Sunday 26th June 2022

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

Degrees Of Holy Orders — Episcopacy

October 28, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


Both the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) and the documents of Vatican Council II are unwavering in proclaiming that “the whole Church is a priestly people” (CCC, n. 1591). All members of the faithful, through Baptism, share in the one priesthood of Christ and are called to participate in His mission of priest, prophet, and king. This baptismal vocation, as we saw last week, is called the common priesthood of the faithful or the universal priesthood.
Likewise, “based on this common priesthood and ordered to its service, there exists another participation in the mission of Christ: the ministry conferred by the sacrament of Holy Orders, where the task is to serve in the name and in the person of Christ the Head in the midst of the community” (ibid.). This special calling, as we also saw last week, is referred to as the ministerial priesthood.
While being “ordered one to another” (CCC, n. 1547), the ministerial priesthood “differs in essence from the common priesthood of the faithful because it confers a sacred power for the service of the faithful” (CCC, n. 1592).
As Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church affirms, “the ministerial priest, by the sacred power he enjoys, teaches and rules the priestly people; acting in the person of Christ [in persona Christi], he makes present the Eucharistic sacrifice, and offers it to God in the name of all the people” (Lumen Gentium [LG], n. 10 § 2). In a strict sense, the ministerial office of the priesthood is one of “true service” (LG, n. 24 § 1).
Important for the faithful to realize, however, is that the “presence of Christ in the minister is not to be understood as if the latter were preserved from all human weaknesses, the spirit of domination, error, even sin” (CCC, n. 1550).
As Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, sagely observes, “While he serves in the Name and in the Person of Christ, the priest’s human shortcomings might hamper the fruitfulness of his ministry” (Basic Catholic Catechism Course [BCCC], p. 191). As the servant of God also points out, the effectiveness of his ministry is “immeasurably enhanced as the ordained person becomes more and more like Christ” (BCCC, pp. 190-191).
Fortunately for us, “the minister’s sin cannot impede the fruit of grace” (CCC, n. 1550) in the sacraments. In accordance with the doctrinal principle ex opere operato, the grace of a sacrament is conferred “by the very fact of the actions being performed” (CCC, n. 1128).
As St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, “The sacrament is not perfected by the righteousness of the minister or of the recipient…, but by the power of God” (Summa Theologiae III, Q. 68, art. 8). [For a more detailed explanation of this important principle, see volume 148, n. 31; August 6, 2015.]
As noted in the initial installment of our treatment of Holy Orders (see volume 149, n. 51; December 22, 2016), it is the only sacrament of the seven instituted by Christ which is conferred in degrees.
“Catholic doctrine teaches,” states the Catechism, “that the degrees of priestly participation (episcopate [bishop] and presbyterate [priest]) and the degree of service (diaconate [deacon]) are all three conferred by a sacramental act called ‘ordination,’ that is, by the sacrament of Holy Orders” (CCC, n. 1554).
Each level involves the reception of the Holy Spirit and the conferral of special spiritual power for the sake of the good of the faithful. Beginning with the episcopacy, we will now examine individually each of these three levels of ordained ministry and identify how they differ in terms of responsibility, power, and authority.
Bishops participate in “the fullness of the priesthood of Christ.” The central importance of their office in the continuance and ongoing life of the Church is made manifestly clear in Lumen Gentium:
“Among those various ministries which, according to tradition, were exercised in the Church from the earliest times, the chief place belongs to the office of those who, appointed to the episcopate, by a succession running from the beginning, are passers-on of the apostolic see” (LG, n. 20 § 2).
Their threefold responsibilities are specified in the 1983 Code of Canon Law (CIC): “By divine institution [bishops] succeed to the place of the Apostles through the Holy Spirit who has been given to them, are constituted pastors in the Church, so that they are teachers of doctrine, priests of sacred worship, and ministers of governance” (CIC, canon 375 § 1).
To begin, let us look briefly at the etymology of the word “bishop” and its origin in the early Church. It is derived from the Greek episkopos (episcopus in Latin) and means “overseer” or “superintendent.” Bishops, however, “are much more than overseers in the political sense of the word. In the exercise of their office, they are extensions of Christ as shepherds and guardians of souls (cf. 1 Peter 2:25)” (BCCC, p. 192).
As declared by Vatican Council II, having established His Church, our Lord Jesus Christ “sent forth the apostles as He Himself had been sent by the Father (see John 20:21); and He willed that their successors, namely the bishops, should be shepherds in His Church even to the consummation of the world” (LG, n. 18 § 2).
The fullness of the Sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred by episcopal consecration, and only a validly ordained bishop has the authority to administer the sacrament.
As expressed by Fr. Leo J. Trese in The Faith Explained, “It is in his power to perpetuate himself, the power to ordain priests and consecrate other bishops, that the essence of the order of bishop lies” (p. 500). Important to note, however, is that “every validly ordained bishop in the world today can trace his ordination to the Last Supper” (BCCC, p. 192). Also important to note is that present Church law “specifies that a bishop can be ordained only with permission of the Pope” [see CIC, canon 377 § 1]” (The Didache Series: The Sacraments, p. 164; cf. CCC, n. 1559).
What, then, are the principal responsibilities of a bishop? “Episcopal consecration, together with the office of sanctifying, also confers the office of teaching and of governing. . . . By means of the imposition of hands and the words of consecration, the grace of the Holy Spirit is so conferred, and the sacred character so impressed, that bishops in an eminent and visible way sustain the roles of Christ Himself as Teacher, Shepherd and High Priest, and that they act in His person” (LG, n. 21 § 2). Indeed, “together with the Bishop of Rome (the Pope), our bishops govern the whole People of God” (BCCC, p. 192).
Those raised to the episcopate are typically given jurisdiction over a diocese, which the Code of Canon Law defines as “a portion of the people of God which is entrusted to a bishop for him to shepherd. . . . [I]t constitutes a particular church in which the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and operative” (CIC, canon 369).
In harmony with his title, the bishop is truly an “overseer” of the diocese that has been entrusted to his care. He “has all ordinary, proper, and immediate power which is required for the exercise of his pastoral function except for cases which the law or a decree of the Supreme Pontiff reserves to the supreme authority or to another ecclesiastical authority” (CIC, canon 381 § 1). A diocesan bishop is “to govern the particular church entrusted to him with legislative, executive, and judicial power according to the norm of law” (CIC, canon 391 § 1).
The first responsibility for the bishop, underscores Fr. Hardon, is for the care of the Sacred Liturgy in the particular portion of the Church entrusted to his care, a responsibility which he describes as most weighty (cf. BCCC, p. 192).
According to Redemptionis Sacramentum, an instruction promulgated by the Vatican in 2003, the diocesan bishop is “the first steward of the mysteries of God in the particular Church entrusted to him, the moderator, promoter, and guardian of her whole liturgical life” (n. 19).
He is responsible for ensuring that Holy Mass is reverently and properly offered through the ministry of his ordained priests for all under his pastoral care. This same responsibility applies for the sacraments and sacramentals.


