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Widowed Deacons

Q. A Catholic neighbor recently told me her parish priest said that if a deacon’s wife dies, the Church forbids him from marrying again. What is the reasoning behind this Church ruling?

A. Deacon David Profitt, head of the diaconate office for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, writes: “When a married man is ordained to the permanent diaconate, he receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders and the canonical conditions that go with it—with the exception of celibacy. Once the marriage bond is dissolved at the death of the spouse, those canonical conditions continue, at which point the deacon is now under the vow of celibacy.

“There are, however, cases where the Church has allowed a deacon to remarry. This typically would occur if there are young children involved and the lack of a mother would be detrimental to their growth.”

When the Catholic Church restored the permanent diaconate after Vatican II, it chose to follow the practice in the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches to allow for the ordination of married men—on the condition that they remain celibate should they become widowers. This condition reflects a Church practice that can be dispensed.

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