Anyone Know Anything About John L. Allen, Jr.?

Does anyone know anything about John L. Allen, Jr.? My husband is reading a book by him called All The Pope’s Men which is supposed to be an insider’s view of the Vatican. Some of the things in this book seem kind of questionable. I’m just wondering if he is someone we should steer clear of.


He’s a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter. Some would tell you that affiliation is a reason to steer clear of him. I disagree.

He’s noted for careful reporting and a good understanding of the Vatican. What is it you find questionable about his book?

Well, it is hard for me to say exactly because my husband is the one reading the book, not me. He is out on the road (truck driver) or he could post himself and be more specific.

I guess in a nutshell, some of the things about the Vatican seem a bit scandalous and made us wonder if he is trying to sell books or if he is reporting accurately. Of course we realize that any book is going to be that person’s particular point of view.

One example was a reference to shootings of the Vatican guards in 1998. I think that was close to how it was put. It sounded more like someone was picking off the Swiss guards at random. However, when I looked it up, it looked as if one guard and his wife were shot by another who then committed suicide.

At any rate, I am not saying anything against the man since I’m not reading the book firsthand. I just know it has brought up many questions and conerns on my husband’s part and as fairly new Catholics we are not familiar with him or with the National Catholic Register in any detail.


I haven’t read the book, but John Allen has a reputation as a good sold reporter.

Remember that the Vatican is a bureaucracy, and like all bureaucracies, there can be found skeletons in the closet.

John Allen has a mixed record. Lately he’s been more careful, but he still often falls into reporting based on very slim evidence or corroboration. In the past however, he saw mostly through his bias and agenda. For instance, he was one of those who slandered then Card. Ratzinger by nicknaming him a Rotweiller.

But don’t take my word on it, he himself acknowledged that here, which says a lot about him in the present.


Don’t know anything about Allen himself but I’ve read that book… or most of it, I couldn’t finish it. But not because there was anything objectionable. His writing style got pretty annoying and he repeats info over and over again. The second half became a real chore to get through.

I did find the first half, where he explains the Vatican ‘bureaucracy’, very helpful. The workings of the Vatican aren’t particularly complicated or mysterious, but they can sure seem like it. He goes through it all very clearly, which is what I was hoping to glean from the book in the first place. In that area, it is a success and I would recommend it to anyone interested.

Definitely nothing in there that should turn anyone off (besides aforementioned annoying writing). He does give opinions, but he makes it clear when doing so. I found some of them pretty enlightening and others not so much.

Thanks for that link Augustine! I especially found the 2nd ‘article’ or whatever you call it quite humbling.

John Allen writes for the National Catholic Reporter, not the National Catholic Register. I know it’s confusing! :wink: There is a huge difference between the two publications. The Reporter publishes articles promoting women’s ordination, or a change in the Church’s teaching on homosexual activity, etc. The Register is on the other end of the spectrum and consciously tries to remain steadfast to the Church’s teachings.

That said, Allen is probably the only one worth reading in the Reporter. He’s not perfect, by any means, but he’s far more balanced than the rest of the Reporter’s writing staff.

Whoops! Thanks for clearing that up for me. My mistake. I’m not familiar with either one but going to take a look at them online. I’m glad to know the difference. I’m sure the Register is much more to my and my hubby’s way of thinking as you have explained them.


I have read this book and have recommended it to others. I have also read other writings by John L. Allen, Jr, and he seems to be a trustworthy source. Like all writers, he has his opinions which may influence his works, and I don’t aways agree with his opinions, but I’d still recommend his book All The Pope’s Men. I think it’s a great aid to understanding an entity (the Pope and the Vatican) that is often greatly misunderstood by many, including educated and sincere Catholics.

Here’s the links:

National Catholic Register :thumbsup:

National Catholic Reporter :mad:

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