The Obligation of Perfect and Perpetual Continence and Married Deacons in the Latin Church
The Obligation of Perfect and Perpetual Continence and Married Deacons in the Latin ChurchRev. Anthony K. W. McLaughlin, J.C.D.Director: Rev. Robert J. Kaslyn, S.J., J.C.D.Through the reception of diaconate a man becomes a cleric. Canon 277 §1 states: "Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy. . . . " Accordingly, it would seem that clerics have two distinct obligations: sexual continence (no sexual relations) and celibacy (no marriage) with continence presented as the fundamental norm. With the restoration of the permanent diaconate by Paul VI in 1967 and the admission of married men to this order, a fundamental question arises: "Are married deacons, though dispensed from the obligation of celibacy, unless their wife dies, obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence?" The dissertation has five chapters. Chapter one presents a general historical overview of clerical continence, chastity and celibacy in the Latin Church. Chapter two examines the 1917 code's dispositions on clerical continence, chastity and celibacy. Chapter three follows both the discussions of the Fathers at the Second Vatican Council and post-conciliar norms concerning the restoration of the permanent diaconate in the Latin Church. It also presents the conciliar teaching on sexuality and marriage, with particular focus given to the compatibility of marriage and orders. Chapter four examines canon 277 §1 of the 1983 code, with special attention given to the revision process. Chapter five considers whether married deacons in the Latin Church are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence. The dissertation demonstrates that how one understands the law of continence is dependent upon how one understands the law of celibacy. If celibacy is understood narrowly as the legal condition of being unmarried then only celibate clerics are bound to observe the law of continence (the "Celibacy School"). However, if celibacy is understood broadly in terms of the lex continentiae, no sexual relations post ordinationem, then married deacons are bound to observe the law of continence ("the Continence School"). In clarifying the fundamental issues and analyzing the implicit suppositions of the two "schools" this dissertation will help to illustrate why the obligation of continence for married deacons is even a question.
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