CONTEXTUALIZING PAPAL SINS
A Cautionary Tract on Reform
Having just concluded this treatment of the arbitrary certitudes brought to bear on Holocaust judgments with all their related implications, and after previously discussing what I have referred to as the methodology of mendacity in chapters two and three, it now remains to begin the promised reconstructive phase of this book. I continue to take Garry Wills' Papal Sin as "exemplary" (though I will glance occasionally at James Carroll's ancillary venture) since its prosecutorial indictment is the widest ranging and most intensely pursued of all the books I listed at the beginning of the second chapter. Though I shall be pointing out errors of fact rather than of interpretation, the major contribution of this chapter will be to put such errors in a historical setting that will help illuminate how the forces of renewal and reaction have played off one another in the past and in our own time. (65) Thus while Wills' many errors are the point of departure, it is the their historic contextualization which begins the process of "bridge building" that I referred to in chapter one. This process will be concluded in chapters six and seven where I treat of what might be called after Cardinal Congar, "true and false reformers."
The corpus of Wills' work is large, and often marked by a polemic style which, particularly in his religious books, can be characterized--among other traits--as crotchety. Bare Ruined Choirs, Politics and Catholic Freedom, and now Papal Sin are explicitly about religion, Confessions of a Conservative implicitly so. Had one not read the analysis in the two previous chapters, one might assume this merely bespeaks the significance of the religious and the theological in Wills' scheme of things. But it now should be evident--and will be increasingly so as we progress--that this represents what is traditionally known as odium theologicum: in David Hume's well known definition, "that degree of rancor which is most furious and most implacable." Such would seem to be, at least in part, what motivates the methodological excesses considered earlier and the factual blunders to be considered now--both of which undermine his program for restructuring Catholicism and stand in sharp contrast to the reformative efforts of his historically more effective antecedents. The "cautionary" element in the chapter title above, is merely to indicate that Will's Papal Sin may be regarded as being in many ways, a how-not-to-do-it book.
The very title itself is arresting, and certainly provender for shocking great numbers of Roman Catholics, while also pandering to the exploitation of scandal among the general public and of prejudice among the adherents of traditionally anti-Romanist sects. It is not merely the juxtaposition of the pope with sinning, which will suggest to almost everyone at best some kind of dubious paradox; even more, it is the use of the singular noun. Papal sins would indicate merely the failings or aberrations all mortals are heir to--as self-righteous journalists have over the past few years casually referred to presidential sins. Their very multiplicity diminishes their gravity. "O Luther, thou hast ninety-five theses; how terrible! But in a deeper sense, the more theses the less terrible," wrote Kierkegaard in his Attack upon Christendom. But "papal sin" sounds generic, sounds as though it were a type of evil which defined the papacy and a term to be entered into the lexicon of students of the "discipline" (a discipline which Wills denominates with a nineteenth-century coinage "papolatry") who will cooly, scientifically, and of course bravely, employ such argot where historical rectitude demands.
The subtitle of the book, Structures of Deceit, as is not unusual, amends the title. Relative to "misreadings, misinterpretations, and misrepresentations" regarding "the church's
behavior" over the centuries, Wills affirms that "there is nothing here as clear-cut and direct as simple lying. That is why I speak of the 'structures of deceit' that recruit people almost insensibly to quiet cosmetic labors buttressing the church by 'improving' its substructure." But in moving from papal sin to structures of deceit, we have also moved from the very concrete person of the pope to the very abstract notion of the church. Is it that the former sins, while the second merely ("nothing clear-cut and direct") deceives? The danger in the use of such hypostatized abstractions is that they lead to the victory of historicism over history. I cite an exemplary sentence from Wills' earlier critique of Catholicism, Bare Ruined Choirs: "In the wake of Vietnam, America which has been very skilled in certitude throughout its history, has become a new Rome capable of self-doubt." Now, it is true as Toynbee said in A Study of History that, "It is hardly possible to write two consecutive lines of historical narrative without introducing such fictitious personifications as 'England,' 'France,' 'the Conservative Party,' 'The Church'...." But it is also true that when this leads to the attribution of interiority and self-direction to abstractions or artificial constructs, one is more likely to be chronicling the fictional than the factual. It is as we have all seen the favorite device of propagandists whether of the left or the right: "Russia is still intent on world conquest"; "the Democrat party solves problems by throwing more money at them"; "the Republican party favors people over government," etc..
Wills never defines "the church" though he speaks of "the great truths of faith--the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Mystical Body of Christ," the latter traditionally being defined as church. (Curiously, among these great truths there is no mention of resurrection.(66)) I proffer two efforts at definition from two quite different sources, both of which may help advance the issue of where precisely to locate this alleged sin and deceit:
The Church is something of a monarchy since its unique head is Christ, and since the first of its human pastors was the bishop of Rome. It is something of an oligarchy if one considers the small number of those who exercise power in it. It is also something of a democracy by the royal priesthood of the faithful and the apostolic mission which is confided to all its members. But strictly speaking it is nothing of each of these in particular and it is something of all of these at once.
That is taken from Patriarch Maximos IV (L'Eglise grecque melkite au Concile, 1967), one of those Patriarchs concerned about Nostra Aetate, not out of antisemitism but out of fear of political repression--all part of the price of being in a world-wide church. The second definition is from an earlier era and a different continent: "Let there be individual action [in the Church]. Laymen need not wait for priest, nor priest for bishop, nor bishop for pope. The timid move in crowds, the brave in single file." That is taken from Archbishop John Ireland (The Church and Modern Society, 1896).
Both definitions give us a notion of the church far different from that set forth in Wills' book. Indeed, most of the issues chosen to illustrate papal sin and structures of deceit have proved to be balking points for other religious bodies, including many that are identified with "liberal"postures. Are they too trapped in Romanist structures? As I pointed out in the two preceding chapters, issues such as the holocaust and antisemitism, contraception and abortion, clerical abuse and "hierarchology" (the term is Cardinal Congar's), as well as prejudice based on race, gender, or sexual preference--all have spawned intense controversy and hateful practice in virtually every institution in Western society from major universities to major religious groups to
major corporations to major governmental agencies. (67)
Why then the dredging up here of these and other institutional vices as though they were unique to Catholicism? There is, as I also mentioned in chapter three, an allegedly reformist agenda here; but that doesn't explain the noisome details, the incessant accusations, the exaggerations and distortions. By way of answer to the question, Richard Hofstadter's "paranoid style" comes first to mind; then there are all those motives referred to in the previous chapter, psychological, political, and journalistic--the latter being particularly salient since we live in media-dominated age, that is, an age of overstatement in tone and overreaching in scope. But one still has to raise the question of "why" this concentration on Catholicism only when treating of evils diffused throughout the whole of western society. That answer cannot be, as I said in chapter one, an innocent declaration to the effect that "because I'm Catholic that's what I know best." Nor regarding the immediate point of Wills' book, can the answer to that question be that one should expect more of "the church" on the ground that it embodies the one true religion ("outside the church, no salvation," as the old maxim had it). Such expectation is foreclosed because in the final paragraph of his book, one may read: "I do not think that my church has a monopoly on the [Holy] Spirit, which breathes where She will, in every Christian sect and denomination..., among Jews and Buddhists and Muslims and others."
Of course, it may merely be that from his position these evils appear darker and more heinous, just as the moon being closer to the observer looks larger than the sun. If the last half a millennium of Christianity is seen through the narrow lens of the dark night of the spirit that has engulfed many Catholics during the last three decades, then one may indeed be tempted to chronicle only sin and deceit. But the spectacle of vision through such a narrow lens may also reflect its source in a narrow mind. Nor is "chronicle" the precise term. What we have here is the result of "investigative reporting," as contemporary euphemists would term it. In less pretentious times it was simply called "muckraking," and its product appeared on the "front page" celebrated in drama and cinema, and known as a "scoop"--though not now in the sense of Evelyn Waugh, but rather-to call a spade a spade--in the sense of implement for scavenging. In any event, I shall not concentrate on Wills' detailed and somewhat breathless exposé of those personal and social moral issues implicit in the larger culture and exhaustively and exhaustingly treated in the religious, the general, and the tabloid press.
My focus here is on Wills' slant on the politics of authoritative ecclesiastical decisions (and of course on the context of those decisions), because that politics is the theological and historical foundation on which are allegedly built the "structures of deceit" relating to all the evils mentioned above. But given the fact that those latter have indeed been so broadly treated in the secular and religious media and all their lesser adjuncts, the companion question emerges as for whom precisely the present book has been written. Every educated Catholic is not only utterly familiar with the nature of these evils, but is also, according to her position, her conviction, and her lights engaged in the struggle against the social and intellectual defects which Wills reprises. Many of these Catholics for over four decades have been citing at length and in detail the same intellectual warriors--according to Wills his "own heroes include...Lord Acton and John XXIII"--in the same battles described in his book.
Moreover, much of this took place during the time when he was snidely denigrating Pope John's efforts: mater si, magistra no, was it not? And although in support of his thesis on deceitful structures he now introduces Acton's oft-cited judgment on papal abuse of power, he had in an earlier day at the height of the controversies listed above, and in the cavalier style of Lytton Strachey for whom Acton was "a hysterical reviler of priestcraft," dismissed the import of this "unfortunate dictum": "What 'absolute power' and 'absolute corruption' are supposed to mean in the mouth of an historian, no one can say"--except, fortuitously, one liberal converso and practitioner of the Higher Journalism, and one autobiographical exhibitionist who discovered the papal allusion nowhere but in Papal Sin--and this, apparently only after the process of composing a two millennia, 700 page "history" cum memoir of Catholicism and antisemitism.
Even when employing a moderate hermeneutic of suspicion in this assessment of the politics of authoritative decisions, this is not the appropriate place for a detailed consideration of Wills' familiarity with the history of his own church--a "history" summarily sketched in the beginning of chapter three where I pointed out more than a dozen egregious errors of fact, and then went into a series of distortions relating to some of the most revered figures in contemporary Catholicism relating to the Holocaust and the period of the second World War. My concern now is with what might generously be called voodoo history, but with an emphasis on the significance of serious errors that go beyond the mere failure of Wills to have done his homework--errors that suggest that in his reading of contemporary and past history he clearly appears to be practicing the very deceit he so freely denounces in ecclesiastical officials.
As for the latter, we read that "in 1937...Pius XI signed the Lateran treaty..., at a time when Mussolini wanted church approval for his actions." However, as every Catholic "schoolboy and even every Bachelor of Arts" (cf. "The Golden Trashhery of Ogden Nashery") used to know, the treaty was signed by Cardinal Gasparri in 1929. In this shift from the actual date to this fabrication, we encounter--at least in this chapter-- the first instance of Wills' exercising the same deception he elsewhere vigorously censures. In 1929 Mussolini had had control of the government for only six years, and there was little widespread criticism--"made the trains run on time" was the complacent outsiders' view--and thus no need for "church approval." But by 1937 Mussolini was reviled in most of Western Europe, in Africa, and in North America. His war in Abyssinia had been condemned by the League of Nations and sanctions were imposed on Italy; the deposed emperor, Haile Selassie, was a universally pitied but revered figure, though less in his own country than on the world stage; and Mussolini had forged an alliance with Hitler that among other evils in that very year led Italy to join Germany in the infamous bombing of Guernica. Surely 1937 was an opportune time for seeking "church approval." To drive home this particular "papal sin" Wills adds in a footnote that, "Mussolini so wanted church approval in the middle of the 1930s that he moved almost to the right of the Pope on some issues."
