Debate: Deacons holding a public office

Dear, all of you!

A few months ago I started a debate-thread about priests holding a political office. It has occured, but since the Blessed Pope John Paul II’s pontificate the Vatican has formally taken a position in which it declares that a priest should occupy himself with his flock and not with state affairs.

In this thread (link) the general opinion followed the Vatican saying it would be wrong and should be more the exception then the rule.

Now, several people of the debate were wondering if deacons could run for and hold a public office. I would like to hear the different opinions on this matter too. So, fire away! :slight_smile:

The 1983 code of Canon Law states that:

[quote=Canon Law]Can. 266 §1. Through the reception of the diaconate, a person becomes a cleric and is incardinated in the particular church or personal prelature for whose service he has been advanced.

Now I’m no Canon Lawyer so I may not be interpreting this correctly but I read Canon 266 as saying that permanent deacons are clerics and therefore would also be covered by canon 285 which forbids them holding public office:

[quote=Canon Law]Can. 285 §3. Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power.

Married Catholic deacons should still provide for their families. But, yes, there are other jobs then public offices.

This is correct. As part of the training on canon law, we were all forwarned about this fact. We had a lawyer who holds a position as an appointed judge in child custody court, he was informed and he understood, as all of us, that the possibility of running for and holding public office af any type was prohibited once ordained into the diaconate.

It’s not up for debate, it is not allowed.

I believe all the posters were not aware of Canon 288:

-Can. 288 The prescripts of cann. ⇒ 284, ⇒ 285, §§3 and 4, ⇒ 286, and ⇒ 287, §2 do not bind permanent deacons unless particular law establishes otherwise.

Therefore 285 art 3 is excluded for permanent deacons, and they CAN assume public office.

Not sure if it is a mandate from the USCCB or otherwise, all I can say is we were taught that once oprdained the thought of holding public office is out of the question.

I’ll do some more checking.

Deacons are free to run for, and hold public office.

They are exempt from the canon that prevents priests from doing so.

By the way, this is the same canon that releases them from the obligation to wear clerical dress.

God bless,

no message

But a permanent (married) deacon may wear the clerical dress? He is simply not obligated to do so?

I never knew a married deacon could wear the Roman collar. It would be nice to see it more. :slight_smile:

Yes, canonically he may wear clerical clothing (because he’s a cleric), but functionally, most bishops ask them not to wear clerical attire:
*]Either at all OR
*]Just during ministerial work (like visiting prisoners or hospital patients, for example)

This topic has been discussed many times here, you could use the search box to review some of the discussion around it.

God bless,

To the question asked by the original poster - I believe our society would be enhanced by MORE deacons involved in public life.

They possess characteristics that are sorely lacking in many places and in many politicians:
*]Concern for users who are often overlooked in society
*]Pro-life and proud to preach and vote accordingly
*]Men of deep faith and devotion
*]Supporters of families and things important to family life

God bless,

Note that in the USCCB document National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States it states the following;

Participation in Political Office
91. A permanent deacon may not present his name for election to any public office or in any other general election, or accept a nomination or an appointment to public office, without the prior written permission of the diocesan bishop. A permanent deacon may not actively participate in another’s political campaign without the prior written permission of the diocesan bishop.

So in the U.S. the answer would be yes but only with the written permission of the bishop.

We were told in formation that we would not receive this permission.

Same for our diocese…in fact the way it was covered in canon law classes was a very matter of fact way…I guess thats why I took it for granted the canon forbi the option. I didn’t realize that the deacon was exempt from the canon.

I am an 18 year old going to college. I am involved politically; I would someday like to run for office. I would also like to be a permanent Deacon, seeing that there is a need for individuals who are well spoken. A Deacon presided over my grandfather’s funeral and he was a horrific speaker.
The Church urges Catholics to get involved politically in order to be a medium for the Catholic voice and agenda. Saying that Deacons can’t hold public office, in my opinion, would be robbing me of being a public servant. I don’t think of it as a “Job” or “career.” So I would have to disagree with Guillaumus. Many politicians in America hold other professions while being a politician. Just as being a Deacon alone is not a profession and cannot allow an individual to fully provide for their family.
Also, it depends on the diocese a Deacon lives in, in order to wear a collar. In the Archdiocese of Miami, where I live, a deacon cannot.

I think it would be nice to have “real Catholics” in public office, by that I mean vote in accordance with Church teaching.


At least they have their act together in the Supreme Court. Let’s hope faithful Catholics make up at least 5/9 justices when Proposition 8 gets to the Supreme Court.

Travieso, I’m in a similar position as you are with respect to desiring to serve a political office and also discerning the permanent diaconate. I think this situation will become more common in the near future; especially with the political failures of a few days ago. I think there is a natural, even logical, congruency between the two positions. But I also think we have a lot of reasons to be very hesitant to go down that road.

The first point I acknowledge is that all heed and credence should be given to the wisdom of the Church, and in this instance the Church seems highly in favor of keeping ordination and election separate; even if not completely forbiding it.

Secondly, we should observe the some odd ONE-THOUSAND YEARS of church history where politics and ministry were indifferentiable in the Papal Office; and also in the offices of all the Bishops. Those years didn’t necessarily go so well.

Thirdly, I think the Church is better served if the laity lived and furthered the gospel in all offices, especially political ones, themselves. It would indeed be a more assuring sign that the ordinariate were themselves succeding in their particular mission to educate and build Christ’s flock in the faith.

By virtue of his ordination, the deacon shares in the “fatherhood” of the priest (at least in role though not in authority). Any father can clean up after his kids, but it is better to let them do it themselves.

Similarly in my diocese, deacons may not hold any public office, elected or appointed.

I am a lawyer as well, and also sat on a local governing body. I was told in no uncertain terms that I would need to resign, and that if asked to sit as a judge by appointment, I was required to decline. Similarly, another deacon in our diocese was also told not to accept another term at the end of the term that expired just before his ordination.

The general rule is that deacons may not hold public office. The exceptions are very rare.

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