The Fuzzy Picture of Hitler’s Pope


The Roman who first identified the Catholic Church as the cause of his troubles likely had no idea he was sounding a theme that would outlive the Sybil's own prophecies. Antagonism for the Church has echoed throughout the West's history, from the days when the dynasties of Rome's western invaders struggled with the popes over Arianism, through the long Medieval conflict over the investiture of bishops, to the claims of intellectuals like Gibbon, Voltaire, Twain, and Marx. Every age seems to have its own version of what Leo XIII called the "hackneyed reproach of old date""—that the Church is ""wholly unable to afford help in spreading that welfare and progress which justly and naturally are sought after by every well-regulated State.""1 The modern era has its own list of grievances, amply displayed in John Cornwell's book, Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII. Through the life of Eugenio Pacelli (who became Pope Pius XII in 1939), Cornwell purports to show his readers that Catholicism's way of living in, and thinking about, the world is hospitable to atrocity, indifferent to the welfare of non-Catholics, and inimical to man's legitimate aspirations to social justice and a spiritually consoling sex life. It is an intriguing attempt, written in a compelling style that cordially invites the reader to overlook its numerous and basic lapses in judgment, accuracy, method, and rational coherence.
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