In passing, it may be noted that the year 1937 for the Lateran treaty is assuming canonical status. Karen Armstrong, invariably credentialized by her publishers as "a former nun," intercalates it in a New York Times Op-Ed piece illustrated by a four-column drawing (July 16, 2000), where it is combined with other chronological gaffes to support her pro-PLO position regarding Jerusalem in the peace negotiations. From her point of view Jerusalem is to all of East Jerusalem as Rome is to the Vatican City, regardless of the Lilliputian topography of the latter. We have perhaps a new school of Catholic revisionist historians aborning, and one dismissive in the name of a grander vision of the claims of chronology. (68) This latter phenomenon is worth briefly pursuing, as Ms. Armstrong observes: "The city only became central to Judaism after its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C," whereas it "has been sacred to Muslims ever since the Prophet Muhammad began to preach in 610 A.D." As the preceding three chapters illustrate, for these media-driven historicists facts don't necessarily relate to theories.
First, biblical scholars are unanimous in dating the Davidic kingdom at ca. 1000 B.C.E. (so Ms. Armstrong errs by "only" four centuries); second, the Prophet neither preached in Jerusalem nor about Jerusalem (save to admonish the praying faithful to bow not to Jerusalem but to Mecca); and, third, its sacrality is based not on the Qur'an but on its pious glossators who--after the fashion of devout commentators, whether Christian or Muslim--asserted that Jerusalem was the locus of the Prophet's oneiric ascent into the heavens. If Ms. Armstrong buys into that etiolated etiology there's a house in the town of Loreto in which she might want to invest some intellectual capital; or she might want to look at this assumption of an Assumption in Tom Robbins' "The Sixth Veil" (Skinny Legs and All, 1990). Or finally, faute de mieux, she might embrace a holy war, a crusade or a jihad, to exclude non-Christians from the imbomon, the alleged locus of Jesus' own ascent into the heavens--and which "symbolically" looks down on the Dome of the Rock.
But such facts (and fictions) don't get in the way of allegedly noble goals, whether Wills's unmasking of deception or Armstrong's promotion of peace. Nor can one be sure what is worse, their arrogance or their ignorance--probably the latter, in confirmation of the rustic adage that you can lead the worse to hauteur but you can't make 'em think. (An interesting footnote: the Times after being informed of the error regarding the Lateran treaty acknowledged the "misstatement" without mentioning author, title, or informant. Thus do "journals of record" keep the record straight.)
Wills next tells the reader that one Don Luigi Bosco was a leader of a Catholic party "undercut" in the aftermath of the allegedly pro-Mussolini Lateran treaty. This is intended primarily to illustrate the baneful consequences of papal acts, even on patriotic Catholic priests. Ignored, or unknown, by Wills is the fact that Alcide de Gasperi, another party leader and later post-war premier who was a close personal friend of the deceit-ridden Pius XI as well as of "Don Luigi," affirmed that even the latter would have approved of the treaty. The latter is of course Don Luigi Sturzo, founder of the Partito Popolare who went into exile in 1924, five years before the actual signing of the treaty. (Maybe our author had in mind the Hollywood flick, "Donne Brasco," and again distraction resulted as the plot hit the fan.) What is odd here, however, is not so much the presence of more impossible chronology, but the conflation of a nineteenth-century founder of a religious order, Don John Bosco, with the founder of a twentieth-century political party. Our mythic Luigi Bosco was possibly exiled to the equally mythic Boscobel, W. Zembla of Nabokov's Pale Fire.
I cited Sturzo's monumental treatise, Church and State, in a Commonweal essay on Congar's Vraie et fausse Réforme dan l'Eglise which bears on the present discussion--though it doesn't get into "papal sins." The date of the article, ironically, was August 15, feast of the Assumption--if the "Prophet" why not the "Blessed Virgin"? The latter, as we saw in the conclusion to chapter three, another of Wills' haunting bogeys whom he describes as having had doctrinal, ferial, and titular honorifics "heaped on her" to reinforce papal deceptions. His daimonic heebie-jeebies were unsuccessfully exorcized in that tour described earlier to various Florentine galleries sniffing out apotheoses of Mary--and: presumably ending his peregrinations at the itty-bitty-Pitti Palace. In any event, Don Sturzo wrote: "Clement XIV is the last of the Popes whose acts have been subjected even by Catholic historians to open criticism [largely for his suppression of the Jesuits]. It is fortunate that we find this precedent in respect of a recent pope, so that no irreverence can be imputed to anyone using the same historical method towards some of his successors"--but historical method, not historical retribution. To this day, I believe it is uncertain whether pontiff or incipient dictator was behind Sturzo's exile, though Sturzo himself told Cardinal Bourne that it was Pius XI, acting through his Secretary of State. But the exile did have the unexpected boon of bringing Sturzo for a couple of decades to England and the United. States, where he was a frequent and vigorous participant in public debates on the dangers of fascism as well as a contributor to the major liberal journals. (Unquiet goes the Don.)
I don't know if this confusion over Don Luigi whoever betrays some latent stereotype; but such would certainly seem lurking behind the description of Paul VI "with his sad sunken eyes in their smudgy Italian sockets." (Those familiar with Willsian journalese may recognize the spin on "smudgy Italian sockets" as indicative of a "dim bulb.")(69) Pope Paul of course is mise en scène (sin?) as the pontiff responsible for appointing the commission whose views were ignored in the composition of the encyclical Humanae Vitae. The context is the euphoria "over new freedoms... that characterized the 1960s." But the record demands noting again that Wills only very tardily responded to these "new freedoms"--witness his comments on John XXIII. One is put in mind of A.J.P. Taylor's observation on the revolutions of 1848 when Germany reached a turning point--only Germany refused to turn. Nevertheless, he does explain the issues, discusses the major players, and weaves the various historical threads into an adequate chronological depiction--the latter perhaps a bit redundantly, as when detailing the quondam condom leap in the mid-nineteenth century of vulcanization engineered by Charles Goodyear--at this point the saga goes flat and the reader is tempted to retire from the discussion.
But though the yarn ends, the spinning does not; particularly as it relates to the moralist John C. Ford who, notwithstanding his unenlightened views on contraception, had vigorously during World War II, and following the lead of John K. Ryan, condemned obliteration bombing as immoral (one may recall from the last chapter, Hamburg and Dresden), and courageously maintained the same position in the sixties with regard to a national policy of nuclear "deterrence"--this when the National Review cold warriors were embracing the doctrine of massive retaliation, and people like Wills were so obsessed with individual morality as to appear oblivious to social morality. Not all consistency in ethical issues is reprehensible as--one might add in this context--is illustrated by the dantesquely demonized Cardinal Ottaviani who in 1947 and again at Vatican II called for the condemnation of the instruments of total warfare, and was supported by such of his myriad opponents as Archbishop Roberts and Patriarch Maximos.
What Wills inadequately conveys regarding Humanae Vitae is the reaction in its aftermath which was calm, consistent, and both universal and unceasing among educated Catholics in opposition to the curial view. This opposition was articulated in books, magazines, and public forums that were focused not only on contraception as such but also on the relevance of natural-law principles, on infallibility, on the authority of encyclicals, on the social and political implications of the condemnation in a pluralist society, and above all on the right to active dissent from ecclesiastically sanctioned teaching. Nevertheless, as to whether even the members of the papal commission were complicit in wrongdoing, Wills does not waver: "A cultivated submission to the papacy had been, for them, a structure of deceit, keeping them from honesty with themselves, letting them live within a lie."
And so overwhelming, he alleges, was such a structure that even this highly educated body of people was "surprised" at the notion that the church can and must change. But such a "surprise" is simply unbelievable to anyone living through the period and aware of what I have referred to as the universal opposition to the curial view. The articles, the debates, the books (among many, one by Canon Drinkwater, and another edited by Archbishop Roberts with an interesting title suggested by the German-Canadian theologian, Gregory Baum, Contraception and Holiness)--all affirmed that on this issue change was a ubiquitous reality. If, with Wills' support, William Buckley Jr, (a "practicing" Catholic and occasional pilgrim to Lourdes) could explicate in print the notion that the encyclical Mater et Magistra was an "exercise in triviality," why would it be surprising that a majority of Catholics would acknowledge change in the nature of their sexual relations, and view the encyclical Humanae Vitae as a relatively trivial intrusion into their personal lives?
The judgment that a structure of deceit, kept the members of the papal commission or a fortiori the members of the Roman curia "from honesty with themselves, letting them live within a lie"--this judgment exposes the fatal sociological flaw of the book. I have noted from the beginning of this chapter that it is not just Catholicism with its "cultivated submission to the papacy" that has succumbed to the scandalous prejudices and practices enumerated earlier; it has been virtually every religious, educational, political, and cultural body in Western society. Yet we know many of these bodies to be composed to a greater or lesser degree of individuals of unquestioned rectitude. Herein lies a quandary that has perplexed, or rather bedeviled, political moralists from at least Aristotle to Burke and Niebuhr: the tendency of every social organization, every institution, every consortium to enlist its membership in the pursuit of controversial goals, however alien to the individual member's personal inclination. Of course, it is not a question of collusion in evil, or of extremist groups. I am talking about "mainline" organizations of ordinary well-meaning citizens: chambers of commerce, unions, professional associations, fraternal (and sororal) organizations, support-groups and auxiliaries of every religious persuasion.
I will not go into the social-psychological explanation; there is certainly a reciprocal "trade-off" here, a voluntary subordination of the individual to the esprit de corps, a subordination of personal view to the supportive, collective, and cohesive ideology. Instances abound: ethical political party members decline to oppose a children-endangering embargo against a harmless nation, while advocating trade with another nation previously responsible for the deaths of thousands of its own and other nations' children. A government official of utter probity follows his legislative or executive overseers in advocating a celestial Maginot Line in the form of an endangering and technologically unfeasible missile "shield." (I intentionally draw examples from non-ecclesiastical issues and from both sides of the partisan division.) This is the nature not of "structures of deceit," but of social instruments as such; and in a fallen world, instruments that do enmesh the holy and the sinful, enmesh Mann's "holy sinner," Rolfe's "Hadrian VII," and Duffy's "Saints and Sinners"--to return this to matters papal.
One additional social-psychological datum may be adduced here. Wills' book has had well over a score of reviews which were followed by an almost uncountable number of letters expressing for the most part enthusiastic support for his opinions, and vehement indignation at any criticism of them. Such unanimity regarding a professedly controversial book is inexplicable in terms of its exposure of abuses which are, as noted earlier, prevalent throughout American society. Whence, then, the almost universal sense of outrage this book provoked among its defenders at their alleged victimization by those practitioners of papal sin who authored Humanae Vitae? The question is even more baffling since ecclesiastical condemnations of obliteration bombing or of the nuclear deterrent or of capital punishment or of economic greed have apparently not sufficed to validate religious authority and wipe away the putative stain of its endemic structural deceptions. There is but one major issue, amidst all the societal evils afflicting this entire culture, which is relatively unique to Catholicism, and which is pivotal to this book: contraception.
But the phenomenon of its centrality raises an additional problem. While Humanae Vitae engendered consternation and dismay in other "first world" Catholic countries; while it brought forth theological debates and clarifications from episcopal conferences in France, Holland, Germany, Spain, and England, it never was the test of adherence to Catholicism that it became over the next decade in the United States--only to be supplanted by the abortion issue in the latter part of the century. The reasons are twofold, and for reasons of brevity must be somewhat over-simplified here. There is, first, the gradual enervation of the American episcopate--to be discussed in detail in the last chapter-- in the aftermath of the Americanist crisis with its attendant shift from public and social to personal and individual morality. One might contrast the interventions in support of labor unions by Cardinal Gibbons, of strikes (a much more controverted matter) by Archbishop Riordan, of racial justice by Archbishop Ireland ("obliterate absolutely all color line"), and of opposition to the war with Spain by Archbishop John Lancaster Spalding, not on the ground that Spain was Catholic, but on the ground of anti-imperialism: one might contrast all of that with what seems the dominant concern of the present hierarchy, sexual ethics regardless of how broadly defined.(70) Second, and more important, is the significance of devotion to the papacy with concomitantly the exaltation of the magisterium in a society shaped by the cumulative experience of successive waves of immigrants who found in such devotion the mark and seal that distinguished them in the face of a militantly antagonistic Protestant culture.
