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The New York Times bestselling historian takes on a pressing question in modern religion--will Pope Francis embrace change? Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope and the first from the Americas, offers a challenge to his church. Can he bring about significant change? Should he? Garry Wills, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, argues provocatively that, in fact, the history o The New York Times bestselling historian takes on a pressing question in modern religion--will Pope Francis embrace change? Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope and the first from the Americas, offers a challenge to his church. Can he bring about significant change? Should he? Garry Wills, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, argues provocatively that, in fact, the history of the church throughout is a history of change. In this brilliant and incisive study, Wills describes the deep and serious changes that have taken place in the church or are in the process of occurring. These include the change from Latin, the growth and withering of the ecclesiastical monarchy, the abandonment of biblical literalism, the assertion and nonassertion of infallibility, and the erosion of church patriarchy. In such developments we see the living church adapting itself to the new historical circumstances. As Wills contends, it is only by examining the history of the church that we can understand Pope Francis's and the church's challenges.


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The New York Times bestselling historian takes on a pressing question in modern religion--will Pope Francis embrace change? Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope and the first from the Americas, offers a challenge to his church. Can he bring about significant change? Should he? Garry Wills, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, argues provocatively that, in fact, the history o The New York Times bestselling historian takes on a pressing question in modern religion--will Pope Francis embrace change? Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope and the first from the Americas, offers a challenge to his church. Can he bring about significant change? Should he? Garry Wills, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, argues provocatively that, in fact, the history of the church throughout is a history of change. In this brilliant and incisive study, Wills describes the deep and serious changes that have taken place in the church or are in the process of occurring. These include the change from Latin, the growth and withering of the ecclesiastical monarchy, the abandonment of biblical literalism, the assertion and nonassertion of infallibility, and the erosion of church patriarchy. In such developments we see the living church adapting itself to the new historical circumstances. As Wills contends, it is only by examining the history of the church that we can understand Pope Francis's and the church's challenges.

30 review for The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    Here's an old Catholic joke. Q: How does the Catholic Church let us know it has changed? A: It issues a proclamation beginning with the words “As the Church always and everywhere has taught...”. Nobody knows this better than Garry Wills. Although unorthodox in some of his views, Wills--a practicing Catholic who attends mass each Sunday and prays the rosary--has never stopped calling for change. Beginning as a young observer of the revolutionary Vatican II, he has remained faithful—both in his dev Here's an old Catholic joke. Q: How does the Catholic Church let us know it has changed? A: It issues a proclamation beginning with the words “As the Church always and everywhere has taught...”. Nobody knows this better than Garry Wills. Although unorthodox in some of his views, Wills--a practicing Catholic who attends mass each Sunday and prays the rosary--has never stopped calling for change. Beginning as a young observer of the revolutionary Vatican II, he has remained faithful—both in his devotions and his criticisms--throughout the succeeding fifty years, while a conservative hierarchy has been busy asserting that Vatican II was indeed not so very radical after all. Move along, folks. Nothing more to see here. It's over. Clear the streets. Move along. Yes, Garry Wills, with his impeccable prose and formidable erudition, has called for renewal in the Catholic Church for more than half a century, and in recent years—at least so it seems to me--has begun to tire a little, becoming at times waspish and bitter. But now, having recently turned eighty-one, he's got his groove back. And I think Pope Francis has something to do with his revival. The thesis of his book is simple: A) the Catholic Church has changed dramatically, yet it never seems to change because: 1) the changes are gradual, taking place over many years, often over centuries, 2) the Church never admits even to itself that these changes are changes, and 3) when a change comes, it does so, not because a pope or the hierarchy wills it, but because the people as a whole adopt it and the clergy--eventually, reluctantly--follow the people. Wills uses his extensive knowledge of church history to illustrate five different areas in which the Church has changed over the centuries: the Latin language, Monarchy (tolerating a powerful state, or opposing one, or being one), Anti-Semiticism, Natural Law (the whole sex thing), and the sacrament of Confession. He shows us how the church has waxed and waned on all these issues, principally because of pressures in the society and the attitude of the people in the pews. Despite the title, Pope Francis does not loom large in this book. Yet his spirit is everywhere. In a brief afterward, Wills tells us why he has great hope for Pope Francis. Wills anchors his hope in two things. First, Francis who was once an authoritarian young Jesuit provincial in Argentina, has actually apologized for his previous conduct since he became pope. How many other popes have done that? Second, Francis stresses dialogue and collegiality, not as window dressing (as many crafty authoritarians do) but as viable and useful instruments of change.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    Once I understood that this was not a book about Pope Francis or about the future of the Catholic Church, it was a better read. I still cannot help but feel deceived by the title. The book is a series of essays showing how the Catholic Church has been changing, or more precisely, evolving over its long history. Five major issues are used for illustration: the change from Latin to local languages; the relationship of Church and state as envisioned and promoted by Vatican leaders; how anti-Semitism Once I understood that this was not a book about Pope Francis or about the future of the Catholic Church, it was a better read. I still cannot help but feel deceived by the title. The book is a series of essays showing how the Catholic Church has been changing, or more precisely, evolving over its long history. Five major issues are used for illustration: the change from Latin to local languages; the relationship of Church and state as envisioned and promoted by Vatican leaders; how anti-Semitism emerged and waned; the reliance on natural law (women and issues of sex) and forgiveness. There is an Epilogue which is a short essay on Pope Francis and how he admitted an error how it changed his life and approach to the priesthood. For me, the most informative section was on how Anti-Semitism evolved in the Catholic Church over 2000 years. Earlier this year I had read the Pope and Mussolini which gave a detailed description of this short relationship, which Wills shows to be the result of a long chain of church policy. The footnotes were good. Their placement at the end of each chapter was helpful. I think this book was put together to capitalize on the Pope’s visit to the US. This does not diminish the quality of the material, but the quantity of the material (lots of white space and indented lay outs) also suggests a rush to feed "Popemania". I got this book from the public library. I would be very disappointed were I to have purchased it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Fats

