Posts Tagged “vatican”

Monsignor Battista Ricca with Pope Francis. Credit: Catholic Press Photo, via L'espressoNote: There’s a recent cringe-worthy update to this story appended to this post.

I blogged a short time ago about the most recent Vatican Bank scandal. Things are heating up, what with some arrests, a number of firings/resignations, and the Pope’s appointment of a supposed review panel to examine that institution. But now, it’s taken an extremely odd turn. The Italian magazine L’espresso reports that this Vatican Bank scandal has now intersected the rumored, elusive “Vatican gay lobby” (WebCite cached article):

“In the curia there is talk of a ‘gay lobby.’ And it is true, it’s there. Let’s see what we can do,” Francis said on June 6 to Latin American religious received in audience.

And again: “It is not easy. Here there are many of the pope’s ‘bosses’ with great seniority of service,” he confided a few days ago to his Argentine friend and former student Jorge Milia.

In effect, some of these ‘bosses’ have hatched against Jorge Mario Bergoglio the cruelest and most subtle deception since he was elected pope.

They kept in the dark important information that, if he had known it before, would have kept him from appointing Monsignor Battista Ricca “prelate” of the Institute for Works of Religion.

With this appointment, made public on June 15, Francis intended to place a trusted person in a key role within the IOR. With the power to access all of the proceedings and documents and to attend all of the meetings both of the cardinalate commission of oversight and of the supervisory board of the disastrous Vatican “bank.” In short, with the task of cleaning house.…

Before the appointment, Francis had been shown, as is customary, the personal file on Ricca, in which he had not found anything unseemly. He had also heard from various personalities of the curia, and none of them had raised objections.

Just one week after appointing the “prelate,” however, during the same days in which he was meeting with the apostolic nuncios who had come to Rome from all over the world, the pope became aware, from multiple sources, of some episodes from Ricca’s past previously unknown to him and such as to bring serious harm to the pope himself and to his intention of reform.

L’espresso goes on to chronicle a number of incidents in Ricca’s checkered history working in the Vatican’s diplomatic corps — see page 2 and page 3 of the report (cached and cached) for all the details. There are enough of them that it’s inconceivable nothing untoward could have shown up in his file at the time Pope Francis reviewed it.

It may be a bit of a leap to suggest (as L’espresso does) this set-up of the new Pope (which is certainly what it appears to be) was done the “gay lobby” that’s rumored to be embedded deep within the machinery of the Vatican. Even so, this attempt to drive a wedge between the Pope and other Vatican officials who’d no doubt known about Ricca’s past, must have been the work of people with authority in Vatican offices and extremely close to the Pope; having the ability to doctor a prelate’s personal file, and to prevent the Pope from speaking with those who might have warned him against appointing Ricca.

I can’t help but view this as additional evidence — as though anyone needed more! — that the R.C. Church is pervasively and inherently dysfunctional. It may seem I’m sympathetic to the Pope here, but I’m not. He’s been part of the Church’s global machinery more than long enough to have been aware of the nature and extent of its dysfunction. Maybe he’s working to change it … or maybe he’s not … but when he took the job of Pope, he made himself its caretaker, and thus accepted responsibility for the dysfunction. Having been the target of a set-up, he now has a choice: To face this matter head-on and undertake to rid his Church of the dysfunction; or to allow it to continue simmering and festering, even at the risk of undermining his own reign. If he’s anything like previous Popes, his choice will be the latter. Which is precisely why things have reached this point in the first place.

Update: The (UK) Independent reports Ricca was found stuck in an elevator a couple days ago (cached), with a “rent boy” known to police. Talk about your “facepalm” moments!

Photo credit: Catholic Press, via L’espresso.

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John Paul II Monument in Borkowo Ko?cielneThe Vatican has been eager to get the late Pope John Paul II canonized as soon as possible. That process is amazingly protracted and cumbersome. It can take decades or even centuries for people to be sainted. For instance, the Catholic Church took almost 300 years just to beatify the Martyrs of Otranto, and over 500 years to make them saints. Yet, this same wizened and supposedly-deliberate group, as the CNN Belief Blog reports, is on the cusp of granting the same honor to their late associate: (WebCite cached article):

The Catholic Church is on the verge of declaring late Pope John Paul II a saint, a Vatican source familiar with the process told CNN on Tuesday.