Similarly, it was the contemporary heirs of such immigrants who exulted in the election of John Kennedy, and found in that election the legitimation of their Americanism.(71) But here too personal morality trumped social morality. For ignored in that exultation were the facts that his election pivoted on a non-existent "missile gap," that his administration's first foreign-policy venture was an amoral invasion of Cuba, and that its most highly touted triumph, in violation of every just-war principle, was a nuclear-weapons gamble entailing a threat of piracy in international waters which were treated by this "Catholic" administration the way Mussolini treated the Adriatic, as mare nostrum. (72) All that was of little moment to Catholics growing accustomed to ignore social evils and to concentrate mainly on the personal. As a consequence the aura and image of John Kennedy--a man whom a priest sociologist had publicly promoted as worthy of canonization--was only muted and disfigured by the subsequent exposure of his private sexual activities. And so the sinning papacy and the deceitful curia, with their repeated condemnations of total war went unheeded and unheralded, while failure to sanction condoms or diaphragms provided--as attested by the salient sections of Wills' book as well as by its public reception--an occasion to vent widespread and inordinate rage at the betrayal of (residually immigrant) Catholic loyalties, a "betrayal" which Wills here shamelessly exploits.
Indeed, when discussing Humanae Vitae the tone reaches an almost hysterical pitch: the encyclical "dealt the most crippling, puzzling blow to organized Catholicism in our time"; "the most disastrous papal document of this century"; "the equivalent, for sheer wreckage achieved, of the nineteenth century's most disastrous papal document, Pius IX's Syllabus of Errors." But as I shall note shortly, the hullabaloo attached to the latter was a hallucination publicitaire of nineteenth-century "No Popery" crusaders, as was made clear from the widespread indifference by the faithful to its flagrant anachronisms, even in the very next decade as well as later in the century. Only six year afterwards, Newman was in agreement with an Irish bishop at Vatican I concerning the supporters of the Syllabus, "They have not come into contact with the intellectual mind of the times," and two decades later Archbishop Ireland would observe that the "propositions reported in the Syllabus as at one time or another 'censured' by Pius IX, represent the excesses, the extravagances of the movements of the age, and not the movements themselves." Moreover, how Wills could so describe Humanae Vitae is incomprehensible in light of the concordat with the Third Reich. And one wonders if he has ever read what was arguably "the most disastrous" theological document of this century, Pius X's own Syllabus of Errors, Lamentabili, with its companion document Pascendi Dominici Gregis, an encyclical which for decades hindered Catholic theological speculation (nearly forty years later in a prison camp, Congar would learn of Père Chenu's Une Ecole de théologie being placed on the index),(73) and was the forerunner of the revanchist Humani Generis with its dire consequences not only in the speculative order--where were silenced the future Cardinals Daniélou, de Lubac, and Congar--but also in the practical; being the rehearsal to the suppression of the Mission de France in 1953 with its ill-fated but proleptic steps towards a theology of liberation.
As to the specific contention that members of the group convened to resolve the contraception issue were living "within a lie," it must be emphasized that all thinking Catholics past their nonage know that popes, bishops, and even pontifical commissions are prone to errors and misjudgments--all of which in the rational order of things are subject to correction by individual conscience. Moreover, if these errors, misjudgments, etc., are crystallized in sins and lies, how explain such changes in official teaching as John T. Noonan discerned in his massive work on contraception? "Use of the sterile period, once attacked by Augustine when used to avoid all procreation, approved in 1880 for cautious suggestion to onanists, guardedly popularized between 1930 and 1951, was now fully sanctioned [by Pius XII]. The substantial split between sexual intercourse and procreation, already achieved by the rejection of Augustinian theory, was confirmed in practice." (Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by Catholic Theologians and Canonists, 1966). What was not further developed doctrinally by Paul VI's encyclical was developed practically by the laity. Was this too reflective of sins and deceit?
I think not. After all, as Cardinal Newman, affirmed councils come and go, and what one pope has done another can undo--and frequently does, as noted in the first chapter.(74) Is this not what is meant by living in history? As to remedies for those struggling through any attendant painful period, perhaps a touch of realism would be mitigative. This, from the archeologist Msgr. Duchesne during the early period of the Modernist crisis, which had to do with Catholic dogma not morals, and when he was more suspect than the leading biblical revisionist, Alfred Loisy: "I am not a theologian, that is why I can praise God with joy." Or in a similar vein: "Religious authority rests on tradition and on its adherents who are most devout--and also most unintelligent." Or less whimsically, "Every year is for me a lamentable spectacle of an episcopate composed of imbeciles. Our present archbishop is a mitred sacristan"--a comment reminiscent of Newman's reference to such zealous partisans of infallibility as W.G. Ward, and Cardinals Manning and Vaughan, as "the three tailors of Tooley Street."
Perhaps even a touch of curial pragmatism would not be a bad disposition to cultivate, as exemplified by Archbishop Robert Seton, for a while America's most decorative prelate in Rome: "Theologians make difficulties and canonists get around them." It was also in Rome that the leader of the British Modernists, Baron von Hügel, was advised, "Never ask for an imprimatur, it is the first step to the Index." And when Archbishop Errington was dismissed to the Isle of Man (much like Archbishop Charbonneau of Montreal under Pius XII being sent to a convent chaplaincy in Vancouver), he sardonically noted that "it is not the Holy Ghost that governs the Church, but Msgr. Talbot"-- the latter an adviser to Pius IX , an antagonist of Newman, and an unfortunate who was subsequently confined to an asylum. More pertinently one might think of the contemporaneous mot about that long-awaited contraception decision having been delayed until Msgr. Marcinkus could get some pharmaceutical stocks into the Vatican portfolio.
Perhaps Newman is the best guide. "Now the Church is a Church Militant, and, as the commander of an army is despotic, so must the visible head of the Church be; and therefore
in its idea the Pope's jurisdiction can hardly be limited." But of course in its execution it will invariably be limited, and not by some imaginary "structures of deceit," but by the pressure of what Karl Rahner, called, "free speech in the church." Part of the exercise of that free speech is the kind of conscientious resistance which translates into a consensus fidelium-as when the great mass of faithful Catholics simply ignored Vatican views on contraception. Newman wrote about why the laity took upon itself the right to ignore "official" views: "There was true private judgment in the primitive and medieval schools,--there are no schools now, no private judgment (in the religious sense of the phrase), no freedom, that is, of opinion. That is, no exercise of the intellect. No, the system goes on by the tradition of the intellect of former times." But Newman, in "internal exile" ("shelved" was his word) at Birmingham and under a cloud far denser than any hovering over the church of the third millennium, added: "this is a way of things which, in God's own time, will work its own cure, of necessity; nor need we fret under a state of things, much as we may feel it, which is incomparably less painful than the state of the Church before Hildebrand, and again in the fifteenth century." So to a sense of history we must add a sense of providence, a sense that "truth defends itself, and falsehood refutes itself," as Newman concluded.
If von Hügel regarded the reign of Leo XIII as an interregnum, then the reign of John Paul II is a benign despotism with occasional but significant glimmers of enlightenment. Some of the latter are certainly his moving and effective overtures to Jews and Judaism, his rehabilitation of past Catholic thinkers like Rosmini and Newman as well as of the more recent victims of the hoopla over Nouvelle Théologie-the latter being the prelude to Vatican II and the final flare of the Modernist comet. Also to be noted are the present Pontiff's frequent denunciations of weapons of mass destruction, and his impassioned condemnations of capital punishment--this latter as much ignored among conservatives as the condemnation of contraception is among liberals. But both the Pope's consistency on the latter issue and the pew-Catholic's indifference to it illustrate once again the inconsequentiality of Papal sin and structures of deceit as the locomotive either of religious corruption or of religious reform.
No one could be more transparent and lacking in guile than this pontiff--unless it be Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor. But who is to judge, and why would anyone want to? Though it is true Newman defined the authentic hypocrite as someone who genuinely believes in his own sincerity, it is also true that he once ironically observed about religious debate that one's own doxy is orthodoxy, one's opponent's is heterodoxy. John Paul II is neither the prisoner of the Vatican nor the prisoner of deceitful structures, any more than are his gnostic critics, ensconced in their own imagined structures of blissful integrity. He like them is a being in history and with a history. To say otherwise is reductionistic, simplistic, sophistic; and as far as the analysis of theological/sociological complexities goes, it is utterly useless.
The fecklessness of employing the reductivism of Wills' titles was brought out in his treatment of Pius IX and of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception discussed in chapter three. Now, in Wills' account of the Syllabus and of papal infallibility simplistic historical theory goes hand in hand with simplistic practice of the journalist's art. So many curial villains, so many papal sins, so much toadyism by papal lackeys, so many Vatican conspirators crowd the stage that one loses sight of the actual events in the salvoes of derogatory expletives and epithets that Wills fires. Nor can one overlook the factual errors that mar the narrative and suggest that the omnicompetent tone and sweeping anathemas may be tactics to obscure flawed research and ad hoc conjectures.
Again, I draw from Newman and his description of another journalist, Richard Simpson, editor of the Rambler, a Catholic publication that Newman tried to salvage: "He will always be flicking his whip at Bishops, cutting them in tender places, throwing stones at Sacred Congregations, and, as he rides along the high road, discharging peashooters at Cardinals who happen by bad luck to look out of the window." Part of Newman's salvage effort took the form of assuming the editorship and publishing his celebrated essay "On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine,"(75) an essay which affirmed what his great German counterpart, Matthias Scheeben, would say a few years later: "It follows that the public profession of doctrine by the body of the faithful, being a witnessing of the Holy Spirit relatively independent, ought logically and briefly to precede the precise declaration of the teaching body, and in such circumstances influence, as a means of orientation, its future judgment" (Dogmatik, Freiburg, 1873).
Because few curialists could read German, Scheeben went unscathed; but because Pius IX had Msgr. Talbot at his elbow, Newman was criticized and in the end turned over the editorship of the Rambler to Lord Acton who subsequently changed its name to The Home and Foreign Review and a few years later, also after criticism from Rome, abandoned the project
altogether. Matthew Arnold publicly lamented the loss, and contrasted the independence of Acton with the servility of The Dublin Review under the editorship of the ultramontanist, W.G. Ward--now remembered only for his boast that at his daily breakfast he would like to read a papal decree along with The Times. The interrelationships bear examination. Ward had been a devoted disciple of Matthew Arnold's father, Thomas Arnold, before joining Newman's Tractarians whom the elder Arnold referred to as "thugs" in a celebrated Edinburgh Review article titled "The Oxford Malignants." As editor of The Dublin Review, W.G. Ward's zeal in defense of the papacy led him to attack Dr. Döllinger, Acton's former teacher, mentor and ally in the anti-papal party. Interestingly, in another chronological jumble Wills makes no mention of Simpson, and has Acton turning over the Rambler to Newman, not vice versa; this unfortunately leaves no opening for the significance of The Home and Foreign Review, nor for examination of the fascinating web of personalities involved in a controversy that seems in Wills' view strictly ideological, a conflict of the party of sin and deceit with the party of virtue and candor.
