Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Monday, March 09, 2015

Garry Wills and the Pope

Reading about the recent book by Garry Wills ... The Future of the Catholic Church With Pope Francis by Garry Wills review - a history of change in a timeless church...

The title is misleading. Wills barely mentions the pope in the body of the book, only treating him seriously in the introduction. “Pope Francis heartens some Catholics and frightens others,” he writes, “both for the same reason, the prospect of change.” From there, Wills focuses neither on the pope nor on the future of the church, but rather on its history, and specifically on the many ways in which the church has erred, backtracked, prevaricated, and groaningly inched its way forward into the modern age. The church, Wills argues, may act like it never changes. But in the pages of this book, he shows us that it can.


Wills also disagrees with the church on the issue of women’s ordination. He lays the blame on John Paul II, who declared women’s ordination a definitively closed issue, and, according to Wills, saw women only as “martyrs, virgins, and mothers”. Wills sees in Pope Francis the possibility of a shift in thinking about women. That remains to be seen, as Pope Francis has referred to female theologians as “strawberries on the cake”, and labelled childless women “selfish”. These are not encouraging signs ...

I agree with the book reviewer that Wills is mistaken in his optimism about Pope Francis and women's ordination. In fact I think Wills is too optimistic in hoping for any real change from this pope. There's something especially dispiriting about the popularity of Pope Francis in the face of the fact that after two years he's still made no actual changes in the areas of sex abuse and bishop accountability, acceptance of gay relationships, communion for the divorced/remarried, equality for women. Perhaps the pope's growing popularity means that most Catholics, those whose needs are being met, are happy enough to settle for symbolic-only reforms of style, while those few who are still clinging by their fingernails to an institution that marginalizes them - the divorced, abuse victims, those LGBT, feminists - begin to finally fall away.


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