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Catholic Dark Money: The Pandora Papers

The October 5, 2021, revelations show that senior operatives of the Legion of Christ Order set up a trio of trusts in New Zealand to hide the group’s money. At the time “victims of sexual abuse of its priests were seeking financial compensation from the Order through lawsuits,” noted theworldnews.net.

“The Pandora Papers is an investigation into the shadowy offshore financial system that reveals the workings of a secret economy that benefits the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of everyone else. The ‘papers’ are the more than 11.9 million confidential records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that form the backbone of the investigation,” their icij.org website reported.

“Two of the Legion’s trusts would eventually hold $300 million in assets and moved money around the world …The trusts used a shell company to invest heavily in U.S. rental properties, including in apartment complexes where tenants were evicted during the coronavirus eviction moratorium,” the ICIJ wrote.

 “In response to questions about whether the Legion disclosed the trusts to the Vatican, the Order told ICIJ that ‘religious institutes do not have an obligation to send detailed information to the Vatican regarding their internal financial decisions or organization’”

In fact, religious institutes do not have to give their financial information to anyone in the Church. Civil governments protect the secrecy of their financial information by the separation of church and state.

The Pandora Papers “come from [only] 14 offshore service providers – law firms, wealth management advisors and corporate formation agencies – that help those with money set up companies in low- or no-tax jurisdictions.”  There must be dozens, if not hundreds, of such service providers.

Catholic religious institutes are too numerous to count. “The 2012 Annuario Pontificio, the Vatican’s annual directory, devotes 19 pages to information on Latin-Rite ‘orders’ for men, gives 35 pages to Latin-Rite ‘congregations’ for men, 7 to Eastern-Rite ‘orders, religious congregations and societies of apostolic life’ for men, and 198 pages to more concise information on religious institutes for women,” according to the latest information available on Wikipedia.

 “By our calculations, in just three countries where extensive secular vetting has begun to occur – France, Australia, and the United States – a total of 12,400 priest abusers are now acknowledged, and the numbers continue to climb as new allegations are made on a daily basis. These countries comprise 9% of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholic population. If we extrapolate these numbers to a worldwide count, we would expect that there would be more than 120,000 abusers in the Church and on the order of 1.2 million victims across the globe,” Mike McDonnell, communications manager for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), wrote on Oct. 5, 2021.

“And even now, in 2021, many do NOT know that hundreds or thousands of nuns have also sexually violated kids. Despite all that’s been revealed and written and discussed about the Church’s on-going abuse and cover up crisis over decades, abuse by nuns is a largely still-unexamined part of the picture,” one victims’ attorney wrote on the BishopAccountability.org website.

So we will never know how much wealth religious institutes have hidden out of reach of their victims and their families. But it must be a staggering figure.

Enrico Crasso

The Pandora Papers also revealed that Enrico Crasso, “while working with the Vatican on its investments…. created shell companies in the British Virgin Islands, at least one intended to purchase his Miami real estate. Crasso denied Vatican money paid for the condos,” the Miami Herald reported.

“The name of Crasso, in fact, recurs several times in the immense archive of offshore companies unveiled by the ICIJ,” italy24news.com stated. “A shell company registered in the British Virgin Islands ‘is just one of the many complex operations’ for which the Vatican money manager is being charged with in a Vatican court.”

Crasso, one of ten defendants currently standing trial in the Vatican, has managed investments for the Vatican since 1993. He had set up his own holding company, the Centurion Global Fund, in which the Vatican invested millions of euros.

He is accused of embezzlement, corruption, extortion, money laundering, fraud, abuse of office, and forgery – charges which the he denies. “They didn’t lose any money. Nothing,” he insisted, adding later that “fraud happens when you lose money, but not when you make money.” Crasso said in the Miami Herald interview.

This trial – like all of Pope Francis’ “trials” of prelates too old and/or rich to care, creations of committees and laws regarding child sex abuse – is for show. It is meant to give the appearance the pope takes financial corruption seriously. This trial, began on July 27, will drag on until all but the most ardent Vatican-watchers lose interest. It will end with those like Crasso, who know where the bodies are buried, suffering no consequences.

Recall that the Pandora Papers come from only14 offshore service providers while we know that the Vatican has scores of holding companies and offshore accounts.

The Vatican’s Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA) was created after the 1929 Lateran Pact with Mussolini’s government in which they received the equivalent of $1.5 billion in today’s money in return for their support of the fascist dictator. APSA administers the lion’s share of Vatican investments “hidden behind layer after layer of false fronts and holding companies,” according to John F. Pollard, Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy: Financing the Vatican. Pollard also documented that APSA investments include holding companies for commercial properties in London, Paris and Switzerland.

Pope Francis is well aware that this is how the Vatican does business. “The pope shut down nine holding companies based in the Swiss cities of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg, all of which were created to manage portions of APSA,” cruxnow.com reported in May 2020.

Additionally, a number of APSA accounts “held for private individuals, including senior churchmen and Vatican citizens” were “anonymized” in the past few years, the Catholic News Agency reported in also May 2020. “Essentially, named accounts became private numbered accounts to keep the identity of the account holders hidden.”

As noted by the ICIJ investigators: “The offshore system offers secrecy which provides an opportunity to hide assets from authorities, creditors and other claimants as well as from public scrutiny. They can shelter their assets by paying financial services providers to set up companies to hold those items.

“It allows elites and multinationals to drain trillions of dollars from treasuries, worsen wealth disparities and protect those who cheat and steal while depriving their victims of recourse.”   

Christians must not “remain indifferent” to those affected by an “economic system that continues to discard people’s lives in the name of the god of money, fostering greed and destructive attitudes toward the resources of the earth and fueling various forms of injustice,” Pope Francis said on Oct. 23, 2021.
 
“Our response to injustice and exploitation must be more than mere condemnation,” he said. “First and foremost, it must be the active promotion of good.” cruxnow.com reported

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

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