Bishops and Laying on of Hands? Easy Question to Answer!


#1

I understand that to have valid holy orders, you must have a bishop perform a laying on of hands (I also understand the requirement of 3 bishops), but I guess what I don’t understand is what about bishops? From what I understand, bishops are selected by the Pope, so does he lay his hands on them and essentially make them bishops officially? If not, who does?

If he does, has it always been this way? If not, how did it occur in the past? I know there was a time in Church history where bishops were selected by political figures, but I am assuming someone from the Church still had to agree to this. I guess I just don’t understand how this process works. Help here would be great. I have tried reading online about it, but I haven’t found anything that explains the problems I mentioned above. Thanks in advance as always!

I guess another way of asking this question is: How are bishops validly selected or made bishops?


#2

I believe that the Pope lays his hands on them but I don’t know the history of when that started.


#3

Bishops ordain other Bishops. I’m not sure of the methods of selecting new ones, but the Pope has to approve them. But he doesn’t have to personally consecrate them.

Check out catholic-hierarchy.org/. Pick a Bishop. His page should show who consecrated him, and if he’s been around a while, who he’s consecrated.


#4

The short answer is that, as Richard320 said, the laying on of hands is typically done by other bishops and the pope is not involved in it at all. The longer answer would explain that throughout history, and even now, there have been a variety of ways in which bishops have been selected – relatively few of which have involved some ukase coming down from the Vatican. Bishops have been elected by the clergy of the city or by the clerical chapter attached to the cathedral, bishops have been basically appointed by local civil authorities, etc. Even today, many bishops in France are essentially chosen by the government under the terms of the Franco-Holy See concordat from a century ago. But as regards the actual ceremony of consecrating someone a bishop, popes sometimes do it, but most of the time it will be three local bishops who serve as the consecrator and co-consecrators – perhaps, say, the papal nuncio or the metropolitan of the province along with the bishops of two neighboring dioceses.


#5

Thanks for all of the answers, I really appreciate it. The last poster mentioned three bishops are usually there…Is this a requirement or just a formality? Is the three bishop rule new or has it been around for a very long time?


#6

The reason I asked is that I read somewhere that for many years in Alexandria (in Egypt I believe and a long time ago), bishops were consecrated by priests, not bishops…but I am not sure how true this is.


#7

There are 4 orders in the government of the Church:

1) Laity (Saints, Faithful, Brethren) – Romans 1:7, 2Co 1:1, 1Ti 5:10, Eph 1:1, Col 1:2
2) Deacons (Servants) – 1Ti 3:8:8-13, Acts 6:3 (St. Stephen was one of the 1st four)
3) Priests (Presbyters, Elders) – 1Ti 5:17, Acts 14:23, Tts 1:5
4) Bishop (Overseer, Episkopos) – Acts 20:17, Acts 28, 1Ti 3:17, Tts 1:7-9.

The bishop was the leader of the Elders (Priests) therefore being an Elder first and as such having hands laid upon ordination.

For example, in Antioch where Peter was bishop, Evodius succeeded Peter as bishop when Peter left Antioch for Rome. From ECF we understand that the Apostles employed the practice of laying hands before assigning responsibilities to the Faithful. While we don’t have specific (that I am aware of) details of the practice, we understand under tradition that a bishop was selected from among the Elders.

This changed over the years as the Church grew and responsibilities grew with it.

An excerpt from New Advent:

newadvent.org/cathen/02581b.htm

The Council of Trent determined the conditions to be fulfilled by candidates for the episcopate, of which the following are the principal: birth in lawful wedlock, freedom from censure and irregularity or any defect in mind, purity of personal morals, and good reputation. The candidate must also be fully thirty years of age and have been not less than six months in Holy orders. He ought also to have the theological degree of Doctor or at least be a licentiate in theology or canon law or else have the testimony of a public academy or seat of learning (or, if he be a religious, of the highest authority of his order) that he is fit to teach others (c. vii, De electione et electi potestate, X.I. vi; Friedberg, II, 51. Council of Trent. Sess. XXII, De ref., ch. ii). The Holy Office is charged with the examination of persons called to the episcopate, with the exception of the territories subject to the Congregation of the Propaganda or to the Congregation of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, or of those countries where the nomination of bishops is governed by special laws and concordats ("Motu Proprio" of Pope Pius X. 17 December, 1903; "acta sanctae Sedis, 1904, XXXVI, 385).


#8

I think the 3 bishop rule has been in place for a long time…probably dating back to the Roman persecution or sometime after.

Bishops do not choose themselves…anybody aspiring to be one will surely not be chosen…they are chosen and “sent”…Rom 10…? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?

The roots of ordination started with Moses, as far as I can tell…Numbers 27…18So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit,a and lay your hand on him. 19Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence…22Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole assembly. 23Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, as the Lord instructed through Moses.

See the parallel in Acts 13…1In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting,** the Holy Spirit said, “**Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.


