Action Alert!

Still no transparency in Vatican financial investigations

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | May 05, 2020

The Vatican, which is struggling to regain public confidence in its financial dealings, announced late last week that “individual measures had been arranged for some employees of the Holy See.”

In case you need a translation, that deliberately opaque statement means that some Vatican workers had been disciplined. The disciplinary measures were imposed, the Vatican explained, to follow up on “those adopted at the beginning of the investigation of financial and real-estate investments of the Secretariat of State.”

How many Vatican employees were disciplined? Who were they? What had they done to provoke disciplinary measures? What were those measures? None of those obvious questions were addressed in what the Vatican’s spokesman, Matteo Bruni, described as a response to journalists’ inquiries.

So we know that something has been done to some employees, because of something those employees had done. And that’s all we know—or rather, all we would know, if we relied on official Vatican sources for our information. If you’re trying to develop a reputation for candor and transparency, this isn’t the way to go about it.

Actually, since the Vatican rumor mill conveys information much more efficiently than the Vatican press office, we do know more about this story. We know that the Vatican employees in question have been dismissed from their posts. We know that they were involved—somehow, perhaps only tangentially—in the financial transactions that led up to a police raid last October 1 on the offices of the Secretariat of State and the Financial Information Authority. But we don’t know why that raid took place.

Immediately after the October raid, five Vatican employees were suspended. The Vatican did not announce the suspensions, and in fact took harsh disciplinary action against the people who were responsible for letting the suspensions become public knowledge, including the chief of the Vatican police force that conducted the raid. Some of those who were suspended have subsequently been replaced. (In April, for instance, the Vatican announced that Tommaso Di Ruzza, the director of the Financial Information Authority (AIF), had completed his term of office and was not re-appointed.) Others found out last Friday—which was May 1, Labor Day in Italy—that they were losing their jobs.

The case of Di Ruzza is particularly interesting, because he headed the office that is responsible for ensuring the integrity of Vatican financial transactions. If he had been involved in some misconduct, that would be a serious blow to the Vatican’s campaign for public confidence. But the board of the AIF gave him their unqualified support, and his immediate superior, AIF president Rene Bruelhart, resigned in protest. (The Vatican claimed that Bruelhart, too, had completed his term and was not re-appointed.) Some Vatican-watchers concluded that the AIF had been investigating questionable dealings by the Secretariat of State, and the raid was conducted not to expose those dealings but to prevent their exposure. That is speculation, of course, but speculation is all we have, in the absence of clear information. As John Allen observed for Crux:

To date, no evidence has been produced to suggest that di Ruzza or the other four employees were guilty of wrongdoing. In any event, the deal for which they were being investigated had been approved by superiors in the Secretariat of State and, eventually, the pope himself.

Nothing about this story inspires confidence in the Vatican’s financial integrity. Nothing matches the oft-repeated commitment to reform, transparency, and accountability.

A related matter: As of tomorrow, nineteen months will have passed since Pope Francis promised a full investigation of the McCarrick affair. Three months will have passed since Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State, disclosed that the investigation was complete. “The work has been done,” he said, “but the Pope has the last word.” We’re still waiting.

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 CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 1 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Retired01 - May. 06, 2020 3:55 PM ET USA

    Not only have the barbarians moved from the Vatican gate to its center, they have also invited the three stooges to join them.