I remember hearing from a Supernumerary in Opus Dei years ago that they don't use permanent deacons, because the position, as it is widely understood and practiced today, may have elements of irregularity about it. One thing I remember reading, when I got a copy of the original article by Ed Peters, a leading canon lawyer who works for the Vatican as well as Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, is that the term "permanent," which seems intended to qualify the deaconate in some way in the case of later vocations among often married men, is itself problematic. Deacons who are called "permanent," says Peters, are simply deacons.
I have had it in my mind to post an article on Peters' thesis for some time, but he and the ever productive members of his dynasty have saved me the trouble by putting the original article and a couple of other resources online. Here they are:
- This is a PDF version of the published technical article, "Canonical considerations on diaconal ontinence” (Studia Canonica 39 (2005), 147-180.
- Here is a summary of his own argument by Dr. Ed Peters.
- Here is a very accessible summary by Dr. Peter's able son and fellow blogger, Thomas Peters, "Church Law says Permanent Deacons, all clerics, are obliged to abstain from sex, notes Canonist Edward Peters" (CatholicVote.org, January 16, 2011):
I first posted reference to my Studia Canonica (2005) article on Canon 277 and clerical continence after it was brought up in a debate in Homiletic and Pastoral Review. Since that time I have received many requests for copies of the Studia article, to which requests I replied as best I could. Now, with the kind permission of the editors at Studia, I can make a searchable PDF version of the article available, above.The most substantive paragraph in Peters' summary is the following
The thesis of my Studia article (namely, that all clerics in the West, even those married, are canonically obligated to observe perfect and perpetual continence) has, for obvious reasons, provoked commentary, some of it public, some of it private, some of it by professionals, some of it by amateurs. I cannot monitor, let alone respond to, all discussions of this topic, and must therefore let the arguments made in Studia stand or fall on their own merits. But I will say this much: I believe that my interpretation of the clerical obligation of continence as set out chiefly in Canon 277 § 1 is persuasive; nothing I have seen over the last five years has caused me to think otherwise.As Thomas (not Dr. Ed) Peter's states: "fair warning: the argument is air tight."
- Dr. Ed Peters, "Why Canon 277 § 3 does not allow bishops to exempt clerics from the obligation of continence" (In the Light of the Law, January 17, 2011).
- Dr. Ed Peters, "Debating complex points of law is hard enough; having to repudiate false quotations is too much" (In the Light of the Law, January 18, 2011).