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Whatever Happened to Sin?

The Permanent Diaconate

Chaper 4 from Africa: the Case for an Auxiliary Priesthood
by Raymond Hickey O.S.A.

Published by Geoffrey Chapman, London, 1980.
Published on our Website with the necessary permissions.

Any analysis of Catholic religious ministry in Africa crosses a threshold when it considers the diaconate. This is the threshold of the ordained ministry and entry into the hierarchy of the Church. We are now in the area of the Divinely instituted ministry of the Church, where the minister is no longer a "layman" but is a "cleric". (1) With the diaconate we also cross the threshold. of a sacramental ministry. Although it has never been defined as such, it is the sure and common teaching of the Church that ordination to the diaconate is a sacrament. (2)  The hierarchical and sacramental nature of the diaconate was described by the Second Vatican Council as follows: <>At a lower level of the hierarchy are to be found deacons. who receive the imposition of hands 'not unto the priesthood, but unto the ministry'. For, strengthened by sacramental grace they are dedicated to the People of God, in conjunction with the bishop and his body of priests, in the service of the liturgy, of the Gospel and of works of charity. }The Second Vatican Council is the point of departure in our investigation of the diaconate. The approval granted in principle by the Council to "the diaconate as a proper rank of the hierarchy", was truly a restoration. For various reasons the permanent diaconate of the Apostolic Church had fallen into disuse in the Latin Church and finally disappeared altogether. It is the restored permanent diaconate which we now consider in so far as it concerns the problem of ministry for the Church in Africa. With apologies for the use of a well-worn cliche the study will consider the rise and fall of the permanent diaconate.

The Rise of the Permanent Diaconate

The restoration of a permanent office of deacon to the Latin Church, open to mature married men as well as celibates, was seen as one of the achievements of the Second Vatican Council, (3) It was however a controversial subject for the Council Fathers, especially with regard to the ordination of married men to the diaconate. With reference to the debate on the subject during the second session (1963) a commentator has written:Resistance was vigorous and. opinions seemed deeply divided. Some held that the revival of the diaconate would do no real good, unless married men were ordained deacons. Others considered that the creation of married deacons would be an attack on the law of ecclesiastical celibacy which had been in honour in the Latin Church for centuries. This was the fundamental cause of the disquiet, as was revealed during the debate. (4)When it was proposed that the permanent diaconate could be entrusted to lure married men, the motion was carried although nearly a third of the Council Fathers rejected it. And a large majority rejected the proposal to allow ; ordination as deacons of young men who would not be bound by the law of celibacy. A married diaconate was clearly a divisive issue.Despite the stormy passage it received, the teaching of the Council concerning the diaconate is both positive and optimistic. The duties of a deacon are outlined in clear language which describes the role he should have within the hierarchical ministry.

It pertains to the office of a deacon, in so far as it may be assigned to him by the competent authority, to administer Baptism solemnly, to be custodian and dis­tributor of the Eucharist, in the name of the Church, to assist at and. bless marriages, to bring Viaticum to the dying, to read the sacred scripture to the faithful, to instruct and exhort the people, to preside over the worship and the prayer of the faithful, to administer sacramentals, and to officiate at funeral and burial services. Dedicated to works of charity and functions of administration ... (5)

This picture of an active deacon fulfilling a pastoral role in the Church ministry is similar in many ways to the actual work of a catechist in Africa. If that is so, should the catechist not receive ordination to the diaconate and be fortified in apostolate by the grace of Orders? This is indeed recommended in the Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church, without any reference to the celibacy or marriage of the candidate. (6)The positive and enthusiastic picture of the restored permanent deacon he Latin Church offered great hopes for the Church in Africa at this time. The fact that it specifically recommended that catechists be "strengthened by imposition of hands" was seen as having special reference to Africa. A call for the restoration of the diaconate in Africa had already been made by Mgr J. D. Reeper in 1962. For solid historical, theological and practical reasons, he could not defend the obligation of celibacy for all deacons. (7) The fact that the number of pastoral catechists in Africa would provide suitable candidates for the diaconate had also been noted by the Belgian missiologist, Fr B.Luyks,  in 1962. (8) In subsequent years the subject was taken up by many more writers-especially in the pages of AFER-and the practical implications of  the Council documents discussed. The married permanent diaconate was seen as being the solution to the critical problem of shortage of priests, and this generated hope for the future. Practical suggestions were made, as for example, in an article written in 1965, on the need for a period of probation and for gaining ­the respect of the local community before ordination to the diaconate.(9)   Diversification within the diaconate was proposed by Adrian Hastings in 1967.

