Category Archives: Catholic Spirituality

Jansenism and Ireland

Jansenism and Ireland

Too often writers claim that classic Irish religious culture was “Jansenistic” or pessimistic and that Ireland was nothing more than an island with a dark and dreary religious history. Harsh critics point to the recent “scandal” in Galway where nuns were said to have buried unbaptized babies near an orphanage during the first half of the twentieth century. The Associated Press published a correction for the factual errors in its stories of June 3 and June 8, 2014.1 Many people did not hear about this apology by the AP.

Erroneous claims can be examined and dismantled. Newer scholarship reveals a more accurate picture of Jansenism and Ireland. This essay accordingly offers a different picture of the possible history of “Jansenism” in Ireland, stressing the resolute nature of the Irish spirit not to be dominated by external, non-Catholic influences.

Medieval European Catholicism was “abbey centered.” Early monastic life had evolved into the great abbatial sees. The monastic ideal was the only one for the Christian, and the laity absorbed “the culture of the monastery” into their morals and piety. For the Christian West the thought of St. Augustine (d. 430) overshadowed other Church Fathers, and his dominance shaped monastic spirituality as well as popular Catholicism. Noted historian Eamon Duffy called the pre-Counter-Reformation church in Ireland “profoundly Augustinian.”2 Medieval Augustinianism was “rigorist” by its nature, and so the darker moments of the Church’s history in Ireland surprise no one.

When St. Columban (d. 615) traveled from Ireland to France as a missionary, he brought monastic “rigorism” or “Celtic religious austerities” with him. He was exiled from France to Italy for criticizing the immorality of the Frankish court and the laxity of the bishops.3 The Irish were not accused of laxity since popularized rigorism was ingrained. It became cultural. Rigorism was an attitude and an orientation, discipline but not doctrine. For examples of northern European countries finding somber religion congenial, take note of Scandinavia and The Low Countries at this time.

But now a question arises: if the Jansenists were the “Disciples of Saint Augustine,” was this identification congruent with existing Irish tradition? The question is answered by specifying the source and quality of the Augustinianism under discussion. Popular rigorism derived from tradition and monastic heritage ‒ the remote past ‒ was quite different from the “university, elitist” reform movement (1615-1789) of the Early Modern period on the European Continent. There are two different sources, one in place in Ireland and the other an outside, foreign phenomenon. Jansenism fit into the conditions of French politics and the logistics of academic Louvain, not the remote situation of Ireland.

Native Irish religion in the Early Modern period was resistant to change. Foreign invaders might bring a new religion, but the indigenous Irish held on to what they had as integral to their identity. Even if the bishops capitulated to the English Reformation, the simple folk did not. In 1540 King Henry VIII declared himself King of Ireland, and in 1560 the Established Church there was erected by law.

In 1542 Saint Ignatius Loyola, on behalf of Pope Paul III, sent a delegation to Ireland to assess the religious situation. The report by his two trusted companions was negative. The local chieftains quarreled among themselves and some of the bishops were personally corrupt, which meant the clergy were likely the same. The report given to the pope in Rome by legates Alfonso Salmerón and Paschase Broët saw no hope. 4 Despite this report, the ordinary Irishman resisted the Crown’s attempt to rip out his ancient roots. That is why Felicity Heal can assert that the Protestant Reformation in Ireland failed in the sixteenth century.5 Accordingly, observed Robert Trisco, “This was the time when close connections were forged between the Catholic religion and Irishness.”6

Evidence about the work of Jesuit and other missionaries indicates that the Irish adopted the “Tridentine reform” rather late. Trisco refers to the historical work of Michael Mullet and writes that only slowly and after the mid-eighteenth century did “the Irish Catholics embrace ‘the Tridentine agenda of the Counter-Reformation’” and “eventually came to equate this Catholicism with their post-Gaelic national identity and to form the most convincingly Catholic people in Western Europe.”7

The Jesuits, of course, were the implacable enemies of the Jansenists, but there is no history of a “Jesuit ‒ Jansenist” conflict taking place in Catholic, post-Reformation Ireland. In France the reform movement called “Jansenism” lasted one hundred and fifty years, approximately 1640-1790. By mid-eighteenth century Jansenism had waned in France. The “patriarch of the Jansenists” and their last serious spokesman, Paul-Ernest Ruth d’Ans, died in 1728.8 When juxtaposed with the robust agenda the Jansenists carried out at all levels of French Catholicism, there is no reason to believe Ireland was an outpost for Jansenism as we now understand it.

Another important note is that in the Early Modern period there were no formal seminaries in Ireland for the training of the clergy. Irish students went abroad to France, Rome, Louvain or even Spain. They may have been conversant with the Jansenist politics of the day, but they would have been hard pressed to import such matters into a land where the Catholic Church struggled to survive. There may have been a few Irish Jansenists, but there was no Irish Jansenism. The common people would have been uninterested. Their church did not need reform along French lines. Importantly, Jansenism was a non-Tridentine model of church reform. This description simply does not match with the Ireland of the Early Modern period.

Survivals of pre-Christian Celtic religiosity might have been abundant, and even if they displayed “cultural rigorism” one may hardly call that “Jansenism” which was a product of Continental intellectuals. If the Irish clergy educated abroad returned home with moral “rigorism,” it was surely no more rigorous than the older “rigorism.”9 Rigorism and Jansenism are not identical.10 At the peak of the Jansenists’ strength, Ireland was either isolated or resistant to such a movement. Raymond Gillespie wrote that the Irish forged a genuine lay spirituality instead of a passive receptivity to theological ideas.11

There is also the likelihood that ancient Celtic liturgical rites survived a long while in Ireland before the legislated Roman liturgical reform supplanted them.12 Liturgy develops when the Church is free. Irish liturgy tended not to develop in the same way as German liturgy because of the lack of political freedom—clandestine Masses will always be understated and hasty. Just ask yourself about the existence of the seaside “Mass-Rock” tradition. The existence of this improvisation excluded all lavish liturgical growth.

Resistance to change in Ireland was a defense against annihilation. Adopting either theological or moral or political “Jansenism” would have meant change, and the stubborn Irish mentality was antithetical to religious change in a climate of oppression. Both Jansenism and Tridentism assumed and required change. The Jansenist ideal was the imago primitivae ecclesiae. To many in the Catholic Church this resembled misguided Protestantism with its historically inaccurate desire to revive some primitive, spiritualized church. This drive for a pristine invisible church and its virtues explains the Jansenist penchant for liturgical cleansing and the simplification of rites:

 An American scholar, F. Ellen Weaver, has analyzed the relevant documents, especially the ceremonial books and ritual books with their own notes, which pertain to this Jansenist interest in the reform of the liturgy. Nearly all the themes familiar in our own day after Sacrosanctum concilium were pursued by the Jansenist reformers – introduction of the vernacular, a greater role for the laity in worship, active participation by all, recovery of the notion of the eucharistic meal and the community, communion under both kinds, emphasis on biblical and also patristic formation, clearer preaching and teaching, less cluttered calendars and fewer devotions which might distract from the centrality of the Eucharist. Even the “kiss of peace” was practiced at Port-Royal, and a sort of offertory procession was found there and elsewhere among Jansenist liturgical reformers.13

The conclusion is that their program was a ‘thoroughgoing and more systematic Catholic reform envisioned by the Jansenists which Weaver calls their ‘lex docendi, lex orandi’—the law of teaching is the law of praying. In fact, the whole of their reform program was to seek its expression liturgically.

Even the eighteenth century Italian Jansenists of Tuscany and Pistoia centered their reform on liturgy:

Inside the parish church the service must be made congregational. And here doctrine entered. The liturgy was not an act done by priest for the people, it was ‘a common act of priest and people’. Therefore all the liturgy, even the prayer of consecration which was said secretly, should be said in a loud voice, and the congregation was to be encouraged to share. The reformers asked themselves whether logic must not demand liturgy in the vernacular instead of Latin, and plainly believed that in principle this would be right; but knew that in practice neither their people nor the Church at large would tolerate such radical departure from hallowed tradition. Nevertheless the people should be helped to understand by being provided with vernacular translations and by readings of the gospel in the vernacular after the Latin reading.’ 14

The obvious reason why the Jansenists received firm opposition to their liturgical ideas in Ireland is that such were understood to be staunchly Protestant. Today the same ideas are still rejected in some circles on the same grounds.

Despite Pope Paul VI’s deliberate insertion of §6-§9 into the General Instruction on the Roman Missal of 1969, an assortment of … (critics) continue to claim the reform was a Protestant conspiracy. They think the missal of 1570 is an immutable bulwark against Protestant influence, even though J.D. Crichton has rightly pointed out that this edition is nearly identical to the first printed one of 1474, several years before the birth of Luther. F. Ellen Weaver wrote that Dom Guéranger had a personal antipathy toward the Jansenist reform. In speaking of the innovations of Jacques Jubé of Asnières, she cites Guéranger as saying “it was an example of the deviations to which liturgy was liable when the Roman Mass books were not adopted.”15

Neither the popes, nor Archbishop Bugnini, nor Dom Botte, nor the Second Vatican Council, nor Dom Guéranger give the Jansenist liturgical reform movement any notice for being “ahead of its time” ‒ Jansenism is never mentioned either for its catholicity or its importance as an orthodox, or mostly orthodox, variant to the mandated liturgical reforms of Trent. Since the canons of Trent were introduced quite late in France, it had been left to individuals and small groups to conduct the Counter-Reformation by themselves in what looks to us now to have been an unsystematic way. Were it not for unfortunate political entanglements which are notorious, Jansenism might have been integrated into the mainstream of the church, not expelled from it. Though their liturgical ideas did not die, but resurfaced in Europe in different contexts, they were always tainted until well into the twentieth century. Jansenists have often been misunderstood or falsely blamed. Currently church historians are re-evaluating the sources and they are able to show that specific liturgical ideas … were flourishing in France and Italy during the early modern period when the Jansenists tried and failed to introduce them as reforms into the actual life of the Catholic church.”

Irish liturgical minimalism, for lack of a better way to describe the situation,16 was due to circumstances, not a clear reform plan such as the Jansenists and others proposed. We know more about historical Jansenism now than ever in the past.17 Research has uncovered the real face of this complex phenomenon. For too long, it was distorted by the victory of its foes. But whatever Jansenism was, it was not Irish. An Irish exile might have been involved with it, but in Ireland itself “Jansenism” would not have made sense. Some say without proof that “Jansenistic priests” took refuge in Ireland and spread their ideas to the people. But this hearsay remains hearsay. Any pastor will tell us how people have a way of doing what they want to do despite admonitions. The Irish clergy who were educated abroad may have been aware of Continental controversies, but importing these battles would have bewildered the average Irish Catholic.

Finally, while Jansenism was known for its “resistance to authority,” an Irish “resistance to authority” was not the same thing because the Irish resisted quite a different authority.18 In the penal era the threat was from outside. The threat was a hostile Crown seeking to destroy the one true Faith which held together the people of Ireland.

The threat to the Church today is from internal decline. The loss of faith plus aggressive secularism purveyed by the media are responsible. The Jansenists may be long gone but the enemy still lurks. For those wishing to remain faithful, defiance of secularism has a resource in orthodox liturgy. A bit of Catholic neo-rigorism might even help Ireland and other victims of secularism to keep their faith.

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1. DUBLIN (AP) — In stories published June 3 and June 8 (2014) about young children buried in unmarked graves after dying at a former Irish orphanage for the children of unwed mothers, The Associated Press incorrectly reported that the children had not received Roman Catholic baptisms; documents show that many children at the orphanage were baptized. The AP also incorrectly reported that Catholic teaching at the time was to deny baptism and Christian burial to the children of unwed mothers; although that may have occurred in practice at times it was not church teaching. In addition, in the June 3 story, the AP quoted a researcher who said she believed that most of the remains of children who died there were interred in a disused septic tank; the researcher has since clarified that without excavation and forensic analysis it is impossible to know how many sets of remains the tank contains, if any. The June 3 story also contained an incorrect reference to the year that the orphanage opened; it was 1925, not 1926. See http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kathyschiffer/2014/06/associated-press-apologizes-for-its-coverage-of-the-irish-orphanage-story/

2. Eamon Duffy, Faith of Our Fathers: Reflections on Catholic Tradition (New York: Continuum, 2004). Review by Jason Byassee in The Christian Century (19 April 2005).

3. Western Monasticism: A History of the Monastic Movement in the Latin Church by Peter King (Cistercian Publications, 1999).

4. The Society of Jesus in Ireland, Scotland, and England 1541-1588: “Our Way of Proceeding?” by Thomas M. McCoog, S.J. in Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought, Volume IX (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996). Review by Michael L. Carrafiello in The Catholic Historical Review (1 October 1997).

5. Felicity Heal, Reformation in Britain and Ireland in The Oxford History of the Christian Church (New York: The Clarendon Press; Oxford University Press, 2003). Review by Rosamund Oates in Albion (22 September 2004). Also A Guide to the Irish Jesuit Province Archives by Stephen Redmond in Archivum Hibernicum, vol. 50 (1996): 127-131.

6. Catholics in Britain and Ireland, 1558-1829 by Michael A. Mullett in Social History in Perspective (New York: St. Martin’s, 1998). Trisco adds: “…this book can be recommended only to those who are already familiar with the general history of the Catholic Church in the islands from the time of the accession of Elizabeth I to the end of the penal age.” Review by Robert Trisco in Church History (1 December 2000).

7. Op. cit.

8. Ernest Ruth d’Ans: “Patriarche des Jansénistes” (1653-1728): Une Biographie by Michel Van Meerbeeck in Bibliothèque de la Revue d’Histoire Ecclésiastique, fascicule 87 (Brussels: Éditions Nauwelaerts, 2006).

9. The Irish are well known for their mirth as well as for religious “rigorism.” Persecuted people such as the Jews and the Irish see how funny the world is, perhaps due to their transcendent faith.

10. “Jansenism” by Thomas O’Connor in The Oxford Companion to Irish History. O’Connor writes: “The frequent claim that Irish Catholicism was Jansenist-influenced springs from the tendency to confuse Jansenism with simple moral rigorism.”

11. Raymond Gillespie, Devoted People: Belief and Religion in Early Modern Ireland in Social and Cultural Studies in Early Modern Europe (New York: St. Martin’s Press, New York. 1997). Review by Fergus O’Donoghue, S. J. in The Catholic Historical Review (1 July 1998).

12. +Attila Miklósházy, S.J. wrote that in Scotland the Celtic rites may have held out until the eleventh century. The implication is that in Ireland they were absorbed into the Franco-Roman rites earlier than in Scotland. +Attila Miklósházy, The Origin and Development of the Christian Liturgy According to Cultural Epochs (Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2006), Vol. II, 403-405.

13. F. Ellen Weaver, “Jansenist Bishops and Liturgical-Social Reform” in Church, State, and Society Under the Bourbon Kings of France, ed. Richard M. Golden (Lawrence, KS: Coronado Press, 1982). Quoted in Jansenism and Liturgical Reform by Brian Van Hove, S.J. in the American Benedictine Review, vol. 44:4 (1993): 337-351.

14. Owen Chadwick, The Popes and European Revolution (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1981), 421.

15. F. Ellen Weaver, “Jansenist Bishops and Liturgical-Social Reform,” 64-65.

16. Sister M. Bertrand Degnan RSM, Mercy Unto Thousands (Westminster, Maryland: The Newman Press, 1957), 188.

17. See Jansenism: Catholic Resistance to Authority from the Reformation to the French Revolution by William Doyle in Studies in European History (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2001). The review by Jacques M. Grès-Gayer in The Catholic Historical Review (1 October 2001) must be read with care for a proper understanding of Jansenism. Grès-Gayer’s review is by itself a summary history of Jansenism.

18. Op. cit. Doyle quotes Weaver, Chadwick, Crichton and others.

Brian Van Hove, SJ
Alma, Michigan

http://www.hprweb.com/2015/02/jansenism-and-ireland/

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Adapted from “Jansenism and Liturgical Reform,” The American Benedictine Review, vol. 44, no. 4 (1993): 337-351 and also from “Jansenism, the Liturgy and Ireland,” Christus Regnat (Journal of St. Conleth’s Catholic Heritage Association), vol. 3, no. 1 (Christmas 2009): 15-18; [posted on Ignatius Insight 19 January 2010 to March 2015].

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Ash Wednesday

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Padre Pio and Cardinal Mindszenty

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Padre Pio Bilocated to a Communist Dungeon


Vaticanist Andrea Tornielli has published on the Vatican Insider site a serious testimony about Padre Pio’s bilocation to the Hungarian dungeon where Joszef Cardinal Mindszenty was imprisoned in the fifties.

The Hungarian anticommunist cardinal was a fierce adversary of the Vatican policy of detente toward Communist governments known as Ostpolitik.

Here is a summary of Tornielli’s article:

A new element has just been added to the collection of miraculous episodes that marked the life of Padre Pio. It is found in a recently published book presented on the 10th anniversary of the dedication of the new sanctuary of San Giovanni Rotondo where the Capuchin’s body is buried.

The testimony tells how Padre Pio bilocated to a jail cell in Budapest where József Cardinal Mindszenty, the Primate of Hungary, was incarcerated.

Bilocation is an extraordinary mystical phenomenon that causes a person to be in two places at the same time. Padre Pio had this rare gift. Eye witnesses in different places attested to his presence, described him, and even talked with him simultaneously.

The already-known Hungarian episode was immortalized in one of the mosaics in the crypt of the sanctuary dedicated to Padre Pio. However, the new testimony contains details never published before.

The book, Padre Pio: his Church and Places Between Devotion, History, and Art, was written by Stefano Campanella, director of Padre Pio Teleradio and author of countless essays about the saint.

It contains a report by Angelo Battisti, director of the House for the Relief of Suffering (the hospital founded by Padre Pio) and typist at the Vatican Secretariat of State. Battisti was one of the witnesses in the saint’s beatification process.

Cardinal Mindszenty during the iniquitous trial

that convicted him.

József Cardinal Mindszenty, Archbishop of Esztergom, Primate and Regent of Hungary, was imprisoned by the Communists in December 1948 and condemned to life imprisonment the next year. He was falsely accused of conspiring against the government and spent eight years in jail and under house arrest until he was freed during the popular insurrection of 1956.
He then took refuge at the United States trade delegation office in Budapest until 1973, when Paul VI imposed his resignation and departure from the archdiocese.

The bilocation which took Padre Pio all the way to the cardinal’s cell is said to have taken place during those years.

Here is how Battisti describes the miraculous scene:

“The Capuchin with the stigmata, while [remaining] in San Giovanni Rotondo, went to see the cardinal to bring bread and wine destined to become the body and blood of Christ, that is, the reality of the eighth day [Easter Sunday].

