An authoritative overview of Pope Francis’ challenge to American hegemony.

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A Roman Catholic journalist surveys the diplomatic agenda of Pope Francis in this political book.

Since the United States colonization of the Catholic-majority Philippines, writes Gaetan, the U.S.–Vatican relationship has been defined by “mutual skepticism between empires with deeply divergent worldviews.” Even when there have been moments of public cooperation, such as President Ronald Reagan’s partnership with Pope John Paul II in the Polish Solidarity movement, the Vatican’s refusal to “defer to the American view” of international relations has consistently defined their relationship. Even more than his predecessors, Pope Francis has vocally challenged America’s moral standing on issues that range from climate change and immigration to global finance and international arms deals. And though President Barack Obama’s relationship with the pontiff was “largely respectful,” the author describes a clandestine intelligence campaign spearheaded by the U.S. to discredit Jorge Bergoglio in the years preceding his becoming Pope Francis. But it was during President Donald Trump’s administration when Washington’s previously hushed critiques of the Vatican came to the fore. In particular, Senior Counselor to the President Steve Bannon (a paradoxical “thrice-divorced” traditional Catholic) launched a multimillion-dollar tour of European capitals and a right-wing media blitz to discredit Pope Francis. While the American establishment’s distrust of the Vatican is well covered in this engaging narrative, what makes this book special is its disclosure of the “behind-the-scenes” and “discreet” diplomatic actions of Pope Francis in China, Africa, and Eastern Europe that reveal the chasm of differences that exists between American and Vatican foreign policy. In a series of case studies of specific, 21st-century international conflicts, Gaetan convincingly demonstrates the pope’s keen diplomatic talents that effectively exploited “America’s loss of prestige” to pursue “alternative solutions” to world peace. As an international correspondent for the National Catholic Registerand contributor to Foreign Affairs, the author blends his expertise of geopolitics with access to the Vatican’s inner circles. This is an impressively well-researched book that features interviews with leading diplomatic insiders as well as information from the U.S. and Vatican archives. Though perhaps unnecessarily ad hominemin its barbs against the pope’s right-wing critics, this work delivers a superb analysis of his often unheralded diplomacy.

An authoritative overview of Pope Francis’ challenge to American hegemony.

Pub Date: July 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5381-5014-6

Page Count: 476

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2022


Dillard’s story reflects maturity and understanding from someone who was forced to mature and understand too much too soon.

A measured memoir from a daughter of the famous family.

Growing up in the Institute of Basic Life Principles community, which she came to realize was “a cult, thriving on a culture of fear and manipulation,” Duggar and her 18 siblings were raised never to question parental authority. As the author recalls, she felt no need to, describing the loving home of her girlhood. When a documentary crew approached her father, Jim Bob, and proposed first a series of TV specials that would be called 17 Kids and Counting (later 18 and 19 Kids and Counting), he agreed, telling his family that this was a chance to share their conservative Christian faith. It was also a chance to become wealthy, but Jill, who was dedicated to following the rules, didn’t question where the money went. A key to her falling out with her family was orchestrated by Jim Bob, who introduced her to missionary Derick Dillard. Their wedding was one of the most-watched episodes of the series. Even though she was an adult, Jill’s parents and the show continued to expect more of the young couple. When they attempted to say no to filming some aspects of their lives, Jill discovered that a sheet of paper her father asked her to sign the day before her wedding was part of a contract in which she had unwittingly agreed to full cooperation. Writing about her sex offender brother, Josh, and the legal action she and Derick had to take to get their questions answered, Jill describes how she was finally able—through therapy, prayer, and the establishment of boundaries—to reconcile love for her parents with Jim Bob’s deception and reframe her faith outside the IBLP.

Dillard’s story reflects maturity and understanding from someone who was forced to mature and understand too much too soon.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781668024447

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: yesterday

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023


If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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