The Vatican is not holy or flawless as many blind followers believe it to be. It is ruled by a hypocrite who refuses to clean up the house.
Vatican City holds 50 miles of secret documents hidden from the public. No browsing is allowed and no one knows what their contents are. They are hiding a lot of things that are meant to be kept secret, including details about scandals related to pedophilia, homosexuality, corruption, money laundering and the acceptance of payments in exchange for declaring someone a saint are only a few in a long list of cases that the Holy See keeps quiet behind its thick, rocky walls.
It seems, however, that permitting irregular conduct and illegal transactions are admissible for some people, as long as Pope Francis says that he is doing something about it. According to Paul Vallely, a writer for The Guardian, the corrupt and secretive Vatican is led by “an uncompromising, ruthless Pope, who has used a new broom to clean up all the scandals.” Vallely’s statements could not be further from the truth, and he himself says so later in his opinion piece published on 06 November.
Reality shows that, if Pope Francis owns a broom, he has used it only to sweep the scandals under the rug, as supposed to clean them up. Vallely equals minor touch ups as great accomplishments for Francis. For example, instead of doing something about the thousands of child abuse cases that have taken place all over the world or ending with the transfer of drug money through the Vatican Bank’s accounts, the Pope has ordered the detention of a cleric that supposedly helped leak secretive details about the Vatican’s dishonesty.
The scandals that rock the Vatican today are not new or unique, however, that is not a reason to forget about them. Vatican City has seen numerous and continuous cases of corruption that date back to Nazi Germany. Bishop Alois Hudal, a man in charge of a priest training college openly spoke about his support for the Nazis. “A recently discovered telegram between Hudal and Hitler only incriminates the priest further,” explains Listverse.com. The Vatican Bank, popularly disguised as the Institute for the Works of Religion, became a household name for scandals that began with the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano in the 1980s.
The Catholic bank facilitated unsecured loans to shadow Panamanian companies, with transactions that ended up with the collapse of the Ambrosiano Bank. Even after denying any wrongdoing in the matter, the Vatican Bank was forced to pay $224 million to creditors. Behind the collapse of Ambrosiano were found practices to launder money for Italian mafia gangs. The bank’s chairman, Roberto Calvi, either hung himself or was murdered in connection with this scandal. He was found hanging from the Blackfriars Bridge in London with bricks in his pockets.
Corruption at the Vatican Bank has been followed by accusations of prostitution rings and gay networks. Angelo Balducci, a member of the “Gentlemen of His Holiness,” an elite group inside the Vatican was involved in a scandal whose allegations included corruption and running a gay prostitution ring. “Italian authorities first stumbled onto the prostitution ring while investigating Balducci, a moderately prominent businessman, over corruption allegations. Wiretap transcripts published by Italian newspaper La Repubblica revealed detailed conversations between Balducci and Ehiem about the ring,” reported Listverse.com on 14 July, 2014.
The Church has been shaken by its own associations with powerful criminal organizations in Italy, including the Sicilian Mafia, the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta and Campanian Camorra. Not only did the Vatican refused to denounce the crimes of the Mafia, but also denied that the Mafia even existed. The Vatican’s relations with the Mafia began in the early 1900s, as the Church sought to deal with alternative powers to the Italian government in an attempt to fight its authority. Pope Francis has been mild mannered on the issue saying that Mafia members should repent for their sins.
The Vatican has also been involved in child trafficking. Vatican-run hospitals used to take newborns from the hands of their mothers, claiming that they had died during birth or immediately after labor. Doctors, nurses and priests were involved in a scheme to later sell the babies to other families for large sums of money. It is estimated that some 300,000 children were stolen from their parents to be sold as merchandise.
What do the Vatileaks reveal?
The expenses are out of control. Documents show that accounts belonging to Popes Paul VI and John Paul I in the Vatican Bank were loaded with cash and that the Church owns more than 5,000 properties only in the city of Rome.
The new controversial documents from the filtration known as Vatileaks II, ended with the arrests of priest Lucio Balda and Francesca Chaouqui.
The Spanish priest, linked to Opus Dei, remains under arrest while the former Vatican adviser claims she is innocent of any wrongdoing.
The first and second Vatileaks have a man in common. Journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi. He was the writer of the book His Holiness, with leaks from Paolo Gabrielli, Pope Benedict XVI’s butler, who revealed documents later published in the book. Gabrielli is still in prison for his alleged role in revealing details about Vatican scandals.
On Thursday two more books were published. Both are based on documents allegedly leaked by Vatican insiders. Via Crucis and Avarizia by Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi. Both reveal irregularities in the finances of the Holy See and the persistence of privileges.
