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“Evil and Corruption Everywhere in the Church”: Thoughts on the Vatileaks Scandal

(as posted on streetprophets.com)

The lay person closest to Pope Benedict XVI, Paolo Gabriele, the man who attended the pontiff from when he arose in the morning until he retired for the night, told Vatican investigators he passed internal documents to outsiders (commonly known as the “Vatileaks Scandal”) due to his belief that “a shock, perhaps through the media” would “bring the Church back on the right track” because he saw “evil and corruption everywhere in the Church.” Well, he should know.

Gabriele’s words were released to the press along with the announcement that the Vatican would bring him to trial “at the repeatedly postponed  news conference finally summoned on the eve of one of Italy’s biggest holidays” this past week. The trial, where Gabriele would continue to be represented by Church-appointed attorneys as he has since his arrest for aggravated theft in May, would take place at the end of the Holy See’s summer vacation, meaning the end of September at the earliest

Revealing Gabriele’s words was not a demonstration of honest and open communication by the Vatican. It was the press office justifying its assertion that Gabriele was the source of the documents forwarded to Italian journalist, Gianluigi Nuzzi and published in his book His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Pope Benedict XVI. Gabriele’s confession tracked with Nuzzi stating that his source “gave him the documents out of duty after witnessing years of lies and manipulation by the Church.” The journalist quotes his “deepthroat” in the book: “Since Karol Wojtyla [Pope John Paul II] died [Gabriele was hired in 2006], I started putting copies of documents aside that I came across in my job at the Vatican….The truth emerging in the newspapers and the official discourse within the Holy See was so different, the hypocrisy reigned supreme, and the scandals were multiplying. I’m not talking only about the pedophilia and murder cases like the killing of the Swiss Guard and the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, but about money laundering, corruption, and threats.”

Regarding this week’s press conference, Nuzzi told The Daily Beast: “This is classic Vatican smoke and mirrors.”  Nuzzi has always stated that he had multiple informants and reaffirmed that the documents came from “20 disgruntled Vatican staffers.”

He is not alone. Since Gabriele’s arrest, many Vatican observers have opined that the layman is a scapegoat for the clerics and prelates who passed on information; specifically that Gabriele did not have access to many of the revealed documents and that even after his arrest, the leaks continued.

As the extremely insightful blogger, Colleen Koch, has already pointed out, the Vatican’s treatment of Gabriele has everything to do with the fact that he is not ordained and therefore, his rights are of no consequence. He is ineligible for, and unworthy of, any further concern – just as we have seen in the clerics’ utter disregard for the lives of the “objects” of their sexual perversities.

Again we are faced with the hypocrisy of the pope and his men. As a member of over two dozen international organizations, the Holy See rails against the human rights abuses of other states. As Colleen has pointed out, the British paper The Guardian expressed shock that Gabriele, after being arrested on May 23, was held in solitary confinement for almost two months and continues to be placed under house arrest since July 21. He has not been allowed to communicate with anyone other than Vatican officials (including his attorneys) and his immediate family. Gabriele’s supposed confession was contained in a “confidential letter to the pope…telling the pope he acted alone.” His lawyer said that he had not read the letter but accepted the validity of its purported contents.

The only other person charged is another layman, Claudio Sciarpelletti, employee of the Secretariat of State and computer expert, accused of abetting and breaching confidentiality.

The churchmen who claim to be the sole arbiters of morality for the entire human race did what they do to non-clerics who are entrusted to keep their crimes a secret and don’t. They attacked Gabriele’s sanity and character. Dr. Roberto Tatarelli, a professor of psychiatry at Sapienza University of Rome, wrote that Gabriele had a “simple intelligence” and a “fragile personality with paranoid tendencies, covering up a deep personal insecurity and an unresolved need to enjoy the esteem and affection of others,” according to the report by Piero Bonnet, the Vatican’s investigating judge. An expert appointed by Gabriele’s lawyer said he was prone to “’restlessness, tension, rage and frustration’ and vulnerable to ‘external manipulation.’” Msgr. Georg Gänswein, Benedict’s personal secretary, told investigators Gabriele needed to be “continually guided and directed” and “sometimes it was necessary to repeat things more than once.”

