James Carroll's 1999 article on the Holocaust and The Catholic church is worth a read in the context of the latest Benedict fooferaw. He explains what the campaign to elevate Pope Pius XII to sainthood means:

Instead of a portrait of a man worthy of sainthood, [Pius XII biographer John] Cornwell lays out the story of a narcissistic, power-hungry manipulator who was prepared to lie, to appease, and to collaborate in order to accomplish his ecclesiastical purposewhich was not to save lives or even to protect the Catholic Church but, more narrowly, to protect and advance the power of the papacy. Pacelli's personal history, his character, and his obsession with Vatican prerogatives combined at the crucial hour to make him "the ideal Pope for Hitler's unspeakable plan," Cornwell writes. "He was Hitler's pawn. He was Hitler's Pope."

I'm not a big fan of Carroll's columns, but his Constantine's Sword is a bracing read (my 2001 NYT review of it is here; a less enthusiastic review is here). He also has a new book coming out called Practicing Catholic. I got an advance copy and haven't been able to tear myself away. The man can write; and his evolution as a Catholic from devout youth to radical adulthood through the prism of the 1960s helps me better understand a generation (and America). Of course, I'm a sucker for anyone who loves Merton as much as Carroll does.

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