When a deacon is ordained a priest, is the sacrament of Holy Orders repeated?


The Catechism says

“As in the case of Baptism and Confirmation this share in Christ’s office is granted once for all. The sacrament of Holy Orders, like the other two, confers an indelible spiritual character and cannot be repeated or conferred temporarily.” (CCC 1582)

How is this to be understood?

When a deacon is ordained a priest or when a priest is ordained a bishop, isn’t the sacrament of Holy Orders repeated?


The diaconate, presbyterate, and episcopate are three different degrees of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.


The sacrament is received again. The resulting product, so to speak, is technically a man who is a deacon and who is a priest.

A deacon is a deacon.

A priest is a deacon and a priest.

A bishop is a deacon and a priest and a bishop.


A bishop has the fullness of Holy Orders. He can grant fuller or less full portions of Holy Orders to his deacons and priests -- thus the degrees of Holy Orders.

(Sort of like Elisha asking Elijah for a greater portion of prophecy.)

  1. Insofar as it is a grade of holy orders, the diaconate imprints a character and communicates a specific sacramental grace. The diaconal character is the configurative and distinguishing sign indelibly impressed in the soul, which configures the one ordained to Christ, who made himself the deacon or servant of all.(10) It brings with it a specific sacramental grace, which is strength, vigor specialis, a gift for living the new reality wrought by the sacrament. “With regard to deacons, ‘strengthened by sacramental grace they are dedicated to the People of God, in conjunction with the bishop and his body of priests, in the service (diakonia) of the liturgy, of the Gospel and of works of charity’”.(11) Just as in all sacraments which imprint character, grace has a permanent virtuality. It flowers again and again in the same measure in which it is received and accepted again and again in faith.

  2. In the exercise of their power, deacons, since they share in a lower grade of ecclesiastical ministry, necessarily depend on the Bishops, who have the fullness of the sacrament of orders. In addition, they are placed in a special relationship with the priests, in communion with whom they are called to serve the People of God.(12)


CIC Canon 1009.3

Those who are constituted in the order of the episcopate or the presbyterate receive the mission and capacity to act in the person of Christ the Head, whereas deacons are empowered to serve the People of God in the ministries of the liturgy, the word and charity.





Or it can be explained the other way around. Originally there were Apostles who are the Bishops. There were no one else ordained. In Acts, when the Christians were becoming numerous, it necessitated that the Apostles call upon men to service. So they ordained the first deacons of the Church. What they do are actually some of the duties of the Bishop, but are limited to specific tasks. Then when the need arose again, Presbyters were made where the priestly functions of a Bishop is delegated to them. So a deacon really is, say, 1/3 of the duties of a bishop. A priest is 2/3 the duties of a bishop. A bishop isn’t a priest and deacon, but rather a priest has some of what a bishop is, and a deacon has some of what a bishop is to a lesser degree than the priest.


An theory I have heard is that the sacramental grace of Holy Orders, the capacity for the fullness of Holy Orders, is given on ordination to the diaconate. So the ordination to the priesthood or episcopate is not a repetition of the sacrament, but an unlocking of the grace already imparted when Holy Orders was first given to the cleric.

While this solves your riddle, and makes a lot of sense to me, it is not a widely-held view among theologians.


I’m not sure that is an expeditious way of thinking about it in this situation. A bishop most certainly is a priest and a deacon, by the way.


The problem with this interpretation is that it implies that whenever the need arises, the Church can come up with another sacramental order for that purpose. Instead of being instituted by Christ, the diaconate is seen as instituted by Christ.

There are ways to dodge that conclusion, but your approach certainly brushes close to it.


Well, that is the way it was established. But since the orders or presbyter and diaconate were established by the Apostles, we can always say it was part of the Deposit of Faith and that we cannot do more than what the Apostles did. I don’t see that as a problem.

And no, the diaconate was NOT instituted by Christ. Read Acts. It was instituted by the Apostles.



Well, technically no. And I explained it. The priest and deacon does parts of what a bishop does, not the other way around.


I would suggest that the office of deacon was established by the Apostles, but that the diaconate was already intrinsic to the Sacrament of Holy Orders instituted at the Last Supper.


Of course, because the duties of a deacon are some of the duties of the Bishop. That is why the proper way to look at the diaconate and presbyteriate is from the top-down, not bottom-up. The Bishop is not deacon+priest+some more = Bishop. Clearly in Acts 6 the Apostles delegated their duties to the proto-deacons. What the deacons did is nothing new, the Apostles needed to concentrate on more important matters so they delegated part of their duties to deacons.



[BIBLEDRB]John 13: 12-16[/BIBLEDRB]


“Technically” actually “yes”

A bishop is first ordained a deacon and then ordained a priest. In fact the bishop still wears a dalmatic (the “diaconal” vestment) under his outer vestments to remind him of this.

You are correct that bishops were first, then some of their powers were later given to first deacons and later the presbyterate, however in today’s church, technically bishops ARE deacons and priests and so ordained first, and priests are also deacons, so ordained first.

Additionally, the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 description is grossly “technically” inaccurate. Deacons have 7 of the 12 faculties that bishop posseses, priests have 11, and of course bishops have all 12.


The 1/3 was just an allegory, if you didn’t deduce it by how I presented it.

An the order of how they are ordained today does not conclude the reality of how the deacons and priests came to be. Again, deacons are parts of a bishop, not the other way around.


Are you saying that the 12 faculties have the same weight and each one yields the same amount of authority? My opinion is that the answer is no, and that we should not try to quantify how much one is a subset of the next one because they are vocations and only God knows how much each one is a subset of the other for each person. Trying to quantify would take dignity away from deacons, priests and bishops, because they have been called by God and not by us.


Think of the different ordinations as what confirmation is to baptism, that would probably help you a little bit more.


Not quite sure I understand you point here. The reality is that bishops are in fact deacons. They were ordained as such and don’t stop being deacons when they are ordained first priest and later bishop.


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