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The Washington Post recently published a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in. It was a reminder of how, among other factors, President Nixon’s paranoia and suspicions of “press leaks” and “enemies” led to the only presidential resignation in U.S. history and the election of a Democrat, Jimmy Carter.

As I read this past week’s news about Pope Benedict, I couldn’t help but reflect on how he and his Curia are becoming so similar in their continuing response to the “Vatileaks” scandal.  

In a recent article, Der Spiegle reported:

The mood at the Vatican is apocalyptic….Fear is running rampant in the Curia, where the mood has rarely been this miserable. It's as if someone had poked a stick into a beehive. Men wearing purple robes are rushing around, hectically monitoring correspondence. No one trusts anyone anymore, and some even hesitate to communicate by phone….
The Italian newspaper, La Stampa, in its section “Vatican Insider,”  is covering what one of their reporters termed “phase two” of this papacy in which Benedict has turned on his most loyal and trusted friends.

The pope’s hand-picked collaborator who co-wrote his encyclical and many other teachings about monetary morality, professor of financial ethics Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was dismissed as head of the Vatican Bank in what Der Speigle said was a disagreement over who would control Vatican finances. Gotti Tedeschi wanted transparency and cooperation with international financial authorities. His papal-backed adversaries who oppose this made press statements attacking Gotti Tedeschi’s character, including a psychiatric evaluation just as Nixon had tried to do with Daniel Ellsberg, provider of the Pentagon Papers to the press.

Gotti Tedeschi’s private papers were later seized by the Italian police and have been reported to contain extremely damaging confirmation of financial malfeasance. Gotti Tedeschi, reportedly in fear for his life, may yet become, like White House Counsel John Dean, a key witness to the Vatican’s criminal transactions.

The day after Gotti Tedeschi’s ouster, Paolo Gabriele, the pope’s valet, was arrested - still the only person identified as leaking official documents to the press. Most agree he is a scapegoat (Nixon had several) since this massive number of documents could not have been accumulated and copied in the papal apartment without notice. In addition, a member of the domestic staff wouldn’t be familiar with the type of documents which are most damaging like those confirming the Vatican Bank as an “offshore” facility used for money-laundering by politicians, businessmen and the Mafia or that the sex abuse scandal in the U.S. is viewed as only a question of how much money is needed to pay-off accusers to avoid more incriminating disclosures in trials.

Nixon dismissed his closest advisers, John Ehrlichman and H.R. “Bob” Haldeman. La Stampa reports that Benedict is preparing to replace his top two officials, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada.

As Nixon villified the press, Bertone stated the journalists who reported the leaked documents were fiction writers like Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code), calling their information “lies” and “slander.”

Veteran Fox News reporter, Greg Burke, hired to do the same type of spin control as Nixon Press Secretary Ron Ziegler, said he will “shape the news” issued from the Holy See’s press office. He is replacing current spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi.

Last Saturday, Benedict called a private meeting with five cardinals (in addition to the bishops’ oath of obedience, cardinals swear “not to divulge what may bring harm or dishonor to Holy Church”) to help him uncover the identity of the Deep Throat(s).

Nixon was famously anti-Semitic, a charge leveled against Benedict after he revised the Church’s Good Friday service in 2008 to include a prayer that Jews acknowledge Jesus as savior and another that “all Israel may be saved” through “recognition of the truth.” After being condemned by Jewish groups throughout the world, the prayers were omitted.  

The European press has not been favorable to Benedict’s desire for reintegration of the schismatic group, the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), into the Catholic Church. The religious order was founded by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, a Vichy French collaborator and anti-Semite. SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson is an infamous Holocaust denier. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers the SSPX to be a hate group “characterized by open anti-Semitism.”

When the excommunication of Williamson and three other SSPX prelates was lifted by Benedict in 2009, protests came from the German, Irish, French and Belgian governments, among others, as well as Israel’s chief rabbi and the U.S.’s Anti-Defamation League.

