Communion Waver

Why Priests?by Garry Wills

Viking. 320p $27.95

In On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine, John Henry Newman argues that indifference among “the educated classes” would result if the faithful were cut off from the study of doctrines and those doctrines made subject simply to fides implicita. Garry Wills’s Why Priests? can be read as a warning, perhaps especially for bishops, that attempting to insulate the priesthood from questions about its past, present or future form will produce, particularly in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis, not just the indifference that Cardinal Newman predicted, but a wholesale rejection of the church’s ordained ministry.

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Wills professes no animosity to priests as a group; he simply regards the priesthood as a false development. His other non-negotiable is that the Letter to the Hebrews, particularly when referring to Jesus as priest and by choosing “sacrifice” as the hermeneutical lens through which to view the death of Jesus, is entirely to blame for another false development: a perception of the Eucharist as “a miracle” that only “the sorcerer’s apprentice” (a k a the priest) can accomplish.

As portrayed by Wills, both the ordained priesthood and the theology of the Eucharist as sacrifice have had deleterious effects: The former has been simply a mechanism of control; the latter a source of grotesque longing for the miraculous, a hankering for liquefied blood and for the face of Jesus in a tortilla. Garry Wills takes no prisoners.

Wills assembles an array of evidence—biblical, patristic, historical—as the basis for his rejection of both the ordained priesthood and the eucharistic piety that perpetuates the priesthood. Much like Joe Friday—“just the facts, Ma’am”—Wills presumes that facts present no ambiguity. The difficulty, however, is that the priority given to his conclusions determines the choice of what can serve as a fact.

The most glaring example of Wills’s selectivity in regard to the facts comes in his historical survey of the sacraments. Here the guiding principle is that “priestly imperialism” is central to the development of the Catholic Church’s sacramental system. Accordingly, he presents the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas as a shoddy apologetic and the introduction of individual confession as nothing more than a mechanism to bolster clerical control over the sacrament. The biblical and historical retrieval that guided the post-Vatican II revision of the sacramental rites receives no acknowledgement. Wills allows not even a poetic imagination: thus, the use of “Cana” in the title of pre-marriage courses can aim only at perpetuating “the myth that the wedding at Cana was a Christian sacrament.” While one can grant Wills’s assertion that these courses may not always be helpful, it is difficult to see that any weakness is attributable directly to eisegesis of the fourth Gospel.

Just as disappointing as the book’s selective reading of history is its isolation from the world of contemporary theological scholarship. Wills cites numerous exegetes to support his reading of Hebrews, but none who see it differently, none who might understand “sacrifice” as something other than a blight or Hebrews as more than ideology. Theologians fare even worse: They’re largely absent. Theology cannot validly explain away history, but the relationship between history and faith is more complex than it appears in Why Priests? Contemporary theologies of the reception of tradition do grapple with the questions raised by biblical scholarship and history; they do take seriously the challenges that the development of ministry over time presents to the belief that the ordained ministry is “God-given.” Dialogue with this theology would have been a restraint on Wills’s generalizations, but it might have given his work nuance and texture.

Wills claims that his deconstructions will lead to a healthier church. It is difficult, however, to see how this book will encourage those who dream of a church that is other than a Procrustean bed that compels God’s mystery to conform to one or other set of competing prejudices. In blaming imperialistic “killer priests” for all that ails the church, Wills is as damaging to hope as those who characterize all dissatisfaction in the church as a liberal conspiracy.

Why Priests? is not a book to recommend. Nonetheless, it can be a book from which to learn. Although Wills insists that history is the nemesis of the church’s doctrines and institutions as it lays bare their ideological distortions, this is not the lesson to take from the book, since authentic ecclesial faith need not fear history. The lesson, rather, is that suspicion toward the church’s doctrine and practices, the suspicion so evident in this book, will not yield to an act of authority. Accordingly, if we want the role of the priesthood in the church to be received as a life-giving possibility, we must not attempt to insulate it from critique and discussions that might lead to significant reform. Questions and challenges are not necessarily the denial of grace; they can be an embrace of it. Garry Wills views the priesthood as a zero-sum game: either reject it or accept it uncritically. Must it be so?

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Gerelyn Hollingsworth
5 years 5 months ago
Disagree that it "is not a book to recommend." I recommend it highly.
Bruce Snowden
5 years 5 months ago
To Anne C. , I've already answered your question asked earlier, so please scroll to locate. Thanks!
Bill Mazzella
5 years 7 months ago
It is a book to learn from and questions and challenges are not the denial of grace. From private masses to indulgences the theology of the Eucharist has gone astray. There was a time when some were ordained only to say stipend masses. The idea of Eucharist as community--"My Body" really meaning all of us in Christ can be a welcome change from someone pontificating about miraculous hands. Such deification has led to absurd conjecture about a possibly drunken or frivolous priest turning a bakery into consecrated hosts by saying the "magic" words. Looking at a priest as a pastor might prove more useful and biblical. The fact that Wills got Lennan to pay attention to the problem can be a good thing and make his effort useful. Let's take up the challenge without the de fide trumpets stopping the conversation.
