Hitler’s Pope by John Cornwell

John Cornwell’s Hitler’s Pope Hitler’s Pope demonstrates how Eugenio Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII, was instrumental in establishing the Reich Concordat in 1933, issuing a license of advancement and destruction to history’s most ruthless dictator. Throughout his work, Cornwell seeks to fulfill his stated thesis: That regardless of being a bearer of the weight of his office and its history, Pius XII “exerted a fatal and culpable influence on the history of this century” (4). While proving his thesis, Cornwell makes evident two themes that ruled Pius XII’s life and papal career: ambition for absolute authority and an underlying but intense anti-Semitism.

First, Cornwell proves that an ambition for absolute papal authority controlled Pius XII. From the very beginning Pacelli exhibited a character of being stubborn and “headstrong” (17), and throughout his life he remained a man of solitude. Cornwell describes how he took all his meals alone and did not keep close friends (216) and would later say, “I don’t want colleagues, but people who will obey” (216). As Pacelli moved up in his Church career, Cornwell demonstrates how his ambition for power drives him to become Hitler’s pawn.

In 1933, the Enabling Act gave Hitler power “to pass laws without the consent of the Reichstag and to make treaties with foreign governments” (136), which led Hitler to make the Reich Concordat with Pacelli. Cornwell attempts to make a contrast between Pacelli and Hitler’s interpretations of this power. In Hitler’s mind, the Concordat meant “the acknowledgement of the National Socialist state by the Catholic Church” and fashioned “a sphere of confidence . . . that will be especially significant in the urgent struggle against international Jewry” (130).

Cornwell suggests that to Pacelli (and thus to the Church), the Concordat was not an acknowledgment and approval of the Nazi Party and what it stood for, but rather the Reichstag’s recognition of the Church’s authority (131). Even before becoming Pope, Cornwell demonstrates how Pacelli ambitiously sought power for himself and the church.

The book further illustrates that Pacelli’s power-consolidation quest ultimately enabled the rise of Hitler and thus the implementation of the Final Solution. Cornwell asserts that Pacelli’s accord with Hitler and corresponding disbandment of the Catholic Center Party in Germany “demoralized Catholic protest and resistance” (218) to what would occur afterward. As he reveals later in the narrative, this silence on the part of the Catholics in general, and the Pope in particular, proved deadly for millions of Jews.

Secondly, Cornwell seeks to demonstrate that Pacelli harbored deep-seated animosity toward the Jews. He states, “Christian antipathy toward the Jews was born out of the belief . . . that the Jews had murdered Christ, indeed, that they had murdered God” (24). During the Bolshevik revolution, during which Pacelli was bishop of Munich, Cornwell shows how Pacelli advocated the current idea that the Jews were responsible for the revolution and expressed repulsed sentiments toward the mere “Jewishness” of the individuals involved (74-75).

Cornwell again draws the conclusion that the Reich Concordat “indicated both at home and abroad . . . Catholic moral approval of Hitler’s policies” and confined the Church “to silence on any issue the Nazi regime deemed political” (153). Therefore, Cornwell asserts that this agreement ensured Catholic quiet concerning the policy of the Final Solution and of mandatory sterilization for the purification of the German race.

Hitler’s Pope proves further that during the Holocaust, Pacelli, elected Pope Pius XII in 1939, displayed his most evident anti-Semitist attitudes. He refused to speak out against the mass deportations and exterminations of European Jews though he held the administrative capacity, choosing in his own words “to remain silent before the public and do in private all that is possible” (286-287). When an American envoy came to Rome to attempt to persuade the Pope to protest the Holocaust and assuring him of the Allies’ certain victory, Pius XII still remained silent (289). Cornwell claims that even on his Christmas Eve broadcast, when he could have publicly denounced Nazism and its practices, Pius XII only vaguely mentioned the atrocities of the war (292).

Cornwell uses the publication in 1943 of Pius XII’s Mystici Corporis to show how the Pope believed that the only true faith was one that was “in communion with Rome” (276). Cornwell suggests that perhaps the Pope was attempting to justify the extermination of the Jews because they were part of the “schism, heresy, and apostasy . . . [that] sever a man from the Body of the Church” (276). Cornwell concludes from this that the Pope’s treatise was an effort to disavow responsibility for the Jews of Europe (277).