The committee that considers candidates for sainthood voted Tuesday to credit the late pope with a second miracle, the source said, asking not to be named discussing internal Vatican deliberations.…

The Polish-born pope was fast-tracked to beatification when he died in 2005 [cached], and became “the blessed” John Paul II barely six years after his death — the fastest beatification in centuries.

“For an institution that typically thinks in centuries, this is remarkably quick,” said CNN Vatican analyst John Allen.

In fact, the phrase “record-breaking speed” leaps to mind, and not without reason, as CNN explains:

The record for the fastest canonization is [sic] modern times is St. Jose-Maria Escriva, the Spanish-born founder of Opus Dei, a Catholic order of laypeople and saints dedicated to finding God in daily life. Escriva was made a saint 27 years after his death.

John Paul could shatter that record.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point out that Pope John Paul II had built up something of a “cult of personality” during is reign, and many of the hierarchs now in charge of the R.C. Church had been appointed by him, or had put them into position to move up into the hierarchy. They appear now to be clamoring to repay his favors posthumously.

It would be nice if they could instead find a way to devote more of their attention and energy to something other than a dead man. Figuring out how to deal constructively and candidly with the worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal that’s wracked their institution for more than a decade, would be one of those things.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Cardinal Timothy F. Dolan in 2012. He reiterated in a statement Monday that these were 'old and discredited attacks.' Credit: Seth Wenig/Associated Press, via the New York TimesI’ve blogged about Cardinal Timothy Dolan, current Archbishop of New York, having paid abusive priests to leave the priesthood while he was archbishop of Milwaukee and refused to report them to authorities. As though that weren’t bad enough, as the New York Times reports, documents released today show he hid over $50 million in assets from accusers (WebCite cached article):

Files released by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Monday reveal that in 2007, Cardinal Timothy F. Dolan, then the archbishop there, requested permission from the Vatican to move nearly $57 million into a cemetery trust fund to protect the assets from victims of clergy sexual abuse who were demanding compensation.

Cardinal Dolan, now the archbishop of New York, has emphatically denied seeking to shield church funds as the archbishop of Milwaukee from 2002 to 2009. He reiterated in a statement Monday that these were “old and discredited attacks.”

However, the files contain a 2007 letter to the Vatican in which he explains that by transferring the assets, “I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.” The Vatican approved the request in five weeks, the files show.

Only a Roman Catholic hierarch could possibly consider a document that he, himself, composed, to be an “old and discredited attack.” The reason, you see, is because the hierarchs view the priestly-pedophilia scandal itself as an attack by the Forces of Darkness … and various other bogeymen, such as Jews, the “Sexual Revolution,” and homosexuality … upon God’s Holy Church. It’s all fabricated, you see, and if there was any abuse, it was at the hands of the Devil himself acting through the children, who weren’t innocent victims.

Yes, the list of excuses to which the R.C. Church assigns blame for this scandal is legion. They refuse to acknowledge any wrongdoing, aside from a little naïvité and an aversion to “gossip.”

At any rate, Dolan’s nasty, off-hand dismissal of his own documents demonstrates how irrational the man is and the extent to which hierarchs will go, in order to avoid accepting any responsibility for their behavior.

Photo credit: Seth Wenig/Associated Press, via the New York Times.

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'Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth' / Matthew 6:19a, New American Bible / PsiCop original graphicThe Vatican Bank … more formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion, which sounds vaguely like some kind of interfaith charity even if it’s not … is the sort of secretive institution that virtually begs to become the target of whispered tales and conspiracy theories of all kinds. And not all of this is totally unreasonable. The Vatican Bank has been the subject of a few scandals over the years. It was, for example, entangled in the failure of Italy’s Banco Ambrosiano in 1982.