    Pope Francis does not see the church as changeless, as permanent, as predictable, but as a thing of surprises. And he has, in his pontificate so far, surprised many by things he has said or done. This book itself is full of surprises. I would like to point out, as other readers may already have, that this book does not entirely focus on Pope Francis. In fact, Pope Francis was only mentioned in the introduction and the epilogue. I don't normally read books about religion. I'm a Catholic and I like Pope Francis does not see the church as changeless, as permanent, as predictable, but as a thing of surprises. And he has, in his pontificate so far, surprised many by things he has said or done. This book itself is full of surprises. I would like to point out, as other readers may already have, that this book does not entirely focus on Pope Francis. In fact, Pope Francis was only mentioned in the introduction and the epilogue. I don't normally read books about religion. I'm a Catholic and I like Pope Francis so I borrowed this book from the library in high hopes that Garry Wills would indeed shed light on the future of the Catholic Church with the current Pope. I must admit that I was initially disappointed. However, this book contends that the history of the church is a history of change. It traces the different changes that the church has undergone over the last centuries. If you look past the title, you'll find that the book also discusses topics that are relevant to today's society: the church's stand regarding human sexual intercourse and abortion, and the church's view of women in general and the exclusion (or possible inclusion) of women in any offices in the church. Garry Wills concludes that the kind of pope who follows the penitence of Peter, the sinner (such as Pope Francis), and not someone who sits on the throne for power, is one that bodes well for the future of the Catholic Church.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Gloria A

    Since Gary Wills is such a famous Catholic scholar, I downloaded and began reading his new book with great anticipation. What changes would Wills predict based on his intimate knowledge of the Church and his study of this Pope? And, of course, to date, Francis " . . . has changed much in the style and presentation of the papacy . . . [but] has not changed dogma . . . . " (Location 155-15.) To my disappointment, I found few statements from Wills that predicts how Francis will make specific change Since Gary Wills is such a famous Catholic scholar, I downloaded and began reading his new book with great anticipation. What changes would Wills predict based on his intimate knowledge of the Church and his study of this Pope? And, of course, to date, Francis " . . . has changed much in the style and presentation of the papacy . . . [but] has not changed dogma . . . . " (Location 155-15.) To my disappointment, I found few statements from Wills that predicts how Francis will make specific changes. In essence, Wills believes that Francis will let others know his beliefs (e.g., about women as priests) by how he acts and what he says. Then " . . . he [Francis] will let others bring it about." (Location 3752.) How disappointing for those of us who had hoped and prayed that this Pope would act on his beliefs! If you are interested in how the Catholic Church has handled change historically, this is a great book. If you want to know how the Church has justified many of its doctrines, this text will provide that information. (I roared when I read that one of the Church's past justifications for not having female priests was because women " . . .do not look like Jesus." [Location 3640.]) And so the irrationality continues!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Switzer

