Sunday, September 5, 2010

Getting Started

My hope for this blog is that it can serve as a place to talk about the order of Deacons which, in the Catholic church, was renewed at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and by Pope Paul VI.

Deacons were mentioned in the New Testament and in the earliest writings of the Church. The proto-martyr of the New Testament, in fact, is often associated with the diaconate: St. Stephen (even though he is never referred to as a deacon in scripture). In the first centuries of the Christian Church, deacons are described as extending the ministry of Christ Himself, especially to those most in need.

Then, for a variety of reasons, the diaconate was absorbed into an increasingly rigidized clerical structure adapted from the late Roman empire, eventually becoming little more than a stage on the way to ordination as a presbyter. For more than a millennium this became the norm.

Vatican II changed all that, and for the first time in centuries, it was possible to ordain someone to a major order of ministry that was not destined for the priesthood. The history of that development is fascinating in its own right, involving developments in European Protestantism, post-Enlightenment philosophy and, later, the horrors of world war. In particular, a major impetus behind the renewal of the diaconate was at Dachau Concentration Camp. All of this, and more, means that trying to understand the diaconate in the contemporary church is a complex thing, involving moving beyond language that has developed to talk about the priesthood and which may or may not apply to diaconate, the relationships of laity and deacons, and so much more.

That's where I hope this blog can help. This can be a place for conversation, REASONED debate and discussion. Since ordained ministry only makes sense within a broader understanding of the Church herself, we will have occasion to discuss issues of ministers and ministry.

Ground rules: Passion about these topics is great, as long as it is respectful of the passion of others!

God bless,

Deacon Bill Ditewig

16 comments:

  1. I'm pleased to be among the first commenters! Thanks so much, Bill, for your willingness to share your wealth of knowledge and insight in this format. I look forward to reading your blog regularly.

    Bill Johnson
    Archdiocese of St. Louis

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  2. Thanks Bill for your continued efforts at our education and enlightenment, indeed exploration of who we are, and who we can become.

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  3. Thank you, Bill!

    Dennie Nickell
    Diocese of San Diego

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  4. This is going to be great! Thanks for starting this blog!

    Deacon Eric Stoltz
    Los Angeles

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  5. Bill

    Only the very best to you in this ministry!

    Deacon Norb Wethington
    Diocese of Toledo

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  6. Congratulations from Down Under Bill on your new venture. I'm looking forward to many years of good reading.

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  7. Deacon Bill, I'm delighted to see this blog, and I really appreciate the work you have done to develop and support the diaconate in America. But I am wondering if it is true that "in 1967, there were no permanent deacons in the world." When I was at Notre Dame in the 1960s, I recall meeting deacons of the Eastern church. Whether they were Catholic or Orthodox, I am not sure, but they were ordained deacons.

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  8. Dear Ron,

    You're right, of course, there WERE deacons in the 1960s in the Eastern Catholic (and Orthodox) churches, so my hyperbole was misplaced. Still, even there, the diaconate was largely ceremonial, not unlike our own "transitional" deacons. That's why Vatican II encouraged the Eastern churches to renew the diaconate in their churches as well. Still, I was a bit BROAD in my language!! Sorry, good catch.

    Bill

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  9. Dear Philomena,

    As of this writing, women are not ordained deacons in the Catholic church; HOWEVER, it remains an open question, and under review at this time. In fact, two colleagues and I are finishing up a book on the possibilities right now.

    God bless,

    Bill

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  10. Thank God for that.
    "Something open and under review for women" in my church has got to be worth celebrating. I look forward to reading your book when it is published.

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  11. This is gonna be great! Thanks, Bill

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  12. I am looking forward to future posts. Thank you for your service to us!

    Deacon John Alvarez

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  13. We are all blessed by the opportunites of this blog.

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  14. Dear Deacon Bill,
    Firstly it was a pleasure having you as our professor to kick off the year of aspirancy in the diocese of St. Pete, FL.Class of 2013.
    Now to have a blog from you is a bonus.
    Ad multos annos.
    Rudi Fernandes

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