Every pope “possesses supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely” according to the Code of Canon Law.
Members of the Roman Curia are appointed and granted authority by the pope.
Pope Francis has also changed the Curia administration. First he created a Secretariat for the Economy and a Council for the Economy. Next, he created a Secretariat for Communications. He replaced the management of the Vatican Bank and the Vatican’s financial "watchdog," the Financial Information Authority. In the past year, he created new departments for Integral Human Development and another for the Laity, Family and Life replacing five previous councils. Also, the pope appointed 27 new members to the Congregation for Divine Worship, changing the department through its personnel.
Yet the anglophone media has declared in scores of reports that Pope Francis' struggles to “clean-up” the Vatican but is thwarted by his subordinates, often characterized as "conservatives." (e.g. here, here, here, here)
Pope Francis, however, refers to his subordinates as “the leprosy of the papacy." He has accused them of “spiritual Alzheimer’s,” “existential schizophrenia,” “hypocrisy typical of the mediocre,” “progressive spiritual emptiness,” and having cliques that “enslave their members and become a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body.”
Working on the FBI’s specialized team investigating child pornography and sexual abuse crimes is so disturbing that it is the only department staffed entirely by volunteers who are free to leave at any time.
Pope Francis’ leadership in allowing sexual assaults against children to continue is the most sickening and unprecedented in modern ecclesial history.
More than fifteen years after the Boston Globe's "Spotlight" on predator priests, the U.S. bishops published their most recent self-report.
Shockingly, 172 clerics accused of sexual abuse of minors, as counted between 2014 and mid-2015 inclusive, are still in active ministry, retired, resigned or their whereabouts unknown. Another 121 were permanently or temporarily removed from ministry and 40 were laicized (defrocked). No mention is made how many are free men or if any are incarcerated.
"Research has consistently shown that false allegations of child sexual abuse by children are rare."
Between 2013-2015 inclusive, 2,315 victim/survivors were reported to the bishops.
Suicides of clerical sex abuse victims "are over 30 times the rate in the general population.”
The report also states that part of the increase in the number of allegations from 2014 to 2015 was due to “bankruptcy proceedings” and “the state opening the statute of limitations,” i.e. civil adjudications and legislation.
The U.S. episcopate ruthlessly expends vast resources to battle against any “child-sex law reform.” This legislation “would make it easier for child sex abuse victims to bring cases” against not only the Church, "but all sexual abuse predators in this country."
Victim/survivors' "average delay in reporting that abuse was 29 years after the abuse ended. This is strong evidence as to why the statute of limitations to report sex crimes against children must be expanded."
"It is the bishops who have blocked any kind of meaningful reform. [They] and the pope have a lot of explaining to do as to why it would be in their mission to keep all of these victims from seeking justice," said Marci Hamilton, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law in New York who is an expert on statutes of limitations.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops does not make the names of the accused clerics public - not even those convicted, removed from ministry or defrocked - which would also help make children safer.
They operate with full impunity because they are following the example set by Pope Francis. He does not make public the names of sexual predators known to the Vatican. Neither has he ordered his men to report accusations of sexual abuse to civil authorities.
With personal knowledge of the allegations against them, Pope Francis has even helped keep at least six sexual predators free men. The worst case is Fr. Don Corradi.
Corradi had been accused of sexually abusing students at the Provolo Institute in Verona, Italy, a school for the deaf where hundreds of children are believed to have been sexually assaulted over the years by two dozen priests and religious brothers.
The first reports of this institutional horror appeared in 2009 including Corradi's name. "The list of abusers was posted on the internet and specified that Corradi was in Argentina."
One former student willing to be named at the time was Gianni Bisoli who accused Verona's late bishop, Giuseppe Carraro, of molesting him on five separate occasions while he was at Provolo.
The association of Provolo victims in Italy wrote to Pope Francis on Dec. 31, 2013, asking for assistance for the victims. Corradi's name appeared in the letter noting that he was in Argentina. The victims received no help.
In a statement to the Associated Press, members of the association said they met with the pope last year and asked for an independent commission to investigate. Again, no help.