    This is thorough and, like well researched books, is a bit repetitive. The point is clear; the church has changed for political and expedient reasons while denying change. The author spends most of the pages on history of important topics and controversies in the church. Wills does not really give an opinion of the future of the Catholic Church though he does defend Pope Francis's actions and explains the possible reasons for these actions. This is thorough and, like well researched books, is a bit repetitive. The point is clear; the church has changed for political and expedient reasons while denying change. The author spends most of the pages on history of important topics and controversies in the church. Wills does not really give an opinion of the future of the Catholic Church though he does defend Pope Francis's actions and explains the possible reasons for these actions.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Socraticgadfly

    I'm not alone in noting the misleading title. Many reviewers have done that, and that's small bear. The reality is all the incorrect statements and analyses Wills makes. I've found him iffy at best on secular history, like his Gettysburg book; I'd never read a religious book of his before and never will do so again. Let's look at a few of his largest errors. But, first, let me be blunt and call him mendacious; the errors that are errors of fact are basic enough that he, a professor, knows they're I'm not alone in noting the misleading title. Many reviewers have done that, and that's small bear. The reality is all the incorrect statements and analyses Wills makes. I've found him iffy at best on secular history, like his Gettysburg book; I'd never read a religious book of his before and never will do so again. Let's look at a few of his largest errors. But, first, let me be blunt and call him mendacious; the errors that are errors of fact are basic enough that he, a professor, knows they're wrong. (Oh, and familiarity with Greek and Latin doesn't shine through.) First, in the first chapter, he claimed Latin was a "universal" language for Europe, and hints this was true relatively early after legalization of Christianity. Not even close. Circa 1000 CE, Poland was just beginning to be converted, the Baltics and Scandinavia were pagan, and the Danes were repaganizing parts of the British Isles. This also, of course, ignores Orthodoxy, with either Greek or Old Church Slavonic serving as quasi-lingua franca in most of its lands. Second, on page 29, he claims Lutherans and Reformed rejected both infant baptism and auricular confession. This is so false it's laughable. As a former Lutheran seminarian, I know that infant baptism is not only accepted, it's promoted. Luther himself downplayed verbal confession, but didn't reject it. Reformed churches also all accept infant baptism, in general. (I am not sure how they stand on confession, but I'm sure a Presbyterian pastor wouldn't reject someone wanting to make confession to him or her.) Only Anabaptists and their modern Baptist-type descendants reject infant baptism. Third, on page 103, he totally misreads Galatians 2, which one doesn't need to know Greek to read correctly anyway. He claims Peter "won" his quarrel with Paul. Erm, Paul never sees it that way, and Acts smooths over any such quarrels before an alleged Council at Jerusalem which may never have happened. Fourth actually goes at the late Jacob Neusner, arguable dean of modern Jewish scholars of Mishna and proto-rabbinic Judaism. In talking about Christian anti-Semitism, Neusner says that the Romans' destruction of the Second Temple was the most momentous occasion in Jewish history between the destruction of the first Temple and the Arab invasion of Palestine after defeating the Byzantines. I must disagree. Had Mattathias not risen up at Modein and led the Maccabee revolt, we wouldn't have had a Judaism losing its Second Temple 235 or so years later. It's that simple. Fifth, Greek scholar and former seminarian Wills can't even keep the names of his Gospel parallels straight, or else some (not necessarily all) Catholics have weird namings of them. What he calls "the parable of the vineyards" is commonly known as "the parable of the husbandmen" or "the parable of the tenants." When he actually started quoting text, specifically from Matthew's version, I realized the mistake. Sixth, back to the same line as his second mistake, and his first one; cafeteria Catholicism (along with alleged ecumenism) while ignoring actual Protestant or Orthodox issues, getting their theology wrong, etc. He claims, and passes it off as traditional belief, that the antichrist was held to be a Jew. Being a former Lutheran, and knowing that Luther himself identified the papacy as antichrist, and followed in this by other Lutherans, and the Reformed, I started laughing. First of all, pre-Reformation, there was no clear consensus on either the antichrist of the letters of John nor the "man of lawlessness" of 2 Thessalonians. However, the description of the "man of lawlessness" makes clear this person is not a non-Christian. Second, a quick teh Google shows that some Catholics did adopt what Wills tries to palm off as a universal, and early, Christian belief — after the Reformation and specifically in reaction to Protestant labeling of the papacy. I'll never read a book by Wills again, and if you value honest scholarship, neither should you. If Goodreads allowed negative stars, this book would get it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bassett

