Diaconal Bombshell: “Wait, this isn’t what I signed up for!”

Church Law says Permanent Deacons (and all clerics) are obliged to abstain from sex, notes Canonist Edward Peters

I have a question: were deacons called to continence from the early Church times onwards, just as the priests were, according to this article?

If someone can answer that, I would be grateful. From the article, I would assume so, given that deacons are clergy, but I am not certain.

nccbuscc.org/deacon/faqs.shtml

May married men be ordained deacons?

Yes. The Second Vatican Council decreed that the diaconate, when it was restored as a permanent order in the hierarchy, could be opened to "mature married men," later clarified to mean men over the age of 35. This is in keeping with the ancient tradition of the Church, in which married men were ordained into ministry.

Also in keeping with ancient practice is the expectation that while a married man may be ordained, an ordained man, if his wife should die, may not marry again without special permission.

"Celibacy Affects Every Deacon:

In one way or another, celibacy affects every deacon, married or unmarried.

Understanding the nature of celibacy—its value and its practice—are essential to the married deacon.

Not only does this understanding strengthen and nurture his own commitment to marital chastity, but it also helps to prepare him for the possibility of living celibate chastity should his wife predecease him. This concern is particularly unique within the diaconate.

Tragically, some deacons who were married at the time of ordination only begin to face the issues involved with celibacy upon the death of their wives. As difficult as this process is, all deacons need to appreciate the impact celibacy can have on their lives and ministry." -- National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, par. 72."

The issue is not celibacy but continence. I believe the tradition is that priests and deacons gave up sexual relations with their wives. Can someone confirm or deny this, with evidence?

This is quite interesting. To me it seems like the argument is solid. I am quite curious to see how this will be resolved.

[quote="bobolink, post:3, topic:226188"]
The issue is not celibacy but continence. I believe the tradition is that priests and deacons gave up sexual relations with their wives. Can someone confirm or deny this, with evidence?

[/quote]

I can't provide the evidence, but I recently had this conversation with a friend who is a Cannon Lawyer, and he did say that yes, all Deacons are expected to be celibate.

~Liza

[quote="lizaanne, post:5, topic:226188"]
I can't provide the evidence, but I recently had this conversation with a friend who is a Cannon Lawyer, and he did say that yes, all Deacons are expected to be celibate.

~Liza

[/quote]

Permanent deacons can be married men who are then ordained as permanent deacons. the issue is not celibacy, but continence, which is avoiding sexual activity even if you are married.

Wow, I was not aware of this. My husband talks frequently about wanting to be a deacon, but I'm pretty sure this would change his mind.

Bobolink...

As a happily married (39 years) permanent deacon (6 years), I find this to be another exercise of canon lawyers & theologians discussing the age-old speculation of how may angels can dance on the head of a pin. It might be fascinating to discuss the issue, but it's not going to change anything.

I believe most of my brother deacons (and their dear wives) will find all this to be laughable.

:D

Married Permanent Deacons must be chaste but not celibate. If their wife passes first then they are to also be celibate since they are not allowed to marry again (with very rare exceptions), mayb given permission to marry again if they have young children, for example). My husband is currently in formation and this was addressedduring the inquiry. Whoever may be stating otherwise is not helping the order and may be deterring those who are being called to the Holy Orders of the permanent diaconate.

[quote="dcnbillj, post:8, topic:226188"]
Bobolink...

As a happily married (39 years) permanent deacon (6 years), I find this to be another exercise of canon lawyers & theologians discussing the age-old speculation of how may angels can dance on the head of a pin. It might be fascinating to discuss the issue, but it's not going to change anything.

I believe most of my brother deacons (and their dear wives) will find all this to be laughable.

:D

[/quote]

The Canon Law is there and in place but it seems not to be enforced. One shouldn't laugh at infractions of the Church's law.

canonlaw.info/a_deacons.htm


Can. 277 §1. Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy which is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity.

§2. Clerics are to behave with due prudence towards persons whose company can endanger their obligation to observe continence or give rise to scandal among the faithful.

§3. The diocesan bishop is competent to establish more specific norms concerning this matter and to pass judgment in particular cases concerning the observance of this obligation.

