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165 of 189 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Jason Berry's "Render unto Rome"
Jason Berry, along with his colleague Gerald Renner (now deceased) will forever be remembered for the solid investigative journalism that revealed the truth about the sordid life of Fr. Maciel Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ so honored and beloved by the late John Paul II. Their book, appropriately titled Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John...
Published on June 15, 2011 by Matthew Fox Friends of Creation

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Confused?
Like countless other books, `Render unto Rome' gave me lots of instances of Vatican bank corruption. Yet, it left me confused as to what allows the Vatican Bank to be a cesspool of money laundering and a host of other illegal activities.

Another book The Vatican Murders: The Life and Death of John Paul I cleared this up for me.

For example, all money...
Published 6 months ago by Todd Hamilton, playwright


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165 of 189 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Jason Berry's "Render unto Rome", June 15, 2011
Jason Berry, along with his colleague Gerald Renner (now deceased) will forever be remembered for the solid investigative journalism that revealed the truth about the sordid life of Fr. Maciel Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ so honored and beloved by the late John Paul II. Their book, appropriately titled Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II, was roundly ignored for years by the Vatican and the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith headed by Ratzinger. It demonstrated that letters and formal requests to be heard by victims of Maciel's sexual abuse in seminaries he founded were ignored for years; it makes one weep and outraged at this man's perfidy. Yet, Pope John Paul II was so enamored of Maciel's fund raising prowess and of his all-obedient troops that he took him with him on plane rides to Latin America and ordained fifty-some of his priests in a massive public showing of support in St Peter's square. Ratzinger once commented that it would not be "prudent" to go after Maciel since he had done so much good for the church. Try telling that to the twenty-some seminarians he abused AND the two common law wives he had on the side along with four children, all of whom (boys and one girl) he also abused sexually. Ratzinger as Pope Benedict finally got around to investigating Maciel and his Legion of Christ order which, among other strange and fascist practices, demanded a vow of not speaking badly of the "saintly founder" (that is, Maciel). Maciel was not only a great fund raiser and recruiter for the priesthood, he was also enamored of Pinochet and other right wing dictators.

Now Jason Berry continues his probings into the sordid facts about the Roman Catholic Church in our time. He moves from pedophile scandals to financial scandals in Render to Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church. The two scandals are by no means separate however if one considers how $3 billion of Catholic lay peoples' hard-earned cash has gone into paying lawyers and victims of the pedophile story. Or if one traces the money flow, which Berry does, from parish to bishop and to what is often secret funds. Berry is himself a Roman Catholic; he is not trying to destroy the church but report on it. The hierarchy is destroying the church, not truth-telling reporters. Berry comments that the Vatican's net worth "is invisible." In its 2007 balance sheet it listed the value of St Peter's Basilica and other historic buildings at 1 euro each ($1.47)!

The current Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Bertone, was a lowly canon lawyer picked from obscurity by Ratzinger to investigate the Maciel case; he swore all the victims to secrecy and ended up doing nothing about Maciel. For his loyalty he was named archbishop of Genoa, then Cardinal, and now Secretary of State. While he was ecclesial chief of Genoa he found the time and interest to endorse Maciel's book (since proven to have been lifted 80% from a dead theologian's book--add plagiarism to Maciel's list of sins and crimes). Bertone endorsed it in the most effusive way by writing a celebratory preface to the Italian edition in 2003. To repeat, this same Bertone so enamored of Maciel is now secretary of state for Pope Benedict's Vatican. It is amazing what loyalty will buy.

The previous secretary of state was a certain Cardinal Sadono--the same cardinal who interrupted the Easter Mass in St Peter's Square in 2010 to declare that Ratzinger was being abused by "petty gossipers" who complained that he was not taking action about pedophie priests and bishops and cardinals who cover up for them. It was Sadano who put pressure on Ratzinger at the CDF not to act against Maciel in the first place. This same Sadono had worked in Chile under Pinochet's dictatorship, ever obsequious to his fascist ways even though hundreds of priests, sisters and lay leaders were being tortured and murdered by Pinochet's regime. He approved only those priests for bishop who supported Pinochet. He was the recipient of a special medal given him by Pinochet in 1988. And it was John Paul II (now destined to "sainthood") who handpicked Sadono as secretary of state to manage the Curia and to offer "more hard line resistance" to communism. Berry makes a strong case that Sodano laundered money for his erstwhile nephew and his business partner Follieri who gave money to the Vatican and who is now in prison in New York for fourteen counts of wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. After yielding his job as secretary of state to the great and loyal Bertone, Sadono became dean of the College of Cardinals just in time for the College to vote Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI.

