The Strange World of Garry Wills

These must be trying times for Garry Wills.  In 2001, he wrote a book blasting the papacy, Papal Sin:  Structures of Deceit.  But ordinary Catholics did not take up Wills’ call to turn St. Peter’s into a Congregationalist meeting house.  Instead, when John Paul II died in 2005, some 5,000,000 people came to Rome to mourn the great Polish pope, and his funeral was, by some estimates, the most watched event in history.  The papacy is an institution that matters, as even a hostile secular press knows.  But Wills’ disdain for the papacy is understandable, since it has been instrumental in thwarting Wills’ hope of transforming the Catholic Church into another liberal Protestant denomination.

Wills’ desire to radically alter, even destroy, the Catholic Church is deep.  In 2008, Wills told John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter that he didn’t plan on talking anymore about popes:  “I’ve had my say, and I have no desire to say more.  Popes don’t interest me very much.”  But with the resignation of Benedict XVI and the prospect of the world turning its eyes again to Rome, as it did in 2005, Wills could not help himself.  He popped up in the New York Times to excoriate the papacy as a “monarchy” in “its senescence.”

But Wills’ latest foray against the Catholic Church goes well beyond broadsides against the papacy.  Wills has authored a new book, Why Priests?  A Failed Tradition, that attacks the fundamentals of Catholicism.  In a five minute interview with Stephen Colbert, Wills stated that priests “continue to pretend to turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus, which doesn’t happen.”  Wills stated that Jesus’ words at the Last Supper about the bread and wine being his body and blood were not to be taken literally, since he didn’t invite the Apostles to chew on his arms or tap his blood.  Wills cited Augustine in support of his position, without telling Colbert that Augustine wrote this about the Last Supper:  “Christ was carried in his own hands when, referring to his own body, he said, ‘This is my body.’ For he carried that body in his hands.”  When Colbert stated that the Eucharist was a mystery, Wills responded, “it’s a fake.”    Wills also rebuffed Colbert’s suggestion that he would want a priest to give him Anointing of the Sick, “because that’s an invented sacrament.”  Wills said he wanted there to be no more priests and he wanted Benedict XVI to be the last pope, though he did say he was prepared to tolerate priests “as long as they don’t pretend to do the impossible,” a reference to transubstantiation.  In other words, Wills wants priests to renounce Catholicism.  When Colbert protested that priests dedicate their lives to bringing the sacraments to Catholics, Wills churlishly responded, “So they say.”  By my count, Wills took positions anathematized by 14 different Canons of the Council of Trent in this brief interview. Wills has become an open and unambiguous advocate of heresy.

This would not be all that remarkable if Wills were a follower of Huldrych Zwingli, which is how he sounded in this interview.  But Wills is a Catholic—or so he says.  And it is only because Wills is a Catholic that he can command media attention for his attacks on the Church.  Angry Catholics and ex-Catholics are regularly given space in the New York Times and similar publications to bash the Church, but Protestants wishing to engage in similar attacks generally have to make do with Jack Chick tracts or the like.  Wills’ friends in the media dutifully portray his attacks on the Church as the work of a Catholic, even, bizarrely, a “devout” one, in the words of the Washington Post’s Sally Quinn.  My Grandpa Piatak, who tipped his hat whenever he passed a Catholic church out of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, was a devout Catholic.  Garry Wills, who writes books trying to destroy the faith of men like my grandfather, is not.

Garry Wills believes that there was a Great Apostasy almost as soon as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses do.  After all, Clement of Rome, the fourth pope, was exercising authority outside of Rome and writing about Christian priests before the end of the first century.   At roughly the same time, Ignatius of Antioch wrote, “Let all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ did the Father, and the priests, as you would the Apostles.”  Ignatius also described the Church of Rome as the Church that “presides over love,” his term for the work of Christ on earth.  By the end of the second century, Irenaeus was writing in detail about the Eucharistic sacrifice and describing the successors of Peter as Bishop of Rome, stating that “it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with [the Church of Rome].”  Clement and Ignatius learned the Faith from the Apostles, and Irenaeus learned the Faith from Polycarp, a disciple of John.  Each of them died for the Faith.  They probably knew more about what Jesus intended than Garry Wills does.  But Wills detects apostasy even before these early Fathers of the Church, describing the Letter to the Hebrews as “weird” and suggesting that it does not belong in the Bible.  Wills thus illustrates, once again, the truth of Augustine’s observation that “I would not believe the Gospel unless the authority of the Catholic Church moved me.”  Since Wills rejects the authority of the Catholic Church, it is no surprise that he wants to eject books he doesn’t like from the Bible.

To be sure, Garry Wills knows more about Augustine than I do.  But far greater men than Wills have looked at the same history he has and come to different conclusions.  Joseph Ratzinger for one.  And the only man personally beatified by Benedict XVI for another.  John Henry Newman famously wrote, after his own study of the Church Fathers, that “To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.”  If Newman had read history the way Wills does, he would have ended his days as a member of a Plymouth Brethren meeting house and not as a Cardinal of the Catholic Church.

In the strange world Garry Wills wants, Catholic churches would have no altars, tabernacles, or confessionals.  There would be no Mass and no Eucharistic adoration and no First Communions.  Out the window would go Palestrina’s Tu Es Petrus and Tantum Ergo Sacramentum and Pange Lingua Gloriosi, not to mention Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, a piece as close to perfection as music created by humans is capable of being.   All of these, from a Willsian perspective, reflect false or even pernicious teachings.  In Gary Wills’ strange world, Catholics would no longer honor men like St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, who died for the papacy.  They would not honor men like St. Edmund Campion, who died to bring the Mass to England and could have avoided a horrible death if only he would have agreed, in Wills’ phrase, not to “pretend to do the impossible.”  Nor would Willsian Catholics honor women like St. Margaret Clitherow, who could have avoided a horrible death if only she had agreed that priests couldn’t “do the impossible.”  Those who imbibed Wills’ views would look askance at Medal of Honor winner Father Vincent Capodanno, whose Medal of Honor citation notes that “he moved about the battlefield administering last rites to the dying.”   From the Willsian perspective, such people deserve pity or even censure, since they died for lies.  From the Catholic perspective, of course, their heroism is an inspiration.  (And not only from the Catholic perspective:  Robert Bolt, an agnostic, was inspired by the heroism of Thomas More to write one of the greatest plays of the 20th century).