Bruce Snowden
5 years 7 months ago
Garry Wills reminds me of a man with a spiritually sour stomach, burping spiritual aversion even to the best of food – the Eucharist. He has become like an aquaphobic fish, rejecting what he needs most – water – the “Water of Christ” – the Church! The aquaphobic fish is an ever new, ever ancient “creation,” spawned through the tyranny of relativism, failing to benefit from the wisom of Blessed Pope John Paul II who said, “Truth is truth whether one believes it or not,” and “In these days truth is often mistaken for the opinion of the majority.” It’s said, “Seeing is believing.” It’s even more true that in Christ, “Believing is SEEING.” The aquaphobic fish is sightless and so is Garry Wills - he’s stone blind! Michael Angelo once said, “I saw an angel in the stone, so I set it free!” Will Garry Wills set free his “angel of light” trapped in the “stone” of his blindness, culpable blindness? He should know better! Let us hopefully pray for that.
Anne Chapman
5 years 6 months ago
Bruce, have you read Wills' book?
Louis Janelle
5 years 6 months ago
There are currently 84 "reviews" of this book that can be found on Amazon.com . I think that Wills' book is worthy of a scholarly review -- one that really addresses the biblical and historical references. It's strikes me as "interesting" that this book was published during the Vatican II year of review.
John Barbieri
5 years 6 months ago
...attempting to insulate the priesthood...will produce, in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis, not just the indifference that Cardinal Newman predicted, but the wholesale rejection of the church's ordained ministry." The behavior of everyone involved indicts us all. If the clergy and hierarchy continue on their current path, they will go the way of the British monarchy and aristocracy. People will defer to them publicly, but not really care about what they have to say. And, this will suit the clergy and hierarchy just fine.
Beth Cioffoletti
5 years 6 months ago
It seems to me that we are on the verge of a whole new way of knowing Eucharist and Church. The tension between Wills' and Lennan's views will coax this new awareness into being, but it will not look like either.
Tim O'Leary
5 years 6 months ago
Wills is not an honest scholar, and this book only gets any traction at all because he pretends to be a Catholic when he has long lost belief in multiple core teachings of the Catholic faith. Yet, his claims are all old news, argued out in the Reformation and long before then. He fools only those who are unacquainted with those disputes. He thinks apostolic succession (“chain of historical fabrications”), the priesthood, the belief in the Real Presence (“a fake”) and the “ransom theory of Redemption” (denying Matt 20:28) are late inventions, that Peter was never Bishop of Rome (or anywhere else), that “there was no “church” in the first generation of Jesus’ followers”… He throws out or retranslates every scripture quote that disagrees with him, including the whole Letter to the Hebrews (as Luther doubted the Epistle of James because it contradicted his narrow concept of justification by faith). He sees everything through a hermeneutic of power. But he has delusions of power himself (regarding his book “the outcome of this debate will determine the future (if any) of the priesthood”). Does anyone really believe he is sincere when he uses the “some of my best friends are priests” excuse or dedicates the book to a priest, or says the Church will thrive if it follows his beliefs? If you really want a better challenge to the priesthood, read Luther or Calvin. And if you need arguments that the Eucharist is a fake, read Zwingli. But, better first to read the last supper discourses, Paul in 1 Cor (10-11), or Jesus in John 6 or the early church in the Didache. In John 6: So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him." This is the "magic" that Wills rejects. This is the person he rejects.
Anne Chapman
5 years 6 months ago
I will ask you the same thing that I asked Bruce Snowden - have you actually read the book - the whole book?
Tim O'Leary
5 years 6 months ago
Anne. I read enough of it to confirm Wills hubris and his arguments. I don't have time to complete bad books written in bad faith. But, if you or other defenders feel I have missed some key point that is new from the Reformation, feel free to enlighten the blog and I will check out that part of the book and address that.
Anne Chapman
5 years 6 months ago
So you have made a sweeping judgment after reading only part of the book. From the quotes you cite, it seems you may not have read past the introduction and combined that with various quotes about the book from others who reviewed it. Perhaps if you read the entire book with an open mind and used his extensive chapter endnotes for cross-reference, you would be less judgmental and maybe even learn something - that is if you really want to learn rather than judge. But if you are to judge, then you must judge him on the entire work, not a few selected passages and you must provide specifics - explain why a certain statement is "wrong" and provide citations from reputable academic sources to support your view. It is not necessary for you to come to the same conclusions as Wills. But if you want only to judge him then you should at least be honest about what the basis is for these judgments and then refrain from meaningless insults such as: accusing him of "hubris"; saying that he has "delusions of power himself"' without saying how you "know" this; saying he is not an "honest scholar" when (more objective) observers respect him highly for his academic scholarship as a historian which is why he was named Professor Emeritus at Northwestern, one of the country's finest universities; challenging him on statements that are commonly known and easily verifiable - such as the development of various theories/theologies of atonement over hundreds of years, and still undergoing "development", the development of the priesthood, which, as he notes, did not exist among the first followers of Christ, the development of sacraments/sacramental theology over more than 1000 years of church history etc. None of this was presented as a package, wrapped with a bow, by Jesus. Jesus, as you may recall, was a Jew as were all of his first disciples, including Paul. None were Roman Catholic and there was no such thing as a bishop or pope. Among scholars, there is currently no universally accepted historical evidence to support the notion that Peter was the "bishop" of Rome (the title "bishop" did not come into common use until after Ignatius of Antioch) much less "pope" - a title that did not exist for several hundred years, and in fact it is not yet absolutely clear from the historical evidence that Peter was in Rome at all - it is still an open question among "honest" scholars. If you wish to look at all of this objectively, you must be aware that there are enormous gaps in understanding of this era of history, and that biblical scholars and historians of this era of history are constantly putting together pieces of the puzzle to try to clarify what is fact and what is "myth". It is likely that we will never know with absolute surety all there is to know. "Honest" scholars develop ideas based on the incomplete history that is currently available, and they do not always reach the same conclusions. That does not mean that any of them are "dishonest". It is an honest search for knowledge and understanding and it deserves respect and attention, whether or not we instantly "agree" with any individual scholar's conclusions. Perhaps someday there will be another discovery, such as that of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which turned biblical scholarship and history upside down by providing an enormous treasure trove of information from that ancient time. Who knows what we may learn in the future and what new knowledge may do to what is currently accepted understanding of this time in history in Palestine and of the development of christianity. Perhaps you should begin to base your posts on facts, putting your personal emotions and biases and judgments aside. Nobody who reads your posts will be a bit surprised that you don't like Wills nor what he has to say. But if you wish to challenge him, then please do your homework first and challenge him on factual academic grounds rather than resorting to empty perjoratives that simply convey your personal prejudices rather than provide useful information.
