Where Francis is Leading the Church: 10 Questions for Author Garry Wills

Garry Wills is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American Catholic author who is Professor of History Emeritus at Northwestern University. His newest book, “The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis,” was published on March 10.

On March 4, I conducted the following email interview with Mr. Wills about his new book.

Advertisement

Why did you write this book?

To contest the view that the church does not, cannot, and should not ever change. I want to remind people that it has changed, often and deeply; and it is, inevitably, changing right now.

Who is your audience?

Anyone interested in the history of the church.

What do you predict for the future of the Catholic Church under Francis?

I do not predict. I hope. And there are grounds for hope with a man who says that God continually surprises us.

How has Pope Francis continued the legacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI?

He has not made doctrinal changes on his own. Like John XXIII he has invited the People of God to reflect on their love of Jesus and the ways the church expresses that.

How has Pope Francis departed from the styles of John Paul II and Benedict XVI?

I prefer the word “culture” to “style.” Francis is responding to, and encouraging, cultural changes already taking place—in, for instance, the standing of women, or of the laity in general.

What will be the greatest gift of Pope Francis to renewing the Catholic Church?

In a world where Catholics and Muslims number about one and a half billion believers each, the pope's respect for and love of Muslims (he has prayed at mosques and said we can learn from the Qur'an) may prevent a disastrous "holy war."

What do you want readers to take away from this book?

Hope.

If you could say one thing to Pope Francis, what would it be?

Thank you for showing confidence in the People of God.

From your perspective, what’s the greatest need in the Catholic Church today?

For Catholics to speak out, and to listen to each other, not waiting simply for directives from the Vatican.

What are you giving up for Lent this year?

It's not a matter of giving but of adding on. I say the daily rosary around the sorrowful mysteries. (I guess that means giving up the other mysteries.)

Do you have any final thoughts?

No final thoughts. Just initial ones.

