Several years back, I remember watching an NBC Nightly News segment on the Catholic Church. Something was going on in Rome at the Vatican, I don’t remember what exactly. Several young American Catholics were interviewed about their relationship with the Church. With Saint Peter’s Basilica in the background, one guy, clearly a college student spending a semester abroad to, no doubt, “find himself” said something to the effect of “I have a relationship with God and I don’t really need the Church to come in between that.” In other words, “I can live however the hell I want, still love Jesus, call myself ‘Catholic’, and no pope, bishop or priest is going to tell me otherwise.” Most of you I am sure have heard a variation on this line before.
To that all-too-frequent proposition, Pope Benedict XVI offers this thoughtful reply:
In a certain sense we can say that the Last Supper itself is the act of foundation of the Church, because he [Christ] gives himself and thus creates a new community, a community united in communion with himself.
In this light, one understands how the Risen One confers upon them [the Apostles], with the effusion of the Spirit, the power to forgive sins (cf Jn 20:23). Thus, the Twelve Apostles are the most evident sign of Jesus’ will regarding the existence and mission of his Church, the guarantee that between Christ and the Church there is no opposition: despite the sins of the people who make up the Church, they are inseparable.
Therefore, a slogan that was popular some years back: “Jesus yes, Church no”, is totally irreconcilable with the intention of Christ. This individualistically chosen Jesus is an imaginary Jesus. ~Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus, the Apostles and the Early Church