Sydney restarts the Permanent Diaconate

Good News from Sydney. The Sydney Archdiocese had experimented with permanent deacons for a while in the past, but now, after a considerable rethink, a new permanent program is now being launched. It looks largely as if they are following the Melbourne model in terms of training program, but with a Bishop as Director and a part time lay Executive Officer. We pray for the success of the program and for the fulfillment of many vocations to the diaconate in Sydney.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Sydney restarts the Permanent Diaconate

  1. An Liaig

    Two errors in the article. The first is suggesting that the permanent diaconate has been in decline. It is, in fact, the fastest growing vocation within the church. (Typical Sydney! It’s declined here so in must have declined everywhere.)

    The second is saying that a deacon can marry. They can not. A married man can become a deacon but a deacon can not marry. If the wife of a married deacon were to die (God forbid!), he would then be bound by the same celibacy discipline as a priest.

  2. William Tighe

    “If the wife of a married deacon were to die (God forbid!), he would then be bound by the same celibacy discipline as a priest.”

    Would that it were so — but around 1997 a wierd variation was introduced into the provisions regulating the “permanent diaconate” that allows some widowed deacons to remarry, with their diocesan bishop’s permission, under certain conditions — and still continue to function as deacons. If I were to go on here and state what I recall were the 3 sets of circumstances in which this might be permitted, I fear that they would strike candid readers as both too bizarre to be credible and also totally invidious; and so I will leave informed readers to search these out on their own.

  3. Ah as for the deacons being allowed to remarry in “special circumstances” … that was an oddity that some guy allowed … even though he had not the authority to do so.

    Anyone could marry really, the Swiss Guards won’t be sent to hunt you down.

  4. An Liaig

    I can only remember two special exceptions. The first of these is for a deacon who has young children and needs a wife to look after them and the second is for a deacon who, being used to married life, is unable to carry on his ministry without a wife and whose ministry is important to the functioning of the diocese. Both of these would be subject to decision by a tribunal and both are, frankly, strange. The norm is as I have stated it. A deacon whose wife dies is required to remain celibate.

  5. William Tighe

    “The first of these is for a deacon who has young children and needs a wife to look after them …”

    True.

    The second as I recall is for a deacon who has elderly parents and needs a wife to help him look after them.

    “and the [third] is for a deacon who, being used to married life, is unable to carry on his ministry without a wife and whose ministry is important to the functioning of the diocese.”

    I don’t recall that “is unable to carry on his ministry without a wife” is explicitly stated, but rather something along the lines of “whose ministry in the judgment of the Ordinary is vital to the functioning of the diocese.”

    The first two of these are bad enough, but the third is conspicuous in its utter absurdity. Are we to suppose a kind of “lottery” in which three deacons wish to remarry, and the bishop has to decide which one (or two) of them has so “vital” a ministry that he can be permitted to remarry, while to the other one (or two) he will have to say, “sorry, mate, but if you want to remarry you’ll have to be ‘laicized’ and if you want to remain a deacon you can’t remarry?” Far more likely that a bishop will permit any and all to remarry with the declaration that their ministries are “vital” or perhaps (albeit with less likelihood) permit none to remarry in any circumstances.

    These exceptions are absurd and obnoxious, and they ought to be eliminated as soon as possible.

  6. An Liaig

    Sorry, I forgot about the elderly parents one. Interestingly, if this one was held to be valid for deacons, the logic of it could also apply to priests. I agree that all three are absurd and should be abolished. I also forgot to express my congratulations to Sydney for restarting their program. This is a great step.

  7. Susan Peterson

    I believe the Orthodox do occasionally allow their priests to remarry for reasons such as the first two.

    I have to say that I find myself somewhat irked by the totally ‘functional’ view of women involved here.
    And also by the idea that a man can’t possibly take care of small children or the elderly.

    If, say, a Director of Religious Education (female, as they usually are) of a large parish is widowed while she has small children, will it be thought that she cannot continue to perform her job unless she remarries? No. How many women take care of children and work at full time jobs, hauling the children to daycare before work, picking them up afterwards, feeding them supper, putting them to bed, then washing the dishes and doing housework, then collapsing into bed at night only to get up and start it all over again? But a man with small children who is a deacon? He assuredly must have a wife to take care of them; he couldn’t possibly do the work of a deacon and also take care of small children, no way.

    I hasten to add that I believe that having two parents is best for children, and that spending the whole day in daycare is not. But that functioning as a single parent should be considered normal for women if they get stuck in that situation, and impossible for men, makes me growl!

    Susan Peterson

  8. William Tighe

    Traditionally, if an Orthodox priest or deacon remarries, and it is done in honorable circumstances, he is, in effect, laicized — and in “the old countries” would frequently function as a catechist, cantor or “church bureaucrat.” In America, it is true, that in a few Orthodox jurisdictions (and one in particular, the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese) its Metropolitan has presumed to giver widowed clergy premission to remarry and to continue as priests or deacons (in the case that drew most attention, about a decade ago, he gave a widowed priest permission to marry his late wife’s “best friend,” herself a divorcee, and to continue as a priest) — but that has caused a great deal of contention “behind the scenes” and has constituted yet another hindrance to the establishment of canonical unity among the various Orthodox jurisdictions in America.

  9. Susan Peterson

    Well what do you know about Fr. Osorgin in Santa Fe? I think he was in ROCOR…something Russian, anyway. All the Orthodox St. Johnnies from Santa Fe knew the story about how he received the news that he could be a priest again, after marrying, on Christmas eve in a snowstorm.
    (He was a St. John’s College tutor as well as an Orthodox priest.)
    Susan Peterson

  10. William Tighe

    I know nothing about the case of Fr. Osorgin, and in fact your question is the first time I ever heard of him, or his name.

  11. Gareth

    I am so, so, so NOT a fan of the permanent diaconate (which in my opinion undermines priestly celibacy) and I think most people that support it would be shocked at the debates at Vatocan II and high-ranking prelates like Cardinal Spellman’s opposition to it.