The road of the trained catechist should not be the only one to the ministry of the diaconate. Beside the full-time salaried deacon, there is room for the part-time unpaid one. This type of deacon would be chosen chiefly from the professional classes, well educated and respected members of the local church - secondary school masters, doctors and the like. The middle-aged villager who has been classes a part-time catechist should also not necessarily be excluded ... For all such deacons, whether full-time or part-time, it seems important to retain and stress their lay character. We must not try to 'clericalize' them. (10)

The debate was further encouraged by the publication in June 1967 of the General Norms for the Restored Permanent Diaconate of the Latin Church. This Apostolic letter reiterated the teaching of the Council and set out the conditions under which both a married and celibate diaconate could emerge. A period of at least three years was specified for the training of a deacon: and a minimum age of twenty-five was laid down for the celibate deacon and thirty-­five in the case of a married deacon. In the case of the latter they must be good householders and lead an exemplary family life ("Let deacons ... manage their children and their households well" 1 Tim. 3:12). The actual function and competence of the deacon was spelled out in eleven concise points which amplify the list of duties contained in Lumen Gentium. And the manner of seek­ing the approval of the Holy See was also specified.This document gave further impetus to the debate on the permanent diaconate. It was at first conducted in an atmosphere of hope and confidence and dealt with both a married and celibate diaconate. It was debated during the international Study Week on Catechists held in Aachen in 1967, and the following resolution was passed: "This conference welcomes the step taken by some Bishops' conferences to select experienced catechists and to give them special training with a view to their ordination as deacons" . (11) Three important articles on the diaconate appeared in the Revue du Clergé Africain during 1968, an indication of the topical nature of the debate in Africa at this time. (12) One of the articles, written by the German, J. Hornef, stressed the organic link between the existing catechists and the restored diaconate. (13) Two ankles appeared in AFER during 1969. They discussed the need for adequate training and the new structures which would evolve with a permanent diaconate. According to Fr G. Loire:The community of prayer and brotherly life would no longer be what we now call the parish, but a sub-parish led by a deacon ...Being really the leader of his community he would have more responsibility than anactual catechist. The priest would then become more of an educator in faith: an advisor and trainer of leaders: the minister of the Eucharistic sacrifice in its fullness who would give the impulse to the whole parish. (14)A different vision of the permanent diaconate was proposed by Bishop G. Van Velsen of South Africa in 1970. Writing in AFER he suggested that deacons abou1d work in groups of six to twelve according to the size of the community. It should be an entirely new function in the Church in which all ordained ministers bishops, priests and deacons would realize a vivid Diakonia Chnsti. (15)  In the same year, 1970, in a survey conducted by the Pastoral Institute of  East Africa on behalf of AMECEA, the same trend towards the ordination of married catechists to the diaconate is apparent. It was reported thata majority of the clergy favours the ordination of some catechists to the permanent diaconate now, , , This would be a decisive step towards recognizing the truly pastoral role of the catechist as 'the powerful co-worker of the priestly order’.16 When the results of this survey were published in book form, it contained a valuable summary of the arguments for and against the ordination of permanent deacons in Africa. The general conclusion was in favour of their ordination. (17)The question of providing an adequate ministry for the Church in Africa was an urgent one and the debate was geared to action. The first steps were taken in 1966 by Bishop Thomas Mongo of Douala in the Cameroun. With the approval of the Bishops' Conferences of Equatorial Africa, eight mature married men were selected for training for the diaconate. Seven of these were ordained deacons by Cardinal Leger on 8 December 1968: these were the first married deacons of the Latin Church in Africa for over a thousand years! Three more deacons were ordained for the diocese of Douala in 1972 and general satisfaction was expressed with their ministry, At this stage the intention was that each parish should have its own deacon.18Not all bishops, however, were in favour of the ordination of catechists to the diaconate. One reason for this was the fear of further "clericalisation", already voiced by Hastings. Thus it was reported that half the bishops of Ghana were opposed to the diaconal ordination of catechists for this reason. (19) The bishops of Uganda also rejected a married diaconate, but mainly for reasons of finance. Another phenomenon, noted for English-speaking Africa, was that "while the African bishops are reticent vis-a-vis 'second-rate' clergy, foreigners on the other hand are more in favour of diaconal ordination or even priestly ordination for some catechists". (20) South Africa, where there were no African bishops at this time, is another country where active steps were taken towards the implementation of a permanent diaconate. This led to the ordination of the first two married deacons by the bishop of Pietersberg at the end of 1969. (21) It would have been indeed strange had no attempt been made to introduce the permanent diaconate to Nigeria. For during these years of euphoria about the diaconate, Nigeria had undergone the agony of a civil war (1967 -70). It was a time of great anxiety for the future of the Catholic Church there, especially in view of the very small number of Nigerian priests outside the breakaway region of Biafra. In view of the political instability, and with the previous examples of Sudan and Guinea in mind, the establishment of the permanent diaconate was indeed opportune. An expert on the subject, Mgr Morotini, arrived in Nigeria from Germany in early 1967. His plan was to establish a centre at Jos for training deacons for Northern Nigeria. Quarters were built and the proposal was placed before the Nigerian Episcopal confer­ence in April 196 7. Candidates were accepted and the course was scheduled to open in Gboko after Easter 1968; but the project fell through due to the untimely death of Mgr Morotini.