“In this case, the bilocation acquires further significance as an anticipation of the eighth day, i.e. the Resurrection, when the body is freed from the limits of space and time.

“Also symbolic is the inmate registration number printed on his pajamas: 1956, the year of the cardinal’s release.

“As is well known,” Battisti recounts, “Cardinal Mindszenty was arrested, put in jail and watched around the clock. Over time, his desire to celebrate holy Mass strongly increased.

“One morning, Padre Pio presented himself before him with everything he needed. The Cardinal celebrated his Mass and Padre Pio served [as acolyte]; then they spoke, and finally, Padre Pio disappeared with everything he had brought with him.

“A priest from Budapest told me confidentially about the episode, asking if I could get a confirmation from Padre Pio. I answered that if I were to ask something like that, Padre Pio would drive me out of the room hollering.”

Padre Pio

Padre Pio.

Padre Pio
But on a March evening in 1965, at the end of a conversation Battisti asked the stigmatized friar:

“Father, did Cardinal Mindszenty recognize Padre Pio?”

– After a first reaction of irritation, the saint of Gargano answered:

– “Well, we met and talked and so you think he would not have recognized me?”

He thus confirmed his bilocation to the cardinal’s cell, which supposedly happened a few years earlier.

“Then,” Battisti added, “he became sad and said, ‘The devil is ugly, but they had left him uglier than the devil,'” referring to the mistreatment the cardinal suffered.

Padre Pio concluded: “Remember to pray for this great confessor of the faith, who suffered so much for the Church.”

Richard Cole’s “Catholic by Choice”

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kathyschiffer/2014/04/one-mans-amazing-journey-toward-the-catholic-faith/ 

One Man’s Amazing Journey Toward the Catholic Faith

Richard Cole was not much of a believer:  By his own admission, he didn’t pray, he didn’t worship.  He was in recovery following years of alcohol abuse.  Raised Methodist, he had fled the church of his youth to dabble in Zen, t’ai chi, New Age, witchcraft.

But then for his 49th birthday, his wife gave him the gift of silence:  a three-day stay at a Benedictine monastery, where he could read, study, write and simply “de-stress.”

Why Richard’s wife thought that would be a suitable gift for a nonbeliever, I don’t know.

And why it affected him so profoundly, initiating the life change that would propel him into the Catholic Church, I don’t know.  The Spirit moves where He will.

What I do know is that Richard’s book is a page-turner, a deeply personal recounting of his journey of faith.  Like the English poet Francis Thompson’s “Hound of Heaven,” God pursued Richard Cole, gradually revealing Himself in the Church.  But the story’s not all love and roses:  Cole, compelled by an inner voice to study and pray and learn more and more, also had doubts and difficulties, strained relationships with his family, and challenges at work.  His honesty about these challenges makes one all the more joyous when he is finally received into the Church.

*     *     *     *      *

I’ve read plenty of conversion stories through the years:  Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s Rome Sweet Home, Steve Ray’s Crossing the Tiber, Patrick Madrid’s Surprised by Truth with its testimonies from eleven converts and its sequels, Surprised By Truth 2 and Surprised by Truth 3, with 25 more.  Those stories have usually focused on theological reasons for embracing Catholicism.

Catholic by Choice: Why I Embraced the Faith, Joined the Church, and Embarked on the Adventure of a Lifetime is  not like those other “conversion stories”.   The force which drew Cole to delve deeply into the Catholic faith, to study the Scriptures, to attend Mass as frequently as possible, was not its historicity or its plausibility or its veracity.  Richard Cole’s faith journey seemed driven by deep emotion.  Cole describes it as “an intense, painful and utterly dazzling two-year period during which I fell in love with God, became a Christian, and finally entered the Catholic Church.”  

Reading Catholic by Choice, I was struck by Cole’s breathless amazement at things cradle Catholics may take for granted.  Seeing anew through his convert’s eyes, I found myself stepping back and appreciating the Mass and the familiar devotions.  Here, for example, is Cole’s description of his first encounter with Eucharistic adoration.

One evening after Mass I was wandering around and I discovered something called a Chapel of Perpetual Adoration.  When I first walked in, the place seemed dark and creepy.  All my Protestant feelers were twitching.  The air was stale and sweet with an odd smell, either incense or cheap disinfectant.  Three or four people were seated in the little pews, some praying, some just sitting.  In the front, there was a silver cross with a disk in the middle, which I later learned was the Eucharistic Host.  A young woman wearing a scarf looked up at me, then returned to her reading.  An old air conditioner was working hard in the background, kicking on for a few minutes, then kicking off.

I looked around and discovered a sign-in log beside the door.  And then I understood what was going on.  People were praying in this chapel, in front of the consecrated Host, but doing this around the clock!  Day and night, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day!  I looked through the log.  Sure enough, there were names for every slot.  Venancio was signed up for 2:00 to 3:00 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Lucille checked in at 6:00 a.m. every day for an hour.  Maria at 7:00 a.m.  I was astonished and fascinated.  It was a window into a part of Catholic devotion that I’d heard about but never seen before.  I said to myself, Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

I stayed a few minutes longer, but I couldn’t breathe in there.  I needed fresh air.  At home I told Lauren what I’d seen.  Oh yeah, she knew all about Perpetual Adoration.  ”You’ll be there someday, taking a shift,” she said.

That night I kept thinking about the chapel.  All night long there would be someone there, praying, maybe just sitting, but keeping watch.  Like a power utility, it never closed, never shut down.  Each person stayed until the next person showed up.

The next time I visited San Jose, I went straight to the chapel.  Outside I read a little bit about adoration:  neighborhoods where this occurs have lower crime rates, etc. etc.

I opened the door.  The minute I stepped inside I was almost overwhelmed with the impulse to throw myself down on the carpet in front of the host.  Suddenly the whole idea of devotion to the Eucharist made all the sense in the world.  This chapel was holy.  On the wall I noticed a small, handwritten notice:  ”Do Not Lie on the Floor.”

May I suggest that you read Catholic by Choice for yourself?  Whether you are an interested observer of faith, wondering why Catholics do the things they do, or a life-long Catholic who could use a booster shot of enthusiasm, you’ll enjoy Richard Cole’s honest, highly relatable and often funny story of his adult conversion to Catholicism.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kathyschiffer/2014/04/one-mans-amazing-journey-toward-the-catholic-faith/

Astride which Saint sits the mouse? Mother General knows for sure.

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James Likoudis on Pentecostalism [1973]

James LIKOUDIS, The Pentecostalism Controversy (http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=6587)

When the day of Pentecost came round, while they were all gathered together in unity of purpose, all at once a sound came from heaven like that of a strong wind blowing, and filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then appeared to them what seemed to be tongues of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them; and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in strange languages, as the Spirit gave utterance to each. Among those who were dwelling in Jerusalem at this time were devout Jews from every country under heaven; so when the noise of this went abroad, the crowd which gathered was in bewilderment; because each heard them speaking in his own language. And they were all beside themselves with astonishment; “Are they not all Galileans speaking?” they asked. “How is it that each of us hears them talking his own native tongue? There are Parthians among us, and Medes, and Elamites; our homes are in Mesopotamia, or Judea, or Cappadocia; in Pontus or Asia. Phrygia or Pamphylia, Egypt or the parts of Libya round Cyrene; some of us are visitors from Rome, some of us are Jews and others proselytes; there are Cretans among us too, and Arabians; and each has been hearing them tell of God’s wonders in his own language.” So they were all beside themselves with perplexity, and asked one another, “What can this mean?” There were others who said, mockingly, “They have had their fill of new wine.”

But Peter, with the eleven apostles at his side, stood there and raised his voice to speak to them; “Men of Judea,” he said, “and all you who are dwelling in Jerusalem, I must tell you this; listen to what I have to say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose; it is only the third hour of the day. This is what was foretold by the prophet Joel: “In the last times,” God says, “I will pour out my spirit upon all mankind, and your sons and daughters will be prophets. Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams (Jl. 2:28); and I will pour out my spirit in those days upon my servants and handmaids, so that they will prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs on the earth beneath, blood and fire and whirling smoke; the sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord comes, great and glorious. And then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:1-22)

It is clear that the Pentecost experience of the Apostles gave them a supernatural fortitude in the face of dangers and threats, peace in the midst of turmoil, and joy amidst pain and persecution. They performed miracles, such as healing the sick; they prophesied; they taught with power; they spoke in tongues1. (Cf. Acts 3:1-10; 4:30; 5:12-16) All of these abilities of the early Christians, called charismatic gifts, existed in abundance in the apostolic Church. After the death of the last Apostle, John, and a short fifty years thereafter, such miraculous powers ‘generally‘ disappeared. Prophecy and speaking in tongues — with a few exceptions as in the lives of some of the most remarkable saints — were unheard of in the Catholic Church as a mass phenomenon — until five years ago.

Today there are Catholic Pentecostals who insist there is a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit with all His charismatic gifts upon the Catholic Church. Interestingly, a similar claim was made 70 years ago by the founders of the modern Pentecostal sects.

The Jesuit scholar, Father John Hardon, has explained the origins of modern Pentecostalism:

“As a species of Protestant Christianity, Pentecostalism may be traced to the ministry of Edward Irving (1792-1834), pastor of a Presbyterian church in London. Irving had witnessed speaking in tongues and some cases of healing in Glasgow, Scotland. He reported back to his congregation in London that if only the people prayed earnestly, they, too, might be filled with the gifts of the Spirit. Soon after, some of his parishioners began to speak in strange tongues and prophesy …. By 1832 he had started his own congregation …. 2

His disciples, known as the Irvingites, were soon followed by Quakers, Shakers, and Mormons, and yet other sectarians, who similarly preached that external signs are an essential part of integral Christian belief and experience. In the United States sharp doctrinal divisions manifested themselves among the followers of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. The latter, as Father Hardon notes:

“…had never been much concerned with creedal orthodoxy. Experience of conversion and an awareness of the Spirit had always been more prominent in Wesleyan thought.”3

When Wesleyan Holiness groups who stressed a “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” united with the disciples of Irving, modern Pentecostalism may be said to have been born.

The Pentecostalist emphasis on the “Baptism of the Spirit” seems to have been derived from Wesley’s doctrine of entire sanctification. Whereas the Puritans had believed the process of Christian perfection was never consummated in this life, and entire sanctification comes only at or after death, Wesley was to insist on the possibility of the believer’s achieving an instantaneous completion of sanctification at any time in this life. Though Wesley never lost sight of a gradual “growth in grace” even among such “perfect” souls, his unfortunate use of the word “sanctification” where he meant “entire sanctification” was to cause much confusion among his followers.4

According to the earliest Pentecostalists, Christians who have already had the experience of conversion which is necessary for salvation, should seek a “second blessing.” This was another, more profound experience which accomplished the believer’s “entire sanctification,” and permitted him to lead a life of moral perfection, untroubled by any interior “root of sin.”5 Some Holiness writers proceeded to describe this specific experience as a “Baptism in the Holy Spirit.” While this second blessing might be an intensely emotional experience for the person receiving it, it was nevertheless essentially interior and subjective. In these writers, there was no consciousness of any external sign by which witnesses could be certain the “second blessing” was taking place. Then it was that:

“The most dramatic event in Pentecostal history occurred on New Year’s Eve, 1900. Before Charles Fox Parham, a lay Congregational preacher, left on a mission trip, he instructed his students at Bethel Healing Home in Topeka to investigate the subject of baptism in the Holy Spirit. When he returned, they told him that the gift of tongues was conclusively this Spirit baptism. They asked him to impose hands on one of their number, a Miss Oznam. The moment he did so, she was “filled with the Holy Spirit” and began to speak in several languages, besides talking in a strange tongue that not even accomplished linguists could understand. Before long, most of the students at Bethel became similarly gifted, and went out to preach the new gospel to all who would hear them.”6

To summarize: Pentecostals believe that the original Pentecostal experience recounted in the Acts of the Apostles of the New Testament was the normal experience of all believers in the primitive Apostolic Church, and that all believers even now are entitled to, and should aspire to, a similar experience of “Baptism in the Holy Spirit.” They further believe that, as at Pentecost, this outpouring of the Holy Spirit is manifested by the external sign of glossolalia, i.e., the speaking in strange tongues. Though there is some confusion among both Protestant and Catholic Pentecostals as to whether glossolalia as the initial sign of Spirit-baptism should be clearly distinguished from the subsequent, lasting gift of speaking or praying with tongues (which not all receive), it seems that most traditional Pentecostals will not recognize any genuine “Baptism in the Spirit” unless it has indeed been accompanied by the sign of glossolalia7. At any rate, it is this classical Pentecostal emphasis which has worked itself into the religious thinking of Catholic Pentecostals — to condition their entire religious experience.

It is interesting to note, moreover, that Pentecostalism is growing at an unprecedented rate throughout the world. Its adherents are estimated to range from fourteen to twenty million people. They pride themselves on the fact that their movement is growing nine times as fast as any other Christian denomination. In the United States, the number of Roman Catholics directly involved in the Pentecostal Movement varies from 15 – 50,000 (even larger numbers are projected at times by some news services and writers).

Perhaps it should be made clear that it is necessary to distinguish between:

  1. Pentecostals (divided into about 200 Protestant religious bodies in the U.S. – the most important being the ‘Assembly of God‘ which comprised a half million adherents in the U.S., and a million followers in other countries; the second largest American body being the ‘Church of God‘);
  2. neo-Pentecostals in the major Protestant churches (it is estimated that almost 1700 pastors of Episcopalian, Lutheran and other established churches promote a Pentecostal spirituality among their congregations); and
  3. the so-called Catholic Pentecostals who boast of 350 charismatic prayer groups in the U.S. and Canada, and publish their own magazine ‘New Covenant’ under the auspices of the National Service Committee for the Catholic Charismatic Movement.8

The Catholic Pentecostal movement began when four Catholic lay faculty members of Duquesne University attended a Pentecostal prayer meeting conducted by Episcopalians and Presbyterians in a Pittsburgh suburb in February, 1967. The four Catholic participants asked to have hands laid on them. A prayer group was then established at Notre Dame University. In January, 1971, a Charismatic Renewal Conference netted 4,000 registered participants, one-fourth of whom were priests and nuns. By February, 1973, 2,000 leaders from Catholic Pentecostal groups in 13 Eastern states, Canada and Puerto Rico attended the Eastern Regional Conference of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement. About 22,000 were reported to have attended the national Pentecostal meeting at Notre Dame University in early June, 1973. Various bishops have participated in its functions, and Bishop Arthur J. O’Neil, of Rockford, Illinois has formed an extra-territorial parish for the members of a “Community of the Holy Spirit” who entered into the following “Covenant Agreement“:

“We covenant ourselves, by God’s invitation to live our lives together, in Christ Our Lord and Saviour, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We agree to become a basic Christian community, to find within this fellowship (koinania [sic] ) the essential core of the Life in the Spirit, in worship and sacraments (Eucharistia), spiritual and moral guidance (kerygma and didache), service and apostolic activity (diakonia).

We expect the Lord to establish the inner structure or order of this community with all the ministry gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially with the foundational gifts of the Apostles, pastors, prophets, teachers, and evangelists.

We agree to obey the direction of the Holy Spirit manifested in and through these ministries in full harmony and under the spiritual harmony with and under the spiritual guidance of the Bishop of Rockford. To this end, we as covenant members, commit ourselves to prayerfully and sincerely seek the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

We recognize in this covenant a unique relationship one to another, individual to the community, and covenant community to all the faithful of the Rockford Diocese.

All of this is simply to take responsibility for those the Lord has given to us: to be a new family, members of the same Body, Brothers and Sisters working in the same mission He is entrusting to us as a People.

We know that we need to support the life of the community with our spiritual, material, and financial resources.

We agree that the scheduled community gatherings, Liturgical, prayer, and fellowship, are among our commitments and to be absent only for serious reasons.”9

On November 14, 1969, the Committee on Doctrine of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement which may be said to represent episcopal policy on the subject of Catholic Pentecostalism. It was a cautious, but generally favorable statement:

It seems to be too soon to draw definite conclusions regarding the phenomenon and more scholarly research is needed…. It must be admitted that theologically the movement has legitimate reason for existence. It has a strong biblical basis. It would be difficult to inhibit the work of the Spirit which manifested itself so abundantly in the early Church. The participants in the Catholic Pentecostal movement claim that they receive certain charismatic gifts. Admittedly, there have been abuses, but the cure is not a denial of their existence but their proper use. We still need further research on the matter of charismatic gifts. Certainly, the recent Vatican Council presumes that the Spirit is active continuously in the Church.

Perhaps our most prudent way to judge the validity of the claims of the Pentecostal movement is to observe the effects on those who participate in the prayer meetings. There are many indications that this participation leads to a better understanding of the role the Christian plays in the Church. Many have experienced progress in their spiritual life. They are attracted to the reading of the scriptures and a deeper understanding of their Faith. They seem to grow in their attachment to certain established devotional patterns such as devotion to the Real Presence and the rosary.

It is the conclusion of the Committee on Doctrine that the movement should at this point not be inhibited but allowed to develop. Certain cautions, however, must be expressed. Proper supervision can be effectively exercised only if the bishops keep in mind their pastoral responsibility to oversee and guide this movement in the Church. We must be on guard that they avoid the mistakes of classic Pentecostalism. It must be recognized that in our culture there is a tendency to substitute religious experience for religious doctrine. In practice we recommend that bishops involve prudent priests to be associated with this movement. Such involvement and guidance would be welcomed by the Catholic Pentecostals.10

This judgment by a committee of bishops is over three and a half years old. But it does not lay claim to be a definitive judgment and does not appear to be shared by other bishops, theologians and many of the laity who, as shall be shown, have good reason not only to be wary of such a movement, but also to expect confirmation of their evaluation of the pretended ‘charismatics‘ operating among them.

Also, Belgium’s Cardinal Leo Joseph Suenens, a frequent visitor to America and a supporter to many causes had this to say on Sunday, June 3, 1973 to the free-wheeling Pentecostal “spirit” gathering at Notre Dame:

“I see it [Pentecostalism] progressing powerfully, growing very fast everywhere… It’s no longer just an American phenomenon, but in all countries. It is a worldwide phenomenon…. It is a new taste of the gospel in its reality and simplicity. It’s important that we keep the doors open to this spontaneity. It’s an answer to the people’s desire to practice faith spontaneously to express it so they feel it.”

