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The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities, and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church Audiobook, by John Thavis Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: John Thavis Narrator: Malcolm Hillgartner Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2013 ISBN: 9781483061733
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"The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church", is a revealing expose of the reign of pope Benedict XVI. In this text, a vivid picture of the Vatican is painted. A picture in which Cardinals fight private wars with one another, scandals undermine the authority of the pope, and the battle between traditionalism and relevancy rages on.

In addition to addressing the reign of pope Benedict, The Vatican Diaries also provides details on the papal election process known as the Conclave, and offers insight into the history of what is perhaps the oldest institution still in existence. It offers some light-hearted insights into daily life in the Vatican, such as debates over how to correctly light the stove in the Sistine Chapel. But it also does not shy away from difficult subjects, such as the Catholic sex scandals which shocked the world in recent memory.

All this adds up to a book which seeks to dispel the 'popular image of the Vatican,' which the author claims is 'largely a myth.' And does it ever succeed! After reading this book, you will no longer be able to look at the Catholic Church or the Vatican as a well-oiled monolithic machine which functions perfectly. You will, instead, have an insider's understanding of just what kind of place the Vatican is, and may even agree with the author that what the place really needs, more than a pope, is a good CEO. Whether or not you are a practicing Catholic, this book is sure to challenge many of the assumptions you currently hold about the Vatican.

John Thavis, a native of Minnesota, spent more than twenty-five years as a journalist covering the Vatican, and eventually rose to the position of Catholic News Service Bureau chief. In addition to his service to the Vatican, Thavis has worked as a journalist for the Associated Press, ABC News, and the Wine Spectator. He retired in 2012 to return to the United States and devote his full attention to writing. The Vatican Diaries is the first product of that retirement.

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

For more than twenty-five 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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “An American Catholic who has done his homework, learned Latin and Italian, made friends in high places, found his way for thirty years in the maze of Church bureaucracy, gives us a humane and realistic and (yes) humorous picture of a mortal institution that guides hundreds of millions of mortals along the path from birth to death and beyond. To an old Prot like me, it's a tour of alien terrain and a bridge to old and dear friends.”

    Garrison Keillor

  • “Entertaining and readable…Readers are sure to be intrigued.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “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

  • “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…In the end we are left with a more nuanced understanding of the Vatican.”


  • “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

  • “Vatican Diaries is a must-read for anyone interested in the Vatican’s role in the Catholic Church and the world.”

    Thomas J. Reese, American Roman Catholic Jesuit priest

  • “In this highly readable memoir of being a journalist at the Vatican, John Thavis follows the conclaves, sex scandals, internal backstabbing,  and olympian nature of the popes with a sense of comic relief at the caravan passing through his viewfinder.”

    Jason Berry, author of Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church

  • A New York Times bestseller

Listener Reviews

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  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Julie | 2/12/2014

    " I enjoyed this book very much. I heard the author on NPR's Fresh Air and he mentioned his book and I bought a copy. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dorothy | 2/7/2014

    " Lo. This book came iut at just the right moment!ved this insider look at the Vatican "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Indra | 2/1/2014

    " A great and objective view of how managing Catholics throughout the world is really like. I have never realized how complex the decisions that the Pope faced until I read this book. Recommended for anyone with an open mind who is interested in the Catholic Church as a religion and/or as an organization "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Chris | 1/23/2014

    " Very much a tabloid read "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christina | 1/17/2014

    " If you're curious about the inner-workings of the Vatican, Thavis' fair, balanced, and respectful look into the humanity at the heart of the Catholic Church is well worth reading. It's funny, heart breaking, and fascinating by turns. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Allison | 1/5/2014

    " Fourth star partly for the behind-the-scenes of the news biz that I love. Fascinating account of the ins and outs of Vatican personalities, politics and how remarkably worldly this seat of a major world religion is. The often anecdotal narrative made for engaging reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael | 12/31/2013

    " Really interesting book... from a man who covered the Vatican for decades... well worth reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rebecca | 12/24/2013

    " I started reading this week the week the new Pope Francis was selected, and John Thavis puts everything that happened in the conclave (and beyond) into perspective. Highly recommend -- lots of back story about how the Vatican works. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Peter | 10/20/2013

    " An interesting perspective on the traditions and politics within the Vatican. Worth reading. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Lindsey | 8/30/2013

    " This book just seemed very mediocre. Some parts were interesting, some were dull, and it was just ok. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Pam | 6/9/2013

    " Fascinating look behind the scenes. The inner workings of the Vatican aren't as smooth as it seems from the outside. Very timely with the conclave and new Pope. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Melanie | 5/3/2013

    " Interesting to see the power the Roman See possesses. Just happy there is a new pope, pope Francis. Hopefully he will not allow the improprieties to continue at the Vatican. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Linda | 5/1/2013

    " I thought this was an excellent telling of the inner workings of the Vatican. My hope is that our new Pope gets it and does something about it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Heather | 2/21/2013

    " The book is very informative and gives only a glimpse, I'm sure, of what goes on behind the Vatican walls. Highly recommend, although I warn you, it may only serve to reinforce your disillusion and disappointment in the Catholic Church (it did for me) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sharon | 2/14/2013

    " What a time to read Vatican Diaries...provided some interesting insights into the workings of the curia and the disfunction of the vatican. "

About the Author

John Thavis is the prizewinning former Rome bureau chief of the Catholic News Service. He has written extensively on religious issues in Europe and the Middle East, has lectured on Vatican affairs in the United States and Europe, and has won awards for his firsthand reporting on the war in the Balkans. In addition to numerous awards for individual excellence and analytical reporting, he has received the St. Francis de Sales Award, the highest honor given by the Catholic press. He lives in Minnesota.

About the Narrator

Malcolm Hillgartner is an accomplished actor, writer, and musician. Named an AudioFile Best Voice of 2013 and the recipient of several Earphones Awards, he has narrated over 175 audiobooks.