Plans for a permanent diaconate were again made during 1969 and Bishop Dempsey of Sokoto was appointed chairman of an ad hoc committee. It was proposed that two training centres for deacons be established for Northern Nigeria, to cater for the two cultural regions: one would be at Kabba, the other at Malumfashi. These were approved on an experimental basis during 1970 and the Kabba Centre was opened. The centre at Malumfashi was opened in January 1971 but with only one definite candidate. By this time the Nigerian civil war bad ended and an All-Nigeria Commission on the restoration of the diaconate was established. On 13 November 1970 this Commission approved the introduction of the permanent diaconate to Nigeria. A third centre for the training of permanent deacons in Northern Nigeria was then established at Buza in the diocese of Maiduguri. Bishop Cotter of Maiduguri had canvassed the idea among primary school teachers of the diocese during 1971 and five of these began their training at Bazza in 1972. These were all married men with many years teaching experience and had declared themselves willing to serve the Church as either pan-time or full-time deacons.

Up to this point we have considered the debate and the attempts made to establish a permanent married diaconate in Africa. But the Council had also spoken of conferring the diaconate on young men for whom the law of celibacy would remain in force. This received further amplification in the General Norma for the Permanent Diaconate issued in 1967. It soon became apparent that such young celibate vocations would be very rare in Africa, and the question was asked why such youths should not become priests. (22) Religious brothers however were numerous in Africa and their special vocation did not seem to be incompatible with the diaconate. In so far as the diaconate is mainly a ministry of service, the vocation of the brother and the deacon would seem to be very close. Thus Francis of Assisi accepted ordination as a deacon but in his humility refused the priesthood. In an ankle on the restoration of the diaconate, Karl Rabner bad already made the point that "There is nothing to stop the Church ordainingto the diaconate even those who have already taken the obligation of religious celibacy upon themselves for some other reason (as for example, in religious communities)". (23) This possibility was also referred to in the motu proprioof 1967. Approval was to be sought from the Holy See by the General Chapter of a religious order. This appeared to be a practical proposition for Africa and in 1969 the White Fathers were authorized to institute the permanent diaconate among those who had made final vows in the Society.

