Most news items this year about the financial corruption in the Vatican conclude with a reference to the early 1980s Vatican Bank scandal. This past week, though, an Italian journalist nonchalantly dropped a couple of bombs about this episode in Vatican history which were buried in his commentary on current events: Pope John Paul II was intentionally complicit with the criminals at the Vatican Bank, and suggested that the pope knew how his predecessor, Albino Luciani – Pope John Paul I – was murdered.
Giacomo Galeazzi writes for the “Vatican Insider,” a supplement of the Italian newspaper, La Stampa, with the presumption that his readers are already acquainted with the details of this period.
According to David Yallop - author of In God’s Name and still the seminal source about the corruption leading to the death of Pope John Paul I - on September 28, 1978, the pontiff informed his Secretary of State, Cardinal Jean Villot, that he was severing the ties between the IOR (the official acronym for the Vatican Bank) and Milan’s Banco Ambrosiano which had been laundering money to rightwing Latin American dictators and terrorists and defrauding investors. In addition, he was removing the members of the Curia associated with these criminal activities, including Villot.
The next morning, after only 33 days as pope, Luciani was found dead. Villot had all of his personal effects and papers quickly removed, including a bottle of medicine last seen on the nightstand. Villot first announced to the press that the pope died from an overdose of medicine; then he changed the cause of death to a heart attack. (Luciani’s personal physician and family stated he had no heart disease.) The body was embalmed within a day and no autopsy was performed. Yallop had only circumstantial evidence to substantiate his claim that Luciani’s medicine had been poisoned.
Luciani’s successor, Karol Wojtyla, had been an obscure bishop in an impoverished country but suddenly became a globetrotter in the 1970s appearing at Opus Dei centers throughout Europe and making several trips to the U.S. where he was introduced at Harvard as “the next pope.” Martin A. Lee, in his Mother Jones article, “Their Will Be Done,” asserted there were several rightwing groups backed by the CIA which were “instrumental in the promoting and electing John Paul II.”
After Wojtyla became pope and was presented with evidence by prelates, the press and personal letters that the IOR was a criminal organization, he did nothing about either the bank’s activities or the crooks running it. Some surmised that Karol Wojtyla was groomed for, and became pope, in a Faustian bargain. In exchange for the defeat of communism in Poland to be supplanted by the Church's hegemony, John Paul II would allow the plutocrats to maintain control of the IOR and appoint bishops, especially in the U.S., who would further their political agenda.
In his column dated June 29, 2012, Galeazzi questioned who would be in charge of Vatican finances after IOR president, Ettori Gotti Tedeschi, was unceremoniously dumped for trying to clean out the Augean stables. The reporter states:
The turbulence surrounding Vatican finances is a heavy burden and a legacy of Karol Wojtyla’s geopolitical papacy....In the Curia John Paul II had conceded unlimited freedom of action to controversial representatives of the financial community who were able to support him in his historic battle against communism....
In exchange for their help in the fight against communism, they enjoyed extended moral “exemption”, that is complicity, conspiracy of silence and cover ups at the top of the Vatican pyramid, to protect them from the sex and corruption scandals they were involved in.
The next day, Galeazzi noted the animosity between Pope Benedict’s two right-hand men, Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, and pope whisperer, Msgr. Georg Gaenswein, and cautioned Ratzinger not to allow a division similar to that which existed between John Paul II’s personal retinue and the Curia.
According to Galeazzi, while Wojtyla was recuperating in the Vatican after his attempted assassination in 1981 by a Turkish gunman, his “Polish circle” feared he would be poisoned by someone with access to the papal apartment and had all his medications analyzed by a trusted pharmacist. Can it be a coincidence that of all the methods to commit murder, John Paul II and his men focused precisely on the method allegedly used to kill a pope less than three years earlier?
Pope John Paul II was portrayed as a superstar by the nascent mega-corporate-owned media made possible by deregulation during the Reagan administration, Wojtyla’s co-crusader in the battle against the Evil Empire.
Pope Benedict doesn’t get the same treatment as his predecessor. Not only is there an independent press holding the mainstream media more accountable, but public opinion has been shaped by knowledge of the Church’s global sex abuse of children. This bodes ill for the Religious Right’s foundational model and the Vatican’s proxies, the U.S. bishops.
(Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America (Clarity Press, 2009))
1:49 PM PT: In response to all the "CT" comments, the Vatican has no police department, no opposition party, no "dissenters" within its territory. It is a sovereign nation with no transparency, accountability, free press, or democratic functions. In view of the above, there is no hard forensic evidence the Luciani was murdered. Yallop's information about financial criminal conduct were verified when the Vatican paid $241 million to its creditors and subsequent articles written by financial experts, so his work is credible. The disclosures noted in Gianluiggi Nuzzi's two books, "His Holiness" and "Vatican SpA" were provided by whistleblowers. There were no whistleblowers during the period Yallop writes about. Without them, everything we know about what happens inside the Vatican is speculation but some sources are definitely more knowledgeable than others. Through study, one learns there are dependable and knowledgeable sources.