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.
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?
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.