The Vatican: Corrupt at its Core
By Betty Clermont
Open Tabernacle (blog)
October 28, 2018
The institution as we know it today began with a 1929 treaty. Italy created the Vatican as an independent state, meaning the pope and his men are not subject to any regulation or law enforcement except their own. At the same time, it was decided that the financial windfall from the treaty would be handled without moral or ethical restraint. The greatest atrocity of the Church is the centuries-long, world-wide sexual torture of children. However, the corruption resulting from the combination of no legal oversight and amoral finances – evidenced by monetary crimes and malfeasance – were known long before the extent of the cruelties of sex abuse.
Until the middle of the 19th century, the Vatican obtained much of its income from its feudal territories known as the Papal States, a broad swath of land across central Italy. As part of the movement to unify the Italian peninsular into one nation, King Victor Emmanuel’s army seized the Papal States in 1860 and captured Rome in 1870 including the Vatican. Italy was unified a year later.
In 1929, a bankrupt and debt-ridden Vatican and the Italian government signed the Lateran Treaty creating the Vatican City State as a sovereign entity over which the pope was given political autonomy. In return, Church officials agreed to support Mussolini‘s government. Additionally, the Holy See (the juridical name of the Vatican government) was paid 750 million lire in cash – more than $1.3 billion in today’s money – as compensation for the land that had been annexed to the nation of Italy.
Pope Pius XI asked the financial genius, Bernadino Nogara, to manage the money received from the treaty. Nogara agreed on two conditions: “That he not be restricted by religious or doctrinal considerations in his investment-making” and “that he be free to invest funds anywhere in the world.”[i] The papacy “would never be poor again,”[ii] noted John F. Pollard, author of Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy: Financing the Vatican 1850-1950, who had acquired Nogara’s diaries.
“From June 1929 onwards, the investments of the Vatican moved into the financial markets of the world …. By the middle of the 1930s, the Vatican was placed at the center of world-wide network of banking and other financial institutions,” Pollard wrote. [iii]
The second treaty negotiated by the Vatican with fascists was a concordat signed with Hitler’s government in June 1933. The Holy See was the first government to recognize the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi Party).
The Reichskonkordat “was a classic political kickback scheme. The Church supported the new dictatorship ….. In exchange the Church received enormous tax income and protection for Church privileges.”
In addition to Mussolini and Hitler, Catholic leaders had initiated or supported other European fascist parties which seized power in the 1920s and 30s. Dictatorships and political movements involving elements of clerical fascism and supported by the Holy See include Francisco Franco in Spain, António Salazar in Portugal, Engelbert Dollfuss in Austria, Jozef Tiso in Slovakia, the Croation Ustasha, Hungary’s Iron Cross Party, the Rexists in Belgium and Vichy France.
“Vatican/Catholic finances were extraordinarily successful under fascism.”[iv] The “marriage of convenience” between the Church and fascism “endured for most of the 1930s.”[v]
Nogara became a director of a Swiss bank “which carried out various banking operations for the Vatican.” [vi] And so “Switzerland became the center of financial operations for the Vatican” after the German occupation of much of Europe.[vii]
The Vatican contributed its diplomatic immunity “to ensure absolute secrecy in moving foreign currency and ownership documents out of Switzerland.”
WORLD WAR II
Under Pius XII, Nogara invested in firms that profited from and enabled the war effort of the Axis powers. These investments were hidden from the Allies (with whom Nogara also did business), through the use of holding companies and offshore banking centers. “Like water finding a downhill path, Vatican money found its way to the grisly side of the Holocaust,”[viii] wrote Michael Phayer in Pius XII, The Holocaust, and the Cold War. The book is a result of years of research on archives from governments and military agencies.
When Germany blocked funds to Allied countries, the Vatican – a neutral state – used its account in the Reichsbank to continue doing business as usual. [ix]
In 1941, when Nogara bought controlling interest in the South American Banco Sudameris, “the British and Americans had already blacklisted the company.” [x] Sudameris “was simply an Axis bank…acting in collusion with German banks.”[xi]
Nogara was specifically “accused of ‘shady activities’ and being ‘up to some dirty work’ to evade Allied controls by the British Ministry of Economic Warfare.”[xii]
“World War II also played a huge role in the creation of the Vatican Bank, as well as the unique power it held. As the Allies imposed restrictions on bank accounts, it became harder to move money around. Nogara created the bank, called the Institute for Religious Works (or IOR), in 1942 to avoid having financial transactions tracked through western banks.”
