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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 [Kindle Edition]

John Thavis
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (220 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

The New York Times–bestselling inside look at one of the world’s most powerful and mysterious institutions

For more than twenty-five years, John Thavis held one of the most remarkable journalistic assignments in the world: reporting on the inner workings of the Vatican. In The Vatican Diaries, Thavis reveals Vatican City as a place struggling to define itself in the face of internal and external threats, where Curia cardinals fight private wars and sexual abuse scandals threaten to undermine papal authority. Thavis also takes readers through the politicking behind the election of Pope Francis and what we might expect from his papacy. The Vatican Diaries is a perceptive, compelling, and provocative account of this singular institution and will be of interest to anyone intrigued by the challenges faced by religion in an increasingly secularized world.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Thavis, who covered the Vatican for 30 years as a journalist, has written an insider’s account chronicling some of the people, issues, and scandals that have made headlines over the years. The press hasn’t always been flattering, nor are some of the details Thavis recounts, such as the Vatican’s inaction when repeatedly apprised of allegations of sexual abuse of teenage seminarians by the founder of the Legion of Christ religious order. Though sympathetic to the Church, Thavis doesn’t stray very far from his journalistic roots. He presents the facts, leaving the editorial conclusions to be drawn by the reader. Although much of the book’s content will be of most interest to Catholics, the chapter titled “Sex,” which addresses condoms, AIDS, and homosexuality, will surely command a wider audience. In the end, we are left with a more nuanced understanding of the Vatican, an institution Thavis describes as “marked more by human flair and fallibility than ruthless efficiency.” The clergy sex-abuse scandal, however, may well belie the latter part of that assessment. --Christopher McConnell


''A seasoned reporter on the Vatican beat takes us for an irreverent and revealing visit. Frequently from the vantage of the reportorial fly on the wall, Thavis . . . concentrates on the history he has witnessed firsthand . . . Especially provocative are the chapters dealing with the mismanagement of diverse sex scandals and, finally, an appraisal of the opaque personality of Benedict . . . Not only provocative, this report is illuminating and fully accessible to members of the faith and doubters alike.'' --Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What Politics... February 28, 2013
I watched Inside the Vatican by National Geographic which documents how the Vatican City functions but not what it takes to run a religious business with so many characters in the picture. The Vatican Diaries is not about Catholicism as a faith, it is not about the Vatican as a city, it is about the players inside as well as outside the Vatican. This knowledge can not be achieved unless you are an insider or live by Vatican. Forget about the presidential politics since that is boring, Vatican's politic is not. This is a book that exposes many facets of Vatican and that means religion plus the spice of humanity in Italian style. This book certainly does justice to Pope Benedict since many of the issues that Benedict had to deal with during his service was not really analyzed and discussed in US media as it should have been and John's writing certainly covers that era considerably. This is a book about human beings who have to deal with many issues in an environment that regardless of how spiritual they may want to be or they may want to get, they still cannot avoid the arrogance, sexuality and the personality that it comes with that creation of god, the other human beings. I never thought this could be such an informative book. Unlike many other books this book has no ending due to what is happening in Vatican in the given moment. Wish Pope Benedict health, happiness and mainly peace. Great, informative and educational read. Bravo.


UPDATE 2014: Watch the two hour 2014 documentary which documents all the facts provided in this book and more. Amazing story. Link provided in the comment section.
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52 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable Book February 21, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As my title indicates, John Thavis has written a remarkable books on a couple counts. At the same time as Pope Benedict has decided to close his reign, John has opened up the recent history of the Vatican and its players in a very well-written manner. I was impressed throughout and could barely put the book down as a couple things stood out.

First, the Vatican like most complex and large organizations works to conserve its own interests. This resulted in immeasurable tragedy, as in the case of Maciel, with support for the beast and the victimization of many. And the mind boggling absorption with homophobia and dedicated priests who were made to suffer. This book shows clearly how this occurred and how difficult it is to turn an aircraft carrier on a dime.

Second, the stories are beautiful. Some are sad and cynical but some are full of joy. My favorite part of the book is the story about Father Foster. The images of him exhorting his students to appreciate Latin ("My God, every prostitute in ancient Rome spoke Latin")and telling a reporter "I'd like to say Mass in the nude" are memorable.

What else can I say? Great book!
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A better title - "Surviving the Vatican" February 25, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Boy, what great timing for the author. The Vatican Diaries comes out just as Pope Benedict XVI has resigned. What this book shows me is that for anything this inept and mismanaged to have survived over 2,000 years - it has to be from God. And - God has a great sense of humor! Good Catholics do not have to shy away from reading this entertaining and enlightening book about their Church. I would suspect their own parish may be reflected in these pages as well. This "diary" is a quick read and very interesting. The Catholic Church is nothing if not human and The Vatican Diaries illustrates that wonderfully. Buy or download this book quickly so you'll be up to speed when the new Pope is elected.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Vatican Diaries March 15, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Only two days ago people the world over waited for white smoke to appear above St. Peter's Square and it isn't hard to understand why. The Holy See is arguably the most influential organization in the entirety of human history, the power it wields is sacred to the faithful, but equally impressive to those outside the Catholic church.

In The Vatican Diaries, John Thavis lifts the veil of secrecy and sheds light on the politics that characterize life in Vatican City. Offering readers insight into the world he knew while working for the Catholic News Service.

The thing I liked most about this book is that unlike some other titles I've sampled over the years, Thavis humanizes the Vatican. He talks about her quirks and idiosyncrasies, points to her character by examining her structure and inhabitants. Even in print the city seems more real as seen through the eyes of one who holds such obvious passion for her past, present and future.

Thavis' writing isn't tinged with superiority either, its steady rhythm and light humor make The Vatican Diaries both easy to understand and delightfully entertaining. A great book for those looking for a more intimate look at the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I admit this was a leap of faith to purchase and read this book. Few reviews existed and I hesitated. What helped my decision to read this was the discovery that it was written by a veteran journalist. It is very timely, does not steer away from the major controversies of the day, and is very engaging. The author has a writing style that is very easy to read and makes you feel like you are on a tour that has a guide who is thorough, communicates well, is very amiable, well respected, and candid. Some of the material does take you behind the scenes of the power struggles occurring daily at the Vatican, and much of it is fascinating and bewildering. At times it does feel like the Keystone Cops but it is not done maliciously but with wit and elegance. Worth the time to read and digest all the subject matter he exposes. Well done.!
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