A quick thought about episcopal authority

I was reading a blog post yesterday (can't remember which, but it might have been this one), and for some reason it made me think of one of Vatican II's more preposterous moments:
[T]he Sacred Council teaches that bishops by divine institution have succeeded to the place of the apostles, as shepherds of the Church, and he who hears them, hears Christ, and he who rejects them, rejects Christ and Him who sent Christ. (Lumen Gentium 20)
What a compelling claim for the bishops to have made about themselves!

This in turn reminded me of something Jesus is alleged to have said:
If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. (John 5.29)



Blogger Frank L said...

Sounds like it is describing apostolic succession--that the bishops of today are in a direct line of descent from the Apostles themselves. This would mean not just an unbroken chain of command but also passing the faith itself down, so the faith of the Apostles is passed down through them. In other words, if you see a bishop you should also be seeing an Apostle.

Now, can can this be when there is such a variety and diversity of thought and action among the bishops of the last 2,000 years? I don't know, but on some level they are seen to be consistent with the faith and witness and authority of the Apostles, all of whom stand in persona christi.

5:34 p.m.  
Blogger crystal said...

Interesting :) I just sent for the book "What Happened at Vatican II" and I'm looking forward to reading about this kind of stuff.

8:55 p.m.  
Blogger PrickliestPear said...


Yes, that is exactly what they are describing. The problem is that "apostolic succession" is a post-apostolic fiction, a fact demonstrated quite forcefully (though using gentler language) by Fr. Raymond Brown in his brilliant little book Priest and Bishop. Maybe I'll write something about that soon.


I've heard good things about that book. I look forward to hearing what you think of it.

12:35 p.m.  

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