A huge white sheet was raised to cover the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Salvador’s façade on Monday, December 26, 2011. Behind it, workers began removing the 2,700 pieces of the mosaic titled “The Harmony of My People,” 22.25m in height and 16m long. The artwork had been part of the building since 1997 and was dedicated to the peace treaties putting an end to the civil war in El Salvador which killed over 70,000.
Archbishop Josè Luis Escobar Alas said that he ordered its removal because the ceramics had become damaged. But the artist, Fernando Llort, responded that the wall could “last forever.” He pointed out that his mosaic was destroyed just before the 20th anniversary commemoration of the 1992 peace treaties on January 16.
The cathedral contains the remains of Archbishop Oscar Romero, gunned down while saying Mass on March 24, 1980, by one of the death-squads under the direction of the dictator Roberto D’Aubuisson, supported by the Ronald Reagan, the Knights of Malta, Opus Dei and Pope John Paul II. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, often referred to as the brains behind John Paul and now Pope Benedict XVI, earned the sobriquets PanzerKardinal and God’s Rottweiler for his attacks against churchmen and women like Romero, six Jesuit priests, three U.S. nuns and their companions – all gunned down in El Salvador for championing liberation theology which asked the Catholic Church to have a “preferential option for the poor.”
Now we know that Mitt Romney financed the start-up of Bain Capital with investments from Salvadoran oligarchs tied to D’Aubuisson according to Vanity Fair reporter Nicholas Shaxson’s investigation. Huffington Post reporter Ryan Grim, who revealed even further connections, was interviewed by Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman. Asked if these Salvadoran families are donating to Romney’s campaign, Grim responded that, as non-U.S.-citizens “they can't donate directly to U.S. presidential campaigns.”
But they can donate with no public disclosure and in unlimited amounts to any of the 40,000 organizations and agencies, each with a 501 (c) (3) tax code, controlled by the U.S. Catholic bishops. Their money could support the Church’s anti-Obama “religious liberty” campaign. Or their “donations” could be forwarded in legal secrecy to any other pro-Romney campaign fund. For that matter, any foreign plutocrat can launder their Romney campaign money through the Vatican Bank or any Catholic institution anywhere in the world before being forwarded to U.S.
Internal documents disclosed in Vaticano S.p.A. (Vatican Inc), a book published in 2009, show the Vatican Bank to be “a unique ‘off shore’ corridor for politicians around the world who want to keep their money away from legal controls.”
Pope Benedict XVI is listed as the seventh most powerful person in the world while the Koch brothers combined are named as #45 according to Forbes Magazine. In addition to his incalculable wealth (see Part 1) the pope wields influence on a global scale, not because of the number of Catholics as Forbes suggests (no more than any person is named on its list based on the number of people they nominally represent), but because the Catholic Church is the only religion with an autonomous country and financial institution with immunity to any law and regulation and it acts in partnership with the transnational corporatocracy by asserting itself whenever a pro-business, rightwing movement or party needs support.
This was evident when, despite the candidacies of two Republican Catholics at the time, five former U.S. Ambassadors to the Vatican endorsed Mitt Romney for president at the very start of this election year on January 7, 2012. They confirmed that the 1% had chosen their candidate. Romney was guaranteed the enthusiastic support of the U.S. episcopate and the use of the largest and most confidential SuperPac in this country. At the bishops’ June meeting, the Vatican ambassador to the U.S. warned the group that Obama’s threat to religious liberty “was so worrisome the bishops had to act.”
Romney went to Poland the end of July, showing both his appreciation for, and a promise of, continued collaboration with Catholic leaders i.e. their Church’s continued hegemony over the U.S. Religious Right, billions of dollars of government aid on the federal level alone for misogynist and homophobic charity, and the continued deference of the Republican Party to the Church’s agenda.
Romney stopped in Gdansk where a statue of Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan walking together had been unveiled on July 15. The presidential candidate paid homage to their alliance, both men having been groomed for and installed in office by neoconservatives to achieve plutocratic domination of the world’s economy. Reagan was the first U.S. president to establish formal diplomatic relations with the Holy See. In meeting with former Polish president and leader of Solidarity, Lech Walesa, Romney acknowledged the success of the Wojtyla/Reagan partnership in pouring billions of dollars through the Vatican and Catholic groups into Poland towards the downfall of the Soviet Union.