Perhaps the most astonishing example Cornwell provides for the Pope’s anti-Semitism is the deportation of the Roman Jews. He did not express his disapproval upon learning of the deportation though he was “a man with a powerful voice . . . whose capacity to protest could give even Hitler serious pause for thought” (304). The ultimate authority the Pope so ambitiously pursued could have saved millions, yet he used this power to turn his head in silent acceptance and enable the Final Solution he perhaps secretly advocated. Cornwell intertwines these two themes in his demonstration of how Pius XII did not use his power for the protection of “the Jews of Rome as members of his Roman flock” (318).

Throughout Hitler’s Pope, Cornwell effectively demonstrates Pius XII’s life-long quest for absolute power and his clear anti-Semitism and how together they formed one of history’s most deadly weapons. Cornwell suggests in conclusion that Pacelli repented of his actions at this death: “Have pity on me Lord . . . [for] sins committed during so long a pontificate and in so grave an epoch. I humbly ask pardon of all I have offended, harmed, and scandalized” (359).


Allah’s Fire by Chuck Holton and Gayle Roper

In the opening pages of Allah’s Fire (Task Force Valor Series), there is a quote by Agesilaus II, a great military leader of the ancient world and king of Sparta, which says, “If all men were just, there would be no need of valor.” Another way this could be stated is, ‘we go to war to fight injustice.’ In the context of this novel, injustice is terrorism and the destruction it wreaks.

Allah’s Fire features a Special Ops team specializing in explosive ordinance disposal called Task Force Valor. As bomb experts, they are called into any number of situations where explosives are a threat. Their new assignment involves Naru Allah – which literally means the “fire of God” – a new kind of explosive with catastrophic implications. When it is smuggled into a meeting with international bankers under the guise of bottled water and triggered, Task Force Valor gets the call. Master Sergeant John Cooper’s team is sent knowing little more than that the substance looks like water and is highly explosive when it comes in contact with oxygen.

Liz Fairchild is an American reporter living with her parents in Lebanon, the setting for the novel, writing about the lives of Palestinian women in the refugee camps. When a suicide bomber blows up a hotel, she is confronted with the awful news that her sister had been inside when the blast occurred. Hopeless, yet wanting hope, she spends hours at the blast site looking for some undefined thing that would tell her Julie was not really dead.

And then she finds something.

Desperate, Liz begins hunting for her sister with little care for safety. Then she stumbles into the middle of a covert military operation and becomes a complicating factor. Someone is shot and the race to stay alive while seeking Julie begins in earnest.

Chuck Holton’s background as an Airborne Ranger reveals itself in the details of this book. The habits of the team members and descriptions of equipment speak of personal familiarity while the by-the-book approach to decision making (as opposed to a Chuck Norris style independence) displays a clear representation of military procedure. These details go a long way in creating a living and breathing team of fighting men that are also human and make mistakes.

Aside from the main story of hunting for Allah’s fire and rescuing Julie, the book also discusses the plight of Palestinians living in horrible conditions in refugee camps. It suggests reasons for the motivations of some suicide bombers. The setting is conducive to these references, keeping the flow of the novel from being bogged down with discussion. The setting and currency of the story also lend a little more meaning to the story by virtue of association, given current international events.

Allah’s Fire fulfills its purpose, but it could have used more depth in areas such as the time Liz spent with the Palestinian women. It comes across feeling a bit too much like filler information for Liz’s background. A richer treatment might have added some resonance to the struggles of these women. As it is, I expect that some of the limitations come from the fact that the authors wanted to focus on the main story elements, yet I believe this would have connected beautifully as an undercurrent to everything going on in the novel.

All in all, the novel was an easy read and a chance at a military adventure story without the common prerequisite of bad language.

Shadow In The Deep by L. B. Graham

As expected, Graham has written another excellent novel. Shadow in the Deep takes the story of Kirthanin to a whole new level. The excitement and drama continue to build in book three of the Binding of the Blade. As I recall Graham stating on his website, he has two more novels coming to finish this series.

