Book pick: 'The Vatican Diaries' by John Thavis

Vatican Diaries
The cover of "The Vatican Diaries" by John Thavis.
Courtesy of the publisher

Tom Weber's book pick this week is "The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church" by John Thavis.

Weber says he was fascinated by Thavis' tales of his years in Rome covering the pope and the men who fill the corridors of power in the headquarters of the Catholic Church.

"His stories include the ridiculous," Weber says, "like the time he was on a bus carrying reporters that lost its roof because it drove under a bridge that didn't have enough clearance. But Thavis also offers insight from his years as a Vatican reporter as to how recent crises in the church came to pass."

According to his website, Thavis grew up in Minnesota and graduated from St. John's University in 1973.

Thavis, who found some sources who were willing to talk and even to vent, writes: "The Vatican is as not a tight-run ship as you might think."

As the church faces important decisions on its own financial management, but also the continued fallout from the way it has handled the sex abuse crisis, Thavis offers his thoughts on what the church would have to do to property address those.


John Thavis is a journalist, author and speaker specializing in Vatican and religious affairs. He writes: "One reason I wrote this book is that journalists tend to focus exclusively on the Vatican's power and its institutional impact. I wanted to chronicle the human side of the Vatican -- warts and all -- that makes it such a fascinating place."

• Thavis spoke to Dave Davies of NPR's Fresh Air after Pope Benedict resigned in February. "It's amazing. It's unprecedented," Thavis says. "I would say most people around the Vatican, including journalists, are a little bit disoriented."

The Los Angeles Times spoke with Thavis in February. Despite what you may have read in thrillers like "The Da Vinci Code," the Vatican is a human place, driven by individual personalities, he says. "Sure, there's Vatican secrecy, but the fact is, if you're a reporter and want to find something out and talk to the right people, you'll find something out."

Watch a video interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.