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Confirmed: The Vatican Trial is Rigged

The three witnesses called by the defense who are all top officials appointed by, and close to, Pope Francis will not be testifying. In what is known as the “Vatileaks 2” trial, the judges stated last week that Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Cardinal Santos Abril y Castelló, head of the commission which supervises the Vatican Bank, and Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, head of papal charity, were excused. Each is connected to an aspect of Vatican finance which, if given more publicity by their appearance and/or testimony, would be damaging to the pontiff.

The trial of five persons based on a law enacted by Pope Francis criminalizing leaks of Vatican information began on Nov. 24, 2015. Msgr. Lucio Vallejo Balda, Francesca Chaouqui, a PR specialist, and Nicola Maio, Balda’s assistant, were charged with disclosing confidential financial information while they were members of COSEA (Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See), established by the pope  in 2013 and subsequently dissolved in 2014 with the completion of its mandate to recommend changes in the administration of Vatican finances.

Journalists Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi were indicted for “soliciting and exercising pressure” to obtain this information from the COSEA members and using the material in their books. “Fraud worth millions, the machinations of the Vatican Bank, the true extent of the pope’s treasury,” “offerings of the faithful withheld from charity,  theft and trade scams” in this pontificate were disclosed in Fittipaldi’s Avarice: Papers that Reveal Wealth, Scandals and Secrets in the Church of Francis.and Nuzzi’s Merchants in the Temple, both released last Nov. 5.

Parolin

Under Cardinal Parolin, “the Secretariat of State has step by step regained importance.”

The international auditing firm Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC) was hired Dec. 5 by the Secretariat for the Economy to audit the Vatican’s 120 financial departments’ books and check if they had been filed according to international accountability standards. The auditing was suspended April 12 [2016] by the Secretariat of State, with two letters by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state, and by his deputy, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu. The letters reportedly claimed that proper procedures had not been correctly applied.

Becciu’s letter stated that Cardinal George Pell, secretary for the economy, “had sent out materials instructing Vatican entities to cooperate with the audit” but those orders have now been suspended by “superior provision,” i.e. the Secretariat of State. “Though Becciu’s name is on the letter, it’s understood that it would not have been issued without the authorization of Pope Francis.”

“The so-called ‘concerns’ about the PwC audit and contract were only raised when auditors began asking for certain financial information and were finding it difficult to get answers,” Pell’s office responded.

That Parolin could halt an audit and countermand instructions issued by the secretary for the economy is evidence of his familiarity with, and control over, Vatican finance, as well as his determination to keep its secrets with the pope’s backing.

There are other potential scandals which will need to be suppressed by Parolin.

The Vatican has “invested in shares of Exxon and Dow Chemical, corporations that pollute and poison,” according to Fittipaldi. Vatican Bank president, Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, confirmed two weeks ago that the bank’s “investments in fossil fuel companies” have continued to the present despite Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment.

Fittipaldi wrote that the Vatican Bank has still not turned over to the Bank of Italy (the country’s central bank) the list of Italian citizens who took funds out of the country to avoid paying taxes, despite promises to do so.

Currently, “operations between the Vatican Bank and Italy’s banks have still not resumed fully. [A]s far as the Italian government is concerned, there is still a money laundering risk in the Vatican City State.”

“Offerings of the faithful withheld from charity”

Fittipaldi revealed there are several accounts in the Vatican Bank designated for charity which give away nothing or very little. In 2013 and 2014, the fund available to the bank’s Commission of Cardinals headed by Cardinal Abril y Castelló, “a close friend” of Pope Francis,  gave nothing to charity despite a net surplus of 425,000 euro. (1 euro = 1.11 dollar)

Both Fittipaldi and Nuzzi wrote about Peter’s Pence. Once a year, bishops worldwide ask their parishioners to contribute money to this fund  for the pope’s charity. For decades, the financial statements of the Vatican City State had shown the specific amount of this donation but that ended when Pope Francis took office.

“Out of every 10 euro that come into the Vatican for the pope’s charity,” Nuzzi said, “six go to balance the accounts of the curia, two are deposited as reserves in a fund that today is up to almost 400 million euro, and only two end up in the pope’s hand to do charity.” This was confirmed by Parolin’s deputy, Becciu.

