be married, and holds a regular job in additon to his position in the church.

The role of the deacon in the EF is fairly simple. In the Low Mass he has no role. His role in the High Mass is pretty much what we see in the OF: he proclaims the Gospel, assists at the altar in the preparation of the gifts. He may give communion. He may preach. Here we are bound by the rubrics.

While there have always been permanent deacons in the Church (although in the Latin Church the last one was in the 19th century). Yet there is no difference between a transitional and a permanent deacon: the ordination ceremony is the same. A deacon is a deacon is a deacon.

Deacon Ed

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A deacon is a deacon for his role in the mass. I was speaking of the role of the Perminate Deacon as in regards to his role in the church.

There is only one order of deacon, not two. There is no difference between a transitional deacon and a permanent deacon. In fact, in the theology of the Latin Rite Church a priest is still a deacon too, and a bishop is both priest and deacon (in fact, for formal occasions he is even supposed to wear an episcopal dalmatic – the vestment of the deacon).

While it is true that, for the most part, transitional deacons go on to the priesthood, there is nothing that mandates that. It is also true that most permanent deacons are married, but we do have celibate permanent deacons as well as widowed deacons.

Sorry, your statement is in error.

Deacon Ed

Dear Decon Ed:

I belieive you misundand what is my point. The role of the the Perminate Deacon has a specific call to service as you know. There is no aurgument that all priest and the bishop are deacons, but their ultimate role and postion in the Church is different.
The way I heard to roles best described is that the priest represents the person of Christ, were the Perminate Deacon represents the face of Christ, working with and for those in need, the face of Christ in the work place.
I believe it is important that people not only recongize the Perminate Deaconate as an ordained order, but what their role in the church and in minister entail.

Peace, FAB

He may distribute Holy Communion, though.

He may distribute Holy Communion, though.

That question is open to debate, as deacons were classified as extraordinary ministers of the eucharist in the Tridentine rite.

There is no difference between the permanent deacon and the transitional deacon liturgically speaking for the Tridentine Mass. Any permanent deacon may legally assist in the role of deacon or sub deacon in the Tridentine Mass, HOWEVER, do not expect your local Tridentine Parish to allow you to do it. A priest himself also may assist in the role of deacon or sub deacon- you can assist in a lower liturgical role just not a higher one.

This issue came up a few years ago where I come from and initially the pastor was ok with it but the parishioners were not. Some in fact were offended and even suprised that I brought this to the attention of the pastor, that a permanent deacon wanted to come and assist at a Solemn Mass as Deacon.

I have heard in some Latin Mass communities however that permanent deacons are assisting at Solemn Mass. I see no problem with it personally but some traditionalists are offended by it. It all depends on where you are. I would not shake the boat with the issue. Find out from other parishioners before you try to go about doing this.


St. Francis de Sales here in Georgia has two Permanent Deacons.

Again, not so. The role of the transitional deacon while he is a deacon is identical to the role of the permanent deacon, not just liturgically but in all aspects of his ministry. Should a transitional deacon choose not to go on to the priesthood he would then be a permanent deacon – and there is no difference (it has happened).

The deacon is configured in the role of Christ as servant. His threefold ministry is Word, Liturgy and Charity. That pertains to both the transitional and the permanent diaconate.

You seem to be trying to create a different order of deacon when you make distinctions between the transitional and the permanent diaconate. The only “difference” is that transitional deacons usually (99.9% of the time) go on to the priesthood. But while they are deacons there is no difference.

Deacon Ed

They are all also subdeacons, or so I have been told

Not necessarily. The subdiaconate was eliminated by Pope Paul VI for the Latin Rite Church. The order still exists for Eastern Rite Churches.

Deacon Ed

I see no problem with it personally but some traditionalists are offended by it.

Why would a “traditionalist” be offended by the deacon assuming a traditional role to his ministry?

Dear Deacon Ed:
You and I have no augument. While a Deacon, Transitional or not there is no differnce, although I not certain of that reality when it comes to the practice of charity. They may be, but within that year’s time before being ordained to priesthood, most of their focus is on that final year of preparation. I could be mistaken.
My point was their unlimate role in the church.


well, insomuch as there is a subdeacon role in the EF, every ordained person may fill it by virtue of being a subdeacon, although such an order no longer exists now

My guess is that it comes from the fact that some traditionalists do not like the whole concept of the permanent Diaconate, because it leads to the men just acting as Priests. However, this is a problem with individual deacons, not the order, so I dunno

Just a wild guess (not being a “traditionalist” as I understand that term) – but I’d assume any objection or “offense” would be based on the liklihood that the deacon was married (as 95% or so are as I understand). As such, some might think him unworthy to touch the Sacred Species; in addition, there could also be an issue with the fact that, unlike a priest’s, a deacon’s hands aren’t anointed / consecrated at the time of diaconal ordination. But again, just guessing.

Trads have a problem with the position because a permanent married deaconate isn’t traditional-- at least, it wasn’t present in what many trads see as the “golden age” of the Church.

In reality, there were permanent deacons in the Church’s history. And some of those deacons were awesome saints-- St. Lawrence of Rome comes to mind.

But from a cultural standpoint, traditional Catholics view the priesthood with a certain authoritarial reverence (hey, I just made up a word!). And a permanent married deacon smacks of a priest-lite or seems to open the door to married priests. The fear is probably unfounded, but trads are a suspicious lot. They want a clear and obvious distinction. And with due cause, I’d say.

That being said, I think that Fr. Z. of WDTPRS has the best point of view on the subject: Let deacons be deacons! If they have been ordained to that position, let them do their job. Which means they can do their job in the TLM-- who, in the absence of a proper deacon, will just nominate an altar boy to fill that role anyway. If you’ve got an actual deacon there, let him take that role in the Mass.

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