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How to Address Deacons and
Formal Letter Closings for Prelates

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Dear Dr. Horvat,

I notice that in your article "How to Address Priests and Religious: Titles and Signs of Respect", under clergy and religious you made no mention of the permanent deacon. Is there a proper address for this ordained member of the clergy?

     S. P.

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Dr. Horvat responds:

Deacons, from the Greek diakonos meaning servant, are those who received the lowest of the major orders of priesthood: deacon, priest and Bishop. The minor orders are: porter, lector, exorcist and acolyte.

The role of deacons has varied through the History of Church. In the early period, they were numerous and exercised many different functions, either as assistants in the celebration of the Mass or for various practical services of the Church. Later, in the Latin Rite, their role diminished and almost disappeared, and the deacon became just an intermediary step for the priesthood.

The Council of Trent considered restoring permanent deacons, but did not do so. After the Second Vatican Council, given the shortage of priests, permanent deacons were restored to help maintain the flock.

The forms of etiquette for addressing Deacons are:
Direct address: Deacon Morris
Written address: Reverend Deacon Michael Morris
Formal introduction:The Reverend Deacon Michael Morris

     Marian Horvat, Ph.D.

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Dear Dr. Horvat,

My wife and I are great admirers of your work, especially your many articles on the Catholic Family. I appreciate your article on the forms of address for Priests and Religious, and I hope you will not be offended if I offer some suggestions. [click here for article "How to Address Priests and Religious: Titles and Signs of Respect ]

The suggestions have to do with letter writing. I realize that the list you have provided in your article is "simply stated", but if one is writing a letter to a prelate, one needs more than the Written Address, one also needs the Formal Closings (which Paul VI ruled "may" be omitted):
Bishop / Archbishop: Kissing the Sacred Ring,
Cardinal: Kissing the Sacred Purple,
Pope: Kissing the Sacred Foot.
One final suggestion; It is not often that Traditionalists have to address Patriarchs, but the situation may arise. Here are the Forms of Address for these prelates:
Direct Address: Your Beatitude. (contra legem since 1893, but of long-standing usage before and constant contra legem usage since)
Written Address: His Beatitude, the Most Reverend Michael Cardinal Sabbah, Patriarch of Jerusalem.
Formal Introduction: His Beatitude, The Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Alas, I have never been able to discover the existence of a Formal Closing proper to Patriarchs. As every Patriarch (and Major Archbishop, if memory serves) has also been made a Cardinal in the last few pontificates, a custom likely to continue in the future, my guess is that the closing for a Cardinal could be used.

Again, thank you for addressing this matter. If we wish to fight the egalitarianism of the Revolution, we must emphasize the principles of hierarchy, including the proper manner in which to address our superiors and betters. A follow-up article on the forms of address for the secular hierarchy (and elected officials) would be helpful as well.

     Dominus tecum,

     N. A. T., MJC

P.S.: One other minor correction if you ever make a less-simple list: Very Reverend Monsignor and Right Reverend Monsignor are not actually interchangeable; they are proper to different ranks of Domestic Prelates.

"Nolite arbitrari quia venerim mittere pacem in terram; non veni pacem mittere sed gladium."

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Dr. Horvat responds:

Dear Mr. N.A.T.

I am very grateful for your support and letter with such pertinent comments. Certainly I will introduce your corrections in my article, as soon as possible .


     Marian Horvat, Ph.D.


Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted November 2, 2005

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