Beyond the experience of duality

The Church

The Church

Bede Griffiths

This article is a transcription of a talk given by Father Bede at Osage Monastery, Oklahoma, USA, in June 1992. 

I’d like to share some reflections on the church, which I think are important for us all. It may be disturbing for some because many new understandings have come in recent times, but as I say, I think they’re important for all. And of course it is a very urgent subject, you see, what we mean by the “Church”: where the Roman Catholics mean the Roman Catholic Church, then we should remind ourselves that the Council of Provence in the 15th century said “The Holy Roman Church believes, professes and teaches that outside the Roman church no one can be saved; whether pagan or Jew or heretic or schismatic but will all go to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before their death they enter the church.” That is canonical Catholic doctrine until recently. So we have to face these facts you know. And of course the Orthodox Church has an equally strong claim, that you see, Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria were probably all founded before the Roman church. And the eastern churches are the inheritors of these ancient apostolic churches, so they say we are the apostolic church. 

And then Luther comes along in the 16th century and says Rome and the eastern churches are all corrupted, we’re going to return to the authentic church of Christ himself in the New Testament and he establishes the Lutheran church. And then the Anglicans come along and they accept the Reformation but they try to preserve all that they can of the Catholic tradition-they took a sort of middle way. Then the reformed churches, Calvin and all the others, come along and they say also with some reason, there were no bishops in the early church, there were presbyters, so we have a Presbyterian church you see. And each one is convinced they’re right-they are the authentic church. And then you go along, the Pentecostals say the Holy Spirit descended on their church at Pentecost, the same spirit is present among us, and we open ourselves with the Holy Spirit and we are the authentic church. And finally, people I respect as much as any, the Society of Friends, the Quakers, they say that the Holy Spirit is present in the heart, and if you sit around quietly, meditate in silence, the Holy Spirit will give you all {hat you need. You don’t need priests or sacraments or doctrines, just sit and wait on the Holy Spirit. That’s another way. 

So, all these are alive today, and all believe themselves to be authentic expressions of Jesus’ own will for the church. Now how do we try to see how Jesus himself understood the church? Well, it is here that recent biblical criticism has given us rather new understanding. And the book which impressed me most is one called Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, by James Dunn. He’s a professor at Durham College in England and Fr. Raymond Brown, who is a chief Catholic authority on the bible said, “I know of no overall book on the New Testament that is comparable to it”, and he practically accepts the view put forward. And I think one can say it is the view of scholars whether catholic or protestant today. And what comes out of this, which is a little disturbing, is that none of the organised churches can be traced back to the first century. They all come from the second century. And this is very disturbing for Catholics as we’ve always thought Jesus appointed Peter the head of the church, Peter founded the church of Rome, Peter appointed a bishop, and none of that can be established today historically. 

There’s no evidence that Peter founded the Roman church. In fact, there’s very positive evidence that he did not. You see I’m sorry if this is a bit damaging, but it will come around in the end. You see, the Letter to the Romans was written in the 50’s; fifty to sixty, and in it Paul writing to the church in Rome addresses many greetings to definite people in the church, and never mentions St. Peter at all. Now, it’s almost inconceivable that if Peter had been there he would have mentioned him, but still more, Paul made a habit of not visiting churches founded by other apostles. Each apostle had their own churches and he didn’t like sort of interfering with others, so he almost certainly wouldn’t have written to the Roman if he knew it was Peter’s foundation. I’ll explain a little later how the Roman church actually comes to hold the position which it does. 

So, now that we’ve got to take that a step further, the next step is: that not only did Peter not appoint a bishop in Rome, but that there was no bishop in Rome in the 1st century and there were no bishops in the church in the first century. You see, there were people in the New Testament that were sometimes called Presbyters or elders and sometime called bishops or overseers. And a curious example is in the letter to the Philippians if you look it up, it’s addressed to the bishops and deacons of the church and at that time the churches were ruled by a group of leaders who were sometimes known as bishops and sometimes as presbyters, but there was no single bishop as the head of the church until the 2nd century when we come to St. Ignatius of Antioch in the 2nd century, martyred in 110, then one bishop is the head of the church, he’s believed to be a successor of the apostles and that remains the rule until the present day. But it started at the end of the first or beginning of the 2nd century, so that is how the bishop comes to be seen as the head of the different churches. 

