Cover image for Papal sin : structures of deceit
Title:
Papal sin : structures of deceit
Author:
Wills, Garry, 1934-
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Doubleday, 2000.
Physical Description:
viii, 326 pages ; 25 cm
Language:
English
Subject Term:
ISBN:
9780385494106
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

"The truth, we are told, will make us free.   It is time to free Catholics, lay as well as clerical, from the structures of deceit that are our subtle modern form of papal sin.  Paler, subtler, less dramatic than the sins castigated by Orcagna or Dante, these are the quiet sins of intellectual betrayal." --from the Introduction From Pulitzer Prize-winning author Garry Wills comes an assured, acutely insightful--and occasionally stinging--critique of the Catholic Church and its hierarchy from the nineteenth century to the present. Papal Sinin the past was blatant, as Catholics themselves realized when they painted popes roasting in hell on their own church walls.  Surely, the great abuses of the past--the nepotism, murders, and wars of conquest--no longer prevail; yet, the sin of the modern papacy, as revealed by Garry Wills in his penetrating new book, is every bit as real, though less obvious than the old sins. Wills describes a papacy that seems steadfastly unwilling to face the truth about itself, its past, and its relations with others.  The refusal of the authorities of the Church to be honest about its teachings has needlessly exacerbated original mistakes.  Even when the Vatican has tried to tell the truth--e.g., about Catholics and the Holocaust--it has ended up resorting to historical distortions and evasions.  The same is true when the papacy has attempted to deal with its record of discrimination against women, or with its unbelievable assertion that "natural law" dictates its sexual code. Though the blithe disregard of some Catholics for papal directives has occasionally been attributed to mere hedonism or willfulness, it actually reflects a failure, after long trying on their part, to find a credible level of honesty in the official positions adopted by modern popes.  On many issues outside the realm of revealed doctrine, the papacy has made itself unbelievable even to the well-disposed laity. The resulting distrust is in fact a neglected reason for the shortage of priests.  Entirely aside from the public uproar over celibacy, potential clergy have proven unwilling to put themselves in a position that supports dishonest teachings. Wills traces the rise of the papacy's stubborn resistance to the truth, beginning with the challenges posed in the nineteenth century by science, democracy, scriptural scholarship, and rigorous history.  The legacy of that resistance, despite the brief flare of John XXIII's papacy and some good initiatives in the 1960s by the Second Vatican Council (later baffled), is still strong in the Vatican. Finally Wills reminds the reader of the positive potential of the Church by turning to some great truth tellers of the Catholic tradition--St. Augustine, John Henry Newman, John Acton, and John XXIII.  In them, Wills shows that the righteous path can still be taken, if only the Vatican will muster the courage to speak even embarrassing truths in the name of Truth itself.


Author Notes

Garry Wills, 1934 - Garry Wills was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1934. Wills received a B.A. from St. Louis University in 1957, an M.A. from Xavier University of Cincinnati in 1958, an M.A. (1959) and a Ph.D. (1961) in classics from Yale. Wills was a junior fellow of the Center for Hellenic Studies from 1961-62, an associate professor of classics and adjunct professor of humanities at Johns Hopkins University from 1962-80.

Wills was the first Washington Irving Professor of Modern American History and Literature at Union College, and was also a Regents Professor at the University of California in Santa Barbara, Silliman Seminarist at Yale, Christian Gauss Lecturer at Princeton, W.W. Cook Lecturer at the University of Michigan Law School, Hubert Humphrey Seminarist at Macalester College, Welch Professor of American Studies at Notre Dame University and Henry R. Luce Professor of American Culture and Public Policy at Northwestern University (1980-88). Wills is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and his articles appear frequently in The New York Review of Books.