The day before Gabriele’s arrest, another layman, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was dumped as president of the IOR (the Italian acronym for the Institute for Religious Works or Vatican Bank – emphasis mine). IOR board member Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus and Republican political operative, gave a copy of the letter dismissing Gotti Tedeschi to the press. The letter accused Gotti Tedeschi of “progressively erratic personal behavior,” and listed the president’s many “failures.”   Additionally, a Rome psychotherapist, Dr. Pietro Lasalvia, was quoted by the press as stating that, based on his observations made at the IOR’s 2011 office Christmas party, he had written to the Vatican Bank’s general director that “Gotti Tedeschi demonstrated certain behaviors linked to a pathological disorder.”

One wonders how such inept and unbalanced persons kept those very sensitive and responsible positions for so long?

Serving mammon

What caught my attention in this week’s reports was that a check for a €100,000 ($123,000, a gift from a Spanish college to the pope, was found in Gabriele’s apartment located inside the Vatican City State and hadn’t yet been missed almost two months after it had been issued on March 26. “The offers of money are continuous for the charity of the pope,” explained the Vatican Insider.

Bruno Vespa, “Italy’s most well-known television host, sent a check for $12,500 to Msgr. Gänswein, ‘a small sum at the disposal of the pope’s charity,’ and asked when he could have a private audience. The director of Italy’s Intesa San Paolo bank, Giovanni Bazoli, sent a $32,000 check, ‘with my most deferential salutations,’” as revealed in Nuzzi’s book, His Holiness.

As I wrote in a much lengthier blog containing most the following information, given that Catholic finance is secret, we have to remember that all of the following is just the tip of the iceberg.

In addition to receiving gifts such as a helicopter and a Mercedes, one former president of the Vatican Bank gave the pope a gift of $60,000. When Benedict visited the U.S. in April 2008 the American bishops gave him a check for $870,000. The Vatican reported the pope received $69,700,000 in 2011 up from $67,700,000 in 2010 from the worldwide Peter’s Pence collection. Profits from the IOR are given to the pope for his personal income. According to a Vatican expert, these profits amount to €70 to 80 million annually (approx. $119,000,000). Members of the Philadelphia-based Papal Foundation gave Benedict a check for $8,500,000 this year to fund his “charities.”

“The expression in Rome is opera de carita: ‘We’re making an offering for your works of charity.’ In fact, you don’t know where the money is going,” stated a priest who steered cash payoffs from the Legionaries of Christ to Msgr. Stanislaw Dziwisz, Pope John Paul II’s secretary and the man closest to the pontiff. In his interview with author, Jason Berry, the priest continued, “It’s an elegant way of giving a bribe.”

I’m not suggesting that all donations to the pope are bribes for his favor and attention, but these payouts promt me to ask when does enough ever become enough? Is the Office of the Vicar of Christ a bottomless abyss of greed and his Church, the Bride of Christ, a gluttonous, insatiable sow?

The IOR has assets (not deposits mind you) of $7,500,000,000. More than 40 banks in Europe, the United States, Australia, and Japan have relationships of “correspondence” with the IOR, permitting it to operate all over the world through them. The Vatican also maintains an offshore Cayman Islands banking division. So when JP Morgan Chase reported they closed an IOR account in Milan through which passed €1.8 billion ($2,200,000,000) to another bank, can we wonder how many similar accounts there are?

JP Morgan Chase was acting under pressure from the U.S. Treasury. This past March, the U.S. State Department identified the Holy See as one of 68 countries or jurisdiction “of concern” for financial crimes “given the huge influx of money that circulates between the Holy See and the rest of the world.” (emphasis mine)

The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, better known by its old name of “Propaganda Fide,” controls its own “mini-financial empire.” In 2010, the Vatican admitted “possible errors” in managing properties owned by Propaganda Fide, reported to have assets worth €9 billion ($11,000,000,000.

