CATHOLICS who affirm the indestructibility of the Catholic Church forget that the religion Jesus Christ started was Christianity and not Catholicism. He did not build the organizational structure of the Catholic Church either.
Christianity became an organized religion when Constantine the Great (3rd century) made it the Roman empire’s official religion to unite the pagan nations of the empire with one religious bond.
This one Church, however, broke in 1054 into the Church of Rome in the West, under the pope, and the Orthodox Church in the East in Constantinople. (The Greek Church remained loyal to Rome.)
The Church of Rome further broke up in 1517 when it refused to entertain Martin Luther’s 95 theses that were really not accusations but respectful questions about Roman Church dogmas and practices such as the sales of indulgences. This caused Luther to separate and found the first of many independent and democratic Lutheran or Protestant Churches.
The core spiritual content of these Christian churches was one and the same life and teachings of Jesus Christ. This is pure spiritual reality that is untouchable hence indestructible by matter. But the varying interpretations of one of the same spiritual content got to be contained in accordingly varying material organizational receptacles that in fact changed in the course of history.
Spirit alone is truly indestructible as it has no physical form that can break into pieces. Matter is indestructible only in the sense that it continues to exist in different forms. Like our physical body (our form while alive) is destroyed by death but its matter continues to exist in the form of dust.
Bishops are right to say that the Catholic faith will “survive many Dutertes” and “will live on for centuries,” but wrong to presume the glass that contains the wine of Christian (not just Catholic) faith will also live on. A glass can break and the glass we call the Catholic Church has in fact broken into many pieces in history while the wine of faith lives on in glasses of varying forms, the many Christian Churches of today.
Sexual abuse by the clergy is the latest of many critical issues that can lead to a radical change in the present form of the Catholic Church. I cannot see it as continuing to be a non-hereditary (because the rulers are celibates) monarchy and remain relevant to a steadily democratizing, increasingly gender-sensitive yet highly polarized world.
If you ask me, I am Christian by choice and Catholic only by the accident of being born to Catholic parents. But Protestant or Catholic does not matter to the Father who sent His only begotten son to save not just Catholics, not just Christians but all His children on earth.