Each bishop not only has responsibility for the pastoral care of his own diocesan flock, but “at the same time he bears collegially with all his brothers in the episcopacy the solicitude for all the Churches” (CCC, n. 1560).
The Vatican II fathers strongly affirm the universal aspect of the episcopal office: “Each of them [bishops], as a member of the episcopal college and legitimate successor of the apostles, is obliged by Christ’s institution and command to be solicitous for the whole Church, and this solicitude, though it is not exercised by an act of jurisdiction, contributes greatly to the advantage of the universal Church” (LG, n. 23 § 2).
To close its section on the episcopacy, the Catechism cites another Vatican II document to emphasize the importance of the office of bishop in the life of the Church:
“The bishop is to be considered as the high priest of his flock, from whom the life in Christ of his faithful is in some way derived and dependent. Therefore all should hold in great esteem the liturgical life of the diocese centered on the bishop” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 41).

+ + +

(Don Fier serves on the board of directors for The Catholic Servant, a Minneapolis-based monthly publication. He and his wife are the parents of seven children. Fier is a 2009 graduate of Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology. He is a consecrated Marian catechist.)

Share Button

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Twitter Feed

Archbishop Cordileone . . . A Courageous Bishop Stands Tall -

Load More...

Vatican and USCCB leave transgender policy texts unpublished

While U.S. bishops have made headlines for releasing policies addressing gender identity and pastoral ministry, guidelines on the subject have been drafted but not published by both the U.S. bishops’ conference and the Vatican’s doctrinal office, leaving diocesan bishops to…Continue Reading

Biden says Pope Francis told him to continue receiving communion, amid scrutiny over pro-abortion policies

President Biden said that Pope Francis, during their meeting Friday in Vatican City, told him that he should continue to receive communion, amid heightened scrutiny of the Catholic president’s pro-abortion policies.  The president, following the approximately 90-minute-long meeting, a key…Continue Reading

