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Tony Coady

Garry Wills is a distinguished American historian whose writings over the past twenty years or so on the frailties of the Catholic Church, notably in such books as Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit (2000) and Why I Am a Catholic (2002), have provided stinging critiques of the institution to which he still steadfastly belongs. His new book, Why Priests? A Failed Tradition, continues the theme by rejecting the validity of the very idea of the Catholic priesthood. And if this is not sufficiently radical, Wills’s subversion of the priesthood also involves a critique of the doctrine of the Real Presenceof Christ in the Eucharist, the status of the sacraments, of mainstream accounts of the Atonement, and of the standing of Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews.

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One of the most productive and interesting areas of research in applied philosophy is concerned with moral issues around warfare. Although there had been important contributions previously, Michael Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars (1977) was immensely influential in philosophy and well beyond its confines, reinstating ‘just war’ thinking as a mainstream intellectual position. It became, for instance, a standard text in Western military academies.

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Mark Johnston’s Saving God: Religion after Idolatry is an astonishing book. Its surprise consists in its topic, style, passion, range of religious and philosophical scholarship, and its daring blend of human depth and philosophical originality. Johnston describes it as an essay that ‘gradually evolves into a sort of jeremiad’. There are plenty of complaints, and it is at times a tirade, especially in the final chapter, but the term ‘jeremiad’ does too little justice to the book’s subtlety and persuasive intelligence.

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Righteous Violence edited by Tony Coady and Michael O'Keefe & A Matter of Principle edited by Thomas Cushman

October 2005, no. 275

The fears and tensions in the aftermath of September 11 created an unusual political climate in the US, in which it became possible for the government to lead an invasion without having to explain precisely why. Nobody seemed to quite know who or what was guiding the administration as it led the charge for war: was it utopian neo-conservatives trying to reshape the world in America’s image? Was it isolationist hawks trying to wipe out an old foreign foe? Was it oil-hungry Texans? Was it paranoid security advisers, regretful of their failures and with a new bent for pre-emption, no matter how distant the threat?

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Never far from one’s mind these days, the events of September 11, 2001, and their direct aftermath in Afghanistan and elsewhere, had to be prominent in this month’s issue of ABR, such is their complex resonance and ubiquitous iconography. To complement Morag Fraser’s essay in this issue on the consequences of ‘September 11’ for civic ...