“[T]he ultimate purpose was to give the IOR as much independence in financial dealings as possible, while at the same time protecting the Holy See from any unpleasant publicity that might be generated by such transaction, especially in the delicate and difficult wartime conditions.”[xiii]
Exempt from all wartime restrictions, the IOR became “the world’s best offshore bank.’” It was the perfect place to hide billions in stolen wartime loot.
Jasenovac in Croatia was the third largest World War II concentration camp in Europe by number of victims. It was operated by the Catholic and Nazi-allied Ustasha government. Wartime Croatia has been called “one great slaughterhouse.” The prisoners were mostly Serbs, Jews and Roma. Estimates of the total numbers of men, women and children killed there range from 300,000 to 700,000. “700,000 in a total population of a few million, proportionally, would be as if one-third of the U.S. population had been exterminated by a Catholic militia.”
“Pope Pius XII could not plead ignorance to these atrocities. Both the nuncio [Vatican ambassador] and the head of the [Croatian] Church, Bishop Alojzje Stepinac, were in continuous contact with the Holy See while the genocide was being committed.”[xiv]
For the Ustasha (Ustase, Ustaša), “relations with the Vatican were as important as relations with Germany because Vatican recognition was the key to widespread Croat support.”[xv]
With an Allied victory likely, “approximately half of what Fr. Krunoslav Draganovic took out of Croatia was in the form of gold coins, most of which had been looted from Jewish and Serbian victims of Ustasha terror.”[xvi] Draganovic had served as an army chaplain with the rank of lieutenant colonel at Jasenovac.
Along with gold taken from the pre-war Yugoslav treasury, the coins were transported by truck through Austria and Italy into Rome. A June 1998 State Department report confirmed the Vatican received much of the Ustasha gold.[xvii]Based on accounts by U.S. Treasury Agent Emerson Bigelow and U.S. intelligence agents William Gowen and James Angelton, “there is no reason to doubt that the Ustasha gold ended up as a deposit in the Vatican Bank.”[xviii]
Gowen later gave testimony at a U.S. federal court in San Francisco that his investigation led him to believe that the Vatican was “implicated at the highest level.”
Two distinct ratlines developed to aid war criminals in escaping prosecution when an Allied victory was imminent. Both were operated by Catholic clerics.
Austrian Bishop Alois Hudal’s ratline assisted highly-placed German and Austrian war criminals. “The American OSS was able to trace financial and tactical support of Hudal’s operation to the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission of Assistance and expatriated Germans and Austrians in Argentina. That Hudal was a notorious Nazi sympathizer was well known in the Vatican.” [xix]
Hudal enabled monsters – just a few named here – to escape to South America: Adolf Eichmann, Josef Mengele, Franz Stangl, Eduard Roschmann, Alois Brunner, Walter Rauff.
Pius XII “made no effort to remove Bishop Hudal from the Austrian refugee program under the Pontifical Commission of Assistance until 1952, at which time all, or almost all, of the perpetrators of World War II atrocities who had not been apprehended had made good their escape.”[xx]
Numerically, the largest ratline was operated by Fr. Draganovic, the same priest who delivered holocaust victims’ assets to the Vatican, and “reveals the direct involvement of Pius XII himself.” From his base in Rome, Draganovic established escape routes for Croatian war criminals.[xxi]
The Vatican wanted Draganovic to care for the Ustasha war criminals and the priest served the Vatican as front man in this venture. As one U.S. Army intelligence report put it, “in many instances it was hard to distinguish the activity of the Church from the activity of Draganovic.”[xxii]
“The Vatican had the means for giving financial and other material help to those passing down the ‘ratlines.’ It would have been perfectly possible to channel funds to escaped war criminals in South America from the Vatican’s Swiss bank accounts through the branches of Sudameris.”[xxiii]
1970 – 2000
Post World War II, the Vatican established a new partnership with the bellicose U.S. military-industrial complex. Under the guise of anti-communism, the Vatican also made their financial facilities and agencies available to right-wing dictators, terrorists, politicians and intelligence agencies not only in Italy, Greece and Eastern Europe but also Southeast Asia and Latin America. [xxiv]
“Because of its sovereignty, the Vatican Bank has the ability to withhold account information from regulators and authorities. This secrecy has provided an excellent cover throughout history, as the Vatican moved money here and there to gain illegal profits and power.”
