Thirty-Seven Cents and a Prayer

Red Bluff Beacon, Volume 1, Number 6, 29 April 1857
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Pope Gregory the Great, in fact, once upbraided a bishop for ordaining his archdeacon priest with a view "craftily to degrade the aforesaid archdeacon. In ensuing centuries the archdeacon acquired the duty of supervising and disciplining the lower clergy. Because of this role the archdeacon acquired the right to examine candidates for ordination, and in the ordinals we find the archdeacon now presenting to the bishop candidates for priestly ordination and attesting their fitness.

Beginning with the eighth century, the right to discipline the clergy brought to the archdeacon ordinary jurisdiction and his own separate church court. And soon we find that at least the larger dioceses were divided up into several archdeaconries, each headed by an archdeacon who presided over a first instance tribunal and carried out visitations to correct abuses and infractions of church canons.

The archdeacon also served as the bishop's administrative assistant in instituting clerics to their benefices and watching over the decency of worship and the repair of churches within his territory. In many places the archdeacon of the see city also acted as vicar capitular, or diocesan administrator of the vacant or impeded see.

From the eighth to the thirteenth century the power of the archdeacon waxed greatly and archdeacons began to exercise quasi-episcopal powers.

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Like bishops, they even began to appoint vicars and officials to carry out their administrative and judicial functions, respectively. With the development of the benefice system, moreover, archdeacons were no longer removable at the whim of the bishop, since their archdeaconry was now considered a benefice in which they had a life interest that was protected by law, barring judicial privation for good cause. Their wide powers and fixity of tenure made archdeacons serious rivals of bishops whose own authority over them had begun to recede into something like that of a metropolitan over his suffragan bishops.

So powerful had the archdeacons become that a reform movement was spawned and bishops began to counter the power of the archdeacons by appointing priests as their vicars general and officials or judicial vicars. These priests enjoyed powers similar to those of archdeacons but, importantly, their office was not a benefice and they served at the pleasure of the bishop and were directly subject to his control.

Once established, these alternatives set the scene for a frontal assault on the power of the archdeacons. The Council of Trent's reforms drastically restricted the archdeacon's power. Archdeacons were deprived of the power of excommunication and of their jurisdiction in matrimonial and criminal matters.

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No longer could they make visitations and order the correction of abuses, unless asked to do so by the bishop. By the seventeenth century the once-powerful office had been reduced to that of a master of pontifical ceremonies and the last vestige of the office was the liturgical role in the ordination service of presenting the ordinands to the bishop at priestly ordinations.

Now the office of archdeacon was merely ceremonial and the real power had passed to the vicar general, vicar capitular and the judicial vicar-all priests. In our own century the liturgical movement spawned an interest in the glorious history of the order of deacon during the church's first millennium.

As restored, however, the permanent deacon became the assistant of the priest, not the bishop. This new role becomes clearer when we survey the canonical framework within which permanent deacons operate today. As we have seen, during the first Christian millennium deacons undertook, as the bishops' assistants, the functions that are today those of the vicar general, the judicial vicar, the vicar capitular, the cathedral chapter and the oeconome, or finance officer. In current canon law these are almost exclusively priests' functions. Distinct from lay people in the church by divine institution are the sacred ministers, whom canon law calls clerics c.

One becomes a cleric when one is ordained deacon c. Only clerics can obtain offices the exercise of which requires the power of orders or the power of ecclesiastical governance c. Deacons thus are clerics by virtue of their ordination and this makes them capable of exercising sacred office and sacred power. All clerics must be incardinated in a diocese or personal prelature or in some religious institute c.


By ordination to the diaconate one becomes incardinated in the entity for which one is ordained c. Married deacons with a secular job, however, are to provide for themselves and their families from that job's income.

The archdeacon, as we have seen, was the precursor of the office of vicar general and the archdeacon had enjoyed most of the vicar general's powers. Today the moderator of the curia must be a priest, under canon 2, as must, under canon , the vicar general and that other species of presbyteral local ordinary, the vicar episcopal.

The archdeacon was also a judge ordinary with his own ecclesiastical court and the forerunner, in fact, of the officialis. Today the judicial vicar or officialis and vice-officialis c. Being a cleric, a deacon who is otherwise qualified may be appointed a judge of an ecclesiastical tribunal. Since as a cleric he is endowed with sacred power, a deacon like a priest or bishop is allowed by canon to sit alone as a single judge in an ecclesiastical tribunal. By contrast, the same canon requires that, when a layman is appointed a judge, he can sit on a panel or collegiate tribunal only along with two clerics.