In many ways, I am in awe of the talent being displayed here. The story develops and moves in ways that are increasingly similar to Tolkien’s Middle Earth series. Yet, in a more substantial way, Graham writes very much like Lewis in the Narnia chronicles. In Tolkien fashion, the world is complex and the story is epic. Great battles, long journeys, and fantastic characters are staples of Tolkien and of Graham. From the giants and dragons to the great bear and Malekim, fascinating creatures and alliances abound. More than that, the world view of Graham stands out in a myriad of ways. I don’t know how much Graham tries to import his theology into the text, but I suspect that like Lewis, Graham’s theology leaks out onto the page. From images of David and Goliath to Moses and Hur in Exodus 17, throughout each chapter, biblical imagery is infused everywhere you look.

Beyond the Summerland dealt with the sovereignty of God. Ken Collier from The Wilds has said, “There are two choices on the shelf, pleasing God or pleasing self.” Joraiem was faced with this choice – do I do what I want or what Allfather has called me to do? In Bringer of Storms , we are confronted with anger, justice and revenge. Now in Shadow In The Deep, we are confronted with the concept of trusting God regardless of the outcome. As each character walks a path that seems to darken by the day, they must wrestle with themselves and settle the nagging question: Is following Allfather worth it? Despite the difficulty, each character must choose to press on regardless of the outcome and their personal safety or give up and be destroyed.

This isn’t an easy decision. It causes me to think of the prophet Ezekiel whom God sent to rebuke Israel. God told Ezekiel that the people would hate him, that they would try to kill him and that life would be exceedingly difficult. God continued by informing him that very few people would listen to the message that Ezekiel preached. With that kind of commission, it is amazing that Ezekiel obeyed, but obey he did. During the exile of the Israelites, it must have been very difficult to stand true to God for the days were dark. Yet, many Israelites did follow God and they stood true. Moses had a rough life in leading the Israelites, but he led them on despite the attempted coups and the revolts. Graham brings out this strength of character in clear detail in this fascinating and gripping story.

As a side note, Graham’s work and website influenced me to found this site. So, I want to thank L. B. Graham for his impact in my life.

Last Light by Terri Blackstock

Cell phones, computers, cars, and electricity all use technology that we daily rely on, and even take for granted. We would be hard-pressed to imagine a world without most, let alone all areas of technology. That’s exactly the kind of world Terri Blackstock creates in the first book of the Restoration Series, Last Light (Restoration, Book 1).

The book opens with a father and daughter disembarking from a plane in the world as we know it. Then something happens, and it’s all gone — everything electronic, everything that has any sort of computer or silicon chip in it, no longer functions. Cars are dead, cell phones are dead, radios are dead, and the electricity is out. Water even becomes a problem since the purification system pumps don’t work. Theories abound about an EMP or Electromagnetic Pulse, terrorism, or some other unknown factor, but no one knows what really caused it, and, initially, how widespread the effects are.

The story follows the Brannings, a family of six with kids ranging from age nine to twenty-two, in Birmingham, Alabama, as they struggle to come to terms with the changes and cope with the new challenges. When they join the crowd at the local Wal-mart with everyone else, trying to stock up, there is the expected run on food and camping supplies, but the violence that breaks out is a shock to everyone. Strangers are attacking strangers to steal food, supplies, bicycles for transportation, and anything else deemed important enough in the moment to fight for.

It sounds farfetched, but thinking back to how people act at holiday sales when all is well and good gives a measure of credence to the possibility of such outrageous behavior. Banks are closed, and suddenly a world that normally relies on credit cards can’t use plastic for everything, and there are hungry families to feed with desperate parents trying to satisfy those needs. Then, considering the fact that with no cars, the police are hampered in their efforts to keep law and order, and must also rely on bicycles and no radios for contact, the scenario becomes very likely.

As if trying to keep up with these changes and challenges aren’t enough, there’s a double murder in the Branning’s neighborhood, dealing a nasty blow to the ability of folks to trust one another. How do you trust your neighbor when any one of them might be a killer? Accusations fly and the flimsy evidence points to more than one possible suspect. The final revelation becomes a very personal one for the Branning family.

The plot of Last Light can be considered somewhat farfetched in that this is not a problem we face (at least not yet!), but it delivers as a suspense story, leaving you to wonder how the murders will be solved and who will be next at the same time as you watch the family try and figure out how to survive. The story also asks powerful questions about God’s ability to provide in such extreme circumstances and how Christians are to act when the dominant theme is clearly everyone for themselves.

