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Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit by Garry…

Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit

by Garry Wills

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Papal Sin is about far more than a few instances of bad behavior from a few popes. Anyone who’s done much reading on the Catholic church should be aware of quite a few instances of popes murdering, lying, thieving, etc. But are those actions in the past? Wills’ argument is that the very structure of the office of the pope requires it to lie and cover up, even if it’s not directly involved in wrong-doing in the last century or so.

As Wills lays them out, the book covers historical dishonesties, doctrinal dishonesties, one on the nature of honesty, and a theology of honesty. As a non-Christian and a layman, I found a different categorization of his themes more helpful. He begins with covering harm against others, then moves on to the lying to cover those up, followed by what Wills considers to be making shit up doctrinally. He then attributes this to an inability to admit when the church has been wrong, which is ultimately a concern with establishing a precedent that breaks the authority of the church hierarchy. The last chapters deal with some of the history and theology of lying withing the Catholic church.

The book’s premise is that the lying is because the church can’t admit to having been wrong without calling bringing to the fore that it’s been wrong before. In other words, it would open a can of worms that could bring about the end of priestly control of the church. The reasoning that this is the cause of much of the church’s flaws jibes with the evidence that Wills produces, but it’s by no means definitive proof.

Full review: http://reading.kingrat.biz/reviews/papal-sin-garry-wills ( )
1 vote KingRat | Oct 7, 2010 |
I was fascinated by this book and the bureaucracy surrounding the decision making process in the Roman Catholic church. Reading this book really sheds light on the recent revelations in the church and the reaction that has followed. ( )
  gmmoney | Sep 8, 2010 |
Disclaimer: I am neither a practicing Catholic nor was I raised as a Catholic.

I noticed this book on the bargain table at a local book store, read the jacket and the table of contents and I was intrigued. The book is divided into four sections: Historical Dishonesties; Doctrinal Dishonesties; The Honesty Issue; and The Splendor Of Truth. I recommend using the "search inside this book" option to review the table of contents and the first chapter.

I found this book a challenge. I read a chapter or two and then did not pick up the book for weeks. At times reading Papal Sin was laborious, yet like physical exercise the mental exercise was beneficial. Of particular interest were the chapters on women (Excluded Women), celibacy of priests (The Pope's Eunuch's and Priestly Caste), priests as sex offenders (Conspiracy of Silence), homosexuality (A Gay Priesthood) and contraception (The Gift of Life).

To a non-Catholic, Papal Sin is educational and fascinating. To a devote Catholic who believes in the infallibility of the Pope, this book is likely blasphemous. ( )
  Grandeplease | Oct 23, 2008 |
Gary Wills indicts the papacy for failing to admit that its teachings in the past may have been in error. He is particularly referring to issues such as infallibility, clerical celibacy, contraception, and relationships to the Holocaust. He relies on readings of the Bible and Church fathers, particularly Augustine, to demonstrate that the Curial teaching on these issues is not well supported by tradition, and argues that the main reason for the perpetuation of these teachings is the reluctance of the Papacy to admit to past error. He is enlightening on the politics behind discussions of contraception at Vatican 2, and the promulgation of infallibility at Vatican 1. The discussions were well done, compact chapters of wellsupported arguments, but it is hard to know exactly who the book is aimed at; one suspects the clergy will not find it convincing. He is very alarming on the issues of celibacy, and the molestation of young men by priests. He argues convincingly that the priesthood is becoming largely a gay organization. Read mostly on the train to New York for the ANA conference ( )
1 vote neurodrew | Aug 31, 2008 |
Wills relates issues on which the papacy and its supporters are fallible in both the past and present. The need to support these errors to defend the papacy lead to what he calls the structures of deceit that force the Catholic hierarchy to go against the Church’s best interest. If one thing I gained from this book is an understanding of Christian community from the earliest days and the practices of worship that make the Paulist Center more authentic than any other church I’ve attended.

