Friday, January 20, 2006

The permanent diaconate arrives in India

Via Bombay Archdiocese to ordain India's first married deacons (Via Open Book)
Cardinal Ivan Dias of Bombay will ordain on Sunday two married men as permanent deacons, the first such event in India.

Lloyd Dias of Sacred Heart Parish in Vashi and Elwyn de Souza of St Joseph’s parish in Juhu will receive their religious orders at the Holy Name Cathedral in Colaba.
[Incidentally, the place where I first started going to Mass regularly]

The article gives an understanding of the permanent diaconate that is widespread, if not entirely articulate, that they are "helpers to the priests." Read the well-informed comments at Open Book for a more nuanced understanding of the restoration of the permanent diaconate after the Council.

What was also interesting was this idea that "lay" = "married" and so this:
To prepare the laity for this significant event, parishioners in Mumbai were given questionnaires to seek their opinion. Some church members did say that they did not see the need for deacons from the laity. “We are saying that priests should get married. But I do not see the need for deacons who are married, when priests and nuns are asked to be celibate.
Well, technically, all of the ordained are "from the laity." Deacons are ordained, they are clerics (in the West, in most places, they have the privilege of wearing the Roman collar as well, in certain contexts, I think). Besides, there can be (and are) numbers of laity who aren't married. What is being reflected here is a probably common idea: that ordination (and ministry in the church) and celibacy are intrinsically related to each other. Which is not at all true: consider the number of men (and women!) in the traditional religious orders who are not ordained ("lay brothers"), and of course, two millenia of married clergy in the East.

And then this:
“If we have married deacons, what is the difference between the Catholic Church and the new born-again churches?” asked a parishioner from South Mumbai, who requested anonymity.
I really didn't know that it was the celibate clergy that was the distinguishing mark of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. Like anywhere else in the world, I guess, this is a teaching moment.

I for one, think it it's great that the restored diaconate is being inuagurated in my native land.


Napoleon said...

Huh. How common is this concern over a married diaconate worldwide? I never even knew it was a point of contention.

Gashwin said...

Jeff: It's really taken off in the US, and to a certain extent, I believe in the West. It's relatively unknown in other parts of the world. So, I can imagine that it seems strange in India.