Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Deacons and Politics
Many of us who write on the diaconate make the point that "deacons are not priests" while at the same time, "deacons are clerics"; in other words, being a "cleric" is not reduceable to the priesthood. Canon Law also makes that point repeatedly. One good example is "the deacon and politics." Here's how it goes.
Canon 285, subsection 3, says that "clerics [which of course includes deacons] are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power." Now, in its broadest sense, this would include political offices, but also other offices as well. For example, as a career Navy officer, I exercised civil authority. And I did so, even after I was ordained a deacon.
Here's why that can happen. Canon 288 is a kind of "permanent deacons' canon." It says, "Permanent deacons are not bound by the prescriptions of cc. 284, 285 (#3 and #4), 286, 287 (#2), unless particular law determines otherwise." So, while canon 285 forbids all clerics from this function, canon 288 releases PERMANENT deacons (deacons who are seminarians studying for the presybterate would not be released by this canon) from its provisions. Bottom line: permanent deacons may service in "public offices" unless another legitimate legislator (such as the USCCB or the diocesan bishop) issues his own law on the matter.
What do you think? Should deacons get even more involved in the political sphere?