William Casey, the CIA director under Reagan was a right wing Catholic so enamored of Maciel that he and his wife gifted them with a seven figure donation--a plaque honors their bequest in the novitiate in Cheshire, Ct. Casey steered money to the Vatican to support Solidarity in Poland and apparently in return the Vatican went after Liberation Theology and base communities in South America. Casey also fed money to right-wing militias in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, the very militias that murdered five Jesuits and their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador and also Archbishop Romero. Other champions of Marcel included Jeb Bush and Cardinal Rode who was head of Religious Orders in the Vatican and who took vacations in Cancun at the expense of the Legion. Not surprisingly, righteous right-wing Catholic William Bennet, ever on American TV, was also a proud and loud admirer of Maciel.

Berry asks the question: "Why beatify a pope whose faith in Maciel and myopia on the abuse crisis left a trail of human carnage? The rush to spectacle cannot airbrush facts from history." Spectacle is indeed what the present and past papacies love about Television. And the media loves to oblige (ABC hired one of Maciel's Legion of Christ priests to offer commentary for the funeral of the last pope.)

So much for Rome, church headquarters. What about America? The bottom line is that the bishops in their respective dioceses are like medieval princes who rule practically unchecked when it comes to financial matters. Many dioceses have no way of keeping healthy books even if they wanted to keep them. Transparency is rare and often non-existent. Cardinal Law in Boston, for example, famous for his passing pedophile priests from parish to parish and for his promotion to run a fourth century basilica in Rome, took money earmarked for priestly retirements and used it to pay off pedophile claims without telling anyone. The result? The clergy retirement fund is over $104 million in the hole. Law did this secretly before the pedophile scandal broke in 2002. Law currently serves on the Commission in the Vatican that appoints bishops worldwide.

One of his handpicked bishops, Bishop Richard Lennon of Cleveland was famous in Boston where he oversaw "Reconfiguration," i.e. the closing of parishes usually taking into account none of the objections and alternatives of parishoners who held sit ins and sleep ins in certain parishes targeted for closure there. On arriving in Cleveland, Lennon set out to close 53 parishes while more local people felt the number could be limited to fifteen. He did not make himself the most popular cleric in town. In fact, so unbeloved by his flock is Lennon that when he comes to a parish to conduct confirmation he wears a flak jacket (sic!) and is accompanied down the aisle by two policemen. Lennon's plan had no in-put from urban planners, public officials, priests or nuns. It included shutting down eight churches officially designated as historical landmarks.

Berry traces the money trails in the Boston diocese, Cleveland, New Orleans and Los Angeles. A prime example is the most important and historic black parish in New Orleans, built in 1842, that Bishop Hughes (also from Boston and another Law protege) shut down . A near riot among the parishoners eventually got it reopened but the charismatic pastor was exiled to Texas. The point is made that an effort to raise money through appeals to significant black leaders would have done wonders to keep the place open. After all, this was post-Katrina. But the Bishop never tried an appeal like that.

Perhaps the most startling news to me on reading this book (other than the flack-jacketed Bishop) was to hear the facts about Cardinal Mahoney in Los Angeles. Mahoney, Berry points out, was even more duplicitous than Cardinal Law but he was more expert at holding off the legal attacks and his diocese was more flush with cash that he put into legal defense funds against victims of pedophilia. However, charity funds dried up almost entirely. Mahoney was a genius at manipulating the media. Perhaps one expects that of a bishop of Hollywood land. "Mahoney's decisions in recycling perpetrators, and living among them, were more egregious than Bernard Law's scandal. But the media-savvy Mahoney spent heavily on publicity and used his financial muscle to wage the legal fight...ratcheting up an overall final payout of $750 million. But Mahoney was not indicted." (323)

Berry proposes a solution to the legal battles raging over priestly pedophilia offered by Patrick Schiltz, of the St Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis. Why not set up a national tribunal of well-respected people who are completely independent of the church to arbitrated sexual claims against the church. "The most important benefit of this system is that it would let the church and the victim work together in a common cause--achieving a just and healing result--rather than put them against each other through several years of litigation," Schiltz proposes. The idea was offered in 2003; so far the bishops have not come on board. So the litigations continue and, ultimately, "all roads lead to Rome...it all leads to the pope" according to one lawyer deeply involved in such matters.

