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All the Pope's Men: The Inside Story of How the Vatican Really Thinks Hardcover – July 13, 2004

3.8 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Allen, the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and analyst for CNN and National Public Radio, offers an authoritative guide to the church's inner workings. Far from sensationalistic, this book provides a carefully balanced view of how the Catholic Church works—and sometimes doesn't—in the modern world. Allen, who is Catholic himself but does not see himself as a missionary or apologist for the church, is a fair and thorough reporter of ecclesial affairs who drew on four-plus years of covering the Vatican as well as 35 interviews with officials in the church bureaucracy to write this book. He begins with an overview of the Vatican, then debunks five myths—including, notably, the idea that power is concentrated solely in the Pope and that the Vatican is fantastically wealthy. In talking about the myth and reality of Vatican secrecy, Allen lays out the basis for his book: that the Vatican's psychology and culture are difficult for people, even most Catholics, to grasp, resulting in miscommunication and animosity toward the church. Allen also delves into Vatican psychology, sociology and theology before concluding with lengthy chronologies detailing the Vatican's role in the American sexual abuse crisis and the war in Iraq.
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Praise for John L. Allen, Jr.’s Conclave:

“An invaluable primer…highly informative.” -- Washington Post

“Definitely a winner.” --Minneapolis Star Tribune

“It’s surprising how much you learn from this book…[Allen] explain[s] the process in an engaging way, and offers history, context, and his own list of front-runners.” --Arizona Republic

Conclave offers something for everyone. Insiders who are knowledgeable about Vatican politics will relish the detail that Allen…delves into when describing the process and the personalities that will elect the next pope. Those who are baffled by the arcane traditions of Roman Catholicism will understand better how this ancient institution functions. The curious will have a context within which to understand why the cardinals choose a pope with a certain theological and political bent.” --National Catholic Reporter

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Religion (July 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385509669
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385509664
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #966,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Maybe John Allen doesn't quite have the dramatic flair that Woodward has for the midnight, behind closed door scenes (like Nixon asking Kissinger to pray with him), but Allen's information is just as interesting and reliable, and the writing is pretty good too. And unlike most of the people you have writing about the Vatican Allen really does seem to walk a straight line in terms of the politics. A reviewer has commented that the even-handedness has bothered him/her, but nothing bothers me more than partisan reporting through rose coloured glass or the pessimism of a disaffected church goer.
All the Pope's Men isn't much of a whodunnit but it is a very interesting examination of the psychology and the workings of the Vatican. It is a bureaucracy, of sorts, but I found it's workings fascinating nonetheless.
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Format: Hardcover
John Allen has always impressed me with his newspaper writing and whenever I've heard him on National Public Radio. I was happy to have come across this book here and found it a very fresh perspective on the world inside the Vatican. As those of you who read these types of books will know, there are many, many books on the topic out there and I gather that half of those that are written are merely quoting from the other half. Put this one in the TO BE QUOTED FROM PILE. It's original material, I particularly like his Myths about the Vatican section. Thank you John Allen.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Vatican correspondent for "National Catholic Reporter" and a noted media analyst on Vatican affairs, John L. Allen has crafted an insightful analysis of one of the oldest and most fascinating world institutions. The author of CONCLAVE, an exploration of the events surrounding modern papal elections, incorporates his knowledge and experience into a detailed exploration of the complex bureaucracy of the Catholic Church known simply as "the Vatican."

For Catholics and others in the United States, the decisions of the Pope and the Curia appear to be out of touch with contemporary society - particularly American culture. Of course, that is precisely the point! The Vatican is characterized by a centuries-old, traditional European, yet increasingly global world view where issues are considered and decisions are made within the uniquely long-term Catholic concepts of scripture, tradition and faithfulness to the Magisterium (the official teaching authority of the Church). Developed in response to such burning issues as the recent sex scandals and the Vatican's opposition to the war in Iraq, Mr. Allen explores the culture and context of the Vatican from psychological, sociological and theological perspectives. Recognizing the spiritual underpinnings of the institution, Mr. Allen examines the individuals and myriad offices which collectively form the Vatican. He does so from a distinctly human standpoint, weaving a rich tapestry of collegial, dynastic, ecclesiastical, cultural and contextual characteristics. He analyzes personal motivation and formal and informal spheres of influence, carefully connecting the dots of human frailty with the overriding mission of Church stewardship. Through faithful adherence to journalistic principles, critical respect and objectivity, Mr.
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Format: Hardcover
This interesting book serves two useful purposes, both of which may come in handy for the newly-elected Pope Benedict XVI and his flock in the United States.

The first is as a handy gazetteer to the Curia, the Roman Catholic Church's organizational structure in Rome. Though it's an easy journalistic shorthand, saying "the Vatican decided..." is ultimately no more accurate than saying "the Administration announced today." The Curia is made up of individuals with a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences, and (to a degree) motivations. Allen probably knows the ins and outs of the Holy See better than any working American journalist, and is an excellent, and sympathetic, guide.

But it's the book's second purpose that makes this especially valuable. Allen argues that on issues like the sex-abuse scandal and the Holy See's opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Vatican and American Catholics were by-and-large speaking past, not to, one another. This is because the two sides have some fundamental misunderstandings about the other, and are driven as much, or more, by their own mistaken assumptions than by a true understanding of with whom they are dealing. In this volume, Allen tries to explain why the Vatican thinks the way it does (or more correctly, why the people in the Vatican think they way they do), and what influences and assumptions are brought to bear when addressing issues relevant to the future of the Church.

Allen's goal is not to convert the reader to a particular conclusion, or to convince anyone that one position or the other is "right" on any particular dispute. Though Allen is often classified as on the moderate-to-liberal side of Church politics and issues, I found little to suggest he was pushing any agenda of his own here.
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Format: Hardcover
It is hard to contain my enthusiasm for this book. It represents *exactly* what is most needed in the tragic situation of the Catholic Church's communication with our media saturated world. For a heart-rending situation of profound misunderstanding and miscommunication characterises the `dialogue' between a Church rooted in centuries of tradition and rigorous, painstaking thought, yes thought - and a world of media myths and soundbites that cannot hope to do justice to anything needing a significant span of attention ...

Allen sees this better than nearly anyone. As an American reporter from the liberal National Catholic Reporter, whose full time beat is the Vatican and who knows the Vatican far, far better than nearly any English speaking lay person, he has done something truly wonderful and desperately needed here.

Not only is there great journalism in this book - there is also a noble, inspired attempt to create fairness and justice, listening and understanding, appreciation of different perspectives and mindsets, amidst the psychic warfare that characterises not only the tragic divisions within the Church, but also between the religion of the Church and the ideology of secular media - ism that washes over our world .

That is to say, there is something profoundly sane and uplifting as Allen cuts through layer upon layer upon layer of prejudice, misperception and mythology to simply render how people in the Vatican really think and how their thinking is necessarily shaped by very different concerns from modern secularism.

I have seen traditional Catholics suspicious of Allen's liberal background and I wish they wouldn't be.
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