When Canon Law was being revised for the ultimate 1983 Code , His Holiness John Paul II was given a draft regarding Married Permanent Deacons:
It began as:
Canon 135, §2 of the Schema de populo Dei read as follows:
"Men of mature age, promoted to the stable diaconate, who are living in marriage, are not bound to the prescription of §1; these, however, upon the loss of their wife, are bound to celibacy.
Then it even dropped the rule for celibacy and no re-marriage after becoming a widower
"Men promoted to the permanent diaconate, living in marriage, are not
bound to the prescription of §1."
Nevertheless by the time of the final draft this provision for an exemption to clerical continence [i.e. exemption from permanent abstinence] for Married Deacons - was removed !
The Law states:
1983 CIC 277.
§ 1. Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy which is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity.
§ 2. Clerics are to behave with due prudence towards persons whose company can endanger their obligation to observe continence or give rise to scandal among the faithful.
§ 3. The diocesan bishop is competent to establish more specific norms concerning this matter and to pass judgment in particular cases concerning the observance of this obligation.
Now this law makes it quite clear that in line with Church tradition, the provisions of the unchallenged 1917 Code and the reintroduction of Permanent Deacons [actuated by Pius XII for ex-Lutherans and continued by Paul VI's legislation]
that the rule for 'continence' remains.
Married men with consenting wives who wish to become Permanent deacons - upon ordination must refrain from sexual activity.
But - as we all know - this is NOT what's happening in the Western Church.
Worse in the 1998 Vatican directive on the permanent Diaconate , Cardinal Laghi appears to be under the misapprehension that married Deacons are indeed allowed to continue having sex.
He speaks of
"a certain continence"
[why certain? it looks like he's alluding to 1Cor7 - where St Paul advises all married couples to intemittently abstain from sex for spiritual reasons - also to enhance appreciation of each other]
and worse- to
 'welcoming children'
...and we can't infer His Eminence is solely referring to those children conceived before yet born after their father's ordination.
Now if Cardinal Laghi - writing on the diaconate - doesn't understand what canon 277 is saying - what hope is there for the rest of us ?
Especially when His Holiness of Blessed Memory John Paul II - in His Theology of the Body addresses - actually hijacks and alters the meaning of the word continence to fit into his pedagogical paradigm. For JPII marital continence does not mean continence!
Well what about the appeal to equal marital conjugal rights of canon 1135 ?
No - sorry that doesn't apply. Canon 277 applies to all clerics.
What about canon 4 which speaks of the rights which haven't been directly revoked?
Well there isn't anything to revoke - tradition and magisterial teaching and the law had remained consistent; there's no precedent to make.
Well what of the 1998 Vatican directive and the Pope's comments on the issue?
" In particular, the deacon and his wife must be a living example of fidelity and indissolubility in Christian marriage before a world which is in dire need of such signs. By facing in a spirit of faith the challenges of married life and the demands of daily living, they strengthen the family life not only of the Church community but of the whole of society. They also show how the obligations of family, work and ministry can be harmonized in the service of the Church’s mission. Deacons and their wives and children can be a great encouragement to all others who are working to promote"
Canon 33#1 makes it quite clear - it doesn't matter what's said by anyone - even the Pontiff - in regard to the pastoral understanding of the law - even if they teach something inadvertently directly contrary to the law - it doesn't set a precedent or alter a thing.
The law - as stated - remains the law.
Now Dr James Provost attempts to clarify regarding Canon 277
277. This is the canon which imposes perfect and perpetual continence on all clerics.
No exception is made for permanent deacons, although one had been included in the earlier drafts of the canon.
Does this means that married permanent deacons as of November 27, 1983 had to cease having marital relations with their wives?
The text of the law would seem to impose this "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven".
However, through matrimony each of the spouses acquires
"equal obligations and rights to those things which pertain to the partnership of conjugal
life" (c. 1135), and sexual cooperation is part of the permanent consortium (c. 1096,
Since the new code does not take away acquired rights unless they are expressly
revoked by the code (c. 4), and since canon 277 does not explicitly state it is revoking
the acquired marital rights of married deacons, continence is not being imposed on them
even though the law reads that way.
