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Vatican could run for 2.5 years on sum LA archdiocese has paid to settle abuse suits

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Feb 20, 2014

St. Peter’s basilica is enormous. I wonder how many American Catholics assume that, just as the Vatican basilica is larger than their diocesan cathedral, the Vatican bureaucracy must also be much larger than the diocesan staff. Not so. Actually the Vatican is a relatively lean operation. Although they work in spectacular surroundings—you won’t find anything like the Sistine Chapel beside your local chancery—the officials of the Roman Curia do not have large support staffs.

Many years ago, as a young journalist new to the beat, I placed my first call to Rome, hoping to arrange an interview with a cardinal who headed a Vatican congregation. I expected to speak with two or three intermediaries before, just maybe, arranging an actual conversation. I was stunned when the cardinal himself answered the office phone. How many American bishops take unscreened calls?

These thoughts crossed my mind as I noticed a reflection by my friend Jean-Marie Guenois of Le Figaro: the $740 million the Los Angeles archdiocese has now paid to settle sex-abuse lawsuits is equal to roughly 2.5 times the total annual spending of the Holy See. If you add legal costs and earlier undisclosed settlements, you might be able to run the entire operation of the Vatican for three years on the sum spent by the Los Angeles archdiocese to pay for the corruption of the clergy.

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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