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Br. Anthony John wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am a Dominican novice and a clerical candidate aspiring towards the priesthood in the Dominican Order. The Church Fathers immensely stressed the connection between the bishop and his presbyterate; a notion that Vatican II helped rediscover.

  • If I do become a Dominican priest, who will be my bishop?

Our ordinary superiors are all priests (including the Master of the Order, as St. Dominic intended). I find the connection between bishops and priests so crucial to understanding what it means to be a priest. For this reason, I would like to know more about this dynamic.

I fully understand that Dominican priests are subject to the local bishops in the places where they minister but it seems to me that (since we are mobile) if we were linked to the local bishops then our bishops would be changing a lot . . . sometimes within the same month or year.

What I'm getting at is the Patristic conviction of a close spiritual bond between the bishop and his priests. It is the bishops who govern the Church and, as I understand it, priestly authority comes from them (in union with the Pope) since they are successors to the Apostles.

Therefore, my question is really centering on from which bishop (or from whence in general) the authority within the Order flows. While as friars our ordinaries are obviously legitimate, as a priest it would seem that they are connected somehow to the episcopacy.

  • How?
  • and, in what way?

There seems to me to be one of two answers:

  1. The local bishop (whoever he is, at any given moment of the friar's geographic situation) is the episcopal figure to whom the priests are united in Apostolic authority. This is then communicated through the priestly superiors. (e.g. Provincials, Priors, etc.), or

  2. The Pope of Rome (particularly in an exempt institute of pontifical right, like ours) is the ultimate source of episcopal authority which is communicated through the priestly superiors. [Though respect and obedience is present, of course, to the local bishop.]

My current search suggests the latter rather than the former but canon law seems to vague for me to find any clear cut answer.

Br. Anthony John

  { If I do become a Dominican priest, who will be my bishop: the local bishop or the Pope? }

Fr. Jonathan replied:


As a Dominican, which is a universal order, you are subject to your superior who is subject to his superiors in Rome who are subject to the Congregation for Religious (i.e. Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life) who are subject to the Holy Father.

This is your primary connection.

The connection to the local Bishop applies to things that are relevant to the territory wherever you reside. The rules of the current diocese, such as liturgical norms should apply to you unless there are exceptions based on your order.

If you were of a diocesan rite order, then you would be much more closely connected to the local bishop.

Fr. Jonathan

Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
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