Tim O'Leary
5 years 6 months ago
Anne. I didn't see any new fact or argument in your reply that suggests I will find anything new in the book beyond the Reformer's arguments. You may think Gary Wills is a great scholar but, from listening to interviews on Charlie Rose (who amazingly selected Wills to opine on the new conclave in Feb 20) or the Colbert Report (where he said priests and the consecration were "fake" - a word implying knowing fraud by the priests), I really do not care what Northwestern U. thinks and I doubt they gave it to him for his faith (more for his faithlessness, I bet). On Rose, he again ridicules the Eucharist as a form of cannibalism (both men smiling all around), says reform is quixotic, misquotes Augustine and completely misunderstands Aquinas-Aristotle. His story of the early Church is weak (all sorts of selective assumptions and presumptions) and self-serving. A scholar (like Pope Benedict in his Jesus trilogy) usually tries to represent fairly the arguments of those who disagree with him before showing why he differs. Does Wills ever represent fairly the arguments for the Real Presence in his book before he trashes or ridicules them? It is possible to have a scholarly doubt about the faith or the history. But, using the words Wills does (fake, shell game, enforcer, human sacrifice...) does not evince a scholar. And book titles like "Why Priests? a Failed Tradition" or "Papal Sins: Structures of Deceit" do not show evidence of scholarly objectivity. My main problem with Wills is not that he has beliefs similar to many Protestants (the more anti-Catholic types), but his antagonistic and even dismissive or paranoid attitude to the clergy while persisting in the Catholic pretense (like someone who claims he is still a vegetarian even though he makes an exception for bacon) and his misrepresentations of the beliefs of St. Augustine. There are perfectly good denominations for him to choose, if he were honest about it. At the end of the Charlie Rose interview, Rose suggest this continued critique of the Church is his primary focus of life, about his current religion, his age (78) and his thoughts about the end of his life. There is the vague “Spiritual (but not religious)” and nothing else. It is sad.
Anne Chapman
5 years 6 months ago
Once again, you are not basing your opinion on the book itself. Now it's based on an interview with Charlie Rose! Tim, until you stop judging people with perjoratives and instead provide legitimate discussion there is little point in you taking your time to post. Personal opinions that are expressed as judgments using perjorative terms do not add to any discussion. Your "problem" with Wills is simply that you don't like what he says - his views and yours are not the same - and you are unwilling to actually READ what he does say with an open mind before condemning him. For example, he is certainly not the first to refer to the problems that arise from interpreting selected scripture passages LITERALLY. For example, the very literal way the Catholic church seems to interpret the passages related to Jesus saying "this is my blood" and "this is my body" can reasonably be read as a command to commit "cannibalism". The book goes into a number of the "difficulties" the church's interpretation gives rise to and provides some historical background, while briefly summarizing the church's attempts to quell the difficult questions that arise from this. There are many Christians who are not Roman Catholic who believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist. However, they do not share the RCC's "literal" interpretation of what this means. Have you so little intellectual curiosity that you dismiss out of hand what others believe? After all, the church has not always been right in these matters and the doctrine of transubstantiation has not been part of RCC teaching "forever". It developed around the 11th-13th centuries and is based on pagan philosophy (Aristotle). Perhaps it is a teaching that will "develop" further as have others. It's a serious discussion about a teaching that troubles many within the Catholic church (not just among Protestants as you would like to believe) and it's really too bad that you can't participate at a serious level.
Tim O'Leary
5 years 6 months ago
Anne. I guess judging can go both ways as you do your fair share (and Wills is not sparing in his judging either). It is not news to me that many Christians (like the Orthodox) believe in the Real Presence, and that Luther and Calvin held to a type of Godly presence different from the Church. But the descendents of the Reformation mostly went the way of Zwingli. In any case, none of this relates to the method of Gary Wills. And of course philosophical concepts (as with Aristotle) are different from revealed faith. Did you read all of Wills book? And do you have any idea of what new idea Wills brings to the table? You have not addressed the honesty question of why Wills tries to claim the Catholic title while holding completely non-Catholic views. Is it just to sell books? The Reformers were more honest than the protesters of today.
