Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church

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9780674932616: Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church

There are one billion Catholics in the world today, spread over every continent, speaking almost every conceivable language, and all answering to a single authority. The Vatican is a unique international organization, both in terms of its extraordinary power and influence, and in terms of its endurance. Popes come and go, but the elaborate and complex bureaucracy called the Vatican lives on. For centuries, it has served and sometimes undermined popes; it has been praised and blamed for the actions of the pope and for the state of the church. Yet an objective examination of the workings of the Vatican has been unavailable until now.

Drawing on more than a hundred interviews with Vatican officials, this book affords a firsthand look at the people, the politics, and the organization behind the institution. Reese brings remarkable clarity to the almost Byzantine bureaucracy of congregations, agencies, secretariats, tribunals, nunciature, and offices, showing how they serve the pope and, through him, the universal church. He gives a lively account of how popes are elected and bishops appointed, how dissident theologians are disciplined and civil authorities dealt with. Throughout, revealing and colorful anecdotes from church history and the present day bring the unique culture of the Vatican to life.

The Vatican is a fascinating institution, a model of continuity and adaptation, which remains constant while functioning powerfully in a changing world. As never before, this book provides a clear, objective perspective on how the enormously complex institution surrounding the papacy operates on a day-to-day level, how it has adapted and endured for close to two thousand years, and how it is likely to face the challenges of the next millennium.

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About the Author:

Thomas J. Reese, S.J., is a Jesuit scholar with a doctorate in political science from the University of California, Berkeley. He is Editor-in-Chief of America, the national Catholic weekly magazine, and author of, among other books, Archbishop: Inside the Power Structure of the American Catholic Church.

Review:

Thomas Reese does an admirable job of lifting the veil of secrecy surrounding the Holy See to examine the nuts and bolts of the operation... [He] paints a revealingly human portrait of Vatican life... Ultimately, this is the merit of Inside the Vatican: Reese gets it right. And in [such] a place...that’s no easy task. (Greg Burke Time)

A Jesuit at home, as you would expect, in theology, history and current affairs, Thomas Reese conducts an insider’s tour of the Vatican. With a papal election near, this is a handy...guide to the politics of a faith in mid-struggle between ancients and moderns. (The Economist)

What goes on behind the Vatican’s walls has long been a mystery to much of the outside world. Everybody knows about the white smoke that signals the election of a new pope by the College of Cardinals; but what kind of politicking and debate is there? How are ballots cast? How are cardinals chosen anyway? Reese, a Jesuit scholar who is a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, answers these questions and many more, explaining everything from the pope’s many roles...to how the Vatican runs its finances. (Washington Post Book World)

Thomas Reese undertakes the Herculean task of trying to penetrate the shroud of mystery surrounding the Vatican. Remarkably, Father Reese, a Jesuit and senior fellow at Georgetown’s Woodstock Theological Center, has managed to pull if off. In relatively concise fashion, he paints a clear, largely dispassionate and often compelling picture of Vatican operations and, in so doing, highlights the tensions that tear the church. (Diego Ribadeneira Boston Globe)

Any journalist who has tried to cover the Vatican will appreciate the Rev. Thomas Reese’s book on the politics and organization of the world’s oldest―and one of its most secretive―institutions... This even-handed and meticulously researched study of Vatican City and the papal bureaucracy couldn’t come at a better time. (Don Lattin San Francisco Chronicle)

[T]his is a useful and even valuable study of the institutional centre of the Roman Catholic Church, and of the relations between the centre, and the worldwide network of local churches which go to make up the Church catholic. Dr. Reese...brings impressive qualifications and experience as a political scientist to this [study]... It is the special virtue of Dr. Reese’s study that he succeeds where many have failed in providing an analytic, critical and comprehensive account of how [the Vatican] works. (Seán Mac Réamoinn Irish Times)

Reese has given a precise description of the Vatican as an organisation―or rather three interlocking organisations, one dealing with the spiritual administration of one billion Roman Catholics and 4,000 bishops, one running the Vatican mini-state and one supporting the extensive foreign policy work of the Pope. In this book...the sources are mainly anonymous...[but] anonymity adds to its authority and interest. Reese is good on Vatican bureaucrats and good at the questions. His sources tinkle with gossip and loyal criticism of the papacy... [I]t is a thorough book. (Roger Boyes The Times)

Father Reese’s work stands out in a number of ways. It is intriguing but not gossipy. It offers critique without slipping into polemics. It provides a wealth of detail about the institution, yet never lets the human element slip from view. (John Thavis Catholic News Service)

[This] is a very useful reference for those who want to know how the Holy See operates... Without a doubt, Reese’s treatment of papal elections will be a very valuable reference tool when the successor of John Paul II is elected... Reese’s style is clear, concise, and nonjudgmental... [He] gives a balanced picture of the structure, procedures, and people of the Vatican. (Daniel F. Hoye Commonweal)

Perhaps the best examination of the ‘politics and organization’ of the Catholic Church’s headquarters. (Contemporary Review)

Thomas Reese has included...fascinating anecdotes in his study of life inside the Vatican kingdom. (Kieran Cooke Financial Times)

[An] excellent [book]. (Michael Walsh National Catholic Reporter)

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