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Publisher's Summary

A revealing inside look at one of the world’s most powerful and mysterious institutions

For more than 25 years John Thavis held one of the most fascinating journalistic jobs in the world: reporting on the inner workings of the Vatican. His daily exposure to the power, politics, and personalities in the seat of Roman Catholicism gave him a unique, behind-the-scenes perspective on an institution that is far less monolithic and unified than it first appears. Thavis reveals Vatican City as a place where Curia cardinals fight private wars, scandals threaten to undermine papal authority, and reverence for the past is continually upended by the practical considerations of modern life.

Thavis takes listeners from a bell tower high above St. Peter’s to the depths of the basilica and the saint’s burial place, from the politicking surrounding the election of a new pope and the ever-growing sexual abuse scandals around the world to controversies about the Vatican’s stand on contraception and more.

Perceptive, sharply written, and witty, The Vatican Diaries will appeal not only to Catholics - lapsed as well as devout - but to anyone interested in international diplomacy and the role of religion in an increasingly secularized world.

©2013 John Thavis (P)2013 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"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…concentrates on the history he has witnessed firsthand.… Especially provocative are the chapters dealing with the mismanagement of diverse sex scandals and, finally, an appraisal of the opaque personality of Benedict.… Not only provocative, this report is illuminating and fully accessible to members of the faith and doubters alike." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Thavis’ 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." (Library Journal)

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What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Timely, but disjointed

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The vignettes should at the very least have been ordered chronologically. Also, the book would have benefited from glosses for the specialized vocabulary items (at least when an item appeared for the first time); as it is, it felt like the author was more intent on showing off rather than showing the reader around.

Which scene was your favorite?

The Latin teacher!

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

No, unless the movie focused on a particular vignette, like that of the Latin teacher, who seemed absolutely fascinating. The movie would be too Altman-like otherwise--disjointed and fragmented.

Any additional comments?

Very timely book!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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A neutral look at inner workings of the Vatican

I found this book faciniating. It is a report of the inner workings of the Vatican including the homesexual, child abuse, and financial problems the Church faces. The author neither praises nor condems the actions taking place in the hierarchy of the Vatican. The book is rich in the histrory of the Catholic Church and of recent popes. I learned a lot.

I appreciated that the author did not appear to have an "agenda" regarding the Vatican. The tone was neutral. I would recommend this book highly.

Well done.

21 of 24 people found this review helpful

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  • Carmen
  • Wheaton, MD, United States
  • 06-04-16

Interesting and humanizing

I am a cradle Catholic, and grew up during, and embraced, the changes of Vatican II. To be told by the right wing of my church community that I have been "doing it all wrong" for decades was not faith-enhancing. The eyewitness reporting of this book has helped me understand the underlying politics of the last couple of decades. This book is not disrespectful, whether you are on the "right" or the "left", unless you find facts offensive. People are human, even if they live in the Vatican.

John Thavis' prose is clear and he is a good storyteller. Malcolm Hillgartner is a really good narrator, and I will be on the lookout for more of his performances.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Jeanette
  • Hampton, VA, United States
  • 04-01-13

Extremely Compelling; Especially Relevant

Where does The Vatican Diaries rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

One of the most concise, cogent audiobooks I've listened to.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

Highlighted as it was by Audible, just after the news of Pope Benedict's abdication, this was especially relevant. Although published months before the Pope's announcement, "The Vatican Diaries" sheds much light on the Benedict's papacy and the likely true reasons behind his historical resignation. Had I listened to this earlier, it wouldn't have come as a surprise when it happened. <br/><br/> The stories John Thavis relates are sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, always incredible. Time and again I found myself hitting the 30 seconds back button thinking, "I must not have heard that right - it couldn't be." Every time I had heard it right and I was simply incredulous.

Have you listened to any of Malcolm Hillgartner’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Malcolm Hilgartner's performance is a masterpiece of subtly. With slight inflections and just the right amount of accent, he slips smoothly between the author's narration and the many other characters we encounter - from Popes and Cardinals to reporters and "bell ringers." He makes this book come alive.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

As a Roman Catholic at times I was upset by Thavis's frank and honest recording of events. Bust as they say,"Sometimes the truth hurts."

Any additional comments?

