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Were the Popes Against the Jews?: Tracking the Myths, Confronting the Ideologues Hardcover – January 31, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


Michael Burleigh
-- Fellow of the Royal Historical Society
Author of Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II
"In The New York Review of Books Owen Chadwick, the distinguished historian of modern Christianity, wrote that David I. Kertzer's The Popes Against the Jews 'makes a case that calls for an answer.' Until the publication of the present book that case had not been made, even though issues regarding the papacy and the Holocaust have in the past decade become more heated than ever before. In this carefully argued and brilliantly written work, Justus George Lawler provides that answer -- with a vengeance. He exposes the jumbled chronology, the doctored texts, and the rigged translations that constitute the shoddy underpinnings of the work of Kertzer and of his supportive admirers who are endeavoring to replace an authentic historical narrative with an ideologically driven polemic."

Christopher J. Kauffman
-- Past president of the American Catholic Historical Association, Author of Faith and Fraternalism
"Anyone reading only the introduction to Lawler's book will have a hard time putting it down. Its beginning pages set the stage for an engrossing work of literary detection which, chapter by chapter and clue by clue, discloses the stratagems intended to prove that the papacy was engaged in 'unholy war' against Jews. Equally as significant as refuting that bizarre accusation is the book's exploration of the nature of political and religious institutions -- more specifically, of the emergence and erosion of their foundational ideals. This theme is amplified in the final climactic chapters which focus on Judaism and Catholicism, the U.S. and the heritage of slavery, and Israel and the Palestinians. The book is thus a continuation of Popes and Politics: Reform, Resentment, and the Holocaust by an author about whom Rabbi Jacob Neusner wrote in The Jerusalem Post: 'Justus George Lawler embodies the reformation of the Catholic Church, which perpetually renews and reminds it of its vocation."

About the Author

Justus George Lawler has been the editor of five publishing imprints and two quarterly and two monthly journals. He is the author, editor, and translator of a score of books on religious and cultural issues, including

. He has been an associate editor of the


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 405 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (January 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802866298
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802866295
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,684,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Peter S. Bradley on March 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Justus George Lawler's "Were the Popes against the Jews?" is good for both what it is and what it isn't.

It is a tour de force. A raging and well-founded indictment of the shoddy intellectual posing and favor-trading that passes as historical scholarship in at least one area of the academic industry, i.e., "Holocaust studies." Lawler is a long-time publisher and editor of scholarly works and has a sharp eye for the "tics" that a writer exposes before running a con. He also has a reader's love of language and the student's outrage at being treated with disrespect for his time and money. In this book, Lawler documents in excruciating detail, a dishonesty among popular writers - and the fawning enabling support of their more academically inclined confreres - that can only be the result of an ideological a priori commitment.

It is not a work of apologetics for the Catholic Church. Lawler is a Catholic, but he is obviously a liberal Catholic, waiting with baited breath for the advent of Vatican III, which will bring him the reforms he clearly wants, such as a normalization of the status of homosexual sex, which seems to be a major theme of his final chapter. Lawler also pulls no punches in deriding the Catholic Church's statement on the Holocaust, "We Remember," for being inadequate and tendentious.

The principle aim of Lawler's book is Daniel Kertzer's "The Pope against the Jews." The thesis of Kertzer's book is that every pope from Pius IX in the mid-19th Century to Pius XII in the 1940s was virulently anti-Semitic and essentially caused the Holocaust by "orchestrating" an anti-Semitic campaign "out of the lime-light.
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6 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jan Peczkis on April 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
There have been a series of books attacking Pope Pius XII and several of his predecessors, accusing them of being strongly anti-Semitic. The popes facing these attacks are Pius IX, Leo XIII, Pius X, Pius XI, and Benedict XV. Lawler, who is obviously liberal as exhibited by his views on abortion, homosexuality, etc., critiques the likes of Kertzer's THE POPES AGAINST THE JEWS and Cornwell's HITLER'S POPE.

Various Catholic liberals support attacks on the popes. For instance, Father John Pawlikowski has lauded Kertzer's book. (p. 52). [Polish readers may remember Fr. Pawlikowski from past episodes of Polish-Jewish dialogue. This "dialogue" consists of Jews attacking Poles, and Polish liberals nodding their heads in agreement.]

On the subject of Catholic spokesmen and Catholic publications, Lawler accuses Kertzer of confusing cause and effect: "The major question to which this shift gives rise is whether CIVILTA CATTOLICA, as Kertzer persistently insists, was crucial to the rise of modern, racist anti-Semitism or whether, as suggested in the previous chapter, the Jesuit magazine was itself responding to converging tendencies in the larger culture." (p. 60; see also p. 31).

Kertzer's remark about the pope calling the Jews dogs comes from a secondary source. (p. 5). This, and accusations of popes calling Jews "the synagogue of Satan" have assumed the status of urban legends. (p. 48).

"Dogs" have had a long history. At one time, Jews called Samaritans dogs, and mishnaic rabbis called Christians dogs. (p. 77). Pius IX's reference to "Jews as dogs" is quoted in proper context (pp. 82-83), and is meant in a spiritual and Biblical sense. Pius was alluding to Christ's parable about the Canaanite woman. The woman, a gentile, was the dog.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John E. Banks on April 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An vital topic, well-researched, and helpful, but poorly written. I enjoyed this book very much. The author's style made reading difficult.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful By N. Ravitch on November 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Few authors or readers CAN DANCE AND CHEW GUM SIMULTANEOUSLY; CERTAINLY Justus George Lawler can't.

Noble is the wish to counter anti-Catholic propaganda by liberal Catholics and understandably paranoid Jews that claims fundamental anti Semitism on the part of Popes. Equally noble is upholding real objective STANDARDS OF HISTORICAL RESEARCH. FINALLY THE DEMOLITION OF THE PSEUDO SCHOLARSHIP OF DAVID I.KERTZER AND HIS FLAK and all the leftist academic fools who dominate academic history is necessary. But Lawler cannot write effectively, cannot keep even two objects in the air at one time, and cannot effectively promote anything without confusion and otiosity. To be charitable I would say Lawler has Alzheimers or is so conflicted as a liberal conservative Catholic anti-Catholic that he can only do harm. The book has material of interest, but the gems are buried in much dross.
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