The Vatican is typically viewed as a monolithic power structure that pursues a global agenda with a unified sense of mission. John Thavis, who covered the Vatican beat for 30 years, knows that the reality is far different. It’s a place where Curia cardinals fight private wars, where leaks are common, where sex scandals simmer and where, increasingly, popes are embarrassed by their own missteps and the incompetence of their top aides.
The Vatican Diaries pulls back the curtain on this surreal world. In ten chapters, it takes readers behind the scenes to meet the people who make things happen or screw things up. On several notorious issues -- a religious order headed by a pedophile priest, a papal butler who smuggles documents to a reporter, the pope’s rehabilitation of a Holocaust-denying bishop -- the book answers the question: “What were they thinking?”
The book’s cast of characters includes little-known figures who are part of the daily Vatican drama: an archeologist battling a cardinal’s parking lot, a Vatican spokesman waging an uphill battle for transparency, a papal preacher whose gaffes upstage the pope, a Jesuit who pulls every string to make Pius XII a saint. A final chapter, “The Real Benedict,” describes journalists’ frustrating and failed attempts to pin a persona on the enigmatic German pope.
This mosaic of true stories brings the Vatican to life. What emerges is a portrait of an institution brought repeatedly to the brink of crisis as it struggles to come to terms with the modern world.
Released in February 2013, it became an immediate New York Times best-seller.