Question Regarding Faculties of Deacons

I understand this is extremley unlikley to happpen, but could the Church choose to grant Deacons to ability to celebrate mass or hear confessions, if it believed that was prudent?

In otherwords, is the current limitations on what sacraments Deacons can administer a function of dogma/faith (e.g. only men can be ordained) that cannot change, or a function of discipline (e.g. married men cannot normally be ordained as priests in the Latin Rite) that could change?

Thanks in advance for any insight.

A deacon cannot celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass nor can he hear confessions. If the Church were to grant this, then, he would have to be ordained into the priesthood.

A deacon can baptize, lead Communion services, and officiate funerals and weddings. He can also proclaim the Gospel and preach the homily. But, that is as far as he can go.

Yes, the Church can decide to grant that ability through the ordination to the priesthood. Any seminarian before being ordained priest is ordained as a deacon.

What the Deacon can do in terms of sacraments a layman/laywoman can too; however Canon Law defines the proper boundaries. The whole mission/definition of a deacon can be read in the Acts of the Apostles. The only dogmatic thing about the deacons is that they must be men because only men can be ordained.

Discipline can be changed and so the Church can allow married deacons to become priests.

Your second statement is a bit misleading, I am afraid. The laity can baptize only in an emergency and, with respect to funerals and weddings, these are done in extreme circumstances. Inasmuch as you reference Canon Law, the proper definitions are listed in greater detail in Ecclesia de Mysterio.

You can find the link to it here:

It clearly indicates where the lines are drawn.

Sure after they are Ordained priests. However only Transitional Deacons can move on to the priesthood. Permanent Deacons will remain Deacons for the rest of their lives.

Since there is no difference between a permanent and a transitional deacon it is, indeed, possible (and has happened) that permanent deacons can become priests. There have been about a dozen such cases in the United States. This is, however, to be an exceptional situation. Normally a man ordained as a permanent deacon should remain a deacon – but God can call him on should his wife die (assuming he was married).

Deacon Ed

The only person who can offer sacrifice is a priest. Was that way in the old testament and is that way now. A deacon is not a priest therefore cannot offer the sacrifice of the Mass. In a similar manner one cannot have a circular square.

A deacon celebrating Mass is no differnt than a nun celebrating Mass…meaning it is an impossibility.

I think your question has been answered but to put it in words similar to those you used…

It is a matter of Faith that a deacon cannot celebrate Mass or hear confessions. Even if the Church were to give a deacon *permission *(not that She would) to say Mass and hear confessions, he would not have the *power *to do so because he has not received the necessary orders to confect the Eucharist or to forgive sins.


Just to keep things simple, regarding the specific question asked.

You are very correct and that is why I said “can” and not “may” when I referred to lay people ministerial capabilities. Just because we can that does not mean that we may.

Good question. The limitation that deacons may not celebrate Mass or hear confession is not one of “faculties,” but one which goes to the essential meaning of the order of deacons and the order of priests. It’s not a matter of discipline. If it were, then the Church would indeed have the ability to change the discipline. So this situation cannot change.

On a related note some years ago the Church considered the question of whether or not deacons might administer the Sacrament of Unction. The conclusion was “no” for the same reason as above, so you’re not alone in asking that type of question. In part the conclusion was based on the fact that the absolution in Unction is tied to the absolution in Confession (it’s “one absolution” but “two Sacraments”).

Such an act would eliminate the existance of the Diaconate. If Deacons could celebrate Mass and hear confessions, they would simply be priests, and the three-fold ministry would fold into a two-fold one.


Funerals and weddings are not extreme instances where the deacon may officiate. In the case of a mixed marriage (Catholic & non-Catholic), the deacon is often called upon to officiate. I cannot count how many funerals my husband has officiated at since his ordination. Not everything is done in the context of the Mass.

That has happened in my Archdiocese, and as a matter of fact, one of our local pastors was vested by his dad (in another diocese) when he was ordained a priest.

Nice bottom line. :thumbsup:

I guess “Permanent” does not necessarily mean “PERMANENT”. Not being a Deacon I have not studied the documents establishing the “not so” Permanent Deaconate that closely.

I’ve always thought you would be an outstanding deacon! :slight_smile:

The normal faculties of the deacon are to:
[list]*]read the gospel,
*]to preach the homily
*]to stand as witness to marriages *
*]to perform the deacon’s specific roles within the Divine Worship Services **

The Normal faculties of the priest
[list]*]To Hear Confessions & grant absolution of most sins ***
*]To Celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice in the context of the appropriate divine worship service (Mass, Divine Liturgy, Quorbono, Qurbana)
*]To perform all of the functions of their diaconal ordination
*] Such faculties as may be appointed under the Church Sui Iuris in which they function.

  • I the Roman Church, since the couple is the actual minister of marriage, deacons can perform weddings outside the liturgy as ordinary ministers. In the east, this function is merely to stand as witness when a marriage is conducted in another valid church, like, say, the Orthodox or ACE.

** this varies throughout the church. In the Roman and Ruthenian churches, this includes functioning as a minister of Holy Communion.

*** Certain sins are reserved to the bishop, and a few to the Roman Pontiff.

Although I was being “punny,” it actually explains part of the misunderstanding. For a very long time in the West, the Diaconate was a transitional Order for those on the road to the Priesthood. Although Permanent Deacons were allowed, they were not prevenlent, and only single men could be Deacons. Thus, most single men who were called to Orders were Transitional Deacons who quickly became Priests. We had, ostensibly, a two-fold ministry in the West from the Middle Ages until the 1970s when the Permanent Married Diaconate was created. Thirty years later, Western Catholics are still confused about who these guys are and what these guys do.

Thank you.

And we still have a long way to go on truly understanding the diaconate. I do find it very strange that distinctions are still made between so-called “permanent” and so-called “transitional” deacons. We have 3 ordained orders in the Roman Church, not 4. A deacon is ordained as a deacon. While there are some times when common-sense and practicality dictate that the two “kinds” of deacons might have slightly different roles (transitional deacons have the extra responsibility of preparing to be priests, and permanent deacons are more stable in their ministry to a particular parish to give some examples), they are still both ordained to the same order. Thankfully, it’s been a while since I’ve heard the phrase “lay deacon” or even worse to hear some referred to as “real deacons” (makes me cringe to even type that!) We’re also getting away from the false notion that deacons are men who “wanted to be priests but couldn’t because they are married”–again we’re making progress but slowly.

We are ever so slowly moving away from the notion that “permanent” deacons are some kind of response to the shortage of priests–rather than to see them for what they are which is men who are fulfilling a divine calling to minister to the people of God as deacons (as deacons, not as “almost priests”). Unfortunately, when questions are posed (and here, I mean questions posed to the Holy See, not legitimate questions for the sake of understanding like we have in this thread) requesting permission for deacons to do confessions, unction, or even Mass, that only takes us backwards and reinforces the false notion that deacons are “substitute priests” or “mini-priests.”

Now, if only we could have the restoration of the ancient order of subdeacon (which we had until the late 1960’s)…Here’s hoping and praying.

I am going to propose the notion that by allowing married men to be Deacons (not permanent, but also unable to go on to the priesthood while married), that perhaps Pope Paul VI was preparing the Western Church for the introduction of married men allowed to be Priests. An Easternization, if you will, with the Western Church having the fullness of the three-fold ministry available in each parish, but also allowing married men to move on to the Priesthood.

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