By FATHER KENNETH DOYLE
Editor's Note: This column is being repeated by Catholic News Service. Father Doyle is now retired.
Q. At Mass recently, I was stunned by a statement made by the deacon who was giving the homily. That has made me wonder whether deacons have sole independence when preparing remarks or if the priest exercises oversight. (City of origin withheld)
A. On the parish level, the pastor has the ultimate responsibility for the orthodoxy and propriety of what is said from the pulpit. To answer your question directly: A deacon does not have "sole independence" for his remarks.
In practice, though, rarely does this result in the pastor's "pre-screening" a deacon's homilies. By the very fact that he has allowed and invited the deacon to preach, the pastor has indicated his confidence that the deacon will handle things maturely and well. Deacons do not pop up suddenly from a congregation on a Sunday morning.
Before being ordained, deacons undergo a fairly intensive "vetting" process that includes several years of theological education, psychological evaluation and tutoring in pastoral techniques.
Returning to your question, you would be best advised to bring your concern to your pastor. If he, like you, is "stunned" by what the deacon is said to have said, he will surely bring it to the deacon's attention to avoid future problems. If he deems it necessary, the pastor might even see fit to make a correction from the pulpit.