Three People during ordination?


Cruising through the forums, I read that there are three people present in the ordination of a person (for either the priesthood or to become a bishop?). There is the bishop giving the ordination and two other priests present that also lay their hands on the person receiving the Holy Order.
Is it true that for the ordination to be valid that only 1 of the three people (two priests or bishop) must have a valid ordination for the ordination of the receiving person to be valid?
And if so, when did this rule come into effect in the church?

(Someone in a different forum was saying the apostolic succession can’t be broken based on mathematical probability based on the premise, yet I’ve never heard of this before).


(No expert on this.) A single bishop can ordain deacons and priests. Episcopal consecrations (of bishops) almost always involve three bishops.


Only a bishop may confer holy orders. After the bishop has laid on his hands, and prayed the Prayer of Ordination, all present priests lay on hands to show the oneness of the priesthood of Jesus Christ. It is not required for ordination, but it’s symbolic.

The form and matter of the Sacrament of Holy Orders is: the laying on of hands, and the prayer of ordination (respectively). As long as these two are carried out, everything else in the Liturgy of Ordination (Litany, Vesting, Handing of Chalice, Anointing of Hands, et c.) are symbolic, but important.


So assuming form and intent is valid, then the bishop must have a valid ordination himself to have a valid ordination take place (irrespective of the valid ordination of the two other priests)?


He must be a consecrated bishop.

**CIC (1983)

**Can. 276
§1. In leading their lives, clerics are bound in a special way to pursue holiness since, having been consecrated to God by a new title in the reception of orders, they are dispensers of the mysteries of God in the service of His people.
Can. 1012
The minister of sacred ordination is a consecrated bishop.

Can. 1013
No bishop is permitted to consecrate anyone a bishop unless it is first evident that there is a pontifical mandate.

Can. 1014
Unless the Apostolic See has granted a dispensation, the principal bishop consecrator in an episcopal consecration is to be joined by at least two consecrating bishops; it is especially appropriate, however, that all the bishops present consecrate the elect together with the bishops mentioned.

Can. 1015
§1. Each person is to be ordained to the presbyterate or the diaconate by his proper bishop or with legitimate dimissorial letters from him.
§2. If not impeded by a just cause, the proper bishop is to ordain his own subjects personally; without an apostolic indult, however, he cannot ordain licitly a subject of an Eastern rite.
§3. The person who can give dimissorial letters to receive orders can himself also confer the same orders personally if he possesses the episcopal character.

Can. 1016
As regards the diaconal ordination of those who intend to be enrolled in the secular clergy, the proper bishop is the bishop of the diocese in which the candidate has a domicile or the bishop of the diocese to which the candidate is determined to devote himself. As regards the presbyteral ordination of secular clerics, it is the bishop of the diocese in which the candidate was incardinated through the diaconate.

Can. 1017
A bishop cannot confer orders outside his own jurisdiction without the permission of the diocesan bishop.


This is one reason why, as another commenter posted, three bishops usually take place in ordaining a bishop. It’s a bit of “padding,” so that if one bishop is not validly ordained, there are two other bishops who are, and can consecrate the new bishop.


So does anyone have an idea of when the practice of having 3 bishops present for a consecration (of bishops) started?


The Council of Carthage (A.D. 394) first recommended multiple consecrators for episcopal ordination:

  1. A bishop should not be ordained except by many bishops, but if there should be necessity he may be ordained by three

Three is the minimum number. More can be used.

In times of emergency, one bishop can ordain another, but this is only done in times of great distress.


Thank you, this answers my question perfectly!


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