In any event, the conflict intensified with the appearance of Pius IX's Syllabus of modern errors, the tone of which is evident from its famously execrable eightieth and last condemnation of those who believed that the Pope should reconcile himself with progress, liberalism, and modern civilization. Other propositions condemned advocates of freedom of religion and of the press, of separation of church and state, and all those who differed from the Pope on what was then called in the chancelleries of Europe "the Roman Question" on the fate of the Papal States. As a result of the Syllabus the non-Catholic and anti-Catholic world had a short-lived lark exploiting the church's incompatibility with nineteenth-century life and thought; the ultramontanists were confirmed in their adulation of the papacy; and what came to be called cisalpinists(76)-all liberal Catholics north of Umbria--engaged in various strategies to deprecate the document. In England where there had been a Liberal Party since the 1830s, a distinction was made between the dangers of liberalism's extremist advocates and the benefits of liberal institutions. In Italy the Syllabus was put in the context of the Roman Question, and was viewed less as an attack on the modern world than as an impetuous response (politically) to the advocates of Italian unification, and (theologically) to the Munich Congress of the previous year which had asserted the independence of scholars from ecclesiastical supervision. In France the most ingenious antidote to the temporary embarrassment took the form of a proposal that, although in the hypothetical order the propositions in the Syllabus were tenable, in the real order they were not necessarily applicable. This hypothesis/thesis explanation was the creation of Bishop Dupanloup of Orleans, several times in this book and in Bare Ruined Choirs referred to as "Cardinal"--though it is never explained why Pius IX would have elevated a prelate who had eviscerated the Syllabus and vigorously opposed the decree on Infallibility.
The preceding thumbnail sketch is a fairly straightforward though abridged account of the Syllabus affair--and "affair" is the mot juste since as noted above it was a transitory epiphenomenon of no lasting historical significance. How it can be construed as "papal sin" requires on the part of Wills a good deal of verbal legerdemain, as well as a discriminating use of sympathetic sources. His first fudging is to blur the document's origins in a suggestion of Cardinal Pecci who is unmentioned because he later becomes the open-minded successor of Pius IX, much like John XXIII after the later years of Pius XII. If one is going to prove the ubiquity of papal sin, one has to be highly selective in one's choice of villains or willing to portray the innocent as the villain. So the spin commences: all in accord with the axiom of Msgr. Knox, "any stigma will do to beat a dogma." The origin of Pius's propositions, the reader is told, was a "list drawn up by an opportunistic ex-liberal, Philippe Gerbet, who had scrambled to the right after the Pope's condemnation of his earlier hero, Felicité de Lammenais [sic]. Gerbet, a bishop who was not respected by other members of the French hierarchy, liked to address grandiose pastoral letters to his diocese.". This villainous opportunist was in fact a prelate who was known as a second Fénelon, whose writings were praised by Sainte-Beuve, and who was the closest collaborator of de Lamennais at La Chênaie, "one of the factors, and perhaps the most effective at this time, of a renewal in theological speculation"--so says Edgar Hocédez in Histoire de la Théologie au XIXe Siècle (1948, I).
Indeed, de Lamennais was not only a theological innovator but a social reformer whose pleas went unheard in Rome for six decades, until the successor of Pius--the innominable Leo XIII--addressed issues relating to the working poor. As for ex-liberals or ex-conservatives scrambling to the right or to the left, one may be reminded of a mot relevant to Wills' own scramblings. When the poet Lamartine was elected to the French parliament in 1833, the question was raised as to whether his chair would be on the left or on the right. The prosaic response was, "M. Lamartine's chair will be on the ceiling," i.e., not above the debates but irrelevant to them. It should also be noted that when de Lamennais was elected to the assembly in 1848--after the revolutionary furor that drove the younger Pius IX from Rome--there was no question as to where his chair would be.
Wills' bias becomes even more transparent when--as is the case with his use of almost all secondary sources--he cites only a single distinguished scholar on a particular issue. Giacomo Martina, author of the three-volume definitive life of Pius IX, is quoted (apparently from the Italian though an English translation of the single-volume abridgment appeared in 1990) on the development of the Syllabus: "Finally, the contributions of mature theologians like Abbot Guéranger, Monsignor Pie, and Monsignor de Ram, had little effect, while the basic initiatives came from an obscure French bishop, Monsignor Gerbet of Perpignano [sic]..." --this last for "Perpignan" serves to let the reader know that Wills qua polyglot is looking at the authentic Italian text. But if Martina wrote "obscure," he shouldn't have.
Moreover, there is no way Guéranger or Pie could be described as "mature theologians" save in terms of age. Regarding Guéranger alone, it must be noted that he too "scrambled to the right after the Pope's condemnation of his earlier hero, Felicité de Lammenais" [iterum sic]. Anyone who has read Guéranger's massive assemblage, l'Année liturgique, will know that here we have to do not with a theologian but a collator. As for Pie, there is nothing but (eponymously) unctuous pieties. If he were living today, as a theologian he would be in a class with Rev. Jerry (no priestly caste here) Falwell-and not too different from the latter politically. The only prelates who could be described as "mature theologians" were the Germans influenced by such scholars as J.A. Möhler, Scheeben, and Dr. Döllinger, editor of Möhler's essays, and also a friend of de Lamennais. As we have seen, German theology was ignored or contemned in Rome, and hence the eminence of French mediocrities like Guéranger and Pie. But, again, who here is now caught in structures of deceit in attempting to prove how tainted are the sources of the Syllabus? The latter document is bad enough, it doesn't need this tissue of tendentious embroidery.
Now--with a Copland fanfare for the common Catholic--come the ultimate exposé of papal sin and its, so to speak, cardinal instance: the Constitution Pastor Aeternus containing the decree on infallibility. Again, deceit (accompanied by historical error) abounds. At the debates on this issue during the first Vatican Council one meets some of the same players. Monsignor Pie notwithstanding his theocratic notion of "the Pope-King" is among the "moderates." While Bishop Dupanloup, who continues to wear the red hat Wills had conferred on him in Bare Ruined Choirs, is among the leaders of the opposition. Allied with Dupanloup was Georges Darboy, Archbishop of "Parigi" (as Martina/Wills would have it). Darboy was a martyr in the etymological sense of being a "witness" to the authentic tradition, and in the general sense of dying for his faith during the communard rule of Paris a year after the Council. One of the most vociferous opponents of the decree, Wills tells us, was "Cardinal Strossmayer the Bavarian leader of bishops against infallibility." Unfortunately, Strossmayer was neither a Cardinal nor a Bavarian. He was a Croatian, a recognized leader in the Panslavic movement, and intent on bringing about a reunion of Orthodox and Catholics--which, as subsequently with Anglicans and Lutherans, the infallibility decree would render almost impossible. (Witness the failed efforts of John Paul II to receive an invitation to Moscow from the Russian Orthodox Patriarch.)
In the end, after months of debate and following the departure from Rome of most of the opposition, including Darboy, the reader is informed correctly that "only three negative votes were cast at the last session." (In passing, one notes a nice touch missing. One of the three was a bishop from Arkansas; and so the headlines bannered that Little Rock had opposed Big Rock.) But Wills ceases neither to toil nor to spin, as the perpetration of another "papal sin" is ferreted out: "Even if all the bishops who first assembled for the Council had remained for the final vote, they would not have been representative of the entire church, since the Pope had named many more bishops from Italy and Spain than from the more distant and less docile lands." Thus is illustrated once again the obsessively regnant structural deceit, and in support are mustered detailed statistics gleaned from Gertrude Himmelfarb's dissertation on Lord Acton. (Mrs. Irving Kristol at least is not among those heinous ex-liberals who have "scrambled" to the right. She was there from the beginning.) But overlooked in this assumption of a duplicitous conspiracy to weigh the scales in favor of his loyal countrymen is the fact that Pius IX appointed more non-Italian cardinals than any of his predecessors in modern history. As for the statistical evidence, the eminent theologian and historian, Roger Aubert, assesses the numerical accounts quite differently. "By dint of their [the Italian delegates] numbers they lent decisive support to the informal compromise faction. This group, conciliatory from the outset, finally succeeded in having a more flexible formula accepted, which occupied a middle ground between the neo-ultramontane and the anti-Curial extremists, and which allowed for adjustments in the future" (Hubert Jedin, editor, History of the Church, 1993, III ).
Wills continues: "The Council would be broken off when war against Austria made France withdraw its troops, so that an independent Italy's warriors came flooding up to the very gates of the Vatican City." One can overlook the hypostatizing of Italy, and the metaphoric melange of flooding warriors--maybe through the cloaca maxima of the Vatican. But one can't overlook another curious conflation: the Franco-Austrian war of 1859 is identified with the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. This latter, "as every schoolboy used to know" brought the end of the Council and the end of the Papal States. The quotation is adapted from Macauley, one of those historians Wills had earlier commended for affirming "that history was no longer the province of institutions impervious to outside scrutiny or committed to official versions of the past." It should be added, "and no longer committed to unofficial versions either."
But perhaps as with Shakespeare and the Hundred Years War or the War of the Roses, one can get a more vivid sense of the political events surrounding the Council from the poet Paul Claudel in the third play of his Oresteia, "Le Père humilié." (77) The "Father" of the title is Pius IX, and the central character is a blind young Jewish woman (a shekinah figure like Trophaëa in Gertrud von le Fort's Papst aus dem Ghetto) in love with one of the Pope's nephews whom she upbraids for his indifference to a unified Italy: "You're fighting against this people which is struggling to live....each of its parts is trying to weld itself to the next, like a body coming to life, you're doing all you can to stop it." The nephew replies: "I can't stand against my Father"--precisely the position of the minority bishops at the Council. The heroine, named Pensée, and one of the most touching figures in Claudel's enormous repertoire, responds: "Is that futile old man, to whom time and progress means nothing, forever going to stand between you and life...?"
In the aftermath of the Council, the opposition bishops who had left the city to avoid "standing against" the Holy Father eventually accepted the decree, in some cases through a kind of Fabian ecclesiology, only after annulments for their diocesans ceased being delayed by Roman officials. Lord Acton's fellow agitator against infallibility, Dr. Döllinger, was excommunicated along with several thousand German, Swiss, and Austrian "Old Catholics"--a sect which continues to this day, among a dozen or so other groups with the word "Catholic" in their name--. whom he had inspired but as a matter of conscience refused to join. Wills says, "Döllinger left the Church": Wilfrid Ward said he had been driven out of it. In fact, Döllinger refused to join the "Old Catholics" and professed himself a loyal Catholic to the end, which is why his piteous cry still resonates: "Je suis isolé."
Noblesse oblige left Acton untouched, and he later went on to a Professorship at Cambridge where he initiated the Cambridge Modern History, but never saw its publication, as was equally true of his projected history of liberty, since renowned as "the greatest book never written." Acton's former supporter, Gladstone, published an attack on the decree on infallibility-with the assistance of Richard Simpson of--to which Newman replied in a subtly argued open letter addressed to the leading Catholic peer (a Cisalpinist by birth, heritage, and politics), the Duke of Norfolk: thus the future cardinal utilized an Earl Marshall in a rejoinder to a Prime Minister. It was a whim of the same Duke of Norfolk that later resulted in Newman's elevation by Leo XIII, as it had earlier been a whim of Newman in his reactionary Anglican days to oppose Catholic Emancipation which the then Duke of Norfolk supported. In Newman's long history, there is no end of Howards.