    As another reviewer has noted, this is typically excellent Wills. His analysis of Roman Catholic history is erudite and must be problematic to any thinking Roman Catholic. Wills examination of the impact of Latin on Catholicism is intriguing. He shows how Latin played to the power structures of Rome and how Jerome's reliance on varying Latin versions of the Bible led to mistranslations which would have to be swept under the rug at Trent, under the guise of "Tradition". And it is further very inte As another reviewer has noted, this is typically excellent Wills. His analysis of Roman Catholic history is erudite and must be problematic to any thinking Roman Catholic. Wills examination of the impact of Latin on Catholicism is intriguing. He shows how Latin played to the power structures of Rome and how Jerome's reliance on varying Latin versions of the Bible led to mistranslations which would have to be swept under the rug at Trent, under the guise of "Tradition". And it is further very interesting to observe how Dr. Wills exegete's Scripture, something he would have been forbidden in his youth and Jesuit training. While examining the institution of the papacy he rightly points to Mark 9 and Luke 14 wherein Christ Himself forbade any "preeminence" among Jesus's followers; a fact that modern Catholicism studiously avoids. The author's observations that the political weaknesses of the papacy have led to its more authoritarian pronouncements is quite interesting - Unam Sanctam and the infallibility doctrines of Vatican I being the two most familiar. And Dr. Wills's treatment of the various Indices of Forbidden Books is likewise very good. Noting that the works of Milton, Locke, Rousseau, Hume and Voltaire would have been disallowed from Catholic higher education he speculates, "The real wonder is that the church did not exclude itslef out of existence." Indeed. Other sections of the book deal with the dismal history of Rome's anti-Semitism and sexual perversion. In a chapter wonderfully entitled, "The Pope as Sex Monitor", the author explains how the authority structures of the church necessarily led to the cover ups of recent sex scandals. He further shows how Pope Pius XII unilaterally reversed centuries of Catholic teaching on birth control (the "rhythm" method) by promoting what had historically been a grave sin. In a similar instance of reversal, Dr. Wills shows how the current "life begins at the moment of conception" hysteria that engulfs today's Catholic moral teaching is a novel invention. St. Thomas, whose teaching is the "official philosophy" of Roman Catholicism teaches quite the opposite. There were just a few items that caused me to restrict my rating to only four stars. The first is the author's gratuitous swipe at gun ownership. What does that have to with his topic? His remark was needless. And the second is his analysis of John's gospel as being the ground for future Christian anti-Semitism. It just seems to me that Jesus's harsh treatment of the Jews (i.e. John 8) was because of their failure to believe, not their ethnicity. That Gospel does, after all, show the positive treatment of Jews througout: Nicodemus in chapter 3, the feeding of 5,000 (Jews) and the healing at Bethsda, both in chapter 5, etc. But this critique may take some more thought. The book closes with some interesting snippets about Pope Francis's life as a Jesuit superior, his apparent excessive use of power and his subsequent regrets. In all this Garry Wills hopes that the new pope can change the church of Rome. Which of itself is interesting since his early book (Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit) made the case that the bureacracy of the Vatican is institutionally incapable of change. Perhaps Dr. Wills now subscribes to the "great man" theory of history. Read this book if you are so inclined. It is well worth the effort.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl Gatling