“It was not much of a secret that for decades Italy’s elite had used the IOR to hide their money,” Gerald Posner wrote in his book, God’s Bankers. “Some accounts were rumored to be proxies for the Spatola and Inzerillo crime families.”
In 1973, there was a combined effort between the New York City District Attorney’s office and the FBI to stop the flood of counterfeit securities printed by organized crime which threatened to destabilize world markets. Part of the Mafia’s plan was to sell a little less than a billion dollars in face value of these phony papers to the Vatican.
According to an FBI wiretap:
“Weren’t the cardinal and the others, Ledl asked, at all concerned what might happen if it were discovered that the Vatican was dealing in counterfeit American securities?
The cardinal was not at all concerned, he said, nor were any of those he had discussed this with. They all agreed that the American government would never accuse the Vatican of knowingly dealing in counterfeit stocks and bonds. In fact, if it was discovered that such paper existed in the Vatican, the United States would undoubtedly believe the Church had been taken by some unscrupulous swindlers and so would secretly step in and make good the losses.”[xxv]
During the 1970s, “the IOR bought a stake in the Italian bank Ambrosiano which was led by the banker Roberto Calvi. For two years, the Vatican Bank moved money around Ambrosiano’s accounts, to allow banks and companies to pass financial inspection. Then they’d withdraw the money right after inspection, and keep a cut of the sum.”
“Ambrosiano later crashed in a massive scandal, and the Vatican paid a $244 million settlement without admitting to any wrongdoing. Calvi faced criminal charges, then died in a murder made to look like a suicide. Rumors swirled around who was responsible for Calvi’s death – whispered possibilities including the Mafia and the Vatican.”
American Archbishop Paul Marcinkus was president of the IOR when “much of the Ambrosiano’s money had been siphoned off” until 1989.
“In the mid-’80s, Italian authorities tried to arrest Marcinkus in connection with a stunning array of crimes, including assassination financing, arms smuggling, and trafficking in stolen gold, counterfeit currencies and radioactive materials. Italian authorities also wanted to talk to Marcinkus regarding what he knew about numerous murders. Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, most every key player involved in schemes with Marcinkus ended up dead. A journalist investigating Marcinkus, the Vatican Bank and their ties to the mob also was murdered at the time.
But Marcinkus was never interviewed or arrested. Pope John Paul II sheltered Marcinkus in the Vatican, protecting him with Vatican City’s sovereign immunity.
[Marcinkus retired to Arizona. The archbishop] was again implicated in mob financial dealings in a five-hour deposition of a mob informant by Italian prosecutors [but] prosecutors did not get him. Marcinkus lived in Sun City under the protection of a Vatican State diplomatic passport, which gave him the same immunity as when he was hiding behind the gates of the Vatican. No cops, let alone plaintiffs’ attorneys, could even approach him.”
Pope Francis has invoked the same sovereign immunity three times to protect Vatican officials from prosecutions relating to child sex abuse.[xxvi]
The history of political bribes being paid through the IOR well into the 1990s is the subject of Vaticano S.p.A (Vatican Inc.) by Gianluigi Nuzzi. It is based on confidential documents obtained by a Vatican employee. They show the IOR functioned as an “off-shore” financial institution for right-wing politicians, the Mafia, Italian tax-evaders and other disreputable characters. The IOR “ensured privileges to be granted in exchange for political backing, legal provisions and business support.”
“Fake charity accounts were created and instead used for political donations, laundering, and embezzlement. Even donations to real charity accounts fell into the mix and ended up disappearing.”
The Vatican’s availability for money-laundering was not lost on American convicted felon, Martin Frankel. Between 1990 and 1999, Frankel bought seven small life insurance companies in order to steal their monetary reserves. Frankel set up a dummy St. Francis of Assisi Foundation to Serve and Help the Poor and his embezzled funds were laundered through the IOR account of Msgr. Emilio Colagiovanni.
Five state insurance commissioners, as guarantors, were forced to use 200 million tax-payer dollars to pay creditors, policyholders and shareholders for their losses suffered due to Frankel’s fraud. The commissioners brought a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization) suit against the Holy See for money laundering.
According to their RICO suit, two lawyers, three priests, two monsignors, one bishop, one archbishop and four cardinals – in fact every single Vatican employee or person with close ties to the Vatican approached by Frankel or his agents – were willing to launder a convicted swindler’s money without hesitation or moral reservation. Frankel paid “at least” $135,000 to several of the clerics and $100,000 to one cardinal for his “charitable causes.”