This is an honest book but a sad one to read. A telling story of the church of Pope John Paul II who "stood passive" and scolded the media , blaming therapists for misleading bishops while the cardinals around him blasted media and lawyers and dug in his heels in stubbornness against the truth coming out. It very much confirms my conviction that a gross "Dumbing Down of the Church" has been consciously orchestrated from the Vatican since John Paul II took over the reigns. This is clear in the theological Inquisitions that occur to this day but also in the appointments of "Yes men" as bishops. One welcomes the truth coming out as painful as that is. Didn't someone once say, "the truth will make you free?" Isn't that Someone the supposed source behind the Christian movement?

At the conclusion of a recent workshop Jason Berry offered on "Render to Rome," a man turned to me and said: "Wait until these facts come out. This will ignite more fire than even the pedophile crisis because it hits closer to home for many Catholics in the pew, people who give money to the church." I suspect he is right. Maybe, as I propose in my book, The Pope's War: How Ratzinger's Secret Crusade Imperiled the Church and How It Can be Saved, pushing the restart button on Christianity is the only solution to the patent sexual, financial and ideological corruption in the highest places of Catholicism at this time in history.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best journalistic report on this subject, June 28, 2011
"Render Unto Rome", the new powerful book written by a first class journalist, Jason Berry, has given to all men and women of good will a deeper understanding of the dynamics of corruption endemic in some major religions. Among other merits, Jason Berry is a sincere friend and strong defender of the many victims left destroyed by the Rev. Marcial Maciel, the froud, sexual predator and incestous founder of the Legion of Christ.

Jason's factual accuracy, master journalistic style and vast documented research courageously expose the corruption, filth and greed that stains many walls and corridors in the Vatican and sectors of the Catholic church.

Congratulations and kudos to Jason Berry for his tireless resolve in denauncing corruption and deceit, while defending Truth, Integrity and Justice.

Juan J. Vaca
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blows the Lid off the Catholic Church's finances, July 15, 2011
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RENDER UNTO ROME BLOWS THE LID off the Catholic Church's finances. I found the book to be a page turner. I read it in a couple of days. Anyone who reads this book who is a Catholic will reconsider donating any money to the church. They have misspent millions of dollars to pay off years of misconduct by priests and the sexual abuse scandals. I highly recommend this book.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ALL THE POPE'S MEN, July 9, 2011
Investigative author Jason Berry takes us where few non-clergy -- and no women -- have ever gone: inside the gilded parlors and secret vaults of the Roman Catholic Church. This reverent yet scathing revelation of the crippling financial impact of the Church's widespread pederasty scandal tells a gripping tale through the experiences of dioceses and parishes in Boston, Los Angeles, Cleveland and elsewhere in the U.S. The villains? Arrogant and unbending princes of the Church -- bishops, cardinals and popes -- portrayed in maddening detail, and a non-functioning system of Vatican accountability. The heroes? Devoted and desperate parishoners, priests loyal to Christ and his mission of mercy rather than to corrupt colleagues and the bottom line, and whistleblowers and investigators like Mr. Berry himself. This book reveals the tragic consequences of blind obedience to authorities who insist they speak for God, and the incompetence of oh-so-mortal clergymen, including Popes John Paul II and his successor, Joseph Ratzinger, aka Benedict XVI. This book is a must-read for the faithful, and those who like to be immersed in a real-life saga of Good v. Evil. Get thee to a bookstore and "Render Unto Rome"!
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40 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incisive and poetic, June 29, 2011
By 
Michael D'Antonio (Long Island, New York) - See all my reviews
No writer anywhere has devoted more time and energy to understanding the Catholic Church than Jason Berry. The depth of his knowledge and experience are evident here. A solid invetigator, he follows the money to show where the priorities of church leaders lie and he reveals the currents of faith and devotion that move everyday Catholics to hold the hierarchy accountable. Paced like a suspense novel but grounded in documentation, Render Unto Rome is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the modern church as both a religious institution and a power player on the world stage.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jason Berry's Beautiful Prose Illuminates A Sensitive Issue, August 17, 2011
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This review is from: Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church (Kindle Edition)
RENDER UNTO ROME is an amazingly well written, factually rich book. Although reading Mr. Berry's earlier works, LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION and VOWS OF SILENCE, would give the reader in-depth context, Mr. Berry brings the reader of RENDER UNTO ROME up to speed on the facts of an old well-hidden church problem.
In RENDER UNTO ROME historical context is provided to help one understand the long traditions which have allowed A RIVER OF MONEY TO RUN ONE WAY TO ROME (Peter's Pence.)
In order to subsidize settlements of USA priest sex abuse cases, ruthless "suppression" of whole parish-communities of Catholic believers has occurred. Some established inner-city church families have been evicted to pay these penalties for wrongs perpetrated elsewhere. An aloof, isolated, calloused hierarchy have allowed this pilfering. Amazing cases of simple in-house grand theft of church funds went unreported and ignored.
Yet, Mr. Berry's tone is fair and compassionate to all involved. In no way is he unfair towards church officials. RENDER UNTO ROME is accurate. The constructive tone of this amazing book offers to the church much needed self-awareness, and self-accountability.
Jason Berry's own Catholicism has been strengthened as has been his faith in Christ, in spite of the many ugly institutional wrongs. He chooses to work to repair the church. He stands tall and speaks of much needed correctives in church structure and administration. He awakens in the reader the sense of responsibility to become part of the solution, and not to passively bow to the status quo. One comes away from reading RENDER UNTO ROME aware of the important need for the faithful to insist on accountability. Good bookkeeping would help also.
I learned much about my own faith needs reading this series of books, and am more adult in my faith for the lessons learned. I am reminded that Jesus spoke to Saint Francis of Assisi these words: REBUILD MY CHURCH or GO REPAIR MY HOUSE!! Thank you Mr. Berry.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE Book to Read for American Catholics, June 22, 2011
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With more calls for accountability and transparency in the American Catholic hierarchy, this is the book that American Catholics SHOULD be reading this summer. I already have a dozen people asking to read my copy. I consider this a primer for studying how decisions were made in the American Church and what we need to be demanding of our hierarchy now and in the future, so that the same mistakes are not continued over and over again to the detriment of the Church.

