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The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes…
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The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities,… (udgave 2014)

af John Thavis (Forfatter)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
2221393,063 (3.78)5
Presents a behind-the-scenes perspective on the Vatican's inner workings that challenges popular perceptions, revealing the personal conflicts, authority-undermining scandals, and modern considerations that are challenging the Vatican's daily business.
Medlem:Marco357
Titel:The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities, and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church
Forfattere:John Thavis (Forfatter)
Info:Penguin Books (2014), Edition: Reprint, 352 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek
Vurdering:***
Nøgleord:Ingen

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The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church af John Thavis

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    The Future Church: How Ten Trends Are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church af John L. Allen Jr. (timspalding)
    timspalding: Thavis and Allen know more about the Vatican than anyone but the Pope.
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A very interesting, if uneven, look at the internal workings of the Vatican and its relationship to the Vatican press corps. I say uneven because the segments on the press corps are light, almost comical in several instances, and then he switches to much more serious topics as the way the Vatican mishandled the sexual abuse scandals and John Paul II's close relationship with Cardinal Marciel and the Legion, not to mention the personality of Pope Benedict.

The book begins with some amusing stories from the enclave where they elected Cardinal Ratzinger as the Pope, following the death of John Paul II. Apparently there are numerous traditions that must be closely followed, but some of the modern trappings are just confused things. The bell-ringer who was supposed to ring the bell at the sight of the white smoke couldn't receive the news via radio because of the jamming devices installed by the Vatican to prevent Cardinals and others from using cell phones during the enclave. Moreover, the special stove they had installed in the Chapel with a special chemical to turn the smoke white couldn't be lit so you had a group of cardinals surrounding the stove trying to get it to light that resembled old men at a barbecue, as the Sistine Chapel filled with smoke -- don't tell the museum's curators of Michelangelo's painting.

Secrecy at the Vatican rises to the level of fetish. Everything is hidden and probably the most important tenet is that no one must say anything negative about his (never a her) superior or say anything that might bring the church into disrepute. John Paul II had child-like naive love for anything that smacked of evangelical revivalism for the Catholic Church, which made him susceptible to the machinations of Cardinal Marcial, founder of the Legions of Christ and serial pedophile. Marcial and the Legionnaires would shower Rome's cardinals with expensive gifts worth up to $1000 not to mention millions in support of the Pope's travels. He was brought down, if you could say that, only following numerous charges from Legionnaires who described how if they felt guilty from Marcial's inflicted masturbatory sessions, he would absolve them on the spot and often claimed he had a special dispensation from Rome for his sexual proclivities. That became too much for Rome, not the sexual misconduct, the misuse of dispensations. In any case, he was never punished, only put out to pasture. (They admitted to his fathering several children and heterosexual affairs - after-all he was human- but they never admitted to the homosexual activities.) Marcial and the Legion never apologized, claiming only that Marcial would be Christ-like in his surrendering to the higher authority of the Pope. It's enough to make you puke.

Thavis devotes a chapter to the campaign by some of the church's reactionaries to have Pius XII (considered by some to be "Hitler's Pope") declared a saint. You might as well declare a Hershey Bar (seems like Catholics will pray to anything) a saint, setting the bar so low. I mean really; Aquinas, maybe, but Pius XII or John Paul II (considered by some to be Marcial's enabler)? Give me a fucking break.

Here's what Thavis has to say about it:
One of the traditional signs of sainthood, still very much taken into account by Vatican experts, is the existence of a “popular cult” –evidence that people pray to the person in the years following his or her death. The six-year-old Nennolina, for example, who was soon to be beatified [by Pope Benedict XVI] was this kind of grassroots saint. Her friends, neighbors and relatives kept the fame of her sanctity alive by publishing her letters, reporting her holiness widely and praying to the little Roman girl.

If the fact that Pius XII was a pope gave his sainthood cause some inherent advantages, in other ways it made perceptions of his holiness less immediate and less personal. He was for most Catholics a remote figure at the far end of the hierarchy. History would ultimately be his judge, and it always struck me that whatever “popular cult” he did have seemed to be centered in and around the Vatican. (p. 229-231)


As with any large organization, politics, secrecy and money reign supreme. Sometimes they also appear quite short-sighted. Desperate for a new parking lot inside the Vatican, the engineers maneuvered the Cardinals to authorize them to begin digging without allowing any archaeologists to check the site first for possible artifacts and things of historical interest. They claimed to have done some test bores, but were horrified when the bulldozers tore open a huge burial site with many hundreds of Roman tombs and full of mosaics and museum quality pieces. Had they had any sense, it seems to me, not to mention foresight, they never would have let the archaeologists in first (full disclaimer, I studied a bit of archaeology in college) and when the tombs had been found, turned it into a major tourist attraction, charging money to watch and then visit. They could have built the parking lot elsewhere and had buses (for a fee, of course) carrying people back and forth. They would have made much more money and kept everyone (except perhaps the asphalt engineers) very happy. Instead, despite their attempt at secrecy, the result was a huge scandal.

