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Why I Am a Catholic [Hardcover]

By Garry Wills (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   400
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.22" Width: 6.2" Height: 1.3"
Weight:   1.51 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Jul 31, 2002
Publisher   Houghton Mifflin
ISBN  0618134298  
EAN  9780618134298  
UPC  046442134293  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
PAPAL SIN and its expos of a fundamental dishonesty at the heart of the papacy provoked both praise and heated debate. Accused by some of harboring deep resentments against the church, Wills counters with a powerful statement of his Catholic faith.
Wills begins with a reflection on his early experience of that faith as a child, and later as a Jesuit seminarian, revealing the importance of Catholicism in his own life. He goes on to challenge, in clear and forceful terms, the dogmatic claim that criticism or reform of the papacy is an assault on the faith itself. In a sweeping narrative covering two thousand years of church history, he reveals that the papacy, far from being an unchanging institution, has been transformed dramatically over the millennia and can be reimagined in the future. Wills ends with a moving meditation on the significance of the creed, the timeless core of the Catholic faith, which endures even as the institution of the church changes.
Posing urgent questions for Catholic and non-Catholic readers alike, Wills argues for the continuing relevance of a papacy newly understood. He has already stirred up controversy about the failures of the church. Now, at a time when the selection of a new pope is imminent, he is sure to spark an equally heated conversation about its future.

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More About Garry Wills

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Garry Wills is a historian and the author of the New York Times bestsellers What Jesus Meant, Papal Sin, Why I Am a Catholic, and Why Priests?, among others. A frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books and other publications, Wills is a Pulitzer Prize winner and a professor emeritus at Northwestern University. He lives in Evanston, Illinois.

Garry Wills was born in 1934 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Northwestern University.

Garry Wills has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Emblems of Antiquity
  2. Penguin Classics

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Catholicism > General   [5549  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Who Cares?  Mar 2, 2008
The postscript for the book should be, "And Who Cares"? To a younger person, the penchant for self importance and navel gazing by Mr. Wills and his generation is amusing. In all, Mr. Wills and his freinds posses fairly unoriginal views that can be summed at as, "Why won't the Catholic Church just believe what I believe". Well it won't. If for no other reason than that as Catholics we can observe what happened to mainline Protestant denominations and say thanks but no thanks! No, the real challenge to the Catholic Church is from Evangelical Christianity, a branch of Christianity that despite its faults adheres to tradition and preaches the Gospel with confidence and authority. To the extent that the Catholic Church adopted the type of reforms that Mr. Wills and his liberal friends advocate; i.e., watered down rituals and dogma, lax practices of personal piety, particularly in matters dealing with human sexuality, it has suffered terribly. Please Mr. Wills, the Episcopal Church needs you. We send you to them with a smile and a blessing!
Why popes need the Church and vice versa  May 8, 2007
Garry Wills is a paradox. He viciously attacks some of his Church's most public teachings, harshly questions the competence and motives of its leadership and challenges its image of itself. He is also madly in love with it, appreciating it for what it has managed to retain of its mission and calling. He is liberal and old-fashioned - a pre-Vatican-II-born Catholic who wields a pen-sword of truth in one hand, a rosary in the other and knows how to use both.

"Why I Am a Catholic" is Wills's response to the criticism he received from some quarters about his previous book, "Papal Sins." Many (including this reviewer) saw that book as an attack on celibacy, priesthood and the papacy. Not so, says Wills. A more careful reading would have shown it to be an attack was on the "structures of deceit" that the Church has built into itself. These structures defend celibacy, for instance, by knowingly twisting the meaning of scripture to fit pre-conceived conclusions. Wills doesn't seem to care whether the Church teaches celibacy, opposes contraception or reserves the priesthood to men. He detest the Church when it relies on untruths, selective history, outdated philosophy and bad scholarship to do so. Wills argues loudly and persuasively that using lies to sell truth is ultimately a losing proposition. And, I might add, even a diabolical one.

This volume attempts to set the record straight. But as the Church has allowed such an overgrowth of pietism, nonsense and superstition to flourish, Wills is compelled yet again to wield his machete of truth-telling with his characteristic vigor.

This book, which should have been called "Why Popes Matter," is written in three-parts. Part I details Wills's childhood and education. Raised in difficult economic times in the Midwest, he received his education at the hands of the Jesuits. At the time, this order was a fusty version of its old vigorous self, relying more on fleshly mortifications and [...]-retentive rule-mongering than on the innovative spiritual experiments of its founder, Ignatius of Loyola. Wills loved his teachers, though the curriculum was a straightjacket that forbade forays into secular literature, something suffocating to a nimble mind like Wills's. Still, he felt enough of a pull to consider joining the Jesuits, though he soon dropped out before making vows.

Part II, the longest, is a fairly detailed exposition of the history of the papacy. Wills makes it clear throughout that the term "papacy" is a misnomer for the institution, a modern concept retrojected into the history of the bishops of Rome to legitimize their rule and position. Wills starts with Peter, the bumbling disciple of Christ, his denier, his misunderstander, but ultimately, the one to whom he entrusted his sheep. Wills follows Peter to his likely execution in Rome, but makes the now-familiar case that Peter was no bishop of that city, even less so a pope. The same can be said of a number of men who followed Peter as leaders of the local Church. Not until the start of the first century can anyone be said to have possessed the self-awareness of being a bishop of Rome. Wills provides a fascinating glimpse into the relationship between the bishop of Rome and the rest of the Church. From its earliest days, Rome was an apostolic church, along with Alexandria, Jerusalem and Antioch. But it was a weak sister. The Council of Nicaea in 325 was dominated by the intellects of the Eastern Church, with a few stragglers from backwards and intellectually unsophisticated places like Rome.

