Church History Forum: Assumption of Papal Authority - A historical change?

Assumption of Papal Authority - A historical change? QUESTION from A. Basto on June 22, 2002 In accordance with the present Apostolic Constitution on the vacancy of the Apostolic See and the Election of the Roman Pontiff, Universi Dominici Gregis, a person becomes the Pope when three requirements are met: valid canonical election, acceptance and episcopal ordination. Thus, is the man elected is not yet a Bishop, he is to receive episcopal consecration immediately.
That rule is exatcly the same as that of the previous Apostolic Constitution dealing with papal elections, Romano Pontifici Eligendo.
And such a rule is not irrelevant, since the Cardinals can validly choose a man from outside of the Sacred College to be Pope, and not only Bishops may be chonsen. On top of that, some cardinals, such as Cardinal Dulles, are not Bishops, and nevertheless a Cardinal who is not a bishop, if he is under the age of 80, takes part in the election, and therefore has a reasonable chance of being elected.
But the stange thing is that, according to the (1911) Catholic Encyclopedia (article: CONCLAVE), the Pope- elect, becomes the Supreme Pontiff and acquires full and supreme Papal jurisdiction, and is able to exercise such jurisdiction, from the moment of acceptance always, even if he lacks episcopal ordination. Of course, the Catholic Encyclopedia states that, in the case of a person who is not a Bishop being elected Pope, he is to receive episcopal consecration. But, according to the Encyclopedia, the elected one is Pope, and can exercise the Supreme Authority even before being ordained Bishop.
So, the Encyclopaedia seems to suggest that the old rules treated that matter in a different way, when compared to the present rules. Whereas the present ones regard episcopal consacration as essential pre-condition for the assumption of the Petrine primacy, the rules in place when the Encyclopaedia was issued didn't. The following is the relevant passage of the article:
If the pope happens not to be a bishop, he must be consecrated at once and, according to immemorial tradition, by the Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia. If already a bishop, there takes place only the solemn benedictio or blessing. However, he enjoys full jurisdiction from the moment of his election. On the following Sunday or Holy Day takes place, at the hands of the senior cardinal-deacon, the papal coronation from which day the new pope dates the years of his pontificate.
And what is amazing is that the older Apostolic Constitutions dealing with the subject (the ones issued by Pius X and Pius XII, for instance), seem to confirm the Encyclopedia's understandig. Those constitutions can be found at:
But how can one be Bishop of Rome, or exercise the apostolic jurisdiction of Bishop of Rome, without episcopal ordination?
Therefore I ask:
1. The necessity of episcopal ordination for the assumption of the Papal dignity and authority, is a matter of discipline or of substance?
2. Are the acts of a Pope (or of a Pope elect), binding on the Church before the ordination of the Pontiff?
3. This matter is subject to change?
ANSWER by Q & A Staff on June 25, 2002 Dear Mr. Basto,
Since this is not really a historical question, some of the details of my answer are a little tentative and open to correction.
The answer to your question is to note the distinction between the power of order and the power of .
Christ gave both powers to the Church. The power of Orders relates to the Sacrament of Holy Orders, whereas the power of Jurisdiction refers to the mission of the Church.
In essence there are two hierarchies in the Catholic Church, which are as follows:

Hierarchy of Orders: Bishops, Priests, Deacons

Hierarchy of Jurisdiction: Papacy, Cardinalate, Patriarchate, Primatial authority, Archepiscopacy, Episcopacy, Priesthood). Of these, some are of divine right (viz. Papacy, Episcopacy, Priesthood) and some are merely ecclesiastical (Cardinalate, Patriarchate etc) As soon as the Pope is elected, he assumes jurisdiction over the whole Church. However, if he is not a Bishop, he does not yet have the power of Order. Yet, since he has jurisdiction over the whole Church upon his election, he has hierarchy of Jurisdiction.
The difficulty arises since the Pontiff must be the Bishop of Rome, hence the requirement for immediate episcopal ordination upon election as pontiff. (There have been cases in history where a Pope died after election, but before being consecrated Bishop. This is why popes like Stephen II are sometimes included and sometimes excluded from the official list; it is becase they had power of jurisdiction (having been elected pope) but not power of orders (since they were not bishops).
So, to answer your questions:

1. The necessity of episcopal ordination for the assumption of the Papal dignity and authority, is a matter of discipline or of substance?
The pope had full jurisdiction from the time of his election. But if he is not a bishop, he does not have power of order.
2. Are the acts of a Pope (or of a Pope elect), binding on the Church before the ordination of the Pontiff?
Yes. But he cannot ordain other bishops, for example.
3. This matter is subject to change?
If any readers have any insights, please feel free to contribute. As I have said, I am not sure of all the details here, and may be in error in some points.
Thanks for your though-provoking question.
God bless, .

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