By: Protodeacon David Kennedy
The answer to this question is complex.
It is best to begin our inquiry with an understanding of the canonical term faculty. In a general sense a “faculty” is the power or authorization to perform an act lawfully. When the term bi-ritual appears, it refers to a cleric who has been ordained to serve in a particular Church sui iuris, let us say the Ukrainian Greek Catholic, who is also serving in another Church sui iuris, let us say the Roman Catholic. There needs to be a clear distinction between clerics who act as celebrants or preside, and those who do not. We also need to determine in regards to deacons, what is the act that the deacon is to perform? Depending on the act, we will be able to determine what faculties if any are needed other than those granted under universal law at the time of ordination.
There are general faculties given from the time of ordination that may be used anywhere in the world with at least the presumed consent of the eparchial bishop, pastor of the parish, or rector of the church. For deacons these faculties are articulated in various documents. For deacons in the Eastern Catholic Churches the following are foundational:
- Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.
- Instruction for Applying the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.
- Particular laws of each Church sui iuris.
- The official liturgical books of each Church sui iuris. In these books the liturgical functions of the deacon are set forth.
The laws governing the general faculties for deacons in the Latin rites are quite different in these particular areas, especially in regards to liturgical functions.
At ordination a deacon of an Eastern Catholic Church by virtue of the ordination receives the following faculties for use in his own Church:
- He may catechize and preach to the faithful apart from liturgical services (Cans. 608, 610 §3, 611, 612 §2, 624 §2).
- He may delivery the homily at the discretion of the celebrant according to the norm of particular law (Can. 614 §4).
- He may assist the celebrant at Divine Liturgy and all other liturgical services as indicated in the official liturgical texts (Cans. 674 §1, 699 §2).
- He may distribute the Divine Eucharist according to the norm of particular law (Can. 709 §1).
- He may bring and distribute the Divine Eucharist to the sick and infirm according to the norm of particular law (Can. 709 §1).
- He may baptize in case of necessity. (Can. 677 §2)
Does the deacon need faculties to serve at Divine Liturgy in a Church sui iuris other than the one for whom he was ordained?
Can. 701 of the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches will be able to provide some guidance on this matter. It reads as follows:
“A concelebration between bishops and presbyters of different Churches sui iuris for a just cause, especially that of fostering charity, and for the sake of manifesting unity between the Churches, can be done with the permission of the eparchial bishop, while observing all the prescriptions of the liturgical books of the principal celebrant, having removed any liturgical syncretism and wearing the appropriate vestments and insignia of his own Church sui iuris.”
This canon implies that permission from the eparchial bishop is required for bishops and presbyters to concelebrate in a different Church sui iuris. There is no mention of deacons in this canon for strictly speaking deacons do not concelebrate but rather serve or assist as ministers. Concelebration properly speaking presumes at least some sharing in the presidential role of the principal celebrant. The same permission from the eparchial bishop would be required for deacons to assist or serve in the proper diaconal role at a Divine Liturgy in a different Church sui iuris other than his own. The ecclesial principal here is that clerics belong to a particular Church and are not lone rangers doing their own thing. It is also the duty of the bishop to oversee all liturgical services in his eparchy. We can also derive from this canon that the deacon from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church would wear the vestments proper to his own tradition, namely, sticharion, orarion, and epimanikia, and not the vesture of a Roman Catholic deacon, namely, amice, alb, cincture, stole, and dalmatic. It is also clear that there is to be no syncretism of rites and that the liturgical books of the principal celebrant are to be followed. Permission does not need to be on an individual basis but can be given generally by the bishop for all clerics in his eparchy or diocese for occasional services that does not require specific faculties that are not granted at the time of ordination.
If the deacon has the permission of the bishops of the different Churches sui iuris no more is needed to serve as deacon in a different Church. There are no actions of the deacon during the Divine Liturgy that require faculties other than what is given in universal law and are acquired with ordination to the diaconate. If the pastor of a parish or the rector of a church invites a deacon of a rite other than his own to serve on a particular occasion, it should be presumed that this is in accordance with the eparchial or diocesan bishop. However, if a deacon were to serve regularly at the Divine Liturgy or Mass, the deacon would need the permission both of his own bishop and the bishop in the eparchy or diocese of the different Church sui iuris. Regularly, would mean more than occasionally. It might be only once per month but if it usually occurs every month, then it is regular. Yet, if a deacon did attend a funeral, a baptism, or a marriage and he was invited to assist the celebrant as a deacon, this would be occasional.
A Roman Catholic deacon who has certain faculties that permit him to preside in the Roman Catholic Church may not preside in any of the Eastern Catholic Churches. He would be permitted to do no more than the law permits an Eastern Catholic deacon to do. This is outlined in numbers 1-6 as listed above.
An Eastern Catholic deacon who serves regularly in the Roman Catholic Church would need to obtain faculties from the local Roman Catholic bishop with the permission of his own eparch if he was to do anything other than occasionally assist at Mass, Vespers, Benediction, etc. The key term here is occasionally assist. As long as the Eastern Catholic deacon does not preside or celebrate and only occasionally assists in a Church sui iuris other than his own, he does not need bi-ritual faculties.
Unlike the Roman Catholic deacon, the Eastern Catholic deacon may not licitly baptize (except in the case of necessity and never solemnly). He may not preside at any liturgical services, nor celebrate minor exorcisms, blessings of catechumens, celebrate non-sacramental penitential services, preside at funeral rites, impart blessings, celebrate sacramentals, “assist” i.e. preside at marriages in the name of the Church, grant dispensations, depute catechists, designated extra-ordinary ministers of Holy Communion, or delegate to lay ministers what is permitted by law.
Furthermore we read in Can. 674 §2:
“The minister should celebrate the sacraments according to the liturgical prescriptions of his own Church sui iuris, unless the law establishes otherwise or he himself has obtained a special faculty from the Apostolic See.”
In this canon, “minister” refers to bishops and presbyters. Since deacons in the Eastern Catholic Churches are never strictly speaking “the minister” of the sacraments for they do not act as the celebrant but rather assist the celebrant, there is no need for them to obtain faculties beyond what the universal law grants to them at the time of ordination, unless the particular law prescribes otherwise.
A final note: it is presupposed that a deacon serving in a Church sui iuris for which he was not ordained will thoroughly know how to serve in the rite of the different Church sui iuris even if it is only occasionally. If he does not have the competence to do such, it would most likely be better that he does not assist.
The author is of the opinion that if a deacon assists a celebrant in a rite other than his own and it is only occasionally, the deacon does not need bi-ritual faculties as long as the hierarchical permission can be at least presumed. However, such faculties are need if the diaconal service is regular.