So we have to go back now into the first century, and there again, even these presbyter bishops, they appear very clearly in the letter to Timothy of Titus, and there again, they’re not properly distinguished. In Titus, I think it is, he says, a presbyter should be of this kind, and then goes on to say the bishop. And the presbyter is simply two different names for the same official and incidentally, of course, it says he should be a married man, with one wife and not more. But that was the rule-he should be a married man. And that was incidentally the rule until about the 3rd century, nearly all bishops and priests were married. Gregory of Nyssa, the great mystical doctor, was himself a married man and the son of a married priest. That’s in the 4th century. Then, perhaps it’s worth pointing it out, that monks came in, and the priests were not called to celibacy but monks are called to celibacy, it’s a charism and the monks, particularly St. Anslem and others, began to be seen as models of the church, and more and more priests began to see that they in their position of leadership should be celibate like the monks. And so the two vocations which were quite distinct originally, gradually fused together. 

So we go back now to the presbyters or bishops; they appear at the end of the first century. But before that, they’re not mentioned. If you look up the list of ministers in the church, in Corinthians and Ephesians there’s no mention of presbyters or bishops. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers, preachers, administrators, helpers; all these are given, but no presbyters or bishops. And the probability is, now Timothy and Titus were written late in the first century, probably 70 or 80, and the probability is that there were no presbyters or bishops even in the earlier time. You can’t prove it, because in the Acts, St. Luke says that Paul appointed presbyters in the churches, and many critics today think he was reading that back, which was a very common thing in the earlier time, but it could be that they are presbyters, but they’re simply not mentioned in the early church. 

So now, we go back a stage further. What did Jesus himself appoint and do? And here I follow very closely Fr. Raymond Brown’s book on the Priests and Bishops. (I haven’t got it here, unfortunately, it was sent to India by mistake, but I recommend it, Priests and Bishops, it’s a small book). And what comes out from that is as I say, there were no priests, there were no bishops until late in the century, and Jesus appointed apostles. Now that seemed fairly clear in all the Gospels, he appointed apostles. Though let me also add another negative feature: the word “church” only occurs twice in all the synoptic gospels and that is in Matthew. “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church,” and “if you have a quarrel among yourselves, take it to the church.” So only twice in all the four gospels is church mentioned. Jesus always spoke of the kingdom of God. So Jesus certainly appointed people, called disciples whom he called apostle-apostle means one who is sent of course, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God. That seems absolutely clear. Jesus himself went round a thousand villages of Galilee preaching the kingdom of God, appointed these apostles to continue his work. Luke also mentioned seventy, whom he also appointed. 

So Jesus himself certainly empowered his disciples to preach the kingdom of God. And preach not only by word but heal the sick, cleanse the lepers cast out evil spirits. And now to put it more concretely, what Jesus did was to communicate the Holy Spirit, and to me this is the essence of the church. Jesus himself, now here’s another important point I want to make, people so commonly today speak of Jesus as God, but if you look at St. John’s gospel you see Jesus never speaks of himself as God. And it’s quite foreign to his thought. I was looking it up today in St. John’s gospel, and the Jews protested about him because he made himself equal to God or I think it says called himself God, and Jesus’ retort is this: “It is said in law, in the Old Testament, You are Gods and all of you Sons of the Most High. If those to whom the word of God is given can be called God why do you say him who God has anointed and sent into the world is wrong if I speak in the name of God?” Jesus was appointed and sent into the world and elsewhere Jesus says, again I looked it up this morning, Chapter 5 I think it is, “the Son can do nothing of himself, he can only do what he sees the Father doing.” Jesus lives in total communion with the Father and only in and through the Father can he do anything. The Son knows the Father and loves the Father, the Father knows the Son and loves the Son, and the Father gives the Son to have life in himself. Everything comes to him. Even the Godhead comes to him from the Father. He’s God from God. He’s not simply God. 

A curious point, if you don’t mind, is in St. John’s gospel when it says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” And in the Greek, the word is “ho theos”, and the Father is called “ho theos” The God, and the Word was “theos” not “ho theos”. It’s very subtle in a way, but there’s a real distinction because he’s God from God and he is God in all the wisdom and knowledge and love everything that’s in the Father is given to the Son and the Son communicates that to his disciples in the Spirit, you see. The Holy Spirit is the very “Being” of Jesus and the Father communicated. The Son is the “being” of the Father expressed, revealed and the Spirit is the “being” of the Father and the Son communicated to the disciples you see, and we all receive. And don’t forget the very important text of St. John that Jesus prays for his disciples “as I am in you, the Father, and you are in me, that they may be in us, that they may be perfectly one.” As Jesus shares the life of the Father and the love of the Father, so he communicates that very life and love to his disciples in the Holy Spirit. Fr. John Main had a beautiful expression, “to share the consciousness of Christ is to share the stream of love that flows between the Father and the Son, the Son and the Father, and is the Holy Spirit.” That’s the stream of love. And that’s what we receive, each one of us you see, we receive the life of the Holy Trinity itself into our very being. So this was Jesus gift to the world-to share himself, knowledge and love of the Father, to be in the Father and the Father in him so that whoever sees him sees the Father. And yet he is not the Father. 

