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Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Pius XII, the Shoah, and the "Jack Chick Effect."

An interesting article in the Weekly Standard, preparing for the release of the new Daniel Goldhagen book excoriating the Church for its role in the Holocaust.

The article handily points out a detailed rebuttal by Ronald Rychlak of Goldhagen's lengthy essay on the same subject in The New Republic. Also worthwhile is Rabbi Daniel Dalin's essay defending Pius XII.

What struck me most about the Standard piece is was the argument that Goldhagen's work will give cover to the screeds of Cornwell, Carroll, Wills, et al because they will appear moderate by comparison. This is an excellent point, and reminds me of Karl Keating's comment about the notorious fundamentalist pamphleteer, Jack Chick. Keating said that the real danger posed by Chick was not his laughably lurid Catholic-bashing propaganda. Rather, it was that it allowed other more sophisticated Catholic-haters to disavow Chick and claim the high ground. After all, it doesn't take much to look more dispassionate and objective than Chick--just more frequent breathing into a paper bag. Hence, the Jack Chick Effect. I can think of two examples of this being done by anti-Catholic internet-types, two individuals I simply refer to as the Pharisee and the Jester. [What, you think I'm going to give links?]

Indeed, there is a connection between the anti-Catholic Catholics like Cornwell and Company and the professional anti-Catholics like the Pharisee and the Jester. Indeed, the latter greatly enjoy the works of the former. I recall the Garry Wills Papal Sin book getting high praise from one of them, even though the review was very cursory (making me doubt the reviewer read the whole thing), omitting mention of sections which were uncongenial (or worse) to the reviewer's beliefs.

Now all these works are about to get another inadvertent boost from Goldhagen, thanks to the Jack Chick Effect. A regrettable development, indeed. Just don't be surprised if Goldhagen, too, gets respectful citations from the usual suspects. What's a little hyperbole and a bunch of errors among Catholic bashers?

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