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Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church Paperback – Jun 12 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (June 12 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385531346
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385531344
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 322 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #308,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"Money dominates the third of Jason Berry’s important books about the Catholic Church. Render Unto Rome probes deeply into the culture of the church. To painful questions about money and sex, Berry finds, the response of the church is always the same – secrecy and silence." --Thomas Powers

"The Catholic Church wants us to believe that it can reform itself from within. This book shows that it simply can’t. If you are an entrenched member of the hierarchy, you are not going to like this book. If you are a Catholic who believes that truth will lead to change – and that the Vatican needs to change, and change fast – Render unto Rome is your catechism." --James Carville

"A captivating read, Render to Rome is an astounding revelation of the church's financial system, and required reading for those who donate to the church or are interested in the ongoing effort to restore the credibility of the church and its hierarchy." --Sister Joan Chittister, OSB

"Once again Jason Berry is ahead of the curve when it comes to writing about the Catholic Church. Nothing about this book is superficial. This is a prodigiously researched work that looks at the church with both breadth and depth, and it is fascinating." --John M. Barry, author of Rising Tide and The Great Influenza

"As a writer, Jason Berry has the jeweler’s eye for significant detail that combines with the novelist’s art in telling a story; as a reporter and researcher, Berry is thorough, compelling, and complete." --George Fish

From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

"Jason Berry is the rare investigative reporter whose scholarship, compassion, and ability to write with the poetic power of Robert Penn Warren are in perfect balance" — Phyllis Theroux, USA TODAY

Jason Berry achieved prominence for his reporting on the Catholic Church crisis in Lead Us Not Into Temptation (1992), a book used in many newsrooms. He has been widely interviewed in the national media, with many appearances on Nightline, Oprah, ABC and CNN. USA Today called Berry “the rare investigative reporter whose scholarship, compassion and ability to write with the poetic power of Robert Penn Warren are in perfect balance.”   Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II, written with Gerald Renner (2004) has Spanish, Australian and Italian editions. The film he produced based on the book won Best TV Documentary Award at 2008 Docs D.F. -- Mexico City International Festival of Documentary Film.

Jason Berry produces documentaries and writes on culture and politics for many publications. Up From the Cradle of Jazz. a history of New Orleans music, reissued in fall 2009 has new sections on the cultural impact of Hurricane Katrina. His other books include Amazing Grace: With Charles Evers in Mississippi, The Spirit of Black Hawk and Louisiana Faces: Images from A Renaissance with photographs of Philip Gould. He received a 2001 Guggenheim Fellowship for research on jazz funerals and a 1992 Alicia Patterson Journalism Fellowship for reporting on Louisiana demagogues. His play, Earl Long in Purgatory, won a 2002 Big Easy award for Best Original Work in Theatre.

He is also the author of Last of the Red Hot Poppas, a comic novel about Louisiana politics.

Jason Berry lives in New Orleans.


From the Hardcover edition.

