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Vatican Inc.’s Future Secured by Pope Francis

Worldwide banking and financial activities” is a Vatican industry as noted in the CIA Factbook. While the pope has announced one commission to study his Church’s global sex abuse of children, he has created four commissions, hired 6 internationally-renowned consulting firms, and appointed additional clerical allies to make sure that not only his treasure is suitably-managed and expertly-reported but also that every penny is under his control.

Unanimously termed as “cleaning up,” “cleaning house,” “reforming” Vatican finances by the corporate and Catholic media, none have reported whether any of the above has a track record ensuring moral or ethical business practices. Neither have they noted why the pope made changes nor what alternatives were available. Continue reading

A Catholic Right Double Standard — Koch Style

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, DC recently set off a firestorm by accepting a $1 million grant for its new School of Business and Economics from the Charles Koch Foundation.  Progressive minded organizations such as Faith in Public Life called on CUA to return the money, noting how Charles Koch’s extreme libertarianism is far out of step with Catholic social teaching on economics.

Many on the Catholic Right responded by slamming Faith in Public Life  for being funded in part by philanthropist George Soros, who they point out is an atheist. But if George Soros’ belief (or in his case, non-belief) is in play, why isn’t the same standard applied to Charles Koch?

Movement conservatives — especially those on the Religious Right, are often quick to point out that the famous philanthropist, George Soros, is an atheist. It is as if that automatically renders him evil or has anything much to do with his social and political views. Soros is not evangelical about his atheism. Indeed, he was active in supporting movements that brought down the Soviet Union’s Eastern European empire – which was founded upon an overt hostility toward religion. The goal of ending Soviet hegemony was one Soros shared with conservatives including the late Pope John Paul II. I suspect that there are reasons other than atheism why conservatives hate Soros (more on that later).

So when Faith in Public Life organized a protest letter signed by Catholic educators that eloquently pointed out the hypocrisy of the Catholic University of America taking money from the Charles Koch Foundation, supporters of the new School of Business and Economics immediately changed the subject to the atheism of George Soros.

Consider this Bill Donohue excerpt from a December 18, 2013 Catholic League press release:

George Soros is an atheist billionaire who is no friend of the Catholic community. In fact, he funds causes that the Catholic Church works hard to oppose: abortion, euthanasia, drug legalization, and many other radical initiatives.

Those who signed the letter against Catholic University of America are the ones who need to explain why they would align themselves with the likes of George Soros. And if they like what he funds, they should have the guts to say so.

Another conservative web site, The Blaze, was more direct, asking in its title story, “Why Is Atheist George Soros Giving Money to a Faith Group?”. And as if to top himself, in a letter to the website LifeNews, Donohue described Faith in Public Life as an organization “…that lives off the bounty of the left-wing atheist billionaire, Mr. Soros.”

But if the Catholic Right is going to use George Soros’ atheism – as well as some of the causes he funds — as the barometer of his morality then the very same standard needs to be applied to another politically active billionaire, Charles Koch.

A thorough search of Charles Koch fails to turn up anything clear about his religious beliefs. Indeed, there is no record of a religious affiliation or of him publicly discussing faith at all. For all we know, he too may be an atheist. More importantly, like Soros, his religious views do not necessarily determine his overall morality. And yet a double standard is in play.

Let’s begin with Bill Donohue’s complaint that Soros funds causes “the Catholic Church works hard to oppose,” such as drug legalization. A simple Google search reveals that when it comes to drug legalization Charles Koch and George Soros appear be on the same page. When it comes to same-sex marriage – vehemently opposed by the Catholic Right — the Koch-funded Cato Institute has openly supported the idea. (Charles Koch was a founder of Cato).

And yet there is not a peep of protest from Donohue or LifeNews; there is no one on the Right calling into question Koch’s religious beliefs, let alone his inconsistencies with conservative Catholic dogma.

But when it comes to business and economics it is clear that Soros is the one more in line with Catholic social teaching. Indeed, his views overlap with those of Pope Francis more than those of Andrew Abela, the dean of the CUA business school.  Abela has ties to the very libertarian Acton Institute think tank. He is also a member of the Thomas Monaghan founded Legatus, an organization whose membership is limited to very conservative Catholic chief executives. It should be noted that Legatus lists five “non-negotiables” for voters; opposition to marriage equality was one of the five listed items.

So why is it that movement conservatives so dislike George Soros? I suspect it has less to do with religion and more with economics.

Soros is a proponent of regulating financial markets.  He is also a Keynesian who has made lots of money using the British economist’s theories. His concept of Reflexivity draws much from Keynes’s  belief that financial markets often act more irrationally than rationally.  This is heresy to libertarians like Charles Koch and his acolytes.