Wills is the author of "Lincoln at Gettysburg," which won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 1993 and the NEH Presidential Medal, "John Wayne's America," "A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government" and "The Kennedy Imprisonment." Other awards received by Wills include the National Book Critics Award, the Merle Curti Award of the organization of American Historians, the Wilbur Cross Medal from Yale Graduate School, the Harold Washington Book Award and the Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting, which was for writing and narrating the 1988 "Frontline" documentary "The Candidates."

(Bowker Author Biography) Garry Wills is a Pulitzer-prize winning historian and cultural critic. A former professor of Greek at Yale University, his many books include Lincoln at Gettysburg, Reagan's America, Witches and Jesuits, and a biography of Saint Augustine. He lives in Evanston, Indiana.

(Publisher Provided) Garry Wills is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Magazine and The New York Review of Books. He lives in Evanston, Illinois.

(Publisher Provided)


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Fans of Wills, one of America's foremost writers on religion, were mildly disappointed with his 1999 biography of Saint AugustineDnot because it was anything less than brilliant, but because it was so short. They needn't have worried. In his new book, Wills puts Augustine to work against the "structures of deceit" he sees built into today's Roman Catholic papacy. Wills postulates that the papacy in every era has its own besetting sin. In the medieval period, it was political power; in the Renaissance, money; today, he argues, it is intellectual dishonesty. Because the papacy is incapable of admitting error on doctrinal matters, Wills believes, it forces apologists into mental gymnastics to defend doctrines such as an absolute ban on birth control. Throughout, Wills weaves in observations from Augustine and other Church fathers, showing that the "unbroken tradition" on these issues invoked by Church authorities is an ideological, rather than historical, construct. Wills contrasts Augustine's love of parrhesia, or bold honesty, with what he sees as the papacy's habitual mendacity on issues such as the Holocaust, priestly celibacy, homosexuality and the political function of Marian devotions. He also suggests that the crisis of conscience engendered by a Church that asks its leaders to defend dishonest positions is an unacknowledged contributor to the priest shortage. Though his rhetoric is at times a bit sharp, and his historical formulae a bit too sweeping, Wills's passion is excusable since this is a philippic directed at the Church by one its ownDa sincere, faithful Roman Catholic. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Choice Review

Visceral and eloquent on all the hot button issues of the modern papacy, Papal Sin will touch nerves and raise salvos of praise or blame depending on which side of the conservative/liberal divide readers fall. Wills marshals impressive historical argumentation (from mostly secondary sources)--wound thematically around his much-loved phrase "deep structures of deceit"--to convict the papacy of lying in Augustine's rigorous sense. Ultimately he fails to convince, because he has to prove willful intent to deceive--an exceedingly difficult task. Hans K"ung provides a more temperate and convincing approach--socially contextualized--in Christianity: Essence, History, and Future (CH, Oct'95), arguing that the Roman Catholic Church labors under a centuries-old paradigm that traditionalists shore up by whatever means possible. Outsiders sometimes see these means as less than moral; insiders excuse them as needed to preserve the Church's notes--one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Surprisingly, Wills nowhere invokes the notion of societas perfecta, propagated by the Vatican since the Reformation, most vigorously after the French Revolution. Wills says much that needs saying about Church reform but harms his cause by overblowing the prophetic and coming off as a latter-day Savonarola. Theologically questionable on some points (e.g., sacramental priesthood), this important, thought-provoking work belongs in every serious library. Upper-division undergraduates and above; general readers and practitioners. D. G. Schultenover; Creighton University


