As priests decline, deacons step in

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BALTIMORE (RNS) He’s performed so many funerals, they call him “Burying Joe.” A recent Saturday afternoon found Joe Krysiak again at a cemetery, his white alb and paisley stole whipping in the wind as he recited the Rite of Christian Burial and sprinkled holy water drawn from a Smucker’s jar on the ground below the […]

  • Deacon Randy Velez

    A excellent exposition of the modern diaconate. There is one element that I do not believe was covered adequately.

    No matter what the bishops’ vision and intent may be deacons can function only to the extent that local pastors allow them. While many pastors welcome the deacon’s collaboration, many are not disposed to share their traditional responsibilities. The point is that while the diaconate is growing by leaps and bounds, the Church has not fully capitalized on this extraordinary development.

  • Marie

    “permanent deacons can perform almost all the sacraments, except celebrate the Eucharist, absolve penitents and anoint the sick.”

    This is a very odd stretch to try to prove the point of your article. First, any baptised Christian can baptise, ususally under extreme circumstances. So,it would be more accurate to say that of the seven, there is only one sacrament a deacon, as set apart from other lay persons, can perform. That is marriage,and this is only allowed because, as would a priest, he only stands as a witness for the Church, since couples in fact marry themselves in that sacrament.

    And the deacons allowed to do even this by pastors threatened by their presence are few and far between. So, these men (and their wives who inexplicably do not share in this ordination despite clear Scriptural basis for it) spend years of their live in study, closely supervised by the Church…not in university or seminary as would b more appropriate, then spend the rest of their lives as “glorified volunteers”. I don’t say that with disrespect to deacons. If the Church were honest in developing this lay minstry, they would require deacons to at least obtain an M.Div., giving them some professional minsterial authority. Instead they spend years receiving not an education, but rigorous volunteer training that will vary tremendously from place to place in quality. They receive nothing for it other than the “right” to work themselves into the ground for a hierarchy which perceives them as a needed, but never fully accepted option to priests. The ones, along with the bishops, who have created this shortage crisis in the first place with criminal behavior on a breathtaking scale.

    As a female, prosessionally certified chaplain, I also fill in the gap…but, although a graduate education followed by at least a year of intensive clinical training is required, we will never be ordained into the deaconate. We are not even allowed the title of chaplain we have earned, at our own expense and years of our lives, within an ecclesial setting. Only those who are priests AND chaplains are considered Chaplains despite equal professional requirements, and where not equal, it is the “priest” chaplains who have not had any of the training or certification demanded of the rest of us. And it shows in their lack of competence. This is because, over the years, one of the Church’s primary solutions, other than prison ministry, has been to send pedophiles to work in hospitals. They are sick criminals posing as “priests” and have brought untold disgrace and incompetency to our profession. the state of ministry in the Catholic Church is not just crisis but complete chaos.

    As a hospice chaplain, I often collaborate with deacons who have not recieved the pastoral education and training to be out there working with the dying and bereaved at a professional level…someimes causing more harm than good, no matter that their heart may be in the right place. Ultimately the Church must decide, are these professional lay ministers? Then require a professional level of education and training. If not, then are they “ordained” as a matter of convenience, given the need for their committed volunteerism and because they are male? It is an insult to professional lay ministers who invest years of their lives and own money but can never be a part of the deaconate thanks to their gender. It’s also an insult to the deacons who should be required to have professional educations and standards before ordination to place them on a par with the rest of us who will never receive the privilege o ordination that they do. Basically, they can preside at a wedding. Period. That’s all the authority granted to them above any other lay person. The rest, as I say, is “glorified volunteer” training and abuse of these “volunteers” that is disgraceful. I’m sure they love what they do, but the truth is they, not being requred to hold professional standing, are also not held to professional standards. There is tremndous abuse of medical ethics, for example, especially HIPPA violations, by deacons going into health care settings without training and not held to the standards of competency and ethics required of chaplains. Most go with good hearts, but some I’ve encoutered take full advantage of the fact that in the health care setting most staff have no idea what “deacons” are and assume they are professional ministers.

    They “give up” their lives, friends, etc. to serve God, that’s beautiful. You should demand the professional education, incuding in clinical pastoral education, suited to the work you do, the ordination you receive and the salary you should, and hopefully will someday receive. Most deacons are extraordinary in their commitment (and that of their wives) in their ministry. The writer does themno favor in this article to deliberately cover the truth, although the people they help love them, the Church they help is threatened by them and refuses to admit that salaried, professionally qualified, lay ministers are needed. Please don’t perpetuate the lie. Your misleading, inaccurate statement regarding the sacraments is an example.

    The deacon’ status as ordinained, is supposed to make up for the fact that, in truth the Church gives them and their wives little or nothing in fair compensation for all the work they do, not even professional standing (which requires prefesssional education) as the minsters they are. There are three reaons for this: the Church does not want to pay them, even on a part-time basis, which is a disgrace, and secondly, many priests feel threatened by them and won’t allow them to do even what they’ve been trained to do, and fnally ,the Church is terrified of the lay ministers it desparately needs, ordained or not. The Church has nothing to gain by creating a professional deacontate quite different from the volunteer deaconate that exists today. short-sighted as always, the day will come when it will regret this self-serving view. If it wants to continue, it has everything to gain by this as the priesthood continues to decay, with no end in sight.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    So many mistakes in Marie’s comment one does not know where to begin.
    It is sad that a chaplain is so filled with negativism and bile. First, her constant incorrect spelling of “diaconate” with the word “deaconate” was certainly no simple “typo”.
    Second, deacons are not ordained lay ministers, but ordained clergy.
    Third, deacons are primarily ordained for ministry, not to be scholars. Marie seems obsessed with education, degrees, etc. She seems to think that those without the right degrees are lesser forms of Christian. However, the greatest deacon of all was St. Francis of Assisi who was convinced that too much eduacational “wealth” could corrupt one from the pure clarity of the Gospel.
    Indeed, those abusing priests had all the right degrees.
    Apparently Marie was absent from some of those classes that wound up qualifying her for a degree.

  • Ronna

    In Scripture, the role of a deacon is service-oriented. Many women fulfill that role now, going even a step further by serving parishes as overseers (a.k.a. lay pastors). So I wish the instituional church would just ordain womeon as deacons instead. I think Tradition allowed for women past child-bearing age to beomce deaoons.

    Phoebe in the Bible was identified as a deaconess. I wish women would NOT be pastoral overseers in parishes any longer, and that MEN would once again take their rightful ROLE in the Church, as the leaders and the overall teachers – priests or deacons.

    I don’t understand why a deacon would need to not re-marry if his wife were to die, or why a single man wanting to serve as a deacon would have to promised not to marry in the future. The Roman Catholic church puts too much emphasis on a woman being a real drag for an ordained man, be he deacon or priest, while Jesus chose mostly married men, choosing them over single men.

    Today, St. Peter could be a deacon if he wanted to be ordained to the ministry in the Roman Catholic Church. But St. Peter would be refused by every seminary in the world, because he was married.

    With the shortage of priests, one would think the institutional Roman Catholic church would READ SCRIPTURE and come to the conclusion that it’s best to do what God says in terms of organizing Church structure. After all, it is JESUS that all of us serve. The Roman Church is not an end unto itself.