Sean Salai, S.J., is a contributing writer at America.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 9 months ago
Strange collection of one-liners. But, it does raise a question. Since he is described as an "American Catholic author," I wonder what the Editorial test is for an identification as Catholic, compared to the recent interview of Camille Paglia, who was accurately described as an ex-Catholic. Surely, Catholic self-identification is not sufficient, as I believe that Luther and Henry VIII claimed to be Catholic to the end (claiming it was the Church that had apostatized, not them) but would rarely be described as such in a publication today. Mr. Wills has departed from the Church on abortion, homosexuality, priestesses, the Eucharist, the scriptural canon, one the very idea of a priesthood, etc., etc.,.. Surely he at least as far from the faith than Paglia? Does Mr. Wills even self-identify as Catholic anymore? This self-identification test, used by the Pew Foundation and most secular surveys, is what has caused great confusion in determining "what Catholics believe" today, and includes many atheists and others far further away from Church teaching than any of the Protestant "reformers."
ed gleason
2 years 9 months ago
Hey Tim, That there are so many 'confused' Catholics argument is wearing thin.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 9 months ago
Hey Ed. Confusion would be the most charitable interpretation. This might be too subtle a distinction but there is a difference between "what Catholics believe" and "what beliefs are Catholic" and "what is a Catholic." The social sciences are already soft enough, without deciding to do science without definitions of terms.
ed gleason
2 years 9 months ago
Tim I more convinced by what Catholic DO.. Stated Belief is cheap stuff ...often for show as Jesus frequently noted .... try the Good Samaritan. for starters
Tim O'Leary
2 years 9 months ago
So, Ed. By your definition, many good Mormons and Scientologists and Muslims etc. would meet your definition for a Catholic. I suppose you would include them in the next poll on "what Catholics believe." We might get more accurate results than the current questions. And when Jesus asked Peter, 'who do you say I am'," Peter could have just said "your a guy who does good" to meet your criterion.
Winni Veils
2 years 9 months ago
Allow me to clearly state how to tell a true catholic from everyone else. If you believe the following, you are a Catholic. http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/
Molly Roach
2 years 9 months ago
Hope: the anticipation of and the search for the good that is not here yet.
Kevin McDermott
2 years 9 months ago
Always good having you along to rule on what's in and what's out, Tim.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 9 months ago
Kevin, Ed & Anne. Anne, Kevin and Ed, etc. etc. Wills is full of contradictions. He favors the ordination of women but also denies the very validity of the Catholic priesthood (or the Real Presence). Here is a more detailed critique of his last book and lots of commentary exchange on his last book "Why Priests: a Failed Tradition". http://americamagazine.org/issue/culture/communion-waver#comment-58826 There is a way pope Francis might use Wills' forthcoming book. Write down every Garry Wills recommendation and do the opposite.
Anne Chapman
2 years 9 months ago
Garry Wills has expressed the ideas and feelings of millions of Catholics in his books. I look forward to reading this one, as I gave up hope in the Catholic church several years ago. Perhaps his perspective will make me see the church through new eyes and restore the hope that was lost.
Martin Eble
2 years 9 months ago
People who "gave up hope in the Catholic church" don't generally spend their time reading Catholic media and commenting on it. Assuming the Catholic Church's claims are true, staying in it is the wise choice. Assuming those claims are false, even commenting on it seems inappropriate.
Kevin McDermott
2 years 9 months ago
Martin, Tim. Tim, Martin.
Martin Eble
2 years 9 months ago
Kevin, Anne. Anne, Kevin.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 9 months ago
Michael Sean Winters of NCR could never be mistaken for a conservative Catholic, but he too asked Garry Wills to stop pretending he is Catholic. http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/garry-wills-please-go-away. He ends with "I cannot see into this man's soul, but any soul who has given up hope must ask if he has not also lost his faith. And, if his faith is lost, he is not part of the sensus fidelium. I hope Mr. Wills rediscovers his faith and his hope but until he does, he should stop posing as a Christian commentator." Charlie Rose interviewed Garry Wills just before the last conclave and ended with the insightful conclusion that Wills non-stop critique of the Church and its doctrine seems to have become the primary focus of his life (I would say obsession). Charlie ended the interview asking Wills what his current religion was and Wills gave a spiritual (but not religious) answer. So, I guess Garry Wills wouldn't even be a "self-identifying" Catholic.
Anne Chapman
2 years 9 months ago
