James Carroll Wins the 2001 Melcher Book Award for "Constantine's Sword"
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 Christians.
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 James Carroll)