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A welcome, thoughtful menu for the new pope on how to proceed with reform.

Beautifully conceived and wrought essays that systematically address the wrongheadedness of the Catholic Church over centuries—and the space therein for Francis’ long-needed reforms.

A pope determined to admit change and renounce “infallibility”—is this possible? Pulitzer Prize–winning intellectual and leading Catholic scholar Wills (Why Priests?: A Failed Tradition, 2013, etc.) is guided by his close scholarly readings of the Gospels, as well as by modern commentators, examining how the church can right itself—as it has repeatedly over the ages in the face of bad decisions—e.g., the adoption of Latin for sacraments and documents. This is Wills’ first example of the church’s attempts at controlling the message, at excluding versus including: adopting Latin as a “secret code of the elect” rather than the vernacular of the people of God. From there, the early church was able to exclude forbidden books and even forbidden ideas. From arriving at a language understood by all, Wills moves into a compelling study of how the early church evolved from a marginalized sect of martyrs to a state organization sanctioned by the Emperor Constantine at the Council of Nicaea in 325. The author reminds us that Jesus forbade his followers to have any pre-eminence among them (and rejected any earthly kingdom), yet by the third century, a “Vice Petri” or “stand-in” for Peter, the Rock of the Church, was established, essentially evolving into a monarchy by the 11th century. Wills also labels the long strain of anti-Semitism in the church as a “tragic absurdity," and he nods to the Second Vatican Council as a template for moving forward. He valiantly destroys the church’s unjustified stances (in the name of “natural law”) on birth control, abortion and the right of women to serve as priests.

A welcome, thoughtful menu for the new pope on how to proceed with reform.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-525-42696-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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