Saturday, February 23, 2013

I was under the impression that Garry Wills swore off publishing again anything critical of his church. I read his article at HuffPo the day after the Pope announced his resignation, heard him on Brian Lehrer and The Diane Rehm Show and saw his Colbert Report appearance at an anti-Catholic blog that I won't link to. America links to both his and Fr. Martin's appearance in the same episode. The release of Wills's book couldn't have been timed better.

In these interviews, I was generally disappointed in how unprepared the interviewer was. With the exception of Colbert, the interviewers aren't adequately familiar with Catholicism. None of them appear informed of Wills's positions, stances which are by no means new, recent or even novel. I'd like to hear an interview where Wills can state his positions fully. Rehm brought on a counterpoint with the unfortunate name of "Msgr. Pope."

There's nothing quite like books by an historian. Such detail! I finished Wills's Outside Looking In in October last year. I found the list of personalities and experiences fascinating. Someone who's often been in the right place at the right time, and sometimes not. I read What Jesus Meant in the spring of '06, the following summer I read What Paul Meant and I read Wills's book on the rosary in-between. It's very easy to detect his theological affinities, Augustine, Chesterton, Newman, in that order. What holds it together for him must be very personal because it isn't readily evident. It's clear the New Testament and the Creed enjoy prominent, nay essential, spots. Ecumenical preoccupations loom large as well.

I don't see him being able to profess, with candidates for full admission, "all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims [is] revealed by God." In an attempt to understand what holds the Faith together for him, I turned to the book he wrote after Papal Sin, Why I Am a Catholic. Funny, I found both books on my shelf but I can't remember buying either. Beginning the latter, it sounded familiar. I must have started it on another occasion. The portion on arranging Chesterton's letters was quite similar to his chapter on his relationship with his wife in Outside Looking In. In fact, I skipped back to the public library - I had borrowed the latter book from the library, not wanting to add YA ("yet another!") Wills book to my collection - and some reflections on the personal history events were repeated.

The public library did not have Wills's latest book yet but searching the digital holdings catalog for "why priests" turned up the 1971 book by Hans Küng. I signed that book out and began reading. It doesn't sound nearly as radical as Küng's become. His motivation then seems to be pragmatic as well as ecumenical. In the least, it's really remarkable how much ecumenism has dropped off in the past 40, 30, 20 years.


Christian LeBlanc said...

I've read at least one of Wills books, many articles. He's an American Liberal Catholic like Pelosi, Biden, Kennedy,and Cuomo.

Re ecumenism, most of what I see locally are serious Christians joining the Catholic Church. For them, ecumenism won't do.

Moonshadow said...

Wills is political but not a politician. Those you list are politicians who are also Catholics. Wills might be closest to Biden in terms of degree of religious devotion.

But I'm fairly apolitical and this post isn't about any of that. I was thinking aloud why Wills hadn't kept his promise to leave off railing against the church (but it seems that Wills said only he's through with the papacy) and trying to understand something of his religious convictions.

I appreciate your comment.