    The title of this book is misleading. The bulk of the book is not about Pope Francis at all, but about all the ways the Catholic church has changed throughout history. The point is, it has been changing continually all this time. It has changed a lot. It has survived through the centuries, not because it has stubbornly persisted, like a rock, but because it has constantly evolved with the times. Because of short memories, and because the church likes to present itself as unchanging (i.e. always The title of this book is misleading. The bulk of the book is not about Pope Francis at all, but about all the ways the Catholic church has changed throughout history. The point is, it has been changing continually all this time. It has changed a lot. It has survived through the centuries, not because it has stubbornly persisted, like a rock, but because it has constantly evolved with the times. Because of short memories, and because the church likes to present itself as unchanging (i.e. always faithful to the gospel, i.e. always right), few people are aware of this. Pope Francis, who has surprised many people with new attitudes, has delighted some people, but alarmed others, who fear change. Wills takes the reader back through a tour of changes in the church's history. Things that you thought were eternal, but aren't: Latin, the cult of martyrdom, asceticism, the idea that the bishop of Rome is the leader of the whole church, the church's positions on government, other religions, Jews, abortion, contraception, and women's rights, confession. I listened to the audiobook version, and there were times when Wills' close reading of scripture or old documents, complete with Latin or Greek terms in parentheses, and theological terms, was too dense to follow. He backs up his arguments with a great deal of historical example. I can see there are places where someone might take issue with his interpretations of some scriptures or documents, but that great changes have happened, I think no one can deny. I found most of this interesting. The passages about the church's anti-Semitism were very painful to read. The overall effect on me was comforting and freeing. We don't have to conform to a past that does not fit any more. Going forward we can all figure it out for ourselves, as best we can, which is what the Catholic church has been doing all this time, although they pretended to actually know. And in that muddling forward, Pope Francis is a role model and inspiration.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    I'm on the fence about this book. I love Wills, and I love the way in which he argues his view and experience of the Catholic Church. Regardless of whether or not I agree with him (which I tend to be half and half on that) he makes some important, powerful points regarding the faith that specifically speaks to the faithful. This book is much less about Francis and the Church's future than it is about the Church's history of change, in order to discuss just how silly it is for modern Catholics to I'm on the fence about this book. I love Wills, and I love the way in which he argues his view and experience of the Catholic Church. Regardless of whether or not I agree with him (which I tend to be half and half on that) he makes some important, powerful points regarding the faith that specifically speaks to the faithful. This book is much less about Francis and the Church's future than it is about the Church's history of change, in order to discuss just how silly it is for modern Catholics to fight about certain topics based on 'immutable tradition' alone, instead of inviting dialogue and prayer into old arguments. My big issue with Wills is that the 'end' of these examples are presented as being fairly black and white- either no confession or an exploited sacrament, either pro-abortion or draconic and anti-woman, etc. I appreciate the emphasis on the need for change in these areas, but there is little to no attention given to the multiple options and avenues available to enrich or overhaul these beliefs (confession with much reform, pro-life campaigns that focus on making abortions unnecessary rather than illegal). As much as there is focus on the need for change, Wills only focuses on the need to change one way, to only one end, which robs this book of a lot of its power, especially as its focus seems to be on the Catholic faithful and their responsibility to encourage this change and to realize how change can come about. Still a book I would recommend for all Catholics to read, if only to challenge them in the depth of their faith and on their worldview.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gerry Connolly

    Gary Wills has written a concise treatise on the scriptural and historical errors of the church in his Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis. Francis has the humility to change. Will he have the time?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Vikas Datta

    Incisive but accessible..

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rick Edwards

    Wills has given us an overview of Catholic Church history and teaching with regard to several controverted matters: Latin and intelligibility, papal authority, relations with the Jews, natural law and sexual ethics, and confession/forgiveness. He introduces Francis and his approach to change. I learned much about all these matters from the book, and feel I have a better understanding of Francis and how the Catholic Church may develop and change in the coming decade.

  13. 5 out of 5

    robert miecznikowski

    Review of the Church Will's review of the Catholic church's history is very instructed in trying to predict where the church is going in the future. The review of how the church has changed over the centuries only proves that it is compromised of men. What I found interesting is how the church is changing from an authoritative one to one made up of one made up by a church of the children of God. I recommend everyone to read Wills review. Review of the Church Will's review of the Catholic church's history is very instructed in trying to predict where the church is going in the future. The review of how the church has changed over the centuries only proves that it is compromised of men. What I found interesting is how the church is changing from an authoritative one to one made up of one made up by a church of the children of God. I recommend everyone to read Wills review.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    Written by an anti-Catholic with a bias that is VERY clear in the writing. The book has nothing to do with the future of the Catholic Church or with Pope Francis. Instead it's a look at some bits of the history of the Church and then a lot of bashing of the beliefs of the Church. Written by an anti-Catholic with a bias that is VERY clear in the writing. The book has nothing to do with the future of the Catholic Church or with Pope Francis. Instead it's a look at some bits of the history of the Church and then a lot of bashing of the beliefs of the Church.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David Doel

    A conservative political writer turns out to be a fairly liberal Catholic. He also knows how to sell books (mention Pope Francis in the title). The scope of this book extends well beyond Pope Francis, but I found it to be interesting reading nonetheless.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ci

    (Audio version) It is a history of Catholic Church in the lights of both Scripture, Tradition and Church politics. Topics ranged from Latin in liturgy, the long and wrenching battle against modernity (contraceptives, celibacy priesthood, role of females in church ministry, deal of priest scandals), still half-hidden behind long shadows of Aristotle, Augustine and Thomism. Only at the very end is about Pope Francis and the hope of positive change from having him on the throne.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sister M.

    a great book!