Like all other legal actions by U.S. citizens against the Vatican – including three involving child sex abuse and one by survivors of the Croatian holocaust seeking return of their assets deposited in the IOR – the defense of “sovereign immunity” was raised and their action defeated.
In order to curtail funding of terrorists, financial regulators began to exercise oversight on states which failed to comply with international rules regarding money laundering and other hidden monetary transfers. These were known as Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regulations.
According to the Financial Times, regulators required financial institutions to stop doing business in unregulated countries like the Vatican City State.
Additionally, “if a state is perceived to be at risk for money laundering, its financial institutions – in this case, the Vatican Bank in particular – usually pay a price. Depositors may take their business elsewhere, worried about possible seizures of assets, while banks in other countries may impose higher transaction costs to cover more aggressive ‘due diligence’ measures. In general, a state’s ability to play the global financial game is impeded,” explained Vatican expert, John L. Allen Jr.
One adviser to the Vatican told the Financial Times that “it was the bankers’ fear of being tarnished by their links with the Vatican Bank – and fears of fines from emboldened regulators – that led [the Vatican] to clean up its act.”
The London Telegraph reported in January 2010 that the Vatican Bank is the eighth most popular destination for laundered money, ahead of the Bahamas, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Pope Benedict enacted an anti-money-laundering law in 2010.
In September 2010, Italian financial authorities seized 23 million euros from two Vatican bank accounts held in Italian banks because the Holy See refused to disclose the source of these funds. According to court documents, prosecutors stated the IOR deliberately flouted anti-money-laundering laws “with the aim of hiding the ownership, destination and origin of the capital.”
In October 2010, financial authorities in Sicily said that they had uncovered money laundering involving the use of an IOR account by a priest in Rome and his uncle who had been convicted of association with the Mafia.
Under pressure from the U.S. Treasury Department, JP Morgan Chase notified the Vatican on March 16, 2012, that it closed the IOR account in its Milan branch because the IOR was “unable to respond” to requests for information about the provenance of the deposits. JP Morgan had been requesting the information since 2010. JP Morgan reported 1.8 billion euros ($2,200,000,000) had been deposited in the last 18 months in that account and then transferred to an IOR account in Frankfurt.
And this is one account out of how many IOR accounts around the world?
’The IOR has financial relations with more than a hundred countries.” The IOR also has about 40 “correspondent” financial institutions in Europe, the United States, Australia and Japan.
In the 1990s, the bank purportedly had investments of “billions of dollars in foreign companies… in such industries as banking, insurance, chemicals, steel, construction and real estate.”
The Vatican maintains financial institutions in the Cayman and Turks and Caicos islands, both havens for off-shore tax shelters and other dubious activities. It was once reported that the pope’s Cayman facility has clients which “include German arms dealers and criminal elements.”
On January 1, 2013, “the Bank of Italy, which had placed the Vatican Bank under intense scrutiny, blocked Deutsche Bank Italia from operating financial services inside the Vatican, including the use of credit cards at its museums and retail stores, after the Vatican failed to meet a Dec. 31 compliance deadline.” Per The Economist: “The reason for the central bank’s tough stance is that it has to comply with the European Union’s banking and anti-money-laundering law. This law permits EU banks to operate in non-EU countries [like the Vatican] only if these have adequate regulatory frameworks and supervisory controls in place.”
The Vatican began losing $40,000 a day in sales revenue. On Feb. 12, the Vatican announced that it found a consortium in Switzerland – another country that does not belong to the European Union – as a replacement for Deutsche Bank Italia. The fact that the Vatican chose a Swiss firm to manage financial services inside the Vatican “isn’t a good, transparent sign,” noted Carlo Marroni, a Vatican expert with the Italian business daily Il Sole 24 Ore.
The IOR released its first public financial statement for the 2012 fiscal year in July 2013. But the names of the depositors and where bank funds are invested is still secret.
The IOR announced in July 2014 that there were no longer any anonymous accounts. Depositors are now restricted to “Catholic institutions, clerics, Vatican employees or former employees with salary and pension accounts, as well as embassies and diplomats accredited to the Holy See.”
