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Future Pope

The Vatican has a PR problem. In an international poll, Pope Francis is less admired than even Donald Trump. While Trump is ranked as the 15th most admired man in the world in the 2020 survey, Pope Francis is ranked at 18. The Dalai Lama ranked number 8. “More than 45,000 people in 42 countries and territories were interviewed to compile the list,” YouGov published in September.

Due to the adulation of Pope Francis by the U.S. for-profit mainstream media, it’s not surprising that the pontiff ranks much higher in this country, almost tied with the Dalai Lama at numbers 8 and 9 respectively.

The Vatican generates favorable coverage from the U.S. media. Anthony Fauci and Chelsea Clinton are among the famous American headliners at a virtual conference being held May 6-8. Other notable speakers – Deepak Chopra, Kerry Kennedy, Cindy Crawford, John Sculley, entrepreneur and investor in high-tech startups, Brandon Marshall, a sports television personality and Joe Perry of Aerosmith –  will participate in the conference, “Exploring the Mind, Body & Soul: How Innovation and Novel Delivery Systems Improve Human Health.”

While wishing Americans a Happy Easter, Pres. Biden said, “We share the sentiments of Pope Francis. Getting vaccinated is a moral obligation. One that can save your life and the life of others.” Additionally, Biden invited Pope Francis to join the ranks of world leaders – Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Benjamin Netanyahu – to speak during the April 22 online Leaders Summit on Climate. It’s difficult to imagine any other head-of-state being as deferential.

This is the type of papal admiration the plutocrats who run the Vatican[i] hope to engender more widely with their selection of the next pope.

All popes and Catholic prelates claim a direct, uninterrupted line of succession back to the first Apostles. Jesus, after his resurrection, told them to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). However, the Vatican department receiving the largest single expenditure in the 2021 budget is one that proclaims PR coverage of the pope.

The Department of Communications “includes the Vatican television production center which always plans the coverage of papal Masses – including details like the positioning of video cameras, attention to the music and the pacing of the commentators offering translations in multiple languages – with the pope’s master of liturgical ceremonies,” according to the cruxnow.com website. “Even when it was possible [before the pandemic] to fill St. Peter’s Square with tens of thousands for a Mass” Pope Francis still had megascreens, the reporter added.

The diplomatic corps who protect the Vatican’s assets and other interests around the world received the second highest total in the 2021 budget. The Vatican spends comparatively little on “proclaiming the gospel” because their first priority is self-preservation.

The Beating Heart of the Vatican

In February, Pope Francis appointed two cardinals as new members of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA). The “patrimony” refers to the 750 million lire in cash – more than $1.3 billion in today’s money – Mussolini paid the Vatican for their support of his government in 1929.[ii] Mussolini also created the Vatican as an independent country, meaning the pope and his men are not subject to any regulation or law enforcement except their own.

Pope Pius XI asked the financial genius, Bernadino Nogara, to manage the money received from the Italian government. Nogara agreed on two conditions: “That he not be restricted by religious or doctrinal considerations in his investment-making” and “that he be free to invest funds anywhere in the world.”[iii]  The papacy “would never be poor again,”[iv] noted John F. Pollard, author of Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy: Financing the Vatican 1850-1950, who had acquired Nogara’s diaries.

“From June 1929 onwards, the investments of the Vatican moved into the financial markets of the world …. By the middle of the 1930s, the Vatican was placed at the center of world-wide network of banking and other financial institutions,” Pollard wrote.[v]

A hint of the magnitude of the Vatican’s current assets is that just two Swiss bank accounts hold “as much as €7 billion,” reported Edward Pentin in July 2019. These bank accounts are managed by APSA which oversees the Vatican’s investment portfolio, some commercial real estate and “large amounts of unregistered cash in offshore accounts,” according to Pentin.

“Sources say only few officials within APSA know the true extent of the Vatican’s foreign real estate portfolio, which is held largely ‘off the books.’” Pentin wrote.

APSA’s investments are “hidden behind layer after layer of false fronts and holding companies,” Pollard wrote.[vi] 

APSA is also the Vatican’s treasury and central bank. It deals in currencies, gold bullion and gold coins reported Emiliano Fittipaldi in 2014.

“APSA has accounts and deposits of its own in central banks all over the world: the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the Deutsche Bundesbank, the Bank of Italy, the Bank for International Settlements, and others,” noted Sandro Magister, quoting from a report by Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s financial monitors.