The books also talk about tensions in the Vatican and the serious economic problems in its pension system. As of February 2014 the pension fund showed a deficit of around 800 million euros. In response, and as a good bureaucrat, the Pope decided to create a commission to investigate the economic and administrative offices of the Holy See, the same office that was coordinated by the Spanish priest now in prison.
Vatileaks documents show that “there is a total lack of transparency in the balance sheets of the Holy See.” The documents include transcripts of private conversations between the Pope and some cardinals. Francis says in these recordings that “the expenses are out of control” and that “10 million have been lost in a misguided investment in Switzerland”.
In the transcripts, documents show details of a conversation between Pope Francis and the bursar of the archdiocese of Buenos Aires, who had invested “in a society that manufactured weapons” when Francis was archbishop of the capital of Argentina.
Another document reveals that money collected at Peter’s Pence, the institution that manages donations for the Pope’s charity, is almost entirely “on the red”. In 2012, 14.1 million euros went to charitable causes while 28.9 million went to cover the expenses of the organization. It is also noted the existence of property leases at bargain prices, which facilitated ways for cardinals and members of the Holy See to live in luxury apartments exceeding 200 square meters. This contrasts with the austerity mentality often boasted by Pope Francis.
In the Institute for Works of Religion, the Vatican Bank, the Vatican holds accounts for non-religious members with sums as high as $296 and $125 million dollars, respectively. The Bambino Gesu Foundation, created to help a pediatric hospital that is managed by the Vatican, used funds to reform the attic of the office of former Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, after his retirement was made effective.
“The foundation, defined as a vehicle for raising funds for assistance, research and humanitarian activities of the Bambino Gesu paid an invoice for a total of 200,000 euros,” says Nuzzi on the contentious issue of the Bertone apartment. This foundation also funds expenses such as the rental of “a helicopter to the tune of 23,800 euros,” says the author in the book.
Expenses incurred by the members of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, such as Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Economic Secretariat, amount to “a half million euros in six months.” The Vatican has properties in Rome that have been valued at “4 billion euros.” He adds that he has had access to a document written “in English and Italian that explains how Cardinal Pell intended” to show “for the first time the true value of all real estate owned by the institutions of the Vatican.”
According to these documents, the Holy See “has properties worth 160 million euros”. A confidential document from the commission investigating the economic and administrative offices of the Holy See, dated January 7, 2014 “specifies that properties are recorded at acquisition cost or as donations, and many institutional buildings are said to be worth one euro. Therefore it is expected that the actual value is higher “.
The author estimated that the real value of these properties, -5,000 in the Italian capital- may amount to “four billion euros.” The Vatican Bank has not given the Bank of Italy the list of people who have been involved in cases of capital evasion, “despite having promised” to do so. “In the Italian prosecutors office, in Rome first, and in the Bank of Italy people have been wondering for some time whether the suspicious accounts were finally closed, or only blocked or if the monies are kept safe in the vaults of the Vatican” writes the author.
The Vatican has over thirty million euros in gold bullion and 33 million at the US Federal Reserve.
“The Universal Church has a moral and ethical commitment, especially for believers, but also for non-believers and agnostics and I hope that the Pope acts to validate this ethical commitment,” the author added.
The official Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, said that the information stolen from the Holy See and leaked to the media, as well as two books published on Thursday, contain information that is “already known” and regretted that the dissemination of documents does not recognize the Pope’s transparency.
“The publication of bulks of different information, largely linked to a phase of already outdated issues without the necessary possibility of deepening and objective assessment results in the creation of the impression that there is a permanent reign of confusion and lack of transparency” lamented Father Lombardi at a press conference at the Vatican.
“So it is not recognized at all the value and effort with which the Pope and his collaborators have faced and continue to face the challenge of improving the use of temporal goods at the service of the spiritual work,” he assured. “However, this is what should be appreciated and encouraged as a work with the correct information to adequately meet the expectations of public opinion and the demands of truth.”
In his speech, Lombardi noted that “in the course of time these issues return periodically, but are always a matter of curiosity or controversy”, which “deepen the seriousness of the situation”.
Lombardi reiterated that “much of what has been published is the result of dissemination of news and documents, already reserved and therefore illegal, for that reason, it is criminally prosecutable according to the decision of the competent authorities of the Vatican”.
Lombardi has stated that “a lot of information of this nature must be studied, understood and interpreted with care and balance”.
“Goods that, taken together, seem huge, actually have to sustain very broad service activities whose management is the responsibility of the Holy See or institutions connected with it, both in Rome and in the various parts of the world,” he explained, while indicating that the origin of the ownership of these goods” is diverse.
