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A deeply reported, fast-paced expose of the money and the cardinals-turned-financiers at the heart of the Vatican's biggest, most powerful religious institution from an acclaimed journalist with exhaustive research techniques. (The New York Times). From a master chronicler of legal and financial misconduct, a magnificent investigation nine years in the making, this book tra A deeply reported, fast-paced expose of the money and the cardinals-turned-financiers at the heart of the Vatican's biggest, most powerful religious institution from an acclaimed journalist with exhaustive research techniques. (The New York Times). From a master chronicler of legal and financial misconduct, a magnificent investigation nine years in the making, this book traces the political intrigue and inner workings of the Catholic Church. Decidedly not about faith, belief in God, or religious doctrine, this book is about the church's accumulation of wealth and its byzantine entanglements with financial markets across the world. Told through 200 years of prelates, bishops, cardinals, and the Popes who oversee it all, Gerald Posner uncovers an eyebrow-raising account of money and power in perhaps the most influential organization in the history of the world. God's Bankers has it all: a rare expose and an astounding saga marked by poisoned business titans, murdered prosecutors, mysterious deaths of private investigators, and questionable suicides; a carnival of characters from Popes and cardinals, financiers and mobsters, kings and prime ministers; and a set of moral and political circumstances that clarify not only the church's aims and ambitions, but reflect the larger dilemmas of the world's more recent history. And Posner even looks to the future to surmise if Pope Francis can succeed where all his predecessors failed: to overcome the resistance to change in the Vatican's Machiavellian inner court and to rein in the excesses of its seemingly uncontrollable financial quagmire. Part thriller, part financial tell-all, this book shows with extraordinary precision how the Vatican has evolved from a foundation of faith to a corporation of extreme wealth and power.


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A deeply reported, fast-paced expose of the money and the cardinals-turned-financiers at the heart of the Vatican's biggest, most powerful religious institution from an acclaimed journalist with exhaustive research techniques. (The New York Times). From a master chronicler of legal and financial misconduct, a magnificent investigation nine years in the making, this book tra A deeply reported, fast-paced expose of the money and the cardinals-turned-financiers at the heart of the Vatican's biggest, most powerful religious institution from an acclaimed journalist with exhaustive research techniques. (The New York Times). From a master chronicler of legal and financial misconduct, a magnificent investigation nine years in the making, this book traces the political intrigue and inner workings of the Catholic Church. Decidedly not about faith, belief in God, or religious doctrine, this book is about the church's accumulation of wealth and its byzantine entanglements with financial markets across the world. Told through 200 years of prelates, bishops, cardinals, and the Popes who oversee it all, Gerald Posner uncovers an eyebrow-raising account of money and power in perhaps the most influential organization in the history of the world. God's Bankers has it all: a rare expose and an astounding saga marked by poisoned business titans, murdered prosecutors, mysterious deaths of private investigators, and questionable suicides; a carnival of characters from Popes and cardinals, financiers and mobsters, kings and prime ministers; and a set of moral and political circumstances that clarify not only the church's aims and ambitions, but reflect the larger dilemmas of the world's more recent history. And Posner even looks to the future to surmise if Pope Francis can succeed where all his predecessors failed: to overcome the resistance to change in the Vatican's Machiavellian inner court and to rein in the excesses of its seemingly uncontrollable financial quagmire. Part thriller, part financial tell-all, this book shows with extraordinary precision how the Vatican has evolved from a foundation of faith to a corporation of extreme wealth and power.

30 review for God's Bankers: A History of Money and Power at the Vatican

  1. 5 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Can’t Touch Me Despite its pretensions to the contrary, the Catholic Church is a typical, in fact the prototypical, large-scale corporate organisation: complicated, more than occasionally corrupt, and intensely resistant to reform of any sort. The Vatican is where organisational policy not just religious doctrine is made and enforced. Sexual scandal makes better press, but it is in finance that the system of ecclesial government is most dramatically out of control. Posner's analysis shows that thi Can’t Touch Me Despite its pretensions to the contrary, the Catholic Church is a typical, in fact the prototypical, large-scale corporate organisation: complicated, more than occasionally corrupt, and intensely resistant to reform of any sort. The Vatican is where organisational policy not just religious doctrine is made and enforced. Sexual scandal makes better press, but it is in finance that the system of ecclesial government is most dramatically out of control. Posner's analysis shows that this condition is neither temporary or superficial but a result of the fundamental ethos of secrecy and the complete absence of even the most basic procedures for ensuring the integrity of accounts or the disposition of resources. It might be supposed that the centralised power of the papacy would be sufficient to impose reform, at least within its direct reach inside the Vatican walls. Alas, dictatorship of any variety, including the religious, has some strange politics. Virtually any financial crime can be justified by anyone in the clerical hierarchy on the basis of protecting Mother Church's wealth, reputation, or the hierarchy itself. It turns out that there is little agreement about the true economic interests of the Church not just among senior officials but within the bowels of the organisation. Consequently any attempt to implement procedures or controls on the movement of money, or even the recording of where it might be, is resisted as a matter of conscience and principle. What Posner shows without explicit statement is that for at least the last two centuries, it has been in no one's interest to fix the situation. Large-scale money-laundering, currency manipulation, fraud by Individual clerics and their secular accomplices are all functional traits of an organisation intent on avoiding any external influences whatsoever. In short, laxity in matters financial means freedom of action. The situation is not accidental or even incidental; it is purposeful and reflects what is really desired by the folk in charge. Although some token changes have been made - the employment of professional non-clerical managers, the belated association with international financial control organisations, the partial adoption of audited accounts - these are unlikely to have any lasting effect within an organisation that considers itself, as a matter of religious doctrine, to be beyond all rules.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David V.