I had some correspondence with Swami Ranyanatgi Ananda, a leading Rama Krishna swami who wrote a book called The Christ We All Adore. And in it he says: Jesus says I and the Father are one. And that he says, shows that Jesus is identical with the Father, as Advaita says. And I wrote back and said Jesus said I and the Father are one, he did not say I am the Father. And he could not say I am the Father. That would be pure Advaita, you see, identity, but Jesus is not identity, it’s communion in love. The relation between Jesus and the Father and Jesus and the disciples is not one of identity, we all become God, but communion in love. This is a wonderful message really. So Jesus communicates the Holy Spirit to his disciples which means communion, and the word communion in Greek is koinomia-it’s community. And our koinomia our communion is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. Our koinomia, our common life, our communion, our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. And that is Christian church-the koinomia-the communion of disciples who share the gift of the Holy Spirit coming through Jesus from the Father, you see that is the Church. And now, that gift was shared with his disciples, as I said, communicated with them so that they could go and share it with people, in the towns and villages of Galilee. And then that was a kind of preliminary, obviously you see, and Jesus always saw that his whole life was going to culminate when he went up to Jerusalem. In the synoptic gospels, they only speak of one visit to Jerusalem; John speaks of two or three visits. But it certainly was the culmination of his whole life when he went to speak before the leaders of Israel in Jerusalem you see. And of course that leads to his death and then that leads to his resurrection. And everyone agrees today that the resurrection is the key to the gospel.

I’d like to point out something. A book came out recently, you haven’t heard of it probably called The Historical Jesus. It’s by a man called John Dominic Crasson. It’s extremely learned about a thousand pages a vast what you would call sociological study and he calls him a Mediterranean Jewish peasant. That’s the social order to which he belongs you see, and then he does a most elaborate critical analysis of the gospel, pages and pages of tabulating everything showing exactly how much Jesus said, about eight pages of the gospel and mixing up a lot of the apocryphal Gospels with it and giving a totally distorted view, I think. And what I was going to say what he does reveal, which is extremely impressive to me, he gives a list of the primary sources and the primary source of the gospel is the letter to the Corinthians. It was written, we know exactly, I think it was 55 AD, twenty-five years after the event. There are two things in the epistle to the Corinthians: one, the institution of the Eucharist. “I told you what I’m going to do” on the day before he died, and he gives an exact description of the Eucharist- that is one of the few facts we know. That is twenty-five years after. And secondly, he gives an account of the resurrection. “He appeared to Cephas and to James and to the twelve and to others and then to 500 disciples at once of whom many remained at the present day.” So twenty-five years afterward with many people remaining-this is an account of the resurrection.

These are the two most certain facts in the life of Jesus: the Eucharist and the resurrection. This is surprising but very interesting. So now, Jesus appoints disciples to preach then he goes up to Jerusalem, he dies and the resurrection changes the life of the disciples. They thought he was a great prophet, they thought he was the Messiah in some sense probably in a very vague sense, but they didn’t realise until the resurrection, mind you these were appearances, we mustn’t mistake the appearances and the realities far beyond but he did appear to the disciples without any doubt and through those appearances he convinced them of his eternal reality, you see not that he was simply a prophet or even a Messiah in the ordinary sense, but he really was, and the word Son of God probably only came after the resurrection. They saw he was really the one who is the presence of God among men. 

And so the resurrection is the turning point when they really began to see Jesus as he was. And all our Gospels and Epistles are written in the light of the resurrection. The light which came to them through the appearances through that experience of the risen Christ and this is very well put in this wonderful book Belonging to the Universe by David Steindl-Rast and Fr. Thomas Mateus. The resurrection was a new way of Jesus being with his disciples. It was a real “Presence” as real as a physical presence when he was with them. Now a spiritual presence which was actually more real to them than the physical presence, that’s why Jesus said “It is necessary that I go from you. When I go the Holy Spirit will come.” He departs in the flesh to become present in the Spirit. That is how he is present in the church today. Jesus himself in his eternal reality is present among his disciples in the Holy Spirit always. 

