By: Protodeacon David Kennedy
(5) Chalcedon, canon 6, AD 451
No one, whether presbyter or deacon or anyone at all who belongs to the ecclesiastical order, is to be ordained without title, unless the one ordained is specially assigned to a city or village church or to a martyr’s shine or a monastery. The sacred synod has decreed that the ordination of those ordained without title is null, and that they cannot operate anywhere, because of the presumption of the one who ordained them.
What does this canon mean by the term ‘title’? It is derived from the Latin titulus. It refers specifically to the revenue or income that is attached to a certain church. This revenue is made available to the clergy assigned to and serving at the titulus. Thus, a bishop is not to ordain a candidate unless the one ordained can be financially maintained.
The rise of the permanent diaconate in the Catholic Church since Vatican II has departed from this practice that can be dated to the 3rd century in Rome. Let us first review the most relevant canons and then make a short synopsis of the current practice.
Can. 390 - §1. Clerics have the right to a suitable sustenance and to receive a just remuneration for carrying out the office or function committed to them; in the case of married clerics, the sustenance of their families, unless this has been otherwise sufficiently provided, is to be taken into account.
§2. They also have the right that there be provided for themselves as well as for their families, if they are married, suitable pension funds, social security as well as health benefits. So that this right can be effectively put into practice clerics are bound by an obligation on their part to contribute to the fund spoken of in can. 1021, §2 according to the norm of the particular law.
Can. 371 - §1. Having fulfilled the requirements of law, clerics have the right to obtain from their eparchial bishop an office, ministry or function to be exercised in the service of the Church.
§2. Clerics are to accept and faithfully carry out every office, ministry, or function committed to them by the competent authority whenever, in the judgment of this same authority, the needs of the Church require it.
§3. However in order that they may exercise a civil profession the permission of their own proper hierarch is required.
Can. 385 - §2. Clerics are forbidden to exercise by themselves or through another any business or trade whether for their own benefit or for that of another, except with permission of the authority defined by particular law or by the Apostolic See.
(Deacons censing, holding zions on their shoulders.)
- Clerics are bishops, presbyters and deacons and depending on particular law those in ‘minor orders’ e.g. readers/cantors and subdeacons.
- Clerics are not to exercise a civil profession without the permission of their own hierarch.
- Clerics are not to operate a business or a trade without permission from the legitimate authority.
- Thus clerics must be maintained in a just manner by the office, ministry or function assigned to them.
How is this currently applied to the diaconate in the Eastern Catholic Churches? The reality is that the greatest number of deacons financially support themselves from income earned by a civil profession, a business or a trade. Very few deacons receive income from an office, a ministry or a function assigned to them. If they do, they are usually treated in the same manner, as lay ministers would be in those offices, ministries or functions. It is not unusual to find deacons spending about 10-20 hours per week in ministry. This is given freely and without compensation. The current situation is both a departure from the early and present canonical norms.