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Vatican Financial Transparency – Don’t Believe It

Outrage against the Catholic Church’s global and systemic torture of children peaked in 2010. There were reports that Pope Benedict XVI failed to act against pedophiles while he was archbishop of Munich and Freising and as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa gave a Good Friday sermon with the pope in attendance comparing the anger at sexual abuse scandals to persecution of the Jews. On Easter Sunday, Cardinal Angelo Sodano told Benedict among others that the news reports were “petty gossip.” World opinion of the Catholic Church plummeted even further after damning government reports were issued by a Philadelphia grand jury report and in Ireland. 

The Vatican stated in May 2011 it was taking action. A letter was written to bishops’ conferences around the world which didn’t already have a “coordinated and effective program” in place “to prepare policies and guidelines for dealing with cases of clerical sexual abuse of children” and to have them drafted by May 2012. In November, the Vatican issued guidelines to the bishops encouraging them to develop “effective, quick, articulated, complete and decisive plans for the protection of children, bringing perpetrators to justice and assisting victims.” The Vatican claimed the guidelines represented a “very important new step” towards regaining “full credibility.”  

On July 11, 2012, Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s top investigator of clerical sex abuse, said “most of the bishops’ conferences around the world have missed a Vatican deadline on drawing up anti-abuse guidelines….that all those who did not send in their proposed guidelines would be getting ‘a letter of reminder.’” Furthermore, “evaluating each country’s proposed policies and guidelines for dealing with cases of clerical sexual abuse of minors will take ‘at least a year,’ and that process will not begin until after the summer.”  

As regards Vatican finances, Vaticano S.p.A. (Vatican Inc.), a best-selling book in Italy by Gianluigi Nuzzi published in 2009, revealed internal documents given to Nuzzi by a whistleblower showing the Vatican Bank to be “a unique ‘off shore’ corridor for politicians around the world who want to keep their money away from legal controls….The IOR [the Italian acronym for the bank] is like a credit card that ensures privileges to be granted in exchange for political backing, legal provisions and business support.”  

 His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Pope Benedict XVI, also by Gianluigi Nuzzi and published this past spring, contains a new set of Vatican documents turned over to Nuzzi by Paolo Gabriele, the pope’s valet, and others. “The problem of child molestation in America is described in the documents as a simple financial issue: all the money to be paid to the accusers to avert humiliating public trials public.” In addition to “the array of details about smear campaigns, corruption, intrigue, ungodly ambition, ties with the underworld, and sexual scandal” among the Vatican hierarchs. the documents also expose “money laundering and threats.”  

IOR president Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, after being ousted on May 24, 2012, said he was fired “because he got too close to the truth about the bank’s shady dealings.” Gotti Tedeschi, who was personally selected by Pope Benedict for this position, further explained that “he found the bank’s record much worse than he could have imagined, and that he spent the last two years struggling endlessly against the Vatican’s powerful forces whom he says blocked his every attempt at transparency.”   

This time in a “very important new step” towards regaining “full credibility,” the Vatican requested that the Council of Europe’ Moneyval committee of financial experts audit its internal controls. A week after Scicluna’s admission of non-compliance with no consequences, the committee issued its report evaluating the measures put in place to prohibit money-laundering and terrorist financing. “Those findings undercut conspiracy theories,” declared National Catholic Reporter senior correspondent John L. Allen Jr. although the Moneyval committee clearly stated that no action had actually yet been taken by the Vatican to discover criminal financial transactions and that these internal regulations would have no independent oversight since the Vatican is a sovereign state.  

Yesterday it was reported that the Vatican hired a Swiss anti-money-laundering expert, Rene Brülhart, as a consultant “to strengthen the Holy See’s framework to fight financial crimes.”  “One of the areas where Brülhart will have to focus his attention is the Vatican’s new Financial Intelligence Authority which received a failing grade [from the Moneyval committee]”  

Brülhart’s credentials are impressive. But like the Moneyval committee, the man cannot evaluate what he cannot see. Even as a “consultant” you can be sure he will not have access to whatever the Vatican doesn’t want him to look at. Just like the Vatican’s pretense of a response to its worldwide aiding and abetting child torture, it’s difficult to believe that this pretense of a response to financial crimes is anything but another PR move.

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