A deeply reported, fast-paced exposé of the money and the cardinals-turned-financiers at the heart of the Vatican - the world's biggest, most powerful religious institution - from an acclaimed journalist with "exhaustive research techniques" (The New York Times).
From a master chronicler of legal and financial misconduct, a magnificent investigation nine years in the making, this book traces the political intrigue and inner workings of the Catholic Church. Decidedly not about faith, belief in God, or religious doctrine, this audiobook is about the church's accumulation of wealth and its byzantine entanglements with financial markets across the world. Told through 200 years of prelates, bishops, cardinals, and the Popes who oversee it all, Gerald Posner uncovers an eyebrow-raising account of money and power in perhaps the most influential organization in the history of the world.
God's Bankers has it all: a rare exposé and an astounding saga marked by poisoned business titans, murdered prosecutors, mysterious deaths of private investigators, and questionable suicides; a carnival of characters from Popes and cardinals, financiers and mobsters, kings and prime ministers; and a set of moral and political circumstances that clarify not only the church's aims and ambitions, but reflect the larger dilemmas of the world's more recent history. And Posner even looks to the future to surmise if Pope Francis can succeed where all his predecessors failed: to overcome the resistance to change in the Vatican's Machiavellian inner court and to rein in the excesses of its seemingly uncontrollable financial quagmire. Part thriller, part financial tell-all, this book shows with extraordinary precision how the Vatican has evolved from a foundation of faith to a corporation of extreme wealth and power.
©2015 Gerald Posner (P)2015 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved. Recorded by arrangement with Simon & Schuster, Inc.
"God's Bankers" begins with intrigue, and Mr. Posner's descriptions of the Holy See and the tiny nation (thanks to Mussolini, of all people) that surrounds it kept me captivated. For many chapters -- but then I was done.
I am certain the author did an incredible amount of research, but he could have cut quite a bit of content to keep the book on track.
World War II obviously had a lot of action, and this is the section of the book in which Mr. Posner's loose ends begin to show. He jumps from Italy (but that's a given ... the Vatican is surrounded by Italy) to Germany, then we're in Croatia, next stop is the unified Yugoslavia, and so on. The U.S., Slovenia, France, Switzerland, Austria, the U.K., Spain, Argentina and the rest of South America, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and more are present and accounted for as well.
Narrator Parks did a great job of pronouncing names with appropriate accents of the multiple languages of these countries, but, as a listener, keeping track of who or what was where and why outweighed the pleasure of listening to the book.
Posner also made sure to note all (alleged) incidents of anti-semitism. I realize anti-semitism and World War II readily go hand-in-hand, and I don't doubt the Roman Catholic Church -- popes too -- had its fair share of anti-semites. But the repeated accusations of anti-semitism morphed into a bugaboo. When there was nothing more to say, he tossed in anti-semitism to show the pope being discussed was an extra-inappropriate chief of state of the world's only elected, non-hereditary, absolute monarchy. I'm not saying Mr. Posner was wrong when citing anti-semitism. It's just that anti-semitism became a more notable theme than the actual titular topic of the book.
This account of greed and intrigue at the Vatican bank is fascinating. It gives the reader a glimpse into the stronghold the Curia has had on the Vatican for centuries. It also tells us that, like in any other microcosm of society, there are power struggles and greed among the highest levels of the Catholic Church with very unsavory results.
It gives on hope that pope Francis has made it a top priority to bring back the church to the initial teachings of humbleness and service. It remains to be seen if he can effect real lasting change
... is depicted in this sprawling, many-faceted organization. I can only hope the current leadership there has the fixity of purpose and the political support and reach internally to upgrade this institution to truly functional global-organizational standards, stem to stern, so that the repeated retreats into various dubious subterfuges can cease to be an option and a problem. (There seems a many-membered European tradition with this sort of international/offshoring slipperiness. I suppose it is global now.) The Vatican (and its constituents) simply cannot afford to have scandals "bubble up" from (it is said) opaque regions of its own organizational body, like the sexual abuse scandals. This is the sort of thing no modern controls system should permit to happen in the first place. And it could be fatal, through a variety of dynamics, including reputational loss and flat-out liability. This book recounts in some detail from the mid-late 19th century until the last few years, a catalog of problems in decision-making and implementation, though as always the almost magical quality of the organization is that fixing responsibility for each misadventure (or a truly clear internal map) with sharpness is like trying to nail jello to a wall. This often seems "a feature, not a bug," though again exactly how intentional it is, which organizational layers know about these issues, is elusive. And often, no help is offered, until the culprits are dragged into the glaring lights, and often, not even then. How convenient, to have one's own SOVEREIGNTY! A neat feature, if you can get it. (Of course, that didn't make the Nazi years just simple for the Vatican, as they presented crushingly difficult quandaries, but it seems always to have helped the organization to bend and morph and live to see another day.) The organization seems to have evolved with this sort of gelatinous amorphousness, and, my curiosity piqued, I want to dig further back, and hear other voices on this era too. I came at it from the other end of history this summer in the audio "Through the Eye of a Needle" by Peter Brown, on 350-550 A.D., a great book, but there is so much more to learn. This book moved briskly and was well-paced and listenable. Any more of the story would have been too much in scope for one book.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
“God’s Bankers” delves into the history of Vatican City. The author, Gerald Posner, shows there is little difference between religious institutions and any organization that puts self-preservation above ethics and morality. Leaders of religious institutions are as capable of being corrupt and venal as any who manage organizations. Just as some CEO s of private industry and elected leaders of public institutions morally and ethically fail, some Popes lapse as moral and ethical leaders of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Roman Catholic Church has had both good and bad leaders. No single organization, neither church leader, bank president, or elected official is completely responsible for immoral and unethical acts but many are complicit. The Catholic diocese and its brethren have committed every sin known to man (gender identity intended). The source of their perfidy is not unique to their religion or any system of belief or non-belief; i.e. the source is human nature’s drive for money, power, and prestige. Popes, CEO s, and public servants are equally seduced by human nature’s drives; i.e. leaders are bound, like breath to life, to act immorally and unethically.
Steps have been taken to regulate the Vatican Bank and stop its use as a money-laundering center for criminal enterprise. Francis has ordered the firing and replacement of IOR board members and improved the transparency of Vatican Bank transactions.
As the ancient saying goes, “Fish Rots from the Head”. Today’s Pope may be better than yesterdays but tomorrow is another day. One doubts human nature will change. Humans are unlikely to escape moral and ethical weaknesses. An ethical bank, like an ethical church, is an oxymoron. They both require money to operate and they are managed by human beings.
I was captivated by the theme and the opportunity to go behind closed doors at the Vatican. As the story unfolded it became clear how greed and the love for money is so prevalent and consuming; even in an institution such as the Catholic Church. I do wish howled that the last few chapters would have told us more about the current scandals and delved deeper into the two most recent popes. I would still recommend if you are interested in what has really gone on at the Vatican in the pursuit of riches.
I am no expert so spell it out.
I am not a fan of the Catholic Church, but this book is full of unsupported speculation about the activities not related to the Bank
After listening, I know why. There would be no book, just a short story.
Serious book, honest, objective..., but too long, full of names and details that are not important. Somehow you feel the author was showing off about his investigations instead of making an attractive read.
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