#9

It is only a rule (not a requirement for Sacramental validity - you only need one valid Bishop). It has, indeed, been around for a long time - the rule was established by the first Ecumenical Council, the Council of Nicea (which also gave us the Nicene Creed that we recite at Mass).

In 313 AD, the Edict of Milan ended religious persecution in the Roman Empire, and the Roman emperor (Constantine) converted to Christianity. Suddenly, the Catholic Church - which has been illegal and persecuted for centuries - was in with the in-crowd.

This also meant that being a Catholic Bishop - previously an invitation to torture and martyrdom - became a path to wealth and prestige. Con-men fraudulently presented themselves as Bishops in many provinces. It was difficult to verify the validity of their “orders.”

This was an early crisis for the Church. Only a valid Bishop can ordain someone Bishop. If these false “bishops” performed “ordinations,” they would be ineffective. The new “bishop” would not really be a Bishop (though he might not even realize it). This crisis could bring down the whole Catholic Church. Without valid Apostolic Orders, the Church cannot exist.

Twelve years later, at the first Ecumenical Council in 325 AD, the Church addressed this problem with the three-consecrator rule. The Church took on a sacramental crisis with pure mathematics - and it was absolutely brilliant.

Suppose that, for sake of discussion, we stipulate that one in ten early Bishops was not really a Bishop. If we have a rule that requires (at least) three consecrators, what are the odds that all three will be invalid bishops?

We only need one valid Bishop. If the other two are invalid, they cannot pass on their invalidity.

The odds are 1/10 * 1/10 * 1/10 = 1 in 1000. There is a 1 in 1000 chance of selecting three invalid bishops at random from a pool of bishops in which 10% are invalid. Only one out of every thousand Episcopal consecrations would be invalid.

The Nicene-era Church surely did not even have 1000 Bishops - so it is statistically certain that every post-Nicene consecration would be valid.

The math works even if we stipulate that HALF of the Bishops were invalid. The odds of selecting three invalid bishops from this pool is 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 = 1/8. One in eight consecrations would be invalid in the next generation - better (we now have only 1/8 as many invalid bishops as we had before) but not enough to statistically insure validity.

But we get pretty close to assured validity in the next generation. We now have a pool of Bishops which is 1/8 invalid. The odds of selecting three invalid bishops from this pool is 1/8 * 1/8 * 1/8 = 1 in 512. I doubt the Nicene-era Church had 512 Bishops. But it surely did not have 512 * 3 Bishops (ie, 1536 Bishops). There is a 1:512 chance of getting ONE invalid bishop - but ONE invalid bishop cannot pass on his invalidity under the three-consecrator rule. We need THREE invalid bishops, so we have to beat those 1:512 odds THREE TIMES. The odds of that are 1 in 1536.

The three-consecrator rule is brilliant. The line of valid Apostolic Succession actually purifies itself over time. It is absolutely inconceivable that we could have even ONE invalid bishop today.

When the Church claims that Her line of Bishops is absolutely valid, you can take that to the bank - thanks to the First Council of Nicea.

Them Council Fathers were some smart dudes.


#10

:nerd:

:smiley:


#11

Sorry to be picky about an otherwise excellent post, but because it is excellent people might copy it elsewhere, and then the mathematical mistakes might get picked up in a more hostile environment. There’s only a couple of picky points.

It is not statistically certain. The odds of getting heads when I flip a coin are 1 in 2, but that does not mean that I need two coin flips before I get heads. With only a couple of hundred bishops, 1 in 1000 would indeed make it very unlikely that invalid consecrations continued, but not certain. You certainly wouldn’t need a thousand bishops before one could be invalid. By the second generation, you’d be getting into very very unlikely to be invalid, and you really wouldn’t have to worry about it past this point. But it still wouldn’t be certain: just so likely that there’s no real need to worry about it.

If there were a jar with a thousand sweets in, and one was poisoned, I wouldn’t eat 300 of them on the basis that it was ‘statistically certain’ all my sweets were safe. It would be no such thing! Now imagine that my jar of 1000 sweets is actually produced in a factory that generates a poisoned sweet randomly, at a rate of 1 in 1000, so my jar actually might not contain any poisoned sweet, or if I’m unlucky it might contain 2 or even 3! And the poison of a fake bishop is even more serious, as he would be invalidly ordaining priests who then invalidly offered Mass and Absolution. But by the second generation, you’re looking at 1 in 1,000,000,000 odds, which is much more comforting.

The math works even if we stipulate that HALF of the Bishops were invalid. The odds of selecting three invalid bishops from this pool is 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 = 1/8. One in eight consecrations would be invalid in the next generation - better (we now have only 1/8 as many invalid bishops as we had before) but not enough to statistically insure validity.

