I really, really don’t have time to write any book reviews at the moment, but sometimes books are so good that I can’t keep my reaction to myself. This book is excellent; I will remain eternally grateful to my friend Christine for recommending it to me.
I like the English-language title more than the original French. It is an excellent summary of what to expect from the book, in which order of importance the elements are dealt with. Most of all, Frédéric Martel exposes just how power works in the Vatican, who has or had the power to do what and how this power is/was used. Not homosexuality itself, but the way the Catholic Church chooses to define it is the second most powerful element of this book; it explains so much, for example providing convincing arguments as to why bishops and cardinals didn’t react correctly to reports of sexual abuse of children. However, Frédéric Martel does not use this book as an opportunity to out anyone. The hypocrisy to be found in the Vatican is, last and perhaps least, the topic that will perhaps arouse the most rage and fury.
If you have any interest in the Vatican at all, you need to read this book. Frédéric Martel did the research, and the research is impeccable; the claims are documented many times over. More importantly, he drew the obvious and logical conclusions from the evidence, conclusions that many church leaders prefer to ignore or even repress. He has convincing explanations for events and decisions that puzzle everyone outside the Vatican.
This isn’t a reassuring book; on the contrary, it makes you seriously wonder if the Vatican, as it exists in its current form today, isn’t the biggest obstacle to or even biggest enemy of the Catholic faith.
Frédéric Martel doesn’t name that many names; he isn’t interested in outing people. He just describes how the inability of the Vatican to come to terms with the reality of homosexuality results in damaging behavior, in fear, hypocrisy, dishonesty, in downright unchristian behavior and actions.
I wasn’t upset by the descriptions of decadent behavior, although it does sound as if the goings-on at many Vatican parties would have even made a Freddie Mercury blush. However the descriptions of how so many cardinals, not just Italian, also American, live in exorbitantly luxurious opulence in Rome did arouse feelings of rage, fury, and plain old disgust in me. These bishops and cardinals didn’t “earn” the money they are throwing away on themselves. The Church’s money should be used to care for the poor. You’re not going to find much support in the New Testament for how these bishops and cardinals take advantage of the power to be had in and from the Vatican.
Frédéric Martel researched and fully documented all the facts he presented. They are what they are, and his conclusions are irrefutable.
More significantly, he recognized the truth behind the facts; his judgment of people’s character is impeccable.
I can vouch for his description and interpretation of Archbishop Gänswein. Frédéric Martel only made the slight geographical mistake of claiming that Georg Gänswein is Bavarian. Archbishop Gänswein is indeed many things, just not a Bavarian. The mistake came perhaps from the fact that Georg Gänswein studied canon law in Munich for several years and from the fact that he is a frequent and welcome guest in Regensburg, with the Ratzinger family and Princess Gloria von Thurn and Taxis. For many people outside Germany, southern Germany only consists of Bavaria. (Not true, by the way. There is also Baden-Württemberg.)
I, for my part, will claim to be a former colleague of Archbishop Gänswein’s. From 1994 to 1995 he also worked at the archdiocesan chancery office in Freiburg. He “delegated” many of his tasks to the employees in the library. Those of us who worked in the chancery office at that time know Archbishop Gänswein very well, and none of us will ever forget him. Frédéric Martel’s insight into Archbishop Gänswein’s character is exactly right.
Alone the description of the Dr. Georg Gänswein’s bishop’s consecration in Rome is worth the entire price of the book.
I have followed the career of Princess Gloria von Thurn and Taxis, whom Frédéric Martel affectionately (at least in the English translation) gives the nickname Gloria TNT, ever since the 1970’s and am very well acquainted with how her mind works, only surprised that she turned out to be such a financial genius. It is no surprise that other frequent guests to her castle in Regensburg include Steve Bannon and his ilk. She has a preference for ultra-conservative ideas, whether religious or political.
The only problem with the book is the sheer amount of information it contains. There are so many names, so many events. You have to stop reading at regular intervals and let all the facts sink in, settle in your mind. It helps if you are already familiar with some of the people he describes.
This is an important book, and I can only hope that it reaches a vast readership.