    It took a while to read this book. I'd received it as an ARC from the publisher. It's 700 pages, has footnotes on many pages, and the last 175 pages are more notes. Thoroughly researched book about the power and money struggles within the Vatican. This will blow some minds when it's released in February 2015. Inept and/or naive leadership; money laundering(including Mafia funds); people in power positions who have no knowledge or experience in what they're supposed to be doing; ignoring advice f It took a while to read this book. I'd received it as an ARC from the publisher. It's 700 pages, has footnotes on many pages, and the last 175 pages are more notes. Thoroughly researched book about the power and money struggles within the Vatican. This will blow some minds when it's released in February 2015. Inept and/or naive leadership; money laundering(including Mafia funds); people in power positions who have no knowledge or experience in what they're supposed to be doing; ignoring advice from those who do know; backbiting; arrests; hiding Nazi gold which was stolen from Jewish Holocaust victims; stealing insurance payments that were supposed to go to Holocaust survivors; hundreds of sexual abuse cases by priests that were hidden for years; murder mysteries, and yet the prestige remains.Holy and moral? Hardly. I would have liked to see drawings, portraits, photos, etc of the different Popes mentioned. It would have helped to identify them.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David Eppenstein

    I haven't read a good book about the Church or its history in some time. When I saw this book in the store I picked it up hoping it would be better than the last couple I've read. I wasn't expecting much because, let's face it, can a book about finances be all that engaging? In truth, it does deal a lot with banking transactions and financial matters but the technical stuff can be glossed over. If I have a complaint it is the book's length, just over 500 pages and then copious notes and a biblio I haven't read a good book about the Church or its history in some time. When I saw this book in the store I picked it up hoping it would be better than the last couple I've read. I wasn't expecting much because, let's face it, can a book about finances be all that engaging? In truth, it does deal a lot with banking transactions and financial matters but the technical stuff can be glossed over. If I have a complaint it is the book's length, just over 500 pages and then copious notes and a bibliography. It appears that the author has invested a great deal of time and labor in this book. The material is clearly exhaustively researched and investigated. I feel the author was handicapped by knowing his material too well and finding it difficult to impossible to leave anything out. Had this book been edited more thoroughly and objectively it could have read like a contemporary thriller because all the elements are there. However, I read Church history safely from the distance of the present because I find it's hypocrisy, violence, arrogance, and ignorance laughably entertaining. I have come to believe that God must be protecting this institution because its operation has been so inept and on the wrong side of virtually every issue of Western history and development that its survival is truly miraculous. Well after reading this book I wasn't laughing. This book made me ashamed of the Church I was raised in. While the book is ostensibly about the Church bank and its financial dealings the author takes several generous detours into Church history and current events. These detours probably weren't necessary and did contribute to its excessive length but they were certainly informative and enlightening. I knew about the lunacy of Pius IX and later about the "Prisoner of the Vatican" and the deal with Mussolini. What was upsetting to learn was the Church's modern history. It would appear the hierarchy of the Church has learned nothing from its own history. It persists in its stupidity, arrogance, and ignorance and hides behind an opaque veil of secrecy "to protect the Church". The Church needs no protection. The protection is for the benefit of the MEN entrusted with administering the Church. To learn of Pius XII's war time silence makes him a moral coward in my book. That he is being considered for sainthood I find appalling. John Paul II, as well liked as he was, comes off rather tarnished as well. Benedict, surprisingly, is revealed as an uninvolved incompetent. John XXIII gets good marks but Francis is hopefully proving to be the saving grace of the modern Church. That the banking activity described in this book along with the people involved took place under aegis of the Church, the contemporary Church, is hard to believe. It's hard to believe even knowing how corrupt and vile a history this revered institution has. The author is cautiously optimistic that in light of Pope Francis' actions that events detailed in this book will become just another part of the Church's sordid history and maybe future readers will be able to chuckle about.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Baal Of

