Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit

Another critic I found on the web saw double standards in Wills' book — a desire within Wills to dispense with ritual even as he promoted it. However, the critic's examples of this which I read demonstrated a double standard only if the "Church" is equated to the current ritual-bound, hierarchical institution which is the very target of Wills' critique!

To state the church is in submission to god's teachings according to scripture, as this critic does, is simply naive — and Wills clearly demonstrates the falsity of this statement in his textual explorations of both scripture and church fathers. It would appear, at least from the examples given, the critic could not see the churchly forest for the hierarchal trees.

Another reviewer had an interesting perspective on the whole issue, referring to the "philosophical triple crown — what is right, what works, and what does it all mean?" As far as I could tell, this critic was not unduly religious, nor particularly partisan. He was actually discussing a talk Wills gave on the nature of leadership. His perception on Wills' speech reflects Wills' authorial perception of the leadership of Catholic Church as it is now constituted — a pragmatic realization that it is failing miserably to address the needs of the laity.

This rendition of Catholic leadership is clearly not right, not working, and is becoming increasingly meaningless in this world. That being the case, trying something new (or rather, newly trying the original teachings), such as Wills espouses, couldn't hurt any more than what's happening now, and might actually bring integrity back to this sad and steadily more irreligious institution.

As I was reviewing the web for conservatism, Wills, and leadership, I stumbled across the following brilliant comment on a web page which I think decries the failings of idealism in the leadership of the US today (I'm still reading it, which is why I'm unsure of its final conclusion):

Just now, every last defect of the American character is on display in our leaders' speeches, in our media, and in the responses of the general public. These include mawkish sentimentality, corrosive innocence, intellectual insularity, and technical-scientific know-it-all-hood combined with a striking ethical, historical, and sociological empty-headedness.

Perhaps it's only coincidence the current Catholic pope and his upper level hierarchy are well described by the above statement as well. Idealism and a dedication to truth is certainly a handicap as much in US politics as it is in Big Religion. It's a frightening shame to realize, in a time and world as complex as this one, we still have a pope who apparently believes in his own myth of infallibility — who, when faced with the great tragedy of 9/11, can think of nothing more perceptive than to blame the brutal murders of thousands in the Twin Towers on… wait for it… legalized abortion.

In the end I'm not surprised Wills calls so sternly for sweeping changes in his church. It must be embarrassing to have one's leader be a mentally failing old man who makes grandiose, sweeping statements on, say, sexuality, which have no grounding in experience or bearing on reality. Admittedly, while I feel Wills' desired religious revisions are well past due, I don't expect to see them in my lifetime.

Sadly, this generation of upper level Church bureaucracy appears to be far too deeply in love with secular power, to heed the increasingly weakening calls from the parish priests and laity to return to the sacred. It's my guess even as the Church fails financially and numerically (likely in the next generation or three), the upper bureaucracy will still be determinedly clinging to their ship of dogmatism as it sinks, stridently refusing to see any perspective but their own.

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