Finally, for the record, and to refute the historically warped concept of structures of deceit, I would note three post-conciliar transforming reversals of view. The first see-saws through several decades of the twentieth century and begins with Pius X's refusal to authorize the condemnation of the antisemitic and inchoately fascist, Action Française. The condemnation was then enforced during the reign of Pius XI, much to the consternation of monarchists and Jew haters. At the beginning of his reign the condemnation was lifted by Pius XII in a placatory gesture to Franco; this latter against the firm counsel of the advisor who would become Paul VI--again, all in verification of Newman's "do/undo" dictum. Second, and closer to Vatican I is the reversal of position by Cardinal Manning, the "majority whip" at the Council who later vigorously criticized what he called a "Catholic presbyterianism" which reduced the episcopal college to "only the pope's vicariate"--precisely the position of the minority in 1870. Third, and mentioned earlier, although the initial impetus for the justly reviled Syllabus came from Cardinal Pecci, his views were radically revised when as Leo XIII he--in an understandably mixed fashion, symbolized by the condemnation of "Americanism"--made peace with the Enlightenment and with post-revolutionary France, and wrote an encyclical on social reform whose very title would have made Pius IX shudder: "Concerning the New Things."
A sense of the shock that Leo's reign caused is amusingly brought out in André Gide's Les Caves du Vatican in which a young vagabond impersonator, a kind of clerical Felix Krull, cons elderly ladies into donating cash and jewelry to ransom the true pope and drive from the throne the false pope, Leo XIII, patently a creature of evil Jesuit plotters--no doubt caught in their own unique structures of deceit. Leo's papacy was called an "interregnum" by Baron von Hügel not as a pejorative but rather as descriptive of a period of sanity, a reprieve between the ruthless infallibilist ambition of Pius IX and the equally ruthless anti-Modernist crusade of Pius X--Loisy, whom Leo had refused to excommunicate, was excommunicated by Pius. As I have noted, Leo XIII succeeding Pius IX, like John XXIII succeeding Pius XII, illustrates the fact that there are no inalterable structures of deceit or of candor, though the latter as history shows ultimately triumphs. This is the meaning of the equilibrium between center and periphery that was discussed in chapter one.
In the past Catholics were wont to refer to "holy mother the church"; in the present they "botanize upon their mother's grave"--a Wordsworthian mot. Wills' book is not distinguished by any discernible narrative sequence or development, save for its leitmotiv of papal sin and deception. And it is as jumbled thematically as it is chronologically. To use a term favored in the nineteenth century, where much of this narrative is concentrated, the book is a kind of "miscellany." As we have seen, it begins with a caricature of John Paul II and Jewish relations, goes back to Paul VI and such still current issues as celibacy and the ordination of women, then proceeds to the events of the reign of Pius IX. It closes with two chapters on Augustine and lying, and one on soteriology based on the sacrificial-surrogate theory of René Girard.
The discussion of Augustine on lying perhaps reflects what Coleridge called our "hobby-horsical devotion to old authors" and does not help resolve some issues earlier in the book. Of the much depicted rape of Lucretia by Tarquin and her subsequent suicide, Wills notes without demurral: "Augustine says that Lucretia's crime was greater than Tarquin's: 'He took her body, she took her life. He raped, she murdered'." Again, with cool detachment: "When Christian women were tempted to suicide after being raped in the fall of Rome, he [Augustine] said that the violation of their bodies could not violate their souls if they did not intend what happened." Wills' gloss: "He is being consistent here," may remind a few of John Paul II's condemnation of abortion and capital punishment. But for many, this line of reasoning will strike them as entailing a dangerously casuistic literalism which, for the sake of scoring a "logical" argumentative point, ignores the concrete situation of the subject being violated. (It also evokes the moralizing fundamentalism, not to mention the implicit "tritheism" that has led some feminists to call God the Father the archetypal parental child abuser.)
Fortunately, this is not how one of Wills "heroes," Newman, taught Christians to think. On the title page of An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent Newman quotes one of his favorite Fathers: "Not by dialectic did it please God to save his people." (This is from St. Ambrose, a central villain in Carroll's autodidactic autopsy on the mystical body, and grand auto-da-fe of half the saints of christendom.) Three decades before in the University Sermons--the first testing ground of the Grammar--Newman had written that all people, "gifted or not gifted, commonly reason--not by rule but by an inward faculty." Or again, "Reason is a living spontaneous energy within us, not an art." And who for Newman writing as a Protestant is the model of such supra-rational thought? None other than Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin, dismissed, and even contemned, by Wills writing as a Catholic as the "idol-goddess." Again, the issue of picking and choosing only what subserves his private goals leads one to wonder how deeply Wills has actually penetrated not just the mind, but the spirit of his "heroes." Newman, critic of Rome, is embraced; Newman, devout traditionalist and consummate Christian existentialist, if known at all, is dismissed. To Wills catalog of Marian aberrations, of which I will cite only one more: "her very flesh was a cosmic marvel, like kryptonite, unable to die"--to such a catalog, Newman would simply have observed that it was "not acceptable to every part of the Catholic world." He later added, such forms of piety "do not color our body," i.e., have no influence on the Catholicism to which he had converted. Nor do they have any influence today, except for scoring cheap polemical points.
In fact, the whole discussion about Augustine on lying seems adventitious--if not just hobby-riding pedantry--in the context of Wills' book, which might have been better served by an analysis of Newman's own treatment of "Lying and Equivocation" in an appendix (Note G) to the Apologia. Newman should also be invoked on the broader issue of historical veracity. When discussing the prospects of a Catholic magazine, he observed: "nothing would be better than a historical review, but who would bear it: Unless one doctored all one's facts one would be thought a bad Catholic." Now it is by doctoring facts that one proves oneself a "good Catholic."
The chronological, historical, and thematic pastiche that constitutes Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit concludes with a commendable autobiographical homily: "I do not think that my church has a monopoly on the Spirit, which breathes where She will [that pronoun should allay any concerns for poor Lucretia, though earlier in a less pro-feminist mood the Spirit is a mere "it"], in every Christian sect and denomination. In fact, She breathes through all religious life, wherever the divine call is heeded, among Jews and Buddhists and Muslims and others [surely those three are no more coequal than they are coeval]. But we Christians believe She has a special role to complete Christ's mission in us. Unworthy as we are, She calls us." The irenicism runs a little thin in that last dispensational-- though admittedly humble--opining. But then the irresistible itch is scratched; and what briefly appeared to be an olive branch is launched--now, as from a catapult: "She calls us. She even calls the Vatican. All Christians need to respond to that soliciting. Including Popes." So the supplication--suitably from the nineteenth century--remains: No Popery! "But wherefore could not I pronounce 'Amen'?" Because I (like so many others of "my church") had as lief be embraced by a gaggle of foreign or domestic prelates as to antiphonally "respond to that soliciting."
This book shouts to the rafters the dismal, hopeless cry of yesterday's bigots, No Popery! But much less portentously, much less cosmically the clarion rebounds. As in the leaden echo of Hopkins' choral ode, to the cry "despair, despair," the modest golden echo replies, "spare," "spare." Spare us these dissonant, conglomerative medleys, whether historical, thematic, or chronological: No Potpourri! The method of history like the lesson of history is single and simple. Truth calls us. She even calls the journalistic guild. All people need to respond to that soliciting. Including Wills.
The fundamental flaw in the invocation of structural sin or structural deceit as the explanatory device for all aberrant acts, all failures and errors that the contemporary church has inherited, and even occasionally reinforced, is not that such invocation depends on distorted scholarship and deliberate falsification--though those as we have seen are bad enough--but that it removes the church from its historic reality as a temporal institution undeniably progressing, by fits and starts like any other institution, over two millennia of growth. The phrases "structures of deceit" and the more frequently heard "structures of sin," should be excised from our vocabulary, because they literally have no meaning in the modern era. If they are intended to suggest that an institution has a kind of built-in pattern of sin and deception, that pattern comes only from repeated acts of those individuals who sin or are deceptive. Moreover, if there were such a thing as a "structure" of sin, its only practical consequence would be at most to exonerate the evil or at least to blur the guilt of the responsible agent--precisely the opposite of not only what these structuralizers would wish for but of what they have repeatedly defined as endemic to antisemitic popes and power-hungry hierarchs.
I take my "text" from Acton's Inaugural Lecture for his chair at Cambridge where earlier Charles Kingsley had also been professor of modern history: (78)
The plea in extenuation of guilt and mitigation of punishment is perpetual. At every step we are met by arguments which go to excuse, to palliate, to confound right and wrong, and reduce the just man to the level of the reprobate. They set up the principle that only a foolish Conservative judges the present with the ideals of the past; that only a foolish Liberal judges the past with the ideas of the present. The mission of that school was to make distant times, and especially the Middle Ages, then most distant of all, intelligible and acceptable to a society issuing from the eighteenth century. There were difficulties in the way; and among others this, that, in the first fervour of the Crusades, the men who took the Cross, after receiving communion, heartily devoted the day to the extermination of Jews. To judge them by a fixed standard, to call them sacrilegious fanatics or furious hypocrites, was to yield a gratuitous victory to Voltaire. It became a rule of policy to praise the spirit when you could not defend the deed. So that we have no common code; our moral notions are always fluid; and you must consider the times, the class from which men sprang, the surrounding influences, the masters in their schools, the preachers in their pulpits, the movement they obscurely obeyed, and so on, until responsibility is merged in numbers, and not a culprit is left for execution.
As we saw, among the devisals of the German historians known as "functionalists," in their effort to prove that causes other than personal adherence to an ideological fanaticism begot the Holocaust, were the attribution of it to such generalized factors as the strategic demands of the war, the pressure of bureaucrats driven to fulfill impossible goals (like clearing Poland for German settlers), the "culture" of Aryan superiority, the "tradition" of Jew-hating, etc.. The response which scholars, whom I have cited in chapter four, made to the first argument, i.e., that the Holocaust resulted from pressure by a massive and largely anonymous bureaucracy, was to ask why then was it necessary to seek the death of Jews in places as remote from the "Eastern Marches" as Japan, and why was it necessary to accelerate the executions when defeat was universally acknowledged as imminent.(79) To the use of "culture" or the "tradition" as a structural escape clause from responsibility, the response was why then did so many, even at the peril of losing their lives, oppose everything connected with the Holocaust. Certainly it cannot be that an evil become a "structure" simply by being repeated by thousands of individuals (e.g., the bureaucracy), or simply by being repeated over many generations (e.g., the culture, the tradition).
Regarding the church, the reality is simpler. It is not a matter of assuming a posture of moral superiority or dressing onself up as a judge of history in order that one can dredge up every
real or imagined "evil," whether trivial or crass--from smoking bishops as with Wills to smoking guns as with Cornwell. (In the latter's crude conceptualization, it looked often like a mystery tale of a shepherd and the flock or a shepherd and the Glock.) Nor is it a matter of assuming that every act resulting in something bad or something just plainly stupid is always the result of a power-hungry conspiracy. Were we not told that the Latin mass was enforced in order to maintain the superiority of the "priestly caste"? But this caste system allegedly still exists in full flower--as lubriciously detailed by our nationally inquiring reporter on clerical pederasty--more than half a century after the extinction of the tridentine liturgy begun by Pius XII's Mediator Dei and concluded by Vatican II. (One can imagine the evasions of responsibility and guilt: "the structure of sin made me do it." Surely this can't be what reformers want.)
