The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is set to come up with a new formation program for the permanent diaconate, the establishment of which was recently allowed in the Philippines by Pope Francis.
Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, CBCP president, said the program of formation would be unique in the sense that candidates for permanent deacon, who could be married, won’t have to be confined in the seminary and live apart from their families.
“What makes it particularly exciting for us, Filipinos is the fact that we have the prerogative to design the diaconate a bit differently,” David told CBCP News.
“There’s a tendency for the diaconate to be sort of ceremonial. The deacon is like the priest’s sidekick. But if you look up in the scriptures the role of the diaconate, it’s a special kind of ministry that attends to the most disadvantaged sectors of society, the poorest of the poor, the widows and the orphans,” he explained.
“They are that special ordained ministers of the Church who will assist the bishops in making sure that the Church has a preferential option for the poor [that] is made more concrete,” he added.
In the Catholic Church, the diaconate is the first of three ranks in ordained ministry, followed by priests and bishops.
Deacons preparing for the priesthood are known as transitional deacons. A permanent deacon, on the other hand, can be a single or married man who does not intend to be ordained as a priest.
David said celibate ordained ministers and married ordained ministers would have to coexist.
“It’s not that the celibates will be allowed to get married, that will never happen. If you embrace the celibate life, be faithful to that life that you have embraced. But opening the space for the ordained ministry for married candidates, that has begun with permanent diaconate,” he said.
Will the ongoing “Synod on Synodality,” which is looking at ways to increase participation and consultation in the Church, propose the ordination of women as deacons?
“We do not know if our conversations in the spirit can be led to new resolutions through which the idea of women deacons can be considered, but we’re no strangers to it,” David said.
David, a biblical expert, believes there were women deacons in the early Church, based on New Testament scholarship.
“That is taken for granted among us biblical scholars. The historical development in the Church is a different aspect. In the historical development in the Church, the culture of patriarchy was strong, which was not really the kind of culture Jesus wanted to promote,” he said.