Are 'continence' and 'chastity' used synonymously in Catholic moral theology?

The Canon Law is there and in place but it seems not to be enforced. One shouldn’t laugh at infractions of the Church’s law.

I’m not laughing at infractions…I’m just amused that anyone really finds this to be one of the pressing issues in the Church today.

Besides…if I “obey” this law, then I violate another! What’s a married cleric to do???

[quote="AcolyteLector, post:11, topic:226188"]
Are 'continence' and 'chastity' used synonymously in Catholic moral theology?

[/quote]

Continence and chastity are not the same thing.

Continence is avoiding sexual activity, whether permanently or for a time.

Chastity is maintaining sexual purity according to one's state in life: for the single, virginity, for the married, sexual activity only with one's spouse etc...

[quote="dcnbillj, post:12, topic:226188"]
I'm not laughing at infractions...I'm just amused that anyone really finds this to be one of the pressing issues in the Church today.

Besides...if I "obey" this law, then I violate another! What's a married cleric to do???

[/quote]

I think there is some confusion around this issue and the Vatican will have to clarify it.

Meanwhile, there is a lot of commentary following this blog post by Fr Z:
wdtprs.com/blog/2011/01/continence-and-married-deaconspriests/

[quote="bobolink, post:10, topic:226188"]
The Canon Law is there and in place but it seems not to be enforced. One shouldn't laugh at infractions of the Church's law.

[/quote]

A dispensation is not an infraction.

[quote="bobolink, post:10, topic:226188"]
§3. The diocesan bishop is competent to establish more specific norms concerning this matter and to pass judgment in particular cases concerning the observance of this obligation.

[/quote]

And therein is given the right to dispensation by proper authority.

[quote="dcnbillj, post:8, topic:226188"]
I find this to be another exercise of canon lawyers & theologians discussing the age-old speculation of how may angels can dance on the head of a pin. It might be fascinating to discuss the issue, but it's not going to change anything.

[/quote]

Note that Peters' original article was first published in 2005. For better or worse, there hasn't been any significant interest in his conclusions from the Vatican. Until that changes, this is a purely academic debate - and I think Peters is too clever to imagine that it's anything else.

[quote="bobolink, post:6, topic:226188"]
Permanent deacons can be married men who are then ordained as permanent deacons. the issue is not celibacy, but continence, which is avoiding sexual activity even if you are married.

[/quote]

I don't see the difference between celibacy and continence (aside from the latter being within marriage and the former outside). It sounds like rhetorical mincing of words to me.

~Liza

All this unnecessary mess. Why can't people just pick ONE vocation or the OTHER and stick with it :confused:

In the case of those who got in to this mess while they were outside of the Roman church (in a different church or rite maybe), when they enter the Roman Church, they are just good theologians and someone who can advice others on religion. Create a new position like that in the church for people in such positions. All problems solved. End of story.

Of course that's just my opinion :D

God Bless :)

[quote="bobolink, post:3, topic:226188"]
The issue is not celibacy but continence. I believe the tradition is that priests and deacons gave up sexual relations with their wives. Can someone confirm or deny this, with evidence?

[/quote]

Not in the East. Our priest just had a daughter a few months ago. And the godparents where his priest friend and his wife, who is also pregnant.

This came up here several years ago. It's hard not to see the periodic resurrection of this topic as an attack on the diaconate itself in its post-Vatican II form, by casting subtle doubts on the canonical legitimacy and moral standing of married deacons who are living their marital vocations in full conformity with the requirements of their Ordinary and the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States.

Yes, by all means, let's assist the Church by forcing men to choose between a vocation of service and abandoning the marital bed of their wives of 20 or 30 years.........

[quote="ddarko, post:17, topic:226188"]
All this unnecessary mess. Why can't people just pick ONE vocation or the OTHER and stick with it :confused:

In the case of those who got in to this mess while they were outside of the Roman church (in a different church or rite maybe), when they enter the Roman Church, they are just good theologians and someone who can advice others on religion. Create a new position like that in the church for people in such positions. All problems solved. End of story.

Of course that's just my opinion :D

God Bless :)

[/quote]

Why, specifically, do you think this is a "mess?" And why do you feel marriage and a vocation of service are mutually exclusive?

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