    This is an exhaustively researched, and exhausting book, covering the history of the Vatican bank. The amount money-laundering, fraud, and criminal activity performed by the Catholic Church is overwhelming, and I find it amazing that anyone has the gall to defend this corrupt criminal organization anymore. Posner is an insider, as a practicing Catholic, so it's difficult to entertain the claims that this book was written as an attack, and yet, by presenting the facts, with 200 pages of bibliogra This is an exhaustively researched, and exhausting book, covering the history of the Vatican bank. The amount money-laundering, fraud, and criminal activity performed by the Catholic Church is overwhelming, and I find it amazing that anyone has the gall to defend this corrupt criminal organization anymore. Posner is an insider, as a practicing Catholic, so it's difficult to entertain the claims that this book was written as an attack, and yet, by presenting the facts, with 200 pages of bibliographic notes and references, he reveals a thoroughly disgusting organization that responds to criticism with denial, silence, or cries about persecution. The most recent pope, Francis, has actually recognized the problem, and has made strides to correct a lot of problems because as Posner says, "he knows the damage that has been done to the credibility of the church." I was impressed that he also addressed the fact that Francis has a reputation of being a great reformer, but that in actual fact "he never promised to make any substantive reforms or alter long-established doctrine." It appears that at least as far as financial behavior is concerned, the church has been drug, kicking and screaming, into the modern age, after being black-listed by the EU, and having numerous lawsuits and criminal charges brought against it. Maybe some of these changes will stick. I found this book to be enlightening, but also very tedious, because of the large number of names and dates to keep track of. It's worth reading, but I didn't find it enjoyable.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    RAGE, rage against the dying of the light... I'm convinced that's the only thing a sane person can feel toward the Catholic church after reading this book. Regardless of how you feel about God, one thing is abundantly clear: God is not in charge of this organization. Men are. Corrupt, conceited, self-centered, greedy, narrow-minded, short-sighted, cowardly men no better than anyone else on this green planet, and often a lot worse than some. If these douchebags have really been doing God's will fo RAGE, rage against the dying of the light... I'm convinced that's the only thing a sane person can feel toward the Catholic church after reading this book. Regardless of how you feel about God, one thing is abundantly clear: God is not in charge of this organization. Men are. Corrupt, conceited, self-centered, greedy, narrow-minded, short-sighted, cowardly men no better than anyone else on this green planet, and often a lot worse than some. If these douchebags have really been doing God's will for the last 150 years, I want no part of their God. Thanks solely to this book, I had to add a new "merit" shelf to my bookshelves: "made me rage." The first third of the book focuses heavily on the Vatican's role in allowing the Holocaust to happen, and allowing the Nazis to escape with their plunder when it was all over. While Posner makes it clear no one could ever prove the Vatican was laundering stolen Nazi money or smuggling Nazis out of Europe after the war, the circumstantial evidence leaves little room for doubt. I don't think I've vread any book about the Holocaust, as horrible as it was, that literally made me cry tears of anguished fury. Most books about the Holocaust put you in the middle of the horror, and something in me withdraws as a matter of emotional protection. And they highlight the seeming inability of anyone to stop it, which promotes a feeling of helplessness that leads to a grim, dry-eyed hollowness. But Pope Pius XII's repeated indifference and silence as millions of Jews were slaughtered and the proof was offered to him, and his repeated refusal to even directly mention it, let alone openly condemn the humanitarian cataclysm that was unfolding, in the face of repeated pleas, even as thousands of Jews were being marched past the Vatican literally in sight of his balcony, just opened my floodgates. He was more concerned about the damage a bombing raid did to a couple of buildings. Pius had perhaps more power than any other single person on Earth to use his voice as a tool to mitigate or influence what was going on, and he refused to use it - not just once, but over and over. The fact that he, a man who held himself out as God's chosen representative on Earth, as a leading moral authority in the world, HAD the power to make a difference and refused... I think THAT's what made me literally sick to my stomach and made me weep with grief and frustrated fury. Don't even get me started on the laundering of stolen Nazi war plunder and the smuggling of Nazi fugitives out of Europe. It makes me wish I believed in Hell so I could picture those pieces of shit roasting in it right alongside their Nazi pals. Remember that infamous shot of George W. Bush reading to schoolchildren on 9/11, that was circulated as evidence of his cluelessness and indifference? He's got nothing on Pius. During WWII, while he knew perfectly well what was going on, Pius XII devoted more energy to making a documentary about himself than to saving a single Jewish life or lifting a finger to mitigate Nazi atrocities against Jews. Yes, this is considerably different than the mainstream histories which paint Pius as a white knight. That's why they call it an expose. You might ask, “But Switzerland also didn't take sides during the war or condemn the Holocaust. And Switzerland was also suspected of being a major center for laundering Nazi war plunder. Why no equivalent rage at Switzerland?” The answer is two-fold: (a) Switzerland doesn't hold itself out as the world's ultimate moral authority and keeper of God's will, and (b) when the time came to talk about reparations to the Jewish people for its role in laundering looted Jewish wealth, Switzerland eventually came (though dragged kicking and screaming) to the settlement table. The Vatican never relented and has not apologized nor paid a cent in Jewish reparations to this day. But this is not a book that's just about WWII and the Holocaust. It covers the financial and political aspects of the Church's history from the late 19th century up to 2014, and virtually none of it makes the church look very good. Posner doesn't openly editorialize much – he doesn't have to. The facts alone are enough to leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Here's a quick rundown: Part 1: How the church lost most of its papal estates in the late 19th century and had to learn to make money from money instead of making it from property. They despised Jews for making money and considered the pursuit of money immoral, but decided that having money is nicer than having the moral high ground. Part 2: How the church sat back and watched Hitler slaughter millions of Jews and not only did nothing, but actively and repeatedly resisted pleas from numerous nations to speak out against the genocide as a moral authority. Oh, and no one can definitively prove it, due in no small part to the Vatican's 70 years of stonewalling, but the Vatican probably also laundered millions of dollars of Nazi war plunder, smuggled Nazi fugitives out of Europe after the war, and sheltered them in South America. Part 3: How the church transformed itself in the postwar era into a global financial and corporate powerhouse, with investments in businesses so diverse they included casinos and porn publishers, answerable to no one, using a complex maze of shell corporations to escape regulation and taxation, as well as public scrutiny. During this 30-year period, the Vatican bank got itself embroiled in numerous financial scandals, some so sordid they inspired a subplot in The Godfather III. The troubles culminated in criminal charges in the early 1980s against the American archbishop, Paul Marcinkus, who had run the Vatican bank during most of this time, and left the Vatican in massive debt and with its worldwide reputation in tatters. Although the archbishop escaped conviction thanks to jurisdictional problems created by the Vatican's status as a sovereign state, several non-clergy bankers ended up serving long prison sentences... or dead. At best, it's a tale of incompetence, recklessness, and lack of oversight, and the alternative interpretations are worse. The best that can be said is that there's no indication any Pope was ever directly implicated... the worst they were guilty of was zero oversight and not taking an interest. The Vatican did end up paying a $244 million settlement because of this mess... which is $244 million more than the Jews got. Part 4: How the church attempted to reform its financial life, but strangely still thought it was a good idea to continue making deals it had to keep secret because the participants knew they would create enormous scandals if they ever became public. Did they learn nothing from their troubles? Part 5: How the church again came under fire for its role in the Holocaust in the 1990s, and specifically whether its millions included Nazi gold stolen from Holocaust victims. The church continued its traditional policy of silence, secrecy, deflection, denial, stonewalling, lying, and to this day it has never softened. It beat litigation in the United States on jurisdictional grounds. Part 6: How, just when they thought they had beaten the Nazi gold rap, and could get back to work on repairing its world reputation, the Vatican got sidetracked by a little thing called the child sex abuse scandal, and again deployed its favorite weapons: silence, secrecy, deflection, denial, stonewalling, lying, jurisdiction. Rather than taking financial responsibility, the Vatican quickly restructured its organization to make sure it couldn't be held directly liable for the acts of individual priests – only their local diocese could, and a number of American dioceses went bankrupt in the resulting flood of litigation. Part 7: How Pope Francis, a Jesuit and the Church's first-ever South American pope, came along in 2013 and gave the church a much-needed PR shot in the arm. He managed to brilliantly build a reputation as a liberal reformer without actually reforming any substantive church doctrine. However, Francis showed (or shows?) some hope of being a genuine and vigorous financial reformer and at press time, was rapidly moving the Vatican bank toward compliance with EU financial laws that may allow the Vatican to eventually shed its dark reputation as a tax and money laundering haven.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Melisende