For the past few years it’s been the subject of a money-laundering investigation. That inquiry had simmered for a while, then appeared to die down a year ago. But it seems to have ramped up again, as the New York Times reports, with the arrest of a prominent cleric and some other associates (WebCite cached article):

Claiming to have foiled a caper worthy of Hollywood, or at least Cinecittà, the Italian police on Friday arrested a prelate and two others on corruption charges as part of a complex plot last summer in which they say the priest — already suspected of money laundering — plotted to help wealthy friends sneak the money, the equivalent of about $26 million, into Italy while evading financial controls.

Along with the prelate, a financial broker and a military police agent deployed to the Italian Secret Service were arrested and charged with corruption, and the priest also with slander, in an investigation that developed out of a broader three-year inquiry into the Vatican Bank. The case is the latest black mark on the bank, which under Pope Francis and Benedict XVI has been trying to shake its image as a secretive offshore haven and bring itself into compliance with European norms so that it could use the euro.

Rome prosecutors say the three men hired a private plane last July with the intention of bringing the cash into Italy from Locarno, Switzerland. The money was to be carried by the Secret Service agent, who would not be required to declare it at the border. But the scheme fell through, the prosecutors said, as the three began bickering and, eventually, lost their nerve. Cellphones used by the three in arranging the money transfer were later burned, prosecutors said.…

Even before his arrest on Friday, the prelate, Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, was no stranger to the authorities. An employee of Deutsche Bank before entering the priesthood, and until recently an accountant in a top Vatican financial office that oversees the Catholic Church’s real estate holdings, Monsignor Scarano was under investigation by magistrates in Salerno on accusations that he had illegally moved $730,000 in cash from his account in the Vatican Bank to Italian banks, his lawyer said.

The Times article explains a little more about the scheme and those behind it. And then there’s this whopper:

[Scarano’s attorney Silverio] Sica said that Monsignor Scarano’s aims were purely altruistic. The money came from a donor, and he wanted to put the apartment up for sale and use the proceeds to finance a hospice for terminally ill patients in Salerno.

Yeah right. As though I buy that.

About the only positive note here, is that Vatican officials appear to have worked with Italian authorities in this particular investigation. That’s unusual. Like most tax-haven financial institutions, in the past the Vatican Bank usually resisted working with government investigators. I have no idea if this means they’ve truly changed their ways, or if they cooperated only in this one case.

I suggest any Catholic prelates involved in high finance crack open their Bibles for the first time since leaving seminary (assuming they read the Bible there … I’m not even sure about that). Have a look at verses like Matthew 6:19-20, Luke 12:33-34, Hebrews 13:5 or James 5:1-3 … among many other verses I could cite … and then tell me this kind of operation is even remotely appropriate for the organization that views itself as God’s Holy Church.

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on Matthew 6:19a.

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The Inauguration Mass For Pope FrancisPope Francis has bucked more than a few traditional Catholic trends since taking office a couple months ago. The most recent example of this is a dual one, and came in a homily he delivered today. The RNS reports via Hartford FAVS (WebCite cached article):

Pope Francis is warning Catholics not to demonize those who are not members of the church, and he specifically defended atheists, saying that building walls against non-Catholics leads to “killing in the name of God.”

“(T)his ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God,” Francis said Wednesday (May 22) in remarks at the informal morning Mass that he celebrates in the chapel at the Vatican guesthouse where he lives.

“And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.”

Francis explained that doing good is not a matter of faith: “It is a duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because he has made us in his image and likeness.”

To both atheists and believers, he said that “if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good.”

Both of the pope’s concessions are remarkable: That non-Catholics — atheists even! — might be “redeemed” by virtue of their good works, is a departure from traditional Catholic teachings. It would seem to make the Catholic Church itself useless and irrelevant. As remarkable, too, is his admission that killing in God’s name is blasphemy. Since the time of St Augustine, the R.C. Church has used the principle of “just war” to do an awful lot of killing in the name of their God. For Francis to state categorically that killing in God’s name is blasphemy, flies in the fact of this long tradition.