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I have read all of Jason Berry's works on the goings-on in the Roman Church. He is an extraordinarily significant contributor to our knowledge of the inner-workings on this anything-but-transparent institution. This latest book, although it seems to me, somewhat "lumpy," in a another invaluable look into what is likely the most secretive aspects of the Roman Church. I know no other work which accomplishes this very difficult task. What he reveals is anything but edifying, but it is essential knowledge. (I am a Roman clergy person, ordained almost 50 years, and even I, at this late stage, was continually aurprised, astounded, and saddened by what Barry reveals. It is essential reading for any Roman Christian.)
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This should be required reading for all Catholics. The excellent research shows how MONEY TALKS in the Vatican and among bishops - and how Fr. Maciel, notorious child-abuser and drug addict, was protected by Sodana because of the money he was able to provide.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars 73 reviews
169 of 194 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Jason Berry's "Render unto Rome" June 15 2011
By Matthew Fox Friends of Creation - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Jason Berry, along with his colleague Gerald Renner (now deceased) will forever be remembered for the solid investigative journalism that revealed the truth about the sordid life of Fr. Maciel Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ so honored and beloved by the late John Paul II. Their book, appropriately titled Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II, was roundly ignored for years by the Vatican and the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith headed by Ratzinger. It demonstrated that letters and formal requests to be heard by victims of Maciel's sexual abuse in seminaries he founded were ignored for years; it makes one weep and outraged at this man's perfidy. Yet, Pope John Paul II was so enamored of Maciel's fund raising prowess and of his all-obedient troops that he took him with him on plane rides to Latin America and ordained fifty-some of his priests in a massive public showing of support in St Peter's square. Ratzinger once commented that it would not be "prudent" to go after Maciel since he had done so much good for the church. Try telling that to the twenty-some seminarians he abused AND the two common law wives he had on the side along with four children, all of whom (boys and one girl) he also abused sexually. Ratzinger as Pope Benedict finally got around to investigating Maciel and his Legion of Christ order which, among other strange and fascist practices, demanded a vow of not speaking badly of the "saintly founder" (that is, Maciel). Maciel was not only a great fund raiser and recruiter for the priesthood, he was also enamored of Pinochet and other right wing dictators.

Now Jason Berry continues his probings into the sordid facts about the Roman Catholic Church in our time. He moves from pedophile scandals to financial scandals in Render to Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church. The two scandals are by no means separate however if one considers how $3 billion of Catholic lay peoples' hard-earned cash has gone into paying lawyers and victims of the pedophile story. Or if one traces the money flow, which Berry does, from parish to bishop and to what is often secret funds. Berry is himself a Roman Catholic; he is not trying to destroy the church but report on it. The hierarchy is destroying the church, not truth-telling reporters. Berry comments that the Vatican's net worth "is invisible." In its 2007 balance sheet it listed the value of St Peter's Basilica and other historic buildings at 1 euro each ($1.47)!

The current Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Bertone, was a lowly canon lawyer picked from obscurity by Ratzinger to investigate the Maciel case; he swore all the victims to secrecy and ended up doing nothing about Maciel. For his loyalty he was named archbishop of Genoa, then Cardinal, and now Secretary of State. While he was ecclesial chief of Genoa he found the time and interest to endorse Maciel's book (since proven to have been lifted 80% from a dead theologian's book--add plagiarism to Maciel's list of sins and crimes). Bertone endorsed it in the most effusive way by writing a celebratory preface to the Italian edition in 2003. To repeat, this same Bertone so enamored of Maciel is now secretary of state for Pope Benedict's Vatican. It is amazing what loyalty will buy.

The previous secretary of state was a certain Cardinal Sadono--the same cardinal who interrupted the Easter Mass in St Peter's Square in 2010 to declare that Ratzinger was being abused by "petty gossipers" who complained that he was not taking action about pedophie priests and bishops and cardinals who cover up for them. It was Sadano who put pressure on Ratzinger at the CDF not to act against Maciel in the first place. This same Sadono had worked in Chile under Pinochet's dictatorship, ever obsequious to his fascist ways even though hundreds of priests, sisters and lay leaders were being tortured and murdered by Pinochet's regime. He approved only those priests for bishop who supported Pinochet. He was the recipient of a special medal given him by Pinochet in 1988. And it was John Paul II (now destined to "sainthood") who handpicked Sadono as secretary of state to manage the Curia and to offer "more hard line resistance" to communism. Berry makes a strong case that Sodano laundered money for his erstwhile nephew and his business partner Follieri who gave money to the Vatican and who is now in prison in New York for fourteen counts of wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. After yielding his job as secretary of state to the great and loyal Bertone, Sadono became dean of the College of Cardinals just in time for the College to vote Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI.

