Understanding the Diaconate: Historical, Theological, and Sociological Foundations

by W. Shawn McKnight
foreword David W. Fagerberg
Catholic University of America Press, 2018
eISBN: 978-0-8132-3036-8, Paper: 978-0-8132-3035-1

What is a deacon? More than fifty years since the restoration of the permanent diaconate by the Second Vatican Council, the office of deacon is still in need of greater specificity about its purpose and place within the mission and organizational structure of the Church. While the Church is more than a social reality, the Church nonetheless has a social reality. Our understanding of the diaconate therefore benefits from a theological discussion of the divine element of the Church and a sociological examination of the human element. Understanding the Diaconate adds the resources of sociology and anthropology to the theological sources of scripture, liturgy, patristic era texts, theologians, and magisterial teachings to conclude that the deacon can be understood as “social intermediary and symbol of communitas” who serves the participation of the laity in the life and mission of the Church. This research proposes the deacon as a servant of the bond of communion within the Church (facilitating the relationship between the bishop/priest and his people), and between the People of God and the individual in need. Thus authentic diaconal ministry includes a vast array of many concrete contexts of pastoral importance where one does more than simply serve at Mass.
Title Page
Copyright Page
Foreword by David W. Fagerberg
Part 1. Theological Foundations of the Diaconate
1. Biblical Diakonia
2. The Theology of the Deacon in Lumen Gentium
Part 2. The Diaconate asmedius ordo
3. Social Mediation
4. Social Mediation and the People of God
Part 3. The Witness of History
5. Precedents for the Deacon as Social Intermediary
6. The Transformation and Decline of the Diaconate
Part 4. The Deacon Today
7. The Deacon in the Liturgy
8. Evaluating the Structure of Diaconal Ministry Today
9. Restructuring the Diaconate as an Intermediate Institution
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