Michael Sean Winters is mostly a very conservative Catholic. He opposes women's ordination, contraception (and of course, abortion), physician assisted suicide, etc. He is with the bishops on immigration and economic issues - the "liberal" issues. Are you with the bishps on those also, Tim? He frequently stresses that he "thinks with the church". He prefers the Latin mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral to the English language masses, and used to frequently disparage modern hymns. He stopped that finally, probably after being criticized so often. He pretends to be a Catholic "on the left", frequently describing himself as such, but he is most definitely not regarded as such by his regular readers at NCR. The bishops are on "the left" on all the same issues as Mr. Winters, and he is "on the right" on all the same issues as the bishops. He is a lock-step, 'think with the church" Catholic - no deviations at all. Have you ever actually read Mr. Wills books? All the way through, and not just commentaries? Have you checked out his footnotes? He documents everything he says. He is a historian, after all, and understands the importance of citing sources. I don't know how Mr. Wills describes himself these days. His book "Why I am a Catholic" was pretty strong in affirming not only his christian faith, but his Catholic identity.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 9 months ago
Anne - you are so forgetful. Remember you assigned me the penance of reading Garry Wills Why Priests and suggested I not give my opinion on it until i did (even though you hadn't yet read it either and freely praised it). When I finished it, I wrote a detailed review - but you never responded. Did you ever complete that book? http://americamagazine.org/issue/culture/communion-waver#comment-58826 On Michael Sean Winters, I suppose from your vantage point everyone who actually believes what the Church teaches is a conservative, no matter what their political interpretations? Back to pesky definitions again, but I would define a conservative Catholic as one who believes what the Catechism essentially teaches but who emphasizes all the parts that lean to political/economics conservativism (as pre-1960s) and a liberal Catholic as one who does the same thing to the politically/economically liberal (pre-1960s). But to depart from the Catechism in any persistent and definitive way would be to put oneself outside the Church - on the right (sedevacanists or those who refuse to accept Vatican Council I or II) or on the left (certainly anyone who thinks abortion or homosexual sex is not sinful, or Christ is not present in the Eucharist, or there is no priesthood, or the Canon of Scripture is in error, etc. ).
Anne Chapman
2 years 9 months ago
Are the bishops still Catholic? They're pretty liberal on some issues, are they not? Do you "think with" them the same way you "think with" them when the oppose gay CIVIL marriage? Suspect not. Calling MSW a "liberal"in order to quote him against Garry Wills is simply manipulating the reality to suit yourself. Of course I finished Garry Wills book. It was fascinating. Although I had known some of what he discussed, I was unfamiliar with some. I learned a lot from it. I was so relieved to read about Augustine's understanding of the eucharist - so different from Aquinas, which has bothered me since parochial school in the 1950s. I felt that at least my views were shared by some who are held in "esteem" by the church, even if I do not share Augustine's views on women and marriage. I do not claim Wills is an "orthodox" Catholic. Many saints were not 'orthodox" Catholics either. Some were excommunicated, some were turned over to the state for execution as heretics. Somehow I don't think it's up to you to tell America how to describe the interviewees. Your opinion is just that - your opinion. I don't worry much about who is a "real" Catholic and who isn't. In your mind, I am not a "real" Catholic either. You support some of the church's teachings, but not all of them. I support some of them also, - but not all of them. Garry Wills supports some - but not all of them. I worry far more about who is a real christian - one who tries to follow what Jesus taught. - than about who is a "real" Catholic. A lot of "orthodox" Catholics spend a lot of time figuring out who should not be called "real" Catholics but not much time reflecting on whether or not others, or themselves, are "real" christians. Many of the most "orthodox" Catholics seem to not understand the gospels at all, what Jesus taught. They are totally focused on the institution that they sometimes seem to put in the place of God. The teachings I worry about are in the gospels. The catechisms come and go. They get revised. They change. The current version is very self-referential as well and primarily reflects the personal opinions of JPII and Ratzinger. Read it, study it, but don't assume it is all "Truth".
Tim O'Leary
2 years 9 months ago