Anne Chapman
5 years 6 months ago
I am reading the book now (which is why the discussion caught my eye) but have not finished and cannot yet reach an overall "conclusion" about it. I have found the chapters on the Eucharist to be very interesting, answering many questions I have had over the years but never took the time to research. Not being an academic, nor a biblical scholar, nor educated in Greek (since the scriptures of the NT were originally written in Greek few of us can read them in the original - which aren't originals anyway but copies of copies of copies made over a long period of time) I am learning a lot that I never knew before about the development of doctrine of the eucharist (and the priesthood). I am not judging Wills - you are judging Wills - without having read the book. And that is what I object to - making sweeping judgments that are not based on an actual reading of the book - not on book reviews, not on interviews, not on excerpts or on the few pages you might be able to read on Amazon. You note that Wills does a lot of judging - yes he does, but he does it based on in-depth study and knowledge of the ideas he is judging - he does not base his judgments on Charlie Rose interviews or book reviews but on what is actually written by those he is analyzing - and judging. I judge your posts on what you have written - not on a third party opinion of what you have written. I am only asking that you judge others - including Wills - on what they have actually written, not on third-party reports or analyses nor on personal dislike of the writer. I have often found that some refuse to read books - dismissing them as a waste of their time because they already know that the writer is wrong without having read what he/she has actually written - because they fear being challenged. All of us hold our own opinions and ideas quite "dear" and it is uncomfortable to be presented with challenges to those ideas. However, it is only by engaging with thoughts, ideas and interpretations of what we "know" that challenge us that we grow in our thinking. Sometimes it pushes us to more deeply reflect on those ideas we have always assumed to be "truth" and helps us clarify in our own minds why we accept those ideas, beyond the fact that our parents or our teachers or the "magisterium" said so. Just because the church "says so" or has "always taught" something does not mean that it is Truth with an upper case T. Even a cursory study of church history and teachings shows that. One does not have to be a scholar to find many examples of the church being "wrong" in a teaching. It is the "truth" as best understood by a certain group of people at a certain time in history, but it may actually turn out to be simply an interpretation that may or may not stand the test of history. By reading the ideas of those whose ideas oppose our own (especially well-written works that are carefully footnoted such as this book), we might also be forced to open our minds to new ways of looking at things. But many are afraid to test their ideas this way. Perhaps after you have read the book (the entire book), you could come back and offer us all a well-documented analysis critiquing Wills' ideas and interpretations. Until then, perhaps it is best to refrain from the perjoratives. I am not someone who judges whether someone else is "Catholic". The church teaches that all who are baptized into the Catholic church are Catholic forever, regardless of their views or their practice. They may not be "Catholics in good standing" as far as the authorities go, but they are Catholic. It is good to remember when judging someone to be "not a real Catholic" in their views that many notable Catholics throughout history have been silenced, condemned, excommunicated, imprisoned and even at times executed by the church - and later "redeemed", some to the point of canonization. What was "heresy" in one era sometimes evolves into "Truth" in a later one.
Tim O'Leary
5 years 6 months ago
Anne. So, you are already defending Wills without having read the whole book (your test, not mine)? And there are so many better books on the early Church. If you insist that one remains a Catholic or a Christian because they have been baptized, then I guess you insist Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins remain Christians today. In any case, the Catechism (CCC#2089) defines heresy as the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, and apostasy as the total repudiation of the faith. To believe that the Eucharist, the priesthood, etc. are fake goes well beyond heresy. But, maybe, Wills will not be obstinate. We have of course far more NT documents from before 350 than works from any heretics or secular sources (e.g. we have only 10 copies of Caesar’s writings, but all are from the Middle Ages), and document consistency data (across a wide geographic area) give strong evidence to their reliability. So, any scholar must start with the scriptures as the judge of other sources. They are the gold standard. It is one thing to evaluate nuance in meaning. Yet, it is amazing how people can interpret the words of Jesus to mean the opposite of what they assert, the opposite of what the Tradition holds, East and West, based on the flimsiest of data and assumptions. Unless he has secret documents, Gary Wills is using the same documents everyone else has. He is just interpreting them to suit his non-Catholic opinions. Eucharist denial has a long history, and most have the honesty to accept that their disbelief puts themselves outside the Church, but not Wills. I will check out Wills book further to see how he handles John 6 or the Didache or the writings of Pope Clement I (80 AD - Bishop of Rome) and why he thinks the Church went off the rails so early and so far from their founder. I will look for his sources that he bases his opinions on. It will be interesting to see how he handles Clement’s Letter to the Corinthians that states (#42) “And this was no innovation, for, a long time before the Scripture had spoken about bishops and deacons; for somewhere it says: I will establish their overseers in observance of the law and their ministers in fidelity.” Or this from St. Augustine: “That Bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ. Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend His Body and Blood, which He poured out for us unto the forgiveness of sins. If you receive worthily, you are what you have received."
Anne Chapman
5 years 6 months ago
I am "defending" Wills? No - I said that I have found the chapters that I have read so far to be very interesting and that I am learning from them. I cannot yet judge his entire book as I haven't finished it yet. Good! You will finally actually READ the book. That's a huge improvement. Once you have done so (read the entire book), feel free to return and (without using perjoratives and personally attacking Wills) calmly, politely, and objectively point out where you think he is wrong (quotes and p. #s please) and why you think he is wrong and document your sources as he does. I will be happy to research your choice of sources just as I often research Wills in is books. I very often research, and the endnotes are a good starting point, because then it is possible to read originals and see if the interpretation seems to be taking something out of context, or is an incomplete quote etc.
