St Lawrence Painting by Giotto DI Bondone
GIVEN MOTU PROPRIO
SACRUM DIACONATUS ORDINEM
GENERAL NORMS FOR RESTORING
THE PERMANENT DIACONATE IN THE LATIN CHURCH
June 18, 1967
Beginning already in the early days of the Apostles, the Catholic Church has held in great veneration the sacred order of the diaconate, as the Apostle of the Gentiles himself bears witness. He expressly sends his greeting to the deacons together with the bishops and instructs Timothy(1) which virtues and qualities are to be sought in them in order that they may be regarded as worthy of their ministry.(2)
Furthermore, the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, following this very ancient tradition, made honorable mention of the diaconate in the Constitution which begins with the words “Lumen Gentium,” where, after concerning itself with the bishops and the priests, it praised also the third rank of sacred orders, explaining its dignity and enumerating its functions.
Indeed while clearly recognizing on the one hand that “these functions very necessary to the life of the Church could in the present discipline of the Latin Church be carried out in many regions with difficulty,” and while on the other hand wishing to make more suitable provision in a matter of such importance wisely decreed that the “diaconate in the future could be restored as a particular and permanent rank of the hierarchy.”(3)
Although some functions of the deacons, especially in missionary countries, are in fact accustomed to be entrusted to lay men it is nevertheless “beneficial that those who perform a truly diaconal ministry be strengthened by the imposition of hands, a tradition going back to the Apostles, and be more closely joined to the altar so that they may more effectively carry out their ministry through the sacramental grace of the diaconate.”(4) Certainly in this way the special nature of this order will be shown most clearly. It is not to be considered as a mere step towards the priesthood, but it is so adorned with its own indelible character and its own special grace so that those who are called to it “can permanently serve the mysteries of Christ and the Church.”(5)
Although the restoration of the permanent diaconate is not necessarily to be effected in the whole Latin Church since “it pertains to the competent territorial episcopal conferences, with the approval of the Supreme Pontiff, to decide whether and where it is timely that deacons of this kind be ordained for the care of souls,”(6) we therefore consider it not only proper but also necessary that specific and precise norms be given to adapt present discipline to the new precepts of the Ecumenical Council and to determine the proper conditions under which not only the ministry of the diaconate will be more advantageously regulated, but the training also of the candidates will be better suited to their different kinds of life, their common obligations and their sacred dignity.
Therefore, in the first place, all that is decreed in the Code of Canon Law about the rights and obligations of deacons, whether these rights and obligations be common to all clerics, or proper to deacons–all these, unless some other disposition has been made– we confirm and declare to be in force also for those who will remain permanently in the diaconate. In regard to these we moreover decree the following.