Ferment in Nigeria; Syria; the Vatican bank; and sex scandals

National Catholic Reporter

John L. Allen Jr. | Jun. 28, 2013 All Things Catholic

Perhaps it’s the curmudgeon in me, but I’m always drawn to news stories that seem to upend conventional wisdom, and I award bonus points if the story challenges both liberal and conservative biases at the same time. …

Everyone knows that the cardinals who propelled a Latin American outsider to the papacy in just five ballots in March were acutely frustrated with what they saw as breakdowns in Vatican management. To date, Francis hasn’t done much to break with business as usual, but signals continue to accumulate that when he gets started, we may be in for an earthquake rather than a mere tremor.

The Vatican announced Wednesday that Francis has created a new commission to investigate the Vatican bank, technically known as the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR). Here is my piece on the commission.

Early reaction among seasoned Vatican-watchers is that this is a big deal. Writing in Corriere della Sera on Thursday, Massimo Franco said that it augurs “a radical project of renewal” in the Vatican. Noting that two of the five members appointed to the commission are Americans, Msgr. Peter Wells of the Secretariat of State and former Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon, Franco also said the pope’s move reflects a healthy dose of “Anglo-Saxon pragmatism.”

An accompanying piece in Corriere quoted Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, the coordinator of the pope’s new kitchen cabinet formed of eight cardinals from around the world. In the article, Maradiaga expressed a degree of skepticism about the bank’s current modus operandi: “They’ve said that the IOR is not a bank but a foundation,” Maradiaga said. “Then why in the world has it acted like a bank?”

The ferment over the bank is unfolding against the backdrop of yet another scandal. An official of another Vatican financial office, the Apostolic Patrimony of the Holy See, was recently suspended after prosecutors in Salerno opened an investigation because he apparently withdrew $730,000 in cash from a Vatican bank account and then used it to pay off personal debts, allegedly convincing more than 50 friends to convert 10,000 Euro each into cashier’s checks in order to evade reporting requirements.

In Thursday’s La Repubblica, Vatican writer Paolo Rodari said the creation of the commission presages “a revolution not just in structures but in personnel,” a point seemingly confirmed by an accompanying interview with Cardinal George Pell of Australia, another member of the pope’s “Gang of Eight.”

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