This is "must listening" for Roman Catholics and others who want to understand the forces at work inside that Vatican and the Church. It provides a foundation for understanding what Pope Francis is now doing and why. As events unfold in Rome I am sure I will be re-listening to various chapters to put it all in context.

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Few curious anecdotes from political sidelines

Would you consider the audio edition of The Vatican Diaries to be better than the print version?

In so far as it won't take space on my bookshelf and the fact that i have no intention of reading it again, yes, the digital version is better for the environment

Would you be willing to try another book from John Thavis? Why or why not?

Not really. This has proven to be insufferably boring, and the subject is of little curiosity to me to begin with.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Certainly not intentionally, but it was so boring that i fell asleep on a number of occasions. Does that count?

Any additional comments?

I suppose my general disagreement with the book is that i expected something a bit juicier, a bit more fun, a bit more of a 'behind the scene look'. Instead, we are treated to part story of being in a press pool ( a subject that can not be covered better than HST, so waste of pages here ) and a riveting revelation that, and I kid you not, turns out, catholic church is just another typically bureaucratically dysfunctional organization.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Virginia
  • South Lake Tahoe, CA, United States
  • 07-29-16

Look into the Vatican's Closets Full of Skeletons

Would you consider the audio edition of The Vatican Diaries to be better than the print version?

I have more time to listen than to read.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

The fact that the writer had valid credentials and access to the inner halls of the Vatican. It validated for me the truth of what he was reporting.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Everything you didn't know about the life and power of the Vatican.

Any additional comments?

This is one of those books for which I wished I'd had a "cheat sheet" to keep track of who did what and why. I should have kept a note book handy to write down all the names and what they did.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Interesting and Unique Insights With a Few Flaws

If you could sum up The Vatican Diaries in three words, what would they be?

Confused, Interesting, and Insightful. As the words suggest, I felt the book (both its content and narration) were overall enjoyable and worthwhile. However, it suffered from a lack of a clear structure or over-arching narrative to bind together short tales offered by the author (who had a unique insider perspective on many of them). This was somewhat compounded by a narration which was at times lacking for emotion, and at other times tried a bit too hard to give quoted persons stereotypical accents to differentiate them.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

John Thavis, the author, had a fairly unique opportunity to observe the inner workings of Vatican City and the Catholic Curia for 30 years. Only a small handful of journalists have this kind of assignment, and I am sure most do not stay that long, or form as many profitable relationships with various insiders of all ranks. His tales were all interesting, and inspire a fresh perspective on the sometimes monolithic looking Curia.

What aspect of Malcolm Hillgartner’s performance would you have changed?

As I noted above, I wish he had shown a bit more emotion or animation (especially at times when the stories became saddening), while avoiding trying so hard to differentiate the quoted personages with over the top stereotyped accents / voices.<br/><br/>In general, however, Hillgartner provided a very professional sounding reading.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

I have no idea.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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interesting behind the scenes look at the Vatican

Enjoy the jaunt through Vatican City. Clearly Thavis is a friend of the Church, but isn't afraid to show some of the less than admirable underbelly of the Vatican

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Probably more for Catholics

Maybe only for Catholics makes sense, but I figured this would teach me more about the Vatican, things that go on, how's it's run, and deeper insights.
I found it is more a collection of story's about people in the Vatican more so than the Vatican itself. I know only the pope by name, so I just really couldn't relate to the stories. If you follow the events, this will explain interesting behind the scene things from these events which may be very interesting to you though.

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  • Bill54494
  • Wisconsin Rapids, WI USA
  • 04-14-17

For me, it was a page-turner

What made the experience of listening to The Vatican Diaries the most enjoyable?

While I have long known that the Vatican is far more complex than first meets the eye, this book delved deeply into that complexity, focusing primarily between the early 1990s and 2013.

Any additional comments?

The narrator Malcolm Hillgartner generally did a good job, but he had a number of annoying misses with pronunciations for some of the "churchy" language. For example, he routinely said "Habemus Papum", instead of "Habemus Papam"--although, since I do not have access to the print version of the book, this could have been the author's error, not the narrator's. All in all, I immensely enjoyed this book. I listened to it at every opportunity. It does have its shortcomings, such as a lot of chronological jumping around, but the insights it gives into the workings of the Vatican are fascinating. The chapter on "The Latinist" was particularly delightful, even though it was something of a diversion from the general theme of the book.