It is libertarian gospel that markets are rational and efficient and that regulation is counterproductive. They devoutly believe this in spite of the fact that science is proving them wrong and Keynes (and by extension, Soros) was correct. Soros is living proof against their claim that Keynesian capitalism does not work. That, in their view makes him a traitor to his class.

I have long contended that what truly concerns many in the Catholic Right is not religious morality, per se. Instead, inconsistencies such as I have described above points in a different direction: how their own faith can be bent to better serve the laissez-faire principles of economics that lead to inequality.

Indeed, all of the noise about George Soros is really just a distraction.

Soros does not require his grantees to be or to become atheists. Nor is there any evidence that the good people from a variety of religious traditions who work at Faith in Public Life (including Catholics) would have accepted the funds if they came with that string attached.  I’m sure the same is true of the recipients of grants from Charles Koch.  

What is important here is that Faith in Public Life is encouraging the broad tradition of Catholic social teaching on economics that Charles Koch and apparently the business school at CUA oppose.  If Donohue were a consistent defender of the Church he would join with Soros and Faith in Public Life, not denounce them.

Sex Abuse – Just Another PR Opportunity for Pope Francis

A Vatican delegation received what was widely reported as a “grilling” at a hearing conducted by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on Jan. 16. They feigned concern for victims of sexual abuse, evaded questions, hyped the Church’s continuous too-little-too-late response and gave assurances that Pope Francis will do better from now on. Like claims that the pope is “cleaning up” Vatican finances, examining his actions reveals attitudes 180 degrees different than his rhetoric.

Here’s what the corporate media reported:

AP and TIME:

The Vatican has acknowledged there can be “no excuse” for child abuse….Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative in Geneva, says “such crimes can never be justified” whether committed at home, school, sports activities or in religious organizations and structures….Tomasi told a U.N. committee Thursday the Holy See welcomes any suggestions that could help it in promoting and encouraging the respect of the rights of the child.

 

 NPR:

The Holy See gets it,” Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s former sex crimes prosecutor, told the committee. “Let’s not say too late or not. But there are certain things that need to be done differently.” …. “Abusers are found among members of the world’s most respected professions, most regrettably including members of the clergy and other church personnel,” Tomasi said.

 

CBS:

[O]fficials conceded that more needs to be done and promised to build on progress already made to become a model for others, given the scale of the problem and the role the Holy See plays in the international community.

 

Scicluna stated in a followup interview:

[The hearing in Geneva] gave the Holy See an opportunity to respond to the Committee’s concerns regarding child abuse, to reaffirm its commitment to protect children and minors throughout the Catholic Church and all its institutions, and explain how it is doing so….And so I think it has been a very positive dialogue because the Holy See, as sovereign of Vatican City State and as central organ of government of the Catholic Church around the world, shares the high values of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Committee is very anxious to promote these values and we are on the same page. We had the opportunity, which was I think very important, to express our commitment with the teachings and the guidance of the recent Holy Fathers on the question of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy. And we are also very grateful for the input of the Committee; that input will also help the setting up the working of the Commission for the Protection of Minors announced by the Holy Father at the beginning of December.

 

The foreign press were less deferential: 

The Irish Times:

The Holy See appeared to emerge with a clean bill of health from a hearing of the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child in Geneva yesterday.

The 5½-hour session ended with a deal of mutual back slapping as one UN delegate expressed satisfaction about a “positive dialogue”, while another said that the Vatican’s presentation indicated that “new steps” were being taken, steps which represented a “new era, a new dawn for the Holy See.” That the spotlight never actually became uncomfortable was a tribute both to the skill of the Vatican delegation and to the UN Committee’s modus operandi.

 Germany’s Deutsche Welle: Vatican response ‘fails smell test for ordinary people’ 

Venezuela’s El Nacional: The Vatican at the UN today dodged providing detailed information on issues relating to sexual abuse of minors by clergy in a rhetorical exercise in which it attempts to demonstrate determination to prevent new offenses.  Venezuela

 Spain’s El Pais: The Vatican still does not take responsibility for sexual abuse

 

The pope’s representatives made other assertions on Jan. 16, easier understood when the five members of the delegation are identified:

  • Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the pope’s representative at the United Nations “where the Holy See has played serious hardball against women’s human rights for 50 years.” 
  • Auxiliary Bishop of Malta, Charles Sciluna, former prosecutor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith who decided cases involving laicization of priests. He was replaced in Dec. 2012 by Fr. Robert W. Oliver, an American who previously served as canon (Church law) lawyer in the Boston Archdiocese protecting the rights of priests accused of sexual abuse. 
  • Vincenzo Buonomo, Professor of International Law at the Pontifical Lateran University.
  • Jane Adolphe, professor at Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Florida, an expert in international law  assigned to the Vatican Secretariat of State. Tom Monaghan, business mogul and “national power broker for GOP Catholic candidates,”   founded both the town of Ave Maria and the university to bring about “his vision for a new and righteous America founded upon strict Catholic values.”  Adolphe wrote a paper classifying struggles in the U.N. for gay and women’s rights as “Gender Wars,” i.e. “lobbying efforts to promote a radical understanding of “gender. ”
  • Greg Burke, former Fox News correspondent and Vatican senior communications advisor accompanied the group.