“In sex, you see, it is all or nothing. Unless the act expresses all values possible to it all the time, it is immoral. It would be hard to find a parallel in the moral world for this principle. Can we say that, unless one’s charity is perfectly motivated, you sin by giving alms from lesser motives (e.g. , to bolster self-esteem)? If alms-giving were banned unless its motive was a perfect charity, the church’s donations would fall of sharply.” -p. 100

“The twelve apostles were men, so all priests must be men. But the twelve apostles were married, and the church authorities decided they could change that – in fact, John Paul says that the church cannot go back to the original situation on this point. Saint Peter had a wife, but no modern Pope or priest can. Are we to say that all priests must be converted Jews? The twelve were. Are they all to speak Aramaic? For that matter, if we are to make the gospel situation binding now, we should observe that the apostles were not priests themselves. And there was at least one woman apostle in the New Testament, Junia (Rom 16:7).” p. 104-05

“Serious men might well hestitate before joining this company [the seminary], putting themselves under Rome’s discipline with enthusiastic enforcers as their colleagues. Meanwhile, the number of parishes without priests is growing.

This situation could not have arise in the early centuries of the church. Then a community did not wait for some higher authority to drop a priest down out of the hierarchical heaven, accepting what it was given (if anything). Communities voted for their own priests, who were committed to staying with the community that chose them. There was no candidate list submitted by Rome. Anyone could be chosen, so long as the community wanted that person. That was the proof of a vocation. In fact it was the vocation, the calling by the Christian body of Christ for a leader of its own desire….

A man was obliged to accept this call, out of duty to the Christian community which was Christ’s body.” - p.153

“The better course is to welcome a female analogy for God, but assign it to the third person of the Trinity. The usage even of theologians and Bible translators is misleading when the Spirit is referred to as It – “It breathes where it will.” The personhood of God makes such objectification degrading. The pronoun for the Spirit should be She, which will make clear that many of the functions assigned to Mary (as a symbol of the church, or its protector) truly belong to the Trinity in its female analogue. One should pray to Her as well as to Him.” - p. 218

“Christ likes us to prefer truth to him, because, before being Christ, he is truth. If one turns aside from him to go to the truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms.” – Simone Weil, quoted on p. 275

“Girard’s most radical assertion is that Jesus is not a sacrifice. His Father is not one whose aggressions need to be bought off. Jesus is not an item of barter in the exchange system of set up by sacrifice; God does not accept victims. He sides with the victims against its slayers, reversing the whole logic of placation.” – p. 305 ( )
  Othemts | Jun 26, 2008 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Wills, an eminent historian and one of the most intellectually distinguished members of the Catholic laity in the United States, has written a devastating, no-holds-barred, indictment.

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385494106, Hardcover)

"Catholics have fallen out of the healthy old habit of reminding each other how sinful Popes can be," notes Garry Wills in the introduction to Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit. In his book, Wills alludes occasionally to the most egregious papal scoundrels: "In the tenth century a dissolute teenager could be elected Pope (John XII) because of his family connections and die a decade later in the bed of a married woman." But most of the author's energy is devoted to an incisive analysis of recent popes' doctrinal pronouncements, which Wills believes have eroded the Church's moral authority and contributed to the drastic decline in vocations to the priesthood today. "The arguments for much of what passes as current church doctrine are so intellectually contemptible that mere self-respect forbids a man to voice them as his own," Wills writes. "The cartoon version of natural law used to argue against contraception, or artificial insemination, or masturbation, would make a sophomore blush. The attempt to whitewash past attitudes toward Jews is so dishonest in its use of historical evidence that a man condemns himself in his own eyes if he tries to claim that he agrees with it."

In chapters that address all of the matters just mentioned, and many others (including women's exclusion from the priesthood and clerical celibacy), Papal Sin considers "the connection between a Christian's truthfulness and Christ's truth." Wills argues that "the New Testament link between the two is brought about by the Spirit when he fills Christians so they speak without restraint." A final chapter, of great rhetorical and spiritual power, finds hope for Catholicism in a "church of the Spirit" where "the poor have the good news brought to them (Matthew 11:5)." Wills is one of those rare and exceptional writers who can clearly discern and describe both sin and righteousness, and can boldly speak the truth about power. --Michael Joseph Gross

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:04 -0400)

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