The AP religion writer, George W. Cornell reported that Cardinal Suenens:

“…[who is] a progressive leader in Roman Catholicism and a key figure in [the] reform initiated by Vatican Council II of 1962-1965, said the Council opened the way for renewal, but the “fruits of the spirit are providing the essential content for it.” (Globe Democrat, 6/4/73)

The following remarks are critical of the Pentecostalist phenomena in the Church. This writer wishes to make clear that he does not presume to usurp the judgment of the Church authorities whose proper prerogative it is to determine the authenticity and validity of any supernatural gifts allegedly exhibited among the faithful. Nor does he wish to be misunderstood as engaging in any personal condemnation of the motives of any particular individuals involved in the Catholic Pentecostal movement.

This writer hopes he is conscious of the remark of the wise Russian spiritual writer, Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, that “to correct one’s neighbor by condemning or reproaching him is not always an act of faith, but of foolish zeal, self-opinion and pride.” The work of judging individuals is the responsibility of those charged with the burden and duty of ruling their brethren. However, these novel “charismatic” happenings in the Church — for whatever they are — affect all Catholics one way or another because the authenticity of pentecostalist phenomena outside the visible communion of the Chair of Peter may be said to call into question the very credibility of the Catholic Church as the one true Church of Jesus Christ. And if the “charismatic renewal” of Catholic Pentecostalists is essentially a spurious and spiritually dangerous development in the post-conciliar Church, then the harm done the Church and persons may prove considerable. For this reason, the laity are obliged to examine this primarily lay movement of Catholic Pentecostalism with great care.

Father John Hardon, S.J., stated in an address to the Annual Conference for the clergy of the Archdiocese of New York:

“There are those who say we should just allow the Pentecostal movement to go on and then see what happens. But that is not in the best tradition of Christian prudence. If, as I personally believe, latter-day Pentecostalism is in the same essential stress with Gnosticism, Montanism, and Illuminism, we do not pass moral judgment on people but prudential judgment on an ideology.”

This ideology, Father Hardon maintains, constitutes a spirituality incompatible with Catholic doctrine and traditional Catholic spirituality. And here perhaps is the heart of the issue. A basic deviation from historic Christianity that was common to various heretical movements of the past — the Gnostics and Montanists of the early Church, and the Illuminists of the Reformation period all of whom are encountered in Father Ronald Knox’s classic “Enthusiasm” — is at the core of what is called the “Pentecostal experience”; namely, that the presence of God, previously a matter of faith, is now a matter of every-day experience. The claims of our contemporary Catholic Pentecostals are lucidly set forth by Father Hardon:

No less than on Pentecost Sunday, so now the descent of the Spirit becomes palpably perceptible. This perceptibility shows itself in three ways:

  1. In a personally felt experience of the Spirit’s presence in the one who receives Him. The qualities of this coming are variously described; but they cover one or more of the following internal experiences: deep-felt peace of soul, joyousness of heart, shedding of worry and anxiety, strong conviction of belief, devotion to prayer, tranquility of emotions, sense of spiritual well-being, an ardent piety, and, in general, a feeling of intimacy with the divine which, it is said, had never or only for sporadic moments been experienced before.
  2. Along with the internal phenomena, which themselves partake of the preternatural, are external manifestations that can be witnessed by others. Such are speaking in strange tongues, the gift of prophecy, the power of healing, and, it would seem, all the gamut of charismata enumerated in the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of St. Paul.
  3. Capping the two sets of phenomena, of internal experience and external manifestation, is the inspiration given by the Spirit to communicate these gifts to others. Normally a Spirit-filled person is the channel of this communication; he becomes a messenger of the Spirit to others and his zeal to act in this missionary role is part of the change that the divine visitation effects in him.11

It may be noted that the “baptism of the Spirit” which is considered as giving one the experience of a deeper and more intimate relationship to the Holy Spirit is commonly received through the imposition of hands, and that outside the regular prayer meeting. It is usual, however, that an individual can request the laying on of hands by the prayer group as a preparation for the “baptism of the Spirit.”

It is interesting to note that Catholic Pentecostal groups hold their meetings very often on college campuses as well as in church halls and private homes. Such Pentecostal meetings generally exhibit the following sequence of events. Participants at first pray in their own way in silence. Then a member of the assembly will utter a prayer of thanksgiving and praise. Another will read a Biblical text, and then improvise spontaneously a prayer based on the passage read. A hymn or song will then be sung by someone, and everyone may or may not join in the singing. A number of testimonies may be rendered, i.e., members will tell what remarkable things may have happened to them that made them aware of God’s forgiveness, mercy, and presence. Oftentimes, it may be a question of amazing “cures” and “healings.” A member may suddenly begin to sing softly in a language which is not recognizable. His neighbors may begin praying for an “interpretation,” or another member will render the “interpretation.” Someone may “prophesy.” Musical instruments such as guitars and drums are often in evidence, especially with younger audiences. At the end of the meeting, there may be exchanged the “kiss of peace” involving warm and fond embraces and actual kisses. For the most part the entire atmosphere of the meeting, though it is not as emotionally charged as some Protestant groups, nevertheless, bears the stamp of a revivalist camp meeting.

The central role “Baptism of the Spirit” plays in Pentecostalist spirituality has already been noted. According to Father F. A. Sullivan, S.J.:

…this “Baptism of the Spirit” gives one a new sense of the nearness of God; a new relish in prayer and reading Scripture; a new ability to meet demands of Christian life that previously one had found hard or impossible. The common factor in all these changes is perhaps best described as a new power which the person knows he did not have before and which he can only explain as the work of the Holy Spirit. In many cases this new power will also manifest itself in some kind of charismatic gift, most frequently in the ability to pray in tongues.12

Once again the fundamental problem confronts us: What to think of all this Spirit-baptism, Spirit-glossolalia, Spirit-healing, Spirit-inspiration, and other unusual phenomena ostensibly conveyed through the laying-on of hands by Spirit-filled people at Catholic Pentecostal meetings?

In 1971, Archbishop (now Cardinal) Timothy Manning of Los Angeles saw fit to issue a pastoral letter clearly warning Catholics of “excessive emotionalism, credulity, and sought-after charismatic displays (which) question the genuineness of the activity of the Spirit (in baptism of water) and open the devotion to people of peripheral stability.” Recently, in his General Audience, February 28, 1973, our Holy Father Pope Paul VI singled out for criticism those who esteem “the charismatic elements of religion over the so-called institutional ones.” He went on to rebuke those who:

engage in the search… for spiritual facts in which there enters an indefinable and extraneous energy which, to a certain extent, persuades the one who experiences it that he is in communication with God, or more generically with the Divine, with the Spirit, indeterminately. What do we say about this? We say that this tendency is very risky, because it advances into a field in which auto-suggestion, or the influence of imponderable physical causes, can lead to spiritual error.

The possibility of spiritual delusion in seeking to make grace sensibly felt is obviously very real. The best spiritual writers and theologians of the Catholic tradition, such as the great Doctors of the Church, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, have continually warned the faithful of spiritual seduction, spiritual deceit, and mutual self-deception in the matter of extraordinary gifts. In other words, the masters of the spiritual life openly contradict the new Pentecostalist spirituality’s emphasis on seeking visible signs of God’s Presence and action. And it is this precise counsel of the greatest theologians of the spiritual life which has been declared irrelevant by the leading Pentecostalist apologists such as Father Edward D. O’Connor.13

It is very natural that in an age of acute spiritual confusion, doubt and anxiety that souls seeking spiritual satisfaction and security should, in fact, seek experiential verification of Christian dogma in their own lives through “Pentecostal experiences”; but the dangers are many. Curiously, Pentecostal literature admits of errors, misunderstandings, mistakes and disorders accompanying the spiritual flights of their enthusiasts — not the least of which is a pronounced anti-hierarchical and anti-Institutional Church bias which permeates the attitudes of adherents, e.g., pro-Pentecostalist Father Robert Wild is constrained to admit:

… It would be true to say that most of these un-healthy tendencies (fundamentalist interpretation of Scripture, para-clericalism, and a divisive moral rigorism) exist in varying degrees in the charismatic renewal today, just as they existed in various degrees in the 2nd century. Whether any of them will assume unnatural proportions and lead to deeper aberrations — sects and heresies unnamed — only time will tell. The current literature is very much aware of the dangers.14

Moreover, the effects of ordinary Christian infant baptism are ignored or neglected in favor of a basically up-scriptural “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” which is theologically very confusing. Catholics know (as a matter of faith) that a person who has received the sacrament of Baptism is now living a life of grace which God in His ordinary economy simply does not accompany with extraordinary phenomena. Indeed both the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation are in practice relegated to second class status by the emphasis on a “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” considered as distinct from them. Some of our Catholic Pentecostals do not appear to understand that:

“the initial gift of the Spirit (in Holy Baptism) is none the less real for not being experienced or accompanied by charismatic manifestations; and that experience cannot be taken as the criteria of truly living in the Spirit.”15

Nor can the gift of tongues claimed by the Pentecostals bear the theological weight which their practice assigns to it. In Acts 2:1-22, the gift of tongues was most assuredly a miraculous phenomenon. But St. Peter and the other Apostles spoke an intelligible language which was heard by the power of God in the intelligible languages of the many foreigners present. Their gift of tongues was not the unintelligible gibberish uttered in Pentecostal meetings. In 1 Corinthians Chapter 14, the reference to strange tongues also admits of intelligible languages. And, as St. Paul relates, the languages spoken by those who had never learned them, were intended by God to be a sign to the unbeliever. How speaking pure gibberish could be a sign of God’s work to anyone has never been satisfactorily explained. St. Paul also tells us, moreover, that “talking with a strange tongue” was rather inferior to the “gift of prophecy,” and that he would rather speak five words in church with his understanding in order to instruct others, than 10,000 words in a “tongue.” It was time for the Corinthians, whom he was rebuking for various disorders in their ecclesial life, to grow up!

It should also be noted, particularly in view of what had actually occurred in Catholic Pentecostal meetings, that the following teaching of St. Paul has been ignored:

If there is speaking with strange tongues, do not let more than two speak, or three at the most; let each take his turn, with someone to interpret for him, and if he can find nobody to interpret, let him be silent in the church, conversing with his own spirit and with God…. And women are to be silent in the churches; utterance is not permitted to them; let them keep their rank, as the law tells them: if they have any questions to raise, let them ask their husbands at home. That a woman should make her voice heard in the church is not seemly.16

A major point that needs stressing is that absolutely no evidence has ever been provided that the tongues spoken at [any] Pentecostal gatherings are intelligible foreign languages spoken on this planet. But such intelligibility is an essential requirement of Scriptural teaching!

For many, the main appeal of the Pentecostal is the speaking in tongues described in Acts 2:1-21. The claim is made that this event is being paralleled in widespread Christian experience today. But again, the case for this collapses since the most knowledgeable Scripture scholars maintain that the initial Pentecostal experience was confined to the Apostles (and the Mother of God), and was not in fact shared by the 120 Christians who are mentioned in Acts 1:15.17

The Pentecost event was pre-eminently a manifestation of the Spirit among the members of the Apostolic hierarchy, and if we are to look at it as a model for latter-day speaking in tongues, then the tongues should rightfully appear among the members of the hierarchy! — and not to every Tom, Dick and Harry, or, as Martin Luther once expressed it:

“No yokel is so rude but when he has dreams and fancies he thinks himself inspired by the Holy Ghost!”18

As far as the modern revival of the gift of “prophecy” is concerned (and prophecy is considered here in the biblical sense, not so much as future prediction, but rather as the courageous proclaiming of the facts of Christ before the people), it is disconcerting to acknowledge that at Catholic Pentecostal meetings (often attended by many Protestants) those doctrines which are uniquely Catholic, e.g., the Papacy, the visible oneness of the Church, devotion to the Virgin Mother of God, the veneration and intercession of the Saints, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, etc., are conspicuously absent. In fact, such doctrines are never alluded to, or suppressed because of an “ecumenical togetherness” where the concept of an invisible Christian Church made up of true believers takes precedence in the consciousness of those Catholics participating, over the visible historical institutional Catholic Church founded by Christ upon Peter: that Church which Vatican II teaches possesses the “very fullness of Christ’s grace and truth.”19

It is also disconcerting and a matter for reflection that one of the key founders and writers of the Catholic Pentecostal Movement is Kevin Ranaghan. In 1968 when “Humanae Vitae” was issued by the See of Peter, Mr. Ranaghan had the unenviable distinction of being one of the 600 signers of a notorious statement rejecting the doctrinal teaching of the Encyclical! Was Mr. Ranaghan guided by the Holy Spirit when he did this? [ Fortunately, Mr. Ranaghan when ordained as deacon later, recanted his dissent. — J.L.]

Equally vexing is the fact that Catholic Pentecostals believe it is possible to acquire experience of the Holy Spirit’s presence by an “instant mysticism” — push-button fashion, so to speak. But the lives of the saints teach us that extraordinary graces such as the sensible perception of the Holy Spirit may indeed be given; but usually after a severe ascetic preparation; i.e., after much worship, prayer, fruitful reception of the Sacraments, fasting and other acts of penance.

It is no secret that many members of the “charismatic movement” have clearly emerged from a background of psycho-neurotic and emotional disturbance and/or a background of spiritual aridity. It is understandable that they would tend to interpret anything “new,” exciting” or “unusual” as authentic charisms.

Dr. Josephine Ford, one of the leaders of the Catholic Pentecostals at Notre Dame University, for example, has written:

Many people speak about an “anointing” from the Lord. This appears to mean a certain feeling within them. Some people feel burning in their hands or even some sensation between the shoulders… Although these anointings may be quite genuine, they do not seem to be absolutely necessary, and we must be careful they do not arise from a psychological need or from a need of self-identity.19

This is good advice, and it should be applied to all so-called Pentecostal phenomena. If this were done, most of the alleged extraordinary Pentecostal “gifts” could be susceptible to a quite natural explanation. This is not to deny that certain graces may indeed have been granted to Pentecostalists in good faith, and that certain spiritual needs have been satisfied. One need only insist as Father Hardon, S.J., does:

Pentecostalism is not a mere movement; it is, as the ending “ism” indicates, an ideology. And as such it is creating more problems objectively than it solves subjectively. In other words, even when it gives symptomatic relief to some people, it produces a rash of new, and graver, issues touching on the Catholic Faith and its authentic expression by the faithful.20

There can be no doubt that one of these issues is our contemporary charismatics’ pretension that they have been spiritually renewed and regenerated when they may well have not!

Unfortunately, some of our charismatics are in no position to really compare their present experiences with the experiences of the Saints of God — those saints whose lives and works they hardly know. Thus they have no way of contrasting their present state of religious exaltation and enthusiasm with genuine Catholicism.

Oftentimes, they fail to understand that Satan is quite able to produce “signs and wonders” to mislead even the elect (Matt. 24:24) and create the illusion of spiritual good to achieve his evil ends. Spiritual writers such as St. Ignatius of Loyola teach us that this lying spirit can produce pseudo-virtues — “love,” “patience,” “joy,” “hope,” and “peace,” etc. — for he is the Great Deceiver. The testimony of historical Catholicism is that such so-called virtues are not grounded in faith and obedience to Apostolic doctrine and authority but mask spiritual pride and spiritual greed. The Gospel makes clear that Satan and his fallen angels have the power to twist the truth, to confuse, to caricature, to mimic God’s works, and to appear as an “angel of light.” (2 Cor. 4:3f.)

The learned English Benedictine Dom Peter Flood, a physician as well as a Doctor of Canon Law, wrote in this vein concerning his “grave concern” over the spread of Pentecostalism among certain English Catholics:

This phenomenon is in most instances little more than “mass hysteria.” The so-called “speaking in tongues” in no way parallels the post-Pentecostal speaking out with tongues which was given to the Apostles, so that each of their hearers heard them in their own tongue. Those who have studied it in the U.S.A., have rightly described it as meaningless gibberish. The whole movement has its prototype in the “holy rollers,” “shakers,” and other such stupidities beloved of the less educated Americans. It easily lends itself to illusion and even to diabolic intervention. I have known priests who got involved in it to have lost their Faith. The dangers of self-deception are obviously very great, and it is to be hoped that the laity will not be misled by enthusiasts and that no member of the Hierarchy will approve of it. It is not thus that the Holy Spirit guides the Church.21

Dom Flood alludes to facts that other commentators have made; namely, that Pentecostalism in the Catholic Church constitutes an influx of Protestant notions that have in fact led some Catholics out of the Church or into religious indifferentism. Interestingly, Dr. Josephine M. Ford, a woman lay theologian at Notre Dame University, found herself obliged to confess how she had been “excommunicated” by her fellow Catholic Pentecostalists who have banned her from their meetings. Dr. Ford laments the elitism, spiritual arrogance, and spirit of Protestant sectarianism which has developed among her fellows in the movement she herself did so much to foster and encourage. Her Pentecostalist brethren will no longer give the “eucharistic kiss of peace” to her nor to those not of their “in-group.”22

Yet another informed writer on Catholic Pentecostalism, Father Anselm Walker, wrote the following in an issue of the “Texas Catholic Herald” in 1971:

“It is evident to all, and ought to be evident to the Catholic dupes of Pentecostalism, that this is alien fire that now burns upon the altar of Catholic hearts, and that there now awaits the divine judgment and doom for those who so act.”

This same priest, whose experience has included much study of the Pentecostalist movement in Protestantism, sharply criticized the action of Catholic Pentecostalists who use the laying-on-of-hands for the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit”:

“Having attended hundreds of Pentecostal services as a youngster, I can vouchsafe for the fact that this gesture is something new, fondly imagined and misunderstandingly contrived by our Catholic Pentecostals. At no Pentecostal service either in the Assemblies of God or in the Oneness Pentecostal Churches or in the other sects have I seen anyone lay hands on anyone else for the communication of the Holy Spirit…. Since Pentecostalists in their Catholic variety claim to communicate the Holy Spirit thusly, it is evident that this is an innovation, and since it claims to do what Baptism and Confirmation do or have already done, it is then a parody of a sacrament no matter how well-intentioned it is or what effects the adepts claim to receive from it….”

