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In the E-mail: “Are Deacons Allowed to Vest for Priest Ordination Liturgies?”—UPDATED

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 06/12/13

A deacon writes:

In your diocese, are permanent deacons allowed to vest for priest ordination liturgies? Also, do you know if other dioceses allow this? A few of us were perturbed when we received notice from the chancellor that we were not welcome to vest for our most recent priest ordination.

Different dioceses have different guidelines, I suppose.  In Brooklyn, deacons vest for all ordinations (bishop, priest and deacon), the Chrism Mass, clergy funerals, the annual memorial Mass for deceased clergy, etc. Those who serve at the altar wear the dalmatic; the rest wear alb and stole. We’ve never been told explicitly not to vest.

I’ve also attended interfaith services where deacons (both Catholic and Episcopal) wear the alb and stole.   To my way of thinking, the vestiture of the deacon is a sign of his office. Even when he is not serving Mass, if he participating in a liturgy like those I mentioned above, with significant numbers of diocesan clergy, it’s appropriate that the deacon vest.

(I don’t have handy a copy of the National Directory with the norms, so I don’t know if this issue is addressed there….paging Bill Ditewig! )

UPDATE: Deacon Ditewig left the following comment on my Facebook post:

The official answer from the Holy See, when I was on the USCCB staff, was pretty much as the chancellor described in this email. Priests are always concelebrants, so therefore they vest. Deacons, unless they have a specific liturgical role, are not to vest. The Holy See did say that, for certain diocesan events, or for funerals of clergy, deacons might vest as a sign of the Order. It simply left those events unspecified. For good or ill, however, this correspondence from the Holy See was in the form of a personal communication to one bishop; it is not contained in any official binding document. Bottom line: since we do not “concelebrate” like priests, this will remain a neuralgic issue to be dealt with as each diocesan bishop deems pastorally appropriate. In most dioceses, bishops seem to want their Order of Deacons present and visible during most, if not all, diocesan liturgies, including ALL ordinations. So, what the Chancellor is saying would be in keeping with that letter from Rome, read in its narrowest way. I submit that the same letter, read as broadly as possible, would lead to a different conclusion. I believe that all orders should be present, visible, and vested when the bishop is convoking the diocesan church!

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