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New books show Vatican corruption, resistance to financial reforms

November 03, 2015

Two new books, due for publication in Italy this week, show a pattern of secrecy and corruption in Vatican financial affairs, according to reporters who have seen advance copies of the works.

The Washington Post obtained a copy of Avarice, by reporter Emiliano Fittipaldi of L’Espresso; while the Associated Press obtained an early copy of Merchants in the Temple, by Gianluigi Nuzzi, the journalist at the center of the “Vatileaks” controversy. Both books are scheduled for publication on Thursday, November 5.

”Costs are out of control,” the Nuzzi book quotes auditors are telling Pope Francis in June 2013. “There is a complete absence of transparency in the bookkeeping both of the Holy See and the Governorate.”

Nuzzi’s book is based on documents from a special commission set up by Pope Francis to offer suggestions on reforming the Vatican’s finances, and the AP story notes that “the book is clearly written from the point of view of the commission members.” Two members of that commission, Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda and Francesca Chaouqui, have been arrested and face criminal charges for leaking confidential documents.

“If we don’t know how to safeguard our money, which can be seen, how can we safeguard the souls of the faithful, which cannot be seen?” Pope Francis remarked at one meeting with the commission, according to the Nuzzi book.

Both books emphasize the secrecy and lack of accountability that characterized Vatican financial dealings for years. The new Secretariat for Economy, headed by Cardinal George Pell, has sought to address these problems by demanding transparent budgeting and audits for all Vatican offices.

But these efforts have encountered some stiff resistance, the two books show. In March 2014 there was a break-in at the offices of the papal commission investigating Vatican economic affairs. More recently there have been reports that the computer of the Vatican’s new auditor general was hacked.

The books charge that Vatican officials used funds for their own purposes, such as renovating and refurbishing their private residences. (Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the former Secretary of State, is a special target for such charges.) The Vatican reportedly froze the financial accounts of postulators working for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, after finding that there was no documentation for their spending.

In a related development, the Reuters news service has obtained a highly critical report on the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA), the office that handles the Vatican’s investments. The report raises allegations that private Italian investors used the APSA as a conduit for financial transactions, raising concerns about money-laundering and corruption.


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  • Posted by: unum - Nov. 04, 2015 8:48 AM ET USA

    Pope Francis needs a lesson from "The Donald" about "you're fired!" Like the U.S. government, Vatican corruption is endemic because there are no serious consequences for dishonesty. But, unlike the U.S. government, the Vatican is held to a much higher standard so the corruption is devastating! (... and Jesus wept.)