Corradi, along with another priest, Horacio Corbacho, and three other men, were arrested by Argentine police in December. He is accused of the sexual and physical abuse of at least 22 children at a school for youths with hearing disabilities in northwestern Mendoza province.
This past Thursday, an Argentine nun was arrested and charged on suspicion of helping Corbacho rape a former student. The girl accused the nun of "making her wear a diaper to cover up a hemorrhage after she was allegedly raped." The nun "was also charged with physically abusing the students." "Victims and prosecutors say the anal and vaginal rapes, fondling and oral sex allegedly committed by the priests took place in the bathrooms, dorms, garden and a basement at the school."
"A Vatican investigative commission recently visited Mendoza to learn more about the case against the priests."
Pope Francis' first administrative action after his election was to form an advisory Council of Cardinals outside of the Curia. He chose cardinals George Pell and Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa who, like himself, had made national headlines for protecting pedophiles.
He reconfirmed Archbishop (later he promoted to Cardinal) Gerhard Ludwig Müller as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, even though when Müller was bishop of Regensburg he had appointed a convicted pedophile as pastor of a parish.
Pope Francis has taken no action against any of the 14 other bishops accused of complicity with abusive priests although, without any investigation or canonical trial, he removed the “Bishop of Bling.”
The pope's appointment of Juan Barros as bishop of Osorno, Chile, "has been controversial due to Barros' alleged covering up of dozens of sexual abuse cases. More than 1,300 church members in Osorno, along with some 30 priests from the diocese and 51 of Chile’s 120 members of Parliament, have sent letters to Francis urging him to rescind the appointment." Pope Francis referred to Barros' detractors as “lefties.”
The pope also refused a request by Chile’s Supreme Court to provide Vatican-held information for the civil investigation of Barros.
In 2014, Pope Francis obstructed two investigations by U.N. committees into clerical sex abuse and then ignored the recommendations resulting from their studies. The U.N. Committee against Torture “found that the widespread sexual violence within the Catholic Church amounted to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” Both U.N. panels “harshly criticized the pope’s handling of clerical sex abuse.”
Pope Francis' sex abuse commission is a failure and his much-heralded tribunal to judge complicit prelates never happened.
Pope Francis’ contempt for sex abuse victims has an effect on his global institution.
A recent investigation in France exposed five additional pedophile-protecting bishops still in office.
In response to "a rash of recent alleged sex abuse cases involving Catholic priests in Southern India, [m]ore than 100 theologians, women religious, priests and feminists have written to India's bishops to demand they react quickly." Their complaints include the bishops' "Failure to comply with Indian criminal laws on abuse of minors and shielding the abusers."
Carlos Lombardi, an attorney who advises the Network of Survivors of Sexual Abuse of the Church in Argentina, lists 27 "ACTIONS OF POPE FRANCIS STRENGTHENING THE CULTURE OF CLERGY ABUSE."
In many ways, the situation has worsened because the U.S. media has stopped watching and reporting.
The Economist’s review of Pope Francis' pontificate is typical: “One area where Francis has managed to make progress is in cleaning up the Vatican’s largely secret financial machinery.”
FIA 2015 Annual Report
The Financial Information Authority (FIA) has “full powers of supervision over all the institutes and offices of the Holy See, the Roman curia, and Vatican City, including the IOR,” or Institute for Works of Religion commonly known as the Vatican Bank. The Holy See refers to the Church's governing body, while Vatican City refers to the physical nation.
On April 28, 2016, the FIA presented its latest annual report.
The so-called "watchdog" agency reported, "In the last three years, 893 Suspicious Transaction Reports (STR)" have been filed with the FIA. Filing STRs is voluntary.
Additionally, "In 2015, 17 reports were submitted to the Vatican Promoter of Justice for further investigation by judicial authorities." The reports are secret.
On Dec. 15, 2015, MONEYVAL, a group of European experts, had issued their second progress report on Vatican financial structures. "On the law enforcement and prosecutorial side, there is a system in place [but] there are no real results emerging by way of serious prosecutions...in any of the outstanding enquiries which involve allegations of money laundering."