The Vatican Bank “has financial relations with more than a hundred countries,” stated Vatican attorney Jeffrey Lena. A Moneyval report confirmed that there are “more than forty banks in Europe, in the United States, in Australia, and in Japan [having] relationships of ‘correspondence’ with the Vatican Bank, permitting it to operate all over the world through them,” Magister stated.

The Vatican also has financial institutions in the Cayman Islands  and the Turks and Caicos. Both locations are known as havens for off-shore banking secrecy. 

So when Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Peter Turkson and Cardinal Luis Tagle as members of APSA in February, it meant that both had been vetted as willing to fulfill the oath that all men take when they become cardinals: “not to reveal to anyone what is confided to me in secret, nor to divulge what may bring harm or dishonor to Holy Church.” Their “new responsibilities would now include managing the Catholic Church’s assets around the world” stated the Catholic News Agency.

It is true of every conclave that those who know who the next pope will be don’t say and those who say don’t know – which I certainly don’t. But both Turkson and Tagle have attributes that could  increase the prestige, and therefore the influence, of the Vatican around the world. Turkson, 72, from Ghana and Tagle, 63, from the Philippines are from third-world countries, both come from humble backgrounds and speak English fluently.

TURKSON

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson was born on October 11, 1948 in Nsuta-Wassaw, Ghana. “He is the fourth child of ten children. His mother sold vegetables in the open market while his father worked as a carpenter,” according to Wikipedia.

After attending seminary and being ordained in 1975, Turkson was chosen to continue his studies in Rome according to the official Vatican biography. From 1975 to 1993, Turkson also taught in Ghanaian seminaries. He holds master degrees in Theology and Divinity from St. Anthony-on-Hudson Seminary, Rensselaer, New York.

In 1993 he was ordained a bishop and appointed as metropolitan archbishop of Ghana. For the next sixteen years, Turkson participated in, and then became of leader of, various African bishops’ conferences.

His native country chose him as Chairman of the Ghana Chapter of the Conference of Religions for Peace (2003-2007) and a member of the Ghana National Peace Council (2006-2010).

Pope Benedict XVI appointed Turkson as President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 2009 and he relocated to Rome.

In a lengthy document, Turkson justified creation of a “supranational” world political authority, “a system of government for the economy and international finance …. favorable to the existence of efficient and effective monetary and financial systems; that is, free and stable markets.”  He stated that what is required is “a body that will carry out the functions of a kind of ‘central world bank’ that regulates the flow and system of monetary exchanges, as do the national central banks” [One of the] measures to be conceived of as some of the first steps towards a public Authority with universal jurisdiction,” as quoted from the October 2011 document, “Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority.”

As is true of all lengthy statements and documents emanating from the Vatican, Turkson asserted a moral and ethical motive: “peace … achieving the common good … protection of the environment [and] support of sustainable development and social progress of all, and inspired by the values of charity and truth.”

Turkson never again went on record as recommending anything so controversial. However, he did become the go-to cardinal for participating in pro-business conferences.

During Pope Francis’ reign, Turkson attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. The aim of the annual four-day conference is to “engage the foremost political, business, cultural and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas” according to its website, as reported by businessinsider.com in August 2020.

The Vatican is a member of many international organizations including a “permanent observer” to the World Trade Organization, “the only international organization dealing with the global rules of trade. Its main function is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible,” according to its website. Turkson has participated in WTO meetings as well.

While his public statements are always about peace, helping the poor, the environment, immigrants, etc. etc. the cardinal does get to participate in private conversations at these meetings that are not made public.

In 2016, Pope Francis appointed Turkson as Prefect of the new Vatican Department for the Service of the Integral Human Development “dedicating particular attention to taking care of the goods of justice, peace and the safeguarding of Creation, as well as issues regarding disarmament, human rights, human mobility, health, charitable works, etc.”

Turkson delivered an address from Pope Francis to the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund on April 7, 2021, urging the attendees to work towards “a more inclusive and sustainable solutions to support the real economy, assisting individuals and communities to achieve their deepest aspirations and the universal common good.”

All the while, where and how the Vatican invests its wealth remain closely guarded secrets.

Expanding Turkson’s “expertise” and visibility

Also on April 7, Turkson “called for a rethink of healthcare to include a ‘holistic vision of care’ in his message for this year’s World Health Day.” Turkson delivered a 20-page paper, entitled “Accompanying people in psychological distress in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The cardinal highlighted a document published by his Vatican department earlier this year on mental health in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, as reported by the Catholic News Agency.

