James Carroll
Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews

from the publisher:
In a bold and moving book that is sure to spark heated debate, the novelist and cultural critic James Carroll maps the profoundly troubling two-thousand-year course of the Church’s battle against Judaism and faces the crisis of faith it has provoked in his own life as a Catholic. More than a chronicle of religion, this dark history is the central tragedy of Western civilization, its fault lines reaching deep into our culture.

The Church’s failure to protest the Holocaust -- the infamous “silence” of Pius XII -- is only part of the story: the death camps, Carroll shows, are the culmination of a long, entrenched tradition of anti-Judaism. From Gospel accounts of the death of Jesus on the cross, to Constantine’s transformation of the cross into a sword, to the rise of blood libels, scapegoating, and modern antisemitism, Carroll reconstructs the dramatic story of the Church’s conflict not only with Jews but with itself. Yet in tracing the arc of this history, he affirms that it did not necessarily have to be so. There were roads not taken, heroes forgotten; new roads can be taken yet. Demanding that the Church finally face this past in full, Carroll calls for a fundamental rethinking of the deepest questions of Christian faith. Only then can Christians, Jews, and all who carry the burden of this history begin to forge a new future.

Drawing on his well-known talents as a storyteller and memoirist, and weaving historical research through an intensely personal examination of conscience, Carroll has created a work of singular power and urgency. Constantine's Sword is a brave and affecting reckoning with difficult truths that will touch every reader.

James Carroll is the author of nine novels and the memoir An American Requiem, which won the National Book Award. His columns on culture and politics appear weekly in the Boston Globe. He wrote Constantine's Sword while on fellowships at Harvard University, where he is a research associate at the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at the Divinity School. Before becoming a writer, Carroll was a Catholic priest. He and his wife, the novelist Alexandra Marshall, live in Boston.

"This searingly honest book is Augustinian in the way Carroll searches his own soul, going down through layer after layer of instilled Catholic attitudes that demean Jews. We who had the same Catholic training badly need this book, to cleanse our souls, to make us all ask for forgiveness." --Garry Wills, author of Saint Augustine and Papal Sin

"A deeply religious book written at levels of understanding and with clarity of insights rarely -- if ever -- reached in the telling of this painful story." --Bishop Krister Stendahl, former dean, Harvard Divinity School

"For two thousand years Jews have been longing for a Christian who would understand their experience. At last James Carroll has written a book delineating the history of Christian-Jewish relations that demonstrates empathy and compassion for both sides." --Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College

"James Carroll's Constantine's Sword is an astonishing work of historical research that sweeps you up in the scenes of revelation that open, one upon the other, to explore the Church's role in anti-Semitism, a tale that has been told, at best, by halves before this. To read this book is a thrilling experience. It reveals unhappy truths about Catholicism in a profoundly Catholic way. Carroll is a man who loves his faith but loves truth, too. He tells a story that every Christian must read and every Catholic must sense as an expression of a new consciousness of what it means to be a Christian Catholic." --Eugene Kennedy, author of My Brother Joseph: The Spirit of a Cardinal and the Story of a Friendship