Tim O'Leary
5 years 6 months ago
Yes. To balance my huge improvement, AFTER you have READ the book, it would be wise to withhold judgment until you have read what the Tradition says about the Real Presence as well. I recommend the excellent and concise book by James O'Connor "The Hidden Manna - A Theology of the Eucharist." While only ~350 pages, it covers many of the early writers (the Didache, Clement I, Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, etc.) and plenty of Augustine as well. As any scholerly book does, it also covers the beliefs of many through the centuries who found Jesus' teaching too hard to take - "a hard teaching. Who can accept it" - from the Jews at the time of Christ, through to the Protestants and the modern writers. Now, for my penence, I have to read about the "Killer Priests."
Anne Chapman
5 years 6 months ago
No worries, Tim. I am quite familiar with what "Tradition" and the church teach about the Real Presence. I have read some of the early fathers in the originals (not just as quoted selectively by other authors) - although not really in the originals, of course, in English translations of early documents and there are many disputes among scholars about the real meaning of various words and passages in the scriptures and early writings to muddy the waters even further. Translation is a challenging thing to do right, as English-speakers in the world have noted with the "new" English translation of the Latin mass - overly literal translations which would have, at times, earned a failing grade in my Latin classes. I have had extensive education in Catholic teachings, in theology and philosophy - both formal and informal, at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and also at the 'adult ed" level with parish speakers from local Catholic theology depts etc. I will never forget my full academic semester course in Thomism, that's for sure. I also am a voracious reader and have studied extensively on my own, especially whenever a particular teaching strikes me as being "off". However the church's teachings develop and the only reason they develop is because there are "thinkers" out there in all ages of history who have had the guts to challenge the status quo and move the church's understanding forward (centimeter by centimeter usually), even though the PTB usually resist as violently as possible. Fortunately for today's thinkers who challenge conventional "traditional" church teachings, the violence is no longer physical violence as was the case too often in earlier eras of church history. Some even died because they refused to "recant" what they believed to be truth. Wills need not fear that fate, thanks be to God, nor does he have to fear "silencing" since he is neither a cleric nor a religious. The church so greatly fears freedom of thought and conscience it seems that one has to wonder why this is the case. Many "faithful to the teachings of the magisterium" Catholics secretly fear reading the interpretations of others rather than welcome them as a spark to their own thinking and reflections and so they try to avoid the risk of having the slightest doubt enter their minds by dismissing the work of "dissenters" as not being worth their time rather than allow themselves to be challenged.
Tim O'Leary
5 years 6 months ago
Anne. Given the length of your posts, it is a bit rich that you go on about the risk of being silenced. So, you claim to have read the Fathers of the Church. I suppose there is reading and there is understanding. There is reading and there is believing. The will plays a role in all intellectual pursuits. Anyway, I am still waiting to hear if you have found anything specifically new in Gary Wills on Eucharist denial. Is there nothing to report at all? Or, maybe you have given up. I will be back again once I get past the Monopoly chapter. But, here is another early Church writer on the Eucharist. Justin Martyr's First Apology (#65): "And this food is called among us Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do in remembrance of Me, Luke 22:19 this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood;” and gave it to them alone." Sounds an awful lot like the same sacrificial ceremony we have two millennia later.
Carlos Orozco
5 years 6 months ago
Well said, Tim. Clear as always.
Tom Helwick
5 years 6 months ago
Having read Wills' book I am reminded of a talk I heard in Cleveland during a visit to my family home. The presentation was at the Cleveland Civic Club and the speaker was Robert Mickens a reporter for 'The Tablet' where his beat is the Vatican. He discusses 'clericalism' within the church and it's consequences for the church as a whole, this was a worthwhile 55 minutes, take a look. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyPUzfJ8X50&feature=share&list=UUKf3bixa-gvh3Yb2rCd8wwQ Also a book by Jesuit George B. Wilson entitled 'Clericalism: The Death of Priesthood' received these reviews in Amazon Future ordained clergy will find this book hard to stomach. It lets neither clergy nor laity off the hook, but is most painfully honest about the pitfalls and temptations of being one of the clergy. If they can avoid those pitfalls and temptations they will call forth and marshal the gifts of the human communities they serve, moving them in solidarity toward a more just and sustainable world as well as a holier and world-changing church." -- Loretta Jancoski, PhD, Dean Emerita, School of Theology and Ministry, Seattle University "At the time of a serious challenge to the priesthood this book of George B. Wilson, SJ, presents an excellent and positive process for both the laity and the ordained to address this challenge for a renewed Church. I strongly recommend this specific effort." -- Robert S. Pelton, CSC, University of Notre Dame "This valuable and timely book provides a much needed education in the concept of clergies and the cultures associated with them. By using the idea of the sexual abuse crisis unfolding as a five act drama, the author is able to clarify the complex interactions of several different clergies and their cultures. -- Andrew and Loretta Favret, Former members of Teams of Our Lady, Bethany Beach, Delaware Learned in history, theology, and organizational theory, Father Wilson provides just the right book at just the right time. He does not thunder like a prophet when, for example, he analyzes the structural and human failures that led to the clerical sex abuse scandal. He is rather like a good confessor who hears the depths of a sinner's confusion and offers gentle absolution and hard edged advice for renewal and reform. -- Eugene Kennedy, Professor Emeritus, Loyola University, Chicago