In February 2011, Pope Benedict XVI had 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 the FIA and other Vatican financial bodies. “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.
The FIA report continued: "The number of declarations of outgoing cash [from Vatican City] above the amount of EUR 10,000 remained stable in 2015 at 1,196. Declarations for incoming cash declined to 367 in 2015.” (Current exchange rate is 1 euro = 1.10 dollar.) The "declarations" are made voluntarily.
Only about 575 people reside in Vatican City. "The Vatican has a working force of roughly 4,600 employees, three quarters of which are lay people. The net result is that 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 are making hundreds of cash movements over 10,000 euro in and out of Vatican City? How many fall between 1,000 to 9,999 euro? Who is enforcing or investigating movements of cash not voluntarily reported or for what purpose movements over 10,000 euro are being made?
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.’"
Pope Francis "reforms" the FIA
Pope Benedict’s first attempt at compliance with international regulations originated with a Monetary Agreement signed with the EU in December 2009 so that the Vatican could continue minting their own euro coins. The agreement called for the Vatican to regulate its finances in accordance with EU anti-terrorist financing/money-laundering standards. The deadline for compliance with the Monetary Agreement was Dec. 31, 2010, and on that date Pope Benedict issued a law creating a Financial Information Authority.
In September 2010, Italian magistrates had seized 23 million euro ($31.15 million) from Vatican accounts in two Roman banks. Prosecutors stated the IOR deliberately flouted anti-money-laundering laws “with the aim of hiding the ownership, destination and origin of the capital.”
In March 2012, under pressure from the Bank of Italy, JPMorgan Chase closed its IOR account in Milan because the IOR had failed to provide sufficient information on the provenance of money transfers. The account was used to “sweep” 1.5 billion euro (S1.95 billion) over an 18 month period into a Frankfurt bank. (And that’s just one Vatican account.)
La Stampa reported in May 2012 another inquiry about the IOR by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Rome for breaking anti-money laundering laws.
In October 2012 “the Italian judiciary was looking into suspect money flows noticed in the Vatican Bank’s accounts. [I]nvestigators found that dirty money can also pass through non anonymous accounts belonging to priests or clerics.” Other “fronts” could include Catholic foundations and charities.
On Jan. 1, 2013, the Bank of Italy shut down the ATM machines and credit/debit card services operated by Deutsche Bank Italia (an Italian bank under Italian jurisdiction) inside the Vatican City because the Vatican did not “fully comply with international standards against tax fraud and money laundering.” Leaving tourists to deal in only cash cost the Vatican an “estimated $40,000 a day.”
René Brülhart, a Swiss layman, hired by Pope Benedict in October 2012 as director of the FIA, gave a Jan. 14 interview. He stated, “I’m truly surprised by the measures taken by the Bank of Italy.” While the Vatican had “close cooperation” with other countries, “no other country in the world has adopted similar measures,” he said. An American attorney working in the Vatican had complained a few months earlier: “The IOR has financial relations with more than a hundred countries; it has banking ties with forty of these and has links with financial entities across the European Union. But as far as I can see, only one of these countries treats the Vatican as unequal in terms of anti-money laundering. And that country is Italy.”
On Feb. 12, the Vatican announced that it found a consortium in Switzerland - a 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.
“Bruelhart inherited a board dominated by Italians with close ties to Italy’s financial institutions, which have long clashed with the Vatican."
In June 2014, Pope Francis dismissed the Italian five-man board of the FIA and named new members.
- Bianca Maria Farina is president and CEO of the Italian Postal Service's insurance arm.
- Joseph Yuvaraj Pillay, the former head of Singapore's central bank, is chairman and acting president of Singapore’s Presidential Council of Advisers.
- Juan C. Zarate, deputy assistant to George W. Bush, holds multiple positions as senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, chairman and co-founder of the Financial Integrity Network, adviser, lecturer and sits on several boards. In July 2016, he accused Pres. Obama of making a “dangerous distortion of the terrorist threat.” In November, Zarate praised president-elect Trump’s choice of Michael Flynn, a “serious national security professional,” as his national security adviser. (Flynn resigned as national security adviser in February.)