Any favorable reception to Pentecostalism in the Catholic Church will seriously hamper hopes of reunion with the Eastern Orthodox churches. A Russian Orthodox monk drawing upon the riches of the Eastern monastic tradition bluntly declares the Pentecostalist movement to be attributed to spiritual deception — “prelest“:

If we look carefully at the writings of the “charismatic revival” we shall find that this movement closely resembles many sectarian movements of the past in basing itself primarily or even entirely on one rather bizarre doctrinal emphasis or religious practice. The only difference is that the emphasis now is placed on a specific point which no sectarians in the past regarded as so central: speaking in tongues…. Here already one may note an over-emphasis that is certainly not present in the New Testament, where speaking in tongues has a decidedly minor significance, serving as a sign of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and on two other occasions (Acts 10 and 19). After the first or perhaps the second century, there is no record of it in any orthodox source, and it is not recorded even among the great Fathers of the Egyptian Desert, who were so filled with the Spirit of God that they performed numerous astonishing miracles — even raising the dead. The Orthodox attitude to genuine speaking in tongues, then, may be summed up in the words of Blessed Augustine (Homilies on John, VI:10): “In the earliest times the Holy Spirit fell upon them that believed, and they spoke with tongues which they had not learned, as the Spirit gave them utterance. These were signs adapted to the time. For it was fitting that there be this sign of the Holy Spirit in all tongues to show that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That was done for a sign, and it passed away.” And as if to answer contemporary Pentecostals with their strange emphasis on this point, Augustine continues: “Is it now expected that they upon whom hands are laid, should speak with tongues? Or when we imposed our hand upon these children, did each of you wait to see whether they would speak with tongues? And when he saw that they did not speak with tongues, was any of you so perverse of heart as to say – These have not received the Holy Spirit?23

The same writer takes occasion to remark:

“Modern Pentecostals, to justify their use of tongues, refer most of all to St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (chaps. 12-14). But St. Paul wrote this passage precisely because “tongues” had become a source of disorder in the church of Corinth; and even while he does not forbid them, he decidedly minimizes their significance. This passage, therefore, far from encouraging any modern revival of “tongues,” should, on the contrary, discourage it — especially when one discovers (as Pentecostalists themselves admit) that there are other sources of speaking in tongues besides the Holy Spirit!”

Nor does our Russian Orthodox theologian hesitate to declare Pentecostalism to be “in complete contradiction of Orthodox tradition and prophecy”:

Can any … sober Christian possibly confuse these dangerous psychic games with the gifts of the Holy Spirit? There is nothing whatever Christian, nothing whatever spiritual here in the least. This is the realm, rather, of psychic mechanisms which can be set in operation by means of definite psychological or physical techniques, and “speaking in tongues” would seem to occupy a key role as a kind of “trigger” in this realm. In any case, it certainly bears no resemblance whatever to the spiritual gift described in the New Testament and, if anything, it is much closer to shamanistic “speaking in tongues” as practiced in primitive religions, where the shaman or witch doctor has a regular technique for going into a trance and then giving a message to or from a “god” in a tongue he has not learned…. (This) comparison with shamanism will not seem terribly far-fetched, especially if we understand that primitive shamanism is but a particular expression of a “religious” phenomenon which, far from being foreign to the modern West, actually plays a significant role in the lives of some contemporary “Christians”: mediumism.24

A Byzantine Catholic writer, Helle Georgiadis, editor of the ecumenical review, “Chrysostom“, reinforces the judgment of the above Russian Orthodox theologian:

“From the standpoint of Eastern spirituality the contemporary Pentecostal movement appears as a positively alien environment for growth in the life of the Spirit. At first sight this may seem paradoxical for a spirituality so closely identified with apophatic theology. Moreover, the East has always taken prophecy and healing and similar manifestations in its stride. But there are two aspects of Pentecostalism which are alien to Eastern tradition. Wordless utterances may manifest themselves in individual cases, even in very holy people, but to seek to cultivate “speaking in tongues” in this sense would seem to deny redeemed man’s dignity and destiny as co-heirs with Christ, and the Holy Spirit’s mission to enlighten the minds and hearts of men.

The other aspect is the stress laid by Pentecostalists on experience which is ‘felt’. Here again, though individuals may sense an almost tangible awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence, the search for experience which is apprehended through the senses has always been seen as a dangerous and unwarranted goal for the Christian to pursue.”25

Much more could be written concerning the spiritual dangers resulting from involvement in the Catholic Pentecostal Movement — whose “piety” and accompanying physical phenomena are so contrary to traditional Catholic spirituality, both Eastern and Western. Perhaps the best work which reveals the basically unorthodox features of Pentecostalism and similar “enthusiastic” religious movements leading to spiritual shipwreck is Father Ronald Knox’s unsurpassed “Enthusiasm“.26It remains a ‘must reading’ for today.

In conclusion, it may be recalled that Archbishop Robert Dwyer of Portland, Oregon, not too long ago in various columns affirmed his belief that the ancient Gnostic heresy had been revived in the spiritual pretensions of Catholic Pentecostals — who hang very loose to the Church as it is and who seem to condemn the spirituality and pious practices of our saints. What is so disturbing to some informed observers of Pentecostalism within the Church is that a continued “laissez-faire” attitude in our country may lead to further spiritual deception and emotional injury among poorly instructed Catholics. Furthermore, if the phenomenon of “tongues” may in some cases be pathological or demonic in character, the spiritual welfare of those involved in Pentecostal activities is gravely endangered.

As stated previously, the statement of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine is over three and a half years old. Surely, it is time for an urgent re-examination and re-evaluation of Pentecostalism and its conclusions. [ Now thirty years later, the doctrinal and spiritual excesses found in the Charismatic Renewal Movement still appears to warrant the concern of Catholic bishops, priests and laity. — J.L. ]

FOOTNOTES

  1. Cf. Acts 3:1-10; 4:30; 5-12-16.
  2. John Hardon, S.J., Christianity in the Twentieth Century (Doubleday and Co., N. Y.; 1971), p. 211.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Cf. John L. Peter’s Christian Perfection and American Methodism (Abingdon Press, N. Y., 1956), p. 63.
  5. Cf. the article by Father F. A. Sullivan. S.J., “Pentecostal Movement” in Gregorianum (Vol. 53 Fasc. 2, 1972), pp. 238-265.
  6. John Hardon, S.J., op. cit., p. 211.
  7. Cf. Father F. A. Sullivan, S.J., op. cit., p. 261.
  8. This three-fold division is made by Father F. A. Sullivan, S.J., idem, pp. 238-240.
  9. Cf. the brochure by William F. McMahon on the Community of the Holy Spirit, Geneva, Illinois, wherein is also stated that “Baptism in the Holy Spirit is normal expectation of members after instruction and prayer.” Also, “participating membership is open to those who wish to share in the life of the Community of the Holy Spirit, who are not members of the Catholic Diocese of Rockford; i.e., Catholics of other Dioceses, and other Christians of various Christian Churches. The degree of their participation is subject to the general and particular law of the Church and the Diocese.”
  10. James Byrne, Threshold of God’s Promise: An Introduction to the Catholic Pentecostal Movement (Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, Indiana; 1971), p. 78.
  11. An address given by Father John Hardon, S.J., to the New York Archdiocesan Clergy, April 20-21, 1971.
  12. Sullivan, op. cit.
  13. Father Edward D. O’Connor, The Pentecostal Movement in the Catholic Church (Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, Indiana; 1971), p. 180.
  14. Cf. Father Robert Wild’s article “Is the Charismatic Renewal in the Church a New ‘Montanism’?” in Homiletic and Pastoral Review (Dec., 1972), pp. 67-72.
  15. Cf. Father F. A. Sullivan, S.J., op. cit.
  16. Cf. 1 Cor. 14:34-36.
  17. Cf. the article “Charismatics and Pentecostals” in Christian Order (Oct. and Nov., 1972) wherein Father Joseph Crehan, S.J., notes: “modern commentators, e.g., G. W. Lampe and C. S. Williams agree on this way of taking the passage.” p. 572.
  18. Werke, (Erl. ed. 53), p. 342.
  19. Dr. Josephine Ford, The Pentecostal Experience (Paulist Press, N. Y.; 1970), p. 54.
  20. Address, op. cit.
  21. London Catholic Herald, Aug. 11, 1972.
  22. National Catholic Reporter, July 15, 1972.
  23. The Orthodox Word, March-April, 1972.
  24. Ibid.
  25. Chrysostom, (Winter, 1972-73), pp. 139-140.
  26. Father Ronald Knox, Enthusiasm (Oxford University Press, N. Y.; 1961), p. 622.

IMPRIMATUR
September 11, 1973
Most Rev. Charles R. Koester
Vicar General of St. Louis

Clerical Continence and the Restored Permanent Diaconate by Donald J. Keefe SJ

Clerical Continence and the Restored Permanent Diaconate

The results of the historical research of Alfons Cardinal Stickler into the apostolicity of the tradition of clerical celibacy and continence,[1] the corroboration of his conclusions by Frs. Christian Cochini and Roman Cholij, and the theological analysis of the intrinsic relation between the sacramental signs of marriage and of priestly orders proposed by Archbishop J. Francis Stafford of Denver at a recent Roman conference,[2] are all in practice controverted by the effective condonation of the noncontinent exercise of their orders by post-conciliar married deacons who having lived in ignorance of any obligation to abstain from conjugal relations after their ordination, have now have been absolved of any obligation to continence, and in fact, if widowed, may apply for dispensation from what has been a diriment impediment to remarriage and, if remarried, continue in the exercise of their orders.[3]

This anomalous departure from the ancient tradition of clerical continence appears to have its inception in the discussions of the restoration of the permanent diaconate during the second Vatican Council.[4]  However, it cannot be shown to have been authorized by the Council, whether tacitly or overtly, nor by Pope Paul VI in the documents by which he formally instituted the restored permanent diaconate and permitted the ordination to it of mature married men, nor by the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

Further, it is not unlikely that the practical condonation of the use of marriage by such deacons has led to a comparable condonation of the use of marriage by converts from among Protestant clergy who have later been ordained in the Roman Catholic rite; it is evidennt enough the noncontinence of married deacons is no more anomalous than the noncontinence of married priests.

Therefore, the restoration of the permanent diaconate and the ordination of married men to the permanent diaconate in the wake of Vatican II requires a further examination for, if the effective condonation of clerical noncontinence in married deacons and married priests in the Roman rite is in fact legitimate, that legitimacy can rest upon no other grounds than the documents underlying the restoration of the permanent diaconate.  In what follows, we shall show that those documents provide no justification or warrant for diaconal noncontinence.

I.  The Documents of Vatican II: Lumen Gentium §29

The concluding sentence of Lumen Gentium §29 reads:

De consensu Romani Pontificis his Diaconatus viris maturioris aetatis etiam in matrimonio viventibus conferri poterit, necnon iuvenibus idoneis, pro quibus tamen, lex caelibatus firma remanere debet.[5]

It is as well to note at the outset that it is the significance of “lex caelibatus” which is in issue.  Granted that the canonical requirement of consecrated celibacy for those in major orders, (the “lex caelibatus”) is waived for married candidates (men “in matrimonio viventes”), and is retained for presumptively unmarried, because more youthful, candidates for the diaconate (“pro juvenibus idoneis”), the meaning of this waiver of the “lex caelibatus” granted the more mature candidates for the diaconate must be determined.  Specifically, does the waiver legitimate, for those candidates who are married, the continuance of conjugal relations with their wives after their ordination?

The language of Lumen Gentium itself cannot be said to do so.  The waiving of the “lex caelibatus” refers simply to dropping the juridical prohibition of married candidates for higher orders; the dropping of the requirement of nonmarriage for an older candidate says nothing about a removal of the obligation of clerical continence after his ordination, unless his continuing in conjugal relations be thought inseparable from his marriage.  Since continuing in conjugal intimacy is not thus integral to marriage, and that as a matter of canon law, such a reading of Lumen Gentium cannot be defended.[6]

Similarly, Austin Flannery’s translation of Lumen Gentium§29 offers no justification for diaconal noncontinence:

Should the Roman Pontiff think fit, it will be possible to confer this diaconal order even upon married men, provided they be of more mature age, and also on suitable young men, for whom, however, the law of celibacy must remain in force.  (387)[7]

Neither do the reports of the conciliar discussions and debates concerning the restoration of the permanent diaconate justify the equation of the waiver of celibacy with a waiver of clerical continence, although some evidence of a conciliar confusion of the obligation of consecrated celibacy with the obligation of continence, whereby the waiver of the one might be thought to be assimilated to the waiver of the other, begins to surface in them.[8]

Herbert Vorgrimler’s commentary on Lumen Gentium §29 relates the procedure decided upon in the third session for the restoration of the permanent diaconate; he affirms, as in line with the conciliar decision, that the “duty” of celibacy is not to apply to married deacons:

Only two points are laid down with regard to the way it (the restoration of the permanent diaconate) is to be done: the competent authority is the episcopal conference, with the consent of the Pope; the duty of celibacy is not to be imposed upon men of more mature age, although it remains for younger men.[9]

The phrase used by Vorgrimler, that of a “duty of celibacy,” is entirely misleading; §29 of Lumen Gentium speaks of a “law of celibacy,” not of a “duty.”  This is not mere quibbling: such a misreading reveals a certain lack of reflection upon the relation of major orders to consecrated celibacy on the one hand and to continence on the other.  In fact, it amounts to a confusion over the meaning, and therefore the interrelation, of celibacy and of continence, and of their respective relations to major orders.  In the first place, major orders are a diriment impediment to marriage; e.g., we read in “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” that

Post ordinem receptum diaconi, grandiore etiam aetate promoti, ex tradita Ecclesiae disciplina ad ineundum matrimonium inhabiles sunt.[10]

As Paul VI here affirms, ordination to the diaconate makes subsequent marriage impossible: an unmarried deacon cannot marry, and a married deacon, upon the death of his wife, cannot remarry.  The language here is not disciplinary: it speaks of a simple sacramental incapacity, the sort that is termed a diriment impediment.  Canonists are accustomed to speak of major orders as a diriment impediment to marriage only when celibacy is formally embraced as a condition of ordination.  However, the inability of a married major cleric to remarry upon the death of his wife can only be due to precisely such an impediment: i.e., one which as inherent in his exercise of his orders simply nullifies any such attempted marriage.  It is of course true that this impediment is not absolute: a cleric may be laicized and, in consequence of such laicization, of such removal from the exercise of orders, he may be granted a papal dispensation from the law of celibacy.  Nonetheless, in the absence of such dispensation, the “lex caelibatus” binds even the laicized cleric, and simply precludes a subsequent marriage.

This inhibition upon the marriage of major clerics is not mere Roman rigorism.  The reasons for it rest upon the meaning of ordination itself, and finally derive from the nuptial relation between Christ and the Church which is celebrated in the Eucharistic sacrifice.  A diriment impediment to marriage, an inability to marry, a sacramental incapacity, is inherent in the exercise in persona Christi of major orders.  However, this impediment is distinct from (a) celibacy, and (b) continence.

Celibacy denotes the unmarried status, the absence of the marital bond.[11]  Concretely, celibacy is thus merely a matter of fact: the absence of a marital bond.  However, “consecrated celibacy” denotes a specific commitment to the unmarried state, as alone consonant with ordination to a major Order, whether that be in prospect, or already received.[12]  Heretofore, in the Latin rite, consecrated celibacy has been canonically requisite to the reception of major orders.  The institution of the married permanent diaconate is by way of exception to this canonical and liturgical tradition.

The noncelibate state, on the contrary, denotes the presence of a marital bond, and the consequent incapacity to enter upon another marriage prior to the death of one’s spouse.  Prior to the approval of the admission of married men to the permanent diaconate by Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium,noncelibate men, as has been seen, were barred by canon law from receiving major orders.  However, noncelibacy — which is to say, the existence of the marital bond — has never been understood to be a diriment impediment to such ordination.

Continence is deliberate abstention from sexual relations.  Its first reference is to abstention from marital relations; by extension and a fortiori, it denotes abstention from all extramarital sexual relations.  Abstention from marital relations may be temporary, in accordance with the Pauline counsel in I Cor 7:5, or it may be permanent, as required by the reception of major orders, a sacrament transcending but not annulling marriage.[13]  Cochini has shown such clerical continence to have been required of married men by an tradition which can only be of apostolic origin.[14]  Married men who, with the consent of their wives, were ordained as bishops, priests, or deacons, were thereafter held to continence: only in the Eastern Church has this obligation not been observed, and Cholij has shown the inadequacy of the supposed conciliar foundation of that rejection of clerical continence.  The Code of Canon Law continues to require the consent of the wife of the candidate for the permanent diaconate.

The canonical clerical celibacy proper to the Latin rite, which has been dropped for the “more mature” candidate for the restored permanent diaconate, is the unmarried status heretofore canonically requisite for ordination to any of the three major orders.

The sacramental character of Orders is thus analogous to the vinculum of sacramental marriage, in that ordination to a major Order simply renders the ordained man, whether married or unmarried, incapable of contracting marriage apart from laicization and papal dispensation.  Thus, such ordination bars the cleric arctius altari conjungi from attempting or entering into marriage, quite as an existing marriage bars one from entering into another marriage.

It is then evident that one cannot accurately speak of a “duty” of celibacy any more than one can speak accurately of a “duty” of marriage.  Quite as marriage connotes the obligation of fidelity, clerical (here, diaconal) celibacy connotes the duty or obligation of continence.  But as marriage is distinct from fidelity, so celibacy is distinct from continence.  As marriage is not the same as fidelity to marriage, neither is celibacy the same as the continence which, analogously, is fidelity to major orders.  However, such casual reference to celibacy as a “duty” precisely suggests or connotes this identity, and so induces the confusion between celibacy and continence which seems to have governed much of the discussion of the celibacy of the permanent diaconate at Vatican II.

To speak of clerical celibacy as a “duty” further implies that clerical celibacy is not a committed state, but is only a continuing moral responsibility which one might fail to meet, as one may fail to meet the duty of marital fidelity.  Such language further suggests what could not be affirmed, the merely “functional” status of clerical celibacy: that is, to speak of a duty of celibacy is to intimate that celibacy, with its connoted moral obligation of clerical continence, is not integral to major orders.

Therefore, while it is entirely proper to speak of a celibate major cleric’s duty of continence, it is quite misleading to speak of his celibacy as a “duty.”  Duties are positive moral — and therefore free — concomitants of a positive office, or munus, which arise out of that office.  Because they arise out of an office or munus such as orders, duties consist in continuing fidelity to that office, but they are not identified with the office, and should not be spoken of in such a fashion as to blur that fact.  Once ordained, an unmarried deacon, priest, or bishop is not free to be noncelibate, for a man exercising major orders simply cannot marry: such a cleric cannot be married apart from dispensation.  But he is certainly free to be continent, for otherwise continence would not be a matter of fidelity; therein lies the particular obligation, the “duty,” of the major cleric — here, the deacon.