So far in this enquiry we have traced the sequence of events in the restoration of the permanent diaconate in so far as they concern the Church in Africa. We have seen something of the hopes and euphoria it aroused, and of the plans and attempts to implement it. It must therefore come as a surprise to read in a report on the restored permanent diaconate throughout the world, published in 1973, that there were only eighteen deacons in the whole of Africa. The same report showed that there were 281 deacons in the U.S.A., 228 in Europe, and fifty­ -four in Latin America. (24) Other sources give similar figures but with a notable discrepancy. (25)  It comes as a further shock to learn that the three attempts to establish the permanent diaconate in Northern Nigeria were inconclusive and the centres have all closed. Although a few candidates finished the prescribed course their ordination was postponed.  It was nor until 1976 that four deacons were ordained, one for the diocese of Sokoto and three for the: diocese of Lokoja. These are the only permanent deacons in Northern Nigeria today. In neighbouring Northern Cameroun, which shares the same culture and faces the same problems as the Church in Northern Nigeria, a programme leading to the permanent diaconate has also been discontinued. Ten deacons had been ordained for the dioceses of Garua, Maroua and Yagua when the policy on the diaconate was reversed. In recent years very little has been written about the permanent diaconate in Africa. I do not know of any training centre or programme now in operation. The question has ceased to engender interest and the permanent diaconate is generally regarded as irrelevant. We shall now examine how this came to be.

The Fall of the Permanent Diaconate

The figures just quoted show that it was in the older churches of Europe and North America that a permanent diaconate emerged. Yet it was in Latin America and Africa that the need for ordained ministers was greatest. The permanent diaconate did not prove to be the answer to the problem of providing an adequate ministry for the Church in Africa. Why was this?

From the very beginning the proposal to restore a permanent married dia­conate to the Latin Church contained difficulties that would be felt especially in Africa. These problems were not fully adverted to at first. Perhaps too it was hoped that they would be dealt with by appropriate amendments of legislation. These problems centre on the law of celibacy and on uncertainty about the specific function of a deacon

The Diaconate and Celibacy

It is surely paradoxical that a married diaconate would be largely unacceptable in Africa due to the ruling on celibacy which it includes. When the Second Vatican Council accepted the principle of a married diaconate, it did not include any ruling on celibacy in their regard. On the contrary, as the text reads, it was specified only in the case of young men. The conclusion of one commentator on the document was that "The duty of celibacy is not to be imposed on men of more mature age, though it remains for younger men". (26) The dangers involved in demanding celibacy of younger men - but not of all- were noted by authors in Europe. (27) For a missionary in Africa they were so strong, that he twice counselled against the ordination of young deacons vowed to celibacy.

(1) Outside of exceptional cases ... it would be imprudent to impose upon young deacons the same burden of celibacy that is borne by a priest.

(2) The ordination to the diaconate of young men who are not destined for the priesthood, and the imposition on them of the obligation of celibacy seems neither needed nor advisable. (28)

The Second Vatican Council did not consider the question whether a married deacon whose wife died should be free to remarry. And because of the pattern of society. this was indeed a burning issue for Africa. Due to the higher mortality rate, especially among young mothers during pregnancy or in childbirth,. The  possibility of a married deacon losing his life's partner is much paler than in Europe or in Norh America. In addition, the frequent pregnancies in African society make the: risk of death all the greater. In general it is alI true that the African catechist, candidate for the diaconate, is much younger than his counterpart deacon in the older churches. The prospect of a deacon being left to fend for a large family. without the aid of a wife, is almost intolerable in African society. Neither does it appear just that a celibate life should be demanded of a widower who was ordained deacon as a married man. As be did not have a commitment to celibacy when ordained to the diaconate, the widower would not change his state of life were he to remarry. In the context of African society it would be very difficult for a widower-deacon to understand why he could never remarry. He would have to seek laicization in order to remarry and bring in a new mother to his children. He would rightly  tend to put the welfare of his family first, and his vocation to serve the Church as a deacon would be sacrificed to a law he could not understand. The repercussions, both for himself and the community he served. could be enormous.