One of the most interesting sections described the attempt by the SSPX under the leadership of Marcel Lefebvre to influence Cardinal Ratzinger and the newly elected Pope. They were upset with the changes enacted by Pope John XXIII and wanted a return to the Latin mass and the more traditional (and medieval) form of worship. He belonged to identifiable strand of right-wing political and religious opinion in French society that originated among the defeated royalists after the 1789 French Revolution. He defied Pope John Paul II and consecrated four bishops, an action for which he (and they) were excommunicated. He was particularly incensed by the Vatican's reaching out to other religious denominations, not believing in rapprochement. Apparently he and his followers didn't buy all that nonsense about the Pope being God's representative, Clearly, Lefebvre believed he had better communication with God than the Pope. The whole thing smacked of Luther's rebellion against the established order in 1521, his excommunication, and we all know where that led. Seems to me that Lefebvre met most of the conditions of heresy.

Thavis, a Vatican correspondent, and chief of the Rome Bureau for the Catholic News Service, for more than thirty years, says he wrote the book to reveal the inner workings of the Vatican, a place rife with political in-fighting and scandal, hardly the locus of a church with a unified and universal mission. Whether the institution will ever become governable in the modern world remains to be seen. Ratzinger (Benedict) gave up but it should not have come as a surprise. The man had spent his entire life seeking refuge from controversy and the world in general. He had decided at a very young age he wanted to be a cardinal, and enrolled in seminary at age 12, with but a brief stint in the German Army, his life was one of books (sounds delightful) and as an academic -- he never had a job as a pastor dealing with the day to day quotidian lives of parishioners -- fled conflict. I suspect the pressures of being Pope were just too much, so off to the monastery. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 19, 2019 |
An excellent, compelling account of Vatican politics by an author who self-evidently knows the subject extraordinarily well. It was perfect for a layperson like myself (a complete atheist who is nonetheless extremely interested in religions and how they are conducted); I picked it up on a trip to Italy and devoured it rapidly while there, mislaid it on my return, and finished the final pages when it resurfaced while rearranging my shelves.

It's clean, taut, exciting prose--he's a great writer--telling not one, but a series of stories depicting all aspects of life at the Vatican at the highest levels, with a surprising amount of detail for something that (to me) seemed so secret. Very absorbing. Can't give it 5 stars because I wasn't emotionally engaged (I didn't cry, it's not that kind of book) so isn't my favourite, but I will happily read this author again on any subject.

(Note: 5 stars = rare and amazing, 4 = quite good book, 3 = a decent read, 2 = disappointing, 1 = awful, just awful. There are a lot of 4s and 3s in the world!) ( )
  ashleytylerjohn | Sep 19, 2018 |
Quite an interesting look at the Vatican, about Popes Pius XII, John Paul, and Benedict, the pedophilia scandals, and the issues of homosexuality within the priesthood.

Not having read any previous Papal bios or histories, I hesitate to wholeheartedly endorse Travis's reading of these Popes. But if he is as unbiased as he purports, then my criticism of Pius's behavior during WWII needs adjusting, as probably my understanding of Benedict does, too.

Woven throughout are the incredible mishandlings of several sexual scandals. Throughout Benedict's reign, it seems that how the church "looks" is of much more import than one might expect of God's holy church. Politics reigns supreme, it seems. I look forward to reading Travis's accounts of Pope Francis.

It was well narrated by Malcolm Hillgartner. ( )
  kaulsu | May 9, 2017 |
John Thavis writes an interesting expose about the behind the scenes view of the activities of the Vatican from the viewpoint of reporter tasked with covering the Vatican activities.

It's, at times, a fascinating look at the people, personalities and traditions that make up the most powerful religious organization in the world. Writing about things such as the uncovering of ancient religious burial grounds underneath the Vatican to a closer than necessary view of the fashion police that reside there, Thavis gives you a complete picture of a organization that is steeped in history and tradition that constantly stumbles its way forward.

Thavis gives a glimpse into the characters of the power players of the Vatican, well worth reading whether you are Catholic or not.

( )
  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
Really tough topic to write well about and this is a timely and excellent book. Best chapters are the first and last chapters. ( )
  lincolnpan | Dec 31, 2014 |
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Presents a behind-the-scenes perspective on the Vatican's inner workings that challenges popular perceptions, revealing the personal conflicts, authority-undermining scandals, and modern considerations that are challenging the Vatican's daily business.

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