The Vatican – which normally shuts down for the summer - held its first international meeting of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization in Poland July 28-31. Coincidentally, a large number of prelates were therefore able to be in the same country with Romney during his visit. The council was formed in 2010 by Pope Benedict to increase the number of Catholic converts in countries where the Church has lost substantial membership, yet Poland already has the highest proportion of practicing Catholics in Europe.
When Romney returned from his trip abroad, the group of U.S. ambassadors to the Holy See (excluding Lindy Boggs, a Clinton appointee, and Manuel Diaz, the current Obama appointee) again announced their support for Romney having been reassured there would be the same close ties which Reagan and George W. Bush established with the Catholic Church. Bush went to the Vatican five times to consult with Popes John Paul and Benedict. Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice also made several visits.
During the 2004 presidential campaign, Cardinal Ratzinger instructed the U.S. bishops to withhold communion from Catholic Sen. John Kerry purportedly for his support of legal abortion. The AP and others reported that the resulting Catholic vote was crucial to Bush’s reelection.
When Pope Benedict arrived in the U.S. during the last presidential election year, Bush went out to Andrews AFB to greet him, an honor accorded to no other head of a foreign government before or since.
Earlier this month, Romney launched a 30-second TV spot featuring President Obama’s “war on religion.”
The commercial then cuts to historic footage of Pope John Paul II, to Mitt and Ann Romney visiting Poland, to Walesa, and to Romney shaking hands with Walesa.
It includes Romney’s remarks on that July 31 visit to Poland, “here, in 1979, a son of Poland, Pope John Paul II, spoke words that would bring down an empire and bring freedom to millions who lived in bondage. ‘Be not afraid’—those words changed the world.”
The narrator announces, “When religious freedom is threatened, who do you want to stand with?”
The former U.S. ambassadors are also the national co-chairs of the Catholics for Romney coalition, repeating the accusation made by Pope Benedict that President Obama “has brought our first freedom under direct assault by imposing government mandates that completely disregard religious conscience,” and already echoed by Romneyon the campaign trail.
(As I noted in Part I, if you find this diary overly long and tiresome, you may stop reading whenever you understand why Forbes named the pope #7 and the Kochs #45.)
Before Pope John Paul II, the Holy See (the juridical and diplomatic name for the Vatican) had diplomatic relations with 85 states. After Reagan established formal ties with the Vatican, so did Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain and most of the rest of the world, aware of this pope’s political power, followed suit. The Vatican now has official diplomatic relations with 176 nations and less formal ties to other governments as well. Additionally, the Holy See has a separate permanent diplomatic mission to the European Union in Brussels.
According to the U.S. State Department, “The Holy See is especially active in international organizations” as a permanent observer to sixteen including the UN, the Organization of American States (OAS), African Union (AU), World Trade Organization (WTO) and World Health Organization (WHO) and an informal observer at six others. The Vatican is also a member of a dozen other groups such as Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
As noted by The Economist in July 2007:
[M]ore and more governments have in recent years seemed happy to deal with the Holy See on its own terms, especially after John Paul II boosted its global profile. For any state, an embassy to the See offers attractions. For poor ones, it is a chance to garner information from one of the world's best-informed chancelleries. For powerful ones, it offers a way to influence the Vatican and seek papal approval. Napoleon told his man in Rome: “Deal with the pope as if he had 200,000 men at his command.” After some years in Rome, the envoy said 500,000 was nearer the mark.The Vatican uses its platform in the UN “to pursue its goals of diminishing women, demonizing homosexuals, obstructing the use of condoms to prevent AIDS and refusing to allow abortion even to save the life of the mother.” Benedict’s purpose, however, is not to protect fetuses. If modern birth control were available to an estimated 222 million women across the developing world, unplanned births in those countries would fall by two-thirds, as would the number of abortions.
Rather the pope’s purpose is to legitimize rightwing movements, parties and governments by giving misogyny and homophobia a “moral” veneer in addition to providing a cover for funding conservatives through organizations claiming to be “pro-life” and “pro-marriage.”
