Bishops (and Popes) don’t choose their successors. That’s not what Apostolic Succession means. It means that an Apostle ordained a Bishop, and he ordained another Bishop, up to current day, with an unbroken line of ordinations. The manner in which a Bishop (or Pope) is chosen is irrelevant (and it has changed over time). A person is a valid Bishop because he was ordained by a valid Bishop. Everything else is irrelevant.
Regarding the Apostolic Succession, How can we know for sure they are the right successor? They died and then the remaining group of bishops (not of rome) voted them in?
How is this process seen as having no chance to be flawed?
Math. Yes, math. Cutting and pasting from one of my posts a couple of years back about this topic…
Historical records cannot prove that Apostolic Succession is truly unbroken, nor can doctrine. But we DO know this from basic math. We know it beyond all possible doubt! This is NOT a matter of faith - it is a provable fact (and I’m about to prove it) If you ever thought that Bishops were bad at math, guess again!
The Emperor Constantine signed the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, which ended religious persecution in the Roman Empire. Before that, being a Bishop could get you killed, so it would be stupid for someone to impersonate a Bishop. It was risky enough being a real Bishop.
Constantine himself became a Christian, and suddenly it was very fashionable (and perhaps profitable) to be a Christian. The Church was confronted with an unprecedented wave of conversions, and possibly with the problem of some people misrepresenting themselves as Christian priests and Bishops. Credentials were difficult to verify back in those days.
(The Early Fathers have not ever said anything about actual invalid Bishops. We have no evidence that any ever existed. But it was a possibility that had to be considered.)
The problem was not really so much about a few illicit “bishops,” but what would happen if those “bishops” “ordained” other men as “bishops” (who were not aware of the illicit nature of their “consecrators”). Suddenly, the whole Apostolic foundation of Catholic Orders could be called into question (indeed, as you have questioned).
The Church needed a solution to this problem - some way to guarantee that Episcopal Ordinations were valid, even if the validity of the consecrators could not be assured. The Church turned to mathematics.
Twelve years after the Edict of Milan, the Church convened the very first full Ecumenical Council, the great Council of Nicea. This topic was on the agenda.
Only one Bishop is needed to validly ordain another Bishop. But the very first Ecumenical Council, Nicea, imposed a rule (Canon 4) which remains in place to this day - a licit Episcopal Ordination requires at least three Consecrators. As long as just one is valid, the Ordination is valid (FWIW, it is customary for an Episcopal Ordination to be celebrated by many Bishops (ten or more). But let’s just assume every Ordination had just three Consecrators.
Suppose that there were invalid bishops running around in 325 AD (we don’t know that there actually were - there are no records of spurious bishops - but it could have happened). Suppose we accept the ridiculous idea that as many as 1 in 20 bishops was invalid. What is the probability of selecting three invalid bishops? It’s 20 x 20 x 20 (assuming there are at least 22 invalid bishops). That is a probability of 1 in 8000. The first generation of Bishops had 1 in 20 invalid bishops, but the second generation has only 1 in 8000 invalid bishops.
The probability of selecting three invalid bishops from such a pool is 8000 x 8000 x 8000, which is 1 in 512,000,000,000 (that’s 512 billion). As you see, the line of succession actually purifies itself over time. There have been hundreds of generations of Bishops, meaning the probability of having even one invalidly ordained bishop is staggeringly improbable. It’s what physicists call a “small but nonzero probability.” That is about the same probability that all of the air will disappear from your living room (it could happen, but it is staggeringly unlikely).
The math wins, every time. The only way the math could not win is if 2/3 + 1 of all bishops were invalid at any point in time, and Episcopal ordinations *never *had more than three consecrators (whereas it is common to have many more). For this extreme situation to occur in the twelve-year window of opportunity between the Edict of Milan and Nicea-1 is patently absurd.
It is therefore unnecessary that we know (and can prove) any Bishops episcopal lineage. We don’t need knowledge of history, or even the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to know that every Bishop has valid Apostolic succession. We know this by simple math.