I wondered at the outset how successful Terri Blackstock would be in achieving a sense of realism for such a scenario. Not only did she pull it off, but she managed to tell a thought-provoking story at the same time. The story is a fairly quick read and leaves the door wide open for its sequel, Night Light (out in July), since only some questions are answered by book’s end.

Reagan’s Revolution by Craig Shirely

Reagan’s Revolution is a fantastic look into a narrow slice of history behind the 1976 Republican Primary. The lack of leadership within the GOP in the wake of President Nixon’s resignation in 1974 left many wondering what would happen to the Republican Party, where some political pundits in the media were foretelling a demise of this major political party similar to the Whig Party of the 1840’s. The political landscape in the 1970’s had been dire for conservatives in general. When Gerald Ford became President of the United States after the shameful departure of Richard Nixon, the Ford administration sought policies that ran contrary to the ideas of conservatives across America. The Democratic Party, despite the infighting that occurred during two previous conventions, held both houses of Congress with great majorities and pursued its own liberal policies that bordered on socialism. The Republican Party had its own malaise, where some members of the GOP in Congress were content with being the minority, and some Republican congressmen and senators were as equally liberal as their Democratic peers. Discontent was brewing with conservatives in both political parties, and many sought a leader who would champion conservative ideas and policies and bring that person to the forefront of the political battle and change the direction of America. Ronald Reagan happened to be that person, and a group of conservatives tapped the sextagenarian and recently former Governor of California to pursue the Republican Party nomination for President. President Gerald Ford met his match, and Reagan put up a great fight against the unelected incumbent. The stage was set for the GOP and its future in the Republican Convention of 1976.

Craig Shirley’s book is on a subject that is often overlooked by historians who write about Reagan’s life. Considering President Reagan’s presidency in the 1980’s, this piece of history is often ignored since it was considered a failure of conservatives to capture the Republican Party in 1976, and it was Reagan’s only loss in his political career. Shirley exposes the infighting of liberals and moderates versus conservatives in the GOP, and the shenanigans of the establishment that supported the moderate Gerald Ford in his fight to keep the nomination for President in 1976. The contempt of some moderate Republicans against the conservative Reagan was palpable and sometimes personal, although both the Reagan and Ford campaigns remained generally amicable toward each other. The fight for delegates who were undecided became a media circus, and the wooing of both candidates for uncommited delegates became onerous. Going into the Republican Convention in Kansas City, both candidates were edging closer to gaining the upper hand in the delegate count and capture the nomination. Reagan’s campaign had many problems, mainly that he didn’t win the first few states that held their respective primary elections. It is interesting to note that the first state in which Reagan’s campaign ran on issues was the first state which Reagan won, and the North Carolina primary became the avalanche that reinvigorated the conservatives to give President Ford fits and give concern to the Republican establishment that their candidate might not win. Of all the state primary elections in American history, it is Shirley’s opinion that this was the most important in the GOP. It put Reagan’s conservatism on center stage, and Americans were taking notice of the former two-term Governor of California. Eventually, another state would be the downfall to Reagan’s campaign, and would become to be known as “Bloody Mississippi”, where delegates had been pledged to Reagan, but a political coup took place by an opportunistic state party boss who wanted to keep power to himself, thus causing havoc in the momentum for the Reagan campaign nationwide. Uncommitted delegates in other states saw the shift and at the last moment leaned toward President Ford. The Republican Convention in Kansas City saw a deeply divided party, and President Ford and his moderates won the nomination, but lost the election to a populist Democrat, Jimmy Carter.
The 1976 Republican Convention put conservatives to the test, and their candidate, Ronald Reagan, as the front-runner of the conservative cause. In some states where the primary elections were open to crossing over party lines, Reagan attracted many Democrats who were like-minded to his conservative appeal. Many Americans saw Reagan the same way they saw themselves: common sense and generally conservative. Reagan’s failed 1976 bid for the presidency propelled him to fine-tune his conservative ideologies and approach the future where, as Reagan believed, America was a shining city on a hill. It was in 1976 where the conservative cause found its home in a leader who took the United States to unparalleled heights througout the 1980’s and challenged the world to confront the evils of communism and the Soviet Union. Domestically, Reagan challenged Americans that we were not the problem– government was the problem. The conservative juggernaut that came out of the ashes of the 1976 Republican Convention became the conservative movement where in a few short years, conservatives were effective in defeating the policies of the Carter administration, and catapulted Reagan (and conservatism) to victory in the 1980 elections. Moderates were no longer controlling the GOP, and the eight years of Reagan’s presidency saw the rise of conservative thought that took control of the Republican Party. Essentially, it was the beginning of the Reagan Revolution, which Shirley writes about in detail from the often-overlooked events of 1976.

