Vaticanologist or Vaticanist is a term coined in the mid-to-late twentieth century to describe journalists, academics, and commentators whose area of expertise is in studying and understanding the manner by which the Holy See and the Roman Catholic Church operate. Particular emphasis is placed on the selection and appointment mechanisms by which the Church's leadership emerges. Vaticanology is the field in which Vaticanists and Vaticanologists function.
It owes its origins to the term Kremlinologist, which was used to describe media, academic and commentary experts who followed the function of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in general and the functioning and selection of the leadership elite in particular.
Both the Kremlin and the Holy See operated in a great degree of secrecy and mystery, hence the attention paid to "experts" who were presumed to be able to read subtle nuances indicating who was on the "way up", who was on the "way down" and who were the "ones to watch" within their leadership elites.
Famous Vaticanologist include the author and commentator Peter Hebblethwaite, who wrote biographies of (among others) Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI, as well as a best-selling account of the events of 1978 in Year of Three Popes. Robert Blair Kaiser was a noted contributor in the field, who did much reporting on the Second Vatican Council for TIME.
In 2005, with the first papal election in the age of the continuous news cycle and the internet, many Vaticanologists became prominent through their wide dissemination both on television and in online publications. Blogs have become a popular means for amateur Vatican watchers to share their thoughts and "insights".