Permanent deacon becoming priest - education


If a permanent deacon who possessed a Master’s degree in theology were to become a priest, what additional education and formation would generally be required? Is in on a case-by-case basis, according to the bishop?

(Yes, I know that this would be an exception to the general rule that permanent deacons do not go on to become priests, but such exceptions do happen.)


Likely he will have to get a masters in theology different from the one he already has.


Why would this be? Wouldn’t the majority of the coursework be redundant? Would they transfer credits?


Some of the seminary training is specific to being a priest, which an MA in theology would not cover. My guess is that the diocese would send him to a larger seminary where he might take other courses than some of the theology he already has. But I am just speculating.


Likely not. There is no such thing as a generic Masters in Theology. According to what I have seen repeatedly, deacons tend towards a Masters in Pastoral Theology. while there may some overlap, I doubt that the majority of course work would be redundant.


I was just looking at the website of a seminary that offers an MA in theology to anyone, but the seminarians earn a Masters in Divinity. The latter involves considerably more coursework and there is some overlap. In addition to the Master’s degree, the deacon would presumably have had considerable education and formation in the diaconate program.

A related question that comes to mind as I’m writing this is how is this handled in the case of Protestant pastors who apply for the pastoral provision or Anglican priests in the Ordinariate?


Wow. Excellent question., I have met two; one I think came over from the Episcopal faith, and the other was previously a Presbyterian (the only one I have heard of being ordained). But I have no clue; I never asked, and the latter is deceased and the former is about 60 miles away. The local seminary is at Mt. Angel, but I don’t know if either or both went there or somewhere else.

And I would not be surprised if there were different Masters being offered at the seminary you mention. Pastoral, Biblical, etc.


I personally know of one such case. It was some years ago (c 1990) and yes, the bishop was directly involved. IIRC the deacon went for seminary studies for 2 semesters (might have been 3) as a day student.


My Ordinariate priest just went through a crash course in Catholic theology and practice with other ordained converts. He didn’t have to do an additional masters.


While I have heard of a few cases where a permanent deacon became a priest, this is extremely rare, enough to make a “rule” virtually impossible.


This. ^^^

On a side note, this is the third or fourth thread I have seen regarding permanent deacons becoming priests. While it is possible, I would imagine it is HIGHLY unlikely. The call to the priesthood and the call to the diaconate are two entirely different vocations. Most of the PD I know would run as far away from possible from anyone who encouraged them into priestly ministry.




If it were a common situation, the answer would be obvious and not need to be asked. There would be clear procedures in place.

It is rare, but it does happen. I know one priest personally who was once a permanent deacon and know of one other. Others in this thread have mentioned cases as well. Of course, there are thousands of deacons in the US and (who knows?) maybe a few dozen priests who were once permanent deacons. The circumstances are always individual and I seriously doubt they ever involve a deacon who really wanted to be a priest but settled for the diaconate because he was married. The fact that they are two different vocations does not change the fact that people can be called to different vocations at different times in their lives, as circumstances change.

The point of the question was really just to compare the education and formation of the two. How much overlap is involved?

I appreciate those who have taken the time to attempt an answer to the question. The side note is also appreciated, and perhaps necessary, but I was hoping to find someone here with specific experience in this situation.


No experience.

However. to answer the question of how many deacons: according to CARA, there were 18,173 deacons as of 2016, with 2,297 in formation.


There’s one in the Diocese of Buffalo currently, which is ironic given your listed locations… :shrug:

The way they have handled it is to have him do/redo the entire courseload, including the pastoral year, living on campus as a regular seminarian (although acting as deacon when appropriate).

Admittedly, the formation for the Deaconate was akin to a certificate course at that time; now, they take the same courseload as the seminarians do (minus the Mass Class and certain other obvious classes), so it would likely be a little different (the concern for a newer Deacon would be human formation, not education (as it would be the exact same)).

I do agree though that it’s an irregular case, but one has to remember that there is nothing theologically different between a Transitional Deacon and a Permanent Deacon - one is still a Deacon; one just happens to be moving forward.


After considerable research on the topic, I found that there is an answer. :slight_smile:

[quote=]5. The specific vocation to the permanent Diaconate presupposes the stability of this Order. Hence ordination to the Priesthood of non-married or widowed deacons must always be a very rare exception, and only for special and grave reasons. The decision of admission to the Order of Presbyters rests with the diocesan bishop, unless impediments exist which are reserved to the Holy See. Given the exceptional nature of such cases, the diocesan bishop should consult the Congregation for Catholic Education with regard to the intellectual and theological preparation of the candidate, and also the Congregation for the Clergy concerning the programme of priestly formation and the aptitude of the candidate to the priestly ministry.

In the case of a person (deacon or not) who already holds a Masters in Theology, I checked the websites of several seminaries. There is a considerable overlap in coursework between a Masters in Theology and a Masters in Divinity. Each seminary has its own policy, but in general, allows a considerable amount of coursework from a Masters in Theology to be applied toward the Divinity degree (15-30 units). This policy appears to be for seminarians who come to the seminary already possessing a Masters in Theology. Mostly these Masters in Theology programs are designed for a seminarian to be able to earn an additional degree, but in some cases, the seminaries offer a Masters degree that is open to the public.


A Masters in Pastoral Theology would seem a good choice for a deacon, but what do you mean there’s no such thing as a generic Masters in Theology? I found many, many programs that I would consider “generic” in my recent research, but maybe I’m misunderstanding your terminology.

For example, the Catholic Theological Union offers a Masters Degrees in Divinity, Pastoral Studies, Spiritual Ministry, Biblical Ministry, Hispanic Theology and Ministry, Interculutral Ministry, Justice Ministry, Liturgical Ministry… and just plain Theology.

Christendom College offers a Masters in Theological Studies.

The Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Sts. Cyril and Methodius offers a Masters in Theology, both online and in person.



I would agree from my limited personal experience that the cases of permanent deacons becoming priests is so rare that there are no set guidelines. I know personally of two widowed deacons who became priests. They were both widowed relatively young (in their 50s), had been in full-time ministry prior to becoming widowers, and had pensions from their pre-diaconal careers. I don’t know about what graduate-level work the first-one had prior to seminary studies, but the second had several graduate theology hours towards a theology master’s prior to entering a seminary so a two-year course of study was arranged.


Someone posted this article on Facebook today.

A little more searching yielded this:

Both articles touched briefly on the answer to my question regarding education and formation.

May God bless Father Peter McLaren and Father James Grogan in their ongoing ministry to the Church.

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