Even if Wills’ goal is not to destroy the Catholic Church, the adoption of his vision would surely have that effect.  What sane man would join an institution whose central institutions are founded on lies and that has been fundamentally wrong about its central beliefs?  The number of people attracted to such a “reformed” Catholic Church would likely fit comfortably in Wills’ living room.  Not that this prospect would trouble Wills.  In his book, Wills suggests that Catholics could adapt to the priestless world of the future by joining “in the life of other churches.”  Given Wills’ odd statement that “There is one God, and Jesus is one of his prophets” it is not even clear if those “other churches” would need to be Christian.

Garry Wills began by attacking the social teachings of the Church, went on to denounce Humanae Vitae, proceeded to attack the papacy, and has ended up rejecting the priesthood and the sacraments.  This tragic trajectory serves as a prime example of the wisdom of Pope Benedict’s observation that “It is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate.”

Tom Piatak


Tom Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He earned his JD from the University of Michigan Law School.

  • Bob

    Mother Teresa was once asked what would be the major things about the Church that need to be changed, she replied “You and I.”

    Mr. Wills will only find Christ’s peace if he changes in his own life those things that oppose the will of God that is ordained in the Catholic Church. Catholics that try to turn the Church in to an earthly sola scriptura corner coffee house and what they want Christ to be in their life find a watered down faith that has tangented far from what Christ wants us to be. Saying “no” to the truth of the Eucharist and train substantiation found in the Catholic Church is literally saing no to Jesus and walking away from Him.

  • Bob

    Correction: “transubstantiation” not “train substantiation.” I blame IPad spell check!

  • Ken R. Anderson

    You call Willis a Catholic. I am afraid I do not understand. If I cannot become a Catholic without accepting the Papacy and the Dogma’s of the Church, how can Willis remain one while denying the very fundamentals of the faith?

    • John200

      The point is that Baptism leaves a permanent mark on the soul. Therefore, Garry Wills is a dissenting, or apostate, or heretical, or non-practicing (insert 5-6 more labels here, then pick your favorite) Catholic. But he remains a Catholic for eternity, and for better or for worse.

      • He sure does since nobody can excommunicate him from the Mystical Body of Christ. It doesn’t matter if he sees himself as a Catholic, or if anyone else does or not. Stick to the points he makes in his book and counter them if you can.
        Everybody who knows anything about early Christianity knows the Levitical priesthood is largely an invention of the Carolingian church and the forgerers of the “Liber Pontificalis” and the writtings of bishop Eusebius of Caesarea.

        • John H. Graney

          Christ can excommunicate him from the Mystical Body of Christ.

          • Merrell J Young

            What are you smoking?

        • The Carolingian church was a 9th-century phenomenon. I assure you there were priests before the 9th century.

          Eusebius of Caesarea flourished in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries. Why are you mentioning him in the same breath as the Carolingian church, as if to suggest they were contemporaneous?

      • Ken R. Anderson

        Thanks. That helps. As an apostate is he forbidden to communicate until he repents and brings his beliefs in line with the church?

        • John200

          I would identify him specifically as a heretic. From the Catechism we have, “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same;…” (paragraph 2089).

          And “apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith;…” (paragraph 2089). It would seem an apostate does not want to communicate. I hope Wills has not gone that far, and does not intend to.

          The whole topic of excommunication is a matter of canon law, of which I have forgotten more than I recall. I remember you can be excommunicated by the very act (“latae sententiae”), which means you are excomm even if a bishop has not noticed your actions and publicly excommunicated you. On that basis, Wills could be excomm, and he might not even know it. That would be a very sad case.

          I hope this helps. Nice to meet you on CrisisMag.

          • Ken R. Anderson

            Thanks. I know that if a person is living in active sin they are not to come forward and receive communion. It just seems sensible to me that if you are in heresy the same thing would apply.
            I take it the word “excommunicated” means not allowed to receive communion.

            • John200

              Yes, it does mean that, and more. Again from the Catechism (paragraph 1463): “Certain particularly grave sins incur excommunication, the most severe ecclesiastical penalty, which impedes the reception of the sacraments and the exercise of certain ecclesiastical acts, and for which absolution consequently cannot be granted, according to canon law, except by the Pope, the bishop of the place or priests authorized by them….”

              So you can be absolved from heresy, and then receive communion. There are more ins and outs and process details that I don’t know, but all this is serious business. Mr. Wills has work to do, if I am right about him teaching heresy.

              • Ken R. Anderson

                Thanks John. Most helpful.

          • Merrell J Young

            Read his book! Read his books! God is Love…not a piece of bread and a drink of wine.

        • jacobhalo

          According to the bible, Christians are not supposed to associate with non-believers. “If a man will not hear the church let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican.” Matthew 18:17. “Do not work together with unblievers, for what does justice have in common with injustice?” II Corinthians 6:14. “If any man comes to you and bring not this doctrine, do not receive him into the house…”II John 1:10-11.”I beseech you brethen, mark those who make dissensions and offense contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and avoid them. Romans 16:17

          • msmischief

            Disciplinary actions does not extinguish the effects of baptism.

            • no more mr. nice guy

              Stop the nonsense! Sin after Baptism is still sin. Baptism washes away original sin. But sin after baptism can cost the sinner his immortal soul depending on the gravity and the frequency and if impenitence prevails.

      • TheEpic95

        Yes, baptism is irrivocable, and makes you an adopted son or daughter of God forever, even when you reject his teaching or his graces, and when you are baptised into the Catholic Church you are forever a part of the Catholic family. Children who are baptized are given the benifit of the doubt basically, parents promise to raise them in the faith and the church grants them entrance into the church and the graces that come with the baptismal sacrament because they are innocnet and uave done nothing to cause it being withheld. Adults, however, must be responsible. They must have a firm understanding of what being Catholic means.

      • jacobhalo

        Willis is not a Catholic. Read Romans;16:17; Matt. 18:17, II John 1:10-11

  • poetcomic1

    Voltaire had the decency to LEAVE the church.

    • Bono95

      Oui. 😀

    • joxxer

      THANK YOU!! I wish Wills would do the same since he rejects everything the church stands for–almost to the point of hatred. Be gone satan..