- Marc Odendall, a former investment banker with JPMorgan Chase, Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse.
Pope Francis promoted René Bruelhart from director to president of the FIA in November 2014. Bruelhart is also a Swiss mortgage lender. In a March 24, 2017, interview, Bruelhart said, “I still see myself as an adviser to the financial services industry.” He is also a board member of two corporations in Zurich tied to his advisory work.
Il Sole 24 Ore reported on April 4, 2017: "The Vatican City is (officially) no longer a tax haven. The Holy See has entered Italy's 'white list for tax purposes'...the list of countries that allow an adequate exchange of information with Italy for tax purposes." This involves "financial information about asset holders who are subject to Italian taxes...which would include interest or earnings from bonds, investments and savings in Vatican institutions. It parallels standard agreements between countries on tax matters and follows a general model developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development."
As in other international agreements signed by the Vatican, there are no provisions for enforcement nor penalties for non-compliance in the OECD model.
Il Sole 24 Ore concludes its article by reminding its readers that "This white list 'for tax purposes' should not be confused with the one concerning the effectiveness of anti-money laundering systems."
Under the new agreement, "Italy, however, still would have no right to tax 'central bodies of the Catholic Church' headquartered on Vatican property and any profit-making entities operating inside Vatican City."
Based on a leaked internal report, Emilio Fittipaldi’s book, Avarice: Documents Revealing Wealth, Scandals and Secrets of Francis' Church, "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."
In Merchants in the Temple, Gianluigi Nuzzi wrote that Vatican City's "two gas stations, a clothing shop, a consumer electronics store, a perfume shop and a tobacconist....were being used as part of a widespread fraud wherein thousands of Romans - 41,000 buyers cards were issued, even though only 6,000 should have been - were buying cigarettes, gasoline and other items tax free and 15 to 20 percent below retail prices, then reselling them outside the Vatican for a handsome profit."
Per Nuzzi, "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."
There have been no reports that the FIA or any other Vatican agency has addressed cheating Italy out of retail tax revenues or other "widespread fraud."
Pope Francis "reforms" Vatican secrecy
Vatican finances have become more secretive under Pope Francis. Four months after his election, he enacted a law criminalizing unauthorized leaks of information.
Instituted by Pope John Paul II after the damaging 1980’s Vatican Bank scandal, every year a “Consolidated financial statement of the Holy See and the Governorate of Vatican City State” is published. Where assets are invested is not disclosed and these operating incomes and expenditures are not independently verified.
Still, there is a big difference in the amount of information provided under Pope Benedict for 2012 and prior, and what is provided under Pope Francis.
The first disclosure to be eliminated in the fiscal year 2013 statement and subsequent years 2014 and 2015 is the amount of the Peter’s Pence collection, an annual contribution from Catholics around the world “in support of the Holy Father’s charity.” In 2012 it was $69.7 million U.S. dollars, in 2011 $65.9 million.
That the Peter’s Pence collection for 2013 totaled 378 million euro is known only because it was revealed in Fittipaldi’s book published Nov. 5, 2015.
Fittipaldi was indicted, along with four others, by the Vatican on Nov. 21 for disclosing confidential information under Pope Francis’ new law. All “faced between four to eight years” in a Vatican prison. On Nov. 30, Pope Francis said, “I gave the judges the concrete charges” as regards their trial. Finally, on July 7, 2016, "the prosecution admitted it had not proved its case against Fittipaldi and therefore asked the court to drop all charges against him."
On April 27, 2017, Pope Francis thanked the U.S. Papal Foundation for their annual contribution to his charities, $15 million in 2015 and $10 million in 2016. In February, he thanked the Knights of Columbus for their $1.6 million donation.
Pope Francis also “receives lavish donations” from the wealthy, like Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, and Leonardo Di Caprio. The proceeds from auctions of donated items and corporate charity events at $5,900 per head are given to the pope.
The Peter’s Pence collection got its own web site in November 2016 so that people can donate money online. As of March 30, 2017, Peter’s Pence is also on social network sites Twitter and Instagram "for all people who want to help those most in need."
