Scandals Swirl Around Pope Francis: Sex Abuse, Child Porn, Cocaine and Corruption
By Betty Clermont
January 19, 2018
In just the latter half of 2017, over a dozen scandals – with hints of more to come – drew close to the pope but were mostly ignored by the U.S. media.
July 3 – Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer accused of sex abuse cover-up.
Pope Francis appointed Ladaria as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican department that addresses cases of clergy sexual abuse, on June 30. Ladaria had previously served as secretary, the second highest official.
Three days later, Ladaria was accused of covering up for Fr. Gianni Trotta. “The congregation received complaints against Trotta in 2009 and three years later found him guilty of sexually abusing minors, demoting him from the priesthood but failing to inform the Italian authorities …. Ladaria wrote to the bishop of Foggia in 2012 instructing him not to divulge the reasons why Trotta had been stripped of his priesthood “so as to avoid scandal.”
Trotta continued to dress as a priest and became the coach of a youth soccer team.
Trotta, already convicted of sexual violence against an 11-year-old and sentenced to eight years in prison by a civil court, is now standing trial for nine other alleged cases of sex abuse against boys that occurred in 2014. “Trotta allegedly raped five, abused others in his home individually or in groups, photographing them during sexual acts.”
“If Ladaria had informed the police, these children would have been safe,” journalist and Vatican expert Emiliano Fittipaldi noted.
July 6 – Revealed: Vatican charges against Archbishop Apuron are unknown.
Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes “told reporters he did not know what the charges ended up being” in the Vatican trial of Archbishop Anthony Apuron. Byrnes was assigned by Pope Francis in 2016 to substitute for Apuron in Guam while he is subject to investigation and trial.
“Guam’s Catholics and the public are under the assumption that Apuron’s Vatican trial is for child sexual abuse,” noted Joelle Casteix, advocate for sex abuse survivors. Apuron was accused of molestation or rape in the 1970’s by four former altar boys.
But Apuron has also “been accused of everything from financial mismanagement to widespread disarray of Church operations,” Casteix reminded us. The Church in Guam has been been subjected to “corruption, vendettas, lobbies” according to the Vatican Insider.
Apuron’s title, honors and benefits were never removed. After he was accused, Apurone was tracked down and found living in California by an attorney.
On July 6, Byrnes said the Vatican trial was in its final phases and that we should know more “in the next several weeks.” As of Jan. 10, there still is no word on the results of the Vatican trial according to Byrnes.
To date, 154 Guam clergy sex abuse lawsuits have been filed in local and federal court.
Sept. 4 – Pope Francis ignores Colombian mother’s plea for intervention.
In 2009, Fr. William de Jesus Mazo Pérez sexually abused four children from poor families. In 2012, the 22nd circuit judge sentenced him to 33 years in prison, a sentence ratified in 2015 by the Superior Court of Cali. “The economic reparation for this fact generated a controversy that has involved the archbishop of Cali and the lawyer of the Church … when the lawyer spoke about the parents’ responsibility. He added that the monetary reparations ordered by the court would be impossible to pay.”
Yaneth Villa Blandón, mother of two of the abused children, asked Pope Francis for his intervention during his visit to Colombia. “I want to request [you] give us the consolation that the Church of Cali denied us and restore our dignity offended by the words of Archbishop Dario de Jesus Monsalve, who, in the eagerness to rid the archdiocese of all responsibility, did not hesitate in pointing out that those responsible for the abuses were our children … and ourselves as relatives for having placed trust in the priest,” she wrote in a letter to the pope. Villa adds: “I appeal to your holiness to call upon your pastors so that they may be pious with those who have suffered the injustice of the crime.”
Pope Francis did not respond to the mother’s plea.
Sept. 5 – Report to UN Committee denounces Vatican’s continued failure to protect children from sexual violence.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) submitted a report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child detailing how, after three years, the Holy See has not implemented any of the committee’s recommendations aimed at ensuring the protection of children from sexual violence.
“The Holy See was summoned to the committee in 2014 where the Vatican was implored to take concrete steps to remedy decades of institutional complicity and cover-up of widespread sexual violence. While last Friday marked the Vatican’s deadline to submit a comprehensive report on their progress, the committee reports they have not received anything thus far….
