A MORAL RECKONING: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair
Release date: 10/01/2002
Harvard scholar Goldhagen, author of the bestselling and controversial Hitler's Willing Executioners, turns to a question left unanswered in his earlier work: to what extent are Catholics and the Catholic Church morally culpable for the Holocaust? As in his earlier book, Goldhagen pulls no punches. In the second paragraph he writes, "Christianity is a religion that consecrated... a megatherian hatred of one group of people: the Jews." The story of this hatred, which Goldhagen views as a betrayal of Christianity's own moral principles, has been told many times and, most recently, in the works of Susan Zuccotti and Michael Phayer. In contrast to these accounts, Goldhagen offers not an objective history of the Church's role in the Holocaust but, as the title promises, a moral examination. Goldhagen makes no apology for engaging in a sustained ethical inquiry and rendering judgment. (In fact, much of the book is either a direct or indirect defense of his much-criticized first work.) Goldhagen demands material, political and moral restitution but ends questioning whether the Catholic Church can "muster the will" to undertake these actions. There is little new information here; a definitive history of this dark chapter must await the opening of the Vatican archives. Readers should not skip the extensive and detailed endnotes, which contain a wealth of fascinating material. 25 b&w photos. Agent, Esther Newberg. (Nov. 3)
Forecast:This ground has been prepared for Goldhagen by Zuccotti and Phayer, as well as John Cornwell, James Carroll and Garry Wills. Still, as with Hitler's Willing Executioners, Goldhagen's passion will generate controversy and sales—as Knopf clearly expects, with a 75,000 first printing.