And that is the Church. And so from the time of the resurrection the disciples received this fullness of the Holy Spirit. Luke places it at Pentecost maybe that was the time the dramatic moment, but of course it goes on continuously. The Holy Spirit is being given wherever the disciples open themselves to God in Christ and this gift of the Holy Spirit is given. And so that is where the Church comes into being. And now this church is a church of the Holy Spirit. And this is where the Pentecostals have a point. It is the church of the Holy Spirit. It is the community of disciples appointed by Jesus and given the gift of the Holy Spirit which is Jesus’ presence among them and that’s what constitutes the church. And so they go out to proclaim this message.

And now I think it’s important to realise, you see, that all that you can say about Jesus and about the gospel is only a kind of outer covering of the reality which can’t be said You can’t express the Holy Spirit, you see it’s beyond words, beyond anything, it’s a hidden mystery. And we receive that and then we have to put it into words, and the Gospels and Epistles are attempts to put into words the hidden mystery which can’t be put into words. So you always have to refer back to it, and Jesus himself is the hidden mystery. We don’t know him as he was, we never will until the end, when I’ll know him as he is. We know him only through the veil, if you like, of the Gospels and the Epistles. That is the veil where it is most transparent, then it gets thicker and thicker as time goes on but it also gets lighter as time goes on as well.

So, Jesus then founded, I would call the eschatological church, the church at the end of time you see. Not the institutional church, as I’ll say in a moment that comes from it, but he founded the church with the Spirit, the eternal church we call the mystical body of Christ, which is eternal. Everyone who enters that church is taken up into the life of the Holy Spirit in Christ and the Father which is eternal life-you’re taken into eternal life-that is the church the eternal reality and it manifests on earth.

Now this is where the institution begins. Once Jesus has departed, the disciples have to begin to organise and it happens in every society when the guru or whatever goes, the disciples have to begin to organise. The first thing they did was to institute Baptism. It’s very probable, John said that Jesus himself did baptise but we know very little about it, but obviously it came to them as something necessary. After Pentecost they say what should we do, it says repent and be baptised you see, so baptism was introduced. And then it seems clear that Jesus was accustomed to celebrate a ritual meal with his disciples, probably every week, it was a custom among the Jews on a Saturday I think. And it’s very probable the offering of bread and wine were the principal elements in that offering. And finally, at the Last Supper, the bread and wine were given a particular significance, “This is my Body” preparing them for his death and resurrection you see, and so it then becomes what we understand by the Eucharist.

So baptism was introduced and the ritual meal which began as an agape, sharing together of food and drink and everything and then gradually into the ritual which we’re accustomed. But don’t forget the agape went on all through the first century really and again and again you see you have to organise any community and it began to get disorderly, people began to get drunk and not have enough to eat or this sort of thing and so they had to organise it properly. So the ritual of the Eucharist began. We don’t know who presided at the Eucharist. There’s no evidence in the New Testament who presided at the Eucharist-very interesting. Now the apostles certainly would have, but in the Didache which is a very early text the end of the century, the prophets also celebrated, and we don’t really know. But, by this time the Eucharist had become a central meal, central rite to the church, and it had to be organised and that is where the organisation of presbyters and bishops began to come. They needed some leaders of the church to be in charge of the Eucharist and Baptism, of the teaching, and they remained in the apostles teaching, the community life, the breaking of the bread and the prayers-that’s how Luke describes the early church. The community, the koinomia of disciples based on the apostles teaching, had to come now by that time, the apostles had imparted, and the breaking of the bread, the eucharistic celebration and the prayers which probably were what we know now as Matins and Lauds and things like that were really begun.

So the church begins to organise itself and leaders are appointed and by the end of the century it’s recognised every church practically had its presbyter bishops, either known as presbyters or as bishops and then toward of the century toward the beginning of the second century one of the presbyter-bishops was appointed as the head and he became known as the bishop; others kept the name of presbyters. and that’s what we see in St. Ignatius of Antioch and every church he writes has one bishop as the head appointed by an apostle you see and that was his idea. So this is how the church began to organise itself and now as I said there’s no evidence of bishops in the first century but in the second century, they become extremely prominent. 