Meanwhile, the Vatican’s finances continue to come under scrutiny.

In September 2010, investigators froze €23 million in two Vatican accounts held in Italian banks for suspicion of money-laundering.

This past February, JP Morgan Chase closed the Vatican account in their Milan branch because the Church wouldn’t provide the provenance for the €1.5 billion moved through that account over an 18-month period.

Susan Pittman of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement spoke to Reuters in March after the Holy See was placed on their watch list of problematic countries for the first time. "With the large volumes of international currency that goes through the Holy See, it is a system that makes it vulnerable as a potential money-laundering center," she said.

Church officials are currently refusing to cooperate with a request made by Italian police that the Vatican Bank disclose records regarding the “vast sums of money” passed through the account of an Italian priest suspected of laundering money for a Mafia godfather.

A dysfunctional mothership might be a hindrance to the U.S. bishops’ campaigns to make the rich richer at the expense of the commonweal. If Pope Benedict was eventually replaced by someone with the morals and character of Jimmy Carter, the whole world would be a better place.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I agree about Jimmy Carter, but he is roundly (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, paul2port, Wee Mama

    derided every time he tries to pique the nation's longlost conscience.  It would be refreshing to see a modern Vatican take note of its original mission statement every once in awhile, but they bought into the late 20th century business model of diversification.  Their center will no longer hold.  But those pesky and industrious nuns are looking better and better and may actually save their church.
    Thanks for your reliably good writing on this, Betty.  Your comparison is interesting and holds up.

    Romney went to France instead of serving in our military, got rich chop-shopping US businesses and eliminating US jobs, off-shored his money in the Cayman Islands, and now tells us to "Believe in America."

    by judyms9 on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 06:28:40 AM PDT

  •  Seems like a natural progression (6+ / 0-)

    When you hire a guy (Greg Burke) who worked for a guy (Roger Ailes) who worked for THE guy (Nixon), the degree of separation lessens.
    It is funny to see them scurrying like Ratz.

    "You're a dedicated swallower of fascism." Billy Bragg

    by Heianshoka on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 06:36:43 AM PDT

    •  The historical ties between the Vatican and Nixon (5+ / 0-)

      go very deep, but I did not want to include two subjects in one post. Nixon worked with Anna Chenault (leader of the Free China group of reactionary international Catholics) to stop the peace talks with Vietnam and throw the election. Gen. Alexander Haig and William Simon were members of the Knights of Malta, allies with Allen Dulles and the Eastern Establishments' "traders with the enemy", along with Pius XII, in WWII. Members of the Nixon administration and the CIA had partnered with Pius XII/ Cardinal Spellman in the anti-Communist dirty wars. And members of the Nixon administration joined with other neocon Catholics to establish the Religious Right etc etc.

  •  Terrific article, Betty, thanks (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, SuzieQ4624, paul2port

    It is a joy to see all of this uncovered......  Your analogy to the Nixon White House is spot on and hopefully will help people relate to and understand what is going on in the Vatican.

    Now to get the common person to really understand the depth and breadth of the corruption in this current Vatican....  and to understand what is going on cannot be separated from the take over by Opus Dei, a truly fascistic organization.

    However even on this site, there is such resistance against hearing what is going on, with explanations being dismissed as 'anti Catholic sludge' or 'black helicopter conspiracy theories" or "paranoid bigotry" for example.

    Hopefully with the outstanding research you and others are doing, the world and in particular, the US, will finally see that 'the Emperor has no clothes.'

    Best Wishes and thank you for all your hard work.

    I belong to the “US” of America, not the “ME,$,ME,$,ME,$,ME,$” of America!

    by SeaTurtle on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 06:54:31 AM PDT

  •  !@#$%& awesome! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paul2port, SeaTurtle

    watching the RCC implode is quite glorious.