    "God’s Bankers has it all: a rare exposé and an astounding saga marked by poisoned business titans, murdered prosecutors, mysterious deaths of private investigators, and questionable suicides; a carnival of characters from Popes and cardinals, financiers and mobsters, kings and prime ministers ..." So with that I was eagerly anticipating a journey into the underbelly of Vatican politics and double-dealing from the time of Peter to our current Pope Francis. However, the early years were briefly to "God’s Bankers has it all: a rare exposé and an astounding saga marked by poisoned business titans, murdered prosecutors, mysterious deaths of private investigators, and questionable suicides; a carnival of characters from Popes and cardinals, financiers and mobsters, kings and prime ministers ..." So with that I was eagerly anticipating a journey into the underbelly of Vatican politics and double-dealing from the time of Peter to our current Pope Francis. However, the early years were briefly touched upon until we reach the reign of Gregory XVI (1831 - 1846) when the cash-strapped Church was looking for ways to boost their coffers. Thus, the age of lay-financiers, prelates and shady businessmen begins with the Church taking uncertain steps into the world of investment and money-lending. From the reign of Leo XIII the Vatican Bank steps tentatively onto the world stage whilst headed by a select group of financial outsiders, steering the Bank through revolutionary Italy, the stock-market crash and the creation of the Papal State - the Vatican City. It is in the 20th century that the Vatican Bank takes a rather interesting stance on Germany during the 1930s and 1940s - the Vatican has spread its investments thought Fascist Italy and Germany, and is at odds with itself over preserving financial independence and fighting communism or speaking out against documented atrocities. We then move forward through the years of assisting war criminals to the influx of dubious Italian and Sicilian businessmen into the banking hierarchy, and support for fledgling anti-communist movements worldwide. This a is lengthy tome - with copious notes. It is not a light read - and the reader may find themselves re-reading past chapters.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    A great "non-fiction" book, in the sense that it's gripping and racy, but not particularly good history (it's a chronicle, a recording of facts, rather than an understanding of them) nor a good book. This latter is the thing's main problem: the subtitle was clearly an afterthought, and Posner has just thrown in everything he researched, rather than finding the excellent core of the book (i.e., the story of the Vatican Bank) and sticking to that. So you have to read a bunch of stuff about late 19 A great "non-fiction" book, in the sense that it's gripping and racy, but not particularly good history (it's a chronicle, a recording of facts, rather than an understanding of them) nor a good book. This latter is the thing's main problem: the subtitle was clearly an afterthought, and Posner has just thrown in everything he researched, rather than finding the excellent core of the book (i.e., the story of the Vatican Bank) and sticking to that. So you have to read a bunch of stuff about late 19th century popes, which is dull, and the early 2th century popes, which isn't particularly interesting, and then about Pius XII, which horse has been beaten to death, and only then do we really get to the good stuff--over a hundred pages in. Take my word for it, you can just start reading at the founding of the IOR. After that, it's mostly great stuff, with the caveat that he really does stick a whole bunch of stuff in there. It's not clear to me why the child-abuse stuff is in there, even allowing for the "and power" part of the subtitle; not clear why the papal elections stuff is in there (though that's a bit fresher, at least). So, basically, there's 300 pages of roaring, roiling idiocy and corruption, and the odd attempt to reel it all in. Fun fact: the popes the most likely to try to deal with corruption are those who are the least publicly popular (so, not John XXIII, not JPII), up until Francis, who might just be pulling off the double act.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    What a depressing book; over 500 detailed pages of Vatican crimes in an unrelenting list. It is the story of money laundering, murder, suicide and pedophilia. It reads like a history of the Mafia; kidnappings, murders, suicides and suitcases of cash in hidden accounts. Posner followed the Vatican banks as they laundered Nazi booty extracted from Jews and used to protect Nazi criminals fleeing Germany after the war. A series of pacts, signed by Hitler, extracted taxes from Catholic churches and g What a depressing book; over 500 detailed pages of Vatican crimes in an unrelenting list. It is the story of money laundering, murder, suicide and pedophilia. It reads like a history of the Mafia; kidnappings, murders, suicides and suitcases of cash in hidden accounts. Posner followed the Vatican banks as they laundered Nazi booty extracted from Jews and used to protect Nazi criminals fleeing Germany after the war. A series of pacts, signed by Hitler, extracted taxes from Catholic churches and guaranteed the Vatican's silence regarding the Holocaust. It also funneled “blood money” from Nazi victims into secret accounts. The Popes hid behind their status as an independent state until the unrelenting number of lawsuits and scandals forced the pope to resign. Their desire to keep the bank open and be recognized as a legitimate bank forced the latest pope to try to improve transparency. It remains to be seen if the Vatican can join the modern world. It is still a world of men where homophobia is the policy as the ignore the rampant homosexuality that exists.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Matt Smith

