Papal sin in the past was blatant, as Catholics themselves realized when they painted popes roasting in hell on their own cathedral walls. Surely, the great abuses of the past the bastards, bribes, and wars of conquest no longer prevail; yet, the sin of the modern papacy, as revealed by Garry Wills in his penetrating new book, is every bit as real as before and perhaps even more destructive because of its subtlety. Wills describes a papacy that seems steadfastly unwilling to face the truth about itself, its past and its relations with others. The refusal of the authorities of the Church to admit that they were wrong to others has needlessly exacerbated their original mistakes. Even when the Vatican has tried to tell the truth e.g., about Catholics and the Holocaust it has ended up resorting to distortion, evasion, and blindness. The same is true when the papacy has attempted to deal with its record of discrimination against women, or with its unbelievable assertion that "natural law" dictates its sexual code...Wills traces the rise of the papacy's stubborn resistance to the truth, beginning with the challenges posed in the nineteenth century by science, democracy, scriptural scholarship, and rigorous history. The legacy of that resistance, despite the brief flare of John XXIII's papacy and some good initiatives in the 1960s by the Second Vatican Council (later baffled), is still strong in the Vatican.
"Sadly and alarmingly, the accusatory and even seemingly sensational title of Garry Wills's new book faithfully reflects his meticulous research into the past and present of the Roman Catholic Church, very much including the long reign of Pope John Paul II....In the end, PAPAL SIN represents a significant contribution to the understanding of the process of change...."
Tad Szulc, Washington Post, 06/04/2000
"Wills, an eminent historian and one of the most intellectually distinguished members of the Catholic laity in the United States, has written a devastating, no-holds-barred indictment....The momentum of his splendidly passionate polemic leaves him confronting the question: Would an ideally honest and free church of Christ still be a church?"
Richard Rorty, New York Times, 06/11/2000