While today a deacon only assists a priest-officialis, the deacon-canonist could, of course, be a very busy judge in an ecclesiastical tribunal.

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Deacons were once the bishop's "eyes and ears" and once as canons were his chief advisors. Today the presbyteral council or senate of priests has many of the functions of the chapter of canons and it advises the diocesan bishop on the government of the diocese. As the name suggests, its members, under canon , must be priests. This college must give its advice and consent in certain church property matters and it elects the diocesan administrator or vicar capitular if the see is vacant or impeded.

Even the eviscerated office of canon today can be held only by a priest c. Today only an ordained priest can be appointed validly to the office of parish priest c. Deacons may, of course, assist the parish priest c. Of the manifold functions exercised by the deacon during the first Christian millennium, today's deacon is permitted to hold only the offices of chancellor c. All these duties, it might be noted, can also be held by a layman. Besides his administrative and judicial roles, the restored deacon is given certain liturgical roles: he may baptize solemnly, witness marriages, administer sacramentals, conduct funerals, read sacred scripture, preach and instruct the faithful.

He is portrayed as the leader of the congregation in prayers. His functions include roles at Mass and in conferring sacraments as well as in the liturgy of the hours, services of the word, sacramentals and public devotions.

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Perhaps the most important service of the deacon to the sacred liturgy is at the solemn Mass, for in the solemn liturgy the deacon's presence is necessary. The solemn Mass is a sung Mass celebrated with the assistance of other sacred ministers. In Paul VI suppressed first tonsure and converted the sub-diaconate and minor orders into lay ministries.


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Thus, today the deacon is the only sacred minister remaining besides the priest and bishop and his presence at the solemn liturgy is necessary for it to take place. At Mass his assigned roles include reading the Gospel and the intercessions, preaching, and distributing Holy Communion. Despite the ubiquity of "extra-ordinary" ministers of Holy Communion in this country, it might be pointed out that canon declares that the "ordinary" minister of Holy Communion is a bishop, priest or deacon. For Mass the deacon vests in amice, alb, cincture, stole, maniple if desired and in his distinctive vestment, the dalmatic.

One deacon serves as "Gospel deacon" and the other as "altar deacon. The liturgy of the hours provides a more extensive role for deacons. Canon 2 and 3 requires that permanent deacons recite daily that portion of the liturgy of the hours laid down by the episcopal conference, which in the United States is morning prayer and evening prayer.

The deacon, vested in dalmatic and stole according to article of the General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours, could preside at the service and preach.

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Deacons may baptize solemnly, witness marriages and conduct funerals. The reformed Vatican II rites are more complex than those formerly followed in that they are preceded by a service of the word, which consists of a prayer or exhortation, lessons and psalms. Vatican II was most desirous that the reformed rites open up to the people the treasury of scripture and this has been done. Canon says that baptism is the gateway to the sacraments and is necessary for salvation.

By it one becomes incorporated into the Church. Moreover, one not baptized cannot validly receive any other sacrament c. Canon declares that a deacon is an ordinary minister of baptism. When baptism is administered by a deacon, he is to notify the pastor so that a proper record of the baptism can be made in the parish sacramental registers c. A deacon is also qualified to assist at marriages if he has the faculty to do so from the local ordinary, or a proper delegation from the local ordinary or pastor c.

Since a deacon is a cleric, he has sacred power by virtue of his ordination. Thus, when officiating at a wedding, a deacon can in certain cases grant dispensations from matrimonial impediments when there is a case of danger of death c. While lay people in some rare cases might be given the faculty to assist at marriages c. Polling and Analysis. Israeli Jews vary enormously in their religious observance, with major differences tied inherently to the four major Jewish identity groups.

The share who say they go to religious services at a synagogue at least once a week, for example, ranges from nearly all Orthodox Jewish men Haredi and Dati and majorities of Orthodox women to very few secular Hiloni men and practically no Hiloni women. One factor is gender: Generally speaking, women display higher levels of religious commitment than men among Muslims in Israel. Even though men attend mosque at higher rates than women, more women say they pray frequently and say religion is very important in their lives.