The only one with any experience on the subject of sex abuse was Scicluna and only from the Vatican’s point of view. 

BishopAccountability.org, a group dedicated to documenting the sex abuse crisis, noted five significant moments of the hearing.

  1. For the first time, the Vatican had to admit publicly that it still does not require the reporting of child sex crimes to civil authorities. Nor does it take this step when priests are defrocked.
  2. The Holy See still has refused to provide the data requested. On July 1, the United Nation’s Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) sent a request to the pope for “detailed information on all cases of child sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy, brothers or nun” for the past fifteen years and set November 1 as a deadline for a reply.
  3. The Holy See appears to have no intention of extraditing Archbishop Józef Wesołowski to either the Dominican Republic or Poland, being accused of with sex abuse of minors in both countries.  Wesoloski “liked to frequent the area of children working in the streets”  and would pay to tape them with his cell phone. “We learned from the children that Wesolowski took pictures of them while they were masturbating. Oral sex was performed,” Nuria Piera, an investigative journalist in the Dominican Republic said. The pope whisked Wesolowski out of Dominican Republic this past August before the public or law enforcement officials became aware of his crimes  and Wesolowski has been hiding in the Vatican City State where he is shielded by the country’s sovereign immunity.  In hindsight, then, we can question the timing of Pope Francis’ adding the offense of sexual abuse of a minor to the Vatican’s penal code effective July 11. That law applies not only to residents of the Vatican City State but also to anyone on the payroll of the Holy See such as members of its diplomatic corps. The pope received official notification of Wesolowski’s crimes “sometime in July,”  but it is not improbable that the Vatican was aware of the situation even earlier. The Vatican announced that Wesolowski, “was facing a criminal investigation by the Vatican’s own criminal court.”  When the pope begins more formal proceedings against Wesolowski, the corporate media will again trumpet how he is “serious” about sex abuse.
  4. The Vatican believes that it is the obligation of the individual perpetrator, not the Church, to compensate victims.
  5. Religious orders, which comprise one third to one half of the world’s Catholic clerics, still are not being compelled by the Holy See to create abuse policies. (Pope Benedict XVI ordered the world’s bishops to do this  in 2011. The order was widely ignored, even by the cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio.)

 

Tomasi and Scicluna were questioned about “uncovering the whereabouts of the children born to young, unmarried women who were essentially enslaved in Ireland’s Magdalene Asylums or Laundries and forced to relinquish their babies to adoption, a situation brilliantly dramatized in the film Philomena.” Issues raised such as Church-supported abortion laws which force children to bear children, forced child relinquishment, abandonment of children by Catholic priests – as noted by Angela Bonavoglia at Religion Dispatches - received the same response as a host of other questions: not our problem.

Pope Francis is washing his hands of any responsibility for whatever happens outside his city state or those on his immediate payroll. “On the level of the Holy See, as the Sovereign of Vatican City State, the response to sexual abuse has been in accord with its direct responsibility over the territory of Vatican City State,” stated Tomasi. “Priests are not functionaries of the Vatican….They are citizens of their own state and fall under the jurisdiction of that state.” Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said in a statement on Jan. 16. Questions posed by the U.N. committee and others “seem to presuppose that bishops and religious superiors act as representatives or delegates of the pope, something which is without foundation.” 

Since every bishop is appointed (obviously some with the advice of others, but the pope chooses his advisors) and can be removed by the pope; religious superiors can be removed by the pope and every priest is approved by a bishop or religious superior, then papal authority and influence is direct. Yet the pope has never discouraged his bishops, their expensive attorneys and high-powered lobbying machines from battling against civil efforts to revise statutes-of-limitations which obstruct the “jurisdiction of the state” from bringing prelates, clerics and religious to justice. (Unlike other crimes, experts agree it takes children sometimes decades to come to terms with the results of their trauma.)

 

News of the questioning before the U.N. commission was followed the next day by the Associated Press reporting that 400 priests had been defrocked in the years 2011 and 2012. The information used by the AP “was prepared from data the Vatican had been collecting to help the Holy See defend itself before a U.N. committee this week in Geneva.”

