- Hardcover: 470 pages
- Publisher: Genesis Pr Inc (August 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1585710067
- ISBN-13: 978-1585710065
- Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.3 x 23.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 821 g
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,811,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Hitler, the War, and the Pope Hardcover – Aug 2000
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This sympathetic portrait of Pope Pius XII serves as a direct rebuttal to John Cornwall's recently published Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII (1999), a scathing indictment of the controversial pontiff's wartime record. After placing the beleaguered pope's actions firmly into historical context, Rychlak concludes that Pius did everything within his limited scope of power to condemn Hitler and to save Jews without endangering even more innocent lives. Although this respectful, painstakingly researched account of an undoubtedly compassionate and well-intentioned holy man mired in incomprehensibly difficult circumstances provides a wealth of thoughtfully outlined rationalizations, it fails in its mission to completely convince doubters that Pius XII could not have taken a more heroic public stand against Nazism. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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While one could discount the praise for Pious that Jews gave as an effort to curry favor with the long serving pope during the creation of the State of Israel, I will take it as face value as thanks for those Jews that the church saved. However, that fails to deal with Cornwall's most devastating charges such as:
1- Pious support for the concordant with Hitler and his willingness to disband Germany's catholic party, the most powerful bulwark against Nazism that existed at the time of its dissolution.
2- The church's willingness to allow priests to serve as chaplains in even the most blood thirst of Nazi military units such as the SS.
3- The church's failure, even now, to excommunicate Hitler, a baptized catholic.
4- The Pope's failure to condemn the activities of catholic eastern and south eastern regimes that supported the genocide against the Jews.
Certainly, one can understand the Pope in the context of a man who believed that Communism was the greater threat to his church than fascism. However, one might also say that such thoughts belong in the realm of politics, and that it is the responsibility of the righteous to attack evil, wherever they find it.
The world still waits for a balance biography of this fascinating and conflicted individual. Neither this, nor Cornwall's book meets that bill.
Rychlak agrees that a great injustice has been done in our time to Pius XII by recent books which have attacked his character and his actions. It is significant that many of these books are authored by Catholics or by former Catholics-none by Jews. Rychlak, as an expert trial lawyer, has skillfully collected a massive body of evidence to vindicate the memory of Pius XII, leaving the reader free to make final judgment upon his character and integrety.
Rychlak points out that the real quarrel of "disaffected Catholics" is with the "Catholic theological principle of papal authority in matters of faith and morals." In the epilogue, he critiques a book written by a former Catholic, John Cornwell, who gave it the vile title of "Hitler's Pope," a book which spreads half-truths and insinuations that tarnish Pius XII's name and record.
Cornwell uses dubious material, like a play called "The Deputy" (1963), to portray the pope as "silent" in the face of the Holocaust; as an anti-Semite, and as a Nazi sympathizer. In effect,Cornwell's anti-Catholic bigotry becomes part of a larger effort to weaken the moral and cultural influence of the Catholic Church by undermining the credibility of the papacy. In the afterward, professor Robert P. George explains that the Catholic Church with its papacy is "the single most potent force on the side of traditional morality in cultural conflicts with Communism, Nazism, radical individualism and other major secular ideologies."
Rychlak buries the lies, the half-truths, and the insinuations against Pius XII with an avalanche of facts. He demonstrates that Pius XII's reputation deserves to be restored as it was during the war when The New York Times -more than once- praised him as "a lonely voice crying out of the silence of a continent"; as it was after the war when the Grand Rabbi of Jerusalem, Isaac Herzog, sent the pope a special blessing for "his life-saving efforts on behalf of the Jews"; and as it was at his death in 1958 when Golda Meir, the Prime Minister of Israel,observed that "during the 10 years of Nazi terror, when the Jewish people went through the horrors of martyrdom, the pope raised his voice to condemn the persecutors and to commiserate with their victims."
Rychlak's book should be read by all--most especially by Catholics and Jews--for the wealth of information that is presented so well. He points out, for example, how a photograph on the jacket cover of "Hitler's Pope" leads people to believe that Pope Pius XII was being saluted by Nazi soldiers while leaving a building. Actually, the photograph was taken in 1927-years before Hitler ever came to power and while Pius XII was still apostolic nuncio to Germany. The soldiers were Weimark Republic soldiers and not Nazi soldiers.
Another person in the photograph, appearing to look like a S.S. Officer, is merely a chauffer saluting the apostolic nuncio, Eugenio Pacelli, who was returning to his car. It is interesting to note that the car door, which the chauffer was holding open with his other hand, has been carefully cropped away. This touched up photograph was deliberately taken out of context, when Cornwell placed his vile title under it to imply that Pius XII was in sympathy with Hitler and the Nazis. "Unfortunately, this is not the only dishonest aspect of the book," Rychlak writes.
Perhaps the most important piece of evidence unearthed by Rychlak is a quote from The New York Times which praises Pius XII's Christmas sermon of 1942: "The pulpit whence he speaks is more than ever like the rock on which the Church was founded, a tiny island lashed and surrounded by a sea of war. In these circumstances, in any circumstances, indeed, no one would expect the pope to speak as a political leader, or a war leader, or in any other role than that of a preacher ordained to stand above the battle, tied impartially, as he says, to all people and willing to collaborate in any new order which will bring a just peace."
This editorial was wrong about one thing. There are today some misguided people who condemn Pius XII for not speaking the way a political leader or a war leader would speak.
I highly recommend this book. There are 129 pages of detailed endnotes, 14 pages of bibliography and nine pages in a well-ordered index. Readers will find the writing style easy to follow. Chapter 18 (entitled "Questions and Answers") is excellent because of the many serious issues treated, such as, "Would a statement by the pope have diminished Jewish suffering?" In summary, this is a good, solid book on the papacy and the wider Jewish community during the Nazi era that, at last, provides reasonable answers to many difficult questions.
[Fr.John Keane,SA, a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, whose headquarters are at Graymoor, Garrison, NY, recently concluded his service as director of ecumenical and interreligious affairs for the Diocese of Sacremento. This review originally appeared in the Catholic Herald, Sacramento, CA.]
This book reads like propaganda. According to Rychlak, Pacelli was always correct in his actions. Even in his rare admission that this Pope or his administration might possibly have done more good by choosing a different course, he is quick to add a "however..." clause, returning to his rigid stance on the issue. It would have been interesting to read a convincing presentation on this side of the debate, but this book completely fails in that area.
Prospective readers of this book should first read John Cornwell's "Hitler's Pope" and Susan Zucotti's "Under his Very Windows", both of which are far better documented than Rychlak. The contrasting levels of scholarship are striking. Of the three accounts, I would recommend Zucotti's as the most unbiased and best supported. Even in her open-mindedness, however, Zucotti draws conclusions much closer to those of Cornwell than to those of Rychlak.
As much as I admire and venerate the Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel, I would have sacrificed those and many other worldly relics in order to save the lives of several million innocent people. Fear over an attack of the Vatican does not excuse Pacelli's actions. The fear of Communism was perhaps more valid; however, even after the Soviet Union's victory, Communism ultimately failed. Pacelli was faced with difficult decisions, but I am still not convinced that his decisions demonstrated a love for all of mankind, including non-Catholics, and especially including Jews. If I am wrong, then I require a better argument than this one to change my mind.
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