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JURIST: Books-on-Law is edited by Ronald K.L. Collins and David Skover of the Seattle University School of Law
Next month the Summer arrives, and with it we begin our summer recess. During that time, we will be busy . . . planning a variety of events for our Fall issues. To make that (and our vacations) possible, Books-on-Law will not be published between June and August. But when we return, expect a special issue on Women & Law and a special on Nat Hentoff & his writings on law, accompanied by a Books-on-Law interview. Plus more, much more.
So, enjoy the summer, and catch up on past issues of Books-on-Law by checking our archives link.———————————————————————
This Month’s Issue
This month's reviews begin with Robert Verchick's commentary on The Common Law and the Environment: Rethinking the Statutory Basis for Modern Environmental Law, followed by a reply from the book's editors, Andrew P. Morriss & Roger E. Meiners. Next, Joan Kennedy Taylor considers the "environment" question in a different context in her review of Hostile Environment. Robert Peck then examines Reckless Legislation: How Lawmakers Ignore the Constitution. The Rehnquist Court and the state of liberty in America are the focus of Eric Segall's review of Morality Imposed, followed by a reply from author Stephen E. Gottlieb. Finally, Lynne Henderson offers her assessment of the passions of law.
The Pope’s "Lawyer:" A Law Professor with a Mission
World War II, Hitler, the Jewish Holocaust, and the perplexing role that Pope Pius XII played in all three have been recent subjects for hot debate in the popular press. In the last year alone, no fewer than six books were or are yet to be published on Eugenio Pacelli, the man who was Cardinal Secretary of State for the Vatican (1930–1939) before becoming Pope (1939–1958).
No doubt, the best known and most controversial work is John Cornwell's Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII (Viking, 1999), which covers Pacelli's political and spiritual dealings throughout this trying period of Catholic Church history. This best-selling book has been featured on CBS's 60-Minutes (3/19/00) and reviewed widely in American and foreign periodicals, including a lengthy profile in The New York Review of Books (3/23/00).
Into the fray in defense of the Pope charges . . . a law professor! Ronald Rychlak, Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Mississippi Law School, has written several aggressive critiques of Cornwell and his work, the most recent being "Vatican Chronicles" for the April issue of Brill's Content. Moreover, Rychlak is the author of a favorable account of Pius XII – Hitler, the War, and the Pope – to be published by Genesis Press in June. Yet, this is no one-note player: Rychlak's general scholarship runs the gamut from ocean aquaculture and theories of punishment to casino/video gambling. Such a mélange of interests and activities intrigued us, so we conducted a taped phone interview with the eclectic law professor (4/11/00).
Rychlak's work on Pius XII was sparked eight years ago by a colleague who claimed that the Pope was a Nazi sympathizer. As a practicing Catholic, Rychlak was captivated by such an accusation: "I did somewhat approach this like a lawyer. This is a horrible crime [Pacelli was] charged with, and I wanted to find out what the truth was." He began researching for his own interest, Rychlak stated: "I probably worked for two years before I ever thought of writing a book, or even an article." Recognizing that the undertaking bore little relationship to his law school work, it remained his "weekend and evening project for a long time."
The law professor's work on the Pope was already in the hands of his publisher when Hitler's Pope appeared. Cornwell's thesis – that Pacelli had long displayed an antipathy toward Jews; that, as Secretariat of State, he negotiated a concordat with the Third Reich that thwarted potential Catholic protest in defense of the Jews; and that, as Pope, he failed to utter a candid word about the Final Solution – was "not backed up by historical fact" in Rychlak's opinion.
"Working behind the scenes, working with Resistance groups, sheltering people, feeding and clothing people, being involved directly in a plot to overthrow Hitler," Rychlak related, "the standard estimate is that [Pacelli] saved 800,000 Jewish people doing that – clearly more than anyone else. Now, is it possible that he could have saved more some other way? I don't think so. Had he taken to the bully pulpit, had he made some bold statement . . . the impact would have lasted 24 hours, and the Vatican would have lasted 30 minutes. . . . People are being very naïve to think that some sort of bold statement would have changed things."
Approached by Catholic magazines to review Cornwell's book, Rychlak wrote first a critical essay for Inside the Vatican ("which actually in Rome," he explained, "is read inside the Vatican"). Then, "high-ranking officials" invited him to do research in the Vatican's Secretariat of State archives. "I went to find out what I could find out, and I was left finding that this was truly a man in a very difficult situation, who tried to do the right thing, and in fact, I think, in most circumstances, did." Commenting on the Vatican's thirty-year campaign to beatify Pius XII, Rychlak opined: "I think he led the kind of life that justifies" sainthood. "I think he tried to do the right thing. . . . I'll go further than some people, I think he did the right thing."
Though he claims not to have set out originally to exonerate Pacelli of charges similar to those leveled by Cornwell, the professor admits that he has become an advocate in his defense: "I do sort of view myself . . . now as a lawyer defending someone who has been charged with a really, really horrible crime, but I have an innocent client. In my experience, in my practice, that is a nice and rare thing."
Addressing "the ten most serious charges leveled against Pius XII," he "brings forth some of the evidence" in a lawyer-like fashion: "I've got the laying out of the facts, I've got a closing argument, and I've got a rebuttal."
The verdict? Compare Cornwell, Rychlak, and the other relevant works yourself – and, then, you be the judge! Click here to listen to the full interview with Professor Ronald Rychlak.———————————————————————
New Books on Law & Religion
If the general subject of law and religion interests you, then you will want to consider three new books on the subject:
The first book – What's God Got to Do with the American Experiment? – explores the question of religion's role in contemporary public life. Contributors include E. J. Dionne Jr., John J. Dilulio Jr., Cal Thomas, James Q. Wilson, and Alan Wolfe.
Law and Religion: A Critical Anthology is a book of a far different stripe. Contributors ranging from Stanley Fish to Richard John Neuhaus examine issues ranging from religious morality and religious freedom, to fundamentalism, the separation of church and state, religion and public schooling, and liberal political theory.
Finally, Judging Jehovah's Witnesses: Religious Persecution and the Dawn of the Rights Revolution is an account of the First Amendment struggle waged by Jehovah's Witnesses as manifested in twenty-three Supreme Court rulings between 1938 and 1946. The author provides a vivid account of the personalities, events, and institutions behind those cases, arguing that the cases were a turning point in the nation's constitutional commitment to individual rights.
Ronald K.L. Collins & David M. Skover, Editors, Books-on-Law
Board of Editorial Consultants: Raj Bhala, George Washington University Law School; Miriam Galston, George Washington University Law School; Kermit Hall, Ohio State University College of Law; Yale Kamisar, University of Michigan Law School; Lisa G. Lerman, Catholic University of America School of Law; David M. O’Brien, University of Virginia Department of Government and Foreign Affairs; Judith Resnik, Yale Law School; Edwin L. Rubin, University of Pennsylvania Law School; Steven H. Shriffrin, Cornell Law School; Nadine Strossen, New York Law School; David B. Wilkins, Harvard Law School.
© Ronald K.L. Collins and David Skover, 2000.
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