Subdeacon?

What is the purpose of a Sub-deacon? What do they do during a High Mass?

Why did the Church create this “extra” position?

I was always under the impression that there were only Priests and Deacons until I read about the High Masses.

Have they become virtually extinct after Vatican II?

The order of Subdeacon was suppressed at Vatican II if I remember correctly (although, I think that Traditionalist societies such as the FSSP still use them, I don’t know if they have a indult for that or something).

The Eastern Catholic Chuch also retain the Order of sub-deacon. All men are ordained to it before they are ordained to the diaconate.

On Assumption 1972 (15th August 1972) Pope Paul VI issued a motu proprio whose incipit is Ministeria Quaedam, which abolished first tonsure, all four minor orders, and the major order of subdeacon.

I believe that the Eastern Churches have retained the minor orders, although they can differ depending on the Church. I also believe that subdeacon is a minor order in the East whereas it was a major order in the Latin Church.

Regarding Solemn Mass I’ve heard that even before Vatican II it was not common because of the need for three sacred ministers. Technically this should be a priest, a deacon, and a subdeacon. However, I believe that even before Vatican II when Solemn Mass was celebrated the three sacred ministerial roles were all usually undertaken by ordained priests.

The church didn’t “add” this position, it was there for a long time, and just recently, the took it away.

Although it notes that the Instituted ministry of Acolyte could be called “sub-deacon”, not that it ever is.

Regarding Solemn Mass I’ve heard that even before Vatican II it was not common because of the need for three sacred ministers. Technically this should be a priest, a deacon, and a subdeacon. However, I believe that even before Vatican II when Solemn Mass was celebrated the three sacred ministerial roles were all usually undertaken by ordained priests.

IIRC, currently, and possibly before the suppression of the order of subdeacon, laymen were allowed to serve as “straw” subdeacons (although some of the vestments are in this case omitted).

I meant to mention the fact that episcopal conferences could choose to call acolytes subdeacons. (He also allowed episcopal conferences to propose other ministries.)

I know laymen are currently permitted to act as subdeacon in the forma extraordinaria. I’m not completely sure about pre-Vatican II but I suspect it wasn’t allowed.

This was recently discussed in another [thread=502153]thread[/thread], and yes, it seems that you do recall correctly. :slight_smile: It wasn’t (and isn’t) often done, but it was (and is) allowed.

Ministeria Quaedam (In Latin from Vatican website) or (In English from the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions website) allows laymen to fulfil the subdeacon’s functions - they are divided up between Lector and Acolyte. There seems nothing that allows other laymen to substitute for the subdeacon.

Yes, that’s very true. If I may, I’ll add that in the East and Orient, subdiaconate is, and has traditionally been, the last of the Minor Orders.

It seems that it was not until 1992/3 that Acolytes (and only Acolytes) are permitted to serve as Straw Subdeacons (minus the maniple): (7 June 1993, Prot. 24/92). So It appears that they are as hard to find as subdeacons ever were, with the added difficulty that many men are still “keeping their heads down” regarding being supporters of the EF.

The subdiaconate existed in the third century, so it is quite ancient.

The subdiaconate existed in the third century, so it is quite ancient.

Not exactly.

The extant order of Subdeacons within the Roman Church was suppressed, by Pope Paul VI, true. So were the Roman minor orders (Lector, Porter, and acolyte). All subdecons lost their status as major clerics, because it was inappropriate. (most were later ordained deacons anyway.)

Pope Paul VI also noted that the Roman Church’s understanding of Subdeacons as Major Orders (and thus causing an ontological change in the soul of the ordinand) was in error.

However, Pope Paul VI also created the instituted order of Acolyte in the same decree… and declared that it could be termed, at the local ordinary’s decision, the order of subdeacon. They are still canonically laymen, but are under promises of obedience, and have been instituted into liturgical ministry in a stable order for the good of the Church, but have not had an ontological change to their soul.

Very little of the west’s role for the subdeacon/instituted acolyte is restricted to the subdeacon; a subdeacon is the proper extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and is one of the 4 types of minister permitted to perform the purification of vessels (The other three being ordained: deacons, priests, and bishops).

One should also note that subdeacons were in common use throughout orthodox Christendom (including Rome) by the mid 3rd century. They appear to have been initiated by the Apostles.

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