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Serving Mammon

Matthew 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

The Vatican recently released their 2010 annual financial report for the Vatican City State (the independent and sovereign country) and the Holy See (the government for the worldwide Catholic Church.). Officials reported that the budget was back in surplus after two years of “red ink” even though donations from the laity (Peter’s Pence) and from the bishops were down “almost one third compared to the previous twelve months.” This shortfall and then some were covered by the IOR, the Vatican Bank, which made a 55-million-euro “donation” to support the pope’s “religious activities.”  It was also noted that income from the IOR appeared in the budget for the first time last year.

Although a public acknowledgement of the Vatican’s dependency on income from the IOR was made only last year, the Catholic Church’s pacts with the devil to produce this revenue – the 1929 Lateran Treaty  with Mussolini provided $92 million as initial funding, the 1933 Concordat  with Hitler provided a reliable stream of revenue (kirchensteuer or church tax) – guaranteed the worse corruption in the Church’s history. Unlike previous Church scandals, this evil is no longer confined to Europe but now extends in support of a global corporatocracy.

From the loss of the Papal States in the late 19th century until the Lateran Treaty which provided the Vatican with its own independent country free from any law or regulation save its own, the headquarters of the Catholic Church was a relatively impoverished institution. After the Treaty, Pope Pius XI put Bernardino Nogara  in charge of Vatican finances. “Nogara insisted that his investments remain unrestricted by religious or doctrinal considerations.” In fact, his investments were free from any moral or ethical restriction and, using a phrase of Pope Paul VI, the “Smoke of Satan” penetrated the Catholic Church.

Under Pius XII, Nogara routinely invested in firms that profited from and enabled the war effort of the Axis powers during World War II. Though these investments were hidden from the Allies (with whom Nogara also transacted), through the use of holding companies and offshore banking centers, under Nogara “like water finding a downhill path, Vatican money found its way to the grisly side of the Holocaust”. Phayer, Michael. 2008. “Papal Capitalism during World War II” in Pius XII, The Holocaust, and the Cold War (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press) pp. 96–133

Being dictators themselves, since the French Revolution popes had considered democratic movements and governments as a threat to their own power. Now the Vatican had vast wealth at its disposal to act as benefactor and promoter of the secular ideologies closest to their own whose leaders were willing to extend privileges and deference to the hierarchs –  European fascists before World War II, and neo-fascists, rightwing terrorists and military dictators in Europe, Latin America and Southeast Asia during the Cold War era (Phayer, 2008). With the end of the Cold War, the Catholic Church could turn its full attention to supporting the neoconservative capture of American wealth  and other national targets of  transnational corporatists, the same financiers providing the Church with seemingly unlimited wealth.

These “masters of the universe” have no religious or moral scruples. They are not buying the pope’s blessing but rather the use of the pope’s worldwide network of clandestine financial facilities.

The IOR “is a unique ‘off shore’ corridor for politicians around the world who want to keep their money away from legal controls…The IOR is like a credit card that ensures privileges to be granted in exchange for political backing, legal provisions and, business support….An off-shore web of deposits made ​​out to charities and non-existent beneficial foundations with cynical names (‘Foundation for poor children’, ‘Fight against Leukemia’), a spider web built in secret for years by Bishop Donato De Bonis, former secretary and successor to [Archbishop Paul] Marcinkus, appointed prelate of the IOR by [Pope John Paul II’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Agostino] Casaroli.”

The same article goes on to point out “the encrypted bank accounts of contractors such as Ferruzzi, secretaries of the popes such as Archbishop Pasquale Macchi, and especially politicians, starting with the then Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti and the first politician convicted in Italy for association with the Mafia, Vito Ciancimino.”

(Giulio Andreotti is a 92-year-old rightwing Italian politician who, since the end of the Second World War, has been in the thick of CIA-financed anti-communism “black-ops” from Operation Gladio  to his friendships with Michele Sindona  and Licio Gelli, architects of the “Strategy of Tension”  – acts of domestic terrorism in Italy which could be falsely blamed on the Communists – and who financed neo-fascists and military dictators in Latin America.)

This is true not only of the Vatican but the Catholic Church throughout the world. The only way we have the above information is from a Vatican insider who left his papers with an Italian journalist. Other reports are few and far between. One article in Spiegel Online notes:

The vicar general of a well-heeled diocese said: “Yes, the assets in the bishop’s see are secret. But perhaps it would be better if you wrote: confidential. “When asked to explain this secretiveness, a spokeswoman of the Diocese of Limburg responded: “That’s just the way it is.” Finally, a representative of the German Bishops’ Conference said: “I don’t want to talk to you about this.”

Writing about the Madgeburg diocese:

Hoping to solve its financial problems, the poverty-stricken diocese, which also has relatively few members, established a stock corporation called Gero AG. To increase earnings from interest and compound interest, Bishop Leo Nowak’s confidants invested in real estate deals, ship partnerships, biogas plants and even controversial research into genetically modified plants. A priest in the administration of the diocese even blessed a greenhouse intended for use with genetically modified plants, in hopes that the church’s pious investment would flourish.

Earlier this year, John L Allen Jr. reported on “one of the most devastating financial disasters in the history of the Church” as described by one “popular Italian media outlet.” A “network of banks, real estate firms, and media companies,” in which three Slovenian dioceses own a controlling share, are “on the brink of collapse, potentially wiping out the savings of thousands of small investors.”

A similar article appeared concerning financial fraud by Fény Ltd., the service administration firm for the Diocese of Pécs, Hungary, owned by the bishop of Pecs’ private foundation.

The story gained widespread attention in March when police seized the computer of a parish priest in a small town within the Pécs diocese. The action was requested by Interpol as a result of German police monitoring. A large cache of child pornography was discovered.

A local newspaper used interest in the arrest to remind its readers that the county prosecutor’s office had announced last October an investigation of the bishop’s financial director, Fr. Gyula Wolf. “The investigation of the diocese appears to have been prompted by a 65-page document submitted to the prosecutor allegedly pointing to over 40 different crimes, including embezzlement, document forgery, and fraud.”

Further allegations involve the disposal of real estate which residents of diocese-operated retirement homes were said to have turned over to Fény Ltd. – and which were subsequently sold at below market rates to Wolf’s circle of friends.  A circle of friends that, by the way, our own sources in Pécs say largely consists of Wolf’s “boyfriends.”

Jason Berry, in his new book, Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church writes of hidden accounts held by Cleveland Bishop Anthony Pilla (pp 221-239) and by clergy and prelates in San Diego (p 322-323).

Try and mentally multiply these few reports by all the bishops, archbishops and cardinals throughout the world – Munich, Bogota, Houston, Vienna, Sydney, New York, Buenos Aires, Prague, Madrid, Quebec, Nairobi, Los Angeles, Milan, Lisbon….. Get the picture?

One Response

  1. I just ordered your book Betty. Wondering if you noted the massive evictions by the Vatican in 2007 of people living in Vatican owned buildings .These tenants had ,for the most part ,lifetime leases and lived on fixed incomes either being retired or disabled. They formed a collective and sued and since then i cannot find a followup. The news articles stated the Vatican planned a massive revamp project to turn the buildings into four or five star hotels for the projected tourist trade expected with the plan to beatify JPII.

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