All bishops of the Catholic Church enjoy a direct line of succession to one or more of the Twelve Apostles, as from the very foundation of the Church only a bishop possessed the power to consecrate, or ordain, another. And so, every bishop that the Church has ever nominated, from the foundation of the Church on the First Holy Thursday through to today, forms part of an unbroken line of episcopal sacramental continuity.
The episcopal lineage of James Douglas Conley, who was ordained a priest of the Church on 18 May, 1985 in Immaculate Conception Cathedral by Bishop Eugene John Gerber (Bishop of Wichita 1982‐2001), can be accurately verified to the mid‐sixteenth century. Although we know that all bishops of the Church can assure their unbroken episcopal genealogy back to the Apostolic College, it is rare that specific written records still survive beyond the late fifteenth or early sixteenth centuries. Nevertheless, we know beyond any doubt whatsoever that every bishop consecrated in the fullness of Holy Orders throughout the history of the Catholic Church maintains an unbroken line back to the Apostolic College, as both Church law and liturgical custom required nothing less.
Although modern bishops are today routinely consecrated in the local cathedrals throughout the world, before the early nineteenth century, nearly all episcopal consecrations took place in Rome and therefore, all roots to every new bishop’s succession lineage eventually return to the heart of the Church at Rome.
When he was consecrated a bishop on the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, 30 May 2008, Bishop Conley was able to claim some of the most illustrious prelates in the history of the modern Church as his spiritual fathers, as predecessors in the Apostolic Succession are properly known, and he brings this lineage with him to the Diocese of Lincoln as her ninth residential bishop.
This imposing lineage begins when Bishop Conley was consecrated (or ordained to the episcopal dignity) at the hands of Charles Chaput, at that time Metropolitan Archbishop of Denver in the Cathedral‐Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Chaput is now residential archbishop of Philadelphia of the Latins.
From Conley’s rite of episcopal consecration, in reverse sequential order; we can establish his formal line of episcopal succession.
Archbishop Chaput was born on 26 September 1944 and was ordained a priest in August 1970 after being a professed Capuchin friar for two years. Archbishop Chaput was later appointed the Bishop of Rapid City in South Dakota, in April 1988 by Saint John Paul II and was consecrated to this office by the Apostolic Pro‐Nuncio to the United States of America, (then) Archbishop Pio Laghi, in July of that same year. He served at Denver until his translation to the see of Philadelphia in the fall of 2011.
Pio Laghi was a most illustrious church diplomat. He was born on May 21, 1922 in Castiglione di Forli in the Romagna in Italy. After presbyteral ordination at the hands of Bishop Giuseppe Battaglia on April 20, 1946 he continued his post graduate studies earning doctorates in both canon law and theology at the Lateran University. As a student of note, Laghi was awarded an appointment to the Secretariat of State upon completion of his academic work in 1950. He remained in Rome for two years at which time he was posted to the Apostolic Nunciature in Nicaragua, when he was appointed the secretary of the papal embassy, a position he held for three years. From 1955 through 1969 Laghi served in various diplomatic posts including the office of auditor to Washington (1955‐61), in the same post at the nunciature to India (1961‐64), and then as official in the Secretariat of State’s Council for Church Affairs (1964‐69). During this period, in 1965, he was elevated by Blessed Pope Paul VI to the rank of Domestic Prelate, the second class of monsignorial title now known properly as a ‘Prelate of His Holiness.’
In 1969 the position of Apostolic Delegate (the Holy See’s representative to the church of a certain locale when there is no nuncio present) to Jerusalem and to Palestine became vacant and Blessed Paul VI nominated Monsignor Laghi to the post. He was elevated to the rank of titular Archbishop of Mauriana, receiving his episcopal consecration at the hands of Cardinal Amleto Cicognani on 22 June 1969. Of historic note is that his co‐consecrators included both the bishops who had ordained him a priest (Giuseppe Battaglia) and Agostino Casaroli who later became the first Secretary of State serving under Saint Pope John Paul II. While Delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, Laghi likewise served as papal visitor to Greece, and Pro‐Nuncio to Cyprus. After five years in these posts, Laghi was transferred to Buenos Aires as papal nuncio to Argentina. After six years in South America, Laghi was transferred to Washington as the Apostolic Delegate of Paul VI to the Church in America. Four years later, during the administration of Ronald Reagan, the office was elevated to that of pro‐nuncio.