However, as we have seen, this is no guarantee the remaining depositors will not be used as “fronts” for illegal activities. “Investigators found that dirty money can also pass through non anonymous accounts belonging to priests or clerics.” For example, in 2012, four priests came under investigation for operating IOR accounts for the Mafia to launder money.
The Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See had been created after the 1929 treaty to administer the lion’s share of Vatican investments “hidden behind layer after layer of false fronts and holding companies,” according to Pollard.
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. In May 2017, IOR President Jean-Baptiste de Franssu expressed his regret, “for the IOR’s investments in fossil fuel companies, contradicting Pope Francis’ ‘Laudato Si’ encyclical, saying that the past 12 months have been difficult for financial markets.”
“APSA also controls companies such as Sirea Leonina which has over 16 million euros in assets, has 187 million euros in currencies, 32,232 ounces in bullion and 3,122 ounces of gold coins (worth 30.8 million euros) in Switzerland and England,” per the Italian journalist, Emiliano Fittipaldi, in a July 2014 article. Fittipaldi had been given “top secret documents” by a member of the Commission on the Economic Administrative Structure of the Holy See (COSEA) formed by Pope Francis early in his pontificate.
Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, an APSA accountant, was arrested by Italian authorities in July 2013 for using his IOR accounts “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 euros on behalf of a Neapolitan ship-owning family.”
Scarano testified that “APSA played on the stock market, bought shares and bonds and managed millions of euros on behalf of lay clients to whom it offered better interest rates than the IOR. ‘We were a bank in a dirty way,’ he told prosecutors, adding that APSA held up to 700 million euros in liquid assets. APSA relied on a number of private banks, mainly headquartered in the U.S., to operate on the market, Scarano said. These banks, in turn, made lavish gifts to APSA’s senior officials.”
After Pope Francis’ election, Banco Santander offered to make itself available “at the Vatican’s disposition” as a consultant. “Santander, owned by the Botin family (Opus Dei), is preparing training courses” for Vatican staff. The bank “will have a presence that is going to mean a new leading role of Santander in the Vatican.”
Banco Santander is Opus Dei’s flagship financial institution. It is “a colossus with 10,000 branches which prides itself on having more branches than any other bank in the world.”
In 1982, Pope John Paul II had given Opus Dei the exalted status of a “personal prelature,” meaning they answer only to the pontiff and not to any other bishop or prelate.
“Opus Dei uses the Catholic Church for its own ends which are money and power…. In discerning the real nature of Opus Dei, one must not listen to what the Prelature says, but rather look at what it does,” Robert Hutchison wrote in the introduction to his book, Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei.
In his introduction, Hutchinson also wrote: “While conducting research for this book, I quickly found myself wandering through a world of deceit and dissimulation, crowded with holy manipulators and regulated by unscrupulous interests. As my knowledge of the organization deepened, I found its development punctuated by a score of sudden, untimely deaths: a Spanish Nationalist official who wanted to bring charges of treason against one of the founder’s first disciples, a Swiss priest who threatened to expose the Vatican’s financial misdealings, a former Spanish foreign minister, six bankers, a shadowy London antiques dealer, a Russian metropolitan suspected of being a KGB agent, a cardinal who opposed Opus Dei’s transformation into a personal prelature, a pope who was too liberal and a colonel of the Swiss Pontifical Guard who was thought to be an East German spy.”
A sampling of recent Santander headlines:
Santander tops consumer complaints in Brazil
Huge Eurobank, rated ‘Britain’s worst,’ now accused of gouging U.S. consumers
Banco Santander S.A. Fined $200 Million for Advice Failings
Santander fined €16.9m by Spain’s stock market regulator for failing to provide buyers of its Valores bonds with the necessary information
Santander fined £12.4m by the [London] City regulator for serious failings in the way it sold thousands of customers investment products.
Santander Bank Fined $10 Million for Illegal Overdraft Fees by the [U.S.] Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
U.S. Federal Reserve: Santander fails to comply with state and federal regulations
Santander will pay almost $25 million to two U.S. states for predatory loans
Banco Santander fined 1 mln euros for failing to stop money laundering
Police search Santander’s Madrid HQ in money-laundering inquiry
Banco Popular, another Opus Dei bank, failed and was bought by Santander. “Popular’s 300,000 or so shareholders have now had the value of their investment reduced to zero. So have investors in some €2bn of bonds.” An article titled “The scandalous economic practices of Opus Dei,” was about Banco Popular’s predatory student loans.