  18. 4 out of 5

    C. Patrick G. Erker

    I enjoyed this one, from a left-of-center Catholic who articulates a future of the Catholic Church more in line what those on the political left. Wills draws on a number of useful analogs and stories to make the case for additional change within the Church, and, like so many, claims the current Pope as one of his own. (That's what I like about the current Pope: he gets criticized by all sides, but also all sides seem to find core aspects of his teaching or practice that they support. He must be d I enjoyed this one, from a left-of-center Catholic who articulates a future of the Catholic Church more in line what those on the political left. Wills draws on a number of useful analogs and stories to make the case for additional change within the Church, and, like so many, claims the current Pope as one of his own. (That's what I like about the current Pope: he gets criticized by all sides, but also all sides seem to find core aspects of his teaching or practice that they support. He must be doing something right.) I'd be interested to read (or, as was the case here, listen to) other works by Wills on Catholicism.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Edward

    Gary Wills, identifying himself as a practicing Catholic, does not say that much about the future in this book, but has written a bluntly incisive history of the church over the past twenty centuries, selecting issues that reveal that the Roman Catholic Church has repeatedly changed and modified its positions . As an organization, it has had to, to survive. The church is not going to officially admit any of this - how can it since it claims to be the repository of TRUTH? To clinch its position, Gary Wills, identifying himself as a practicing Catholic, does not say that much about the future in this book, but has written a bluntly incisive history of the church over the past twenty centuries, selecting issues that reveal that the Roman Catholic Church has repeatedly changed and modified its positions . As an organization, it has had to, to survive. The church is not going to officially admit any of this - how can it since it claims to be the repository of TRUTH? To clinch its position, it claims to be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, a claim that charitably is open to various interpretations. In view of how this conservative bureaucracy resists change, the present Pope Francis cannot really be expected to be bring about any major innovations. All he can do is to create an atmosphere that is more open to change in the future. Wills' approach is a valid one - to make any predictions about the future, it's necessary to turn to the past. To begin, the claim that the Papacy stretches back in an unbroken line to Christ's disciple, Peter, is pious nonsense. The first few centuries of church leadership was a matter of elected bishops overseeing various areas around the Mediterranean, of which Rome was just one region. There was no way that it could claim any kind of supremacy. That would only come later after Constantine's legitimization of Christianity, and a forged document ("Constantine's Donation") in which Constantine conferred authority over the western part of the Roman Empire to the Pope. Most of Wills' chapters are titled "The Coming and Going of. . ." and detail how various church teachings were established ("coming") and often abandoned ("going"). Particularly interesting examples were the coming and going of Latin as a universal church language, mostly discarded after the second Vatican Council of the l960's. The first Vatican Council, a hundred years, earlier, was convened to combat the rising forces of modernism (political liberalism and humanism), with one result being the doctrine of papal infallibility in which the Pope's proclamations on faith and morals were to be the final word. Popes speak out often, but are reluctant to say their words are "infallible." No wonder - such a claim is clearly untenable. It has quietly gone by the wayside, although never officially rescinded. A similar quiet slide into oblivion is the fate of many church teachings, and with good reason. Any serious examination would reveal their weaknesses , as there was always disagreement and minority views about any teaching. To look at them, as Wills does, is to show a church always fermenting with change, despite official denials. In contemporary life, Wills brings up the issue of people who claim to be practicing and serious members of the Catholic Church, but who simply ignore Papal teachings they don't agree with. They do this on the basis on following their individual consciences, certainly a doctrine that the official Church would never approve of. Two positions on which Catholics have been increasingly making up their own mind, are positions on birth control and even abortions, both seemingly rigid and fixed, but in fact full of unsettled issues. There's no solid scriptural foundation for any position on these matters, so the Church's position is based on "natural law", based on Aristotle's notions of purpose and elaborated by 13th century theologian Thomas Aquinas. What's "natural"? Obviously, not as clear-cut a the church would have its members believe. Wills' conclusion is mildly optimistic about Pope Francis' attitude. He writes "Change does not mean dismissing the past, as if it didn't exist, but reinhabiting it with love. . . Pope Francis, being heir to Peter does not mean sitting on a throne of power, but following the penitence of Peter, the sinner." The Catholic Church, like any human organization ,can be a force for good, but must constantly recognize that it has made mistakes, serious ones in the past, and needs to do better by first making amends.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Fox