In his essay on the theology of the restoration of the diaconate, Karl Rahner chose to pose the issue "primarily as a question about a diaconate without any obligation to celibacy". This approach "also leaves it an open question under what precise conditions and presuppositions the Church may wish to and should confer the sacramental diaconate on a married man" .(29) This vital question engaged the attention of African missiologists immediately after the pro­mulgation of Lumen Gentium (21 Novermber 1964) by which the permanent diaconate was restored. If a married diaconate was to succeed in Africa, it was imperative that deacons should be allowed to remarry in the event of their wife's death after their ordination. At the Congress on the Diaconate held in Rome in October 1965. the case was forcefully argued by the Archbishop of Lubumbashi (Zaire). "Suitable candidates would not be forthcoming under such harsh conditions," he said.) (30)

But the Apostolic rule of "no marriage after ordination" is of ancient origin, and has been the discipline of the Church. both East and West. at least since the Council of Nicaea held in the year A.D. 325. To a large extent this rule is based onn a literal interpretation of the injunction contained in the Pastoral Epistles that bishops. presbyters and deacons should be "the husband of one wife". Further investigation of the ancient Apostolic rule was called for. If it has a dcfulite basis in scripture, then it cannot be changed. Opinion is divided today, however. on the exegesis of "the husband of one wife" found in Pastoral Epistles. According to Fr S. Lyonnet SJ of the Biblical Institute, it refers to "a husband of exemplary fidelity. above all suspicion" who knows how to manage his household. rather than to the question of remarriage. (31) And in his study on celibacy, Fr E. Schillebeeckx comments on the phrase as follows:

<>Modem exegetes,, including Catholics, translate it as follows: 'clings undividely to one wife', as one might say 'homo unius libri,', a man who swears by one book ... The context seems to support this exegesis: such a man must love his wife with an undivided love, govern his children well, and be a good administrator of his own household. The whole passage moreover treats of the good qualities that a leader must have, and of the defects that impair his work, but lays down no laws for the future. This exegesis is not only possible, but highly probable, even though church tradition since patristic times has read this text to mean that a 'priest' and deacon might not remarry or be married for the second time, viz when they are ordained. (32)

It cannot therefore be proved that the Apostolic rule of "no marriage after ordination" has a definite basis in scripture. We shall return to this point again in chapter Eight which deals with celibacy and the priesthood.

<>It has already been noted that the documents of the Second Vatican Council did not consider this vital question. But when the General Norms for the Restored Permanent Diaconate were promulgated on 18 June 1967, the ancient discipline of "no marriage after ordination" was reiterated. (33) Although it was not realized at the time, this ruling sounded the death-knell for the married diaconate in Africa. In an article which appeared shortly afterwards, J. Home .stated that the ruling was as unnecessary as it was of extreme harshness. (34) Five years later the Apostolic Letter Ad Pascendum repeated the ruling that "in accordance with the traditional discipline of the Church, a married deacon who has lost his wife cannot enter a new marriage". (35) In the same the same year, 1972, an article in Conci/ium advocated the suppression of "the prohibition of remar­riage to permanent deacons". (36) No further action was taken however, and after this date very little was written and very little interest shown to the possibility of establishing a permanent diaconate in Africa. <>We must take care not to exaggerate the actual damage done to the cause of providing an adequate ministry for Africa by the retention of the Apostolic rule with respect to married deacons. For as the door to a married diaconate was in effect being closed, another door was opened. This was to the non-ordained ministry of acolyte which we shall consider presently. The Apostolic Letter which reformed the former minor orders was promulgated on the same day as Ad Pascendum reaffirmed the retention of the Apostolic rule for deacons. We bear this in mind to help us understand bettter the reasons behind the eclipse of the married diaconate in Africa.

Quest for Identity

The second main reason which helps to explain the failure of the restored married diaconate in Africa is the uncertainty about its specific function~ The restored diaconate of the Latin Church seems to have suffered from a crisis of identity from the beginning. Despite the positive terms used in Lumen Gentium to enumerate the various functions of a deacon, these activities do not belong exclusively to the deacon. Normally they form part of the duties of a priest, but under certain conditions they can be delegated to a layman, without his receiving an official ministry in the Church. They were not therefore seen to belong exclu­sively and specifically to the diaconate. And apart from the general principle that the various ministers of the Church serve in the liturgy according to the degree of their ministry,37 Vorgrimler has noted that "the text of Vatican 11 adds nothing more precise which might serve to bring out the special nature of the diaconate and raise it above the condition ofa merely intermediate stage". (38)