Turkson “who’s considered a key Pope Francis ally, sponsored a webinar on biodiversity April 20. British scientist Jane Goodall, known around the world for her studies of chimpanzees and her advocacy of species conservation, called Pope Francis a ‘reason for hope’ in her efforts,” reported the cruxnow.com website.

Turkson’s only misstep widely noticed by the media occurred in 2013 after Pope Benedict XVI resigned but before the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio. Turkson “who is favourite to be the first black pope has been attacked by abuse survivor groups after he linked clerical sex abuse and homosexuality.” Turkson had claimed that “clerical sexual abuse is unlikely to ravage the Church in Africa because its culture condemns homosexuality …. He would be a popular choice in the Global South and with the influential conservative wing of the Catholic Church,” reported The [London] Times.

Turkson was one of a dozen cardinals who SNAP, the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests, said would be the worst candidates for pope based on their handling of child sex abuse claims or their public comments about the cases. Of that dozen, Pope Francis promoted six to higher positions in the Vatican: Sean O’Malley of Boston, Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., George Pell of Australia, Marc Ouellet of Canada, Peter Turkson of Ghana, and Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras.

The SNAP statement noted that “the vast majority of cardinals are tainted by having ignored cases of predatory priests or by having actively covered them up and impeded efforts by police and prosecutors to bring the offenders to justice. The only two ‘papabili’ or papal contenders who have a credible record on sex abuse scandals are Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines and Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Austria.”

TAGLE

Cardinal Louis Antonio Gokim Tagle was born on June 21, 1957 in Manila, the Philippines. Tagle described his parents as “bank employees who were able to gain some promotions through hard work” in his biography written by Vatican journalist Cindy Wooden.

He was ordained in 1982, served in parish ministry and taught philosophy and theology in seminaries. Like Turkson, he was sent to study in the U.S. In 1985 he went to the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and earned a doctorate with summa cum laude in 1991.

Tagle returned to the Philippines serving as a parish priest and teaching theology. He also took part in the activities of the Bishops’ Conference and of the Federation of Episcopal Conferences of Asia “becoming an appreciated speaker,” according to the official Vatican biography. In 1997 he was appointed a member of the International Theological Commission and in 1998 took part as an expert in the Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops.

Tagle was ordained a bishop in 2001 and appointed Archbishop of Manila in 2011. He was created a cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2012.

During the reign of Pope Francis, he was appointed President Delegate of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2014 and named President of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of more than 160 Catholic relief organizations, in 2015.

The perfect papal candidate

When Tagle received the Ford Family Notre Dame Award for International Development and Solidarity in March 2017, his biography was presented by the school’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies University, portions of which follow:  

Tagle “has been a consistent advocate for the poor and vulnerable throughout his influential career in the Church. The 32nd archbishop of Manila, he is both unpretentious and dynamic, whether commuting by bicycle or inspiring massive crowds with his exhortations.”

After being ordained a bishop “he made it a point to live humbly and remain connected to those he served ….

“The Cardinal is known for his friendly demeanor and approachable nature, preferring to be called by his nickname ‘Chito’ instead of his full title ….

“Media savvy, he has a large social media following, particularly on Facebook, with over half a million ‘likes,’ where he shares videos of his homilies and public talks ….

“Tagle has stood firmly against the death penalty and political corruption and worked vigorously toward a Catholic response to issues such as the refugee crisis and climate change….”

In December 2019, Pope Francis appointed Tagle as Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, one of the most significant departments in the Roman Curia. Tagle relocated to Rome. “With Tagle’s appointment came the informal title of ‘Red Pope,’ a position that commands vast resources and wide influence,” wrote Mario Alvaro Limos, features editor for Esquire Philippines. Tagle now oversees the work of the Church in most of the dioceses in Africa, Asia and Oceania, which is around one-third of the world’s 4,000 dioceses. He also plays a central role in the selection of candidates to be bishops in the dioceses under his supervision.

The Congregation used to be known as Propaganda Fide, a department which controls its own “mini-financial empire,” wrote Vatican reporter John L. Allen Jr. in 2012. They “control a huge real estate portfolio, comprising about 2,000 apartments valued at €9 billion, which last year reportedly earned €56 million in rents,” Paddy Agnew reported in the June 21, 2010, Irish Times.  