  • John O’Neill

    Wills is the remnant of the horrible 1960s when the American Catholic Church decided to commit suicide. Wills and other former seminarians established themselves as the “true catholics” and proceeded to teach the new ideas of the wealthy Kennedy family and to take their vows to the democrat party. Having lived through that period I can attest to the arrogance of the Wills et al; they were vicious in their attacks on those who would not go along and declare that Vatican II had abrogated all traditional teachings. Americanized priests and bishops persecuted those who merely wanted to maintain the ancient Latin liturgy and forcibly ejected them from the chuches that their grandparents had build. We are still suffering from this devastation and Garry Wills is one of the main prophets of this American heresy. Indeed the New York Times and the MSM always produce a Wills as a so called spokesman for the Catholic Church in America when the papacy is in the news. Many of the old sixties heretics are dying off and there is hope brought by Benedict XVI of a restoration of the real faith to the American homeland. BTW no one can listen to Mozart’s AVE VERUM and not be moved by a deep belief in the Real Presence.

    • musicacre

      Same here in Canada; the media always look for a rascal calling himself a Catholic, to interview on the latest developments. It’s very predictable… I don’t know why people still trust that the major medias are there for our best interest and just deliver “news”. What is newsworthy to them is only what they can distort and use to propagate their world view.

    • John200

      I can see why you phrase it as the Catholic Church deciding to commit suicide, but I would put it as “dissenting Catholics” wanting to remain Catholic without assenting to the faith. To start their own heretical sect would have been the honest, although pathological, course of action. Instead, they tried to mold the Church according to a set of errors; most had been refuted centuries earlier.

      That is, they were trying to kill orthodoxy, but the 2000+ year old depositum fidei is still there.

      J. H. Newman had these forms of dissent solved 125-150 years ago. Thomas Aquinas killed a few in the 13th century. The dissenters should have read more, it would have prevented a lot of problems.

  • Peadar Ban

    What a pitifully sad and angry man is Garry Wills; a prodigal who has not yet had enough of the hog swill.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    In the Grammar of Assent, Bl John Henry Newman describes a man who “gradually subsided into infidelity, because he started with the Protestant dogma, cherished in the depths of his nature, that a priesthood was a corruption of the simplicity of the Gospel. First, then, he would protest against the sacrifice of the Mass; next he gave up baptismal regeneration, and the sacramental principle; then he asked himself whether dogmas were not a restraint on Christian liberty as well as sacraments; then came the question, what after all was the use of teachers of religion? Why should any one stand between him and his Maker? After a time it struck him, that this obvious question had to be answered by the Apostles, as well as by the Anglican clergy; so he came to the conclusion that the true and only revelation of God to man is that which is written on the heart. This did for a time, and he remained a Deist. But then it occurred to him, that this inward moral law was there within the breast, whether there was a God or not, and that it was a roundabout way of enforcing that law, to say that it came from God, and simply unnecessary, considering it carried with it its own sacred and sovereign authority, as our feelings instinctively testified; and when he turned to look at the physical world around him, he really did not see what scientific proof there was there of the Being of God at all, and it seemed to him as if all things would go on quite as well as at present, without that hypothesis as with it; so he dropped it, and became a purus, putus Atheist.”

    • Dominicaneducated

      I worked for a legendary retailer for many years. Quality and service were important to our company. We had a fine reputation. However, when a customer had a history of returning most if not all of their purchases the store account was usually closed, The letter went something like this: we regret that we have not been able to meet your needs. We regret that we will be closing your account. If you should wish to reopen your account we would be pleased to consider your request.
      The church will not close its account with Mr. Wills because the church will not give up on him. Mr. Wills is unhappy and likely will remain unhappy with the church. There is nothing there that he wants. He should close his own account.

  • JERD

    Wills has become irrelevant. The eternal truths found in liturgy and sacrament have been renewed under JP II and Benedict; not weakened as Wills may hope.

    Let’s not give one more moment of our precious time to the stale ruminations of Wills and the New York Times. The future is ours in Christ, not theirs.

    • lifeknight

      Precisely! Giving him the time of day is credibility he doesn’t deserve.

    • Wills is not irrelevant. His books sell like hotcakes and he’s made a fortune from the sales too. Which is more than can be said for the tiresome and annoying professions of fidelity to Catholic teachings from people on this board . Who are obviously ill-equipped to argue with Wills on a scholarly level, so you indulge in these rote childish protestations of adherence to the catechism.
      Read his book before you comment and criticize.

      • JERD

        Why so bitter?

        My point is quite simple: If one categorically denies the truth of a faith’s core belief – the Eucharist for example – and there is no chance that the core belief will change (as I stated the teaching is being renewed and strengthened, not diminished), then the denial adds nothing to the furtherance of the discussion. It is irrelevant. The faithful move on. The critic remains in the confines of his denial.

        Those like you who deny the truth of the Eucharist are surely free to do so, but your protest here is irrelevant to we who are believers.

        • Bob


          One has to ask Mr. Wills where he gets the authority from to interpret scripture and the doctrine of the Eucharist different from the Catholic Church. Either the Church is right on the teaching of the Eucharist or Mr. Wills belief that diametrically opposes the teaching of the Church is right. I’ll wager that the Catholic Church, given the authority to bind and loose through Peter directly from Christ has been correct on the Eucharist for almost 2000 years.

        • gilhcan

          If you studied the history of human beliefs, even the beliefs of Jesus followers, even the beliefs that are supposedly official in the Catholic church, you would see there is no unanimity in that comparison.

          You belittle God when you belittle the human mind created by God as having to depend on any one person at any one time, or any supposedly official group of persons, to dictate to others what they must believe in order to belong to any group of seekers of meaning.

          • no more mr. nice guy

            You belittle God when you compare the creator to the created.

        • no more mr. nice guy

          Well said! Syrupy soliloquies do not make sins disappear.

      • He is irrelevant to Catholics. Trust us on this one, we really do believe that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. You – and Wills – are free to not believe this, as you wish…but it is what we believe, it is what all faithful Catholics believe. You may as well ask me to listen to a man who says that the sky isn’t blue – I believe in the Eucharist as much as I do that.

      • anon

        Why argue with a child?

      • Merrell J Young

        Good response, Dunstan. I read these comments and must simply shake my head in disbelief. It is very apparent the critiques are written blind, without serious study or possible even reading Why Priests?
        Pray for TRUTH to prevail, and may the Holy Spirit guide us to it, thanks to Gary Wills.

    • gilhcan

      Wills is only irrelevant to those non-thinkers who have never studied religious and church history and are willing to relieve their emotional anxiety about existence with all the Mother Goose hocus-pocus that has become embedded in the many varieties of Catholic theology over all the centuries of existence of Jesus communities since his story was told and written.

      Remember that only certain stories were allowed into the official canon several centuries after his death. Remember all the torture and murder in the name of Jesus and his so-called church through its history. Equate that with the story of the man’s life, even as it has been told in its many varieties ever since he supposedly lived on this earth.