Vorgrimler informs us that two points, viz., the authority competent to admit married men to the permanent diaconate, and the married (non-celibate) character of the permanent diaconate, were those most debated at the second and third sessions:

For the course of the voting, see the historical introduction to this commentary by G. Philips.  In view of the interventions and the results of the voting, the text was considerably revised by the Theological Commission (relatores: B. Kloppenburg, O.F.M., and P. Smulders, S.J.), and adopted into the draft of July 3, 1964 in a form which differs substantially from the present text only in two points.  One is concerned with the authority competent to admit married men to the diaconate.  Here the Theological Commission was ordered to insert the words De consensu Romani Pontificis.  The second point was whether young men who wished to be deacons were obliged to celibacy or not.  The council decided in favor of celibacy, but it should be noted that as many as 839 Fathers rejected celibacy in such cases.  The official relator, Bishop Jiménes L. Henriquez [sic], was not in favor of young married deacons.  (227; emphasis added)

In the first place, if Vorgrimler’s recital of a conciliar discussion of the “obligation” of celibacy is accurate ad litteram, this usage again reveals the acceptance of a certain suggestio falsi within the conciliar discussion, wherein “celibacy,” which in the technical language of canon law simply refers to the unmarried state, is discussed as though it were an obligation: viz., the word is used by the conciliar Fathers as though it were associated with “continence” in such wise that a noncelibate or married diaconate is one which is noncontinent, i.e., a diaconate which contemplates the continuing use of marriage by the married ordinatus.  If on the other hand, Fr. Vorgrimler may be thought to be reading his own confusion on this point into the conciliar discussion, it does not appear that that discussion contained anything which might have worked to correct such a mistake.  As we shall see, this confusion of celibacy with continence, and of noncelibacy with noncontinence, did in fact obtain among the bishops, and nothing in the record of the conciliar discussion of Lumen Gentium §29 evidences any recognition of the confusion, nor any clarification of it.[15]

Further on in his commentary on this passage, Vorgrimler has observed that

It is also noteworthy that the tasks of the deacon include liturgical functions, but that his role in the celebration of the Eucharist, which is one of the most outstanding features of the diaconate in the Eastern Churches, receives no mention.  (229)

Vorgrimler’s report of a lack of conciliar interest in the liturgical dimension of the diaconal office, particularly in the celebration of the Eucharist, is consistent with Michael Novak’s report.[16]  Gérard Philips’ historical survey,[17] cited by Vorgrimler supra, contains the following observations:

Here (relative to the priesthood) the whole assembly was perfectly unanimous.  But when the votes were taken on the diaconate, the difference of viewpoint emerged more strongly than ever.  In principle, the revival of the permanent diaconate was accepted by 1903 votes against 242.  But the next day, 29 September, the question came up as to whether the local authorities, with the approval of the Pope, could decide on the actual revival, and here almost a third of the voters expressed themselves in the negative.  (702 against 1523).  But the nub of the controversy was whether this form of diaconate could be entrusted to married men of mature age.  Here the two thirds majority was slightly larger, 1598 ayes against 629 noes.  The next clause was the only one which was rejected by the assembly.  The draft envisaged the possibility of young men who were not bound by the law of celibacy being ordained deacons.  Here a large majority of the Fathers flatly said no: 1364, against 839 ayes.  (130).

Philips’ account says nothing of the noncontinence of the married men ordained to the permanent diaconate: again, the same silence characterizes Novak’s fuller treatment of the conciliar debate.

A confusion of celibacy with continence, of marriage with noncontinence, and so a confusion of the institution of a noncelibate (married) diaconate with the formal permission for the diaconal use of marriage, is evident on both sides of the debate.  The only possible inference from Philips’ account is that the minority of bishops — 839 out of 2203 is no inconsiderable fraction —, who voted against holding even the younger and unmarried deacons to the “lex caelibatus,” could hardly have understood the universally noncelibate, viz., married, diaconate which they contemplated for the younger men nonetheless to oblige such men, once married, to abstention from the use of marriage.  There would not have been sufficient point to such a proposal to gain the support of eight hundred and thirty-nine bishops.  The minority bishops could only have had in view, and were understood by their conciliar adversaries to have in view, the establishment of a novel diaconate: one whose members, because they could marry after ordination, need not be continent after ordination.  But there is no conciliar clarification of the minority’s obvious identification of noncelibacy with noncontinence.  One can hardly avoid concluding that the majority of the conciliar Fathers shared this confusion with the minority.

The latent, or tacit — but in any case evident — confusion among the conciliar Fathers of clerical celibacy with clerical continence, and so of married clergy with clerical noncontinence, which this vote manifests, could not but have carried over into the conciliar approval of the ordination of married candidates for the diaconate, to whom the “lex caelibatus” would not apply.

For it does not appear that the conciliar Fathers ever considered a married diaconate to which the lex caelibatus would not apply, to be the mere tautology that it is.  For the conciliar bishops, the waiver of the lex caelibatus with respect to married deacons was quite uncritically understood to connote the legitimation of conjugal intercourse.  The vote on the waiver of celibacy for the younger deacons could only imply that more than a third of the bishops voting were in favor doing what had never been formally discussed: legitimating subsequent marriage or remarriage by a man in full exercise of major orders.

As Gérard Philips observes, “a large majority of the Fathers flatly said no” to the minority proposal of the dropping of the law of celibacy for the younger candidates for the diaconate.  We may be quite sure that in the minds of the minority, the noncelibacy which they would permit the younger candidates did not carry the implicit qualification that as married deacons they would live in continence.  Rather, for reasons which we shall later explore,[18] the minority view of the restored diaconate had so accepted a dissociation of celibacy from major orders, at least with respect to the diaconate, as to no longer consider ordination to the diaconate a diriment impediment to subsequent marriage.

Given this dissociation, they could hardly be concerned for the continence of married deacons.  But again, insofar as one may judge from the conciliar documents, as well as from the reports of those present, there was no significant discussion of this underlying point of view.  It would seem to have passed unchallenged by the majority, who simply held to the ancient tradition.  For there is no record of such a subtlety entering into the conciliar discussion.  In the view of the minority at least, the relaxation for diaconal candidates of the lex caelibatus was identically the relaxation of the traditional requirement not only of married continence for those in diaconal orders, but was also the dismissal of the tradition which had found in major orders a diriment impediment to marriage.

But what of the majority?  We can only conclude that they rejected what they understood the minority to approve: the admission to the diaconate of unmarried candidates, who subsequent to ordination might marry and enter into marital relations.

It is important to emphasize that an approval by the conciliar Fathers of the subsequent marriage of unmarried deacons would have for them to have flatly rejected the liturgical and doctrinal tradition of clerical celibacy which Stickler, Concini and Cholij have rightly judged to be apostolic in its origins — and more, to have done this without any conciliar discussion of so radical a step.

Yet further, that step — the conciliar approval of a view of diaconal orders in which ordination to the diaconate would not be a diriment impediment to marriage — would not only have amounted to a conciliar approval of the noncontinence of married clerics across the board; its dissociation of celibacy from major orders would have instituted a drastic alteration in the sacramental doctrine of Roman Catholicism, one extending to the Eucharist itself, which for reasons which cannot here be explored, would thereby have ceased to be the offering of the One Sacrifice.[19]

Therefore, the majority of the conciliar Fathers, whose views found expression in Lumen Gentium §29, were aware of the doctrinal significance of clerical celibacy, if inarticulately: for the majority, the celibacy required of the younger candidates to the diaconate connoted a continuing obligation to continence, and most certainly was associated with recognizing, in ordination to the diaconate, a diriment impediment to subsequent marriage.  The majority’s rejection of a noncelibate youthful diaconate, one whose members might later marry, is otherwise unintelligible.  This rejection of the minority approval of a noncelibate and noncontinent youthful diaconate cannot but have had consequences for what the majority understood the opening up of the diaconate to married men to entail, but these consequences seem never to have been explored at the Council.

Consequently it is manifestly important to clarify the terminology used in the conciliar approval of the restored permanent diaconate, and in the papal legislation implementing that restoration.  Specifically, it is necessary to avoid what the conciliar Fathers did not avoid, the confusion which would identify the “lex caelibatus” with the obligation to continence and, eo ipso, would identify relaxation of the “lex caelibatus” with a relaxation of the obligation of continence in those ordained to major orders.

We have seen that “celibacy” and “celibate” do not identify respectively with “continence” and “continent.”  A celibate priest or deacon is unmarried; he is expected to be continent, but a sinful noncontinence does not nullify his celibate state.  A noncelibate priest or deacon is one who is married; his noncelibacy does not imply or warrant his noncontinence, in law or in fact.

Thus the celibacy and the continence of those in major orders are in the same positive correlation which links marriage to fidelity in the married;[20] a married deacon or priest cannot be celibate — this is a matter of definition.  Nonetheless, he should be continent, for the reasons adduced by Cochini and Cholij, and resumed in Archbishop Stafford’s recent lecture.[21]  It is then evident that those men who are candidates for a liturgical office by which they will be arctius altari conjungi[22] are held to continence, and precisely by such ordination, whether they are celibate or married.  No other reading of Lumen Gentium §29 is internally coherent, nor could it be made consistent with the later papal legislation instituting the restored diaconate.

II The Papal Documents

Three years after the Council, Paul VI began to lay down the norms for the permanent diaconate: first in “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,”[23], then in “Pontificalis Romani Recognitio,”[24] and finally in “Ad pascendum”[25].  Moreover, the Pope had earlier spoken to the same subject, if only briefly, in “Sacerdotalis Caelibatus.”[26]

“Sacerdotalis Caelibatus” is then the first in time of these documents; it bears only in passing upon the diaconate but, because “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” follows immediately upon it, what it has to say on that subject is of no little interest.  We quote §13 of “Sacerdotalis Caelibatus,” in full, and the final paragraph of §42:

§13         Porro hi contradictorum veluti concentus non solum perantiqua et grandia testimonia sive Pastorum Ecclesiae, sive magistrorum pietatis opprimere videtur, sed etiam viva in nostrisque oculis haerentia exempla, ab innumerabili cohorte edita sanctorum ac fidelium Dei administrorum, qui in re vera sacrum caelibatum demonstrant sibi causam itemque indicium eius fuisse doni, quo se totos laetissimosque Christi mysterio tradiderunt.  Quae utique egregia exempla, non minus nostris quam praeteritis temporibus posita, placate constanterque adhuc loquuntur.  Quapropter Nos, quibus praesentes res semper curae fuerunt, teneri non possumus, quin nec opinatam hanc mirificamque veritatem animadvertimus, qua docemur nunc etiam in Dei Ecclesia, ubicumque terrarum ea sancta tabernacula statuit, innumerabilem multitudinem sacrorum administrorum — subdiaconorum, diaconorum, presbyterorum, episcoporum — voluntarium Deoque sacratum caelibatum caste et integre servare.

§42         Ceteroqui Ecclesiae primores ab hac utenda potestate minime abstinere ex eo colligitur, quod recens Concilium Oecumenicum sapienter censuit, ut sacer nempe diaconatus ordo provectis etiam aetate viris, in matrimonio viventibus, posset conferri.  (emphasis added)

The italicized phrase is perhaps a term of art, although the 1983 Code of Canon Law avoids it; first appearing in Lumen Gentium §29, immediately afterwards in “Sacerdotalis Caelibatus,” and then in “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” it imports a continuing condition or status which will not cease upon ordination: this can only be the marriage bond itself.  To interpret it otherwise, as warranting the continuing use of marriage by a married deacon is to rest the use of marriage by a deacon upon a highly debatable exegesis of a rather obscure canonical phrase, and to suppose that such a drastic departure from tradition could rest upon such a debatable exegesis.

Such a putative papal rejection of the tradition of diaconal continence would require more foundation than the documents instituting the permanent diaconate can provide.  This is particularly the case when, as here, the implication of a papal dismissal of the requirement of diaconal continence would have clear doctrinal import, as is shown to be the case by Cochini’s establishment of the apostolic origin of the tradition of clerical celibacy.

The third of these documents, the “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” is Pope Paul VI’s formal statement of the rules governing the restored permanent diaconate.  In it, a paragraph confirming the existing law relative to the diaconate, except insofar as specifically altered (“nisi aliter cautum fuerit”), prefaces the numeration of the new regulations; viz:

698         Principio igitur quae in Codice Juris Canonici de diaconorum juribus et officiis, sive omnium clericorum communibus, sive eorundem propriis, statuuntur, ea omnia, nisi aliter cautum fuerit, confirmamus et in eos etiam valere edicimus, qui stabiliter in diaconatu sunt mansuri.  Pro quibus praeterea haec alia, quae sequuntur, statuimus.

There follow thirty-five headings of regulations respecting the restored permanent diaconate; of these, the second, eleventh, sixteenth, twenty-fifth, and twenty-sixth bear upon the requirement, or not, of diaconal continence.

The second paragraph contains a clear if unattributed paraphrase of the final sentence of Lumen Gentium §29; it merely changes the order of phrases in that sentence.  However, even as altered, this text deals only with celibate and noncelibate candidates for the diaconate, and says nothing which could be read to authorize the noncontinence of married deacons.  The law of celibacy, imposed on unmarried candidates for the diaconate, obviously does not hold for married candidates: once more, “celibate” means “unmarried,” and it is simply as a matter of definition that married candidates are not celibate.

Here we place in sequence, for purposes of comparison, once again the final sentence of Lumen Gentium, §29, and the excerpt from “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” which depends upon it:

Lumen Gentium, §29: De consensu Romani Pontificis hi Diaconatus viris maturioris aetatis etiam in matrimonio viventibus conferri poterit, necnon iuvenibus idoneis, pro quibus tamen lex coelibatus firma remanere debet.[27]

699         “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” ¶2: In petenda ab Apostolica Sede approbatione exponendae sunt tum causae, quae novam huiusmodi disciplinam aliqua in regione constitutendam suadeant, tum rerum condiciones, quae veram boni eventus spem afferant; itemque describendus erit eiusdem disciplinae modus, utrum videlicet agatur de diaconatu conferendo iuvenibus idoneis, pro quibus … lex caelibatus firma remanere debet, an viris maturioris aetatis, etiam in matrimonio viventibus, an utrique candidatorum generi.  (original emphasis)

To repeat, the reference in the latter excerpt to Lumen Gentium §29 is by way of italicization, not citation, and so can be said to be implicit.  It can be read only as warranting or authorizing the ordination of deacons “in matrimonio viventibus,” which is to say, the ordination of married men to the diaconate.  Nothing whatever appears in that text to authorize the novelty of a continuing exercise by them of conjugal relations subsequent to their ordination.  It cannot be said to have been instituted by the Pope even tacitly, as by indirection.  It is therefore evident that the condition of such a drastic change in the diaconate, as restored by Vatican II and Paul VI, viz., the “nisi aliter cautum fuerit” set forth in “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” at 698, quoted supra and again here, simply is not met:

698 Principio igitur quae in Codice Juris Canonici de diaconorum juribus et officiis, sive omnium clericorum communibus, sive eorundem propriis, statuuntur, ea omnia, nisi aliter cautum fuerit, confirmamus et in eos etiam valere edicimus, qui stabiliter in diaconatu sunt mansuri.  (emphasis added)

The eleventh paragraph of “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” requires the permission of the wife before the ordination of the married candidate to the permanent diaconate:

700         ¶11. Grandioris aetatis viri, sive caelibes sive etiam matrimonio conjuncti, ad diaconatum vocari possunt: hi vero ne admittantur, nisi constet non solum de uxoris consensu, sed de eiusdem etiam christiana morum probitate illisque dotibus, quae viri ministerium nec impediant nec dedecorent.  (emphasis added)

Once again, we here see celibacy contrasted not with noncontinence but with marriage, and the contrast evidently is understood as exhausting the possibilities.  This paragraph quite clearly restates the traditional requirement for permission from the wives of married ordinands who, by their husbands’ ordination and consequent continence, would find themselves comparably bound to continence: we shall see that the moral demands placed upon the wife by her husband’s ordination are sufficiently alluded to in the “nisi constet non solum de uxoris consensu, sed de eiusdem etiam christiana morum probitate illisque dotibus, quae viri ministerium nec impediant nec dedecorent.”

Paragraph sixteen is yet more difficult to account for, if one supposes the use of marriage by the married permanent deacon to be licit:

701         ¶16. Post ordinem receptum diaconi, grandiore etiam aetate promoti, ex tradita Ecclesiae disciplina ad ineundum matrimonium inhabiles sunt.

The phrase, “grandiore etiam aetate promoti,” can only refer to those candidates for the diaconate who are “viri(s) maturioris aetatis, etiam in matrimonio viventibus,” (“sive caelibes sive etiam matrimonio conjuncti”) i.e., the older candidates for the permanent diaconate, to whom the law of celibacy does not apply.  Here, we are informed that, whether married or not, once ordained the older deacons are incapable of marrying, or of marrying again.

It is impossible to understand why a second marriage should be excluded “ex tradita ecclesiae disciplina” if, contrary to that traditional discipline, conjugal intimacy in an existing marriage is acceptable.  The paragraph clearly refers back to the ancient tradition which found such a remarriage, with its implication of reinstituted conjugal intercourse by one in higher orders, entirely immoral and in fact impossible.  This interpretation, the sole possible one, of course invokes again the traditional law of continence for married deacons.

The twenty-fifth paragraph is as follows:

702         ¶25. Diaconi, utpote qui Christi et Ecclesiae mysteriis inserviant, a quovis pravitatis vitio se abstineant Deoque semper placere studeant, ad omne opus bonum pro hominum salute parati.9 (Cfr. 2 Tim 2,21)  Ob receptum ergo ordinem, longe aliis excellant oportet in vitae liturgicae actione, in studio precandi, in divino ministerio, in oboedientia, in caritate, in castitate.  (original emphasis)

First to be remarked of this paragraph is the Pope’s emphasis upon the traditional liturgical responsibility of the permanent deacon, a matter we have seen to have been largely ignored by Lumen Gentium §29.  Secondly, we note that the “castitas” to which the preceding quotation makes reference is the traditional equivalent of that “pudicitia” which from the earliest years had described the continence required of those ordained to the episcopacy, priesthood, and diaconate.[28]

The twenty-sixth paragraph of this papal document takes for granted the liceity of permanent deacons “in matrimonio viventium,” once again contrasting that state not with continence, but with celibacy.  A single diaconal spirituality is said to be incumbent upon both celibate deacons, and those who are married, viz., those “in matrimonio viventes:”

702-03   ¶26. Episcopalis Conferentiae erit efficaciores normas statuere ad spiritualem vitam alendam diaconorum, tam in caelibatu quam in matrimonio viventium.  Curant tamen locorum Ordinarii, ut omnes diaconi:

1)  assidue legendo attenteque secum meditando Dei verbo vacent;

2)  frequenter vel etiam cotidie, quantum fieri potest, Missae sacrificio actuosi intersint, SS. Eucharistiae sacramento reficiantur idemque pietatis causa invisant; (emphasis added)

Again, we note the stress which Pope Paul VI has placed upon the Eucharistic focus of the restored diaconate.  Here the Pope makes the first clear reference, whether in Lumen Gentium or in “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” to the ordained deacon as “in matrimonio vivens.”  The only use of such language in Lumen Gentium or in “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” related to married candidates for the diaconate.  If in fact “in matrimonio vivens” does imply ongoing conjugal relations, surely here was the place to have made it clear, for the contrast, constant heretofore, of celibacy with marriage, not with noncontinence or with the use of marriage, has excluded a reading of “in matrimonio viven(te)s” which would imply the liceity of marital intercourse after ordination to the diaconate.