The debate which the restoration of the permanent diaconate engendered soon took the form of a quest for identity. The point at issue is well summed up by Narciso Jubany as follows:

<>It is pointed out for example, that ordination to the diaconate gives the candidate certain duties, but no essential powers beyond those conferred by baptism. More­over, scarcely one diaconal function can be mentioned which the Church may not a1so confer extra-sacramentally. The same may be said of the grace bestowed by ordination to the diaconate: since the functions of that order may be conferred out­side the sacrament, we must admit that the Holy Spirit also gives the appropriate supernatural aid outside the sacrament. (39)

In relation to the last-mentioned point, it may be recalled that the very reason put forward in Ad Genus in favour of raising catechists to the diaconate was that •• they would be more closely bound to the altar and their ministry would be made more fruitful through the sacramental grace of the diaconate". The question may be legitimately asked: what is the specific sacramental grace of the diaconate?

This aspect of the debate on the permanent diaconate was also felt in the mission situation. If, as many writers suggested, the restoration of the permanent diaconate was seen primarily as a means of alleviating the difficulties arising from the shortage of priests, it was natural to ask how this was to be done. And if a deacon could do little more than what many of the catechists were already doing, why impose the intolerable burden of the Apostolic rule ("no marriage after ordination ") on a married catechist? In a report on ministries in East Asia (which applies also to Africa) we read that the delay in implementing a married diaconate was due to the fact that "their male catechists are already exercising many of the functions belonging to a deacon and they find it difficult to see what the diaconate could add to what they are already doing". (40)

Another related consideration was that a married diaconate would not solve the kernel of the problem. It would not bring the Mass to the communities of the village out-stations. A deacon could not celebrate the Eucharist to make his community fully Eucharistic and so the problem would remain. As early as 1969 it was asked of what value was a deacon who could take viaticum to the sick but could not absolve thee person. In more striking terms and with a bolder vision, Fr Adrian Hastings wrote in 1970:

The introduction of a married diaconate is no adequate solution here. The diaconate is either a formalization of lay ministry or it is a ministry auxiliary to the presbyterate within a local context. In neither case can it replace the presbyterate, and it is the latter which is effectively blocking here. As a stage in the evolution of the organised ministry, it can however be of immediate value, just because it is possible to make a start on it at once, and time is quite defmitely running out.It can help us to begin with the selection and training of men who will subse­quently take on more than diaconal responsibilities. (41)

<">If we accept Hastings' reasoning, then it would seem that the failure of the permanent diaconate to take root in Africa is not so important after all. For even if it had been successful, the problem of bringing the Mass to the people would have remained. And as long as the local Catholic community is left without a regular celebration of the Eucharist, it is not fully built-up. To Hastings' way of thinking, the "permanent" married diaconate is to be seen as a transitional step towards a married priesthood. This viewpoint was explicitly stated by Fr P. Baumeler in an article in AFER in 1972:

<>The married diaconate is seen mainly as a preparation for the real thing needed, the priesthood; and in this respect the married diaconate may become very impor­tant when the crisis has developed to breaking point. (42)

It should be noted here that it was the fear that a married diaconate would lead to a married priesthood which, among other reasons, led many African bishops to reject a married diaconate. It can therefore be an emotive issue which leads to polarisation of views and can achieve very little of itself.


<>The main concern of this chapter has been the permanent diaconate in so far as it touches on the problem of ministry in Africa. We have noted the high hopes raised in Africa with the restoration of the permanent diaconate. But now, four­teen years after the restoration, these hopes have not been realized. The problem of an adequate ministry for Africa is still grave and urgent but there is no further debate on the diaconate; it is almost irrelevent to the problem. In searching for reasons why this should be so, we have seen that a married diaconate became largely impractical for Africa, because of the retention of the Apostolic rule of "no marriage after ordination". We have also seen that a permanent diaconate lacked appeal because of the difficulty in establishing for it a specific identity and purpose.

