Thursday, November 16, 2006


Interesting book review in The Financial Times by Stephen Fidler who is the FT’s defence and security editor. It is of SACRED CAUSES: Religion and Politics from the European Dictators to Al Qaeda by Michael Burleigh
HarperPress ₤25, 557 pages FT bookshop price: ₤20 is the link

"Unholy alliances

By Stephen Fidler

Sacred Causes is a challenging history book with the power to scandalise its readers. It is the story of the past 90 years in Europe viewed through an unusual prism: the intersection of religion with politics, culture and ideas since the first world war.This is, however, mostly a book about Christianity and its relation to secular power. ....For those who think that the Christian religion provides only footnotes to the history of the 20th century or ascribe to the notion that its influence has been unerringly malign, this book is an important corrective."


"Burleigh sifts through the record to examine the charge that Pius XII, the unfortunate target of a black propaganda campaign by the Soviet secret police, was an anti-Semite and “Hitler’s Pope”. He finds not the slightest evidence of this. “There are many criticisms one might make of the Catholic Church, but responsibility for the Holocaust is not among them,” he says.

It took its time, but by 1943 the Catholic Church had abandoned its agnosticism towards forms of government in favour of democracy. Driven by its view that communism constituted the gravest threat to European civilisation, the church decided that only democracy fostered self-discipline and moderation, and some guarantees for control of government by the people.

If Burleigh often sympathises with the Catholic Church, he is less kind towards other institutions and individuals. They include the liberal elites who deem the representation in the European parliament of political thugs and gangsters from Sinn Fein and Eta less shocking than the appointment of a Catholic professor, Rocco Buttiglione, as the European Commissioner.

Neither does he have any time for liberation theology, the Latin American effort to fuse Christian theology with Marxist doctrine, a creed “that had resulted in hecatombs of corpses and mass material and spiritual immiseration throughout eastern Europe, Russia and China”."