cover image WHY I AM A CATHOLIC


Garry Wills, . . Houghton Mifflin, $26 (390pp) ISBN 978-0-618-13429-8

In this "unintended sequel" to his 2000 book, Papal Sin, Wills tries to answer the many readers who asked why he remains a Catholic even as he has criticized its authority figures, especially the current pope. He begins with a very personal, though brief, look at his life as a Catholic, which includes time spent as a Jesuit novice, then proceeds with a detailed defense of his views on the church and its papacy. He concludes with an explanation of the Apostles' Creed, which he regards as the true foundation of his faith. Wills's detractors may be surprised to learn that he has had a largely positive church experience, refreshingly bereft of the kind of stereotypical bad memories that have marked other recent Catholic memoirs. He even reports that he has never stopped going to Mass and saying the traditional Marian devotion known as the Rosary. For Wills, a Catholic can be both loyal and critical, a loving child who stays with his father even if the parent is wrong. He has remained Catholic, he says, because his faith is based on "the great truths of salvation" found in the creed, which he believes Catholicism has played a major role in preserving. Wills's book is well written and carefully referenced to support his point of view. It's unlikely to satisfy his critics, but it will offer solace to those Catholics who cling to the church while hoping it will start to better reflect the times. (July 16)

Forecast:It's not difficult to see why Houghton Mifflin moved this publication up from September to mid-July; with all of the controversy swirling around the Catholic Church just now, there's a huge potential market for Wills's intelligent apologia.