Reviews for Vatican Diaries : A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church


Booklist Reviews 2013 February #1
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. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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Choice Reviews 2013 August
Thavis, the former head of the Rome bureau of Catholic News Service, has written a loosely connected journalist's account of several episodes in Benedict XVI's Vatican, covering topics such as traveling with the pope, the Maciel/Legion of Christ scandal, Vatican archaeology, attempts to end the Society of St. Pius X's schism, and gay priests. Included is an amusing chapter on one of the Vatican's Latinists. Readers will learn about the minute details of ritual as well as some monumental miscommunications and some church politics. This is not a scholarly book; no footnotes or bibliographical references appear between the covers. It does provide an accessible description of the problems Benedict XVI faced. Thavis's description of the dysfunction of the Vatican's bureaucracy should also destroy any notion that the Vatican consists of puppet masters who control every detail of the church from the Curia. Very timely now, in 20 years or more this book will receive renewed interest from historians as they seek to understand this transitional but crucial papacy. This will be a useful book for general and academic audiences, and particularly for collections supporting readers interested in Roman Catholicism. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty; general readers. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty. L. S. Creider New Mexico State University Library Copyright 2013 American Library Association.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 January #1
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, retired Rome bureau chief of the Catholic News Service, looks candidly at the goings-on at Saint Peter's. His report, even without comment on the problematic events at the Vatican Bank, serves as a case study in management--and mismanagement--at a considerable worldwide enterprise with 400,000 priestly representatives. Though much history resonates throughout all church events, Thavis concentrates on the history he has witnessed firsthand, including the process of bell-ringing on the naming of a new pope and the work of various functionaries in the organization. We learn of the fight to save a unique ancient cemetery against the need for more underground parking and how the matter of the Legion of Christ was bungled when its founder was revealed as a thieving predator and why His Holiness didn't deal with an anti-Semitic bishop. Thavis also relates his time on the road with the pontiff and notes a futile visit by George W. Bush. He reviews the stalled drives to canonize the late John Paul or Pius XII, whose wartime role is still debated. Especially provocative are the chapters dealing with the mismanagement of diverse sex scandals and, finally, an appraisal of the opaque personality of Benedict, who seems, at least in public, detached, disengaged and often distracted. Like many in political life, the incumbent pope's remarks are subject to considerable spin, "part of the great communications disconnect at the Vatican." (Yet now His Holiness has acquired the Twitter handle "@pontifex." How it's used remains to be seen.) Not only provocative, this report is illuminating and fully accessible to members of the faith and doubters alike. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 January #1

Recently retired Rome bureau chief for the Catholic News Service Thavis feels that the Vatican, while globally known, is misunderstood by many. His journalistic obligation to cover the city-state, as he did for more than 25 years, makes him the ideal author for this book. He dedicates the first few chapters to a discussion of the selection of Pope Benedict XVI, presenting the events and characters surrounding this important change with clarity and human detail. He addresses controversial topics in the Catholic Church, from sex--a chapter is devoted to nuances of private opinion on abstinence as compared to using condoms--to sainthood, with relative ease. VERDICT Thavis's anecdotal presentation will appeal to readers seeking understanding of or connection with the Catholic Church's heart. This book is recommended for anyone who would like to challenge their own notions and perceptions of the Vatican.--Annette Haldeman, Dept. of Legislative Svcs., Maryland General Assembly

[Page 95]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 February #4

"I'm convinced that the backstage reality at the Vatican is infinitely more interesting than the caricature of power and authority that dominates the mainstream media," writes Thavis, former Rome bureau chief at the Catholic News Service. His entertaining and readable book proves his point. Focusing on the reigns of John Paul II and Benedict XVI (neither of whom come off well here), Thavis reveals a great deal about how the Vatican bumbles along. Each chapter focuses on a particular mishap, so readers are sure to be intrigued, whether by "Bones"--the story of how a priceless archeological find almost fell to the expansion of the Vatican's parking spaces--or a profile of Father Reginald Foster, the Vatican's rebellious, mouthy (and deeply gifted) chief Latinist. The controversies surrounding the sainthood of Pope Pius XII, the ultra-conservative Society of St. Pius X, and the Catholic church's struggles with birth control, AIDS, homosexuality, and celibacy are also all included, revealing just how political the Vatican really is. Given such insight, readers may wish that Thavis had provided his own perspective on if, and how, he kept his own faith while working in such an environment. (Mar.)

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

"I'm convinced that the backstage reality at the Vatican is infinitely more interesting than the caricature of power and authority that dominates the mainstream media," writes Thavis, former Rome bureau chief at the Catholic News Service. His entertaining and readable book proves his point. Focusing on the reigns of John Paul II and Benedict XVI (neither of whom come off well here), Thavis reveals a great deal about how the Vatican bumbles along. Each chapter focuses on a particular mishap, so readers are sure to be intrigued, whether by "Bones"--the story of how a priceless archeological find almost fell to the expansion of the Vatican's parking spaces--or a profile of Father Reginald Foster, the Vatican's rebellious, mouthy (and deeply gifted) chief Latinist. The controversies surrounding the sainthood of Pope Pius XII, the ultra-conservative Society of St. Pius X, and the Catholic church's struggles with birth control, AIDS, homosexuality, and celibacy are also all included, revealing just how political the Vatican really is. Given such insight, readers may wish that Thavis had provided his own perspective on if, and how, he kept his own faith while working in such an environment. (Mar.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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