Papal Sin – book review

"Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit" by Gary Wills.

This author is a (liberal) Roman Catholic and many Roman Catholics will disagree with him and detest the book.

Many of the points that he makes (and conclusions he comes to) I disagree with. The main use that I would have for this book would be as a source for outside information (footnotes and citation lists, encyclicals, books and history).

AsI said, the author comes to conclusions that I would not come to, even after reading his book and finding the history accurate. Even in disagreement, I found the history fascinating.
I have a few books in my library that are very good resources - not for theology, but for the history. This may become one of them.

The first section of the book deals with the holocaust. The history is good, but it is history. Even if Rome had been more outspoken about what was happening, who can know how much of a difference it would have made? There is an interesting story of Ste. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, canonized in 1998. Born Edith Stein, this Roman Catholic saint was a Jew who converted to Roman Catholicism and became a nun. She was killed (along with her sister Rosa and many other ethic Jews) at Auschwitz on August 9, 1942. Whether or not she died because the Nazis were killing Jews, or whether she died because she was preaching the Gospel is debatable. But she is now a Roman Catholic saint.

As a result of Wills' book, I've read about Stein and - wow. I'd urge you all to google and read, this was an incredible woman.

The second section is called "DOCTRINAL DISHONESTIES" - here is the list of chapter titles:

  • The Tragedy of Paul VI: Prelude
  • The Tragedy of Paul VI: Encyclical
  • Excluded Women
  • The Pope's Eunuchs
  • Priestly caste
  • Shrinking the Body of Christ
  • Hydraulics of Grace
  • Conspiracy of Silence
  • A Gay Priesthood
  • Marian Politics
  • The Gift of Life

Topics include contraception, the history of unmarried clergy, the various sexual scandals. On "excluded women", I believe that male clergy and leadership is right and Biblical, I do think that the way Wills describes Rome's way of getting there is convoluted and based on the magesterium, not the Bible.
The last third of the book looks at honesty and truth. A lot of time is spent on Augustine; I like the history.


  1. If you trust in the infallibility of Rome, you will not like this book.
  2. If you are interested in the history of theology, you may like this book
  3. If you want the side of the Roman Catholic coin, from a man who does believe that Rome holds the truth but has erred in some places, this will be an informative book.

The next time I go through it, it will be with a highlighter and sticky tabs.

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