In response to:

'Were The Popes Against The Jews?' from the February 6, 2014 issue

To the Editors:

The above book title appeared in the “Letters” section [NYR, February 6] in response to Kevin Madigan’s review. In that section, Edmund Levin noted that Lawler’s Julian-Gregorian calendar conflation was “an honest mistake.” In fact, it was based on Maurice Samuel’s Blood Accusation (1966): “The sessions…ran for thirty-four days (September 25–October 28, 1913)….” The Jewish Virtual Library was also wrong: “The trial of Beilis took place in Kiev from September 25 through October 28, 1913.”

Madigan remains unconvinced: “Lawler’s use of the Gregorian calendar led him to that thoroughly amateurish chronological mistake, which completely undermines his critique of Kertzer.” Unfortunately, there’s no way chronology interfered with David Kertzer’s concealment of the Russian ambassador so that blame would fall on Cardinal del Val. Of this deed, the members of the Jewish Publication Society declared: “One cannot recall in all of history such an entirely conscienceless and shameless act.”

Moreover, anyone really concerned about chronology vis-à-vis “the popes against the Jews” wouldn’t focus on one isolated incident, but rather on a whole sequence. After the chapter on “ritual murder,” Kertzer discussed “a future pope in Poland”: the latter being Achille Ratti, subsequently Pius XI, whose “Polish experience shaped the view of Europe’s Jews” that he “would hold as pope.” That “experience,” according to Kertzer, was based on the pope’s “three years in Warsaw.” Unfortunately, for the satisfaction of serious chronologists, less than half a year of that period is actually documented.

Justus George Lawler
St. Charles, Illinois