Wood, although critical of Wills, buys his version of ecclesiology, church history, and the picture he paints of what contemporary Catholicism is all about. He doesn't have the background to critique Wills' account of history (an error in review assignment in my opinion - Wood is an excellent reviewer, but most of the time, when major non-fiction books are reviewed, it's standard to assign the book to someone who has the expertise in the field to be able to tell if the author is getting his facts straight), and he doesn't have the understanding of Catholicism in general that's absolutely necessary to evaluate this book fairly to all concerned. The basic issue is this: Wills sets up a paper tiger to combat. He conflates way too much power, especially in terms of doctrinal develeopment and definition, to the papacy. As I've stated many times before, the history of the papacy is rocky and more men and movements than we can bear to think about have used it for their own ends. The role of the papacy has evolved as well - I hardly know a soul who disagrees, and that's the problem with Wills' take. He envisions this landscape in which he, lone soldier of integrity and fidelity to the truth of history, is waging battle against modern-day Ultramontanists who declare that Peter personally sat down and wrote the Nicene Creed. Not so.
What Wills does is, very simply, to blame doctrines and practices he doesn't like on an over-reaching papacy, ignoring the truth of historical development of doctrine and the role that the whole Church has played in the evolution and acceptance of those doctrines and practices.
I like James Wood, but he was the wrong fellow to review this book. Steinfels in Commonweal was much better.