That Pope Francis gave only 20 percent of the 2013 Peter’s Pence collection to charity was disclosed by one of Fittipaldi's co-defendants, Gianluigi Nuzzi, in his book also released in November 2015.
In 2013 and 2014, the charitable fund of the Cardinal’s Commission which controls the IOR - headed by Cardinal Santos Abril y Castelló, appointed by Pope Francis and “a close friend” - gave nothing to charity despite a net surplus of 425,000 euro according to Fittipaldi.
Nothing in Fittipaldi’s or Nuzzi's books have been denied by the Vatican as untrue.
The IOR noted in their 2013 financial report that the bank “offered the Holy Father a significant sum of €50,000,000 in support of his apostolic and charitable ministry” from its profits.
Based on the 2013 numbers from Fittipaldi and the IOR, Pope Francis receives at least half a billion dollars annually for his own use. The pope makes many charitable donations, but how much money in total comes in or where it all goes will always be a secret while he is pope.
Additionally, the Vatican is still “notoriously secret” about its “offshore Cayman Islands banking division, its clients, and amounts of its financial holdings.”
Pope Francis "reforms" the Vatican Bank
The Economist: “Most of the accounts at [the IOR] that belong to people not directly associated with the Church have been closed. The Vatican has invited scrutiny by Moneyval, an international financial watchdog.”
Reform of the IOR began under Pope Benedict in 2010. After 9/11, the international financial community began establishing regulations to guard against terrorists funding their attacks via proxy channels. The Vatican Bank was forced by international financial regulators to comply and to publish annual reports in order to continue doing business on international markets.
“'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.”
Pope Benedict ordered a review of IOR account holders that was supposed to be completed by December 2012, but wasn’t. Account holders were to be restricted to “the Holy See and related entities, religious orders, other Catholic institutions, clergy, employees of the Holy See and the accredited diplomatic corps.”
Gian Franco Mammi, appointed as the director general of the IOR in November 2015 by Pope Francis said, “[I]t could appear that all the closed accounts (4,935) were ‘suspicious’ accounts according to AML (Anti-Money Laundering, Ed.) norms: nothing could be further from the truth….The closure of thousands of accounts happened primarily for other reasons: either because the accounts didn’t enter into the new categories of customers or because they were inactive for decades, or because they were accounts with tiny amounts in them.”
Pope Francis' appointment of Mammi “was characterized by a rather singular aspect: the pope advised the board chaired by Frenchman Jean Baptiste de Franssu – a board that was theoretically responsible for the decision. The fact that the pope is kingmaker within the walls of the Vatican is not news; the manner and official nature of the appointment, however, confirms Bergoglio keeps a close eye on the IOR's fate,” reported Il Sole 24 Ore.
The pope had turned to Mammi for help when he was cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires and experiencing financial difficulties. Federico Wals, a layman who served as Bergoglio’s spokesperson at the time, said the cardinal’s “key move” was to transfer funds to international banks such as HSBC and UBS. (See “UBS, HSBC Offshore Dealings Thrust Into Panama Papers Spotlight”)
In 2013, the IOR’s director Paolo Cipriani and deputy director Massimo Tulli resigned. They were under investigation by Rome prosecutors for their involvement with money laundering and corruption via IOR accounts in Italian banks.
On Feb. 25, 2017, Cipriani and Tulli were sentenced by a civil court in Rome to 4 months and ten days and a fine of six thousand euro for violation of anti-money laundering rules. 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" and still remains open to non-ecclesial persons like entrepreneur Angelo Proietti.
Replacing Cipriani and Tulli in 2013, Pope Francis named Rolando Marranci as temporary acting deputy of the IOR and Antonio Montaresi as chief risk officer. Both work for the financial consultant, the Promontory Group. (See “Promontory's activities focus heavily on the adept circumvention of regulations.”)
In addition to replacing the Commission of Cardinals who supervise the IOR, Pope Francis also appointed a new Board of Superintendence of lay persons.