    • gilhcan

      And the Jesus of the stories would disagree with you mightily in excommunicating those who cannot accept your version or the versions of any clerics through the ages.

  • mary

    want to know what’s even more troubling? Fresh back from wyd in 2008 I was vibrant and filled with the Spirit. I decided I wanted to really deepen my faith even more. So I signed up for a course on the letters of paul offered by religious sisters. Besides paul’s letters we had to read one of wills’ books. It took me exactly 4 minutes of resding to understand I’d made a mistake. How could religious use this book? Surely there were loads of more appropriate books? But goes goes to show we have a real problem within religious orders.

    • joxxer

      You were very wise!

  • Karl Keating

    Tom: You say, “To be sure, Garry Wills knows more about Augustine than I do.” In terms of raw facts, he probably does, but there is one thing you know that he doesn’t: how to pronounce Augustine’s name. Listen again to the clip from “The Colbert Report.” Wills pronounces the name as Americans pronounce the name of the Florida city.

  • hombre111

    About forty years ago, as part of a master’s thesis, I did a biblical and historical study of the origins of the modern priesthood and discovered to my horror a dead end at around 250-300. Those of us who esteem the church and the priesthood have to acknowledge the history, especially the trend back then to identify the Catholic priest with the Jewish levitical priest. Poor exegesis on this top would eventually lead to a developing clericalism and the demand for celibacy.
    But does this invalidate the priesthood? I don’t think so. I have no idea what Wills’ problem is, but he is skating away from the Catholic Tradition.

    • cestusdei

      Gee, a master’s thesis? Wow, we should just jettison everything. Perhaps you could check out some of the other books on celibacy or even what Jesus says about it.

      • hombre111

        My point was, this is old news for anybody who has done the research into the origins of the modern priesthood. The priesthood as we know it was not a canned good on the shelf from the very beginning. There was, and still is, definite historical development. But that is one of the scary things the conservatives dare not consider. If you want to read a more updated study, read Kenan Osborne’s “Orders and Ministry.”

    • Russell Tisdale

      What is meant by “modern priesthood”? Because you can clearly see references to priests in Church history well before AD 250. The Eucharist as sacrifice is seen in Scripture and in extra-biblical apostolic-era documents.

      • Beth

        Where in Scripture is the Eucharist seen as sacrifice ( other than a sacrifice of thanksgiving)? The letter to the Hebrews says that there is no longer any need for sacrifice since Jesus was the one perfect sacrifice and said “It is finished”. The only Biblical references to priests with a sacrificial function are references to the Old Testament priesthood. The New Testament established presbyters, but that word means elder, not priest. The only priesthood in the new covenant is the priesthood of believers.

        • Ford Oxaal

          Right — there was only one sacrifice — the Eucharist is that sacrifice — Christians can be present at the foot of the cross at every Mass, and make reparation for our abandonment of Love Itself — time, particulars, accidentals, these are not the essence — the essence is eternal, ever-present.

          • Beth

            So are you saying that the Last Supper was the same event as Jesus’ actual death on the cross? How do you explain that Jesus said to celebrate the Eucharist “in memory of me”?

            • Ford Oxaal
              • Beth

                Thanks, but this does not answer the question I asked earlier.

                • msmischief

                  Nothing prevents a memorial from being a sacrifice. Indeed, the word Jesus uses for “memorial” is used in the Septuagint overwhelmingly to refer to sacrifices.

            • poetcomic1

              No one is saying ‘it is the same event’. The protestants key point of attack on the Church of Jesus Christ is the miracle of the Eucharist. Once they can reduce this overwhelming gift of God’s love to a HUMAN action of sentiment and ‘remembering’ or ‘calling to mind’ and thus make it ‘symbolic act’, man stays at the center, not God. And incidentally, the ‘in memory of me’ is used in a much stronger sense than ‘remember’ or ‘call to mind’. It is to re-create.

              • Beth

                Ford Oxaal said “there was only one sacrifice – the Eucharist is that sacrifice.” I.e., he’s saying the Last Supper, Jesus’ death on the cross, and for that matter, every Eucharist are all one and the same event.

                • poetcomic1

                  Very deceptive wording. There is only one sacrifice on the cross. The key difference is that for the Catholic it is eternally ‘happening’, the gift is eternally being made to us. It is re-membered… not like ‘something that happened once’, but rather being ‘made present’ in the Gift. “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood…” It is STILL a scandal to the heretics.

                • Ford Oxaal

                  The entire Old and New Testaments point to the Eucharist. Please see the link I showed you — it is absolutely fascinating. Christ left us and ascended into heaven. He wants each and everyone of us to remember what He did here on Earth, and enter into this greatest of mysteries. But you must open your heart. You must “be not unbelieving, but believing”.

      • hombre111

        Among other things, what I discovered is that the episkopos, or bishop, was the one who presided over the Liturgy. The presbyters, or elders, were pastoral leaders. As the Church expanded, it was no longer possible for the episkopos to preside in every location. Only then did a presbyter lead his people in the Eucharist. So, it was a delegated authority, as it is today. The Church was slow to use the term “priest,” reserving that term to Christ the High Priest.
        The American bishops commissioned the Catholic Biblical Association (The national association of Cathollc biblical scholars. I think that was the term way back then) to do the same study and I was pleased to see my research validated, because they came to the same conclusion. The bishops, of course, suppressed the study.

  • enness

    “as long as they don’t pretend to do the impossible”

    Is that what is called blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? I have never been under the impression that a priest does any part of Mass by his own power.

  • anoldlady

    The term “devout Catholic” always makes me cringe. It sound like something Louella Parson or Hedda Hopper would use to describe a Catholic who just went to church on Sunday and Holy Days, didn’t eat meat on Fridays (the minimum in their day). I even see people calling themselves that. So santimonious.

    • Diogenes71

      Why attend Mass if one, a devout Catholic, does not believe in the Eucharist? Well stated anoldlady!

  • Robert Cheeks

    Kudos to Tom Piatak, and poor, derailed Garry!

  • Michael

    I am a fan of Stephen Colbert and saw this episode with Wills hawking his anti-clerical screed when it aired. The thought that kept circulating in my mind was, “For a man with such an acutely, self-righteous sense of where he stands on individual doctrines, I’m amazed that he doesn’t have the same general integrity to see that he is no longer a Catholic, but a Protestant and yet he doesn’t leave the Church”. I think that he thinks that he’s being intellectually honest by taking the opposite position of the Church, and yet viscerally self-identifies as a “Catholic”. In doing so, I think he thinks he’s embracing “reason” and “faith”, albeit an attenuated, distorted caricature subordinated to a subjectively “conscientious” merely intellect. I think he’s angry the Church didn’t go full blown Fr. Charles Curran, Fr. Hans Kung, LCWR – dissent, dissent, radical dissent.

