A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


Hope for the next Pope? Nope.

I am with Garry Wills in finding myself unable to get too excited about the selection of a new pope:

[A] new pope will be elected by cardinals who were elevated to office by the very popes who reaffirmed eternal truths like the teaching on contraception. They were appointed for their loyalty, as were the American bishops who stubbornly upheld the contraception nonsense in our elections. Will the new conclave vote for a man who goes against the teachings of his predecessors? Even if they do, can the man chosen buck the structure through which he rose without kicking the structure down? These considerations have given the election of new popes the air of watching Charlie Brown keep trying to kick the football, hoping that Lucy will cooperate.

The selection process is utterly bereft of the characteristics of participation and transparency that virtually all of us would demand as criteria of legitimacy in any other context. It is possible, I suppose, that the process will somehow misfire and yield a Pope who affirms values of openness and accountability. Now that would surely be a sign of divine intervention. 


Commenting Guidelines

Re Gary Wills interview with ColbertIs Wills denying only transubstantiation or the Real Presence? Even Luther got rid of priests and kept the Real Presence. As someone already said here, there's nothing really new that didn't come up at the Reformation, so it's not like Wills doesn't have options.I leave the interview feeling a great loss of respect for Wills.

I wish Gary Wills had been seen with, not just Colbert, who simply says what we believe, but with someone who could argue why we believe what we believe. The "essay on the development of doctrine" is over 400 pages long. Is there any way to present it to a general audience on prime time TV in 5 minutes or less?

Claire,Maybe the essay could be presented on SRCthe Speed-Reading Channel.

Claire, I wonder if anyone can speak authoritatively about "what we believe." Who's "we," after all? The lambs or the elephants? In Garry Will's 2000 book, Papal Sins: Structures of Deceit, he pointed out that in 1963, 70% of Catholics thought the "Pope derived his authority to teach from Christ by way of Peter. In 1974, that number had shrunk to 42 percent."So if it was only 42% in 1974, what is it now? And "who could argue why we believe what we believe?" Would it be a priest? I notice that some priests, who have had extensive training in theology, history, scripture studies, etc., are careful not to say what they know, maybe for fear of scandalizing the lambs, maybe to protect their jobs, etc. Better to let the clueless remain that way than to attempt to feed them information they can't handle and don't want.

Newman's "An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine" is online here: Postscript is interesting:"Since the above was written, the Author has joined the Catholic Church. It was his intention and wish to have carried his Volume through the Press before deciding {xi} finally on this step. But when he had got some way in the printing, he recognized in himself a conviction of the truth of the conclusion to which the discussion leads, so clear as to supersede further deliberation. Shortly afterwards circumstances gave him the opportunity of acting upon it, and he felt that he had no warrant for refusing to do so.His first act on his conversion was to offer his Work for revision to the proper authorities; but the offer was declined on the ground that it was written and partly printed before he was a Catholic, and that it would come before the reader in a more persuasive form, if he read it as the author wrote it.It is scarcely necessary to add that he now submits every part of the book to the judgment of the Church, with whose doctrine, on the subjects of which he treats, he wishes all his thoughts to be coincident."

My copy of Wills's new book arrived today. I've just started it, and it is great.

"Benedict has given the SSPX a final chance (according to Rorate)"Bishop Fellay says it looks as if the SSPX will have to wait for he new Pope. No mention of a 22 February window. He says he regrets Benedict didn't take any final action to resolve their situation. only, sorry)

"Yet Why Priests? exudes the same angry and bitter tone as his 2001 Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit. Once again he has taken a sledgehammer to an issue that requires a much more delicate instrument. We clearly need a good, serious book that moves the ball forward on the theology of ordained ministry, especially in relation to Christian worship. Sadly, this is not it.I'm on page 55. (It's so good, that I'm taking my time. Savoring each charming paragraph.)I'm surprised that Baldovin would accuse Wills of writing with an "angry and bitter tone." The tone, imho, is good-natured and sweet. And there is no sledgehammer. (I hope no one will be discouraged from reading this book by Baldovin's review.) The chapter on Holy Men, e.g., is wonderful. As are the other three chapters I've finished.

NYT Book Review: book is so great, that it's hard to pick out favorite parts, but the chapters on "Explaining the Miracle: Augustine" and "Killer Priests" are enlightening, to say the least.

Gerelyn--You are actually his agent, aren't you?

The conclusion of the NYT Review and the identification of the reviewer:There is one God, and Jesus is one of his prophets, Wills concludes, and I am one of his millions of followers. For those millions, scattered across time and space, thats an affirmation worthy of celebration.Randall Balmer, an Episcopal priest, is chairman of the religion department at Dartmouth College. He is completing a biography of Jimmy Carter.I feel a certain "malaise" coming on.

Ha. Yes, I know what you mean, Robert, although I have a personal reason for LOVING Jimmy Carter.When I googled Wills today to see what new reviews there were (other than my Customer Review at Amazon), that one came up, but it made it look as if it had been written by Jimmy Carter. Naturally I rushed to see what it said. Not by Jimmy at all, but by Randall. I liked Randall's conclusion. One of the many many wonderful points in the book is the one about what the Followers called themselves in the early (pre-priest) days.Wills, of course, is a devout Catholic, part of the Body of Christ. He mentions the Catholic community he belongs to in his Acknowledgments.----(To Proska: He also mentions his famous agent, Andrew Wylie.)

I quibble with this statement by Horan:Heresy, of course, doesnt mean the opposite of orthodox doctrine or even some ideological position along the continuum of heterodox thought. Heresy is holding part of the truth as the whole truth.I counter it with this:Heresy may be the result of poor timing. Jaroslav Pelikan, "The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine", Vol I, "The Emergence of Catholic Tradition."And this:If our understanding of God develops slowly and somewhat uncertainly, then there will always be as much reason to regard any putative (i.e., commonly accepted or supposed) heresy as a new insight as there will be to regard it as a distortion of the truth. Gordon Graham, "The Goodness of God and the Conception of Hell" New Blackfriars, November 1988

Reading this will solve all: (be sure and go to the comments!)