Anne - Your characterization of your views and mine are way off base. I accept what the Gospel and the Catechism teaches - fully and unreservedly (and, contrary to Wills mischaracterization of Augustine, that Doctor of the Church fully believed in both the Real Presence and the Priesthood). And if I find that I am not in sync with either, then it is I who must change. I think your and Garry's dispute with the Church goes to the fundamental aspect of the teaching authority. That permits you to disagree with whole swathes of the Catechism. So, your concept, and that of Garry Wills, are diametrically opposite to mine, as you see yourself as the final arbiter of what you believe. You fail to see the role of the will in following and accepting the teaching. You are right when you say Garry Wills is not an orthodox Catholic. And nor is he a real Catholic, by his own admission of what he believes. As to yourself, I think you take Communion at the Episcopal Church. But, you seem to think that there is an opposition between believing what a Catholic believes and being a good Christian, when of course, only a non-Catholic could believe that. Catholicism is Christianity fully alive, the fullness of the faith, the Church Christ founded and preserves. Only a Catholic Christian can believe that.
Martin Eble
2 years 9 months ago
Lots of people don't worry much about who is a "real" Catholic and who isn't. How that is going to work out when they exit this life remains to be seen. Jesus taught “who hears you, hears Me”. He was speaking to the Apostles, not Gary Wills.
Janean Stallman
2 years 9 months ago
Wow! Anne, you really let him have it, and said it much better than I could. But, note my comments above. Thanks.
Martin Eble
2 years 8 months ago
Augustine’s teaching reflects a difference in experience, time, and focus from Thomas’ rather than any fundamental difference in belief. Augustine’s focus is on the Church that celebrates Eucharist, not on the Eucharist itself. Thomas is doing a rigorous theology of the sacraments in a style unknown to Augustine centuries earlier. The fact that many saints have had periods of conflict - although none “were turned over to the state for execution as heretics” - within the Church is hardly an endorsement of Garry Wills. He would be out the door if this were the 16th century. As a result which Church teachings Garry Wills supports and which he does not is only relevant to people who might want to join whatever sect Mr. Wills would like to found. As far as “I am not a ‘real’ Catholic either”, I was left with the impression from your posts elsewhere that you belong to PECUSA - the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. Applying the criterion that Anglicans use in determining who is an Anglican and who is not - being in communion with the See of Canterbury, I would note that PECUSA is not in communion with the See of Rome, which seems to answer the question. The reason why some "orthodox" Catholics put time into figuring out who and what is Catholic is to avoid the other teachers Jesus warned us about, and not inadvertently follow a self-appointed “prophet” like Wills over the cliff or into the desert. Wills is, as they say, a legend in his own mind. Were he one-third as smart as he thinks he is, he would be the smartest man in history. If I were worrying about what is in the gospels, I would remember first Jesus’ words “Who hears you, hears Me.” He wasn’t saying that to Garry Wills or any of the thousands of Protestant sects. As to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the suggestion that it “primarily reflects the personal opinions of JPII and Ratzinger” indicates almost a complete lack of familiarity with the text. The Nicene Creed is hardly “the personal opinions of JPII and Ratzinger”. Every statement is referenced as to its source. The largest source is the Bible. The two next most common sources are the Creed and the teaching documents of the Church’s Councils. There are indeed some items which reference disciplinary matters such as Canon Law, but they are rare and clearly noted.
Martin Eble
2 years 9 months ago
Opposing women's ordination, contraception, abortion, and physician assisted suicide is Catholic, not "very conservative Catholic". It's hard to be "with" the bishops on immigration and economic issues since they have not actually formulated a program. Some of their programs of yesteryear - advocating family farms, labor unions, and women staying home with their children - apparently were dropped somewhere quietly. Karl Marx was a historian and documented everything he said. He practically lived in the library.
Janean Stallman
2 years 9 months ago
Thank you, Anne, for your support of Mr. Wills' books. I have read several of them, and especially liked some of his earlier work, notably a short biography of Saint Augustine, which was influential in my spiritual journey. My comments from here on out are for those critical of Mr. Wills. He is a scholar, and whether he agrees with church dogma in every sense of the word is really not our business. What kind of Catholics are we if we criticize another person's understanding of the faith? What would Pope Francis say? What would Jesus say? The fact is that Wills obviously wants to be a Catholic, he just has trouble agreeing with issues that are in many respects political. That's not what Francis is about, or Jesus. Stop being critical of someone who is an intellectual, but searching for renewed faith. Wills, like James Carroll, (Did you read his new book?) is trying to make peace with an institution that they consider important to the world and the future of Christianity.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 9 months ago
