Deacons are to be sexually continent, too!

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The lay --and married-- canon lawyer Ed Peters wrote a piece indicating the permanent deacons are to be sexually abstinent (continent) permanently. This is the teaching and law of the Church. Men in studies seeking ordination to the Diaconate, that is, to be a permanent deacon, should have been taught this by the formators but lets concede the fact that those in charge of the diaconate program skipped or mis-represented the Church's teaching in this matter. It is widely seen, however, to an unenforceable church law. Ed Peters quotes the phrase, "perfect and perpetual" from Canon 277 ยง1 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law to explain the behavior of the permanent deacon. The first premise is paragraph 1, even with the presence of a possible dispensation seen in paragraph 3. The expectation is that all clerics are sexually continent. Conclusion: all men called to holy orders are expected to refrain from sex! The Catholic Church doesn't have a double standard, one for priests and one for deacons. For the 15K deacons in the USA: amend your life.

The academic article in Studia Canonica of 2005, "Canonical Considerations of Diaconal Continence," in which Peters' argues that married permanent deacons are by Church law to refrain from sexual intercourse with their wife, that is, the deacon remains sexually continent. The article can be read at this link: Ed Peters Studia c. 277 Diaconal Sexual Continence.pdf

Thomas Peters, Ed Peters' son and blogger, posted this piece on his blog.


Very interesting. Wow.

Re: deacons amend your life. Not so, says Peters on p. 178 of his article. "These husbands [i.e., deacons] and wives, therefore, cannot be held to have consented to the surrender of a right to something as fundamental as conjugal relations and for that reason it seems that they should not be bound to observe c. 277, which provision would otherwise clearly be applicable to clerics in their position and their wives."
That being said, his argument is, as his son says, airtight, and therefore either this law must be taught and enforced or changed. Peace.

HI Michel,

While Ed Peters' evaluation be correct from the pastoral point of view, the CIC still maintains that sexual continence is for all in Orders. And deacons are ordained. NOW, the Church may chose to "pastorally" not ask for compliance but that doesn't mean the Law ought to be dashed. The theology and the Law seem to clear whereas the so-called pastoral approach hides certain facts. As Peters has said, the authority of the Church needs to decide.


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Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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This page contains a single entry by Paul Zalonski published on January 17, 2011 2:43 PM.

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