The Reform of the Papacy

The Reform of the Papacy
The Costly Call to Christian Unity
John R. Quinn
Crossroad, $19.95, 189 pp.

The reform of the papacy, here advocated by Archbishop John R. Quinn, is a good idea for several reasons. Aware of the "if it ain’t broke don’t fix it" principle, Quinn finds enough broken to merit a call for fixing. Such reform is of intrinsic value in respect to an institution integral to the life of the world’s largest religious communion. Reform is of evangelical and strategic importance, because it can further the positive work of all Catholicism. And, as Quinn, former San Francisco archbishop, makes amply clear, there are ecumenical implications that cannot be denied, especially if Catholicism is serious about one of the four marks of the church, that it express itself as "one."

The reform for which Quinn appeals would have looked modest to critics of the historic papacy in its worst hours. In the time of medieval papal schisms, of open conflict between popes and councils, and before the Protestant Reformation, the papacy and some of the popes were often corrupt. Their ways and workings cried out for reform. By contrast, it is also possible to say that the adjustments Quinn calls for might look like mere rearranging of the chairs a third of a century after the aggiornamento of Vatican II (1962-65).

This gentle but searching critic takes off from a strong appreciation of Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical, Ut unum sint, a bold reaffirmation of the papacy’s interest in furthering unity. Throughout...

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About the Author

Martin E. Marty is the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor emeritus at the University of Chicago.