‘No other entity on earth has the Church’s global presence and power to conceal the offenses and insulate its perpetrators through the religious, political, and financial influence it wields,’ said CCR staff attorney Pam Spees.”
Sept. 15 – Vatican diplomat to U.S. recalled in child porn investigation.
“A high-ranking priest working in the Vatican’s embassy in Washington has been recalled after U.S. prosecutors asked for him to be charged there and face trial in a child pornography investigation …. The State Department said it had asked the Vatican to lift the official’s diplomatic immunity on Aug. 21, and said the request was denied three days later. For the State Department to make such a request, its lawyers would have needed to be convinced that there was reasonable cause for criminal prosecution,” the AP reported.
Pope Francis had posted Msgr. Carlo Capella to Washington D.C. in 2016.
“Granted, this priest is not known to be accused of directly abusing children. But if he is in possession of child pornography, as the United States alleges, he might as well be, since child pornography is almost always filmed under horrific circumstances,” noted journalist, Barbie Latza Nadeau.
Capella was “secretly swooped back to Rome” where “he won’t face any secular charges any time soon because he is safely inside the fortified walls of Vatican City,” Nadeau reported.
The next month, police in Windsor, Ontario, accused Capella of “accessing, possessing and distributing child pornography.” Robert Talach, an Ontario lawyer, said Capella should be extradited back to Canada. “If Pope Francis has been nothing but a PR exercise this will prove it,” he said.
In a previous case involving a papal ambassador and child pornography, Pope Francis was informed in July 2013 that Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski was accused of sex abuse of minors in the Dominican Republic. The pope dismissed him on Aug. 21 via confidential letter. Neither the civil authorities nor the public knew about Wesolowski until a local TV program did an expose’ on Aug. 31. The result of a year-long investigation, the broadcast contained testimony that the ambassador solicited sex for money from Santo Domingo’s poorest boys..
Wesolowski’s whereabouts remained unknown until Santo Domingo Auxiliary Bishop Víctor Masalles tweeted on June 24, 2014: “For me it was a surprise to see Wesolowski walking along the Via della Scrofa in Rome.” Embarrassed, the Vatican announced on June 27 that Wesolowski had been laicized (defrocked) “in the past few days,” but he remained a free man. The U.S. press reported this as “the most tangible demonstration of what Pope Francis called his ‘zero tolerance’ for child sex abuse.”
On Sept. 26, 2014, Il Corriere della Serra reported that Wesolowski 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.”
Wesolowski had more than 100,000 computer files of pornography. “Some were downloaded from the internet and others the victims themselves were forced to take. The prelate stored part of this chamber of horrors on his own laptop. The material, which is classified by type, shows dozens of young girls engaged in sexual activities but the preference is for males. Images show youngsters aged between 13 and 17 being humiliated for the camera, filmed naked and forced to have sexual relations with each other or with adults. … Wesolowski is suspected of belonging to an international network that extends well beyond what has emerged so far.”
On the eve of Wesolowski’s July 11, 2015, Vatican trial for possession of child pornography, he 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 died the next month.
Wesolowski’s autopsy confirming he died from “natural causes” was “conducted by a team of coroners named by the Vatican prosecutor.” This “aroused doubts and suspicions in the Dominican Republic and other countries.”
Sept. 21 – Pope Francis meets with his sex abuse commission for the first time since he created it three years ago. By the end of 2017, it no longer existed.
Pope Francis had set up the papal commission in 2014 in response to media criticism. On July 1, 2013, the United Nation’s Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) sent a request to the pope for “detailed information on all cases of child sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy, brothers or nuns” for the past fifteen years and set November 1 as a deadline for a reply. The questions were sent as preparation for a public hearing scheduled for January. Pope Francis responded to the CRC on December 4 by stating that it was not the practice of his government to “disclose information on specific cases unless requested to do so by another country as part of legal proceedings” and “that the Vatican can provide information only about known and alleged child sex crimes that have happened on Vatican property.”
A rarity, the pope’s response was criticized in the press. The next day, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley stated that the pope would create a special Commission for the Protection of Minors with no authority other than to advise him on ways to address the subject.
During the September 2017 meeting, Pope Francis repeated his assurance that the Church would “respond with the application of the firmest measures” against sexual abuse of children.
