Wednesday, 23 February 2011

In praise of permanent deacons...

The next part of my series on the priest shortage is still coming, but today was the launch of a new website, of the National Association of Deacons,  and so it seems appropriate to mention this worthwhile initiative!

I haven't looked at the material on the site very closely as yet (it only went live today) but at first glance it looks pretty good, with articles on the relevant provisions of canon law, a rebuttal of the notion that deacons have purely charitable or social justice functions, and much more.

Not a substitute for priests

Now I know some traditionalists have reservations about the idea of permanent deacons, but I'm not sure that they should (think of the possibility of more solemn masses; for that reason alone every traditional community should be encouraging such vocations!), subject to their proper utilisation (which of course is a matter for their bishop).

Permanent deacons should not and cannot, of course, be regarded as a substitute for priests (or for that matter, for lay activity).  And I'm extremely opposed to the idea that their function should be to run Sunday services in the absence of a priest (notwithstanding the laws permitting this).

Still, they can certainly aid in the workload of a diocese at a time when this is much needed. 

The advantage of clerics

And as clerics, with all of the relevant obligations that go with this (including as far as I can gather from the website, perfect continence in line with the opinion of canonist Ed Peters, or lifelong celibacy if unmarried), it is surely much better for deacons to undertake tasks such as taking Holy Eucharist to the homebound, than for the laity to be undertaking this and similar functions!

Moreover, becoming a permanent deacon may be a possibility, for example, for an older man who still has some family or other responsibilities (for example towards older children or grandchildren) where becoming a priest is not a serious option.

So please do go and take a look at the site, and if you are an older man (yes, the law on permanent deacons is based around the idea that this will typically be a late vocation), maybe you should be talking to your bishop about this option...


R. J. said...

This strikes me as a good argument in favour of deacons, and one which I am grateful to Kate for making.

My sole query is this: how, in practice, would the homosexual lobby be prevented from infiltrating the diaconate, as it has infiltrated most other aspects of Catholic officialdom, most notoriously what passes in this country for Catholic higher education?

For an Australian permanent diaconate to be wrecked as the Australian priesthood, in practice, has been, it would not be needful for the lobby to recruit hordes of pillow-biters. All it would have to do is impose upon the diaconate, for every one or two pillow-biters, eight or nine personally virtuous men, who, nevertheless, feel themselves bound by ties of friendship and moral cowardice to turn a blind eye to sexual malefactors.

Such deliberate exploitation of human respect was how the communist lobby worked in secret to undermine the Church during the Cold War (as we know from the testimonies of Bella Dodd and Alice von Hildebrand). And such is the manner in which the homosexual lobby - which, after all, has its origins in the Marxist activism of Budapest and Frankfurt between the two world wars - works right now.

In this respect, as in so many others, the Melbourne Archdiocese (I cannot speak with confidence of other episcopates) is, humanly speaking, past praying for, although its more obviously inept male public spokespersons might have a certain televisual value as possible stand-up comics to substitute for the hapless Ben Elton.

Kate said...

Surely in the end this comes back to the bishop?

And it speaks of the mentality that engendered the sexual abuse coverups, and failure to act on doctrinal error and liturgical abuses.

So I understand the sense of despair one might feel as ever more priests are publicly disobedient, yet alone what they get up to in private, and nothing seems to happen to them.

But we can't just stop ordaining priests or deacons because of the risk of possible or actual infiltration.

All we can do is lobby and pray for good formation programs, careful discernment and assessment procedures (and orthodox and effective bishops!).

And we have to insist that seminarians, priests and deacons have a duty to speak up if they see something wrong occurring, and that bishops have a duty to act.