A Book Review: “Merchants in the Temple: Inside Pope Francis’s Secret Battle Against Corruption in the Vatican” Author on Trial in Vatican.

Patrick Kelly is Freelance Journlist and Book Reviewer Who Lives in Maine.

Patrick Kelly is a Freelance Journalist and Book Reviewer Who Lives in Maine.

"Merchants in the Temple: By Gianluigi Nuzzi,224 Pages, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2015

“Merchants in the Temple: By Gianluigi Nuzzi, 224 Pages, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2015

Patrick Kelly  (Post # 2,546)

In reading this book one is reminded of Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, “The Da Vinci Code,” or more pertinently, his follow up “Angels and Demons.”  Haven’t stories circulated before about the impenetrability of the Vatican bureaucracy and about possible financial irregularities among the cardinals in charge of Vatican finances?  Dan Brown’s tales of secrecy and the search for the Holy Grail seem to play into part of Gianluigi Nuzzi’s book, “Merchants in the Temple” as he delves into the financial machinations of the Catholic Church in Rome.

By focusing on who controls the money and, therefore the power in the Holy See, this book does provide valuable insights into the workings of the Curia and the push-back the reformist Pope Francis is receiving from entrenched church leaders within the Vatican.  Fortunately, Nuzzi provides a “family tree” of the various parts of the Vatican bureaucracy to help the reader follow the back and forth of the key players in the book.

Nuzzi clearly has many sources and has used his reporting skills to gain access to internal reports that claim millions of Euros in lost rental income from the Vatican’s vast real estate holdings and millions in missing inventory from the Vatican’s tax free store.

According to the book, it seems Francis has used his papal authority to allow independent auditors to draw out pertinent information from those who control the purse strings and manage (or allegedly mismanage) the Vatican’s finance, including Peter’s Pence the money the catholic faithful give to support the Vatican.

The book documents a burglary that takes place on March 30, 2014 when thieves stole key documents from a commission the Pontiff set up to investigate the structure of Vatican finances and to institute reforms.

The account of the break-in transforms the book from a straightforward probe of alleged financial misdeeds in the Vatican into more of a detective novel.  The last third becomes a virtual “who dun nit?” devoted to an intriguing battle of wills between the reformists appointed by the Pope to ‘clean house’ and the entrenched members of the Curia that clearly pushed back.

This book is unlikely to stop a devout Catholic from practicing his religion.  But it gives more ammunition to critics of the Catholic Church.  Most Catholics practice their faith at the local level and their parish priest is their point of contact with the church.  What inspires is what is happening outside the Vatican walls and the work that Pope Francis, the charismatic reformer, is doing to transform the church into one that more clearly embraces the poor and disadvantaged.

While this populist Pope mingles among the faithful and stresses Jesus’ teachings to the poor, Nuzzi says  the tantalizing question remains as to whether Pope Francis will succeed in his financial reforms where others failed, as did his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI who resigned his office.

Meanwhile, Nuzzi has been jailed in the Vatican and as of  November 2015 put on trial for “leaking and publishing” documents related to this latest scandal. He  received limited time with his counsel and called it a “Kalfkaesque” experience. If convicted, Nuzzi could receive up to 8 years in jail.

The book may be purchased at Nonesuch Books, Mill Creek Shopping Center, South Portland.  207 799-2659.  It’s also available at Sherman’s, 49 Exchange Street, in the Old Port of Portland.  The cost is $28.00..  It will be available in paperback this summer.

Patrick Kelly is a freelance journalist and book reviewer who lives in Maine.