Of course we are talking about advanced cultures, about cultures whose members have undergone the process of emerging from barbarism and of thus becoming individually responsible for their acts. This will vary from society to society and from age to age. But one can say that it occurs when the sense of selfness and personness as the principle of identity gradually eclipses the sense of unthinking tribal or ethnic membership as that same principle--in short, when the individual realizes his or her uniqueness regardless of place or status in any group or social organization. Certainly, for speculative, that is, for scientific purposes, the determination of the chronological moment of such "emergence from barbarism" is up to culture anthropologists and historians. But for practical purposes, it suffices to know that when this "awakening" occurs, so too does individual responsibility.
As to most of western Europe after the barbarian invasions, Lord Acton in his Lectures on Modern History traced--perhaps too linearly--this emergence from barbarism to the discovery of the stoic writings around the eleventh century as the causal element which planted the seed of self-consciousness, the seed of an awareness of the uniqueness of the individual ego and its transcendent value--which by empathetic acculturation (or spiritual contagion) led to the acknowledgment of that transcendent value in one's fellow human beings. At that point personal virtue and personal sin, personal self-determination and personal culpability are present in any given society. In medieval and modern Europe one would certainly say this meant that burnings at the stake, torture or persecution for religious, racial, or cultural reasons were sins for those persons who supported, colluded in, or enforced such acts. (80)
So, too, for modern America. When the founders accepted the notion of self-evident truths about human rights, they did not mean truths that were "obvious" or "unarguable"; they meant truths that came to conscious awareness when one considered the nature of one's own self, of its aspirations and destiny. The tragedy which still besets American society is that the founders didn't look, or didn't let themselves look, deeply enough to recognize those aspirations and that destiny in chattel slaves. Thus political expediency, resulting in the perpetuation of evil, trumped human experience. In moral terms, one would have to say that those founding fathers were guilty of a sin that can not be mitigated by subsequently viewing the peculiar institution--another distanciating bit of sociological jargon--of slavery as a mere "structural" affliction of the American body politic.
Concerning the "old debate" over whether many Southerners tormented themselves with guilt over their ownership of slaves, Eugene D. Genovese writes; "A good many able scholars have thought they did. In contrast, other scholars, myself included, have argued that the mass of the slaveholders-and nonslaveholders for that matter-accepted slavery as ubiquitous in history, as sanctioned by Scripture, and as a fact of life." The question naturally arises as to how then did the slaveholders live with themselves. They did what their "Papist" and "Romish" enemies had done in earlier ages: they dissipated the horrors of burning at the stake (albeit by the "secular arm") by concentrating on the evils of heresy. Genovese continues: "For if few slaveholders showed any guilt about their ownership of human beings, a great many confessed guilt over their inability to live according to their own professed standards of Christian slaveholding, and they worried about their ability to give a satisfactory account on Judgment Day of the stewardship upon which their own salvation depended" (The Consuming Fire: The Fall of the Confederacy in the Mind of the White Christian South [Athens and London, l998]). (One cannot but admire the allusion to W.J. Cash's The Mind of the South.) But we don't call this slaveholding notion of "stewardship," invincible ignorance, much less "affected ignorance"; we call it culpable self-deception. (81)
Thus something does not become a structure of evil--and hence implicitly nobody's individual responsibility--by reason of its sheer immensity, whether in time or space, whether by its age or by its geographic extension. Throughout previous centuries of the medieval/modern era, pogroms in Europe and slaughter of indigenous peoples in the New World, the fiefdom of the European Catholic monarch in the Congo, serfdom in Russia, slavery in the Americas, abuse of children and women in Victorian England, obscene treatment of the insane, of prisoners, of vivisected animals in the "developed" nations--all and many more would be euphemized away by such coinages as "systemic" or "structural" or "functionalist." All these practices and scores of others had a beginning in individual sinful acts, a middle and perpetuation in individual sinful acts, and an end (to a considerable degree) in individual virtuous acts: a Las Casas, a Wilberforce, an Engels, a Charles Kingsley ("I am a Chartist parson"), a Susan B. Anthony, a William Lloyd Garrison, an Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a John Brown--some motivated by patriotic motives, some by the influence of that amorphous movement known as the "Enlightenment" (trendily, now much maligned); others by Christian principles, and so on.
If there are any enduring social structures, their names are sin and virtue--as banal as that.
So what is needed, if not a theology of original sin--about which Newman wrote with great pathos in the entire passage from which I excerpted only a brief section--is a sociology of institutions: or both. If there must be social or institutional structures engendering corruption, they are simply structures of delusion--of evil perceived as good--based on culpable ignorance, ambition, pride, or greed. As to the church, the fact is that every modern pope has been in most respects an exemplary human being, an adequate administrator, and according to his lights a faithful servant of the servants of God. And mutatis mutandis this has been true of the majority of bishops. (And there seems no evidence to assume otherwise, of the majority of clergy and members of religious institutes.)
The degree of resentment evidenced in the critics' indictments seems to raise the question as to how and why do popes and bishops differ from ordinary Christians: why must they be so elevated in station, so restricted in relations with their flock, so absorbed in their own circles of power and authority? Or as Wills, another emerging memoirist, puts it: "Most bishops conduct their lives sequestered from the people. I had occasion at one time to seek a bishop's attention. It was easier to get that of my senator." (82) And the answer to that complaint is, very simply put, because that "sequestered" he or she is a busy person in a big organizations with big responsibilities. The "Mother Church/Ma Bell" solution to that is to break up the large units into much smaller units--which will mean, of course, a remarkable increase of the number of bishops, and the number of "sequestrations.". (Here Wills is just adding another gripe to his list, since the issue is intrinsic to any complex society.) Of course these bishops are going to have to struggle against the temptation--as John XXIII did with remarkable effect--of succumbing to bureaucratic ways of living and administering: otherwise they lose what is well described as "the common touch." And of course, they are going to get caught up in the normal ambitions of preserving the organization, of expanding it, seeing it flourish--while at the same time maintaining the primacy of the individual person over against the institution. Does this mean that even if the institution is "church," they don't much differ from the heads of IBM, Harvard, General Motors, the Red Cross, Wal-Mart, etc.? At this point in the discussion, the temptation would be to answer, not really. Nor do they differ much, except perhaps by being more circumspect in their language, from journalists anxious to write a good story (and maybe win a Pulitzer) or novelists anxious to write a good memoir (and maybe get a National Book Award).
Wills supplies as a concrete instance of "papal sin"and "the structure upholding the legacy of wrong"--the issues relating to the ordination of women. After a fairly conventional and certainly widely acknowledged recitation of historic patterns of discrimination against women, he observes that, "the ban on women priests matters. It is not so much that women are clamoring to become priests (especially as the priesthood currently exists), but the perpetuation of this ban keeps alive the whole ideological substructure on which it is based. It is the last fierce bastion where the great Christian lie about women has entrenched itself." The parting shot about "the great Christian lie" can be dismissed since as Wills himself had already shown, it is really the "human" lie with its origins in pre-history, crystallized by custom and law in various near Eastern cultures, systematized in Greek and Roman civilization, and transmitted down the centuries by various societies, Christian and non-Christian. But what cannot be so readily dismissed is the haughty suggestion that ordination is being sought primarily as a gesture of the rejection of male hegemony. But if ordination is really the last bastion where the great lie is entrenched, it is difficult to avoid the impression that women are patronizingly being accused of inability to discern symbolic from real issues.
Wills needs to elevate ordination, regardless of his own allegation of its incidental import, to the status of an absolutely crucial element--"last bastion," "keeps alive the whole substructure"--in order to magnify the sin and guilt of the papacy, not merely in regard to Catholic women aspiring to the priesthood, but in regard to women in general. The consequence of this tactic is to reduce women to ideological pawns in a conflict that has less to do with women's rights than with Wills' passion for papaphobia--just as the Holocaust had less significance among anti-papal ideologues as the ultimate horror than it had as a useful means to assault Pius XII and the Vatican Secretariat of State--and by extension, the papacy itself. (One might recall here the deceptive strategies of Carroll, Cornwell, Phayer. and Zuccotti.)
To illustrate, I draw upon some early twentieth-century "secular" history. If someone, perhaps feigning for noble or ignoble motives to be a devoted feminist, would have said--after several generations of suffragists had been humiliated, pilloried, imprisoned, and force-fed--that "the vote" was important not because it would put women into congress and into state legislatures, not because it would empower women to legalize control over their own bodies and their own destinies; if that "someone" had said, on the contrary, that "the vote" was important because it undermined "the ideological substructure of inferiority"; and furthermore, if this dedicated advocate then observed that there was "no clamor among women to become politicians (especially as politics currently exists)"--would not the response to all that be outrage at such a display of patriarchal condescension?. --a condescension (we now move forward fifty years) compared with which Paul VI's confession of the "undeniable influence of prejudice unfavorable to women" in the church's past would make him look like wild-eyed (albeit "smudgy") crusader for ERA? --and speaking of which: is that too now to be reduced to the status of empty symbol?
Wills' real goal is not the redemption of "excluded women" (his chapter title), but the exclusion of unredeemed popes, as the following makes clear:
Those past injustices were not papal sins, since those who committed them--our thinkers like Albert the Great, our saints like Aquinas--did not realize they were doing wrong. But not to realize now when the evidence is so overwhelming, when the opportunities for redress are available--to perpetuate the wrongs to women as a way of maintaining that the church could not have erred in its treatment of women--that is the modern sin, and it is a papal sin. The structure upholding the legacy of wrong is not invincible ignorance but a cultivated innocence, ignorantia affectata.
In his Introduction to the entire book, the phrase in latin (subsequently derided as the language separating the priestly caste from everyone else) is not translated as "cultivated innocence" but as "cultivated ignorance," the latter being, I assume, what he intends here. (83) In this virtually unparseable sentence, what is not clear is whether the evidence for the modern sin of violating human and civil rights is as "overwhelming" as the evidence for the "papal sin" of enforcing an ecclesiastical ordinance. I think not, and therefore wonder why the word "sin" appears here at all, a sin which is not mitigated by being the result of ignorantia affectata, but is intensified. "Affected ignorance" is ignorance deliberately pursued and fostered, that is, it is the state of someone choosing deliberately to not know something in order to be free to continue in evil ways. The term originated in the ancient and medieval context of those who remained intentionally oblivious to "the true church" in order not to be obliged to convert. Its relevance to the twenty-first century is not explained by Wills, since it is difficult to imagine that even the "sequestered" hierarchy is ignorant of contemporary feminism and other liberation movements for civil and political rights. The latin phrase functions here merely to justify by one type of ignorance ("invincible") our thinkers and saints, and to condemn by another type ("affected") popes and bishops--whether they also are "ours" is not disclosed. Similarly, the italicized clause in the above passage serves an obfuscating function by making the apparent sin not discrimination against women, but merely that of "maintaining that the church could not have erred" in the past. So once again Wills' cause is not redress of evil, but condemnation of popes. Moreover, if the errors are in the past, they are exonerated by "invincible ignorance," not just among our "saints and teachers" but our popes and bishops as well. Rather than this elaborate embroidery around types of ignorance and sin, why is it not just admitted that what has happened is that--the no-doubt-passing--ban on ordination is simply carrying to an extreme a tradition in a church that is founded on tradition?
As to the present, short of outright evil, which no one has suggested is either very widespread or intentionally unpunished, similar aspirations and ambitions, similar drives for success, similar foibles and follies that animate the wisest and the worst among us will at least tempt--and sometimes successfully--these pontiffs and bishops. Short of individual psychopathology, which certainly does exist in every society, and which collectively infects the ill or the ignorant, there is in this age arguably less abuse of others' human and civic rights within Catholicism than within any other religious body of comparable influence. There are what many would see as abuses regarding religious rights--e.g., sacramental marriage for homosexuals, or even ordination of women--but ex definitione, their solution can come only by persuading through all the channels of public opinion the religious authorities. As for sexual abuse by clergy, by boy scout leaders, by athletic coaches, by teachers, by law officers, by parents and neighbors, everyone knows there have been coverups motivated by the desire, real or fabricated after the evil, to save the institution--the church, the youth club, the team, the school, the police force, the family--from the consequences. Such a "saving" effort occasionally takes the form of ruthless sacrifice of the victim in the name of the alleged well-being of the institution. But that effort has nothing to do with structures--as the not infrequent violation of group loyalties indicates--and everything to do with individual responsibility and guilt.
