Citing emails, minutes of meetings, recorded private conversations and memos, Merchants in the Temple paints a picture of a Vatican bureaucracy entrenched in a culture of mismanagement, waste and secrecy. Pope Francis has repeatedly and publicly warned the Roman Curia against engaging in “intrigue, gossip, cliques, favouritism and partiality” and acting more like a royal court than an institution of service. Last Christmas he delivered an infamous dressing down of his closest collaborators, citing the “15 ailments of the Curia” that included living “hypocritical” double lives and suffering from “spiritual Alzheimer’s.” The book details how at a designated time each year, Catholic parishes worldwide take up a special collection known as St. Peter’s Pence, funneling tens of millions of dollars to the Vatican with the aim of aiding the poor and needy. According to confidential files obtained by leading Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, rather than going to aid the poor, most of the cash is used to pay salaries and plug deficits at the Holy See. There is a “black hole” in the St. Peter’s Pence fund, and only a small portion of the cash makes it to those who need it most. Rather, the book documents lavish spending habits, mismanagement and a lack of accountability suggest the offerings are emblematic of larger problems within the ancient city-state in Italy.