The prolific historian offers a timely confession of faith and an apology in the true sense of the term.
Wills (James Madison, p. 244, etc.) is not just any Catholic: he studied for the priesthood, has worked in Jesuit and papal archives, and has written many books on moral matters and the intersection of politics and religion. For having dared question the Church’s positions on matters of doctrine great and small, he has been nearly stripped of his membership as one of the faithful. “I am not a special case,” he writes, “but in many ways a typical one.” In light of all this, asked why he chooses to remain a Catholic, Wills answers with quiet dignity, “because of the creed.” By this he means the creed offered by Christ in the Lord’s Prayer (ever the trained classicist, he offers a new translation that hugs closely to the original Greek) and by the apostles, who pledged faith in “the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.” Would that it were all so simple. Arguing against generations of doctrine on such matters as women’s unsuitability for the priesthood, papal infallibility, and “peripheral stances taken by church authorities, some of which are not only non-binding but scandalous and morally repulsive,” the author takes a long tour through Catholic history, separating the words of Jesus, Peter, and Paul from their later representatives and, critics might object, casting aside whatever does not suit him in search of a more user-friendly brand of Catholicism. Though immensely learned and capable of holding his own in any argument, Wills also calls on some heavy-hitters for backup, including English writer G.K. Chesterton (a favorite of clerical conservatives), saintly socialist Dorothy Day, and the brilliant Thomas Aquinas.
Deserves—and will almost certainly find—a wide readership while garnering for Wills both praise as a principled oppositionist and condemnation as a heretic.