The Cycle | February 18, 2013
>>> st. peter's square was the place to be this weekend as 50,000 jammed the square for one of the final appearances of pope benedict xvi .
>> as soon as he resigned, i knew i definitely wanted to come and witness it.
>> i'm proud to be an american and i wanted to let the pope know he's supported by all of us from america.
>> the pope asked followers to pray for him and his successor, but as the world prepares for a new pope set to be installed by easter, our next guest says there's no point in calling a conclave, because the institution of the priesthood is entirely made up. with us now is "new york times" best-selling author and pulitzer prize winner gary wills . he spent five years in seminary and nearly became a priest himself but now challenges that basic tenet of the church in his
book "why priests: a failed tradition." gary, i want to read back to you the first line of the "new york times" book review on your book, which reads " gary wills wants us to know that he really bears no animus towards priests. truly." and the point that you're making, of course, isn't an anti priest argument. it's a theological one that sort of suggests that maybe historically, priests weren't exactly the direction the catholic church was supposed to head in. and it's not really a new argument. you know, christians have argued for centuries over the role of the clergy and whether one needs a direct conduit to god. so just unpack your position a little bit for us.
>> well, it's true. i'm a great admirer of priests and friends of them. and they can do anything. preach, teach, instruct catechism. st . paul had over a dozen ministries. healers. prophe prophets. none of those were priesthood. he never mentions priests. there are no priests. what set the priests apart from the rest of the body of christ , as if he were not part of that, was the idea that only he can consecrate bread and wine and make it the body and blood of jesus . well, even in the fifth century, st. augustine , my principle thinker hero, said, it's ridiculous to think that you're eating jesus when you take this. he said you don't eat jesus . you don't digest him. when he handed out the bread and said this is my body, it was a bond with him. but it was his body handing it out. his body was there. he didn't say eat my hand. eat the bread as a symbol of your union with me. that was augustine 's attitude. and that continued to be the attitude of a number of people down through the middle ages until a tremendous revolt at the top started and all of these people were called heretics. there's a whole history of the middle ages , in which there is an assertion of power coming out of the new institution of the papacy saying that this is not simply a symbol. this is not an infigora, as they said, this is literal. and then in the 13th century , they got a very clever explanation. thomas aconfineis was in love with aristotle and said he distinguishes substance and accidents. you have a dog that is a substance. might be white, black, big, small. so you can see the substance is different from the accidents. but never said they could be separate. you can't have a dog who is no color, no size, et cetera . he has to have some accidents. what thomas came along and said, we can actually separate them. you can have substance of jesus and accidents of bread and wine , and they're totally separate. one doesn't invade the other. you just have to take that when you eat the accident, you get the substance. you're not really eating bread, you're eating jesus .
>> would you be interested -- i guess speaking more practically, you know, i assume we're going to have priests for a long time, as long as we have the catholic church . in reforming the priesthood, opening it up to women, opening it up to married men, that sort of thing. do you think that's a good step maybe the church should be taking?
>> well, i don't want to open up the priesthood to women. because i don't want priests. i want women to be teachers and leaders and counselors, and they are in my church. my catholic church . see, the problem is that if you are only a priest ordained from above, from bishops who are appointed by the pope, and tells you that you alone in that community are able to change these accidents, then the woman priest will be subject to all the kinds of disciplines and nonsensical directives that the males are. what we need -- see, all priests were originally chosen by their congregations and so are the bishops. ambrose, when they said in milan, we want you for your bishop, he said, i can't be that, i'm a secular ruler, not even baptized. i said, doesn't matter. we want you. now, they were the body of christ . and so he had to obey. the same was true of augustine . when he gave out communion, he said, "receive what you haare, the body of christ ." so when they told him, you are the bishop, he couldn't leave. and bishops could not become popes, because they could never leave their people. they were wed to them.
>> okay, gary wills , interesting stuff. thank you very much for joining us.
>> my pleasure.
>>> up next, gearing up for the theors oscars with an unusual ha harvard class. even more surprising, they let torat roam their hallowed halls. we