"The Holocaust, The Church, and The Law of Unintended Consequences" By Anthony J. Sciolino


The malevolent forces that deteriorate into armed conflict will often be obscure. However the sources of war’s power to simply grow on itself can stand out clearly. There were many complicated factors in the two decades between the World Wars that plunged the world into a bloody conflict a second time, but once begun the Second World War quickly became the most destructive war in world history and one that swept up millions of innocent people. In his book “The Holocaust, the Church and the Law of Unintended Consequences” Anthony J. Sciolino writes about the ancient myths and ideologies that left European Jews “marginalized, demonized, stigmatized as ‘other’, portrayed as offspring of the devil, wrongly blamed for causing human and natural catastrophes.”

The prevalence of ancient libels into the twentieth century were the underpinning of the Holocaust, spread by Nazi propaganda channels and often with the complicity of the one institution that might be expected to speak out against mass murder, the Church.

“The Holocaust, the Church and the Law of Unintended Consequences” looks clearly at the role of Roman Catholic clergy in the furtherance of Nazi policies. Beginning with early church history (a subject that will probably always be lost in the mists of time) Judge Sciolino embraces the Jewish roots of Christian teaching, debunks many of the assumptions and misuse of scripture in the development of Christianity and points out facts that can shake religious belief (for instance, Jesus himself and disciples John, Matthew and Paul basically espoused different religions). The book explains the nature of church/state relations in Germany and how priests were expected to literally toe the party line. There are numerous quotes from priests not condemning and actually encouraging the persecution of Jews.

At the center of this was Eugenio Pacelli. “Like his religious contemporaries, “ writes Sciolino, “Pacelli was steeped in the Church’s tradition of anti-Modernity, papal authoritarianism and anti-Judaism.” He was also a germanophile, fluent in German and personally acquainted with Hitler, who was Catholic. Pacelli rose rapidly through the Roman hierarchy as Secretary of State and then as Pope Pius XII. Following Kristallnacht and increased harassment of the Jewish populations of Europe and even after full-scale war had begun, Pius XII was reluctant to issue strong condemnation of Nazi atrocity. This remains controversial, and has slowed the process of sainthood for Pius XII.

Anthony J. Sciolino is a lawyer and retired judge of New York Family Court. He also holds a master’s degree in theology and is an ordained permanent deacon in the Catholic Church. To research “The Holocaust, the Church and the Law of Unintended Consequences”he visited many Holocaust-related sites in Europe, including the Dachau concentration camp and death camps at Auschwitz, Maydanak and Treblinka, the villa at Lake Wansee where the Final Solution was planned, Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, the village of Tykochen where the entire Jewish population was wiped out in a “holocaust by bullets”, and the main synagogue and ghetto neighborhood in Rome. The book is recipient of the 2013 Silver Medal for World History of the Independent Publishers Book Awards.

The final chapters focus on the controversy and intellectual ferment concerning the role of Pius XII, the authority of the Pope and teachnings of the Church. Vatican Council II was convened by Pius’s successor, Pope John XXIII, to make the Catholic Church more relevant to the modern world but in many enlarged a split in Catholic attitudes.

Candidly, the Church needed the opportunity to deal with the embarrassment of the many unintended consequences occasioned by, among other things, anti-Judaism, the papacy’s siege mentality since [the 1545-63 Ecumenical Council at] Trent, Pius IX and Pius X’s war on Modernism and papal absolutism — all of which often placed the Church on the wrong side of history.

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