Drawing on untapped resources, exclusive interviews, and new archival research, The Pope’s Last Crusade by Peter Eisner is a thrilling narrative that sheds new light on Pope Pius XI’s valiant effort to condemn Nazism and the policies of the Third Reich—a crusade that might have changed the course of World War II.
A shocking tale of intrigue and suspense, illustrated with sixteen pages of archival photos, The Pope’s Last Crusade: How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI's Campaign to Stop Hitler illuminates this religious leader’s daring yet little-known campaign, a spiritual and political battle that would be derailed by Pius’s XIs death just a few months later. Peter Eisner reveals how Pius XI intended to unequivocally reject Nazism in one of the most unprecedented and progressive pronouncements ever issued by the Vatican, and how a group of conservative churchmen plotted to prevent it.
For years, only parts of this story have been known. Eisner offers a new interpretation of this historic event and the powerful figures at its center in an essential work that provides thoughtful insight and raises controversial questions impacting our own time.
Eisner (The Freedom Line) resorts to dramatization and speculation ("The pope woke up... feeling as well rested as he had in recent days"), undercutting his efforts to persuade readers of the accuracy of his account in this less-than-thrilling tale of the little-known efforts by the Vatican to counter the Nazis before WWII. Pope Pius XI has been all but eclipsed in historical memory by the contentious reputation of his successor, Pius XII, who is regarded as having done far less than he could have to counter Hitler and to rescue the Jews of Europe from concentration camps. According to Eisner, the Vatican's track record might have been different if Pius XI had lived to deliver a speech in 1939 condemning the German regime that speech would have been based on the thinking of the Rev. John LaFarge, an American, who, two years earlier, had written a book (Interracial Justice) calling for church action against racism, and whom Pius XI had commissioned to write a papal encyclical on the same subject. Putting aside the author's what-ifs, Eisner has done history and the Vatican a service by retrieving from obscurity a significant episode in Catholic-Jewish relations.
This book was well written and informative. It cleared up misconceptions that I held about the papacy during that time period and at the same time re-affirms a lot of the beliefs I hold about the politics of the church.
La Farge Failed
La Farge was disobedient to Pope Pius XI. He should have begun work immediately on the encyclical, said nothing to anyone, hand delivered the finished product to the Pope and gone home. Instead, he procrastinated, talked a lot to other people and worried about his family.
He may have helped civil rights for blacks but he never said anything about the most discriminated people of our country: Native Americans.
He is an almost complete failure.