For example, the Catholic Church has been a “key factor in the overthrow of two Philippine presidentsover the last 25 years.” Abortion is illegal and birth control and condoms are not affordable to the poor. The Church has waged a 15-year campaign to stop parliament from passing a reproductive health bill which would guarantee universal access to information and methods of birth control and maternal care, and would require the government to provide free condoms. Currently the country is facing an HIV epidemic and the Philippines is one of only seven countries globally where HIV cases have risen by 25 percent or more since 2001, according to United Nations' Development Program (UNDP).
When a coalition of over 450 women’s and human rights groups worldwide campaigned for a review of Holy See’s status in the UN in 2000, Republican Congressman Christopher Smith and Republican Senators Rick Santorum and Bob Smith “introduced a resolution warning the United Nations not to downgrade the status of the Vatican, cautioning that any diminution of the Vatican's rights would ‘further damage relations between the United States and the U.N.’”
The coalition was led by Catholics For a Free Choice (CFFC) which “always held the position that having no women, girls or even male children as citizens, theVatican has no basis to form opinions on issues relating to women or family.”
In September 2009, appearing before the UN's Human Rights Council, Msgr. Hubertus Matheus Van Megen addressed the Church’s global pedophile scandal by lying about “available research.” “While many speak of child abuse as pedophilia, it would be more correct to speak of ephebophilia, being a homosexual attraction to adolescent males…Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80-90 percent belong to this sexual orientation minority,” he said without any basis in fact.
The book, Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse, was released in September 2010. Its author, Geoffrey Robertson, QC, the veteran human rights lawyer and United Nations judge, argued that the Vatican should be treated as a “rogue state.” Robertson called on the rest of world to protest the pope’s immunity for civil and criminal actions.
A month later, Benedict demanded that all bishops put in place “effective, quick, articulated, complete and decisive plans for the protection of children, bringing perpetrators [of sexual abuse] to justice and assisting victims.” Yet on July 11, 2012, Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s top investigator of clerical sex abuse, said “most of the bishops’ conferences around the world have missed a Vatican deadlineon drawing up anti-abuse guidelines….that all those who did not send in their proposed guidelines would be getting ‘a letter of reminder.’” He said that “evaluating each country’s proposed policies and guidelines for dealing with cases of clerical sexual abuse of minors will take ‘at least a year,’ and that process will not begin until after the summer.”
In September 2011, a support group for survivors of sex abuse by religious personnel together with a human rights organization filed a complaint with a prosecutor at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. It contained over 22,000 pages of documents from 65 countries around the world about the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, brothers and nuns and the Church’s cover-up. The complaint urged the prosecutor to investigate high-level Vatican officials for crimes against humanity. An addendum also included the publication of an Amnesty International Report calling Catholic child sex abuse in Ireland torture and additional evidence showing how Pope Benedict played a larger role in protecting the notorious Mexican priest, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, than was previously known.
It is a remarkable display of Vatican power that not the UN, nor the EU, nor any government has made a formal diplomatic censure, denunciation or even critique of the pope and his men except for Ireland’s prime minister, Enda Kenny. Following the July 2011 release of a scathing government report exposing the Church’s role in assaulting Irish children, Kenny denounced “the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism - the narcissism - that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day. The rape and torture of children were downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and ‘reputation.’” Even so, under pressure from the centre-right Fine Gael party, Kenny has promised to review his government’s decision to close its Vatican embassy.
Under pressure from the Holy See, the 2004 treaty establishing the Constitution for Europe contained Declaration No. 11 which “allows for all organizations recognized as a church or a community of faith or conviction to be exempt from Article 13 of the treaty, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion or sexual orientation.”
Early in 2010, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, an Italian banker, economist and former vice president of Goldman Sachs Europe, met in the Vatican to disuss the Greek financial crisiswith Hans Tietmeyer, former president of Deutsche Bundesbank and twice considered to be the next president of the Vatican Bank; the then current Vatican Bank president, Opus Dei member and former president of Santander Consumer Bank SpA, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi; and the president of the Bank of Greece, Lukas D. Papademos. Draghi said in an interview at the time that Greece should “slash the minimum wage, pensions and benefits – including deep cuts in the health service.”