    • musicacre

      Those names are merely following an earlier dissenter: Satan.

      • msmischief

        Who was, you may remember, thrown out of Heaven.

    • TMJC

      I, too, am a fan of Stephen Colbert, and the interview with Wills disturbed me for days after. I could not wrap my head around how one can still claim to be Catholic when one refers to transubstantiation as mere superstition or make believe, as Wills called it. Why would you want to be Catholic if you believe the entire faith is founded on a falsehood? I was hoping Colbert would have gone to town on him like he has in the past with guests like the Dante expert who claimed that God could not be about forgiveness since he invented Hell as a place to put Lucifer or even guests like A.C. Grayling who was hawking his atheist bible. Watching Wills, I could only think of Flannery O’Connor’s dinner party pronouncement, “Well, if it’s just a symbol, to Hell with it!”

      • no more mr. nice guy

        The Smoke of Satan is fueled by elitist snobs like Wills. Satan is the Confuser in Chief. Confusion leads to doubt. Doubt leads to disbelief. Disbelief leads to loss of Faith. Loss of Faith leads to impenitence. Impenitence leads to Hell.
        The Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church is the deposit of faith. Belong and believe! Be good or be gone. Free will still governs.

    • joxxer

      –he is using the Church as his cash cow—making money selling his lousy books. He get attention from the media who welcomes those that do this (dissent).

    • Declan Kennedy

      I have recently begun watching some episodes of The Colbert Report in an attempt to get more insight into American society. I missed this episode and only watched it when this article drew it to my attention. I found Wills’ whole attitude to be shocking, but was quite impressed with Mr. Colbert’s responses.

    • Its probably two things: somewhere in Wills the Holy Spirit is still trying to call him back, so he won’t break with the Church. Secondly, his money would dry up if he renounced the faith…at that point he just becomes another non-Catholic critic of the Church and the MSM has no more use for him.

  • A Priest

    The real St. Augustine’s quotations:

    St. Augustine, Sermons, A.D. 391-430:

    … I promised you, who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the Sacrament of the Lord’s Table, which you now look upon and of which you last night were made participants. You ought to know what you have received, what you are going to receive, and what you ought to receive daily. That Bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ. Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend His Body and Blood, which He poured out for us unto the forgiveness of sins. If you receive worthily, you are what you have received.St. Augustine, Sermons, [272] A.D. 391-430:

    What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the Body of Christ and the chalice the Blood of Christ. … How is the bread His Body? And the chalice, or what is in the chalice, how is it His Blood? Those elements, brethren, are called Sacraments, because in them one thing is seen, but another is understood. What is seen is the corporeal species, but what is understood is the spiritual fruit. … `You, however, are the Body of Christ and His members.’ If, therefore, you are the Body of Christ and His members, your mystery is presented at the table of the Lord, you receive your mystery. To that which you are, you answer: `Amen’; and by answering, you subscribe to it. For you hear: `The Body of Christ!’ and you answer: `Amen!’ Be a member of Christ’s Body, so that your `Amen’ may be the truth.St. Augustine, Explanations on the Psalms, [33, 1, 10] A.D. 392-418:

    `And he was carried in his own hands [3 Kgs 20:13 LXX? corrupted].’ But, brethren, how is it possible for a man to do this? Who can understand it? Who is it that is carried in his own hands? A man can be carried in the hands of another; but no one can be carried in his own hands. How this should be understood literally of David, we cannot discover; but we can discover how it was meant of Christ. For Christ was carried in His own hands, when, referring to His own Body, He said: `This is My Body.’ For He carried that Body in His hands.St. Augustine, Explanations on the Psalms, [98, 9] A.D. 392-418:

    And adore the footstool of His feet, because it is holy [Psalm 98:9, LXX 99:9]. . .In another pl ace in the Scripture it says: `The heavens are my throne, but the earth is the footstool of My feet’ [Isa 66:1] Is it the earth, then, that He commands us to adore, since in this other place the earth is called the footstool of God’s feet? . . . I am put in jeopardy by such a dilemma (Anceps factus sum): I am afraid to adore the earth lest He that made heaven and earth condemn me; again, I am afraid not to adore the footstool of My Lord’s feet, but because the Psalm does say to me: `Adore the footstool of My feet.’ I ask what the footstool of His feet is; and Scripture tells me: `The earth is the footstool of my feet.’ Perplexed, I turn to Christ, because it is He whom I seek here; and I discover how the earth is adored without impiety, how without impiety the footstool of His feet is adored. For He received earth from earth; because flesh is from earth, and He took flesh from the flesh of Mary. He walked here in the same flesh, and gave us the same flesh to be eaten unto salvation. But no one eats that flesh unless he adores it ; and thus it is discovered how such a footstool of the Lord’s feet is adored; and not only do we not sin by adoring, we do sin by not adoring.St. Augustine, Explanations on the Psalms, A.D. 392-418, [98, 9]:

    `Unless he shall have eaten My flesh he shall not have eternal life. [John 6:54-55]’ [Some] understood this foolishly, and thought of it carnally, and supposed that the Lord was going to cut off some parts of His Body to give them … But He instructed them, and said to them: `It is the spirit that gives life; but the flesh profits nothing: the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life’ [John 6:64]. Understand spiritually what I said. You are not to eat this Body which you see, nor to drink that Blood which which will be poured out by those who will crucify Me. I have commended to you a certain Sacrament; spirituall y understood, it will give you life. And even if it is necessary that this be celebrated visibly, it must still be understood invisibly.St. Augustine, The Trinity, [3, 4, 10] A.D. 400-416:

    Paul was able to preach the Lord Jesus Christ by means of signs, in one way by his letters, in another way by the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood; for when we speak of the Body of Christ and of His Blood, certainly we do not mean Paul’s speaking, nor his parchments nor his ink, nor the meaning of the sounds issuing from his tongue, nor the signs of letters written on skins. By the Body and Blood of Christ we refer only to that which has been received from the fruits of the earth and has been consecrated by the mystical prayer, and has been ritually taken for our spiritual health in memory of what the Lord suffered for us.

    • Diogenes71

      Well and beautifully stated. Thank you for the research and background; for doing the work Wills cannot or will not do!

    • Yes–this is exactly the passage I was thinking of when reading about Wills’ book.

