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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The author selects his vocabulary with the intention of setting ...
The author selects his vocabulary with the intention of setting Pius XII In an unfavourable light. What he has succeeded in doing, in my opinion, is in showing a man who, in his anxiety to resist the efforts of Communism in Russia, Mexico and Spain to destroy his Church, made an alliance with a power which, although hostile to Communism, was equally hostile to the...
Published 8 months ago by John Peter Claver Toalster

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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing, but not wholly convincing
Take two subjects of perennial interest - World War Two and the papacy - and combine them. You should be on to a winner. John Cornwell almost does it here - but not quite. To take the positive side first, the book is awesome in its detail and the apparent thoroughness of its research. The negative side is that this isn't a "warts and all" picture, but one...
Published on 13 April 2000


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The author selects his vocabulary with the intention of setting ..., 27 Sept. 2014
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The author selects his vocabulary with the intention of setting Pius XII In an unfavourable light. What he has succeeded in doing, in my opinion, is in showing a man who, in his anxiety to resist the efforts of Communism in Russia, Mexico and Spain to destroy his Church, made an alliance with a power which, although hostile to Communism, was equally hostile to the Church of Rome and indeed to all forms of religion, and thereby rendered himself powerless to make an effective stand against it.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing, but not wholly convincing, 13 April 2000
By A Customer
Take two subjects of perennial interest - World War Two and the papacy - and combine them. You should be on to a winner. John Cornwell almost does it here - but not quite. To take the positive side first, the book is awesome in its detail and the apparent thoroughness of its research. The negative side is that this isn't a "warts and all" picture, but one that concentrates almost exclusively on the "warts". Hindsight is used far too often and John Cornwell makes the fatal mistake of judging one period by the standards of another. The picture of Pius XII that emerges to the reader who can pick his or her way through all this is one of a rather sad man whose priorities were in entirely the wrong order at a time when it was vitally important to have them right. I'm not sure that that's what John Cornwell intended.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard questions on piety and moral abdication, 23 July 2008
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This review is from: Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII (Paperback)
Cornwall's book is a tremendous research effort and highly readable. He starts out trying to disprove accusations that Pope Pius XII stopped his church from protesting Nazi atrocities. But the research leads to a far more painful truth. For any who promote the separation of government from religious values, this book poses hard questions. The Church's agreements with fascist rulers involved a trade: government support for religious institutions, in exchange for church silence on political affairs. As the 1933 Concordat with Nazi Germany said,

"In consideration of the guarantees afforded by the conditions of this treaty, and of legislation protecting the rights and freedom of the Catholic Church in the Reich ..., the Holy See will ensure a ban on all clergy and members of religious congregations from political party activity."

Cornwall explores the unfolding implications of this split between loyalties. As Hitler later said, "When they attempt by any other means -- writings, encyclicals, etc. -- to assume rights which belong only to the state, we will push them back into their proper spiritual activity." And as Pope Pius XII would later explain, the Church must avoid "being compromised in defense of Christian principles and humanity by being drawn into purely man-made politics ... the Church is only interested in upholding her legacy of Truth. ... The purely worldly problems, in which the Jewish people may see themselves involved, are of no interest to her."

Cornwall is the best kind of scholar, driven by a personal and spiritual need to understand the truth. The questions he pursues are directly relevant today, for Christians, Muslims, or anyone. To what extent has the goal of protecting religion from the world served to protect governments from moral opposition? What have we learned about the role and aim of religion in the world?

--author of Correcting Jesus: 2000 Years of Changing the Story
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4.0 out of 5 stars From apology to indictment, 25 Aug. 2014
Fascinating book on overlapping power interests of the Vatican and national-socialism, originally intended by the author as an apology, but turning out to be an indictment of the gifted Eugenio Pacielli (Pope Pius XII).
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting entry into the controversy..., 12 July 2011
By 
C. Ball (Derbyshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII (Paperback)
One of the enduring controversies of the Catholic Church has been its role, or perhaps more appropriately its lack of role, in speaking out against the Holocaust. Pope Pius XII, Eugenio Pacelli, has been accused of cowardice, anti-Semitism, a lack of concern for worldly affairs, a bias towards Germany, an inclination towards dictatorialism that made him partial to Fascist societies like Franco's Spain and Hitler's Germany.

This book attempts to stip away a lot of the myths surrounding the issue, most importantly concerning Pacelli's negotiating of the Reich Concordat in the 1920s, an issue which led directly to the dissolution of the Catholic Centre Party, one of the major obstacles in Hitler's path to power. Pacelli firmly believed that the Church had no business getting embroiled in political issues, that the Church should be above all such worldly affairs. As a result of this attitude he pursued a strictly neutral stance throughout the war, refusing to condone or condemn one side or the other, even when the evidence of the Nazi atrocities against the Jews of Europe was becoming impossible to ignore.