Therefore, he described as an “objective and incontrovertible reality” aspects driven by the Pope as “the reorganization of economic dicasteries, the appointment of the Auditor General, the proper functioning of the institutions responsible for monitoring the economic and financial activities, etc”.
How much does Sainthood cost?
Another aspect of the scandal surrounding the Vatican is the payment of bribes to expedite canonization. According to research, Francis limited those payments, but did not eliminate the outrageous fees in cases where the Church was to proclaim new saints.
Apparently, one of the first objectives of the “cleaning operation” launched by Francis after being elected pope in March 2013, was the “saint factory”.
For years, researchers have known of the outrageous cost of many causes of beatification and canonization, around which flourished a lucrative business run by well-connected professionals.
This reality has reemerged with the new scandal generated over the leaked documents and the two books just published.
Both Avarizia, from Emiliano Fittipaldi, and Via Crucis, from Gianluigi Nuzzi, present long chapters devoted to analyzing the performance of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the measures taken by Francis.
According to the Corriere della Sera, the Vatican gendarmerie has been investigating accounts of the Institute for Works of Religion, the Vatican Bank, under suspicions of collecting bribes from proponents of causes of beatification and canonization in exchange for speeding up the processes that would lead a person to be turned into a Saint.
In January 2014, by order of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Vatican began to enforce new “reference rates” to curb the escalation of prices on the causes of new saints. In other words, Pope Francis is still allowing the purchase of sainthood, just at lower rates.
The process to select and declare someone a Saint can be lengthy and complex. But such complexity can be cleared up with the right amount of money. In addition to administrative charges, fees payable to a postulator (authorized by the Holy See lawyer), are part of the process that results in the declaration of sainthood. Additional extravagances may raise the final bill. Among them are the cost of travel, medical examinations (about miracles), consultancies with theologians, reports, translations, printing and even discrete gifts to influential prelates.
Fittipaldi’s book cites the case of Mallorca’s Francina Aina dels Dolors (Francina Cirer Aina Carbonell), founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity, whose cause would have spent almost 500,000 euros until October 2013. Via Crucis reports on the record cost of a beatification of the Italian philosopher Antonio Rosmini, in 2007. There was a disbursement of a whopping 750,000 euros.
The pontificate of John Paul II, who was named a Saint in April last year was the golden age of the proponents and those who make their living with beatifications and canonizations.
In 27 years there were 1,338 new blesseds and 482 saints. One of the best known proponents, “the undisputed prince -according to Avarizia- is Andrea Ambrosi, followed by Silvia Correale. Fittipaldi qualified the former as “professionally reserved, able to beatify dozens, including monks and martyrs, priests and nuns, laity and religious, emperors and cardinals”. The Ambrosi family also owned a printing press in Rome where documents are usually issued for causes.
According to Nuzzis’s book, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints was one of the most reluctant and slow to collaborate on financial transparency demanded by the new times.
The books that resulted from the Vatileaks 2 documents, provide juicy details about IOR investments, gold reserves, the vast real estate assets owned by the Holy See -some with more than 500 square meters- which Cardinals have turned into their palaces.
It is noteworthy to remember that the Holy See also owns very prestigious urban properties in Paris and in Switzerland. Based on the leaked documents which have at no time been denied by the Vatican, but only denounced for having been obtained “illicitly” the Holy See has acquired through the French company Sopridex Sa, the exclusive property known as Vendôme that had among its tenants the late French President, François Mitterrand and former Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. Other buildings are located on the Champs Elysees and Montparnasse.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, former Secretary of State, has denied the allegations published on the books that name him as one of the few that have benefited from the Vatican’s wealth. In an interview with Corriere della Sera, the cardinal said that 300,000 euros were needed to reform the property and that he knows nothing about the other 200,000 euros which came from the Foundation Children’s Hospital Child Jesus.
Bertone said he was a victim of media persecution. The Cardinal specified that his apartment has 295 square meters which he must share with the three nuns at his service. The property includes a secretary’s office, a library and an archive. Bertone denied the upper deck is his. “I do not live in luxury,” he said. But Bertone and other cardinals increasingly struggle to justify their homes when the Pope lives in a study of 50 square meters.
While those who seek to keep the Vatican’s scandals secret say that the latest revelations are an effort to undermine the Vatican, the Church and the Pope, the truth is that, now that the Vatican’s corruption scandals have been made public, there is less of a reason to keep the details of those scandals secret. If there is anything that can be drawn from the content of the leaked documents is that now, more than ever, Pope Francis has a new opportunity to come clean and to speak clearly with his followers. Secrecy is no longer an option and the faith of millions of people is at stake.