As recently as March 2020, the Vatican announced that its “two departments that deal with the management of real estate, APSA and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, declared their willingness to accept requests for a temporary reduction in commercial lease payments as a result of the measures issued by the Italian authorities to stem the spread of Covid-19.”

In April, Pope Francis promoted Tagle to cardinal-bishop, “the highest category a prelate can belong to apart from being the pope himself,” reported cruxnow.com. “Tagle has long been considered a ‘Francis man,’ and his decision to promote him marks a clear sign that he has the pope’s stamp of approval.”

“Cardinal Tagle is widely considered to be among the papabili,” wrote Vatican reporter, Andrea Gagliarducci. “Many observers saw Pope Francis’ decision to tap him for the top spot at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples as a sort of investiture. Pope Francis now decided to [promote him] into the order of cardinal-bishops.”

The 2019 and 2020 promotions “have boosted Tagle’s visibility within the Church hierarchy and have given him experience working within the Holy See bureaucracy. Those two factors help make him a possible papal contender in a future conclave despite his relatively young age,” the Associated Press stated.  

“Tagle’s promotion also makes him eligible for the office of Dean of the College of Cardinals. When the papacy is vacant, the Dean of the College leads the pre-conclave meetings and then the Conclave itself,” added Gagliarducci. “This looked to many observers like further confirmation of Francis’s preference for Cardinal Tagle as his successor. It need not necessarily be taken that way, though. This is how the next conclave is being set up: It will be a different kind of conclave, in which none of the traditional keys to understanding papal electoral dynamics will be valid,” Gagliarducci cautioned.

PERSISTENT TRAGEDIES

Clerical Sex Abuse

Following the release of a report in March of hundreds of previously unknown cases of child sex abuse in Germany’s top diocese, the AFP global news agency presented a list of “high profile” cases titled “Sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church.” There have been hundreds of thousands of victims just in the last half century around the world. Although the article listed only those receiving the most media attention – immense tragedies in the U.S., Chile, Australia, Germany, Ireland and France – it is still an illustrative and illuminating summary of the sexual torture of children around the world by the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis has provided only lip service, ineffectual commissions and “summits” to decrease this catastrophe. At the time of his election, there already existed scores of reports by government entities in many countries on clerical sex abuse that he ignored. Since then, there have been dozens more that the next pope will also ignore. All the reports say that Church officials should report allegations to civil authorities, hand over internal documents to civil agencies investigating or adjudicating the crimes, support the abolition of statutes of limitations because it takes decades for most survivors to report their abuse and hold prelates who covered-up, aided and abetted, fully accountable. Resigning as bishop while retaining all income, benefits and honors is not a deterrent.

No cardinal who endorses these actions will be elected.

Suppression of Women’s and LGBTQ Human Rights

All modern popes have held that, even to save a woman’s life, all abortions are condemned. According to the World Health Organization:

  • Each year between 4.7% – 13.2% of maternal deaths can be attributed to unsafe abortion.
  • Around 7 million women are admitted to hospitals every year in developing countries, as a result of unsafe abortion.
  • Almost every abortion death and disability could be prevented through sexuality education, use of effective contraception, provision of safe, legal induced abortion, and timely care for complications.

All forms of “artificial” contraception are banned by the Catholic Church regardless of the dire health or poverty of the perspective parents.

Rainbow Catholics urged Pope Francis “to rein in LGBTIQ+-phobic prelates, warning that it is ‘literally a matter of life and death.'” The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) released a report in June 2020 that found that even in the 21st century “there are still multiple forms of Church-influenced discrimination” against LGBTIQ+ people worldwide. “Our Church cannot simultaneously claim to honor the dignity of all people and actively support the continuation of oppression.”

Like child sex abuse, no cardinal who supports human rights for women or LGBTQ+ persons will be elected.

Rather, for the next papal electors, the main issue remains choosing a pope who will be more popular in the media than of Pope Francis.

Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America.

[i] “Control of the Vatican: What’s at Stake.” https://opentabernacle.wordpress.com/2020/12/14/control-of-the-vatican-whats-at-stake/

[ii] David I. Kertzer The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe 

[iii] John F. Pollard, Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy: Financing the Vatican p163

[iv] Ibid p148

 [v] Ibid p168

[vi] Ibid p149



2 Responses

  1. Credibility abounds when you make reference to David Kertzer.
    An easy reference to pass onto to others,in denouncing fake news.
    Good on you Betty.

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