But now what about the church of Rome? Now this is the point-we don’t know who founded it probably disciples from Pentecost were Jews from Rome, Pentecost Jewish Christians went back and started a church there. Somebody may have organised it to some extent, but there’s a letter of Clement written at the end of the first century in the name of the Roman church and it doesn’t mention the bishop at all. There probably wasn’t a bishop at that time. But what happened was this. Nobody knows who founded the Church of Rome. But Peter and Paul were both martyred in Rome and that is well established not only in document but in archaeology it’s certain that they were both martyred in Rome in the sixties and they were seen as spiritual founders of the church. And the early tradition is not that Peter founded the church of Rome but Peter and Paul. That’s why in our liturgy they’re often put together you know, the feast of Peter and Paul. So this is the true tradition. 

The Roman church was founded upon the apostolic preaching of Peter and Paul you see and their witness to the gospel by their lives. And as a result, and also it was centre of the empire of course, it became more and more seen as the centre of all the churches. And there’s a wonderful text of St. Ireaneus who died about 180 AD where he says if you want to know the true church go to Rome which was founded by the glorious apostles Peter and Paul, not Peter alone, for there the true faith is always preserved by the faithful from all parts of the world. Everybody came to Rome and took the faith from it and brought-it was a centre for Christendom. And the present pope once said you know that the church of Rome should be a centre of reference. It hasn’t got to rule everything but everybody should be in touch with it. And that’s what was in the 2nd century, it was a place-you were in touch with that centre. And the eastern churches also, they would never have appointed popes never appointed bishops in the eastern churches, it was unheard of you see. Because now, again it’s important, there were five patriarchies you see. Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, later Constantinople and Rome. And the bishop of Rome was the patriarch of the West and he appointed bishops in the West. But the other patriarchs appointed bishops in their own patriarchy and the pope never interfered in the orders or in the government or in their doctrine unless, and this is a point, there was some point of dispute, there could be an appeal to Rome. And that took place quite often and the pope could mediate between them you see. 

So this is how things grew, it’s very important and so the church began to organise itself with bishops and then the bishops began to meet in councils. In the earliest council we have was a council of bishops from different localities you see and that became common and then when things got really exciting in the fourth century, they wanted to get all the bishops together they have what they call ecumenical council ecumini is the Greek for the world and it was the whole of the Roman empire the world as they knew it. And so the Council of Nicea in 325 was the first ecumenical council where bishops from all over the world were present, and don’t forget again, the pope was not present at Nicea or at any of the early councils. He sends two presbyters to represent him and they were given a place of honour, but he didn’t go himself. and all the decisions were made by the Eastern bishops, see at Nicea and Ephesus and in Chalcedon. Pope Leo was the pope, he was a great theologian, and sent a tome called “On the Incarnation” and it was so impressive all the bishops said Peter has spoken by the voice of Leo and that was how they understood at that time that he represented Peter by this time and he was seen as speaking in the name of Peter.

The earliest Councils of the Church were councils of bishops. The Council of Nicea in 325 AD was the first ecumenical council where bishops from all over the world were present, and don’t forget, the pope was not present at Nicea or any of the early councils. So you can see how the whole thing began to develop. From the councils of bishops, the provincial council we called them, then the ecumenical councils and the pope not calling the council, the emperor calling the council, not the pope. The pope wasn’t even present at them but all the decrees of the council were communicated to the pope and every eastern patriarch would send in his name to the pope, he would be appointed but he was in communion with Rome and that was very important. This situation lasted up to the end of the fifth century and I think this is still a model for the church.

I wrote an article for the Tablet years ago saying that we should go back to the time of the patriarchs and that instead of having patriarchs we should have bishops’ conferences from North America to South America, Africa, Europe. The Pope could be head of the council of Europe and Australia and Asia and that would be aligned with the ancient patriarchs if they would appoint bishops, they would manage all of it but he would always have a point of reference to Rome you see and they would always be in communion with Rome, that would be the ideal. So, that was the situation after the fifth century and then came the Dark Ages, the invasion of the barbarians. Rome and Constantinople grew more and more apart, they couldn’t even correspond with one another and the climax was reached in the 9th century when the Pope appointed Charlemagne as emperor. Until that time the emperor of Constantinople was the emperor, so there was only one emperor, but by the 9th century there was a rival emperor from the West, and so you had an emperor in the west and emperor in the east, and the pope in the west and the patriarchs in the east. 

By the 12th century the division became complete and they finally separated and they’ve never been able to join again, which is a great tragedy on both sides. And we still hope and pray for it. But the result of that was that by the 12th century Rome was completely separated from the Eastern churches and stood alone as the only patriarch with the result that more and more of the whole business of the church went to Rome. The Roman curia and cardinals were invented at that time by the way; that all came with Gregory VII and Gregory VIII in the 12th century. This central organization was tremendously efficient apparently; they had innumerable officials and all the money came into Rome where there was a genius for organization. 