    The dinosaurs never really went extinct. A lot of them did, but not all of them. Those that survived evolved and you see what became of the dinosaurs every day: birds. Dinosaurs persist because they learned how to fly. Did you know the Roman Empire still exists today? Not as Italy. Italy is too wholly its own different thing to be considered Rome's evolutionary descendent. So too, the Holy Roman Empire essentially just became a proto-Germany rather than Rome's actual offspring. And the Byzantine The dinosaurs never really went extinct. A lot of them did, but not all of them. Those that survived evolved and you see what became of the dinosaurs every day: birds. Dinosaurs persist because they learned how to fly. Did you know the Roman Empire still exists today? Not as Italy. Italy is too wholly its own different thing to be considered Rome's evolutionary descendent. So too, the Holy Roman Empire essentially just became a proto-Germany rather than Rome's actual offspring. And the Byzantine Empire is more like Rome's weird half-brother who hung around for a really long time while eventually dying out (more or less) because of the Turks. No. The Roman Empire, that great political entity that marks the end of what's known as the Ancient Period of Western Civilization, burned out just a few centuries into the A.D. (or C.E. as they're trying to call it and teach students in classes now), birthing the Dark Ages and Medieval culture, replaced by the largest religious institution the world has ever known: The Roman Catholic Church (more colloquially: The Catholic Church). This book, God's Bankers, being about the banking system of the Catholic Church and The Vatican, is one that immediately captured my attention. I'm not Catholic. I've never been Catholic. I will almost assuredly never BE Catholic. And yet I've always been utterly fascinated by the Catholic Church. Hell, the first thing I ever wrote as a writer involved The Catholic Church and The Pope (and may it one day see the light of day). It's cropped up in more of my writing than I've actually intended, and part of that is because it's such a regimented, caste-based religious institution, which, as an idea, is so foreign to me and the sects of Christianity I was exposed to as a child. Up front, let me say that this book is in no way about Catholic dogma or the religious beliefs of the Catholic Church. It's exclusively interested in the banking system of the Vatican and the forces within (and without) the Vatican that feeds into that particular institution. It chains everything from the earliest needs of the Vatican for a banking system all the way to the reforms instituted as of mid-2014, taking digressions to explain not only the politics of the elections of various Popes, but also the financial dealings with important Vatican Bank investors like Michele Sidona and Roberto Calvi. Posner (who I was unfamiliar with before this book) is a really, really talented writer who did an ungodly amount of research on this topic (the back 200+ pages of this book are all notes and bibliography that he collected over the ten years of research he invested. It's staggering, impressive, and he does an excellent job of condensing that information into easy-enough-to-understand concepts. Sure, there's points at which I got completely lost about the ins and out of who was investing what where, but that's to be expected in a book about banking and it was the sorta thing I just had to roll with. In that, the actual banking intricacies of this book were a struggle and mighty dense and difficult to get through. The saving grace of this book? How utterly batsh*t insane the Vatican could be when it comes to their banking system (and other things) over the past 150 years. You have things like active bank accounts in the names of dead Cardinals, money laundering that makes Swiss Banks look clean, and completely insane connections and dealings with both laundering money for the Italian Mafia and spiriting away bonafide Nazis to South America by liquidating actual Nazi gold. Watching this institution descend into unbelievable corruption and criminal activity is jaw-dropping to say the least. To watch The Vatican respond to scandals by saying "this is slander" and "we are a soverign nation" is outlandish to the point where it's comical that they don't have any defense or anything to say when they get caught (and my god do they get caught what seems like hundreds of times over their morally questionable banking system). All of those bits were things I ate up with a spoon. They were delicious in a way I hadn't even dreamed when I started, and if you knew all of the things I shared with anyone who was around me when I was reading it they would tell you the same. So honestly, if this book sounds like something you are interested in you should absolutely read it and see just how amazing this system is. Know that at a certain point it becomes almost impossible to keep track of all the names and acronyms participating in scandal after scandal after scandal, but man. Watching the dirty dealings of what is supposed to be the moral authority on planet earth deal with issues this almost completely unbelievable? Man, this was so much everything I wanted. Oh, and everything the Church has ever done or said about the Holocaust and Anti-Semitism is unbelievable. I read this book, I still can't believe it. And how they handled the "Wow the Jews were robbed blind during the Holocaust and now they want some of those possessions (among other things gold, that was turned into Nazi Gold) paid back as reparations for, you know, mass theft and attempted genocide, is stupefying in its audacity. Truly, there's stuff in this book you have to read to believe. It will make your blood boil, but it will make you really consider the mentality of what it must be like to think you're Rome in a world where that left Rome behind almost 2,000 years ago.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    This book was recommended to me by Noel Jackson. It was fascinating an eye-opening. It tells a compelling, well-researched and fact-based story of banking and corruption in the Vatican. It addresses Jewish gold stolen in WW II, aid to help Nazis escape to South America, money laundering, and sex scandals. Unexpectedly, I found the book difficult to put down and found myself often reading well beyond my 30 minutes of scheduled reading in the morning.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lulu Opio

    Mafias in cloaks.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Fredrick Danysh

