I know that the Holy Spirit protects the Church from doctrinal and moral error; and I know that human officials in the Church sometimes say or do things that I find baffling. Is there any resource available that explains the inner workings of the Vatican in a fair and reasonable manner?
I highly recommend All the Pope’s Men by John L. Allen Jr. Allen is the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, and, although he describes in the book his personal view of Catholicism to be left-leaning moderate, he strives in this book to present Church officials by the worldview that shapes them and not himself. Here at Catholic Answers we are committed to what has been dubbed “transparent apologetics”: giving the public what the Church teaches and keeping our own opinions out of the mix or clearly labeling them as opinion. Allen’s book achieves what might be dubbed “transparent journalism”: he reports without influencing the reporting with his own opinion.
The book is especially helpful in understanding the hows and whys of Church officials’ responses to the clerical abuse scandal and the Iraqi war. It should be on the must-read list of every budding apologist. If you want to read more by Allen, who is generally a trustworthy commentator on the Vatican, his weekly column can be found here and the archives for the column can be found here.