      The argument can be made that St Augustine’s sacramentology is essentially virtualist, but that’s still a long way from Wills’ neo-Zwinglianism.

      It really is shocking that Wills has been able to make the assertions about Augustine that he does. Yet another object lesson in the dangers of proof-texting; it’s not the isolated paragraph in one of the Fathers that decides the question, but the sensus patrum taken as a whole.

  • cestusdei

    Wills stopped being Catholic many years ago, but lacks the honesty to follow through.

    • musicacre

      Pity those who, having heard the truth, rejected it.

  • Roy M. Postel

    What a marvelous quote to close this essay. Well done, Tom! Lent is the perfect time to ponder “trajectory” of Mr. Wills and others who need our prayers for coversion and reversion.

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  • schmenz

    Like others I do not see the need to even acknowledge the ramblings of Mr Wills. He is a nonentity unworthy of even reading, let alone discussing.

    Regarding the Papacy, apparently Mr Wills is right about one thing: it IS a monarchy, and always has been, despite Vatican II’s “collegiality” nonsense which tried to turn the Church into a mere aristocracy of Bishops. Being a monarchy is why, by the way, we should be describing Benedict’s recent action as an abdication, not a resignation. As a monarch he is abdicating his throne and renouncing the See of Peter. He is not merely “resigning”, like a mere president or a corporate boss. This is not a mere “word game”; it is a vital distinction that must never be lost sight of.

  • Jim

    This man is NOT Catholic. His denial of transubstantiation, and views on the teachings of the papacy have resulted in his AUTOMATIC excommunication. Unless, and until he confesses his sin, he is NOT Catholic, and should not be participating in the celebration of the mass.

    But that’s not a problem, since I’m sure he sees no benefit in doing so. All we can do is pray that satan loosens his grip on this poor, poor, deluded soul, who languishes in the glory of his Pulitzer prizes.

  • But notice: this heretic will NOT be formally excommunicated. No, nothing at all will be officially done against him. Such is the Vatican II world and its infernal ecumenism, a world in which popes pray with various heretics, schismatics, and apostates in Assisi I, II, III and elsewhere, kiss the Koran and visit synagogues, sing the praises of Lutherans, traditional altars are smashed to rubble and replaced by paltry tables, and heretical priests and nuns remain in “full communion” while traditional priests are ostracized, treated as lepers, and calumniated as schismatics.

    Not to mention the intentionally Protestantized fabrication of the Novus Ordo service (in Latin or not).

    Wills has simply followed the logical course of Vatican II. There’s nothing strange about the sulfurous world of Garry Wills. He’s very much part of the poisoned and poisonous fruit of Vatican II (Vatican II itself, not only its implemenation), its smoke of Satan, and its auto-demolition of the Church. It’s no accident that Cardinal Suenens triumphantly called Vatican II “The French Revolution in the Church.”

  • Arriero

    Here is one of the greatest features within the Catholic Church: She allows people from being utterly wrong, without burning them thus without cleaning this misleading atmosphere for those who want to follow the rightness. A Church of freedom and for free people -unlike other churches. The worst is not being wrong; the worst is having no idea that you’re wrong. Well, even worst is not knowing that you’re not wrong but being and trying to convince the others. That’s the case of Mr. Willis. But he may be relaxed: the Church allows him from being wrong. Too much goodness.

  • So many of you seem to question why Gary Wills is not excised from the Church community since he is a baptized Catholic. The actual reason was given by Jesus himself. He responded w/the parable of “The Weeds and the Wheat” which indicates that it is only in God’s time and His will that this separation will be ordered by the Son of Man, carried out by His angels (not humans). Mt.13: 24-30;36-42.

    • poetcomic1

      Big stinkweed.

  • I do agree however that too much time is spent on the negatives elements w/in our Church and our Nation. These elements already have a plentitude of media to spread their venom. As Catholics we need to concentrate more fully on the reality and JOY of knowing Jesus Christ in order to spread that throughout our culture and indeed the Church itself. It’s called evangelization – commitment to TRUTH.

  • David A. Williams

    As a Bible-believing Congregationalist, raised in a like-minded Congregationalist church that is solidly Evangelical, I resent being compared to Gary Wills. Perhaps the writer thought of the extremely Liberal United Church of Christ. However, there are many Congregationalists who hold to Biblical Christianity, and are the spiritual (and in my case, physical) heirs to the Pilgrims who were solid Trinitarian Christians.

    • Christian Schmemann

      I think Garry Wills was being compared to Zwingli, and not Calvin. I appreciate your resentment, but you are a Protestant- it is perfectly legitimate for you to believe the things you do.

      Our protest is that Garry Wills should not call himself a Catholic.

    • Ford Oxaal

      Any Mayflower relatives? Maybe you are a cousin of my wife’s.

    • Bob

      If you love the bible then you love the Catholic Church. For it is the Catholic Church that gave you the bible, and therefore is the authoritative interpretor of scripture.

  • Tony W.

    The main plausible reason for why dissenting Catholics like Wills stay in the Church is that they correctly figure that they can do more damage from within than from without. Besides that, there is greater career potential and more possible rewards from the secular establishment for heterodox Catholics than for garden variety unaffiliated atheists. This is an excellent article.

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    And what you have here is a graphic depiction of what emerges when sin takes over one’s life. It is so sad…but true.

  • Dunstan Harding sounds like he is just about as happy as Garry Wills is. People need to ask WHY so many people buy Garry Wills’s book. Is it really because the dude is a brilliant scholar? I would suggest that he provides a service to those engaged in what W.C. Fields famously called “looking for the loopholes”. But I suspect he’ll never outdo the DaVinci Code in the loophole business; I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s as irritated by Dan Brown as he is by the pope.

  • John O’Neill

    I concur that it was elements in the American Catholic Church who wanted their own reformation moment and rather than create their own apostate church they chose to infiltrate and destroy the Church and Faith of their Fathers. They are basically dishonest and pathetic; it is indeed a shame that Wills who had a great classical education and exposure to such great minds as Augustine and Aquina should have squandered it all. He choose the way of death i.e. the path of the American political junkie which is based on hate and a vicious desire to destroy what which was beautiful. He resembles the French revolutionaries who defaced the ancient churches of France and slaughtered thousands of priests, monks, nuns,, and lay Catholics in their diabolical attempt to fundamentally change the world.

  • Ford Oxaal

    These prayers can go a long way toward taking the blinders off both ourselves, repentant sinners, and even unrepentant sinners: (But they have to be prayed 🙂 St. Faustina is also very powerful for dispelling lukewarm reception of the Blessed Sacrament.

