Around the world, having some kind of religious faith is an experience common among the majority. In particular, those that affiliate with Catholicism are spread far and wide around the world, but all come under the leadership of the Pope. While the Pope is commonly known to be the head and leading authority in the Catholic Church, that is an image associated with leading the flock to follow God. But who knew he was head of the Vatican Bank as well. Surprisingly, the Catholic Church is an institution with vast financial holdings that extend far beyond Vatican city and local Catholic churches. While the image of the church is one replete with icons, statutes, colorful paintings and robed priests, the underbelly of this institution is far less holy and its finances are littered with crime and amoral behavior.
In his book, God’s Bankers: A History of Money and Power at the Vatican, author Gerald Posner unfolds his careful research to reveal the hidden history of the Catholic Church. Written like an expose piece of journalism, Posner’s research uncovers corruption that should make every devout follower consider where the line exists between faith and the institution. His work reveals Vatican scandals and cover-ups involving money laundering for the Mafia, Nazi gold, the child sex-abuse cover-up, murder and much more. At over 700 pages, this book has over 150 pages of footnotes documenting the rigorous process Posner went through to collect information that the church has kept hidden from the public.
While I am not Catholic myself, I enjoyed this work that read like a suspense novel in many parts. I kept thinking, how could so many people be duped? How could an organization that purports to lead people to God be so zealously greedy and blindly lead so many astray? But, in the back of my head, I know this is a problem commonly encountered when institutions are the driving force behind faith. The only thing I really struggled with was the vast number of names of significant people in the Catholic Church. It was difficult to keep track of them all and hard to remember who were the “good guys” and who were the corrupt “bad guys.” It would have helped to have visual organizers highlighting the key facts and people associated with each pope. Nonetheless, I think this book is a valuable read for anyone that loves history or for a person of faith who is struggling and would benefit from a fuller picture of the institutional experience.
Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.