(From an earlier post on StreetProphets.com)
The Vatican should be treated as “a rogue state” by the world until it deals properly with child sexual abuse by priests, wrote Geoffrey Robertson in his new book, The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse. Robertson, a United Nations judge and veteran British human rights lawyer, stated, “I came to this fresh. But when I read the Ferns report, the Murphy report, I couldn’t believe it. Words kept cropping up: widespread, endemic, systematic abuse. The words clung to me,” he told The Irish Times.
The article further notes:
The Catholic Church must change, or risk losing its right under international law to be treated as a state – even if its claim to statehood was not fully accepted by the United Nations. If it does not change, Robertson believes, the church will wither, or risk losing the vestiges of statehood that it does possess and face charges before the International Criminal Court for human rights abuses of children. “There is a doctrine used in international criminal law of command responsibility, first introduced to deal with Japanese generals who didn’t do anything to punish those responsible ,” he declared….
Describing the Holy See as “a palace with gardens” rather than a state, Robertson argues that it has hidden behind the immunity offered by such a status….Statehood has allowed the Vatican to “throw dust in the eyes” of governments. “Political leaders rush to the Vatican to kiss the pope’s ring to get blessed in the hope that it will play well with their electors,” Robertson said. “Even Tony Blair couldn’t wait. And the Vatican is using this power over politicians.”
Several recent examples of the Vatican’s influence with political leaders bear this out. Pope Benedict XVI welcomed Israeli President Shimon Peres at Castel Gondolfo on September 2nd, the same day that negotiations began in Washington between Israel and the Palestinians. In addition to expressing encouragement for the peace talks, “Peres and the Pope discussed Iran’s plans to build a nuclear bomb and the enhancement of relations between Israel and the Vatican.” Three days later, “the Vatican raised the possibility of using behind-the-scenes diplomacy to try to save the life of an Iranian widow sentenced to be stoned for adultery.” After meetings were held in Rome and Havana between Vatican and government officials, Cuban President Raul Castro and Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega announced on July 8th that a deal had been reached for the release of 52 Cuban prisoners on condition the dissidents and their family members would be deported to Spain. While everyone would applaud efforts to save a woman’s life, achieve peace in the Middle East and gain the release of political prisoners, the Iranian, Israeli and Cuban governments lend credence to the image of the Holy See as a benevolent, respected and moral arbiter of justice on the world stage. The most important government, however, which supports this unwarranted esteeem is the US. On two trips to Washington, Cardinal Ortega was greeted by Obama’s national security adviser, General Jim Jones, State Department officials and members of Congress as he lobbied for the relaxation of US trade and travel restrictions against the island to take advantage of the goodwill generated by the prisoner release.
Perhaps it suits politicians and diplomats to go along with claims by the pope that he is sincerely sorry for the sexual assault and torture of tens of thousands of children around the world and is making an effort to better protect children in the future. But the hubris of the Vatican officials and prelates considering themselves above the law extends to other criminal activities now overlooked by the recent media attention focused sex abuse.
Today’s news brought reports that Italian police seized 23 million euros ($30 million) from an account registered to the Vatican Bank, whose chairman is under investigation for alleged money- laundering.
The sources said that last Wednesday, on the eve of Pope Benedict’s departure for Britain, a unit of the Italian revenue guard alerted prosecutors to an anomaly in an account owned by the IOR at the Rome branch of Credito Artigiano, which has close historic ties to the Catholic church.
Of the €28m deposited, €23m was destined for transfer to JP Morgan in Frankfurt and another €3m to another Italian bank. But in neither case, it is alleged, had the Vatican’s bankers supplied details of the individual or corporation for whom they were acting, as required by a 2007 legislative decree.
Four months ago, ten banks were being examined for using special accounts to launder money through the Vatican Bank, the Italian newspaper, la Repubblica, reported. The bank is generally known by its initials in Italian – IOR – short for the Institute of Works of Religion. “The assumption is that the subjects of the investigation who are Italian residents have used or use the IOR as a ‘screen’ to conceal crimes of various kinds, from fraud to tax evasion.”
The history of political bribes being paid through the IOR well into the 1990s is the subject of a book, Vaticano S.p.A (Vatican Inc.) by jounalist Gianluigi Nuzzi published in 2009. Nuzzi’s reporting is based on more than 4,000 internal bank documents smuggled out of the Vatican by a disgruntled priest. One bank account, the Cardinal Francis Spellman Foundation, was used to funnel secret money to Italian Christian Democrats, the party allied with the Catholic Church. “Part of the massive Enimont bribe, paid to politicians to secure their approval for a reorganisation of the chemicals sector, was also bounced through the Spellman fund,” according to Nuzzi. During the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, a number of Catholic priests and nuns actively participated in the killings.
The horrifying vision of servants of God abandoning their vows and joining in wholesale slaughter is one of the most haunting memories of the genocide. The churches of Rwanda have been devastated by accusations that some pastors ultimately were more devoted to ethnicity than to Christianity. But 60 percent of the nation identifies itself as Catholic; Rwanda is the most Catholic of all African countries. And the church was closely tied to the Hutu government, which had characterized minority Tutsis as “invaders” since Hutus seized power in 1959….”The Catholic Church has, therefore, a special responsibility to the victims of the genocide,” the director of African Rights, Rayiya Omaar, said in an open letter to the pope this year . “In our view, this has yet to be acknowledged.”
John Paul II refused to apologize, saying the church could not be blamed for the actions of its individual members.
While most know that one of the church’s largest financial scandals was brought to the world’s attention when Roberto Calvi – known as “God’s Banker” due to his closeness to the Vatican – was found hanging beneath London’s Blackfriars Bridge on June 18, 1982, it is rarely reported that at least seven other murders and a few near-misses were carried out against possible witnesses and government officials investigating the bank fraud. Through an agreement with international creditors who lost $1.3 billion in bad debts when Calvi’s Banco Ambrosiano failed, the IOR, which was its largest shareholder, was held partially responsible and the Vatican agreed to pay its creditors $244 million in settlement of all claims against it. 
Weren’t the cardinal and the others, Ledl asked, at all concerned what might happen if it were discovered that the Vatican was dealing in counterfeit American securities?….[Cardinal Tisserant] was not at all concerned, he said, nor were any of those he had discussed this with. They all agreed that the American government would never accuse the Vatican of knowingly dealing in counterfeit stocks and bonds. In fact, if it was discovered that such paper existed in the Vatican, the United States would undoubtedly believe the church had been taken by some unscrupulous swindlers and so would secretly step in and make good the losses.” 
Geoffrey Robertson is pressing the British government to end its recognition of the Catholic Church as a sovereign state. While it is unrealistic to expect the US government to do the same first, because there are much more pressing matters at hand, and second, such a move would be bitterly opposed by Republicans who have been backed by the church for over two decades. Even if bishops continue to lose their influence over voters, no religious organization in the US is required to file financial reports which show where their money comes from or where it goes. They are also totally free of the disclosure requirements and spending restrictions placed political parties, candidates, PACs and 527s including those affecting foreign donors. But can we at least ask our independent and Democratic members of the government to stop providing the Vatican and its agents with unwarranted prestige in international affairs?
1. David A. Yallop In God’s Name – An Investigation Into the Murder of Pope John Paul I (Carroll & Graf, New York, 1984)
2. Richard Hammer, The Vatican Connection: The Astonishing Account of a Billion-Dollar Counterfeit Stock Deal Between the Mafia and the Church (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1982 ) 197
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