But we get pretty close to assured validity in the next generation. We now have a pool of Bishops which is 1/8 invalid. The odds of selecting three invalid bishops from this pool is 1/8 * 1/8 * 1/8 = 1 in 512. I doubt the Nicene-era Church had 512 Bishops. But it surely did not have 512 * 3 Bishops (ie, 1536 Bishops). There is a 1:512 chance of getting ONE invalid bishop - but ONE invalid bishop cannot pass on his invalidity under the three-consecrator rule. We need THREE invalid bishops, so we have to beat those 1:512 odds THREE TIMES. The odds of that are 1 in 1536.

You’re fine up to 512, as you are cubing your fractions. Then, suddenly, you have 5123 rather than 512^3. It should be 512^3, i.e. 512512*512, which obviously gives us a far smaller probability that a bishop could be invalid.

The three-consecrator rule is brilliant. The line of valid Apostolic Succession actually purifies itself over time. It is absolutely inconceivable that we could have even ONE invalid bishop today.

When the Church claims that Her line of Bishops is absolutely valid, you can take that to the bank - thanks to the First Council of Nicea.

Them Council Fathers were some smart dudes.

Indeed. An excellent post.


#12

I want to give a special thanks to Types and David for their analysis…It is actually very helpful and great information to have. I also want to thank everyone else who posted…because I really learned a lot through this whole process.

However, I do still have one last question I am hoping someone who already posted can answer, or anyone else for that matter. I guess I am still unclear about bishops who were chosen in the early Church (and by early, I mean 200 ad and below). I understand that initially, bishops were initially chosen by the apostles and were really apart of the same class of people as the actual priests (they were all elders). But what I don’t really understand is that after apostles left certain regions, if a new bishop had to be chosen, how would that bishop be chosen and who would consecrate them?? If an apostle isn’t around to do this (and I imagine they seldom were around at a certain point), how did bishops become consecrated? By other bishops in the area or by the local group of elders? Even if the bishops were chosen by the local elders (I know bishops were technically also elders but had a different purpose), were they still required to have another bishop cosecrate them?

The reason I bring this up is that…In a situation where one bishop dies (just as an example), I don’t see how a new bishop could be consecrated when there weren’t many bishops around in the early Church. Did other bishops really have to travel to make this work? I mean today it is an easy process, but back then I imagine this would have been very difficult.


#13

They were chosen in man ways and in most cases we simply don’t know how they were chosen. In the bible we see examples of drawing lots, appointment by apostles, popular acclaim.

Consecration can only be done by a bishop. So yes, travel was involved.


#14

Excellent, thank you very much! But the rule of three was not always required, right? That was just a safety measure put in place later on?


#15

Also, I guess what still makes no sense to me is how NEW dioceses are created. I know that popes do that now, but in the early Church, how would a new diocese be created? Would a bishop be consecrated by another bishop and sent to form a new diocese? How does that piece of things work? I know initially, the apostles did this, but after the time of the apostles, who would create new dioceses and how would the Church as a whole know the diocese was a real Catholic diocese and not heretical?


#16

Anyone know the answers to the above question?


#17

Yes it is. In the field of statistics, the word “certain” means something different than it means in common English. In statistics, 100% (or 1.0 probability) is called “certainty” (which is why I said “statistical certainty,” not “absolute certainty”). That’s not the same thing as saying the odds always win. Wherever the odds do not win is called “statistical abnormality” (either positive (>1.0) or negative(<1.0)) - and you can use statistics to calculate the probability of any degree of abnormality.

In theory, we could calculate the exact degree of abnormality that would be required for the Church to have one (or three) invalid Bishops today. But it would be very complex, and require information that is unavailable to us (mainly the total size of the set of Bishops at the time of each Episcopal consecration). There is also the fact that many Episcopal consecrations have more than three Consecrators (ten or more is not uncommon), so we would need the number of Consecrators at each Ordination. More Consecrators increase the probability of validity.

Then there’s the matter of death. The set of Bishops trends toward purity over time, so older Bishops are more likely to be invalid than new Bishops. Thus, if an older Bishop dies and is replaced then his successor is more likely to be valid (because the set of potential Consecrators for the successor would be decreased by one which is more likely to be invalid). However, if a younger Bishop dies and is replaced, his successor is less likely to be valid. Standard statistical models would not account for this - with the assumption that it would “average out,” but this assumption is clearly not applicable in this situation, because we all know that death is more prevalent among people who live longer.

Net post-Nicene additions always increase the purity of the set, but net deletions (where a Bishop dies but no successor is appointed) could go either way.

A grad student could write his entire dissertation on how to calculate this. But, suffice to say, the statistical abnormality required to have an invalid Bishop in the Church today is a staggering and incomprehensible value.


#18

[quote="jinc1019, post:15, topic:281220"]
in the early Church, how would a new diocese be created?

[/quote]

newadvent.org/cathen/05001a.htm


#19

http://i66.photobucket.com/albums/h244/corona_stellarum/Smilies/QATC.gif


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