    Note in the title the preposition "with". Its use rather than the expected "under" or even "after" gives a clue to the scope of this deep, dense, wide-ranging, enthralling survey of major topics about the Catholic Church from an historical perspective. Wills's overarching thesis is that far from being the monolithic, immutable institution it's often reckoned to be, the Church has changed radically and mightily over the millennia. He tackles several major topics with a plethora of argument and exa Note in the title the preposition "with". Its use rather than the expected "under" or even "after" gives a clue to the scope of this deep, dense, wide-ranging, enthralling survey of major topics about the Catholic Church from an historical perspective. Wills's overarching thesis is that far from being the monolithic, immutable institution it's often reckoned to be, the Church has changed radically and mightily over the millennia. He tackles several major topics with a plethora of argument and examples from a wide-range of writers, thinkers, philosophers and clerics: 1. How did Latin, not the language of the early Church, come to be used to control the faithful? 2. Rather than dualisms (Church and State, Heaven and Earth, etc.) there's a tripartite division. 3. How and why did a religion founded by a Jew become so riven with anti-Semitism? 4. Does the Pope have a special charism allowing him to define Natural Law? (Includes the provocatively titled chapter, "The Pope as Sex Monitor".) 5. Is private confession still a viable practice? This is not an easy read, no skimming or glossing allowed but a rewarding cerebral exercise for anyone interested in the background of the Church as it is presently under Francis, who, by the way, only features in the last few pages. Despite the author's vaulting scholarship, erudition and linguistic skills, he writes for the average reader. And while not intended as a scholarly research paper and while it will tax your vocabulary, it lies easily on the mind: points argued logically and persuasively, conclusions that are satisfying and broadening. There are also "a-ha" moments here such as the part with Paul VI saying that women can never be priests because Jesus never ordained a woman. "True enough," Wills says "but neither did He ordain any men. There are no priests (other than Jewish ones) in the four Gospels."

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I despise this book not because it was written by a protestant but because it was supposedly written by a historian who was writing a historical book that looked at the roots of the Catholic church and where Pope Francis seems to be leading it. It did start out with some history of the church but in the last 20 - 25% of the book he was more interested in tearing down the church and it's teachings and mocking them both. I found his arguments unoriginal and lacking any basis in facts. Honestly, I I despise this book not because it was written by a protestant but because it was supposedly written by a historian who was writing a historical book that looked at the roots of the Catholic church and where Pope Francis seems to be leading it. It did start out with some history of the church but in the last 20 - 25% of the book he was more interested in tearing down the church and it's teachings and mocking them both. I found his arguments unoriginal and lacking any basis in facts. Honestly, I should have read the book description more carefully before wasting eight and a half hours listening to it. I would imagine that anyone who disagrees with the church on things like abortion or the sanctity of marriage will most likely enjoy his reasoning, but as a devout Catholic, who just happens to be gay but in a heterosexual marriage, I found Garry Wills both trite and very offensive to the faith that I hold dear.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tinika

    The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis is a book about change. Garry Wills takes the position that far from being immutable, the Church’s history is one of change. To illustrate his point, he looks at the use of Latin, the development of monarchy, the determination of natural law, and the Church’s record of anti-semitism. (He also looks at the sacrament of reconciliation but not in the same depth as the other topics.) Some of the information I’ve come across in other books by the sa The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis is a book about change. Garry Wills takes the position that far from being immutable, the Church’s history is one of change. To illustrate his point, he looks at the use of Latin, the development of monarchy, the determination of natural law, and the Church’s record of anti-semitism. (He also looks at the sacrament of reconciliation but not in the same depth as the other topics.) Some of the information I’ve come across in other books by the same author but, as always, there is plenty here to think about, all of which is well-researched. I am put off somewhat by the title as this is a book about the past. Yes, as Wills well demonstrates, change is possible but he stops short of venturing an opinion of where that change is headed or how far it will go.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    I would recommend this to anyone who wishes to get a clear, and relatively brief, overview of Garry Wills' principle concerns of how the Catholic Church has "gotten it wrong" for centuries. If anyone has read Wills' other more substantial works critical of the Church as, say, his "Papal Sins," there is little that is "new" in this book. His references to Pope Francis, while welcome and well received, are also very brief. I have read many of his other books, and there seems to be a kind of weary I would recommend this to anyone who wishes to get a clear, and relatively brief, overview of Garry Wills' principle concerns of how the Catholic Church has "gotten it wrong" for centuries. If anyone has read Wills' other more substantial works critical of the Church as, say, his "Papal Sins," there is little that is "new" in this book. His references to Pope Francis, while welcome and well received, are also very brief. I have read many of his other books, and there seems to be a kind of weary, retread aspect to much of this current one. Among those others that I personally found most insightful were his three "On what Jesus...Paul...the Gospels...Meant.! Each was quite readable, informative, and brief.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tracey