"Vatican turns to Wall Street to fix bank. 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.”
- Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, former CEO of Invesco's European business and founder of a merger and acquisition advisory firm, is president of the board.
- Mary Ann Glendon was George W. Bush’s ambassador to the Vatican. Regarding the sex abuse scandal, Glendon said, “[I]f fairness and accuracy have anything to do with it, awarding the Pulitzer Prize to the Boston Globe would be like giving the Nobel Peace Prize to Osama bin Laden.”
- Clemens Boersig, ex-chairman of Deutsche Bank.
- Michael Hintze ran convertible bonds in Europe for Credit Suisse, was head of U.K. trading at Goldman Sachs. (See “As Europe descends into an austerity-induced economic crisis, Goldman Sachs people are managing the demise of the continent.”)
- Mauricio Larrain, director of a Santander Bank Group and general director of Opus Dei’s ESE Business School at Los Andes University of Chile. (See Banco Santander “accused of gouging U.S. consumers.”)
- Carlo Salvatori, Italian banker, also close to Opus Dei.
May 25, 2016: Two IOR board members, “the highly experienced bankers” Salvatori and Boersig quit “following a disagreement over how the institute should be run” and “raising questions about efforts to modernize the scandal-plagued bank.”
Dec. 15, 2016: They were replaced by Scott C. Malpass, Javier Marín Romano and Georg Freiherr von Boeselager even though the IOR statutes call for the board to have only five members and a president.
Malpass is vice president and chief investment officer of Notre Dame University. He was paid “close to $5.4 million in total compensation in 2015.” In 2011 he was named one of the five highest paid chief investment officers of U.S. tax-exempt institutions.
Marin Romano “has held various positions for Banco Santander” including CEO. He is an acquaintance of Cardinal Santos Abril.
Boeselager “was responsible for the contact management for wealthy customers as Chairman of the Supervisory Board of [private bankers] Merck Finck & Co." headquartered in Munich. He is an acquaintance of the Archbishop of Vienna, Cristoph Schönborn.
Knights of Malta
Georg Freiherr von Boeselager is the brother of Baron Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, Grand Chancellor of the Order of the Knights of Malta, a philanthropic organization dating back to the 11th century. Albrecht was dismissed from the Order by Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing on Dec. 6, 2016, after he twice refused to resign over a “failure of trust” and other “confidential” matters.
On Dec. 22, Pope Francis ordered a formal investigation of the Knights. He appointed a commission of five people: Jesuit priest Fr. Ghirlanda; Belgian lawyer Jacques de Liedekerke who is also a member of the Order; Marwan Sehnaoui, president of the Order in Lebanon; retired papal diplomat to the UN in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi; and FIA official Marc Odendall, who is also Counselor for the Knights of Malta in Geneva.
On Jan. 16, Festing said the Order won't cooperate with the pope’s investigators because “There are serious accusations of a conflict of interest for at least three of the members who have been proved to be linked to a fund in Geneva.” Festing did not name the fund.
On Jan. 24, the day after he received the commission’s report, Pope Francis summoned Festing to the Vatican and asked for his resignation. The Order voted to accept Festing’s resignation, reinstated Boeselager and Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein assumed the office of Lieutenant ad interim.
Vatican expert Edward Pentin reported on March 17 that the German newspaper Bild investigated the fund alluded to by Festing in mid-January. Grand Chancellor Boeselager had “accepted a 30 million Swiss franc donation ($31 million) on behalf of the Order from what Bild called a 'dubious trust' in Geneva."
Boeselager denied any wrongdoing. He "and other members of the Order have had dealings with the trust since 2010, but Fra’ Festing was unaware of its existence until only recently, after asking Boeselager directly about it,” Pentin wrote.
Pentin questioned “why the five-member Holy See commission set up to look into Boeselager’s dismissal was made up of three individuals closely associated with the trust, none of whom wished to speak publicly about it; why the commission’s work was rushed and completed ahead of schedule, but in time for Boeselager to be reinstated [and] what the precise reasons were for Boeselager’s brother, Georg, being appointed to the board of the Vatican Bank in December.”