For Wills, celibacy is one of those structures of deceit. "When sexual scandal has arisen in the modern church priests have shown more than the ordinary institutional bias to protect their own. [The reference here is not to sexual abuse of others but to sexual relations with others.] Part of this comes from the bad faith that had them pretending, for the consumption of their superiors, to believe things they did not about celibacy, either for gays or for straight men." The sociological basis for the assertion that more than the ordinary institutional bias motivates priests in such cases is not presented; neither is it validated here by any statistical data--so that to the degree such motivation does exist, a simpler explanation than reliance on bad faith just might be institutional loyalty or gratitude, or just plain esprit de corps. But mandatory celibacy, like ordination of women, relates to issues that are already on the way to being solved by agitation from the periphery, and by the natural evolution of institutional mores.
As for structures of deceit, best exemplified according to our authors by Pius XII, I have already raised the issue of intention. What motivated his alleged silence is simply not knowable. Nor, it may be said by way of riposte, does any one know with absolute certainty if these authors' factual distortion and biased interpretation are intentional--even though it seems they can easily discern the intention of each pope or each bishop who is the object of their criticism. Moreover, it is even conceivable that under the umbrella of "structural deceit" they too might find justification in the journalistic "tradition," or "culture" for their exposés of flawed ecclesiastics. (Maybe at this point both structures collide and self-deconstruct.) And so, it comes to pass that in the common mind, one person's deceit is another person's spin; one person's duplicity is another person's diplomacy; one person's deception is another person's "public relations." But at least, then, we have reduced it to an agent who is guilty or innocent, not to an abstract category like "structure" which is by definition beyond good and evil. Moreover, we are taking a stand against that erosion of social morality which is the real ethical blight on the contemporary state, not the erosion of personal morality, much less the erosion of what are mistakenly-and for political purposes-called "family values."
I proffer another cautionary illustration. One man who ambitions mediating peace between rival powers, who speaks as Vicar of Christ, and who condemns on a number of occasions antisemitically inspired persecution, ends up in the historical record, if only by sheer volume of attacks made on him, almost universally denounced as a hypocrite. Another man ambitious for political unity, who speaks under guidance of his better angels, and who authors a proclamation which explicitly refuses to emancipate thousands and thousands of slaves, ends up in the historical record, if only by the sheer volume of laudatory accounts, almost universally admired as a courageous liberator. The first's "silence" is alleged to be the result of an obsession with diplomacy; the second's blatant discrimination is touted as brilliant "politics." Moreover, years after their deaths, when the first by a quirk of destiny is to be canonized and named a saint by the institution he led, the voice of outrage is heard throughout that body. When the second, by public acclaim is in effect canonized and named "the great emancipator" by the institution he led, there is national approval. Call it luck, chance, providence, divine superfluity; what it cannot be called is structural deceit or structural virtue. The only thing those two men, with such different historical fates, had in common was an overriding ambition to attain their goals, and that has nothing to do with institutional structures, but personal passions; sometimes ignoble, sometimes admirable--more often mixed. Slavery from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century in America, as I indicated at the end of chapter four, is the crucial test case demolishing the principle of structures of sin.
Since many of these critics come from the relatively cloistered world of the academy, one has to wonder if they imagine that some vast abyss of virtue or vice separates the scholar who seeks advancement from professor, to chair, to dean, to provost, to president of-not Boondocks University, but (ah!--cartoon balloon--"gasp") ultima Thule, some ivy clad learning center.(84) -do these critics imagine that a yawning moral chasm separates all that raw or cooked ambition from that of the ecclesiastic going from reverend, to very reverend, to right reverend, to most reverend, to--(ah! etc.) "your eminence"? How much difference is there between the celebrated athlete, ardently seeking a trophy that has only symbolic value, and the prelate, ruling the most grateful and appreciative and flourishing diocese, ardently seeking--a red hat? (Maybe both churchman and academic official began their careers merely ambitioning "an expensive stereo.")
From Aristotle to Durkheim and Weber, and to Berger and Bourdieu this is the nature of the people that manage the institutions that fulfill collective and individual human goals. Such people act in general harmony with others; they are often over-protective of the institution; they punish faults and reward achievements occurring in the pursuit of those goals. Throughout all this, they have to be responsive to public opinion, to various sanctioning powers of law, to the norms and standards of the "marketplace," and to other social and civic codes. In the church we call these controlling codes and sanctions, scripture and the doctrinal and prophetic tradition, both of which can be violated or respected in greater or lesser degree: violated by people deluded by ignorance, ambition, pride, or greed, and thus seeking their own goals rather than those of the collective body; more frequently, respected--as seen in the first-chapter discussion of historically validated equilibrium between the periphery and the center. And that phenomenon, born of grace and providence, is attested by the continuum of an institution that has survived by its being manifestly an exception to the rule.
But whatever is the result of sin and deceit depends on the individual agent, subject to the only structure history knows--original sin and the grace to transcend it--and not subject to some autonomous mythic entity independent of that agent and his relation to that sin. No one imagines as true the picture painted by these critics of some vast lumbering edifice moving like a juggernaut through history, and engaged in some enormous conspiracy to destroy its own children--all because of structures of deceit. What one can imagine is a pilgrim church composed of people in via, people by definition seeking a goal not yet attained. A people of God faithfully, but falteringly, going toward their promised land. The next two chapters will seek not to chart a path to that destination, but to set forth some indicators and signals, some resting places and short cuts (maybe a shrine or two) along the route to be followed.
Of the critics of the church in his day when the "night battle" was more dark and fearsome than it is at present, Newman wrote about that faithful and faltering journey in (as seems appropriate) a clumsily titled book, Certain Difficulties felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching Considered:
Resentment and animosity succeed in the minds of the many when they find their worldly wisdom quite at fault.... They accuse the Church of craft. But, in truth, it is her very vastness,
her manifold constituents, her complicated structure, which gives her this semblance, whenever she wears it, of feebleness, vacillation, subtleness, or dissimulation. She advances, retires, goes to and fro, passes to the right or left, bides her time, by a spontaneous, not a deliberate action. It is the divinely-intended method of her coping with the world's power. (London, 1850, Volume I, p. 179; Volume II is on Catholic devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and on infallibility, a revision of the letter to the Duke of Norfolk.)
"From the beginning of 1947 until the end of 1956, I have
known only an unbroken series of denunciations, warnings,
restrictions, discriminatory measures and scornful delations."
65. The motif here is from Bernard Häring--in what is his spiritual testament to the church--writing of experiences at Vatican II: "When there was absolutely no progress being made, no movement at all, I held on. I had a natural instinct, and a grace too, no doubt: I always saw, first and foremost, the encouraging signs of the time.... Anyone who experiences a historical epoch, where the dynamic of thesis and antithesis clearly manifests itself, can dare to hope, after close inspection of the whole picture, for a new synthesis. And that is the case right now" (My Hope for the Church,1999)...
66. What resurrection is for Wills is not brought forth--except that it is apparently dispensable. For James Carroll the resurrection is not a dogma but a consolatory myth recorded for a primitive community by a scribe dispensing comfortable bromides about togetherness. "Immediately after Jesus' death, the circle of his friends began to gather. Their love for him, instead of fading in his absence, quickened, opening into a potent love they felt for one another...and a repeated intuition that there was 'one more member' than could be counted. That intuition is what we call the Resurrection.... To imagine Jesus as risen was to expect that soon all would be.... His love survived his death--which is what Resurrection means" (Constantine's Sword, pp. 124-25).
67. At the end of this chapter I shall discuss in detail the nature of these putative "structures" that engender sin and deceit Here it is merely necessary to observe that the sociological nomenclature is itself deceptive since, as so often with technical jargon, it obfuscates more than it clarifies: one may think of those who would describe the Holocaust as a "functionalist" phenomenon. Possibly, the most magnificent passages in the Apologia occurs in the climactic final chapter--a peroration to the tedious historical reckonings that precede it-- which can only be described as a personal statement and a defense of Catholicity almost overwhelming in its grandeur, and its truth. I will cite only its conclusion which gets to the core of what culture theorists want to call structures of deceit: "And so I argue about the world;--if there be a God, since there is a God, the human race is implicated in some terrible aboriginal calamity. It is out of joint with the purposes of its Creator. This is a fact, a fact as true as the fact of its existence; and thus the doctrine of what is theologically called original sin becomes to me almost as certain as that the world exists, and as the existence of God." Sin or evil does not become a structure or "structured" by repetition whether over the centuries or over numerical increases, however dramatic, in the human race. Did brutally punishing or lynching black people become evil only in 1865 after the passage of the thirteenth amendment?
What Peter Damian condemned at the dawn of the medieval period in The Gomorrah Book, what was condemned a century before the Reformation in De squaloribus Romanae Curiae, what was condemned in the nineteenth-century by Antonio Rosmini in The Five Wounds of Holy Church, what Protestant Kingsley condemned in his statement that "truth, for its own sake has never been a virtue with the Roman clergy," what protesting Wills condemns in Papal Sin--none of these is due to some new cultural insight resulting in a sociological categorization that blurs the nature of perennially recurring vices and of attendant individual responsibility.
68. There seems to be something about Pius IX in particular that discombobulates Wills. A scholarly detective of the sort I have defined in chapter two might find here a useful clue or, what less inquisitorial scholars would call, "a heuristic device"; since mention of that Pius is always linked to inexcusable gaffes of interpretation and of dating. As to the latter, on Pius's watch, Wills' own chronology goes awry: concerning Pio Nono's Syllabus of Errors delivered in 1864, Wills discusses "the first draft of January 1869." Again, Wills describes how Pius "could almost be said to have wept himself into power," so that "to criticize him became a way of joining his persecutors, who drove him from Rome in 1858." I don't want to keep introducing Macaulay's mythic schoolboy, but the fact is Pius fled from the Italian nationalists ten years earlier. Finally, he adds ten years on to Pius's reign. All this may hint at some deeply rooted animosity which might be helpful in explaining the kinds of distortions we saw regarding the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and which we will see again regarding the Syllabus and papal infallibility.
69. Wills often writes like a latter-day physiognomist gifted with the uncanny power of interpreting facial features. There is the memorably nasty instance of his comparing a mere youth courting his bride at the White House--who grew up to become a major military historian, David Eisenhower--to the puppet character, Howdy Doody. Less vicious, since it relates to a nineteenth-century figure, whom Wills professes to admire, is what can only be described as eighteenth-century psychology applied to Cardinal Newman. Our Lavatery analyst describes him as a man "whose personality seemed to elude men behind his great hawk beak of a nose, his effeminate manner, his softly seducing voice." In this case, Wills eclipses Geoffrey Faber's fabricated Freudian assay, Oxford Apostles (who were implicitly being compared to the even more gay Cambridge ones), proving Wills to be indeed il miglior fabro. Moreover, most portraits before Newman's later years show no such deformity which, to the degree it may exist outside of Wills' imagination is attributable to the onset of old age, perhaps like Wills' own unanalyzed menton triplé. Or perhaps he is merely again confused among these personae dramatis; here identifying Newman with W.G. Ward who boasted: "I have the mind of an archangel in the body of a rhinoceros." From Newman we have a more modest, and profound, estimation: "I am an old man; my hair white, my eyes sunk in, but when I shut my eyes and merely think, I can't believe I am more than 25 years old, and smile to think how differently strangers must think of me from my own internal feelings." This was written two years before the Apologia where there is an undeniable playfulness (evident particularly in the retorts to Kingsley) and an energy in writing that any twenty-five year old would envy. The portrait that it is generally agreed best represents Newman in his old age is Lady Coleridge's done sixteen years before his death.
