We have seen how the pre-conciliar Pontifical preserves the idea, found in the first-century Roman text known as I Clement, that the Diaconate is a primarily cultic institution, the purpose of which is to serve the High Priest, the Bishop, in the Eucharistic celebration, distributing the Sacrament and proclaiming the Gospel; that it is not seen in terms of lowly service to the needy. In the earliest formulae, elements taken from Acts 6 (such as 'serving at tables' and S Stephen) are not even mentioned. In the Middle Ages, occasional references to S Stephen gradually make their way into the rites, but without any great suggestion that deacons should follow his alleged example* of philanthropic endeavour towards the needy.
Recent Protestant responses to the conclusions established by Collins tend towards a disgruntled acceptance of his philological conclusions accompanied by a faintly ashamed assertion of a grim determination to ignore it in practice, on the grounds that 'we' have invested too much in the old mistake to be able to drop it now! So much for all that Reformation woffle about the supremacy of Sola Scriptura as the judge of merely human traditions in the Church!
Naturally, the post-Vatican II reformers, deeply infected by liberal Protestant notions of Diaconia-as-Service and of the Servant Church, found the rites they inherited profoundly unsatisfactory. When they had got their hands on the Rite for the Consecration of a Bishop, they had robbed it entirely of its ancient Roman Consecratory Prayer with its Clementine, first century, doctrine of the Bishop. Happily, the Rite of Diaconal Ordination fared a little better and was fortunate enough not to be deprived of its ancient Consecratory Prayer. But the text of this venerable formula was badly corrupted by the interpolation of phraseology expressing the novel Protestant dogma.
After the Diaconal Prayer has referred to the Levitical ministry at the Tabernacle, an entire paragaph was added in the post-Conciliar period, based on Acts 6 and ending - tediously, inevitably - with a reference to serving at tables. After the words which, according to Pius XII, are the 'form' of the sacrament, phrases are added about "love that is sincere ... concern for the sick and the poor". And, with equal inevitability, the Prayer is made to end "May they in this life imitate your Son, who came, not to be served but to serve"**. I will leave you to guess where the New Testament Reading is taken from. (Yes, you're right.) The Collect as rendered by ICEL refers to "serving their brothers and sisters" and "concern [what a very late-twentieth-century word that is!] for others". The super oblata reminds us of the Lord's foot-washing. I'm quite sure that's what S Stephen did to the widows after he'd given them their breakfast, only S Luke has forgotten to mention it.
Is this altered post-conciliar Western rite for diaconal ordination adequate validly to confer the Sacramental order of the Diaconate? Since it is authorised and used by Holy Mother Church, we are, of course, completely protected by our over-arching conviction of the indefectibility of the Church. So I would firmly discourage any scruples and would maintain that the question does not even need to be discussed. (If this were not so, strict application of the methodology in Apostolicae curae, which was specifically crafted to make it easy to bring in a 'Guilty' verdict against rites which had been tampered with, might very well raise awkward questions. Sedevacantists have not been blind to the polemical possibilities in this area. But I prefer the older and healthier Western notion that a rite which has been tampered with, denuded, or even corrupted with misguided insertions, provided that it still contains the barest minimum of what is essential in terms of 'form' and 'matter' and is accompanied by a minimal 'intention', is good enough, and cannot even be nullified by the erroneous views of a minister. S Robert Bellarmine rules, OK.)
One more post will conclude this series.
*S Stephen, after being ordained deacon, is martyred for his witness to the Gospel, and another of the seven deacons, S Philip, actually goes off to preach the Gospel, not to run welfare schemes. Austin 'Anglican Patrimony' Farrer pointed out that "The supposition that the Seven are regarded by St Luke as 'deacons' is a very old error", and remarked that, in Acts 19:22, Timothy and Erastus were among those who were diakonounton ... not to the needy but to Paul.
**The old prayer ended instead with petition that the neo-ordinati "having always the testimony of a good conscience, and continuing ever stable and strong in thy Son Jesus Christ, may so well behave themselves in this inferior office, that they may be found worthy to be called unto the higher ministries in thy Church". I give Cranmer's ... free but basically honest ... translation of Sarum; I find it rather diverting that the realism of the last two clauses seemed unexceptionable to a Reformation Zwinglian but impossibly politically incorrect to trendy liturgical tamperers in the 1960s.
Incidentally, those last clauses also raise difficult problems about deacons who are permanent in the sense that they are forbidden to be ordained beyond the diaconate. I think I regard that prohibition a a disorder.