Vatican Banker Says Church under Attack in Money Probe, Sex-abuse Cases

By Lorenzo Totaro
The Bloomberg
October 23, 2010

The Vatican expressed “surprise” after Italian finance police froze 23 million euros ($30 million) from an account registered to the Vatican Bank

An Italian probe into the Vatican Bank for alleged violations of money-laundering laws is another example of a “fierce attack” on the Catholic Church following criticism of Pope Benedict XVI and scrutiny of clerical sex- abuse cases, the bank’s Chairman Ettore Gotti Tedeschi said.

“The fierce attack on the church’s credibility started just six months after the publication” of Benedict’s encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” (Charity in Truth) in July 2009, he said today at a conference in Fermo, central Italy. “First it was the attack on the pope, then the pedophilia-related facts, and now it carries on with the case that involves me.”

Gotti Tedeschi’s remarks, previously reported by Italian news agency Ansa, were confirmed by Milko Vitali, moderator of the conference. Gotti Tedeschi declined to comment further on his remarks, Vitali said by phone.

The Vatican Bank and its top executives, Gotti Tedeschi and Director General Paolo Cipriani, were put under investigation by Rome prosecutors last month for allegedly omitting data in wire- transfer requests from an Italian bank. Prosecutors froze 23 million euros ($32 million) in an account registered to the Institute for Religious Works, or the IOR as the Vatican Bank is called, at a Rome branch of Credito Artigiano SpA.

The IOR “took note” of a decision this week by a court in Rome to uphold the seizure of the funds, and reiterated that it’s committed to financial transparency, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement late yesterday. Lombardi declined to comment by phone on Gotti Tedeschi’s remarks today.

Other Cases

Three other IOR transactions are under scrutiny for alleged violations of money-laundering laws, Corriere della Sera said on Oct. 21, citing court documents. In one case, a priest allegedly moved 300,000 euros from an account in San Marino and transferred it to a businessman, Corriere reported.

The church has been rocked this year by allegations of clerical sexual abuse of minors in countries including Ireland and Germany, the pope’s homeland. Benedict, who has repeatedly apologized for the abuse, has been criticized for his handling of such cases as archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1981.

Six months after his encyclical came out, Benedict visited Rome’s Great Synagogue last January amid Jewish concerns over his move to put wartime Pope Pius II on the path to sainthood. Critics say Pius did too little to stop the Holocaust, a charge the Vatican rejects.

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