This difficulty may well be inherent in the notion of the diaconate. The posi­tion of the deacon has not been very successful at any time. It is interesting to note that Fr J. Lecuyer traces the decline of the diaconate in the early Church to the same two causes that we have considered, namely, prohibitions concerning marriage or its use, and the fact that the diaconate "does not confer any sacra­mental power conditioning the valid administration of any sacrament".43 It may be that "since the diaconate is still in a state of flux and experimentation, it is understandable why it has not as yet achieved a clear social identity"" but somehow I doubt it. Until the question "What exactly is the diaconate?" is answered satisfactorily, there will continue to be questions. In his article on the Deacon in Sacramentum Mundi, Jubany Narciso states that "the hierarchi­cal rank of the diaconate, according to the constant tenor of tradition, stands halfway between the general priesthood of the faithful and the special priest­hood of bishops and priests". (45) We may well ask what exactly is this "halfway" between the common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood where the deacon exists in a limbo of his own. We may ask again whether his ministry at this "halfway" stage springs from the sacrament of Baptism or the sacrament or the sacrament of Orders.. These are awkward questions which have not received satisfactory answers. The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium states that the deacon receives the imposition of hands "not unto the priesthood but unto the ministry". What is this? According to Fr J. Galot, the traditional characteristic of the diaconate is that it exercises auxiliary or accessory functions rather than the essential functions of priesthood. (46) Do these functions pertain to the ministerial priesthood or the common priesthood? Do they spring from the sacrament of Orders or from Baptism? If the diaconal functions spring from the sacrament of Orders, how is it that these same functions may be exercised by a delegated laymen? How is the sacramental grace of Orders exercised by a deacon? What lingering doubt lies behind the fact that the Church has never defined that ordination to the diaconate is a sacrament? These are some of the questions that lie behind the deacon's quest for identity.

Although the permanent diaconate has been restored with some measure of success in Europe and North America, its future for the Church in Africa is not bright. Fr Paul Crowley put his finger on the nub of the problem when he wrote recently: "The African Church does not need deacons; it needs ministers to celebrate the Eucharist". 47 But he also held out some hope for the diaconate in another recent article when he stated that only when there are sufficient priests available will the deacon be able to exercise his proper function in the community. Even that is a forlorn hope. In an Anglican report on the subject, published in 1974, a negative attitude is taken to the diaconate:

A recent working party, set up to examine the role of deacons within the Church of England, recommended that 'the diaconate be allowed to lapse' since 'deacons are not essential' and that a greater emphasis should be placed on 'the elements of mission and service which should characterise the life and witness of every member of the Christian Church'.48

This report may have a message for the Church in Africa. For the moment at least, the restored permanent diaconate has not helped to solve the problem of ministry for the Catholic Church in Africa.


1. "Entrance to the clerical state is deferred until diaconate". Apostolic Letter Ad  Pascendum AAS 64 (1972), 537

2. Karl Rahner gives the theological note "at least sententiatia certa et communis" Theological Investigations 14 vols. (Darton, Longman, Todd: London, 1966) 5, 269

3. Lumen Gentium 29

4. H. Vorgrimler ed. Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II 5 vols. (Herder and Herder:New York, 1967) 1, 118

5. Lumen Gentium 29

6. Ad Gentes 16

7. "Restoration of the Diaconate" AFER 4 (1962), 292 - 9

8. "Das Kiakonat in Africanischer, Sicht II" Diaconia in Cristo ed.. K. Rahner and H. Vorgrimler (Herder; Freiburg, 19(2) p. 497. This work gives a comprehensive picture of the position of the deacon prior to the Council

9.F. Murray, "The Diaconate in East Africa" AFER 7 (1965),349-50

10. Church and Mission in Modern Africa p. 227

11. The Catechist according to the Council p. 23. A resume of the debate is given in pp. 204-7

12. J. De Cock "Le Diaconat: sa nature et sa fonction" pp. 234 -45. J. Hornef "Du Catechiste au Diacre" pp. 254-67. Idem, "Aspects liturgiques du diaconat" pp. 268-78

13. "Du Catechiste au Diacre" p. 258

14. G. Loire "Pastora( Meanings and Implications of the Permanent Diaconate" AFER )J (1969), 341. The other article in AFER was by F. Murray "Action on the Diaconate". He wrote: "In Africa we would have to be blind not to see in our trained catechists the future ;eacons of our Church." AFER I I (1969),63