Now yes - as there has been no informed consent requested from the wives of permanent deacons to disengage from conjugal activity - there is no obligation upon them ; but it doesn't mean that there is some invoked precedent which exempts permanent Deacons from the actual law itself.
Canon 4 does not apply - the law is there - it doesn't need to add any conditional that it is removing or revoking any 'privilege' - it's there - blatantly - married permanent deacons as clerics are canonically obliged to continence.
What about canon 277#3 ?
“The diocesan bishop is competent to establish more specific norms concerning this matter [i.e., the perfect and perpetual continence of clerics, per Canon 277 § 1]” and to pass judgment in particular cases concerning the observance of this obligation.”
Surely this means that the exemption from continence is within the remit of the Bishop?
er no! Fr John Boyle reminds us that:
The dispensation from the obligation to celibacy, whether of a deacon or a presbyter, is reserved to the Roman Pontiff. Can. 291: "... loss of the clerical state does not entail a dispensation from the obligation of celibacy, which only the Roman Pontiff grants."
Now Dr Edward Peters [http://canonlawblog.blogspot.com/]
[American Papist's dad!]
has written extensively on this and his 'In the Light of the law' blog is a must-read for anyone interested in this ; American Papist brought the issue to a head in the US - it's all over Twitter and Fr John Boyle has resurrected the issue on the blogosphere over here. There's been plenty opposition and dimissal.
Fr Ray Blake [in his wonderfully pastoral way which loathes the dusty, desiccated, clinical legalistic pharisaic hyper-pedantry in regard to a Code of Canon law in which the prime directive is the fulfilment of God's love, mercy and truth in the daily working of Holy Mother Church - not rigoristically rupturing people's lives] pushes it aside as a storm in a teacup and a misreading of the law. I really wish I could agree.
There's something deeply wrong here - that this situation could arise is ludicrous!
One feels compelled to ask "What the hell were the Papal canonical advisers playing at?"
http://caritasveritas.blogspot.com/2011/01/deacons-and-continence.html [follow the links]
But the whole Issue has now taken a nasty turn - and who is there ?
Yet again - AMERICA MAGAZINE !!
John W Martens doesn't exactly understand what Canon Law is - let alone what it says - and introduces all manner of obfuscations, dismissals, sneerings, fallacious appeals to praxis and authority, accusations that Dr Peters is reacting for all manner of ulterior motives, that his position is invalidated because he doesn't justify his position from biblical sources [I kid you not!!!???] and every other trick in the book .
He even makes the revisionist attempt to redefine the meaning of the word continence into something directly contrary to its canonical meaning.
Ed Peters easily trounces John W Martens's hatchet-job
...but this is beside the point - it's bad enough we have the reprobate Austen Ivereigh pontificating his 'new secularism/pastoral condoms/democratic debate is an enemy of democracy/anti-Catholic Taliban' hackeries in America - this is a ridiculous scenario. Martens is no canon lawyer - so argues using every other reason except the canon itself.
Did 'America"'s editorial team think it was effective and productive to have a non-Canonist sneeringly dismiss Ed Peters's sincere appeal that a Canonical/Praxis anomaly should be addressed?
Oh wait - they let Ivereigh comment on all things Catholic don't they? Silly me...
Now canon 277 needs to be addressed :
It states clearly and categorically that Married permanent deacons cannot continue to have sex - and consequently before ordination their wives had to sign up to this.
This hasn't happened - and in 2013 the thirty year rule of continual practise comes into effect - an appeal can be made to Rome that as it's been an ongoing custom and habit for ordained married deacons to continue having sexual relations in contravention of the law itself - an answer must be given in its regard - and Rome will have egg all over its face with either an embarrassing backdown - causing outrage - or an implementation of the actual law - causing even more outrage!
This can't be dismissed - Rome must act!