The Vatican Insider website noted that of 259 cases in 2011, 135 were requests from priests for a “dispensation,” or voluntary removal, from the priesthood, and 124 were forcibly dismissed. In 2012, 418 cases of abuse of minors by priests had been reported to the Holy See. That same year, there were 67 requests for voluntary dispensation and 57 dismissals.

Reuters:  Pope Francis will not show leniency towards pedophile priests as truth and justice are more important than protecting the Church, the Vatican’s former sex crimes prosecutor has pledged….Monsignor Charles Scicluna said on Saturday that the number of clerics defrocked by the Vatican was likely to have fallen to about 100 [voluntary and dismissals] in 2013 from about 125 in 2012 and a peak of 260 in 2011. 

“Yes, these men were defrocked, but…they are out there. We don’t know who these men are, we don’t know what kinds of crimes they committed, we don’t know what countries they’re in, we don’t know anything about them. They’ve been kicked into society with no repercussions,” noted Joelle Casteix, member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) on the MSNBC. 

“I’ve seen a reliable report that more than 700 cases have been sent [to the Vatican] by America alone,” said Nicholas Cafardi, a canon and civil lawyer at the Duquesne Law School in Pittsburgh. “So 400, that’s not surprising.”  “To put it in another perspective, there have been 276 priests accused of sexual abuse in the Boston archdiocese alone, according to BishopAccountability.org.” 

In early 2012, “a senior Vatican cardinal revealed how more than 4,000 cases of sex abuse by priests on children have been investigated during the last ten years. The shock figure was announced by American cardinal Joseph William Levada as he opened a conference on the wide scale phenomenon which has rocked the Roman Catholic church with cases reported all over the world.

Described as a “Vatican summit,” two American experts told the same conference “that there may have been as many as 100,000 total victims of clerical sex abuse” in that country alone.

After missing the Nov. 1 deadline for responding to the request for information by the U.N. CRC, Pope Francis responded on Dec. 4 by stating that it was not the practice of his government to “disclose information on specific cases unless requested to do so by another country as part of legal proceedings” and “that the Vatican can provide information only about known and alleged child sex crimes that have happened on Vatican property,” generating the first negative publicity of his reign. Within two days, the pope announced that he would form a commission to study the problem of sex abuse. “A new Church panel is the last thing  that kids need. Church officials have mountains of information about those who are concealing horrible child sex crimes and cover-ups. They just have to give that information to the police,” David Clohessy, executive director of the SNAP, said in a telephone interview.  

In addition to the above-mentioned 2012 conference, those “mountains of information” include “a landmark unofficial report, the 1985 Problem of Sexual Molestation by Roman Catholic Clergy, which emerged from the close involvement of the Holy See’s U.S. delegation and Archbishop Pio Laghi in abuse cases in the state of Louisiana. In 1997, the Holy See’s apostolic nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Luciano Storero, intervened to adjust reporting commitments approved by the Irish bishops’ conference. These are not isolated instances.”  

After the sex abuse scandal made U.S. headlines in 2002, investigations were conducted by Boston, Manchester and Portland, Maine attorneys general and Philadelphia, Westchester and Suffolk Co. New York grand juries. Those were followed by Ireland’s Murphy, Ryan, Cloyne and Ferns Reports.  This year, government inquiries are being conducted by the Australian federal government’s Royal Commission as well as the states of New South Wales and Victoria. Additionally there are reports compiled in Canada, Mexico, Britain and Spain. 

The Center for Constitutional Rights and SNAP gave the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor at The Hague “more than 22,000 pages of supporting materials consisting of reports, policy papers, and evidence of the crimes by Catholic clergy committed against children and vulnerable adults” to support their request that Vatican officials, under the concept of superior responsibility, be investigated for crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, the court declined to take the case.

The reports, inquiries, investigations lead to the same conclusion: even Catholic bishops who were not themselves child abusers covered-up, enabled, aided and abetted the rape and sodomy of minors by vast numbers of priests, religious and lay employees. In addition to the indescribably horrific physical torture, victims and their families who dared report these crimes to the chanceries were threatened, maligned and persecuted.

The corporate media will laud the pope whenever he gets around to actually forming his commission while he and his churchmen continue to ignore the “mountains of information” already available. 

Is it possible for a pope with Francis’ record, who has chosen other Church officials who have acted to conceal and promote pedophiles, to take the steps needed to end the horrific sexual torture of children? 

