How many people know that a modern pope publicly referred to Jews as "dogs;" that two other modern popes called the Jewish religion "Satan's synagogue"; that at the beginning of the twentieth century another pope refused to save the life of a Jew accused of ritual murder, even though the pope knew the man was innocent? Lastly, how many people know that only a decade before the rise of Hitler, another pope supported priests who called for the extermination of all the Jews in the world?
The answer has to be "great numbers of people" since those accusations appeared in David I. Kertzer's The Popes Against the Jews (2001), a book which had been lauded in major journals and newspapers in the U.S. and the U.K., and which by 2006 had been translated into nine foreign languages, while Kertzer himself according to his Website, had become "America's foremost expert on the modern history of the Vatican's relations with the Jews." It is thus undeniable that very many people in very many countries have heard of the appalling misdeeds and misstatements mentioned above -- even though, in fact, not one of them was ever perpetrated by any pope.
But Were the Popes Against the Jews? is not only about the disclosure of these shocking slanders, however fascinating and important such an exposé is. In the broader perspective, it is about the power of ideology to subvert historical judgments, whether the latter concern the origins of anti-Semitism and the papacy, the distortion of documents to indict Pius XII, or the fabrication of Pius XI as "codependent collaborator" with Mussolini (the announced subject of Kertzer's next book). Justus George Lawler's confrontation with ideologues will gratify all who are seeking not triumph over opponents, but peace and justice for all.
Justus George Lawler
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 Celestial Pantomime: Poetic Structures of Transcendence; Hopkins Re-Constructed: Life, Poetry, and the Tradition; and Popes and Politics: Reform, Resentment, and the Holocaust. He has been an associate editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Telos: A Journal of Radical Social Theory, and U.S. Catholic Historian.
"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."
- Michael Burleigh - Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Author of Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II
"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.
- Christopher J. Kauffman - Past president of the American Catholic Historical Association, Author of Faith and Fraternalism