Does Rome hold the keys to the Holy Spirit?

Does the Holy Spirit come through Rome?

When I was a Catholic, I – like many other Catholics I knew – didn’t like to be called “Roman Catholics” because for us there was only one catholic (= universal) faith, which was the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. The fact that its centre was in Rome (the Vatican), presided over by the Bishop of Rome, was incidental. Yet Pope Pius XII stressed the point that the Catholic Church was the Roman Catholic Church:

To describe this true Church of Christ – which is the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church – there is no name more noble, none more excellent, none more Divine, than the expression, ‘the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ’” (Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 4th ed. (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1960, p. 270, ). (See Keith Mathison, “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and Apostolic Succession: A Response to Bryan Cross and Neal Judisch”).

The epithet “holy” in the pope’s “Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church” appears first for the sound reason that holiness is the most important quality in the “mystical body of Christ” (the pope above), which is the Church. In the Bible, “holy” and “spirit” meet in a person, the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit. The Roman Catholic Church does not only claim to be guided, infallibly guided, by the Holy Spirit, but also to hold the keys to the Holy Spirit’s life and power. Here is the contrasting Protestant view, which I hold:

I ask you then to remark carefully, says Gilbert Ryle, that whatever individual Christians have, are, and enjoy, in contradistinction to the worldly and unconverted, they owe to the agency of God the Holy Spirit. By Him they are first called, quickened, and made alive. By Him they are born again, and made new creatures. By Him they are convinced of sin, guided into all truth and led to Christ. By Him they are sealed unto the day of redemption. He dwells in them as His living temples. He witnesses with their spirits—gives them the spirit of adoption, makes them to cry ‘Abba Father’, and makes intercession for them. By Him they are sanctified. By Him the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts. Through His power they abound in hope. Through Him they wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. Through Him they mortify the deeds of their bodies. After Him they walk. In Him they live. In a word, all that believers have from grace to glory—all that they are from the first moment they believe to the day they depart to be with Christ—all, all, all may be traced to the work of God the Holy Spirit.”


See John 6:63; 3:8; 16:9, 10; Eph. 4:30; 1 Cor. 6:19; Rom. 8:15, 16, 26; 2 Thess. 2:13; Rom. 5:5; 15:13; Gal. 5:5, 25; Rom. 8:1, 13.)

When Ryle says “all, all, all may be traced to the work of God the Holy Spirit,” this, of course, does not mean that the Father and the Son do not play a significant role in the plan of salvation.

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