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Date of Award

2-5-2003

Document Type

Graduate Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Liturgical Studies

Department

School of Theology • Seminary

First Advisor

Martin F. Connell

Abstract

This paper critiques the restoration of the permanent diaconate since Vatican II, focussing on historical discontinuities and theological issues. A core difficulty results from current attempts to merge two separate and distinct sets of functions into one role. Today, deacons are asked to fulfill not only traditional diaconal responsibilities; they are also expected to fulfill many roles that have traditionally been presbyteral functions. These two sets of responsibilities require different sets of charisms and different levels of formation, and do not naturally belong together. Deviating from the service-oriented focus of the diaconate in the early Church and assuming greater leadership roles within the liturgy, the symbolic value of the deacon becomes clouded. As a result, the permanent deacon is not longer a clear symbol of Christ-servant within the liturgical assembly. This paper traces the historical development of major liturgical functions in the early Church and in the Middle Ages, with particular focus on the precedents for diaconal preaching and baptism. It also examines the historical context that accompanied the restoration the permanent diaconate. Given that context, and a number of theological and pastoral arguments, the paper recommends a return to a more traditional conceptualization of the diaconate, where deacons are freed from presbyteral responsibilities in order to be able to concentrate more effectively on roles of service.

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