The world is full of buffoons. None, or almost none of whom are more massive than those of the clergy, or the almost clergy, or the wanna be clergy. Deacons are especially good examples of clerical buffoonery. They have a very decided proclivity to look down on the laity. Sometimes, dare I say, often more so than the priests themselves. It seems as though they feel obliged to assert their newly established selves in the role of an “insider” in the life of the Church. There is some type of pride that kicks in and makes them proclaim to the world that they are no longer “laity” but “clergy.”
This is especially noticeable in the Catholic church of the 21st century where the mix of highly capable lay people and clergy is fast approaching numbers that favor the laity. Even the influx of ordained permanent deacons is not great enough to staunch the trend. There are many lay people with long term church ministry experience coupled with middle level and even terminal educational degrees who are employed in the parishes to collaborate with the clergy in the mission of the Church. Few clergy (in the United States anyway) have significant college degrees. They have spent a lot of time in school but much of the schooling did not lead to a graduation in the secular meaning of the term. Even fewer of them have degrees that indicate a major in a Church oriented discipline. So, it is not rare to see a flare of anger from a cleric who is being gainsaid by a lay person. A paid lay person. On the same staff. Yes, a paid professional with as much or even more ministerial experience and education than the cleric.
Sadly the flare sometimes comes at a moment when a seemingly insignificant item is at issue. And come, it does and it matters not who may or may not be witnessing the episode.
Take the case of the deacon and the lay person who got entangled over an issue of ritual correctness. The deacon was making a clear mistake in the directives that he was giving to a group of people who were to participate in a liturgy scheduled for the Easter Vigil ceremonies. The deacon was expounding a ritual sequence wildly off the mark. Now, All communications about this matter have been clear, concise, timely and very, very official. The lay person in charge of the overall management of the liturgy was present at the time and made an intervention concerning the erroneous nature of the directives given by the deacon. He took great offense at being called out by the “Liturgy Police” and immediately lost his cool and in a trice, after a quick exchange of cross words he ended the exchange by declaring himself “the clergy.” It doesn’t end there.
The lay person sent the clergyman the history of the communications as well as copies of the actual documents now in full force. No response to that, but a good dose of vitriolic invective as a response. Through it all, he remains “the clergy” and she remains “the laity.” He rermains "right" and she, "wrong" and the flash-fast explosion of anger was lit by her.
A quick repartee about the “Liturgy Police.” First, the only individuals who fear or dislike the police are those who know that they are not doing the right thing and are unhappy that they got caught at it. Not a very brightly glowing endorsement for the clergyman in this case. In fact it is as clear a self indictment as one could hope to find.
This truth makes the tidal wave of self exculpating arguments laughable at best and disgusting at worst. In this case the overwhelming stream of pseudo theology containing no logic, many reinforcing emotional repetitions and some pseudo psychological assertions are a combination of both, buffoonery and malice. Just like the person who runs the red light spills out all over the citing officer. Same attitude, same result.
A right remains right and erroneous remains erroneous.
The other thought that I have is about the deacon clergy [I know that’s a coined term]. I’m against it. If married men can be ordained to the diaconate, they can be ordained to the priesthood. I also believe that the Tradition of how deacons came to be is on my side; at least in the way that I have come to look at the tradition of the diaconate. I’m not against the diaconate. I am against the clergy-creep that has come about. Read the story of how deacons came into existence. (Acts 6: 1 – 7) Read it. In a nutshell, deacons came about so that the Apostles could concentrate on spreading the word to the Jews. They were neglecting the marginalized Greeks (think Gentiles), so they needed some help to run the soup kitchen. It says clearly, “it isn’t right for us to set aside the proclamation of God’s word in order to serve tables.” Why do we as Church allow them to operate as mini-priests? For the greater part, they do not do it well. For the greater part they are proud to be clergy, they act like clergy, and, in this one case they hammer people with their status and they forget (as does the Church in the US, at least) what their position is in the Apostolic Succession – table servers for the marginalized.
It is my humble opinion that they should stick to serving tables and stay out of the sanctuary.