On Dec. 13, the second of two clerical sex abuse survivors resigned from the commission. The other, Marie Collins, had resigned on March 1, 2017. Peter Saunders, the British founder and former Chief Executive of NAPAC (National Association for People Abused in Childhood) said he was quitting the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors “in frustration at the slow pace of reform. ‘I thought the pope was serious about kicking backsides and holding people to account. I believe the Church deserves better on this,’” Saunders said.
By Dec. 29, the commission “has lapsed into an inactive state. Its members’ terms of office, as set by the group’s Vatican-approved statutes, expired Dec. 17. Neither the pope nor the Vatican have made known when or if the current members will be reappointed or new members found ….
“A lack of an official response sends a tone-deaf and disappointing message to Catholics and the world. It points to the causal negligence at the heart of the scandal,” the National Catholic Reporter editorial staff wrote.
Oct. 5 – The Vatican conference on Child Dignity in the Digital World concluded. “During the conference, Msgr. Carlo Capella has been the elephant in the room,”
This was the observation of Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org which keeps a large online archive of documents, reports, and news articles documenting the global abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. “The Vatican diplomat, Msgr. Carlo Capella, is the subject of an international child pornography investigation, yet he is being harbored by the Vatican while the conference about child abuse images/child pornography and related problems proceeds,” McKiernan wrote.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state and Capella’s boss, delivered the keynote speech: “The Holy See and its commitment to combating sex abuse online.”
The conference’s Final Declaration was presented by Pope Francis who said that “tech companies should protect children from sexual exploitation.”
“The case of Msgr. Carlo Capella is by no means unique. Many priests have been convicted of possessing and trading in child abuse images, and many clerical abusers have photographed their victims, partly to memorialize the abuse and share it – even profit from it – and partly to menace their victims. The recent child pornography cases of Archbishop Józef Wesołowski, Bishop Raymond J. Lahey, and Bishop Robert W. Finn’s handling of Father Shawn F. Ratigan, all show that the Catholic Church has ongoing and serious problems with the digitally enabled abuse of children …. Much better if the conference had been devoted to examining honestly the Catholic Church’s own tragic experience with child abuse images and the digital harming of children,” McKiernan noted.
Oct. 5 – Pope Francis met with French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin who is awaiting trial over allegations he covered up for a pedophile priest.
A few weeks earlier, Barbarin and Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer were ordered to stand trial in April. “Barbarin, who is archbishop of Lyon, is accused of having shielded priest Bernard Preynat from claims of abuse involving scouts in his Lyon parish. Ladaria is accused of complicity in the alleged cover-up,” as reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP). “In correspondence with Barbarin about the priest, [Ladaria] had advised the cardinal to take ‘necessary disciplinary measures while avoiding public scandal’ — seen as a warning to keep the abuse quiet.”
Pope Francis had said senior clerics who shield pedophile priests should resign, “but he has stood by Barbarin [who he referred to as ‘my friend’] insisting the cardinal had taken ‘the necessary measures in the Preynat case,’” the AFP said.
Oct. 20 – Allegations of sex abuse cover-up by “vice-pope”
Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga “had protected a pedophile priest from Costa Rica, a fugitive from Interpol, who was found in bed with an eight-year-old child by her mother,” as reported by Emiliano Fittipaldi in his book, Lussuria. Peccati scandali e tradimenti di una Chiesa fatta di uomini (Lust. Sins, Scandals, and Betrayal of a Church Made of Men).
When Pope Francis formed his Council of Cardinals a month after his election, he appointed Rodriguez Maradiaga as its head. Rodriguez Maradiaga was the pope’s “close friend,” “some might say vice pope,” “right-hand man” who plays a “key support role” in the Vatican. The pope chose Rodriguez Maradiaga even though – or perhaps because – the cardinal had “participated actively” and “blessed” the 2009 military coup against the constitutionally-elected and progressive Pres. Manuel Zelaya.
76% of Hondurans identified as Catholic in 1995. Only 39% did so in 2017.
Fittipaldi: “In the Church with Pope Francis, it is necessary to wash the dirty clothes inside the Vatican, without anyone seeing. It’s certainly a disgusting attitude, especially when we’re dealing with children’s lives ….
