Like Orwell’s Ministry of Truth which was responsible for falsifying events and history, we have the latest statements from Vatican officials regarding the investigation of accounts held by the Vatican bank – otherwise known by its Italian acronym, IOR, for the Institute for Works of Religion – in other Italian financial institutions. On Friday, “Italian prosecutors contested claims by the Vatican bank that it is trying to comply with international rules to fight money laundering, saying an investigation that led to the seizure of €23 million ($30 million) from a Vatican bank account shows ‘exactly the opposite.’ The strongly worded document from the prosecutors’ office said that while there is a ‘generic and stated will’ to conform by the bank ‘there is no sign that the institutions of the Catholic church are moving in that direction.’
Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, issued a statement Friday evening saying that Vatican bank officials ‘confirm their intent to follow the line of transparency’ in all financial transactions and are confident in being able to provide as soon as possible all clarifications.'” The IOR’s chairman, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi’s, response was predictable: “The fierce attack on the church’s credibility started just six months after the publication” of Pope Benedict’s encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” (Charity in Truth) in July 2009. First it was the attack on the pope, then the pedophilia-related facts, and now it carries on with the case that involves me.”
In other words, Tedeschi was refusing to cooperate with the prosecutors and, as in the priest pedophilia scandal, the Vatican has no intention of being transparent.
Beginning in 2009, the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Bank of Italy (the country’s central bank) began investigating IOR accounts in other Italian banks (the IOR itself still has the benefit of the Holy See’s sovereign immunity) based upon a law regulating financial intermediaries which requires the identification of persons involved in a transaction, proper recording of data from the transaction and reporting of any suspicious transactions.
“The assumption was that Italians were using the IOR to conceal crimes of various kinds from fraud to tax evasion.” Roman magistrates found that the IOR had passed 180 million euros through the former Banca di Roma (now Unicredit) without proper identification. “What alerted Rome prosecutors was the use of just an acronym for the transfer or transaction – never or almost never a person or entity.” When the Financial Intelligence Unit asked for names, a few of the ones provided by the IOR were fictitious.
It was reported on June 1, 2010, that while “the Italian judiciary can not intervene in the Vatican bank,” the “daily exchange transactions of hundreds of millions” of euros by “institutional accounts payable to the IOR” in ten Italian banks were being investigated as part of money laundering operations. “The first objective of the survey is to identify the true owners of securities and transactions. The suspicion is that the pm after the symbol IOR can be concealed by individuals or companies which shielded the accounts and have been the channel for the flow of money between the banks of the Vatican and Italy.”
In September, the IOR and its top executives, Gotti Tedeschi and Director General Paolo Cipriani, were put under investigation by Rome prosecutors for allegedly omitting data in wire-transfer requests from Italian banks. Prosecutors froze 23 million euros ($32 million) in transfers of funds from two Italian banks. The bulk of the money was a 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.”
“The prosecutors’ document suggests confirmation of Italian press reports that the probe was widening, looking into possible violations in earlier years linked to Italian corruption, in addition to the two most recent cases.
The document cites suspicious transactions involving checks drawn from a Vatican bank account at Unicredit bank in 2009, involving the use of a false name.
The prosecutors also cited a euro 650,000 withdrawal from a Vatican bank account at Intesa San Paolo bank where the Vatican didn’t specify the money’s ultimate destination despite a specific request by the Italian bank.
The prosecutors called this “a deliberate failure to observe the anti-laundering laws with the aim of hiding the ownership, destination and origin of the capital.”
Since the money was ordered seized last month, Lombardi and Gotti Tedeschi have repeatedly said the allegations resulted from a “misunderstanding” and that the Vatican bank has been working to comply with international rules.
On Oct. 20, Father Lombardi expessed “astonishment” over the ruling of the appeals court that upheld the move last month by Italian finance authorities to freeze deposits of Vatican funds at the Credito Artigiano Bank. The IOR “took note” of the decision and reiterated that it’s committed to financial transparency.
Three other IOR transactions are under scrutiny for alleged violations of money-laundering laws, Corriere della Sera said on Oct. 21, citing court documents. In one case, a priest allegedly moved 300,000 euros from an account in San Marino and transferred it to a businessman.
On Oct. 22, Lombardi affirmed in a statement that “the directors of IOR are considering the motivations adopted by the Tribunale del Riesame [a court of appeal] to confirm the preventive seizure of an IOR deposit in an account of the Credito Artigiano bank, and they are analyzing them with their legal representatives. In any case, the directors of IOR confirm their willingness to continue with the line of transparency in all the financial operations already indicated in the communiqué of the State Secretariat on Sept. 21, trusting that they will be able to give as soon as possible all the clarifications requested in the competent entities and organisms.”
For over a year Lombardi has known the IOR is under investigation for withholding and falsifying information required by Italian law and all he can say is that the charges are still being “analyzed” and repeat that the Vatican is committed to transparency. And the world is left to wonder why Gotti Tedeschi, rather than providing the necessary details, can only respond with accusations that he and the pope are being persecuted.
In other news from the “Ministry of Truth,” this past week saw the elevation of two American prelates to cardinal.
While bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin, in the early 2000s, now Archbishop Raymond Burke kept the names of known clerical criminals secret.
After the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) put “norms” in place in 2002 as to how allegations of clerical sexual abuse of children were to be processed, Burke initiated his own more stringent burden of proof on victims coming forward with information in order to protect his pedophile priests.