On April 26, Pope Francis held a "lengthy secret meeting" with a group of the Order's leaders before the April 29 election to replace Festing. "It is clear, then, that when the pope wants things to be done, he intervenes personally, and no collegiality issues are even discussed .... This is the way Pope Francis behaves on every issue," wrote Italian Vatican reporter, Andrea Gagliarducci.
The Order elected Fra' Giacomo Dalla Torre, Grand Prior of Rome since 2008, to serve as Grand Master for one year when another election is to be held. His "primary focus during the coming year will be the reform of their Constitution, with special attention given to any 'institutional shortages' the Order might have. Special attention will also be paid to solidifying the spiritual life of the Order and to finding ways to increase the number of their professed members," i.e. members like himself and Festing who take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Gone is the pretext that IOR profits are to be used for charity. In presenting the IOR's 2015 annual report, Director General Mammì noted, “This year too, the Institute has given its profits to the Cardinals’ Commission and, through this Commission, made sure they are available to the Holy Father, for his pastoral mission,” which in church-speak could mean anything.
“As for the IOR’s investments in fossil fuel companies, contradicting the pope’s ‘Laudato Si’ encyclical, IOR President, Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, expressed his regret, saying that the past 12 months have been difficult for financial markets…”
The 2015 IOR annual report was audited by Deloitte & Touche. (See "In 2013, the international development charity ActionAid accused Deloitte of advising large businesses on how they could use Mauritius to avoid potentially hundreds of millions of dollars of tax in some of the poorest countries in Africa.")
The report stated the IOR's gold is worth 33.2 million euro.
On Feb. 3, 2015,
“an unprecedented canon law petition was dispatched to the Vatican by Serbian Orthodox Christian, Jewish, and Roma Holocaust survivors and their families imploring Pope Francis to settle the long standing dispute about gold looted during the Second World War and deposited at the Vatican Bank. Under canon law, non-Catholics may petition the Pope….
“The Vatican Financial Authority and the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy are accused of shirking their duties to investigate money laundering and in the case of the Vatican Financial Authority, misleading the European Commission which made inquiries on the Holocaust survivors’ behalf. The Vatican Financial Authority falsely claimed the Vatican Bank was not part of Vatican City therefore did not fall under European Union anti money laundering rules.
Dr. Jonathan Levy, who represents several thousand Holocaust victims, their heirs, and organizations has long criticized the Vatican’s handling of Holocaust related claims. According to Dr. Levy, "Ever since the US government uncovered evidence of Holocaust loot deposited at the Vatican in 1998, the Vatican has been in cover up mode, alternately denying and claiming immunity. It is my hope that Pope Francis truly means what he says about a new era of transparency at the Vatican and sends that same message to his subordinates.”
The funds at stake were derived from the Ustasha Treasury, consisting of gold and valuables looted from Yugoslavia during the Second World War and deposited at the Vatican Bank in 1946 and never accounted for despite numerous requests since 1998.
Pope Francis has not responded.
The Pope's Priorities
Mark 16:15 He said to them, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature."
Speaking to journalists three days after his election, the new pope explained how he came to break with tradition and chose the name Francis after St. Francis of Assisi. “Oh, how I would like a poor Church, and for the poor,” he said.
Yet Pope "Francis" never instructed the Vatican, any diocese or religious order to even partially divest themselves from their assets.
Even on this third day, one reporter gushed, "Francis has set a forceful moral tone and given clear signs already that he will bring a new broom to the crisis-hit papacy..."
Yet Pope Francis never appointed independent forensic experts to help him clean-up his Church's financial crimes. And the only adviser he had on preventing clerical sex abuse who criticized him was dismissed.
The changes Pope Francis has made so far in the Curia centered first, on increasing and prospering his assets. Next he created the new Secretariat for Communication that "has been given the primary task of making sure what the pope says and does is made known to the world as quickly as possible."
The Vatican does have a Congregation for the Evangelization of the People, untouched by the pontiff in his first four years.
Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America (2009) and “Duped by the Media on Pope Francis, Progressives Wonder How Republicans Get Elected” (2014)