The Vatican owns a third of the property in Rome and 20 percent of all the property in Italy. The Administration of the Apostolic Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA) manages the real estate and investment portfolios. APSA “made a profit of $52,000,000 in 2004/5 from the sale of various buildings.” (All Vatican investment portfolios remain secret.)

In addition, there are over 40 other agencies, departments or foundations with their own separate finances operating within the Vatican City State. One is devoted to “promoting the collection of funds for the support of the activities of the Holy See.” Its members are European aristocrats and financiers.

Some foundations are grouped under the umbrella of Cor Unum, the pontifical charity. If you read the Vatican website it tells you that all the funds have been donated by lay people or various bishops’ conferences and none comes from the pope’s own funds. The following is typical of papal “charity.” It was reported last month that Benedict gave €130 thousand ($160,000) to needy families in the Arezzo region of Italy. But he was giving them the money which had been donated to him by people in the same area during his May 13th visit.

Nuzzi was sought out by those who wanted to disclose Vatican corruption because he had written the 2009 Italian bestseller, Vatican SpA (Vatican Inc.), based on internal Vatican Bank documents smuggled out by Msgr. Renato Dardozzi. That book proved “huge political bribes being laundered through the IOR and funds donated for charitable purposes or to pay for masses for the souls of the dead being casually misappropriated by the bank’s administrators” as well as a host of other sleazy practices.

The Root of All Evil

The Prefecture for Economic Affairs is supposed to coordinate all the financial activities for the Vatican. However, “Observers believe that the real core of the [Vatileaks] scandal is a power struggle over control of the Vatican’s finances.”

Hell yes! There’s no way people aren’t going to fight among themselves for control of this much money. The experts differ, however, on who’s fighting whom.

Powerful conservative Catholic groups like Opus Dei and Communion and Liberation may be infighting more about influence and money than about any larger ideology, according to the New York Times.

Reporter, Giacomo Galeazzi, sees the battle lines drawn as “Wojtylians versus Ratzingerians.” The dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano and pro-Wojtyla cardinals Leonardo Sandri, Giovanni Battista and Jean-Louis Tauran are leaders of the “diplomatic school,” which includes nuncios loyal to Sodano. Set against them are those loyal to Holy See Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone including the curial cardinals. “Crucially, Bertone’s lot has an influence on Vatican finances. Indeed, the financial ‘troika’ is made up entirely of cardinals who are linked to the Secretary of State, Giuseppe Versaldi (President for the Prefecture for Economic Affairs), Domenico Calcagno (President of the APSA) and Giuseppe Bertello (President of the Vatican City State Governorate). Then there is Bertone himself, who presides over the supervisory commission of cardinals in charge of monitoring the Vatican Bank’s activities.”

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the ousted IOR president, is an Italian economist and banker. He was the pope’s hand-picked collaborator who co-wrote his encyclical Caritas in Veritate and other teachings about monetary morality. Gotti Tedeschi is also a member of Opus Dei, a professor of financial ethics and has held many executive positions, so he is well-connected. Gotti Tedeschi wanted transparency in the IOR and cooperation with international financial authorities  but was opposed by Bertone. It has been reported that Gotti Tedeschi is actually in fear for his life. “Even his name is no longer spoken aloud.”

“Never in the recent history of the Western world has the head of an institution been removed from his position, whatever the reasons, with such brutality. We maintain that Ettore Gotti Tedeschi is a person of the highest integrity who has always put his personal responsibility before unquestioning obedience.” This was attested to by leading economists and financial officials, most of them outside of the Catholic Church, including Carlo Castellano, Director of the Bank of Italy and Maurizio Lauri of Unicredit, in a letter to Corriere della Sera dated June 2.

