Vigano's Allegations and the Vatican's Verifications

By Andrea Tornielli
Vatican Insider
January 29, 2012

There is an episode that was not mentioned in the debate that has been going on for days now, regarding the accusations made by then Secretary of the Governorate, Mgr. Carlo Maria Vigano, appointed Nuncio to the United States, after writing dramatic letters to the Pope and the Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, in which he speaks of episodes of "corruption" in the Vatican. The prelate's private letters - a story revealed by Vatican Insider last June 26 - addressed to Benedict XVI and his chief collaborator, were exhibited by the journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi during the episode of an investigative television program on LA7, called "Gli Intoccabili"("The Untouchables").

In those letters, Vigano claimed to be the victim of a plot, also involving some anonymous articles published in Italian daily newspaper Il Giornale. Vigano also provided names and surnames of the instigators, citing Mgr. Paul Nicolini, delegate for the administrative-managerial areas of the Vatican Museums as the ultimate instigator. He did so after he received the news of the Pope's decision to appoint him as Nuncio to the United States, distancing him (through the promotion) from the Governorate after less than two years of office there and after undeniable results of morale-boosting and spending cuts.

In a letter sent on 8 May 2011 to Cardinal Bertone, Vigano attributes to Nicolini the "counterfeiting of bills" and a cash deficit, a "participation interest" in companies defaulting to the Government "for at least two million two hundred thousand Euros and that, prior to that he had defrauded L'Osservatore Romano for over ninety-seven thousand Euros, and APSA for more than eighty-five thousand." Vigano also accused Nicolini of "arrogance and bullying towards employees who do not show absolute subservience to him, preferences, promotions and arbitrary hirings done for personal purposes."

The reply to LA7's broadcast, which given the next day by Fr. Federico Lombardi on behalf of the Secretary of State, furnishes indications showing that the merit of the undeniable work of morale-boosting and healing of the management, done by Vigano - the nativity scene in St. Peter's Square, for example, dropped from a cost of 550,000 Euros to 300,000 - was due not only to his efforts, but also those of his immediate superior, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, as is the case with the improved management of the Vatican Museums: all this has allowed the accounts to turn positive again, by several million Euros, while previously they had recorded a heavy deficit.

What was not revealed by the Holy See press release is that, on the basis of Vigano's allegations against Nicolini, an internal investigation was carried out, headed by a disciplinary committee, chaired by a former auditor of the Roman Rota, Mgr. Egidio Turnaturi. The committee has listened to the witnesses mentioned in the prelate's dramatic letters. As for the anonymous articles in Il Giornale newspaper, the committee concluded the "indemonstrability" of Vigano's accusations, while after the investigations, other allegations about Mgr. Nicolini have also proved unfounded, even if the committee retained that it had encountered the qualities mentioned about his character and suggested that measures be taken.

This piece is important in reconstructing the story, since otherwise one might be led to believe that reports of irregularities or crimes remain unanswered in the Vatican. "Of course," an authoritative Vatican source told Vatican Insider - Mgr. Vigano has done his duty by denouncing in private to his superiors what he thought was necessary to expose. But we must not imagine that his complaints were promptly considered rubbish or archived."

The Pope's decision, once he was made aware of the outcome of the investigation and had consulted Bertone and Lajolo, was to appoint the Archbishop apostolic nuncio to the United States: undeniably a "promoveatur ut amoveatur", thought it is true that the prelate had been somehow "promised" succession to the leadership of the Governorate, with the corresponding elevation to the cardinalate. The decision was made because of the climate of tension that has arisen in the Vatican City State. And Lombardi's words on the full faith nourished by the Pope towards Vigano, indicate recognition of his merits in the healing process. Of course, one might also ask why, if all the accusations in the bishop's letters have been judged unfounded, was he considered worthy to fill the delicate and prestigious role of chief diplomat and head of the office in Washington, responsible for relations with the White House and a close associate of the Pope in selecting the ruling class of the U.S. Church. A job that requires balance, confidence and good diplomatic skills.

Another question concerns the continuation or the possible slowdown of the recovery process worked by Vigano. And attention should remain alert on this issue, both inside and outside the Vatican walls, to avoid a repeat or the continuance of objectively scandalous episodes, all the more so in a time of severe economic crisis such as the one we are experiencing. It was shocking to learn that a nativity scene consisting of a barn or a cave rebuilt in St. Peter's Square cost as much as a house in the Roman countryside. This year, the first after the "Vigano cure," the nativity cost as much as it did the previous year, 300,000 Euros, and according to rumors an effort is being made to halve the cost in 2012.

Of course, even if in the press release Fr. Lombardi tended to defuse tensions, claiming that the image of the Vatican as a place marked "by quarrels, divisions and conflicts of interest" is inaccurate, the image that emerges from the letters and the fact that the letters have been disclosed, is precisely that. It is undeniable that the Vigano story fits into a broader perspective: that of the persistent problems of government within the Secretariat of State, guided by Cardinal Bertone. The spread of letters written just a few months ago suggests that there have been such struggles, there still are, and that they are expected to continue.








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