“In the first three years of the pontificate of Bergoglio, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith noted 1200 allegations of ‘probable’ abuse of little boys and girls assisted by the Vatican guidelines which still do not require compulsory denunciation [to civil authorities] for the sexual violence of priests … Changing this law would take a minute for Pope Francis, but he does not do so.
“[Benedict XVI] was very traditionalist and conservative, and so the journalists did not like him, but he did important things. The things he did in relation to pedophilia, which was not much, but double the time for prescribing crimes in the Vatican, sent away almost 600 priests in a few years. The incredible thing is that Francis did a lot less [and] the official figures I publish exclusively show that the phenomenon is even more serious than before.”
Nov. 9 – Alleged sex abuse in the Vatican preseminary
Pope Francis was personally informed of alleged sex abuse of minors in the Vatican’s preseminary for boys aspiring to become priests, according to Gianluigi Nuzzi’s book, Peccato Originale (Original Sin). Nuzzi reported that Kamil Jarzembowski, who entered the St. Pius X preseminary at the age of 13, wrote a letter about the sexual abuse and handed it directly to Pope Francis.
The pope did nothing to stop it.
After Nuzzi’s book and an Italian television reported on the abuse, the Vatican said it opened an investigation on Nov. 18.
Nov. 23 – Argentine news agency survey of Church sex abuse includes cases in which Pope Francis’ was involved.
According to a survey conducted by the Télam news agency, 66 priests, nuns, bishops and other religious officials have been accused of sex abuse offences since 2002 in Argentina. “The news agency’s tally takes 2002 as its starting point, a reference to the so-called ‘Grassi case,’ which had a domino effect, bringing more allegations to light.”
Fr. Julio César Grassi was arrested and charged with 17 counts of sexual abuse of three boys. He was eventually convicted in 2009. After Grassi was found guilty, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio “secretly authorized an extensive critical examination of Grassi’s prosecution and of the three original plaintiffs. [T]he resulting study vigorously asserted Grassi’s innocence [and] was circulated to judges who had yet to make determinations in the case.”
Despite Grassi’s conviction, he has never been defrocked.
The pope was involved in four other cases. “There is evidence that Bergoglio knowingly or unwittingly slowed victims in their fight to expose and prosecute their assailants. Victims of all four offenders say that they sought the cardinal’s help. None of them received it,” According to Bergoglio’s former spokesman, the cardinal “declined to meet with any victims.”
In the book, On Heaven and Earth, by Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Rabbi Abraham Skorka, Pope Francis wrote, “In my diocese [child sex abuse by priests] never happened to me, but a bishop called me once by phone to ask me what to do in a situation like this.”
The Telam study showed that since 2002 “an estimated four new accusations against members of the clergy have come to light each year, with the majority of alleged crimes having taken place in Buenos Aires province, followed by Mendoza province.” “’We are contacted daily about new sex abuses cases,” Carlos Lombardi, a lawyer who represents Argentine victims of clerical sex abuse, told the Buenos Aires Times. “But the Catholic Church has a consistent pattern of not providing information that is requested by the abused victims.” A prime example is the infamous Próvolo Institute case in Mendoza province, a scandal that “shocked the nation when the story broke out last year.”
By open letter and video message “handed to Pope Francis” in May 2014, former students at the notorious Provolo Institute for the Deaf in Italy begged the pope for justice. More than one hundred deaf and mute children had been sexually abused at the boarding school. The letter told Pope Francis that three of the accused Italian perpetrators – including Fr. Nicola Corradi – held current positions at the Provolo Institute in Argentina. The pope took no action to stop them.
Corradi and four others in the Argentine school were arrested in November 2016 and charged with raping and molesting at least 22 children. More reports poured in and “it’s now thought that as many as 60 children fell victim to abuse.” Prosecutors said the alleged anal and vaginal rapes, fondling and oral sex took place in the bathrooms, dorms, garden, basement and chapel. “Victims said they were taken to the Casita de Dios (the little house of God) where they were forced to perform sexual acts on one another and made to watch other students being abused.”
“One of the alleged victims said she witnessed how a girl was raped by one priest while the other one forced her to give him oral sex.” Another accused a nun “of making her wear a diaper to cover up a hemorrhage after she was raped by a priest” when she was five years old.
“The tormentors” knew “the other children wouldn’t hear the screams as they were deaf.”
Nov. 27 – Vatican Bank official escorted out of the Vatican.
