Good News Obscured by Intrigues

By Sandro Magister
The Chiesa
February 16, 2012

Leaking of documents, conspiracies, power struggles: Vatican coverage speaks only of this. And so it does not see that in the meantime other things are happening. Not bad, but good things. Precisely the ones desired by the pope

ROME, February 16, 2012 – Tomorrow, the eve of the fourth consistory of his pontificate, Benedict XVI will gather all of the cardinals around himself for a day of "reflection and prayer" on a very lofty theme: "The proclamation of the Gospel today."

Among the cardinals will be Dario Castrillon Hoyos and Paolo Romeo, the two cardinals who in recent days ended up at the center of a case that is anything but lofty, originating from the anonymous account of a conversation between Romeo and a few Chinese interlocutors, in which they are alleged to have gotten the sense "that an attack on the Holy Father is being planned."

Having come into possession of this anonymous account – full of speculation about power struggles in the Vatican and the election of the future pope – at the beginning of January, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos sent it to secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone. And on February 10, the complete text appeared on the pages of "Il Fatto Quotidiano":

["Strettamente confidenziale per il Santo Padre"]

It is hard to imagine that the "reflection" of the cardinals with the pope would ignore the repercussions of this and other even more reliable documents, unexpectedly leaked and made public in recent days, which throw a sinister light on the central government of the Catholic Church.

Next Wednesday, the beginning of Lent in the Roman rite, Benedict XVI will put the ashes on the heads of various cardinals residing in Rome. And the following week, he will take part together with the heads of the curia in a spiritual retreat preached by a cardinal appropriately brought in from far away, from the Congo, the archbishop of Kinshasa Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya.

But considering what is taking place, it seems unlikely that these pious exercises will be enough to purify the unwholesome air that one breathes today in the Vatican curia.

Last January 28, a meeting of the heads of curia dicasteries intended to study how to draft and publish Vatican documents without any more of the mishaps that have plagued them recently ended with many good resolutions, including that of better protecting the secrecy of the archives.

But just a few days later, the leaking of documents not only resumed, it branched into multiple streams, with more harmful effects. And there is no reason to believe that the hemorrhage has stopped.


In commenting on these document leaks and the wave of discredit that they cast on the Vatican and on the Church, the leading American vaticanista, John L. Allen, drew two considerations.

The first stems from the case of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the nuncio in the United States, two of whose letters have been made public, one to the pope and the other to Cardinal Bertone, full of accusations against various curia officials, accusations now declared as unfounded by a statement from the governorate of Vatican City:

[Wikileaks in Vaticano. La replica del governatorato]

Allen writes:

"Some of the cardinals have fish to fry back home, and the present Vatican meltdown isn’t helping. Timothy Dolan of New York, for instance, is currently involved in a high-stakes tug of war with the Obama administration over insurance mandates [which would require Catholic institutions to provide employee coverage for contraceptives and abortion]. It would be nice if a powerful and well-connected papal ambassador were on the scene in Washington to help navigate these tensions, but that's obviously not the situation."

The second consideration concerns the concentration of media attention on the usual intrigues, instead of on the much more significant Church events taking place at the same time:

"Perceptions of intrigue have overshadowed what ought to be a couple of good news stories for the Vatican. Last week, the Vatican co-sponsored a summit on the sexual abuse crisis, calling for a proactive global response and committing itself to reforms. Right now, Vatican personnel are moving heaven and earth to bring the institution into compliance with international standards of financial transparency. Probably at no other point in its history has the Vatican been so thoroughly committed to cooperation with external, secular regulatory bodies. In a normal news cycle, those storylines might recalibrate impressions of the Vatican and the church in a positive key. At the moment, they’re competing with, and basically losing to, narratives of scandal."

To the two items of "good news" recalled by Allen could be added a third: the international event on "Jesus our contemporary" organized by the Italian episcopal conference and conceived mainly by Cardinal Camillo Ruini:

[Jesus, Our Contemporary]

[Italia, terra di missione]

The event, which was held in Rome from February 9-11 and had among its more powerful moments a memorable lecture on the resurrection of Jesus by the Anglican theologian and bishop Nicholas Thomas Wright, was attended by 1800 highly attentive persons, plus thousands more who followed it over the web.

But in the very same days there exploded the case of the alleged "criminal conspiracy" against the pope, which neutralized the impact of the conference in the media.


As for the first of the two items of "good news" recalled by Allen and obscured by curial intrigues, www.chiesa referred to it in the following article:

[Marie Collins Goes First]

This international symposium "For healing and renewal," held at the Pontifical Gregorian University with the participation of high Vatican authorities and representatives of 110 episcopal conferences and of more than 30 religious orders, was the first major initiative convened in the Catholic camp to confront on a global scale and in coordinated fashion the phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors, with absolute priority given to care for the victims.

And it was also the first high-impact initiative organized by the Catholic Church not as a reaction following and subordinate to the outbreak of denunciations and scandal, but as preventive action. In conjunction with the conference, an international center of formation in the fight against sexual abuse was inaugurated in Munich.