It is very sobering to read that the number of Catholics who have left the American Church are the second largest religious group in the USA. If that does not tell everyone that there are serious and deep problems in its hierarchy and decisions, then we have lost the future altogether. It is merely wishful thinking that we will have a smaller and more-improved Church when most leave. We will have NO Church, pure and simple. How the Holy Spirit must weep at the harm done by those entrusted to lay down their lives for their sheep!

As one reviewer noted, it is prudent to follow the money in any organization. The Church in American is no exception. Berry does a masterful job in leading the reader through the layers of bureaucracy and the quagmire of financial mismangement. I particularly noted that what Americans are most proud of in the Church are the things it does to make the message of the Gospels live - the schools, social services, hospitals and such. Most of them, he notes, are operated by the laity. Therein lies the key to their success. The Holy Spirit blows where that Spirit wills. That's evident.

Berry's discussion of a number of dioceses in the USA shows how widespread the problems are and how they continue unabated with the network of bishops assigned around the nation. In the early Church, the laity had a great deal of participation in the selection of their bishops. It worked. The Church grew and made remarkable advances wherever it was welcomed. Now one would think that the bishops fear any sharing of responsibilities with the very people they are sworn to lay their lives down for.

I don't think any American Catholic could think the same way about the USCCB or their diocese, the Curia, Signatura or the papacy after reading this book. It is an education for us all and one greatly needed and long overdue.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not surprising in light of the sex scandals, August 26, 2011
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Jason Berry is the journalist who is responsible for breaking through the titanium-strength lid of secrecy on the Catholic Church's culture of secrecy and cover-up of sexual molestation of minors. This was back in 1985 and he has since become the pre-eminent chronicler of the multi-layered corruption in the institutional Church. He and the late Gerry Renner wrote the book that was responsible more than anything else for exposing the late founder of the Legion of Christ for the psychopathic fraud that he was. Jason has now focused his formidable research ability on the even more secretive layer of corruption in the institutional Church, the "secret life of money" as he aptly calls it. Some have said that the shock value of this book would exceed that of his previous books on clergy sexual abuse not because abuse of money is more despicable, but because it hits home to a far wider range of people. It is impossible to lay out in an organized and succinct fashion the entire history of the Catholic Church's financial dealings, primarily because no one on earth today or in history could ever have been capable of sorting it all out. On the other hand Jason does a remarkable job of summing up what he calls in chapter 2, "The Origins of the Vatican Financial System." That section alone is reason enough to buy the book. The book is very effective in laying out the sordid story of the Church's financial antics because the author has chosen to focus on four specific examples of the bizarre life of money in the Church: the Archdiocese of Boston, seat of the tsunami that jump-started the second and still rumbling volcano of clergy sex abuse and cover-up, the Diocese of Cleveland, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Legion of Christ. Each story is almost too much for the average person to wrap his or her brain around. The naive believers who question nothing will be blown away not because it is all too much to grasp but because the author has researched it all so well to make it all too true. Those with more experience, especially inside experience with the institutional Church will also be shocked because the overall picture, as it is so skillfully assembled by the author, goes to the edge of the envelope of shocking corruption. Jason is not afraid to by-pass the deference, insisted upon by the hierarchy, to name some of the key players in the sordid game of ecclesiastical Monopoly: Stanislaus Dziwisz, long-time secretary and companion to John Paul II and now a cardinal, Anthony Pilla, former bishop of Cleveland, Richard Lennon, architect of disastrous campaign of parish closures in boston and Pilla's successor, Roger Mahony, former Cardinal archbishop of Los Angeles, the scene of the largest pay-out for sex abuse victims in history, Marcial Maciel-Degollado, multi-faceted cult leader of the Legion of Christ, and the face of Vatican corruption, Cardinal Angelo Sodano. This book weaves together in a readable and understandable way the clergy sex abuse phenomenon and the ebb and flow of money and its influence on how Church management makes decisions that should be based on what is right rather than what is financially expedient. It is an invaluable classic because the author has assembled in one volume the key aspects of the remarkable and scandalous story of money in the Church, a story that must be told for contemporary history and for the good of the honest believers.
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26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FOLLOW THE MONEY, June 15, 2011
By 
leo mckenzie (upper saddle river, nj, US) - See all my reviews
Render unto Rome