Saint John Paul II recalled Laghi to Rome in April 1990 naming him both prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education and Seminaries and a cardinal, granting to him the title of Cardinal Deacon of Santa Maria Auxiliatrice in via Tuscolana. He received his red hat on 28 June 1991. In 2001, after serving for a time as proto‐deaconus of the Holy Roman Church, Laghi became a Cardinal‐Priest in the title of St. Peter in the Chains. He went on to serve additionally as cardinal‐patronus of the Order of Malta, before his death.
Pio Laghi had been consecrated by Amleto Cicognani, who was himself once the Apostolic Delegate to Washington. Amleto Cicognani was also a man with an illustrious career. He was born in Brisighella a small village near to Faenza. His widowed mother raised two boys, Gaetano, the eldest, and Amleto the younger of the two, both of whom entered the church, both of whom became cardinals in time despite canon law prohibitions that forbade two brothers being elevated to the Sacred College while both lived.
After local seminary training at Faenza, followed by priestly ordination in September 1905 at the hands of Bishop Gioacchino Cantagalli, Amleto was dispatched to Rome to study both civil and church law at the Athenaseum of Saint Apollinare. Twelve years after ordination he was elevated to the rank of monsignor while working at the Sacred Congregation of the Sacraments.
In 1922 he became the adjunct to the prefect of the Sacred Consistorial Congregation, beginning a career inside the Roman Curia that would be interrupted in 1933 when Pope Pius XI named him the Apostolic Delegate to Washington. For this office, Amleto Cicognani became the titular Archbishop of Laodicea in Phrygia and received episcopal consecration at the hands of Raffaele Cardinal Rossi. Archbishop Giuseppe Pizzardo and Carlo Salotti functioned as co‐consecrators when Cicognani was elevated inside the famous Santa Susanna, the American church in Rome.
In his post as Apostolic Delegate, Cicognani fostered many friendships amongst the American hierarchy and was responsible to the rise of some of the greatest prelates of the second half of the twentieth century, amongst them John Joseph Krol of Cleveland who later became the cardinal‐archbishop of Philadelphia.
In December 1958 Saint Pope John XXIII recalled Amleto Cicognani to Rome, elevating him to the Sacred College as a priest of San Clemente. His elder brother, Gaetano, had already been a member of the College of Cardinals for five years at the time of his own elevation, which only became possible when John XXIII granted an indult for it to become possible. In Rome Amleto served as Congregation for Oriental Churches, as Secretary of State under John XXIII, and as president of the Vatican City State government, amongst others.
Mindful of the new law requiring the retirement of bishops and cardinals, Amleto Cicognani retired in April 1969 but at this time he was nominated by Blessed Paul VI as Dean of the Sacred College, receiving the titles of Cardinal Bishop of both Frascati and Ostia. Dying at age ninety, Amleto Cicognani was buried in a crypt prepared for him at the basilica of San Clemente in Rome.
Cicognani was consecrated a bishop by Cardinal Raffaele Rossi (1876‐1948). Rossi entered the discalced Carmelites in 1887 and was ordained a priest in 1901. His education was completed at the Carmelite Scholasticate while residing at the Carmelite House of Studies, where he later taught. He was eighteen years (1930‐1948) a cardinal and for the same period served as the Secretary of the Sacred Congregation. Rossi became a bishop in April 1920 at which time he was named ordinary of Volterra. His consecration was at the hands of Cardinal Gaetano de Lai.
Two fellow Carmelite bishops, Pio Bagnoli and Rinaldo Rousset served as co‐consecrators at the Episcopal Ordination that took place at the church of S. Teresa al Corso d’Italia. In 1923 he was promoted to the titular archiepiscopal see of Thessalonica and simultaneously served as Assessor of the Sacred Consistorial Congregation and as Secretary to the College of Cardinals.