Federal judge rules in favor of Gov. DeSantis’ mask mandate ban

MIAMI (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge this week handed Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis another legal victory on his mask mandate ban for schools. On Wednesday, Judge K. Michael Moore of the Southern District of Florida denied a petition from…Continue Reading

The Eucharist should not be received unworthily, says Nigerian cardinal

Priests have a duty to remind Catholics not to receive the Eucharist in a state of serious sin and to make confession easily available, a Nigerian cardinal said at the International Eucharistic Congress on Thursday. “It is still the doctrine…Continue Reading

Donald Trump takes a swipe at Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him

Donald Trump complained about Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him in 2020. The former president made the comments in a conference call featuring religious leaders. The move could be seen to shore up his religious conservative base…Continue Reading

Y Gov. Kathy Hochul Admits Andrew Cuomo Covered Up COVID Deaths, 12,000 More Died Than Reported

When it comes to protecting people from COVID, Andrew Cuomo is already the worst governor in America. New York has the second highest death rate per capita, in part because he signed an executive order putting COVID patients in nursing…Continue Reading

Prayers For Cardinal Burke . . . U.S. Cardinal Burke says he has tested positive for COVID-19

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke said he has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. In an Aug. 10 tweet, he wrote: “Praised be Jesus Christ! I wish to inform you that I have recently…Continue Reading

Democrats Block Amendment Banning Late-Term Abortions, Stopping Abortions Up to Birth

Senate Democrats have blocked an amendment that would ban abortions on babies older than 20 weeks. During consideration of the multi-trillion spending package, pro-life Louisiana Senator John Kennedy filed an amendment to ban late-term abortions, but Democrats steadfastly support killing…Continue Reading

Transgender student wins as U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs bathroom appeal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to a transgender former public high school student who waged a six-year legal battle against a Virginia county school board that had barred him from using the bathroom corresponding…Continue Reading

New York priest accused by security guard of assault confirms charges have now been dropped

NEW YORK, June 17, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A New York priest has made his first public statement regarding the dismissal of charges against him.  Today Father George W. Rutler reached out to LifeSiteNews and other media today with the following…Continue Reading

21,000 sign petition protesting US Catholic bishops vote on Biden, abortion

More than 21,000 people have signed a letter calling for U.S. Catholic bishops to cancel a planned vote on whether President Biden should receive communion.  Biden, a Catholic, supports abortion rights and has long come under attack from some Catholics over that…Continue Reading

Bishop Gorman seeks candidates to fill two full time AP level teaching positions for the 2021-2022 school year in the subject areas of Calculus/Statistics and Physics

Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School is a college preparatory school located in Tyler, Texas. It is an educational ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler led by Bishop Joseph Strickland. The sixth through twelfth grade school provides a…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.

  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1


Today . . .

US Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade in historic ruling

The long-awaited victory for the pro-life movement means that abortion will be effectively banned in more than 20 states immediately. WASHINGTON (LifeSiteNews) – The United States Supreme Court finally issued its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Monday, upholding Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban and confirming months of speculation that it would be overturning Roe v. Wade on a 5-4 vote and delivering the pro-life cause its most transformative victory since Roe unleashed nationwide abortion-on-demand in 1973.

Fr. James Martin to host LGBTQ conference with ‘transgenderqueer Two Spirit’ doctor

(LifeSiteNews) – Heretical pro-LGBTQ Father James Martin, SJ, will be hosting a June conference through his newly founded LGBTQ organization “Outreach.” Speakers will include various advocates of homosexuality and transgender lifestyles, all in open dissent of Catholic teaching on sexual morality.  “Outreach” is especially trying to convince churches to support LGBTQ “pride” month, which increasingly involves aggressive sexualization of young children and public displays of nudity and sex acts.

Oklahoma governor signs Texas-style abortion ban, vows to ‘do everything we can’ to defend life

OKLAHOMA CITY (LifeSiteNews) – Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law Wednesday a measure the press is calling the strictest abortion ban in the nation, on top of other tough pro-life laws that could take effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade in the coming weeks. HB 4327 bans any procedure that “cause[s] the death of an unborn child” except in cases of rape, incest, or to save a mother’s life.…Continue Reading

Archbishop Cordileone bars Nancy Pelosi from Communion until she ends abortion support

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone announced on Friday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should not be admitted to Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, nor should she present herself to receive the Eucharist, until she publicly repudiates her support for abortion. Cordileone said on May 20 that the step was “purely pastoral, not political” and came after Pelosi, D-Calif., who has described herself as a “devout Catholic,” repeatedly rebuffed his efforts to reach out to…Continue Reading