I expect traditional Catholics will scream to high heaven about these remarks. Just as they did when he dared wash the feet of women during Holy Week. But then again, sanctimonious outrage isn’t new to them. They more or less live in a perpetual state of sanctimonious outrage, all the time; all that changes is what they claim drives their outrage.

Photo credit: Catholic Church (England & Wales), via Flickr.

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Francis washed the feet of a dozen inmates at a juvenile detention center in a Holy Thursday ritual that he celebrated for years as archbishop and is continuing now that he is pope. / AP photo, via (NY) Daily NewsAmong the various elements of Holy Week pageantry in the Roman Catholic Church, is the Pope washing people’s feet on Maundy Thursday. This rite, which began in the Middle Ages, emulates the tale of Jesus washing his apostles’ feet as related in John 13:1-17. Naturally, owing to Catholicism’s hangups about women, the Popes have washed only men’s feet. Newly-installed Pope Francis performed this medieval rite, but in the process, broke the “men-only” tradition; as the AP reports via the Washington Post, this has a lot of conservative Catholics up in arms over it (WebCite cached article):

Pope Francis has won over many hearts and minds with his simple style and focus on serving the world’s poorest, but he has devastated traditionalist Catholics who adored his predecessor, Benedict XVI, for restoring much of the traditional pomp to the papacy.

Francis’ decision to disregard church law and wash the feet of two girls — a Serbian Muslim and an Italian Catholic — during a Holy Thursday ritual has become something of the final straw, evidence that Francis has little or no interest in one of the key priorities of Benedict’s papacy: reviving the pre-Vatican II traditions of the Catholic Church.

One of the most-read traditionalist blogs, “Rorate Caeli,” reacted to the foot-washing ceremony by declaring the death of Benedict’s eight-year project to correct what he considered the botched interpretations of the Second Vatican Council’s modernizing reforms.

“The official end of the reform of the reform — by example,” “Rorate Caeli” lamented in its report on Francis’ Holy Thursday ritual.…

Virtually everything he has done since being elected pope, every gesture, every decision, has rankled traditionalists in one way or another.

The article goes on to relate several outrages that have erupted as a result of various minor departures from papal tradition that Francis has done since taking office. That all of these alterations are cosmetic in nature, and quite trivial, doesn’t seem to make any difference to these sanctimoniously-outraged traditionalist Catholics. They truly are alarmed and angry that Pope Francis may well abort the efforts of his predecessors to roll back the Second Vatican Council reforms — even though those reforms weren’t nearly as drastic as is often thought. When you’re a fervent, perpetually-outraged religionist, little things like “facts” don’t really seem to matter very much.

Photo credit: AP via (NY) Daily News.

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Vincenzo Pinto/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images, via the New York TimesBy now most of my readers will already have heard the news: the College of Cardinals has elected a new pope. The New York Times reports on the cardinals’ choice (WebCite cached article):

With a puff of white smoke from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel and to the cheers of thousands of rain-soaked faithful, a gathering of Catholic cardinals picked a new pope from among their midst on Wednesday — choosing the cardinal from Argentina, the first South American to lead the church.

The new pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio (pronounced Ber-GOAL-io), will be called Francis, the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. He is also the first non-European pope in more than 1,200 years and the first member of the Jesuit order to lead the church.

A lot of folks will speculate as to what it means that a non-European was elected Pope, and that the new Pope named himself for St Francis of Assisi. It’s true that Francis is the first “New World” pope, and it’s also true that St Francis had — like Jesus himself — preached the virtue of poverty. But don’t be deceived. The Roman Catholic Church is a colossal juggernaut that works in its own way, moves at its own pace, and in many ways governs itself. It almost doesn’t matter who heads the Holy See. It’s the bishops who, collectively, run the Church, and they’ll continue to do so just as they always have. Even if he’d wanted to — and I’m positive he doesn’t — Pope Francis can’t “change” the Church in any meaningful way … because it can’t be changed.

Photo credit: Vincenzo Pinto/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images, via the New York Times.

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