  • joxxer

    When a Catholic rejects or denies (does not accept) the teachings of the Church on dogma, faith or morals–he becomes a heretic. That is what Gary Wills is, yet he is trying to cash in on the faith he trashes. A heretic and a hypocrite. He certainly is not making the right choices in this life and it will effect him in the life after this one.

  • joxxer

    I forgot to mention–he has self excommunicated himself from the church since he has rejected its dogmas. Formal excommunications are rarely done these days, and if they were the waiting line would be endless…

  • Grant

    “Given Wills’ odd statement that “There is one God, and Jesus is one of
    his prophets” it is not even clear if those “other churches” would need
    to be Christian.”
    I’m in Jakarta, and we have about 100,000 places of worship that believe just this. Wills just has to believe that Muhammed is the last and greatest of God’s prophets and he’ll fit in here just fine.

  • pescher

    I’ve used the encounter between Alice and Humpty Dumpty in the novel “Alice In Wonderland” to create H.D.Syndrome to describe those writers, pundits, bloggers, etc. who accept his condescending reply to Alice namely, “that when I use a word, it means exactly what I chose it to mean!”. I thank writer Piatak for providing me with a goldmine full of examples by quoting Wills’ ‘strange’ descriptions of Church teachings. Yes indeed, the world of Catholic criticism(?) is becoming ‘worser and worser’.

  • gilhcan

    Tom Piatak represents one part of the Catholic Church, the submissive part that buys everything preached to them as genuinely “infallible” no matter how much it contradicts reason or history. Garry Wills represents another, an attended, learned, thinking part that sees the church as part of an ongoing inquiry by the human race into the meaning of being. In addition, Wills has a demonstrated, hugely broader, and more independent background in the history of religion and churches than Piatak.

    All that Piatak recites is no different than the prayers and memorized responses to the questions posed in the old Baltimore catechisms that we all suffered through as innocent kids in parochial schools. I attended them in Cleveland, OH, where Piatak now works. Piatak shows very clearly that his religion, his catholicism, is of the rote and emotional sort of Catholic kids who never really grow up when it comes to religion, simply because they are not asked to apply themselves to any serious study.

    In that regard, such Catholics and other religious people are no different than the voters of this country who are so demonstrably unconcerned and dangerously illiterate about politics and government. They can’t seriously explain any of the issues for which they vote or the candidates they elect (hire) to do their work of government. Is it any wonder that we end up with the problems in our churches and government that make farces of them all?

    Instead of casually trying to belittle Wills for thinking differently than he, why doesn’t Piatak try to challenge Wills in the background he presents for his positions instead of merely posing pious platitudes about his grandfather’s tipping his hat to the “real presence” and only quoting Wills necessarily short responses to Steven Colbert’s wise cracks during their 5-minute comedic TV appearance. What else do you expect on Colbert? What else does Colbert allow?

    Wills has obviously made Piatak’s religious ground quake. Piatak is threatened by anyone who thinks or believes differently than he, especially if they believe and think outside the proverbial box of the Vatican-dictated “magisterium.” Piatak needs to go back and consider all of Wills’ writings about the gospels, about Augustine, about the papacy and its sins, and about religion and Christianity in general, and then come ready to discuss ideas from historical and philosophical angles and convictions as well as his own religious and dictated catechism angles.

    • John H. Graney

      Sir, I’m sure that your views are well-thought and well-reasoned in their way, but the Church does not say that the Church is “an ongoing inquiry by the human race into the meaning of being.” The Church says that She is founded as necessary for salvation by Jesus Christ.

      The issue that we have with Mr. Wills is not that he “thinks for himself,” or something like that. It is that there are perfectly acceptable places for his views, and he does not avail himself of them.

      Frankly I don’t see how he can hold the views he does and not consciously lie through half of the Nicene Creed. However, my impressions are fallible.

    • Patrick

      You don’t sound nearly as smart as you hope you do.

      “..that we all suffered through as innocent kids in parochial schools.”


    • msmischief

      You know, this sounds like every other comment on the same theme. do you guys just pass around the comment and make minor tweaks without questioning its dogmas?

  • djpala

    In the past, heretics at least had the fortitude to remove themselves from the Catholic Church. Today they remain ( CINO ) members & try to change the Church’s teachings to suit their twisted & sick beliefs. It would be interesting to have the MSM present when he is on his death bed, see how arrogant he is then !

  • dbw

    Wills calls himself a Catholic…just as Friedrich Nietzsche became Wagner in the madhouse. Wills is delusional if he thinks he’s a Catholic. Has he got some sort of phobia of simply leaving the Church? What are his objections to becoming, at the very least, an Episcopalian, whose sentiments are a perfect match for his views on women in the clergy and other heresies ? His constant whining is utterly boring. Does anyone even read his books anymore? I suppose he still has a function as the tired voice of dissent when the secular media needs to trot out a stick every so often with which to beat the Church. Sad, really.

    • “Does anyone even read his books anymore?”
      Yes, Hans Kung does… and Wills returns the favor.

  • GrahamCombs

    Many years ago I read Will’s CONSCIENCE OF A CONSERVATIVE in which he seemed to be trivializing the life and work of the man — William F. Buckley — who gave him his first writing gig. I’ve had my own issues with the Chuch over time but have always kept in mind that the Faith is Truth. The hostility that Pope Benedict XVI has aroused is a mystery to me. There is consolation that his books will be read when Wills’ are remaindered and forgotten. Sadly, there are a number of Wills acolytes in the Church (it’s just weird to hear a Catholic accuse you of “worshiping Mary” or tell you not “to call yourself Catholic”). Like the old British WW II slogan you have to “Keep calm and carry on.” Wills like so many with his views sounds increasingly hysterical and is becoming another vandal in the Church.

  • Glenn H.

    A person becomes Catholic through baptism.

    A person can be “un-baptized”.

    • Martin Luther was baptized a Catholic. Adolf Hitler was baptized a Catholic. Should I go on or do you already see the silliness of your absurd opinion?

      • Glenn H.

        Galileo was baptized Catholic. Joan of Arc was baptized Catholic.
        By all means, please go on.
        Explain to me exactly how a person is “un-baptized.”
        Should I go on or do you already see the silliness of your absurd statement?

        I entered the church through baptism just like all the cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, religious, laity, sinners and saints, everyone – we all come in through the same door, so to speak. No one can “UN-baptize” me. But I am saddened and scandalized by the presumption of people who suggest others remove themselves from the church or that the church should remove them. Do you actually understand the gravity of what you are suggesting? Not only for the injury directed at the others to whom it is suggested, but for yourself? If the church could actually do this, then it would cease to be the church.

