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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.--McConnell, Christopher Copyright 2010 Booklist

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

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. L. S. Creider New Mexico State University Library

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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 (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.