Bertone met with the Oversight Commission of the IOR composed of Bertone and Cardinals Attilio Nicora, Jean Luis Tauran, Telephore Placidus Topo and Odilo Scherer after Gotti Tedeschi’s removal without reaching a definite determination about the bank’s future and so were looking directly to the pope to decide. Yet even among this group, there is division. Topo and Scherer are with Bertone and Tauran and Nicora are with Gotti Tedeschi. It is expected that at the end of the summer Nicora will leave and thus Bertone will have one less adversary.

In the opinion of Alberto Melloni, the director of the John XXIII Center in Bologna, “The battle lines are complex.” In Melloni’s view, the cardinals who want to undermine Bertone and, by implication, the pope, come from more traditionalist branches of the Church.

Another theory is that the former president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Camillo Ruini, and his successor Angelo Bagnasco, formed the core of an anti-Bertone faction. “Both cardinals are not only opponents of Bertone and his secular business [referring to the San Raffaele fiasco], they also occasionally expressed concern about the decline in political morality of Italy under Berlusconi [who was supported by Bertone].”

A Vatican Insider reporter thinks that Gabriele’s actions are a poor reflection on pope-whisperer and eminence grise Gänswein, “since Paolo Gabriele had worked alongside him in the papal apartments for six years.”

One of the “leaks” received after Gabriele’s arrest was a letter obtained by La Repubblica. The anonymous sender included copies of purported correspondence from Gänswein and accused the pope’s secretary and Bertone as being the “real culprits” and “spearheading an unnamed plot against the pope and Vatican hierarchy.”

I see another division not yet discussed in any articles. Connections to the German Republic have increased along with that country’s rise as Europe’s financial powerhouse. “The Italian magistracy is conducting investigations on some financial activity suspected of being illicit in accounts of the IOR. And the justifications given so far by the officials of the Vatican Bank have not satisfied the investigating magistrates.” On both occasions when the IOR has had its accounts in Italian banks identified as possible sources of money-laundering, the funds were being transferred to German banks.

In February, La Repubblica reported that the IOR had “abandoned Italian banks” and has “transferred much of its financial assets to Germany.” In May, La Stampa stated the IOR “now works almost exclusively with Deutsche Bank” to guard against further disclosures of its Italian bank accounts, implying that German financiers would be more willing to protect the Vatican’s secrecy than the Italians. In June, the Hessian Attorney General District Court rejected the request of a Roman prosecutor to help in the money-laundering investigation by seizing an IOR account in Frankfurt.

(The same La Stampa article also reported that part of the Vatican’s “exit strategy” from Italy may be to purchase a foreign bank and/or reopen relations with JP Morgan Chase directly in the U.S. and not with its European branches. Interestingly, Deutsch Bank and JP Morgan Chase are two of the seven international banks just served with subpoenas over the global interest setting scandal involving LIBOR – or the London Inter Bank Offer Rate – by New York and Connecticut attorneys-general.)

Gotti Tedeschi was fired because the IOR vice president, German Ronaldo Hermann Schmitz, formerly No. 2 at the Deutsche Bank, threatened to resign if he wasn’t. This left Schmitz as interim president of the IOR. Pope Benedict’s personal choice to succeed Gotti Tedeschi is Hans Tietmeyer, former head of the Bundesbank (Germany’s central bank) “now that Berlin rules Europe’s finances,” but at 81-years-old, it is unlikely Tietmeyer will accept.

In the increasingly Teutonic Vatican, it should also be noted that Gänswein’s influence has grown in the last two years as have the rumors concerning attempts to drive him away from the pope, such as his possible appointment as bishop in Germany. But there are very few who believe that the pope will get rid of his trusted secretary.

