Thomas Reese, Jesuit professor and journalist, has carved a very narrow niche for himself as an author, explaining the organizational mechanics of the Catholic church. Most people would find his books to have far too much detail, but there are a few, like me, who are curious about what really happens behind the closed doors of the Catholic administrative apparatus. His 1989 book, "Archbishop," described how dioceses are run, and "Inside the Vatican" describes how the Vatican functions. What decisions do cardinals actually make? What is it like to be a Vatican ambassador to a foreign country? What is it like to have a career as a Vatican bureaucrat? (One tidbit: No air conditioning!) If these are things you've wondered about, this is the book for you. Reese approaches these things as though he were an anthropologist or a management consultant, with a keen eye for the nuances of interpersonal relationships within the Vatican bureaucracy. My only complaints are that the amount of detail can be overwhelming, and Reese sometimes gets bogged down in a wooden style of writing. It's best to start reading this book in the middle, because the beginning is rather dry. On the other hand, the anecdotes are a strong plus. To give one example, the story of John Paul II reprimanding the Archbishop of Denver to his face creates a mental image that is hard to forget. The last chapter is the most provocative, where Reese suggests reforms that are both logical and unrealistic: He argues that Vatican administrators should not be allowed to become cardinals, which in papal elections would cause a monumental power shift toward those who are in closer touch with the laity. Reese suggests priests play a major role in selecting bishops, as was the case before the 1800s, in contrast to the current practice in which the pope appoints ultraconservative bishops who can't relate to anyone in their diocese. According to Reese, the underlying problem is that the Vatican is more interested in doctrinal purity than keeping people in the church. Meanwhile the laity are voting with their feet, gravitating to pastors who ignore papal instructions, or leaving the church altogether.