Pope Francis appointed George Yeo as a member of his Commission on the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See and later as a member of his newly-formed Vatican Council for the Economy and his new committee on Vatican Media. Yeo is a former finance minister of Singapore and a Brigadier-General in the Singapore Armed Forces, He is a member of the International Advisory Board of IESE, Opus Dei’s flagship graduate business school.
Pope Francis appointed Peter Sutherland as his financial adviser “in the revision and overhaul of Holy See finances and economic organization.”
Sutherland is managing director and chairman of Goldman Sachs International, advisory director of Goldman Sachs Group, European chairman of the Trilateral Commission, former chairman of BP Oil, “world trade tsar,” and also a member of the International Advisory Board of IESE. [xxvii]
“Pope Francis – a staunch critic of rampant capitalism – has hired veterans of Invesco, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank to complete an overhaul of the Vatican Bank,” noted CNN Money.
In 2016, Goldman Sachs paid $5.1 billion to settle a lawsuit for “its handling of mortgage-backed securities leading up to the 2007 financial crisis.” Goldman Sachs was “held accountable for its serious misconduct in falsely assuring investors that securities it sold were backed by sound mortgages, when it knew that they were full of mortgages that were likely to fail,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery.
Emilio Fittipaldi’s book, Avarice: Documents Revealing Wealth, Scandals and Secrets of Francis’ Church, was released in November 2015. It is based on leaked confidential Vatican reports. The book “details how commercial operations inside the Vatican walls – a gas station, pharmacy, tobacco shop, and supermarket – generate tens of millions of euro in income by selling products at discounted prices due to tax exemptions. In theory, those services are reserved to Vatican personnel, but Fittipaldi uses reports from the Government of the Vatican City State to prove that…people who aren’t supposed to be shopping in these places are finding ways in.”
“The Vatican Bank hasn’t been cleaned up like we thought,” Fittipaldi said in an interview with the Washington Post. “The greatest bombshell is that the Vatican is still working as a profitable merchant bank.”
Fittipaldi also disclosed that “IOR accounts contained secret slush funds used for off-the-books spending by Vatican departments.”
On April 8, 2015, it was reported that magistrates in Rome “are expressing their dissatisfaction” that no work was being done by the IOR to counter money laundering.
Released at the same time as Fittipaldi’s book, Gianluigi Nuzzi’s Merchants in the Temple reveals that “an audit of the Vatican museums and pharmacy showed serious discrepancies – amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars – between what appeared on the books and what was actually in storehouses, suggesting either systematic theft or fraud.”
Two weeks after the release of their books, Fittipaldi and Nuzzi were indicted, along with three others, by the Vatican for disclosing confidential information. The first law enacted by Pope Francis “criminalized leaks of Vatican information.” Under the new law, all five “faced between four to eight years” in a Vatican prison.
On Nov. 30, 2015, Pope Francis said, “I gave the judges the concrete charges” as regards their Vatican trial. In the end, a Vatican official was given a prison sentence of 18 months and the court admitted they had no jurisdiction over Italian citizens.
In 2011, Pope Benedict created the Financial Information Authority (FIA) with “full powers of supervision over all the institutes and offices of the Holy See, the Roman curia, and Vatican City, including the IOR.” Establishing this “watchdog” department was a requirement by the EU in order for the Vatican City State to continue to use the lire as its currency.
On April 28, 2016, the FIA presented its annual report for 2015. “The number of declarations of outgoing cash [from Vatican City] above the amount of EUR 10,000 remained stable in 2015 at 1,196 [emphasis mine]. Declarations for incoming cash declined to 367 in 2015.” These “declarations” are both secret and voluntary. In other words, AT A MINIMUM 11,960,000 euros (more than $13.7 million) IN CASH in ONE YEAR was voluntarily reported as leaving the Vatican.
Approximately 575 people reside in Vatican City. Additionally, “the Vatican has a working force of roughly 4,600 employees, three quarters of whom are lay people. The average Vatican employee makes around $22,000 a year, tax free.”
The FIA also declared in its 2015 report “the finalization of the closure of client relationships no longer compliant with Vatican legislation” i.e. “only the Holy See and Catholic organizations, charities, clergy, and Vatican City employees are supposed to have accounts.”
So who was moving all this cash in and out of Vatican City and why? How many more cash transactions were below 10,000 euros? Who is investigating movements of cash NOT voluntarily reported?