Craig Shirley’s book was very enlightening to read, and captures the mood of the Reagan campaign throughout its history, from its beginnings in 1974 until the aftermath of the 1976 Republican Convention. The reviewer is astounded by the documentation provided by Mr. Shirley, and appreciates his addition to the events surrounding the formation of conservative ideology and its ‘man’, Ronald Reagan. It would have been good for Shirley to give transcripts of some speeches Reagan gave, especially the “90 Billion” speech, which is absent in the book. This would be the only valid criticism of the book, as both the author and the reviewer share the same love of Reagan and his revolution. One good thing that Craig Shirley did in writing his book is that if he quoted profane comments by anyone, he did edit the offending phrase leaving it to the “mind of the reader” to discover what was actually said. There was very little to criticise about Reagan’s Revolution, and the author is to be commended for writing in detail on such a short period of history.

The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edward

I just finished The Religious Affections, by Jonathan Edwards, a nearly six-month project. I cannot say that it was even remotely near what you might call ‘light’ reading; rather, it was the first book that I had to eliminate all other distractions (music, for example) in order to be able to focus adequately. It is not a book that can be read in the leisurely jaunt of an afternoon, certainly. Nor is it a book that can be picked up just before bedtime with the intent of reading a couple pages while falling asleep. In short–not for the faint-of-heart.

That being said, it is well worth the effort to read this book. After reading it, I am left to seriously consider whether I am a Christian or not–and I find that to be a good thing. In the preface, Edwards’ purpose is clearly set forth: “What are the distinguishing qualifications of those that are in favour with God, and entitled to His eternal rewards? What is the nature of true religion? And wherein do lie those distinguishing notes of that virtue and holiness that is acceptable in the sight of God?” And after setting forth a definition of what he terms “religious affections,” which, as nearly as I can tell, amounts to emotional involvement in religion, he moves right into the meat of the book.

The first half of the book, some twelve different sections, is spent in breaking down those things that might not be religious affections, the things that, in and of themselves, are not necessarily evidences of the Spirit within you. That the religious affections have great effects is no certain sign; that they are accompanied by love, joy, great confidence, even texts of Scripture is no sign of truth. Edwards goes so far as to say that even moving testimonies are no certain sign of true religious affections.

This first half was the easier half, honestly; it was much easier to pretend as though Edwards wasn’t writing it at me. While I was able to learn much and apply much, there was still the ability to force the point onto everyone else. My reasoning in my pride was quite simple: Because I have been and am being saved, these sections don’t apply to me; though they come near and point out the fallacies of many of the evidences in which I have put trust, there is still more direct application to those around me.

The second half was the contrast of the first, presenting twelve evidences of what are the gracious and holy affections. Notable sections were the emphasis on the Divine Influence, the promotion of the temper of Jesus, a change of nature, and humility; but the summation is the emphasis of fruit in Christian practice. Spiritual fruit, Edwards argues, is the greatest evidence of true religious affections, both to ourselves and others.

This half was draining, exhausting, challenging, and sobering. With its emphasis on the fruits of the Spirit and Christlikeness, I constantly found myself being drawn up short, faced with truths that I did not like to face. It is so tremendously easy in the Christian life to delude ourselves into thinking that we are “good enough;” that the gift of grace has been extended to us because we somehow deserve it. It is easy for us to justify sin in our lives as being covered by Christ’s sacrifice; it is all too easy to pick at sin in the lives of everyone around us while conveniently ignoring our own. And so, in reading this book, and through the light of the Word, I am beginning to get a still better picture of who I am–and I am ashamed of who I am.

But the result is that, now more than ever, I find in myself a desire for Spiritual Fruit. I am able to look back and see the beginnings of new patterns in my life, of new thoughts and priorities, of new understanding and new directions. I still see far too many thorns and weeds, too many pet sins and idols, too much pride and desire for control–but I am also beginning to understand where there is hope.

As I said, this book is not for the faint-of-heart; if you read it, be committed to reading it and be committed to holding the mirror of Scripture to reflect your heart. It is well worth it.