After the European Council’s October 2011 financial crisis summit, Herman Van Rompuy, the Belgian president of the European Council, presented a report to a Plenary Assembly of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE). “The bishops’ plenary session was dedicated to discussing the financial crisis….Van Rompuy is working hand in hand with the Vatican to work through the crisis and particularly strengthen the European Union and the Roman Catholic Church.” When Van Rompuy was in Florence the following month “two large banners were unfurled with two simple demands: ‘End Austerity’ and ‘Real Democracy Now!’” A group of 50 PhD researchers from the European University Institute “then nailed their Ninety-Five Theses on the Ills of Europe to the door of the Catholic church where Van Rompuy had delivered a sermon.”
COMECE scheduled its March 21-23, 2012, meeting to be held in Brussels, headquarters of the European Union. “The anticipation for the forthcoming Assembly seems to show that European governments consider bishops’ words to be authoritative. And that is significant,” reported one Italian newspaper, La Stampa.
Since signing a treaty with Mussolini in 1929 which granted the Vatican autonomous statehood in return for the Church’s cooperation with the fascist government, the relationship between the Italian government and the Church has been, until recently, one of alliance and mutual support. “Anyone who believes there is a true separation of Church and State in Italyis not paying attention,” one-time Italian parliamentarian and author Gianfranco Rey wrote in 2007. By February 2011 amid the fiasco of the Church-supported Berlusconi government, a senior Italian diplomatic officer, Carlo Ungaro, wondered why “Italian political leaders should be so sensitive to the pressures of the Church, considering that the Italian population is not particularly devout in its adherence to Catholicism.”
Mario Monti’s appointment as prime minister in November 2011 has been highly praised by Italian churchmen, his photo appearing on the front page of the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, six times in his first two months in office. Monti was European chairman of the Trilateral Commission and a leading member of the exclusive Bilderberg Group. He is also an international adviser to Goldman Sachs and honorary president of Bruegel, the Brussels-based economic policy think-tank. Monti pleased the Church by proposing a revision to the 2005 law requiring religious organizations to pay taxes on property used for commercial purposes. (Since the Vatican owns 20% of Italian properties, including 3,300 hotels run by religious bodies, this is a big deal.)
The crack in the relationship between Church and State appears to be between the Vatican and Italian financial officials beginning in September 2010 when, under direction from the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Bank of Italy, authorities froze €23 million ($33 million) in a Vatican Bank account at the Rome branch of Credito Artigiano. Italian prosecutors accused the Vatican of deliberately flouting anti-laundering laws “with the aim of hiding the ownership, destination and origin of the capital.” Court documents also revealed investigators' suspicions that transactions totaling €900,000 involved clergy acting as fronts for corrupt businessmen and the Mafia. Although the Credito Arigiano account was released in June 2011, Roman magistrates are continuing their probe and Judge Maria Teresa Covatta was quoted as saying the intended beneficiaries of the transactions were still unclear.
The Italian daily, Corriere della Sera, reported Italian prosecutors obtained documents seized during raids on former Vatican Bank president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi’s, home and office in early June 2012. The newspaper stated “investigators were focusing on accounts at the Vatican Bank held by ‘politicians, shady intermediaries, contractors and senior (Italian) officials’ as well as ‘people believed to be fronts for mafia bosses.’ Investigators have reportedly found ‘property investments and Church property sales that could disguise money transfers to fronts and the need to launder through firms and banks.’”
The Council of Europe’s MONEYVAL committee of financial experts issued a report in July 2012 evaluating only the measures the Vatican put in place “to combat money-laundering and terrorist financing,” not whether these measures had ever been used – which they haven’t. It was rumored that during MONEYVAL’s plenary meeting earlier that month, the Italian delegation had been “gagged” by the Italian government from complaining about some operations of the IOR (the acronym for the Institute of Religious Works, the official name of the Vatican Bank). “The Italian Minister of Economy did not deny it, and offered further information about the Italian intervention at the MONEYVAL plenary assembly.”
