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Hitler and the Vatican


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While he purports to defend the Vatican against "polemics" and "moralists," Godman's account of the Vatican's failure to oppose Hitler, based on recently released documents, is in some ways as damning as Goldhagen's A Moral Reckoning. He focuses on the 1930s and two men, Pope Pius XI and his secretary of state, Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII. Neither man comes off well, bound as they were by legalisms, propriety and an almost obsessive desire to maintain the facade of reciprocity embodied in the Vatican's Concordat with Nazi Germany. Both fully recognized that Nazism was incompatible with Christian doctrine, and therein lies the real tragedy of Godman's well-told tale. While Godman, a Vatican scholar and member of the Church's Committee for the Archives of the Holy Office, paints portraits of two tormented but indecisive men, other culprits are the ineffective papal delegate in Berlin, Cardinal Orsenigo, and the Austrian bishop Alois Hudal. This is also a study of the structural and institutional inertia of the Vatican. Caught between the dual threats of Nazism and Bolshevism, popes, German bishops and Vatican authorities failed to articulate a single, coherent, theologically sound and politically savvy condemnation of National Socialism. Like Pius XI's "hidden encyclical" denouncing racism, two highly specific condemnations of Nazism, drafted in 1935 and 1936, were never promulgated for diplomatic and political reasons. One can only read these documents (included as appendixes I and II) with a heartrending sense of what might have been. (Mar. 25) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

This articulate and thoroughly researched book is based on new and never-before-seen documents housed in the Vatican's secret archives. Godman (Latin, Univ. of Rome), an atheist, persuaded the Vatican to open these archives and in February 2003 became the first lay academic granted access. Subsequently, he was named founding member of the Committee for the Archives of the Holy Office. As a Vatican insider, Godman is the first credible scholar to offer a completely new take on the often slandered and misunderstood Pope Pius XII. This book's 14 chapters chronicle much of the Catholic Church's policy toward the Nazi regime before Eugenio Pacelli ascended the papal throne. Many policies, plans, and positions were firmly entrenched under the preceding pope, Pius XI, who preferred diplomacy and silence in the face of Hitler's propaganda and eventual atrocities. Though Pius XI considered documents declaring Nazism heretical, he eventually opted to condemn communism instead. Complete with sample "secret" texts, detailed endnotes, a dozen pages of select bibliography, and complete general index, this title lays the foundation for future debate about Catholicism and Nazism. Recommended for academic libraries.-John-Leonard Berg, Univ. of Wisconsin Lib., Platteville Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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