The earlier paragraph (11) of the same document, in which we have read that the consent of the wife of the married candidate for the diaconate is prerequisite to his ordination, only confirms the equation of “in matrimonio viventes” with the reality of marriage bond itself:

700         ¶11. Grandioris aetatis viri, sive caelibes sive etiam matrimonio conjuncti, ad diaconatum vocari possunt: hi vero ne admittantur, nisi constet non solum de uxoris consensu, sed de eiusdem etiam christiana morum probitate illisque dotibus, quae viri ministerium nec empediant nec dedecorent.  (emphasis added.)

According to the tradition which Cochini and Stickler have cogently argued to be of apostolic origin, it was precisely the post-ordination use of marital relations by the married deacon which was described as an impediment to the diaconal ministry at the altar, and as indecent.  Consequently, the addition of this ad cautelam proviso must be read as meant to guard the consequently continent modality of life required for the admission of married candidates to diaconal orders: that they be continent thereafter, and this with the wife’s consent and with her foreseen moral support.

This interpretation is the simplest reading of the language of paragraph 26, “tam in caelibatu quam in matrimonio viventium.”  Once again, it is to be noted the paired opposites are presented as exhaustive; further, if “in caelibatu (viventes)” simply means “unmarried,” as opposed to “in matrimonio viventes” as the equivalent of “married,” nothing in this paragraph (26) can be shown to warrant a noncontinent married permanent diaconate.  If on the other hand “caelibatus” does not exhaust the alternatives to “in matrimonio vivens” this needs to be shown, whereas that it does not has only been assumed — unwarrantably — by those who suppose the married deacon to be permitted conjugal relations simply qua noncelibate.

It must be therefore be concluded that at this point in the documentation there has appeared no warrant for the novel understanding of the diaconate whereby the ordination of married men to the permanent diaconate would no longer oblige them to subsequent continence.  Because they are married, such deacons are by definition not celibate, but this says nothing as to their freedom to continue to engage in marital relations.  The relaxation of the “lex caelibatus” for the permanent diaconate does not in any manner imply the relaxation of the obligation of continence for those in major orders.  It is intended merely to open up candidacy for the permanent diaconate to a group of men formerly excluded from such orders by the fact of their married state, their noncelibacy.

It is further to be noted that conjoined to paragraph 26 supra is a subsection exhorting precisely the close association of the deacon with the Eucharistic sacrifice which has been — and remains — the liturgical ground for clerical continence.  In fact, whatever the silence of the Fathers at the Council on the point, “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” clearly assigns to the restored permanent diaconate the liturgical responsibilities within the Church’s Eucharistic worship which have been traditional to the diaconate as such:

701         ¶22.     Secundum memoratum Concilii Vaticani II Constitutionem, diaconi est, quatenus loci Ordinarius haec ipsa expedienda commiserit:

1)         inter actiones liturgicas episcopo et presbytero adesse in omnibus, quae rituales varii ordinis libri eidem attribuunt;

3)         Eucharistiam asservare, sibi ceterisque distribuere, eam in viaticum morientibus offere, atque eucharisticam benedictionem, quam dicunt, cum sacra pyxide populo impertire.

Further, the prefatory pages of “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” leave no doubt that the restored permanent diaconate is indeed the sacramental Order of the apostolic tradition, ordination to which confers a specific character, by which the deacon is ordered to the service of the altar.  This service of the altar had been further spelled out in earlier introductory paragraphs, among them following, which assign and confirm the traditional liturgical duties of the diaconate:

697-98   Sacrum diaconatus ordinem iam inde a prisca Apostolorum aetate catholica Ecclesia magno in honore habuit, quemadmodum ipse Gentium Doctor testatur, qui diaconos una cum episcopis nominatim salvere jubet1 (Cfr. Phil 1, 1) atque Timotheum docet, quaenam virtutes animique dotes ab iisdem sint expetendae, ut suo digni ministerio aestimentur.2 [Cfr. I Tim 3, 8-13.] (emphasis added)

Porro Oecumenicum Concilium Vaticanum II, perantiquam huiusmodi morem servans, honorificam diaconatus mentionem in Constitutione, a verbis Lumen Gentium incipienti, fecit ibique, cum de episcopis et presbyteris egisset, tertium quoque sacri ordinis gradum celebravit, eius dignitatem illustrando atque officia percensendo.  Verum hinc probe intellegens haec munera, ad vitam Ecclesiae summopere necessaria, in disciplina Ecclesiae latinae hodie vigenti in pluribus regionibus adimplere difficulter posse, hinc tantae rei commodius consulere exoptans, sapienter decrevit, ut diaconatus in futurum tamquam proprius ac permanens gradus hierarchiae restitui posset.3 (Cfr. n. 29; A.A.S. 57 [1965] p. 36.)

Quamvis enim nonnulla diaconorum munera laicis viris, in terris praesertim missionali opere excolendis, revera committi soleant, eos tamen juvat… qui ministerio vere diaconali fungantur…per impositionem manuum inde ab Apostolis traditam corroborari et altari arctius coniungi, ut ministerium suum per gratiam sacramentalem diaconatus efficacius expleant.4 (Cfr. Conc. Vat. II, Decr. Ad Gentes, n. 16; A.A.S. 58 [1966] p. 967)  Qua profecto ratione optimo quasi in lumine collocabitur propria huiusce Ordinis natura, qui non tamquam merus ad sacerdotium gradus est existimandus, sed indelebili suo charactere ac praecipua sua gratia insignis ita locupletatur, ut qui ad ipsum vocentur, ii mysteriis Christi et Ecclesiae stabiliter inservire possint.5  (Cfr. Conc. Vat. II, Const. Dogm. Lumen Gentium, n. 11: A.A.S. 57 [1965] p. 46.)

In 1972, norms for admission to the diaconate were promulgated in “Ad Pascendum;” these include:

6. The special consecration of celibacy observed for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and its obligation for candidates to the priesthood and for unmarried candidates for the diaconate are indeed linked with the diaconate.  The public commitment to holy celibacy before God and the Church is to be celebrated in a particular rite, even by religious, and is to precede ordination to the diaconate.  Celibacy taken on in this way is a diriment impediment to entering marriage.

In accordance with the traditional discipline of the Church, a married deacon who has lost his wife cannot enter a new marriage.26

26Apostolic Letter Sacram Diaconatus Ordinem, n. 16: A.A.S. 59 (1967), p. 701.

“Ad pascendum,” A.A.S. 64 [1972] 534-540; tr. Documents, 439

The language bearing upon the continence expected of the ordained deacon, married or unmarried, remains indirect.  For example, the celibacy attaching to the office of the priesthood, and of the unmarried deacon, is said to be a diriment impediment to marriage.  We have earlier seen that the married deacon is unable to remarry (“Post ordinem receptum diaconi, grandiore etiam aetate promoti, ex tradita Ecclesiae disciplina ad ineundum matrimonium inhabiles sunt”).  If there was there no explicit mention of a diriment impediment, it is understandable enough, for it is ordination to the diaconate which is the ground of the impediment: the language quoted here is sufficiently explicit as to its reality.  In the end, the obligation of consecrated celibacy is of sacramental, not merely of juridical provenance: thus before affirming that diaconal orders constitute a diriment impediment to marriage, “Ad Pascendum” speaks not of an illiceity but of an incapacity in the deacon with respect to subsequent marriage.

That the requirement of diaconal continence is left intact by Vatican II and Pope Paul VI is yet further manifest in the spate of scriptural and patristic references in “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” and again in “Ad Pascendum” — these references to Phil 1:1, to I Tim 3, to 2 Tim 2, to Ignatius Martyr, to Polycarp, to Irenaeus, to Justin Martyr, to Tertullian, to the Didascalia Apostolorum, to Hippolytus’ Traditio Apostolica, to Leo the Great — invite the application to the renewed permanent diaconate of all that had been understood by the patristic tradition to pertain to the diaconal office.

With the publication of Cochini’s research, anticipated by the work of Alfons Cardinal Stickler and confirmed by that of Roman Cholij, the burden of going forward with the evidence rests upon whoever would deny that the apostolic tradition of continence is integral to the apostolic and the patristic understanding of the diaconal Order, and consequently that the tradition is liturgical and therefore is doctrinal.  It is not at all a mere disciplinary usage, as Cochini and Cholij have shown.

As prelude to the list of “norms” set out in “Ad Pascendum,” Pope Paul VI recited his extensive consultation with “experts,” as well as with the episcopal conferences.  It is inconceivable that he would have ignored the scholarship of Fr. Stickler who, raised by Pope John Paul II to the archiepiscopate in 1983 and to the Cardinalate in 1985, had already at the time of the Council a stellar reputation as a Church historian, and who as we have seen had published a paper directly on the continence of the diaconate in 1964 and another in 1970, well prior to “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” and “Ad Pascendum.”  Cochini has written:

Fr. Stickler was an expert at the Second Vatican Council, which decided, as we recall, the restoration of the permanent diaconate in the Church.  His study, “The Continence of the Deacon, Especially during the First Millennium of the Church,” published in 1964, was written as part of studies aiming to bring to the Council Fathers elements of reflection borrowed from history.  The author points out that one must understand celibacy in the early Church not only as meaning a prohibition of marriage, but also in the sense of perfect continence for those who were already married.  The Western Church Tradition is studied in the light of the teachings of the councils, of the Fathers, and of the Roman pontiffs who always preserved (or restored) its essential features.  The author opines it is on the basis of motivations inherent in the very nature of the Order and of the sacred ministry that this uninterrupted tradition demands a perfect continence on the part of those who have been married before receiving sacred Orders.

Apostolic Origins, at 43.

The doctrinal point raised by Fr. Stickler — viz., that continence is integral to the diaconal service at the altar — seems never to have been expressly contested by the Fathers in the Council.  This impression is confirmed by the conciliar reportage, supposing it to be accurate, of Vorgrimler and Philips, supra, as well as that of Henri Fesquet.[29]  Similarly, Michael Novak’s fuller account of the debate over diaconal celibacy never touches on this point.  The only debate was over marriage versus celibacy for the diaconate; the continence which the tradition has required of married deacons simply did not arise as a topic of discussion.

In connection with this reportage, it is noteworthy that Stickler’s name, that of a peritus at the Council who had addressed this much-discussed subject expressly in the 1964 article cited by Cochini, supra, is not found in the index of Vorgrimler’s Commentary, in which the quotations supra from Vorgrimler and Philips appeared; neither is he mentioned in Fesquet’s book, nor in Novak’s, nor in the Actus Synodalia.  It can hardly be supposed, then, that his well-known position had been controverted by the conciliar Fathers: such a controversy could not have passed unnoticed, whereas we have both Vorgrimler and Philips as witnesses to its absence from the conciliar discussion.  We must conclude that Stickler’s point of view was never opposed at the Council, and more likely, that the question of whether or not the married permanent deacon was to be continent was not raised at all.  As has been seen, it does appear that a large minority of the conciliar Fathers took for granted the noncontinence of the married diaconate: otherwise, the minority approval of waiving celibacy also for the younger candidates for the diaconate is without point.

Cochini has shown that the continence of the diaconate was from the earliest records considered to be on the same level as that of the priest and the bishop, and that this requirement of continence in those serving the altar did and does not rest upon such early legislation as that promulgated by the Councils of Elvira (305) and of Carthage (390) (which, bye the bye, are cited neither by “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” nor by “Ad Pascendum”) but rests rather upon a liturgically-grounded apostolic tradition which links celibacy and marital continence to the intercessory Eucharistic role of the higher clergy, whose rank reflects the level of their direct responsibility for the celebration of the Mass.  Following I Tim 3:8-13, this continence was from the earliest times held consistent with the ordination of married men to the episcopate, the priesthood and the diaconate, who were held to strict continence thereafter.  Such ordination of married men was predicated upon the prior consent of the wives of the candidates, for of course ordination imposed continence upon them as well as upon their husbands, even to the point of forbidding the widows of deacons, as well as of priests and bishops, to remarry quite as it forbade widower bishops and priests to remarry; we have seen this requirement reaffirmed in §11 of “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” and also in the 1983 Code of Canon Law.  The ordination of younger, unmarried men to the diaconate required then as now a life-long commitment to celibacy and obviously to continence.

It is only with the Council in Trullo, at the end of the seventh century, that this discipline lapsed in the Eastern Churches; Cochini has detailed the circumstances of this deviation, and Cholij, a priest of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, has seconded Cochini’s conclusion that it is indeed a deviation, as has also Henri Crouzel.[30]

In the light of Lumen Gentium’s omission, stressed by Vorgrimler, of any mention of participation in the celebration of the Eucharist as among the duties, liturgical and otherwise, of permanent deacons, it might have been asked whether the “permanent diaconate” envisaged by the Council had not suffered a sea change from that of which the apostolic tradition has demanded celibacy.  For an instance of such change exists: Cochini and Cholij both record a change in liturgical responsibility in the reverse direction, which affected the subdiaconate in the West from the fifth century onward to Vatican II.  From its primitive standing as an exterior service or ministry akin to that of an acolyte, lector or porter, the subdiaconate had by the fifth century became directly involved in the celebration of the Eucharistic mystery.  Thereupon it was recognized by the Pope as a major Order, and its candidates were committed to continence, despite the considerable inconveniences involved in the drastic demand this novelty placed upon married subdeacons.  The abolition of the subdiaconate as a major Order, and its consequent dissociation from celibacy by Pope Paul VI in “Ministeria Quaedam,” §4,[31] can only reflect a shifting of the liturgical responsibilities of the subdiaconate away from direct responsibility for the Eucharistic celebration.  In Rahner’s view, just such a shifting of responsibility, from liturgical to practical responsibilities, would appear to have long since overtaken the permanent diaconate at the time of its recommended reinstitution by Lumen Gentium and Ad Gentes Divinitus, and its actual institution by “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” and “Ad Pascendum.”

However, if only because the conciliar motives for that reinstitution of the permanent diaconate, as set forth in Lumen Gentium, §29 did not touch the diaconal exercise of a direct responsibility in the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice, it is evident that no change in the liturgical responsibilities of the permanent diaconate was in contemplation at the Council.  What may have been assumed by many of the Fathers present there is another matter.

In any case, Paul VI, in “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” explicitly reaffirmed the liturgical and particularly the Eucharistic responsibility, and the correlative Eucharistic spirituality, of the restored diaconate.  The Pope was equally insistent upon the traditional hierarchical rank of the permanent diaconate, and upon the indelible sacramental character which the ordination to it, by the imposition of hands, effects.

There can be no doubt that the Pope has restored the permanent diaconate in the sense of the traditional, sacramentally-conferred, hierarchical Order, an Order which he describes in the traditional language of “altari arctius conjungi.”[32]  It is this closeness to the altar, inseparable from their liturgical office, that Cochini has shown to be the basis for the ancient tradition requiring continence of deacons, as it is required of bishops and of priests.

Yet further: it must be kept in mind that the Nota Explicativa which Pope Paul VI added as an appendix to Lumen Gentium bars the reading into that document, by way of a supposedly latent implication, of any novel doctrinal affirmation:

the sacred synod declared as binding on the Church only those matters of faith and morals which it has expressly put forward as such.[33]

It is impossible to find in the documents of Vatican II any intent or indeed any intimation of an intent to teach a novel interpretation of the sacrament of orders; in fact, the conciliar intent to attach the renewal of the permanent diaconate to the biblical and patristic tradition is evident.

Thus, the post-conciliar proliferation of married and noncontinent deacons, in the face of an evident apostolic tradition denying the liceity of such a practice, demands a solution which can only be an explicit recognition of the binding character of the apostolic tradition of diaconal continence.  The pastoral problem has no other answer, for any alternative would undercut the nature of the diaconate itself, as arctius altari conjungi.  Further, the implications of the noncontinent married diaconate for the celibate priesthood cannot be ignored: if a noncontinent diaconate, “altari arctius conjungi,” is legitimate in the Latin Church, all that remains for the legitimation of a married and noncontinent priesthood and episcopacy is negotiation of the terms of the surrender of all sacramental realism.  In the final analysis, we are dealing with a matter which puts in issue the point upon which the Reformation turned, and which was resolved at Trent: the Mass as the celebration, or not, of the Eucharistic sacrifice.  If the apostolic doctrine on that point is to be upheld, so also that which is strictly conjoined to it, the celibacy of those who serve the altar upon which the One Sacrifice is offered and the One Flesh of the New Covenant instituted.

The contemporary fact of the married deacons — and perhaps of married priests as well — in full exercise at once of their marital intimacy and their orders is an obvious surd in Roman Catholic life and worship, for the coincidence of conjugal relations with responsibility for service arctius altari conjungi has been illicit since apostolic times for reasons going to the heart of the Church’s Eucharistic worship in truth.  Consequently, there is every reason to deny that the restoration of the permanent diaconate in any sense legitimates the noncontinence of deacons “in matrimonio viventes.”

The Fathers at Vatican II, and Paul VI in his implementation of Lumen Gentium, §29, were intent upon the restoration of the third hierarchical Order; it is evident from the opening paragraphs of “Pontificalis Romani Recognitio” that there was no intent to introduce a novelty:

Pontificalis Romani recognitio non tamen generali modo a Concilio Oecumenico Vaticano II praescribitur,1 sed etiam peculiaribus regitur normis, quibus eadem Sacra Synodus ritus Ordinationum, sive quoad caeremonias sive quoad textus2 dimutari iussit.  (original emphasis)

Sed ex Ordinationis ritibus illi imprimis considerandi sunt, quibus per Sacramentum Ordinis, vario gradu collatum, sacra Hierarchia constituitur: sic ministerium ecclesiasticum divinitus institutum diversis ordinibus exercetur ab illis qui iam ab antiquo Episcopi, Presbyteri, Diaconi vocantur.3  (original emphasis)

In recognitione autem ritus Ordinationum Sacrarum, praeter principia generalia, quibus integra instauratio Liturgiae, iuxta praescripta Concilii Vaticani II, regi debet, summopere attendendum est ad praeclaram illam doctrinam de natura et effectibus Sacramenti Ordinis, quae in Constitutione de Ecclesia ab eodem Conciliio pronuntiata est, nam textus et ritus ita ordinari oportet ut sancta, quae significant, clarius exprimant, eaque populus christianus, in quantum fieri potest, facile percipere atque plena, actuosa et communitatis propria celebratione participare possit.4  (original emphasis)

1Conc Vat. II, Const. de Sacra Liturgia, Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 25: A.A.S. 56 (1964) p. 107.