Janean - denial of the Eucharist and the Priesthood are hardly political arguments. Maybe, Garry will come back to the faith someday and we should pray that he will. In his book on "Why Priests", he shows a lot of hate and disgust and ridicule for believing Catholics, and for Catholic teaching. I could provide quotes from there but I doubt they are needed. It is possible for intellectual criticism to be charitable and fair. But, Wills has chosen a different path.
Janean Stallman
2 years 9 months ago
First of all, let me say that I greatly appreciate having this message board available for discussion and exchange of ideas. I doubt there is anyone in my parish who has read any books by Garry Wills or any other controversial outspoken historian or theologian. I have many friends who have left the Church because they cannot accept things that the Church teaches, not because they are reading Garry Wills, Hans Kung, or James Carroll, but because each one has come to some crossroads of trying to reconcile Church teaching with what seems real world truths in their lives. This situation seems so sad and so needless. If we could concentrate more on being charitable and inclusive, we might be a more unified body of faith in the world. I don't mean throwing out the Catechism, or what the Church believes, or having all things relative, but I do think that each person has his or her own spiritual journey to travel and we should be more accepting and not so rigid. Some of us follow the path unquestionably, others must question everything and throw out what is bad, as St. Paul says. There is always something good to be learned from others, however much we disagree. So, compassion is needed for those who are struggling with conflict, and patient understanding. In my own experience, I do find that people who are intellectuals often struggle with their faith. It's the age old problem of faith and reason. Too much emphasis on the argument and the intellectual critique elevates one's ego, until being "right" becomes the important goal. Whereas, allowing respect for those who have different ideas, and looking for some good in them creates a more loving and humble soul. But, who am I to preach to you? Who am I to judge? Does one have to agree with everything in order to be a good Catholic? For me, it is far more important that I be a good Christian and follow what Jesus taught. I have children who are Mormons, and you won't find a better, more moral, caring family in any church. I can't judge them because their theology is different from mine. By the same token, I have Episcopalian friends who have great faith in Christ's presence in their lives. Just because they don't believe in transubstantiation doesn't mean they are not good Christians.They feel Christ's presence in their Eucharist, and so do many Protestant believers. I know many people who are adamant in criticizing these beliefs. Why? Who are we to judge? Are we so perfect? I learned so much from Fr. James Martin's book, and humility was one of them. I'm still working on it. Thank you, again for providing this opportunity to share my thoughts and learn from yours.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 8 months ago
Janean - much of what you say here I can agree with. I know many Protestants and agnostics and non-practicing/partially practicing Catholics who try to live a good life and are to be commended for it. And I fully agree we are all in our own faith journey. But, definitions and doctrine still matter, or Jesus and many saints would not have died to defend it. Jesus was pretty stern with religious leaders/intellectuals misleading their flock. He said that our very salvation was on the line in these faith questions and I for one believe Him and take Him seriously. The three intellectuals you mention are all very persistent public critics of the Church, certain individual Catholics and major elements of the Deposit of Faith. They have led many away from the Truth. And, they do not avoid using insults, ridicule and deception in their writings. Here are some examples: Hans Kung: in an open letter to the world's Catholic bishops: "Pope Benedict has made worse just about everything that is wrong with the Roman Catholic Church and is directly responsible for engineering the global cover-up of child rape perpetrated by priests" (http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/church-in-worst-credibility-crisis-since-reformation-theologian-tells-bishops-1.652950) and rebutted here http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2010/04/an-open-letter-to-hans-kung). Garry Wills writes intolerant screeds title Papal Sin and Why Priests. he even has a chapter titled "Killer Priests" (see the previous discussion in this Journal http://americamagazine.org/issue/culture/communion-waver#comment-58826 or http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Blog/1998/garry_wills_sour_screed_against_the_priesthood.aspx). His final sentence in the book was "There is one God and Jesus is one of his prophets, and I am one of his millions of followers." Could any Christian describe Jesus as one of God's prophets (sounds Islamic to me). James Carroll (in Constantine's Sword) libels the Catholic Church and especially Pius XII, completely distorting history. Here is a past article on Carroll's style of argument (demeaning all celibate men and women as hateful & mean-spirited) http://americamagazine.org/content/all-things/james-carrolls-stereotyping Not one of these authors could be considered non-judgmental or fair or a believer in the tenets of Catholicism. All of them make their living blasting specific Catholics, tear down the Church in general and dispute major tenets of doctrine (the Truth), all the while using the "Catholic" title to get an audience. So, maybe, we could agree that their tactics are the very opposite of what you are arguing for and keep them honest, since they are public figures with anti-Catholic axes to grind.