Giulio Mattietti was a 20-year employee at the bank and had risen to deputy director, the No. 3 official behind the president and general manager. The Vatican provided no reason why the “respected” Mattietti was fired. However, “sources close to the Vatican Bank explained that there has been a breakdown of trust,” wrote the veteran Vatican reporter, Andrea Tornielli. Other sources “support some connections with the dismissal of Milone,” he continued.
Libero Milone is London-educated accountant and a former chairman of Deloitte – a global accounting firm – in Italy. Pope Francis appointed Milone as the first auditor general in the Vatican in 2014 as “the bulwark of accountability that would keep everyone honest.” On June 20, 2017, the Vatican said Milone resigned but gave no reason. In an interview, Milone stated that Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, the second highest official in the Secretariat of State, told him that a “relationship of trust” with Pope Francis no longer existed and that the pope had asked for his resignation. No replacement has been named.
Neither Milone nor Matietti have been accused of any financial malfeasance. So what does a loss of a “relationship of trust” and “breakdown of trust” imply? Were either or both suspected of breaking the code of silence demanded of Vatican employees and criminalized by Pope Francis?
“Not by chance, observers say that Libero Milone’s resignation indicates that there could be a Vatileaks III,” wrote the reliable Vatican reporter, Andrea Gagliarducci, referring to previous scandals involving disclosure of Vatican secret documents. “There’s even some grumbling that Mattietti may be posed to leak confidential documents, creating the third cycle of such leaks since 2011,” according to John L. Allen Jr., the well-regarded Vatican reporter,
Dec. 8 – European evaluators: “Vatican has still not brought a money laundering case to court.”
Moneyval issued a periodic assessment stating that 69 reports by the Vatican internal financial “watch-dog” agency, the Financial Information Authority, of suspected money laundering had been made to Vatican prosecutors since January 2013. Of these, only 8 criminal investigations remain open and none have been prosecuted. For this reason, “Moneyval recommends the Holy See ensure that the money laundering aspects of all outstanding investigations in criminal cases be proactively pursued.”
Moneyval also said “the Financial Information Authority’s 2016 report indicated that the main offenses suspected in Vatican bank accounts it flagged for investigation involved suspected ‘fraud, serious tax evasion, misappropriation and corruption.’”
“Moneyval is a permanent monitoring body of the Council of Europe entrusted with the task of assessing compliance with the principal international standards to counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism and the effectiveness of their implementation, as well as with the task of making recommendations to national authorities in respect of necessary improvements to their systems.”
The Vatican applied to Moneyval in 2011, along with producing annual statements of the Vatican Bank, to present a facade of financial virtue when forced to by international financial regulators in order to continue doing business on international markets. Like the auditors of these bank statements, Moneyval only evaluates information voluntarily produced by the Vatican. No outsiders are permitted unlimited access to Vatican documents and records.
Dec. 17 – Vatican employee arrested with cocaine and child pornography.
An employee of the Pontifical Council for Culture “was arrested while he was carrying cocaine and five USB sticks full of child porn videos and photos. But, as the judge wrote for preliminary investigations, ‘the material is clearly held for sale to third parties,’” reported Il Fatto Quotidiano.
All law enforcement except its own is banned from the Vatican, so Ostilio Del Balzo was arrested in the neighborhood adjoining the Vatican by Italian police. He was charged with drug dealing and aggravated possession of child pornography due to the large quantities found in his possession. The investigating magistrate, Daniele Caramico D’Auria, denied him his freedom while he awaits trial for fear that he will escape prosecution by hiding in the Vatican City State.
Less than six months earlier, Il Fatto Quotidiano had reported that the Vatican gendarmerie raided an apartment owned by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. They discovered drugs and a group of men engaged in homosexual activity. The tenant of the apartment is an unidentified monsignor “employed as a secretary of an important cardinal.”
The building has two entrances – one in Vatican territory, the other in Italy – “a perfect location to enjoy the privileges of extraterritoriality without having to undergo neither the checks of the Italian State nor those of the Vatican City.” The monsignor drove a luxury car with a Vatican City State license plate. “This is also a privilege reserved for high prelates … It was this vehicle that allowed its owner to transport drugs without ever being stopped by the Italian police.”
After a detox in the Pius XI clinic, the monsignor is “currently in spiritual retreat in a convent in Italy.”