Tim O'Leary
5 years 5 months ago
Now, having done more homework (as stipulated by Anne Chapman above), I have some more things to say about Garry Wills’ unfortunate and contradictory book. Here are another 10 criticisms I have with “Why Priests,” beyond those I mention above (I will use Garry rather than Wills, to avoid confusion with will): 1. Denial of John 6. Garry evinces an abject failure to deal with Jesus’s own words in John 6 (some quoted by me above). Garry barely refers to John 6, only once or twice (p. 244). He says he believes in the Gospels (p. 259). Well, he should meditate again on Jesus’s own emphatic words and not treat them as unworthy of extensive discussion. Any argument on the Eucharist should spend at least a chapter on John 6. Is Garry one of the disciples who walked away, muttering “this is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” One needs to engage the direct meaning of the Lord’s words, not try to domesticate them into irrelevance or symbolism. 2. Cavalier Attitude to the Canon. While Garry’s main attack is against the Letter to the Hebrews (Chapter 10 & 11), he tries to delegitimize other parts of Scripture that disagree with him as well, such as 1 Peter (described as “fictive” in p.167) and Ephesians (because Paul mentions sacrifice in 5:2). But Garry dismisses the whole Letter to the Hebrews: "It slides through or leaps over fallacies" and is "borderline silly" (Appendix I, page 266), despite the fact that many of the early fathers (Clement of Alexandria, Origen, & John Chrysostom) and the East and West confirm it as scripture. Pope (Bishop) Clement I quotes Hebrews at least four times in his letter to the Corinthians, confirming its early composition and authority. Several Fathers claim Paul as the primary author (possibly first composed by him in Hebrew, then translated by a scribe – Eusebius references Clement I on this). But, of course, Garry KNOWS that they are all wrong, based on some modern probabilistic literary analysis. Garry does admit Hebrews had to have been written before 90 AD, so it is still an earlier Christian document than most others. Given the internal evidence (Heb 7:27 and 8:5), it was probably written before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD and when Paul was alive. 3. Arguments from Omission (when it suits). If an event or teaching is literally described in the New Testament, but goes against Garry’s thesis (Matt 16 on the Keys to Peter, John 6, the Last Supper and all of the Letter to the Hebrews), he says it is fundamentalist to accept it as stated. But, when other titles are not mentioned literally, he confidently uses it as proof it didn’t exist (no priests, no bishops, no Eucharist, Peter in Rome…). It doesn’t have to be directly countered in the NT. If it isn’t there, Garry feels free to let his imagination run wild, and go from a possibility to a certainty without any steps in between. Of course, the absence of a title does not mean absence of a role, and not all contemporaneous practices or titles would be or should be in the canon (that is why we are a Church with an oral Tradition along with written Tradition. The Church wrote and canonized the NT Scripture. It is her book). On the role of the twelve apostles, why did Peter decide that he needed to replace the lost Judas with a new Apostle when he was already a disciple (Matthias in Act 1), if the position & title didn’t have some special role? Again, Clement 1, in his letter to the Church at Corinth, names Bishops and priests as well established roles. His letter is also evidence of the primacy of Rome. 4. Negligent use of St. Augustine. Garry nowhere in his many quotes of St. Augustine even hints that this Bishop and Doctor of the Church would object to Garry’s thesis. Does he really not know that Augustine was an influential supporter of 1) the Letter to the Hebrews as part of the NT canon (Synod of Hippo 393 AD), 2) the practice of daily communion (letter to Janiarius), 3) adoration of the Eucharist, 4) the Real Presence (commentary of John 6) , and, in his commentary on Psalm 34 (33), Augustine speaks of Christ’s “Sacrifice” as victim, High Priest, and the sacrifice of the Eucharist. Two more quotes from Augustine: “We did not know Him in the flesh yet we have deserved to eat His flesh and to be His members in his flesh” (Commentary on John 6) and “the flesh we receive is the very flesh born of Mary.” (Commentary on Psalm 98(97)). 5. Dedication to Fr. Henri de Lubac. Why does Garry dedicate his book to a thoroughly orthodox Catholic Jesuit priest who disagrees so profoundly with Garry’s main thesis (see de Lubac’s “Catholicism” with a forward to the 1988 edition by the future pope Benedict XVI)? Would Garry think it reasonable if a book denigrating Lincoln included him in the dedication? Is he trying to leave the impression to the less knowledgeable that Fr. De Lubac might be a supporter of the thesis of the book? Is this honest? Should he not at least state Fr. De Lubac’s counter opinion? 6. Unwarranted Arrogance. The titles of his other books (What Jesus Meant, What Paul Meant, etc) already show his hubris. But, in this book, Garry dares to challenge the Angelic Doctor on his understanding of Aristotle “his use of matter and form is a distortion of Aristotle, not an application of him.” He claims Aquinas misunderstands Aristotle on "substance and accidents" and makes the amazingly rash statement (p 185) "despite Thomas' intellectual prowess, he is trapped in absurdities so long as he follows the letter to the Hebrews.” 