Vatican Diaries

by John Thavis

As you know, I tend to not read very much but, every once in a while, I spot a title of interest while I am browsing around the Legislative Library of British Columbia. Sometimes I wonder why certain books are in their collection because I thought their focus was on the history, politics and governance of our province, our writers, poets, journalists, inventors, actors, millionaires etc. I am not sure how a book about the Vatican fits into that roster but, nonetheless, this book is a great find. It takes you on a behind the scenes field trip to learn about the personalities and politics at the heart of the Catholic Church.

I have been to the Vatican and I have toured the grounds and the interior areas to which the general public has access. This book, however, covers not only that common stuff, but it brings the reader into the bowels of the empire. I was going to say the heart of the empire, but in using bowels as a metaphor, you can sense where this review is going.

The author is an insider. He is a Vatican-based journalist with press privileges only accorded to a select few. He befriended priests and cardinals and future popes, journeymen and janitors, maids and mistresses, kooks and cooks. The lining is torn between traditionalists and modernists; on the sexual abuse scandal, the wool is over the eyes of the very people who have the power to act, even a pope or two, all believing this too shall pass! As we all know, the crap doesn’t pass and the bowel line gets plugged, badly plugged, and regardless of how much Pepto they swallow, the bulge just won’t go away.

Fear of wrath or excommunication or isolation feeds the higher hierarchy with extreme power and a strong worldwide following. Faith in the men of the cloth, even within the Vatican, leading the way to salvation and heaven, blinds them from believing anything could be amiss. Victims are wrong; research is wrong; the diaries of the perpetrators are wrong; confessions are wrong.

The Vatican empire grows and grows; it functions under a veil of secrecy and even the factions within the empire work in isolation and hold secrets from each other. It is almost like mini revolutions take place, with a punch here and there, silent treatment, cover-ups, questionable powers, abuse of powers, and mayhem, yet, the hoards of people who stand in line each and every day to visit the Vatican, to tour a small portion of the grounds and of the buildings, to buy the paraphernalia, to take the pictures, to spot the Pope – they have no inkling of the pain and sadness, the darkness and scariness of the working lives and personal lives of the people on the payroll – a payroll banked by the contributions of Catholics around the world, all so innocently ignorant.