Bishop without Being a Priest


Not sure where to pose this question but…

Are there any instances in Church history of someone being made a Bishop without being an ordained Priest first? If so, would the confering of the office of Bishop confer the fullness of all orders?

{I seem to recall someone mentioning that an EO Patriarch - Photius was chosen from the ranks of laymen}


That can never happen. If for any reason a layman needs to become a bishop (for example, in the extremely unlikely instance that a layman is elected Pope), then he is given a grand-slam ordination: he is ordained deacon first, then immediately ordained priest, then consecrated as bishop.


note that Saint Ambrose was a catechumen when chose to be Bishop of Milan. He was therefore Baptized, Confirmed, given First Communion, and ordained deacon, priest and bishop the same day. A real grand slam.


This brings up an interesting question. You have ICAB in Brazil (2-3 million members) decended from Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Duarte Costa. He consecrated a few other Bishops. Of course those who were ordained Catholic Priests first or ordained as Priests (valid but illicit) by someone with valid Apostolic succession would be fine in terms of validity.

However, the current head of ICAB who emerged from the group of Bishops to be Patriarch is the now elderly Luis Fernando Castillo Mendez. What is interesting is that the although he says he was ordained a Priest in Solsona Spain after studying at the Catholic Seminary in Caracas, Solsana apparently claims to find no record.

Is it possible it was lost…it is possible. 90% of Catholic Bishops in the world are decended from the Rebiba succession due to the number of Bishops consecrated by one of the Pope’s (causing other lines to die out). They can no longer find documentation as to who consecrated Rebiba a Bishop and just assume it was Pope Paul IV.

But let us assume that Dom Mendez was not actually a Priest before Duarte consecrated him a Bishop. How would that effect things even though he was consecrated a Bishop using Roman Rites and by a legitmate Catholic Bishop (though obviously without Papal authority)?


Hi Rev__,

Since episcopacy is the fullness of the priesthood, a bishop is always a priest.

As for Photius, he was “appointed” Patriarch by the emperor and received all the Holy Orders in six days. There was nothing religious about this story. It was all politics.

You may be interested to know that although all cardinals are currently also bishops, there are three classes of cardinals: cardinal bishops, cardinal “priests” and cardinal “deacons”, in remembrance of days when a deacon or a priest could be a cardinal.

“Cardinals” were originally parish priests from major churches of Rome.



Thanks for your reply (esp re Photius and the Bishop issue). I was aware of the Cardinal issue. As I recall John Cardinal Henry Newman was a Priest Cardinal.

So because a Bishop is the fullness of the Priesthood, I am understanding that in Patriarch Mendez’ case it would not matter in a sense whether he could prove Priesthood or not since he was legitmately consecrated a Bishop by a Roman Catholic Bishop using the Roman Rite (I assume Pre Vatican II). When he was made a Bishop under those circumstances he received the fullness of the Priesthood (valid but illicit).


Yes, several times through out history Lay men have been elevated to the rank of Bishop. This of course includes Ordination to the Ranks of Deacon and Priest at the same time.


Hey Br. Rich,

Have they had to go through each of the rites (cermonies) or does the confering of the order of Bishop confer the other two since it is the fullness of the Priesthood?


I have no idea what the actual Rites looked like. Today the wording is specific to each rank, Deacon, Priest and Bishop. Christ did not specify the From or wording for this Sacrament and left it up to the Church. Today I think that there would be three Rites celebrated one after the other. But that does not mean that there could not have been a combined Rite at one time or another. Or that they could not be combined and celebrated together even today.


I remember reading in a Protestant book on the history of Christianity, that some of the popes back in the day basically ‘sold’ Bishoprics to rich men, ordaining them Bishops straight from the layity. The claim is that other positions in the Church were also sold outright to laymen. Is there any truth to this, and if so, wouldn’t there now be hundreds, if not more, priests with invalid orders, having been ordained by bishops ordained by bishops… etc… down to the false Bishops bought by bad popes??


There is a great difference between valid and illicit. These men who bought these positions before Rome got better control over the process wer most likely validly Ordained, althought only for political reasons, never the less still validly.


Awesome! I’m sure the reason it was/is brought up is to try to disprove our apostolic succession or some such nonsense. It’s good to know that their ordinations were valid. makes sense seeing as it was the pope who ordained them, anyways. just as they can ‘fast track’ the canonization of saints, i guess they can ‘fast track’ the ordination of bishops lol.


Hi REV__,

Have they had to go through each of the rites (cermonies) or does the confering of the order of Bishop confer the other two since it is the fullness of the Priesthood?

The usual manner in these cases is to confer one order after the other, starting from the bottom.



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