Church history must not be reduced to a story of unrelieved devolution from some more ancient and presumably more pure vision of the church. Change and development are inevitable in a church that is truly alive. If we believe the Spirit continues to abide and influence the church, then we must resist imagining that only the form in which the church appeared in the first centuries represents the church willed by Christ and his Spirit. As Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza suggests, we should see the life and structure of the early church more as a “prototype” from which all future forms of the church must be linked, rather than as an “archetype” upon which all other ecclesial forms must be modeled.
Richard R. Gaillardetz, An Unfinished Council: Vatican II, Pope Francis, and the Renewal of Catholicism (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2015), pp. 18-19. ISBN: 978-0-8146-8309-5.