        This isn’t silly. This isn’t my opinion:

        1272 Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation.83 Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.

        • I agree that nobody can be un-baptized. But that does not mean that one remains forever a Catholic. If one renounces the Catholic Church, one is no longer a Catholic even if this person has been baptized. Baptism makes one a Christian, fidelity to Tradition and Magisterium makes one a Catholic.

          • Glenn H.

            Baptism into the Catholic church makes one a Catholic Christian:

            1267 Baptism makes us members of the Body of Christ: “Therefore . . . we are members one of another.”71 Baptism incorporates us into the
            Church. From the baptismal fonts is born the one People of God of the New Covenant, which transcends all the natural or human limits of nations, cultures, races, and sexes: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.”72

            1273 Incorporated into the Church by Baptism, the faithful have received the sacramental character that consecrates them for Christian religious worship.83 The baptismal seal enables and commits Christians to serve God by a vital participation in the holy liturgy of the Church and to exercise their baptismal priesthood by the witness of holy lives and practical charity.84

            On your equating a baptized Catholic not being in communion with the church as renouncing ones membership in the Catholic church, Pope Benedict deleted references to the renunciation of the faith from the current code of canon law:

            “once a Catholic, always a Catholic”

            • So you agree that Hitler was a Catholic till his death by suicide?

              • Glenn H.

                Like the Catholic church, I refuse to place limits on the mercy of God

                • No, like the stubborn ignoramus that you are you refuse to admit that you are glaringly wrong.

                  • Glenn H.

                    Being called wrong by a cafeteria catholic does not bother me…

  • jacobhalo

    Willis doesn’t believe in the Eucharist, that is, the body and blood of Jesus. This is a dogma of the church. So, he can’t be a Catholic. I wish those who deny one or more teaching of the Church to search for a religion or Christian denomination with which they agree. You can’t be a Catholic and be pro-choice, either. We need a pope who will excommunicate those who do practice or believe in the dogmas of the church.

  • fondatorey

    “Garry Wills began by attacking the social teachings of the Church, went on to denounce Humanae Vitae, proceeded to attack the papacy, and has ended up rejecting the priesthood and the sacraments. ”

    He clings like a barnacle to Bingo, the last remaining Tradition!

  • Grayfalcon

    If Wills believes that “there is one God, and Jesus is one of his prophets,” he is clearly a Muslim.

  • MaterDeiOPN

    He looks as if he’s smelling something unpleasant – perhaps the odor of brimstone emanating from his heretical theology?

  • jimr

    What sane man would join an institution whose central institutions are

    founded on lies and that has been fundamentally wrong about its

    central beliefs?

    I can speak to that. To be honest, I joined the church because it was

    important to my wife, and for no other reason. However, I have stayed

    in the church because I am deeply, deeply moved by my experience of

    the eucharist, because I find Catholic mass to be beautiful, because I

    believe that I more nearly approach God when I pray in communion with

    others, because the reflections of Catholic theologians have been

    helpful in my relationship with God, and for many other reasons. I

    have stayed not because of the papacy or the priesthood, but largely

    in spite of it (though like Wills, I have known, and liked, and

    learned from, a number of very holy and knowledgeable

    priests). Finally, I have stayed in the church becase a few brave and

    authoritative Catholic scholars like Wills assure me that the few but

    profound reasons I stay in the Church are a sufficient basis to call

    myself Catholic.

    Is he wrong that I should refer to myself that way? Am I wrong to

    refer to myself that way? It could be. I really don’t have the

    theological or historical training to answer that question

    definitively. All I can tell you is that I am a benefactor and proud

    inheritor of many Catholic traditions. I can also tell you that my

    wife and I are happily and (for the most part) harmoniously going to

    Church every Sunday with our three young children. I can tell you that

    my Catholicism has changed my life for the better. Do so many of my

    fellow Catholics really want to drive people like me out of the

    Church? Why?

    • If you truly believe that Wills is a Catholic, you are not. As simple as this. It takes much more to be a Catholic than going to the church with your family.

    • Scott Waddell

      To put it bluntly, any time you receive the Eucharist you are tacitly declaring you are in union with all Catholics. But to deny binding teachings of the Church is to tacitly declare a unity that does not exist. In other words, one is perpetrating a deception.

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  • People who believe they are Napoleon or Jesus are locked up or are heavily sedated. Why this does not happen to people like Garry Wills who believe they are Catholics? The level of delusion is the same.

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  • I myself realized that my objection was not to transubstantiation as such, but to the concept of a priesthood mediating grace. But then I’m not a Catholic, and this is America, so I don’t have to be one. Garry Wills isn’t either. Whether he is a Christian is another matter. BTW I love Mozart’s sang “Ave Verum Corpus” and as far as I’m concerned it’s a song about the body conceived by the Holy Spirit. Born of Mary, who was a virgin at the time, crucified, dead, and buried, risen, and ascended bodily into heaven. That “Verum Corpus.” Good enough for me.

  • gilhcan

    Sally Quinn’s criticism of Gary Wills only proves that there is as vast a variety of beliefs in the Catholic Church, the so-called “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church,” as there are believers. How could any beliefs be otherwise? Popes and bishops and priests, and even Sally Quinn, can claim their version of theology, of belief, is the only right one, but no one is able to categorize the billions of beliefs of the billions of so-called Catholics. There is no more unanimity among Catholics in belief, not even among clerics, than there is among the Reformation churches.

    For Sally Quinn’s information, religious faith is a constantly evolving process. If it were not, it wouldn’t be part of the human experience or human history. And religious history is just as full of sad and deplorable evil as it is of any good. Quinn should at least study the historical evolution of the “sacraments” of the Catholic Church, how they were developed bit by bit over centuries to give clerics control over the lives of the laity from cradle to grave. That control certainly makes the servitude of the laity to the clergy complete, doesn’t it? That is, if the laity are willing to be slaves to the clergy–and offer up their kids in sacrifices of sex to that hypocritical clergy!

  • FranktheMc

    Anyone who had doubts about Wills’s devotion should read his books on St. Paul, Jesus, and the Gospels. (I’ve read each four times; their brilliance still dazzles.) He wrote an excellent book on the Mysteries of the Rosary. (He noted in this book that he prays the rosary daily.)

    I was fortunate enough to meet Professor Wills 20 years ago. I rate him as one of the most brilliant man I’ve met in my lifetime.