Apostolic/Papal Succession: A Question


Can it be proven? Or, for that matter, disproven? In any case, why should we believe/disbelieve it?

Is it true popes have been removed from the line of succession because it has been proven that they did not exist, or for any reason, really?

If it CAN be proven, could someone PLEASE give me an article supporting it? If it can be disproven, please do likewise.

How does one justify papal corruption, clear in the Middle Ages, and alledged indifference in regards to Leo X during the abuse of indulgences, formally repented of at Trent?

(To save creating ANOTHER thread, in your opinions, does it detract from our reliance on Christ for understanding if we do actually have a perfect doctrine out there?)

Know that this is far from accusatory. I have genuinely been confused/distressed by such questions lately. I feel like perhaps the Catholic Faith is where I belong, but simultaneously everyone keeps trying to convince me otherwise (my church, my mother, my friends, you name it!).

My friend/pastor said to me in regards to papal succession:

“If *that’*s succession, then God help us! If that’s Truth, then we’re all in trouble! Look into it for yourself …”

He recommended “counterpoint” articles/books on different Catholic issues as an unbiased source, but I haven’t been able to find any and am not sure what they are.

I’m very confused … very, very confused. Please help!


The question now becomes, “What proof will you accept?”

I can show you historical texts that state that the Bishops of Rome were established by Peter. I can show you the lineage of Popes.

But what will you accept as authentic proof?

I mean, for instance, there recently was a conference in Iran whose purpose was to deny the Holocaust. news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6172773.stm

This shows that anything can be given proof or disproof.

So, it comes down to the question I asked. What will you accept as proof?



I’d like to know more about this conversation.

The reason is this: if your friend/pastor is so skeptical, why would you or he accept anything a proof?

What was he talking about in particular? Why is he so judgemental?



Okay, I’m going to take a shot at this based on a new analogy I’m working on…forgive me if it fails.

Apostolic succession in the Bishops is like a relay race. If the baton in ever dropped, then those who run thereafter do so in vain because they are disqualified. In the same way, if a man is invalidly ordained, then his efforts to confect the sacraments are in vain because he is disqualified from performing them.

On the other hand, Papal Succession is NOT like a relay race because the papacy does not pass from one Bishop of Rome to the next. The current pope, Benedict XVI, did not receive the baton from John Paul II because the latter was dead at the time BXVI was elected. Instead, EACH pope receives the baton by virtue of his election to the office. Each pope succeeds Peter; they do not succeed their immediate predecessor (except chronologically, of course).

Therefore, it does not matter if the papacy is vacant for a few days, weeks, or even months before a valid election is held. It does not matter if a really evil person is elected. It does not matter if we have forgotten one or two of the validly elected popes in the course of our 2,000 year history. All that matters is that the cardinals who are eligible to vote do so and elect a pope. When they do, papal succession continues.

When we speak of an unbroken chain of papal succession back to the days of Peter, it does not mean that we can literally name every pope who ever held the position correctly with proper dates, etc. of his reign - though we have a pretty solid list at this point. However, if a link or two are missing, so what? The chain is unbroken by virtue of the fact that the election of every pope who we do know was valid under canon law and that this is continued in the election of the current pope, as well.

I ask for comments and critiques of my understanding of this issue. If I’m wrong, I welcome correction.

Thanks in advance. :tiphat:


Can you at least show us the 12 that replaced the original 12 Apostles not Judas but Mathias? Who replaced James when he was killed in Acts?

My Mom who was a Catholic just died . My sister and I sang “Standing on the Promises” to her before she died.We told her that Peter said in Acts4:12 That there is no name under heavan by which you can be saved. We told her to believe Christ for forgiveness of her sins. 1JN1:9 My Mom spent thousands of dollars to try to get my Dad out of Purgatory. We had to ask the church to quit taking her money. They did finally tear up her checks. Thank God.



Good explanation Randy.
I’d just add a little more on the popes whose moral life left a lot to be desired. Our Lord’s promise of infallibility (Mt. 16:18-19) did not promise that the popes would be sinless. He promised only that what they declared as binding (or loosed) would be true - in agreement with what has been bound in heaven by God. History has shown that Jesus has upheld His promise of protection. I recall a priest telling us that one of the most corrupt popes in the Church’s history never wrote a word!

A Catholic’s trust in infallibility is not a trust in the ability of the man who happens to be pope, but trust in the power of Our Lord to fulfill His promise and ensure that only the truth will be bound or loosed by whoever is pope.



We don’t know who succeed all of the Apostles by name; in general, the Apostles were succeeded by the Bishops. However, we do know who succeeded Peter: Linus followed by Anacletus and Clement.

As for the reality of succession, consider the words of two of the Early Church Fathers who recorded the following at amazingly early dates in history:

“Through countryside and city [the apostles] preached, and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty, for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier… Our Apostles knew through Our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry.” (Pope St. Clement of Rome, Epistle to the Corinthians, 42:4-5, 44:1-3 [80 A.D.])

“The blessed Apostles [Peter and Paul], having founded and built up the Church [of Rome], they handed over the office of the episcopate to Linus. Paul makes mention of this Linus in the Epistle to Timothy. To him succeeded Anencletus; and after him, in the third place from the Apostles, Clement was chosen from the episcopate. He had seen the blessed Apostles and was acquainted with them. It might be said that He still heard the echoes of the preaching of the Apostles, and had their traditions before his eyes. And not only he, for there were many still remaining who had been instructed by the Apostles. In the time of Clement, no small dissension having arisen among the brethren in Corinth, the Church in Rome sent a very strong letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace and renewing their faith. To this Clement, Evaristus succeeded; and Alexander succeeded Evaristus. Then, sixth after the Apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telesphorus, who also was gloriously martyred. Then Hyginus; after him, Pius; and after him, Anicetus. Soter succeeded Anicetus, and now, in the twelfth place after the Apostles, the lot of the episcopate has fallen to Eleutherus. In this order, and by the teaching of the Apostles handed down in the Church, the preaching of the truth has come down to us.” (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, A.D. 180, [3,3,3])



Here are some other churches with apostolic succession…

Greek Orthodox Church ec-patr.org/list/index.php?lang=en

Antiochian Church orthodoxwiki.org/Ignatius_of_Antioch
& sor.cua.edu/History/index.html

The Coptic Church geocities.com/Eureka/Gold/4853/Pope.html

The Armenian Church armenianchurch.org/ & and Disciples



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