Pacelli pursued a very authoritarian church, with all power stemming from the Pontiff, unlike the more collegiate course that was occasionally offered as an alternative. Bishops, archbishops, cardinals, all had very little power to act indendepently of their Pope - and their Pope insisted that all representatives of the Church remain above politics. As a result of this attitude, Pacelli was far more sympathetic to the authoritarian states than the democracies - his attitude towards Mussolini, Franco and Hitler is telling.

I'm sure this is not the final word on this issue - the author himself has actually distanced himself from some of his conclusions here, admitting that it is difficult to see, even with the benefit of history, what good could have come from Pacelli speaking out; that his scope for action was limited; that the Pope himself was in a difficult position, in the middle of the capital of Italy, a country at war, an ally of Hitler, that Hitler even contemplated invading the Vatican and abducting the Pope.

But the inevitable damning fact is that the Church could have spoken up and damned the consequences. It did so in Hungary and Poland, where direct action and influence from the Catholic Church had enormous impacts. The Catholic Church was in an unrivalled position to influence the hearts and minds of millions upon millions of people within Europe, within Germany and Italy and all the Axis countries, and it failed to draw upon that currency, even when Jews were being taken from the very heart of Rome, right beneath the Pope's gaze.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good, If Controversial, Read, 3 Jan. 2010
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This review is from: Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII (Paperback)
In their ratings of this book some reviewers seem to be confusing their disagreement with Cornwell's interpretation of the life of Pius XII with their own. Of course the title of this book is provocative and probably misleading but this thoroughly-researched account raises some difficult issues. Pius XII was undoubtedly 'between a rock and a hard place' in managing his relations with Nazi Germany. For me the main question was how much he was prepared to risk the total destruction of the Vatican as an independent state against speaking openly about Nazi atrocities. Cornwell clearly sets out the context and actions of the various parties concerned - its for readers to draw their own conclusions.

Can I suggest that before reading this book you read "A Thief in the Night" also by John Cornwell. It was written before Hitler's Pope and is an account of the death of John Paul I. In that context it gives a good account of the workings of the Vatican.
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15 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Many obsessions, 14 May 2009
By 
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII (Paperback)
While John Cornwell in the beginning of his book calls Eugenio Pacelli `a man of meticulous conscience', he arrives ultimately at a most severe verdict of `a hypocrite'.
Pope Pius XII was a man with many obsessions: his personal power within the Catholic Church, his universal power base through the Church, his image on the world scene, the problems with `God's mother', chastity, women and the Jewish question, among others.

Personal aspects - power
As a member of the Vatican bureaucracy E. Pacelli fought for an authoritarian Church directed by this institution. He despised democracy ('the mindless ruling of the masses') and the parliamentary system. Rigid governments, rigid centralization and rigid treaties (like concordats) were supposed to introduce an era of stable order and peace.
When he became pope he defended the ideology of papal primacy, in other words `the fascist Führer principle'. As he explained it himself: `I don't want colleagues, but people who will obey.'

Jewish problem
Pacelli was a long-standing anti-Semite, based on the conviction that there was a link between Judaism and the Bolshevik plot to destroy Christendom.

Christian love
Christian love was far away from his thoughts. He stood on the basic viewpoint of war not peace, congratulating Spain's Franco with his `Catholic' victory.
As a matter of fact, `Christian love' has never been an important item in Church policies from Saint-Augustine vomiting on the Manicheans over the Crusades to the Inquisition and the `catholic wars'.

God's mother
The clear contradiction between the fact that Jesus was born in a human way and the fact that he should be considered as the son of God has obsessed the Catholic Church for millennia. The Catholic solution was the `Virgin Mary' and her Assumption `soul and body'.

International policies
Pacelli was determined to scratch all catholic political parties from earth, because they were too independent (not under the control of the Holy See). In Germany, the Catholic Center Party had repeatedly refused Pacelli's call to shun alliances with the Socialist (Social democracy for him was the same as Bolshevism).
He favored collaboration with the fascist Nazi party. His negotiated concordat with Hitler included the voluntary disbanding of this Center Party, at that moment the sole existing democratic Center Party in Germany!
His ideal societies were Franco's Spain and Salazar's Portugal.

Women's affairs
Pacelli did nothing for the liberation of women within the Church.
In stark contrast with his viewpoint on the moral behavior of those guilty of mass killings (the fascists wars, the barbaric horrors of the Ustashe in Croatia), he did not hesitate to counsel martyrdom for those, whose sexual morality was being challenged,

Serious Omissions
There is not one reference in this book of the formidable work of Karlheinz Deschner, which treats such exemplary items as Eugenio Pacelli's `poverty' with millions of dollars on his personal bank account, his blatant skepticism when he asked Teilhard de Chardin `how long the Catholic Church would survive the scientific onslaught?' or his remark that `all the problems of the world are caused by the fact that women's skirts are too short today.'

