14 January 2020

Diaconia in the Tradition of the Roman Church (5)

 The Diaconate did not feature particularly largely in the Decrees of Vatican II. A quick trawl has revealed to me only Lumen Gentium 29 etc.; 41; Ad Gentes 16; Sacrosanctum Concilium 35. SC says that deacons can preside at Services of the Word, to which I can think of no objection. AG advises that those unordained laymen who are de facto fulfilling diaconal roles shoud be ordained deacons so that they can be "altari arctius coniungi", which I think implies rather nicely the essentially cultic nature of the diaconate. LG 41 gives no suggestion that deacons are to be philanthropically inclined; there is just the tiniest hint of this in LG 29, where a sensible list of cultic activities is concluded by 'ministries of charity' (likewise, in AG the de facto deacons might have been charitably occupied). I am not concerned to argue that deacons should never have anything to do with any charitable exercises, so I don't strongly object; if it is true that here the idea of 'diaconate as service to the needy' is getting a bit of an objectionable foot in this door, well, I think this is satisfactorily outweighed by the essentially cultic job-description given for the diaconate, and by the repeated references to the performance of diaconal functions "in conjunction with the Bishop and Presbyterate". So, in this particular matter, Vatican II need cause no problems to those of us whose thought has been formed by the Tradition.

Neither does the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Paragraph 1569 very laudably draws upon the Tradition to remind us that the Deacon "speciatim annecti" to the Bishop, which is why only the Bishop (and not also the Presbyterium) lay hands on him. Even more satisfactorily, 1541 alludes to the Aaronic priesthood and the services of the Levites as prefiguring the ordained ministry of the New Testament, and the next two paragraphs appropriately quote the Prayers of Ordination in support of this; including a section (ancient and authentic) from the Prayer for the Diaconate.

I have discovered in these two major documents of the Magisterium of the last six decades no suggestion that the essence of Diaconate is found in service to the needy, or any determination to import S Stephen and the Seven into consideration of the Diaconate. Nothing in them contradicts the teaching of the old Roman Prayers of Ordination.

So, despite having no mandate from the Council to change the Church's teaching on Holy Order as expressed in her lex orandi, the activities of the post-Conciliar liturgical 'reformers' offered us, as they so often did, an unedifying example of illiterate mischief. As so often, they gave us a sound lesson on how to eliminate babies without losing a single drop of bathwater. They corrupted the Roman Ordination Rites, and did so contrary to both the oldest Roman Tradition and the consensus of 'modern non-Catholic New Testament Scholarship'. That is quite some achievement! To be wrong in the court of each of those two very different judges!


motuproprio said...

How does your thesis that the diaconate is a wholly cultic order fit with the division of Rome into administrative areas for the care of the people each entrusted to the supervision of a deacon? This is the origin of the Cardinal Deacons, and it does appear to be a ministry of service. http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/details/ns_lit_doc_20091125_cardinali-diaconi_en.html

Fr John Hunwicke said...

I tried tappimg that ginormous reference into Google but was told it didn't recognise it. You'll need to tell me who is saying what if you want me to comment.

Incidentally, where did I say the ministry was "wholly" cultic? My line is that it is a service of ministry to the Bishop/priest. This can involve him searching out people to whom the Bishop should pay attention, or going on errands for the Bishop.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

I've finally found it. It's mainly about the wearing of the dalmatic by the Cardinal Deacons, but it refers to "Seven deacons who assisted the Pontiff in the Assembly of the Faithful, in the administration and in the exercise of charity". Exactly my view.

Liam Ronan said...

Well done, Father! Your solid series of postings on the diaconate must have prompted some to abandon their ambitions in that direction and audaciously set their sights higher.

I confess I do not know much about the Cardinaliate itself, but it seems to be a sort of plum as was the designation of 'Monsignor' in the less humble past.

Here is a post and headline of a recent article in The Wanderer newspaper.

"German Catholic Bishops Publish Interview Promoting the Idea of Women Cardinals"

Published on both the German Catholic Bishops' website (http://www.katholisch.de/aktuelles/aktuelle-artikel/mehr-auf-den-rat-von-frauen-horen) and on the Swiss Bishops' website (https://www.kath.ch/newsd/neue-aera-der-oeffnung-vatikan-redakteurin-gudrun-sailer-ueber-frauen-der-kirche/).

The interviewee was one Gudrun Sailer, a journalist and employee of German Vatican Radio.

The Wanderer link is here:


Belfry Bat said...

Maybe some other commentator has beat me to it, but what seems to me is: all Christians are called to charity. There are some institutes of religion that are both clerical and charitable; nonetheless, since charity is incumbent on all, there can be no office whose function is so thoroughly "charity" as in any way to excuse the rest of us from it.

Jacobi said...


Your term illiterate mischief is appropriate although the mischief more so. Heterodox Modernists have the intent to use the various ambiguities in the Vat II document to destroy with Gradualism various doctrines, the Ordained Priesthood being one. Expanding the powers of the Diaconate falsely is one very obvious way.
As the number of priests fall we will need more Deacons, - and therefore fewer lay distributors of Holy Communion.

Belfry Bat said...

Another thought, which might be amplifying the previous or ... anyways, a principle: when God commissions, he also gives what is needed for the commission; so, to "feed his sheep", and so that "when you do these things, do them for a rememberance" of him, Our Lord gives also the power of the Holy Ghost to actually do these things [i.e., to confect the Eucharist] --- and in symbol of this a new priest is given a chalice and patten, yes?

So if deacons were meant, sacramentally, to exercise philanthropic charity, they must also have been given... what? Thirty pieces of silver? Supernaturally productive gardens? Charisma to gather alms from rich pagans?

JamesF-J said...

To Liam Ronan: could you clarify your comment about 'setting their sights higher'? I hope you are not repeating the tired old canard that those who aspire to the permanent diaconate are substituting it for the priesthood as they cannot commit to celibacy? If so this displays ignorance of the motivations and state of life of most candidates. Aside from that Father H I have found this series v encouraging as it was precisely the cultic and liturgical aspects of the diaconate that awakened my vocation to the permanent diaconate

Liam Ronan said...

Your hope is rewarded, JamesF-J. In fact, I hadn't heard that canard before. "Setting their sights higher" was intended to mean that married men apparently can now aspire to the priesthood and needn't settle for the diaconate.

JamesF-J said...

Liam Ronan: thanks for the clarification and please excuse my paranoia - it is a common accusation. As for the suggestion of ordaining 'viri probati' I think that could open a whole other can of worms!