Wednesday, February 24, 2010

On the Subdiaconate.

Yes.Joe is going to rant about the kind-of-but-maybe-not-really-suppression of minor orders! (The first one)

First of all,why does Ministeria Quaedam say:
"Among the particular offices to be preserved and adapted to contemporary needs are those that are in a special way more closely connected with the ministries of the word and of the altar and that in the Latin Church are called the offices of reader and acolyte and the subdiaconate"

So Ministeria Quaedam says that the office of the subdiaconate is to be preserved, and then goes on to conflict the role with that of the office of acolyte? What does this mean? It's terribly confusing. I think that the official translation of article 4 of Ministeria Quaedam is inaccurate. The translation says:

"consequently, the major order of subdiaconate no longer exists in the Latin Church."

Now,I think this is inaccurate for two reasons.Firstly, as a major order,the subdiaconate was not on the same level as the minor orders.The Roman Catechism says of it that it contains a sacred character that the other orders do not have.

"From the minor orders, which are not sacred, and of which we have been speaking until now, one lawfully enters and ascends to major and Sacred Orders."

The council fathers knew* that a sacramental major order could not be suppressed in the usual sense, without destroying the integrity of the sacrament of holy orders.A major order cannot be simply abolished. Secondly,the Latin does not really say the order is abolished or simply no longer exists. Rather, the Latin denotes that the subdiaconate will not remain in the form that it was at the time.The subdiaconate will not stay as it is now in the Latin church.It will not stay (or remain) fully in the sense that it is now.
That's a bit different from saying that the order is suppressed, no longer exists,is abolished,etc. Admittedly, MQ does say that the role of the subdeacon is now to be taken by the acolyte, and that the conference of bishops may call the acolyte the subdeacon. This is the hole in my argument.Unfortunately, this is something that neither I nor almost any person can resolve, because nothing in the Vatican II or Post-Vatican II documents deal with the ontology of the subdiaconate, or whether a major order could be suppressed.Only the documents of Trent and pre-Vatican II documents deal with this, and their answer is an emphatic No.As with liturgy and other things, there are vague ambiguities and holes with some of what we have received from the council.In absence of an answer from the conciium, I always appeal to that which came before it.
*Though they seem to have glossed over it.


Michael said...

According to the edition of the Catholic Encyclopaedia on New Advent, it wasn't until the 12th or 13th century that the subdiaconate came to be seen in the Latin church as a major order, which itself raises other questions, I think. What determines what is a major order? Once an order has been elevated to the rank of a major order, is the authority that so raised it unable to later demote or relinquish it?

What I don't understand, though, is how the subdiaconate came to be so removed from parish life.

Joe S.R. said...

Maybe someday these questions will be answered.Especially since traditional groups (Like the Fraternity of St.Peter or some monasteries) are having subdeacons and other minor orders ordained by bishops and cardinals from the Roman Curia itself.

I'm not sure when the switch came.I know that in monasteries and cathedrals (Where they often had a stipended post), there often were men in minor orders who stayed in minor orders.But as for parish life,I'll research that.I'll be sure to put a post up when I find out.

Whats odd though,is that they recognized that the subdiaconate and other minor orders had ceased to be a part of regular parish life, and they did'nt like that.But instead of regulating them and promoting them so that parishes would have them, they created two new 'orders' that still suffer from the same problem.(i.e.,only seminarians usually receive them.Most parishes still do not have actual acolytes and lectors.)

Michael said...

I look forward to reading anything you may find about it.

We're hardly immune. Many Greek parishes now don't have subdeacons. It means that when subdeacons do turn up, they often don't know what to do with them, and when they're most needed, (at hierarchical services), lay servers have to be drafted for the occasion, usually having no idea what to do.

One of the few subdiaconal things that there is to be done when no bishop is around is the opening and closing of the royal doors and veil at the appropriate times during services. There's a running joke in Russian Orthodox circles that the reason Greek priests often leave the doors open is because they have no subdeacons and they don't know how to work them themselves.