The most shocking event on Jan. 16 happened not in Geneva but in Rome. While the rest of the world swoons over his pronouncements, the pope’s churchmen pay attention to his actions, appointments and promotions. At Mass that morning, while lamenting that “Scandals are the shame of the Church,” Pope Francis’ co-celebrant was Los Angeles Archbishop Emeritus, Cardinal Roger Mahony, who supervised more than 200 known pedophile priests with 500 known victims to whom the cardinal paid $720 million.

Mahony blogged that during his private meeting with the pope following Mass, the “topic of scandal never came up.” “To the Church’s walking wounded, for the pope to ‘honor’ such a man was painful and insulting,” noted SNAP founder Barbara Blaine.

As Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the pope’s recent “advocacy for Father Julio César Grassi, a convicted sex offender, and his effort to discredit young victims raise fundamental questions” about the pope’s “current willingness to protect children, punish predators, and support victims who testify against their abusers.” 

The first pontifical action Bergoglio took after his election was to form a group of eight cardinals to advise him. He named Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, as the group’s leader. Rodríguez Maradiaga is best known in Honduras because he “participated actively in the 2009 coup against the constitutional president, Manuel Zelaya.”  He also “blamed the Jews for the scandal surrounding the sexual misconduct of priests toward young parishioners” comparing the “Jewish controlled media with Hitler” for its “persecution against the Church.”  

Group member Cardinal George Pell received a scathing assessment on Nov. 13 from the Australian parliament’s inquiry into child sex abuse. A committee concluded that Pell’s response indicates the Church’s central aim was to safeguard its own interests. “It is noteworthy that this description of objectives contains no acknowledgement of the terrible suffering of victims,” the report said. Professor Patrick Parkinson of the University of Sydney provided compelling research that Catholic clergy in Australia are responsible for six times more child sexual abuse than all the other churches combined.

Another member, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, the retired archbishop of Santiago, made headlines in Chile for protecting Fr. Fernando Karadima. In January 2011, a judge ordered that Karadima be interrogated about allegations he sexually abused children. According to court testimony, Church officials, including Errázuriz, tried to shame accusers into dropping claims, refused to meet with them or failed to carry out formal investigations for years. The first known reports of abuse by Karadima reached Errázuriz  in mid-2003. In 2006, a priest appointed by Errázuriz to investigate the claims made his report to the cardinal, stating that he believed “the accusers to be credible.” Errázuriz wrote in a public letter that he did nothing because he thought the allegations were beyond the statute of limitations.

 On September 21, 2013, Pope Francis approved Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the office of the Holy See that has dealt with all sexual abuse cases since Pope John Paul II consolidated its role on April 30, 2001.  Fr. Peter Kramer had been convicted in 2000 of sexually abusing two boys, ages nine and twelve, while he was assigned to the Regensburg diocese in Germany. Kramer was sentenced to three years probation on condition that he not work with children. When Müller was appointed bishop of Regensburg in 2002, Kramer was already working with children in the parish of Riekhofen. In violation of the German bishops’ 2002 “binding” guidelines which forbid appointments to ministry of a priest who has been convicted of abusing a child, Müller promoted Kramer to pastor. Müller concealed Kramer’s conviction from his parishioners. When victims learned of Kramer’s new assignment, additional victims came forward and Kramer was convicted of additional child abuse.  

While Bergoglio was pretty quick to remove German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg for an extravagant lifestyle, a contradiction of the “humble” image which the pope wishes the Church to project, he leaves such notorious guardians of criminal priests as Chicago Cardinal Francis George, Twin Cities Archbishop Nienstedt, Kansas City Bishop Finn and Newark Archbishop Myers untouched and unchastised. 

Unanimously reported as “proof” that Pope Francis was ridding his Curia of “conservatives,” he replaced the flamboyant and exquisitely costumed Cardinal Raymond Burke with Washington’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl to his committee which selects bishops. (In 2010, Wuerl’s “Catholic Charities – the archdiocese’s social service arm – said that it would end its 80-year-old foster care program rather than place children with same-sex couples.” Wuerl also told his employees that spousal health benefits would be denied to new employees and those who married in the future because he didn’t want to provide that benefit to same-sex couples.) The pope also reconfirmed American Cardinal William Levada to the same committee although Levada has one of the worst records among the U.S. episcopate for covering up for criminal clerics. 

Bergoglio recently made his first selection of new cardinals. Missing was Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the only active prelate in the whole world widely recognized as being sympathetic to victims. But in addition to Müller, the pope included Santiago Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, another Chilean prelate who protected Karadima

In the U.S., the pope promoted Green Bay’s Vicar General Fr. John Doerfler as the new bishop for the diocese of Marquette, Michigan. During the trial of a serial child molester, Doerfler admitted under oath that he had deliberately destroyed “nearly all records and documentation in the secret Church files of at least 51 reported to have sexually assaulted children after the Wisconsin State Supreme Court ruled that victims of childhood sexual abuse could file fraud suits against Catholic dioceses in the state for covering up for clerics….When specifically asked if it bothered him that clerics who abused children were being dumped into the community without public notice, Doerfler chillingly answered: “No”.