The FIA no longer reports statistics in this category.
The FIA report continued: “The number of cases of bilateral cooperation between the FIA and foreign competent authorities increased [to] 380 in 2015.” This refers to signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Financial Intelligence Units of other countries for the exchange of financial information. A Memorandum of Understanding is not legally binding.
The Vatican’s September 2016 ratification of the United Nations Convention against Corruption was dismissed as mere “window dressing” because it included “two reservations and three interpretative declarations. One of these reservations states that the Vatican reserves the right not to participate in any ‘appropriate mechanism or body to assist in the effective implementation of the Convention.’” As in all other international agreements signed by the Vatican, there are no penalties for non-compliance.
In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI invited the Council of Europe’s Moneyval (the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism) to conduct evaluations of Vatican financial entities. “The aim of Moneyval is to ensure that its member states have in place effective systems,” per their website. They are not forensic accountants. As regards the Vatican, they rely solely on the information provided to them, dig no deeper, and issue a judgment based on this information.
Per Moneyval’s last report on the Vatican dated December 2017, “69 reports by the FIA 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.’”
On and on …..
On Feb. 25, 2017, the Italian prosecutor, Stefano Rocco Fava, said that the IOR is still “a place where it is possible to hide the illicit origin of money.”
On June 20, 2017, the Vatican said that Auditor General Libero Milone resigned but gave no reason. Pope Francis had created this new position with “the power to audit the books of any Vatican office and report directly to the pope.”
Libero Milone is a London-educated accountant and a former chairman of Deloitte – a global accounting firm – in Italy. Milone “insisted that he hadn’t quit voluntarily but had been threatened with arrest by Vatican gendarmes on the basis of what he called ‘pre-fabricated’ charges…. ‘Evidently, they didn’t want me to report some things I’d seen,’ Milone said.”
No replacement has been named.
On Dec. 19, 2017, Pope Francis appointed Argentine Bishop Gustavo Óscar Zanchetta as assessor of APSA. Zanchetta was “a surprising appointment, because at APSA the position of assessor did not exist and was invented for the occasion,” wrote Vatican reporter, Sandro Magister. Zanchetta had left the diocese of Orán, “for which Pope Francis had appointed him in 2013.”
According to the Argentine press, “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.”
A Poor Church for the Poor
In his first interview with the press following his election, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio said he chose the name Francis after St. Francis of Assisi because he wanted “a poor Church for the poor.”
During the past five and a half years, he has done nothing to divest the Vatican of its assets. Rather, like his predecessors, he has worked to maintain and prosper his treasury without moral or ethical restraints.
Nor has he done much “for the poor.” As the most popular pontiff in history, he has received literally billions of dollars in donations for his charitable works but gives away only a fraction to help others.
For as much as he exhorts others to welcome immigrants, Pope Francis has sponsored only six refugee families even though the Vatican owns “thousands” of apartments in Rome. They are mainly cared for by the Community of Sant’Egidio, a lay Catholic charity although the pope and Vatican do help out with some expenses.
The pope could do more. Vatican assets – cash, commercial properties, investments, gold reserves, bank accounts – are valued “by a conservative estimate” at 15-17 billion euro (approx. $16-18 billion), all unregulated, all secret.
However, the most important thing to remember is that the Vatican holds “secret funds with politicians and the powerful of the world … which the Vatican will not give up easily because moving money others wish to keep secret is very lucrative.”
“Moving money” is easy because “by the middle of the 1930s, the Vatican was placed at the center of world-wide network of banking and other financial institutions.” In fact, “worldwide banking and financial activities” is a Vatican “industry” according to the CIA World Factbook.
All are inter-connected to the 2,660 dioceses around the world. Most have the capacity to handle hidden funds. Under the principle of separation of church and state, many countries do not require religious organizations to make financial disclosures mainly because they don’t pay taxes.
Additionally, the Vatican has concordats, or treaties, with over 200 countries which “can ensure that the finances of the Church are kept secret.”
Within each diocese are innumerable parishes, charities and other Catholic agencies with bank accounts. For example, American bishops control approximately 40,000 affiliated organizations.
So be forewarned. The next pope who claims he is “reforming” the Church without full disclosure of his global assets, verified by outside forensic accountants, is a liar.