2Ibid., n. 76: A.A.S. 56 (1964) p. 119.

3Conc. Vat. II, Const. dogm. de Ecclesia, Lumen gentium, n. 28: A.A.S. 57 (1965) pp. 33-34.

4Conc Vat. II, Const. de Sacra Liturgia, Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 21: A.A.S. 56 (1964) p. 106.

After reading language such as this, it is impossible to believe that the restoration of the permanent diaconate by the Council and the Pope contemplated making any alteration in the sacrament of orders.  Some at least of the conciliar Fathers must have been aware of the doctrinal weight of the traditional obligation of diaconal continence; Fr. Stickler’s articles would not have passed unnoticed.  While the Fathers agreed at the Council to permit a married permanent diaconate, and while there is reason to suppose that the commentators we have cited (Vorgrimler, Philips, Novak, Fesquet), and with them a minority of the Fathers, understood the phrase “in matrimonio viventibus” to connote or denote permission for the continuing use of marriage by married deacons, there is no indication in the records of the conciliar debates that the Fathers ever approved a noncontinent married diaconate.  In fact, the evidence is all to the contrary effect.  The reasons for the confusion at the Council over the meaning of diaconal celibacy are not apparent on the record.[34]

Married bishops, priests, and deacons are no novelty in the Church, but the use of marriage by men in major orders is precisely the novelty which Stickler understood it to be; we have seen Stickler repeat this conviction, which the research of Cochini and Cholij has since corroborated.

Finally, the theological development of the doctrine of “Pastores Dabo Vobis” presented by Archbishop Stafford’s lecture provides further reason for agreeing with Cochini’s affirmation of the patristic origin of the Latin tradition of clerical celibacy; it does appear that the sacramental signs themselves of marriage and of orders intimate the impropriety of noncontinence in anyone who is “altari arctius coniungi,” as we have seen the diaconal office described by Paul VI in “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem.”

Vorgrimler has pointed to the large minority of bishops at the Council who voted to relieve even the unmarried deacon of any consequent obligation of celibacy.  We can hardly suppose so large a number of the world’s Catholic bishops to be intent upon dismissing an apostolic doctrine, and yet the perduring tradition of clerical continence can have no other ground — but this is precisely what does not appear to have been suspected by that minority of Fathers who voted against diaconal celibacy at the Council.  The minority of the Fathers — a sizable minority — quite clearly intended to dispense even the young unmarried deacons from both celibacy and from continence in marriage.  The only alternative to this conclusion is that the minority read “celibacy” strictly, to mean unmarried simply, so that the dropping of the requirement of celibacy for unmarried deacons meant permission for them to marry after ordination coupled with the obligation to live continently thereafter — but for the reasons which have been set out, that alternative appears to be excluded: in brief, it is pointless.

When the majority reaffirmed the requirement of celibacy traditional for unmarried deacons, and at the same time approved the ordination of married men to the diaconate — thus approved the ordination to the permanent diaconate of men who were not celibate — they did not thereby license the use of marriage by such deacons; had they done so, there would have been no possible basis for their firm refusal to drop the requirement of celibacy for younger candidates for the diaconate.

In sum, there is every reason to insist that the sacrament of orders remains as it has been, and that the current practice — one cannot speak of its canonical institution — of a noncontinent diaconate is an aberration which will not attain a permanent standing in the Church.

Donald J. Keefe, S.J.

(formerly) St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie

October, 1998

Unpublished

[ed. note: while this essay shows signs of being dated, the essential dogmatic elements remain the same]


Endnotes

[1] Alfons Stickler, “La continenza dei diaconi specialmente nel primo millenio della chiesa,” Salesianum 26 (1964) 275-302; “Tratti salienti nella storia del celibato,” Sacra Doctrina 15 (1970) 585-620; “Il celibato ecclesiatico” in L’Osservatore della Domenica, supplements to nos. 103, 109, and 115 of L’Osservatore Romano for May 6, 13, 20, 1979; “L’évolution de la discipline du célibat dans l’Église en Occident de la fin de l’âge patristique au Concile de Trente,” in Sacerdoce et célibat.

[2] Archbishop (now Cardinal) J. Francis Stafford, “The Eucharistic Foundation of Sacerdotal Celibacy,” Origins 23/12 (2 Sept., 1993) 211-216.  The then-Archbishop Stafford delivered this address at a conference on the priesthood, held under the auspices of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy on May 26-28, 1993, at the Gregorian University in Rome to mark the first anniversary of the papal encyclical, Pastores Dabo Vobis.  His essay relies upon Christian Cochini, S.J., Origines apostoliques du célibat sacerdotal.  Préface du Père A. Stickler; coll. Le Sycamore (Paris: Éditions Lethielleux; Namur: Culture et Vérité, 1981).  Page references hereafter to Fr. Cochini’s chef d’oeuvre will be to its English translation, The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy.  With a Preface by Father Alfons M. Stickler.  Translated by Nelly Marans (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990) [henceforth, Apostolic Origins].  This latter edition is furnished with an index, unfortunately lacking in the original.  See also Roman Cholij, Clerical Celibacy In East And West.  Foreword by Alfons Cardinal Stickler, S.D.B., Librarian and Archivist of the Holy Roman Church; Preface by Michael Napier of the Oratory (Leominster, Herfordshire: Fowler Wright Books, 1989) [henceforth, Clerical Celibacy].  At the time of his writing, Fr. Cholij, a priest of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, was secretary to the bishop of the Ukrainian-rite Catholics of London.  As Cardinal Stickler observes, Fr. Cholij’s book is a most valuable supplement to Fr. Cochini’s work, the more so in that although himself a member of a rite (Ukrainian) permitting the ordination of married men and their subsequent exercise of marital rights, Cholij agrees with Cochini that this concession rests upon a mistaken interpretation written by the Quinisext Council (In Trullo) into the Greek translation of the canons of the Council of Carthage.

Fr. Cochini’s book originated as a doctoral dissertation for the Institut Catholique (Paris), while Fr. Cholij’s study was written as a doctoral dissertation in canon law at the GregorianUniversity in Rome.  Cochini’s dissertation, defended before a board headed by Jean Cardinal Daniélou, S.J., was at the latter’s urging, with the approval of Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and under Fr. Alfons Stickler’s guidance, later expanded into the present work.  Its invaluable contribution to the theology of Orders seems to have been little  regarded in this country, although since its appearance in English translation it is being widely read.  Its distinguished author is now a missionary in Taiwan.

[3] During the summer of 1998, American ordinaries received two documents, written in close association by, respectively, the Congregation for the Clergy and the Congregation for Education.  The document from the Congregation for the Clergy was published in English as “Basic Norms for the Formation of Permanent Deacons,” Origins 28/11 (Aug. 1998) 181-91.  In it we read:

For married candidates, to live love [sic] means offering themselves to their spouses in a reciprocal belonging, in a total, faithful and indissoluble union in the likeness of Christ’s love for his church, at the same time it means welcoming children, loving them, educating them and showing forth to the whole church and society the communion of the family (§68, 188a; emphasis added).

An English translation of the document issued by the Congregation for Education was published in the same number of Origins as “Directory for the Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons,” ibid., 191-204; it contains the following passage:

In particular, the widowed deacon should be supported in living perfect perpetual continence.192  He should be helped to understand the profound ecclesial reasons which preclude his remarriage (cf. I Tim 3:12), in accordance with the constant discipline of the church in the East and West.193  (§62, at 200b; emphasis added).

192Cf. Canon 277.1.

193Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, III, 16; Ad Pascendum, VI; Canon 1087.  Provision is made for possible exceptions to this discipline in the June 6, 1997, circular letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship; and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Prot. No. 26397, 8.

The circular letter referenced in the footnote quoted supra (193) was published in English as “Deacons’ Remarriage: Laicizing Priests,” Origins 27/11 (Aug. 28, 1997), 169, 171-72, wherein we read:

1. The competence1 to treat of cases of dispensation from the obligations of sacred ordination and of vows in the above mentioned institutes, such dispensation being inseparably connected with dismissal from the clerical state, lies with this congregation. (at 169b; emphasis added)

1Cf. Secretary of State, Letter 230.139 (Feb. 8, 1989).

On the next page of the English tr. of the circular letter the following language appears:

6. As a consequence of the new disposition concerning the permanent diaconate and of the norms issued by the Holy See5 and by numerous episcopates regarding formation, lifestyle and ministerial activities entrusted to deacons, a difficulty that arises from the impediment preventing “married permanent deacons, widowed after ordination” from contracting a further marriage [sic].  Such a second marriage after ordination could in fact be attempted only under the pain of canonical nullity.6  (at 171a-b)

5Cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 29; Paul VI, apostolic letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem (June 18, 1967): A.A.S. 59 (1967), pp. 697-704; apostolic constitution Pontificalis Romani Recognitio (June 18, 1968): A.A.S. 60 (1968), pp. 369-373; apostolic letter Ad Pascendum (Aug. 15, 1972): A.A.S. 64 (1972), pp. 534-550; Code of Canon Law, Canons 236, 276.2 and .3; 1035.1; 1037; 1042.,1; 1053.3; John Paul II, “Catechesis” from the Oct. 13, 1993, general audience address: Insegnamenti XVI, 2 (1993), pp. 1000-1004; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1554.

6Ad Pascendum, VI, and Canon 1087 in connection with Canon 1078.2.1.

7. For some time it has been evident that because of this prohibition grave difficulties have arisen for those who have been widowed after ordination but are desirous of remaining in the diaconal ministry.

8. With a view to establishing a new practice modifying the current norm, which requires three cumulative and simultaneous conditions which would constitute motivating exceptions for the granting of a dispensation from the prohibition of Canon 1087, this dicastery has requested and has obtained from the Holy Father that any one of the three following conditions taken singly are [sic] sufficient for a favorable consideration of the dispensation from this impediment, namely:

—The great and proven usefulness of the ministry of the deacon to the diocese to which he belongs.

—That he has children of such a tender age as to be in need of motherly care.

—That he has parents or parents-in-law who are elderly and in need of care (§8, at 171b).

And finally, at the end of the circular letter:

9. The Cardinal Secretary of State, in a letter (No. 4092.629) of Feb. 27, 1997, has communicated the approval given by the Holy Father on Feb. 10, 1997, to these above-mentioned new criteria regarding the dispensation from celibacy for priests under the age of 40; and in a letter of March 22, 1997 (No. 402.629) [sic], permission was given for the new conditions under which dispensation may be granted from the impediment to a second marriage on the part of the permanent deacons who have been widowed after ordination.  It was further established that this circular letter be sent to diocesan and religious ordinaries informing them of these new measures for future reference.

10. Diocesan and religious ordinaries are therefore kindly requested to give due attention to these instructions should they have occasion to forward petitions for dispensation to this congregation.

Vatican City, June 6, 1997

Archbishop Jorge Medina Estevez, Pro-Prefect

Archbishop Geraldo M. Agnelo, Secretary

The first passage quoted, (§68) excerpted from the document published by the Congregation for the Clergy, clearly knows nothing of, or ignores, the traditional requirement that married men in major orders be continent in their marriage after ordination: the propriety of sexual relations between married deacons and their wives is even insisted upon.  As will be shown, the liceity of this departure from tradition was never discussed during the Council by any of the bishops concerned for the married diaconate.  Further: it is evident that with their promulgation by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the new norms annul the diriment impediment to marriage constituted by prior ordination to major Orders.  The “diriment” character of that impediment has been summarily negated; the impediment of Orders has been treated as though it were of merely canonical provenance and standing, and its dispensability thereby taken for granted.  The “great and proven usefulness of the ministry of the deacon, etc.,” now trumps “the constant discipline of the church in the East and West” which has required that “such dispensation (be) inseparably connected with dismissal from the clerical state” — this inseparable connection of its dispensation with dismissal from the clerical state is that which makes the impediment of Orders to be a diriment impediment.  The constant tradition of the Church, East and West, has been denied doctrinal significance, and this without any discussion of the subject by the bishops at Vatican II or elsewhere, and in the entire absence of any competent theological inquiry into the matter other than that provided by Stickler, Cochini and Cholij, whose unanimity contradicts the assumptions of both Congregations and of the Secretary of State.

It is to be noted that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, while asserting that “this dicastery has requested and obtained from the Holy Father that any one of the three following conditions taken singly are sufficient for a favorable consideration of the dispensation from this impediment, etc.,” relies for this assertion of papal permission upon a document which on this point is at best ambiguous, for we have read in the circular letter that:

in a letter of March 22, 1997 (no. 402.629) permission was given for the new conditions under which dispensation may be granted from the impediment to a second marriage on the part of permanent deacons who have been widowed after ordination.

In the first place, the protocol number assigned this letter of March 22nd is the same as given the letter received the previous February 27th concerning the dispensation of laicized priests: both numbers may be in error, and one of them must be.  However that may be, in the footnote citing both of these letters from the Secretary of State we have read that:

The Cardinal Secretary of State, in a letter (No. 4092.629) of Feb. 27th, 1997, has communicated the approval given by the Holy Father on Feb. 10, 1997, to these above-mentioned new criteria regarding the dispensation from celibacy for priests under the age of 40; and in a letter of March 22nd, 1997 (No. 402.629) [sic], permission was given for the new conditions under which dispensation may be granted from the impediment to a second marriage on the part of the permanent deacons who have been widowed after ordination.

Here the Congregation clearly asserts, in the active voice, that the Cardinal Secretary of State has communicated to the Congregation for Divine Worship a papal permission to dispense, under certain circumstances, laicized priests under the age of forty from their canonical incapacity to marry.  In this direct statement there is nothing startling, for while the laicization of a priest does not imply such dispensation, and while its discretional grant by the Pope to priests who have been thus dismissed from the clerical state may be more or less rare, such a dispensation presents no novelty.  However, in the Congregation’s circular letter we find incongruously associated with this dispensation granted to laicized priests, another and entirely different situation.  For it is to be noted that the description in the Congregation’s ‘circular letter,” of the Secretary of State’s letter of March 22nd, couched in the passive voice, makes no mention of any papal approval of the dispensation which may be granted by the Secretary of State to widowed deacons from the canon law and the ancient tradition which have barred their remarriage.  Rather, in that same passive voice, we read that, in the March 22nd letter, “permission was given” to the Congreation for Divine worship to grant such dispensations: it does not say by whom permission was given.

Where, as here in the case of widowed deacons, a papal permission to dispense from a diriment impediment is not clearly asserted, as it was in the circular letter’s immediately prior discussion of the dispensation of laicized priests, that permission cannot be presumed, as the circular letter presumes it.

In the absence of a clearly and responsibly affirmed papal permission, who has the canonical authority to grant such a dispensation from a traditionally diriment impediment?  Within the ambiguous context of the Congregation’s ‘circular letter,’ which touches its jurisdiction, the question does not arise.  Viz., we read:

1. The competence1 to treat of cases of dispensation from the obligations of sacred ordination and of vows in the above mentioned institutes, such dispensation being inseparably connected with dismissal from the clerical state, lies with this congregation. (at 169b; emphasis added)

1Cf. Secretary of State, Letter 230.139 (Feb. 8, 1989).

The second clause of the quoted sentence is clearly a continuing limitation placed upon the authority of the Congregation for Divine Worship.  The limitation is stated in the present tense, as a fact in being at the time of the writing of the letter.  And in fact, nothing in the following paragraphs of the letter recite any expansion of this jurisdiction by the Pope, who alone can dispense from diriment impediments.  There is only the general statement by the Congregation in paragraph 8, which we have read supra, stating that:

8.   With a view to establishing a new practice modifying the current norm, which requires three cumulative and simultaneous conditions which would constitute motivating exceptions for the granting of a dispensation from the prohibition of Canon 1087, this dicastery has requested and has obtained from the Holy Father that any one of the three following conditions taken singly are [sic] sufficient for a favorable consideration of the dispensation from this impediment, namely:

—The great and proven usefulness of the ministry of the deacon to the diocese to which he belongs.

—That he has children of such a tender age as to be in need of motherly care.

—That he has parents or parents-in-law who are elderly and in need of care (at 171b).

This is curious: the “motivating exceptions” apply to all dispensations from “the prohibition of Canon 1087”, which applies to everyone in major orders, not merely to deacons: it reads:

Can. 1087 – Invalide matrimonium attentant qui in sacris ordinis sunt constituti.

Yet we have seen that the circular letter’s application of these exceptions to the dispensation of priests from “the prohibition of Canon 1087” requires their prior laicization, in such wise that these exceptions can have no bearing on their case.  Viz.: the first condition expressly concerns deacons who will remain in the exercise of their orders, while the second and third “conditions” for granting dispensations from Canon 1087 likewise can have no application to the previously unmarried and now laicized priest, unless it contemplates condoning the contumacious attempted marriage of the previously laicized priest under the age of forty who, unable for some reason to meet his responsibilities for his young children, or parents, or parents in-law, now seeks a dispensation from Canon 1087, which condonation can hardly be presumed.   Nonetheless, we have seen that the next paragraph of the circular letter expressly applies these new conditions to priests:

9. The Cardinal Secretary of State, in a letter (No. 4092.629) of Feb. 27, 1997, has communicated the approval given by the Holy Father on Feb. 10, 1997, to these above-mentioned new criteria regarding the dispensation from celibacy for priests under the age of 40; and in a letter of March 22, 1997 (No. 402.629) [sic], permission was given for the new conditions under which dispensation may be granted from the impediment to a second marriage on the part of the permanent deacons who have been widowed after ordination.

The clarification of this confusion must be left to canonists: it defeats common sense.

The puzzlement over the reality of an intimated papal approval of the new conditions which would permit the novel remarriage of widowed men in major orders without their prior laicization, which in fact underwrites the encouragement given them by the Congregation for Education and the Congregation for the Clergy to live in marital relations with their wives, might easily be resolved, were the subject letter of March 22nd letter from the Cardinal Secretary of State to the Congregation for Divine Worship available for public or even episcopal inspection.  However, such correspondence is not available in any published collection insofar as a reasonably diligent search can discover.  Thus, even were its protocol number accurately cited in the English tr. of the circular letter in Origins, it would be without value to anyone seeking that information.