Janean Stallman
2 years 8 months ago
Tim, thank you for the links to the reviews. I have read the books you mention, but perhaps, not knowledgeable enough about Church history to be able to critique the truth of what is written. I only converted to Catholicism 20 years ago, but I'm trying to read as much as I can. I do believe that these souls who question policies and practices are searching for the truth and believe in what they write, whether right or wrong. It's true that these authors make their living off of publishing these books. But, I don't think they are about any evil purpose. I'm not afraid of reading things that might disturb my comfort zone. Sometimes, they deepen our own faith by shedding new light. Even Pope Francis is open to hearing discussion and ideas from others. He's not afraid because he believes the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church, and so do I. Thanks for responding to my comments.
Janean Stallman
2 years 8 months ago
The last paragraph of this homily by Pope Francis really summarizes my thinking on this issue. http://www.news.va/en/news/mass-at-santa-marta-dont-close-that-door
Martin Eble
2 years 8 months ago
For the sake of charity and argument let’s assume that Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx were searching for the truth and believed in what they wrote and said. And let us also assume they had no evil purpose. Would giving them a forum in a Catholic medium be a sound practice or a wise action? The notion that every voice must be heard, every dog must have his day, no one is wrong and all must have prizes is really an absurdity to anyone who believes in a teaching Catholic Church which carries on Christ’s admonition “Who hears you, hears Me.”
Bruce Snowden
2 years 9 months ago
If "By their fruits shall you know them" is true, Garry Wills is not Catholic. But if what the Catholic Church teaches is true, that, Baptism "indelibly" marks the soul as "Christian" then Garry Wills in spite of himself remains "Christian" Of course he would deny it, just as he denies Catholic teaching that, the priesthood of Christ is eternal, sacrificial, eucharistic. interestingly Pope Francis pointed out awhile back, that, Jesus too, is not Catholic! Nor is he Protestant, Islamic, or whatever. Nor is God "religious" - God is "Spiritual." I think, however, Gary Wills may have retained some residual "Catholic mist" in the lungs of his soul, which (MAY i SAY IT?) makes him MISTically Catholic!
Tim O'Leary
2 years 9 months ago
Bruce - I think some people do define a person Catholic based on Baptism (once Catholic, always Catholic) and I agree that a Catholic culture or way of thinking can be hard to shake off - but this definition is not very helpful for determining "what Catholics believe" or useful in an opinion poll, since it would include all heretics and apostates (including Arius, Luther, Calvin, etc.) and many western atheists. In a similar fashion, Richard Dawkins would still be an Anglican spokesman and Bill Maher a Catholic one. I am not sure this is a useful definition for determining anything about "what Catholics believe." etc. It also does injustice to a person's freedom of belief, suggesting no one can free themselves of their childhood faith. It doesn't even permit conversion, in a similar way. There is a trend to use self-identification in other areas as well, and the whole LGBTQIA... house of cards is built on it. No objective criteria at all. As in the conversation between Alice (in wonderland) and Humpty Dumpty: "When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master— that's all."
Bruce Snowden
2 years 9 months ago
Tim, I said Garry Wills is NOT Catholic based on a (my) Scriptural interpretation, but in virtue of Baptism he REMAINS irreversibly Christian, as the Sacrament of Baptism marks the soul "indelibly" walking worthily, or unworthily as one of the elect, an effect equally obtainable through DESIRE, or in the SHEDDING OF BLOOD for the sake of Christ. The only other Sacraments that indelibly mark are Holy Orders "once a priest always a priest" and Confirmation that Sacrament sinewed to Baptism, which all Sacraments share to assure validity. This is what I was taught and unless the Church unknown to me has revised, perfected, or whatever, that definition, I believe it still stands. Mr. Wills is not Catholic even if he possesses subliminal hankerings, of which I do not know for sure. Please do not see me as a Bible thumping Fundamentalist . I am quite the opposite.
Magdalene Maximilian
2 years 9 months ago
Somehow I think trusting in God might just be more beneficial than trusting the 'people of God'. And the true teachings from the Gospel of Our Lord, Jesus Christ even though so many are counter to our present age.
Sean Salai, S.J.
2 years 9 months ago