So the Roman church became the most powerful thing in Europe by the 12th century terms of power and money and even armies, they had their own defenders. And above all, it was absolutely seen as the See of Peter. St Peter was living in the Church of Rome, and the idea was you went to Rome to be at the feet of Peter, to kiss the tomb of Peter and so on. It was a tremendous power it had. A pilgrimage to Rome was one of the great desires of people’s lives. So from that time onward the Roman church becomes the organizational centre of the church, the eastern churches have gone you see, and all the western churches are now totally controlled from Rome and bishops were all appointed from Rome. So you can see the system which we know began to come into being from the 12th century and we have had it since that time.

Now the next thing of course was the Reformation in the 16th century. Rome was extremely corrupt by this time don’t forget. It was Pope Adrian VI who wrote an extraordinarily interesting thing -I had it copied out once -saying that corruption of every kind had come into this holy see and that all sorts of disorders of every kind were prevalent, and the source of it all was the Roman curia. So everybody knew, it was a scandal you see, and there were terrible things happening. But there were saints as well, don’t forget that they still went on. And so the Reformation had a tremendous part to play. Luther and many other people went to Rome and there were two main reactions: one said all this can’t be divine and they left the church; the other reaction was, as I heard a devout Catholic say, well if this sort of thing can go on in the church it must be divine. The result was that northern Europe as a whole practically, separated from southern Europe. It was partly racial you know, you see, the Latin people, the Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, the southern Germans and the Poles staying with the Church. Of course it was not purely racial but these people accepted Rome and then the others broke away from it. And we inherit that division now. 

But the effect was that in the 16th century, with the Council of Trent, Rome reacted against all of this by closing in. In the early days it was very open to the taking in of new ideas, very creative and so on. In all the Middle Ages this creative thought was going on. And then all this battering from Protestantism and the Reformation made the church close in and became what they call the fortress, and like a fortress it had to be defended. So the whole catholic theology became a polemic against Protestantism and then of course later against agnosticism and atheism. There were attempts to reconcile with the eastern churches, but these also were abandoned. So we inherited this fortress church, which went on past the 19th century with the first Vatican Council, and it only began to break down in the present century you see. And many of us, or many may remember the fortress church. It was there right at the beginning of this century and for some people it goes on today actually. It’s still a fortress you have to defend against all these enemies which are heard about all the time.

And the second Vatican Council was amazing. Pope John XXIII simply broke open the whole of this fortress you see and opened it up, and let in the fresh air as they said, and enabled the church to recover its tradition. Mind you it caused a lot of confusion naturally at the time and still does, but it left the church open to the whole tradition from the beginning. And I feel now we’re in a position to see how the church grew from the time of Jesus through all these stages, and how the Holy Spirit remains in the church from the beginning. The Spirit was given by Jesus to the Apostles, it was carried on through all the churches and it’s carried, I think we have to say, in all the churches in some way or other. And certainly within the Church of Rome, the Church of the apostles Peter and Paul, which has had this unique vocation. You can’t deny there has been an extraordinary charism given to the Church of Rome through all these centuries which remains at the present day.

The way Raymond Brown put it is helpful. He says that Jesus founded a community which was destined in the course of time under historical circumstances to develop into the church which we know – the hierarchy, the sacraments, the dogmas, the law and so on. It’s an evolution from the original church and I think you can say the Holy Spirit guided it but in historical circumstances, conditioned by history. Everything from the sacraments down to its laws are from God, given by the Holy Spirit, and expressed under historical, cultural limitations and conditions you see. So we have to recognize the conditioning but also recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit which really is present in the church.

And that is why however far wrong we may go, we still believe in spite of it all that the Holy Spirit is there. I would say that anyone who wants to convert may be scandalized by many things in the Church but they will always find the Holy Spirit if they are really looking for it. I say that for myself, I found it and so I think the original remains. Jesus committed the Holy Spirit to his disciples and without fail it has continued in the Church and we can always find it there. But it is found under the load of historical circumstances which have conditioned it in the present and which continue to and can always change. The institutional Church is always changing under historical conditions.

We can watch it grow through history through all the centuries, and if we watch its progress today, we can see it is always changing, developing, adjusting as Newman saw it, to human situations but still preserving the essential truth of the Holy Spirit. That is all I would say!