Continence and the Diaconate in the contemporary Latin Church—more by Edward N. Peters in ‘Chicago Studies’ 49 [2010] 110-116

Edward N. Peters’s  article “Diaconal Categories and Clerical Celibacy” is now available on-line. Dr. Peters writes:
Clerical continence and clerical celibacy are, as I have taken great pains to make clear, distinct issues, but they obviously overlap in certain respects; eventually, questions about one will occasion questions about the other.posted by Dr. Edward Peters at This Permanent Link

Monday, May 10, 2010

Diaconal categories and clerical celibacy
My article on “Diaconal categories and clerical celibacy”, has just appeared in Chicago Studies 49 (2010) 110-116. In it I question the rationale and ultimate sustainability of treating the diaconate as, in effect, two distinct categories (so-called “transitional” and “permanent”), the implications of this recent bifurcation for Western clerical celibacy (1983 CIC 277), and conclude with some suggestions for recovering our appreciation of the essential unity of the diaconate.


Because my recent postings on diaconal (and a fortiori presbyteral) continence might lead to a more systematic examination of how the ordination of tens of thousands of married men to the diaconate (and of scores of married men to the priesthood) is impacting wider questions of clerical discipline in the West, I take this opportunity to post, with the kind permission of the editors at Chicago Studies, a searchable PDF of an article I recently published there on this question, “Diaconal Categories and Clerical Celibacy”.

In the Chicago Studies article I make four main points.

1. After establishing that the adjectives “permanent” and “transitional” are poor indicators of diaconal identity, I demonstrate that, when these two apparently contrasting terms are applied to the diaconate, they give the mistaken impression that there are many more differences between the ‘two kinds of diaconates’ than really exist.

2. I suggest that the ordination of tens of thousands of married men to the diaconate (and of scores of married men to the priesthood) has occasioned a “crisis” (in the Greek sense of the word, as in, ‘arriving at a time for important decisions’) regarding the future of clerical celibacy in the Roman Church.

3. Next, assuming that the West desires to preserve and promote the gift of clerical celibacy, I offer five concrete suggestions for the reform of the diaconate that will reflect the Second Vatican Council’s esteem for it as a “permanent rank of the hierarchy” while respecting the Council’s openness to calling some married men to diaconal orders.

4. Finally, for the benefit of those who have not read my Studia Canonica article on clerical continence, I suggest some consequences that a renewed recognition of the obligation of perfect and perpetual continence among Western clergy, even married ones, might have for wider questions of clerical celibacy.


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