Constantine's Sword: Something's Rotten in the Vatican

Runs at Northwest Film Forum, Fri., Aug. 29–Thurs., Sept. 4. Not rated. 95 minutes. X marks the spot, literally, where Christianity and the Catholic Church fostered the centuries of religious hatred and anti-Semitism that culminated in the Holocaust. So argues James Carroll in his 2001 book Constantine's Sword and in this searching, intellectuall as cast in the year 312, when Constantine I claimed his decisive Roman victory under the sign of the labarum. Once the cross displaced life-giving emblems (shepherds, fish) as the symbol of Christianity, the religion made Christ's death its rallying point—providing a handy weapon against the fingered murderers, Europe's thriving Jews. How long could the damage linger? Fast-forward to the U.S. Air Force Academy in the evangelical hotbed of Colorado Springs, where Jewish cadets face thousands of brass-sanctioned flyers for The Passion of the Christ and insistent proselytizing. Journeying from Colorado to Rome to Auschwitz with his own tangled father-son military history as a running thread, Carroll runs the risk of conducting a Gray Line whirlwind tour of religious intolerance. But if his film is more provocative personal inquiry than reportorial knockout punch, it still pokes needed holes in the concept of papal infallibility, and, if nothing else, demonstrates why we should feel cold shivers whenever President George W. Bush bandies about the term "crusade." 

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