Booklist Review

It's a long way from the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, of the 1860s to the Vatican City of today, but esteemed historian Wills proves equally at home in both eras, jumping from the effect of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address on the meaning of the American Constitution--his topic in Lincoln at Gettysburg (1992)--to the history of papal deception and dissembling, the subject of his latest book. Wills' intellectual curiosity as well as his righteous sense of identifying inhumanity where he sees it leads him through the past two centuries of papal history, where he finds ample evidence of a "structure of deceit." The Catholic Church, Wills believes, has continued to perform various "sinful" acts because to do otherwise would necessitate admitting to wrongdoing in the past, something the church is pathologically adverse to doing. These "sinful" acts center on the exercise of church doctrine in such important social areas as contraception, homosexuality, the priesthood, and women's place in the church. Adding insult to injury, priests are instructed to uphold and defend and even enforce these doctrinal beliefs even though many of them don't believe in what they must preach. Church doctrine, Wills posits, does not keep up with the times. "When ancient props for certain moral stands are removed, or crumble of themselves, the thing they upheld is not allowed to fall with them. New Jerry-built contrivances are shoved under them to keep them in place." A complicated, controversial, but stimulating argument that will prompt serious discussion among Wills' fans and those concerned with theological issues. --Brad Hooper


Library Journal Review

No, not fornication and the Crusades but the Church's current rigidity. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Remembering the Holocaust We Remember The debilitating effect of intellectual dishonesty can be touching. Even when papal authority sincerely wants to perform a virtuous act, when it spends years screwing up its nerve to do it, when it actually thinks it has done it, when it releases a notice of its having done it, when it expects to be congratulated on doing it--it has not done it. Not because it did not want to do it, or did not believe it did it. It was simply unable to do it, because that would have involved coming clean about the record of the papal institution. And that is all but unthinkable. A good example is the long-awaited document on the Holocaust, We Remember, issued by a papally appointed commission on March 16, 1998, and recommended in an accompanying letter by John Paul II. This document had been in preparation for over a decade. It was supposed to go beyond the Second Vatican Council's assurance, in 1965, that Jews cannot, after all, be blamed for the death of Jesus (an assurance that We Remember refers to). Though expressions of sympathy for Jewish suffering are voiced in the new statement, it devotes more energy to exonerating the church--and excoriating the Nazis for not following church teaching--than to sympathizing with the Holocaust's victims. The effect is of a sad person toiling up a hill all racked with emotion and ready to beat his breast, only to have him plump down on his knees, sigh heavily--and point at some other fellow who caused all the trouble. The key distinction labored at through the text is between anti-Semitism, as a pseudo-scientific theory of race always condemned by the church, and anti-Judaism, which some Christians through weakness succumbed to at times but not "the church as such." The former is a matter of erroneous teaching--which the church is never guilty of. The latter is a matter of "sentiment" and weakness, sometimes using misinterpreted scriptural texts as a cover for prejudices of a basically nonreligious sort: In a climate of eventful social change, Jews were often accused of exercising an influence disproportionate to their numbers. Thus there began to spread in varying degrees throughout most of Europe an anti-Judaism that was essentially more sociological and political than religious.1 Since the "sentiment" was not really religious, that lets the church off the hook. It never caused "anti-Judaism," though individual members of the church succumbed to it on their own. Thus the document can direct its animus against scientific racism (the real anti-Semitism) and present it as the common enemy of Christian and Jew: At the level of theological reflection we cannot ignore the fact that not a few in the Nazi party not only showed aversion to the idea of divine Providence at work in human affairs, but gave proof of a definite hatred directed at God himself. Logically, such an attitude also led to a rejection of Christianity, and a desire to see the church destroyed or at least subject to the interest of the Nazi state. It was this extreme ideology which became the basis of the measures taken, first to drive the Jews from their homes and