Thank you, all, for reading. Although I don't know whether Mr. Wills is in perfect communion with the church, I do find that he articulates a number of things worth discussing and taking seriously. Let's all continue to pray for one another as we strive to grow in holiness.

Tim O'Leary
2 years 9 months ago
Fr. Salai - you are very generous, especially since Mr. Wills doesn't recognize your priesthood. Another couple of comparisons with the Camille Paglia interview. 1. Garry Will is not short for words in most interviews so his paltry responses to your interview (total of 251 words, vs. 1,700 words from Ms. Paglia), suggests to me a difference in common courtesy and comfort in one's skin. 2. While I of course disagree with much of what Ms. Paglia writes, I do admire her directness and honesty. And from an avowed non-believer, she ends with an important warning: "But as a student of comparative religion, I have to say that when the Catholic Church trims its doctrine for politically correct convenience, it will no longer be Catholic." I agree wholeheartedly that we should all continue to pray for both of them and for one another as we strive to grow in holiness (and truth and love, holiness' essential prerequisites). Ms. Paglia describes Oscar Wilde as her "culture-hero." I hope she also follows him in his faith journey, as he converted to Catholicism on his deathbed.
Bill Mazzella
2 years 8 months ago
Tim, the definition of the church is the people of God. That includes leaders. The foundation of our faith is the Sermon on the Mount. Not Canon Law. The Eucharist is the God's people celebrating the death, life and resurrection of Jesus, together. Doctrinal stuff like transubstantiation came later. We are the church of the Sermon on the Mount. Not the church of dogma.
Janean Stallman
2 years 8 months ago
Thank you again, Bill. You are articulating my thoughts, exactly. Your post by Montaigne is a bit confusing for the reader. It isn't clear that it's a quotation from Montaigne and not Garry Wills quoting him. But, love your phrase, "We are the church of the Sermon on the Mount, not church of dogma."
Bill Mazzella
2 years 8 months ago
Sorry Janean, The first sentence is Wills. The rest he is quoting Montaigne. I edited the post to make it clear. I hope.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 8 months ago
But Bill - don't you realize that all your statements in your short paragraph are dogmatic claims that are found in the Catechism? I agree with them, but I believe they are partial, taking Christ out of each description. The Church is the People of God, but it is also the Mystical Body of Christ. The Eucharistic celebration is exactly what you say, but it is also the Real Presence and Christ's Flesh and Blood (while the word transubstantiation came later, the Real Presence came directly from Jesus in John 6:53: "Jesus said to them, 'Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.'") . We are the church of the Sermon on the Mount but also the Church of Christ Crucified. I am not sure why there is this modern desire to take the flesh and blood Jesus Christ out of our religion. But, I do note that the Freemasons also wanted much of the faith - just without Jesus Christ.
Bill Mazzella
2 years 8 months ago
Tim, your logic is compelling. The Flesh and Blood of Jesus is his sacrifice for our reconciliation with God. This is what we celebrate in every Eucharist; all of our selves to God. The belief is off center when it is separated from salvation and relegated to pageantry
Martin Eble
2 years 8 months ago
According to Lumen Gentium the Church is much much more than “the people of God”. The Church is: - people brought into unity from the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - brought to light in the way it was founded - a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ (Jn. 10:1-10). It is also a flock, of which God foretold that he would himself be the shepherd (cf. Is. 40:11; Ex. 34:11 f.), and whose sheep, although watched over by human shepherds, are nevertheless at all times led and brought to pasture by Christ himself - a cultivated field, the tillage of God (1 Cor. 3:9) .... the ancient olive tree (which) grows whose holy roots were the prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about again - the building of God - hierarchical - ordered and governed and much more. The foundation of the Church, again in Lumen Gentium, is: - built by the apostles (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11) and from it the Church receives solidity and unity The Sermon on the Mount flows from the teaching which underlies it. Good works are the result of good faith, and good faith involves right belief. The Eucharist according to Lumen Gentium shows forth this hierarchical teaching Church where “The ministerial priest, by the sacred power that he has, forms and rules the priestly people; in the person of Christ he effects the eucharistic sacrifice and offers it to God in the name of all the people. The faithful indeed, by virtue of their royal priesthood, participate in the offering of the Eucharist. They exercise that priesthood, too, by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, abnegation and active charity.” Doctrinal stuff like transubstantiation are explanations, poor as they may be, which as a faith community in a hierarchical Church which watched over by human shepherds fulfills the command of Jesus to go forth and teach all nations. The construction of a church based on the Sermon on the Mount not dogma suits Garry Wills and his like, who refuse to accept that theirs is not the last word, but it is a complete falsification of what the Catholic Church is. In short, he and the Church are not on the same page and not even in the same book.
Bill Mazzella
2 years 8 months ago