    God's Bankers incorporates a history of the financial dealings of the Catholic Church through the ages and the murder of a lay banker for the Church in 1982. It discusses corruption and the quest for power.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    God's Banker's: A History of Money and Power at the Vatican - by Gerald Posner, is an expose style history book, which closely examines the sovereign Vatican City's history within the international banking and financial systems. Beginning in the mid-19th century, the Vatican's attitude toward money, and the Catholic taboo against interest bearing loans. begins to unravel as the Vatican City loses territory to Italian nationalists, and is relegated to a small city state, first encompassing the Ci God's Banker's: A History of Money and Power at the Vatican - by Gerald Posner, is an expose style history book, which closely examines the sovereign Vatican City's history within the international banking and financial systems. Beginning in the mid-19th century, the Vatican's attitude toward money, and the Catholic taboo against interest bearing loans. begins to unravel as the Vatican City loses territory to Italian nationalists, and is relegated to a small city state, first encompassing the City of Rome, and then just a small portion of it. This lost the Vatican its agricultural revenue, much of its land taxes and its resource base, and forced it to shift focus, gaining money from donations, church levees, and finally, international finance. The Vatican became an important centre of commerce during WWII, as its neutral status guaranteed it financial flexibility to play both the axis and allied financial systems to its benefit. The expose continues into modern time, addressing bank bailouts, mafia ties and more. Frankly, I thought this was a poor example of what could have been an excellent book. The financial shenanigans that took place in Rome throughout history have always been fascinating, and central to much of world finance and history. Even the accusations that the Vatican funneled Nazi loot and Jewish plunder from the concentration camps is fascinating and horrifying. Posner, however, does not necessarily do this justice. He focuses more on the tabloid expose, rather than hard facts. He narrows in on coincidence to try and correlate events. He even has an entire chapter devoted to the name Nogora, who was the Vatican City's central banker of sorts, and who brilliantly funneled money from place to place during the war. Allied Intelligence Services listed a man under that name as a Nazi spy, but the author speculates, was it the same man? Was it a different man? And then goes on the insinuate even though he has little or no evidence either way. This was about the point where I decided I would stop reading. The book has its positives, to be sure. It is interesting to examine the banking structure of a City State, as there are few left in the world. and one as historically important as the Vatican will always be interesting. This book, however, offers only a tantalizing glimpse into the internal finances and international clout of the Holy See, instead, filling the tome with insinuations on Nazi and Mafia connections which may or may not be true. The author does not skimp on sources, and the book itself is refreshingly well sourced. Every other statement is sourced to completion, and the back source list is organized by chapter, making fact checking a breeze. As you can probably see, this was a bit of a disappointment for me. It is interesting and well sourced, but the insinuations, guess work, and expose style writing leave a lot to be desired from a book supposedly about the Vatican City's historical financial and monetary policy. Instead it is a journalistic style book looking to drive home an accusatory point, not a professionally written historical analysis or financial outlook, which could have offered much more concrete evidence to the authors insinuations. Interesting material, poor delivery, I would not recommend this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    It just wasn't good. There was an incredible amount of information but not all of it was particularly relevant and there was almost no analysis of that information. I still don't have the greatest understanding of the Vatican Bank even though I slogged through almost 800 pages of this tome. He seems to be more interested in scandals than a thorough review of the Vatican Bank. And listen. I am a gay atheist so it is not like I am at all vested in the catholic church but can we deal with the vatica It just wasn't good. There was an incredible amount of information but not all of it was particularly relevant and there was almost no analysis of that information. I still don't have the greatest understanding of the Vatican Bank even though I slogged through almost 800 pages of this tome. He seems to be more interested in scandals than a thorough review of the Vatican Bank. And listen. I am a gay atheist so it is not like I am at all vested in the catholic church but can we deal with the vatican bank and leave all the other tangents for another time?

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tamar

    Shameful.... If I was not an atheist before, this book would be the last nail.... It is very detailed and tough to follow but I stuck with it hoping that at some point the church will redeem itself and prove that it has SOME value.... Not the case.... Catholics should be made to read this instead of the bible.....

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nigel Watchel

    This book has changed my dislike of the RC church to abhorrence and disgust. They were complicit in the Holocaust, money laundering for various criminal gangs and the continued coverup of pedophile priests and have yet to make meaningful progress in fixing these issues.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chris P

    This is the best and most exciting history book on the Vatican and its finances this reader has ever read, written in a contemporary fashion including plenty of new information that has not been disclosed before. In the Preface, Gerald Posner clearly lays out what he intends to do and executes. Despite being 702 pages long including the Notes but excluding the Index, this reader was never bored with the narrative as other history books can drag and when authors color the narrative with their inf This is the best and most exciting history book on the Vatican and its finances this reader has ever read, written in a contemporary fashion including plenty of new information that has not been disclosed before. In the Preface, Gerald Posner clearly lays out what he intends to do and executes. Despite being 702 pages long including the Notes but excluding the Index, this reader was never bored with the narrative as other history books can drag and when authors color the narrative with their inferences, values, and prejudices. Posner is a master storyteller and his superior clear and direct writing style (he is an attorney after all) moves the story along at a brisk pace keeping this reader in rapt attention right to the end. Posner lets the reader decide what is and isn't important and make their own judgement on the facts and story he reveals. So few authors can do this and it is refreshing and so appreciated by this reader. The footnotes and end notes also uncover very interesting tidbits and amazing stories within stories. Many chapters were jaw dropping surprising. Upon completing the book, this reader came away with a feeling of "WOW!" God's Bankers deserves the Pulitzer Prize!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bert Forsythe