 

“Only willful blindness and pathological denial can allow one to overlook the reality that the symptom of clerical abuse reveals a Roman Catholic Church as dysfunctional and corrupt sexually and financially as during the time of the Protestant Reformation.” A. W. Richard Sipe, Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor, former Benedictine monk and priest, and recognized authority on celibacy and priest sex abuse. August 30, 2013.

Pope Francis Packs the Vatican with Vulture Capitalists

p>On the 3-month anniversary of his election, June 13, it was reported that Pope Francis selected an official from McKinsey & Co. “to design that reform of the Curia (the Vatican bureaucracy) which everyone expects from Pope Francis.”

McKinsey is one of the market-leading ‘Big Three’ management consulting services to the Fortune 500 set, along with Bain & Company and The Boston Consulting Group…. In February 2011, McKinsey surveyed 1,300 US private-sector employers on their expected response to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 30 percent of respondents said they anticipated they would probably or definitely stop offering employer sponsored health coverage after the ACA went into effect in 2014. These results, published in June 2011 in the McKinsey e-Quarterly, became “a useful tool for critics of the ACA and a deep annoyance for defenders of the law” according to an article in TIME Magazine. Supporters of healthcare reform argued the survey far surpassed estimates by the Congressional Budget Office [and] criticized the survey’s methodology, arguing it used slanted questions, cherry-picked information and had uninformed recipients. 

A meeting was held on June 20 among a group of cardinals, the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs, with the heads of Vatican departments, dicasteries, congregations, tribunals, councils, “offices,” and foundations whose finances they supervise and control including the Administration for the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA). APSA administers the Vatican’s property and investment portfolios as well as issuing the pay checks. 

At the meeting, the euro zone’s largest bank, Banco Santander, “offered its availability to place its contacts…at [their] disposition.” Banco Santander is associated with Opus Dei.

“Huge Eurobank, rated ‘Britain’s worst,’ now accused of gouging U.S. consumers” – The accusations are as outrageous as they are plentiful: Hundreds of “robocalls” – in one case, 800 to a single person – to collect auto loan debts; illegal repossession of cars from active duty military deployed overseas; late fees assessed three years after the fact and then compounded into $2,000 or $3,000 bills; harassing calls to friends, neighbors, co-workers – even children – on cell phones. And now, a flurry of lawsuits filed around the country, and lawyers fighting over potential clients.
The defendant in the lawsuits is Europe’s largest bank, Banco Santander S.A., which is preparing to make a big push into U.S. retail banking.

Having a global giant like Santander which bills itself as having “the largest network of international banking offices” to handle the Vatican’s banking needs while the Vatican Bank (or IOR for Istituto per le Opere di Religione) is still under investigation by Italian authorities would certainly be useful. 

On June 26, Pope Francis established a Pontifical Commission to do “an in-depth inquiry into both the legal position and the activities” of the IOR.  Francis chose Spanish Opus Dei Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta Ochoa de Chinchetru, as the commission’s coordinator.

One of the five members is Mary Ann Glendon, appointed by Bush 43 as ambassador to the Holy See. Glendon has sat on the board of Bill Donohue’s Catholic League and several neocon “think tanks.” 

Another American member is Msgr. Peter Bryan Wells, who was appointed last year to a Vatican media “crisis unit” along with Greg Burke, a member of Opus Dei and former Fox News reporter, to handle the VatiLeaks scandal. “Glendon and Wells have strong personal connections to fellow American Carl Anderson” a member of the IOR board of directors and Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, known for funding anti-gay and anti-choice campaigns.    

(The Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported over the weekend of June 15/16 that Italy’s financial authorities had asked the Vatican for information about Msgr. Nunzio Scarano’s IOR account.  The announcement of the new commission was made on the same day prosecutors in Salerno placed Scarano, a Vatican accountant, under investigation for alleged money-laundering through his IOR account. Scarano was arrested on June 28 and the IOR’s director and deputy director, who are under investigation by Italian magistrates, resigned on July 1. Their decision came after the embarrassing revelation that Scarano’s illicit use of his IOR account was approved by the IOR’s directors.)

Pope Francis established another Pontifical Commission on July 18 “to reform the Vatican’s economic and administrative departments.” This eight-member commission is composed of lay persons, already “eminent consultants or reviewers for Vatican or ecclesiastical economic institutions,” although the secretary is the Spanish Opus Dei Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, secretary of the Prefecture of Economic Affairs. The commission “has the authority to intervene in the financial running of other Vatican institutions.” Members include:

Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui (Italy), public relations expert at Ernst & Young and a member of Opus Dei.