William Casey, the CIA director under Reagan was a right wing Catholic so enamored of Maciel that he and his wife gifted them with a seven figure donation--a plaque honors their bequest in the novitiate in Cheshire, Ct. Casey steered money to the Vatican to support Solidarity in Poland and apparently in return the Vatican went after Liberation Theology and base communities in South America. Casey also fed money to right-wing militias in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, the very militias that murdered five Jesuits and their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador and also Archbishop Romero. Other champions of Marcel included Jeb Bush and Cardinal Rode who was head of Religious Orders in the Vatican and who took vacations in Cancun at the expense of the Legion. Not surprisingly, righteous right-wing Catholic William Bennet, ever on American TV, was also a proud and loud admirer of Maciel.

Berry asks the question: "Why beatify a pope whose faith in Maciel and myopia on the abuse crisis left a trail of human carnage? The rush to spectacle cannot airbrush facts from history." Spectacle is indeed what the present and past papacies love about Television. And the media loves to oblige (ABC hired one of Maciel's Legion of Christ priests to offer commentary for the funeral of the last pope.)

So much for Rome, church headquarters. What about America? The bottom line is that the bishops in their respective dioceses are like medieval princes who rule practically unchecked when it comes to financial matters. Many dioceses have no way of keeping healthy books even if they wanted to keep them. Transparency is rare and often non-existent. Cardinal Law in Boston, for example, famous for his passing pedophile priests from parish to parish and for his promotion to run a fourth century basilica in Rome, took money earmarked for priestly retirements and used it to pay off pedophile claims without telling anyone. The result? The clergy retirement fund is over $104 million in the hole. Law did this secretly before the pedophile scandal broke in 2002. Law currently serves on the Commission in the Vatican that appoints bishops worldwide.

One of his handpicked bishops, Bishop Richard Lennon of Cleveland was famous in Boston where he oversaw "Reconfiguration," i.e. the closing of parishes usually taking into account none of the objections and alternatives of parishoners who held sit ins and sleep ins in certain parishes targeted for closure there. On arriving in Cleveland, Lennon set out to close 53 parishes while more local people felt the number could be limited to fifteen. He did not make himself the most popular cleric in town. In fact, so unbeloved by his flock is Lennon that when he comes to a parish to conduct confirmation he wears a flak jacket (sic!) and is accompanied down the aisle by two policemen. Lennon's plan had no in-put from urban planners, public officials, priests or nuns. It included shutting down eight churches officially designated as historical landmarks.

Berry traces the money trails in the Boston diocese, Cleveland, New Orleans and Los Angeles. A prime example is the most important and historic black parish in New Orleans, built in 1842, that Bishop Hughes (also from Boston and another Law protege) shut down . A near riot among the parishoners eventually got it reopened but the charismatic pastor was exiled to Texas. The point is made that an effort to raise money through appeals to significant black leaders would have done wonders to keep the place open. After all, this was post-Katrina. But the Bishop never tried an appeal like that.

Perhaps the most startling news to me on reading this book (other than the flack-jacketed Bishop) was to hear the facts about Cardinal Mahoney in Los Angeles. Mahoney, Berry points out, was even more duplicitous than Cardinal Law but he was more expert at holding off the legal attacks and his diocese was more flush with cash that he put into legal defense funds against victims of pedophilia. However, charity funds dried up almost entirely. Mahoney was a genius at manipulating the media. Perhaps one expects that of a bishop of Hollywood land. "Mahoney's decisions in recycling perpetrators, and living among them, were more egregious than Bernard Law's scandal. But the media-savvy Mahoney spent heavily on publicity and used his financial muscle to wage the legal fight...ratcheting up an overall final payout of $750 million. But Mahoney was not indicted." (323)

Berry proposes a solution to the legal battles raging over priestly pedophilia offered by Patrick Schiltz, of the St Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis. Why not set up a national tribunal of well-respected people who are completely independent of the church to arbitrated sexual claims against the church. "The most important benefit of this system is that it would let the church and the victim work together in a common cause--achieving a just and healing result--rather than put them against each other through several years of litigation," Schiltz proposes. The idea was offered in 2003; so far the bishops have not come on board. So the litigations continue and, ultimately, "all roads lead to Rome...it all leads to the pope" according to one lawyer deeply involved in such matters.

