I don't disagree with your assessment that a presbyter is a sub-bishop and I don't
disagree that a presbyter is essentially a chorepiscopos. All I wanted to bring up
was the chorepiscopos originally was an actual rural bishop (as the name
implies) used on the understanding that (traditional) bishops were for assigned to
metropolises and chorepiscopos were assigned to rural areas. Eventually, the
chorepiscopos developed into a sub-bishop model.
I'm not so sure auxiliary bishops and titular bishops were ever consider a rank on
their own. If I gave that impression, I apologize. I merely pointed out that the
existence of auxiliary bishops hinges on the concept of titular bishops. One can
only be ordained bishop on a diocese, even a defunct diocese. Conceptually, this
is no different than a general bishop ordained on a non-physical diocese.
Was the use of ordaining bishops as titular bishops an abuse of the canon?
Maybe. It looks like it was a sneaky work around. But the opposite view is
justifiable. The existence of titular bishops was a theological declaration that
even defunct diocese were not a mere passage of history. Rather they are (not
were) also part of the full One Catholic Apostolic Church that transcends time.
And since the One Catholic Apostolic Church shall by no means pass away, any
defunct diocese is not considered extinct or passed, but found alive fully in some
other medium. It would seem theologically wrong to say the Holy Spirit guided
certain holy bishops to create diocese by cooperating with civil administration
only to turn around and say now that a particular diocese does not exist and that
church passed away, it was never really part of the Church.
It is difficult to state when the existence of titular bishop was found. According to
The new Schaff-Herzog encyclopedia of religious knowledge, we begin to see
some useful information.
“If, therefore, occasion arose for the designation of a representative to perform episcopal
functions in the place of an incapacitated bishop, it was necessary to call upon some neighboring
bishop or one who happened to be in those parts. In the ninth and tenth centuries, certain
Spanish bishops who had been driven from their sees by the Saracens, and in the tenth, some
from Prussia and Livonia who were in a similar position, served in this capacity….So even after all
hope of the recovery of these territories had been abandoned, bishops continued to be
consecrated for these dioceses, called episcopi in partibus infidelium (bishops in the regions of
As one can see, there is a development from auxillary bishops (who happened to
be unable to return to their sees and who helped similar diocesan bishops) to
titular bishops (who were seen a diocese of unbelievers or potential believers).
Both were never seen as violations of canonical law.
In anticipation of your exegesis on titular bishops occurring before the
Rome/Constantinople schism, especially how St Gregory's case was an abuse, I
would offer some comments on Chalcedon that must be factored in.
"The first and most obvious point is that all parties took for granted the happy coincidence of
church and empire. As Christian apologists had recognized long before, the church’s universal
vocation (“go into all nations”) and the Roman Empire’s aspirations to universality neatly
complemented each other. As Vittorio Peri has put it, “The ecumenism of the Church and that of
the State were so intertwined culturally and so ‘harmonized’ between themselves that they became interdependent in the common consciousness and behavior of Christians.”  In this
situation, relationships of filiation and dependence in the ecclesiastical sphere quite naturally
corresponded closely to the prevailing patterns of government and public life. The gospel spread
from major cities to outlying areas, from capitals to dependencies. To a high degree, therefore,
the geopolitical importance of a city and the antiquity of its church’s foundation coincided,
reducing the potential for conflict between “accommodation” and “apostolicity..." (Chalcedon
Canon 28: Yesterday and Today by Very Rev John H. Erickson)
As you can see here, the process of establishing diocese or organization of the
Church was interdependent with that of the State. When Emperor Valens created
the province, a church in Sasima was rightly established, as the custom had
always been. It was not an abuse on St Basil's part, but on St Gregory for
rejecting the common practice of the Church and exerting his preference for an
established metropolis over a “land of barbarians”. We can’t blame St Gregory
too much. Both he and St Basil were setting and redefining precedence. There
was no standard here. It also doesn’t seem to be a big deal since both saints
honored and wrote many things on the other. Not something you would do if your
friend were really a tyrant.
We must also remember that the titular bishop practice and "extended"
interpretation of Church canons was not exclusive to the Roman Catholic and
Coptic Churches only.
"Meletios (Metaxakis), former archbishop of Cyprus and then archbishop of Athens, who served
as patriarch of Constantinople from December 1921 to July 1923 and later went on to become
patriarch of Alexandria. During his brief but busy tenure in Constantinople, ... particularly
significant for our present purposes – introduced the canons of Chalcedon, and especially canon
28, as justification for a series of interventions on Europe and America ... establishment of the
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, on the grounds “the enactments of the
canons and the traditional practice of the Church give to the most holy and apostolic patriarchal
and ecumenical see the spiritual government of Orthodox communities outside of the regular
boundaries of each of the Churches of God” (same source above)
If the establishment of the titular bishops and general bishops are a violation to
the spirit of the canons, so is the establishment of the current GO archdiocese in
America and Europe under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. In
addition, the patriarchate of Constantinople alone has three titular archdiocese,
58 titular sees in Turkey (which includes Sasima), 31 titular sees in outside
Turkey, 53 historical sees that are not officially titular sees but could theoretically
become titular sees. We are not confined to the single example of St Gregory.
We are now applying canon justification for episcopal ordination in lands (1)
without a flock and (2) far away from their respective mother churches. This
leads us back to at least Chalcedon.
I eagerly await your long post.