Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Rooting out corruption at the Vatican: unfinished business

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 23, 2014

Pope Francis came into office with a clear mandate to clean up corruption in Rome. He’s working on it, but there’s a great deal still to be done. For instance:

  • Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, who was arrested last year for attempting to bring €20 million into Italy illegally, now faces new criminal charges for money-laundering. He claims to be innocent, but are there any good reasons for smuggling large sums of cash? Or for taking charitable contributions from unsuspecting donors, and using the funds to pay for a luxury condo? More to the point, is it really plausible that the man known as “Monsignor €500” acquired that nickname without arousing suspicion among any of his colleagues at the Vatican? Or that he kept an expensive apartment, filled with fine art, and nobody wondered how he could afford it? Before he was suspended, Msgr. Scarano held a key office supervising Vatican financial accounts. If the head accountant in any corporation began showing signs of fabulous wealth, wouldn’t other executives start asking questions? A Forbes magazine report on his case makes the obvious point: “Sure, it’s possible he was a rogue cleric. But Monsignor Scarano worked for two decades as a senior accountant at the Vatican, which has weathered some recent storms.” Msgr. Scarano claims that he had approval from his superiors for his activities. That seems unlikely. But it does seem clear that either his superiors were terribly negligent, or he enjoyed some sort of protection. “Monsignor €500” will face trial for his own alleged misconduct, but let’s hope the investigation doesn’t stop there.
  • Earlier this month, a former member of the Swiss Guard, speaking under condition of anonymity, claimed that he had been propositioned by Vatican officials. Okay, proves nothing; anyone can make an anonymous accusation. But then Elmer Mäder, the former commandant of the Swiss Guard, essentially confirmed the charge, saying that homosexual clerics formed a virtual “secret society” at the Vatican. Now we have a credible accuser, putting his reputation on the line. (And remember that Pope Francis himself reportedly acknowledged the existence of a gay lobby last June.) The powerful sostituto, Archbishop Becciu, has challenged Mäder to name names. “We are willing to listen and to take note,” the archbishop says. Oh, how I long to believe that he is sincere, and that if Mäder puts names on paper, that paper will not disappear into the files!

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: fenton1015153 - Jan. 28, 2014 4:05 PM ET USA

    Oh what a sad thing that unchecked homosexuality has brought to the church. How do you ever get to the bottom of this? Seems like a general purge of all at the Vatican would be wise then bring in only those that are truly chaste and trying to be holy. Then the church would begin to be trustworthy again.

  • Posted by: Defender - Jan. 24, 2014 6:40 PM ET USA

    Call the archbishop's bluff and publish the names (the Vatican could have all the Swiss Guard interviewed, for that matter). If there is so much of this in the Vatican, it's small wonder that there so much of it in the dioceses. If the pope doesn't clean house, it's only going to get worse.

  • Posted by: shrink - Jan. 24, 2014 4:43 PM ET USA

    "Oh, how I long...." Phil, it is really difficult to believe any high churchman any more. Not that you will learn anything really new, but just browse the Chicago Archdiocese document dump on gay priests that came out earlier this week. Lying and prevaricating are SOP with these guys. Hard to imagine how this culture of corruption will change any time soon. It is beyond human power to change. The gay clerics remain the third rail.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Jan. 23, 2014 7:14 PM ET USA

    That paper might end up in a clever lawyer's hands and M├Ąder could spend the rest of his life defending himself in court. How can one "prove" that a gang of sodomites is installed in the Vatican? If the perverts are willing to lie daily to retain their positions of power, why would they balk at swearing to a lie under oath in a court of law?