[Update: Michael Liccione is the winner.]
So, uh, who wrote the following?
What was Jesus's own attitude? There can be little doubt that he saw himself as the Messiah; certainly he was executed for refusing to deny that he had made this claim. On the other hand, he seems to have been secretive about it, and to have disliked hearing himself called Messiah - or Christ, which amounted to the same thing. In Caesarea Philippi Jesus asked his disciples point-blank who people said he was. Some, they said, took him to be John the Baptist come to life, others Elijah, yet others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. But whom do ye say that I am?, Jesus insisted. Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, Peter answered. Jesus was delighted; Blessed art thou, he said to Peter; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in Heaven. It was on this occasion, we are told, that Jesus went on to tell Peter that he was true to his name - a rock; and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. In terms of history, few sayings attributed to Jesus have proved more portentous, for upon it is based the whole mystique of the Catholic Church as the unique repository of God's purposes on earth and instrument of effecting them, with Peter as the first Pope to whom the keys of the kingdom of heaven have been entrusted.
However authentic this particular saying of Jesus may be - and it is true that, if he did not actually say it, the first Church Fathers had the strongest possible inducement to put into his mouth - it is certainly true that, despite many abominations and setbacks, the Church has lasted for a phenomenal length of time - longer, certainly, than any comparable institution. Thus it may legitimately be said that the gates of Hell have not so far prevailed against it. An outsider might consider that just now the Church's future looks blacker than at any time in history, if only because the forces of discord and destruction are working from within; the gates of Hell might almost seem to have been set up at the entrance to the Vatican and to open inwards. Yet the faithful would surely say that Jesus's undertaking to St. Peter remains valid, and must forever. For myself, I cannot imagine believing that any institution, however long-lived and sacerdotal in its origins, can be other than subject to decay and dissolution...
In any case, Jesus did not come into the world to found a Church but to proclaim a Kingdom - the two being by no means the same thing. If he chose Peter to be the rock on which his Church was to be founded, thereby in effect nominating him to be the first of a long line of his Vicars on earth, there have been many mundane intruders into this spiritual domain, from the Emperor Constantine onwards. Now another takeover would seem to be imminent; by Caliban, this time, with, in place of Trinculo, Stephanos, and their ribald crew, many a randy Father, mini-skirted nun and Marxist-dialoguing Jesuit in beret and parachutist rig. To those who like myself, rightly or wrongly, have become convinced that what is called 'Western civilization' is irretrievably over, and that another Dark Age is upon us, this seeming collapse of the Church is desolating. We bemoan the passing of a liturgy in which we never participated, of high virtues which we never practiced, of an obedience we never accorded and an orthodoxy we never accepted and often ridiculed.
Yet even if it is true that, despite the assurance given to Peter, the gates of hell have prevailed, or at any rate are now swinging on ecumenical hinges, that is only a lost battle. The war goes on; and suddenly, in the most unlikely theatre of all, a Solzhenitsyn raises his voice, while in the dismal slums of Calcutta a Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity go about Jesus's work of love with incomparable dedication. When I think of them, as I have seen them at their work and at their devotions, I want to put away all the books, tear up all the scribbled notes. There are no more doubts or dilemmas; everything is perfectly clear. What commentary or exposition, however eloquent, lucid, perceptive, inspired even, can equal in elucidation and illumination the effect of these dedicated lives? What mind has conceived a discourse, or tongue spoken it, which conveys even to a minute degree the light they shine before men? I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink...the words come alive, as no study or meditation could possibly make them, in the fulfillment in the most literal sense of Jesus's behest to see in the suffering face of humanity his suffering face, and in their broken bodies, his. The religion Jesus gave the world is an experience, not of a body of ideas or principles. It is in being lived that it lives, as it is in loving that the love which it discloses at the heart of all creation becomes manifest. It belongs to the world of Cervantes rather than that of Wittgenstein; to Rabelais and Tolstoy rather than to Bultmann and Barth...
So in the face of a Mother Teresa I trace the very geography of Jesus's Kingdom; all the contours and valleys and waterways. I need no other map. In the light of such a faith as hers, the troubles of the Church, its liturgical squabbles and contending theologies and Vatican Councils drowsing through interminable sessions, seem of little account. Once when I was complaining about Church dignitaries and their attitudes, Mother Teresa drily pointed out that, of the twelve disciples hand-picked by Jesus himself, one turned out to be a crook and the rest ran away. How, she asked, can we expect mere popes and bishops to do better? How indeed?