This book is an extremely bleak portrait of a pope `serving lingering poses before the lens's eyes', who governed though ukases (encyclicals to be accepted as infallible truths) and who showed at the end of his life delusions of omniscience.

This devastating assessment is a must read for all those interested in the history of mankind, of the twentieth century and of the Catholic Church in particular.
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17 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good solid exposure of the corruption of absolute power, 25 Jan. 2000
By A Customer
Book Review "Hitler's Pope: the Secret History of Pope Pius XII" by John Cornwell (Published by Viking, 1999)
My overall impression was this was a fascinating and well-written book. It raises many fundamental dilemmas, especially for Catholics.
I found the first chapters on the early life of Pacelli a little tedious because the author really had very little interesting material to give us. There were few startling revelations. I think this may be because the Vatican "machine" will have had time to delve into his past and "sanitise" it from an early stage.
In fact the early chapters are mainly the public history of the Vatican in Pacelli's youth, with Cornwell merely speculating as to how this might have affected Pacelli personally.
The middle section is more assured about Pacelli's move into public life as Papal Nuncio in Germany. There is a lot more evidence for Cornwell to utilise. The broad picture is clear. Pacelli was blinkered by his Vatican-centric view of the world in which nothing else mattered except the maintenance of Papal authority over the Catholic Church. This section includes what are probably Cornwell's key findings: letters by Pacelli to the Vatican using vile racist language to describe Jews.
While not wishing to condone such sentiments in any way, I wish Cornwell had explored the context of Pacelli's remarks. We live in an era of anti-racism and equal opportunities legislation. Back in Pacelli's day, even "good" people were so steeped in racist, sexist opinions as to be unaware of them. Pacelli was not the only racist in the 1920's. His racism was instinctive and built in. Was he totally to blame for it? Probably not. Did he realise that his opinions would facilitate the implementation of the Endlösung? Probably not.
As he went on to negotiate the Concordat with Hitler in spite of mounting evidence of Nazi brutality against Jews as well as Catholics, we can see Pacelli's foolishness exposed. He had the naivety to assume he could manipulate Hitler, when in fact it was the other way round.
Pacelli's War record is also fairly discussed. He was not all bad: he seems to have been reluctantly involved in an early 1940 German plot against Hitler, but he lacked courage to push it forcefully. Without his push it ran out of steam.
His deafening silence as the Holocaust unfolded is well portrayed.
One thing I wish Cornwell had expanded on was his single sentence saying that the Vatican "played no part in the Post-war settlement."
I think this is hugely significant and needs expanding on. One can readily assume Pacelli wanted a place at The Table in 1945. Even if Stalin wouldn't have him, he could have had a major voice, but did the Americans and British cold-shoulder him for being such a pusillanimous pest during the War? It is interesting to speculate how the Vatican could have influenced the nuclear arms race, the United Nations, etc, if it had been allowed to take a more active stance.
Pacelli's final years show him as a Howard Hughes type recluse who withdrew from normal human interactions. He had no friends, only subordinates. He had his hands wiped with disinfectant by his favourite nun after every audience with ordinary people, in case he caught any germs off them.
The moral of the book is that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The real target of the book is the current Pope, John Paul II. In fact there is a whole chapter on him at the end. He has turned out the same arrogant autocrat as Pius XII. He is rapidly using up the reservoir of respect for him around the world, with his crude attempts to drag the Church back to the 19th Century.
This book might be very influential in the debates, which are sure to rage when the next Pope comes to be chosen. The Catholic Church may not be a democracy, but it survives on respect. If its adherents loose that respect, then it is doomed.
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14 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very scholarly giving the author unusual credibility., 13 Nov. 2000
By A Customer
I'm not a Catholic nor am I anti-Catholic. I read a lot of history, and I want both history and historical fiction to be entirely consistent with the facts. I feel that Cornwell has meticulously laid out the facts, and he successfully draws a balanced portrait of his subject. I frequently checked the footnotes as I read. A less scholarly approach would have been less compelling to me, although from reading the reviews here I feel that what I liked so much about the book - its credibility and the documentation of information - was perceived by others as 'dry.' Although the style is that of a biography, Cornwell is really providing the historical background for an ongoing struggle between two wings of the Catholic Church. I was well aware of this struggle from reading the daily newspaper. Now I understand it with greater depth. In retrospect I'm surprised that I wasn't previously aware of how recently papal infallibility and the dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary became important aspects of Roman Catholicism. I highly recommend this to those with passion for 20th century history or those with a special interest in the history of the papacy.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ad Majoram Dei Gloriam, 25 May 2011
Shocking and astounding in equal measure if I was not already an ex Roman Catholic I would be after reading this book!
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Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII
Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII by John Cornwell (Paperback - 26 Oct. 2000)
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