The Peter’s Pence collection totaled 378 million euro in 2013, wrote Fittipaldi. Vatican Bank profits are also “offered the Holy Father in support of his apostolic and charitable ministry.” This was 50 million euro in 2013.  Additionally, the pope receives “lavish donations” from celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and business moguls like Apple’s Tim Cook.

As head of Pope Francis’ charity, Archbishop Krajewski knows how much the pope actually gives to charity. He also knows that much of the charity for which this pontiff accepts full credit is based on donations, administration and service provided by others.

Justice a la Pope Francis

Balda and Chaouqui were arrested on Nov. 2 with the “personal approval” of Pope Francis.

[When Chaouqui, who is pregnant,] was summoned to a meeting with Vatican police, she willingly went along. She assumed it would be an hour-long affair. Instead, the 33-year-old was arrested, interrogated and held for 72 hours within the Vatican walls – apart from a short stint in hospital after falling ill – and says she was denied access to a lawyer. Among aspects of the case that confound her well-known defense lawyer, Giulia Bongiorno, are the Vatican’s alleged repeated violations of Chaouqui’s due process rights, first by interrogating her without an attorney, by forbidding Bongiorno from defending her in the trial – she has been given a Vatican attorney instead – and by allegedly failing to put forward any documentary evidence against her client.

Balda, 55, was put in the same Vatican jail cell as Pope Benedict XVI’s personal assitant, Paolo Gabriele, after his arrest in the first Vatileaks scandal. Gabriele, 46, said he was confined in a cell of the Vatican gendarmerie so small that he “couldn’t even open his arms.” The lights were left on 24 hours a day.

On Nov. 12, the gendarmerie, “in their role as judicial police,” informed the prosecutors that the activity carried out by Nuzzi and Fittipaldi “may constitute complicity in the crime of disseminating confidential news and documents. [T]he journalists are now therefore under investigation.”  Nuzzi and Fittipaldi were indicted on Nov. 21.

The trial began on Nov. 24 amid criticism from a dozen freedom-of-the-press organizations that journalists were being prosecuted for doing their jobs.

“‘I am incredulous in finding myself here as a defendant in a country that is not mine,’ Fittipaldi told the court, adding that publishing news was protected by the Italian constitution as well as European conventions and universal declarations on human rights.”

“I met my lawyer for the first time this morning, just before the hearing,” said Nuzzi outside the courtroom. “I haven’t been allowed to read the charges against me. The trial is absurd, Kafkaesque. I appeared in court because I wanted to look the judges in the eye.”

All the defendants were assigned Vatican attorneys the first day of the trial. When Pope Francis was asked about the trial in a Nov. 30 in-flight interview he responded: “On this trial: I gave the judges the concrete charges, because what is important to the defense is the formulation of the accusations. I didn’t read the actual, technical charges, no? I would have liked to finish it before Dec. 8 for the Year of Mercy, but I don’t think they’ll be able to do it, because I would like all of the lawyers who are defending to have the (necessary) amount of time to defend, that they have the freedom of defense.”

As much as the pope wanted a speedy trial, four days after Parolin, Abril y Castelló and Krajewski were called as witnesses – “the decision raises the prospect of the Church’s dirty linen being laundered in public” – the trial was suspended on Dec. 11.”to allow time for experts to evaluate electronic devices allegedly used by some of the defendants to communicate, to be heard.”

“Balda is in fear of his life.”

Balda was moved from jail to house arrest on Dec. 23.

A website devoted to Vatican affairs claimed that the Spanish monsignor … was deeply unhappy that he had not been able to choose his own lawyer but had been given one by the Vatican’s judicial authorities.

He was also believed to be dismayed at the conditions under which he was being kept, as the Vatican’s only prisoner, likening it to the Castro regime in Cuba.

[H]e was being held in an apartment where a disgraced Vatican ambassador, Jozef Wesolowski, was kept pending his trial.

Archbishop Wesolowski was accused of sexually abusing teenage boys in the Dominican Republic, where he was posted. But he died suddenly last August, with the Vatican saying he had suffered a cardiac arrest.

