Even after 2,000 years, it is still necessary to defend, indeed to explain, that the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ, our Lord, the Incarnate Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. This is because of the indefensible proposal that the Church, after the Apostles, "evolved" into an organised form - with hierarchical authority, set laws and liturgies, etc - all of this having no causal connection from Christ.
This idea has found its way into our teaching institutions, e.g., in a recommended reference for Year 7 students (12-year olds) - Out of the Desert, Book One - in one diocesan RE program which is being eagerly implemented in several other Australian dioceses.
Put quite simply, the idea is heretical, that is, contrary to the teaching of the Church about her own origin. The Church's teaching faithfully describes the action of Jesus Christ in setting up what was necessary as the means of continuing his work of being "the way, the truth and the life."
All that is contained in Christ's Revelation forms a kind of organic unity. The reason for this is not difficult to see if we take time to look at eternal realities and God's desire to have us share in them. Perhaps we can trace the wonderful true story this way.
Before the creation there was only God (and such is his greatness that some poor author said: "Nothing much has happened since"). Three Divine Persons were infinitely happy because of the utter unity they had by sharing one Divine Nature. From all eternity, this unity engendered infinite joy. Mysteriously, God decided to share this joy outside himself, and so he created beings with a nature so designed that they would he able to experience his presence and life.
He first created spirits for this sublime destiny, some of whom, we know, in pride, sought to put themselves before God. Then God created man, male and female, and Lucifer was able to persuade the first man and woman to perform the same horrible ingratitude as himself, and seek independence from God's wonderful plans for them.
God did not desert man, the reason being that he loves mankind, not because we deserve it but because he is good. If he stopped loving us because of sin, then there would he no hope of forgiveness. (That is why despair is a sin: it insults the very nature of God loving). So, he comes into the world himself, as we know, to make up for man's sins by his love, shown especially in his suffering and death, inflicted on him because sinful mankind could not stand his utter goodness. The Father's love still flows.
Now, there had to be means established by which that love, and all it does, can still flow to mankind. Mankind has no power to establish the means by which the love of God (grace) and the Truth of God and the Way to God can be given to man! Only God can found a Church, the means by which these wonders remain active in the world.
God's original plan
Thus, there is the power of Christ through his Church to give the life of grace ongoing through his priesthood and its sacraments and sacrifice; the authority of Christ to preserve through his Church the Truth revealed, so necessary for true knowledge of God; and that same authority to keep before mankind that way of life which alone preserves in man the goodness created by God which makes man his image - all of this, God's means of bringing us into that joy which is in him from all eternity. Thus we return to God's original and eternal plan: "He chose us in him before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians).
Those who say the "Church evolved" cheapen Christ's saving creation to a mere human organisation. It is high time they looked deeper for the reason of sacred things.
In my own parish, I have taken steps to counteract for the children of our school any subtle white-anting of their faith in the Church, and to forewarn them of what they might meet in future in our secondary schools. God help our teachers, for perhaps "they know not what they do," and for what kind of future they are grooming their students. And God forgive the originators of such fatal theories, and, indeed, their protectors - forgive and convert!
Father John O'Neill is parish priest of St John Vianney's Church, Doonside, Parramatta Diocese, NSW.