Apostolic Succession through Priests

Why is Apostolic Succession only recognized as passing through Bishops? It seems anyone receiving Holy Orders, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, would have this authority. This question is based on the establishment of Deacons in Acts 6.

Leo Haydock’s Catholic Commentary may answer your question

Acts 6 especially verse 6.

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Each of the two lower grades of Holy Orders share in the Bishop’s apostolic ministry. While a deacon or priest is consecrated to ministry, they cannot consecrate others to share in their ministry. That is why only bishops (or others of the same grade) may ordain others. It is the one sacrament they cannot delegate to a lower grade.


Because only bishops are the successors to the apostles.

Notice, though, that it’s explicitly the case there that the deacons did not share in the ministry of the apostles – rather, they served the community, thus freeing up the apostles to perform their apostolic ministry!

Authority to rule, and Authority to minister are two different things. Christ sent out the 72 to minister, but they were not the Apostles (or at least most were not). Pastors have only Authority as delegated by a bishop.

Priests, Deacons, and consecrated religious (as well as bishops) have ministry. This is a word wildly over used. Laity participate in the apostolate of the Church.

Bishops alone are able to ordain. As Jesus sent the Apostles, bishops send those they ordain. Bishops are the critical figure in the continuing succession from the original Apostles sent by Jesus.

This is a narrow view of Apostolic Succession. A broader view understands the whole Church as sent by Christ. Bishops, as the sign of unity within their particular church, show unity with the whole Church in this mission.

The easy answer is found in your own words.

But the Bishop only ordains priests and deacons with limited aspects of his authority. He specifically doesn’t grant all of his power. And considering that the priest is explicitly supposed to share in his bishop’s mission, any decision about ordaining another priest would need to be the bishop’s anyways why would he need to?

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