In fact, after being transferred, Burke welcomed accused priests and religious from all parts of the country to take up residence in the St. Louis archdiocese. “Under Archbishop Raymond Burke, dozens of proven, admitted, and credibly accused predator priests have been sent to St. Louis. Some live in church facilities, others don’t. At least three worked recently in city parishes and one works now at a local Catholic college. None of them, SNAP [Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests] feels, are adequately supervised and in virtually no case did Church officials notify parishioners or the public about these potentially dangerous clerics.”
According to a 2005 article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Burke had said in an interview “For those who need to be in a completely supervised environment there are two centers, which as providence would have it, are both in this archdiocese in the United States.” After some notorious predators went missing, Burke admitted, “‘One of the problems – and we have a couple of cases in this archdiocese – is that a priest can take off on you and there isn’t anything you can do.’ The church doesn’t have a police force, he added.”
When Pope Benedict XVI returned to Rome following his visit to the US in April 2008 during which he met with victims for the first time and assured the press on several occasions of his heartfelt sympathy and concern for all those sexually assaulted by priests and the monumental steps the Catholic Church was taking to prevent further “sins,” the pope’s first official act was to promote Burke to his surrent position as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.
Washngton DC Archbishop Donald Wuerl, the other cardinal-designate, stated in December 2009, “All people have equal dignity, regardless of sexual orientation,” and boasted of his “commitment to expressing Christ’s love through service to others.” Yet when the District of Columbia passed a law approving same-sex marriage that same month, at Wuerl’s directive, Washington’s Catholic Charities transferred it’s entire foster-care program – 43 children, 35 families and seven staff members – to another agency rather than place children with same-sex couples. Then Wuerl announced that new hires or employees of Catholic Charities who were not already enrolled in the archdiocesan health-care plan could no longer obtain coverage for their spouses to avoid having to care for same-sex partners.
During the trumped-up hysteria from the Catholic rightwing over President Obama’s invitation to be the commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree from Notre Dame, Wuerl spoke in an interview about:
…the perception that this administration is moving us to a point where people who conscientiously object to taking human life might lose their jobs in clinics and hospitals as a result. That’s a fear expressed by opponents of the Freedom of Choice Act, which would eliminate restrictions on abortion and might…force pro-life heath care workers to choose between their jobs and their beliefs….
After Obama was elected president in spite of their efforts, the US Catholic bishops came back swinging with plans – like other Republicans – to discredit the president and obstruct efforts to recover from the worst economic disaster since the Depression, provide health care to the poor and middle class and to put their benefactors back in control of the government. Even before the inauguration, the USCCB began a campaign which “pledged the resources of the Church to mobilize the Catholic community to oppose the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA)….This will include a massive education and postcard campaign beginning in January, urging members of Congress to reject the abortion extremism of FOCA.”
The FOCA – “To prohibit, consistent with Roe v. Wade, the interference by the government with a woman’s right to choose to bear a child or terminate a pregnancy” – was first introduced in November 1989. The bill did not proceed through either legislative body. A revised version of the FOCA was introduced in January 2004 and again in April 2007, both times resulting in no action and again, the bill died. No newly elected nor incumbent member of Congress as of late 2008 had mentioned reintroducing the bill nor – in view of the crashing economy, two wars, a crumbling infrastructure, and other pressing matters – was it even plausible that such a thing would happen.
When it was pointed out to Wuerl in the above-mentioned interview in May 2009, “The FOCA has zero chance of passing, or even being introduced, doesn’t it?” Wuerl, “closing his eyes and tapping his finger on the conference table in front of him argued, “FOCA will probably be passed, but not using the name FOCA. It will be repackaged so it will have a new name, and they’ll do it step by step.” None of which has or will occur.
In December 2008, President Bush established the “Provider Refusal Rule,” an expansion of three federal laws which already protected health care workers, entities, and insurance companies from being forced to perform, pay for and refer for abortions or sterilization. Bush’s “conscience clause” would have enabled any health care worker – operating-room staff, medical office workers, pharmacists – to deny any service, information or advice to patients – blood transfusions, vaccines, family planning, HIV/AIDS treatment, end-of-life services – based on their personal interpretation of morality. For example, the rule would protect a anesthesiologist who denied relief to a woman in labor because the Bible says all women will suffer in childbirth.
Expressing concern that the Bush regulation was overly broad, on February 27, 2009, the Obama administration placed the “Provider Refusal Rule” under a standard 30-day comment period to allow support or objections to be brought forward. The USCCB immediately issued a news release: “As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we are deeply concerned that such an action on the government’s part would be the first step in moving our country from democracy to despotism. Respect for personal conscience and freedom of religion as such ensures our basic freedom from government oppression.” Neither Wuerl or any other US prelated offered an explanation as to why, if Bush’s regulation was so critical, he never deemed it necessary before nor did they condemn Bush for waiting eight years before implementing it.
In the same interview noted above, Wuerl declared, “In his circles of Hell, Dante places the people with sins of passion at the very brim – barely burned. But at the core are those who sinned against the truth.” Seeing as how protecting the conciences of medical practitioners and the Freedom of Choice Act were completely bogus issues cooked up by the Catholic Church’s “Ministry of Truth” to vilify Barack Obama, Wuerl should have been more cautious in who he consigns to hell.
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