The 2001 Frederic G. Melcher Book Award was given to James Carroll for
Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews. The award was presented
to Mr. Carroll on April 18, 2002, at the Cambridge Forum presentation at First Parish Church in
Cambridge, beginning at 7:30 p.m. The forum, including an address by Mr.
Carroll, was free to the public.
The Melcher citation reads, "In Constantine’s Sword, novelist, essayist, activist, and former Paulist
priest James Carroll tells, with power and understanding, the long, troubled,
and ever-troubling story of the Catholic Church and the Jews. Passionate and
evenhanded, at once a personal narrative and a work of dedicated scholarship,
this groundbreaking book exposes the theological, doctrinal, and institutional
roots of anti-Judaism. Constantine’s Sword takes readers on a journey across the
geography of conscience and through 2,000 years of Western history, and, in
doing so, challenges us to relinquish long-held beliefs and assumptions about
the nature of faith."
Constantine’s Sword is both historical analysis and personal
narrative. Carroll, a former National Book Award winner, explores the roots of
anti-Judaism in the early Church and traces its development through the
centuries to its tragic culmination in the Holocaust. The publication of Constantine’s Sword: The Church
and the Jews has contributed
significantly to a greater understanding of the history of Jewish-Christian
relations and has prompted a new level of discourse between Jews and
In his landmark book, Carroll writes: "I love the cross, the sign of my
faith, yet finally the sight of it here [at Auschwitz] made me, in the words of
the spiritual, tremble, tremble, tremble. Because of a resounding Jewish
response, I saw the holy object as if it were a chimney. But also, Christian
that I am, I saw it through the eyes of the man I have always been. The
primordial evil of Auschwitz has now been compounded by the camp’s new character
as a flashpoint between Catholics and Jews. So the ancient Christian symbol
here, despite my knowledge that it was wrong, was a revelation. I was seeing the
cross in its full and awful truth for the first time." (Copyright © 2001
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Last updated on Tuesday, April 3, 2012.
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