Jason Berry tackled a gargantuan topic about the finances of the oldest institution and the largest organization in the world, the Catholic Church. He accomplished it masterfully, thoroughly and comprehensively.

Render unto Rome presents the reader with an up-to-date accounting of the last 27 years' massive multi-billion dollar hemorrhaging of the revenues of the church to compensate the victims of the crimes of child sex abuse by priests. This forfeiture of parishioners' donations would have been less had hierarchs repeatedly not shuffled pedophiles to new assignments.

The hierarchy's rationale for the enormous number of parish closings around the country under the claims of a shift of the Catholic population to the suburbs and a decline in available priests to staff them-- both of these reasons are true--leaves unmentioned a third reason: the replenishing of the bishops' treasuries, but Berry point it out clearly.

Berry shows how the disposal of church property is corrupted by insider information, below market sales prices and refusal to allow the parishioners who built and paid for these plants to buy them.

Vatican curial cardinals have inside information about which church properties will be available for sale and they have enriched themselves and their relatives by passing on that information.

In East Boston, the archdiocese sold a parish for $850.000 and 20 days later the new owner "flipped" it for $2,650,000. In Cleveland, the parishioners of a Hungarian parish slated for closure wanted to buy the church to use as a cultural center but the bishop refused to allow it.

Throughout Render unto Rome Berry demonstrates how parishioners' contributions buy bishops power, position and prestige.

A quote from an interview in the book says it well: "As Catholics we are supporting a wall of corruption with our money, whether we like it or not."

An excellent study by a thoroughly competent investigator.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another "Invisible Empire", June 28, 2011
By 
R. Lasseter (South Bend, Indiana) - See all my reviews
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Jason Berry's book is a remarkable tour de force of investigative journalism. Having followed his expose of the Legionaries of Christ in his earlier book, Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II this fuller account and summary of recent developments is helpful in understanding the current Vatican investigation into the Legion's complex financial network, a web which has startling similarities to the Masonic "Invisible Empire." The book has several chapters on the late founder of the Legion, Marciel Maciel, the "Bernie Maddoff" of the world of religion, and on Maciel's affiliates and enablers. Although Berry reveals how the Legion set itself up as a kind of permanent fifth-column in the Catholic Church (and how it continues to use the network of the Church to further its own interests), Render Unto Rome is not the book of a writer intent on Church-bashing. It is more of a non-fiction "whodunit" about the power of money to drive the already-powerful and ambitious, as well as influence the choices of the innocently-naive and weak men, all of whom occupy high ecclesiastical offices. It is a book about the corruption that threatens, as it has always threatened, those who try to fill the shoes of Peter -- either to follow in Christ's footsteps or else to walk rough-shod over others in self-serving ambition. We can marvel with Berry at the endurance of the Eucharist despite such venality and bad faith as he has revealed in Render Unto Rome. An excellent companion to Berry's book is R. A. Scotti's book, Basilica: The Splendor and the Scandal: Building St. Peters.Basilica: The Splendor and the Scandal: Building St. Peter's
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