Wednesday, October 23, 2002

From the Weekly Standard, J. Bottum on why Goldhagen's forthcoming Pius XII book will be a boon to other Pius detractors:

That's not because the book is right, of course. It is filled with so many simple errors of fact that it's positively embarrassing to read. These errors of fact combine to create a set of historical theses about the Nazis and the Catholic Church so tendentious that not even Pius XII's most determined belittlers have dared to assert them. And, in Goldhagen's final chapters, the bad historical theses unite to form a complete anti-Catholicism the likes of which we haven't seen since the elderly H.G. Wells decided Catholicism was the root of all evil and wrote a book whose marvelous title shows the true flavor of curmudgeonly nuttiness: "Crux Ansata: An Indictment of the Roman Catholic Church (An Author's Frank Convictions about the Meddling Policies of the Church from its First Tie-up with the Emperor Constantine to its Present Alliance with the Nazi-Fascist-Shinto Axis)."

But Goldhagen's "Frank Convictions about the Meddling Policies"--I'm sorry; I mean Goldhagen's "A Moral Reckoning"--will nonetheless prove a useful book, not despite its errors, but because of them. This is a great opportunity for those who've written previous books against Pius XII. The reviews of Susan Zuccotti's "Under His Very Windows," for instance, were quite negative, accusing her of slanting the evidence to support her prejudged anti-Pius thesis. But now Goldhagen offers her a chance to claim middle-of-the-road credentials. "How can you say I'm an extremely prejudiced opponent of Pius?" Zuccotti can ask. "Daniel Goldhagen is the prejudiced extreme; I'm a moderate." For Garry Wills, James Carroll, and John Cornwell--all under considerable attack for their anti-Catholic Catholicism--no gift could be more timely. A prediction for the coming weeks: All these authors will review Goldhagen's book, and all of them will trash it--while using it along precisely the lines I suggest. Poor Danny Goldhagen. He's going to be beat up one side and down the other; his natural opponents attacking him and his natural allies joining in.

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