When the Second Vatican Council approved the restoration of the permanent diaconate, there seemed to be broad agreement about the nature of this function within the hierarchy of the Church.
Deacons Today challenges this assumption, arguing that such a restoration will only be effective if there is a deeper understanding of the nature of diaconate in the witness of the New Testament and the history and tradition of the ministry in the earliest centuries of the church's life.
Anthony Gooley - deacon and theologian - says that efforts at restoration, based on inadequate appreciations of the nature of diaconate, are like pouring new wine into old skins. He asserts that if we want to see this ministry flourish for the good of the Church and the proclamation of the Gospel (as the Council intended), we need to pour the wine into new wineskins. He argues that we have wasted the new wine because the dominant ideas about deacons are based on false foundations. We have either attempted to pour it into the wineskins of a servant of charity or social work - inherited from a mistaken identification of the deacon word group with those for charity and care; or we have poured it into the wineskins of transitional deacons and parish ministry as a kind of 'half-priest'.
Only by fashioning new wineskins - based on an understanding of the true profile of the deacon words, as well as a deeper encounter with the theology of ministry and Holy Orders - will we recover and build upon a clear understanding of the motives and intentions of the Council in restoring the permanent ministry of deacons.
Anthony Gooley is Adjunct Associate Professor, Institute for Ethics and Society, University of Notre Dame, Australia. Qualified in education, psychology and doctoral studies in theology, he is part of the Mission Directorate of Catholic Health Australia, supporting the work of governance and leadership formation, and mission and identity development. Anthony is a deacon of the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane. He is married with children and shares his time between his homes in Sydney and Canberra.