The church & anti-Semitism 

Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s recent lengthy article in the New Republic (January 21), "What Would Jesus Have Done? Pope Pius XII, the Catholic Church, and the Holocaust," has already generated a vigorous response in the same journal from Andrew Sullivan ("Mortal Sin," January 28) and a sharp retort to Sullivan by the New Republic’s literary editor Leon Wieseltier ("Slander," February 4). Goldhagen’s piece appears to be a chapter from his forthcoming book, A Moral Reckoning: The Catholic Church during the Holocaust (Knopf). If the book has the same prosecutorial tone as the essay, it will undoubtedly generate still more response, especially since it appears as the latest in a series of ever-sharper attacks by both Jewish and Catholic writers on the role the Roman Catholic Church allegedly played in the Holocaust. Goldhagen, author of Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust approvingly cites John Cornwell’s Hitler’s Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII, David Kertzer’s The Popes against the Jews: The Vatican’s Role in the Rise of Anti-Semitism, Garry Wills’s Papal Sins: Structures of Deceit, and James Carroll’s Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews to make his point.

The basic facts at issue have been known for some time. The Catholic Church in Europe has a long, shameful history of anti-Jewish rhetoric and behavior. The papacy was, at the very least, nonheroic in the face of Nazism...

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About the Author

Luke Timothy Johnson, a frequent contributor, is the R.W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at the Candler School of Theology, Emory University. Two of his most recent books are Among the Gentiles: Greco-Roman Religion and Christianity (Yale) and Prophetic Jesus, Prophetic Church (Eerdmans).