Jochen Messemer (Germany) and Joseph F.X. Zahra (Malta) are auditors for Prefecture for the Economic Affairs. Zahra, currently chairman of Middlesea Insurance Co Ltd will lead the group.  MAPFRE, “the leading insurance company in Spain and the largest non-life insurance company in Latin America” owns a controlling interest in Middlesea and is referred to in the insurance market as a branch of Opus Dei.   

(Sept 12: “[A]fter international banking giants JPMorgan Chase and HSBC closed the Vatican’s accounts around the world to reduce the risk of money laundering…Ugandan police received a message from Interpol regarding the unauthorized ‘transfer’ of about $800,000 from the Vatican Bank to four Ugandan banks….Ugandan citizen Esther Nobasa has appeared in the Mbarara District Court, near Kampala, after she allegedly received large sums of money from the Vatican Bank.”  A Sunday Times report said “a branch of Malaysia’s Standard Chartered in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, has also been linked to the investigation.”)

Pope Francis appointed the Promontory Financial Group on Oct. 15 to investigate APSA following accusations of corruption made during the investigation of Msgr. Scarano by Italian financial authorities.  

IOR president Ernst von Freyberg had already hired Promontory Financial Group, at “well above seven digits” to help him investigate account holders. “Promontory employees now comprise 25 percent of the IOR staff.” Rolando Marranci, one of Promontory’s Vatican consultants, former CFO for Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, BNP Paribas’s Italian subsidiary, and CFO of BNL’s London Branch is the new IOR director.

At a U.S. Federal Reserve foreclosure review meant to provide compensation to abused homeowners:

Whistleblowers from Bank of America came forward to provide compelling evidence that the bank and its independent consultant, Promontory Financial Group, attempted to suppress evidence that borrowers had been harmed by the false and deceptive practices of the mortgages lenders.

….Promontory’s activities focus heavily on the adept circumvention of regulations.

On Oct. 15, the pope appointed Irish “master of the universe” Peter Sutherland to head another “supervisory board” for APSA. International financier Bob McCann, chief executive of UBS America, is a member.    

At a Vatican meeting with Council of Cardinals for the Study of Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See in July, Sutherland outlined “the macro- economic situation and the investment policies” of APSA.

Sutherland is managing director and chairman of Goldman Sachs International, former chairman of BP Oil, European chairman of the Trilateral Commission and on the steering committee for this year’s Bilderberg Conference. While Sutherland hasn’t admitted Opus Dei membership, he served on the International Advisory Board of IESE, the graduate business school of Opus Dei’s flagship University of Navarra. 

It was announced on Nov. 18 that Ernst & Young will do an audit of the internal finances of the Vatican City State. The government of the Vatican City State handles necessities like the utilities and maintenance for the territory and operates the Vatican museums, post office, convenience stores etc. 

Ernst & Young has agreed to pay $99 million to former Lehman Brothers investors who have accused the auditor of helping Lehman misstate its financial records before the investment bank’s collapse triggered a financial crisis in 2008.

 A month later, the Vatican said McKinsey and Co. would make recommendations on how to make communications “more functional, efficient and modern.” The Vatican has a press office, newspaper, radio and television broadcaster, website, Twitter account, Pontifical Council for Social Communications, a publishing house – all connected with one of the largest global media empires.

KPMG was hired to help “align the accounting procedures of all agencies of the Holy See with international standards.”

Auditors, such as KPMG International, enabled the [financial] crisis to metastasize at an accelerated rate. KPMG was the auditor for the key players in the mortgage crisis, including Fannie Mae, Countrywide Financial and New Century Mortgage.

Compare all this feverish activity to protect and prosper his assets with what Pope Francis has done to protect our children. On Dec. 4 he stonewalled a request from the United Nation’s Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) for information on cases of child sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy, brothers or nuns and received the first negative publicity concerning his pontificate. Two days later, he said he was appointing a commission to study the problem although every group of survivors, their advocates, lawyers and law enforcement officials already know exactly what needs to be done. The commission still hasn’t happened.

 

Bishop Robert Finn and Friends Win the 2013 Coughlin Award

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

 photo franksgraphic_zpsbe286320.jpgIt’s that time of the year again, folks. It’s time for the presentation of the annual Coughlin Award. As it is every year, the competition was stiff, so much so that this year for the first time it is a group award. This year award goes to Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri Bishop Robert Finn and his legion of supporters.