7. Self-Contradicting Positions. Garry claims adherence to the Nicene Creed, p. 258, even though it was composed and defined by a Council of Bishops (325 AD) whose office he doesn’t recognize. Ditto for the Trinity and many other doctrines. Yet, his rejection of the Church’s teaching authority is the more fundamental break than her individual pronouncements. His petty jealousy of the deference shown to priests (golf, TV, etc.) or the Catholic culture of his youth goes against his claim that he is their friend. He won’t become a Protestant because "Article by article, parts of the Creed are fading” in some of those churches, yet he is the epitome of a cafeteria Christian himself. 8. Very Careless Quotes (at best): referring to the Jewish priests "The priests killed Jesus. That is what they do. They kill prophets" (p. 80). And his final sentence (p 259): "There is one God and Jesus is one of his prophets, and I am one of his millions of followers." One of his prophets. Really? Peter never in Rome? What about the bones below St. Peters? (a dispute for another time). 9. Lack of scholarly approach. Garry never in the book gives the counter-argument to his thesis, and actually ignores key evidence countering his ideas, demonstrating a lack of scholarly rigor. As I said before, Eucharist denial has a long history, and most have the honesty to accept that their disbelief puts themselves outside the Church, but not Garry. 10. Lost Moorings. I think that a long time ago, Garry decided to center the authority he follows in his own intellect and outside the Church. This was his fatal break with the Church and has colored the rest of his intellectual anti-Catholicism. Even Scripture must submit to his authority (as he uses his own translations, not seeing the bias this brings to the holy book). With each decade, he moves further and further away from the faith, increasing his distaste for those he has left behind, yet not quiet able to leave the sentimental cultural Catholicism of his early years. Maybe, that link can bring him back. Oremus.
Patrick Loyola
5 years 5 months ago
Thanks Tim for putting together such a careful review. It amazes me the resistance we can have to the generosity of Jesus in inviting us to such an intimate communion. Sometimes it is hard to believe just how great God is and the extent to which we are pursued by our Lord. I am grateful to all the priests that put themselves at the service of Lord in bringing us the Eucharist. Did Gary express any gratitude for this sacrament received from our Lord?
Bruce Snowden
5 years 5 months ago
Anne, I just returned to Communion Wafer 5/2/13 and noticed on the site on 4/17/13 you asked me if I ever read Wills' book. The answer is "No." I have little desire to read it. When anyone questions the validity of Eucharist as the Catholic Church has understood it it from the beginning and the priesthood through which Eucharist is confected, I feel nothing but disdain and am utterly repulsed. Reading the book of that disturbed man has nothing to teach me. Sorry if you disagree which I'm sure you do and probably many other of uncertain Faith. My Faith particularly in Eucharist and the priesthood thank God, is certain!
Tim O'Leary
5 years 5 months ago
Patrick. To address your question. No, I could not see any gratitude in Garry's words for the sacrament. In fact, apart from a sentimental connection with the Church, and some he counts as friends among the ordained (? fake friends, or friendly fakes?), a sense of true gratitude is missing. I think he has even lost allies on the liberal side, if Michael Sean Winter's rebuke in NCR is any guide.http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/garry-wills-please-go-away.
Bruce Snowden
5 years 5 months ago
It wasn’t my plan to walk through the “wheat field” of Eucharistic Waver postings again. Not because some of the posted “wheat stalks” were wilted in the egotistical aridity of garrywillsistic-euchaagnosticism inventively put! But because having randomly visited there 5/2/13 to discover an unanswered question from Anne Chapman, to which I responded, I fully intended to end visiting that site. However because the heavenly savor of Eucharistic mystery salivates within my soul, I have to say something else about those priestly “fakers” who according to Garry Wills have for two thousand years deceptively rolled and pieced out to the faithful the “manna” that Augustine said happened because “Mary gave milk to our Bread,” Jesus, the Bread of Life, Holy Communion, the Real Presence. Now here’s something strange. At Medjugorje the same Mary that Augustine said “gave milk to our Bread” also said, “The blessing of (those fakers) the priest is greater than hers!” There’s only one blessing greater than the blessing of the Mother of God – God Himself. Thus, if what a spokesperson for the Medjugorje Seers said is true, it means that the blessing of those “fakers” is identical to the blessing of God! I believe it! Of course for those who reject Divine Revelation and Majesterial teaching that those “fakers” also change bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Resurrected Jesus, will not believe Medjugorje’s Private Revelation and that’s expected. But as did my late Pastor, Augustine Recollect Priest Edward Fagan who visited the Shrine and became a believer, so am I. Father Fagan told me he saw the Sun emitting multi-colored lights similar to Fatima’s “Miracle of the Sun.” So, as far as I’m concerned Blessed Mother Mary has left her foot print there! God bless our priests! Thanks Jesus, for the Eucharist and for the priestly Blessing! By the way Tim O'Leary's post if fabulous! I'm saving it.
Gerelyn Hollingsworth
5 years 5 months ago
If the poster who wondered why Garry (note spelling of Garry) Wills dedicated his book to the memory of Henri de Lubac, SJ, had read the book, s/he would know. http://www.amazon.com/dp/0670024872/ref=rdr_ext_tmb Search Inside for Lubac. (Funny how many are enraged by a book they haven't read. They are unable to refute Garry Wills, so they resort to ad hominem attacks and pretense.)
