Render Unto Rome
The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church
By Jason Berry
(Crown, Hardcover, 9780385531320, 432pp.)
Publication Date: June 7, 2011
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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AN INVESTIGATION OF EPIC FINANCIAL INTRIGUE, RENDER UNTO ROME EXPOSES THE SECRECY AND DECEIT THAT RUN COUNTER TO THE VALUES OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.
The Sunday collection in every Catholic church throughout the world is as familiar a part of the Mass as the homily and even Communion. There is no doubt that historically the Catholic Church has been one of the great engines of charity in history. But once a dollar is dropped in that basket, where does it go? How are weekly cash contributions that can amount to tens of thousands of dollars accounted for? Where does the money go when a diocese sells a church property for tens of millions of dollars? And what happens when hundreds of millions of dollars are turned over to officials at the highest ranks, no questions asked, for their discretionary use? The Roman Catholic Church is the largest organization in the world. The Vatican has never revealed its net worth, but the value of its works of art, great churches, property in Rome, and stocks held through its bank easily run into the tens of billions. Yet the Holy See as a sovereign state covers a mere 108 acres and has a small annual budget of about $280 million.
No major book has examined the church’s financial underpinnings and practices with such journalistic force. Today the church bears scrutiny by virtue of the vast amounts of money (nearly $2 billion in the United States alone) paid out to victims of clergy abuse. Amid mounting diocesan bankruptcies, bishops have been selling off whole pieces of the infrastructure—churches, schools, commercial properties—while the nephew of one of the Vatican’s most powerful cardinals engaged in a lucrative scheme to profiteer off the enormous downsizing of American church wealth.
"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.
"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