On the road with 'The Vatican Diaries'

On the road with 'The Vatican Diaries'

 A talk at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle

This week brings another change of scenery and a change of pace. I’m on a book tour on the West Coast, beginning in Seattle and continuing to Portland, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles and Denver.

This is new territory for me, in more ways than one. Here are some first impressions:

-- Interest in the Vatican has once again been revived by the election of a new pope. At a book event yesterday at Elliott Bay Book Company, the Q&A period went on for quite some time, with several questions focusing on whether Pope Francis wants to change things – and if he does, whether he’ll be “allowed” to do so.

There’s a general impression out there that no matter what a new pope’s good intentions, he’s going to run up against resistance from inside the Vatican. My own take is that while that’s undoubtedly true, this pope seems to know that he’s calling the shots. If he faces opposition to some of his ideas, he won’t be a shrinking violet.

-- Financial issues are key to restoring Vatican credibility. I can’t tell you how many readers and interviewers have asked about the Vatican bank and its problematic history. I’m convinced that suppressing the bank and finding a new way to move church funds around the world would send an immediate signal that Pope Francis is serious about cleaning up financial mismanagement.

-- There are some doubts whether the news media’s interest in the new pope will last. I had an interesting discussion about this during an interview this morning with Tom Tangeny of KIRO-FM’s Seattle Morning News.

Certainly Francis is enjoying a honeymoon period in which every act, however small or symbolic, has generated attention and, for the most part, appreciation. But the pope’s focus is clearly on the Gospel, Jesus Christ and spiritual wisdom, and those are not headline-generating themes for a news market that demands novelty and drama.

What will keep Francis in the news cycle are connections between Catholic teaching and real-world issues like social justice, ecology and economic policies. I expect the pope to make those connections and, perhaps, to punctuate them with actions and gestures that sometimes speak louder than encyclicals.

-- People still read books. Yes, even books about the Vatican. They are hungry for information that goes beyond the headlines, and especially for profiles of real people who work behind the scenes. 

10 comments (Add your own)

1. Jos van Santern wrote:
Dear John,

I like to thank you for the down to earth way you write your blogs.

Not only do you make them interesting to read, you also make it very inviting to "join in": while I read I find myself agreeing or disagreeing with the text.

It's been a long time since I liked reading about our religion and such, I hope this feeling will stay.


Mon, April 8, 2013 @ 2:12 PM

2. Tom Worth wrote:
Your very last sentence nails it. You wrote a fantastic book that only you could have written, and it has completely altered my view (and I'm sure that of many others) of what the Vatican actually is and does. Well done.

Mon, April 8, 2013 @ 2:19 PM

3. Deacon John M. Bresnahan wrote:
Your words here remind me of the quote in your book (which I read) from an exasperated reporter who vented about the pope talking too much about deep spiritual or doctrinal issues that make lousy stories and no headlines.
I sort of wonder how much such a spiritually shallow and cynical person as him affects religion coverage.

Mon, April 8, 2013 @ 5:53 PM

4. Marcy Meldahl wrote:
I read your book and it was FABULOUS. I happened to order it just before Francis was elected, so my timing was perfect. The book was interesting and educational. Confirmed some of my suspicions. :) Keep those observations coming!

Mon, April 8, 2013 @ 7:51 PM

5. perierat et inventus est wrote:
John, please keep us appraised of dates, times ,and locations of readings.

Mon, April 8, 2013 @ 8:22 PM

6. Jim McCrea wrote:
When/where will you be speaking in San Francisco?

Mon, April 8, 2013 @ 9:37 PM

7. Jack Schroeder wrote:
When/where Santa Cruz?

Mon, April 8, 2013 @ 11:36 PM

8. Capt. Renault wrote:
Talk about luck. The Vatican Diaries -- a great book at any time and a perfect book at the perfect time. Good for you, John, good for you.

Now get going on the next installment . . .the Papacy of Francis. I'm ready to reserve my copy.

Tue, April 9, 2013 @ 7:00 PM

9. Rose wrote:
Your book is wonderful. I caught the tail end of a radio show on which you were a guest & found the topic interesting. I'm a bit of a lightweight, so was concerned that I'd find the book a little stiff. Not at all! I especially love the Bones section. I'm now reading about Pius XII who was Pope while I was in Catholic school, so I'm looking forward to what you have to say in that chapter. I hate to see the book end, but I have found your blog. Thank you.

Thu, April 11, 2013 @ 1:38 PM

10. Aaronsy Tans wrote:
John you got it all. The church must take a lead in the pursuit of truth and justice. I believe the Vatican can play a vital role in this task. Thank you.

Sat, April 20, 2013 @ 7:47 AM

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