- Hardcover: 296 pages
- Publisher: Genesis Press (August 1, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1585710067
- ISBN-13: 978-1585710065
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,823,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hitler, the War and the Pope
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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
About the Author
In this extensive revision, Ronald J. Rychlak plumbs the depths of the Vatican s internal report on Pius XII as well as investigates recent charges that Soviet counter intelligence was involved in a plan to discredit Pius XII.
He also takes on all the various charges against Pius XII from John Cornwell, James Carroll, Susan Zuccotti, and others. No serious charge is left unrebutted.
Mr. Rychlak is Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the Mississippi Defense Lawyers Association Professor of Law at the University of Mississippi School of Law. Mr. Rychlak has received three medals from the Holy See for his diplomatic service, and he advises the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations. His most recent book is Righteous Gentiles: How Pius XII and the Catholic Church Saved Half a Million Jews from the Nazis. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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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.]