Dec. 21 – Pope Francis gave final blessing to Cardinal Bernard Law.
Law was given a Vatican funeral in St. Peter’s Basilica with all the pomp and honor accorded any cardinal. To conclude the ceremonies, Pope Francis gave Law his benediction.
The Boston cardinal resigned after The Boston Globe reported he had reassigned and covered-up for rape and sexual assaults of children by scores of priests for years without informing the public or the police. A movie about the team’s investigation, “Spotlight,” won the 2016 Best Picture Academy Award. In accepting the Oscar, producer Michael Sugar told the world: “This film gave a voice to survivors, and this Oscar amplifies that voice, which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican. Pope Francis, it’s time to protect the children and restore the faith.”
Unfortunately for the world’s children, the U.S. mainstream media paid no attention.
“There are still bishops who have chosen to protect the Church and their priests more than children” who “‘make Law look like an amateur,’” declared Rev. Thomas Doyle, a well-known author and victims’ advocate for over three decades.
Dec. 21 – Pope Francis’ “first friend and counselor” accused of financial malfeasance.
“Francis’ first friend and counselor,” Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, was accused of receiving well over a million US dollars over the years from the Catholic University of Tegucigalpa as shown in an internal university report obtained by L’Espresso.
“Several witnesses” also accused Rodriguez Maradiaga of “investments in some companies in London topping a 1.2 million dollars that later vanished into thin air,” L’Espresso journalist and author, Emiliano Fittipaldi, reported.
Worse, the Honduran Court of Auditors “was investigating a flow of large sums of money from the government to foundations of the local Church and therefore dependent on Maradiaga himself.” The Church had refused to produce the documentations according to “a letter from the prosecutors L’Espresso obtained.”
A report to the pope from an Argentine bishop also included “the inappropriate behavior” of the Auxiliary Bishop of Tegucigalpa, Juan José Pineda, “among the most loyal in Maradiaga’s inner circle and de facto his deputy in Central America.” Local newspapers identified him “as being the man who orchestrated reckless financial operations and the recipient of public funds (for as much as 1.2 million dollars) allegedly destined to obscure projects aimed at ‘training of the faithful to the values and understanding laws and social life’” and “never supported by valid documentation.”
The day after L’Espresso’s article, Rodriguez Maradiaga rejected the accusations. In his view, “attacking him is a way to try to jeopardize Pope Francis’ reforms.”
On Dec. 23, the Vatican confirmed that Pope Francis had ordered the investigation by the Argentine bishop, who “was shocked by the extent of the corruption he discovered, including accounts of sexual abuse perpetrated against priests and seminarians,”reported the knowledgeable Vatican expert, Edward Pentin.
“Vatican and Honduran sources say on receiving the report, the pope decided to take the matter into his own hands … but so far the only action that has been taken has been to send Bishop Pineda to stay with Jesuits in Madrid on a short retreat,” wrote Pentin.
So this is the eighth time (yes, I’m counting) that we know of that Pope Francis was personally informed of sex abuse and did nothing to stop it.
Pope Francis telephoned Rodriquez Maradiaga on Dec. 27. “I’m sorry for all the evil they have done against you, but do not worry,” the pope said according to the Vatican News Agency.
Dec. 19 – Pope Francis appoints bishop with tarnished reputation to center of Vatican finance.
Argentine bishop Gustavo Óscar Zanchetta was appointed by Pope Francis as assessor of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See. APSA manages the Vatican’s financial assets – cash, stocks, bonds, Certificate of Deposits (Nuzzi, Merchants in the Temple p 77) and commercial real estate portfolio. APSA also deals in currencies, bullion and gold coins.
Zanchetta was “a surprising appointment, because at APSA the position of assessor did not exist and was invented for the occasion. But even more surprising because of the profile of the appointee. Zanchetta, 53, made the news last July when out of the blue he abandoned the diocese of Orán, for which Pope Francis had appointed him in 2013,” wrote veteran Vatican reporter, Sandro Magister.
The Argentine press claimed that “Zanchetta was forced to resign” because “there were “numerous complaints about economic mismanagement, involving even the schools under his orbit …. His oiled links with members of the political and economic power are known in the province, which allowed him to receive assistance and funds from the provincial and national governments, as he claimed to be ‘a pastor of a diocese in need,’ [although] some of the orders had little to do with religious activity.”
