Unbroken Catholic lineage to the apostles CHALLENGED


I was challenged with the following …

If this is true, maybe it could be explained why the list that is used has been revised repeatedly? A list that is incorrect doesn’t demonstrate such an unbroken lineage. How is there any assurance that the current list is correct?

So the list in the online Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) is different than the most recent lists in

Relatively recent changes have been the removal of Stephen II and the declaration of Pope Christopher (903-4) to be AntiPope Christopher.

Why didn’t the Catholic Church even bother to keep track of the “unbroken apostolic lineage” if that is the foundation of the church’s authority?[/FONT]

… Can anybody offer me with a defense?

  1. None of these are official data. He is comparing two different websites run by two different people/organizations. I would say that the 1913 encyclopedia is a more reliable source. So the argument fails here.

  2. Some popes on the list are either disputed or are there only because they were elected popes (e.g. Pope Adrian V).

  3. Some Popes are disputed and sometimes considered as anti-popes. This however does in no way challenge the lineage since the a pope doesn’t have to be elected by his predecessor.

Conclusion: the “challenge” is quite laughable.


The reason Pope Stephen II appears on some lists, but not others is because he was ELECTED pope, but died before he was CONSECRATED as pope (i.e. installed). Think of it as a presidential candidate dying between election day in November and the Inauguration on January.

The fact that he is on some lists but not others only indicates when the composer of the list believes someone becomes pope: at the election or at the consecration.

In any case, this certainly doesn’t “break the chain”. After Stephen II died, they immediately elected another pope, same as they do today.

For more info on Stephen II, check out the Catholic Encyclopedia (link).


More important to me than just a line of Popes is the existence of a continuous christian life in the laity, bishops and priests dating from Jesus time. To my knowledge only the Eastern Orthodox and the Coptics can fully share those claims.
The Protestants churches have at least one or more ruptures in their churches histories. Maybe only the high CofE can make a claim of continuity.


Green, William H. (1890), “Primeval Chronology,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 47:294-295, April. Reprinted in Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1972).

Green proved that there were gaps in the biblical geneologies, does that by his standards make those geneologies inaccurate?


No, however those genealogies didn’t claim to be complete and unbroken.


A bigger problem starts with Frumosus, who was deposed and accepted to be defrocked, but then became Pope, and then Stephen VI annulled his papacy, setting off a series of depositions and alternating confirming and annulling of successive papacies and their ordianations, which including the popes in that chain.

A bishop can have a rival, but the papacy, as the Latin church has defined it, can’t survive an antipope in the chain.

I still don’t get how a group of bishops can ordain a “pope.” And if he’s a bishop already (i.e. the case for almost a millenium), there’s no ordination. A group of priests can’t elevate one to a bishop, why can a bishop raise one to the fourth (unnamed) order of pope.



Can you explain that a bit more? What about the definition of the papacy makes it vulnerable to an antipope?



In brief (I’m tired, and have posted on this a lot, but I’m not sure where: if ECF, you can’t get at it).

Formosus had been laicized, and Pope John VIII convenved a synod and extraced an oath by Formosus that he never return to
Rome and exercise priestly function. Pope Marinus I then restored him to his see, and then Formosus was elected Pope. He ordained the future Stephan VI, who, once he was elected, nullfied Formosus’ papacy and all his ordinations, including evidently his own (he dug up Formosus’ corpse and tried him). Then Pope Theodore reverse this, while his deposed predecessor Pope Romanus still lived (and thus should be the legitimate pope). Then Pope Christopher came (now for a century considered an anti-pope), who was succeeded by Pope Sergius III (excommunicated by Pope), who dug up Formosus again, reimposed Stephen’s decisions and demanded that all the hierarchs ordained under Formosus had to be reordained, (he murdered popes Leo V and Christopher), a decision then reversed by Pope Anastasius III. And I’ve actually left out quite a few details.

Now (except for the modern view of Christopher) we are dealing with popes who are all seen as being legimate who are annullying each other’s papacies, excommunicating, defrocking, etc. calling into question the episcopal character that a pope must have according to canon, and the validity of the election (excommunicated and the invalidated episcopate don’t validl elect). Which is a problem if your source of unity comes from the pope.

With an antipope, the issue is even deeper, as who is an antipope is mostly determined by hindsight (Christopher wasn’t struck from the official list until over a thousand years after his death).

Now I have always said the problem is that the pope, according to Latin theology, is ontonlogically different from other bishops (infallibility for one) and questioned why that is not reflected in an ordination to the papacy. I’ve been told the election is the elevation, and his powers come from that (problematic). Now if you have an irregular election, what does that do to the pope’s status? The transmission of a unique charism (which the latin church claims for the pope) makes a unique problem: if any other bishop, three other bishops (or one in an emergency) could pass the charism on. But the pope claims a charism above the faculty of the bishops.


There are three levels of Holy Orders (not four): Deacon, Priest, and Bishop. A Pope is not “ordained”. He is appointed as Bishop of Rome. Yes, there are some things that go with this office but that does not indicate an ontological change between bishop and pope. With the sacrament of Holy Orders, an indellible mark is made upon the soul of the recipient. When made pope, there is no conferral of the Sacrament of Holy Orders (and thus no additional mark on the soul).

The fact that a group of priests can’t “elevate” someone to a bishop is fundamentally different for several reasons. First, it is different because priests do not have the capacity to ordain anyone as a deacon or a priest let alone consecrate someone as bishop. Bishops, on the other hand, DO have the power to ordain deacons, priests, and (most often with other bishops) to ordain bishops. Second, as mentioned above, the elevation to pope is NOT an ordination and the elevation to bishop IS an ordination.

Even things like infallibility are not specifically unique to the pope. All the bishops together, in union with the pope, possess this charism.


But according to the Latin church, the bishops together, without the pope, do not possess this charism. Lumen Gentium and canon law are quite explicit about this.

The pope has a charism (personal infallibility, by which I mean he can make a statement like Munificentissimus Deus, and it is accepted as infallible, without a council approving it) and the faculty of confirming or nullifying episcopal councils (no other bishop has the power), etc. So there is an ontological difference, that has no liturgical/sacramental expression. When he is appointed archbishop of Rome and primate of Itay, no change as a bishop, but the appointment as Pope involves a change. Quite a change.


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