"Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit" by Garry Wills

Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit by Gary WillsThis book is dynamite. It’s been on my shelf for a few months but I needed to read it now as an antidote to all the current fawning over the late Pope and the Vatican in general. While I do believe that the Holy Spirit works through the Church (among other places), I also believe, as this book confirms, that it is strongly opposed at the higher levels by the human desire for power and control, not to mention egos the size of St. Peter’s Basilica, and pagan phobias about women and sex (which one quoted researcher calls “celibate psychosis”).

I was under no illusions about about the Vatican or the papacy before starting this book (I’m 2/3 through) but even relative ignorance is more blissful than knowing the whole sordid, heart-breaking story. I was sickened by the chapters on the Church’s history of anti-Semitism and the Church’s attempts to cover up the sexual abuse of children by priests. The nonsensical contortions the Church has gone through to preserve non-scriptural doctrines on contraception, women’s ordination, priestly celibacy (and priesthood itself!), etc., would be laughable if they weren’t the cause of much damage, both to the Church hierarchy and to the faithful.

Perhaps the worst damage has been to reason and logic, not to mention fidelity to Scripture, which are supposedly to be replaced with loyalty to the self-appointed rulers in Rome.

This parody of exegesis shows a profound disrespect for the reavealed word itself. New Testament passages are twisted, omitted, extended, distorted, perverted to make them mean whatever the Pope wants them to mean.
(p. 127)

The Pope alone, we are now asked to accept, is competent to tell Christian people how to live. No one else can have any say in the matter—not a Council, not the college of all bishops, not the national synods of bishops, not the Christian people. The Holy Spirit now speaks to only one person on earth, the omnicompetent head of the church, a church that is all head and no limbs.
(p. 163)

The author writes about Pope Paul VI’s secret, hand-picked commission on contraception, which ended up strongly opposing the Church’s teaching on contraception and was of course completely ignored by the Pope. Even when only the bishops on the commission were allowed to vote on the final resolution, the overwhelming majority voted against the ban on contraception.

As soon as people began to think independently about the matter, the whole structure of deceit crumbled at a touch. The past position could not be sustained, even among these people picked by the Vatican itself…
(p. 93)

A thinking, informed, and empowered laity (and priesthood, for that matter) is the enemy of the Vatican (or so it thinks), and so the hierarchy attempts to equate holiness and piety with blind obedience and utter docility, and it punishes dissent, no matter how learned and sincerely faithful, without due process. The Curia no doubt rue the day that the Bible was translated into the vernacular because that was the beginning of (hopefully) the end of their stranglehold on doctrine, including the false doctrines on papal (as well as episcopal and priestly) power and authority. They have been furiously trying to get the worms back in the can, but they will fail because of people like Garry Wills who prefer uncomfortable truth to comfortable “structures of deceit.” They will fail because the Holy Spirit is still working in the Church.

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2 comments on “"Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit" by Garry Wills

  1. leila says:

    I only got about halfway through your description of the book before I went and yanked it off of the library shelf. Hopefully I'll have time to read it this weekend.

  2. Sylvia says:

    Cool! He also has another book called “Why I am a Catholic” which I want to read. It's a response to the the obvious question that people asked him after reading “Papal Sin.” Too often today people mistake criticism for opposition and malice, so the second book was written to show how he can reconcile the Church's serious imperfections with his serious faith. I can hardly wait.

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