    Die with your boots on. If you're gonna try, well stick around. Gonna cry? Just move along. The truth of all predictions is always in your hands. - Iron Maiden

    by Cedwyn on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 07:22:18 AM PDT

  •  I wish this were an (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paul2port

    aberration, but Vatican intrigue is pretty much normal.  The one thing that worries me is that JPII packed the college of cardinals with reactionary fools, so getting someone sensible next is more than a long shot...

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 07:30:28 AM PDT

    •  I couldn't agree more that it's a long shot (5+ / 0-)

      But what would happen if the sex abuse and the financial malfeasance - not only in the Vatican but in dioceses around the world - caused public opinion to not just ignore, but widely condemn the leaders of the Catholic Church? Perhaps some reformist group could actually demand that the current regime be removed and an entirely new group take over? Remember Albino Luciani, the "Smiling Pope", officially John Paul THE FIRST. Maybe it's only a dream.......

      •  I'm still mad at (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tobendaro, paul2port, SeaTurtle

        John XXIII for dying before the Council was complete.  I really believe that if he'd been able to see his vision through to the end, we'd be in a LOT better place now.  Any guy who'd put on his old parish priest clothes and sneak out of the Vatican to be with real people is my kind of pastoral leader.  Drove Vatican security and hierarchy crazy.... :-)

        -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

        by luckylizard on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 09:36:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It wouldn't have made much of a difference, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          luckylizard, SeaTurtle

          luckylizard. As documented in my book "The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America", Karol Wojtyla was placed in the papacy by the same corporatocracy who placed Reagan in the White House. (See The October Surprise series at consortium.com). They were both major victories in the neocon plans for the takeover of the U.S. government.

          •  Do you think that (0+ / 0-)

            undoing the Council would have been as easy if it had been completed, though?  I know that's a big "what if?" but I just have this feeling that things might have unfolded in a different direction if there had been progressive leadership through the whole thing.

            -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

            by luckylizard on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 10:31:05 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I'm not sure what you mean, luckylizard, (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              luckylizard

              since the Council was completed. Paul VI was a progressive who followed John XXIII's vision for the council and it's aftermath in the changes it brought about. Some think Paul VI wasn't a liberal based solely on Humanae Vitae but in many, many more ways he was.

              •  Paul wasn't quite (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                paul2port

                the progressive that John was.  (I'd cite the horrible decision to call birth control an intrinsic evil, against the best advice of his own commission, as one example.)  He just didn't have the enthusiasm or the charisma to carry it off.

                I really have this fantasy that if John had stuck around for the implementation, things would be different.  I'm not an authority on this.  I was only in high school at the time and haven't done tons of research since.  I just remember how hopeful and eager we all were to make this work.  Frankly, I have continued in that spirit during the intervening years.  

                As a liturgical musician, I get to do more with 'pushing the envelope' than some, but even the old people (well, older than my 62 years) in my parish who tend to be more conservative are unhappy with the recent changes in the Roman Missal.  I know that many of them were not that happy with the changes from the council, but they are really pi$$ed off that things have changed again.  

                Maybe I'm just whining for the hell of it...

                -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

                by luckylizard on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 01:20:40 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  Very interesting analogy Betty (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama

    I would be thrilled if the Curia elected someone unlike B16, just as happened when Jimmy Carter was elected.

    So dramatic a change may be impossible because the electors were all chosen by B16 and JP2. However there must be some good men there who realize continued reign by the current cabal with their bad management and awful policies will bring even more disaster.

  •  Ah, Ratzigate. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SeaTurtle

    Thump! Bang. Whack-boing. It's dub!

    by dadadata on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 08:52:02 AM PDT

  •  Excellent, Betty. I look forward to your next (0+ / 0-)

    installment.  As for Jimmy Carter, history will be kinder to him than his snarky contemporaries have been.  He stands apart from all the living presidents because he, not any conservative, has lived in a righteous way.

    Romney went to France instead of serving in our military, got rich chop-shopping US businesses and eliminating US jobs, off-shored his money in the Cayman Islands, and now tells us to "Believe in America."

    by judyms9 on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 03:20:46 PM PDT

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