Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review of the revised edition of "Hitler, the War and the Pope"

Terry Oberg of Brisbane has given me permission to publish his review of Ronald Rychlak's "Hitler, the War and the Pope."  I read the first edition some years ago.  While Rychlak's collection of data is impressive, his analysis lacks the historical rigour and contextual detail demanded of the subject.  However, this post belongs to Terry and his review.

Title: Hitler, the War and the Pope.

Author: Ronald Rychlak

Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing

Price: $35

Reviewed for the Catholic Leader, Brisbane, Australia, by Terry Oberg.

In his preface the author claims the first edition of this work was written to prove that Pius XII was not a Nazi. Surely this is the classic example of demolishing the straw man. George Cochran who is alleged to have made that claim comes from the same legal background as Ronald Rychlak. Both lack any formal academic background as historians.

What is presented is a well organised catalogue of words, thoughts and deeds emanating from the diplomat, Eugenio Pacelli, who then becomes Pius XII. In both positions his championing of the Jewish cause and his condemnation of Nazism are unchallenged. The reader is positioned to construe the content this way.

Yet it is general knowledge that several reputable, professional historians do not share these unqualified conclusions. The memory of a Pope charged with guiding the Church through one of its most difficult periods is not honoured by such an unbalanced treatment as this.

Much evidence is cited that appears convincing and the documentation is copious. In a chapter on his critics the author names mainstream historians who disagree with him. Michael Phayer, Michael Burleigh, Robert Katz and Susan Zucotti are mentioned. These are too lightly dismissed by reference to a Rabbi who heaps them under the subjectivity of, “distorting the truth in order to influence the future of the Catholic Church.”

Kevin Rudd, in some of his worst PR moments as Prime Minister, used to ask himself questions to which he then proceeded to give his interviewers the answers; a variation of the maligned Dorothy Dix strategy. The final chapter of this book takes this form.

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