“Balda is in fear of his life,” said Gabriel Ariza, the editor of Infovaticana. “He told me in a letter. He was being kept under house arrest in the same room where Wesolowski was found dead in mysterious circumstances.”

Wesolowski’s Vatican trial had been scheduled for July 11, 2015. The ambassador was accused of paying poor street boys to masturbate while he filmed them and performing oral sex with him.

Had the trial taken place, testimony would have confirmed that Pope Francis was notified about Wesolowski in July 2013 but allowed him to escape without notifying civil authorities or the public. The archbishop remained a free man in Rome until Sept. 26, 2014, when the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Serra reported that Wesolowski, 66, was arrested by order of the pope because “there was a serious risk that the nuncio would be arrested on Italian territory at the request of the Dominican authorities and then extradited.”

During that period of freedom, Wesolowski acquired more than 100,000 computer files of pornography with disturbing photos of children who were likely victims of human trafficking – an issue on which Pope Francis wants to be seen as a world leader.

But no jail cell for Wesolowski since destroying young lives isn’t a threat to the pope like breaking Vatican secrecy. Under house arrest, he was still able to access child porn on the internet.

On the eve of the trial, Wesolowski was taken to the hospital. His lawyer “didn’t know what ails his client. ‘I saw him two or three days ago, and, given his age and his state of mind, he was fine,’ said Antonello Blasi.”

Wesolowski’s sudden death in his Vatican quarters on Aug. 28 aroused doubts and suspicions. The Vatican autopsy confirming the cause of death as a “cardiac event” was coordinated by the same man who had declared the shooting death of a Swiss Guard to be a suicide. An autopsy at the University of Lausanne’s Institute of Forensic Pathology said this was not possible. (Citations for the above 5 paragraphs can be found here.)

When Pope Francis was questioned about the current trial on Nov. 30, he also said, “I just thank God that Lucrezia Borgia isn’t around. (laughs).” In view of Wesolowski’s death, this seems a macabre reference to have on his mind since Lucrezia Borgia was an infamous poisoner.

Trial resumed

On March 12, Balda was returned to the jail cell because he had “violated a ban on communicating with the outside world.”  

When the trial resumed on March 14, Balda confessed, “Yes, I passed documents. I did it spontaneously, probably not fully lucid.”  The next day, the monsignor said he never felt threatened by the two journalists.

As the trial progressed, Chaouqui said she never gave confidential information to the journalists, which Maio also denied.  Nuzzi denied pressuring Balda. The prosecution produced a witness stating Chaouqui had admitted giving documents to Nuzzi.

The rest of the trial has centered on testimony directed by the prosecution of other Vatican employees in an effort to find out how and why the leaks occurred and how and what electronic devices were used. A completion date has not yet been announced.

Pope Francis thought this would be a slam-dunk, quickie trial and he would be seen as the victim of a “deplorable crime.” The pope approved the arrest of two defendants without due process and had given the judges the “concrete charges” with which to prosecute his case.

Since the Vatican is obviously not a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights anything is possible, but from the beginning the pope was on shaky ground since the four lay persons are Italian citizens and, unlike Balda, not residents of the Vatican City State.

Additionally, the accuracy of the two books has never been contested. Chaouqui is due any day now and thus, a sympathetic subject. Nuzzi and Fittipaldi are protected by their fellow journalists and it is doubtful that the pontiff wants to provoke that hornets’ nest of bad publicity again.

Several Vatican experts have suggested that since this is the pope’s Year of Mercy, he will use the trial as another PR opportunity by showing “mercy” and dropping the charges against the four lay persons or “forgiving” them.

Most of all, Pope Francis would like the subject of his money to be dropped.

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2 Responses

  1. “The devil is in the details” and BC has turned a spotlight the devil, and
    the devil has coterie in the Vatican.
    The RCC simply is not reformable.
    Again, how the poor are used to gather in Peter Pence pieces into the temple treasury. One cleansing of money changer hardly enough.
    Where’s Jesus when he’s needed?
    Perhaps he feels the RCC is hopeless.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to comment. “The RCC simply is not reformable.” Certainly not at this time.

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