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Dead men hold no bank accounts

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jul 30, 2012

The “Moneyval” audit of the Vatican bank, the IOR, turned up this interesting tidbit: there were 236 cardinals who held accounts there. Which wouldn’t be remarkable, except that at the time of the audit, there were only 213 cardinals alive.

This is not necessarily evidence of financial shenanigans. The estate of a deceased prelate might control a bank account that is still listed in the late cardinal’s name. Dormant accounts might linger on the books for some time before someone decides how the funds should be disbursed. Still one can understand why the European inspectors thought some tighter controls would be useful.

William Bulger, the longtime president of the Massachusetts state Senate, quipped that he wants to be buried in St. Augustine’s cemetery, because he wants to remain politically active. (Bulger was referring to the reports that inhabitants of that cemetery have showed up mysteriously on Election Day at the polling places of South Boston.) The line always draws a laugh, but for election commissioners the laughter is uncomfortable. So too with banking inspectors who discover that 10% of the cardinals holding accounts at the IOR are deceased.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: wolfdavef3415 - Jul. 31, 2012 11:43 PM ET USA

    If I am not mistaken, 236-213=23 and 23/236 is about 10%, not 20%. Not that having 10% of your client base dead is a good thing either.