Jeffrey Lena, the U.S. attorney who has successfully defeated five lawsuits filed in U.S. courts against the Holy See - three sex abuse, one RICO and one demand for assets stolen from victims of the Croatian Ustashe holocaust – by asserting the pope’s sovereign immunity, has been hired to work in the Vatican full time. In an August 4, 2012, interview, he asserted: “In terms of financial assets, the IOR has banking relationships with forty countries and maintains relationships with financial institutions of all EU members.” But in terms of anti-money laundering measures, only the Bank of Italy has a disparity with the Vatican, he said.
The Vatican’s connections to the German Republic have increased along with that country’s rise as Europe’s powerhouse. On the two occasions when the IOR has had its accounts in Italian banks identified as possible sources of money-laundering, the funds were being transferred to German banks. The €23 million was being transferred to a Vatican account with JP Morgan Chase in Frankfurt. (In June, the Hessian Attorney General District Court rejected the request of a Roman prosecutor to help in the money-laundering investigation by seizing the IOR’s Frankfurt account).
When JP Morgan Chase announced in March 2012 it was closing an IOR account in its Milan affiliate due to a lack of information it had been requesting since 2010 about the source of deposits, JP Morgan reported that the €1.8 billion which had been deposited in the last 18 months in the account had been “swept” on a daily basis into a German bank.
In February 2012, La Repubblica reported that the IOR had “abandoned Italian banks” and has “transferred much of its financial assets to Germany.” In May, La Stampa stated the IOR “now works almost exclusively with Deutsche Bank” to guard against further disclosures of its Italian bank accounts, implying that German financiers would be more willing to protect the Vatican’s secrecy than the Italians. Part of the Vatican’s “exit strategy” from Italy, it was reported, may be to purchase a foreign bank and/or reopen relations with JP Morgan Chase directly in the U.S. and not with its European branches.
Members of the press and spokespersons of the European Episcopal (Bishops’) conferences met in Cologne July 12 to discuss “communications regarding financial issues.”
Gotti Tedeschi was “brutally” fired in May as president of the IOR under threat of a resignation by the vice president, German Ronaldo Hermann Schmitz, formerly No. 2 at the Deutsche Bank, leaving Schmitz as interim president of the IOR. (Gotti Tedeschi’s dismissal letter was written and provided as a press release by IOR board member Carl Anderson, head of the major U.S. Catholic fundraising organization, the Knights of Columbus, and a former member of the Reagan administration.)
Pope Benedict’s personal choice to succeed Gotti Tedeschi is Hans Tietmeyer, former head of the Bundesbank(Germany’s central bank) “now that Berlin rules Europe’s finances,” but at 81-years-old, it is unlikely Tiermeyer will accept.
In the increasingly Teutonic Vatican, it should also be noted that Benedict’s eminence grise, personal secretary and aid is Msgr. Georg Gänswein, known in Rome as the “Black Forest Adonis.” Gänswein “had a passion for the stock market” before becoming a priest and was trained at the Opus Dei-run Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.
In addition, the pope also just appointed Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller as head of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger’s former position where he had succeeded in destroying the careers of liberation and other liberal theologians. Müller was also “surreptitiously added” to the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, “and that has caused some speculation that the pope is looking for a stronger national allyin a top position, possibly to bolster support against the Italian contingent in the Roman Curia as he looks ahead to the [end of summer vacations] when [financial] scandals will surely resurface.”
“The separation of church and state should never make us forget that we easily become arrogant without belief in God,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated the week before Pope Benedict XVI’s visit last September. "I think it is important to constantly reinforce the unity of Christians at a time when we are confronted by a growing secularism," Merkel said a few days later.
Benedict’s trip to Germany was an official state visit, not a religious or pastoral occasion. He was invited by the government before upcoming elections and was welcomed as a head of state with a 21-gun salute and military honors. Benedict and Merkel discussed financial markets on the first of his four-day visit.
Germany's parliamentary vote on Europe's next rescue fund was delayed until Benedict left as “a number of deputies have asked for time off to follow the pope on his official visit,” according to Michael Meister, deputy leader of the Christian Democrat parliamentary faction.
Celebrating the first anniversary of another of Benedict’s official head-of-state visits, Prime Minister David Cameron remarked in September 2011, “The pope’s message is just as relevant today. The shocking riots in the UK underline that we need more than ever to build a culture of social responsibility and develop strong and powerful communities as we deal with tough economic challenges….I am deeply proud of the enormous contribution people of faith have made to our society and look forward to continuing our ever-closer co-operation between the UK and the Holy See as we work for the common good.”
