The case for celibate deacons

Duncan MacPherson

This article examines the proposition that the case for priestly celibacy is equally applicable to deacons, and that the case for married deacons is equally valid for priests. Duncan Macpherson is a Permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Westminster.

The restoration of the Permanent Diaconate by Pope Paul VI in Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem in 1967 stipulated that candidates were to be either married or to remain celibate. In effect the Permanent Diaconate has become the default ordained ministry for married men in the Latin Rite.

Attempts to enforce clerical celibacy in the early Church made no distinction between deacons and presbyters. Conversely in the Eastern Churches where married men are admitted to the priesthood, only those deacons are permanent who are not invited to accept priestly ordination.

The Case for Celibate Deacons
By 2014, more than 97% of the world’s 42,104 permanent deacons live in the Americas or in Europe. In the United States, which has the largest number of permanent deacons, a 2013 survey indicated that 93% of 18,497 of permanent deacons were married, 45 were widowers and only 25 celibate, unmarried men.

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