The Coughlin Award — affectionately known as “The Coughie” — is our way of recognizing the person who has best exemplified an exclusionary, strident interpretation of the Catholic faith in the preceding year. The award is named for Father Charles Coughlin, the notorious radio priest of the 1930s who is the role model for today’s Religious Right radio and television evangelists, and other conservative media personalities.

Best known for his diatribes against FDR, Judaism and open sympathy with the racist policies of Adolph Hitler, Coughlin’s advocacy was clearly antithetical the very definition of the word “catholic,” which, according to Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary means:

Catholic Cath”o*lic\ (k[a^]th”[-o]*[i^]k), a. [L. catholicus, Gr. kaqoliko`s, universal, general; kata` down, wholly + "o`los whole, probably akin to E. solid: cf. F. catholique.]

1. Universal or general; as, the catholic faith.

Men of other countries [came] to bear their part in so great and catholic a war. –Southey.

Note: This epithet, which is applicable to the whole Christian church, or its faith, is claimed by Roman Catholics to belong especially to their church, and in popular usage is so limited.

*Not narrow-minded, partial, or bigoted; liberal; as, catholic tastes.

*Of or pertaining to, or affecting the Roman Catholics; as, the Catholic emancipation act.

In order to win a Coughie, a candidate must complete three qualifying tasks: 1) Make the faith decisively less inclusive 2) Engage in incendiary behavior and 3) Ultimately embarrasses the Church. This year’s winners — as usual — have risen to the challenge.

This year our judges had little problem deciding whom to choose. Bishop Finn did not earn his “Coughie” because of his movement conservative politics but instead by his sense of self-exemption from accountability. Finn’s defenders, who fully share in his award, scratched and clawed their way to this dubious achievement by defending the indefensible.

For those unfamiliar with the saga of Bishop Finn and his refusal to step down as the head of the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph Missouri, let me recap:

Let’s recall that the crimes of Bishop Finn resulted from his knowledge of the related crimes of Fr. Shawn Ratigan who pleaded guilty in Federal Court to four counts of producing child pornography and one count of attempted production of child pornography. As I reported here and here, Bishop Finn had constructive knowledge of Ratigan’s improper touching of young girls and possession of child pornography. Finn not only knew of, or had good reason to suspect Ratigan’s crimes, but had he acted, he would have prevented other crimes against children under his pastoral care.

As anyone familiar with this matter would know, Bishop Finn not only chose not to step down, but actually went on the offensive via several well-connected surrogates.

Led by 2011’s Coughlin Award winner, Bill Donohue (apparently with the blessing of Cardinal Timothy Dolan), his allies went after anyone who demanded accountability for the abused children. This group comprised a veritable Who’s Who of the neoconservative Catholic Right — Domino’s Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan; Opus Bono Sacerdotii (OBS) (BishopAccountability.org describes OBS co-founders Joseph Maher and Paul Barron as “members of Legatus.” Based in Monaghan’s hometown of Detroit, Michigan, many of the key members of Legatus are also affiliated with other Monahan-founded or funded organizations); and of course, Donohue’s Catholic League whose board of advisors besides Monaghan, includes several leading theocons as Hadley Arkes, Mary Ann Glendon, Robert P. George, Michael Novak and George Weigel.

This cabal (which rarely expresses concern for the victims) lashed out at the Kansas City Star newspaper for its leading investigative work in the matter, as well as victims rights organization as well as the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). As part and parcel of this strategy of obfuscation, an OBS psychiatrist astonishingly concluded that Ratigan’s diagnosis was “loneliness and depression” not pedophilia. The court rejected this argument and convicted the pedophile priest.

Bishop Finn and his aforementioned friends meet all the three requirements of a Coughlin Award winner.

First, they have succeeded in making Catholicism less inclusive by their lack of concern for victims of sexual child predator clergy. They demonstrate that only those who will turn a blind eye to such criminals and their crimes are welcome in their stilted version of the Catholic Church. For them, faith is not as much an expression of spirituality but more like the blunt object used to bludgeon political opponents.

Second, they have engaged in incendiary behavior, not only by willing to be accountable for such an abysmal failure of leadership but by downplaying the seriousness of pedophilia – and even blaming the victims.

Third, the degree of embarrassment to the Catholic Church is self-evident. Bishop Finn’s unwillingness to resign his position of authority sends the wrong message. It sounds like the greater Catholic Church does not police its own house. Instead, the leadership corruptly rewards those like Bishop Finn with the retention of power.

Normally when we issue the annual Coughlin Award there is always a measure of snark and sarcastic humor. That is not the case this year. There is nothing remotely humorous about the failure to protect children from sexual abuse: there is only shame. And for that reason we sadly present the 2013 Coughie to Bishop Robert Finn and his band of Catholic Right apologists.

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