Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Omnium in Mentem Fascination

Blog comments on Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio, Omnium in Mentem as it relates to the identity and ministry of deacons range over quite a spectrum. One Anglo-Catholic thinks it's part of a conspiracy to rope more of the Anglican flock into reunion with Rome. At least two commentators (one a deacon, the other a self-identified canon lawyer!) think the changes in Canons 1008 and 1009 will make it easier to “ordain” women deacons. Other typical responses are puzzlement, if not apathy. At least one canon lawyer’s website betrays shock if not confusion. One blogger thinks that the proclamation is merely correcting an error (score one for her).

The changes in the two canons resolve a conflict among Lumen Gentium and the 1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church on one hand and the 1983 Code of Canon Law. The International Theological Commission described the conflict in 2003 (English version, 2004) -- From the Diakonia of Christ to the Diakonia of the Apostles. At the heart of the conflict is the applicability of the term “in persona Christi capitis” to not only bishops and priests, but also deacons. Lumen Gentium and the 1997 Catechism limit the term to only bishops and priests while the 1983 Code includes application of the term to deacons as well. The first edition of the Catechism was consistent with the 1983 Code. One of the principal changes included in the 1997 Catechism restored consistency with Lumen Gentium; with that change the Code was the only outlier. The Motu Proprio achieves consistency among all three Magisterial documents in regard to this particular teaching.

Are there any further implications beyond consistency? Of course, there are.

Let’s dismiss the silliness first:
No, it’s not a conspiracy “against” Anglicans.
Ordain women deacons? Please! Canon 1024 (“A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly.”) hasn’t been changed.
Other comments related to a fragmentation of the ministerial priesthood are inverted. Instead of an identification of priesthood and the clerical state (see canon 266), perhaps another question should be the focus. Do priests lose their diaconal identity when they receive the priesthood? Consider the first (apparently unchanged) part of Canon 1008: “By divine institution, the sacrament of orders establishes some among the Christian faithful as sacred ministers through an indelible character which marks them” (emphasis added). The faculties a deacon receives upon ordination continue into priesthood and episcopacy. The deacon himself is the matter of the sacrament; the form is the contained in the Rite of Ordination to the Diaconate.

Perhaps this is still puzzling or seemingly irrelevant. Nevertheless it is important to not only deacons, but also priests and bishops -- indeed the entire People of God.

Update - English version of Omnium in Mentem: link.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2007 Book Review - The Deacon at Mass

Original published in Homiletic and Pastoral Review (November, 2007; December, 2009, corrections and additions underlined)

Book Review

The role of the Deacon

THE DEACON AT MASS: A THEOLOGICAL AND PASTORAL GUIDE. By William T. Ditewig (Paulist Press, 997 Macarthur Blvd., Mahwah, N. J. 07430, 2007), xii + 126 pp. PB $14.95.

Deacon Ditewig’s latest book interprets the role of the deacon in light of the revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) and the post-GIRM instruction, Redemptionis Sacramentum (RS). (1) He introduces his interpretation with a brief history of the restoration of the permanent diaconate in the Latin Church, drawing on his previous work. While Deacon Ditewig serves in the Secretariat for the Diaconate of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,* his interpretations are clearly personal, with anecdotes drawn from personal experience and those of other deacons.

Ditewig quotes John Paul II (p. 6): “The service of the deacon is the Church’s service sacramentalized.” If the timing of the book had been delayed a bit, he could have quoted Benedict XVI’s Deus Caritas Est as well: “The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia). (2) Thus deacons are the visible sacramental signs of the ministry of the Church.

The author appropriately cites RS: “Let all Deacons then, do their part so that the Sacred Liturgy will be celebrated according to the norms of the duly approved liturgical books” (p. 10). RS could have been quoted further: “…it is the right of all of Christ’s faithful that the Liturgy, and in particular the celebration of Holy Mass, should truly be as the Church wishes.” (3)

Consistent with the GIRM and RS, Ditewig admonishes deacons to serve Mass as often as possible and to be fully vested in not only alb and stole, but cincture (where appropriate) and, especially, dalmatic. Ditewig proposes a useful rule: when the celebrant wears the chasuble, the deacon wears the dalmatic; he implies another: if a deacon is present at Mass, he should serve and fulfill all the roles proper to him [if another deacon is not serving].

The author has strong opinions. The preaching of the deacon should be distinctive: “prophetic… to take the Gospel out of the assembly and into the world at large” (p. 19-20). One could add the connection of Word with Eucharist as prerequisite to evangelization. “[L]iturgy demands that on occasion, certain parts are to be sung, and this includes parts assigned to the deacon” (p. 31). [Reviewer’s experience:] Even the most musically-challenged can develop acceptable chanting abilities.

There is one controversial idea asserted by Ditewig: In proclaiming the Gospel, the deacon “acts in persona Christi” (p. 91).** An authoritative study (4) considered the term in relation to deacons (in addition to priests and bishops), without coming to a definitive conclusion.

The ministry of deacon along with the entire Church finds its source and summit in the Liturgy. The book can be valuable if it encourages deacons to probe more deeply into their liturgical identity, especially in the GIRM and RS. By careful study, the deacon can assess what in fact the Church intends, beyond the opinions interpreters [including the reviewer] may express. Long-ministering deacons will find echoes of their own experience in Ditewig’s anecdotes and should also find motivation for even more faithful exercise of their liturgical identity.

Deacon Rex H. Pilger, Jr.
Arvada, Colo.

End Notes

(1) Redemptionis Sacramentum, On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist, Vatican (2004).
(2) Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, Vatican (2006).
(3) RS, no 12.
(4) From the Diakonia of Christ to the Diakonia of the Apostles, Hillenbrand Books, Mundelein, IL., 124p. (2004)

Homiletic and Pastoral Review, v. CVIII, no. 2, November, 2007, p. 78-79.

© Ignatius Press

* DeaconDitewig is now a professor at Saint Leo University, Saint Leo, Florida.

** According to Benedict XVI’s (2009) Motu Proprio, Omnium in Mentem, “in persona Christi capitis” applies only to priests and bishops.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Motu Proprio - Clarification in Code of Canon Law

As predicted in a 2008 letter to Homiletic and Pastoral Review (link: last letter in post), the Code of Canon Law is now to be consistent with both the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Lumen Gentium in the distinction between Bishops and Priests (who act in persona Christi capitis) and Deacons who serve as ministers of liturgy, Word and charity.

See: From the Diakonia of Christ to the Diakonia of the Apostles (2003, 2004).

See also In Persona Christi and the Deacon (2007).

Temporary English text of the Motu Proprio (OMNIUM IN MENTEM): link; courtesy Jimmy (link).

Update - Official English text: link.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Back to the Future?

Weak and skinny as I am, I'm eager to return to work and active ministry, to the extent I can. Now, I have to deal with red tape imposed by our benevolent government on corporations to move from medical leave to full-time employee again. So I can't predict how soon I can get back with my talented coworkers to design and develop the next versions of our software.

Ministry-wise, I'm aiming to serve one Christmas Eve Mass. I may not be able to carry the Book of the Gospels or the gifts from the people to the altar, but I should be able to prepare the bread and pour the wine. I'd be eager to preach, too, but I'm not sure my voice is strong enough for everyone to hear, even with a mike.

I'm dependent on God's time, I guess, not my own schedule.

In the meantime, there's time spent with my wife and family, time to pray and write, time to thank God and his people for this amazing reprieve.