From Publishers Weekly
Burdened by a lurid title, this is a short history of the politics and finances of the Vatican during the last hundred years. As in his Complete Idiot's guides to the Crusades and to the lives of the saints, Williams displays an ability to compress a great deal of information in a short, highly readable way. His main argument is that the current financial strength of the Roman Catholic Church as well as many of its problems began in 1929 with the signing of the Lateran Treaty, in which a financially besieged Pope Pius XI exchanged recognition and support of Mussolini's Fascist government for more than $90 million and the establishment of the Vatican as a sovereign state. Williams traces how the Vatican's new emphasis on financial stability led it into other morally questionable financial arrangements with Adolf Hitler, the fascist state of Croatia and reputed Sicilian Mafia financier Michele Sindona. He examines carefully the establishment and workings of the Instituto per le Opere di Religione, commonly known as the Vatican Bank, "an entity unto itself without corporate or ecclesiastical ties to any other agency within the Holy See." While parts of the book overlap with other recent works on the Vatican and the popes (especially on Pius XI's refusal to censure the brutal ethnic cleansing of Orthodox Serbs and Jews by Croatia's Ustashi regime), this is a surprisingly solid short look at the dubious financial dealings of the Vatican from the 1920s to the present.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
On February 11, 1929, Pope Pius XI signed the Lateran Treaty with Mussolini's government, affirming Il Duce and netting him the political capital necessary for a secure Fascist future in exchange for $90 million in cash, a new tax-exempt papal state on Vatican Hill, government salaries for Italian parish priests, and the promise of both power and financial security. With it was formed the Vatican's Special Administration of the Holy See, the cleric-free investment arm of the Vatican, in the care of Bernardino Nogara, financial architect of the German Reichsbank. Thus ended the church's long-standing ban against usury and began a tradition of financially rewarding Faustian relationships with some of the twentieth century's most unsavory elements, including Nazi Germany and the Sicilian Mafia. Williams, a church historian who has also done FBI consulting, also investigates the suspicious death of reformer John Paul I and the shadiness of business as usual under John Paul II. This is a jaw-dropping book for Catholics and non-Catholics alike, and its straightforward manner and thoroughly documented evidence make it a compelling challenge for reform. Brendan DriscollCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved