What exactly is a Deacon and how is he different from a Priest?

Deacons are ordained members of the Clergy who are beneath the priest in the Church hierarchy.

All priests and bishops are ordained as deacons before being further ordained as a priest or bishop.   In that case they are called "transitional deacons".

Permanent Deacons are those men ordained as deacons but who do not plan to move on to the priesthood.

Permanent Deacons can be married if they were married at the time of ordination, but are normally not allowed to marry again (if their wife dies).   Deacons can do pretty much what a priest can do, except they cannot say Mass or do the Consecration.   They cannot hear confession, and they are not allowed to anoint the sick (since that may involve confession).

The traditional garb of the Deacon is an alb (a white robe) with a stole that goes over the left shoulder (as opposed to the Priest's stole which goes over both shoulders). Also, at Mass, the Deacon wears a Dalmatic (a cloak similar to the Priest's Chausable). As with the Priest, the stole and dalmatic must match the liturgical colors of the day:

Concerning Women Deacons,  the early Church allowed women to be Deacons (they were called Deaconesses). Women Deacons disappeared from the Latin Church by the Middle Ages. At the same time, Deacons became one of the Holy Orders leading to the Priesthood. Today, while married men are allowed to be Deacons, the Church has not re-opened the Diaconate to women, but this is currently under consideration by the Vatican.

- Deacon George Kozak (6/01)

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