By:Protodeacon David Kennedy
Since there is often considerable confusion in regards to what diaconal ecclesiastical dress is to be, especially in regards to "permanent" deacons, the following is offered as a clerification from a canonical perspective.
The Code of Canon Law in Can. 284 reads: Clerics are to wear suitable ecclesiastical dress, in accordance with the norms established by the Bishops’ Conference and legitimate local custom.
Are deacons clerics? Yes. Ordination to the diaconate in the Latin Church enrolls one as a cleric.
Are deacons to wear “suitable ecclesiastical dress”? Yes but see below for the exemption.
Who determines the “suitable ecclesiastical dress”? The particular Bishop’s Conference.
Is there a universal law that imposes a uniform ecclesiastical dress? No.
What are the norms established by the NCCB?
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops (US) in its norms for implementing the Code of Canon Law states: Outside liturgical functions, a black suit and Roman collar are the usual attire for priests. The use of the cassock is at the discretion of the cleric.
Must permanent deacons wear “suitable ecclesiastical dress”? No.
Can. 288 reads: Permanent deacons are not bound by the provisions of cann. 284, 285 §§ 3 and 4, 286, 287 §2, unless particular law states otherwise.
May permanent deacons wear “suitable ecclesiastical dress”? Yes.
Can the general law or the particular law, prohibit permanent deacons from wearing “suitable ecclesiastical dress”? Not at present. If a cleric is prohibited from wearing ecclesiastical dress such a prohibition is to be interpreted as a penalty.
What Can. 288 does is give a general dispensation from ecclesiastical dress to permanent deacons unless the particular law removes the dispensation and requires permanent deacons to wear ecclesiastical dress.
Neither the NCCB nor the local bishop has authority in law to prohibit a permanent deacon from wearing suitable ecclesiastical dress. Universal law imposes the obligation to wear such dress. The NCCB and the local bishop can determine the type of ecclesiastical dress, which the NCCB has done. They can give dispensations but they cannot overthrow the general law. This is a basic principal in law: the laws at a higher level bind a lawmaker; general laws supersede particular law.
The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches in Can. 387 reads: Particular law is to be observed in regard to the attire of clerics.
(His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow on the left, His Beatitude Jerome, Archbishop of Athens and all Greece on the right, behind and between them Archdeacon Epiphanius Arvanitis. This photo is a good exhibit of current ecclesiastical dress or attire in the Byzantine tradition. Photo: partriarchia.ru)
There is no dispensation for permanent deacons in the Eastern Catholic Churches from ecclesiastical dress at a general level as there is for Roman Catholic permanent deacons. No such dispensation exists at present in the particular law of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. The Instruction for Applying the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, No. 66 reads in part: As for the non-liturgical dress of the clergy, it is appropriate that the individual Churches sui iuris return to the style of the traditional Eastern usage. In this author’s opinion No. 66 implies that permanent deacons in the Eastern Catholic Churches should wear the ecclesiastical dress of their Orthodox brethren.
The particular law of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (April 7, 2015) No. 62. states, "At all official ecclesiastical or state functions the clerical attire is the under-cassock unless the eparchial bishop determines otherwise." I take this to be the minimum, i.e. the anterior or under-cassock. No mention is made of the exorason.