15. "The Permanent Diaconate in Southern Africa" AFER 12 (1970), 15

16. A. Shorter "The Catechist Research" AFER 12 (1970), 202- 3

17. Rookackers "Catechists and the Future of the Christian Ministry" Missionaries 10 Yourselves pp. 139 - 44

18. "News in Brief " AFER 9 (1967), 83; and AFER 14 (1972), 275. "Echoes et Nouvelles" RCA 24 (1969), 219. Bishop Mongo has also wrillen an account of this experiment in "Le Diaconat et Les Catechistes" The Catechist according to the Council pp. 156-64

19. "Catechists in English-speaking Africa" PM V 36 (1971), 5

20. ibid.

21. "News in Brief" AFER, 12 (1970), 89

22. J. Hornef "Du Catechiste au Diacre" p. 257

23. Theological Investigations 5, 296

24. "The Revived Diaconate today" PMV 26 (February 1973) p. 3ss

25. According to figures given by W. Buhlmann there were only twelve deacons in Asia and sixteen in Africa in 1970: The Coming of the Third Church p. 254. The Report on Africa submitted to the 1974 Synod states that "in 197 I there were only twenty ordained deacons in the whole of Africa" p. 146. But according to the Annuarium Slatisticum Ecclesiae 1972 (TPV: Rome, 1974), there were thirty-one deacons in Africa on 31 December 1972

26. Vorgrimler 1,230

27. J. Hornef "The Return of the Deacon" Clergy Review 50 (1965), 283

28. F. Murray "The Diaconate in East Africa" AFER 7 (1965), 349 and "Experimentation in Permanent Diaconate" 10 (1968),402

29. Theological Investigations 5, 279 - 80

30. "Remariage du diacre veuf. C'est une des questions les plus épineuses pour l'Afrique. Si le diacre devenu veuf, presque toujours charge d'enfants, n 'a pas la possibilite de se remarier, beaucoup de candidates hesiteront a faire le pas, par crainte de /'Impasse inevitable dans laque//e ils se trouveraient lors de du déces éventuel de leur épouse". J .F. Cornelis Le Diacre dans l'Eg/ise et le monde d'aujourd'hui eds. P. Winninger and Y. Congar, Unam Sanctam 59 (Cerf: Paris, 1966) p. 243

31. "Le Diacre 'mari d'une seule femme' " Le Diacre dans /'Eg/ise et Le Monde p. 278

32. Celibacy trans. from Dutch by C.A.L. Jarroll (Sheed and Ward: New York, 1968) pp. 20-1

33. "Post ordinem receptum diaconi, grandiore etiam aetate promoti, ex tradita Ecc/esiae disciplina ad ineundum matrimonium inhabiles sunt" AAS 59 (1967), 701. Note that the traditional discipline, not scripture, is invoked for the ruling

34. "Du Catéchiste au Diacre" p. 266

35. AAS64 (1972), 539

36. J.A. Coriden "Celibacy, Canon Law and Synod 1971" Concilium vol. 8 (1972) No.8 Canon Law, p. 124

37. Sacrosanctum Concilium 28

38. ibid. 1,228

39. "Deacon" Sacramentum Mundi 2, 57

40. J.M. Calle "New Forms of Ministry in East Asia" PMV 50 (1974),30

41. "The Ministry in Africa: Today and Tomorrow" AFER 12 12 (1970), 6

42. "Lay Ministry in Rural Missions" AFER 14 (1972), 119

43.What is a Priest? (Burns and Oates: London, 1959) pp. 64-7

44. P. Crowley "The Diaconate for the present age: a theological assessment" Clergy Review59 (1974), 802. Also Buhlmann p. 254

45. 2, 56-7

46.Un Nuovo Volto del Prete (Visage Nouveau du Pretre) 2nd ed. (Cittadella Editrice: Assisi, 1972) p.95

47. "Christian Community and Ministry" AFER 19 (1977), 205

48. Deacons in the Church (London, 1974) p. 33

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