Tim O'Leary
5 years 5 months ago
The comment order in this post appears to have been messed up. But, here goes anyway. Gerelyn. I presume you are referring to pages 56-60 where Garry Wills distorts Cardinal de Lubac’s position on the Eucharist. But since the defenders of Wills fail to demonstrate their own obsessional test and show they have actually read the book, who knows? (I am still waiting for Anne Chapman to let us know she has finished the book and to respond point-by-point to my criticisms (page numbers please), as she said she intended to do above). Garry Wills is being very dishonest by trying to co-opt the words of St. Augustine and Cardinal Henri de Lubac, S.J. for his heretical purposes. Of course, he can find that St. Augustine refers to the Church and the community of the faithful as the Body of Christ. Since apostolic times, the Church has always interpreted the Body of Christ as the Church community (later on the term Mystical Body was adopted) and the Eucharist has always been the real flesh and blood of Christ after the consecration (again affirmed by both Augustine and de Lubac, but not by Wills). Also, the Eucharistic sacrament has always been seen as the center of the Church. Based on the challenges to the faith at specific times in history, the emphasis of the apologetic defense has varied, but among the faithful, it never lost the two meanings. Furthermore, the technical theological language is refined and clarified over the centuries, resulting in an orthodox development of doctrine, meaning the ever-deeper exposition of the faith as handed down from Jesus through the Apostles and their successors. I have suggested above that Anne read the book “The Hidden Manna’” but she declared that she didn’t need to read it (the whole book) because she was already well read in the Patristic documents, not thinking that such a good book might reveal arguments that she had missed on her own reading. Well, maybe a book is too long, but here is a single article, by Fr. De Lubac’s brother Jesuit, on the Real Presence. It is a concise masterpiece. I hope she reads this before commenting again. http://www.adoremus.org/0405RealPresence.html. If he had been honest, Garry Wills should have said somewhere, that of course, despite their (fully orthodox) description of the Church as the Body of Christ, Augustine and de Lubac never stopped believing in the Real Presence (the Flesh that “Mary gave milk to our Bread,” as Bruce quoted Augustine). He should have emphasized that neither did they ever reject their priestly role, or the authority of the Church to teach. They always believed with the spirit of the Church, not like Wills, an ardent spirit against the Church. That is, if he had been honest. In the 1940s, Father Henri de Lubac, S.J. was critical of the interpretation of some neo-Scholastics on nature and grace and on what he saw as their misinterpretation of St. Thomas Aquinas (who he always esteemed, unlike Wills). He also wanted a re-emphasis on the centering of the Eucharist within the community of believers. The dispute with the neo-Scholastics led to his temporary removal from teaching at Lyons. He was instructed by the Superior General of the Jesuits to refrain from advancing his side of the argument for some years (1950-1958), while it was being sorted out. He was ‘exiled” from Lyons to Paris, where he concentrated his publications on other areas (Buddhism, a book titled "The Splendor of the Church." etc). Like Padro Pio, he bore the period of criticism with the spirit of a loyal son of the Church and obedient Jesuit. And, this humility resulted in a great elevation of his influence, both at Vatican II, but also thereafter. He was ardently supported by Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, JPII and BXVI, and especially the latter two in terms of his theology. He founded Communio with Cardinal Ratzinger and Hans Urs von Balthazar. Avery Cardinal Dulles covered all this in an excellent “appreciation” of his brother Jesuit and Cardinal de Lubac (see here: http://payingattentiontothesky.com/2012/11/20/henri-de-lubac-in-appreciation-cardinal-avery-dulles-s-j/). Finally, this is what Fr. De Lubac said about false reform and dissidents (fits Garry Wills to a T): "....The second fundamental condition (for true renewal according to the intent of Vatican II) is the love and concern for Catholic unity. It is closely linked with the first condition: personal love of Jesus Christ. The shop-worn contrast which some still delight in making between the Church and the gospel of Christ is an easily exploitable theme because it is all too evident that the Church seen in her members is never completely faithful. Sin, which is to be found everywhere, does not spare the Church--neither sin nor all the other marks of human frailty. It is no less true, however, that it is still the Church which brings us the gospel of Christ and, still more important, more true today than ever before that the generalized criticism of the Church is linked to a movement that draws away from the gospels. "I would not be so concerned if this were something from outside the Church. But when each one takes as his mission to criticize everything, when each one sets out to rewrite dogma and morality according to his own wishes, the Church disintegrates. When the center of unity becomes the target of the most impassioned attacks, each one feeling that he has the right to criticize the successor of Peter before the whole world on any point whatsoever, the Church herself is therefore wounded. Those who take this liberty do not fully realize what they are doing. Regardless of what pretext they may invoke, however, they are turning their backs on the gospel of Christ, and they scandalize, in the fullest sense of the word, many of their brethren. Whether they wish to or not, they encourage the formation of small groups whose sectarian pretensions are equaled only by the poverty of their spirituality. The weakening of faith is coupled with the decomposition of the Christian community. They insult all those who hold on to what their faith requires of them as Christians. Inasmuch as it depends on them, they ruin the Church. A Church in which this form of disorder exists and where such morals are accepted is doomed, for it cannot be efficacious; it will have no missionary zeal, no ecumenical force.”
Bruce Snowden
5 years 5 months ago
To Anne C. I've already answered your question in an earlier post, please scroll t find it. Thanks!

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