“The president of APSA, Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, meets regularly with the pope and is a tenacious opponent of a drastic reorganization of the Vatican finances,” noted Magister. “Calgano has in fact replaced both Libero Milone and Cardinal George Pell” – Pope Francis’ appointee as head of Vatican finance who left to respond to charges of “historical sex abuse” in his native Australia on June 29 – “with the full support of Bergoglio,” Magister observed.
Calcagno was investigated in 2016 for alleged embezzlement of funds in a “series of real estate investments” from an institute to support the clergy when he was bishop of Savona, Italy.
I moved the above entry about APSA out of chronological order to last because, after the global protection of sexual predators, nothing illustrates the corruption at the core of the Vatican more than the history and operation of APSA.
The Vatican was flat broke in 1929. So when Benito Mussolini offered sovereignty for a Vatican City State and about $1 billion in today’s money (Phayer, Pius XII, the Holocaust and the Cold War p 98) in return for the Church’s support of his dictatorship, the deal was eagerly accepted.
Most Vatican officials supported fascism anyway (see Phayer). After the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, there were no more alliances to be had with powerful European Catholic monarchies. Communism was atheistic. The Vatican abhorred democracy as the form of government under which they had lost the income from their feudal lands. Additionally, ideas about self-government were a bad influence on a subservient laity. “As Pius X notes in [the 1906 encyclical] Vehementer Nor, ‘the right of the laity is to allow itself to be led,’” stated theologian Natalia Imperatori-Lee.
Sovereignty meant that the pope and his men were immune from all law enforcement and civil and criminal prosecution. This is reason why the Vatican became what Geoffrey Robertson, the veteran human rights lawyer and United Nations judge, called a “rogue state.”
As for money, “The papacy was now financially secure. It would never be poor again,” is the oft-quoted statement by John F. Pollard in his book, Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy: Financing the Vatican, 1850-1950 p 148.
In 1929, Pope Pius XI hired a layman, the financial genius Bernardino Nogara, to manage Mussolini’s windfall. Pollard stated (p 163) that Nogara agreed to take the position on two conditions:
1. That he not be restricted by religious or doctrinal considerations in his investment-making.
2. That he be free to invest funds anywhere in the world.
“From June 1929 onwards, the investments of the Vatican, following the strategy of Bernardino Nogara, moved into the financial markets of the world,” Pollard wrote. The Vatican was now allied with the wealthiest 1% with no scruples and with no allegiance to any nation, cause, or group save themselves.
The Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See was created to administer the lion’s share of the Vatican’s investments, “hidden behind layer after layer of false fronts and holding companies.” (Pollard p 149).
APSA is also the Vatican’s treasury and central bank. APSA “has accounts and deposits of its own in central banks all over the world: the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the Deutsche Bundesbank, the Bank of Italy, the Bank for International Settlements, ‘and others.’”
APSA owns shares of oil and chemical companies, such as Exxon and Dow Chemical.
Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, an APSA accountant, was arrested in June 2013 by Italian financial police for using his Vatican Bank account “as a front for suspicious payments made through the Vatican Bank from Monaco [and] to make transfers on behalf of his friends including an attempt to move 20 million euro on behalf of a Neapolitan shipowning family.”
Scarano testified that APSA kept accounts for non-ecclesial customers although officially prohibited, sometimes acted as a “parallel bank” and dealt in speculative investments. APSA could provide its customers with investments both “safe and quiet.” “’We were a bank in a dirty way,’ he told the Italian prosecutors. APSA relied on a number of private banks, mainly headquartered in the U.S., to operate on the market, Scarano said.”
A “clerical VIP circle” of “individuals within the Vatican as well as politicians and financial raiders who flirted together” similar to that which existed under Pope John Paul II was reestablished under Pope Francis. Now there are “huge multinational corporations and international lobbies anxious to keep their hands inside the Vatican,” wrote Vatican expert, Andrea Gagliarducci.
An April 2015 article in Il Sole 24 Ore stated the Vatican’s assets – securities, commercial real estate and bank accounts – for all its departments and offices combined “by a conservative estimate” would be around 18-21 billion dollars.
All owned by the pope and controlled by a handful of his men – all unregulated, all secret.