    The title is a little misleading - this book is less about the future of the Catholic Church and more about the traditions of the Church that have changed over the years. Francis is not, by far, the only pope who has made changes, and conservatives who talk about an unchanging tradition going back centuries are gravely mistaken. Wills, as always, brings historical scholarship to the discussion of the traditions and dogma of his church. (He also points out the parts of Catholic belief that have n The title is a little misleading - this book is less about the future of the Catholic Church and more about the traditions of the Church that have changed over the years. Francis is not, by far, the only pope who has made changes, and conservatives who talk about an unchanging tradition going back centuries are gravely mistaken. Wills, as always, brings historical scholarship to the discussion of the traditions and dogma of his church. (He also points out the parts of Catholic belief that have no basis in scripture.) Some parts are kind of funny, like when he talks about how, instead of it being a common language for the world Church, the Latin spoken in different parts of the world was often mutually unintelligible.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Francine

    This is an excellent and rather brief overview of Church errors of the past and opens the readers mind to just what Pope Francis has to deal with. The Pope just may be the man to redirect the Church if God gives him the time, I like Gary Wills books; he is clear, concise and always provactive. He is a great scholar who is able to write for the average reader. This book is about complex stuff and yet there are many things that can be easily changed/corrected/altered if there is the will. Highly rec This is an excellent and rather brief overview of Church errors of the past and opens the readers mind to just what Pope Francis has to deal with. The Pope just may be the man to redirect the Church if God gives him the time, I like Gary Wills books; he is clear, concise and always provactive. He is a great scholar who is able to write for the average reader. This book is about complex stuff and yet there are many things that can be easily changed/corrected/altered if there is the will. Highly recommended.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    This is a decent history of specific issues on which the Church has changed positions, giving precedent to the possibility of future change under Pope Francis and his successors. Traditionalists argue many things as if they had always been, but that is simply not true. The reason the Church has survived for over two thousand years is in part due to its ability to adapt and evolve to meet the needs of the flock. It should also be noted that the author describes himself as a political conservative This is a decent history of specific issues on which the Church has changed positions, giving precedent to the possibility of future change under Pope Francis and his successors. Traditionalists argue many things as if they had always been, but that is simply not true. The reason the Church has survived for over two thousand years is in part due to its ability to adapt and evolve to meet the needs of the flock. It should also be noted that the author describes himself as a political conservative, not liberal. This book lacks Nihil Obstat and Imprimi Potest.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Michael Hug

    Catholic Church History I learned a great deal about the church and the history leading up to where we stand today. The author, Wills, seems to have a vast knowledge about the history of the church and about Pope Francis. I liked his use of references from so many different sources, most of which I was not aware existed. I expected the book to be more about Papa and less about history.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Raimo Wirkkala

    The title is a shade deceptive in that Wills is writing a treatise that seeks to demonstrate the capacity of the Catholic church to change as opposed to the suggested topic; how the the church might change in a future that has Pope Francis at the helm. That aside, Wills does an admirable job of sifting through the history of the Vatican and providing the reader with evidence of his contention.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sister

    As other reviewers have said, the title is very misleading. Pope Francis appears fleetingly, mostly in the epilogue. Think of this more as the history of change in the Catholic Church. The most enlightening part of the book was III, on anti-Semitism. Already I approach the Gospel of John differently.

  30. 5 out of 5

    James Evans

    This is a concise story about the history of the Catholic Church, and how a number of myths and outright untruths became "facts" in the framework of the Church. In spite of this, the Church has survived and moved forward. While wanting to appear as unchanging, it has constantly changed and renewed itself. This is a concise story about the history of the Catholic Church, and how a number of myths and outright untruths became "facts" in the framework of the Church. In spite of this, the Church has survived and moved forward. While wanting to appear as unchanging, it has constantly changed and renewed itself.

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