All of this is taking place at the urging of Benedict XVI, right from the beginning of his pontificate. And it is making the Catholic Church – in spite of its recognized faults and omissions, past and present – worthy of being considered the most active institution in the world in opposing the crime of the sexual abuse of minors, in "healing" its wounds and "renewing" the methods of action, much more active and consistent than many international organisms, governments, judicial courts, and media courts.

Moreover – another news item pushed to the back pages – on February 10, the day after the end of the conference at the Gregorian, in the United States the lawsuit "John Doe 16 v. Holy See" was withdrawn, which had aimed at incriminating the Holy See and Pope Benedict XVI himself in the sexual abuse of minors committed by a priest in Wisconsin.

The plaintiff's representative, attorney Jeff Anderson, filed a notice of voluntary dismissal to avoid the unfavorable ruling of the district court of Wisconsin, which would have compromised the outcome of the same legal action against the Holy See and the pope in other courts.

A detailed account of this important judicial development can be found in this article from Vatican Radio, with a statement from the attorney of the Holy See in the United States, Jeffrey Lena:

[US suit against Vatican withdrawn]


As for the second item of "good news" recalled by Allen and obscured by intrigues, it must be said that in the offices of the secretariat of state, in the Terza Loggia of the Apostolic Palace, there is a notice board on which since January 26 a decree of the highest priority has been posted, introducing modifications to law 127 of Vatican City-State.

Law 127, issued on December 30, 2010, and in effect as of April 1, 2011, concerns the prevention and opposition of the laundering of proceeds from criminal activity and the financing of terrorism:

["Transparency, honesty and responsibility"]

This is in practice the main law, but not the only one, that could allow the Holy See to be admitted to the "white list" of states with the highest standards of financial transparency in the world.

This process of cleansing and reordering the finances of the Vatican also has been and is firmly intended by Benedict XVI. The rumors that have leaked in recent weeks on the modalities and episodes of financial irregularity are exactly what the reform efforts underway are fighting.

The modifications to law 127 included in the priority decree of January 25 are also the effect of a five-day inspection carried out at the Vatican last November by a substantial team of inspectors from Moneyval, the institution of the Council of Europe that evaluates the anti-laundering procedures in effect in each country.

The modifications have not yet been made public. They will be when the priority decree that includes them becomes law, within ninety days of the date of its posting, following examination by the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State. The president of this commission is the new governor of the state, the archbishop and soon-to-be cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, and its members include Cardinal Attilio Nicora, president of the Autorita di Informazione Finanziaria, also instituted on December 30, 2010, with a motu proprio from Benedict XVI.

The AIF – an unprecedented novelty – has powers of supervision over every single financial operation of the dicasteries of the Roman curia and of all the organisms and dependent agencies of the Holy See, including the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), the governorate, and the secretariat of state itself.

It has already leaked, for example, that the modifications introduced into law 127 include more serious penalties for transgressors. The AIF can punish each individual financial irregularity of a Vatican organism with fines of up to two million euro.

Some of the modifications to law 127 have been previewed by the vaticanista Andrea Gagliarducci in this February 1 article on

[Il Vaticano migliora la legge antiriciclaggio]

While their general sense has been enunciated by the Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, in "L'Osservatore Romano" of January 27.

Other modifications aimed at making Vatican laws even more rigorous and stringent have been previewed in the replies from the Vatican to accusations made in recent days by the media on the basis of documents that have come into their possession:

[Riciclaggio di denari? No, di accuse, dicono in Vaticano]

For example, in one of these replies, that of February 9, it states that "article 28, paragraph 1, letter b) of the new text of law 127, modified by the decree of the president of the governorate on January 26, 2012, establishes that the subjects put under the obligations of the same law (including the IOR) must fulfill 'the obligations of adequate verification... when they perform occasional transactions of a value equal to or above 15,000 euro, independently of whether they are made as a single transaction or as multiple associated transactions.'"

Even when the IOR operates through foreign banks – above all German ones, as it is accused of doing "to avoid Italian supervision" – it has been reiterated that "all movements of money are regularly traced and archived."

Finally, as for suspicious financial transactions made before April 1, 2011, the date on which law 127 went into effect, the guarantee has been made that "the Vatican judicial authority has the power to investigate [these] also, and this also in the context of international cooperation with the judges of other states, including Italy."

In short, Allen is correct when he writes that in financial matters "probably at no other point in its history has the Vatican been so thoroughly committed to cooperation with external, secular regulatory bodies."

This with regard to the "good news."

As for the bad, which obscures not only the good but also the very luminosity of this pontificate, it can be found in the interview with Cardinal Walter Kasper conducted by Gian Guido Vecchi, in "Corriere della Sera" of February 13, 2012:

[Kasper: "C'e uno stile cattivo nella curia"]

In it, Kasper says among other things:

"It is a problem of a lack of ecclesiality. Those who lend themselves to these things lack loyalty with regard to the Church. They provoke confusion in the Christian people. And this precisely when there is a pope who is working for the renewal of the Church: he who, when he saw abuses, wanted to bring order."








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