Martin, Lumen Gentium is not infallible. In earlier ages Catholics would have been burned at the stake for insisting on the Priesthood of all the Faithful. The Good Samaritan was not of the official religion. Yet Jesus sets him as the model. Gary Wills honors the reason given by God and respects the minds God has given us. The ministerial priesthood taught for centuries that the Jews were punished forever. Justifying the Shoah and other misdeeds. The church of Dogma has betrayed the gospel of Christ. The Council of Constance invited John Hus to come to discuss in beliefs. They then promptly burnt him at the stake. Is that the Church you foster?
Martin Eble
2 years 8 months ago
So, your position is that a dogmatic statement of an ecumenical Council is not "infallible". You further advocate that the Church would have burned at the stake those who taught the priesthood of the faithful, yet that Christians are a royal priesthood is in the New Testament itself. Then you lay the Holocaust at the foot of the Church and call the Catholic Church the "church of Dogma". Just so I can tailor my responses appropriately, may I ask what sect, church, group, or denomination you adhere to?
Tim O'Leary
2 years 8 months ago
Great question, Martin. From previous similarly idiosyncratic posts, I think Bill is a Mazzellite, which just might have a membership of one.
Bill Mazzella
2 years 8 months ago
Tim, the truth will make you free. Not blind obedience to those who lie to us.
Bill Mazzella
2 years 8 months ago
Catholic, Except that I will not let bishops nor popes get off scot-free when they don't follow the gospel.
Martin Eble
2 years 8 months ago
Of course, that makes YOU the judge of what is and is not the Gospel, which is an odd position for a Catholic to take. It does make your life easier, though, since you can decide for yourself that the statement of an ecumenical council doesn't bind you. Is there any portion of the Catechism of the Catholic Church you happen to approve?
Bill Mazzella
2 years 8 months ago
Much of the polarization in the church (also exhibited in this thread) is due to a hierarchy which mostly has been into domination than service. And unfortunately has told lies to hide their misdeeds. Even the much heralded Latin (once the vernacular) was used more as a wedge between ordinary people and the elite ot the church. BM O ne of the heartiest defenses of church Latin came from the great Renaissance essayist Michel de Montaigne: " We should not see the Holy Book, with the sacred secrets of our belief, bandied about in hallways and kitchens. Things once sacrosanct have become toys to play with. A subject so deep and revered should not be studied in a random or hurried way. It should be an act of quietness and recollection, to be begun with the Sursum Corda we say before prayer; and we should fit our very body to the expression of a different alertness and devotion. This is not a study open for anyone to indulge in. It is for those separately summoned by God’s call— not for the evil or foolish, whom exposure to it will just make worse. It is not simply a story to be recited, but one to be plumbed with trembling and devotion. It is folly to think it can be spread to ordinary folk by being put in their own languages. They think mere difference of language keeps them from understanding what is written. I make bold to say that bringing it down to them just removes it farther from them. Simple ignorance, if reliant on others, is more useful and wise than knowing words that breed a reckless self-confidence. I hold that freely scattering out this holy teaching in all the vernaculars is more dangerous than useful." ( Latin has good qualities. But it was never essential to the church. Bill M) Wills, Garry (2015-03-10). The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis (p. 13). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Kevin McDermott
2 years 8 months ago
Martin & Tim: From your comments on this and other threads the two of you revel in a nasty tone of voice--is that fun for you? What do you feel like inside? Kevin McDermott
Tim O'Leary
2 years 8 months ago
Kevin - I try to match the tone of the blogger I am responding to, as part of communication balance (avoiding all vulgar or coarse language, of course). When responding to howling factual errors or deeply held prejudices, it can seem nasty out of embarrassment even when it is just factual. The combox on this site leans against Catholic teaching and politically left, so the un-examined prejudices ("deniers" re climate change or guilty just for being white or making disparaging remarks about priests or Bishops) abound. You have commentators attribute all sorts of crimes (e.g. holocaust or some cover-up or other) to Church leaders and traditionalists. This is not a 'feel-good' superficial blog, but a place for serious intellectual discussion about life-and-death issues - at least presently.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

People celebrate Nov. 21 outside parliament after hearing that President Robert Mugabe resigned in Harare, Zimbabwe. All Zimbabweans should have a voice in the country's governance following Mugabe's 37-year presidency, and the new government should embrace diversity, Zimbabwe's bishops said. (CNS photo/Kim Ludbrook, EPA)
The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference issued a statement urging calm, restraint and patience during what they called “most delicate times.”
Anthony EganDecember 11, 2017
A reflection for the second Monday of Advent
Elizabeth Kirkland CahillDecember 11, 2017
Sources in the Vatican say they cannot understand how President Trump’s decision to recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel can be in the best interests of the United States.
Gerard O’ConnellDecember 10, 2017
Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) holds two paper cranes in Oslo on Dec. 9. (AP Photo/David Keyton)
The pope was lauded at the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize for condemning the “false sense of security” of nuclear weapons.
Gerard O’ConnellDecember 10, 2017