then to exterminate them. The Shoah was the work of a thoroughly modern neo-pagan regime. Its anti-Semitism had its roots outside of Christianity and, in pursuing its aim, it did not hesitate to oppose the church and persecute its members also (16). Did Christians have anything to do with the persecuting? Well, only in the sense that some did not oppose it quite as strenuously as they ought to have done: Did Christians give every possible assistance to those being persecuted, and in particular to the persecuted Jews? Many did, but others did not. Those who did help to save Jewish lives as much as was in their power, even to the point of placing their own lives in danger, must not be forgotten. During and after the war, Jewish communities and Jewish leaders expressed their thanks for all that had been done for them, including what Pope Pius XII did personally or through his representatives to save hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives. Many Catholic bishops, priests, religious and laity have been honored for this reason by the State of Israel. Nevertheless, as Pope John Paul II has recognized, alongside such courageous men and women, the spiritual resistance and concrete action of other Christians was not that which might have been expected from Christ's followers. We cannot know how many Christians in countries occupied or ruled by the Nazi powers or their allies were horrified at the disappearance of their Jewish neighbors and yet were not strong enough to raise their voices in protest. For Christians, this heavy burden of conscience of their brothers and sisters during the Second World War must be a call to penitence (17-18). So this document--which the Pope commends for calling "memory to play its necessary part in the process of shaping a future" (7)--establishes three entirely separate categories: 1. Those who caused the Holocaust--irreligious Nazis with a godless scientism about race, who were anti-Christian as well as anti-Jewish. 2. Those who opposed the Holocaust--Pope Pius XII and bishops and other authorities encouraging their followers to act in accord with the church's teaching. 3. Those who did not oppose the Holocaust enough--Christians too fearful to follow their brave leaders. It is only in the name of this last category that the document expresses "penitence." What is left out of this picture? To begin with, the bishops and priests who were supportive of the Nazis are expunged from the memory that Pope John Paul says is supposed to guide us into the future. The [papal] nuncio to Berlin throughout the war, Archbishop Cesare Orsenigo, was a Nazi sympathizer, and far from the only friend of the Nazis in the hierarchy. The rector of the German College in Rome, Archbishop Alois Hudal, who was useful in dealing with the Nazis during their occupation of Rome, was another, and many members of Hitler's government, like Ernst von Weizsacker, the ambassador to the Vatican and an old acquaintance of the Pope [Pius XII], professed to be good Catholics. When Weizsacker was credited to the Vatican in 1943, the papal limousine that took him to his audience flew the papal flag and the swastika side by side, "in peaceful harmony," as Weizsacker noted proudly.2 1 Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah, Vatican translation (Pauline Books, 1998), p. 14. Numerical references in my text are to pages of this edition. 2 Charles R. Morris, American Catholic: The Saints and Sinners Who Built America's Most Powerful Church (Times Books, 1997), p. 239. John F. Morley, a historian who is also a priest, concluded, on the basis of the extensive diplomatic correspondence between Orsenigo and the Vatican: "Whether aware or not, Orsenigo was indifferent to what happened to the Jews. His superiors in the [Vatican] Secretariat of State, however, were well informed, and yet they manifested no concern for the Jews." Morley, Vatican Diplomacy and the Jews During the Holocaust, 1939-1943 (KTAV Publishing House, 1980), p. 128. Excerpted from Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit by Garry Wills All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
I Historical Dishonestiesp. 11
1. Remembering the Holocaustp. 13
2. Toward the Holocaustp. 29
3. Usurping the Holocaustp. 47
4. Claims of Victimhoodp. 61
II Doctrinal Dishonestiesp. 71
5. The Tragedy of Paul VI: Preludep. 73
6. The Tragedy of Paul VI: Encyclicalp. 87
7. Excluded Womenp. 104
8. The Pope's Eunuchsp. 122
9. Priestly Castep. 132
10. Shrinking the Body of Christp. 151
11. Hydraulics of Gracep. 166
12. Conspiracy of Silencep. 175
13. A Gay Priesthoodp. 192
14. Marian Politicsp. 204
15. The Gift of Lifep. 221
III The Honesty Issuep. 231
16. The Age of Truthp. 233
17. Acton's Reckless Truthp. 246
18. Newman's Cautious Truthp. 261
IV The Splendor of Truthp. 275
19. Augustine vs. Jeromep. 277
20. Augustine vs. Consentiusp. 293
21. The Truth That Freesp. 303
Key to Brief Citationsp. 313
Acknowledgmentsp. 315
Indexp. 317