Cameron followed-up by sending seven government ministers to a special conference at the Vatican in February 2012. The publicly announced agenda included disarmament, climate change, the Middle East and economic development. “Why do seven British government ministers come to the Holy See? We don't normally have delegations of seven ministers going to countries. The answer is that there is an extremely wide agenda of action and activity between Britain and the Holy See which really shows the importance of the Holy See in the international diplomatic affairs,” explained His Excellency, Nigel Baker, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Vatican.
Madrid’s Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela declared, “Today the people of Spain - and especially the young people - are suffering the damaging effects of ‘moral relativism, spiritual and religious skepticism, and because of a selfish and individualist conception of man and life.’” The prelate was celebrating the November 2011 election of the center-right Mariano Rajoy by disregarding austerity measures and Spain’s youth unemployment rate of 53%. “Rajoy, a social conservative from a strong Catholic, provincial background, appears to have little time for the young urban demonstrators of the Indignado movement, or Spain's trade unions….Critics accuse him of misleading voters into thinking he is a moderate, while harboring a hidden agenda of economic shock therapy,” the BBC reported at the time.
After the Socialist Party governed in Spain since 2004, Rajoy, backed by the Catholic Church, opposed the Zapatero government’s liberal abortion law and legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
When former French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited the pope in October 2010, in addition to discussing “peace efforts in the Middle East and the current economy,” the two leaders “then recalled His Holiness' trip to Lourdes and Paris in 2008, and President Sarkozy's visit to the Vatican of the preceding year [and] reiterated their joint desire to maintain permanent dialogue at various institutional levels, and to continue constructive collaborationon matters of mutual interest,” according to the official Vatican press release.
Sarkozy had appeased religious conservatives when he said in 2007 that “the teacher will never replace the priest or the pastor” during a speech against gay marriage. In the first round of the 2007 election, 49% of Catholics had voted for Sarkozy against only 12% for Ségolène Royal. As regards France’s recent elections, practicing Catholics were five to six times more likely to vote right-wing than those who describe themselves as “without religion.” According to a January 2012 survey, 50% of Catholics planned to vote for Sarkozy this year while 13% said they would support [Socialist candidate] François Hollande.
“Sarkozy rides shotgun as Merkel’s ‘Deputy Sheriff,’ foreclosing on European debtor nations,” wrote Richard Greeman on the New Politics website in November 2011.
During the campaign, “the German chancellor has not only expressed her support for Sarkozy but also her willingness to take to the stump on his behalf. Although heads of government often meet with opposition candidates, Merkel rebuffed Hollande’s request for a meeting; fellow conservatives David Cameron and Mariano Rajoy have also said they did not wish to meet with Hollande.
Now that Hollande has been elected, the Church is rallying the opposition. This Sunday, a “Prayer for France” will be read in every Catholic church in the country. “The prayer’s subject matter is designed to mobilize Catholics against Hollande’s Socialist Party government, which recently affirmed plans to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption to gay couples.” Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois asked Catholics to pray that “children cease to be objects of the desires and conflicts of adults and fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother.” Like the U.S. Republican Party, the French Church is following the lead of Pope Benedict XVI who in January said gay marriage threatened “the future of humanity itself.”
Benedict also has his followers in Eastern Europe. Hungary’s new constitution, which was approved in 2011, states that human life must be defended from the moment of conception and that marriage is “a life alliance between a man and a woman.” In Slovakia, where “the Church has long taken an interventionist line…the president of the Slovak Conference of Bishops, Stanislav Zvolensky, met each of the leaders of the country's main political parties, ahead of the parliamentary elections in March 2012 to demand respect for ‘traditional Christian values.’”
President Vladimir Putin went to Benedict in 2007 to mend long-standing animosities between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church. (Putin was looking to the Russian Orthodox Church to be his “religious right,” a national religion in alliance with the government.) President Dmitry Medvedev, after meeting with Benedict in December 2009, announced that Russia would establish full diplomatic relations with the Holy See. Medvedev followed-up with additional private talks with the pope in October 2011. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Zatlers have also gone to the Vatican to discuss Church-state relations in their respective countries with the pope in the past two years.