In June 1930, Pius XI name Rossi the Cardinal Priest of Santa Prassede, promoting him to the post of Secretary of the Sacred Consistorial Congregation. The title of secretary was granted him, in place of the normative ‘prefect’ because the pope of that time preferred to serve as prefect while simultaneously reigning as pope. Rossi was instrumental in the election of Pius XII in 1939.
When he died at only age seventy‐one, he was interred in the same church where he had been consecrated a bishop ~ Santa Teresa al Corso d’Italia. Cardinal Rossi became a bishop at the hands of Gaetano de Lai. He was born in 1853 in the village of Malo and was ordained at age twenty‐two for the diocese of Vicenza. Much of his ecclesiastical career was spent inside the Roman Curia. In 1903 at age 49 he was elevated to bishop, being consecrated to that office by Giuseppe Sarto, the cardinal who later became Pope Saint Pius X. De Lai served as pro‐secretary of the Sacred Council and later as Secretary, and in 1907 (age 54) the cardinal‐deacon of Saint Nicholas in Carcere. He was elevated to the rank of Cardinal‐Bishop in the title of Sabina. Later he was later promoted to the suburbicarian sees of Poggia‐Mirteto‐Sabina. He participated in the conclaves of 1914 and 1922. He died at age 75.
Pope Saint Pius X (Giuseppe Sarto), who had consecrated Gaetano de Lai a bishop, was himself consecrated by Lucido Parocchi. Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto was born on 2 June, 1835, at Riese, Province of Treviso near Venice. After private studies at home and in the rectory of his village, Sarto received the tonsure from the Bishop of Treviso in 1850. He was sent to Padua for formal seminary studies before being ordained to the priesthood in 1858 by the bishop Saint Giovanni Antonio Farina. Sarto held many clerical assignments from chaplain, parish priest and pastor, before being named a canon of the cathedral chapter of Treviso where he also served as diocesan vicar‐general.
He was named the bishop of Mantua in 1884, a diocese in great financial and spiritual difficulty at that time. He was consecrated by Lucido Parocchi on 20 November 1884. Sarto stressed the Tomistic doctrine, the method of ecclesial understanding as laid down by St. Thomas Aquinas.
He also fostered use of Gregorian Chant and fostered a deep spirituality in both his lax priests and the seminarians in training. Sarto was elevated to the Sacred College by Pope Leo XIII in June 1893, being granted the title of San Bernardo ale Terme. At the same time, he was translated to the patriarchal see of Venice, remaining for a time the administrator of his former see. The Italian king attempted to block the appointment for political reasons, resulting in Sarto being denied entrance to his see for nearly eighteen months. Finally the government removed its opposition, in return for various favors granted in return by the Holy See and Sarto thereafter set out to reorganize the patriarchate. Pope Leo lived on until 1903. In his first conclave, Giuseppe Sarto was elected pope, receiving fifty‐five out of sixty votes, taking the name Pius X for his pontificate.
With the inclusion of Pope Saint Pius X, Bishop Conley’s own Apostolic Succession attains its first pontiff and a saint of the Holy Roman Church. When he died in August 1914, Pius X was seventy‐nine years of age. His pontificate was one of the most active papacies until that time with many changes coming into the church and between the church and states of the world that had never been undertaken in past pontificates. Pope Pius X was beatified in 1951 and canonized a saint in 1954.
Pius X was consecrated by Cardinal Parocchi (1833‐1903) who at the time of his death was the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church. Parocchi was born in Mantua and was ordained a priest for that see at age twenty‐two after local studies and final coursework at the Pontifical Roman College. He was awarded his doctoral degree in Sacred Theology in 1856. In 1871, age only thirty‐eight, he was named the bishop of Pavia, being consecrated in the church of Ss. Trinità al Monti Pincio at the hands of Cardinal Patrizi Naro. He remained at Pavia for six years when he was translated to Bologna and elevated to Archbishop. That same year, 1877, he was named the cardinal‐priest of San Sisto Vecchio as he was elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope Pius IX. At age 48 he resigned his office in order to accept a posting in Rome, becoming at the same time the Cardinal‐Priest of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. In 1888 he became the Camerlengo and was simultaneously elevated to cardinal‐bishop in the suburbicarian see of Albano. He went on subsequently to become the prefect of the Holy Office of the Inquisition and also ordinary of the suburbicarian see of Porto e Santa Rufina. He died in 1903 at age sixty‐nine.