In addition, Benedict just appointed Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller as head of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger’s former position under John Paul II. Müller was also “surreptitiously added” to the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. “That has caused some speculation that the pope is looking for a stronger national ally in a top position, possibly to bolster support against the Italian contingent in the Roman Curia as he looks ahead to the [end of summer vacations] when [the Vatileak] scandals will surely resurface.”

Since the reign of the Emperor Constantine, the Vatican has been allied with Rome’s civil and financial power, “the the so-called clique…the army of gentlemen of his Holiness, honorary titles [which] identifies a rank, a belonging, which have been awarded public officers, sons of the old Roman nobility, the worlds of finance and senior government officials.”  The Vatican is, as John Allen Jr. states, substantially an Italian institution. “It often encapsulates both the virtues of Italian culture, including a keen emphasis on personal relationships and a sense of work as art, and its well-known defects, such as endless tribal rivalries and a penchant for conspiracy theories.” Given its history of intrigue, murder and duplicity in the past 1700 years, I can’t imagine the Italian curia willingly ceding control to any other nationality or group not associated with “the clique.”

“The mood is apocalyptic”

Regardless of who’s fighting whom, the atmosphere has grown toxic. In a recent article, Der Spiegle reported:

The mood at the Vatican is apocalyptic…. Fear is running rampant in the curia, where the mood has rarely been this miserable. It’s as if someone had poked a stick into a beehive. Men wearing purple robes are rushing around, hectically monitoring correspondence. No one trusts anyone anymore, and some even hesitate to communicate by phone….

The pope’s personal bodyguard, Domenico Giani, a former Italian secret service agent, has been on something of a crusade tracking down the origin of the leaks in recent months, Vatican insiders report, adding to atmosphere of fear.

Francesco Peloso, author of the book If God is Just: Crisis in Vocations, Martyrs and Sinners in the Church of Benedict XVI, stated, “The small world of the Vatican risks implosion,” an opinion shared by Colleen Koch. “Vatileaks is only the symptom of a deeper collapse of the Vatican system, which will not mark, however, in my opinion, the end of Christianity, nor the end of the Catholic Church. But certainly the change will be profound,” according to Peloso.

It hardly makes a difference to the peoples of the world, other than observant Catholics, what happens to the Church internally. But it would be a big relief for the 99% to have at least one part of the plutocracy demobilized.

Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America (Clarity Press) 2009.

5 Responses

  1. Thanks for the shout out Betty. My fear is the Vatican is going to be successful in their strategy to dismiss Paolo Gabrielle as slightly off kilter and unfortunately unsuccessful. Once his trial is done and he is convicted Benny will get all kinds of Pope Points for forgiving him. Well, why not, Paolo will have served well in becoming the exact opposite of what he wanted. No longer the whistle blower, just the poor misguided crazy Catholic penitent who actually harmed the pope in his misguided effort to help the pope. This is really brilliant managing by the Vatican. I would hope that the others Nuzzi says exist come forward before the Vatican gets away with this. All Catholics have a right to the answers for the problems Paolo brought to the light. Darkness can not win this time around.

  2. I love your last sentence:”Darkness can not win this time.” Benedict messed up big time by screwing Gotti Tedeschi, a man with many important friends – friends in Italian finance who can’t be happy about the Vatican moving its considerable fortune out of the country. Perhaps once Paolo escapes from the Vatican City State, Gotti Tedeshi’s friends will take care of him and his family. We’ll see how “misguided” the poor guy is after he knows he and his family are safe.

  3. That’s a very good point about Tedeschi. Maybe Carl Anderson and friends over extended themselves. Hubris has a tendency to do that.

    • Well, I’ll be eagerly awaiting your analysis when the “games” begin again at the end of the Holy See’s summer vacation.

  4. Betty, thank you for yet another magnificently researched article, full of information I don’t find anywhere else. I like your conclusion: yes, as you say, so many of these discussions touch in matters internal to the Catholic church, but they still have implications for the poor throughout the world, because of the tremendous power these gentlemen wield. And the tremendous wealth at their disposal.

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