Why aren't there more permanent celibate deacons when the ministry is distinct from the priesthood?


I fear I may have unwittingly contributed to some of the posts above. I surely did not intend to do so, but some of this may be due to semantics and whatnot. It is obvious that a married Catholic man can’t be a priest, even if he may be believe he would otherwise be called to the priesthood; i.e., he would answer the call if he could, but he can’t because he is a Roman rite married man. So, since all priests are deacons, perhaps he answers the call in the manner that he canonically can. That is a wonderful thing! As for the celibate man, it is a blessing some are called to the permanent diaconate, but I wonder if some of those so called change their mind and felt called to inquire about becoming priests and that might be a reason for only 2% of the PD being celibate males. It seems to me that a priest can still serve in his diaconal role and indeed most of the priests in my parish seem to act on their diaconal roles quite often–meaning they are not hearing confession or celebrating mass. I am just so happy we have such wonderful deacons here to help us better understand the diaconate. :slight_smile:


According to canon law, a single man must be at least 25 years old to be ordained a deacon:

"§2. A candidate for the permanent diaconate who is not married is not to be admitted to the diaconate until after completing at least the twenty-fifth year of age; one who is married, not until after completing at least the thirty-fifth year of age and with the consent of his wife.

So the question remains, why aren’t there more permanent celibate deacons when a single man is able to be ordained at 25?

I think the Church needs to promote the diaconate on the same level that is promotes the priesthood and the religious. I always read or hear “pray for priestly vocations” but never anything about the diaconate.


I fully agree with what you say. I’ve not yet heard folks pray for deacons and the diaconate. It is always for priests and religious, which I fully support of course. There is still a significant level of total ignorance out there about the permanent diaconate. I had an argument last year with a bunch of knights of Columbus about burial protocol for clergy and after they told me they don’t do anything for deacons because they claimed they were not ordained like priests. Needless to say, they knew better by the end if the meeting.


You are quoting Canon Law properly but not completely. The law allows conferences of bishops, USCCB for the US, to set another age for the permanent diaconate. For the USCCB and deacons serving permanently as deacons the minimum age is 35. Transitional deacons, seminarians are held to the 25 year old level.

PS. We don’t need more deacons, we need more priests. Would a larger number of deacons be good? Yes! Necessary? No.


While that is true, a deacon is a deacon and there is no distinction from a theological point of view. If a 25-year-old man was ordained to the diaconate, but for some reason doesn’t continue on to be ordained a priest, he is still a deacon and can still serve the Church as one.


If his bishop grants him faculties, yes. But if there were issues which caused him to leave seminary then he’ll probably not be able to serve as a deacon.

I agre with all you say but the fact remains that ordination to the permanent diaconate in the USA requires one to be 35. That age is mostly consistent across the world for PDs.


In my diocese, there is a need for deacons. The Bishop wants a deacon serving in every parish. While priests are essential to the mass, deacons do still serve a unique role.

In my diocese, a young man, i.e. 21 years old, may get a dispensation from the Bishop to enter formation. I think that the age requirement set by the USCCB is an assumption that a single man would enter the priesthood. I just think that the diaconate should not just be a married man’s vocation.

I can seen why there are so few celibate deacons, the Holy Spirit is calling many single men to the priesthood, which is a good thing. Maybe if we ever do get enough priests, eventually more celibate men will enter the diaconate.


I think there are two issues which affect the Diaconate. Both have to do with the relationship to the Presbyterate. First, after a few centuries in the church the Diaconate became, in essence, a stepping stone to Priesthood. As long as there are transitional Deacons, it will be seen as a lesser office rather than a distinct order with its own charism and mission.

The second comes from the focus on the Eucharist as the “source and summit of the faith” and by nature those closest to the Eucharist will be thought of as having more importance in the scheme of things. While the Deacons and Priests I know are humble men, it is natural I think to desire a place of importance in one’s work. So if a man will make the sacrifice of celibacy, I could see them more so desiring to become a Priest.

That said, I think it is wonderful so many Diaconal formation classes are full each year. As the Diaconate acts as a bridge between the church and the world, I think the importance of those who can officially speak for the church as clergy, but have a firm connection with the culture through the workplace and social interactions, will benefit the church greatly in the coming years.


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