With strong encouragement from Pope Benedict, including a state visit in June 2011, Croatia (90% Catholic) signed an EU accession treaty in December 2011 and EU membership is scheduled to start in July 2013. It is of vital importance to the Vatican to have as many Catholic countries as possible participating in multi-national organizations since each represents a dependable vote for the pope’s agenda. For example, the 56th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women ended on March 9, 2012, without reaching a final agreement in part because Catholic states such as Poland, Chile and Malta voted to block any expansionof women’s reproductive rights.
No other part of the world has suffered more from the Catholic Church than Latin America. With few exceptions, for more than five centuries, the pope and his men have supported the conquistadors, viceroys (the Church fought against all democracy movements as it had in Europe), oligarchs, U.S. capitalists, military dictators and every other tyrant who murdered, enslaved and raped the population and the land.
In December 2011, a special Mass “signaled an evident update of the Ratzingerian agenda regarding the dynamics on the continent that is home to 43% of the world’s Catholics. The apostolic See, on the highest levels, appears to be seeking propitious occasions to reconnect with the vibrant and diverse Latin American brand of Catholicism.” Benedict then made an official announcement of his trip to Cuba and Mexico at the end of March
The Holy See began to reactivate a network of Catholic organizations “for the good of the Catholic Church” in South America, which could fund projects worth up to $200 million per year. In February 2012, 15 leaders of various international organizations gathered together under the auspices of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America including the German organizations Adveniat, Misereor and Kirche in Not (Aid to the Church in Need), the Manos Unida organization of the Spanish Conference of Bishops, one from the Italian Bishops’ Committee and another from the French Catholic Committee, Caritas and the Populorum Progressio Foundation managed from the Vatican.
Curial official, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, explained just prior to the Benedict’s departure: “Latin America is recognized as a leader on the current international scene. In fact, it is hardly spoken of as a region marked by underdevelopment and backwardness, or even as a developing area, but rather as a group of emerging countries. Isn’t Brazil now the sixth-largest world power? Aren’t Latin American countries going through economic processes involving exportation to various markets on the one hand, and attracting foreign capital on the other?”
The pope was invited to Mexico three months before the July 1 presidential elections and had a private conference with President Felipe Calderon. The announced topics included nuclear disarmament, climate change and other international agreements. “They touched only briefly on the topic of religious freedom, for which Mexico is planning a constitutional reform,” stated the official Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi.
Guadalajara Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez who resigned this past December, “has never shied away from [controversy] during his tenure as pastor of one of the most influential dioceses in Latin America. His leadership, relationships with local and national elites and unvarnished pronouncements on political and social issues have made him one of the country's most respected and reviled public figures. And his pronouncements have paved a new path for prelates speaking out about politics in a history of tense relations between church and state.”
During his trip to Cuba, Benedict solidified gains already made by the Catholic Church on the island. In 2010, President Raul Castro allowed Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega to broker the release of political prisoners in order to give Ortega’s lobbying of the U.S. State Department on behalf of the Cuban government for a relaxation of the U.S. trade embargo and increasedagricultural exports some diplomatic legitimacy. (Benedict also criticized the U.S. embargo on the last day of his trip.) In return, the Church was allowed to build a seminary and offer a program for Cuba’s first master’s in business administration.
The U.S. Catholic Church has a history of promoting agribusiness interests. Bush’s U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, James Nicholson, held three conferences in 2003 for the Vatican diplomatic corps representatives in Rome promoting the use of genetically modified foods (or genetically modified organisms - GMOs). These meetings were followed by a closed-door Vatican conference for 67 international experts under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace for the same purpose.
According to an investigation titled “Opus Dei in Honduras, The Catholic Church in the Coup” by sociologist Marco Burgos, “Opus Dei, headed by Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez, participated actively in the coup against constitutional President Manuel Zelaya….Active members of this clan are making intromissions in Honduran national politics….Honduran coupist government Foreign Vice Minister Marta Lorena Alvarado, and the Mayor of Tegucigalpa, Ricardo Alvarez, are some of the members of Opus Dei.”
