God’s Bankers: A History of Money & Power at the Vatican

Gerald Posner. Simon & Schuster, $30 (728p) ISBN 978-1-4165-7657-0
Posner (Miami Babylon) uses his superlative investigative skills to craft a fascinating and comprehensive look at the dark side of the Catholic Church, documenting “how money, and accumulating and fighting over it, has been a dominant theme in the history of the Catholic Church and its divine mission.” He opens with the various spiritually creative methods the Church has used to make ends meet, such as the sale of indulgences and Pope Urban II’s offer of full absolution to those who volunteered to fight in the Crusades. The bulk of the book focuses on the mid-20th century and includes the Papacy’s accommodations to the Nazis. While this is familiar terrain, Posner convincingly buttresses his unusual position that money swayed Pope Pius XII “to remain silent in the face of overwhelming evidence of mass murder.” And the author’s access to previously undisclosed documents enables him to flesh out the Vatican Bank scandal, which reached its nadir with the mysterious hanging—from London’s Blackfriars Bridge—of Italian banker and convicted fraudster Roberto Calvi. Accessible and well written, Posner’s is the definitive history of the topic to date. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/22/2014
Release date: 02/03/2015
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