This is an honest book but a sad one to read. A telling story of the church of Pope John Paul II who "stood passive" and scolded the media , blaming therapists for misleading bishops while the cardinals around him blasted media and lawyers and dug in his heels in stubbornness against the truth coming out. It very much confirms my conviction that a gross "Dumbing Down of the Church" has been consciously orchestrated from the Vatican since John Paul II took over the reigns. This is clear in the theological Inquisitions that occur to this day but also in the appointments of "Yes men" as bishops. One welcomes the truth coming out as painful as that is. Didn't someone once say, "the truth will make you free?" Isn't that Someone the supposed source behind the Christian movement?

At the conclusion of a recent workshop Jason Berry offered on "Render to Rome," a man turned to me and said: "Wait until these facts come out. This will ignite more fire than even the pedophile crisis because it hits closer to home for many Catholics in the pew, people who give money to the church." I suspect he is right. Maybe, as I propose in my book, The Pope's War: How Ratzinger's Secret Crusade Imperiled the Church and How It Can be Saved, pushing the restart button on Christianity is the only solution to the patent sexual, financial and ideological corruption in the highest places of Catholicism at this time in history.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blows the Lid off the Catholic Church's finances July 15 2011
By James A. Husing - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
RENDER UNTO ROME BLOWS THE LID off the Catholic Church's finances. I found the book to be a page turner. I read it in a couple of days. Anyone who reads this book who is a Catholic will reconsider donating any money to the church. They have misspent millions of dollars to pay off years of misconduct by priests and the sexual abuse scandals. I highly recommend this book.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best journalistic report on this subject June 28 2011
By Veritatis gladiator - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"Render Unto Rome", the new powerful book written by a first class journalist, Jason Berry, has given to all men and women of good will a deeper understanding of the dynamics of corruption endemic in some major religions. Among other merits, Jason Berry is a sincere friend and strong defender of the many victims left destroyed by the Rev. Marcial Maciel, the froud, sexual predator and incestous founder of the Legion of Christ.

Jason's factual accuracy, master journalistic style and vast documented research courageously expose the corruption, filth and greed that stains many walls and corridors in the Vatican and sectors of the Catholic church.

Congratulations and kudos to Jason Berry for his tireless resolve in denauncing corruption and deceit, while defending Truth, Integrity and Justice.

Juan J. Vaca
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ALL THE POPE'S MEN July 9 2011
By Jeff Gillenkirk - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Investigative author Jason Berry takes us where few non-clergy -- and no women -- have ever gone: inside the gilded parlors and secret vaults of the Roman Catholic Church. This reverent yet scathing revelation of the crippling financial impact of the Church's widespread pederasty scandal tells a gripping tale through the experiences of dioceses and parishes in Boston, Los Angeles, Cleveland and elsewhere in the U.S. The villains? Arrogant and unbending princes of the Church -- bishops, cardinals and popes -- portrayed in maddening detail, and a non-functioning system of Vatican accountability. The heroes? Devoted and desperate parishoners, priests loyal to Christ and his mission of mercy rather than to corrupt colleagues and the bottom line, and whistleblowers and investigators like Mr. Berry himself. This book reveals the tragic consequences of blind obedience to authorities who insist they speak for God, and the incompetence of oh-so-mortal clergymen, including Popes John Paul II and his successor, Joseph Ratzinger, aka Benedict XVI. This book is a must-read for the faithful, and those who like to be immersed in a real-life saga of Good v. Evil. Get thee to a bookstore and "Render Unto Rome"!
40 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incisive and poetic June 29 2011
By Michael D'Antonio - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
No writer anywhere has devoted more time and energy to understanding the Catholic Church than Jason Berry. The depth of his knowledge and experience are evident here. A solid invetigator, he follows the money to show where the priorities of church leaders lie and he reveals the currents of faith and devotion that move everyday Catholics to hold the hierarchy accountable. Paced like a suspense novel but grounded in documentation, Render Unto Rome is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the modern church as both a religious institution and a power player on the world stage.