In 1871, when Parocchi was elevated to the episcopal dignity with responsibilities as bishop of Pavia, the then quite ancient Constantine Cardinal Patrizi‐Naro consecrated him in office. And from this juncture, the line of episcopal succession continues down through the ages through a prestigious Roman hierarchy. Patrizi‐Naro was himself consecrated a bishop as a very young man in 1828 by Carlo Cardinal Odescalchi of a famous princely family. Odescalchi, a Jesuit scholar of note, was ordained a bishop in 1823 at the hands of Guilio Cardinal della Somaglia.
The Cardinal Somaglia lived during the Napoleonic invasions of Rome and saw Pope Pius VII deposed by French soldiers and deported to France. Somaglia was consecrated a bishop in 1788 at the hands of Swiss‐born Hyacinth Cardinal Gerdil of Geneva. Gerdil, a priest of the Barnabite Order of St. Paul, was a noted writer and linguist who lived much of his life in Rome, serving as Cardinal‐Prefect of the Propaganda Fide. He was consecrated in 1777 by Marcantonio Cardinal Colonna, the Papal Vicar for Rome and a scion of one of the most prestigious of Rome’s many dominant noble families, and himself one of the most influential cardinals the Roman Curia has ever known. Because of the power and wealth of the Colonna, Marcantonio was himself consecrated a bishop by Pope Clement XIII (formally Cardinal Carlo delle Torre di Rezzonico) in 1762, thus adding a pontiff to Bishop Conley’s Apostolic Succession.
When Clement XIII was first named a bishop in 1743, the then‐Cardinal Lambertini (the man who would later become Pope Benedict XIV himself in 1740) ordained him in sacred office.
And so Bishop Conley added another pontiff to his rich episcopal lineage. In 1724, yet another pope played a role in the Apostolic Succession of James Douglas Conley when Pope Benedict XIII consecrated Prospero Lambertini (later Pope Benedict XIV) a bishop. This prelate later became Benedict XIII and was of the noble house of Orsini, one of Rome’s great feudal families.
Dominican Cardinal P. F. Orsini da Gravina (i.e. Benedict XIII) was consecrated by Cardinal Paluzzi Altieri degli Albertoni when first named a bishop. The Altieri were amongst the richest and most powerful families that Italy had ever known and they provided the Church with many priests, abbots and cardinals through the centuries. Cardinal Carpegna, in turn, ordained Altieri a bishop in due course in 1666. Carpegna was consecrated in 1630 at the hands of Luigi Cardinal Caetani, yet another illustrious nobleman who had entered the Church, and Caetani in 1622 became a bishop at the hands of Cardinal‐Prince Ludovisi of the papal house of Ludovisi‐Boncompagni.
Ludovisi was ordained a bishop the year before in 1621 by Archbishop Galeazzo San Vitale who was consecrated a bishop in 1604 by Dominican Cardinal Girolamo Bernerio who became a bishop himself in 1586. Bernerio was consecrated in turn at the hands of Cardinal Guilioantonio Santorio who had been ordained to the episcopacy in 1566 by Scipione Cardinal Rebiba.
When lines of Apostolic Succession eventually lead to Cardinal Rebiba, tracing the formal lineage of a newly ordained bishop official ends as the records pertaining to his episcopal consecration and those immediately preceding him in office were destroyed in a fire in Chieti, the village north of Rome where Rebiba first became Auxiliary Bishop. As the oral history goes no further as well, we cannot formally list the remaining lineage of Bishop Conley’s Apostolic Succession but nevertheless we can still be certain, beyond any doubt whatsoever, that each bishop named today enjoys the unbroken, sacred lineage to one, or more, of the Twelve Apostles of Christ.