Freshly arrived on my desk for review is the newly released paperback version of bestselling book The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church. While my crazy schedule has kept me from reading the book in full, what I’ve read so far has fascinated me. For those of us who can’t ever get enough of news from the Vatican, this is thirty years of history, presented in a fashion that is accessible, insightful and interesting. Indeed so interesting that this is a tough book to put down, which is perhaps why even a year after the Conclave, Thavis’ perspectives on the Vatican are so compelling. The book has been reviewed by many Catholics, including my good friend Elizabeth Scalia who also shares an interview with John Thavis that will give you a sense of his voice. It’s Thavis’ voice, his history, and his uniquely qualified perspective that sets this book aside from others I’ve read on the subject of the Vatican. Once you’ve read this book you’ll want to check out John Thavis’ blog and follow him on Twitter.
In THE VATICAN DIARIES: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church (Penguin Books; March 2014; $17.00; ISBN: 9780143124535), prize-winning journalist John Thavis, with almost thirty-years of experience, offers a revelatory portrait of one of the world’s most powerful and mysterious institutions—one that has been brought repeatedly to the brink of crisis as it struggles to come to terms with the modern world. Thavis, who served as a special correspondent for ABC during the conclave, in a new introduction and afterword takes readers through the politicking behind the election of Pope Francis and discusses what we might expect from his papacy.
The Vatican is typically viewed as a monolithic power structure that pursues a global agenda with a unified sense of mission. In reality it’s a place where Curia cardinals fight private wars, where leaks are common, sex scandals simmer, and where the offhand remarks of cardinals and priests are often mistaken for official positions of the church. “Journalists tend to caricaturize the Vatican, depicting it as an institution capable of good or evil on a global scale,” Thavis explains. “In actual fact, the Vatican is more Keystone Cops than Machiavelli.”
Thavis takes readers behind-the-scenes to meet the people who make things happen, or screw things up. He reveals little-known characters who are a crucial part of the daily Vatican drama, and examines the motives and maneuvers of those at the top of the hierarchy. The book’s final chapter, “The Real Benedict,” describes journalists’ frustrating and failed attempts to pin a personality on the enigmatic German pope.
THE VATICAN DIARIES is a detailed, perceptive and often humorous insider’s view based on thirty years of first-hand reporting. It leads readers down the rabbit hole focusing on the human fallibility, virtues and vices behind many Vatican actions and decisions.
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Copyright 2014 Lisa M. Hendey