    This just wasn't the book I expected to read. You won't understand the moment of the book (Francis' modernization - though is this about murder? atonement for ww2 and mafia connections?? exposing the burden of modern financial regulation???) until the last chapter and the last two of 513 pages. From the author's interview with Steven Colbert, I thought this book would go deep in history and keep a focus on the money and a sort of financial intrigue. Like one of the 5 post-crisis hardbacks of form This just wasn't the book I expected to read. You won't understand the moment of the book (Francis' modernization - though is this about murder? atonement for ww2 and mafia connections?? exposing the burden of modern financial regulation???) until the last chapter and the last two of 513 pages. From the author's interview with Steven Colbert, I thought this book would go deep in history and keep a focus on the money and a sort of financial intrigue. Like one of the 5 post-crisis hardbacks of former bankers or NYT journalists that are trending at any given point since then. Instead, its theme scandal, with occasional loose ties to a secretive institution that from what I gather was the church's investment bank. God's Bankers felt too much like a data dump written in the form of a law review article (if you've ever had the pleasure). Informative despite its punishing style, I'd recommend only to the most patient and interested of readers.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    Author Gerald Posner tackles the one thing murkier than the Vatican: The Vatican Bank. In short, he lifts a lid on one an institution shrouded in mystery and intrigue. He spins a real-life action drama than includes a whole host of other entities. If you like thrillers, you are sure to love this book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    A detailed and comprehensively researched look at the long history of the Vatican banking system. At once compelling, enlightening, horrifying, and terribly depressing, I'm very glad to have read the book because I received a comprehensive education on the Vatican, how it works, how it does or doesn't impact other countries (and perhaps even the course of history), the role money plays in its operations and an incredibly eye-opening look at the very fallible humans of the Holy See. That said, th A detailed and comprehensively researched look at the long history of the Vatican banking system. At once compelling, enlightening, horrifying, and terribly depressing, I'm very glad to have read the book because I received a comprehensive education on the Vatican, how it works, how it does or doesn't impact other countries (and perhaps even the course of history), the role money plays in its operations and an incredibly eye-opening look at the very fallible humans of the Holy See. That said, this was not an easy book to read and it took a great deal of effort to stick with it - more like a fascinating but tough slog through a homework assignment than a riveting page-turner.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    So I only made it about a quarter of the way through this book. The information it contains is absolutely fascinating, and it's presented in an unbiased way (as far as I can tell). The chapters about the early years of the Papacy through WWII were eye-opening, to say the least. I highly recommend reading them; these chapters reveal a lot. However, once it got to more modern times, the narrative was just too steeped in economics and the wheelings and dealings of stock trades, bank shares, compani So I only made it about a quarter of the way through this book. The information it contains is absolutely fascinating, and it's presented in an unbiased way (as far as I can tell). The chapters about the early years of the Papacy through WWII were eye-opening, to say the least. I highly recommend reading them; these chapters reveal a lot. However, once it got to more modern times, the narrative was just too steeped in economics and the wheelings and dealings of stock trades, bank shares, companies used as fronts, etc, for me to follow. Like I said, the information is presented very well. I just had a hard time getting through it. So really I would say 3.5 stars.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Robert Davidson

    After reading this rather large book it would be interesting to be at the Pearly Gates listening to Saint Peter interview these Gentlemen from the Vatican trying to get into Heaven and i wonder if any got through. A thoroughly researched book by a practising Catholic who opens the curtains to a World of money, power and corruption. A betrayal of my many Catholic friends who practise their Faith with humility and sincerity. Very good read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nabilah

    Comprehensively researched, this understandably thick book will open to your eyes to the criminal activities of the Vatican. Religions indeed cannot be separated from money and power because the longevity of a religion lies less on the ideology and more on the ability of the religion to manage and grow its resources.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Elrod

    Posner is an excellent writer with a (mostly) interesting subject. I got a little bored with what seemed like a lot of inside politics among people whose names I was unfamiliar with. However, most of the book was a good source of information of the Vatican bank from before WW II through 2014.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    If this troubled history of Vatican financial dealings over the past 150 years were fiction, it would be dismissed as unbelievable, but, alas, it is not. Former Wall Street lawyer Posner has done a remarkable job of in-depth reporting to pull together this story. Although much of the story has come out piecemeal over the years, he’s assembled it in a highly readable, occasionally jaw-dropping narrative. Posner helpfully puts the Church’s opaque financial dealings in the context of pressures on i If this troubled history of Vatican financial dealings over the past 150 years were fiction, it would be dismissed as unbelievable, but, alas, it is not. Former Wall Street lawyer Posner has done a remarkable job of in-depth reporting to pull together this story. Although much of the story has come out piecemeal over the years, he’s assembled it in a highly readable, occasionally jaw-dropping narrative. Posner helpfully puts the Church’s opaque financial dealings in the context of pressures on it at any given time. His descriptions of the politics around the election of recent popes are likewise fascinating. Few of them had any awareness of—or interest in—the questionable and large-scale financial activities taking place practically under their noses. Since 1942, when the Church reorganized many of those activities by forming the Vatican Bank, authorities in Italy, in the United States, and in the international financial world repeatedly pressured the Church to reveal what the Bank was up to, with little success. Bank leaders would claim ignorance of financial matters when it suited them (“we’re just poor priests here”), and employed a succession of shady financial advisors (“a few bad apples”). Meanwhile the international monetary wheeling and dealing was unstoppable. As Damon Linker says in The New York Times, “The result (of the Church’s history) has been a tension—and sometimes a blatant contradiction—between the church’s exalted claims for itself and its behavior.” Not all of the Bank’s financial deals were successful and some too much so. Millions and millions of dollars simply disappeared. Many readers may know about the Pope’s barely audible muttering when it came to dealing with Hitler; they may not know that the financial side developed ratlines to provide monetary and other aid to Nazi fugitives. Or how its lack of records “made it an ideal safe haven for money plundered from Jews and other wartime victims,” said Chicago Tribune reviewer Trine Tsouderos. They may not know about the money-laundering for the American mafia or the political slush funds disguised as benevolent sounding charities. Or how the Bank was used to support the anti-Communists in Poland and the right-wing Nicaraguan Contras. Or the Vatican Bank’s role in the demise of Italy’s largest private bank. Or the assassinations. . . . In short, it’s “an extraordinarily intricate tale of intrigue, corruption and organized criminality—. . . not widely known among more casual church watchers—from Pius XII down to Benedict XVI,” says Linker. Pope Francis is now taking concrete, meaningful steps to reform the Bank and limit its activities. He's letting the sunshine into an institution that for many years did not operate like a normal financial institution. It did not conduct independent audits, and it had a scanty, periodically destroyed, paper trail. I listened to the audio version of Posner’s book, which was almost 22 hours long, and Tom Parks’s narration was excellent. However, there were so many characters, I wish I’d read it instead of listened, so I could flip back through to remind myself who was who. Nevertheless, the overall picture resounded clear as a church bell.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    I've been curious for years about the Vatican bank. This was a great way to learn about all you're likely to know unless they someday become totally transparent. Aside from a little back and forth this is a sweeping chronological history of finances at the Vatican. For hundreds of years there wasn't actually a bank, just a massive bureaucracy of money handling. The issue of indulgences is reviewed briefly. The real meat of this book doesn't begin until the 20th century due to the fact that the Vatic I've been curious for years about the Vatican bank. This was a great way to learn about all you're likely to know unless they someday become totally transparent. Aside from a little back and forth this is a sweeping chronological history of finances at the Vatican. For hundreds of years there wasn't actually a bank, just a massive bureaucracy of money handling. The issue of indulgences is reviewed briefly. The real meat of this book doesn't begin until the 20th century due to the fact that the Vatican had never even done an internal financial audit until the 1920's. That undertaking took 6 years and the result was that they were essentially broke. Now my one complaint with this book would be that it is too long and includes too many details that could have been left as footnotes, only there are already copious footnotes as well as over a hundred extra pages of notes at the end. So, I got accustomed to skimming through various sections that seemed to get bogged down. I commend Mr. Posner on his research but a condensed version would go a long way in making this more accessible. It is after the Vatican's audit that they decide to get serious about their finances and open their own bank. That's when things get serious and then, of course, WWII happens. It is interesting to see the Vatican's ambivalence about the war. They don't care for the fascists but to them communism is the least acceptable form of government even though it might be closest to the state of governance advised by Jesus. Every person looking out for their comrades as other persons. The Vatican sides with Mussolini and eventually Hitler. For comparison, the Vatican views US capitalism as an abhorrent abomination. Most interesting, considering that the US has been, by far the most lucrative "market" of believers for them for the last century. WWII and beyond have been very lucrative for the Vatican as they abuse their sovereignty. The book goes into great depth regarding Vatican ties to the Mafia, offshore accounts, shell companies, and the slow process of bringing these things into the light. Read this and then learn about fractional reserve banking and the CAFR reports. Humans may one day be free. Or...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