Justice Clarence Thomas Defends Draft Overturning Roe v. Wade, Tells Abortion Activists We Won’t be “Bullied”

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has a message for the radical abortion activists who think they can bully the Supreme Court into revising its draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade: You can’t bully us. Abortion activists plan to “raise hell” at churches across the country on Mother’s Day with protests and, some fear, violence as outrage grows in response to a leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court that overturns Roe v. Wade. But Justice Thomas…Continue Reading

Horseback Punishment

By BARBARA SIMPSON If you saw the photographs in the news from last September, you will not forget them. Bold pictures of Border Patrol agents, on horseback, using reins to control their horses, and surrounded by Haitian aliens who were trying to get into this country illegally.The agents were doing their duty — attempting to…Continue Reading

The Swamp Vs. America… Biden Policies Are Making America Poorer

By STEPHEN MOORE I’ve been struck by the opinion divide on the state of the economy between people with real jobs in America and the elite opinions in Washington.Gallup and other primary and reputable pollsters find that the public is very worried. About 2 in 10 respondents rate the U.S. economy as good or great.…Continue Reading

But Has It Lost Its Sovereignty? . . . The Order Of Malta Has A New Head

By ANDREA GAGLIARDUCCI ROME (CNA) — Pope Francis appointed a new head of the Order of Malta on Monday, June 14 even before the funeral of its previous leader Fra’ Marco Luzzago, who died suddenly on June 7.The Canadian-born lawyer Fra’ John T. Dunlap will serve as the lieutenant of the Grand Master, a role…Continue Reading

AOC And Democrat “Squad” Members… Voted Against Protecting Supreme Court Justices

By GABE KAMINSKY WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeNews) — Democratic “Squad” members in the House voted against a bill Tuesday, June 14 extending security for Supreme Court justices despite spending a combined six figures on private security in 2021, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records and House Disbursements.Missouri Cong. Cori Bush, Massachusetts Cong. Ayanna Pressley, Michigan…Continue Reading

Beware: 100 Percent Green Energy Could Destroy The Planet

By STEPHEN MOORE The untold story about “green energy” is that it can’t possibly be scaled up to provide anywhere near the energy to replace fossil fuels. (Unless we are headed back to the stone ages, which is what some of the “de-growth” advocates favor.)Right now, the United States gets about 70 percent of its…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: This series on Apologetics is based on the book Catholicism & Reason. Please feel free to use the series for high schoolers or adults. We will continue to welcome your questions for the column as well. You can send them either to the postal mailing address or to the email address below, and we will interrupt this series…Continue Reading

Dangerous Scams And Scandalous Men

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK I anticipated a coming storm with pleasure on this early morning as I write. I welcomed the sounds of approaching thunder as a sign of beneficence. I had decided late this spring, after some initial hesitation, that I would participate in the seasonal ritual of sowing and growing after all.There are days it seems the…Continue Reading

One And One And One Are One By MSGR. CHARLES POPE

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope posted this article on June 11. It is reprinted here with permission.) + + There is an old spiritual that says, “My God is so high you can’t get over Him. He’s so low you can’t get under Him. He’s so wide you can’t get around Him. You must come in,…Continue Reading

The Yoke Of Christ

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Thirteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR C) Readings:1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21Gal. 5:1, 13-18Luke 9:51-62 In the first reading today, the Prophet Elijah walks up behind Elisha and puts his cloak over Elisha’s shoulders. The cloak, or mantle, was the sign of a prophet, so this gesture showed that Elisha was to be the successor to Elijah.…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. A recent Mass reading from chapter 15 of the Acts of the Apostles talked about the decision of the Apostles at the Council of Jerusalem not to require Gentile converts to become Jews before becoming Christians. They decided to send a letter to Gentile converts telling them “to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals,…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Saints For Corpus Christi

By DEB PIROCH Corpus Christi, the solemnity instituted by Pope Urban IV, is over seven hundred years old. In 1263, the year prior to its declaration, a miracle occurred in the Italian city of Bolsena, which acted as a catalyst for the event.By coincidence, I have been to Bolsena, approximately an hour from Rome by taxi, and I knew of…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. John Bosco

By DEB PIROCH Don Bosco (1815-1888), who became a spiritual father to hundreds of fatherless boys, lost his own father at the age of two. The youngest of three brothers, one a stepbrother, he was born to Francis and Margaret Bosco, peasant farmers in Italy. His father caught pneumonia and died suddenly, leaving his wife a widow at 29 to…Continue Reading