Sunday, March 30, 2008

Book Review: Vatican

Malachi Martin is a very interesting character in the history of the 20th century Church. He was born in Ireland and became a Jesuit priest in 1954. His books are most often about the Church and are written from a conservative/traditionalist point of view.

Vatican is a historical novel that takes place between 1945 and 1986. The story follows a young priest from Chicago who is sent to Rome for a few years before becoming the archbishop of the Chicago archdiocese. From there the reader is taken into the innermost chambers of the Roman Curia and views popes, cardinals, and bishops from a completely new perspective-inside the Vatican bureaucracy. There are good men, holy men, evil men, traitors, and everything in between. The battle between Catholicism and Communism is examined, as well as the specific evils of the 20th century-mass genocide, slavery, abortion, and the dirty money that finances and grows from these crimes.

I've read Hostage to the Devil already, also by Malachi Martin. He is a man who truly understood good and evil. A thing that strikes me about this book, especially when comparing it to another book written by a priest, The Tremaynes and the Masterful Monk, is the thorough knowledge of the human condition. Both priests truly understand people and how they tick.
Because Vatican takes place in historical settings, many of the characters are people we've seen on television, but with different names. Pope Pius XII is called Papa Profumi, while Pope Paul VI is called Papa Da Brescia. It is good to have Wikipedia handy to know which pope is which in case you are not well versed in 20th century popes (can you name the 20th century presidents?).

A couple of criticisms: the book is very long and begins quite slowly. I set it down numerous times early on and I'm fortunate to have been underway for seven weeks, giving me the time to chip away at it. Especially in the early part of the book, the lists of Italian names can be daunting. An index would have been nice.

It's up to the reader to be cautious when it comes to deciding what is fact and fiction in this book. It is tempting to assume that everything in this book is real. Ultimately, none of us will know what is real and what is fiction until we die, and it is far more important to focus on growing our spiritual life than whether or not secret organizations run everything in some sort of shadow government conspiracy. Fun? Lots! But not practical to the Catholic Faith.

Martin has put together a great novel that will introduce the workings of the Vatican to many happy readers. While slow at times, the book is worth reading, and some divine moments shined through that were beautiful and moving.

Ideology: *****
Content: ****
Importance: ***
Insomnia Effect: *** at the beginning, **** near the end

Total: ****

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