70. It is true that during the period of debate over contraception some broader "social" issues were discussed. There is most notably the intervention of Cardinal Spellman and Archbishop Hannan a few days before the close of the final session of Vatican II which asserted that the conciliar text on the avoidance of war contained "errors," and that unless they were corrected the entire schema should receive a non-placet vote. The two prelates asserted: "We deny that 'recent popes' have condemned total war as categorically as it is condemned in this section...," of what would be article 80 of Gaudium et Spes. Bishop Schroeffer and Archbishop Garrone, on behalf of the redactors of the schema, charitably suggested that the Americans had simply failed to read carefully the text in question, and went on to cite Pius XII, concluding with the observation: "As to indiscriminate destruction, as here understood, no Catholic theologian admits or is able to admit that it is morally licit." A year later this same Archbishop of New York affirmed that his nation in Vietnam was fighting "a war for civilization." Emboldened perhaps by this Weltgeschichtlich apercu from the East Coast, Archbishop Thomas Connolly of Seattle in June of 1969 publicly advocated that Hanoi and Haiphong be bombed and mined, citing in support of this position the precedents of Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki--all in illustration that not the entire episcopate was preoccupied merely with issues of personal morality.
71. James Carroll, Kliegl lights in focus, writes with habitual hiererotic verve: "When I described myself early on as a child of Vatican II, I thought that the greatest significance of the reforming council was its concern with various aspects of Church renewal, but after this exploration [pp. 1-546 of the memoir] of connections between theology and politics, I see its significance for an entire society beyond the Church. Even among non-Catholics, for example, the figure of Pope John XXIII is linked in memory with that of John Kennedy, and for good reason. Pope John's aggiornamento...." So self-absorbing is the auto-manipulating that the "good reason" is never supplied and John Kennedy is never mentioned again. Wills, on the other hand, hits the parallel bars, equally without any sense of irony: "Catholics had the Pope, their own John, to balance against 'secular John' in the White House. But for a while they [Catholics] had no Jackie." But providentially out of the cosmic matrix of history emerges one Sister Jacqueline Grennan, nun (such) president of a college near St. Louis as "our own" Jackie--though never memorialized quite as fulsomely as either of the Johns.
72. Cf. Justus George Lawler, Nuclear War: The Ethic, the Rhetoric, the Reality (Westminster, Md., 1965); "the Reality" in the title refers to the Cuban missile crisis.
73. In Chrétiens en dialogue, he wrote: "The starved messenger who came to us in Silesia gave us no details on the extent, the exact nature, nor above all, on the motives of the blow. And even today  after questioning, searching, and studying closely these details, I am so stunned by the contradictions and the incomprehensible nature of it all that I can see in it only as an error or a malicious act."
74. In the background of Newman's observation is the Council of Constance, now remembered more for its dissolute ambience and unfortunate condemnation of Hus-a condemnation regretted by the original John XXIII, a legitimate pontiff but deposed after opening the Council--than for its distinctly reformist agenda. But its historical significance--as Gallicanists of every national origin recognized--was its convocation by what would be defined today as laity (regardless of titles or place in society), and its endorsement of conciliar over papal authority, an endorsement condemned four decades later by Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, who became Pius II not out of devotion to his predecessor but to the poet of two centuries earlier who wrote "sum pius Aeneas." Never was there a period in which Newman's "do/undo" dictum was more exercised. The future Pius had for years supported the cause of antipopes, but on becoming reconciled with Eugene IV, he was ordained, consecrated, and ultimately elected. Following the lead of the Council of Constance, he appointed a commission to reform the curia, canonized Catherine of Siena, sought to restore monastic regularity, and like Nicholas of Cusa (whom he had presciently referred to as a "Hercules"), reversed his earlier conciliarist stance; he also--now like Augustine--authored a palinode repudiating his youthful writings and personal indiscretions ("forget Aeneas, remember Pius"), and died en route to a crusade against the Sultan whom he had earlier sought to convert. In sum, a life of remarkable reversals that illustrate historically and personally the principle of homeostatic equilibrium discussed in chapter one.
75. Relative to Newman's "consulting" and to the apparent indifference of the American episcopate to issues of social morality discussed in footnote 6, an exception should be noted, again regarding the Vietnam war. In July, 1965, ten diocesan ordinaries signed a declaration which had been proposed by Continuum in response to warnings by the State Department. The bishops affirmed that "the possibility that either side may bomb any purely civilian center would entail a clear and direct violation of Christian ethics and must be denounced as an immoral action." The background and history of the declaration appeared in the Summer, 1965, issue under the heading: "On Consulting the Episcopate in Matters of Practice." Cf. U.S. Catholic Historian (Spring, 1984), "The Continuum Generation."
76. The original "cisalpinists" were a group of Catholic laymen who in 1789 rejected the "deposing power" of the British monarch first invoked by St. Pius V, abandoned the dreams of a restoration of the Catholic Stuarts, and rejected the detailed regulations and religious practices they believed had been dictated by the Roman curia. Newman as a Protestant and as a Catholic would have joined them. Four decades after their founding, he wrote in Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church: "When religion is reduced in all its parts to a system, there is hazard of something earthly being made the chief object of our contemplation instead of our Maker. Now Rome classifies our duties and their reward, the things to believe, the things to do, the modes of pleasing God, the penalties and the remedies of sin, with such exactness that an individual knows (so to speak) just where he is upon his journey heavenward, how far he has got, how much he has to pass; and his duties become a matter of calculation."
77. Two aspects here are relevant. The play was published in 19l6 when Benedict XV, whose reign began at the time of the first World War, was consistently rebuffed in his peace efforts by both the Central and the Allied powers-to a degree that could be called a public humiliation. Second, Claudel though briefly maligned as a Vichyite, was the first major writer-among many others who remained silent throughout the occupation-to express in a public letter to the Grand Rabbi of France "the disgust, horror, and indignation which all good Frenchmen and especially Catholics feel at the iniquities and ill treatment inflicted"on the Jews. This was three months before the first trains left for Auschwitz (Cf. Marrus and Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews). Readers who have read Auden's metrically interesting but sermonically tedious poem on the death of Yeats should be mystified by the Hyperion/Satyr conjoining of Claudel and Kipling, and the pointless puzzle of for what exactly Claudel should be "pardoned." Jeffrey Hart thought the names were tossed out like a couple of poker chips, but George Steiner, polymath pre-eminent, though maybe still suffering the disaster of his Hitler novel, cites Yeats' other platitude about poetry "makes nothing happen" and goes on in all sincerity about people writing poetry, performing music, and "then proceeding to bestiality the next day." ("Festival Lecture," Edinburgh, 2000) This is a rare lapse for so awe-inspiring a mind since he illustrates the condition by noting "that it was under the occupation that French drama-Claudel, Sartre, Montherlant-reached new heights": omitting Camus, and failing to note that Claudel refused to allow production of Protée unless the music of Darius Milhaud, a Jew, were included (Cf. Julian Jackson, France the Dark Years [New York, 2001]) As to Auden he was just saddled with the problem of finding a rhyme--though Sacheverell could have been made to sit well enough.
78. I am quoting this from the essay; "Antisemitism and Theological Arrogance," in The Range of Commitment (1970). It is instructive to compare the tone and content with that of the works discussed above.
79. Among the most eloquent and persuasive chapters in Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's creative synthesis, Hitler's Willing Executioners, are those dedicated to the exterminationist goal of programs ostensibly created to increase worker productivity, and to the "perplexing phenomenon" of the death marches in the waning month, weeks, and days of the war when "the fidelity of the Germans to their genocidal enterprise was so great as seeming to defy comprehension. Their world was disintegrating around them, yet they persisted...."
80. It is worth noting that it was the evils of the Inquisition not so much as a judicial tribunal but as an instrument of the most horrendous torture that Simone Weil singled out in her communication with Father Perrin, a Dominican, as a major factor in her refusal to embrace Catholicism.
81. It would be lacking in politesse, or just exercising political incorrectness, to point out that intrinsic to slaveholding was not just the frequent breaking up of slave families, but even more the almost inevitable profiting (a bonus of capitalist stewardship) from the sale of offspring: thus a fertilized egg represented literally "seed money." This may explain the paradox of an obsession with "family values" and a total opposition to embryo research and to all abortion--even in cases of rape, incest or threatened maternal life--among the present-day legatees of this social system. No slave woman, under that "structure" of society, could ever suffer forced impregnation; nor do there seem to be any records of any legal redress for such rape.
82. The next sentence contains a curious slip. After the mention of "my senator," he adds immediately: "If addressing the needs of the faithful were the real concern, access to them [bishops] would be more readily achieved by, for instance, having women priests in whom other women could confide more easily." Unless women priests are viewed as episcopal amanuenses, it is not clear how the "real concern" with access would relate to them--regardless of how much they confide in other women. Wills, always the logic-chopping literalist, seems to be taking at face value Chesterton's masculinized whimsy at the beginnings of the feminist rebellion against domestic servitude: "Thousands of women rose up and said, 'we refuse to be dictated to,' and went out and got jobs as secretaries."
83. Though it should be noted that a basic hermeneutical principle is that, first, a garbled text such as this one, and, second, confusion evidenced by a mistranslation (particularly on the part of a manifest polyglot) key the reader into anticipating confusion or obfuscation. The parallel is with the multiplicity of flaws, linguistical, historical, grammatical, surrounding the mere mention of the name "Pius IX." This latter seemed to set off the most preposterous assertions and chronological errors--all cumulatively providing clues to the possible presence of uncontrollable authorial obsessiveness or some other personal intellectual disability.
84. Every experienced academic has harrowing tales of administrators, allegedly suffering from budgetary restrictions--and which one is not?--pursuing with a fury tenured faculty in the hope of de-commissioning them by scheduling classes at impossible hours, by shifting offices to dreaded locations, by enforcing ad literam long-forgotten regulations, by canceling student assistants, etc.. Of course no record exists, nor is the institutional head visibly involved. Once the need is conveyed to deans and other fonctionnaires, the presidential hand is invisible, and the satraps go to work. One university excised eight senior professors on the (academic, naturally) grounds that, first, the student body was youthful, and, second, becoming more female. The professors it was maintained being white male elders "couldn't adequately communicate with these students." A law suit followed, but an immortal institution has no concern with the passage of time, so as that time passed, the professors just abandoned the effort, went elsewhere (under a cloud of sorts)-or cultivated their gardens. The scenario evokes Nabokov's Pnin, Jarrell's Pictures from an Institution, Amis's Lucky Jim--an entire genre of administrative follies well symbolized by E.M. Forster's Mr. Pembroke with his "exhortations to be patriotic, learned, and religious that flowed like a three-part fugue from his mouth." Transpose to a higher level: with Cardinal Newman being shelved, Archbishop Hunthausen being humiliated, Archbishop Charbonneau being exiled--concerning the latter two, more in the next chapter. These result not from structures of deceit but, on the part of the perpetrators, from individual ignorance or greed or ambition relative to institutional success. All of those traits in varying degree may become "customary" by repetition, but are no less evil for that.