One cannot but wonder why these two letters from the Secretary of State, disparate in time as well as in subject matter, were so closely associated by the circular letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship.  They were dealt with separately by the Secretary of State, and no reason appears for their being lumped together four or five months later by the Congregation for Divine Worship: we have seen the muddle which this close association has permitted and perhaps forced.  Further, such a clear departure, in the case of the widowed permanent deacon, from an ecclesial tradition whose authority is nonetheless cited in the first section of that circular letter, needs some rather more solemn form of communication than can be provided by a circular letter.

In this connection, it should not pass without remark that the title given this circular letter by the editor of Origins simply reverses the letter’s order of treatment of its subject matter, which deals first with the dispensation of laicized clergy, and only then with the dispensation of widowed permanent deacons.  This was hardly inadvertent: the editor recognized the relative unimportance of the former subject, and the high significance of the latter, and thus testifies further to the incongruity of their being bundled together in the circular letter.

Not only is the situation anomalous which results from the novel dispensation granted widowed permanent deacons from what has been the diriment impediment of Orders to marriage: it clearly invites a comparable nullification of the celibacy and continence required of the priesthood by a comparably ancient ecclesial tradition, and by the canon law.  This outcome might be thought acceptable on the ground that several Eastern Churches in union with Rome nonetheless permit the marriage of their priests prior to ordination.  They do not of course permit the re-marriage of their priests after ordination without having first dismissed them from the clerical state.  The Eastern practice since Trullo provides no grounds for the re-marriage of widowed permanent deacons.

Once the widowed deacon’s re-marriage is admitted as consistent with his continuing in the exercise of his orders — i.e., with remaining in his clerical state — not only is there undercut the continent fidelity traditionally essential to the spirituality of Orders; there is also invoked by this anomaly a Protestant interpretation of the Eucharist.

Given that the permanent deacon is in major Orders, and thereby arctius altari conjungi, his capacity to remarry while in the exercise of his Order implies either that the diaconal Order is no longer arctius altari conjungi, or that the Eucharist is no longer the offering of the One Sacrifice of the Second Adam for the Second Eve, for by this authorization of the remarriage of widowed deacons the nuptial symbolism of the sacrament of Orders has been dismissed without any discussion of that symbolism, or even any exhibition of interest in it, and this on the level of universally-distributed proclamations by two of the Vatican dicasteries.

The anomaly of diaconal remarriage may continue to be ignored, as it has been by documents issuing from three Vatican dicasteries and the from Vatican Secretary of State: it does not thereby cease to insert confusion into the sacrament of Orders, a confusion which touches the Church’s worship in truth.  Catholic sacramental worship is utterly dependent upon the truth, the authenticity of its sacramental signs, whose institution is of God, not man, but whose safeguard must be the Magisterium.

[4] Actus Synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II, Vol. III, periodus tertia, Pars I, Sessio Publica IV. Congregationis Generalis LXXX-LXXXII (Rome: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1973) [hereafter, Actus Synodalia], 259-69, esp. 266ff.

[5]A.A.S. 57 [1965] 36.

[6]Codex Juris Canonici, C. 277 distinguishes clearly between celibacy and continence:

§1. Clerici obligatione tenentur servandi perfectam perpetuamque propter Regnum coelorum continentiam, ideoque ad caelibatem adstringuntur, quod est peculiare Dei donum, quo quidem sacri ministri indiviso corde Christo facilius adhaerere possunt atque Dei hominumque servitio liberius sese dedicare valent.

§2. Debita cum prudentia clerici se gerant cum personis, quarum frequentatio ipsorum obligationem ad continentiam servandam in discrimen vocare aut in fidelium scandalum vertere possit.

The distinction between continence and celibacy is again recognized in C. 599:

Evangelicum castitatis consilium propter Regnum coelorum assumptum, quod signum est mundi futuri et fons uberioris fecunditatis in indiviso corde, obligationem secumfert continentiae perfectae in caelibatu.

The most recent examination of the historical articulation of this apostolic tradition, with an overview and criticism of previous studies of clerical celibacy, is provided by Christian Cochini’s study, cited in note 2, supra.  In the foreword of Roman Cholij’s comparable work, Clerical Celibacy In East And West, also cited in note 2, supra, Cardinal Stickler has written that:

These two studies surpass, therefore, all the preceding ones which are often one-sided and even historically wrong, and will constitute in the future the new, scientifically certain basis for every safe statement in this delicate field with all its different and even opposed subjective meanings and objective difficulties.

[7]Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, [henceforth, Documents] at 387.

[8]The official summaries of the Conciliar discussion of diaconal celibacy may be found in Francisco Hellín, Concilii Vaticani II Synopsis in ordinem redigens schemata cum relationibus necnon Patrum orationes atque animadversiones 2. Constitutio Dogmatica de Ecclesia Lumen Gentium; ser. Studi sul Concilio Vaticano II (Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1995), 310-315; see also “Relationes circa Caput III”, 2066-2067; 2077-2080.

[9]This may be found in Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II [henceforth, Commentary] at 22-30.

[10]“Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” §16 (A.A.S. 59 [1967] 697-704) at 701.

[11]Stickler has drawn attention to the more inclusive understanding of celibacy in the early Church; see note 1, supra, and Cochini, Apostolic Origins, at 43.

[12]“Ad pascendum,” A.A.S. 64 (1972) 534-540; tr. Documents, at 439:

6. The special consecration of celibacy observed for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and its obligation for candidates to the priesthood and for unmarried candidates for the diaconate are indeed linked with the diaconate.  The public commitment to holy celibacy before God and the Church is to be celebrated in a particular rite, even by religious, and is to precede ordination to the diaconate.  Celibacy taken on in this way is a diriment impediment to entering marriage.

In accordance with the traditional discipline of the Church, a married deacon who has lost his wife cannot enter a new marriage.26

26Apostolic Letter Sacram Diaconatus Ordinem, n. 16: A.A.S. 59 (1967), p. 701.

[13]Archbishop Stafford developed this point in the lecture cited in note 2, supra.

[14]The review article, “The Apostolic Origins of Clerical Continence: A Critical Appraisal of a New Book,” Theological Studies 41 (1982) 693-705, which Fr. Roger Balducelli, O.S.F.S., directed to the French original of Cochini’s study, applies an Enlightenment notion of historicity to Cochini’s conclusion of the apostolic origins of clerical celibacy, and on that rather fragile if commonplace foundation dismisses Cochini’s findings.  This is to proceed rather by an ideologically-driven fiat than by a serious examination of Cochini’s argument.  The Enlightenment’s rationalization of history is really not the last word on the subject.

[15]I am indebted to a conversation with Edward N. Peters, J.D., J.C.D., Diocesan Director for Canonical Affairs for the Diocese of San Diego, for a clarifying insight into the failure of the conciliar Fathers to distinguish between celibacy and continence during their discussion of the renewal of the permanent diaconate.  Their inadvertent melding of celibacy with continence may well underlie the post-conciliar divagation from the ancient apostolic tradition of diaconal continence.

[16]Michael Novak, The OpenChurch: Vatican II, Act II (New York: Macmillan, 1962, 1963, 1964), 121-27; see also Ralph M. Wiltgen, S.V.D., The Rhine Flows Into The Tiber: The Unknown Council (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1967), 96-100.

[17]Gérard Philips, “History of the Constitution,” Commentary, 105-137.

[18]See note 33, infra.

[19]The point is developed in Gerald Emmett Cardinal Carter’s “Do This in Memory of Me”: A Pastoral Letter on the Sacrament of Priestly Orders (Toronto: The Mission Press, 8 December, 1983); see also the comparable pastoral letter of Archbishop J. Francis Stafford, “In the Person of Christ, The Head of the Body: The Mystery of the Priestly Vocation,” Origins 18 (1988) 349-360, together with the address cited in note 2, supra.

[20]At bottom, as Cardinal Stafford has pointed out, this is the relation between the ex opere operato effect of the sacrament (the res et sacramentum) — which is the diaconal, priestly or episcopal character in the ordained, and is the matrimonial vinculum in the married — to the ex opere operantis effect, (the res sacramenti) of the sacramental sign — which in the ordained is celibacy, in the married is fidelity, and in each is the free fulfillment, the spirituality, of the respective sacramental sign — whether of Orders or of Matrimony.

[21]Cf. note 1, supra.

[22]“Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” A.A.S. 59 [1967] 697-704, at 698.

[23]A.A.S. 59 (1967) 697-704.

[24]A.A.S. 60 (1968) 369-373.

[25]A.A.S. 64 (1972) 534-540; (Documents, 433-441).

[26]A.A.S. 59 (1967) 657, 697; §§ 13 and 42.

[27]See note 4, supra.

[28]Cochini, op. cit., 236 (quoting Ambrose, De officiis III (PL 104b-5a), 247-48, and citing Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea, the so-called Canons of Hippolytus, Epiphanius of Constantia, and Jerome; et passim.

[29]Henri Fesquet, The Drama of Vatican II: The Ecumenical Council, June 1962 – December, 1965; tr. Bernard Murchland; American Intro. by Michael Novak (New York: Random House, 1967).

[30]Henri Crouzel, “Une nouvelle étude sur les origines du célibat ecclésiastique,” Bulletin de littérature ecclésiastique 73 (1982) 293-97.  Cochini’s and Cholij’s works are cited in note 2, supra, et passim.

[31]A.A.S. 64 (15 August, 1972) 529-534; Documents 427-32.

[32]See note 22, supra.

[33]Documents, 423.

[34]The reasons given by the bishops and their theologians at the Council for their advocacy of a noncelibate permanent diaconate sometimes simply assumed without discussion that diaconal celibacy is without intrinsic relation to the diaconate.  This view appears in a highly pertinent document provided me by the late Fr. William J. O’Rourke, S.T.D., then pastor of St. Steven’s Church, Quinebaugh, CT.  Entitled “Formal Request to Restore the Diaconate as a Permanent Order Presented to the Fathers of Vatican Council II in 1962 by the Original Deacon Circle, Munich, West Germany,” it has more recently been translated and published by Patrick McCaslin and Michael Lawler as Appendix 2 of Sacrament of Service (Mahway, NY: Paulist Press, 1986).  Its signatories stressed that

The diaconate, to which, according to St. Paul (cf. I Tim 3:12) the earliest Church councils and the custom of the Eastern Churches up to the present day, married men are admitted, had in the early Church its own specific nature: the basic fundamental was always the liturgical office, while the exercise of the other essential offices, namely the works of charity and the ministry of the word, varied in importance according to the needs of particular places and times. (at 146)

Further on, to the same effect:

The tasks of the restored diaconate would all have their source and center in the intimate connection of the deacon’s office with the Holy Eucharist.  (at 146)

But the signatories and their theological advisor[s] evidently had no intimation of any causal link between that “intimate connection” and the tradition of diaconal celibacy, for they continue:

What of the question of celibacy?  The celibacy of the priest plays an impressive part in witnessing to the reality of supernatural goods, especially in our day, when so much emphasis is placed on the goods of this world.  This celibacy would also apply to deacons under the new plan, when they were members of religious orders.  On the other hand, the Church is also stressing more and more today the witnessing power of the sacrament of matrimony as a sign of Christ’s union with his Church and as a means of sanctification in the world.  As the diaconate of its nature does not require celibacy, it seems that there are rich potentialities for holiness in the married life for those who would also belong to the hierarchy of the Church as deacons.  (at 148-49)

Obviously, this highly pragmatic rationale for a married diaconate can apply to the priesthood as well as to the diaconate.  Further, we see here the confusion of noncelibacy with noncontinence in the allusion to the “rich potentialities for holiness in the married life.”  It would strain the intention of the authors considerably to read into such language that transcendence of matrimony by major orders and the consequent obligation of the ordained to live in continence, which the apostolic and patristic tradition affirms.

The pragmatic mentality we have noted in the “Original Deacon Circle” surfaces again in the near-ultimatum presented the conciliar Fathers by Bishop McHugh of Panama: “Aut diaconatus instauretur uxoratus, aut non instauretur.”  For Bishop McHugh, as for most of the bishops favoring the married diaconate, the justification for its renewal was pastoral and practical.  The married diaconate was perceived as a means of bringing a more or less influential class of laity into closer association with the mission of the Church.  Even Cardinal Spellman, although he had opposed the restoration of the permanent diaconate, had also treated the question of its restoration pragmatically, as a merely disciplinary matter, and Cardinal Döpfner of Munich, who rejected Cardinal Spellman’s objections to the restoration, evinced no interest in exploring the doctrinal content of the traditional requirement of celibacy in the diaconate, although he defended the sacramentality of the diaconate as a matter of doctrine.

Cardinal Döpfner was a major spokesman for the restoration of the permanent married diaconate; his argument, here as elsewhere, was clearly reliant upon the views of his famous peritus, Karl Rahner, whose viewpoint on the question is set out in “The Theology of the Restoration of the Diaconate,” Theological Investigations V, 269-314 (a translation of his contribution, “Die Theologie der Eneuerung des Diakonates,” to a massive collection of articles which he co-edited with Herbert Vorgrimler, Diaconia in Christo; ser. Quaestiones Disputatae 15/16 (Herder: Freiburg im Breisgau, 1962); see pp. 285-324).  In this essay, Rahner displays a highly nominalist theology of diaconal ordination and diaconal orders.  We find him simply reversing the order of sacramental causality, reasoning as though the sacramental sign were indefinitely plastic, continually informed by concrete facticity of the empirical situation, and not by the liturgical intentionality intrinsic to every sacramental sign and therefore intrinsic to the sacramental character received at ordination, the res et sacramentum which is the effect ex opere operato of the outpouring of the Spirit on the Church by the risen Christ.

E.g., we are told that

If one bears the distinction of office and of the rite of the transmission of office clearly in mind — and if one is quite clear in one’s mind about the fact that in the very nature of things a rite of the transmission of office can “demand” celibacy only if the office to be transmitted demands it — then it will be easy to answer the question with which we are now concerned.  For the Church shows by her practice that she does not see any very close and necessary connection between the office of deacon and celibacy.  For this office exists and is transmitted in the Church without celibacy being demanded.  For, those men and office-bearers in the Church in whose case the desirability of a sacramental transmission of office is indicated here are de facto for the most part married men, and neither the official Church nor people in the Church have ever maintained or felt any incompatibility or inconvenience in the co-existence of this office in recent centuries or at the present time.

Throughout this widely-published article, Rahner expressly presupposes that the service rendered by the participation of married laymen in the Church’s mission is the concrete exercise of a factual if anonymous diaconate which, as anonymous, can only have arisen and been transmitted nonsacramentally: we have seen him speak nonchalantly of deacons as

those men and office-bearers in the Church in whose case the desirability of a sacramental transmission of office is indicated here.  (emphasis added)

For Rahner, clearly enough, the meaning of the diaconal office is controlled by the pragmatics of its quite anonymous exercise.  This entirely gratuitous presupposition controls his analysis.  In view of the presupposed “de facto” situation, ordination to the diaconate, as he argues, must now conform to what that “diaconate” already is, by virtue of its supposedly de facto ongoing transmission and exercise by married laymen.  Every significant question is begged.

Rahner’s reasoning discounts a priori the sacramental efficacy ex opere operato of ordination to the diaconate, and reduces the Church’s liturgical worship to that level of historical anonymity which will support the article’s major premise of an anonymously transmitted diaconate already in existence as a matter of hard fact: i.e., pragmatically.  There is no reason for limiting his rational to the diaconate.

Consequently, for Rahner, the sacramental sign of diaconal orders is intrinsically empty, devoid of any intrinsic intelligibility and so without any intrinsic sacramental efficacy, for that intelligibility, and therefore that efficacy, according to Rahner’s postulate, have already been supplied ab extra, pragmatically and “anonymously” by the de facto historical situation.

To accept this rationale is to accept ordination sola fide; the diaconal Order can have nothing to do with the sacramental realism which specifies Catholicism, nor can any of those office-bearers in the Church in whose case the “desirability of a sacramental transmission of office is indicated”.

We need not here repeat nor enlarge upon the sharp criticism already made of Rahner’s sacramental theology: for a celebrated instance of that criticism, see William A. Van Roo, S.J., “Reflections on Karl Rahner’s “Kirche und Sakramente”,” Gregorianum 44 (1963) 465-500.  The same sacramental nominalism as Rahner then endorsed now serves such organizations as CORPUS with respect to their dismissal of any need for priestly celibacy, and such organizations as the Women’s Ordination Conference with respect to their dismissal of any need for priestly masculinity, or indeed for the priesthood as defined by the Council of Trent.

Summarily, those theologians and bishops favoring the restoration of the permanent diaconate as noncelibate generally understood celibacy to be a merely disciplinary usage, advantageous under past circumstances but without intrinsic significance for the diaconate, and a matter therefore dispensable for practical purposes.  The dropping of this supposedly extrinsic disciplinary requirement was dealt with by them simply as the quite acceptable and necessary price to be paid for supposedly pastoral ends — which were recited at length by some dozen contributors to the last section of the Diaconia in Christo.  It is fairly evident that when celibacy is understood to be merely a disciplinary matter, its waiver is eo ipso the waiver of continence in the married deacon: any other view must derive from something more than an extrinsic disciplinary usage.

The conciliar Fathers’ unconcern for the doctrinal weight of the ancient tradition of diaconal celibacy, and for any doctrinal import which the restoration of the permanent diaconate as noncontinent might have, was not uncommon.  While those favoring the restoration often stressed also the doctrinal character of the close association of the diaconate with the priesthood and the episcopacy, this association contributed little to the discussion.  The novel association of the restored diaconate with marriage and the exercise of marital intercourse by married deacons was much more in view, however uncritically, as the language, already cited, of the “Formal Request” of the Original Deacon Circle reveals:

the Church is also stressing more and more today the witnessing power of the sacrament of matrimony as a sign of Christ’s union with his Church and as a means of sanctification in the world.

From the perspective afforded by the passage of more than thirty years, it may be said that the hopes placed in such a “diaconate” as Rahner, the authors contributing to the final section of Diaconia in Christo, and “The Original Deacon Circle” envisaged, have not been fulfilled, whether in the First World or in the Third.  An anonymous diaconate is finally imperceptible, which is to say, fictive.  An anonymous diaconate cannot but vanish from history, for it has no sacramental objectivity, no character given ex opere operato by the efficacious sacramental sign that is ordination to the diaconal service of the altar, and can only be imperceptible to, and thus without impact upon, the secularity of the world.  If the restoration of the permanent diaconate is to be efficacious in those dioceses which elect it, such restoration can be realized only by a return to the Catholic tradition, and to a fuller appreciation of the sacramental, liturgical, and apostolic specificity of the diaconate than was in evidence among those discussing its renewal at Vatican II, or has been in evidence since.