There is no doubting John Allen's grasp of Vatican events. His ability to get inside the mind of the average (normally) male member of the Vatican is second to none, at least as far as I have read in book form.
The only problem with this book is that some details can become long-winded. Great if you're an academic, a journalist or someone with a keen interest in how the Vatican works. Less so if you're looking for an easy, thrill-per-page read like some other books about the Vatican, for example Paul L. Williams' The Vatican Exposed.
At times All The Pope's Men reads like you ARE in the Vatican. Thus you can almost feel the slow moving machinery of how the Vatican works. It's more like John le Carre and less like Ian Fleming, which is what real life is like. More about the exact devil in the details and less about the exotic adventures of the saints! You find that Angels and Demons have a very cosy relationship inside the Vatican, and it's often hard to spot which are which!
The main flaw with much of John Allen's work (because he is a Catholic?) is that he does not question Catholic THEOLOGY in enough detail, or from a greater distance. He is not a theologian. Having said that, he remains both detached and objective as much as possible. He does the best that he can to look at the Vatican from both sides of the borderline, which few people try and do.
However, Allen's greatest flaw is that he not only often Catholic-centric, but also US-centric in his views. He believes that the Catholic Church has more influence than it has (only 15% of the world's population is Catholic) and that the impact of US policies are as important as they once were. Though the book was written in 2004, well before the current financial crisis started around 2007 and growing impact of the Chinese economy, some of the statements seemed way out of date, and irrelevant. He writes: "Given that the United States is the leading political and commercial power in the world, and the Holy See the leading voice of conscience in public affairs, American Catholics and the the Vatican should collaborating on bringing a Catholic critique to current GLOBAL injustices." (Capitals mine)
Further, he adds: "The choices made in this regards will be consequential not just for the Catholic Church, but for the ENTIRE HUMAN FAMILY." (Capitals mine)
Given that US is now in debt (to the tune of nearly $16 trillion) and the Vatican is currently trying to deal (unsuccessfully) with its own financial affairs with the resigning of the head of the Vatican bank, neither the US nor the Catholic Church should be hoping to tell the rest of the world what to do!
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