From this inauspicious beginning, Wills traces the history of the papacy (still a misnomer, but useful shorthand) through its early years, through the glorious fiasco of the Middle Ages and into the modern time. Wills paints the institution as having been sometimes in serious error, even heresy; beholden to some princes (Constantine, Charlemagne and Otto) and imperiously superior to others; land-holding and land-broke; alternately dismissive of and dependent on councils; lashing out at modernity (and democracy and free speech) and embracing those same values. Wills spends much space on the more well-documented recent history of the Church -especially with the landmark Second Vatican Council. He ends with the papacy of John Paul I (still alive as Wills went to print this book in 2003) and with tantalizing glimpses of a certain "bete noir," Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. These latter two men are seen rightly by Wills as attempting to undo the "liberalizing" tendencies of Vatican II. Where V2 stressed the collegiality of bishops, JP2 and BB16 have worked hard to neutralize the autonomy of bishops and impress their own autocratic vision of Church "unity".

Ultimately, Wills ends this section with the idea to which the entire book has been leading. This is the idea that the papacy is part of the carsism of Peter" - the gospel-based leadership that Christ bestowed on Peter. But he innovates by counterbalancing this centralizing tendency with the need for the Church as a whole to correct Peter. Having laid out the history of the popes, it is very easy to see where the Church - through individual bishops like Augustine, to councils and even the tendency of the laity to resist dangerous innovation - have pushed the papacy. Together, both the papacy and the Church have corrected each other, and have ultimately kept each other on the narrow path. Wills see this kind of corrective action in the resistance of the laity to papal edicts attempting to limit discussion of birth control and male priesthood. If the laity only knew the power that it had.

Part II of the book, is a short excursus on the Apostle's Creed. This material is interesting, but not central to Wills's thesis.
Garry Wills empbioesb the best in Catholic scholarship. He is devout without being obsequious; a son of the Church not afraid to warn his Mother she is driving the family over a cliff. His gift is to cut through thr cloying and self-serving faced that Church officials construct for themselves, blasting away until he gets to the Rock - not Peter in this case, but Christ, whose spirit continues to enliven the Church.
Very moving, yet deeply wrongheaded, book   Mar 28, 2007
Gary Wills has written many excellent books on American history. His accounts of the Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address are all very solid and useful contributions.

Wills is also a Catholic. He is the sort of American Catholic who is always waiting for the "next Pope" or the "next Vatican Council" which will once and for all sweep away all of the medieval nonsense and make the Catholic Church indistinguishable from the more liberal "mainstream" churches. As Wills describes in this book, he went to seminary for a few years, lost his vocation and ended up as a writer who was still very interested in Church issues. His perspective is distinctly liberal. He hated John Paul II and he hates Benedict XVI with a passion. He wrote an earlier book, Papal Sin, that basically trashed the papacy as much as possible.

That book, not surprisingly got Wills a fair amount of abuse from Catholics who regard him as a traitor. One of the purposes of this book is to explain why Wills never left the Church. (Hence the title.) This part of the book is, to me, quite moving. He gives a very passionate defense of the virtues of remaining in communinion with the Church even when you disagree with her. This part of the book is an absolutely classic statement of some of the central Catholic virtues.

He then goes off the rails to spend the rest of the book attacking the papacy, again, and trashing John Paul II and his evil German Panzer Cardinal Ratzinger. I am sorry, but on this I am totally out of sympathy with him. He acts as if the problems with the Church are all caused by the Pope. In my view, it is the inspired leadership of John Paul II and Ratzinger/Benedict XVI who have kept the Church from collapsing. All of the other mainstream churches have all gone liberal, gone secular and fallen apart. Thanks to the rock-like leadership of John Paul II, the Church came into the modern world, but never became of the modern world.

I do not understand Wills' generation. My parents were the same way. They are all hellbent on liberalizing the Church, and they do not undertand that, if the Church did what they wanted, it would cease being the Church, and it would fall apart. If you disagree, look at the recent history of the Episcopal Church, which took the path that Wills urges upon the Catholic Church. While one can certainly make good political arguments for all of the reforms of the Episcopal Church, the net result is a deeply secular church which is losing all of its members at a rapid rate. Why go to church, if all it teaches is a re-affirmation of secular liberal values? What is the Church for, if it capitulates entirely to the modern world?

Wills and his generation will never understand any of this. Thank God, they never took supreme power in the Church. They did, however, do a tremendous amount of damage. Despite all this, Wills is an intelligent man and a powerful writer and there is alot here.
An objective account written in honesty and love.   Jul 21, 2006
Garry Wills describes the long and difficult journey of a 2,000 year old church, much like the Old Testament Hebrew writers approached the complex tale of the Israelites -- stories of courage, faith, struggles, pain, persecution, vanity, sinfulness and redemption.

In order to see the Holy Spirit at work, sometimes we have to step back and give ourselves a little time for contemplation and reflection. By pulling all of the pieces of history together for us in one continuing narrative, Garry Wills reaches far richer conclusions than might first be grasped -- and for that gift, this catechist is forever in the author's debt.

Perhaps Wills only error in judgment was that he presupposed a significant degree of psychological, academic, and spiritual maturity on the part of his largely Catholic audience.

If you did not approach this book within that context; read it again.

What being a Catholic really means  Mar 10, 2006
Garry Wills has a vast knowledge of the history of the Catholic Church, and uses it to great effect in this book. He says "The job of a loyal Catholic is to give support (of the Church) that is not uncritical, or unreasoning, or abject, but one that is clear-eyed and yet loving." And he does just that in this book. "Why I Am A Catholic" makes fascinating reading.

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