James Carroll

Books: History | Europe | Religion | War

Constantine's Sword (2001)

Constantine's Sword

I found the material on the Crusades quite interesting--he focuses upon the destruction of the Jewish community in Trier (sp?), but talks about the situation of the Jews in general during that time. I was also fascinated by the history of the Inquisition, especially, of course, the Spanish Inquisition (no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!) and the treatment of the Jews during this time, and the role that the popes played in the Inquisition. There is also a lot less of the personal history as I get into the book, which I prefer. It's an interesting history of the relationship between the Catholic church and Judaism. Here are some interesting quotes:

"...No Catholic-born Nazi -- not Goebbels, Himmler, or Bormann; not even Adolf Hitler, who died with his name still on the rolls of the Catholic Church, and for whom the Catholic primate of Germany ordered the Requiem sung after his suicide -- was ever excommunicated for being a Nazi. But, as Hans Kung observed, Pius XXI "did not show the slightest inhibitions after the war, in 1949, about excommunicating all Communist members throughout the world at a stroke."

"The Index of Forbidden Books, dating to the sixteenth century, was the Inquisitions list of publications deemed to be heretical. Catholics could not read these books without formal dispensation. The Index was not abolished until 1966."

"Power corrupts," Lord Acton is well known for saying, "and absolute power corrupts absolutely." What is less well known, as Garry Wills points out, is that the British aristocrat was a Catholic opposed, in 1870, to the dogma of papal infallibility, and the power he was warning of was the pope's."

This is another book that took me several months to read. It was interesting, but it was also good bedtime reading material. Nothing gripping to keep you awake all night.