[i] John F. Pollard, Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy: Financing the Vatican (2005) p. 163
[ii] Ibid. p. 148
[iii] Ibid. p. 168
[iv] Ibid. p. 175
[v] Ibid. p. 176
[vi] Ibid. p. 169
[vii] Ibid. p. 190
[viii] Michael Phayer, Pius XII, The Holocaust, and the Cold War (2008) pp. 96–133
[ix] Ibid. p. 106
[x] Ibid. p. 108
[xi] Ibid. p. 109
[xii] Pollard p. 190
[xiii] Ibid. p. 200
[xiv] Michael Phayer, The Catholic Church and the Holocaust: 1930–1965 (2000) p. 30
[xv] Ibid. p. 32
[xvi] Phayer (2008) p. 215
[xvii] Stuart Eizenstat, Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs “Eizenstat Special Briefing on Nazi Gold.” Washington DC, June 2, 1998
[xviii] Phayer (2008) p. 217
[xix] Ibid. pp. 196-199
[xx] Ibid. p. 200
[xxi] Ibid. pp. 231-232
[xxii] Ibid. p. 233
[xxiii] Pollard p. 202
[xxiv] See Lernoux, People of God; Loftus and Aarons, Unholy Trinity; Nuzzi, Vaticano S.p.A.; Battista, Paradiso IOR; Lee, “Their Will be Done” Mother Jones July/August 1983 Issue, Simpson, Blowback, Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA.
[xxv] Richard Hammer, The Vatican Connection: The Astonishing Account of a Billion-Dollar Counterfeit Stock Deal Between the Mafia and the Church p. 197
[xxvi]Three Vatican officials protected by sovereign immunity relating to child sex abuse:
Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, was dismissed by Pope Francis on Aug. 21, 2013, via confidential letter before civil authorities or the public became away that he had been accused of paying poor street boys for sex.
He remained a free man in Rome until Sept. 26, 2014. The Italian newspaper 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. “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.” (emphasis mine)
Wesolowski died on Aug. 28, 2015, before his Vatican trial for child sex abuse commenced.
Msgr. Carlo Capella, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/lawyer-says-vatican-diplomat-wanted-for-child-porn-offences-should-be-sent-back-to-canada-1.4313974 a Vatican diplomat posted to the Washington D.C. embassy, was recalled to the Vatican City State “after U.S. prosecutors asked for him to be charged and face trial in the U.S. regarding child pornography …. The State Department said it had asked the Vatican to lift the official’s diplomatic immunity on Aug. 21, 2017, and said the request was denied three days later.” Pope Francis had posted Capella to Washington D.C. in 2016.
On Sept. 29, 2017, Windsor, Ontario, police issued a Canada-wide warrant accusing 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.
“The diplomat’s recall comes ahead of an international conference next week at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome on protecting children from online sexual exploitation, pornography and abuse.”
Capella pleaded guilty at a Vatican court on June 23, 2018, to possessing child pornography. He was sentenced to five years in a Vatican prison and ordered to pay a fine of €5,000. Unlike U.S. or Canadian prisons, there is no way to confirm how much, if any, time is served.
Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Luis 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, 2017. Ladaria had previously served as CDF secretary, the second highest official.
Three days later, Ladaria was accused of covering up for Fr. Gianni Trotta. The CDF received complaints against Trotta in 2009 and took three years to find him guilty of child sex abuse in 2012. Trotta was removed from the priesthood but the CDF did not contact the civil authorities. In fact, Ladaria wrote to Trotta’s bishop in 2012 instructing him not to divulge the reasons why Trotta had been laicized “so as to avoid scandal.”
Trotta continued to dress as a priest and became the coach of a youth soccer team.
Already convicted of sexual violence against an 11-year-old and sentenced to eight years in prison by a civil court, Trotta 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.
Ladaria was accused of covering up a child sex abuse scandal by a French court on April 4, 2018. The court set a date in January 2019 for his criminal trial.
On Oct. 19, 2018, the Vatican announced Ladaria’s immunity from French jurisdiction because, while at the CDF, the cardinal acted in his capacity as a minister of state “exercising his sovereign role.”
[xxvii]As an example of how Catholic money moves around the world, Sutherland is also former chairman of Allied Irish Banks. AIB loaned up to $500 million to four American dioceses in 2005-07 that had claimed bankruptcy due to clerical sex abuse claims and was “dubbed the ‘Vatican’s banking arm‘ in U.S. legal circles.”
According to the Irish Daily Mail, the loans were serviced and repaid “from an unknown source.”