Is the pope still under his vows of obedience to his bishop?

Since Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), took vows before ordination to the priesthood to have obedience to his bishop and to his successors.

If the bishop of his diocese he was ordained told Pope Benedict XVI to become a parish priest, does he have to follow his order?

Or does one’s vow of obedience to bishop expire once consecrated a bishop?

Thank you!


Diocesan priests, to my understanding, do not take vows of any kind. They make promises, which while certainly important, do not carry the same weight in terms of penalty of sin, that solemn or simple vows do.

When he receives the fullness of Holy Orders upon joining the Episcopate, he now has a new position and a new authority.

Well that is why they get ordained again, they receive a different set of “orders”. Bishops are not bound to obey another bishop. Instead, they should be in communion with one another.

A good question though is, what about his religious superior if he is a member of a religious order?

The same as any other bishop I suppose. During his time in office he acts as a bishop, but when he retires and returns to his community, he falls in line with their norms. He of course, will always be a bishop, but he may not always act as one.

Excellent question! I believe that he might be given titular headship of the order(?) If not, then he might obey that Bishop in internal matters, but would preside in all external matters over the order - in the manner of James presiding over the Council of Jerusalem, while knowing that he deferred to Peter in general matters…

Just guessing here. Perhaps a canonist will respond.

I think it is funny though as it is a paradox. A superior is only under the Pope, and if the Pope is under a superior, um, so who tells who what to do? :smiley:

Pope Benedict is now the Bishops successors superior and that Bishop has taken vows of obedience to the Pope.

It follows a progression. The Holy Father is highest in the hierarchy and it decreases from there. Each is responsible to those above him. I do not think this matters to a lay person, but it is a curiosity.

Where does it say that the Pope is the superior of bishops?

I believe Canon 331 addresses what you asked:

Can. 331 The bishop of the Roman Church, in whom continues the office given by the Lord uniquely to Peter, the first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors, is the head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the pastor of the universal Church on earth. By virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely.

Nowhere there does it say he is superior to the other bishops. It says he is the head of the college of bishops, not the head bishop.

Call me crazy, but I am pretty sure the “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power…” part takes care of that.

First among equals, but canon law may reveal the solution to the Pope being a member of a religious order. Or, the rule of the individual order may even specify how such apparent conflicts are resolved. Bishops are critical and have to exist, but religious orders do not - they are approved on a case by case basis by the Pope.

That talks about authority on the Church, not on the other bishops. When you assume things about the power of the Pope, that is when schisms happen.

I disagree with your premise in that I contend that the universal Church includes the bishops. The Holy Father has not too long ago removed a bishop from his position, in Australia I believe. If he had no authority over other bishops, he would not be able to do that within canon law.


The other Bishops, like all of us, are the Church. Canon law and Tradition (big “T”) are crystal clear. It may help to keep in mind that the Catholic Church is an elected monarchy. The King rules over everyone - no one rules over the King.

By the way, I did not care for your backhanded “when you assume…that is when schisms happen”. No schism happens in the Church until someone decides that they know better than the Vicar of Christ, and honestly, be it the orthodox or the SSPX, they do so at their own peril - but that is a topic for another thread and something I think we will not agree on.


The Pope neither takes nor demands authority over anyone. Rather, it is given to him via the inherent responsibilities of his elected position, and reinforced via the obedience of the entire Church. In the manner of a Sacrament, it is received by him and never taken. It is good to remember here that the P{ope has the choice to accept or reject the election results. In at east one election, the Bishops had to be locked into conclave and forced to vote. Some have considered it a death sentence, for they leave the office only through their death.

When obedience fails, schisms happen.

Everything needs to be understood in context. This is an answer to a specific question “Since Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), took vows before ordination to the priesthood to have obedience to his bishop!”.

To phrase it in another way, Is Patriarch Kirill still under obedience to the successor of the bishop that originally ordained him?

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