Originally published 07/09/2013
Garry Wills is Professor of History Emeritus at Northwestern. His study of Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1993. His latest book, Why Priests? A Failed Tradition, was published in February 2013.On September 3, 2000, Pope John Paul II beatified Pope Pius IX. (Beatification is the third and penultimate rung on the ladder to sainthood—it certifies that a genuine miracle was worked through a dead person’s intercession, establishes a liturgical feast day for that person, and authorizes church prayer to him or her.) Pius IX was a polarizing figure. He wrested from the Vatican Council a declaration of his own infallibility; he condemned such modern heresies as democratic government; he took a Jewish child, Edgardo Mortara, from his family—on the grounds that Edgardo’s Christian nurse had baptized him as an infant, making him belong to the church, not to his infidel parents.
Originally published 03/26/2013
Sooner or later, anyone who writes about America must reckon with Garry Wills. Not that it’s easy to do. The books are demanding enough—not the prose, which is graceful and elegant—but the arguments, which are unfailingly original, often provocative, occasionally subversive and, now and again, utterly perverse, yet stamped every time with the finality of the last word.
Originally published 03/05/2013
The author of “Nixon Agonistes,” “John Wayne’s America,” “Lincoln at Gettysburg,” “Reagan’s America” and, most recently, “Why Priests?” considers Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” “the best political writing of our time.”What was the best book you read last year?Peter Brown, “Through the Eye of a Needle.” Puts a stethoscope to the fourth through sixth centuries C.E.When and where do you like to read? Anywhere. Everywhere. In high school, I read in the stands through the school’s football and basketball games....
Originally published 02/13/2013
Garry Wills is the author, most recently, of “Why Priests? A Failed Tradition.”THERE is a poignant air, almost wistful, to electing a pope in the modern world. In a time of discredited monarchies, can this monarchy survive and be relevant? There is nostalgia for the assurances of the past, quaint in their charm, but trepidation over their survivability. In monarchies, change is supposed to come from the top, if it is to come at all. So people who want to alter things in Catholic life are told to wait for a new pope. Only he has the authority to make the changeless church change, but it is his authority that stands in the way of change.Of course, the pope is no longer a worldly monarch. For centuries he was such a ruler, with all the resources of a medieval or Renaissance prince — realms, armies, prisons, spies, torturers. But in the 19th century, when his worldly territories were wrested away by Italy, Pope Pius IX lunged toward a compensatory moral monarchy.
Originally published 01/24/2013
Garry Wills is Professor of History Emeritus at Northwestern. His study of Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1993....Humans should always cling to what is good about their heritage, but that depends on being able to separate what is good from what is bad. It is noble to oppose mindless change, so long as that does not commit you to rejecting change itself. The South defeats its own cause when it cannot discriminate between the good and the evil in its past, or pretends that the latter does not linger on into the present: Some in the South deny that the legacy of slavery exists at all in our time. The best South, exemplified by the writers listed above, never lost sight of that fact. Where are the writers of that stature today in the Tea Party South? I was made aware of the odd mix of gain and loss when I went back to Atlanta to see my beloved grandmother. She told me not to hold change between my lips while groping for a pocket to put it in—“That might have been in a nigger’s mouth.” Once, when she took me to Mass, she walked out of the church when a black priest came out to celebrate. I wondered why, since she would sit and eat with a black woman who helped her with housework. “It is the dignity—I would not let him take the Lord in his hands.”
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