The current Panamanian president and vice president, Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal and Juan Carlos Varela, had the strong backing of Opus Dei during the 2009 election and its members have been appointed in Marinelli’s administration.
The War-Monger Church
Listing the carnage of the wars in which the Vatican has actively participated would be illustrative of the breadth of the Catholic Church’s support of the corporatocracy.
Regardless of Benedict’s repeated claims that the Catholic Church is “pro-life,” the Church supported:
The fascist Franco. The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) resulted in 365,000 deaths with an additional 100,000 Spaniards executed by Franco until his death in 1975. (These and all the following death counts as of 2010 come from http://users.erols.com/.... There are no separate counts available of the number of unborn children also slaughtered.)
Leaving aside the Pope Pius XII’s early support for the Nazi Party in Germany and the ensuing controversies over his ambivalence towards Hitler, we know the following Europeans received solid support from the Vatican:
Mussolini (1922-1943) – 200,000 were killed in Ethiopia and Libya before World War II. Italian troops killed 15,000 in Yugoslavia and 9,000 Greeks. Italians executed 9,000 Slovenes in the summer of 1941.
Hitler allies, the Croatian Ustashe, killed 500-700,000 Serbs, 207,000 Croats, 86,000 Muslims, 50,000 Jews and 20,000 Gypsies. Most died in the Ustashe concentration camps.
The post-war expulsion of Germans from East Europe (1945-1947) – approximately 2,100,000 died while being expelled from the heavily Catholic countries of Poland and Czechoslovakia.
Probably the most powerful clergyman in U.S. history was New York Cardinal Francis Spellman who raised millions of dollars to fight Communism, even by terrorism, in post-war Europe. Spellman promoted the selection of Ngo Dinh Diem, a Catholic, to be prime minister of South Vietnam. It was Diem’s persecution of the Buddhist majority which caused turmoil and disunity in South Vietnam while Americans engaged the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese in battle.
Many officers in the ARVN converted to Catholicism in the belief that their career prospects depended on it, and many were refused promotion if they did not do so. Additionally, the distribution of firearms to village self-defense militias intended to repel Viet Cong guerrillas was carried out so that weapons were only given to Catholics. Some Catholic priests ran private armies, and in some areas forced conversions, looting, shelling and demolition of pagodas occurred. Some Buddhist villages converted en masse to receive aid or avoid being forcibly resettled by Diem’s regime.
Vietnam War: (1965-73) 1,700,000
Catholic prelates stood firmly alongside Latin American dictators providing them not only with moral support but the means to easily acquire arms and cash. The wars were at their most brutal after Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II formed an alliance.
Brazil: Under Dutra/Vargas (1945-64): 50,000. Under the military (1964-85): 75,000
Guatemala: (1960-1996) 200,000 (in a country with the same population, roughly, as the state of Tennessee.)
Bolivia: (1971-78) Military Regime under Hugo Banzer: 100 disappearances, 39 murders, 400 deaths. Regime of Luis Garcia Meza (1980-81) 1,000 killed by the military.
Nicaragua: (1972-91): 60,000
Uruguay: Military Regime (1973-85) 200 political prisoners disappeared, 61 Tupamaro rebels and 50 soldiers/police killed in action.
Chile: 5,000 killed in 1973 coup; 20,000 executions in 1974. Remainder of the Pinochet regime until 1990 - extrajudicial executions and deaths under torture: 2,095, disappearances: 1,102
Argentina: Military Junta (1976-83) 30,000
El Salvador: (1979-92): 75,000
Panama: U.S. invasion by the first President Bush (1989) Joint delegation of CODEHUCA + CONADEHUPA: 2,000 – 3,000
Beginning with the election of Pope John Paul II, the US episcopate and the Vatican have done everything in their power to turn America into a traditional Latin American oligarchy.
Apropos to the Church’s support of President George W. Bush, in Iraq - 4,427 US deaths (over 100,000 wounded) and 1,421,933 Iraqi deaths.
Being one of the seven most powerful person in the world means you get to admonish, with a straight face, government leaders who work for peace and a decent standard of living for their countrymen and the world’s press respectfully reports your pronouncements about God’s love.