    I had to read this one in two installments... just couldn't get through it in the time the library gave me, but not for lack of interest. Yes, it is very dense and very detailed about the history of the Vatican bank, and there were a few places where the financial detail was over my head, but as a recovering Catholic and a lover of history, I was completely engaged in the story of how the Vatican believed that it was above man’s law, and interpreted God’s law to whatever means it saw fit. Such m I had to read this one in two installments... just couldn't get through it in the time the library gave me, but not for lack of interest. Yes, it is very dense and very detailed about the history of the Vatican bank, and there were a few places where the financial detail was over my head, but as a recovering Catholic and a lover of history, I was completely engaged in the story of how the Vatican believed that it was above man’s law, and interpreted God’s law to whatever means it saw fit. Such mismanagement, such hubris. If powerful organizations can still retain their power with all of that, no wonder they thought they were untouchable. Really interesting.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cameron DeHart

    It only took me 11 months to finish this book. Very rich in detail, including in-depth original reporting by the author on complex banking stuff in the 20th century (not quite over my head, but still pretty dense). I learned a lot about Vatican history (Kimia knew most of it already, cuz she's a Classics major), as well some juicy details about the five most recent Popes. Would've given the book 5 stars if it were a tad shorter. The huge cast of Italians was a little hard to keep straight, in th It only took me 11 months to finish this book. Very rich in detail, including in-depth original reporting by the author on complex banking stuff in the 20th century (not quite over my head, but still pretty dense). I learned a lot about Vatican history (Kimia knew most of it already, cuz she's a Classics major), as well some juicy details about the five most recent Popes. Would've given the book 5 stars if it were a tad shorter. The huge cast of Italians was a little hard to keep straight, in the audio version at least.

  29. 4 out of 5

    GingerOrange

    Not gonna lie, I had to slough through a lot of this book. This was not an easy read for me at all. As someone with no financial background, trying to understand some of the financial going-ons was tough. That being said, the book was interesting in how it unearth a lot of information on the Vatican. Before this, I really had only basic knowledge on how the Vatican was run. But now I can at least say I have some insight into the financial process. Overall, I wouldn’t recommended this for everyone Not gonna lie, I had to slough through a lot of this book. This was not an easy read for me at all. As someone with no financial background, trying to understand some of the financial going-ons was tough. That being said, the book was interesting in how it unearth a lot of information on the Vatican. Before this, I really had only basic knowledge on how the Vatican was run. But now I can at least say I have some insight into the financial process. Overall, I wouldn’t recommended this for everyone. But it is an interesting glimpse into the financial realities in such a large institution.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ben Gaudsmith

    The beginning starts out strong, diving into church scandals and telling the story of how the Vatican became a financial powerhouse and the moral compromises along the way. The end is an interesting look into the future of the church with its current struggles. The middle has the back tone dealings and conspiracy of a spy novel. That being said this book will test your ability to be interested in people manipulating bonds. For a very condensed summary of the criticisms raised by the book, watch The beginning starts out strong, diving into church scandals and telling the story of how the Vatican became a financial powerhouse and the moral compromises along the way. The end is an interesting look into the future of the church with its current struggles. The middle has the back tone dealings and conspiracy of a spy novel. That being said this book will test your ability to be interested in people manipulating bonds. For a very condensed summary of the criticisms raised by the book, watch the music video for “Vatican Rap” by Trevor Moore.

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